Nosal Ski Resort, Tatropane Mountains, Poland
Colette Landry blew her nose into a tissue as she lay on the couch in the central area of the ski condo, her body covered in a thick blanket and a large mug of hot cocoa on the hardwood floor next to her. In an attempt to celebrate the fact that since the new year had begun there had been no noted crimes that related to their unique jurisdiction, some of IT's top personnel had elected to take a short sabbatical, going on holiday to ski in Poland. Besides Colette there was Cassandra Flick, JB Odilon, Jelena Hendraille and even the head of ITEA: Lucienne Christophe. The five were splitting a three-bedroom condo, Lucienne getting the private second floor room to herself while Cassandra and JB shared the downstairs room with a king bed and Colette and Jelena shared the other room, which had two queen-sized mattresses. Unfortunately not two days into the trip Colette had a cold.
"How are you feeling?" asked Jelena, walking into the living room. The dark-haired woman of action was wearing a thick green jacket with matching snow-pants, her hair clipped up in a bun and a pair of orange goggles on her forehead.
"Still terrible," groaned Colette, who under the blanket was clad in a thick white robe, pink plaid pyjama pants, and a pair of wolf-hair coloured fuzzy slippers.
"You got everything?" asked Jelena, frowning and moving to sit on the edge of the couch. Since they'd first started working together during their battle against the Paradise Foundation, Jelena and Colette had slowly become good friends; both of them had transferred from Interpol to the ITEA and were promptly being placed on Team Alpha together. Team Alpha was currently disbanded due to Tasia Spiro, the leader, being on leave, thus Colette and Jelena had spent more time at HQ in London since Ashley Tisdale had been taken down around the American Thanksgiving. Fellow Alpha members Sophie Katsopolis and Suzanna Ortiz were currently serving with Hui Lan and Miranda Ohala on Team Gamma, which was doing a surveying mission in Hong Kong; though they couldn't even classify that mission as one related to a time crime, as all they had were rumours.
"I'm good; I have the remote, plenty of hot liquids, and another two hundred tissues if I need them," reported Colette, managing to smile at her friend. Jelena beamed back and then nervously looked away, standing quickly. Besides hunting technologies that seemed almost like science fiction, IT was also infamous for having quite a few men and women on staff who were either bisexual or gay, something which had always made Jelena uncomfortable. Colette herself was straight, though she had pretended to be gay for a time to hide possible connections to some unsavoury characters from her past. While it was clear now that the French-Canadian was straight, Jelena was clearly uneasy about forming a tight bond with just about any woman; most likely being worried her own actions might be misconstrued as romantic. After she was over her cold, Colette planned to help Jelena get over her fears, but it was hard to do when sick.
"I'm going to go meet the others at the lodge, I'll check back later," mumbled Jelena, some of it not even in English, as she headed out of the condo, leaving Colette alone.
"Homophobic little..." sighed Colette, leaning back on the couch. Jelena’s and Colette's friendship wasn't the only issue the vacation had brought to light either, the young blond knew. Lucienne was alone on a trip for the first time in a long while, having parted with her lover Tasia on less than civil terms. JB and Cassandra were also having issues in spite of being one of IT's most notable couples, the former's frustrations over his rejected marriage proposal now suddenly rising to the surface. Needless to say the vacation was welcomed, as hopefully it would give everyone a chance to clear the air, though Lucienne may have trouble settling her emotions, given that Tasia had spent the last little while in Malibu back in the US.
Settling in on the couch, Colette began to drift off when there was a knock at the door. Opening an eye and noticing the clock, Colette realized it must be time for the maid service. Grunting in annoyance, Colette rose from her nest and moved to open the door. To the blond's surprise, however, it wasn't a female maid but a short and stocky man dressed entirely in thick, white clothing with a wool cap covering his head and polarized glasses over his eyes; his mouth was masked by a scarf. Colette was going to ask who the man was when she saw he was holding her at gunpoint, with what was apparently a modified Glock in his right hand. "Back up; go sit down," ordered the man.
"Okay, just please don't shoot," asked Colette, her voice thick with sickness and fear. Colette was used to being someone who ambushed others, not being the one held hostage in the comfort of her own rented condo.
"I'd rather not, but make no mistake that I will fire if you try something stupid," warned the man as he closed the door behind him and moved to sit on the couch opposite the one Colette had returned to. "What are you, sick?" the man asked next.
"Somehow I caught a cold," admitted Colette with a sad smile.
"Bad luck for you then," mocked the man, pulling off his cap while at the same time lowering his scarf, revealing a round face that seemed quite tight, but there were signs that it had once been much thicker with fat. Colette wasn't entirely sure who the man was, but she suspected she'd seen his face in a case file.
"Who are you and what do you want with me?" asked Colette next, a sense of seriousness clouding her fear.
"You don't know me, which is your loss, but my name is Barry Finnegan," explained the man, removing his glasses to reveal penetrating eyes. "A few months ago I got busted by some of your co-workers for 'allegedly' stalking Christine Huart and using a freeze ray on her in her own home. I was convicted, went to jail, but now I'm out, in the best shape of my life; and itching for some payback."
"What does that have to do with us?" asked Colette, deciding to play dumb. "My friends and I are just–"
"Oh, don't even give me that bullshit, I know exactly who you are, sugar-boobs," spat Barry. "You're with the International Temporal Enforcement Agency, or IT, or ITEA, or as I call them, pricks that fuck everything up. Whatever. Now, I have two questions for you: one, where's your phone?"
"In my room, in back there," confessed Colette, pointing behind Barry and amazed that she'd been so perfectly ambushed. It was clear that Barry was a serious threat, but how he'd gotten out of jail so early wasn't clear. From what Colette could recall, anyone caught using something like a time-stopper, which she assumed is what Barry meant by a freeze ray, would face ten years easy in most international prisons.
