Title: Black Star part 1 of ?
Rating: T - Het
Timeline: Takes place after season 5, this is more of a 6th season episode.
Description: The team is worried that the new woman General Stockwell brought in is there to be their new handler. Not all is as it seems with her, she's hiding secrets, along with Stockwell. What are her secrets and how do they affect the team?
Thanks to my beta, Periwinkle for your work!
Feed Back: always welcome. : ) Either onlist or email: aaaahbatwomanrun @ yahoo . com (no spaces)
Archived: ff.net, LJ
Disclaimer: I don’t own Face, BA, Murdock, Hannibal, Stockwell, the Abels and anyone else I'm forgetting. I’m just playing with them and will put them back unscathed when I’m done.
Author’s Notes: The idea for this fic came me to me one day while watching random season 5 episodes last year. I'm an original fan of the show and had only seen one or two episodes in recent years. Last year's movie sparked my curiosity to see if this was online and it was! So I started watching episodes on random order, mostly ones I remembered, didn't remember, etc. I don't know how many times I watched each episode before I finally started with the pilot and went in order. All while writing this fic. It is finished and I'll post it in parts not sure how often since this is a busy time for me at church. There are other stories in this universe but they are put on the back burner until further notice. Enjoy!
It was a cold day in early February when the team walked into the house followed closely by General Stockwell. They were griping about their last mission as they walked into the family room. Hannibal was the first to spot the woman sleeping on the couch. Her clothes, shoes, hands and arms were dirty and her hair was strewn across her face, hiding it from the world. “What have I told you about your poor security,” Hannibal said, turning to face Stockwell. “A dirty homeless person waltzed right in and has made herself at home.”
“I’ve been expecting her,” Stockwell said as he sat on the couch and brushed her hair back, revealing her face. He placed a hand on her back and said, “Wake up, Briana.”
Without moving a muscle she said, “I’m not homeless. And this isn’t dirt it’s ink, I work for a newspaper. ”
“What time did you get here?” Stockwell asked.
“What time is it now?” she replied.
He glanced at his watch and said, “4:00.”
“2:00,” she said, finally opening her eyes. “I came straight from work, I came in, put my things in the bathroom and then fell asleep.”
“Wait a minute, she isn’t moving in here, is she? And just who is she anyway?” Face asked.
“Gentlemen this is Briana Stockwell, she won’t be moving in but she is going to be working with you,” General Stockwell said. The team loudly protested the announcement; Stockwell stood up from the couch and quieted the men. “She’s not going to go on missions with you, think of her as your accountant and personal assistant.”
“Within reason,” Briana, said pushing herself to a sitting position on the couch. “You are not going to take advantage of me.”
“If she’s not moving in then why are her things in the bathroom?” Frankie asked.
“Because Frankie, my father and I are going out for dinner, since he wanted me to come here to meet you before hand I thought I’d save myself some time by taking a shower and getting ready here.” She slowly stood from the couch, “If you’ll excuse me, I need to take a shower.”
“Take your time, we have a lot to talk about here,” Hunt said.
She covered her mouth as a big yawn overtook her, nodding in response as she walked towards the bathroom.
Murdock had been standing to the side, watching the events unfold with interest. His gaze followed the woman as she walked away; he easily recognized that tired stride and decided to make a pot of coffee, figuring she’d appreciate a cup once her shower was finished.
“What is this Stockwell, more baby sitters?” Hannibal grumbled once she was out of earshot.
“Not at all,” he said as he sat down in the wingback chair. “I’m simply trying to better control the money you men are spending.”
“Great, so we’re getting a den mother,” Face said.
“You can still continue doing what you please, but Briana will now be signing the checks and paying the bills.”
As the talk escalated Murdock slipped out of the room and wandered into the kitchen to prepare a pot of coffee. General Stockwell noticed Murdock slipping out and silently excused himself from the discussion to get a glass of water. He watched as Murdock went about making coffee.
Murdock turned around to find General Stockwell standing in the kitchen. “General,” he nervously said. “Ah, uh… Briana looked like she could use a cup of coffee.”
It pleased Hunt to see one of the team was open and receptive to his daughter. “Thank you Captain, she will appreciate it. Bree takes her coffee with cream and sugar.” He reached into the upper cupboard next to the sink and withdrew a glass and filled it with water. Without saying another word, Stockwell walked out of the kitchen once his glass was filled.
Once Hunt was out of the room, Murdock let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. Suddenly feeling nervous around General Stockwell, Murdock stayed in the kitchen while the coffee brewed. Less than 10 minutes later Murdock walked to the hall bathroom with the mug in hand. He stood silent, listening to the sounds for a moment before knocking.
“I thought you told me to take my time, dad,” Briana teased as she opened the door. “Oh, Captain Murdock,” she said holding the towel around her body.
The sight took Murdock aback; when he first saw her on the couch he didn’t give much thought to what she looked like. But standing in front of him, loose chestnut brown curls lying damp across her shoulders, her skin freshly scrubbed and slightly pale, he found her attractive. “Ah.. uh.. thought you might like a cup of coffee,” he said, holding the mug out to her.
