Just Another Normal Operation (Normal Days II)

Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Merlin had a very bad feeling about this. What he didn't know was whether this was just him having a bad feeling already or that the already present bad feeling was being increased in tenfold when he heard of the latest developments, if it could be called that. If anything, it was the biggest mess they may have encountered in quite some time. This whole business might even trump Operation Camelot.

All things put together, things weren't looking good. And in this case it was easy to identify where and when he had gone wrong. It had all gone pear-shaped the moment he had left Ben in the paper archive alone and had completely forgotten about him until Jo told the team that someone had tampered with the locks. Part of him had been hoping that Ben had simply been locked up in there, but upon his return to Thames House Ros informed him that he was dead, confirming that undefined feeling he'd been having since he ran into Connie on his way back to the Grid. And he could not help but feel that somehow he was the one to blame for what had happened to Ben. If he had paid attention to his funny feeling, Ben might still have been alive. There was no way that Connie could have murdered him when Merlin had been present as well and he was fully aware of that.

The guilt made him unable to rest and so he had opted to stay on the Grid. He could have asked Jo if he could stay with her for the night, as had been arranged originally, but she had gone before he could ask and he didn't have the heart to phone her. If she wanted company, she would have let him know. Merlin was not even sure he was in the mood for company himself, so he had retreated behind his desk and had pretended to be very busy with the papers and files on it, which discouraged everyone to come close and make conversation.

Arthur had stayed as well, doing some real work. He had taken Connie's betrayal personal and was working hard in order to try and forget about it. Mordred was sleeping in a room somewhere, so Merlin at least did not have to worry about him for a while. It didn't mean he was not completely puzzled by what had transpired. It didn't make sense. Lucas had clearly been a target of Mordred's, but he couldn't think of why. They had never even met before. The longer he thought on it, the more mysterious it became and that was not a good thing.

But it would have to wait. He had no evidence whatsoever, only Lucas's testimony – which could easily be interpreted as him not having seen things clearly – and Merlin's own intuition. They would have to watch and try and work out what Mordred's game was. It wasn't a prospect he found himself liking very much. It felt too risky. But there were no other options. Without evidence it was impossible to get anywhere, as he well knew from bitter experience, and there was a more urgent crisis that needed attention.

It was with some shock that he listened to the team briefing Lucas gave them in the meeting room after the red-flash. By now Merlin had quite grasped the magnitude of the Sugarhorse operation and it was in no way pleasant to learn that the Russians had a similar operation in Britain, codenamed Tiresias. And, according to Harry, it was bigger and better. There were more assets, they had been in place for far longer and, most importantly, Section D had absolutely no idea who they were. With Tiresias's waking so imminent, that was bound to be bad news, very bad news indeed.

'Exactly how big is this thing?' It was the first time Ros spoke – before now she had been studying the file in front of her – but the tension was audible.

Lucas looked positively grim. 'It's everywhere,' he replied. 'All political parties, civil service, police service, armed forces, security service, MI-5 and MI-6.'

'All of them?' Jo seemed to be choking on the thought.

'And there could be hundreds of them,' Harry added, as if things weren't dire enough. 'Motivated by greed, ideology, hatred…'

Ros shook her head. If Merlin had not known better, he would have thought that it was a gesture of defeat, of not knowing what to do. That, however, was so unlike Ros that he dismissed that fanciful thought immediately. 'So, the thing is that if the Russians have sleepers spread that wide and buried that deep, we have no idea who we can trust.'

'But we're sure that this section is not infiltrated by Tiresias,' Arthur stated. It may have been meant as a question, but that was not how he made it sound. 'Connie was the Russian mole in this section. It's unlikely they'll have more in one single section, isn't it? That would make the network too big to keep track of, I think.' Merlin was not sure when or how Arthur had gotten the hang of this job, but he had a lingering suspicion that Connie was to thank – or blame – for that. She was the one who had taught Arthur most of the things he knew about spying and now the warlock was actually quite surprised at how well he seemed to do.

Harry nodded reluctantly. 'It is unlikely.'

