Dec 29, 2012

The next level - 24 FanFic - PG17

This is one of my longer stories.
The events take place prior to season 3, but after the Salazar 'thing' and Jack has already beaten his addiction.

I've based the story on the concept of the movie "XXX - the next level" because I liked the idea and it works just as well within the 24 universe.

I've rated it PG17 because of the drug use and violence.

Enjoy the read!!

He sat, hands in his hair, skull pounding furiously.
His mind kept going around in endless circles.
He didn’t get it.
What the hell was going on?
Had they been targeted by some or other terrorist group?
Agents kept falling like flies.
It had all started a few weeks ago when Michelle had been killed in a car accident.
The car had exploded and her body incinerated.
It had looked like an accident, but Tony wouldn’t have been Tony, if he didn’t think it smelled fishy. The fact he had been dating Michelle for a while, only made him more determined to find out what had happened.
He had gotten himself killed three days later.
Under similar circumstances.
It bugged Jack and he had pushed the investigation to the top of the priority list.
Nothing had come from it.

A few days later, Gael Ortega had gone missing.

By then, Bill Buchanan had come over to supervise the investigation.
Division didn’t think it was a coincidence anymore and wanted one of their own there to oversee the proceedings. Bill had gone missing two days later. One morning, Chase didn’t come back from a stake-out. His vehicle was found, abandoned. Later that day, Chloe had gone off the radar. Impossible to locate her. Adam was at loss for theories and could hardly cope with everything unloading on his shoulders.
Two days ago, a call had warned him of Ryan Chappelle’s arrival, but the man had never made it.
The cops called it a freak accident.
They knew better.

Now, Jack was waiting for news on one of his colleagues, Mike Doyle. He was coming in from San Diego to help out.
He was already two hours late.
Jack paced the room for the umpteenth time that morning, feeling utterly useless.
He was – and it was rare for him to admit to that – frightened.
Not scared out of his wits, but shaken up and worried.

He had no idea what was going on around him.
Why everybody was being taken out.
Tony, Bill, Chase, Gael.
They were all field agents or former field agents with a lot of experience.
Michelle and Chloe were the data analysts.
Ryan on the other hand, had a sharp mind and could analyze a situation better than anyone. When it came to making decisions though, he needed his textbook. Never set a single foot outside the box. Not ever! Not a single one.

He was beginning to despair when he caught movement from the corner of his eye and when he looked up, he breathed a sigh of relief seeing Mike walk across the floor. He left his office and hurried down the stairs to meet him.
The six men Mike had brought along followed him into the situation room and he explained what he knew so far, which wasn’t much. With most of his team gone, field agents as well as analysts, Jack felt like he was drowning and he needed a hand to keep his head above water. About an hour after they had gotten there, Jack got another distressing call. Curtis had been killed in another freak car accident.
Jack couldn’t contain his reactions any longer and the waste bin was his first victim, taking a solid kick, which sent it flying across the room. It banged against the window and bounced back, toppling and coming to a rest close enough to Jack for him to kick the damn thing again and take out some of his frustrations.

“What the fuck is going on?” Jack snapped viciously.

He wasn’t expecting an answer, the men knew it and let him rage for a moment.
He left the room, almost smashing through the glass doors and the first thing that crossed his path was flung aside.
It was a chair and it hit a desk, knocking the keyboard to the ground and smashing into the screen. It didn’t resist the impact and went black instantly. The chair clanged back to the ground, but Jack was too far away to see the damage it had done. He didn’t care anyway.
Ten minutes later, Mike set out after him.
He finally located him near the technical room, hands against the wall, head hanging low.

“You okay, Jack?” Mike asked before making contact.
His hand came to a rest on Jack’s shoulder.

“How do you want me to be okay, Mike?” Jack asked softly, “Someone’s taking out every single person on my unit. How the hell do you expect me to be okay?”

“Take it easy, we’ll nail them.”

“How?” Jack snapped, “We haven’t got the faintest idea of who’s behind this.”

“That’s what I’m here for, Jack, to help you figure that out.”
Jack eyed him for a long moment.
Mike was much like him and they knew they could count on one another.
“I think what you need, is to take a break. Go home, get some rest, I’ll put a team outside your door so you can rest easy.”
Jack nodded.
He did need a break.
“I’ll go over what you have so far, maybe a fresh pair of eyes will see things differently.”
Jack knew sometimes all it took was a fresh pair of eyes.

