Author's Note: Holy Moley! Its been too long since I've updated! I really apologize for that. The last few months have been hectic. I won't bore you with the personal details that had consumed the majority of my time. But suffice it to say, it's dying down now. So, hopefully, I can get back on schedule and start posting every other Sunday, as I have made it a goal to do. But anyway, hope you enjoy this chapter. It has a bit more insight about Mackenzie's past, as well as lingering questions, which will be answered in the next few chapters (I hope)!
I'm still looking for a beta reader, so if anyone is interested, please message me!
Now, without further ado, I bring you the latest chapter!
Please Read and Review!
"The man who promises everything is sure to fulfill nothing, and everyone who promises too much is in danger of using evil means in order to carry out his promises, and is already on the road to perdition."
Friday, April 9th, Eight Years Ago, 1:23 a.m.
Los Angeles, California
Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata played softly and gradually grew louder in the darkness – Mac's father had always played it; its origin was unknown in the dark. It stops as a woman's voice echoed in the night.
"Mackenzie! Wake up! Wake up, Honey! Wake up!" A woman in a plain white t-shirt yelled urgently at a 19 year old Mackenzie Murdock.
Mackenzie was lying in her bed when her mother shook her awake. She had just finished her freshmen year at the University of California-San Diego and returned home to visit her parents.
She arose groggily.
"Mom? What is it?" She began to rub the sleep out of her eyes.
"Hurry! There's no time!"
"Wha-?" Mac had a puzzle expression as she adjusted her eyes in the dark.
"The house is on fire! Come on! We have to get out!"
Mac finally registered the panic in her mother's voice. She jumped out of her bed as fast as she could. Fright and panic began to swell within her. Her mother grabbed her hand and they headed out of the bedroom. The hallway was shrouded in smoke and the intense heat brushed against Mac's face.
"Sophia! Mackenzie!" Mac heard her father's voice in the living room.
She could smell the smoke fumes and hear the fire alarm scream throughout the house as her senses began to awaken. The smoke began to fill their lungs. Her mother began to cough harshly as tried to lead her to the front door.
Mac's father appeared. His face was smeared with black ashes and he had several cuts on his arms.
"Dad!" She began to cough. The smoke was getting thicker. She glanced around quickly, trying to pinpoint where the fire was.
"Let's go! Let's go!" Her father began to rush the family toward the front door. Mac was in the lead, her mother was behind her, and her father was last. "Don't look back! Keep your head low!" He yelled out to his daughter.
Mackenzie shielded her face from the smoke as she ran to the front door, her parents following behind. Her head began to feel light and it was harder to breathe. She searched for the door knob frantically, found it, twisted it, and pulled the door open.
She suddenly heard a loud crash and her mother screaming. Mac twisted her body around.
"MOM!" A bookcase had fallen directly onto her mother. Her father rushed to her side to try to lift the bookcase off of his wife.
Mac began to cough erratically as she headed back for her parents.
"NO! GO MACKENZIE! GO!" Her father yelled at her as he struggled with the bookcase.
"No! I can help!" She yelled back at him.
"NO! GO! PLEASE!"
"I PROMISE, WE"LL BE RIGHT BEHIND YOU! NOW GO! PLEASE MACKENZIE! GO!"
Mac's brain obeyed her father's command and her legs quickly took her to the front door.
She finally ran outside onto her front lawn. She stared in agony as her house was being swarmed with bright orange and reddish flames. She could hear the sirens in the distance. She backed herself away from her house, waiting and hoping for her parents to come out.
A huge explosion erupted within the house, causing the roof to collapse and the windows to shatter.
Mac was blown to the floor. She quickly got on her hands and knees as the fire engines began to appear.
"NOOOOOOO!" She screamed and the tears began to pour out from her eyes.
Saturday, April 9th, Present Day
Pasadena, Los Angeles-California
Mac gasped as she quickly sat up in her bed. She was covered in a pool of cold sweat. She began to hyperventilate as tears rolled down her cheeks. Her right hand shook as she placed it over her mouth, to prevent her from screaming out loud.
