The atmosphere in the meeting room was one of nervous anticipation. Arthur could feel it with all of them. Jo was playing with a sheaf of papers, mindlessly drawing meaningless pictures on it while she waited. Ben was tapping on the table, earning him some of the infamous Ros Myers stares, but he didn't seem to notice. Connie and Malcolm were seemingly calm, even though the latter was sitting on the edge of his seat, looking rather on edge himself. The Section Chief had slipped back behind the Ice Queen mask, as some of the team members called it behind her back. She was leaning against the wall, hands shoved down her pockets, an angry scowl on her face. Harry's face was made to match, it would seem. The head of the section was seated at the head of the table, file in front of him, eyes fixed on the door.
All in all this made Arthur think of some kind of tribunal about to judge a dangerous criminal for his offences. And maybe that wasn't too far off the mark, because here they were, waiting for the guards to bring Bob Hogan in so that they could learn what he knew about Arthur's half-sister.
Arthur tried to remember what he knew of the man. Most of his information had come from the file he had studied so fervently he could almost literally dream its contents. Hogan had started out with the CIA long ago, had made quite a name for himself until he was nearing his retirement, when things began to get rather unclear. All he knew was that Hogan had sold out several MI-5 officers to a criminal organisation that tortured them for information and sold that information to interested people. One of those officers, someone called Zafar Younis, had died at the hands of that group.
After that sorry affair the former CIA officer should have gone to jail, so, as Ros eloquently had phrased it, naturally that had not happened at all, leaving Hogan to form an alliance with Morgana. From what Arthur had heard they were made for one another. Both were equally cold and ruthless.
His memories of the man were few, but he recalled a rather plump, elderly man with cold eyes and a smile that rivalled Lucas's for creepiness. He was not physically very strong, Arthur assumed, but he was very intelligent, which was why it would be so difficult and tricky to convince him that they were genuine about the offer they were making, especially since they weren't.
But the time for thinking was over now. The doors slid open and two guards accompanied Bob Hogan in. The American's hands were still cuffed in front of him, but that was not the first thing Arthur saw. It was the expression in the man's eyes that sent chills down his spine, and not in a good way, not at all. He looked triumphant, as if he was the laughing winner rather than the loser in this game.
'Bob, how nice to meet the real you again,' Harry said pleasantly. 'Sit down.'
The friendly tone at least seemed to take the American off guard. He narrowed his eyes in suspicion. 'What's your game, Harry?'
'We have a deal for you,' the head of the section told him.
This sparked Hogan's interest. 'I got the feeling your Section Chief didn't really like that notion.' The smirk made Arthur want to hit him. Hard.
Ros however remained perfectly calm. 'Yeah, well maybe you're just not as important enough to gamble with the life of my colleague,' she countered. 'Must be an unknown thing to you, I'd imagine.'
If she had been trying to get on his nerves, she had succeeded very well. The look in Hogan's eyes was positively murderous, something Ros clearly pretended not to see. 'So, now you are offering to let me go?' There was some wariness in his voice and maybe that was a logical thing to be doing, since Section D was certainly offering exactly that, but they would absolutely not deliver on it.
'The thing is, Bob, we've got to choose between two evils,' Ros explained. 'Your government is…. shall we say less than pleased about you endangering the special relationship between our two countries. You've made them look like fools and they're not about to offer you tea and cookies once they get you back. And they will get you back, because our politicians are quite anxious about mending the relationship after this unfortunate blip.'
If Arthur had not known she was lying, he would never have known that she was. Ros Myers was good at this little game, very good. He would have bought her story himself. Based on what he knew about politics in this time – and Connie had forced quite a few lessons on him, since he was still pretending to be a liaison officer – this was something that could have actually happened. The only reason why it had not was because Harry had conveniently forgotten to mention the fact that they had also captured Hogan and the fact that the Americans had not taken their complaints to the British government. And they would not do such a thing, because if they did, then their involvement in the bombings would soon be all over the news and apparently their image was something worth protecting at all costs. They could not keep it from Blake indefinitely, but hopefully long enough for this to work.