They went back to his office and Jack grabbed his jacket, tossed a keycard to Mike.
They both knew what was on the card.
Just in case.
He left with a team in tow.
They followed him, staying close.
Nothing happened and Jack felt like a fool.
But still, he let one of the men go into his house first to check it out.
When the man came back to the front door, he gave him a thumbs up and Jack got out of his car, hurried to the door and slipped inside. He double checked the place and locked every door and window.
With his gun under the pillow, he stretched out on the bed, fully dressed.
If anything happened, he was ready to move.

But when it did happen, he didn’t get a chance to move.

He woke with a start, flames all around him.
There was an explosion, he didn’t know what, and something hit him in the head, knocking him out cold.
At least he wouldn’t feel it.

He woke with a moan.
Couldn’t help it.
Couldn’t stop it.

“It’s about time.” someone snarled behind him.

He tried to move.
Hands tied behind his back.
Legs immobilized.
He registered everything one at a time as his brain slowly came out of the haze.
He rolled to his back, not wanting to leave it exposed to whoever was there.
He rolled over the edge of the bunk though and slammed into the hard floor.
It knocked the wind out of him and he winced, heard the laughter it brought forth and clenched his teeth.
The kick to the gut left him gasping for air.

“Get him back up there.”

Jack felt hands on his arms, pulling him off the floor.
They dropped him back on the bunk and stepped away.
Jack heard footsteps as someone approached and he tensed up, trying to brace for impact.
His chest was wide open due to the fact his arms were tied behind his back and he was blind, couldn’t see it coming, couldn’t anticipate the impact. He hated being so helpless.
The punch whipped his head to the side.
He didn’t move his head back, it was only an invitation to hit him again.

“I thought you’d never wake up,” an angry snarl sounded close-by, “thought you’d cheat me out of a chance to kick your fucking ass around for a while.”

Whoever was there drove his elbow into his stomach, making him wince in pain and double over, rolling away from the attack. The move was answered by another elbow, colliding with the top of his spine this time. He rolled back grunting, realizing he couldn’t leave his back open to the man and took another elbow to the gut. As he doubled over, rolling the other way now, the man’s elbow smashed into his face, knocking him down on the hard bunk again. He felt his lips give under the impact of the sharp bone and seconds later, he tasted blood in his mouth. Apparently that was what the man was aiming for, because there was no further attack.

“Don’t let him get too comfortable.” he said, after what he left the small cell.

A hand clasped over his throat, holding him down. Jack felt hands on his legs too and realized the hand on his throat was to keep him contained. He couldn’t move but didn’t try to fight either. Not until he could see what was going on around him. Not until he could see how many opponents he was facing. He couldn’t and wouldn’t go into a fight blind. Literally blind this time.
They untied his legs and pulled him off the bunk, dragging him away from it.
Two men holding his arms.
A third one coming up behind him.
Maybe another one in front of him, Jack couldn’t tell for sure.
The two men held him down while the third one tied a rope around his wrists, binding them even more.
Moments later, his arms were pulled up.
High up.
His upper body was forced down and his arms were pulled up as high as they could go without dislocating both his shoulders. They held him while the third man tied off the rope. Around his wrists again. He was holding himself up so to speak.
It wasn’t going to get comfortable for him anytime soon if they left him tied up like this. The strain on his shoulders was extreme. One of them patted him on the head and they left, locking the door behind themselves.

Jack let out his breath, he had been expecting a blow.
He let his head hang and tried to relax as much as possible to take some of the strain off his shoulders. He couldn’t even put his feet wider apart for better balance, he’d be bringing his body down even more, he had to keep it as high as possible.

“Are you okay, Jack?”

Jack’s head shot up.
He cursed the blindfold because it kept him from confirming what he thought he heard.
“Bill? Is that you?”

“Yeah,” Bill sighed, “everybody else is here, too.”

“What do you mean?” Jack asked, confused by Bill’s words.

“I mean everybody else, Jack,” Bill said quietly, “Chase, Michelle, Chloe, Tony, Ry-”

“Tony?” Jack called loudly, interrupting Bill.

