A/N: Alex’s powers and new knowledge will make more sense if you go read the first story in this series: “The League of Extraordinary Women”. The disclaimers, spoilers, and other information are all in previous chapters.
Jack said, “I knew that woman was bowling with less than ten pins. So they screwed around with human embryos. Women had babies. Weigler let the project run until… what? Let’s assume Heller tried to rescue a woman and her two-year-old, then Weigler killed the woman but Heller got away with the kid. She immediately scrubbed the project and killed anyone she thought might spill the beans. And then she had to catch the kid and find out what she knew and maybe even find out what she could do.”
Riley said, “So Weigler probably enlisted those CIA auxiliary assets, maybe off the books, maybe not.”
Graham said, “We’ll need forensic evidence to figure out who killed who.”
Lieutenant Lupo said, “But we definitely aren’t going to take the word of Weigler or any of her minions on anything.”
Jack said, “If she claimed the sky is blue, I’m looking out the window for verification.”
Alex hadn’t eaten since just before they landed in New York City, but she was so not hungry. This was horrible.
Jack ruthlessly told Pressman, “And that research into the charming history of Marissa Weigler and Project Galinka puts this squarely into my
It took six hours to get from New York to Berlin. Six really miserable hours, since Pressman didn’t know anything else, or at least managed not to spill anything else even when Lieutenant Lupo threatened to teach him the meaning of the word ‘bastinado’. Alex had to look the word up. Eww.
They landed in Berlin ten hours after Alex flew down to the Cessna back in Paradise Valley. It would have been two in the afternoon back home, but it was eleven at night in Berlin. They had to land at a NATO base and get driven to accommodations, which meant Alex had to go with the not-so-friendly Lieutenant Lupo to the female officers’ quarters, where they would be sharing a room. Alex had a hanging bag and her valise, which had all of Jack’s files, and it had the stuff for her computer tablet too. Her gymbag was locked in the hold of the Cessna with a security alarm on it and an M.P. guarding the jet for Jack. Lieutenant Lupo had one hanging bag and a weapons case that she warned Alex not to touch under penalty of losing a couple fingers. Wow, what a fun roommate.
They got into their small room, and the lieutenant showed Alex where to hang up her clothes, where to secure valuable stuff like the tablet, and where the bathroom was down the hall, so they could brush their teeth for bed and shower in the morning. Alex needed to wash all the makeup off her face, too. And she had to drape her wig on a bent coat hanger so it could air out.
Oh, and Lieutenant Lupo was wearing some really fancy thin-plate body armor under her blouse. Given some of the stuff Alex had seen already, that seemed… reasonable. Alex chowed down on three of her protein bars while the lieutenant went through some martial arts katas.
Once Lieutenant Lupo got ready for bed, she put an automatic under her pillow, held onto a sheathed combat knife, and slid into the bed.
The lieutenant said, “You’re gonna have to lie down and be quiet. Even if you can’t sleep, try. Because I’ve got to get some sleep, and we’re going to be getting up at six local time. I want us to shower in shifts so no one has a chance to toss our room while we’re both out. I took some melatonin a couple hours ago, but the colonel said you have weird allergies and not to make you take anything.”
Alex just said, “Thank you, sir.”
Lieutenant Lupo fell asleep in maybe twenty minutes, but Alex was still awake. It didn’t help that the lieutenant snored, just a little. It wasn’t a big loud snore. It was a soft snore like a purr from a really big kitty. That made Alex smile, and she had to make an effort not to giggle when she thought about it.
Thinking about that kid out there made the giggles go away really fast. What powers did the girl have? What powers could the other children have had, and did that awful Weigler woman kill all of them off? What if there were other sicko people out there experimenting on embryos? Or on little kids?
And oh my God, what had Maggie Walsh been doing between Project Galinka and Jack turning her down for the SRI? Alex got up and quietly used her tablet to send a message to Willow to start looking into Maggie Walsh’s other research work.
Alex woke up when Lieutenant Lupo yelled in her ear, “Drop your (something bad) and grab your (something rhyming), Farrell!”
“Oh crud!” she squeaked.
Lupo snapped, “Get up and grab your gear and prep. I’ll be back in five.”
