Fade Chapter Twenty

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

The story contains..

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
See Afterimage chapter list.

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Book Three: Fade
See Fade chapter list.


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Fade Chapter 20

Uploaded on 4/28/2012

The summer wind was warm on Boyd's cheek, pushing his hair against his face. He rolled up the sleeves of his grey, fitted twill shirt and adjusted his messenger bag's strap on his shoulder. If they were caught in stasis for an extended period of time, he hoped the Agency planned to provide some clothing for everyone because he doubted any of the off-compounders like him had thought to bring change of clothing for what they all assumed would be a quick mandatory meeting. It was pure luck he had thrown some random clothing in his bag at all.

It made him wonder how many places would be torn apart while the owners were away and unable to hide any damning evidence.

With more people sequestered within the Agency's walls than ever before at one time, the courtyard was more crowded than usual. Some of the people seemed to be making the most of the time, huddled in groups or heading toward the training centers. Boyd had decided to get out of the apartment and get some fresh air.

Adam was an unsurprisingly quiet roommate and although the couch could have been more comfortable, Boyd found he didn't mind sleeping on it too much. Since everyone he knew on compound had one-bedroom apartments as well, it would have been couch surfing anywhere so it was nice to have an option where his roommate was largely unconcerned with his business.

As Boyd passed different groups, he overheard snippets of conversations. Most of the people were wondering about what this all meant, who could be at fault, and whether this had anything to do with information that may have been stolen after the raid. There were more questions than answers, and with the extra knowledge that Boyd had courtesy of Carhart, he felt there were even more questions that most of the population didn't even know to ask in the first place.

Kassian's comment that it seemed like the Agency was falling apart had stuck with him. Walking toward the second courtyard, sequestered in the back corner of the compound, Boyd found himself wondering briefly if that really was the case.

If the Agency failed, what did that mean for all of them? If the mole couldn't be found, how many agents and officers would be killed before another lock-in was called? Until Carhart and Vivienne's knowledge and inability to stop it was found out and they were killed, and even more of the European Agency came in to seize control of the operation?

Boyd pulled some hair behind his ear, suppressing a sigh. Rather than focusing too much on everything that was far out of his control, he idly listened for any new information and instead tried to enjoy the day.

The leaves of the trees rustled with the wind and birds chirped cheerfully from the branches. He saw a few squirrels darting from tree to tree, pausing occasionally to rise on their haunches and twitch their tails while they peered down at the humans passing below them.

He was heading into a quieter area of the second courtyard, where very few people were, when he saw a familiar figure ahead of him. Ivan was shaded by the canopy of a large oak tree as he leaned against the tree trunk. He was bent over a beat up old notebook and seemed to be writing something quickly with a pen.

Boyd hesitated and then adjusted his route. He automatically quieted his steps, a habit he'd acquired as an agent over the years, but Ivan must have been paying close attention to his surroundings. He glanced up before Boyd had reached him and closed the notebook.

Without pausing in his approach, Boyd stopped next to Ivan and then crouched down after a moment, feeling awkward staring down at him from a standing position.

"Hi," Boyd greeted him.

"What do you want?" Ivan demanded quietly, his eyes flitting around immediately.

Boyd shrugged and sat down next to him. "I just wanted to talk. I hadn't seen you around for awhile and I'm bored, stuck on compound like this." He glanced down at the notebook. "Working on anything interesting?"

Ivan leaned so far away from Boyd that it was a wonder he didn't topple over. The sunlight reflected off his glasses as he hugged the notebook to his narrow chest. His face went into an almost convulsion of differing expressions before his pale eyebrows drew down. "I don't hate you enough to incriminate you."

The comment caused Boyd to meet Ivan's eyes, his eyebrows furrowing slightly. He studied the other man and then leaned back just a shift, to give Ivan more space so he would feel more comfortable. "Is this about what you mentioned when I was looking for Hsin?"

There was a moment when Ivan looked confused, as if he didn't remember what Boyd was referring to. After a beat of silence the clouded expression cleared, and Ivan leaned forward abruptly even as his eyes once again slid around them. "Yes. But it's all over soon. The Agency won't know. What hit them."

Ivan held Boyd's gaze for a long, hard moment before he climbed to his feet and strode off in the direction of the residential buildings.

Boyd stared after Ivan. What was that supposed to mean? Any way he looked at it, that was an ominous statement.

He'd been hoping Ivan would seem less suspicious as time passed. Months ago he had told Ivan he wouldn't interfere with anything he did and he didn't want to go back on those words. At the same time, while he didn't care what Ivan did to the Agency, he did care if someone was hurting his fellow agents. If he thought of Kassian or Emilio gunned down outside their homes and if he could have stopped it if only he'd said something...

At the same time, Sin had truly cared for Ivan so would he forgive Boyd for relaying something that Ivan had said only in confidence, especially if it endangered Ivan? He thumped his head back against the tree trunk hard. He felt the sting against the back of his head and appreciated it as a way to clear his mind. Far above him, the leaves shifted gently in the breeze, speckling warm sunlight down onto him between the changing shadows.

The conflict of loyalties was only growing stronger each day, it seemed. He didn't know what he would do if someday he had to choose.