She laid back into her bed as she calmed herself down. She took several deep breaths as she wiped away her tears. She glanced at her digital alarm clock. The bluish green light shone 3:35.
Mac brushed the hair away from her face as she remembered her vivid dream.
No. It wasn't a dream. It had happened.
She rolled to her side and pressed the side of her face against her pillow. She began to weep again. The dream had always come forth during this time of year; serving as a painful reminder. She glanced into the dark at a picture of her parents on her nightstand.
Today was the 6th year anniversary of her parents' deaths and the unfulfilled promise that was made by her father.
Saturday, April 9th, 9:22 a.m.
Downtown, Los Angeles
Mirage Industries-Front for Central Intelligence Agency: L.A Department
Mac stood in the viewing room of the Psych Evaluation Room, watching the two occupants on the other side with tired eyes; she didn't sleep much after her nightmare last night.
A Psych Evaluation was given to all agents after they returned from an undercover mission to ensure that they had not been compromised by the enemy. The evaluation was also given as a routinely check-up for all agents twice a year, this was also to ensure that there were no problems with an agent while they were in the field.
Mackenzie was able to watch the evaluation through a long, rectangular glass window, but the person on the other side would not be able to see her. She listened as Alexander Raines was being asked several questions by Cole Lanchester, one of the C.I.A.'s psychiatrists and behavior analyst.
"How long have you been a Central Intelligence Agent?" Cole Lanchester asked the C.I.A. operative before him.
"A little over eight years, I think." Alex replied in his light Scottish accent.
"Is your name Alexander Raines."
"No, it's Johnny Rocket." He joked bitterly. Alex was not known to liking shrinks. The machine that he was connected to beeped, indicating the lie he had told, and relaying to Lanchester his irritation.
"I understand you are tired Agent Raines, but try to answer truthfully." Lanchester shrugged a replied.
"Yes. My name is Alexander Raines."
"How long have you been observing Lucius Drake and the Dvustvolka?" The behavior analyst continued.
"Five years since two months ago." Alex replied with a bored expression.
Mac held a straight face as she watched. And she had once found him charming. She scoffed.
Old memories die hard…and so do promises.
"You're enjoying this aren't you?" Alex's voice ran through Mac's head.
"Maybe. Maybe not." Her own voice answered back.
She could still picture it.
Five Years Ago – Since two months ago
Mackenzie Murdock shot a right jab at a 23 year old Alexander Raines. He blocked it, just as she wanted him to. She sneaked a quick left kick to his rib cage. Quick impact. He staggered back, grinning.
"Lucky shot." He said breathlessly.
They had been sparring for about 15 minutes now.
"Or maybe I'm just better than you." A smile appeared on her face. "Come on. Admit it." She teased. Her bangs dangled on the side of her face. She kept her feet moving, her fists up in a defensive position.
"Not until you get me flat on my back." An impossible task or so he thought.
"Suit yourself." She always enjoyed a challenge.
She punched with her left. He blocked it easily. She punched with her right. Blocked. She threw another jab, but he grabbed her right arm, twisted it so her back was now facing him.
"Got to do better than that." He teased in her ear.
She elbowed him in the stomach with her left.
"Aghh." He released her arm and moved backward.
Mac began to throw several more jabs, each time her movements quickened. Alex blocked the first few, but faltered inevitably. Her speed overpowered his strength.
He finally grabbed one of her arms and once again her back was facing him.
"Better, but not good enough."
"Oh yeah…" She gasped for air.
She bended her knees, useed her free hand to grab his shoulder and flipped him over her with all her might. He hit the mats with a loud smack. Mac quickly pinned him to the ground, inhibiting him to get up.
"You have something to say to me?" she grinned down at him. Her sweat filled bangs dangled down from the front her face, swinging back and forth. "Come on. Say it."
"Okay. You win this round."
She smiled and leaned forward to kiss him.
