Fade Chapter Nineteen

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Based on an original series and alternate future by Sonny & Ais called In the Company of Shadows.

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Slash (M/M), het (M/F) and graphic language, violence and sexual situations. Not intended for anyone under 18!


Book One: Evenfall See Evenfall chapter list.

Book Two: Afterimage
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Fade Chapter 19

Uploaded on 4/28/2012

The room Boyd walked into was enormous-- far larger than any meeting room he had seen in the Tower elsewhere. With stadium seating, a stage at the base, and what had to be a capacity of over five hundred people, it seemed like it would fit in better at a large-scale university than Johnson's Pharmaceuticals.

A podium had been pushed to the side of the stage and six chairs ran along the back. Large screens dominated the wall but it didn't appear that they would be in use.

Standing on the stage, Seong Jae-Hwa was scouring the room with a dark-eyed glare. She stood with her back straight and arms crossed.

Four people were arrayed behind her.

Vivienne sat on the far right, looking as composed as ever despite the fact she had nearly been killed in a car bomb half an hour earlier. She had fixed her hair and must have had extra clothing at the office, as her silver tweed skirt suit with black piping and black heels was not the same outfit that had been destroyed earlier. Whatever wounds she had seemed to have been temporarily covered by makeup, most likely the work of Unit 16. Although he did notice her holding herself particularly still and slightly angled, as if her side was aching. She stared straight ahead and didn't seem to be paying much attention to the people around her.

Carhart sat nearby, his eyes skimming across the agents who were filling the room. When his gaze finally fell on Boyd they paused briefly before moving on. Despite the fact that he was trying to appear as stoic as possible, Boyd noticed that he looked paler than usual and his hands were slightly balled into fists. His eyes continued to search the sea of faces before him but for what, Boyd didn't know.

Next to Carhart were two men Boyd hadn't seen before.

One was a striking man with skin so dark it seemed he could easily blend into the shadows. His hair was buzzed short to the point that he was nearly bald and he had to easily top 6'5". He wore the grey and black of the guard uniform and even from the back of the room Boyd could make out the stripes that denoted his high rank.

The man's lips were pulled down and his eyes were narrowed. He stood at attention in a pose that was reminiscent of Jae-Hwa, but while she looked angry he simply looked alert and ready to respond at a moment's notice.

There was another unfamiliar man on the stage who stood nearer to Jae-Hwa. He had a deep tan, silver hair, and looked to be in his mid thirties. He was handsome, but the way his eyes narrowed and lips pressed together gave him a slightly menacing air.

Boyd looked at Vivienne again, running another glance over her to make sure she was okay before he took in the rest of the room. The place was abuzz with muted conversations and packed with people already. Every agent he had ever seen working at the Agency was sifting into the room. He had never before seen a mandatory meeting that required every agent to attend at once, from field agents to analysts to R&D.

But considering what he'd witnessed in the parking lot, he couldn't be surprised. The only thing that was more alarming than that was the fact that Carhart had called him in before the car bomb occurred, and he'd already said something had happened. Was it possible someone had directly attacked Carhart too?

What the hell was happening if someone, presumably the mole, was getting so brash he or she would attempt to kill Vivienne in the middle of the compound?

Boyd watched Carhart again but he couldn't read anything in his expression so he turned away.

When he saw Harriet's dark head leaning forward, he navigated through the crowd toward her. As he approached, he saw that he recognized others near her as well. Harriet, Jon and Kassian were in one row, with Emma and Blair seated right behind them. Even as Boyd sat down in Kassian's row he saw Archer heading in their direction.

"What the hell is going on?" Boyd asked them lowly, narrowed eyes darting around.

"No idea, kid." Kassian frowned slightly, looking around. "I've never seen anything like this."

"Doesn't seem like it's good news, though," Harriet observed, her eyes focused on the front of the room.

"I can't imagine it would be," Emma put in, leaning forward so her face appeared between Harriet and Kassian's shoulders. She turned worried blue eyes onto Boyd and reached over to place her hand on his shoulder. "Boyd, I know she's up there and seems fine, but-- is your mother alright?"

Boyd shook his head and couldn't help trailing his gaze back to her stoic face. "I don't know..."

Emma squeezed his shoulder lightly, causing him to return his attention to her. Her eyebrows were drawn together, her lips turned down in sympathy. "And you? Are you okay? I heard you were right there when it happened..."

"I'm fine," Boyd said. His shoulder ached a bit and he had found pieces of glass caught in his clothing and hand but he was still alive. That was a lot more than could be said about Aisha. As if reading his mind, Emma murmured:

"Poor Aisha... She seemed so nice..."

"She may have saved the Inspector's life," Blair commented and Boyd looked away.

Despite the severe differences between Vivienne and Boyd, it scared him to think of how close he had come to losing her too. Right in front of him. She was his family. If she was gone, he didn't have anyone left except a suspect uncle who had appeared out of nowhere and seemed more likely to take advantage of Boyd than anything. And, on top of that, as cold as Vivienne had been for most of his life, she had also always seemed bigger than life. Like she wasn't human, so it was impossible for anything to really cut her down.