"Alright; and two, can you stand up and do a robot dance for me?" asked Barry next, leaning back in his seat. Colette blinked for a moment and then sighed, standing up. Once on her feet Colette proceeded to straighten her hands like she was going to do karate chops, bent her elbows 90 degrees and began moving like a cliché android, moving stiffly with only one or two joints at a time. No sooner did she tilt her head slightly to the left however, with her right arm raised and her left arm down near her waist, Colette felt something hit her in the chest and she blacked out.
* * *
"Nice, I've always wanted my own French mannequin!" laughed Barry, having frozen Colette solid using a Glock he'd had modified to fire darts loaded with Type-7 sedative. The young man, who was barely the blond's senior, took a moment to admire her shapely frozen form before standing up and heading into the back room she'd pointed out.
Two weeks ago Barry had been in jail when a strange man he'd never seen before flooded the prison compound with Type-7 gas and promptly extracted him and two other inmates: one a woman from two wings down; the other a bald man with a bunch of tattoos, neither of which Barry ever saw again. The man, who insisted on going by the code name Mr. Void, called Barry in turn “Mr. Water” whenever they talked. Void kept Barry in an unknown location that the younger man had assumed was somewhere in Idaho for the next few days, personally educating him on the use of Type-7, the time-stopper he'd purchased in the past, and details about IT. Following his education and training, Barry was given a private house in New York and the resources to allow him, a gifted science nerd, to build a larger-scale time-stopper and even modify it, improving upon his old design. After he'd finished his work four days ago, Barry had used Mr. Void's connections to track down any major ITEA leaders and he'd been pleased to learn quite a few of them were at a remote ski resort, which had prompted him to launch today’s little attack.
"Now everything is like that chick's ass," exclaimed Barry upon finding Colette's phone. "Perfect, that is!" Practically jumping with glee, Barry exited the bedroom and hurried back out the front door of the condo, retrieving a food cart he'd left there before he'd entered and wheeling it back inside. Barry proceeded to place the cart next to Colette, who remained as rigid as a waxwork figure; he then removed the two dish covers, revealing a watch and a large disk-shaped object that some might have mistaken for a model of a UFO.
"I love clock humour," remarked Barry as he put on the watch, then pressing a button on the disc, which was his larger time-stopper, and looking up a number in Colette's phone.
"Hello Assistant Director Landry, how can I direct your call?" came a British-accented voice through Colette's phone a few moments after Barry dialled the desired number; the would-be terrorist knowing it to belong to Gitana, the IT receptionist.
"Yes, this is Mr. Water, calling on Landry's phone," announced Barry, “because she’s currently unable to lift a finger to stop me.” There was silence on the other end, so he continued, "I just thought I'd let you know I've captured the entire Nosal ski resort and you should probably send a team to stop me since I've, well, stopped your leaders too. I froze the entire place, is what I'm saying." His message delivered, Barry hung up before he could get a response and sat down on the couch after taking one last look at his time-stopper, noting there were five minutes to go.
* * *
Lucienne was standing just outside one of the resort's main chalets, her skis parked in the snow mound next to her with her poles leaning on them; her hair in a white toque while she wore a thick and fuzzy-fur-lined red coat with darker but matching pants and a yellow scarf around her neck. Next to her was Cassandra Flick, who was dressed for some serious snowboarding as she was wearing a thermal jumpsuit coloured blue and white, a racing helmet with the Union Jack on her head and goggles over her eyes. Her board’s lanyard was already attached to her right boot, while her left foot was free for stepping. Nearby JB was just approaching, clad mostly in black, save for an orange and red toque which rested under a white helmet, his board tucked under his left arm. "I just got a text from Jelena; she'll be here in one," announced JB as he trudged up next to his lover.
Among the five that were on the trip, only Colette and Cassandra had taken winter sports seriously in their youth; with Cassandra taking up boarding years before joining Interpol and managing to keep it up while Colette had once attempted a couple of skiing competitions during her college years. Lucienne was an average skier, usually going once a year, sometimes twice, while JB and Jelena were relatively new to the sport; JB only learning boarding because Cassandra had insisted on it.
"Here I am!" called out Jelena a few moments later, walking towards the group with her skis and poles over her shoulders.
"I guess Colette's still feeling lousy," noted Cassandra.
"She's not the only one," muttered JB.
"Do we have to do this now?" asked Cassandra with a groan. "Come on Odie, it's a brand new day! Let's just enjoy it! We're on vacation!"
"I'm sorry; I have feelings," grumbled JB, getting a sigh in response from Cassie. Lucienne ideally would have smirked, but given her own romantic issues she wasn't about to find humour in the spats of others.
"Hey, Colette's still sick so I guess it's just the four of us today," remarked Jelena as she arrived. Lucienne nodded and was going to say something but then her phone rang.
"Hello, Palmira?" answered Lucienne, noting the caller ID before answering.
"Lucienne, thank God," came a breath of relief from the other end of the call. "We have a problem: someone named Mister Water just called us using Colette's phone and claimed he'd frozen the entire resort you guys are at!"
"Must of been some kind of prank," groaned Lucienne, shaking her head. "Everyone here is fine. Colette is feeling sick, maybe she got delirious and decided to prank you. Rest assured, we're all-" Lucienne never finished her sentence as it was then that, not far away, a timer reached zero and immediately everything and everyone within a five kilometer radius was frozen in time, the supreme director included.
