Saturday, May 12th, 8:30 pm, Sky Harbor International Airport, Phoenix, Arizona
Sitting in a crowded, noisy airport with a freshly rested, hyper, four-year-old girl is a waking nightmare. Not that Serenity is trying to be difficult but she took a nap on the way here and she didn’t wake up until after we were already all the way through security, and since then all we’ve done is sit for an hour.
Now if I’d been by myself I would’ve just read a book ’till it was time to board, but like I said HYPER, FOUR-YEAR-OLD. I look at my watch, only five more minutes until we board.
‘Thank you, Isis.’
“Hey, Sweetheart, why don’t we go ahead and put up your dolly? It’s almost time to get on the plane.”
“Serenity when we get to England I need you to call me Mummy instead of Mommy. Actually, it’s probably better if you start now. Can you do that for me?”
‘Please say yes.’
“Oh goddess, now you sound like your Auntie Grace.”
‘Note to self: be careful what you wish for.’
“Auntie Grace is the one with the black hair, Auntie Cathy’s tri-sister right?”
“Dark brown hair actually, your aunt Meg has black hair. And Grace has bright, blue eyes. We’ll get to see her on the weekends once we get to England.”
“Why only on weekends?”
“Because Auntie Grace has school during the week. But next month her school will let out and then we’ll get to see her every day because she’s going to stay with us at Aunt Peggy’s house! Won’t that be nice?”
“Yes! Auntie Grace always lets me paint on her, and she plays dolls with me, and last time she came to visit she said she would show me how to make new dresses for all my dolls!”
“Flight number 288 is now ready for boarding; flight number 288 is now ready for boarding.”
“Well Sweetheart, this is our flight, come on; we need to go get in line.”
I swiftly bend down and scoop Serenity up in my left arm and swing our carry on bags over my right shoulder. As I walk towards the line I whisper in her ear,
“I need you to smile and look shy; do you think you can do that for me?”
I murmur in the clipped, upper-class, British accent I’ve been raised with. As we stand in line I listen to the couple and their little boy who are standing behind us.
“Mama, that little girl is pretty.”
I can practically feel his finger-pointing at Serenity’s head lying on my shoulder. Serenity glances up at him from under my hair and waves, revealing the constantly swirling colors that mark her skin due to her mutation in the process.
“Son, get behind me, that little girl is a monster, an abomination, a…a…a…”
“A mutant Jessica, really, I just don’t understand what your problem is. They are people just as much as you and me, and, as such, they deserve just as much respect. And you’re right Johnny; she really is a very pretty little girl.”
I turn around before the mother can respond and flash the father a wide smile and a quick,
Then I step up to the woman at the desk and hand her our passports and tickets.
“Alright, everything seems to be in order here. Thank you for flying with us today; it’s always a pleasure to have a member of the British Service aboard.”
‘Hmm, I wonder how she knows? It’s not on my passport. M must have rung ahead.’
The plane’s a double-decker and since we have first class tickets we have a small, private cabin on the top deck. As soon as we sit down I give Serenity her notepad and doll. Then I say,
“Play quietly while I read this file from Aunt Peggy and then when I’m done I’ll get you something from the snack cart.”
As promised M sent a file with the account of the bombing and all the details leading up to it through Renée’s witch’s glass. After an hour of reading the file I lean back and sigh, even I know that the list of possible suspects is incredibly limited.
‘Alright let’s see, who has the brains, the skills, the inclination, and the motive to hack into MI6 and plant a bomb? Myself, Jennet, Uncle Bruce, Kitty Pryde (I can’t help but look over at Serenity as Kitty’s name flashes through my head, she looks so much like her mother…), Remy LeBeau, Mystique, Pyro, Tony Stark, James Bond/007, whoever the current Q is, and of course Tiago. The problem with most of this list is that over half of them don’t have a motive for this kind of job. And what’s left are either missing or dead for the most part. This looks like a sadistic game, which cuts out me, Jennet has no reason to hack into MI6, and even if she did she would never bomb our aunt’s office. Uncle Bruce likewise would never plant a bomb in MI6, Pryde if she was alive might hack in on a dare but once again she would have no interest or motive in planting a bomb, and I know for a fact that she’s dead seeing as I buried both her and Peter nearly 5 years ago, so that’s a moot point anyway. LeBeau is a thief, but not a terrorist. And Tony might hack into MI6 just to prove that he can, but he loves Aunt Peggy just as much as I do, so he would never plant a bomb in her workplace, much less in her office. That leaves Mystique and Pyro, as well as whoever the current Q is. I’ll be able to investigate the Q situation once we arrive in England. However, in the meantime…’
Just as I’m about to continue my train of thought the door slides open and a flight attendant pokes her head in.
“Would y’all like anything from the snack cart?”