With a sigh, he pushed himself up to a stand. For now, he would continue to watch Ivan. The R&D agent wouldn't be able to do anything during lockdown anyway, and he had said the Agency and not the other agents. Maybe whatever he planned wasn't the same thing as what the traitor was doing. Or maybe he was the mole and Boyd's hesitance based on Sin's past relationship with him was going to cost even Carhart and Vivienne their lives.

The thought was suitably disturbing and the renewal of his suspicions of Ivan made him abandon any hope of peaceful relaxation out in the muted sunlight. He turned around and headed back toward his apartment, deciding to use this free time to do some research he probably should have long ago.

When he opened the apartment door, he didn't see Adam anywhere but the bedroom door was closed. He dropped his messenger bag on the floor and dug around inside until he found his panel. If he was going to look up semi-sensitive information, he determined it was better to do it in the residential buildings where everyone shared the same connectivity and there were no cameras to determine who exactly had made the search.

He sat down in the corner of the couch, sitting sideways so he could pull one leg up at an angle, and started flipping through programs on the panel until he located the Agency database.

He was typing in his password when he heard a door open and glanced up to see Adam entering the room. The other man was holding two large canvas bags and a bottle of water.

"Hi," Boyd greeted him.

Adam flicked him a mildly disinterested look, walked over to the kitchen table and set the bag down. He paused, seemed to debate something, then looked at Boyd again.


Boyd nearly raised an eyebrow at that; the idea that it may have taken a debate for Adam to even say hello or start a conversation made it seem like the man was even more introverted than he himself used to be. Flicking his gaze back down to the panel while he flipped through the database to the search function, he said, "I hope you don't mind that I came back here. I planned to spend some time away from the apartment but decided against it after all."

"It's fine." Adam began taking items out of the bag. "I took the liberty of procuring items from the supply facility."

Boyd looked up at that, pausing with his thumbs on the screen over the digital keyboard. He raised his eyebrows, his gaze running across the essentials; toothbrushes and toothpaste, paper plates, and a manner of other items to get them through with the barren apartment. With so many people shoved on compound at once, no doubt it would have taken days to get any of that had they waited for the supply people to bring it on their own.

His lips quirked up on the sides. "I've just now determined you're the best roommate on the compound."

Adam's lips twisted to the side and he raised an eyebrow. "I probably am. Apparently everyone else is too moral to steal. They were standing there arguing with the clerks about deliveries. You wouldn't think these people are sent to kill on a regular basis."

Boyd chuckled. "So to them it's only acceptable to use our powers for evil in the outside world?" He shook his head to himself and looked down at the panel again. He input Ivan's name. "I must have missed that day during indoctrination."

"Maybe they think she'll terminate them for stealing hard soap." Adam stared at the box in his hand and set it on the table.

"Might be worth it for a shower," Boyd muttered, watching the database open.

Ivan Theodore Andel was born in Chicago and was an only child. There was nothing of significance in his childhood. By now, his mother was dead and he'd been estranged from his father for years even before the Agency came into his life. Ivan had joined the CIA working as a computer tech but then he was caught embezzling money, sending it to fraudulent charity accounts. He was known as the Robin Hood Hacker in the paper for awhile. He was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison at which point the Agency recruited him.

He'd always exhibited anti-authoritarian attitude and was reprimanded multiple times. It also said that he was currently on medication for paranoid personality disorder and that according to documentation he had a history of the illness even before he'd joined the Agency. It also noted that he typically worked in Counter-Terrorism with General Willis' unit.

Boyd kept his expression bland even as he scrolled through the information, looking for anything more specific. He must have been a damn good hacker for the Agency to keep him on and as such a high-level R&D agent despite his sometimes obviously anti-Agency attitude. Boyd didn't see anything in Ivan's file to indicate why exactly he seemed to hate the Agency and, it seemed to him sometimes, the world so much. Maybe it was a byproduct of his illness.

Whatever the case, he didn't have high enough level clearance to get to anything more detailed. What he saw didn't help him discount Ivan as a suspect at all, although it also didn't make him much more suspect than he already was.

Now that he'd searched Ivan, though, he didn't want any reviews of his search history to be too suspect. He figured it would be better to search a number of people so it would seem like he was simply bored. If it turned out Ivan was the mole, he first of all didn't want Ivan to become even more paranoid seeing Boyd targeting him, and secondly he didn't want the administration to think he knew something he shouldn't. And then to wonder why or how he knew, and connect that with the covert meetings with Carhart.

So he thought about who else he could research and decided to input Emilio's name.

There was a clank as Adam unloaded something heavy from the bag and Boyd glanced up.

It was strange to consider all the twists and turns that had gotten Boyd to this moment; sitting in a living room with a man he barely knew, researching the father and friend of his former lover and partner. That made him think about how it had all started, back when he'd first joined the Agency. Back before he'd even expected to live longer than a handful of days.

Even after having joined the Agency, his life easily could have gone in an entirely different direction. If Adam hadn't backed down, he probably would have become Sin's partner. Boyd had never gotten a good answer as to why Adam had removed himself from the running. And, with his panel whirring in his hands and potentially weeks ahead of being stuck away from Sin once more, he found himself curious.

"Can I ask you a question?" Boyd asked, his eyebrows drawing down thoughtfully.

"You can do what you want but I don't know if I'll answer," Adam replied calmly. He'd somehow managed to pilfer a small container of colorful looking cereal.