She smiled at him as she accepted the mug, “Thank you.” After taking a sip she gave him another smile and said, “it’s perfect, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, pausing a moment before turning to join his friends.
Briana closed the door and went back to getting ready for dinner with her father. Some time later Briana walked into the family room feeling human again. “I’m ready,” she said, placing her bag on the floor.
“It’s about ti…” Face stopped as he turned to face her. She wore a red dress that accentuated her toned body, in matching heels with her hair pulled up. Face quickly stood from his seat and hurried to greet her with a smile. “I trust you found everything you needed.”
“Down boy. Even if I didn’t have plans with my father, I wouldn’t go out with you, you’re not my type,” she said, giving him a dazzling smile. “Besides, you didn’t seem so interested earlier.” She turned on her heel and walked to the kitchen, needing to put the mug in the sink.
Frankie walked up to Face and clasped his shoulder, "That's harsh, man," he said.
Face glared at his housemate and sullenly walked out of the room. It was a big kick to his ego to be rejected, and worse when it was so badly.
Briana walked back into the family room where her father stood holding her bag, ready to go. She linked her arm with her father’s and together they walked to the hall closet where Hunt held out her coat for Brian to slip her arms into. Once she had the coat buttoned, she once again linked her arm with his and they went out the front door.
3 weeks later….
Briana leaned against the kitchen counter of the safe house as she waited for the fresh pot of coffee she set to finish brewing. The team had come back from a mission the day before and the more they worked with General Stockwell, the more they wondered if they would ever see their pardons. While the others were out enjoying the day off, Hannibal decided to stay at the safe house, wanting to talk to Briana in the hopes of getting some answers.
He walked in to find her sipping the hot brew. “Tell me something, are we really going to get our pardons or is your old man jerking us around?”
Briana studied the older man a moment; she understood his concerns and frustration better than he knew. “You’ll get your pardons,” she finally replied.
“I don’t know,” she said, walking to the table and sitting down at the nearest chair. “Pour yourself a cup and join me. I have answers that you’ve been wanting for the past year.” She waited until Hannibal settled across the table from her with his mug before beginning the explanation. “In 1985 things were beginning to change in the world. Between the war in the Middle East and the president’s plan to end the cold war, the US government was concerned they would need something more than what they had for security. A group was quietly formed to figure out what they could do to secure the country’s safety that was different than the organizations we already had. My dad wasn’t part of the original group but he knew people within it. He made it a point to keep close tabs on the discussions, not trusting the group. When talks of forming a secret group of what boiled down to, assassins, started that’s when he stepped in. He fought tooth and nail against it, and managed to talk them into changing their original plan. It wasn’t easy and it took time, but all his hard work finally paid off.
“It seemed changing the committee’s mind was the easy part, now my dad had to figure out how he was going to pull it off. He searched all active military personnel; members of the various espionage groups and even various local law enforcement officers but none of them fit the bill. Then one day your names crossed his deck. He kept an eye on you, reading up on your missions in Nam and your exploits while you were on the run. Your team was exactly what he was looking for, now all he had to do was secure full pardons and reinstatements for all of you. It seemed convincing the committee to change their original plan was the easy part.”
“While he worked on your pardons he formulated a plan to acquire your team. No sooner had the ink dried on your pardons, than he set the plan on motion. The problem was, officially none of this existed, the committee, the plan… none of it. Unofficially you were burned and are a top secret black ops group that continues to do the kind of work you did on the run, only on a global scale along with the proper funding and with Decker, Lynch and anyone else the Army wants to send your way, off your heels.”
Hannibal mulled the information over for a few moments, he didn’t like the feeling of being used, but at least the Army wasn’t chasing them and they were going to be cleared. “And just what is your part in all this?”
“What my father said, accountant and personal assistant. For your team that is. I also help my dad out doing research. To be honest my dad’s reasons for having me work for him are purely selfish. My hours at the paper were tough; I started at midnight most days and often worked weeks and occasionally months without a day off. Now I have a more regular schedule and my life returns to normal.” ‘Or what passes for normal,’ she thought.
“So just how long are we going to be working for your dad before we get our pardons?”
“I honestly don’t know. But I do know you will get them.”
“Why hasn’t Stockwell told us this?”
“He can’t. And as far as anyone’s concerned, I didn’t tell you either.” Briana looked at her watch; she had things to do that weren’t going to get done over coffee talk. “If you’ll excuse me Colonel, I need to get back to my work.”
6 months later….
Briana sat at her desk in the study going over paperwork while Murdock kept her company, sitting in the chair opposite the desk. “Oh come on now, just come outside for a few minutes.”
“Murdock,” she sighed. “Why are you so determined to drag me out there? Hannibal doesn’t care for me, and I’d rather not bring down their little party just by being there.”
“Because, you’re my friend, an’ Hannibal’s my friend an’ Ah just know Hannibal will accept you, but you need to spend time with him so he can get to know you like Ah do.”
Briana smiled at Murdock, the two had become friends over the past six months and they occasionally spent time together outside of the safe house, away from the team. “At least come out an’ have dinner with me,” he said.
Murdock had a way of breaking down her resolve, “OK fine, I’ll go,” she said, rising from her chair.
Murdock smiled at the victory and excitedly leapt from the chair, grinning broadly as they walked out of the room.
