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 Post Post subject: Quest for Nobility
Posted: Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:30 am 
I'm finally not a No0b
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This is a story based on the episode "An Act of Nobility", sort of. Except it's set in the 1980's, during the mission when Jason met Tasha.
Tell me what you think! :)


Quest for Nobility

Chapter 1

At headquarters, Jason got a report done, had lunch, then, waiting for the Assistant Director to call him upstairs to give him his assignment, built origami out of scrap paper, fiddled with his Rubik's cube, and bounced his red bouncy ball against the wall, annoying the people in the desks next to him. Donovan's probably swamped with work like usual, thought Jason, but he couldn't help but wonder if he was waiting deliberately, making him sweat it out to the last minute, just for the fun of it.

Finally, at about 3:30, Donovan's secretary called him and relayed the order to come to Room 1108. He went up the elevator, down the long hallway, then opened the heavy oak door.

"Jason," said Donovan, giving him a nod. He slapped a manila folder thick with papers onto the desk. "Your assignment," he said in his Scottish accent.

Jason picked up the folder, and Donovan slipped another, slimmer folder onto the desk. "Your partner." Jason took that folder too. "It's her first assignment, so don't be too hard on her."

Jason held back a smile. "Wouldn't dream of it, sir."

Donovan peered at him over his reading glasses, as if he was about to say something back, but the phone interrupted him. "Yes, send her in."

Jason waited, fidgeting, until few moments later, a young woman strode through the door. She had dark hair and was tall and thin, with an immaculate black suit and skirt.

"I'd like to introduce you to your partner. Tasha Forbes, this is Jason Whittaker. Jason, Tasha."

Jason took her hand; her grip was strong and firm.

"Good to meet you," he said.

"It's good to meet you, too, Jason."

Donovan cleared his throat. "Since you're both here, I'd like to give you a basic overview of your assignment. Have a seat." He gestured to two chairs sitting on opposite sides of the door.

"Within two days, you'll be flying to Muldavia, a small country in central Europe that we've overlooked until recently because of its size and negligible geopolitical importance. In the early fifties, it was taken over by a tyrant called Erik Von Warberg. An opportunist by many accounts, he took the communist leanings of the country as an excuse to rally the people behind him. It's not certain whether he actually believed the ideals he adopted; he'd never shown any communist tendencies before. In any case, after assassinating the last monarch, King Roderick II, he and his descendants have been ruling with an iron fist ever since. It's been a consistent if not particularly powerful ally to the USSR.

"But recently, we've picked up signals from nearby countries, stirrings of a possible revolution that have been simmering in communist countries lately. The tide is changing. We want to be ahead of the tide, especially since Karl Von Warberg, the present premier, is showing potential aggression toward other nations. If we could help nudge Muldavia into revolution before Von Warberg makes his move, well, all the better.

"Your assignment will be the advance guard, shall we say. You will be setting up a listening post in a strategic location. Within the week, a more permanent delegation of agents will be sent, and you'll be able to move on to your next assignment.

"Your contact will be Josiah Munroe, a man with possible ties to the rebels. We aren't even sure if there are rebels at this point, or how many there are, because of our lack of relations with the country, and how closed it has been to outside influence. Munroe will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel.

"The second language there is English, so you shouldn't have much problem with communication.

"Any questions?"

"Yes, sir," said Jason. "What will our cover be?"

"You will be reporters, covering the new policy that, ironically, is letting you in in the first place. In mimicking the Soviet Union, they are going ahead with limited acceptance of foreign journalists. To show that you're above suspicion, we've made you sympathetic to their cause. You'll be journalists for a US communist newspaper.

"Then you will set up the preliminary observation site, with rudimentary equipment. Munroe will help you with this."

"Does he know we're with the NSA?" said Jason.

"Yes, he does."

"How do we know we can trust him?" said Tasha.

Donovan gave her a sharp look. "You never know who you can trust in this game. But the reason we think he has ties with the rebels is that he publishes an underground newspaper, The Vanguard. If there's anyone you can trust in that country, he's it.

"I think you have enough to go on for now. You have forty-eight hours to study your assignment, and then you will meet back here before your flight on Thursday." He nodded, their signal to leave.

Jason rose; Tasha followed suit. Donovan was already bent over his desk, immersed in paperwork.

The receptionist gave them a cheery "Have a nice day," and they stepped into the elevator at the end of the hall.

"Well," said Jason. "What do you think?"