Alex got the tablet unplugged from the special converter that turned the wall current into something the tablet could use, and she got the cord and converter and transformer and everything put in a ziplock baggie so they could sit in the valise and not get in the way of Jack’s files. She checked that the day’s uniform was ready to wear, and she put her jammies and stuff in the pockets of the hanging bag. As soon as Lupo came back, Alex grabbed her robe and dop kit, put on her ugly glasses and wrapped a towel around her hair, then rushed down to the showers for a really fast shower. It was way easier to make it fast when there was absolutely no privacy and like twenty shower heads in one big shower room. That was just as yuck as showering at school after gym class or when she was running track.
She got back to the room just in time to see Lieutenant Lupo hiding a knife and a derringer on her while she got dressed. Alex toweled her hair dry and put it under the wig cap, then got dressed as fast as she could with someone watching her, which wasn’t nearly as fast as she could get dressed if she could go silvery.
The lieutenant was at least nice enough to help her with her cap and the ribbons on her uniform. Alex said, “I really don’t like wearing ribbons I haven’t earned.”
The lieutenant gave her the first real smile Alex had seen out of her. “Good for you. But covert is covert. Can you back up what they claim?”
Alex shrugged, “Oh sure, if I have to.”
Lieutenant Lupo gave her a shark-like grin. “You think you could take me? I’m used to fighting big Army guys who know if they lose to a little girl they’ll get shit from their squadmates for months.”
Alex just said, “Need To Know. But yeah, I could take you. You don’t think the colonel brought me along because I can pretend
to be a computer guru, do you?”
The lieutenant said, “I know why Finn and Miller are in the SRI. I’ve heard about them. They’re badasses. And they can pretend they’re not. I know why the colonel’s in. He’s got one hell of a rep if you can get the right spec ops guys to talk about the wrong stuff over a few whiskeys. I just can’t figure you out. You look like you’re maybe eighteen tops, so there’s no way you’ve ever had any military training. We go all the way up to Paradise Valley to pick you up and there’s nothing there worth messing with, except that superhe… Oh holy crap.”
Darn it! She so stunk at the secret identity thing! She frowned, “You can’t talk about it. Ever. That’s one of the big secrets of the SRI.”
Lieutenant Lupo gaped, “There’s more
?” She stopped for a moment. “There’s nowhere we can spar, right?”
Alex admitted, “I don’t spar like normal people, anyway. I’m working on it.”
The lieutenant said, “Okay, okay… We have to get going. Mess hall, meet up with the team, prep for the eight ack emma conference here on base, the whole deal. But some day I want to spar.”
Alex said, “Right now I’d settle for you showing me to the mess hall and helping out when I eat more than anybody else our size.”
Lieutenant Lupo suddenly froze. “Our size? Damn it. Of course. O’Neill could have picked anybody, but he picked me. And I’m maybe the only person on his lists who could also body double for you in a pinch.”
Wow, that was a crazy idea… that could work. Jo was the same height, and the same shape, and the same build. Jo could probably wear Alex’s Terawatt costume except for the thing about the neckline not opening up. With a heavy makeup to hide Jo’s darker complexion, Jo could maybe pass as Terawatt if she didn’t have to do any superpowered stuff. And maybe Jo could pass – at a distance – as Alex Mack someday while Alex was being Terawatt!
Alex said, “Jack’s a lot sneakier than you’d think.”
“Jack? You get to call him Jack?” Alex just shrugged. “Oh. Right. Not really military.”
But the whole ‘secret identity not a secret anymore’ thing made Lieutenant Lupo loosen up a lot, at least with her. Maybe Jo just felt like she wasn’t stuck with some token girl who would be useless in a live op. Or maybe Jo felt like she was dealing with a serious organization, instead of some creeps who were messing around with a teenaged girl. Or maybe Jo was really impressed with the whole Terawatt thing. Alex had a feeling she’d probably find out by the end of the mission.
They got to the mess hall after the colonel, but Alex had noticed that Jack liked being early to stuff he cared about. She followed Jo through the line and copied Jo, even if Alex got two plate-sized waffles instead of Jo’s one, one on top of the other so it was harder to spot, and extra butter and syrup, and three fried eggs instead of Jo’s one. Jo looked at her like she was crazy and there was no way she could eat all that.
They sat down across from Jack, after Jo carefully stood at attention and said, “Permission to join you for breakfast, sir.” Alex had learned enough that she knew you didn’t salute if you had your hands full.
Jack gave Jo a nod and said, “Ya sure, you betcha” just like he was from Minnesota or something. Then he waited until Alex was done with her waffles, and he slid a plate with three pastries onto her tray. Jo didn’t say anything.