Ros's smirk became downright creepy as she continued after a short silence, so that Hogan could think about what that would mean for him if he was handed back to his "rightful owners" as Harry had called them. 'If however you were to tell us everything you knew about Morgana and her plans, we might just be able to get you out of the country before your old friends come banging at the door.'
Hogan smirked. 'What makes you think I will accept that offer, Myers?' he demanded. 'For all I know my country just lets me walk free again.' He was all too confident, Arthur observed. And that was usually a bad thing. 'I think I'll take my chances.'
He was not taking the bait, Arthur could tell. Either he sensed this was a trick or he truly believed that the United States would treat him better than Britain would, but whichever of those two it was, he was not going to part with his secrets.
And so the king of Camelot stepped in. 'Of course my allies might then decide to hand you over to me,' he said casually, slipping back into the skin of Aidan Parker, the way Lucas had taught him to. Only now he could use the persona, but retain his own name. It was strangely exciting to do so, really, but he could get away with it. Hogan knew next to nothing about the real Arthur Pendragon, except for what he had seen at the barn and that, he would admit, was not much to go on. He might have jumped to the conclusion that Arthur was at least a little bit violent and that was the angle they might just need to get this man talking. 'Torture might be forbidden in this kingdom, but it's not in mine,' he pointed out. There was absolutely no need to burden this man with the knowledge that he actually never really tortured anyone. 'You don't look like the type to last long in an intense interrogation to me.'
Merlin seemed to catch on to what he was doing. 'Won't take half a day, I think, Arthur.' He too now leaned against a wall, pretending to be a cold, heartless bastard, as Ros called it. Keep this up and both of them would one day end up as real spooks. They really had spent too much time around these people if they were already copying their manners. 'He was already crying like a baby when Ros accidentally spilled some coffee into his lap.'
At least this little display succeeded in wiping that far too annoying smirk off Hogan's face. Arthur could see him struggle with himself, wondering if he should treat this as the truth or as the lie that it really was.
'So, there you have it, Bob,' Harry said. He was leaning in his chair as if this was nothing more important than today's weather, as if not Lucas's life depended on how soon they could get this information from the American.
Arthur admired him for that. Knowing Morgana as he did, he knew she'd not waste time in doing God knows what to the Senior Case Officer. She had always been ruthless, even when she had still been on the side of Camelot. She acted on impulses and right now she would no doubt be very angry for what Lucas had done. Being the deranged woman that she was, it didn't take an expert to establish that she would take that anger out on the man responsible for the failure of her plans. And Arthur was in no hurry to let that happen. When everyone had given up on him, only Ros and Arthur had kept faith in him. In some strange way Lucas had become one of his men then, someone he was responsible for. It would be his duty to get him back to safety, as soon as possible.
'Three scenarios,' Harry went on, still perfectly relaxed. 'You choose.'
Hogan's eyes narrowed again, sending a perfectly deadly glare in Harry's direction. 'You're not planning at all on giving me back to the CIA now, are you?'
Ros smiled. 'Well, as you said, they might just let you walk free again. Understandably we are not in a hurry to let that happen again, so…' She let her voice trail off, leaving Hogan to connect the dots himself.
'You bitch,' he growled in the end.
'Your choice, Bob,' she gently reminded him again. 'Choose wisely.'
Hogan thought for a moment, weighing his options, not that there was much to weigh in Arthur's opinion. It was either take the deal or choose certain death. And this man didn't strike him as someone who would willingly go to the grave to protect his secrets. And he was proven right. 'A passport, money and safe passage…'
'… To a country with no extradition treaty with the UK or US,' Ros finished with every appearance of boredom. 'Yes, we've all heard that before, thank you very much.'
'Take it or leave it,' Harry added.
'Show me the passport,' Hogan demanded. He was uncomfortable now. The American was an intelligent man. He would know exactly how tight the spot was he now found himself in.
Harry nodded at Jo and she pushed a passport across the table. Harry had insisted that they make one, clearly anticipating this.