"When we were both vying for the position of being Hsin's partner, why did you withdraw?"

"Oh." Adam peeled the top off of the cereal container and sat in the chair. He studied the colorful puff for a moment before popping it into his mouth. "It seemed like a lot of work for more than it was worth."

"How so?" Boyd asked, drawing his leg up. He rested the panel against his knee for the moment at an angle that casually kept it away from Adam's view.

Adam chewed slowly, his black eyes trained on Boyd. "He seemed difficult to deal with and I didn't care enough about the position to even try."

"Then why did you go for it in the first place?" Boyd asked curiously. "His reputation must have preceded him."

"I was nominated. I didn't want to go. I have better things to do with my time." Adam popped another colorful corn puff into his mouth and raised his eyebrows.

Boyd supposed it made sense that Adam was nominated and why he would have backed down when he got the chance. But as they talked, he found himself growing more curious about Adam and what exactly it was he did at the Agency.

"Like what?"


The comment, said so seriously, startled a laugh out of Boyd. "Well, I suppose I have your narcolepsy to thank," he said mildly.

Adam chewed slowly, staring at Boyd. Only after he swallowed did he say flatly, "It's not like it worked out so well for you."

Boyd paused, his fingers shifting against the panel as he eyed Adam more seriously. "Which part are you referring to?"

The other man shrugged his broad shoulders and dusted his hands off, standing up and going over to the sink. "I'm not going to dance around the elephant in this conversation. I'm talking about Sin being terminated. Everyone knew you two were together. It isn't as though there was a happily ever after."

Boyd watched him for a moment and then looked pensively back down at the panel. Emilio's profile had loaded but he didn't read it yet; just looked blankly at the words. He was silent, a frown touching his lips and drawing down his eyebrows.

"I won't deny that I was devastated at first," he admitted. "Furious, in fact." His gaze flicked up and followed Adam again. "But over the months I had more time to think about it. I realized that I won't ever get over him but maybe because of that, I know it was worth it to have been with him in the first place even with the ending we had."

"Huh." Adam opened his bottle of water, gave Boyd a thoughtful once over, and then was distracted by his cell phone beeping.

Boyd watched Adam for a moment longer and then returned his attention to the panel. He saw that there was quite a bit of information in Emilio's directory and opened the main files.

Emilio Alvado Vega, son of Yaritza Aguilera and Christian Vega, was born in California. He had older twin sisters, Marissa and Veronica. His mother was the daughter of a rich entrepreneur from Brazil and a model from Ecuador, while Christian's family had been in Mexico for generations. There were a few pictures interspersed and Boyd saw that Yaritza had been intensely beautiful, with many of the captivating features that had been passed down to her son and, later, to Sin.

For all her beauty, Yaritza had been unstable. She'd apparently murdered two women over Christian, including his childhood friend Sara Gomez. When Emilio was six years old, Yaritza stabbed Marissa and Veronica to death and turned on Emilio. Before she could kill him, Christian returned home and shot her in the head.

After that, the tragedies in Emilio's life only continued. His father brought him to Yaritza's parents in Brazil and left. Emilio's grandparents turned him out to the street where he stole and reportedly solicited himself to survive. There were records of arrests and escapes and his evasion of the death squads. There were also hospital records indicating abuse.

One picture in particular made Boyd pause and study it, his finger brushing the screen. A very young Emilio was in a hospital room, his face bloody and injured. He'd obviously been severely beaten and he was looking over someone's shoulder with a disturbed, worried expression. He was obviously malnourished, and his green eyes looked huge in his gaunt face. The image was scanned from a magazine article about homeless children in Brazil. The picture had likely been chosen randomly, and Boyd wouldn't be surprised to find out if the journalists had simply dumped him back on the street after.

The young Emilio reminded Boyd of Sin; of what he must have looked like at that age when he'd also been fending off the effects of the abusive life he'd been given. It made Boyd's fingers twitch and his eyebrows draw down, and he couldn't help feeling bad for Emilio. For everything he'd been through already at that young age.

He lingered on that picture for a moment before he returned to perusing the information.

When Emilio eventually left Brazil he met up with his father in Mexico where he became involved in drug- and weapon-running. His father's gang was active in Mexico and California, where they had a rivalry with the Triads until Emilio suggested they capitalize off the chaos of the post-war economy and work together to develop black market trade. Despite his relatively young age, during this time he became a major player in the gang and eventually started traveling to China on business. He met Sin's mother in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Although Emilio was suspected in many crimes over the years, including murders, it was all within the criminal world and was largely ignored. The Agency paid attention to him due to his reputation of being a criminal mastermind despite his very young age, and the fact that he'd managed to form ties between two powerful gangs on an international scale. This eventually had influence on the way the underground black market was organized, possibly because others ended up seeing how lucrative it was.

During the course of this time he met many people who eventually joined and formed 4FF. Emilio was eventually arrested by law enforcement and faced serious time in federal prison, like his father who was still in San Quentin on a triple murder. However, before the cops had managed to even book him, the Agency intervened and recruited him.

Boyd looked through more of the pictures and found that the resemblance to Sin was especially prominent when Emilio had been younger. He flipped through a few more screens and saw the notation that Emilio had two known sons; Hsin Liu Vega and Damian Perry.

