Trained for Stealth
Thorne was finally within a shot of the enemy camp.
In Syria. Which meant he couldn't take a real shot.
Or, if he did, he better not get caught.
For now he was surveying.
The camp was by a mountain range.
A mix of caves, tents and concrete buildings.
His training said climb down the slopes, behind the backs of the guards.
His training did not include sheep.
Their bleeting would have been dangerous enough, but then a surprised ram jumped away from him and fell down, straight at the feet of one of the guards.
The guard looked up...
If there was anything positive in her situation, Aminah couldn't see it.
She walked out into the cold night - somewhere with no prying ears to make a call.
Suddenly there was commotion at the perimeter.
She headed over.
Three guards were arguing over a dead sheep.
A shadow crept almost unnoticed to the mouth of one of the caves.
Aminah followed it, pulling out her P228.
"Stop. Turn. Slowly."
The man complied.
"You!" they breathed in unison in two languages.
Then Aminah noticed his gun, pointed at her.
"Your day going as well as mine?" he asked.
"Better and better."
At the Edge
They looked at each other across barrels of their guns.
"Now what?" she asked.
Outside the guards still argued.
"We both drop them. And talk," he offered.
He looked into her cold eyes and then shrugged.
"I am looking for my father."
"He's not here."
"He must be somewhere. Couldn't just... vanish into thin air."
"It happens, in this land. Who do you think will find you, if I shoot you?"
She had a point.
"If you wanted to kill me, you would have done it already. Or turned me over to your buddies."
He had one too.
Magic and Lies
Suddenly the voices outside fell silent.
She looked out and cursed in Arabic... and some eastern European language.
"Picturesque speech," he muttered.
"Silence. Follow my lead," she snapped.
She pulled stone out of her pocket, drew a worm of a word on it; handed it to him and pushed him deeper into the cave.
Invisible force lifted him off his feet, trapping him.
Guard came in a second later.
"Aminah, what is this?"
"Late night test, Basir. Sorry, Hamid, seems the amulet needs work," she deactivated the field, grabbed the stone back and held it up, unapologetically.
"Yes. Needs work."
"Magic... it's true," Thorne breathed when the door of one of the buildings closed behind them.
"Surprised?" Aminah asked coldly. "Didn't your father have magic?"
"We don't take Americans without magic."
"He... had a thing. Family heirloom. Artifact..."
"...that we might be interested in. But why would he still be alive?"
"Maybe he isn't. Either way uncertainty is high price to pay."
"Your life is higher."
"Everybody dies. We don't leave our people to rot in enemy camps."
They looked at each other.
She couldn't. She was on thin ice already. Unless...
"There will be a price."
Back to Back
“I need this message sent, but I have to stay put now. I've been gone too long.”
She gave Thorne a device and quickly scribbled text.
“Magic comm?” he turned it in his fingers.
“You are playing more than one side here.”
“And the sun rises in the East. Any more obvious statements we need to waste breath on?”
Your codename is Mouse. He didn't say that out loud.
She led him through to the back of the building.
It should be clear for another hour or so.
“I'll have your back, if you have mine. Don't fuck up."
Two days after the message, Aminah hatched a plan.
“You're kidding! Sending me to Petra on some fool's errand, while mister No One here...” Thorne indicated newly arrived Racoon, “...tries to locate my father 'somehow'. And you'll do – what, exactly? - meanwhile?”
“That's need to know, mister Nobody,” Racoon's eyes glinted. “You don't.”
“I'm sick of 'alphabet soup types' pulling this shit every time. Keeping people in the dark only ever comes back to bite you.”
“Anything – anyone – can turn and bite you in the ass,” Aminah shrugged.
“You would know about that… but don't worry, Minnie. I keep my word.”
Playing the Field
Things didn't go well in the lab. Aminah knew she won't be able to join all the magic into one source – not immediately. Dividing it into three parts seemed reasonable.
Now to make them connect…
She threw up her hands and walked out.
Eyal paged her.
Tearoom in town
She expected many things, but personal visit from Wolf was not one of them.
“You could have called.”
“You sent a person you barely know… he's not from the Agency! ...on a mission he is not qualified for. Without authorization. Without means of communication!”
“He's resourceful. And deniable. He'll manage.”
Damned if You Do…
"I'm taking you and Racoon back with me," Wolf said.
"No," Aminah replied.
She waited to work on project like Synergy ever since the Professor first brought her here.
Going to the Agency was not going 'back'. She had nothing to go back to.
Wolf gave her a week, before being extracted anyway.
She didn't tell him about Synergy.
She couldn't refuse to finish it even if she wanted.
Professor would just find someone else.
Over dead bodies.
She realized that when she found her little apprentice unconscious in the lab, obviously magic stricken after tampering with the three artifacts.
Could Be Worse
Aminah nursed the girl back to consciousness.
There were black markings on her face.
Then Aminah came back to the artifacts.
There was a weak connection between them.
Under her hands the connection grew stronger.
The magic started shaping itself into the mirror of what she saw in the nine.
Her eyes were burning as she looked at it. When she closed them, there were ornaments burned on her retinas as a tattoo.
For a few moments, she could see all her creation could do.
"Well done, my dear," a voice spoke in her mind, breaking her focus. "Very well."
For a moment Aminah basked in the rare appreciation.
But even through it – maybe because of it – she realized what needs to be done.
Not without hesitation.
This place was a home to her for too long.
Could she really believe it was wholly evil?
It didn't matter. There was little choice.
The Professor came to check on her creation – she knew he would.
They were alone.
She smiled at him and triggered a hidden mechanism.
As she did, she was tackled to the ground by Eyal, who materialized out of nowhere.
Then everything exploded in a bout of magic.
Ashes to Dust
The ground lurched under Thorne's feet.
There was no flame and nothing else that would indicate an explosion, yet it couldn't be anything else.
He picked himself up and ran towards the concrete building.
He needed to save them - the only clues left to his father.
The building was beginning to crumble from within.
If they were in the lab, there was no way they survived.
As he waded through the rabble, he found a little girl.
He took her in his arms and left the cursed camp.
On the way to town he met Wolf.
From the Desk of the Commanding Officer
We regret to inform you, your son was killed in the line of duty.
If you can call an unsanctioned op in neutral territory that.
He has served well and made his country proud.
He was a decent officer, but he went off his rocker, chasing ghosts.
He will forever be remembered by those who had the honor of serving with him.
Just like his father no one in the military looked for.
He will posthumously receive medal of valor.
He didn't deserve it while alive.