Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal
An infiltration turns to an interrogation, which then turns to an exfiltration.

Location: Kiev, Ukraine

Date: 01/08/2013

"Do you think you'll be the one to kill me? Man, that'd be awkward." -Porter


It's the kind of deep night few people want to be out in for long; a wind just present enough to knife the skin whips around the old city's architecture and the air threatens to spit something cold. That doesn't stop the shouts and laughs of people emerging from bars on the street, or from the muted wail of sirens from sounding in the distant city-center. All muffled here. A narrow no-man's land. Grey stone flanks its mirror image building with barely a shoulder-width alley between, it looks inhospitable to even the homeless, even to strays, an unlit alley to nowhere but a nothing-street at the end of the block.

But, one man's no-man's land… one woman's shortcut.

Cooling breath vapor mingles with smoke, curling into the thin corridor like the owner; and, like its owner, as solid as a ghost.

A man steps into view at the mouth of the alley. He's smallish, blonde, has very blue eyes, and is dressed just a little too nicely to blend into this neighborhood. Bundled against the cold, a scarf wrapped up high around his chin, he holds out a gloved hand. "I'm certain you dropped this," he says. His lips twitch upward into a smile so small that it's hard to spot before it disappears.

It's a cell phone. A cheap burner, but guaranteed to be secure for a single call. And it's ringing.

Blacked out under the overhang of a wool newsboy cap, the face turned to the man is impenetrable, but assessing even from there. He's considered. Approached. The phone moves from one gloved hand to another: hers smaller, but the make just as fine. It's only as the vague city light from the mouth of the alley crosses her face, illuminating the sharpened grey of her eyes and her precise feminine features, that she answers without speaking. Those eyes say I am certain I did not.

The phone is given a singular examination as if considering a potential deadliness. All while staring solidly ahead, she breathes the rest of the smoke from her mouth and methodically stabs her cigarette into the side of the left building, brings the burner to her ear, and presses the answer button. Giving the other line no grace of a hello, she says nothing.

The slim man arches an eyebrow and smiles a little wider, then walks away without another word. In just a few steps, his grey overcoat has blended with the cold fog and he disappears.

The caller needs no prompting. By the time the cut out has vanished, a digitally altered voice is issuing instructions. "Your services are required. We will pay twice your usual fee if you agree to immediately extract all available information concerning ISO Directive One from a subject located at our facility. Half of the payment will be provided as a retainer, with the balance to be delivered upon completion of the project. Transportation will be provided. Do you agree to the terms?"

Does she, does she. She mulls it over with a roll of her expired cigarette between two fingers and her thumb — perhaps more contemplative over re-igniting it than the request presented to her. The slight woman leans against the building, careless to the cold bite of the stone. "Who is it that requested my services," her heavily accented voice puts forth a question instead of the yes or no that may have been sought. She sounds agreeable, however — at least vaguely; at the very least, she sounds unconcerned, drifting a line between casual and professionally to-the-point. "And the subject— ?" Roll, roll of the used cigarette. "I don't care about twice the fee," she says, except that it tells me you have in your facility someone you feel is important. Maybe— critical? One or two details— that is a … better price."

There's a brief pause and a puff of air from the other end. The caller isn't pleased. "The subject is a CIA field operative who was attempting to sabotage one of our facilities. If names are important to you, mine is Quinn. I'll be your liaison with our mutual employer, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. Now. Do you agree to the terms?"

While the voice was cold and mechanical at first, now it seems a bit more human. There's a touch of personality, at least. The final question is a firm one, though.

She holds her sigh in, allowing none of her thought — the weighing of variables that crop up upon the admittance of CIA field operative — to escape via her breath into the phone. "Hm," is more of a prelude to speech — a blase sure, why not —than any sort of pondering aloud. As she pushes off from the wall, her voice might as well take over the cold and mechanical tone. "I agree to your terms."

"Prepare for transport." These are the caller's last words, then the line goes dead.

Seconds later, a van screeches to a stop in front of Ania with the side door already open. Two women jump out, and the thin man rematerializes from nowhere. All three of them hustle their passenger into the vehicle politely but quickly. As soon as everyone is seated, the engine revs and the tires squeal again.

Ania has been shifted to the rearmost seat. From in front of her, the blonde man turns around and offers her another of his small smiles, along with a ski mask that's had the eye holes sewn shut. His expression is simultaneously apologetic and insistent.