About a half hour later Murdock and Briana sat in the patio chairs closer to the house. Briana felt it was best so as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable with her presence there. Their dirty plates in the kitchen, the pair sat with their drinks, chatting while the others entertained their latest dates.
The patio door opened and General Stockwell stepped out, followed by his assistant. “Gentleman, Bree,” he gave his daughter a smile.
The men groaned at the sight of their boss, “Oh come on, we just got back two days ago,” Face groused.
“I’m sorry but something’s come up, something that needs your talents,” he turned to face his daughter and said, “And yours, Briana.”
“Me?” she asked, shocked that her father was including her in mission. Needing to talk to him in private, Briana stood from her chair. “Dad,” she said, motioning for him to follow her inside the house. Hunt followed his daughter, closing the door, not wanting the others to hear their conversation. He knew what his daughter wanted to talk about, and he knew she wanted to do it in private.
They stood in the family room; “You know I don’t do that kind of work anymore.”
“I know Bree, but I have no choice. You’re the only one Prince Gudmand trusts. I wouldn’t ask if there was another way. The Prince won’t trust the team on my word alone. His son was kidnapped and he wants Dieter’s safe and quiet return.”
Briana struggled with the information her father just gave her. She knew what he said was true, but it pained her to think about having to revert back to her former life. Hunt wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a hug.
Murdock stole a glance into the patio doors, watching as Hunt pulled her into a hug. He saw the hurt and struggle etch her face as she rested her chin on her father’s shoulder.
“If I do this you’re the one that’s going to tell mom about it,” she said, still in his embrace.
Hunt smiled and said, “I already have. We had a long talk about it today.”
“So that’s why you’re here so late,” she teased.
He planted a kiss on her temple, “She wasn’t happy about it, but ultimately she understood.”
She took a deep shaky breadth relaxing in her father’s embrace. “Fine, I’ll do it.”
Murdock stepped aside as Briana and Hunt walked through the patio doors. The party guests slipped through the doors, followed by Hunt’s assistant. “What’s going on here Stockwell? We’re perfectly capable of going on this mission without Briana,” Hannibal asked.
“No, you cant, Colonel,” Briana said. “Prince Gudmand’s son was kidnapped and he trust’s me, but he won’t trust you alone. Not even if my dad vouches for you. I have to go on this mission.”
“Why do I get the feeling there’s more to this story than you’re telling?” Hannibal asked.
“Because I used to be a CIA agent and I saved his life when one of his trusted aides tried to kill him. He wasn’t working alone either.”
“I’m not going on a mission with someone that couldn’t cut it in the CIA,” Hannibal said.
“You’ve got that wrong, Colonel. I was with the paper for three years, but I was with the CIA for 10 years.”
The team was shocked, “But that means you were…” Face said.
“14 when they ‘recruited me’, ‘kidnapped’ was more like it.” She began to fidget, seemingly nervous, but in reality she began to feel uncomfortable in her own skin. The last time Briana felt this way was after she left the CIA, when her father helped her break their hold on her. Hunt placed a comforting hand on her arm, hoping to calm her nerves. “I wasn’t the only one… we were the sons and daughters of select CIA agents, ‘legacies’ they called us.” She paused a moment, trying to decide what exactly she wanted to share with the team. “They called it ‘The Black Star Project.’ We were essentially highly trained assassins; the CIA’s answer to Delta Force….” She took a deep, shaky breath and said, “I can’t do this.” She turned and ran through the patio doors, needing to get out of the house and away from the team.
“She doesn’t like to talk about it,” Hunt explained.
“Ah’ll go after her,” Murdock said as he ran through the patio doors. “Bree wait,” he called after her.
Hannibal didn’t like what he heard, he glared at Stockwell and said, “You let them take your kid and do God knows what to her?”
“Listen to me Smith, I’m only going to say this once. I didn’t let them do anything; they took her without my knowledge or consent. I tried to get her back but there was nothing I could do. Now, we leave at 0500 hours tomorrow, I’ll have a car pick you up and bring you to my plane.” He turned on his heel and walked through the patio doors, through the house and out the front door.
The team sat speechless; suddenly they had a better understanding of their handler and his daughter. The distrust they had was slowly melting away to become understanding and sympathy. Their party now over, the team set about cleaning up the backyard and house before packing their bags and preparing for their next mission.
Murdock stared out of the passenger window as Briana drove her convertible in silence. She enjoyed driving with the top down on nice days, especially so when she had things on her mind. The wind whipping through her hair usually helped to clear her mind. Tonight she needed something more; she drove to the beach remembering how soothing it was after she left the CIA.
When they arrived at the beach, Briana brought the top up on her car and locked up the vehicle before they went for a walk. Murdock dug his hands deep in his pants pockets as he kept pace with his friend. “Why didn’t you tell me, Briana?”
“Because I don’t like to talk about it.”
“Not even with friends?”
“I don’t have any friends.”
Murdock stepped in front of her and placed his hand on her arms. He looked her in the eyes and said, “You’re wrong, we’re friends! An’ BA’s your friend, an’ Face an’ Frankie an' an’ even Hannibal.”