But not impossible. Until they knew which people belonged to the network, no one could safely be excluded from suspicion, no matter how much they hated that. It was the uncertainty, the not knowing, that was worst though. They didn't know who was involved and so everyone would be looked at through suspicion-tainted glasses. It was like the Sugarhorse crisis all over again.

'We'll be looking at a specific age group,' Ros spoke up. She looked thoughtful, but she seemed to get Arthur's idea. 'The Kremlin recruited those people about twenty-five years ago, so they'll all be around Harry's age and older.'

'All of them senior figures in their respective fields,' Lucas pointed out pessimistically. 'Likely authorised to give orders that can cripple the entire country. Even the people we may still be able to trust can unknowingly be taking orders from Tiresias.'

That was a very frightening prospect, Merlin would have to admit. Before now he had not truly grasped just what this network would be capable of doing, but in just a few words Lucas had summarised it perfectly. Even if this section was now not infiltrated anymore, what good could one team do against such a massive operation?

'And now Tiresias wakes,' Jo whispered, clearly in a state of shock herself.

'At three pm, today,' Ros finished.

Merlin instinctively looked at the clock. They had been here all night and more time had passed than he had believed possible. Seven o'clock. That gave them only eight hours till catastrophe hit. And they had no idea what kind of disaster they were even anticipating. They knew that Tiresias could cripple the United Kingdom, but in what way was uncertain. Whatever Lucas had been able to make out from that document he had been reading – in Merlin's opinion it was a miracle anyone could make anything of those strange letters – it didn't include what they should be looking out for. Normally eight hours may seem like an eternity, today it seemed like far too little time to do anything.

No one said it. No one said that they could not possibly know where to start or what to do. The silence in the meeting room did that for them though. Fortunately no one seemed to be thinking that they just sit back and wait till their time was up to see what was going to happen. MI-5 was there to prevent bad things from happening, not to clean up the mess afterwards. It did not change the fact that they had no idea where to begin, what to look for, who to talk to.

Merlin stopped right there. Because maybe they did. Maybe it was because he had already been thinking about her that he now remembered, but the why did not really matter. 'Connie,' he said. Now that he said it, it all sounded so logical. He felt rather stupid for not thinking of it sooner. 'She was a mole for the Russians,' he elaborated when he found himself confronted with a good few confused faces. 'Surely she must know something.'

'Just because she spied for them is no reason to believe that she will have gotten information in return, Merlin,' Lucas pointed out.

'I don't believe that.' To his surprise it was Ros who spoke. 'Not of Connie. She's too clever. She knew the day would be coming when her cover would be blown and she'll have prepared for it.' Her eyes were sparking with something that appeared to be a mixture of excitement and anger. 'She'll have stashed away intelligence on various Russian operations, most of them probably long-term operations, because that would be useful the longest. It'll be her insurance.'

'How do you know?' Jo asked. 'Is that what you would have done?' There was an edge to her voice that Merlin did not quite like the sound of. It was almost as if the junior officer was accusing Ros of something. It was just that he was not certain of what it was. Maybe Jo was just upset. The warlock knew she had been close friends with Ben, that it was her who had gotten him in touch with the Service in the first place and that she therefore felt responsible for him. It must feel like a failure to her that she had been unable to protect and save Ben from Connie.

Ros apparently thought there was more to it than just Jo being upset, if the glare she bestowed on her colleague was anything to go by. 'Yes, Jo, that is exactly what I would have done if I'd had the time.' It hit Merlin only then that Ros had a history of betrayal and that her thoughts on Connie could be more than an educated guess. Judging by the uncomfortable looks he saw around him, he was not the only one to have come to that particular realisation. Ros however didn't see the looks or pretended not to notice them. 'Connie's had about thirty years to gather intelligence. There's bound to be something about Tiresias. We need a way inside Tiresias quickly and at the moment she's our best chance.'