Their employee takes up little room, a slight figure even in her assortment of grey layers and scarves, dressed more for a dapper winter evening. Ania's expression is simultaneously unmoved and distrusting to meet the blonde man's; however, appearing unbothered by being so quickly ushered into the vehicle, she's just as accepting of the mask. Necessity. Job hazard, just like her general distrust. She slips her hat from her head, freeing the static charge of her brown hair for an instant before it's touched by the ski mask. Her eyes close meditatively a moment before it's pulled tightly down, preparing her senses for the blind journey.

Whoever's driving the van in good. Not only is it in motion for what feels like hours, there are a great deal of turns, u-turns, fast-brakes, and other measures designed to disorient.

When they finally arrive at their destination, there's a pause as a bay door is opened and the vehicle is driven directly into a building. The engine cuts off and a voice calls out, "You may remove the bag, miss. We're here."

There are sounds of various doors opening as the team lets themselves out into what appears to be a warehouse. A portion of it has been partioned off by a mirrored glass surface. A single door leads to the area. The rest of the structure is open and uninhabited, save for one man strapped to a wooden chair under a very bright light. The only things he's wearing are a pair of suit pants and a burlap sack over his head. A taser burn is visible at his neck, just below the edge of the bag. Other than that, he appears none the worse for wear. A few bruises, some nicks and scratches.

The burner cell phone rings again.

Adjusting her hat neatly back on her head and tucking most of her hair up under it, Ania Evanko steps into the warehouse and takes in the scene with a thorough, and thoroughly stoic, gaze. The sight of the man strapped down with a bag over his head is viewed no differently as the walls, as pedestrian as the chair he sits in. He's not quite yet a person; he's a nameless operative, a job not yet fully seized.

Her sights do, however, ultimately settle and gradually sharpen on the figure as she stops and pulls the burner phone out of the inside pocket of her overcoat: the same as the first time, she answers without answering beyond the press of a button.

"Our only intel indicates that ISO Directive One poses a direct risk to our organization, and that this agent has more information. We wish you to extract it by any means necessary. Should you require any tools or equipment, you may contact me via this phone. It will remain secure for as long as you're inside the building." As cordial as ever, Quinn hangs up without waiting for a response.

The blonde man hands Ania a thick envelope that crackles in a promising, papery fashion. Then he and his two companions depart, leaving her alone with the captive agent.

Ania's unmoved face shifts for one, single second. A pleased twitch of her lips: the magic words, by any means necessary. She tucks the phone away and runs a short fingernail over the flap of the envelope. It's slowly pried open as she remains in place; despite delicate fingers, the paper rustling travels through the warehouse, sharp and amplified. It's soon joined by the steps of flat-soled shoes under a light body taking a straight track toward the captive. Ania stops directly behind him, a foot away, and pulls out the contents of the envelope.

The prisoner is awake, that much is obvious. His breathing isn't deep or regular enough for him to be unconscious, and he occasionally gives his head a subtle tilt when he hears voices. Other than that or an occasional sigh, he's silent and motionless. His ankles have been zip-tied to the chair's legs, and his wrists have been threaded through the back of the chair and tied together. Captive. Helpless.

As soon as Ania confirms the contents of the envelope and knows she's been compensated, she loses all interest in the money and tucks it out of sight, out of mind. Step by slow, methodical, exploratory step, she walks her way around the chair in a circle, studying the faceless man from every angle, as well as his surroundings. She squints up into the bright light hanging above. On the second go, she gradually sheds her heavier coat — rustle, rustle — folding it over the arm of a thinner suit jacket in the same dark, impervious shade of grey. Circling around to his back again, her hand grazes a few frayed strands of burlap at the captive's neck, and — snap! — her fingers strike like a match in front of his hidden face. She's suddenly right there, dragging the bag abruptly off his head, ready to meet the eyes of her subject.

The snap elicits a headtilt, but little else. When the bag is removed, a scruffy, cheerful-faced man with a split lip blinks his eyes several times, as if he hasn't seen light in quite a while.

His hair is clipped functionally short and he's covered in several days' worth of stubble, a possible indication of how long he's been here. When he turns toward his newest interrogator, he reveals a faded scar high on his bicep that curls around his arm in a very particular fashion. He's gotten older, that's for sure. He's still fit, but he's gone salt-and-pepper, especially in the beard. His crooked smile hasn't changed, though. Not one bit.

"Hi," Porter says. He's awfully chipper for a man strapped to a chair in a dank warehouse.

Ania stares without blinking; her head tips back ever-so-slightly, as if to say aha. Dilated, the black of her eyes are pitfalls, deeper than ought to be possible for her age of twenty-eight years. Particularly when she still looks younger than that. A tiny crease appears in the curve between her nose and clean lines of her eyes, barely a squint. The corners of her lips move, as if to smile, or smirk, but settle into an almost expression that settles on neither. "You look happy to see me," she comments, a thread more buoyant than her demeanor lifting her voice. "Most people, they're not so— chipper," her eyes flick, studying his crooked smile and salt-and-pepper beard. "Only when they think they have good luck, seeing a little girl as their interrogator." Little, Porter's designated interrogator may be; little girl, she is nothing but.