"I'm looking forward to my first assignment."

"What's your specialty?"

"Microbiology."

"Microbiology?"

She gave a small smile. "I know. This isn't exactly my field, but I'll go where they send me; codes are my other specialty—though that's a given here.

"What about you?"

"Oh, I'm good at pretty much everything."

She raised an eyebrow.

"I mean—What I mean is—" he laughed "I'm don't really have a specialty, per se. Encryption, tech stuff, weapons, you name it."

They stepped out of the elevator into the huge entry way. Her high heels clacked against the ceramic tiles, echoing through the vast space.

Just before stepping through the doorway, on impulse Jason asked, "Would you like to meet for coffee before you go home?"

She pushed through the doorway without an answer. Then she stopped on the sidewalk outside and looked at him, as if sizing up his intentions.

"I don't know," she said. "I should get home to study my assignment."

"Just fifteen minutes or so. If we get to know each other face to face, it'll save time looking through each other's files."

"That makes sense. All right, Jason."

After settling on a coffee shop in downtown DC, Tasha headed for her car somewhere in the jungle of automobiles. Jason got into his car, locked the assignment folders in the secret compartment in his briefcase, and maneuvered out of the parking lot.

About forty-five minutes later, he parked in front of Columbus CoffeeShop. Tasha was already there, sipping her cup of coffee and flipping through the pages of a book.

He sauntered up to the table. "I thought I was pushing the speed limit. Have a short cut I don't know about?"

She smiled cryptically. "Maybe, maybe not."

After ordering a macchiato, he sat down opposite her. "What are you reading?"

She flipped the cover back. Cracks in the Iron Curtain: why communist countries are built to fall.

"That's not exactly light reading."

She shrugged. "It's only a matter of time before the Soviet Union falls, along with most other communist countries."

"If it's inevitable, why are we going into countries like –the one we're going to?"

"Like Donovan said, we have to make sure we're ahead of the tide. We have to be there to pick up the pieces, make sure they're on our side when all's said and done.

"Don't you think it's inevitable?"

He nodded. "The Soviet economy is going downhill, and when it falls, others will probably fall, since they depend on it. But I think our role should be more proactive than to just pick up the pieces."

"We saw how well proactive policies worked. North Korea. Vietnam."

Jason shuddered inwardly at the mention of Vietnam. He took all disparaging remarks about the war as if they were attacking Jerry's memory. "I don't mean war. I mean….covertly."

"Oh. You mean us. Our role right now is to watch, quietly gather allies among the counter-communist forces. I don't see how we can be more proactive than that."

It was hard to speak candidly in a public place about a secret organization. "I agree with that. But if there's anything we can do to help move things along, we should take it."

She tilted her head slightly. "Maybe. If it's the right thing. I doubt we- I mean we, personally this time—will have much of a chance when we're there. That's for the ones who come after us to deal with."

Jason nodded, though his heart twisted with dissatisfaction. It's probably just my need to do something. I have to put that aside, and focus on what's right for the mission. Tasha's right, we probably won't have a chance to do much but lay the foundation for the more experienced agents. Someday, I will be one of the experienced ones.

"So," said Jason, "what do you like to do, besides read and drink coffee?"

She smiled, and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. She has very nice hands, he thought; the thought startled him.

"Lots of things. I like games, especially ones that challenge your mind. Strategy games like Risk. Chess. Puzzles that it takes weeks to put together." She laughed. "I love research—"

"Research?"

"Yes. That's why I'm in microbiology. And why I like books like this." She tapped the book's open page.

"You wouldn't happen to like paperwork, would you?"

"I don't mind it."

Jason shook his head. "Do you want to do mine?"

"Maybe. If I have time." A smile crept up on her mouth. Her dark hair contrasted with her pale skin; dark eyes danced in an elegant, aristocratic face.

Don't go there, he told himself. She's a coworker, and there's that little issue you're not quite over- Gloria.

"What about you?" she asked.

"I like games too. Puzzles…but I don't have the patience for ones that take too long. More technical stuff….I fiddle around with projects quite a bit. I like things that challenge me physically, adventures, finding new places. Travel. That was one of the reasons I wanted to work here—going to new countries every few months or so. That, and my father."

"What does your father have to do with it?"

"He worked for them, back in the day."

"Oh, so it's a dynasty of agents."