Remembering her lying lifelessly on the sidewalk, covered in dirt and blood and glass, sent a chill down his spine.

He crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat, broodingly trying not to think about the disturbing timing of his uncle's appearance, Riley's clear dislike of Vivienne, and the sudden attack on her life. It couldn't have had anything to do with Riley, right? It had to be the mole...

In the background the others seemed to have continued a conversation while Boyd wasn't listening. He came back to the present as Emma was saying:

"Everyone's getting really nervous. I heard some people on the way over talking about different scenarios. It could be about another raid..."

"Or mass termination," Blair put in, eyebrows lowered and lips twisted in a frown. He crossed his arms and sat back in his seat, his long legs pressed in between the backs of Jon's and Harriet's seats. "You know how easy it would be to take us all out right now?"

Boyd couldn't help thinking the same thing. Knowledge of the mole only made the comment more ominous, making it feel like a rock formed and churned in the pit of his stomach.

An even worse scenario: Had Jae-Hwa found out about the mole? Would this be the last time Carhart and Vivienne were seen? Would she publicly announce their termination as a means of showing everyone how serious she was about clearing house? She certainly looked aggravated enough and the uncertainty he thought he read in Carhart's expression was making him nervous.

Archer arrived, stopping next to Blair without making a move to sit. "This is a terrible place to sit." His hawk-like gaze swept the room. "I could have killed you ten times over on my way here. Who picked this spot?"

Emma leaned back, looking up at him with parted lips. "Well. The acoustics..."

Archer stared at her flatly. "I'm sure you'll appreciate the clear sound quality when you get a bullet in the back of your head."

Kassian opened his mouth to likely respond to this but before he could, a slim arm encircled his and the diminutive form of Jordan appeared beside him. He froze in place and stared at her before struggling to get his arm free. He was unable to do so without causing a scene; her nails were practically digging into him.

She peered around Kassian to see the others. Her pink glossed lips were spread in a smile and she had on a skin tight red corset matched with what looked like a black tutu.

"Hello everybody."

Harriet just stared.

Archer raised an eyebrow at her and then turned his stare in assessment to Kassian before it flicked away. He went back to looking around them. Boyd couldn't tell if the older man was searching for something in particular or watching for anything suspicious. He didn't pay much attention to Archer and instead turned his even stare onto Jordan.

"Where's Bex?" Boyd asked Jordan, glancing past her.

Jordan's petite face screwed up into a scowl and she tossed long tendrils of her jet black hair over one shoulder. "Dunno."

Kassian was still trying to discreetly disentangle himself as Harriet shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. Her eyes were narrowed at the stage.

When Jon reached up to put a hand on her shoulder she visibly cringed, although Jon didn't seem to actually notice that part. He seemed distracted himself. Boyd looked more fully at Jon for the first time and saw that he was injured. Several stitches were dark against his forehead and his wrist was wrapped in a brace.

"What happened?"

"Me and Jenny were on a mission that went ass up." Jon finally pulled away from Harriet and smoothed a hand over his injured forehead. "Went to do a wipe on some wankers in Russia and looked like they knew we were coming. It was bollocks."

Boyd ran an assessing eye along the injuries. Another leaked mission? "When did that happen?"

"Week back. Jenny got it worse than me, but she's out of the infirmary now." Jon's eyes flicked around the room as if searching for his injured teammate, and Harriet's mouth tightened a hint as she moved away from him a bit more.

"Hey guys," a new voice called out and Ryan came into view as he made his way through the seats. He paused briefly to scowl at Jordan.

"Ryan, hi." Kassian used this as an excuse to turn around entirely and wrench his arm away from Jordan's grasp. The sleeve of his shirt was wrinkled beyond repair from her clinging.

"Have you seen Owen yet? I hope he doesn't sleep in and miss the meeting," Ryan fretted, sitting behind Boyd and next to Emma.

"I haven't," Boyd said, glancing around the room for Owen's telltale mop of red hair.

He didn't see Owen, but he did see David Nakamura sitting toward the front row of seats. His expression was unusually drawn. Even though a few people passed by and clearly commented to him he didn't acknowledge them; he simply stared blankly at the stage. The agents gave him strange looks and then walked away. Boyd wondered what was bothering him.

"I have a lousy feeling about this," Ryan said, shaking his head and sitting his large backpack on the floor by his feet. "Look at Zachary."

Harriet looked over at Ryan with slightly raised eyebrows. She never seemed to approve of anyone addressing authority figures in such a casual way but didn't comment on that. Instead she said, "He looks the same as always to me."

"To you, maybe." Ryan's mouth pulled down into a worried frown. "But I can tell something's up."

Blair's intent stare was centered on the stage. His gaze didn't waver even when he spoke to the others. "I'm more worried by the Marshal. Look at how she's glaring at everyone. She's putting evil eyes on all of us."

Archer made a quiet noise of assent but didn't comment.