She's our only chance. Merlin knew better than to say that. Things were really that desperate. And he had no idea how he had even gotten this involved. Maybe it was because of Ben. He owed it to the young officer to repay him, make amends for failing him so badly. And Arthur was not planning on leaving; he'd known the king long enough to know when his mind was made up. And once Arthur had decided to do something, not even Morgana and Al-Qaeda combined would suffice to persuade him otherwise. Arthur was just too stubborn and violently loyal to those he considered friends and Merlin had a lingering suspicion that Ros was close to becoming a friend, even if neither of them was aware of that fact yet.

'But Connie's in custody, awaiting due process,' Harry pointed out.

The former intelligence analyst was no longer theirs to question. Malcolm had explained it to him. She'd be kept in custody throughout the night and then be transported to a place called Nemworth for interrogation. Merlin wondered if that would be the same kind of interrogation that Harry had to endure only yesterday. Connie may deserve it after all she had done, but still, the thought made him feel slightly sick. Once more he realised that in many ways this world was harsher that the world he knew. Chivalry and the knight's code were non-existent here.

'And, given the circumstances, we'll have to assume that Tiresias will be watching her,' Harry added, which Merlin mentally translated as Tiresias seeking a way to silence her before she could give MI-5 the information they needed.

'We'll make it look like the Russians took her,' Lucas suggested. 'The Tiresias assets won't be kept in the loop by the FSB and by the time they have ascertained that Connie's abduction was not part of any FSB plan, we'll be long gone.'

Something sparked in his eyes. Before now Merlin had always thought it creepy, something that was bordering on evil. Now he was not as certain anymore. Before now he had never been really part of the group either, but now he was bound to them in a way that he found hard to understand and that felt like it was conflicting with his duty to Arthur and Camelot as well. But he had failed Ben and that had given Connie the opportunity she needed to silence him. And he owed Section D more debts than he wanted after Operation Camelot as well. But this was not just about debts and repayment; Ben's death had made it personal.

'And she knows what goes on at Nemworth,' Ros chimed in. 'She'll cooperate.' She looked at Harry directly. 'We have no choice, Harry. We have to use her.'

Harry gave a curt nod. 'Do it,' he ordered. 'Pick her up. I will meet you at Ottawa Bravo. Arthur, Mordred, you go with them. Merlin, with me. We may need to shield Thames House magically again.'

He had given that idea some thought already. They weren't attacked or watched magically this time, but most magical protection worked just as well on and against non-magical people as it did on magical folk. And there was no way of knowing who could be trusted still, not now Tiresias was rearing its ugly head. For all they knew not even Richard Dolby or the Home Secretary were trustworthy any longer. And that, Merlin thought, was something that was altogether an unpleasant thought.

Still, as he thought longer about it, he realised that Mordred would be going with Lucas and Arthur. After what had happened in Moscow it was clear that the young Druid was in no way to be trusted, even if they could safely say that he was not involved with Tiresias in any way. But Arthur would not be safe as long as Mordred was around, Merlin knew that much. If he himself was a target, Arthur would be too. And Mordred had already tried to kill Lucas for reasons as of yet unspecified. To leave both of them alone with the Druid seemed reckless, a mistake of the same kind that leaving Ben with Connie had been.

'Would it not be better if I went to snatch Connie?' he offered. 'Mordred could stay here and do the protection spells.' He was not sure he trusted Mordred with that either, but at least it would keep him away from his intended targets and that was a priority here. The rest was unimportant compared to that.

His excuses had been too flimsy though and Arthur looked right through them. 'For heaven's sake, Merlin,' he growled. 'You stay here, do the work and come in with Harry.' He was talking to his servant as if he was addressing a particularly stupid child. 'I can look after myself. Besides, I've got Mordred to look after me.' With his sternest look he almost challenged the warlock to protest.

But Merlin held his tongue. As much as he wanted to speak up, he could not tell Arthur of his suspicions. Arthur would not believe them and as there was no evidence for them, Harry would not believe him either. Arthur would put them down to Merlin's "insane" fear of prophecies and go his own way, as he always did. He desperately wish that he could speak out, but there was just no way of doing it. His hands clenched into fists.