She looked down and away and said, “I’m sorry, I haven’t had a friend in years, I forgot what it felt like to have friends. The CIA took part of my life and I can never get it back.”
“What did they do to you?” At her silence he said, “Hey come on, you can tell me. Ah’ll understand.”
“One summer day someone from the CIA came over to our house and told me I needed to pack a bag and go with them. Since my dad was CIA at the time I didn’t think anything of it. None of us did. They kept us in seclusion for the first few months, while they tested us and began the programming. They used sensory deprivation on us, held us in a windowless building without so much as a calendar. We were at their mercies they told us when it was night, morning, when it was time to eat and when it was time to sleep. We weren’t allowed to see anyone outside the facility.”
“Did Trigoran have anything to do with this?”
“Uncle Ivan? No, in fact he helped my dad try to stop the program. But there was nothing they could do. The strain became too much for my parents and my mom divorced my dad. She blamed what happened to me on him and said he didn’t do enough to free me. I know he did his best. When I was finally able to see my parents they told me all about it. When the CIA was ready to let us out, they paired us up with people that could pass as parents. Our partners continued our training while we were on assignments. At 18 we were partnered with our final partners. The ones we spent the rest of our time at the agency with.”
“Project Black Star’s failure was our programming. You see they programmed us to ignore the pain, to fight through it until the threat was over. The problem with that was we would push on until it was too late. Of the twelve of us that were in the program, five total died - the last one was my partner.” She turned away from Murdock and looked out onto the water. “We were sent on a suicide mission, I guess it was the CIA’s way of dealing with their failure. I don’t think we ever stood a chance really. Come to think about it, I don’t think I even knew what the mission was. I just know we were captured and tortured. They did things to both of us. Danny was the lucky one; he died before we were rescued. After he died, they kept up the torture with me.” Tears began to fall down her cheeks as she looked out onto the water.
Murdock had a sinking feeling when he heard about the torture. “Did they rape you?” At her silence he stood in front of her saw the tears and said, “Bree…” She merely nodded, unable to say the word. Murdock pulled her into his embrace and held her as she wept. He comforted her as long as she needed it.
When her tears finally stopped, Briana remained in Murdock’s embrace, relishing the feel of his arms around her. She didn’t have the luxury of dating while she was with the CIA, and Briana didn’t think about it during her time with the paper. But now that she had been away from the CIA for five years she was finally starting to feel like a normal human being again. Briana enjoyed her time with Murdock, as she found his goofy behavior endearing.
“Who rescued you?” Murdock asked.
“My dad. He gave me a homing device to be used in extreme emergencies only, after I was partnered with Danny. He was worried something bad would happen to me, to us. I don’t remember much of the rescue but while I was recovering, my dad and I talked and I told him I wanted out. He helped me get out of the CIA and once I was better, he helped me get reprogrammed. Not fully, I still have all my memories and training, just enough to…. Take the edge off.”
“If you’ve been reprogrammed then what are you gonna to do on this mission?”
“They set safe guards in my reprogramming, triggers that when I see or hear in the right combination, the edge is back. I don’t know what they are exactly; I just know what to avoid in order to not accidentally trigger the edge. That’s why I can’t watch certain kinds of movies.”
“Is that why you wouldn’t see Days of Thunder with me?”
Smiling, Briana rested her head on his shoulder and replied, “No, it just looked stupid.”
“Stupid?!? Ah’ll have you know that Days of Thunder was a cinematic masterpiece…”
Briana cut off his playful rant, “Murdock….”
“You were right, it was stupid.” Briana couldn’t help but laugh at his revelation. Murdock was pleased to hear his friend laugh; he imagined that didn’t happen much when she thought about her time with the CIA. “Listen to me Briana, Ah don’t want you to doin’ anythin' that will hurt you.”
“I’ll be fine Murdock.”
“But you’ll be different.”
Briana thought about what he was saying and realized he was afraid of the changes that the CIA programming had on her. She pulled back from the embrace and fixed Murdock with a serious look. “Murdock, the programming will be reset once the mission is over. Don’t worry. My dad made sure the reprogramming could be reset if I ever had to revert back, so to speak.”
Despite her reassurances, Murdock had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach; he worried something bad was going to happen to her. “Have you ever done this before?”
“No, but my dad made sure to get all the notes and everything else the CIA had on Project Black Star, when he had it shut down. That way he could make sure no one tried to resurrect the Black Star Project again. Plus he knew exactly what they did to us and how to counteract it.”
“Why not just reverse it?”
“The team that reprogrammed us doesn't know the programming as intimately as the CIA team does. And since my dad doesn't trust the CIA team, the new team felt it was better to simply reprogram us. It would take years for them to reverse what the CIA did to us. We already lost enough; we all agreed the cost was too much. So they figured out how to reprogram us allowing for triggers in case of emergencies.” Tired of talking about the Black Star Project, Briana steered Murdock to turn around and said, “Come on, I need something to drink, there’s a good lemonade stand over there.” She pointed towards the vendor stands opposite from the ocean.