I look over at Serenity who is nodding frantically and then as I tuck the file into the front of my jacket I turn back to the attendant.
“Sure. What’ve you got?”
“We have Coke, Dr. Pepper, fruit punch, apple juice, lemonade, coffee, iced tea, bottled water, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, peanut butter cookies, brownies, mm’s, peanuts, trail mix, and Mini Oreos.”
“Serenity do you want to pick something out or do you want me to do it for you?”
“You can pick.”
“Okay, we’ll have one lemonade, one bottled water, and one oatmeal raisin cookie.”
“Alright let me just grab them from the cart.”
“Here let me help you.”
I hand Serenity her lemonade and cookie and take the water bottle the girl hands me.
Right before I can start to turn back around the attendant says,
“Miss? The pilot would like you to come down to the cabin if you can spare a minute.”
“If it’s not too much trouble.”
I glance over my shoulder at Serenity. She takes a large bite out of her cookie and waves me off with one hand, a clear dismissal.
‘Not even five yet and she already acts like she’s sixteen.’
I turn back to the girl and she gives in to a small giggle, clearly, she was watching Serenity as well. I roll my eyes.
“It’s no trouble at all, lead the way.”
After she puts away the cart, the attendant leads me to the cockpit and opens the door. As I step inside the cockpit my eyes zero in on the back of the copilot’s head.
She spins her chair around to face me with a Cheshire cat grin on her face.
“Hey, girl! How are you?”
I can’t help but grin as I step forward to embrace her.
“In shock for the most part, what are you doing here? I thought you were doing fieldwork.”
“I was, up until I shot Bond off the top of a moving train.”
“Sweet Isis above. Well, it was bound to happen sometime. Is he still alive?”
“M wrote his obituary.”
“Did they ever find his body?”
“Then it doesn’t mean anything, he could still be playing a part in this damned game.”
“Bloody hell, do you really think so?”
As we’ve been speaking I’ve sat down, now I lean back and cock my head to the side so that it’s tilted in the direction of the pilot and ask,
“Just how much do you know?”
Eve instantly catches on to my double meaning.
“Isa don’t worry. He’s one of us, besides this conversation is strictly confidential, it will never leave this room.”
“And the headsets?”
“We muted them as soon as we could.”
I nod my head slowly.
“Alright then. Can you speak Gaelic?”
“Only a little, but I can read it.”
I pull out the file and hand it to her.
“Here, read it, just so I know we’re on the same page, and then I’ll fill you in on my theory so far.”
******An hour later******
“Well, there is very little in here that I didn’t already know, but I suppose I understand better now why you called this a game.”
“Have there been any changes in key personnel since I left, aside from Bond that is?”
“Well we lost six agents in the bombing, but other than that the only change is that we have a new Q.”
“Ah… I thought that might be the case. What’s this one like?”
“Well he’s a kid for starters, probably no older than nineteen or twenty at most? And he’s terrified of flying, which incidentally is why he’s not here instead of me. He’s also cocky, arrogant, and completely brilliant. And if you ever tell him I said that I’ll shoot you in your sleep.”
“Ha! Scared of a teenager now are you? This doesn’t bode well for your chances of getting back in the field now, does it?”
Eve glares at me.
“Oh come on, I haven’t seen you in four years, nearly five, and you’re going to deny me teasing rights? Eve, that’s just cruel.”
All she does in response is raise one perfectly manicured eyebrow. I sigh.
“Fine. Look the reason I asked about Q is… well, do you think his loyalty could lie elsewhere?”
Eve looks startled at this idea.
“Eve are you sure?”
“Isa, Q is so completely and utterly British that, even though it may be possible, it is highly improbable.”
“Alright, I’ll take your word about him. And that takes one more off my list and leaves only four more, at least until I speak to Q in person.”
“Four more on what list?”
“I’ve compiled a list of all possible suspects and have started to narrow it down by process of elimination.”
“And you’ve got it down to four?”
“Yes. And before we land I plan to make a phone call that will hopefully eliminate one, if not two more.”
Eve is now staring at me with a look of utter disbelief.
“How were you able to come up with a list so quickly?”
“Easy, I personally know all but one, of the hackers who are capable of getting into MI6’s database.”
“And just how many are there?”
“Including me? Eleven.”
“Yes. It does make things quite a bit easier though.”
“Yes, I suppose it does, at that. So who are the last four?”
Just then the pilot speaks up for the first time.
“Hey we’re just about to enter regulated airspace, so we’re going to have to turn the headsets back on.”
“Okay. I’ll see you later then Eve, maybe we can meet up and go to lunch together after I and my daughter get settled in.”
“That sounds lovely. Wait for me after you get off and we can go down to the luggage carousel together.”
“Alright, I’ll see you then.”
And with that, I walk back to my cabin.