* * *
"It worked, it worked!" exclaimed Barry as he looked out the window and confirmed that time, as far around as he could see, was stopped; frozen between one instant and the next. Drips of water from icicles on the roof of the condo were hanging in mid-air, tufts of snow that had been drifting off of nearby pine trees were likewise suspended, the ski lifts had halted, and the few people visible outside were all standing motionless like statues.
"I love infrared technology!" cackled Barry, kissing his watch. Modifying the time-stopper to create a wave rather than a concentrated beam wasn't hard; Barry had assumed that the wave effect was the first thing developed, but finding an effective immunity to it was the tough part. While creating a similar device to cancel the wave was possible, making it small and efficient to carry around was more or less impossible, even if one had ideally infinite funds. Thus he'd decided to approach the solution differently. Having a direct connection with the core of the time-stopper would ensure one wasn't frozen with time itself, but doing this and not getting your hands burned off wouldn't be easy, normally. After some experiments, Barry had managed to get an infrared receiver to connect with the core, allowing line-of-sight transmissions to effectively link a person to the core and be shielded from the time-stop wave if they were wearing the receiver, which was in this case the special watch he'd made.
"Sorry hotness, but your friends outside are now as frozen as you," mocked Barry, kissing Colette’s stiff lips and causing her to topple over. Normally a time-stopper would freeze time in an area, but was concentrated enough so that any further motion by something frozen would be denied. Now however, continued motion was possible, but it had to be stimulated from the outside, meaning something frozen could only move when touched by someone not frozen. This allowed for a shielded person to walk around after a time-stop wave hit with no problems moving through frozen air and allowing them to manipulate frozen objects or, as the case may be, people.
"What do you think, maybe eight hours until someone gets here?" asked Barry as he began to remove Colette's cute outfit, exposing her naked body which he ran his fingers down. "Plenty of time, pun intended, to toss a few salads!"
Eleven hours later...
"Stupid blizzard," grumbled Anna Federov for the nineteenth time since Team Zeta had finally left England, the foul weather heavily delaying their departing flight. Zeta Team was newly formed after it was decided that the IT rookies needed to be placed on permanent teams to ensure cohesion. The rookies had also seen their fair share of adventure, having a chance to shine during the incident with Ashley Tisdale. As Team Alpha already had plenty of experienced agents, Palmira Tiago, who had seniority, was given permission to lead Zeta, though the team was still in its trial stages. While Kioni Abasi, an experienced newbie, was Palmira's second in command; the other two members, Anna and Nessa Kelly, both had done little beyond simple transportation and surveillance jobs. Due to certain teams being unable to be separated however, and the only other qualified leader, Sophie Katsopolis, essentially skilled in the same areas as Palmira, it was decided that most of the rookies would be paired with an experienced agent and hopefully they would end up performing well on the training assignments.
"Anna, if you say that once more, Nessa will win the bet," warned Kioni, who rode shotgun with Palmira driving; the team leader was also the most experienced on driving up snow-covered roads.
The four women were in an unmarked black SUV, fully geared up with winter clothing as well as USP pistols loaded with electro-static rounds, though they could also be chambered for special Type-7 pellets fired from sabots. Given the unknown threat that awaited the team up at the resort, Palmira, with acting supreme director Marika Heino in agreement, had decided to equip her team only with the pistols. Blank chips, which could make a person immune to Type-7 as long as they were worn, were still not being used in the field due to the possibility of what was known as a Freeze-Key, a device that could cause even non-programmed chips to stop dead, freezing whoever was wearing them within a certain radius from the key. Lucienne and the senior staff had considered the use of the devices many times but the threat of a device that could shut down an entire team remotely and without warning was considered worse odds than potential Type-7 use would be.
"Still nothing on this Mr. Water," announced Nessa as she typed away at the laptop that rested on her legs; she was a double-threat as currently the team's best shot and their main computer wizard. "He has to be playing some kind of radio game with us. He knows who IT are and knew that some of our top brass were at the resort when he did whatever he did." While Nessa handled information and the critical shooting, Kioni and Palmira were her close rivals when it came to marksmanship; though Palmira's real strength was undercover work and Kioni was proving to be skilled at interrogation. Anna's main addition to the team was her linguistics, she had recently more or less mastered an unprecedented sixth language; meaning she now spoke Russian, English, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese and French, which were also the six current official languages of the United Nations. Unfortunately Anna's technical skills beyond linguistics and other vocal training were still weak; thus she was considered the Scrappy-Do of IT. Her constant complaining when little things went wrong didn't help matters, however.
"The only person Marika pegged as being a potential for the mystery guy was Scott Dawson, but this attack doesn't match his style," remarked Palmira as a sign indicated they had a kilometer to go until they officially entered the resort. "There was also Xavier Alberic, but we have his vocal records on file and it wasn't him; this man didn't even distort his voice. From the data we extracted from the call, we do know he sounds to be in his mid-twenties, which is a bit young for any person we've encountered before."
"Wait; mid-twenties, you said?" Kioni suddenly uttered, her voice going from humour-filled at her friendly ribbing of Anna to dead serious. "Shit, it couldn't be..."
"Who?" asked Nessa, looking up after quickly calling up the arrest database.
"I don't think he was filed properly because he seemed to know nothing about the technology; he just was a punk kid who got lucky," mused Kioni. "Dammit, what was his name... Oh! Nessa, look up 'Finnegan' – as in Finnegan’s Wake.."
Nessa's fingers danced over her keyboard and a few moments later the profile was pulled up. "Barry Finnegan, aged twenty-six when he was arrested; now twenty-seven," noted the Irish agent, reading off the file's data. "California Tech student, dropped out at twenty-four. Lived with his grandmother for a year before she passed away; no foul play suspected, he got her house in the will. You busted him back in the fall last year; early October according to this report. He had broken into Christine Huart's house with a time-stopper he'd bought online that apparently no one else had thought was real. He was sentenced to the standard jail term for temporal crimes and, according to reports, he's serving time."