Remembering that Emilio had mentioned another son, Boyd's curiosity was piqued and he moved back through the folders until he found one dedicated to Damian.

Damian Austin Perry, aka Chance, was born in Las Vegas. His mother was Gemini Perry, a showgirl, and according to the notes he didn't know his father or that he had a half brother. Gemini and Emilio had a quick marriage and a fling. She and Emilio had little to no contact until she later told him she was pregnant and then lied and told him she'd aborted the child.

Damian was initially given Emilio's last name but she later legally changed it to Perry, although there was no known documentation saying why. She died of cancer when Damian was thirteen years old, at which point he was sent to live with his wealthy grandparents. For unknown reasons he ran away when he was fourteen. Despite this, Damian received large sums of money from inheritance once he reached eighteen from both his grandparents and his mother.

Although he was now independently wealthy, Damian continued the gang life for several years before becoming involved in the drug trade. He was listed as being the CEO of Skyn, sole distributor of Pandora in Lexington, Carson and surrounding areas, connected to various law enforcement officials, politicians, and ties in both Outlaws and South Side Boys.

There was a note that Damian appeared to be unaware of this indirect connection but that he may be utilized in the future if there was need. He was currently on a high level watch list.

There was a notation that he was somehow connected to Auroura Whitecap, who was his link to a Pandora chemist. Auroura was linked to various other experimental drug labs, and had connections to black market groups and rebel organizations. Through a chain, she was still believed to be related to Janus and other terrorist groups due to her widespread research and scientific experiments with drugs and bio-weaponry.

There was a picture of Damian. Boyd could see the resemblance to Emilio and Sin clearly. Damian wasn't a carbon copy of Emilio like Sin was, but he had the same high cheekbones and a similarly formed mouth. His skin tone was much fairer than his father or half-brother, making him appear to be more Caucasian. His eyes weren't the striking green of his family but they were hazel with flecks of orange that stood out from his dark eyelashes. He had that same peculiar quality of near-beauty that made his face seem unforgettable.

Boyd studied Damian for a moment, eyes narrowing as he ran his gaze along the brother that Sin never knew he had.

He was deep in thought about that when his bag suddenly made a buzzing sound. He jumped, startled out of his reverie, and tilted the panel up as he looked down at the end of the couch. The whirring noise came again, insistently. He dragged the bag over, digging inside until he found his Agency phone. Two texts had come almost on top of each other.

The first was from Ryan, telling him his roommate Wilkes planned to move to another room tomorrow and inviting him over to hang out sometime afterward if he wanted. The second was from Owen and was more incoherent.

'dd u get this 1st?' it read. 'context! btw at cafe, crnbrd rulz.'

It took Boyd a moment of staring blankly at the text to realize that Owen and Ryan must be at the cafe eating together and apparently there had been some sort of contest to see who could text him first. Since Ryan actually had something meaningful to say in his, he could only assume Owen had lost a self-appointed race.

Shaking his head to himself in bemusement, Boyd texted Ryan to say thanks and he'd let him know later. He then informed Owen that he'd lost.

'damn!' Owen texted back immediately. 'all or nothin nxt time.'

Ryan just wrote back, 'cool.'

A small smile passed over Boyd's lips before he dropped his phone back into his bag. He felt a strange affection for the R&D agents at that moment, who were both rather odd in their own way but who kept going out of their way to include him even when he was avoiding others.

He returned his gaze to the panel and found that he'd lost much of his attention for in depth research on anyone else. He checked out a few things, including visiting Skyn's website to see what it was. It turned out that was an adult video business, which made Boyd's eyes narrow as he settled back into the couch.

He couldn't say that he was too impressed with Damian. The man had been given an option for a better life, unlike Emilio or Sin, and he'd chosen not to take it. Although, what actually bothered him was that Damian had later used his wealth and influence to capitalize on sex and drugs.

It put Boyd too much in mind of the way Aleixo had operated, which left a bad taste in his mouth. A flash of a memory hit him; warm winds, brilliant blues and whites stretching out beneath the balcony, a blinking light and that man's voice. 'If I expand my enterprise...'

Boyd abruptly shut off the panel and tossed it on the other end of the couch with tightened lips and a cool glare. That was all meaningless now. He was the one in control now. None of that could hurt him anymore.

Now that Boyd wasn't looking at the panel he realized he could hear Adam's voice faintly coming from the open bedroom. He seemed to be talking on his phone.

"I already told you," Adam was saying quietly, his tone annoyed. "I can't leave."

Another pause. "You can do what you want."

The last sentence was said coldly and there was an audible thump as Adam dropped his phone on whatever surface it landed. He exited his bedroom shortly after, stopped, looked at Boyd, looked back at his room and frowned.

Boyd watched Adam thoughtfully. From the sound of it, he was talking to someone outside of the Agency.

"Was that the person you were talking to yesterday?" he asked idly.

Adam gave him one of those looks where it seemed that he was debating not even bothering to answer and just walking away. He flexed his fingers idly and studied Boyd before finally answer. "Yes. Why?"

Boyd shrugged and swung his legs over the side of the couch to sit up normally. He rolled his shoulders to release some of the kinks. "Just wondering. You seem to argue with him a lot. Who is he?"

"How do you know it's a he?"