It was close to midnight when Briana wearily walked into her spacious apartment. She and Murdock had left the beach at dusk and went to his apartment where they talked for a few more hours. Deciding she needed time alone before transforming back to a Black Star, Briana declined Murdock’s offer to spend the night and drove home to her apartment. Too tired to walk to her bedroom, she sank down onto the couch and quickly fell asleep.
The next morning Briana groaned as the phone rang, waking her. She glanced out the windows and saw it was still dark out. Briana wondered who was calling her at that hour. Sitting up on the couch, she forgot how stiff sleeping on it made her. She stretched as she made her way to the kitchen to answer the phone. “Yeah?” She croaked.
“Is that any way to answer the phone when your father’s calling?” Hunt teased.
“When he wakes me up at,” she said squinting at the clock on the wall. She blinked several times to clear her eyesight unsure she read the time correctly. “4:15? What possessed you to call me at this hour?”
Hunt chuckled; he enjoyed this side of her. “I’m calling because we’re leaving in just under an hour.”
“You’re evil, you know that?”
“I’ll see at 5:00. I love you.”
“Yeah well, don’t expect me to reciprocate that right now.”
“I’ll see you at 5.”
“Yeah, sure.” They said their goodbyes and Briana hung up the phone. Making her way to the bathroom for a hot shower, Briana hoped the heat would loosen the knots in her muscles. She hated taking hot showers in the summer but she was too stiff from a night on the couch not to. The former CIA agent moved slowly as she packed her bags for her trip; she was in no hurry to transform back to a Black Star. She no longer carried weapons and knew her father would provide the team with all the munitions they would need.
Once she was packed, Briana locked up her apartment, slid behind the wheel of her car and drove to the private airstrip her father used for his plane.
During the flight to Denmark as BA sat slumped over in a chair, unconscious. The rest of the A-Team stole glances at their new temporary teammate as they played cards to keep busy during the flight. They were concerned about their safety, none more so than Hannibal. The team leader wondered just what the CIA did to the young woman. Stockwell didn’t give up any information after Briana left last night, and Murdock didn’t offer anything when he arrived at the safe house that morning.
Briana quietly sat by herself, curled up in a ball on one of the couches, a pair of headphones plugged into the stereo. She listened to classical music to help relax her before she had to transform back into her former self. Murdock joined her on the couch, silently offering his support by placing a hand on her knee. When she turned to look at him, he gave her a reassuring smile. Briana gave him a small smile, knowing it would help ease his mind even if she didn’t feel like smiling.
“Tell me something, Stockwell,” Hannibal said, pushing himself up from the chair and walking towards Hunt’s desk. “Will she pose a threat to my men?”
“No. She poses a threat to herself.” Having heard this, Face and Frankie turned to look at Stockwell, curious what he meant. “When the fighting starts, Briana will keep pushing and won’t stop until the threat is over.”
Hannibal chewed on his cigar as he mulled over what General Stockwell just said. “So what you’re saying is, she could potentially die if we come under heavy fire.”
Hunt Stockwell swallowed hard, he hated thinking about it but faced that reality when his only child was in the clutches of the CIA. “Yes,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady.
Hannibal took in a sharp breath and glanced over at Briana. The more he learned about her, the more he hated what the CIA did to her. “Understood.”
Later as the plane made its final approach Stockwell briefed the team. “The men responsible for the kidnapping are the same ones that tried to kill the Prince…”
Briana sat up straight and sharply turned to face her father, “That’s impossible,” she said.
Hannibal turned in his seat to face the young woman, “What makes you say that?”
“Because my partner and I made sure they couldn’t threaten the Prince again.” At the team’s questioning looks she added, “We killed all of them.”
“If those guys are all dead, then who is behind this?” Face asked.
“Whoever they are, my intel has no other information, just that they were the ones that tried to kill the Prince.”
A cold chill suddenly ran down Briana’s spine, “This is a trap,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady.
“What makes you say that?” Hunt asked.
“You said it yourself, I’m the only one the Prince trusts. These guys know that and are using Dieter to get to me.”
“You didn’t know anything about this?” Hannibal asked Hunt.
“He couldn’t have. The only people that have access to our files are the Black Stars, and the Director of the CIA. Our former handlers had access to those files when we were with the agency. But when the Black Star Project was shut down, they were stripped of their duties and kept under lock and key so they couldn’t try that again.”
“Is there anything in your report that can help us here?” Face asked.
“No, and even if there was, I’d need first person access to the file. Which means I’d have to go to Langley.”
“Ok then, do you have any ideas who could be behind this?” Hannibal asked.
Briana shook her head, “If I’m right and they want revenge then it could be someone close to the people we killed. Regardless, whoever’s behind this is expecting my partner and me. They don’t know Danny’s dead or that you’ll be with me.”
When the plane came to a stop the team stood from their seats and stretched their stiff muscles. General Stockwell was sitting at his desk reaching for a file he had stashed in a drawer when Hannibal walked up to the desk. Hannibal quietly said Stockwell’s name, wanting to speak with the man before they parted ways. Hunt looked up and handed the file out towards Hannibal.
“What’s this?” Hannibal asked as he reached for the file.
“This isn’t for you,” Hunt said as Briana grabbed the file from her father’s hand. The men watched as she walked back to her seat and placed the file on the couch before opening the compartment under the couch, removing a briefcase from it.