"We need someone to check the jail and see if he's there," ordered Palmira. "Anna, send out a call to Team Delta, Takahishi and his boys are still surveying Portland in case that mannequin rumour was real. They should be able to find out quickly if Finnegan is still in his cell or not."
"On it," acknowledged Anna, pulling out her phone and placing the call immediately. Palmira then placed her own call to IT headquarters.
"Marika here; what have you got Palmira?" asked the acting director when Team Zeta's leader managed to get her call through.
"We think our suspect might be Barry Finnegan, who was ideally a nobody, but has the motive to be out for revenge," announced Palmira over the phone. Trouble is, he’s supposed to be in prison. "We're getting Delta to check and see if he really is still in jail or if he broke out and it's being covered up for some reason."
"Finnegan..." muttered Marika, a tapping being heard as he was striking her desk with the pen in her hand. "He was just a lazy smart kid who managed to buy a real time-stopper, right?"
"That's what his file says too; so either there's more to him than we initially thought or he's gotten help," mused Palmira, troubled. "We're getting close to the resort now; the plan is to disembark on the outskirts and walk in. If it is Finnegan, we should be able to outmanoeuvre him, but he does have a serious edge here. We don't know what he's done, with what, or where he is; plus the cold and blowing snow will limit our movements."
"Just be careful and you should be fine," Marika assured the Zeta leader as she disconnected.
One hour later...
"This is different," noted Nessa, who was taking point and had managed to reach the first time-stopped victim, who was frozen on the outskirts of the resort. It was a young woman, possibly a high school senior, who was hanging in mid-air on skis, snow from the jump she'd just taken puffing from underneath into a crystalline cloud. Team Zeta had spread out, with Kioni hanging back while Palmira and Anna moved in the middle, all four now dressed in white alpine camouflage outfits that hugged their slim forms but were quite warm due to their down-lining.
"Suspended in the air like that indicates a time-stopper kind of effect," pointed out Palmira, the team using short-range radios that were left on broadcast and clipped to their shoulders. "Still, this suspension seems to be covering a wide area and we haven't come across properly-frozen air yet, otherwise we'd have a harder time moving around. Whatever this thing is, it isn't something we've encountered before."
"That's a bad sign," moaned Anna, promptly getting an angry look from Palmira.
"Anna, if you don't stop that you'll be back here with me," warned Kioni, her voice carrying an annoyed edge.
"Enough, both of you; lets keep going," insisted Palmira. "Just watch for any sign of movement, or at least one of our people."
* * *
"Who knew there were French snow-cones?!" laughed Barry from inside the IT-rented condo, half-naked himself while he licked snow off of Lucienne's breasts. After initially freezing the resort, Barry had started by fooling around with Colette for a whole hour, having a weakness for blond women. Once he'd finished with Colette, Barry had moved to look for the other IT agents that were at the resort, finding them a bit over an hour later and then promptly transporting them all back to their condo. Once the man and women from ITEA had been captured, Barry had taken some time to scout out the rest of the resort at leisure, having not had a good chance to do so when he'd arrived, and after nearly three hours of exploring, admiring his frozen creations, grabbing a free lunch and even stripping a couple of women for kicks, Barry had determined which way any rescue efforts would come from and how to prepare for them. Upon raiding the resort's stores as well as his own stash, Barry, given another couple of hours, was able to rig up some cameras on a master remote and even equip them with dart guns; though the guns were not that accurate at longer ranges. Once his defences were assembled, one of Barry's final acts before sitting back to wait was placing the cameras strategically along the north end of the resort, which was at the main access road. Now everything the cameras could see was being directly fed to the large flat-screen TV in the condo, which Barry casually glanced at every half a minute or so.
"What was that?" asked Barry mockingly, stopping to put a hand to his ear. "You want me to eat your pussy? Okay!" Lucienne, Cassandra, Jelena and Colette were all standing in front of the couch, all of them stripped naked and posed lewdly for Barry's pleasure. Cassandra was the closest to the TV and on Barry's left, standing with her right hand on her hip and her left running through her hair, her face neutral like the others and her legs slightly spread. Lucienne was next to Cassandra and was posed with her left hand on her hip, her body leaning to the right, her hand open as if holding invisible sunglasses while at shoulder height, her legs also spread and even her eyes still glancing to the right, something which was easy to do when people were frozen in time rather than drugged with Type-7. Next to Lucienne was Colette, currently positioned as if about to curtsy save her palms were flat and she wasn't wearing a skirt. Finally, Jelena stood as if blowing a kiss though without the lip movement, her right hand leaning away from her chin with her left hand slightly below her waist, her head leaning forward. All four women's hair was also let down and hung loose, some of Jelena's locks were even in front of her face. JB, being a man that Barry had little interest in, had been dumped Colette's room still fully clothed.
Barry happily made the motions with his tongue inside Lucienne's womanhood but suddenly stopped when he noticed on the TV that new guests had arrived. Normally, camouflage in this winter wonderland might of thrown someone like Barry off, but the fact that time was frozen in the area meant that any motion signalled a problem. "Dammit; I was just getting to the good part," grumbled Barry, his tongue still inside Lucienne, so his words came out muffled, not that anyone nearby could hear him.
