Episode 3: Double dealing

Episode 3: Double dealing

From trust arises betrayal.
(Arabian saying)

Previously on Alias:
Author’s note: I’m adding some changes compared to the Alias plot, in bold.

In the 1970s, the KGB sends Irina Derevko undercover in the United States, as Laura. She fulfills her mission – seduce and marry Jack Bristow, a CIA agent. They have a daughter, Sydney, in 1975.

Jack is in charge of developing Project Christmas, a training and conditioning program aimed at children. The idea is to identify gifted children and prepare them to work in intelligence services.

In 1981, Laura/Irina fakes her death. The CIA figures out that she was working for the Russians, and for a while, suspects Jack was working with her. But only twenty years later will he and Sydney find out that Irina is still alive.

Once she gets back to Russia, under Alexander Khasinau’s orders, Irina develops Programme Halcyon, a more extreme equivalent of Project Christmas. The children, all Westerners that will fit in more easily amongst the enemy, are kept in a secret base in Belarus, for several years of intensive training.

The Programme officially comes to an end with Gorbachev’s “new détente” and cuts on the military budget, but in fact continues, financed by private investors. The last children graduate in 2002 and become mercenaries. Clode, Sark and Doren work for Irina, who is at the time operating under the alias The Man.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Sydney Bristow grew up with an absent father who officially worked in aeronautics. Aching at his wife’s betrayal, Jack put his daughter through Project Christmas to make sure she will not be manipulated.

Unaware of all this, Sydney is recruited by SD-6, led by Arvin Sloane, who presents it as a secret division of the CIA. Seven years later, when she tells her fiancé the truth about her job, SD-6 has him killed. That is how she finds out that SD-­­6 is not part of the CIA. Sloane is actually a member of the Alliance of Twelve, an international coalition of former spies gone rogue.

So Sydney becomes a double agent for the CIA. She finds out that it is also the road her father took many years earlier. A year and a half later, when SD-6 is destroyed, she keeps on working for the CIA.

At the time, Irina Derevko is detained by the CIA, but she eventually breaks out and it turns out that her getting caught was part of the plan all along. Shortly after, Irina betrays Sark and Clode to help Sydney catch Arvin Sloane, who abducted and is detaining Jack. Sark makes a run for it, but Clode is captured by the CIA. She quickly gives away Sloane’s location.

Sydney’s best friend, Will Tippin, who has always had a crush on her, used to be a journalist. When Danny is killed and the police are clueless, Will decides to investigate. It makes him dangerous for SD-6 and useful for Khasinau, who has him abducted and tortured by Sark and Clode in order to know what he found out. Sydney and Jack rescue him, but he has to compromise his credibility as a journalist so that the SD-6 stops seeing him as a threat.

Sloane, working with Derevko, has Sydney’s roommate, Francie Calfo, replaced by a perfect double created through Project Helix: Allison Doren. She becomes romantically involved with Will, now a CIA analyst. When there begins to be suspicions, Allison frames Will as the double, but Sydney proves his innocence.

When Will figures out that Fran/Allison is the double, she stabs him and leaves him for dead. But he had left a message on Sydney’s cell. Allison understands that she knows. They fight; Sydney shoots Allison dead, then passes out.

Sydney’s house burns down and a charred body is found with her DNA. Yet Jack doesn’t buy into his daughter’s death, and he keeps on looking for her. Will has gotten over his wounds and is working as a CIA analyst again.

Sloane has been granted a pardon in exchange for information and is at the head of a philanthropist organization for hunger relief and medical research.

Elisha Clode is detained in the CIA building basement.

Previously on Halcyon (from October to January 2003)

Marshall finds out through the Stuttgart DNA database that Jack and Irina had a second daughter: Elisha Clode. Irina was pregnant when she faked her death. Jack doesn’t want anyone else to know.

Elisha figures it out when Jack asks unusual questions. They both agree that it doesn’t change anything.

Yet Jack talks Kendall into sending her on the field, in order to look for Sydney.

We find out a few things about Elisha’s past: she grew up in an Irish orphanage until she turned eight, and then Irina came for her and placed her into Programme Halcyon. She doesn’t exactly remember it fondly.