Hogan picked it up and studied it. 'And the money?' he asked.
'Deliver first,' Ros said. The smile had gone from her face and she was back in full Ice Queen mode. 'Tell us where Morgana is and we'll give it to you. Tell us everything else and we might even let you go.'
There clearly was some bad blood between these two, but Arthur would not know what exactly had caused that. It was some kind of secret – classified information was what these people called it – and no one seemed prepared to tell him much, although it would be a safe bet to say that it had something to do with the Section Chief's betrayal, that kept being mentioned by Dolby and the CIA.
The American scowled at her. 'Was that how you bought your way back in here?'
Ros ignored him. 'Start talking, Hogan. I've never been the most patient woman around and I can still choose to hand you over to Arthur.'
'Then you won't get to your colleague in time, Myers.' The man's face was totally blank, as was Ros's now. There was just no telling what either of them was thinking.
'Or I can just ask Merlin nicely to put a spell on you that will loosen your lips,' the Section Chief countered immediately. 'And then you can kiss your deal goodbye.'
Hogan's eyes told them that he would like to do nothing more than to kill her on the spot, but he really did not have a choice in this at all, and he was bound to know that. 'What do you want to know, then?' The tone was filled with bravado, but not a single occupant of the meeting room was fooled. This was a defeat. They had won.
'Morgana, where is she?' Arthur barked at the man. Good grief, had he not been beating around the bush too long already?
Hogan's gaze now settled on him. 'She has some kind of house in the woods of Camelot. Small valley, only two ways to get there.'
Merlin's face looked like he had just had an important realisation. And that was a fact that had not escaped Ros's attention either. 'Spit it out already,' she commanded him. 'You look like you've just had the Holy Spirit revealed to you.'
'I know where that is,' the warlock informed them. He seemed to have forgotten completely about the American's presence here.
Arthur momentarily did too. Relief and confusion were warring for dominance. How on earth did Merlin know where Morgana lived and why had he not made mention of that sooner? 'You do?' he asked incredulously.
When all this was over they would need to sit down and talk, properly. Arthur already knew that it would be unwise to keep up this childish fight they had for the last twenty-four hours. Harry had been right: it would jeopardise this operation and if he was really honest, he did not want to lose his friend entirely. Arthur had not missed out on how guilty Merlin felt about this morning's debacle. Before now he had been too angry and frustrated to care about his servant's state of mind, but the anger had all but died away now. In the end Merlin had only been meaning to protect Arthur, even if he went about it in all the wrong ways. Now that would make for an interesting topic of conversation.
Merlin nodded impatiently. 'Yes, but that's not the point. It's going to be very tricky to bring in the cavalry there.'
Jo frowned. 'Why? Because it is somewhere in Camelot, you mean?'
Merlin shook his head. 'No. Her hovel is at the bottom of the valley and there are only two narrow paths leading down there. She will see us coming long before we can get to her and then she'll just magic her way out of there.'
Ros's face managed to convey the message perfectly that she did not like this piece of information at all. 'We'll deal with that,' she all but snapped. 'Now, how did Morgana become aware of the portal?'
That was actually a good question. Arthur had been wondering about that himself. He had come across it by chance, as had the spooks. Would the same be true for Morgana? Would she too just accidentally have come across the portal? It seemed a bit of a long shot, but he had long since stopped thinking about anything as impossible. He had too often seen the impossible happening right in front of him. As it turned out, impossible seemed to be non-existent where Camelot was concerned, or Morgana.
Hogan's smirk told him that he would not like the answer to that question at all. And he didn't. 'She didn't find it,' he informed them. 'She created it.'
There was a moment of silence in the meeting room as everyone processed this piece of information, but then Ros found her tongue again. 'I beg your pardon?' she hissed.