Jack gave her a raised eyebrow, so Alex carefully said, “The lieutenant figured it out this morning. The pickup site.”
“Aht! Well, next time we’ll address that. Meanwhile, eat up. It’s gonna be a long morning, full of synchronized arguing and freestyle boring and advanced finger-pointing and my least favorite sport, extreme butt-covering.”
Jo subtly watched her, but Alex was really hungry, so she just ate. She ate everything on her tray, plus the pastries from Jack, plus ten strips of bacon from Riley, plus a German potato thing Graham handed her, which was really good.
Jack asked, “Anyone seen Jimmy the Alfred Impersonator?”
Graham said, “He took off as soon as he could. He had a black sedan waiting for him off the tarmac.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “A black sedan? Was it driven by a mysterious stranger in a trench coat and dark glasses? Could these guys be any more cliché?”
Riley said, “They’re already mounting a big CYA effort, and my connections tell me we may have one of their HK teams moving north of us toward Finland. Maybe they think the girl doesn’t have anything else in her life so she’ll just go home and try to pick up the pieces.”
Jack said, “Yeah, right. A ‘special’ girl who’s been trained to be an assassin by a guy who’s had nothing on his mind for fourteen years but revenge? We’ll be lucky if she’s not a psychopathic thrill killer by now.”
Graham added, “Who kills people by throwing cars at them.”
Jo said, “If I were in her shoes, I’d aim for home in the most obvious way possible, just so I could take out as many of Weigler’s people as I could before they took me down.”
Jack fumed, “Great, more casualties and probably more innocent bystanders. Why haven’t these guys shut down Weigler before this fiasco?”
Riley said, “Could be Bond Syndrome. She was an extremely sexy, extremely charismatic agent with some big successes. If she was a psychopath, she may have had the extra charisma going for her on top of that.”
Alex raised her hand until her fingertips were about at neck height. “Umm, sorry sir, but Bond Syndrome?”
Jack grinned, “Made-up phrase. What was the first thing you thought when Finn and Miller walked up to you?” Alex blushed. Hard. Jack nodded, “Exactly. A truly gorgeous female agent has minimal ability to avoid attracting attention on assignments, but she can manipulate her colleagues and superiors even when they should know she’s doing it, just because of the attractiveness factor. Weigler may have used her attractiveness as a weapon, and may have used it in more than one way. If she also seduced several of her superiors, she could have controlled her own career path while making it look like her bosses were doing their jobs. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if she was behind whatever ruling about rogue agents ensured that she would be the one notified if Heller turned up again.”
Jo looked at Alex and explained, “Intelligent psychopaths tend to be very dynamic and charismatic, because they’re never nervous in a social setting. They just don’t care if you like them. Weirdly enough, this makes more people like them, because they seem so ‘cool’ and ‘suave’.”
Ugh. So now Alex knew something else gross and sick about how the world worked. Being a superheroine had some major downsides.
So Jack laid out how he thought the meeting would go, and what he wanted everyone to do. Alex noticed that Jack was expecting Riley and Graham and Jo to all be able to ‘chat up’ people and get them to talk about their stuff. And Alex checked her tablet for any new intel from captainmal and jackryanrules and Acid Burn. They had already thwarted five different attempts to hack her tablet or her network connections remotely, and they had sent messages to all of the hackers to knock it off and just come ask ‘Annie’ questions face-to-face. Also, Acid Burn had found out that Maggie Walsh had done post-doc work at Yale, then had taught and done more research at Yale while earning another doctorate, then did research at Princeton, some of it on off-campus projects, and also did a sabbatical at an NIH research lab in there, then a project with the Desert Research Institute before heading back to Princeton. Alex sent her a ‘good job’ and a request to get all of Maggie’s research papers catalogued and reviewed by qualified people. Who had ethics. Acid Burn emailed back that the ‘review’ part was going to be the SRI’s job since they should have done that already.
And then it was off to the meeting. Jack had ‘Lieutenant Farrell’ carrying his valise and handling his email and all that stuff. But really, all the hard computer stuff was being handled by Jack’s people and Willow, so she just had to play adjutant and remember which side she walked on when she was with Jack, and that kind of stuff.