“I’m here, Jack.” Tony replied.
He was close-by.
“They got all of us.”

“Who’s ‘they’?”

“No idea.”

“Is everybody alright?”

“Yeah.” Tony sighed.

“You’re the only one they’ve roughed up so far, Jack.” Bill said almost apologetically.
“Curtis took a slug to the leg when he tried to break free, but other than that, they haven’t hurt anybody.”

“Good.” Jack sighed, “Curtis, how bad is it?”

“It’s just a scratch, Jack.” Curtis called back, “Sons of bitches knocked me out cold before I could move.”

“Talk to me,” Jack said to no one in particular, “what am I looking at here?”

“We’re all in separate cells,” Bill replied, “there’s always three or more and they never open more than one cell at a time.”


“I suppose so.”

“Video or audio?”

“I’m thinking video only. We’ve said some pretty colorful things and never got a reaction to any of it.”

“Does anybody know where we might be?”

“No idea. Could be anywhere.”

“Yeah.” Jack sighed, trying to readjust his position.
His hands were starting to go numb.
He cursed softly.

“You okay, Jack?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Jack replied, giving his standard reply.
He was always fine.
Until he collapsed.
He always kept going.
Until he collapsed.
He never stopped.
Until he collapsed.
He wasn’t ready to collapse just yet.
A bloody mouth and numb hands weren’t enough to put him on his knees.
A few hits to the gut either.
He could take a little more.
He could take a lot more.
“Bring it on.” he whispered softly.
Whoever had taken them, had made him believe Tony was dead.
Made him believe his best friend had been killed.
He hadn’t even had time to mourn him yet.
He had been too busy worrying about the other agents.
Now, he wouldn’t have to mourn him.
Not if he could help it.

But what the hell were they planning?
Why had they snatched up so many agents?
Were they being targeted for some reason?
Had they stopped one terrorist too many?
Or the wrong one?
Had that ticked off the wrong group?
Were they going to pay for that now?

He had already been through this entire thing when the Drazen family came after him.
That had been a mess.
And a massacre.

Or were they targeted because of him?
Was he the reason his agents had been picked up?

They hadn’t roughed the others up.
Only him.
And the man had clearly stated he wanted to kick him around for a while.
Only him.
The others hadn’t been hurt.
Only him.


First he had gotten his wife killed over his job and now he was getting a whole batch of his co-workers in trouble.
Admitted, they did the same job, but still, he ran the joint.
He was the Special Agent in Charge.
He wasn’t considering Erin Driscoll as being in charge of anything, she was hardly in charge of her own kid.
So everything that happened, happened under his authority mainly.
He would have to do whatever it took to keep his people safe.

He had no idea how long it had been when the men returned for some more fun.
He could only hope they would cut him down and let the blood return to his hands.
He wasn’t ready for it though.
When the knife sliced through the rope, his arms dropped so quickly he couldn’t keep his balance and he fell.
Straight into a kick.
The power of it lifted him off his feet and he crashed down hard, slamming his knees into the floor and doubling over, his head on the floor as well, gasping and wheezing for air after the vicious kick to the chest. They left him for a long moment, until he caught his breath more or less, then pulled him to his knees. Chest heaving, heart racing, Jack sagged and sat on his heels. The dull throbbing in his shoulders told him he wouldn’t be moving his arms anytime soon. The furious throbbing in his chest told him he’d be having trouble breathing for a while.

“So, Jacky boy,” the same voice as before said, “looks like you’re slackin’, buddy.”

“What do you want from me?” Jack asked.
It earned him another kick.
He doubled over once more, gasping.
The sonofabitch was putting his heart into it.

“What I want? That’s very simple.” the man replied once his men had pulled Jack up again.
“I want your head on a silver platter.”
Suddenly a razor sharp knife pressed against Jack’s throat and he held his breath.
“But not just yet.” the man continued after long seconds.
“For now, I just wanna kick your fuckin’ ass around.”

He meant it very literally.
Jack took another kick, sideways this time and he slammed into the wall. Thankfully shoulder first and not head first.
Then again.
Head first would’ve been good if it had knocked him out.
They didn’t do him that favor though.
After a round of kicks, mainly to the gut and chest, they pulled him back to his feet, holding his swaying body in a tight grip. The knife returned to his throat, forcing him to pay attention despite the fact all he wanted to do was lie down and rest for a while.