Meanwhile, Irina gets in touch with Sark and asks him to get Clode out: according to her, the prisoner should be going out on a mission soon, and the only thing to do is wait. But for some reason, she insists that under no circumstances Sark should tell Clode who hired him to help her.

Kendall agrees on using Clode, but warns Jack: “If you lose another one, Devlin will bury you.”

Elisha gets a computer access in order to verify her information. She takes advantage of it to send a coded message, in which she announces she’ll probably be sent to Mumbai on a mission soon. Sark receives it.

Marshall has invented a biodegradable poison capsule which dissolves itself in thirty six hours, in order to control Elisha. She is sedated for the injection, so that she doesn't know where it is located. If it is not extracted in thirty six hours, a lethal dose of poison is released.

She and Jack go to India on a mission to get the schematics of a weapon prototype that she had stolen before she was arrested. The idea is to sell it for her comeback to the field.
They are attacked by a commando group and they split up, which allows Sark to contact Clode. She tells him about the capsule. He gives her a flash drive for her to put with the schematics, and doesn’t have time to give her more details.

When the guard tries to cuff Elisha before they land in Los Angeles, she doesn't let him. “Elisha!” Jack sighs in exasperation. And Elisha stops resisting.

Marshall finds out there’s a virus on the CIA network. Kendall has all computers shut down and asks for Elisha’s help, because she knows those systems well.
Which is exactly what Sark had planned: the virus comes from his flash drive.

Kendall gets a phone call from Sydney and meets her in a safe house in Tuscany. She tells him the Covenant had her the whole time and that they think they've successfully brainwashed her.

* Opening Credits *

January 3, 2004. CIA safe house in Tuscany.

         Sydney kept on telling her story, even though reliving those events was not particularly pleasant – and she would have rather had answers to her questions.

“After my funeral, he took me to a place owned by the Covenant. That doctor was Oleg Matrijik. He seemed to believe that they needed me. So he tried to brainwash me. For months, he deprived me of food, of sleep, he made me lose my bearings, he tortured me with electroshocks… Only when he was convinced that I was broken did he begin conditioning me through hypnosis.”

Oleg was standing close to a drawn-looking, thinner Sydney who was sitting in front of images projected on a screen.

“Your name is Julia Thorne. You were born in London on August 2, 1973.”

My name is Sydney Bristow, you son of a bitch!” 

Oleg injected something into the spy’s arm.

“He used narcotics to disorient me. He was bombarding me with information and images. Nothing new, but always a nice touch.”

The pictures projected in front of Sydney were reflected on her face.
“Julia, your father was Kenneth Thorne. You are Julia.”

Photographs were passing before her eyes – a little girl’s birthday, a happy family…
“Your brothers, Daniel and Tom… The Latin school… You were the only survivor… Your confirmation at the Old Souls Church…”

Syd was staring at the images, in a trance. Oleg’s words were starting to get all mixed together.
“You lost your family in a fire… You were the only survivor… Then you became a hired gun... You showed no mercy. Your first victims were the men who'd destroyed your family... You are Julia.”

January 5, 2004, underground cell in the Los Angeles CIA offices.

         Elisha had had no problem to put out of service the flash drive virus. It was almost like Sark had designed it especially for her. Which he had, she remembered with a smile. She had even allowed herself the luxury of spinning it out a bit, in an attempt to give Kendall the impression that she couldn’t quite have been able to take care of it with her eyes closed.

Kendall, who had vanished God-knows-where for the last couple of days, leaving Jack in command. Elisha would have tried to make the most of it to get special privileges – you never know, family spirit could have miraculously dawned on him – but she was too concerned with the message Sark had left for her when programming that charming virus. A rendezvous.

Two months later in Moscow. Two months from today, that was how much time she had to gain Jack Bristow’s trust, set up a context favorable to a mission in Moscow, and incidentally, to find a solution to avoid death by poison, what with Marshall’s capsule and all. It was sure going to be tight!

Well, of course she was very talented, but everything has limits, and Irina’s recent stay in Los Angeles, though it obviously had not taught the CIA all much-needed lessons, still remained a vivid enough memory to make Elisha's job much harder. Plus, the field missions that Kendall was sending her on more and more often didn't leave her many idle hours – she was almost coming to regret her deadly boring days in the underground level. Almost.