He smiled. "Dad kind of influenced me to go the direction I went. And I wanted to do something for my country. I thought about the military….but it's too structured. Everything just seemed to fall into place for me to go into…this work."

Tasha nodded. "Me too. Oh, not at first. Science is my first love. I wanted to study, do research, look at test tubes all my life. Then, in college, I kind of got to see how it could be more than that…I could do real good with it. Find cures. That's why I switched from chemistry to microbio. In grad school, some work I did got recognized, news travelled to the right places, and here I am." She set her coffee down. Closed her book. "On that note, I think it's time I get going. We'll have a lot more time to talk on the airplane, and during our mission."

"I'm looking forward to working with you." He stood; they shook hands. Then Tasha strode out the door, her book under her arm. Noticing his eyes were straying after her, he quickly turned back to the table to sip the rest of his lukewarm coffee.

-- 17 Jun 2013 11:12 am --

Chapter 2

Tasha steered her car out of its parking space, and drove out onto the road. The warmth from the coffee still sent a glow through her. Or maybe it's not just the coffee… she thought.

He's not my type, first of all. And we're not very much alike. But those eyes….the way they lit up when he talked about travelling. His smile—there's a hint of a dimple…the way that lock of hair falls over his forehead, and wow, he's built very well. You can tell he works out. As well he should, but- wow.

Come on, she told herself, making sure she was staying on the road, you're not falling for a man this quickly. I can admire him without ever expecting anything more….Besides, I'm not quite healed from the last time, and I don't want to get involved with a co-worker, of all messy things. If he even wants me—

No, cut it out.
She made a conscious effort to shut off her emotions; a commitment to remaining objective where he was concerned.

That doesn't mean I can't have a professional interest in the physical attributes of my partner…but it also means I don't make that an excuse to cross the line.

It's his mental attributes I should focus on, like whether he is holding up his part of the assignment. He has seniority, but there's still this boyish naivety about him. This sort of recklessness that's endearing, but also potentially dangerous. I have a feeling I'm going to have to be the more responsible member of this team, though I'm the one that's fresh out of training.

At her apartment, she parked in the street and got out. As she climbed the stairs, she glimpsed some cigarette butts on the steps, and cringed. No, it's not my duty to clean the apartment complex- I just have to pretend none of this is there. This is only temporary till I get my next few paychecks, then everything will be stable enough so I can move out of this crummy neighborhood.

She unlocked her door, and shut it behind her, breathing a sigh of relief to be out of that dingy hallway. Still, she could hear muffled yells from one of the apartments below. And a baby crying.

No, I won't miss this place, she thought. I'll be glad to go on the mission just to have some peace and quiet at night. Not that I couldn't take care of myself if someone broke in. Her eyes drifted to the dresser drawer, where her gun was locked. She often debated whether to carry it with her; sometimes she did, but not today.

She set down her briefcase, and sat in the chair, pulling off her high heels.

After shedding the rest of her work clothes, she pulled on some jeans and a light top. Then, barefoot, she set about making dinner, whipping up some pesto and setting some rotini on the stove.

One thing I didn't tell him I like to do, she thought, leaning on the island. The rather anomalous thing: cook. It helps me unwind and relax. Maybe I'll ask him over for a meal sometime. Professionally, of course.

The pasta done, she sat down at the round faux-wood table, bringing the assignment folder with, and read as she ate. Dry as the material was, she knew how to read between the lines. This sounds like a pretty interesting assignment, she thought, the more she read. Muldavia was a fascinating country; she'd known next to nothing about it before today.

It had united from warring tribes in the 11th century, and other than a brief rule by the Ottoman Turks, it had retained its sovereignty, despite its small size. In the 19th century, it was nearly annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but retained its fierce independence by fighting back. During World War II, it was neutral in the face of enormous pressure from both sides, although, it was discovered after the war, the King had had a secret policy that had led to smuggling thousands of Jews across the Austrian border.

There was a picture of King Roderick I. He cut an imposing figure; in his gold braid, sword at his side, he looked more like a monarch from the 19th century. According to the documents, he was as noble in actions as he was in appearance, and was a hero to his people.

His son had been a different story, wine and flying being his favorite activities. When his father died soon after the war, his illegitimate cousin, Erik Von Warberg, maneuvered to seize the crown. But, despite rumors his plane had crashed, the coronation had gone on without a snag, and King Roderick II had turned out to be as celebrated a king as his father.