“Don’t move a muscle.”
Another knife slipped between his arms and quickly cut the rope away, finally freeing his arms. They tossed him back on the bunk and the knife returned to his throat.
“Take it off and I’ll come back to ram it up your ass.” the man warned him, “Do you understand?”

“Yes.” Jack replied under his breath.
His chest was on fire and he was on the verge of passing out.

“Good boy.” the man said, patting him on the head.
The knife moved away and they left, banging the steel door shut.

The moment they left, Jack rolled, curling up instead of staying flat on his belly. Curling up limited the pain in his gut a little. Not much, just enough to keep from passing out.


“I’m fine.” Jack replied on a gust of air rushing out of his lungs.

They all knew he wasn’t.
He would be fine though, a few bruises couldn’t hold him down.
When he had his breathing under control again, he allowed himself a few minutes to rest.
Now was the time to test the first theory.
He pulled the blindfold off, rolled onto his back, then pushed up into a sitting position and slowly took in his new surroundings. Bill was in the cell opposite his, Michelle in the one next to him. Chase was the last one he could see. The others were out of sight from where he was sitting and he didn’t feel steady enough to get up just yet.
He didn’t get a chance to see more either.
Minutes later, three men stormed in and Jack pushed up in anticipation of the attack.
The first one rushed him, slamming into him full force and ramming him into the wall a few steps behind, knocking the wind out of him once again. Jack’s elbow to the back of the neck didn’t have much effect and he took one to the face just for trying it.

A fourth man walked into the cell and Jack stopped struggling when he saw him. It enabled the three to get a good grip on him and they pulled him away from the wall, twisted his arms behind his back and forced him to his knees.

“Surprised to see me, Jack?” the man asked.
“You probably thought you’d never see me again, didn’t you?”
“I guess you were wrong.”
He picked up the blindfold Jack had dropped in the struggle.
“Didn’t I tell you not to take this off?”

“Screw you, Carl.” Jack snapped.
The men tightened their grip on him.

“Get him back on the bunk.”

They pulled him to his feet roughly and literally threw him onto the bunk. He rolled and managed to get his arm in front of him to keep from colliding with the wall again. Carl pulled on his shoulder and he rolled to his back, rolling straight into Carl’s fist. It whipped his head to the side again and before he could react, Carl put pressure on his jaw, keeping his face turned away. Jack felt a sting in his neck and the familiar feeling of a foreign liquid being injected into his body. The syringe left and Carl let go of his face again. He turned and started to walk away, but Jack wasn’t about to lie down and take it. He shifted on the bunk and kicked.
His kick landed just above the waist and Carl went down with a squeal, not having seen or anticipated the attack. But as Jack started to push up to launch at Carl, the others moved in on him. A hard punch knocked him down and off the bunk once more. They pinned him and contained him but they didn’t have to contain him for long. The drug Carl had injected kicked in and he went limp in their hands. They tossed him back on the bunk and left.
Much to Bill’s delight, Carl limped out of the cell and to the door.
It meant Jack had kicked hard enough.
He would probably pay for it, but the sonofabitch wasn’t going to get away without a few bruises of his own.
For now, Jack got the rest he needed, the drug made sure of that.

He woke up moaning.
His head pounded and his mouth was dry.
Two signs the drug had been a strong one.
He rolled over, shifting midway to keep from tumbling off the bunk again and noticed the cells were all dark. The only light came from a single bulb sitting in a protective casing in the middle of the room along which the cell were lined up. Jack slowly pushed into a sitting position and waited for the spin to slow, then he pushed up to his feet. He grabbed the bars on the cell door to keep his balance and came up to the door to have a look around. He had no idea how long he had been out, but he figured it had to be pretty long, everybody else was sleeping.
He counted five cells on each side. All but one were occupied by CTU personnel that he knew of. He had no idea if the last cell was occupied or not.

But what the hell was Carl Higgins doing here?
How long had it been?
Ten years?
He turned back to the bunk and sat down again, his head was spinning.
He had been working for CTU for just over five years now.
It could be as much as 12 years since he’d last seen Higgins.
But if Higgins was behind this, they were definitely in this mess because of him.
Because of what had happened over a decade ago now.