January 6, 2004, a plane above the Atlantic.

         After the success of the Mumbai mission, and Elisha's contribution in disabling the virus – even though she hadn’t been able to figure out where it came from – Kendall had apparently gotten used to the idea of her working on the field, and placed more trust in his ability to keep her on a leash. Jack realized he had – once again – thought of her as Elisha. It was happening more and more often, and he didn’t know what to make of it. However hard he tried to convince himself that it was only a name, her name at that, he knew that it exemplified his change of perspective. He was just hoping what objectivity he had left would be enough to not let her loose.

Anyhow, Kendall had quickly approved a second mission, which was simply the logical consequence of the first. It would allow Clode to reappear in certain circles; but it would also get the CIA valuable information about the circles in question. Over the couple of years before she was captured, the young woman had earned herself a reputation which would open a lot of doors, impervious to any other kind of espionage, even with the means the CIA had at its disposal, and the skills of agents like Sydney.

“And all that for bed, board, and the occasional surgery!” Clode curtly joked.

“I thought money didn’t matter,” Jack said.

He didn’t expect a reply, and Clode didn’t offer one. Jack studied the girl sitting in front of him in the plane. She didn’t move an iota; it looked like she was meditating. He was struck once more with how much she looked like Irina, not so much in her features but rather in her demeanor.

A demeanor which had remained cold and aloof ever since the cuff incident. She seemed to want to avoid getting any closer and reliving that awkward moment. The young woman had built her rock-solid armor back up, and Jack wasn’t about to try and get her guard down again, since he didn’t want to form a bond any more than she did.

“Why not another blanket?” Clode suddenly asked. “If you’re planning on keeping me locked up in a cold storage room, could I at least get one more blanket after this mission?”

“We’ll discuss all this later,” was the only answer she got.

A fatalist Elisha went back to her meditation. Jack kept on observing her, remembering that other time when she’d complained about how cold her cell was. As if she was suddenly remembering that same moment, Clode's eyes flashed open. Her gaze met his, lacking the defensive wall that had been clouding it for a few weeks. The only thing left in her golden eyes was weariness with no end to it, which suddenly made her look so very much older. Or so very much younger, he couldn’t quite tell. In a tired smile, she whispered:

“I just want a blanket, athair. There’s nothing more to it.” 

A few days earlier, back in Tuscany…

         “It lasted over six months. Then, Oleg started to really believe that his treatment was working.”

Sydney was sitting at a table, her hair pulled back. She was writing in a notebook.

“Julia,” Oleg called. She looked up and closed the notebook. Oleg was bringing a tray.

“Yes?”

“Lunchtime.”

“When he thought I was ready, he tested me. They wanted me to prove I was on their side.”

Oleg was standing in front of a group of men, sitting at a table.

“Let me introduce… Julia Thorne.”

Sydney came in. MacKenas Cole spoke up: “Welcome, Miss Thorne. The task you are going to carry out for us deserves financial compensation.

“Of course,” the young woman coldly replied.

A man was brought into the room, tied up and gagged with duct tape.

“Who this man is doesn’t matter,” Cole added. “What matters is the knife on this table. Take the knife. Kill this inconsequential man.”

Sydney obeyed and took the knife, then turned to the prisoner, who started to beg.

 “No. No, no! Please! Listen! No! Don’t do this!”

She sank the knife into his chest, and he screamed.

“I don’t even know who he was. I didn’t have a choice. He was a dead man either way.”

“But how did you resist the conditioning?”

“The program my father put me through when I was a child –”

“Project Christmas?”

“Among other things, I was trained to resist attempted brainwashing. So maybe my father was right after all... ” 

January 6, 2004. Lisbon, Portugal.

         “I just want a blanket, athair. There’s nothing more to it.”

It was one word, and yet it was enough for their ghost of a relationship to show up once more.

Of course he knew that Clode had aimed to throw him off center. And he hated that he was letting her. On her face, after she’d said the word, he had seen kind of a childish satisfaction – “Serves you right for calling me Elisha.” And he had to admit, she was only just getting even.