They got to the meeting room, and Alex saw what it was going to be like. There were narrow rectangular tables arranged in a big square around an open area that people could walk in and out of through openings in the middle of each of the four sides. That split the tables up into eight segments, two per side. And it looked like each segment was taken over by a country. Jack had a place to the left of a U.S. State Department official and two guys in suits who had to be CIA. On Jack’s left were the French, who looked like they didn’t want to be near the Americans. To the right of the CIA guys, just around the corner of the square, were the Spaniards, who clearly didn’t want to be near the CIA guys. The other segments were taken up, according to their little placards, by state department officials and U.N. representatives and intelligence agents and military guys for England, Germany, Finland, Morocco, and Belgium.
The not-so-important people, like her and Jo and Riley and Graham, had seats back against the walls behind the big cheeses at the table. That meant they had to sit next to three nervous U.S. State Department underlings and four panicky CIA underlings, including that Pressman jerk.
Riley and Graham stood at parade rest on either side of her and Jo, making everyone else move away or else get glared at by really threatening-looking Army Rangers who could clobber you if you ticked them off.
The German State Department bigwig led off the meeting, and it pretty quickly got just as boring as Jack had promised. Each country got to complain on and on and on about how the CIA wasn’t supposed to be running loose killing their people or other countries’ people who just happened to be vacationing in their country, thereby making their country look bad. And the CIA guys tried to cover their butts every chance they got. At least Alex had a computer tablet, and Willow had uploaded four different solitaire games on it.
All that went so long that the meeting still hadn’t gotten to the Brits by lunchtime. So lunchtime was extra uncomfortable, with everyone eating in one big mess hall while not talking to the other groups and like that.
Except for the SRI. Riley went over to talk to a couple German military guys he knew from some NATO exercises. Graham went over to talk to a British lady he had met on some assignment. Jo went over to chat with some Spanish diplomats who were thrilled to have a really hot Hispanic woman go flirt with them. So it was just Alex and Jack. She had already eaten two protein bars, so her tray wasn’t ridiculously over-full, but she still had more to eat than Jack did. And Jack had a big slice of pie that was for her. He really did seem to spend a lot of time taking care of his people. She wondered if he’d still be nice to her if she really screwed up.When
she really screwed up.
Three nerdy-looking guys came by their table, and were going to run off when they saw Jack there, but Jack waved them over and grinned, “I’m just gonna go off and do boring military stuff. Now nobody be mean to the lieutenant, or I’ll sick those really huge Army Rangers on you.” But he gave them a big, snarky grin so they chortled. Nervously.
All three of them sat around her and started talking. “Annie? You sent me the message?”
She smiled, “If you’re one of the five people who have tried to hack my computer or my connectivity since three this morning, yeah.”
They looked at each other.
“Couldn’t be the Moroccans, they’ve got the computer skills of a Mac user.”
“Maybe the Sour Kraut.”
Alex had a list of the five usernames and everything Willow had backtracked on the names. So she glanced at her tablet and asked, “Would that be Werner Schneider, working from the MAD office out of Koln?”
All three laughed. The one with the London-y sounding accent grinned, “You pegged him in one. If you ever meet him, you’ll see. He’s the grumpiest computer hacker on this side of the pond. I’m James.”
“Annie.” She shook his hand. From Willow’s work she knew he was James Marlowe, a computer guy for MI6, which had a representative at the British table.
The one with the French accent smiled, “Ignore Jammy Jimmy. He’s always getting us in trouble. I’m Jean-Pierre.” She shook his hand, but he held onto her hand a little too long, which was sort of creepy.
The one with the Spanish accent said, “And I am Alejandro, and as you probably already figured out when you backtracked my work, I am with the CNI. I am the best computer hacker here.”
She gave him a smug smirk and pretended she was really Acid Burn. She said, “Second best. But you shouldn’t take that as an insult, because I’m far better than any of the dorks at the CIA.”
James grinned, “I saw you sitting with the hot Hispanic, in between the two rocks of Gibraltar. You’re not CIA?”
She said, “Nope.” She even popped her ‘p’ like Jack just for fun. “A couple weeks ago, I picked up some encoded CIA traffic that sounded like it might fall under our purview – which I can’t tell you about – but Colonel O’Neill has been ragging on the CIA ever since, trying to get us in the door so we could find out if this really should be turned over to us. Last night, on our way over here, we finally got a briefing from the CIA, because everyone knows their ass is getting roasted and they wanted some help from the State Department and the Pentagon. So we’ve been hacking into CIA records ever since. They’re not happy with us, and they’re going to be a lot less happy with us when the colonel steps on their faces and takes this mess out of their hands.”
James nodded, “Our people think they know what happened. We’re going to blow everyone’s minds when we present after lunch.”