They had been on a covert mission, two teams, Higgins leading one, Jack the other.
They had gotten specific instructions, but Higgins disregarded their orders.
Things got pretty hairy and Jack lost almost his entire team to Higgins’ stupidity, getting out of it with half his leg torn to pieces by shrapnel. Three men on Higgins’ team were killed and a fourth one injured pretty badly, and when Higgins shot him to keep from losing time, Jack had made up his mind about how he would proceed. After they returned from the mission, he filed an official complaint, backed up by only one of his own men, but the commanding officer took their complaint seriously and after investigation, Higgins had been kicked out of Special Forces. Conduct unbecoming. Disgraced, he had disappeared from view and Jack had lost sight of him after a while.
Now Higgins was back and from the looks and sound of it, he was about to get payback.

Minutes went by, but then Jack heard the sound of footsteps on the metal flooring.
Carl appeared at his door, a beaker in hand.
He set it down on the floor just inside the cell and pushed up.

“Take that and drink it.” he ordered dryly.

“Fuck you.” Jack replied just as dryly.

“It’s your call, Bauer,” Carl hissed, “but if you don’t drink it, I’ll open up one of these cells and have myself a piece of one of your bitches. Male or female, I don’t care, but I’ll make them howl, that’s for sure.”
He left a short blank.
“Get your ass off that bunk, Bauer.”

It all boiled down to that again.
If he didn’t comply, others would get hurt.
He knew Higgins would make good on his promise.
If he didn’t finish whatever the beaker held, Higgins would rape someone. And it really didn’t matter if that someone was male or female, Higgins made no difference when he inflicted pain. He slid off the bunk and went over to the door but he stayed beyond Higgins’ reach for the time being.

“Take it.” Higgins ordered dryly.

Jack stooped down and picked up the beaker.
The turbid liquid it contained probably meant trouble waiting around the bend, but Jack knew he had no other choice.
For a  moment he considered splashing it in Higgins’ face, but he knew he would be made to regret that move. In the first place through immediate and vicious retaliation against him, but in the second place, through retaliation against his co-workers. He wasn’t going to let that happen. He stood up again and met Higgins’ eyes.

“If you touch any of my people, I will rip your head off and shit down your throat.” Jack snarled.

“Said the monkey from inside his cage.” Higgins replied sarcastically.
“Bottoms up, Bauer.”

Jack held his eyes and drank.
Realizing what he was drinking, Jack’s eyes narrowed, his gaze hardened.
He knew he was in for one hell of a ride.
Higgins saw Jack’s reaction to the taste they both knew well.
It surprised him when Jack didn’t flinch.
He drained the beaker, keeping his eyes locked on the other man, then handed it back to Higgins when he held his hand out for it.
It didn’t take long for it to kick in but Jack was determined not to give Higgins too much satisfaction.
He wanted a piece of his ass?
He would have to work for it.
And a little harder than giving him this crap to drink.

He held Carl’s gaze without flinching for long minutes, fighting the pain boiling up from his stomach. It spread steadily in hot waves of burning pain, but Jack refused to acknowledge it. Simply refused to let the pain filter into his brain. If he did, he would lose the battle, for now, he was holding on. Carl was surprised to see Jack holding strong so long without even flinching. But slowly the pain intensified and it slipped through Jack’s defenses, creeping into his brain. He clenched his teeth and tensed his muscles in his fight, but he knew he would lose it, no matter how hard he tried. He held his breath, trying to lock down his gut, but it wouldn’t be silenced and when the air rushed out of him, it carried a first sign of defeat. Still he held Carl’s gaze, staring him down as long as he possibly could with the burning inside.
A twitch in his face.
Another low grunt.
Fists tightly clenched.
Breathing more shallowly.
Eyes still locked on Carl’s.
Wavering as another flash of pain shot up from his stomach.
Focused once more.
Holding on.
Not giving Carl what he had come for.
Not yet anyway.