Well, even as she demanded more information from Hogan she already knew that she was not too surprised about this revelation. After all, in a strange way it would make sense. The Section Chief had come to accept magic as something that apparently existed, something they needed to deal with from now on. Consequently it would make sense if someone with magic would have created the portal that now linked the ancient kingdom of Camelot to the modern kingdom of Britain, because there were no other means available to pull off such a feat. Merlin was ruled out as a culprit, since he had obviously not known what was going on at the time and no one could act that well, not even the legendary Merlin himself.
But Morgana had been active in Britain long before Section D had first encountered Arthur and his merry knights. It was logical to think that she was the one responsible for creating the bloody portal in the first place.
'Why?' she demanded.
But it was Merlin that answered the question and not the American. 'She must have seen something in her dreams,' he understood. 'She's a seer. She can see the future in her dreams.' The warlock looked pensive, a look that, Ros decided, did not quite suit him.
But at least this had Hogan nodding his confirmation. 'The Lady Morgana was very interested in explosives,' he informed them.
'And in comes Al-Qaeda to demonstrate, with a little persuasion from you of course,' Connie finished. The intelligence analyst had a look of pure disgust on her face and Ros found she shared the sentiment.
'That you could get your revenge on Section D in the same go was just an added bonus,' the Section Chief added wryly. Because that was why Hogan was doing this. It was all about revenge with him. They had never had any trouble at all sounding out his motives. Those had always been rather easy to guess. It was Morgana who had remained a mystery to them, but now all pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall effortlessly into place, letting them look at a bigger picture that fit perfectly and that was at the same time alarming.
If Merlin was right, then Morgana, being the seer that she was, had seen Hogan in her dreams – of all the things to dream of – and had figured that they could help one another. If she knew the former CIA officer at all it would not have been much of an effort to convince him to help her. Lucas had reported that the American had been overly interested in Morgana's powers. The two had been made to be allies.
No doubt the witch would think the explosives available in the twenty-first century a good way to try and conquer Camelot with. She might even have a point with that, because Ros seriously doubted that the knights of Camelot would have something to answer that with. Of course things had changed as soon as Morgana had learned that her archenemy was actually in London as well. Why bother with explosives when one has one's enemy within reach?
No, it was all painfully clear now. She had heard everything she wanted to hear and the rest she could easily fill in herself. Hogan had given them what they needed most and if it was up to her, they would waste no more valuable time on this man.
'That's sick,' Jo muttered.
That about summed it up to perfection in Ros's opinion. 'Indeed. Now, if you'd excuse us, we have serious business to attend,' she told Hogan with her most threatening smile. 'You have been most helpful.'
He suspected trouble now. 'Where's my money?'
'Not here,' she informed him cheerfully. 'Now, can someone take this waste of space back to the cells?'
Bob Hogan was not a fool. He knew he was being played for a fool the moment the words left her mouth. 'We had a deal!' he protested loudly.
'Diddums,' she reacted. You had a deal with Adam too, but when the time came you turned on him without sparing it a second thought. About bloody time you get a taste from your own medicine.
Hogan now turned to Harry, realising that Ros was not going to give in to him. 'You promised!' There was a hint of fear now in his voice as well, even as he skilfully masked it by righteous indignity.
But, as the Section Chief already knew, Harry could not care less about promises made and broken either. 'We lied,' he said, wholly unconcerned. 'Ben, Jo, if you would? I would advise you to go willingly, Bob. We wouldn't want to burden internal security with something as embarrassing as that, now, would we?' His tone was as if he was addressing a stubborn toddler.
But at least Hogan didn't make too much of a fuss. He had been a player as well and he was clever enough to realise when he had lost. Like Kachimov had said when they finally got their hands on him: I bow to the better player. And in this case MI-5 was the laughing winner. It made Ros feel much better about herself.
But this was not the time to start doing a happy dance around the room already. Lucas was still in Morgana's merciless hands and there was still the minor problem of having to get him out of her claws without her doing a runner again. She could do without a second barn debacle.
Arthur had recognised this problem too. A deep frown had found its way onto his forehead as he posed the question of how to get into Morgana's bloody hovel without her noticing.