Leaving his captured love-dolls for a moment, Barry picked up the large control device he'd rigged up well before arriving at the resort and switched the camera showing the arrivals onto full-screen. From atop a four-story building, Barry's camera picked up four people, apparently women as their clothes did reveal curving shapes in spite of hoods and black toques that made their faces hard to examine; all of them were cautiously moving his way. It was Finnegan's assumption that any rescue team IT sent would know what location their leaders were staying in and thus he'd set up nearly half of his camera-sentries on the main road and walkway to this condo. "Well well," smiled Barry, using his remote to start moving the camera and bring up a cross-hair, "It looks like I'll soon have four more snow bunnies to play 'find the carrot' with."
* * *
"I see movement!" shouted Anna, pointing up to the top of a condo to the group's left. The four were now on the resort's main boulevard, which had a couple of several-story condos but mostly ski shops and restaurants as well as tourism stores. Anna had lowered her gun and was gesturing, far too openly, towards the camera she'd spotted, but before Palmira could admonish the Russian for her reckless actions a shot rang out.
"Get down!" screamed Palmira, pushing Anna down while Nessa and Kioni both also found cover. Palmira immediately knew Anna had been hit with what looked like Type-7 and was frozen stiff, her arm still pointing forward and her face frozen with her mouth agape; the dart not visible however, if it had even been one. More shots rang out but the other three agents had found cover, Palmira behind a car, Nessa behind a time-stopped family of statues and Kioni around a corner.
"I see the shooter; it's some kind of camera-sentry," reported Nessa from her location. "Looks like an MP5 or some other similar SMG rigged to fire at motion. I'm pinned down but I seem to be well-covered."
"I'm good too, and in good position to slip around it," called in Kioni from her own position. "Our ammo might damage it, but it's a hard shot, especially with a pistol."
"Agreed," added Nessa.
"Anna's down, but I'm still in the game," announced Palmira, her voice slightly tense. "This can't be the only one of these things – be careful of a cross-fire. I doubt it was how he took over the place though. Try and use the buildings to as cover, head inside if you can, and move forward. If he called from Colette's phone, he might still be in their room."
"Roger," confirmed Nessa, whose phone then beeped. As two more darts hit the father of the family she was using for cover in the chest, Nessa opened her phone and saw she had a simple text from Team Delta. She called out, "I just got word from Marcus: Finnegan wasn't in his cell. The warden was trying to hide his escape for some reason."
"Damn it, then it has to be him, unless he's someone we don't have on file," growled Kioni. "I'm going to circle around, see if I can come at our destination from another angle."
"Okay, I'll take the right side of the street," insisted Palmira, the car giving her adequate cover to enter the shop to her right. "Nessa, I hate to ask but can you-"
"I've got cover on my left; that gun will be empty soon," Nessa assured Palmira over the radio as more darts peppered into the unlucky frozen family she was hiding behind.
* * *
"Fuck, I only got one," grumbled Barry from in front of his TV. "Okay... one's still hiding, but I think my gun is nearly empty. I haven't seen the one that ducked back since I started shooting, so she must be trying to ambush me from another angle. The strangler went into that shop, and I have no idea where she'll come out. I guess that means it's monkey see, monkey shoot!" Cackling wildly, Barry switched his control from the initial camera to another one hidden just a bit further down the block, promptly getting a different angle on the woman hiding behind the family of four. Barry lined up his cross-hairs with the woman, whose hooded head was now visible, and beamed like a monkey.
"I knew those video games would come in handy!" howled Barry as he fired and watched in delight as the burst of darts not only struck the IT agent, freezing her instantly as she crouched with her gun held behind her back, but then toppled her unbalanced onto her left side.
* * *
"Nessa, is the sentry empty?" asked Palmira as she made her way through the winter fashion store, passing both traditional and human mannequins. One woman, a blond in a tight snowboarding jumpsuit that was coloured pink and red, stood with her hands gesturing away from her body in such a mechanical-looking way Palmira had nearly confused her with a mannequin at first. "Nessa, respond!" shouted Palmira, suddenly worried. Glancing out the shop window carefully, Palmira could see her nearby teammate was down, having flopped over in the street.
"I think she's frozen, Mira," reported Kioni from her unknown position.
"Yes, I see her, she got hit," confirmed Palmira. "Kioni, this guy is crazy prepared, and we came in way too fast. If you or I lose radio contact with the other, I want the last one moving to send a distress call to Marika and tell her the situation. Ivan and his team are instructing law enforcement in India on how to deal with Type-7, so they should be able to get here next if we need back-up."
"Next time maybe look into a helicopter or something, or even just recruiting local ski cops," remarked Kioni, realizing the team's hastiness was indeed possibly going to be their downfall. Even with all the time the group had to prepare, they'd failed to bring many useful pieces of equipment or get the area scouted properly before entering. Due to the panic that their leaders might have been assassinated, IT had forsaken reason with knee-jerk reactions and was getting chewed apart for it.
"Alright, hug the walls and get inside wherever you can, we can't let this guy take us all down," ordered Palmira. "Since the main entrance is from the north he's probably got most of his guns facing that way, so I want you to take the south; I'll enter from the west. Hopefully we can reach Lucienne's suite without one of us going down."
"I think you mean going stiff," joked Kioni, a weak one normally but not bad for her, as the woman wasn't known for her sense of humour. The idea of going stiff meanwhile sent a shiver up Palmira's spine, but not one of fear, rather one of eagerness. Since her mission in Paris, Palmira had started enjoying being under Type-7's influence more and more, spending a great deal of her time off using the substance on herself. Still, currently Palmira wasn't about to take a dart when there was a deranged person shooting them at her after he'd already frozen an entire resort.
"Report in two," ordered Palmira, moving forward and finding a door connecting the shop she was in with the shop next door.