But there was more to this little word. Athair. Not father or отец (1). She hadn't used English, or Russian, but Gaelic (2). The meaning of the word was acknowledging Jack’s status in a way, but the language she picked meant she refused her own status. So maybe she was Jack and Irina’s daughter. But she was no Bristow, and she was no Derevko. That word was as much of a declaration of individuality as an acknowledgement of received DNA.

“Senhorita Clode, what a pleasant surprise! Please sit.”

Hearing the voice crackling in his earpiece, Jack focused back on the mission. Clode was in place. A place which, as it often was in their job – too often if you asked agent Bristow – happened to be a nightclub. More specifically, Anselmo Gutteres’ nightclub. Gutteres was a Portuguese investor who had a stake in pretty much everything that could yield profit, dubious activities included – like, say, stolen weapon schematics. Clode had easily accessed his VIP table, having concluded juicy deals with him before.

“I thought you were out of play,” Gutteres said.

“No one can keep me behind bars for long.”

Marshall’s excellent bug, placed in Elisha’s necklace, allowed for perfect acoustics despite the loud music played in the club. So Jack heard the young woman’s mocking tone all too well, and it sounded half cynical, half prophetic to him.

“I’m glad. As am I that you came, for it usually bodes a profitable investment. Do you already have something to sell?”

“It so happens that I do. And you're the first person that came to mind. Take a glimpse,” Elisha added, handing him a PDA.

“A 3-D prototype model? This weapon looks pretty groundbreaking.”

“I’ll let you be judge of that once you have the schematics and the model's full version. After half of my three millions are transferred on my account, that is.”

“And what if the plans are not as… how do you say, convincente, ah, yes, convincing?”

“Well, then you saved a million and a half dollars. Have I ever disappointed you anyway? Ripping you off for my comeback to the arena wouldn’t make much sense.”

“That’s true. I suppose it is no use negotiating, as usual... I'll transfer the sum right away.”

“You will get the schematics tomorrow, and if you are satisfied, you can just transfer the rest of the money.”

“Always a pleasure dealing with you.”

Jack sighed at the prospect of actually handing the schematics over to Gutteres, which could not be helped if Clode was to come back to the “arena,” as she said. But at least, they’d have a head start on him, and nothing was to stop them from raiding his place, once he had spent time and money on developing the weapon.

Back in Tuscany, a few days earlier.

         “I want to go home,” Sydney lashed out. “I want to see my father.”

“We can’t get in touch with him. He’s undercover. And right now, you do not have a ‘home.’ Agent Bristow let me be very clear. If you go back, you will be endangering the lives of everyone you claim to love.”

“You're trying to scare me.”

“Listen to me. If what little we know about the Covenant proves to be true, they are potentially much more dangerous than the Alliance ever was. You absolutely need to keep on being Julia Thorne.”

“If you think I’m gonna go back there, you’ve lost your mind.”

“If you don’t, they will take it out on you, on your friends, your family, on Vaughn.”

“I have to see him,” she uttered, her tone bordering on supplication.

“Sydney, you’ve been gone for nine months.”

“He loves me. Nine months don’t mean a thing!” she articulated, then left and slammed the door behind her.

January 7, 2004, CIA offices.

         “Do you – have a second?”

Jack, focused on his computer, hadn't heard Marshall closing in. He signaled him to sit, even though he had a pretty good idea of why he was there. Which was confirmed when the man closed the door before he sat down.

“I don’t, uh, want to meddle,” Marshall began. “I just wanted to be sure who is supposed to know what right now. Because I thought you weren't going to tell anyone about – Clode. But Clode seems to know about Clo… well, about who she is. And if she’s gonna say things like she did on that plane, then soon enough Kendall will know, too. And then he’s gonna ask all kinds of ‘Who was the first to know?’ and ‘Who told whom?’ and at some point he'll trace it back to me, and I don’t know what I should say then.

“What you should say – to Kendall?” Jack asked, not sure he followed.

“Yes, to Kendall.”

“Not a thing.”