Present Day – 9:30 am
Mac shook off the memory. That's all it is. A memory.
"During the duration of your operation in Australia, you were able to locate the mercenary businessman, Lucius Drake?" Lanchester droned on.
"Yes, as I have told you before; our mission was to infiltrate the Dvustvolka through Lucius Drake. Once our initial surveillance was complete, I was assigned the alias Cameron Shepard." Alex exhaled sharply, wishing that the examination was over.
"What was your primary objective as Cameron Shepard?"
"I was to approach Lucius Drake as a potential business opportunity; Cameron Shepard was skilled in the arts of thief and weaponry and had decided to try out the Arms Dealing trade."
"Was your initial contact successful?"
"Yeah, he tested my knowledge of weapons with a gun pointed at my head, and suffices it to say, I passed." Alex ranted. Mackenzie could tell by how tense Alex looked that that particular memory was not one of his favorites.
Lanchester merely blinked at Alex's display of frustration and then continued with his questioning.
"You were then recruited by Lucius Drake, correct?"
"Yes." Alex growled out, "I was then recruited as one of Drake's suppliers. He would ask for some weapons, I would procure it. Unlike most operations, this one was more long term considering Drake's history of not trusting people. Once I gained his trust, I was to further my aspirations as Drake's partner, and thus gaining more access to The Dvustvolka and their global dealings." Alex explained.
"How long have you been working for Drake?"
"Three years." Alex curtly replied, "Three long years! You know how long my team has worked their asses off for this? And then you guys come in and drag me out?! Drake's gonna get suspicious and our lead on the Dvustvolka's going to disappear!" Alex's voice rose considerably as he spoke, and his Scottish accent even became more prominent. Yup, he was irritated. "You better have a damn good reason as to why I was pulled out!" Alex seethed.
"Well, I think our interview is done. Please wait here and the Senior Officer of this department will meet with you shortly." Lanchester quickly rose from his chair, leaving a quaking Alex behind.
Mac silently listened with slight amusement at Alex's frustration and mumbled curses after Lanchester left; he hadn't changed a bit. She frowned the moment she realized that a smile was on her face. She was supposed to be mad at Alex. She crossed her arms, trying to forget the memories that this day had wrought upon her. She had a gnawing feeling that this day was going to get worse.
An irritated and crossed Mackenzie sat in a normal sized office that was used primarily for interviews or interrogations. The office contained pearl white walls, a simple desk, two chairs, and a two way mirror, where another Agent was located on the other side to view the proceedings; not unlike the room she herself had been observing an hour before.
Across from Mac, the source of her unhappiness, sat Alexander Raines. She opened a notepad she had with her and took out a fine point black pen.
"All right, lets make this quick. I don't want to stay here longer than I have to."
"Good to see you too." Alex made a small grin.
"Tell me about your operations with The Dvustvolka, beginning with your recruitment." Her tone was brisk and harsh.
"I've missed you."
"The Dvustvolka." Her jaw tightened and she was twirling her pen between her fingers.
"I am sorry."
"Five years too late." She snapped at him. "I ask one final time: The Dvustvolka?"
"Still angry at the world are we?"
He recalled the angry and cold person she had become while they were dating; she had a good reason too: her parents had both just died. Then within a month, she left for about a year and half, and when she had returned from Japan, things just didn't feel the same between them since. It was like she was living a separate life…especially when she would take off in the middle of the night. He supposed it was the things she saw when she went to Japan, but she would rarely talk about it and when she did, she seemed…distracted.
'An undercover assignment to infiltrate the Japanese Mafia and their operations would usually change someone' he used to reason with himself.
"What?" Her eyes grew dark and sinister at his comment.
"Nothing." He shrugged. "My mission was simple: get them to notice me and recruit me. I posed under the name Cameron Shepard, a thief and arms dealer. As an initiation, I had to past certain tests."
"Such as?" Mac was writing notes of Alex's tale.