'Bringing in the cavalry is out of the question,' Harry spoke up. 'I'm not looking forward to explaining that to the Home Secretary. We have him almost on a heart attack already.'
Personally Ros could not care less about the Home Secretary's state of health and she was just about to say so when she recalled that Merlin had said that bringing in the cavalry was an impossibility anyway, because Morgana would apparently see them coming long before they got there.
'Well, Merlin,' Arthur suddenly said. 'You seem to be such an expert on the subject of breaking into Morgana's hovel. Maybe you could tell us how you managed it?' There was still an underlying tone that told everyone with ears that the king of Camelot still was less than pleased with his manservant.
But the idea was not half bad, Ros had to admit. The warlock seemed to have done this before and it would be rather foolish not to learn from his expertise, no matter how reluctant she was to do so. But she also knew that this reluctance was the result of her dislike of Merlin as a person and that was not supposed to be clouding her judgement in this. So get a sodding grip, Myers. If you don't, then Lucas will pay for it.
Merlin however looked rather sheepish all of a sudden. 'I disguised myself as Dragoon the Great and waited until she left before I got in.'
And that plan had no chance of working, the Section Chief knew instantly. As long as Morgana had Lucas in there, she would most likely not leave her hovel out of her own free will. And even if she did, they could not afford to wait. Lucas could already be dead and every second they wasted here now made the chance only greater that he would die before they could get to him.
'Then we'll have to draw her out,' Arthur said, shrugging. 'We'll give her a bait she cannot refuse and then we can go in, get Lucas and be out before she comes back.'
And that plan was not half bad either. She gave herself a mental scolding for not thinking about this earlier. 'That's not such a bad plan,' she heard herself say.
Harry nodded thoughtfully. 'What kind of bait will she need?' The question was directed at Arthur.
The king thought about that question for approximately five seconds. 'Me,' he then said matter-of-factly.
Now that wiped the approving look off Harry's face right away. 'Are you quite certain you do not have some kind of death wish, Arthur Pendragon?' He was talking as one would do to a disobedient officer.
Arthur however was wholly unconcerned. 'She won't come out for anything or anyone else,' he pointed out. 'She has wanted me for years. And perhaps she will suspect it's a trap when I come walking right past her house, but she will still be unable to resist the temptation.'
There was entirely too much logic in those words. Ros too had her doubts about the existence of self-preservation in the king's character – so far he had proven willing to lay down his life as soon as he'd think others were saved with it – but she also knew that this was most likely the only thing that would work. And the clock was ticking for Lucas. They could not afford to wait any longer, waste precious time on arguing and thinking up other plans.
She gave her ally a curt nod. 'You'll need to have proper back-up.' It would seem the Home Secretary would still be getting a heart attack then. Or Harry would just spin him another story. Ros could not really care about which one it was going to be as long as the result was that she got the back-up she wanted.
Even as Arthur favoured her with a grateful smile, Harry's head swivelled in her direction, the disbelief written all over it. 'Not you as well!' he complained.
'He'll have constant back-up,' she reasoned. 'He'll be perfectly bloody safe.' The impatience was starting to win out now. Had Harry forgotten that Lucas was still out there? There wasn't a problem with this plan as long as Arthur had back-up. Good grief, he had even proposed this in the first place. He would know what risks he wanted to take.
But Merlin had also turned into the very image of disapproval. 'I don't like it.'
Small wonder that. But it did trigger her temper. 'Then go and get your bloody priorities sorted, will you?' she snapped at him, the tone so venomous that the warlock unconsciously slunk back into his seat, giving her no small measure of grim satisfaction. 'Lucas's life is at stake here and now I know that no other lives than Arthur's seem to matter anything at all to you, but he is your colleague now and I am still your superior officer for the time being. You will do as you're told.' She had not really meant to pull rank on him, but she did need to get him in line. All his petty complaints about Arthur's safety were getting on her nerves. The king was a grown man, perfectly capable of making his own choices. And she could not escape the notion that he was also ten times braver than his manservant.