To his surprise it was Lucas who spoke. 'Don't worry, Merlin,' he said in a tone of voice that Merlin could call nonchalant, almost uncaring. 'I'll keep an eye on the king, keep him from tripping over his own feet.' But his eyes were serious and that made all the difference in the world. The Senior Case Officer did not have magic, would never have it either, but for some reason Merlin felt reassured. He was no longer truly alone in this.

Lucas North had not come this far in the Service by being a fool. When Merlin's expression had become something that could only be described as outright panic, he had known exactly what had brought that on. He had felt a surge of panic himself at being on an op with the very man who had so shortly before tried to murder him without as much as blinking his eyes and it was only logical that Merlin did not trust Mordred anywhere even remotely near the Once and Future King.

And he still didn't understand it, didn't understand the rage, the hatred he had seen in Mordred's eyes. He had never even met the young man before he showed up in Moscow with Merlin, so what grudge he would have against him was a mystery. That he had one was a fact. The look in his eyes had been unmistakable and it was something unsettling to see in someone this young. How old was the kid anyway? He could barely be out of his teens, if he was even that. What made a lad that age like this?

But never mind the why, he needed to deal with the facts and that was what he did. He did as he promised to Merlin and kept a very close eye on Mordred as they lifted Connie and took her to Ottawa Brava. It went off without a hitch. Mordred did what was expected of him, more than that which was expected of him if the truth be told, and at some point even Lucas started to doubt his first assessment of the situation. Mordred seemed so nice…

But that was a trap he could not fall in. He had the evidence of his own eyes to go on and that was not something he was in any hurry of forgetting. Yes, the knife, it could have been a bad aim, even if it would have been a very bad aim indeed, had he not thrown the second knife with deathly precision. The spell aimed at Merlin did not seem like a mistake either, which could only mean that the knife had been a deliberate assassination attempt as well. He couldn't figure out why still, but that one thing at least was certain.

Ros and Arthur dragged Connie between them as they exited the car. They had not spoken as much as a word since they had forcefully lifted her and a bag over her head prevented her from knowing where they were going. Arthur was boiling over with righteous rage though. Lucas didn't think he had ever quite seen the king of Camelot like that. Of course there was no knowing how he had reacted to Morgana's betrayal, but he had seen the sadness when he found out about Agravaine's. There had been anger then as well, but not as much as he witnessed now. In a way it was an alarming development.

He got out of the car and removed the gloves he'd been wearing. He felt a bit more like himself and a bit less like a villain in a second-rate movie. He'd said that to Ros on their way to grab Connie, who had replied with an eye roll that didn't need any further translation. It was good to have that harmless banter restored. It was a welcome change from the cold hostility of Moscow. He would never admit to this out loud, but he needed this, needed it to keep him sane. Ros was not a warm personality, but she was a friend and he found himself in need of those, especially with Tiresias and Mordred being such pressing concerns. Ros would call him soppy, which was why he had not mentioned it.

Mordred lingered nearby. He could have followed Ros and Arthur in, but he didn't and Lucas wondered why. He had a gun on him and would not be afraid to use it should the need arise, but he doubted he'd be fast enough. Lucas had seen Morgana's magic and it had been fast. Moscow proved that he was just as quick and just as lethal. Merlin may be paranoid where Arthur's safety was concerned, but in this he was absolutely justified.

And yet Mordred looked about as dangerous as Merlin as he stood there, clearly nervous about something. 'I wanted to apologise,' he said eventually. 'For what happened in… Moscow, wasn't it?' Lucas nodded his confirmation. 'I'm new to this. I haven't handled much weapons during my life and it's so much more different from magic than I thought it would be. I thought I could do it, you know.' He looked a bit rueful. 'I didn't mean to put you in harm's way.'

Didn't you? But Lucas kept his face blank. He had seen the hatred and that had cured him of any doubt he may still feel. He seemed in distress now, but it did not escape his notice that the Druid seemed to be avoiding eye contact, instead looking at his boots with a devotion he himself mostly reserved for catching terrorists.