"Hmm, let's see. First was naming weapons by the cock of the gun. Second was two burglaries, and then one lab infiltration, followed by one task that involved a big bomb and a mean dog that I rather not talk about; all within a time span of 6 months." He rolled his finger along the table and made a grimace as he recalled the dog and its sharp teeth.
"What next?" An impatient voice this time.
"I was then assigned as a contact for Lucius Drake. I would supply the weaponry he requested. After three years, I moved up to his good graces, and as per my orders, I was to request a full time position as his partner, gaining me access to his clients and to the Dvustvolka in particular. Well, I was going to do that until I was pulled out." Alex narrowed his eyes at Mackenzie. "Do you realize that my mission can be compromised because of this? Drake is going to be furious when I don't show up for a meet this Friday! He's going to freak when I don't keep my promise."
"Well, it's not like you haven't broken promises before; I'm sure you'll live." Mac glazed over her notes, wanting to get this over with.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Alex's voice changed to a defensive tone. He knew exactly what she was referring to.
"Nothing." She made a curtly smile.
"I said I was sorry. What more do you want from me?" He moved forward into his chair, trying to read her.
Mackenzie scoffed. "I don't think a note on the kitchen table saying 'I'm sorry. Good bye.' justifies as an apology, especially when you tell the woman you love that you promise to be around." She unleashed with a hiss.
"And what about you?" He fought back, his own anger rising.
"What about me?" She snarled.
"Don't talk as if you don't know. You left too. You just got up and left!"
"Don't pin this on me! Unlike you, I had a valid reason. I told you that it was something I had to do. It was only for a year and a half! And you agreed that I should have gone! And I had the decency to keep in touch! " She yelled at him, furious that he would bring up her trip to Japan. She had to go! And at least she let him know – a courtesy that he didn't deserve. Whereas he left without a word to a mysterious mission; breaking his promise to her at the same time! A mission, she now realized, was to Australia.
Alex ground his teeth together. "This was something I had to do and one postcard does not count…and you cannot be this childish!"
"Childish!?" Her eyes blazed with a dangerous fury that Alex had never encountered before. "You think promises are childish?"
"That's not what I me-" Alex tried to defend, but was cut off.
"You know what I've been through! You know that I don't take promises lightly!" She desperately tried not to cry as it dawned on Alex what the date was.
"Oh, Mackenzie…I'm sorry…" His voice softened and deflated from the argument.
"Whatever. I don't want to hear any of your lame excuses. Just continue with your debriefing."
"Mac…" He tried to plead with her. He had to make her understand.
"Please continue." Her voice was sharp and piercing. She refused to look at him and remained focused on the notepad in front of her.
Alex decided to lay off her temper, knowing on several accounts how bad it could grow. He shook his head and scoffed. She would never allow him to explain.
Mackenzie and Alex continued their conversation about his mission as Jack watched them through the glass mirror. His face held only a blank expression, but his thoughts were roaming all over with concern and caution. His eyes were focused with discernment and awareness. He knew that Mac and Alex had history and was now wondering if he was a good idea to have extracted him; he didn't want to hurt Mac any more than she had to endure…especially today.
After a long and excruciating briefing with Alex, Mac found herself in the briefing room with her partner and the rest of her team. Her eyes remained in front of her as she silently seethed. Jack had made Alex sit next to her. The young agent had to refrain herself from glaring at her surrogate father as well as the deadly urge to slash Alex's face.
"All right, now that Agent Raines has been debriefed, we can continue with the main mission." Jack sat back in his chair as he turned to Alex. "I understand your frustration for being here, Alex, but this mission will require all your knowledge and connection with Lucius Drake."
At the mention of his target, Alex leaned in to hear what was going on. He had been harassed and prodded all day and not once did anyone inform him on why he was back.
"For some time now, we have become aware that the Dvustvolka has acquired a partnership with Colonel Chen. Chen has been known to supply nuclear weapons to the group as well as others for large sums of money. We have recently retrieved one of his merchandise – a disc that he was planning on selling to Lucius Drake. Now, despite Kevin's efforts in unlocking the information on the disc we procured from Chen, he still needs a passcode."