"Who are the men next to Carhart?" Boyd asked, noting the way the taller man hadn't stopped scouring the room as if searching for specific activity.

"The one on the left is Michael Katsaros. Flew in recently. Long history over in Euro," Archer replied evenly, indicating the silver-haired man. He jerked his chin toward the dark-skinned man in the guard uniform. "The tall one's Guard Captain Lance Siegel. Former Marine. Highly decorated."

"With those credentials why didn't he become an agent?" Emma asked curiously, looking up at Archer again for the first time since he'd seemed to reprimand her.

Archer shrugged unconcernedly. "He must like his job," was all he said.

"I like him," Jordan piped up, leering at the Guard Captain even as she hung on to Kassian's arm again.

"Is anyone surprised?" Ryan muttered just before he leaned forward. "Oh I see Owen. Thank God."

Owen was just pushing his way through a group of agents when Boyd looked over. The R&D agent perked up when he saw them. He rushed across the room even as most people were finishing being seated.

Archer looked at the back of the room with narrowed eyes. For a moment it seemed like he would leave the rest of them to go to a better vantage point. But just as he started to turn, the room quieted down in the way it did when an important speech was about to start. Looking highly unhappy, Archer reluctantly lowered himself into a seat, although his glare swept the room even more often now.

Owen hurriedly threw himself into the seat next to Ryan just as their superiors on stage straightened at attention.

"Safe!" Owen hissed triumphantly even as the Marshal stepped forward.

"Shh, Owen," Ryan mumbled, shaking his head and poking the other man's leg.

"Turn off all phones, panels, tablets, recording devices, and whatever else you lot may have smuggled in," Jae-Hwa ordered, her voice carrying through the room with the use of an unseen microphone. Her dark eyes swept the room with a hard stare. "If I hear even a beep from any of you I'll have you singled out and sent to Fourth until you remember how to take orders."

There was a flurry of activity as those who hadn't automatically silenced their devices quickly did so now. Boyd checked to make sure his phones were both on silent. She paused, giving a moment for the agents to comply before she spoke again. As always, she didn't mince words.

"We're here because there's been a leak."

She glared at the gathered people as if she could determine who exactly had caused the issue. The quiet whispers of people wondering what she meant created a backdrop in the room.

For Boyd, he felt the pit of his stomach tighten and his breath still. He subtly checked on Carhart and Vivienne. Now that Jae-Hwa obviously knew, now that it was becoming public knowledge, and with the outright attack on Vivienne, the heart-stopping possibility of this being the last time he saw Carhart and Vivienne alive was a heavy weight in his throat.

"At ten past midnight this morning, Captain Morgan Chase was gunned down. Snipers from a nearby building shot her as she was entering her house." Jae-Hwa's eyes narrowed gravely. "It was a professional hit."

A few murmurs went through the room and Boyd saw surprise flash across many of the agents' faces. Everyone on stage remained straight-faced, including Carhart, who had once dated her.

Jae-Hwa continued over the susurration, "She's the third agent to be killed on their personal time, and the second near their home."

Kassian's eyes narrowed and Ryan inhaled audibly. "Someone hacked the directory?" he whispered, almost to himself.

"Added to that, as you've all no doubt heard, Aisha Patel was killed earlier today in a car bomb on compound. It was affixed to Inspector Beaulieu's personal vehicle at her home sometime overnight." Jae-Hwa gestured to Vivienne but didn't turn her dark, sharp stare from the audience. "We consider this to be a clear attempt on the Inspector's life, as it was a fluke she wasn't in the car at the time. It seems evident the perp wanted this to occur in a public setting, likely on compound, as it was set to detonate when the ignition was turned off rather than on."

Quiet conversations erupted at the information. Most people had likely heard of the attack already but even Boyd hadn't realized the bomb had been placed on the car at her own home.

"Clearly we've a breach of security," Jae-Hwa continued flatly. Her lips thinned into a hard line that turned down on the edges. "Everyone who could potentially be involved will be questioned. Until I'm satisfied we're secure, I've called a state of emergency. Homes off compound could be compromised. As could, clearly, vehicles."

Boyd looked at Carhart and Vivienne but didn't see their expressions so much as stir. He returned his stare to Jae-Hwa, worry coursing through him. Since learning of the mole and especially since finding Sin still alive, he'd become hyper vigilant. But if it was possible there was a hit out on agents of any rank and their homes could be found or their vehicles turned into weapons...

He could be bringing groceries home and end up with a bullet in his head at his front step. He could drive down to Annadale to see Sin and end up blowing himself up in the hotel parking lot. Even worse, he could hurt Sin in the process.

The thought was chilling.

For all that field agents had a dangerous job, they'd always had some level of anonymity. The weight of the Agency had always been behind them. Although the Agency was ruthless, they protected their own. Even after he'd learned of the missing agents it hadn't been like this.

At least those agents had been on missions. At least their one place to feel safe and normal hadn't been taken from them.