“I’ve been thinking about Briana and what the CIA did to her. They programmed her, didn’t they?”
“Yes,” Hunt replied.
“So what happened after she left?”
Hunt glanced at his daughter a moment before responding. “She was reprogrammed. Not fully, just…”
“Enough to take the edge off,” Murdock cut in.
Turning to face the team’s pilot, Stockwell was surprised to hear Murdock knew of something regarding his daughter’s past. “She told me about it last night,” Murdock explained. Murdock turned to watch his friend as the men talked.
“The new programming allows for triggers for her to fully revert to her former self. The triggers are either audio, visual or both. In this case that file I gave her contains the images she’ll need to trigger her programming.” Anticipating Hannibal’s next question, Hunt said, “It can be reset after the mission.” Hannibal nodded and set about gathering his things to deplane.
Briana waited as the team departed the plane, even watching as Face and Frankie helped a groggy B.A. off the plane. She wanted to speak with her father in private, needing his reassurance one last time before stepping off the airplane. “How long will you be staying?” she asked, placing her bag and briefcase on the floor.
“I’ll be here through your mission.”
Briana looked at her father confused, “Since when do you wait out a mission?”
“Since you are going back into the field. I want to be here in case the team needs further assistance. Don’t worry, I’ll stay out of your way. Your mother is flying out to spend some time with me,” he said, smiling.
Smiling Briana said, “How long has it been since you and mom had a vacation?”
“Too long.” Hunt reached into the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a watch. He handed it to his daughter and said, “Now go, they’re waiting for you.”
She glanced at the time piece and said, “Tracking device?”
“Yes,” he said, making his way around the desk. He pulled her into a tight embrace and said, “Be careful sweetheart.”
“As careful as I can be. Don’t worry, I have the best team a person could ask for watching my back.” She planted a kiss on his cheek before leaving his embrace. Briana gathered her things and stepped off the plane.
But worry he did. He remembered all too well all the times he sat beside her bedside holding her bandaged hand while she was hooked up to life saving machines. Each time a mission left her clinging to life in the hospital, Hunt would leave her bedside and make his way to Langley and have a very loud discussion about the Black Star Project. There were times when he thought he would have been better off yelling at a brick wall. It took time and hard work but he was finally able to get the project shut down. All it took was meeting with the right people to do so.
Hunt walked to the door and looked down, watching as Murdock smiled at his daughter as she approached the waiting limousine. Her returning smile did not go unseen by Hunt. He smiled; he could see the friendship was turning into a romance, even if they didn’t see it.
Later at the palace, once all introductions were made, dinner plans set, the team went to their quarters to settle in before dinner. Briana was in her room, unpacking when there was a knock at the door. Walking to the armoire with her bag, Briana asked who was at the door.
“It’s me, uh, Murdock,” came the reply.
Smiling Briana walked to the door and opened it, letting her friend in. When Murdock walked in, Briana closed the door and took in his appearance. He wore his usual khaki pants, Converse tennis shows, comical t-shirt, ball cap and bomber jacket. “Aren’t you going to get ready for dinner with the Prince?”
Murdock was confused. “What do you mean?”
“We’re having dinner with the Prince of Denmark, you need to dress up more.”
Murdock looked down at his clothes and said in his usual child-like way, “What’s wrong with what Ah’m wearin’?”
“Well you at least need to put on a suit.”
“A suit? I didn’t bring any suits with me.”
“Murdock! How could you go on a mission where you’re meeting a Prince and not bring a suit?”
He shrugged, “Ah just thought Ah’d wear what Ah always wear. What are you gonna wear?”
Rolling her eyes, Briana turned and walked to the armoire, opening it and pulling out a dark blue dress. She turned back around to find Murdock grinning like a loon. “What?” she asked.
“Ah was just kiddin’: Ah brought a suit.”
Letting out an exasperated sigh, “That wasn’t funny.”
“Yes it was.”
She glared at him and shook her head. “Oh come on that was funny and you know it. What’s wrong?”
“Sorry, I’m just feeling on edge,” she said, walking to the bed. She sighed as she sank down, tossing the dress onto the bed.
Murdock grew serious, concern clouded his expressive eyes, spotting the folder on the bed he asked, “Did you already… you know…”
“Did I what?” she asked, confused.
“You know… That,” he said, pointing to the folder.
Briana looked in the direction that he was pointing and said, “Oh. No, not yet. I’m just feeling edgy right now.”
“Edgy or scared?” he asked, walking to the bed, sitting down next to her.
She took a deep, shaky breath and quietly said, “scared.”
Murdock wrapped his arms around her and drew her into his embrace. “Hey it’ll be all right, you’ll be safe with us.”
Briana snaked her arms around him, resting her head on Murdock’s shoulder. “I hope you’re right,” she murmured in a shaky voice.
Murdock planted a kiss on her forehead and said, “Ah like you and Ah won’t let anythin’ happen to you.”
“Ah promise!” Briana snuggled deeper into his embrace as she fought to keep her tears at bay. It wasn’t transforming back that scared her; it was what might happen to her while under the program’s influence that terrified her. “How long will it take you to change back to a Black Star?”
“The transformation is instant.”