* * *
While Barry was pleased with his initial strike against the intruders, the fact that he could no longer find the other two was now starting to bother him. After waiting two minutes following the shots he'd fired on the second agent he had, for kicks, trained a third sentry camera-gun on the shop windows along the main boulevard's west side and blasted out several, shattering them and hitting people, though it seemed like all them were already frozen.
"Screw it, I'll just let the motion sensors do their job, assuming these bimbos even get that far," scoffed Barry, turning away from the cameras’ view and switching to a 3-D blueprint of the condo, which was being projected onto the TV from his laptop. Besides the camera-sentries, Barry had also rigged a few traps for anyone who attempted to enter the building; finally on the floor he occupied were placed extra motion-sensors that would warn him if someone was about to breach his hideout. When it came down to facts Barry, could always hide next to the door with his Glock and just shoot whoever entered the apartment.
"Face it ladies, you're never getting rescued," taunted Barry as he proceeded to massage Jelena's breasts in a circular motion.
* * *
"Alright, I've reached the west stairwell entrance, I'm going to head in," announced Palmira, her sixth check-in since she'd just eluded a barrage that had torn apart several windows. The Zeta leader had been forced to use several pieces of unusual cover including snowboards, mannequins and frozen people to ensure the sentries never caught her; though it seemed after the windows’ destruction no more shots were fired. At one point Palmira had even spotted a camera sentry within pistol range and taken it out with an electro-static round, yet there was no response from any other of the little robots.
"Copy that; I'm about thirty seconds away from the south end," reported Kioni, now not far away from her commander.
"This is going down now either way, so I want you to stay back for a moment and send the message to Marika anyway," Palmira told her teammate. "We'll both hold positions at the entrances to the third floor and if one of us doesn't answer the radio then we move in alone. Understood?"
"I copy," confirmed Kioni. "Message is being sent now."
"Here goes nothing," breathed Palmira, carefully turning the knob to the door and edging it open. It was common for trip-wires to be placed at the base of doors so Palmira glanced down and then up, but that choice was a mistake. Even a door frozen in time had inertia and could start moving again when pushed, so the hinges did their job naturally, opening her cover more than Palmira would have wanted. The trip-wire was in fact at the top of the door frame, as Palmira had expected, and immediately a blast of pressure hit the Team Zeta leader full in the face.
"Citric... gas..." gasped Palmira in surprise, her eyes watering slightly as she's just been hit with a mixture of citric acid and Type-7 in a gas form, which meant she had a short amount of time before she froze completely. Breathing heavily, Palmira tore off her hood and toque, revealing her shimmering brown hair as she tried to clear her head and possibly fight the gas. Palmira's actions were of no use however as her legs suddenly locked in place and in less than a moment later so did her hips, leaving the woman standing in the doorway with her legs slightly spread, an easy target.
"Oh... well..." breathed Palmira, considering contacting Kioni but finding it hard to speak or concentrate to move her fingers. Instead, the team commander resigned herself to her fate, almost a little too eagerly, and dropped her gun, pulling her arms in around her chest to savour the feeling as muscle after muscle became like stone; Palmira's eyes closed in pleasure as she felt her neck lock stiffly.
* * *
Barry had just finished playing with Jelena and was about to fool around with Cassandra, intending to enter from behind, but a loud buzzing sound pulled him away from his deeds. "Oh shit!" cursed the young criminal, realizing someone had managed to make it to the third floor. Barry had taken the time to place gas projectors with trip-wires at every door on the first floor that could lead upwards, not to mention flooding the elevator shafts themselves with gas which was modified to not dissipate quickly, but still someone was approaching his position.
"Fuck, the dumb waiters," Barry suddenly realized, remembering that the condo he was in was old and featured classic hotel dumb waiter shafts; shafts that could be navigated if one was limber enough. "Oh well, time to greet my guest," shrugged Barry, pulling on a robe that was meant for JB, white with his initials on the front, and cocked his Glock, moving to stand near the door, placing a ski-pole to prevent the door from opening all the way and thus not crush him.
Barry waited in silence for nearly three minutes before the door was suddenly kicked open and a sexy-looking African woman stormed in, her camouflage jacket and hood having been removed so she only wore a black turtleneck and toque on her upper body now. The woman was rapidly sweeping the room, surprisingly from left to right rather than vice-versa since the door opened to the right and had stopped part way. Not about to let himself be taken down so soon into his victory, Barry jumped forward and pushed the woman down before she registered him, promptly moving to step on her right hand which clenched her pistol. Barry then realized the woman was Kioni Abasi, one of the women that had interrogated him after he'd been caught back in California. "Hello again, jungle bitch," spat Barry.
"Bad idea," fired back Kioni, suddenly sweeping her feet and tripping Barry, causing him to fall on his back. Kioni took the opportunity to try and stand herself but Barry managed to use his own feet to boot the woman, causing her to stumble backwards with her gun flying from her grasp. Barry, with surprising agility that he'd honed from his time in prison, jumped back to his feet before Kioni could even regain her footing. The IT agent tried to pull out a stun gun but Barry charged, pushing Kioni again and this time knocking her into Cassandra’s rigid body while he bumped into the television, the blow causing both objects to fall, Cassandra starting a domino effect that led to all five IT women laying on the ground in a heap, Kioni the only one of them moving while Barry had just managed to destroy the TV.
"Enough," coughed Barry, who'd managed to retain his weapon while Kioni had lost both her gun and TASER. "I plan on shooting you, but I figure I don't get the chance to play this James Bond villain shit much so I might as well answer some questions I'm sure you have."
"Go to hell," Kioni replied as she carefully rose, her hands at her sides. "You were just a loser back then and you still are."