“Really? Like, ‘DNA tests? Nah, just ordered these for fun,’ or…”

“If he has questions about Clode, just tell him to ask me.”

“Okay. But he’s not going to figure it out, right? I mean, Clode is not planning to call you Dad with everyone listening in on a regular basis? She really needs to not do that. I mean, I guess if you're not paying attention, that word sounds a lot like a cough or something, or ‘sir.’ Not a lot of people would expect her to call you any language’s word for ‘father,’ right?”

“I’m sure it won’t happen again,” Jack replied. “She got what she wanted out of it. Did you need anything else?”

“No, I just…” Marshall said, turning to the door and then back. “Well, I just thought you weren’t going to tell her – Clode.”

“I didn't. She had figured it out on her own before I confirmed her suspicions.”

“But how – how is that gonna play out?”

“The usual way for people like us,” Jack said with a sad smile.

Marshall gasped, understanding what the spy meant. “She’s using you to get out of her cell, and you’re using her to help Sydney.” He swallowed. “God, days like this I'm so glad I'm just a Flinkman.”

Meanwhile, in front of Vaughn's house.

Sydney saw Vaughn get out of the car. And at that second, all the suffering she’d been through over the nine last months, sensory deprivation, hypnosis, fear and shame, the blood of that man whose name she didn't even know, all of that didn't mean anything anymore, now that she was able to see him, and soon enough to talk to him, to touch him...

But then she came in sight. She was blonde, quite pretty, dressed with taste, smiling.

Sydney hated her at first sight. And even more when they kissed.

She thought she’d die, for real this time. But it’s never that simple. Just like when she’d found Danny dead in the bathtub, just when she’d understood Will was probably dead and Fran wasn’t Fran, just like in all these moments that take the air right out of your lungs and stick a blade in your heart, these moments that make you feel like you're dying... she wondered at the blood still running in her veins, and she walked on somehow.

So she found a phone booth and called the last person she wanted to talk to.

“Kendall.”

“I’ll do whatever you want.” 

February 15, 2004, CIA offices.

         It seemed like every day, Kendall was growing more assured about using Clode. But as Jack had feared, he was less and less in control of these missions, which were focusing on more important goals than finding Sydney. Kendall was commandeering his asset.

Of course, Jack had expected it to happen, sooner or later. Kendall’s choice for Clode's missions only showed how hopeless Jack's quest was perceived by the whole Agency. Sydney had been gone for almost a year, and no one had been able to find one single lead about her whereabouts. Not even Elisha Clode. And, after all, they had found her DNA on a charred body. To anyone with any power of decision, Sydney Bristow was dead.

Even agents who had known his daughter, as much as Jack hated it. Even Vaughn, who had left the CIA almost immediately after her funeral. And now, Dixon.

“Don’t look at me like that, Jack. It’s been so long, without any sign of life – add that to the fire, the DNA… Maybe just this once, things are exactly what they seem, maybe there’s no big plot, no conspiracy.”

“You don’t have to justify yourself. You can think whatever you like. Even if I’m the last person who still has faith, I won't stop looking for Sydney until I find some solid proof of what happened.”

“And what if there isn’t any?”

Jack remained silent and focused pointedly on a file. After a few minutes, Dixon left the office, giving up on convincing him.

Only then did a figure with long golden hair slide into his range of vision. A smile on her lips, Clode mimed knocking on the door, then slipped into the chair Dixon had just left.

“Even dear old Marcus,” she started, shaking her head in disbelief.

“He’s not the only one. Kendall only lets me do my thing to avoid confrontation, and both Vaughn and Weiss accepted the official version some time ago. On another note, did anyone ever tell you how rude eavesdropping is?”

“Actually, you know, I’ve been brought up by people who found that type of attitude extremely positive.”

“So what are you doing sneaking through the upper levels?” Jack asked, not caring to respond to that last remark.

“I'm not sneaking. Actually, if anyone asks, I'm not even here. I am currently locked up on the other side of this level, reading boring reports about what NEEL has been up to in Sri Lanka. My guard is on an unusually long coffee break. I think I scare them much less than I used to,” she added with a shrug.

“Is this visit just about you being bored?”