Jean-Pierre shrugged, “Jimmy always thinks his teams are going to shock everyone, and they’re usually lagging far behind us.”
James smugly said, “You haven’t seen what our new analyst can do.”
Alex put lots of smug in her voice as she said, “I always look forward to seeing what other competent people can do.” She glanced at her tablet and added, “As opposed to the lame attempts from your friend the Sour Kraut, who couldn’t even get past my automated defenses. If he doesn’t stop, I may have to do something.”
Alejandro said, “He’s behind a serious firewall and he only works from mainframes. He’s highly protected.”
Alex glanced again at Willow’s notes on her tablet and said, “Midframe at best. He’s currently working from a terminal hooked up to a Unisys system. And since it’s a Windows Server multi-processor box, I can crash it if I feel like it.” She really had no idea how Willow found out some of the stuff she could find out, even when Willow could crack most people’s firewalls like they were raw eggs.
Jean-Pierre said, “As they say in your movies, ‘we are not worthy’.”
Alejandro grinned, “I cannot wait to send the Sour Kraut an IM that the Americans backhacked him so thoroughly that they could tell us what system he’s on.”
Alex knew what Willow had already said about the German guy, so she repeated it. “He’s not very creative, but he’s very stubborn.”
Jean-Pierre looked at his pals and laughed, “Just like all the Germans!” James and Alejandro gave him high fives.
After the three computer guys left, Alex checked her tablet some more, and Willow had sent her instructions for interfacing the tablet with the LAN in the conference room in case Jack asked her to show everyone some of the stuff the real hackers had worked up last night.
Wow. Willow even had a presentation file she could use. Alex went through the entire file just to make sure there weren’t any surprises.
And sure enough, there were surprises. She dumped everything into her valise and went straight to Jack, who naturally was being sarcastic with someone. This time, it was an old British general with a huge nearly-white mustache and a ton of ‘fruit salad’ all over the front of his uniform, and a French general who had a huge medal that went with a big sash thing. There was no way she could interrupt that talk. So she just stepped to Jack’s side and stood there like a good little adjutant.
Jack finally looked her way and said, “Okay lieutenant, don’t salute.”
She pretended to be confused. “B-but sir…”
Jack looked at the generals and said, “This is my adjutant and computer hacker extraordinaire, Lieutenant Farrell. Lieutenant? Brigadier General Brathwaite-Thomson and General du Vallée.”
She went ahead and saluted both of them and acted overwhelmed. Okay, these were big, important generals. She was kind of overwhelmed.
Jack asked, “Anything new and exciting on the computer-y front?”
She said, “Yes sir. I won’t touch on the efforts of the English and French to hack my tablet and our connectivity, because the CIA and the Germans have been a lot more persistent, and they’re not the only ones.”
Jack impertinently asked, “So who’s got the best crackers?”
She knew what Willow had emailed her, so she said, “Spain, then France, then England, then the CIA people, then the Germans. The German programmer is apparently known in the European infowar community as the Sour Kraut.”
General du Vallée snorted with amusement. He then asked her, “The CIA? Are you not here to help them?”
Jack said, “Nope. We’re here to take this case out of their incompetent hands and save the day.”
The British general winced a little as he said, “This isn’t going to turn into another Myrhorod, is it?”
Jack scowled, “Not if I can help it.” He turned to Alex and asked, “And what does all that hacking and cracking fun have to do with things?”
She said, “I did backtracking on every one of the attackers. The British hacker, James Marlowe of MI-6, had a set of brand new files on his computer, so I peeked at them. One of them is by their data analyst they’re going to involve after lunch. I think we want to meet with her.”
“Aht! No poaching of other people’s personnel, Farrell. Especially in front of said people.”
She tried to give it a stiff ‘lieutenant’ tone. “Sir, I would never do that. It’s just that she’s…”
But the general was gesturing to someone behind Alex, and that person was walking up, with bushy brown hair coming into Alex’s peripheral vision.
A female voice with a crisp British accent asked, “Yes General, what can I do for you?”
The British general said, “This young lady wants to speak to you.”
Alex turned her head and said, “Lieutenant Annie Farrell, U.S.A.F. And you’re Hermione Jean Granger, parents Derek and Jean Granger, within a year of finishing your doctorate in ethnography and social policy at Cambridge, even though you still haven’t told your professors who you really work for. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Hermione wasn’t the only person who stopped and stared at her. Everyone did.
A/N: Yeah, you know this is already covered under the first chapter’s disclaimers.