"Wrong!" spat Barry, now agitated. "I'm a genius with a great make-over who just took down an entire IT strike team! Now, hold that pose!" Kioni moved as Barry pulled the trigger, but she was still right in the line of fire. It wasn’t exactly the pose he had wanted, but she’d make a fine statue even so.
* * *
"Ugh, finally," gasped Tasia Spiro as she walked towards the condo Monica had mentioned to her. The Greek former IT agent had received a call from Monica Stein, Erika Stone's trusted aide, who was also in charge of getting the ITEA its travel deals without signs of government involvement and ensured the group stayed covert. Monica had also, in turn, arranged the entire travel package for Lucienne and the rest when they'd headed on vacation, so when Marika had called to arrange transport for Team Zeta, Monica knew something was happening and had in turn called Tasia. Tasia, who'd been spending a great deal of time in Malibu with Erika, had decided she needed to help her lover and arranged a flight for herself. Fortune was with Tasia, too, as in spite of having further to travel the blizzard that had hit London had allowed her to catch up, arriving only an hour behind Team Zeta.
Not one to walk into danger carelessly, once Tasia had reached the point where Zeta had abandoned their SUV; Tasia had done the same. But instead of just walking in equipped only with a radio and a couple of small arms, Tasia had elected to stop time on her own via her extremely rare genetic gift. Unlike the time-stopper device that was in play at the resort, Tasia could freeze time everywhere, which meant even people unaffected by the time-stopper could be stopped by Tasia.
"Hello Palmira," greeted Tasia as she came upon her old teammate. "Good job getting your own team. Too bad your first real assignment turned out to be such a mess." Tasia took a moment to soak in the immobilized Brazilian's beauty, even giving her a small kiss on the cheek, but then proceeded to enter through the door that Palmira had initially opened, taking the stairs to the third floor.
"Isn't this a picture?" remarked Tasia next, seeing the frozen scene before her. The suite was a mess, electronics all over the place, the TV broken, four women laying naked in a heap, their clothing draped over the couches and even food stains on the carpet that looked very fresh. Kioni, Tasia's favourite rookie, was stopped in mid-running motion, her arms extended towards the robed man in front of her whose gun had clearly just fired, a dart even hanging in mid-air. "Yikes," whistled Tasia, starting to feel the effects of her ability as prolonged use of her power led to a headache. Needing a quick solution, Tasia spotted Kioni's pistol and claimed it, promptly firing it into the robed man's back before letting time resume.
When time unfroze the robed man remained where he was but Tasia had forgotten to stop the dart headed for Kioni, causing the dark-skinned woman to suddenly topple forwards like she'd turned to stone, her extended arms breaking her fall, her face frozen in wild fervour. "Whoops," grinned Tasia in embarrassment as she surveyed the scene. "Well, I'd better make sure Marika is sending help, but then I guess I get to sit tight until the cavalry arrives!" Tasia could hardly contain her glee as she stood up Cassandra, who was at the top of heap.
"I've really missed you ladies," sighed Tasia, tears rolling down her eyes.
In spite of Tasia having plenty of time to do it herself, Marika had insisted she disarm the time-stopper in person. The idea was that when the blond amazon had arrived she was escorted by local authorities, meaning she'd have more people to help explain the situation to the many civilians, as well as have a team help gather the lost members of Team Zeta and disarm all of Finnegan's traps. Now finally the work was done, the device having been powered down over an hour ago and the five IT leaders all finishing the briefing, which was taking place in their now-cleaner sitting room.
"So was he really acting alone?" asked JB, sitting with Lucienne and Cassandra while Marika was in front of them, Colette and Jelena off with Tasia in a side room and Team Zeta upstairs. "I mean, this guy had really good intelligence. We arranged this trip under aliases and through Mrs. Stein."
"We have reason to believe that data was taken during the Paris operation," mused Cassandra, clearly frustrated. "Nessa was ambushed at the airport, don't forget. I'm thinking whoever supplied Alberic is involved, as he could of gotten information on us through the police if not the guy who attacked us in our room."
"There are other possible leaks," pointed out Lucienne. "When we first arrested Finnegan we also had to deal with that whole Talieya mess, and in spite of efforts some word did get out about us associating ourselves with Erika and, by extension, Monica. With enough money he could have gotten information about someone working for her, maybe someone who knows something they shouldn't."
"Either way we need to step up security, or at least run damage control," nodded Marika. "I mean, even I had to come out into the field on this one. He also managed to take down nine of our top people, and this guy apparently had no real training."
"It was a mix of luck and thinking outside the box," declared JB, shaking his head. "Just get the little screw-head back to London and sick Kioni on him, she'll get him to talk."
"I was just impressed she managed to fit into that dumb waiter," smiled Marika. "Anyhow, we're currently working to safely back up his equipment. I'll oversee that if you all want some time to cool down."
"Thanks Marika, really," offered Lucienne as she stood, deciding to head upstairs. JB and Cassandra meanwhile retired to their room, both hanging their heads low.
"This needs to stop, Jean," sighed Cassandra when alone with her lover, sitting down on their shared bed. "Not only did Paris nearly go straight to hell, now it took a wild card in the form of Tasia to save us from a science geek with an axe to grind! We're losing our touch."
"We just need up our security, stop people from getting too much information on us," noted JB, sitting down next to Cassandra. "You know, I'm kind of glad you shot me down now. With the potential changes we could implement, we might not be able to work together as much, meaning we'd have to hide our rings. Plus we'd have to register, and that would mean leaking our names into public records..."
"Wait, are you trying to back out of making this official?" Cassandra interrupted, shocked. "Jean, with all the crap we just went through, I need something to get my spirits up."
"I'm sorry?" asked JB, suddenly confused.