The pain intensified gradually and a sudden cramp made him stagger, clasp his arm across his body.
Still his eyes were locked on Carl’s.
You want it? Come get it!
More pain yet.
He gasped suddenly, squeezed his eyes shut and tightened both his arms around his body.
It wouldn’t pass.
Not anymore.
But still he fought it.
Forced his eyes open again, zooming in on Carl’s.
He saw the surprise.
Carl couldn’t believe his eyes.
Couldn’t believe he was still standing.
He should’ve been down already.
Instead he was still standing.
Holding his ground.

Not much longer though.
He gasped more violently.
Staggered again.
His hand found the wall to steady himself.
Jaws clenched and one arm clutched around his aching gut, he leaned against the wall, turned, resting his back against it.
Another cramp.
He nearly doubled over this time.
Eyes squeezed shut, he aired his agony through low grunts.
Not what Carl was expecting.
Definitely not what Carl had come looking for.
You won’t get it, you sonofabitch
More cramps.
More violently.
He slid down, back against the wall, arms clutched around him.
He was trying to squeeze the pain out of his gut, but it just wouldn’t go away.

He was breathing shallowly now, accentuated with sudden gasps when another wave smashed into his brain.
Gritting his teeth, squeezing his eyes shut, hugging himself as tightly as he could, he could do nothing to stop the pain, stop the assault on his nervous system. Carl wasn’t going to stop it either. He would let him ride it out. Till the end.
Minutes went by and he found himself sweating profusely, panting and gasping, incapacitated.
He slid further down to the cold and hard floor, shivering in agony now, grunts carried on short gusts of air.
He heard Carl’s voice.
Couldn’t make out the words.
It didn’t matter anyway, he was probably mocking him.

But Carl wasn’t mocking him.
He was on the radio.
Talking to his men.
Two minutes later, three of them walked in.
They wasted no time and went straight into the cell, grabbed Jack and pulled him into a more or less sitting position. One of them held his head. Another one poured a liquid into his mouth. He swallowed instinctively. He could only hope it would ease the burning in his gut. The burning throughout him now. They let him drink more, then let go of him.
He slid back down to the floor, still hugging himself.
He gasped.
They hadn’t given him something to help.
They had given him something to make it even worse.

He suddenly retched and coughed up the liquid.
They stood back and watched.
Watched how his body reacted to the poison he had ingested.
He gagged again, coughing up more of the liquid.
His stomach was on fire now.
His breathing ragged and irregular.
His body rattled by spasms due to the pain.

Carl nodded and they grabbed him again, pulled him up, made him drink more.
He barely registered it, again swallowing in a reflex.
When they let go, the reactions came almost immediately and he threw up the liquid they had just poured into him. Moments later, he coughed up bile, a deep grimace on his face. He was in agony alright. Carl was getting the satisfaction he was looking for.
He heaved again, coughing up more bile.
It dribbled down his cheek, joined the puddle already there.
As if all of that wasn’t enough yet, Carl moved forward and kicked.
His boot slammed into Jack’s gut, driving his arms into his body.
He curled up tighter.
Drew his legs up higher.
Tried to protect himself.
But they grabbed him again and pulled him up a third time.
They had no trouble prying his jaws apart and pouring the liquid into his mouth.
They didn’t give him a choice, either he swallowed or he drowned in it.
Some of it went down the wrong way and he coughed it back out of his lungs, causing most of the liquid to spill on him, soaking his shirt but the bottle quickly disappeared to keep from spilling too much. They weren’t done yet. He had ingested enough for now though and retched almost instantly.

He heard voices again.
He couldn’t make out what they were saying.
They were shouting.
Too loud for him to make anything out of it.
He was coughing up blood now, his stomach pushed to its limit.
There were more shouts.
Angry ones.
He had no idea who was yelling at who.
He was beyond caring.
His entire universe existed of pain.
Blinding and deafening pain.
Incapacitating pain.

Slowly the pain subsided.
Very slowly.
He was curled up into a tight ball, arms clasped around his gut, legs pulled up high.
Sweat gushed down his brow, stuck to his neck and back.
Slowly, his universe became a little larger again.
Very slowly, he dared to relax.
A little at a time.
He was on the verge of passing out, needed to get his breathing under control.
Can’t fill your lungs like this
He carefully straightened his back.
Just a little.
Enough to let him draw a deeper breath.
Draw more oxygen into his lungs.
The grimace on his face faded somewhat.
It wasn’t as bad anymore.
He’d had the worst.
It was all downhill from here now.
Unless Carl and his goons were waiting for him to come off it.
Just waiting to force more of their crap down his throat.

