Aleksandra leaned forward, aware of the envious eyes of a few female colleagues watching this exchange closely. "I'll bring the ingredients," she offered, the flicker of her gaze seeming a shy flirt to the observers but trying to share with him that the "ingredients" she proposed were not edible.
"Give me a few days to make the arrangements," he told her. Though anyone listening might think he was talking about making arrangements to use some private kitchen or other, what he was really telling her was that he needed a few days to make arrangements for her escape.
"I don't actually recall being asked, or giving you an answer, agent," she commented. She wasn't being difficult on purpose; she didn't know if he truly was going to help her, or if he was a double agent. If she gave any hint of her hope to escape, she might just as easily find herself in lock down, after all. Russian Intelligence was not known for making defection easy.
"You did say you'd bring the ingredients, Miss Biala," he pointed out. "But if you need a proper invitation, I will give you one." He reached for a napkin and scribbled something on it with a pen he had pulled out of a pocket. He then handed her back the napkin upon which he had scribbled an address and phone number - presumably his.
She took the napkin, glancing over it briefly before tucking it into her pocket. "I spend more time in the lab than I do out of it," she warned him, wondering how he was going to make a date seem like something feasible for her. "You may lose interest in pursuing this if it takes too long to settle."
"It's only dinner, Miss Biala," he reminded her, in case anyone was listening. "You have a point to prove, remember?" he said, smiling again as he got to his feet. His coffee break was just about over, and he couldn't risk raising suspicion.
She tilted her head back as he rose. "Then you will have to make sure that I do not forget you before then, Agent Ivanovich," she countered, giving him permission, at least, to interrupt her at work if he felt the need to. Her gaze flicked to the next table over - it had sprouted a trio of her female colleagues, itching to pounce the second he was gone to demand details of the conversation.
"Hopefully, I am not that forgettable, Miss Biala," he replied with a cheeky grin. As far as anyone else was concerned, he seemed to be merely flirting. Was it all part of the ruse or was he actually enjoying this?
"That remains to be seen." Her answer could almost have been a tease, the dimples showing in her cheeks as she smiled back at him. "Thank you."
"Thank you," he replied, with an emphasis on the "you". "We will see each other again soon," he said, picking up his coffee cup to take with him. "Good day, Miss Biala," he told her, turning to the group of women nearby who he was very aware had been eavesdropping. "Ladies," he said with a grin before turning to depart.
Aleksandra watched him go, though he had only made it a few steps before her colleagues descended on her, eager to discover if they really had just witnessed the gorgeous Maxim Ivanovich finally prove he was more than a marble statue of divine beauty by asking someone out on a date.
It was a few days before she heard from him again, and when she did, it was during an unexpected visit to her lab. To anyone else, he just seemed to be doing his rounds, but in truth, he was there for a very good reason. Security or not, he still had to get buzzed in, in case they were working on something that might be deemed dangerous.
Not dangerous, perhaps, but definitely secret. No one was allowed in without high security clearance, and little in the way of conversation was permitted while work was ongoing. Aleksandra had finally got used to the intermittent security checks that happened multiple times during each shift she worked, barely even glancing up when the buzzer went off. Her attention was focused through her glasses, on the innards of a complex piece of machinery she was attempting to fine-tune.
There were various security agents who made the rounds of the facility at various times during the day, and it hadn't been too difficult for him to arrange to visit the lab that morning. Talking to Aleksandra in private would likely prove the more difficult task. He buzzed himself in, doing his rounds as usual as he made his way through the lab.
The technician working with her noticed him first, murmuring to the engineer that her security boyfriend was on his way through the lab. Aleksandra glanced up from her work, a very faint flush on her cheeks more from fear of discovery than embarrasment.
"Miss Biala," the security agent said, making a beeline for her and looking dead serious. "A word, if I may," he said, practically ushering her away from her station and toward the closest unoccupied office. Whatever it was he wanted to speak with her about, it didn't look pleasant.
The labs were always hushed, but a fresh air of tension settled over the scientists and technicians as their most senior engineer was summoned by a senior security agent. Aleksandra's face turned pale, fear flashing in her eyes as she removed her glasses. "Of course, Agent Ivanovich." Handing the components to her assistant, she tucked her glasses into her lab coat pocket, falling into step behind the security agent. All the while with her mind screaming at her that she was going to be killed, that her attempt to defect had been uncovered, that he was a double-agent.
Agent Ivanovich opened the office door and waited for her to enter, all the while with a stern look on his face, before closing the door behind her and locking it. Once he was sure they were alone, he took a gadget of some sort from his pocket and tapped a few buttons to shut off surveillance, if only for a few minutes. "We don't have much time," he whispered. "I need proof you have the information."
By the time the door was locked, panic was gripping Aleksandra's mind. At five foot three, she stood no chance in any kind of melee with him - he was more than a foot taller than her, virtually a human giant in his own way. Then he was doing something with a gadget, and whispering to her, and confusion lit up her face. "How do I know I can trust you?" she blurted out, her own voice barely more than a whisper. "That you are not some double agent waiting for me to incriminate myself?"
"Do you want to get out of here?" he countered, openly annoyed that she was questioning him when he was there to help her. "If I was a double agent, I'd have reported you and taken you in already, before you had a chance to escape."
Shaking, she glanced toward the locked door. "People have been disappearing, you cannot blame me for being afraid," she countered, even her voice tremulous. "I have the information. Blueprints of Overmind, progress updates, projected completion date, application in the field. All of it."
"I need some kind of proof. What can you give me?" he pressed her further. This was not a requirement of his, but of someone higher up on the food chain, who wanted to make sure they were getting what they'd been promised. "Just give me a little something I can pass along to prove you have what you say you have."
"Uh ..." She forced her mind to slow, tearing her gaze from him as she sorted through what she knew off the top of her head. "Overmind is a project intended to provide the means of artificial telepathic links between agents in the field," she offered. She wasn't supposed to know that herself; the project was so secretive that no one working on it was supposed to know the purpose of it. But it's difficult to keep a well-trained engineer from putting the pieces together.
He knew he had frightened her and felt bad about it, but it couldn't be helped. He needed to keep a clear head and see this thing through or they'd both wind up dead or worse. He arched a brow at the tidbit of information she was giving him, quickly realizing the possibilities of such an achievement could be endless ... and dangerous. He nodded his head, hoping it would be enough to satisfy his own contact. "Be ready in two days. We'll go at night, after our date," he informed her in a hushed voice.