Fortunately Arthur was with her on that one. 'Will you just shut up, Merlin?' he asked irritably. 'You're not going to stop me from doing this and if you feel you cannot help us do this, you're perfectly welcome to stay back while we go and solve the problem.'
Merlin seemed to regard that as a challenge. Instantly his jaw was set and the cold look was back in his eyes as well. 'Fine,' he snapped. 'But don't come running to me when everything goes wrong.'
Arthur gave a bark of laughter. 'I really should have made you court jester, shouldn't I?'
Harry's fist collided with the table, putting an end to the bantering. 'Focus, people!' he bellowed. 'Arthur will lure Morgana out, but we will need someone to go in there and get Lucas out of that bloody place.' At least he seemed to have seen sense, for which Ros was grateful.
Ros and Merlin exchanged incredulous looks as they realised that they had spoken simultaneously. For her it was not even a question that she would do this. Lucas was her colleague. He relied on her. They were good colleagues too, maybe even bordering on friends. Neither of them had any friends, but Ros was wondering more and more if perhaps with Lucas she could be friends. Better not go there again, Myers, she reprimanded herself. Friends only annoy you.
She snapped herself out of it, shooting a questioning look in Merlin's direction. 'You?' she asked with all the disbelief and contempt that she could muster.
It had only been one word, but it had definitely succeeded in enraging the warlock. 'You need someone who knows Morgana's hovel,' he pointed out. 'I've been there before. You'll need me.'
Ros arched an eyebrow. 'Are you now proposing we go in together?' she demanded. She sincerely hoped not. Of course she knew that going in there alone wasn't even an option. She would need at least one other officer to go in with her. In her head that would be either Ben or Jo, and preferably not the former, since he still seemed to believe she had a love of betrayal which made the working relationship at least slightly awkward. But she would much rather go in with Ben than with Merlin. The junior officer at least had brains. Merlin did not appear to be too gifted in that department. And to think that she used to think that he was the clever one. Definitely the paranoid one.
Merlin didn't seem too pleased with his own idea, but he met her eyes and nodded. 'If Morgana comes back unexpectedly, you'll need someone with magic to hold her off.'
That would have made sense, Ros admitted, had she not just seen with her own eyes that Merlin was anything but capable of putting those powers of his to good use. He may talk and talk about how his magic would be able to protect them, but when it came to Morgana he could, for some reason far beyond her comprehension, just not act. It was like he had been frozen into place back there in the barn.
'I think we've already seen how skilled you are in holding off Morgana,' she sneered.
There was a look in the warlock's eyes now that would have made her drop dead on the spot if looks had that power. 'I can do this,' he insisted. 'I won't fail this time. You have my word.'
But the Section Chief did not have too much faith in Merlin's word. Somehow he still had some soft spot for Morgana. There was just no telling what he would do when confronted with the witch. Ros had seen a mixture of guilt, regret, anger and compassion in that barn. The warlock was at least conflicted where his enemy was concerned and, had he not had magic, she would never have let him anywhere near this operation, because this attitude could compromise everything. He was too emotionally close to this case and in any normal situation she would never allow any officer to work on such an operation. But this was the legendary bloody Merlin with his bloody magic and it would seem that the normal rules did not at all apply to him.
Harry was looking rather sceptical, but he was nodding slowly. Because Ros might hate the notion with a passion, but he did have a good point. When it came to it her gun was about as much use against that witch as a toy pistol. Morgana had deflected the bullet Ros had sent in her direction seemingly without effort. She would need someone to help her, someone with magic, just in case Morgana came back early.
'And Morgana is still afraid of me,' Merlin added after a lengthy silence.
Now that was something Ros seriously doubted. 'After that display in the barn?' she said as dismissively as possible.
There was a quick flash of something, possibly shame, on Merlin's face, but then his face split in the widest grin the Section Chief had ever seen. 'I still have my disguise as Dragoon the Great,' he reminded them. 'And Morgana won't recognise me if I'm eighty years old.'
Maybe that clumsy warlock wasn't such an idiot after all.