"I'm telling you to propose again, you French idiot!" Cassandra almost screamed, breaking out of her normal stoic persona and practically pushing JB off the bed, forcing him onto one knee. "Now, say it right!"
"Oh... okay," stumbled JB, surprised and at the same time excited. "Cassandra Flick, will you marry me?"
"Of course!" Cassandra did scream, leaping upon her now-fiance and kissing him passionately. "Just be sure to give me the ring when we get back home."
* * *
"First I get sick, then this," sighed Colette, leaning back on her bed, Jelena having already done the same on her own. "Nice work catching the guy, Tasia. How did you find us though?"
"Monica," was Tasia's simple reply. "I need to go give my statement. You two rest up." With that the former Greek agent left the room, leaving Jelena and Colette alone.
"Crazy times," remarked Jelena, rubbing her forehead. "It looks like any future vacations are off for now."
"A shame, we were just starting to have fun too," agreed Colette, rolling over to look at Jelena. The Croatian woman noticed the Canadian’s move and reluctantly did so as well.
"What?" asked Jelena, clearly a bit nervous now.
"Again?" asked Colette, shaking her head slightly in spite of it resting on a pillow. "Look Lena, I know how you feel about all the homosexual relationships we seem to be surrounded by. I also know you think I swing both ways. Let me make this clear, right now: I'm straight, and my only interest in you is as a friend." A few months back Jelena had been nicknamed Jelly, but since then the woman had come out against her nickname, disliking it as she'd been called that as a child, always in a cruel sense as well. Lena, Colette and others had decided, was a much prettier nickname.
Jelena blinked, then seemed to sigh, finally smiling. "Don't you mean best friend?" offered the weapon expert, causing Colette to smile in turn.
* * *
Lucienne was in the shower, trying to wash off all the stickiness that she felt on her skin, mostly likely the result of Finnegan having his way with her. Being used in such a way was really frustrating for Lucienne as she was supposed to be the leader of a team that prevented things like that from happening. The French woman was so occupied in her thoughts that she didn't hear the bathroom door open, though she did notice when the shower curtain parted, revealing a naked redhead. "Tasia!" screamed Lucienne in shock, nearly slipping.
"Oh, don't be like that," sniffed Tasia, entering the shower with her boss and former lover. The two naked women then stood facing each other as the water continued to rain down on them, neither one speaking for a moment.
"Why did you come?" Lucienne finally asked, breaking the silence.
"Because I love you," breathed out Tasia, moving to hug Lucienne, who only hesitated for a moment before returning the touch. The two women held each other tight, tears flowing from their eyes.
"I missed you," whispered Lucienne.
"Me too," replied Tasia. "Can we call this the end of my suspension?"
"I'll have Team Alpha re-assembled by next week," muttered Lucienne before moving to kiss her long-absent lover.
Private Building, New York, United States
The office was massive, containing a white tiger rug, several masks and other treasures from tribal cultures, weapons from the orient and original paintings, including a Van Gogh from his blue phase that most people didn't even know existed. Sitting behind a massive desk, on which sat two computer monitors, three phones, a calculator and several other pieces of equipment, was a dark-haired man in a tuxedo, a white circle pin on his left lapel. Sitting across from him in two rotating leather lounge-chairs were a man and a woman respectively. The man was massive, had a buzz-cut style Mohawk as well as a goatee, and wore a black leather overcoat, under which was a black T-shirt and black dress pants, a red flame-shaped pin on his right lapel. The woman was Indian and wore a black business dress, even her blouse black, her dark hair in a bun and a green reversed isosceles triangle on her right lapel.
"It seems... Mr. Water has failed," announced the man the others only knew as Mr. Void. "Ms. Earth could not join us but she's currently still active in the Pacific. Let this be a reminder that the ITEA remains capable, even if they don't know about Ouroboros, or at least not yet. I want you two to be careful in your own ventures."
"Understood," offered the man, Mr. Fire, who stood and promptly exited the office.
"Is there a problem Ms. Wind?" asked Mr. Void, noting the woman who'd stayed behind.
"I was just going to ask what Mr. Water did that got him caught," questioned the Indian woman.
"You were not hired to ask questions about your equals," warned Mr. Void, gesturing towards the door. Nodding with a bit of a frown, Ms. Wind rose and headed for the exit.
Left alone, Mr. Void let out a breath before rotating in his own leather chair, now facing a large flat-screen on his wall. Producing a remote from his desk, Mr. Void used it to cause a web-cam to lower from the ceiling, the TV then turning on to reveal a white-bearded man sitting at an oak desk, far away in his public office in Manchester.
"Ah, No Name, what have you got to report?" asked Richard Stilton, putting down a file he'd been looking at.
"The ITEA might now know something about us, as it seems that buffoon Finnegan has failed," revealed Mr. Void.
"Do not fret, my trusted friend," Stilton assured his lieutenant. "IT has felt the first sting of Ouroboros, and no matter how hard they try they won't be able to tell the difference between it and that of a simple bee. That, dear boy, will be their doom."
Lucienne Christophe – Josie Maran
Cassandra Flick – Emily Deschanel
Jean-Baptiste Odilon – Edward Norton
Colette Landry – Laura Vandervoort
Jelena Hendraille - Briana Evigan
Barry Finnegan - Jonah Hill
Gitana Brook - Reshma Shetty
Palmira Tiago - Jennifer Lopez
Kioni Abasi - Zoe Saldana
Anna Federov - Sasha Alexander
Nessa Kelly - Olivia Wilde
Marika Heino - Charlize Theron
Tasia Spiro - Doukissa Nomikou
No Name/Mr. Void - Nolan North
Mr. Fire - Chuck Lidell
Mrs. Wind- Isha Koppikar
Richard Stilton - Malcolm McDowell