"The dormitories can hold all of you," Jae-Hwa continued curtly over the crowd. "Talk to Captain Siegel if you've a need to make permanent arrangements." She swept a narrowed, piercing stare across the room. "Take this seriously. We can't say how many of you could be watched."

She paused a moment to let that sink in and then strode a few steps to the right. "You're to be assigned arrangements at the end of the meeting. No one's to leave compound."

"For how long?" a deep voice asked loud enough to carry over the din. Boyd followed the words and saw that it was Emilio who'd asked. His green eyes were narrowed at the stage, displeasure clear in his face.

"For as long as we'd like," Jae-Hwa returned, arching her eyebrows and turning her flat stare onto him. She shifted her gaze to take in the sea of dismayed faces as she started to walk a few steps back in the other direction. "Until then, all missions and downtime are canceled. Guards are lining the compound to ensure not a one of you tries to leave." Her eyes narrowed. "If you do, you'll answer to me directly."

"Bullshit," Kassian muttered under his breath, shaking his head.

Next to him Jordan looked up with a smirk. "You can stay with me," she told him in a stage whisper. He gave her an unreadable stare before flitting his eyes back up to the stage.

Uneasiness shifted within Boyd-- if the Agency was looking for traitors, they may be digging up every suspicious act any of them had done in the past few weeks. He'd been careful to hide anything related to Sin or Annadale but he worried about them tracking incoming or outgoing calls during this time. For the first time, he was thankful for the way things had ended on his last trip; at least Sin would be too distrustful of him to make any contact at this point. Even so, he made a note to turn off the phone later so nothing could be compromised.

"General Carhart and Captain Siegel will answer questions. You'll all be alerted when we've lifted the lock down." Jae-Hwa swept her stare across the agents one more time before she turned and disappeared through a door in back with Katsaros not far behind.

As soon as she was gone, mutters and whispers moved throughout the room, some of them obviously annoyed and quietly vehement.

Vivienne had been staring silently throughout the briefing and only once Jae-Hwa was gone did she shift and look across the room. Her gaze moved past Boyd, stopping on him subtly enough that no one was likely to notice it if they weren't looking for it. Her ice blue eyes moved on almost before they'd stilled.

Siegel stepped to the front of the stage with his hands behind his back.

"Anyone have any questions?"

Although it was likely there were many questions running through everyone's minds, no one spoke them aloud. At least not in the public setting. Captain Siegel looked unsurprised by this and nodded curtly.

"Everyone's already been assigned a room; if you haven't received the message yet, look for it in the next few hours on your panel. If you have other accommodations you prefer, take it. Nobody's going to babysit you. Your supervisors have been briefed on the basic procedures for all level three lock downs. I'll be in my office for anyone with pressing questions not answered here."

With that being said, Siegel left as abruptly as Jae-Hwa had. Vivienne and Carhart left at the same time, their faces unreadable.

"Poor Zach," Ryan said immediately, his face drawn. "I can't believe Morgan is dead... She wasn't even a fieldie."

"Why poor Zach?" Jordan asked, looking genuinely serious as she peered out from around Kassian's muscular frame.

Ryan made a face, as if she was incredibly stupid for not knowing the history of compound romance. "They used to be in a relationship."

"Oooh." Jordan looked back at the stage, black eyes going round. "He didn't look too unwrapped about it, if you ask me."

"Oh what do you know about how normal humans--"

"Naw but it's true," Jon piped up after being silent the whole time. "Even if Harriet and me were through, I'd be on the piss every night if she died."

Harriet stared at him, looking unmoved, and walked away without another word. Kassian's eyes followed her before focusing on Jon accusingly.

"Don't look at me like that, mate," Jon snapped, giving Kassian an irritated look. "In fact just mind your bloody business. Fucking hanger on."

This earned him a scoff. "Blow me, Logan."

Jon turned to stalk away but not before saying, "Yeah, I'd heard you like that sort of thing."

Face reddening, Kassian started to move forward but Jordan wrapped her small hands around his arm. "Don't! He's just being a wanker and the Marshal will be pissed if her star agent starts a brawl here."

Kassian yanked his arm away from her moodily but didn't attempt to follow Jon again, although his dark glare followed the man until he disappeared.

"And in any case," Jordan said brightly, smiling at the remainders of the group. "Ain't Carhart shacked up with the Inspector these days? I'd heard someone saw a pair of her knickers in his office and everything."

Boyd gave her a sidelong look. "You can't actually believe those rumors."

"I dunno, little Beaulette," Owen said with a shrug. "I heard the same thing as her. Supposedly they've been seen together outside the Agency, too. Little glimpses here and there, at places like upscale restaurants and whatever."

Boyd shook his head. "I've heard what people are saying but I have a hard time believing the validity of it. Exactly how many people removed are these alleged sightings?"

"Well, I didn't do a genealogy chart on it, jeez," Owen said in mild exasperation. "Next time warn a guy before there's a test."

Ryan frowned slightly and gave Boyd an apologetic look. "I think it's true, Boyd. I asked Zach about it and he didn't deny it."

Boyd looked over at Ryan in surprise. The fact that Ryan was serious left Boyd at a loss.