“When are you gonna to do it?”
Taking a deep cleansing breath she said, “Before dinner. It’ll help me relax.”
“Well then, Ah’ll be right here with you.”
Briana pulled back from the embrace and at looked at her friend, “No. This is something I need to do by myself.”
“Why, is somethin’ bad gonna happen?”
“No, it’s just something I need to do by myself. Like changing for dinner.”
“You mean Ah can’t watch you change either?”
Briana smiled and said, “Out, Captain.”
Murdock stood and pouting said, “Oh all right,” as he walked toward the door.
“Murdock,” she said, getting his attention before he stepped out the door. “I like you too.”
Murdock gave her a big grin and said, “Ah already knew that.”
She couldn’t help but smile, “Oh I almost forgot. When this is over I’m going to have to leave for a while.”
His smile faded and he said, “Why?”
“To have the programming reset.”
“How long is it gonna take?”
“I don’t know; this is the first time I’ve done this.”
Murdock looked down and said, “Oh,” as he turned back to leave.
“I’ll, ah, be ready for dinner in a half hour if you want to walk down to dinner with me.”
Murdock’s smile returned and said, “Ah’ll be here.”
Later that night after dinner, the team went back to their rooms to get ready for bed. The long flight had left everyone tired. Briana decided to go for a walk in the gardens to help clear her head. Her transformation was noticeable to the team as the normally approachable woman was cold, distant and professional. Hannibal had kept a close eye on her, concerned about the dramatic and stark change in her personality. Later that night Hannibal stepped out onto the balcony of his suite with a cigar and lighter in hand. Just as he put the flame to the tip of his cigar Hannibal spotted Briana in the gardens. Deciding to check up on her, Hannibal made his way through the castle and down to the garden.
Briana stood in the garden with her arms wrapped around herself as she stared at the roses. Without warning and moving with lighting fast speed, she spun around, gun in hand and fixed her visitor with an icy cold glare, greeting him with the muzzle of her gun.
“Whoa, easy kid, it’s just me,” Hannibal said, holding his hands up.
“Never sneak up on me, Colonel!” she warned, slowly lowering her weapon.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you,” he said.
“It’s dangerous to sneak up on me when I’m like this,” she said.
“Noted,” he said as he put the cigar between his teeth and began to light it.
“So tell me something Colonel, did you come here to check up on me?”
“Would you believe me if I told you I was just out for a stroll before bed?”
“Any other time I might.”
“Well then I won’t try to convince you that I came out here for a stroll.”
“To answer your question, I’m fine. I just needed to clear my head before I go to bed.”
“Well then, mind if I join you?"
“If you want,” she shrugged. Briana returned her attention to the roses.
Hannibal puffed away on his cigar until Briana was ready to go back to her suite. He stamped the cigar out on the bottom of his shoe and turned to walk back to the castle with her.
That night Briana fell into a restless sleep, she tossed and turned, unable to relax and just fall asleep. Visions of what might happen on this mission plagued her dreams.
Early the next morning Murdock stood outside of Briana’s suite. He contemplated knocking on the door to wake her, but decided to let her sleep in. The rest of their stay would be more casual than the night before. The team wouldn’t be sharing any more meals with the royal family; instead they would have more relaxed meals in the kitchen. The men were in the kitchen formulating their plan for the day when Briana walked in.
“So, what’s the plan Hannibal?” Briana asked as she walked to the coffee pot.
“Good morning to you too,” Hannibal said.
“Sorry, programming,” she mumbled.
“We’re going to go into town and follow up on some leads that the guards have.”
Briana nodded as she listened while drinking her coffee. “General Stockwell is staying in town. I’ll secure more weapons and transportation.”
The team noticed her detachment to her family; they each made a mental note to keep a close eye on her, concerned about the changes in her personality. “I’ll help you Bree,” Murdock offered.
Briana merely nodded in response.
“Ok, Murdock you help Briana while the rest of us see what we can find out about the kidnappers. We’ll meet back here at….” Hannibal began, glancing at his watch. “2:00 that should give us plenty of time to take care of everything.”
As the men filed out of the kitchen Briana sat down in a recently abandoned chair across from Murdock. She surveyed the remaining food on the table; there was a bowl of fruit, a few small pieces of cheese on a platter and a pastry. Murdock watched as she scanned the table and said, “Ah can make you somethin’ to eat, if you want.”
She thought it over a moment before saying, “Yes, thank you.”
Murdock smiled and walked to the refrigerator, looking in to see what there was to eat or make. “Let’s see, there’s eggs, bacon… how ‘bout an omelet?”
Murdock grabbed a few ingredients before closing the refrigerator door. He set about making breakfast for his friend. Sensing that she would just sit silently for the rest of the day if she wanted, Murdock decided to start a conversation, hoping Briana would join him. “Ah’ve been thinkin’,” he began as he chopped some vegetables. “When this is over, maybe you an’ Ah could go out some time.”
“We already go out.”
“No, Ah meant on a date,” he said as he cooked the omelet.
Murdock was pleased to hear his friend wanted to go out on a date with him, even though she wasn’t her usual self. Deciding to wait to discuss date ideas until her reprogramming was back in place, Murdock changed the subject. “So what’s your dad gonna do while we’re on this mission?”