"Because I don't know many women named Gordon." Boyd picked up his panel and slid it into his bag, glancing up sidelong at Adam. "I wasn't eavesdropping, in case you wonder. I just happened to overhear it yesterday when I was doing a sweep of the room for bugs."

"Ah." Another pause, then. "He's my boyfriend, I suppose."

Boyd's eyebrows shifted up at that. He'd partially suspected something along those lines but hadn't been positive. "And he's a civilian?"

Adam crossed his arms over his chest. "Yes. I prefer civilians."

That caused Boyd to consider Adam more closely. "Why?"

"I think most Agency people are full of shit. Civilians in general are more straight-forward, and less neurotic." Adam paused and quirked an eyebrow. "Most of them, anyway."

Boyd considered that as he flipped his bag closed and moved it across the floor to rest against the head of the couch. "What about the secrecy? Doesn't that put a strain on your relationship?"

There was another beat of silence and then Adam just said simply, "No."

Eyebrows lowering in a thoughtful frown, Boyd shifted on the couch. "How? What do you tell him when you suddenly have to leave on assignment, or for instance at a time like this when we're incapable of leaving for an indefinite period of time? Does the Murphy Corps cover work well enough on its own?"

"I don't have a Murphy Corps cover."

"What cover do you use?"

"You ask a lot of questions," Adam observed.

"I'm a curious person," Boyd replied with a shrug.

Adam's mouth quirked slightly although it wasn't really a smile. "I have a civilian cover. One that necessitates a vast amount of travel. And to answer your other question, he knows better than to question me."

"Ah," Boyd said in understanding. "Have you known him long?"

"A few years." Adam stared at him oddly. "Why are you so interested?"

"You're the first person I've met at the Agency who's said that a civilian relationship has worked and that the secrecy doesn't create a rift between you," Boyd replied with a shrug. "I find that to be interesting."

"Ah." And with that, Adam took a towel out of one of the bags and walked toward the bathroom without another word.

Boyd's gaze tracked him briefly before sliding away to settle on thin air. He leaned back against the couch and wondered whether Sin would ever trust him again, and even if he did would they ever get to a point where the secrecy didn't come between them?

The tell tale sign of Ryan approaching was the combination of his huge backpack thumping against his narrow back and the thick soles of his sneakers squeaking across the floor in a fast pace. It wasn't too surprising when he appeared in front of Boyd, dropping his bag to his feet and plopping himself down in one of the chairs opposite Boyd.

"Man, this place is packed," he said, looking around the cafeteria with a little grimace. "By the time I wait in line, anything worth eating will be gone. Oh by the way, I invited Bree. She's meeting us here in a minute."

Boyd's eyebrows lifted. "Bree?" he echoed. "Why?"

Ryan twisted his mouth to the side, indigo eyes widening slightly. "Can you believe I failed at researching? I think it's the first time I haven't been able to dig something up." There was a beat as he let that sink in before rolling his shoulders in a shrug. "I stayed up for two nights trying to find something on Vanguard Industries like you asked and it's like... buried so deep or just not listed anywhere on the Internet that I couldn't find even a mention. Not even in an old periodical. It's weird."

Lifting a hand to gesture vaguely, Ryan dropped it almost instantly to grab at his backpack. "So anyway, I asked Bree to come so I can pick her brain about my fail researching."

A mote of unease shifted in Boyd's stomach. He braced his forearms on the edge of the table and leaned a little closer. He hadn't told Ryan why he was looking into Vanguard Industries because he hadn't thought it would be this difficult and he didn't even know for certain what he expected to learn.

Riley's offhanded comment about Vanguard Industries had bothered him. Although Boyd had never heard of the group, his father's described behavior seemed suspicious, especially knowing he had died soon afterward. At first Boyd had thought maybe he could find out more about the sorts of topics his father had been doing research on but if it was actually so difficult Ryan needed to pull someone else in on it, that seemed even more suspicious.

"Do you think that's wise?" he asked quietly, glancing discreetly around the room.

They'd chosen the cafeteria because it was one of the few places on compound they could be almost certain they wouldn't be overheard by surveillance; with so much background noise the Agency wouldn't have audio on the cameras here, and with so many conversations they wouldn't have the ability to zero in on every face to read lips. As for regular eavesdropping, that was easy enough to avoid by choosing the right table and speaking at the correct volume.

"If it's buried that deep it may be dangerous to talk freely about it. Can she be trusted?"

"Bree is the only higher up I trust other than Zachary," Ryan said without hesitation. "She's covered up a ton of shit that I did when I was first starting out. Mistakes and stuff. She's helped Owen too sometimes. Don't worry, I wouldn't ask for help from just anyone. She's always had my back."

"Alright," Boyd said, relaxing minutely back into his chair. "If you trust her then I do too."

"Cool." Ryan dug around in his backpack and pulled out a laptop and a granola bar. The wrapper crinkled as he booted up his computer and looked around. "How's rooming with Adam?"

"Interesting." Boyd leaned back in his chair and glanced around the cafeteria, absently looking for his roommate. "He's fairly quiet and doesn't offer up much information freely but if you know what to say he'll get into a conversation." He shrugged and returned his attention to Ryan. "I wonder if that's how I seemed to others when I first came here. I've been told I seemed a bit standoffish."