His reign was short-lived, however. He had actually pardoned Von Warberg for attempting to assassinate him, but this act of mercy was lost on a man without conscience. Von Warberg had bided his time, and when the king put in place a few questionable policies, he used that as an excuse to take over with a small communist faction, and got what he wanted in the first place, killing the king, his wife and young son.

The country had been under communist rule ever since, and, although it copied the Soviet Union almost religiously at times, it still was strongly independent and nationalistic, believing it had the best people, the best products, the best art, on earth. It also had a cult of personality, both of Erik and now Karl Von Warberg, anyone questioning them amounting to treason. Though many people feared him, many almost worshipped him, believing he could do no wrong.

That's what happens when a country's as cut off from everything as it is, she thought, and with the Soviet Union as its big brother, no wonder it has a skewed perspective. It should be interesting to see what they think of us when we arrive, even though we're supposedly on their side.

Tasha washed out her dishes, and then read the rest of her assignment with the TV on in the background. Finally, she headed to bed.

For some reason, her thoughts kept drifting to Robert, her old boyfriend. Why am I even thinking about that no-good jerk? I should be over it.

Because he was perfect, at first. Tall, dark and serious (most of the time, with a deadpan sense of humor), he loved the things she loved. It had been a fairy-tale romance. They'd talked about marriage. Once, he'd taken her shopping and they'd half-facetiously looked at rings.

The worst part was, she'd never even noticed him drifting away. They were having as much fun as ever, when little hints started to pop up. She denied them at first, because of how happy she was. She didn't want to spoil it, especially if it was nothing.

One day, walking on campus, she'd seen him talking to another girl. As soon as she walked up, the girl went away, and there was something in Robert's face…

Finally the evidence piled up so much she confronted him about it. He blew up. He even accused her of cheating on him, of blaming him for her own guilt.

She'd slapped him. But he didn't just take it like a man. He slapped her back, threw her to the ground. He'd dragged her into his bedroom and locked her there, then sped away in his car.

She'd broken the window, climbed out, and never looked back. Although, sometimes, she found herself longing for things to go back the way they were. As they never would. She found herself having a hard time trusting other men; and now that she was starting her career, a romance would be adding one thing she didn't need, especially if, despite her caution, it got messy like the last time.

She cut off those thoughts, trying to go to sleep. Finally, pleasant darkness closed in on her mind.

In the dreamlike phase between sleeping and waking, Jason appeared before her. He smiled, reached out, touched her face—she leaned into the touch, lifted her face to his—

She shot up in the dark. Great. Is this what happens when my defenses are down? she wondered. I'm not really recovered from Robert, so I can't really trust what I'm feeling. I don't need anyone, especially not now. I need to focus on my mission. Be professional….

She lay back on the pillow, conjuring up the image of the shack on the Virginia beach where she'd spent her summers as a girl. The seagulls calling in the air, the waves lapping the sand, back and forth, back and forth….

Her thoughts temporarily free of intruders, she drifted off to sleep.
___

Jason lay back on his leather couch, plowing through the assignment. Why did they have to write these things like they were textbooks? For that matter, why did they have to write textbooks like they were textbooks?

Flipping through the photos, he came to the picture of the last king and stopped short. At first, he thought he was looking at a picture of his father when he was younger. Then he saw that he had a beard, and was, of course, wearing the uniform of royalty. The resemblance was striking; he had never seen someone look so alike to another, unless they were twins.

Shaking off that odd déjà vu-like feeling he had looking at the picture, he flipped to the last two, photos of Erik Von Warberg and his son, Karl. They were both rather unremarkable looking, except for the hint of cold determination in the eyes, the twist of cruelty in the mouth that the son had inherited from his father. There were even hints in the documentation that Karl may have had a hand in his father's rather untimely death….

These are the people we are up against, he thought. This is the country I am going into. A chill ran through him, knowing that in 48 hours, he'd be stepping into enemy territory.

His last few assignments had been setting up listening posts in countries that were allies: Britain, Italy. As much as he loved going to those countries, the missions had been brief. What Jason wanted, what he had trained for, was a deep cover mission. At least this was undercover, though he wouldn't be in it long.

I might as well throw my heart and soul into this, he thought. After what I gave up to be here- A twinge of sadness stabbed his heart, as he did whenever he thought of Gloria, though those moments were fading into bittersweet memory, as was his period of mourning after she had married someone else.