"I'm happy to see anything at all. I've been inside that bag for two days. Ish. Hard to tell." Porter speaks painfully around his split lip, but his smile doesn't diminish. He has a presence; somehow confident, even tied up and at anyone/everyone's mercy. "Smelled bad in there, too. Like having your head up a cow's ass."

There's a creaking sound as he tests his bonds, but it's an experimental gesture rather than an escape attempt. From the look on his face and the welts on his wrists, he's tried this a time or two already. "So. Any chance I could get some water?"

"I don't see a kitchen here, do you?" she replies with a vague glance off to the side into the dull depths of the warehouse. She tosses the bag in the same direction with a swift, but lazy, flick of her wrist. She seems generally uninterested in Porter's thirst, but she is interested in him: her head tilts as she regards the prisoner, casting a slanted shadow over her diminutive face due to her cap. "I hear you tried to sabotage a particular facility."

"Yeah," Porter admits. "This one. We're just in the foyer. In there," he pauses and jerks his head in the direction of the glass wall. "They're making biological weapons. Something called ISO Directive One. I managed to get in and plant charges on some of their equipment, but they caught me on my way out. Obviously. Do you think you'll be the one to kill me? Man, that'd be awkward."

"Not so awkward," Ania says casually. The straight angle of her right shoulder softens as she lifts in in a gradual shrug. "They would just need to pay me an additional fee." Casual, but the little flare in her eyes suggests potential threat — side-by-side with a hint of entertainment. She turns to stroll a few steps to the side. She removes a slick tin cigarette case from under the lapel of her jacket. "But," she stares with a distant manner of ponderousness at the glass wall, "I don't think," she plucks a cigarette from the case easily extracts her lighter next, "that's what will happen here today, Agent Porter. Hm? What else do you know about this Directive?"

"Me? Nothing. I'm just a water carrier. I make the bombs. I bring the bombs. I plant the bombs. Quinn and his people already know everything I know, plus a lot more. I wonder what they're playing at, hiring you to interrogate me?" Porter's pretty talkative for an interrogation subject. His smile wavers and his eyes flicker toward the floor, but only for a moment. The chair creaks as he shifts his weight. Once he's settled, his cheerful expression comes back in full force and he meets Ania's eyes squarely. "The question you should be asking yourself is, why didn't he just kill me and get it over with? That, and how much do you want to work for someone who's building weapons based off of old VX gas research?"

A barely audible "mm" is uttered under the interrogator's breath, punctuating the quick shrug of one shoulder as she glances further into the warehouse, toward the supposed weapons-building. Her lazy glance is the cold one of a creature with scattered and lacking morals, and it's still chill when it returns to Porter. However, it's alive with a distant curiosity for the first questions he's posed. She eyes her lighter with the vaguest skepticism in light of words like gas being thrown around. Does she care enough… "You're so talkative," she starts, flicking the flame of her lighter into being, sets the cigarette between her lips, lights it and takes a slow drag while regarding Porter in the eye. "You must have a theory," she speaks through smoke. Inching closer — barely seeming to move, her presence simply pressing in — she hovers the still-flaming lighter close to his face, its warmth encroaching on his eye, and she watches, as if the flame illuminating his gaze will shed light on the very situation itself.

More creaking sounds come from Porter's plastic restraints and his chin juts forward defiantly. "Yeah, I have a theory. They're going to kill you. These guys are making horribly cruel and deadly weapons. They either plan to use them or sell them to someone who will, so lots of people dying clearly doesn't bother them. Why go to the trouble of paying you and driving you home when they can dump you in the same hole they dump me in?"

He lets the question hang in the air for a moment, then shrugs as best as he's able. "I don't know who these guys are or what they really want, but they aren't messing around. If I were you, I'd cut and run while there's nobody around to stop me. I'd also take me with you. Just sayin'."

For someone who's life may be in danger in a warehouse full of biological weapons, Ania doesn't seem to be in any hurry to do anything about it. She seems almost distracted, gradually watching the flicker of orange from her lighter as it heats up the air, entranced by the flame or perhaps what it's capable of so close to the prisoner's skin; but she snaps back, and the flame snaps off, well-aware of Porter's words. She inhales on her cigarette again, looking away. "I don't have anything better to do," she says as she looks back — the moment her eyes land on Porter this time, there's a playfully knowing look and a hint of a smile on her face. Fair's fair, maybe. What goes around comes around.

