Katerina Markova surveyed the glittering ballroom before her.
It was full of the elite of British society, all drinking and dancing together in a perfectly contented bubble of happiness - they were wealthy and that’s all that mattered.
Standing there, in her blue silk ball gown, and diamond tiara, she couldn’t help but smile. She couldn’t believe she’d got that far. She couldn’t believe she’d managed to get to this point.
But the smile dropped from her face, when she noticed a particular boy in the crowd.
Broad shoulders. Crisp cologne. Deep laugh. Soft lips...
She pulled herself from the seductive pull of her memories and took a deep breath.
Then she adjusted her tiara, smiled sadly to herself, and brought out the tiny silver pistol concealed within her purse.
Taking a deep breath again, she brought it to position, and fired...
“Hello!” Her best friend’s voice crackled into life.
“Bloody Hell, I didn’t realise the E.A.Rs were active already!” Katerina winced, and turned them down.
“Yep - they’re basically communication devices anyway, so it makes sense.”
“True - where are you?”
“Ummm...” Sasha paused. Then, slightly embarrassed, she admitted: “I’m with Jared.”
Jared was Sasha’s boyfriend of two years, and they were inseparable.
Katerina rolled her eyes.
“I’ll be in the mall with Solomon then.” She answered, and turned the devices off. She took them and put them back into the velvet box they came out of, and put some emerald earrings in in their place.
Then she quickly looked over her dorm room, and left.
“Katerina!” Solomon called, as she pushed her way through the crowded main building.
Solomon was Katerina’s other best friend, and her partner on many missions in the uk and abroad. She trusted him with her life.
She studied him as she got closer.
Lean body, posing nonchalantly against the wall.
Blonde hair coiffed into a perfect quiff.
And sparkling brown eyes that were fixed on her as she got ever closer.
Some would say he was handsome. They were wrong. He was drop dead gorgeous.
“Hey,” she greeted him, and grinned as he enveloped her into a quick hug.
They stepped back, and he gestured to the huge wooden double doors in front of them.
“After you,” Katerina answered, and followed him into the echoing cavern beyond.
They made their way deeper into the mission wing of the academy.
The hallways were full of huge display cases containing equipment and outfits like James Bond’s suits. Hence the nickname: the mall. They walked until they came to a black door with single number - 7.
He pushed it open to reveal a large room with ovens and storage units around the edge, and a cluster of desks around the middle in front of a board.
They took their places opposite two other girls and waited for the class to begin.
“Right everyone!” Monsieur Avignon kicked the door open and strode into the room.
Everyone loved Mr Avignon, not least because of his extravagance and sense of fun.
“Today in Global Foods, we will be looking at wine, my darlings!”
There was a murmur throughout the class: a chance to get drunk legitimately? This couldn’t get better.
“We are going to look at the flavours and aromas of wine. Not only that, but the situations in which it can be used...”
The teacher’s voice faded into the background as Katerina began to daydream.
“....Katerina...” A distant voice sounded, drawing her reluctantly out of her reverie.
Monsieur Avignon was sitting next to her, with a slightly concerned look on his face.
“Sorry Monsieur,” she blushed, aware that she hadn’t been listening to a word he’d said for the last 5 minutes.
He looked at her closely for a few minutes, then leant back.
“Fine then. Please taste the wine and write any important things down - flavour etc.”
Then he moved away to talk to another table, and Katerina let her breath go.
“Wine, girls?” Solomon grinned and pulled 4 Crystal wine glasses towards him.
“Always,” giggled Alicia, the black haired girl sitting opposite Katerina.
“I’ll second that!” Katerina smiled - it was good to have friends.