He'd never considered his mother's love life, partially because it seemed impossible for her to have one, given her personality.

He couldn't imagine Carhart and his mother together and didn't particularly like the idea. Carhart was special to him-- the closest person to the father he'd lost. He felt like he could trust the general but he still didn't trust his mother. Then again, the sudden appearance of Riley coupled with nearly losing his mother threw even those truths off kilter a bit for him.

He shook his head and looked away with a frown. His gaze lingered with preoccupation on the stage. "It seems strange," was all he could think to say.

"It is strange," Ryan agreed.

Jordan just rolled her eyes and glanced up at Kassian again. "So do ya want to stay with me? Bex won't mind, I'm sure."

Kassian gave her a skeptical stare. "Somehow I doubt that."

"Well let me know what's what after you see your assigned quarters, yeah?"

Kassian nodded in agreement and Jordan glanced at the others. "I'm gonna go catch up with my sister." She gave a small wave and walked away. Kassian's eyes followed her briefly before she disappeared into the crowd.

"You can stay with me if you want," Owen said unexpectedly as he watched Kassian. He looked at the others to include them as well. "Any of you can. I have some extra space."

"I'll see who I'm supposed to bunk with. If it's someone unfortunate I may take you up on that," Kassian replied.

Owen nodded and then stood, looking around with a slightly exaggerated frown. "Anyone else feel like Big Brother's watching too much in here?"

"I do," Blair muttered under his breath, standing and turning his intent stare across the agents who hadn't yet left. Most of them were in small groups, quietly talking to each other.

Archer grunted but didn't say anything.

"Well, anyone who wants can come chill at my pad. I have some leftover soda and all that from the last time I visited family." Owen's eyebrows drew together. "I don't even remember why I brought it all back with me..."

Boyd swiped his messenger bag off the floor and stood. It was a good thing he'd brought his bag, since it had his secure panel in it. If he needed to do any searching or communication that couldn't be tracked even in this state of lock down, it would prove invaluable.

"I'll go," Boyd offered.

"I'll pass," Archer said, nearly running over Boyd's words. His sharp stare was still surveying everyone in the room and only paused briefly to drill into the others near him. He settled his gaze on Kassian. "Contact me if you need me."

"Will do. Keep in touch, man."

Archer nodded and disappeared into the crowd.

Blair frowned. "I should go too. I may stop by later, though."

"Sounds groovy." Owen turned to the others. "Well, whoever wants to come can. But, hey! Does anyone want to stop by the cafe on the way over?" He looked hopefully at Boyd and Kassian.

"Maybe later," Boyd replied.

Owen sighed but didn't look surprised. "Alright... Come on."

On their way over, Boyd discreetly powered off his personal phone. As they entered the courtyard, Emma got a phone call and lagged behind the others, her eyebrows furrowing in worry when she looked at the name on the screen. Boyd heard her saying with relief, "I was wondering where you were," before her responses drew too quiet to be heard.

Owen slowed his walk but when he glanced over his shoulder she waved them on. None of them said much, all lost in their own minds considering what this lock down and the potential threat to their lives would mean. Emma jogged to catch up when they were halfway across the courtyard. Her eyes seemed especially blue in the light and her cheeks were flushed.

"Sorry," she said in a rush. "Gotta go. Pat couldn't make it over by us and he's worried about what this means for his kids. I'm gonna meet up with him. See you all later-- and stay safe."

She turned and started running back toward the Tower before anyone had the chance to respond.

Owen watched her go, glanced at Ryan, Kassian and Boyd who remained, and then shrugged and kept walking. He led them to Residential Building D; the one most hidden in the grove of trees that sheltered the Agency walls.

"I got the manic happyface apartment," he said as he led them upstairs. "I've thought about naming it. Like, newest member of the Justice League-- Sugar Rushania. Able to quell enemies with the power of hyperactivity alone." He stopped in front of 8D and swiped his card on the lock pad. The light flashed green and he opened the door.

As they walked in, Boyd saw that Owen's apartment was surprisingly normal. He had a desk with a laptop on it. The screensaver was going; it was a marquee of a sentence in what looked to be Gaelic. There were books and a few piles of paper covering the desk, with his touch panel tossed on top precariously. Empty glasses, crinkled wrappers, and the ergonomic chair showed that he likely spent most of his time at the computer desk.

An open door was in the back of the room, showing a bedroom with little in the way of furnishing. There was a bed with crumpled sheets and a dresser with a half open drawer.

Overall, the place had the feel of a bachelor pad. Most of the furniture was Agency-issued and the few pieces that he'd gotten to complement it were low to the floor and cheaply made.

Aside from the paper scattered around, and some dishes resting on the counter waiting to be washed, the place was actually quite clean. There were several bookshelves lining the walls; not quite to the extent that Boyd had seen in Kaspar's apartment but certainly closer than most agents' places seemed.