Alex listened carefully; the information seemed easy to grasp. At the mention of Lucius Drake, Alex had quickly pieced together why he was here.
"You want me to retrieve the passcode from Lucius Drake." Alex deduced.
"Yes. We need you and two other members of our team to go with you to locate Drake and get the passcode from him."
"So, I assume that my meeting with him this Friday is still happening?" Alex grinned widely.
"You are correct. You'll be going with Danny and an agent that I've handpicked from the F.B.I."
"The F.B.I.?" Everyone in the room, besides Jack, cried out in surprise. Those same people all assumed that Mackenzie would be going along in the mission.
"What, Jack, who-" Mac began to speak but was cut off by Jack's hand.
"I'm bringing in a bomb specialist to help us with this case. His name is Jason Donahue and I have been assured that he is the best in his field.
"But, sir, why would we need a bomb specialist?"
"Because, Alex, you'll need someone who is an expert in the field when you're going to try and sell Drake the disc that we stole." Jack carefully explained and continued speaking before he heard any more protests, especially from Mackenzie. "I want you to use the disc as leverage in gaining a partnership with Drake. Inform him that you had managed to buy off the disc from the thief that stole it and now, you want to partner-up, expand your horizons, something to that effect, but get him to tell you what's on the disc and offer up a way to make a better bomb for him and the Dvustvolka. Your primary goal is to get the information on the disc, confirm its contents once you get the passcodes, and then find out what the Dvustvolka is up to."
"Well, why didn't you say so in the first place?" Alex grinned, liking the idea. "So, when do we get to meet this Agent Donahue?" Alex asked.
"Right now." Jack got up from his chair and opened the briefing room door. He motioned with a nod to someone outside and a tall, dark haired man followed Jack inside. "Everyone, this is Agent Jason Donahue. Agent Donahue, this is your new team." Jack introduced him quickly.
"Now, you have your mission, Donahue, Alex, and Danny, go with Kevin for a briefing of your tech equipment and your cover ID's. Mackenzie, no, I haven't forgotten you." Jack didn't miss the icy stare that emitted from the woman; she was not happy to learn that she was not on point for this mission. "I want you to locate Colonel Chen; we may need him still."
Mackenzie had to withhold a sneer. She did not like this plan at all, especially when she was given the objective of finding Martin again. She was going to have a long talk with Jack about this; she had a feeling he was keeping her out of the field because of what this day meant to her. She hadn't forgotten the promises that were made on this day and she was certainly going to keep the one she made.
"Dismissed." Jack's voice interrupted Mac's thoughts and the rustling of chairs and feet were heard as the agents began to leave. Danny gave Mac a sympathetic look; he had easily sensed Mac's displeasure with the situation. Mac tried to give a reassuring smile. She felt Alex's eyes on her, but pointedly ignored it. Finally, she felt another stare and dared glance toward it. Her eyes locked on with Agent Donahue's. He seemed to study her for a moment as he held her gaze. Mac couldn't help but notice how green Donahue's eyes were. They held their stares a moment longer before Alex cleared his throat.
"Donahue, the Tech Room is this way." Mac couldn't help but notice the gruffness in Alex's voice. She raised an eyebrow at the annoying being before giving Donahue a shy smile, which said man returned with equal shyness.
Instead of going to lunch, Mackenzie had decided to hit the gym after the mission brief. She had driven to the local Gold's Gym, where unknown C.I.A officers could work out at for free. Mac needed to get out of the office and take her mind off of the stressful day she was having.
She changed into a comfortable outfit: A sports bra covered with a grey beater and loose black pants, similar to her old jujitsu workout ware. She rolled tape around her fingers and hands and then placed her boxing gloves on. She stood alone in a private training room where a punching bag swayed slowly in front of her. She closed her eyes, trying to imagine the bag as an opponent, inhaled deeply, and exhaled out slowly.
Her eyes rapidly snapped opened and she begun her meditation process.