The thing was that Mordred sounded so sincere. Had Lucas not seen what he had seen and had he not been a spook, he might have bought the explanation. It was almost too easy to see why Arthur didn't see what was so obvious to Lucas and Merlin both. Combined with his attitude to refuse to see the bad in people he trusted, it was unlikely for him to see sense before Mordred revealed himself for what he truly was and even that was still uncertain. Until then, he'd have to play along, pretend he didn't know anything.

'No harm done,' he said curtly. 'Let's go in.'

He let Mordred go in first though. No matter what, he would not show his back to someone who had proven that he wanted him dead. And he had to consider that Merlin and he may not be the only intended targets. He had learned by now not to take legends too seriously, but they were speaking of Mordred being a traitor, someone who fought Arthur, which might mean that the king was indeed in danger. But why target Lucas? If he wanted to leave no witnesses behind he would have killed him last, or left him to the FSB. It would be easy to come back to London with the news that he had tried, but had failed in his task. Everyone would have believed him, because that was the reality they lived with. All in all, things didn't add up and that usually did not bode well in this line of work.

His arrival in the room coincided with the arrival of Harry and Merlin. The warlock shot him a questioning glance, which Lucas answered with a reassuring nod of his own. Nothing had gone wrong. Yet. But Moscow might make things go belly-up before Mordred could strike again. It might have to be that the Russians had to have his priority now.

Harry certainly seemed to think so. No sooner had Lucas removed the bag from over Connie's head when he simply said: 'Tiresias.'

Connie looked unshaken for someone who was a dead woman walking. She didn't look like she had killed an innocent man, had sold a colleague out to the Russians and had framed another for treason. She did not even seem surprised to be here, which was the most alarming thing of all.

'A seer,' she replied. 'Condemned by Dante to spend all eternity with his head twisted round. A prophet who could only look backwards.' Was this all just a game to her? It felt like that. It certainly sounded like it.

Lucas found himself studying the woman responsible for his eight years of hell. Arthur had told him the truth about it. Apparently he had been the one to ask on Lucas's behalf, because he believed he had a right to know who had done that to him, and Connie had replied that she had no choice. Arthur had condemned that as nonsense. Lucas did as well. This scheming woman was the farthest from a victim with no choices, the farthest from the grandmother type he'd ever seen. This was a scheming woman and something told him that no amount of torture would make her part with her secrets. Worse, she knew that they needed her and she would use that leverage. When it all came down to it, they had no choice but to dance to her tune.

'I'm tired of the dance, Connie.' Harry did sound weary. 'What do you want?'

It should come as no surprise that she wanted to get out of England, as she said, in that same calm manner as she had spoken before. It was as if she was not concerned at all.

Harry however was and he was none too eager to give her what she wanted either. 'I'll see what I can do,' he replied curtly.

'I thought the dancing had stopped.' There was some tension, a sense of urgency, audible now. Maybe that calm façade was not necessarily anything more than that. But Connie had been in this job for so long that it was impossible to tell. 'Don't see, just do.'

'The alternative is that I can always break your fingers one by one.' If Connie sounded cold, Ros sounded icy. And she meant it too. Lucas thought that he had her figured out by now, so he knew when she was being serious. She was now. When Ros wanted to be, she could be cold and uncaring and she did hold Connie responsible for the death of one of her officers. There was no telling what she would and wouldn't do.

'You don't have the balls,' Connie said. She seemed awfully certain of herself as she directed a dismissive stare at Ros.

The Section Chief returned it with interest. 'You don't think so?'

Lucas did think so, but he didn't think it would work. They all knew how things were and Connie would use the advantage that gave her. If she had proven anything in the last few days, it was that she knew how to save her own worthless hide. Connie James, stuff of nightmares. He should have believed her when she said that and they might be in an entire different place now. But she always seemed so harmless and she had always been friendly to him, so he had never given it any more thought. More fool him.