He let himself fall back into reminiscence, though he knew it might cost him to do so. Her name matched everything that she was. Long blonde hair, vivid blue eyes that sparked with delight or anger; an easy laugh, an infectious smile.

Gloria, sitting across from him studying, her eyes peering over her book with an irresistibly mischievous gaze….

Next to him on the hill above campus, munching on a bologna sandwich, a curl of blonde hair dangling over her face—how he'd longed to brush it back…

Running across the beach in the surf, her glistening form always ahead of him, boy could she run…

Standing on the Spanish Steps in Rome, Gloria in a rare wistful mood, looking out over the city and its famed seven hills, a gust of wind blowing her hair about her shoulders—

He'd taken her in his arms and kissed her, and she'd kissed him back, and laughed…That was the moment he knew he loved her.

That summer, the summer of his post-grad World Tour Two, he would treasure forever. Nothing would invade it. No shadow of what was to come.

The day he got the letter, they'd just returned from the trip; they were both heavily tanned with sun-bleached hair, hers the color of white sand.

She hoisted herself up to the counter, taking a bite of a strawberry. He slid his thumb under the envelope's lip; it bit him, leaving a stinging cut.

Inside—a rather benign note. But he knew what it was. The NSA recruiters had come to him during college; he'd talked to them a bit, and taken an aptitude test one day in a deserted classroom. He'd barely thought of it since, but excitement surged through him.

"We are pleased to announce your acceptance into a special program…" No word like 'spy' or 'national security' was used, but there was no one else it could be from. It ordered him to a certain place and time the next week to report for training.

"What is it?" said Gloria.

"Nothing," he said.

She tried to snatch the letter away from him, but he wouldn't let her. She chased him through his apartment, and, knowing he could never outrun her (few people could), when she was out of sight, he tore it up and hid it in the wastebasket.

When she caught up, she attacked him, demanding to know where the letter was, half-jokingly at first. Then she kept at it—and he wouldn't give in. His denials made her all the more determined—and suspicious. Why would he hide a letter from her? He knew he couldn't show it to her; they'd made it clear to tell no one, not even his father.

It escalated from there. Looking back, he knew he should have handled it better. But the argument took on a life of its own, blowing up bigger than its original subject. They attacked each other with accusations. Their relationship grew colder, spiteful.

One day, he said something unforgivable. Instead of acting out, as he expected her to, her eyes filled with tears.

That hurt more than anything else she could have done.

That moment, more than anything, tore their relationship apart.

Maybe it could never have worked, he thought. We were too much alike…we were meant to clash sooner or later.

But he couldn't help but wonder, if he hadn't gotten that letter, if he hadn't pursued the NSA despite what was happening between them, that it could have worked out.

He could have sacrificed his career for her. What was more important in the end? It didn't matter now; he'd made his choice. Secrets would always keep a distance between him and the ones he loved.

From now on, he could only share his life fully with Agency employees, and even then…His father, he could tell things to, but still, the NSA discouraged full disclosure even to as distinguished a former employee as his father, and besides, Jason wouldn't want to endanger him by telling him too much.

In a way, this life was a lonely one. It meant sacrificing things others took for granted…

Would I trade it now, for another life, if I could?

Maybe he would have before. But now….he was oriented toward the future. Looking back, to the days with Gloria, hurt too much.

He could throw his life fully into being an agent.

That is what I wanted. Still want, with all my heart.

To distract himself from his thoughts, he flipped to the personnel file.

Tasha stared back at him with an intense, focused expression. Her deep brown eyes drew him in—though her hair was pulled back, a wisp of it had fallen rebelliously across her forehead…as if there was a hint of high spirits behind her professional façade.

If I went out with a co-worker…though that would have other complications of its own…secrets wouldn't matter. She would understand what this life was, what it means to me.

Where's that coming from! I just met her.

She is beautiful though. In her own way, as beautiful as Gloria…

Oh, stop it, he thought. It's not like it's ever going to go anywhere…I can admire her, but from afar. I don't want to make this trip awkward; we are focusing on our job, and….I'm not even looking for romance. I doubt she is either, especially with someone like me.

I'm too tired to think straight, he thought, set the file down on the coffee table. He switched on the TV, and flipped to a movie, which happened to be "Raiders of the Lost Ark". As much as he loved the movie, before the end of it, he was fast asleep.

_________________
AIO fanfic about Jason:
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8758487/1/Fallout
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9045305/1/Consequence
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9460320/1/Repercussions
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9642694/1/Echoes


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