Ania fishes smoothly in her pockets. The lighter is replaced concisely with a small knife. She strolls behind Porter, and seconds later, she's fighting the restraints keeping his hands together. Succinctly cutting them, she reaches around led by two fingers, places her cigarette against Porter's lips and abandons it to him, circles front, and kneels. Large eyes look up, serious as a disease. "If you double-cross me, I will slit your throat or something worse, 'Kyle Porter'," she states before she goes for his zip-tied ankles. Snap, one releases. Snap, two.

Despite his brash attitude, his relief is visible when the lighter's flame is pulled away from his face. Then he's blessed with a cigarette and freedom in the span of a few seconds. Though his body is creaky and sore from spending several days strapped to a chair, he unfolds himself quickly and comes to his feet without complaint. In fact, there's a look of pleasure on his face as he takes a deep draw from Ania's cigarette. "Mrrrr," he rumbles. "I love it when you talk dirty to me. C'mon, we should head for the roof. These jokers only have one helicopter. We steal it, we're home free."

Six minutes later…

The roof access door crashes open as a unformed security guard is tossed through it. Porter has gotten his hands on a shirt and some shoes, though neither fit him particularly well. He doesn't seem happy with the pistol he's holding, either. Still, he uses it to cover himself and his interrogator-turned-rescuer as they cross the roof and head for the helicopter. "As soon as we board, get your headgear on and strap in. This is going to be a fast takeoff."

A woman of little words when she doesn't deem them necessary, Ania rushes across the rooftop. She has a — larger, deadlier — knife in hand now, and is supremely comfortable holding it, but hasn't used it, instead leaving the dispatching of any obstacles to Porter while she sneaks quickly from Point A to Point B behind him. She wastes no time in climbing onto Point B, the singular helicopter that sits there just as Porter said it would. The only thing she says before doing as he says is a pertinent, "Where are we going?"

Porter already has his earmuffs on and is flipping switches with practiced precision, spinning up the craft's rotors. He's about to reply when a pair of gloved hands and a cargo strap reach over the top of his seat from behind. The strap cinches neatly around his neck, cutting off his airflow and his ability to speak. He pries at the improvised garrote, but is unable to free himself.

The attacker must've been waiting in the chopper's passenger area. No face is visible, no voice is heard. Just harsh, heavy breaths from both men as the life is strangled out of Agent Porter.

In a flurry of activity, Ania unstraps and turns around in her seat, eyes flashing metallic with her surge of adrenaline. No panic strikes the woman, however, it's all survival instinct roiling together with speeding, precise thoughts; she crouches backwards on her seat like a small animal, staring into the dark. Quick little hands work; she stabs her knife forcefully in the direction of the strangler's breath, near the cargo strap.

It's clear that the would-be killer wasn't expecting a swift counterattack. He dodges, but far too late. The knife bites into the space between his neck and his collarbone, immediately putting him out of the fight.

Porter is gasping for air as he yanks the straps from around his throat, but he doesn't stop to check the body or even to thank Ania. He's back on the controls, getting the chopper into the air and plotting a course for Anywhere But Here.

Just in time, too. More guards are piling out onto the roof. There's an occasional CRACK or PING as a small-caliber round strikes their escape vehicle, but they're out of range before they can be hit too many times.

Similarly, Ania doesn't bother to check if Porter is okay; maybe it wasn't her priority list anyway, or maybe it's obvious enough since he's manning a helicopter just fine by her standards; she stretches against every chopper safety regulation to check on the state of the man she stabbed, practically going with his body as he falls down with her attached to the hilt of her knife.

When she's secured back into her seat and strapped in properly, the knife is clean of blood and she's setting it on her narrow lap. She glances down at the guards, progressively shrinking in size as they grow in number, but lends most of her eye to watching the current pilot of the helicopter.

Now that they're well away, Porter spares a moment to massage his throat and glance back at Ania. "Well. That was fun." His voice is tinny and crackly, but still audible through the headsets. "Thanks."

After giving the navigational controls a few prods, he locks them in on a friendly airstrip a few hundred miles away. "Now all we have to do is cross about six sets of borders without being shot down. Should be cake."

Ania's only form of a "your welcome" comes in the form of a quick flit of her eyes to Porter and away and a twirl of her knife; acknowledgment rather than welcome at all, truly. "I don't know to…" She eyes the navigational controls. "… fly, a helicopter." She would have been considerably up the creek with an asphyxiated pilot. After a pause in which she simply stares out onto the airstrip, she states, dully deadpan but with a flash of her eye, "Who doesn't like cake?"

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