Connie was in no way harmless. In fact, she may be the most dangerous woman in London right now. And she played them like a fiddle. Her triumphant smile when she revealed that the whole of Tiresias was hers to give to them proved that. But there was going to be a price tag attached and it would mean that she essentially would get away with everything she had done. It seemed unfair after all that had transpired, after all the harm she had caused, but work would always come first. It was the nature of this job. Regnum defende. In that moment, Lucas hated the words.

And apparently, so did Arthur. 'Of course, I could always have Merlin put a spell on you and get the information without paying the price.' It was nothing short of a miracle that he had been able to maintain his silence for so long. Ros had once referred to Arthur Pendragon as the knight in shining armour, the one who leapt to his friends' defence without as much as a second thought. She was right about that. There seemed to be no greater crime anyone could commit than to harm or, worse, betray the people the Once and Future King cared about.

Connie looked unimpressed. 'I am not Bob Hogan,' she pointed out. 'That tactic won't work on me. You have never done such a thing.'

'It doesn't mean that I am not capable of it.' Arthur must have spent too much time with Ros. There was no other explanation for his attitude. 'Question is: are you willing to take your chances?' It seemed wrong somehow that someone as honourable as Arthur Pendragon had a need to become like the people he worked with. 'You'd be left with nothing. We might even hand you to the Russians afterwards and see how well you like how they treat their guests. Get a taste of your own medicine, as it were.'

'Don't be ridiculous, Arthur,' Connie chastised, almost as if she was the kind and considerate granny she had been playing for so long. 'You are not a spy. You're too honourable to do such a thing.'

'I executed my own uncle after he betrayed me,' Arthur said. 'You committed the same crime. You also subjected a man who risked his life for me to eight years of torture. If I were you, I wouldn't be so sure.'

The frightening thing about this was that it sounded like something he might do and Connie knew that too. She didn't spare Arthur another glance, turning to Harry instead. 'Has Tiresias gone live?' At least she stopped messing around; Arthur had achieved that.

'We believe so,' Lucas said. It almost felt surreal. Part of his brain was still trying to convince him that this as a mistake, that they had caught the wrong person. But they would not have. That menacing woman that still had her hands tied behind her back, that was someone he didn't even know and in a way it made it easier for him to keep his distance from her, to really see her as the Russian mole she was. He only wished that they were not so dependent on her.

Connie told them to check the number stations. The Camelot company clearly didn't know what they were, but Lucas did and for something that found its origins in the Cold War, it only seemed natural to use that.

True enough, soon enough they heard back from Malcolm. 'What is Rain from heaven?' Harry said.

Connie was stalling and they all knew it. She began to repeat what she wanted in exchange for her cooperation now. It grated on Lucas's every nerve. To him it proved that, no matter what Connie said, she was frightened. It only became really obvious when she demanded protection from the Russians. 'I'm going to need it.' She cast a meaningful glance at Lucas. 'Because one is familiar with the benefits of Russian hospitality.'

'I wasn't aware there were any,' Merlin remarked. He had been quiet ever since he learned of Ben's death. Lucas had a lingering suspicion Ros wasn't the only person blaming herself. Merlin was quite skilled at doing the exact same thing.

But it hurt as well and it angered him too. That she had the nerve to rub his nose in the torment he'd had to endure because of her betrayal, that was just too much. It was only by keeping his mind strictly on operational level that he could prevent himself from doing something stupid of Arthurian proportions. 'What is it, Connie?' he questioned. 'What is Rain from heaven?'

This time she did answer and it left his head reeling. And apparently not only his head. 'Beg your pardon?' Ros didn't do shock, but it seemed that she came close now.

'Portable nuclear bombs,' Connie repeated. 'Rain from heaven is the go-code for a nuclear attack on London. And if the intended sleeper received the code this morning, you have a matter of hours before millions of people are annihilated.'

'Three pm,' Ros whispered.

All pieces were falling into place. It didn't make their job any easier. London could not be evacuated in so short a time and if they did sound the alarm on this, the panic could be just as lethal as any nuclear device. It would alert Tiresias that they knew what was going on as well. There really was only the one option: to locate and neutralise the device themselves inconspicuously and then use Connie's knowledge of the operation to dismantle it. He voiced that thought and Harry agreed.