"Uh. Yeah." Ryan smirked at Boyd, moving his index finger around the track pad. "Most people think you just had a snotty stick up your ass."

He opened his mouth to say more but before he could, his eyes fell on someone. Sitting up straighter, Ryan waved and his mouth stretched into a wider smile. Jenny White was hobbling down the aisle between the tables with crutches propped under each arm as she gripped a protein shake in one hand. When she spotted Ryan, she stopped by their table.

"Hey, how are you feeling?"

Jenny rolled her eyes. "Like an invalid. Hey Boyd."

"Hi Jenny." Boyd glanced down at her injuries. It certainly seemed genuine which so far made Jon's story seem legitimate. "I heard you ran into trouble on a mission. What happened?"

She leaned against her crutches, the cast going all the way up her leg and ending at the upper part of her thigh where a pair of cutoff jeans ended. "Me and Jonny Boy were shutting down a rebel nest. We did recon for a couple of days and things were fine, but then on the day of the raid all of a sudden it was like they knew we were coming. It was insane, we barely got out."

Boyd frowned slightly. "Strange... I'm glad to see you both made it. Did you go in together? It seemed like Jon was a little luckier."

Jenny paused for a moment, tilting her head and giving him a slightly strange look before answering. "Yeah. The plan was for us to split and set up the detonators but we both got ambushed. I doubled back to the van to get the hell out of there and picked up Jon just before the charges were about to go off. That gorgeous face of his was already gruesome though. Poor thing."

Ryan made a low sound at that and Jenny raised her eyebrows at him.

"What was that?"

He flashed her an innocent smile. "I didn't say anything."

"Uh huh." She made a face. "For a compound full of deadly trained assassins and hackers, you all gossip like a bunch of old women."

Boyd spread his hands and asked dryly, "What else are we supposed to do to pass the time? Especially now that we're all stuck here..."

"Clean your guns and practice your hand to hand," she suggested. When Ryan opened his mouth with a smirk, Jenny waved her hand to cut him off before he could dispute the suggestion. "I'll see you guys later. I have a protein shake to down and some hand weights to squeeze."

Snickering, Ryan waved as she walked away before turning his attention back to Boyd. "She banged Jon, by the way."

Boyd shifted his gaze from Jenny disappearing into the crowd to meeting Ryan's eyes. "How do you know?"

Ryan took a massive bite out of his granola bar and shrugged his narrow shoulders. "Everyone knows. I dunno how. I heard it from someone in R&D who was on a team with Jon on some mission. I think that's why Harriet is back to being grimface."

"Hmm." Boyd glanced after Jenny again but couldn't see her. "I can't blame her."

He pulled out a protein bar from his bag and unwrapped it thoughtfully. He wasn't surprised to hear the news-- he'd recently been able to follow Jon to see if he was the traitor and he'd ended up seeing Jon together with another woman.

But it made Boyd wonder. With Jon's mission being compromised like other agents' missions, Jon and Jenny both being hurt, and another case of Jon sleeping with another woman behind Harriet's back, the only thing Boyd could prove was that Jon was an adulterer. Was there anything else going on despite a lack of any evidence or should Jon be crossed off the list? With so many other people to investigate he had to spend his time wisely but he was also hesitant to dismiss a name completely until he was positive.

Boyd pushed the wrapping down and took a bite of the protein bar, glancing across the room. He realized he was absently looking for Harriet's dark head of hair and wondered how she was doing. When he'd seen Jon with another woman he'd wondered if he should say anything but there hadn't been a way to admit to witnessing that without having to come up with a reason for why he'd been following Jon in the first place. It seemed it was no longer necessary to worry about warning her; with the whole compound knowing he was playing her, it was a wonder she hadn't broken up with him already.

As he was contemplating that, he saw a shock of pale hair and noticed Bree heading toward them. Her face was pinched, lips flattened into a tight line and skin paler than usual. She stalked towards them with sharp, angry movements and didn't stop to joke with people or shout out random nicknames like she usually did. When she finally reached their table, she slid in next to Boyd and put her hands flat on the table.

Ryan stopped in mid bite when he saw her, eyebrows drawing together. "What's wrong?"

The question earned him a disgusted scoff and Bree ripped her tinted glasses off her face, wiping a hand over her eyes roughly. She shook her head, lips pressing together tighter, and then glanced at Boyd. There was a brief hesitation and then she just slapped her hand down on the table again.

"That little cunt got me demoted."

"What? Who?" Ryan demanded, voice going from loud and alarmed to low and hushed almost instantly.

"Jordan," Bree growled, thin hand balling into a fist. "That fucking little twat. I'm such an idiot."

"What?" Boyd asked sharply, dropping his voice as well. "What happened?"

Bree shook her head, delicate strands of blond hair moving around as she did so. There was a flash of anger in her face that was completely different from her usual grins and easygoing expressions. "The sum of it is, I let her climb into my bed and she snooped around my apartment after and got enough dirt on me to get me demoted. Or up for review. Whatever the flying motherfuck that means in this administration."

"Shit," Boyd hissed quietly. "Why do you think she targeted you?"