“Well, a little bit. But – well, we need to talk about something. I found information that could, well, maybe, I mean, it might be the lead we've been waiting for, about Sydney.”

Jack stared at her, surprised at her uncharacteristic hesitations, which reminded him of Marshall.

“What kind of information?”

“A video of her, safe and sound. But you’re not gonna like it at all.”

“How did you get it?”

“For those missions Kendall put me on, I accessed surveillance material which had previously been dormant. Including a hidden camera in the office of one Lazarey.”

“Andrean Lazarey, the Russian diplomat who was murdered a few days ago? Sydney was filmed in his office?”

“Yes,” Elisha replied, hesitant. “I would have rather checked the file’s authenticity before bringing it up, but I can’t do that without Kendall finding out…”

“Show me the video,” Jack articulated, wondering what was causing Clode such turmoil.

She sighed, then stepped to his side of the desk and leaned over his shoulder to type a link, then she stepped back and crossed her arms. Jack focused on the computer screen and the video started to play.

Andrean Lazarey was standing from his desk chair to greet a blonde-haired woman, whose face was hidden. They kissed each other on the cheeks, and the diplomat closed the door behind her. The woman turned around, looking toward the camera for the first time. Jack, though he expected what he saw, stopped breathing: it was Sydney. He felt tears welling up, realizing that he had been beginning to question his unwavering faith.

Lazarey walked in front of Sydney, who took a knife in her coat sleeve while he had his back to her. She then grabbed him by the neck and slit his throat. Jack started, his hand on his mouth. Meanwhile on the screen, Lazarey was putting his hand on his throat, and fell down on the floor, blood coming out of his injury.

It took the spy a few minutes to find his bearings and remember that Elisha was still in the room. He had not planned to let her see so much of his emotions. She seemed to be just as embarrassed, not daring to break the silence.

“Has anyone else seen this video?”

“I deleted it from the server, this is the only copy.”

“Good. What do you know about this Lazarey?”

“Not much. He descends from Russian royalty, the Romanov family. He seems to have taken quite an interest in Rambaldi.” She was quiet for a second. “As I said, I am far from certain this video is authentic. A lot of people could have manipulated it, for a lot of reasons.”

“I know. I’ll have it analyzed before I draw any conclusion,” agent Bristow replied.

“Well, maybe I should go back to my reports before someone realizes I’m gone and initiates self-destruct.”

“Elisha?” called Jack, wondering what he was doing, when she reached the door. “Thank you.”

She only paused for a second, not turning back, and then left the room.

Somewhere in Russia.

         “I’ll try to be as clear as I can, Mr. Lazarey. If you don’t do exactly as I bid, at this time tomorrow, you'll be dead.”

That was how she introduced herself. Julia. If that was even her name – which would have come as an enormous surprise. And he had trusted her. Hadn’t had much of a choice. He must have been right, since he was alive – and, more importantly, since the Covenant seemed to believe as firmly in his death as the Russian government did.

A surprising woman, this Julia. Very skilled. But not much of a believer in Rambaldi. Then again, as she had told him, “What matters is not what I believe. Some very dangerous people do believe, and they will do anything to get that damned prophet’s artifacts, like that cube you were to die for. What matters is stopping them.”

Colombo, Sri Lanka. February 16, 2004.

         Kendall had sent Jack and Dixon to accompany Elisha Clode to Sri Lanka, where she was going to meet a NEEL member who wanted to hire her for an operation the CIA knew nothing about – the very point of the mission was figuring out what the recently reborn groupuscule had planned.

“What news from Tokyo?” a woman asked, sitting on a bench next to Elisha, who was reading a newspaper.

Another James Bond aficionado, Dixon thought, focusing the field glasses that enabled him to watch the scene from the roof of a neighboring building. Jack was positioned in the park, in order to act quickly if there was a problem. Once again, one of Marshall’s gadgets allowed them to hear the conversation as if they were part of it.

“I don’t know, I always read the national section first,” Clode replied on a tone that seemed slightly jeering to Dixon's trained ear – but then again, didn’t she always use that tone?

“Pleasure to meet you,” the NEEL agent said without a look at Clode.