The shelves were shoved full of books and there were some more piled on the floor in front of a few of the bookcases. A lot of them seemed to be references for different languages, including grammar, vocabulary conversion, character guides, verb books, dictionaries, and more. Entire shelves were filled with books in foreign languages. The rest of the selection seemed to range considerably, from tame classics to a few with titles that made it obvious they were likely filled with conspiracy theories and pipe dreams.

In the main room there was a couch that hardly looked used, with a low coffee table in front. Owen gestured to the couch as he shut the door behind them.

"You guys can all sit there if you want. Anyone want anything? I get curious in grocery stores so I bet I've got pretty much anything you'd want."

Boyd was going to shake his head but then he paused. "Tea or water for me, if you have any."

"Beer?" Kassian asked hopefully. Ryan glared at him and Kassian rolled his eyes. "Come on kid, it's a stressful day. Cut me some slack."

Owen nodded and looked over at Ryan. "Anything for you, Ry-meister?"

"No, I'm fine." Ryan shook his head and sat down on the sofa, mouth turned down into a frown. "Unless you have an explanation as to what the heck is going on around here in your fridge."

"Nah, I chucked the oracle last week," Owen said as he turned toward the fridge. "She was getting old."

"Did anyone have any idea this would happen?" Boyd asked, looking at Ryan and Kassian.

"Which part?" Kassian asked dryly. "Officers getting assassinated or the lock-in?"

Glass clinked in the fridge as Owen dug around.

"Anything," Boyd said, shaking his head. "I know I certainly wasn't expecting the day to start with a car bomb and a meeting like that."

"I don't think any of us were." Kassian frowned and walked over to the windows, looking out at the compound below them. "I hope this lock-in nonsense doesn't last. I'm not living on compound."

Ryan looked at him, worried. "Does Peaches have plenty of food? What if they make us stay for a long time?"

Kassian shook his head, fending off the worry. "She knows how to get out of the house to find food. If anything, she'll go hang out with the neighbor's kids. I just don't want to stay here. I hate being on compound, I always have."

There was a beat of silence and then Ryan blurted out, "Don't stay with Jordan and Bex! They're bad news."

This earned him another irritated glance. "I wasn't planning to because Bex hates my guts."

"Good. Her sister is a hobag," Ryan replied flatly, not leaving very much room for argument in his tone. "She's spread for just about everyone of rank. Men and women. She's obviously on some mission to seduce everyone over here."

"I dunno," Owen said doubtfully as he came back into the living room. He set two beers on the living room table and glanced at Boyd. "Kettle's going."

Boyd nodded and leaned back in the couch.

"I just don't like how she looks at people," Owen continued as if he hadn't cut himself off. "You can never tell what she's thinking and nothing good ever comes from that. And then she's suddenly nice? You know how many serial killers pull in their victims that way? Plus she's got the whole evil twin thing to consider. I'm just sayin'..."

Kassian just rolled his eyes, not going into any of the details of her allegedly spying on him for the Marshal.

Boyd leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees. "Regardless of that, we should all be careful. It ultimately doesn't matter who seems nice and who doesn't. There's something big happening at the Agency and we need to be on guard."

"I can't believe Morgan is dead," Ryan said, shaking his head. His mouth drew down into a frown as his indigo eyes drifted away. "I wonder if Zach is okay... They were together for awhile. He looked so blank."

"I don't know," Boyd said with a frown. "Whatever he felt, he probably didn't want to broadcast it to everyone."

The tea kettle started rumbling, signaling that the water was hot enough. Owen jumped up and moved into the kitchen to pull the kettle off the stove.

"I'm still worried," Ryan replied with a frown. "He's already lost Hsin and Emilio, pretty much."

"I know..." Boyd's expression darkened, his worry mirroring Ryan's own.

Except Ryan didn't know the half of it. Boyd couldn't help wondering if there was anything he could do to help Carhart. Even if it seemed that for the moment Carhart wasn't in danger of termination due to the leak, who knew what would happen during this lock-in. Adding to that the loss of Morgan on top of everything else...

The quiet slide of a plate against the wooden coffee table made Boyd look over. Owen set the mug down, the string from the tea bag hanging over the side. His dark eyes held that same serious cast that had been there so often of late, lending an enigmatic air to his formerly perpetual silliness. When he spoke, his tone was as light as ever.

"Hope black's okay."

Boyd nodded and leaned forward to pick up the mug, although at first all he did was hold it in the air near his lips. He could feel the heat wafting off the porcelain like steam.

"I wonder who the others were," Owen mused as he sat down.

Kassian shook his head, rubbing the beer between his palms. "Nobody that I know, unless it's been covered up until now."

"Why would they do that?" Boyd asked, wondering what information may be out there among the general population.

"Maybe to try to keep it under wraps that they know someone is up to no good. Now whoever it is will be more careful," Kassian replied. He shook his head and took a swig of his beer.

"It's gotta be IT, someone ninja good, or some big wig don't you think?" Owen said with a frown. He tilted his beer bottle between his hands but hadn't yet taken a drink. "How else would they access the directory?" His dark eyes were on Ryan at the question.