“General Stockwell is on vacation with Mrs. Stockwell.”
Murdock turned away from the stove and looked at his friend, “Did your dad remarry?”
“He remarried his ex-wife.”
“Oh, so your parents are back together. That’s good,” he said, smiling. “You must be happy about that.”
She didn’t sound happy but Murdock knew it was the programming. Or at least he hoped it was the programming. “Ah'd hate to bug your dad while he’s takin’ a vacation, though.”
“He is staying in case we need his help.”
When the food had finished cooking, Murdock plated it and carried the meal to the table. He placed the plate in front of Briana as he sat next to her. Murdock watched as she ate her food.
Feeling eyes on her, Briana swallowed and said, “It’s delicious, thank you.”
Murdock spent the rest of the meal trying to maintain a conversation with his friend. He found her detachment unsettling; he was starting to understand why Briana didn’t like to talk about her time with the CIA. Murdock made a mental note to ask General Stockwell about it when they were picking up their supplies.
Later when the breakfast dishes were cleaned and put away, the pair made their way to the hotel that General Stockwell was staying at with his wife. Knowing the area as well as she did, Briana drove, allowing Murdock the opportunity to take in the scenery, learning his way around town. Just as before, Briana didn’t speak unless spoken to. When they arrived at the hotel, Briana parked the car and the pair exited, making their way inside the building.
Murdock followed Briana like a lost puppy through the hotel. They made their way to the elevators and up to the fourth floor. Briana led the way down the hall to her parents’ suite. Murdock leaned against the wall as Briana knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” came the voice of her father.
“Briana,” was the clipped response.
Hunt opened the door dressed in white pajamas covered with a maroon robe, the belt cinched closed at his waist, smiling at his daughter. “Good morning Bree,” he said, stepping aside to allow her entrance.
“General,” she said, nodding as she walked past him, followed closely by Murdock.
Hunt’s smile faded at his daughter’s response. He immediately noticed the extreme change in her. “Your mother’s sleeping,” he said in a quiet voice. “So what can I do for you?”
“We came to get more weapons and transportation for the rescue.”
“Oh? You’ve found him already?”
“No, the team is following up on leads.”
“Understood. I’ll make some calls and have everything ready for you to pick up later. But first,” he said walking to her and placing a hand on her back. “Remember what I said before, call me ‘Dad’,” he murmured, rubbing her back in a soothing manner.
“Yes, General,” she whispered.
“Dad, sweetheart, not General.”
Briana closed her eyes and listened to the soothing sound of her father’s voice; letting his ministrations wash over her. She took a deep cleansing breath, relaxing ever so slightly. “Dad,” she murmured.
Hunt smiled and continued, “Good, now remember Murdock, Hannibal, Face, B.A. and Frankie are your friends.” At her nod, he placed a kiss on her forehead and stepped back.
“General, can Ah speak with you in private?” Murdock asked.
Hunt turned to face the Captain and nodded, motioning him to follow Hunt to the balcony. Murdock leaned against the railing of the balcony, staring back inside the suite, and at his friend. “Was she like that before?”
Hunt stood next to Murdock and glanced at his daughter a moment before responding. “Yes,” he said. “What exactly has she told you about her time with the CIA?”
”Not much. Ah mean she told me the CIA took her when she was fourteen an’ they used sensory deprivation to program her an’ the others. Her first partner was someone that could pass as a parent, who continued her trainin’ until she turned eighteen when she was partnered with Danny. She told me that Project Black Star’s failure was their programin’ because it made them ignore the pain until the danger passed. Their last mission was a suicide mission; they were tortured, Danny was killed an’ you rescued her an’ that you helped them get out an’ get them reprogrammed.”
Hunt nodded and said, “Believe it or not, Captain, you know quite a bit about her time with the CIA. Did she tell you she was raped during her last mission?”
“No, but I figured she was.”
Hunt walked to the chair and sat down before answering Murdock’s original question. “At first, yes, but it took time for me to break through her programming. Eventually Bree was more functioning when she was off-duty.”
“Then why is she like that now?”
“I don’t know. It could be because she’s lived in virtual isolation since then and that she hasn’t had any friends until recently.” Hunt glanced back into the suite and spotted his wife talking to their daughter. He stood from the chair and said, “I’ve done what I can to break through the programming, hopefully this mission won’t take long so she can return to normal soon.”
Murdock glanced into the room and nodded his understanding. He dug his hands deep into his pants pockets and followed the General back into the hotel room.
“Bree, I’ll call you when everything is ready,” Hunt said.
“Thank you,” she said.
Murdock watched his friend closely and could see a change in her, “Murdock, this is my mother,” she said, throwing her friend from his thoughts.
“H. M. Murdock,” he said extending his hand to the older woman.
She took his hand in hers and said, “It’s nice to meet you.”
“We need to go,” Briana said. Murdock nodded and followed her out the room.
As Briana navigated the streets of Aalborg, she decided to wander around town until their meeting with the rest of the team. The as a Black Star she hoped she would be able to lure the kidnappers out in the open. She parked the car along a side street and the pair strolled down the main street, browsing in the shops along the street.