Connie did seem to know what the message meant, but not all of it. 'I happen to know that Rain from heaven is a nuclear suitcase bomb, because that is the thing one finds hard to forget.'

'And the rest?' Ros demanded, impatiently. Like Lucas, she must be all too aware of the time.

'I don't have it all memorised,' the former intelligence analyst snapped irritably. 'I've got it written down and stashed.'

'Your insurance policy.' The Section Chief both looked and sounded disgusted.

'We all need an exit plan.' It was the fact that she was so calm, so collected, seemingly so unaffected by what was going on that made Lucas want to throttle her on the spot. London could be annihilated in a matter of hours, yet she kept on playing games with them. Yes, there was anger about what she had done to him as well, but if he had put personal concerns over national security, he'd have told the FSB everything he knew when they tortured him. Ros was not the only one who valued her career over almost everything else.

'Then give it to us.' Arthur was getting impatient. 'I haven't quite given up on my idea to let Merlin loose on you. Where. Is. The. File.' For a moment Lucas had the bizarre mental image of Merlin as a vicious guard dog set loose on an intruder by its angry master.

The answer was as predictable as it was problematic. 'Dead drop. London Bridge.'

'If Tiresias is watching, we may have some trouble getting there,' Lucas observed. 'Unscathed.'

'I could transport us there,' Merlin spoke up. 'If I could manage all the way to Moscow, I can do London Bridge.'

'That's hardly inconspicuous,' Mordred said. By now Lucas had almost forgotten he was even there. He had kept to the background and had listened more than he had spoken. To be honest, the Senior Case Officer wasn't entirely sure why he was still with them. Mordred was not a spy and he seemed to have no real value. Why was he still here? 'Arriving in a whirlwind is going to draw attention to us. Right now we have one great advantage.' He looked around the room, but everyone was temporarily too stunned by the fact that he had interrupted that no one answered. He supplied the answer himself. 'Magic. If we transport now, they know. They could panic and bring the attack forward. If we go there on foot, we won't be so easily noticed.'

'What do you know about spying?' Merlin's tone of voice was hostile immediately and Lucas found himself in agreement. Yes, Mordred had a point, a very good point even, but he should not even be involved in this, never mind that he was telling trained spies how to do their job. And they would be more vulnerable on foot. Mordred might even have reasons of his own to try and get them out in the open. Lucas remembered only too well what had happened last time Mordred had two of them on their own and he was not willing to subject himself to a repeat performance.

'Emrys, I'm trying to help,' the Druid pleaded, looking rather like a lost little puppy with big wide eyes. 'I've had to survive before. I've been hunted before. Sometimes hiding my magic was the best way to go unnoticed, to escape the people hunting me.'

Merlin looked unyielding.

'I'm useless here.' Mordred threw his hands up in the air in exasperation. Lucas couldn't fail but notice that, had he been born in this day and age, he'd have made for a very good actor. 'Let me do something I actually can do.'

Like trying to assassinate people and hope to make it look like the FSB's handiwork.

Ros cut in before he could let that remark slip or before Arthur could embark on another righteous crusade to defend Mordred from Merlin's suspicion. 'He's right,' she said, frustrated. 'He's bloody well right. We'll have to make do on foot.'

'We haven't got the time, Ros,' Lucas pointed out. He kept his sense of unease out of his reasoning and kept it strictly professional; the Service did not make decisions based on feelings of unease.

Connie added her own contribution to that. 'He's right,' she said. 'You don't have the time. Tick, tick, tick.' She looked at Lucas first, then at Harry. 'Do you think the Russians don't know you've got me?' she questioned. 'Do you think I haven't let them know where every safe house is?'

Her treason had run deeper than any of them had been able to imagine; she must have told them everything of importance. It wasn't just murder, framing her boss for treason he didn't commit and selling out her own colleague to the FSB. If she was to be believed – and Lucas didn't want to believe her – then nowhere was safe anymore.


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