"It could just be a really good hacker." Ryan frowned and crossed his thin arms over his chest. "I mean if I wanted to, I could probably try to do it too."

"Wouldn't it leave a trail?" Boyd looked at Ryan and sipped his tea. It was a little weak and a little hot but it still tasted good. "Or would you be able to avoid any detection?"

"A good hacker doesn't leave a trail. And whoever did this is a damn good hacker."

"Do we have that many people at the Agency who are that good?"

Ryan shrugged, frowning slightly. "I would think not but then... if someone has an agenda like that they wouldn't make it all known what they are capable of, you know?"

Boyd nodded. That was true enough.

"We may get some clue about the bad guys when we see who she interrogates," Owen said as he popped open his beer. "Some'll probably be obvious, like IT, but maybe she'll do others. But then, even that info will probably be so on the down low it won't even make it into rumors."

There was a low sigh as Ryan stood and walked over to the window, peering out with his arms still wrapped around himself. "I can't believe this is happening... I used to feel so safe here..."

Kassian's lips pursed together in a thin line as he nodded in agreement. "I have to admit, I've seen a lot but these past few years have been surreal. The raid, Connors, now this. It almost seems like..." He trailed off with a frown.

Ryan looked over at him. "Like what?"

Their eyes met and Kassian said finally, "Like the Agency is starting to fall apart."

Boyd turned a quiet gaze on Kassian. He had to admit that it did feel that way, and hearing the words spoken aloud were almost disturbing.

"It does," Owen agreed, staring with a frown at his beer. "There've been defections before but it seems like whoever's at it this time is way more skilled. And ruthless. I've never heard of here or Euro where agents are targeted at their homes. If you had a problem with the Agency, why not attack The Powers That Be rather than us peons?"

"We may be the peons," Kassian started with a shake of his head. "But without soldiers, the Agency is worthless. Connors died and what did that do? He just got replaced. Maybe whoever is doing this wants the Agency torn down brick by brick, you know?"

Boyd's eyes narrowed and shifted, turning to look out the window. He wondered if that was the case. And if so, why? Could it be someone who harbored as much hatred for the Agency as he himself had when he'd first returned from the Aleixo mission? Yet he'd been unstable and incapable of such calculated efforts. And with how long this had been going on, whoever it was had to be very committed.

He couldn't help thinking about Ivan and the plan he'd referenced. He wondered whether it was related to any of this. Then again, Ivan wouldn't have targeted Sin and he wasn't the sort of person to work with others as far as Boyd knew. But then, how much could truly be known about a person like Ivan, who seemed to have as many secrets as he did notes on his wall?

Owen's thoughts must have been running partially along the lines Boyd's did. He frowned and leaned back against the couch. "Okay so let's say that's it. Who's that anti-Agency? Most of us have something once in awhile that makes us wish we'd never joined but, man, that takes dedication."

"And calculation," Boyd added. "I can't imagine it wasn't part of the plan to strike fear in the general populace at some point. Why else have agents be targeted at their homes? Why have the Inspector's car explode on compound? Unless the fear is a byproduct and aiming for agents at home was simply a way to catch them off guard."

"They could have been turned by someone else," Ryan suggested with a thoughtful frown. "Like, went double agent and now they're being given orders by someone who wants us taken out."

"True," Boyd said as he rested the mug against his thigh. "There are certainly enough groups and people we deal with on a daily basis who would want the Agency to collapse."

"Or someone could've infiltrated straight from the group," Owen said contemplatively.

"Gross," Ryan replied, making a face.

"Just sayin' it could happen," Owen said lightly with a shrug and took a long drink of beer.

Boyd frowned to himself and sipped his tea. Of all the theories so far presented, Owen's somehow seemed the most worrisome of all.

By the time they left Owen's a few hours later, they had received their assignments. Kassian was assigned a room in Residential Building B with Emilio. Boyd ended up being assigned a room in Residential Building A, with Adam Blake. And Ryan was assigned in Residential Building C with an R&D agent named Wilkes.

It was strange, since he had barely seen Adam aside from when they'd both vied for the position of Sin's partner, and later when Adam had been on the retrieval squad to pick up Sin and Boyd from the cabin. At least Adam seemed like he was quiet enough. It was probably better to be assigned someone like him rather than some of the other rank 9's who had the attitude that they were better than the captains.

Boyd didn't go immediately to his room; he walked around the compound a bit first. He didn't do anything in particular but he felt too troubled to hole himself up immediately. He was glad he had his sketchbooks with the drawings of Sin in them but at the same time he was paranoid the Agency would do some sort of check.

He kept an eye out for a good hiding place on compound but in the end he trusted that solution less than keeping the book with him at all times. He kept his hand firmly but casually on his messenger bag and thought about all his options, including burning the evidence if need be.

By the time he stopped at Residential B, it was already getting dark. He walked up to his floor, wondering idly whether Adam would even be there. His ID card had been given access codes to the residential complex and the room for the duration of the lockdown.