She was about forty, Asian, her hair was pulled in a severe-looking bun, her face was sharp and her gaze, dark and harsh. Dixon took a few pictures of her with the camera built into his field glasses, and they were instantaneously sent to Marshall's office so he could start a search in CIA files.

“Tell me more about the job,” Clode replied.

“It’s a rather delicate mission. You are probably aware that my organization has just taken a new start, and yet we already fear we have a traitor in our midst.”

The irony of the situation was not lost on Dixon. NEEL, in an attempt to flush out a rat, was setting a cat among the pigeons. Except the pigeons were more like wild animals, he corrected, focusing on the bench once more.

“How many moles?”

“We are assuming there is only one.”

“What is expected of me?”

“Find out who it is – discreetly. You see, we have been relying on a few generous investors, who would withdraw their funds immediately if they found out there is a spy amongst us, for fairly obvious reasons. We are willing to pay a very high price for you to… remove this problem.”

“That’s my line of work. But you’ll have to name a price.”

“Let’s say three million, if the problem is dealt with by the end of the week.”

“That should not be a problem,” Elisha Clode replied with an ominous smile before she left the bench and the park. 

         Not a problem indeed, Elisha thought to herself. While reviewing those fascinating reports the day before, she had already understood there was a mole in NEEL, and she even knew his name. It wasn't rocket science: the Chinese government had seemed way ahead of the US in their fight against NEEL, and had the bad taste of remunerating very generously – but not discreetly enough – a man who had never been a public employee, but did show up on the list of NEEL alleged members.

Joining Bristow and Dixon, who were waiting for her in a car parked reasonably away from the park, Elisha raised her eyebrows once more in front of the vehicle in question: the CIA had rather… peculiar taste in undercover cars. She had already seen their black Golfs and SUVs – why not have a bumper sticker that says “I‘m government and/or a crazy driver” – but today, they had an old Fiat who must have pulled a lot of strings to pass vehicle tests, repainted in... pink. A light pink, maybe, but still pretty flashy. The two seasoned agents who were impatiently watching her walk to them brought an eerie contrast to it. She observed the scene for a minute to burn it in her mind – opportunities for fun were so scarce in CIA secret jails…

Playtime over. She climbed at the back of the Fiat, and waited for one of her wardens to break the silence. Which none of them seemed inclined to do. She reluctantly spoke up:

“I already have the mole’s name,” she said, which didn’t seem to come as much of a surprise to anyone. “Wow, Elisha,” she said with a deep voice aping Dixon’s. “You really are the best.”

He glared angrily at her through the rearview mirror.

“So, what am I supposed to do? Do I do the job, or do we lie to NEEL?”

“Well yeah, go ahead, kill him,” Dixon lashed out. What do you think?”

“Oh, my bad, I forgot – the CIA has never had anyone killed, right?”

“Time out,” Jack interrupted, calmly but firmly.

“I’m just saying,” Elisha started again with a softer voice. “If you really want to waste taxpayers' money on faking the death and saving the life of a Korean mercenary who works for the Sri-Lankans and betrays them for the Chinese… be my guests! After all, none of my aliases pays taxes in the US!”

“Who is that Korean exactly?” Jack enquired ignoring her sarcasm as he often did.

“Choi Suk. Former K-Directorate. Several intelligence agencies suspect him of being part of NEEL, and he receives large sums of money from the Chinese government on a regular basis.”

“Good. I’ll get in touch with Kendall to organize his extraction ASAP.”

“You’re the boss,” Clode replied, stretching out her legs on the back seat.

“And we’re heading back to LA.”

“So soon?” Elisha said with a sorry look. “And I was hoping to enjoy Sri Lankan heat a bit longer…”

“Do I need to remind you it's a fifteen-hour flight and there's an O.R. waiting for you?” replied Dixon.

A few hours later, in a plane above the Pacific.

         Jack hadn’t had a chance to talk to his daughter since the mission had begun – Dixon had never let her out of his sight. When the man finally went to the bathroom in the plane, agent Bristow barely managed to hold back a sigh of relief, and it wasn’t lost on Elisha. She straightened up on her seat, waiting for him to break the silence.

“Do you know how to get in touch with your mother?” 

* Ending credits *

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