"I should have seen this sooner," Bree said, shaking her head angrily and raking a hand through her hair. She exhaled noisily, eyes rolling in disgust. "It's a known thing in the upper ranks that she's a honey trap. It wasn't always known but, all she does is try to fuck Instructors and Generals and Captains-- and then after what happened with General Hughes it was for sure. He said a couple of things in front of her about the new Marshal and the old admin, and then he's up for review and his clearance was downgraded. But fuck, I'm not a risk. No one bothers me and I don't bother anyone, I just do my job. I didn't think letting the little skank go down on me would have repercussions other than a good time. Who knew she was smart enough to hack into my shit."

"When did that happen with Hughes?" Boyd asked.

Bree exhaled noisily, causing her bangs to stir as she sat back in the chair with a thud. "A month ago or so. Not that far back. I just didn't think it would matter if I messed around with her since I've never been red flagged for anything, but I guess she's looking into anyone of authority."

Ryan stared at Bree, mouth drawn down. "I'm really surprised at you. She's so obviously a bad idea. Like, what did she even get on you?"

"Stupid shit. Or shit that I didn't think would be that big of a deal." Bree shrugged her shoulders, scowling. "Well, I guess I knew it would be. I had it encrypted but she's an amazing hacker apparently. I was following a couple of agents who are under review for termination. Apparently they don't like me snooping."

"Damn it," Ryan said, eyebrows drawing together.

Boyd's eyebrows shifted up slightly. "If you can answer, why were you looking into them?"

Bree rolled her eyes at him. "Why do you think, Double B? To make sure they didn't get themselves dead. I was giving my people a heads up when they got red flagged. Stupid, risky, but whatever. I didn't think it would get me red flagged since I don't change anything or touch any records. I just... watch. Fucking bitch Jordan."

"Ah, it was your own people..." Boyd said in understanding, leaning back in his chair. His half-eaten protein bar sat laxly in his fingers until he thought to set it down on the table. "I thought you were watching anyone up for termination in the entire Agency and had chosen a select few to track more closely."

"Well... I thought about it," she said slowly, looking down at the lenses of her glasses with a frown. "But there's been so many that I didn't want to make myself obvious when I start shadowing files."

Ryan was still shaking his head, frowning at his mentor and looking more than a little disappointed in her. He sighed, rolling his shoulders before hunching them forward. "So what happens now?"

"Fuck knows." Bree ran her fingers through her hair again, frustration evident on her youthful face. "She didn't mention termination, but she was obviously not happy and she said she was having my file analyzed and reviewed. There's going to be a whole goddamn investigation and then I find out if I get my clearance back."

"Not as bad as it could be," Ryan conceded, relaxing a bit and reaching out to pat her hand.

She looked at him incredulously, but after looking into his wide blue eyes her mouth twisted into a tiny smile and she inclined her head reluctantly. "Yeah. I guess. Anyway, what did you want to ask me about?"

Boyd sighed and pushed the protein bar out of the way as he leaned forward. He crossed his arms against the table top and studied Bree briefly. "Well, I hate to ask now, especially since you likely don't have the clearance to do any necessary research. I was going to ask if you knew what the background is on Vanguard Industries."

Bree's eyebrows shot up and she looked from him to Ryan in surprise. "Vanguard Industries? That name hasn't been used in a couple of decades, kiddos. What brings that up?"

"So you have heard about it?" Boyd asked, feeling equal parts relieved and surprised. Apparently Ryan had been right to call her in. "I heard the name mentioned in relation to an old incident but I'd never heard of it so I grew curious."

Ryan kept his eyes on his own laptop as Boyd spoke. He'd made it obvious during their initial conversation that he didn't entirely buy this explanation but he didn't seem to be in a rush to go over that in front of Bree. She, however, didn't seem to be in the mood to push it and just shrugged.

"I don't even have to look anything up about that, boys. Vanguard was the Agency's Murphy Corps of the 90s and early 2000s."

"The Agency?" Boyd said in surprise, straightening in his chair. His hands curled into fists and although his attention focused solely on Bree he made an effort to keep his expression neutral to keep from drawing attention to himself.

He felt a pit grow in his stomach. What had his father been doing, mentioning anything related to the Agency? "If that's the case, why haven't Ryan or I heard about it? Why are we using Murphy Corps now?"

"I dunno. They switched it up. After awhile these alleged black ops merc group covers get too noticed and get a bad rap and I guess they change things up so the heat dies down. Vanguard was around during the peak of war time so shit was always hot, and the Agency had a lot to cover up." Bree twisted her mouth to the side, eyes still distant even as she spoke.

Boyd's eyes narrowed. "Do you know what year it changed over?"

Her thin shoulders rose but some of the distracted disinterest faded as Bree picked up on his intensity. "I'm not sure. Maybe fifteen years ago? More? It was right around the time your boy joined up or a couple of years after. I remember because we talked about him not needing a civilian cover since he was batshit insane."

Ryan wrinkled his nose. "So why don't I remember it then?"

"Because you were too busy running after Ann and Lydia." There was a pause. "Okay, so you were probably too busy hacking into government computers for fun or something ridiculous like that. It was before they noticed your talent."

Leaning back in his chair, Boyd only half paid attention to their conversation as he calculated the timing. Sin had joined around 2005, so if Vanguard disappeared within a few years of that it put it right around the time his father had died in 2007.

Or had been killed.