He paused at the door to the apartment and considered knocking but decided it would be stupid when it was as much his room as Adam's. They both lived off compound so it wasn't like he was walking into Adam's home without warning. He swiped his card on the lock by the door and walked in, already looking to see if his roommate was around.

Adam was leaning against the kitchen counter, cell phone in one hand and face marred by a scowl. When Boyd entered, Adam's black eyes flicked over to him.

Boyd wondered what caused such an expression on an otherwise impassive face. He nodded in greeting and shut the door behind him. "Hello."

"Hi." Adam looked down at his phone again before sighing in disgust and tossing it on the counter. "I didn't expect you to actually come here."

"Where else would I go?" Boyd asked as he glanced around the room.

It was typical Agency fare; everything was clean and looked comfortable enough but there was no personality to it. There was a living room off the kitchen, and two doors that were shut that he assumed went to a bedroom and a bathroom. Everything, from the carpet to the walls to the furniture, was bland shades of neutral colors.

Adam shrugged and pushed himself away from the counter, sliding his hands into the pockets of his black jeans. "Most people stayed with friends who already have quarters on compound."

"It seemed like an imposition," Boyd said with a shrug that mirrored Adam's. He also hadn't wanted to be around anyone who may think to start asking too many questions about where he'd been lately on his down time. He set his messenger bag on the floor against the end of the couch and turned to look at Adam.

"What about you?" Boyd asked curiously. "You didn't have anyone you wanted to stay with?"

"Not particularly but I didn't put in much effort. I'm not much for slumber parties." Adam's expression didn't change and he looked around the apartment with apparent distaste. "Not exactly thrilled to be in one of these apartments again."

Boyd nodded and sat down on the couch. "I'm hoping it isn't a long stay."

"I count on being here for two or three weeks."

Boyd grimaced at the thought but he couldn't deny that it was entirely possible. Even so, he wondered if Adam knew something he didn't. "What are you basing that on?"

"Common sense," was the morose sounding reply. Adam unzipped the black jacket he was wearing and glared in the general direction of the window. His attitude hadn't gotten any brighter in the past few years. He still had a gloomy expression etched into his pale, handsome face.

"I don't count on them finding the perpetrator of this mess. Whoever did it, wouldn't be sloppy enough to leave traces. And it wouldn't be someone obvious-- like the networking team. Whoever it is, is a relative ghost hacker most likely. So unless they start torturing and interrogating everyone computer literate, they won't find squat in a realistic timeframe that would allow them to keep shutting down all missions. But they will be too stubborn to admit this quickly. So two weeks of hunting and one week of pigheadedness. That is my estimate."

"Sounds about right," Boyd had to agree.

He dropped his head back against the couch and stared up at the ceiling. It was too bad everything had happened the way it had; three weeks of down time and being stuck on compound when Sin had been here would have been like a small vacation. Aside from the worrisome aspect of this all, he doubted they would have minded. He could have stayed at Sin's apartment the whole time. It could have been a trial for when they would move in together.

He sighed and looked over at Adam.

"Did you hear any of this was coming or did it blindside you like a lot of people?"

Adam opened his mouth to reply but before he could say anything, his phone began ringing and he turned away abruptly. He flipped the phone open. A man's voice could immediately be heard on the other end, talking loudly and in an obviously annoyed fashion.

"Stop bitching at me for two seconds and let me speak." With that, Adam disappeared into the bedroom as if he hadn't just been in a conversation with Boyd and shut the door behind him.

Boyd watched the door for a moment, his eyebrows shifting up, then decided to look around the apartment. He didn't see any bugs, cameras, or other discreet surveillance. In the course of searching the apartment he overheard part of Adam's conversation and learned that the person on the other line was named Gordon. Since he didn't know any agents named Gordon, he was curious but didn't eavesdrop.

Finally, he settled down on the couch and stared up at the blank white ceiling.

It was the first chance he'd gotten to stay in one place and think. Too many recent revelations came to mind-- but for the moment he ignored everything to do with his family and focused instead on Sin.

He couldn't get out of his mind the way Danny had been so reminiscent of Sin. The aggression, the way he'd grabbed Boyd by the throat and pinned him, the threats that Boyd wasn't so certain Danny wouldn't have followed through on doing... It seemed that when he was angry he flashed back to who he used to be.

But it wasn't only that.

When Boyd had looked into Danny's eyes, he hadn't seen the Sin he'd left at his house over a year and a half ago, before he'd gone on his extended mission. The eyes glaring at him had been the ones of the man he'd first met over five years ago-- the one whose mental illness had left him unstable at times, and whose violence had sometimes been a danger to those around him.

Boyd covered his face briefly, letting out a low breath. What did that mean? Was it possible that there were more consequences to the loss of Sin's memory? Without the memories of his life, that also meant he wouldn't remember the lessons Emilio had taught him, the counseling Ann had given him, the friendships he'd gained, and if there was anything Boyd himself had done for Sin that also would be gone...

Without all that, he may have lost his coping mechanisms. Without all that, he may be back to where he had started.

Continue to Fade Chapter 20...