Mac started punching the bag, first a cross then a jab, followed by another sharp cross. She breathed at a slow pace, controlling her movements with delicacy and precision. She gave the bag a knee, tip, and kick combo.
Thoughts began to storm through her mind, ranging from various feelings:
Why did my parents have to die? Dad had promised that they would escape!
Why did Alex have to come back?! It was enough that I had to experience his abrupt exit…now I have to deal with him again!
And now Jack has pulled me off this mission! This was my case. I'm supposed to go! This was my goal! The Dvustvolka has information that I need! I made a promise!
She kicked the punching bag and smacked it even harder with a left jab.
Damn! And now I have to go after Chen again! This is frustrating! I feel like I'm running in circles! Chen knows nothing! But I won't let him escape this time. He'll pay for his crimes…
She threw two more punches that were followed by a combo kick. She grew more frustrated and began to pulverize the punching bag; picturing it to be Chen, and then to an image of Alex. Her fists pounded harder when she pictured Alex.
Sweat dripped down her face, her hair was distorted and damp, and her beater was soaked around her chest.
Her thoughts continued to rummage through her life and memory as she slammed her fists and knees into the bag. She needed to keep herself focused. There was one thing she had promised on this day, not five years ago. It was the day she had decided to go to Japan. It was promise to her deceased parents. This was the promise and goal that kept her going, which kept her strong. Jack had promised her absolution and she intended to claim it. She would claim it! Because she promised to.
After her lunch break and a fresh shower, Mackenzie had found herself back at her desk, looking at some files about Martin. She had to always withhold that impending snarl in her throat whenever she thought about the man. He didn't seem too hard to find him, but considering their last encounter, Mac had a feeling that Chen would be lying low. So…how to get the rat toward the trap? Mac mused on some ideas when she noticed a piece of paper that was poking out from underneath her keyboard.
She picked the folded paper up and read the first paragraph.
How many pairs of rabbits will be produced in a year, beginning with a single pair, if in every month each pair bears a new pair which becomes productive from the second month on?
Mac stared at the first portion thoughtfully. She recognized the riddle was written by Leonardo Pisano, the creator of the Fibonacci sequence. The sequence was composed of numbers where the following number was found by adding the last two numbers together. She recited the first twenty from memory.
1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144,233,377,610,987,1597,2584,4181 and 6765.
She glanced back down at the note. Who would send her this? She thought for a moment and then recognized the handwriting. A grin formed across her face. Jack had written her a note.
Cute. She thought sarcastically.
Knowing Jack, he was probably sending her a coded message. He had always given her codes to break when she was in Japan. This one looked no different.
She glanced at the final paragraph.
Childs play. She grinned. This code was extremely simple. She took out a pen and on the bottom of the paper she wrote out the first twenty six numbers to the Fibonacci sequence. She glanced at it for a moment.
Wait. Something isn't right.
She grinned, having discovered the flaw.
She wrote down the number zero in the beginning of the sequence. She couldn't forget that.
She then wrote down the alphabet backwards, each corresponding to the first twenty six numbers.
0=Z, 1=Y, 1=X, 2=W, and so forth.
Next, Mac matched the numbers in the paragraph to those in the sequence. Her grin faded as she finished deciphering the code.
Her eyebrows scrunched up as she stared at the new letters. It wasn't scrambled.
She scoffed. Duh!
She began to write down the opposite counterpart to each of letter of the alphabet.
A=Z, B=Y, C=X, D=W, E=V, F=U, G=T, H=S, I=R, J=Q, K=P, L=O, and M=N.
She used these as a basis to decipher the message.
Mac finally glanced up from the paper when she was finished.
"It's about time." She said softly, her eyes had turned dark and dangerous, as she crumbled and shredded the note and then tossed it into various trash cans around her. This was something that was for her eyes and her eyes only.
Perhaps today wasn't going to be too painful for Mackenzie as she thought about Jack's message. Now, she had something to help her keep her promise to her parents. A promise she was willing to do anything to keep.