The conversations in the room suddenly seemed very far away as Boyd looked blindly down at the table. His father had mentioned Vanguard Industries and a week later he had suddenly died in the bombs? His limbs felt like they were tingling, his throat heavy with even the effort to breathe easily.

Was it possible there was a connection between the two? Was it possible his father had somehow become involved in the Agency or learned something in regards to the cover story and, to protect itself, the Agency had reacted?

But he'd been killed in the bombs. That was the one truth Boyd had always known. His father had been the one person taken from his life unexpectedly but in a manner that was beyond anyone's control. It was just bad luck, bad timing, being in the wrong place...

Unless it hadn't been.

It was bad enough hearing that his grandparents had been killed in the wave of Lexington bombs, which had occurred because Connors had gotten their city targeted as they tried to take out the Agency, but with this unexpected connection between the old Murphy Corps and his father, and on top of that his own suspicions about Sin's abrupt disappearance and sudden loss of memory... Had everyone he had ever loved or might have loved, other than Lou, been taken from him at the Agency's hands?

For a moment he wanted nothing more than to run off the compound; to get as far away from these cameras and the oppression and the paranoia as possible. He felt like every truth he had thought he'd known in the past several months was being questioned and, more often, turned on end. Every time he caught his balance, every time he thought he knew what to expect, something new occurred which made him have to question everything all over again.

The cafeteria light shone dully off the silver wrapper of the protein bar. He latched onto that, focusing on it to the exclusion of all else just long enough to get his spiraling thoughts under control.

Think, he urged himself.

His mother would never have worked at the Agency if they'd had anything to do with his father's death; that much, at least, he felt he could be certain about. As certain as he could be about anything. If the Agency had been involved, there would be record of it. Every mission was recorded and reviewed religiously. That was one more certainty Boyd felt fairly confident having. Which meant there must be some way to verify whether he was going in completely the wrong direction out of paranoia.

Or to verify he was right.

After a moment of debating, he decided he had to trust someone in the Agency who had access to the secure databases-- and if he couldn't trust Ryan and who Ryan trusted, then he couldn't trust anyone.

"I know you're under investigation," Boyd said, glancing briefly at Bree before turning his gaze to Ryan as well to include him when he continued. "But do either of you have a list of agents and their ranks for years past? Or have a way of accessing past mission assignments?"

They both stared at him for a moment before Bree gestured. "Sure, there's tons of archives. If a mission wasn't considered super duper top secret they can be accessed for training and studying purposes on the database. Anything else can of course be hacked. Same with agent lists. But uh," she raised her eyebrows far above the top of her tinted glasses. "Any particular reason why?"

"There is, but..." Boyd hesitated, looking away from the other two to take in the other agents surrounding them.

The cafeteria was packed more than ever; likely because there had never been so many people stuck on compound at one time. Even though so many people provided good cover, it also made him more paranoid. He didn't feel safe saying anything about his father until he knew for sure. Because if it turned out he was right, then he suspected no one was ever supposed to have learned this truth. Otherwise they would have put the information right in his profile, the way they linked any Agency-related tidbit to the background checks of all staff.

He sighed, grimacing faintly before turning honey brown eyes back onto Bree. "I can't give you specifics right now. I'm sorry; I know it's terrible of me to ask so many questions without giving you any answers, but it's not safe to say anything further right now. I just... think something happened and want to verify it."

Bree and Ryan exchanged a long look. They seemed to have some kind of unspoken language down pat, because when they turned their gazes back to him they both nodded in agreement.

"I'll help in any way I can," she said without hesitation. "My clearance is a little fucked right now, and I don't know how deep Ryan can honestly dig without red flagging himself but there's hard copies of all of that shit in Chandler."

At that, Ryan's head whipped around to stare at her again. "Chandler Heights? Say what?"

A smirk found its way onto Bree's petite features, and she gave them both a haughty look from over her glasses. "You darlings can't know everything. And I have no reason to keep their top secret secrets anymore. Especially not ones that don't require internet access."

"And?" Ryan demanded, clearly impatient to get to the point. It was rare that Ryan did not know something about the Agency since he'd been born and raised on the compound. Judging from the pucker in his brow, he wasn't pleased by this development.

"Calm down, grasshopper. I just happen to have found out over time that there's an off compound site where data is stored. After the compound was bombed the first time, the big ups decided that keeping all of our files and data on experimental weapons in one place was a big no-no. They lost a ton of intel back then, and the scientists who designed it had died. And keeping it all on a network that could be crashed wasn't that promising either." There was a brief pause. "You really can't tell anyone that, though. I doubt even Zachary knows. Well, he might. But, I only know because top secret info is kind of my thing."

Ryan's lower lip was actually sticking out at this point. "It's my thing too!"

"Oh, don't be a brat," she groused.

Eyebrows raising slightly, Boyd rested his forearms against the edge of the table to lean closer. "Where is this site?"

"Locked down. Crazy security. Impossible to break into, probably." Bree ticked each thing off on her finger before giving him a slight smile. "Unless you know someone who is good at breaking in and out of places that should be impossible to break into. Places with crazy security. Compounds, even."

Boyd's lips almost lifted on the edge before he stopped himself. He knew exactly who fit that profile and Bree did too. He met her eyes to silently let her know he understood and then nodded. "Thank you."

She gave a sarcastic little salute, but the smile hadn't left her lips.

Continue to Fade Chapter 21...