A moan rippled up and he shivered uncontrollably.
The grimace faded more.
He dared tilt his head back, give himself more space to breathe.
Still nothing happened.
Either they were waiting for him to relax, or they were gone.
It was too soon to open his eyes.
If they were still there, they would grab him when he did.
It was too soon.

The voice barely filtered through.
are you alright?

He didn’t recognize the voice.
He refrained from responding.
Not until he was sure of who was calling out to him.
If it was Carl, responding would only mean they could carry on.

Bill, what’s going on?
A different voice now.
Can you see something?”

“No, Chloe, I can’t.”

“What did those bastards do to him?”

“Chloe, calm down,” yet another voice, “they must’ve given him something to induce vomiting, there’s nothing either one of us can do for him, just stay calm, a’right.”

“He’ll be alright in a while, Chloe.”

“What’s with those people anyway,” Chloe asked angrily, “they haven’t touched any of us and now, they’re going all crazy on Jack, doing all kinds of stuff to him. Can’t they just leave him alone.”

“I’m afraid they won’t, Chloe,” Bill said quietly, “we’ll have to ask Jack if he knows anything more.”

Jack still felt as if his head was going to blow off his shoulders and his gut might fall right out of his body if he tried to get up, but the fact they were talking could only mean Carl and his goons were gone. It meant he could relax for real. It was easier said than done, but at least now, he didn’t have a potential threat looming over him any more. The buzzing in his ears finally dropped enough for him to make out the voices as they were and not as if they sounded through a malfunctioning bullhorn. Chloe was still ranting about the fact these guys were pounding on him when they hadn’t touched any of the others. Bill, Tony and - much to his surprise - Ryan, were trying to reason with her and get her to calm down. He could picture her scowl and pout perfectly well and it made him chuckle, a smile breaking through on his face instead of the grimace. Chuckling also made his throat itch and he coughed, softly at first, but he couldn’t stop the itch and he coughed harder. So hard he nearly coughed his lungs out, gagged and threw up more bile, which in turn irritated his throat even more.

He wasn’t entirely sure, but he thought it was Tony calling out.

“I’m fine.” he managed weakly.

“Take it easy, Jack, slow your breathing.” Bill instructed as another wave of coughs shook Jack’s body.

He rolled onto his back, keeping his legs bent at the knees, leaning against the wall, one arm around his gut, the other fist at his mouth. It took some effort, but he managed to get back in control and stop the coughs. With the coughs, he stopped the additional rattling of his already shivering body. He realized he was drenched. The cold and wet floor wasn’t exactly the best place to be and he forced himself to move. Rolling to his side, he shifted his legs and pushed up slowly, bringing both arms up to support his upper body. The cell wasn’t big, but it was too big for him now. The corner was closer than the bunk and it was dry, so he worked his way over to it, curling up but seated, braced into it, both walls providing him not only with support, but also with cover. Arms clutched across his stomach, he tucked his head in, trying to stay warm. He didn’t know if there was a blanket or even sheets on his bunk, but he knew he wouldn’t get that far anyway, so it didn’t matter.
Shivers rattled him sporadically, but not too drastically and he knew he was almost at the end of it now.
He would ride out these last waves as well as he had the rest of it.
He leaned his head back against the wall, allowing himself to take the deepest breaths possible in this position. Mouth wide, eyes closed, he listened to the voices of his friends, debating what might be going on, why they were pounding on him while nobody else had been touched. Someone, Jack thought he recognized Ryan’s voice, aired his fear about the men turning the violence to all of them from this point on.

“They won’t.” Jack croaked.

“Won’t what, Jack?” Bill asked.
He was just opposite him and in the best position to hear Jack’s weak voice.

“Hurt you guys,” Jack sighed, “he wants me.”

“You know him?”
Jack nodded slowly.
“Where from?”

“Special Forces.”

It did the trick of shutting everybody up.
Nobody asked any questions.
They all waited for him to catch his breath and fill them in.
It took him a while, but he managed to tell them what they needed to know about Carl Higgins.

“Do you have any idea what he wants?” Bill asked when he was done.

“None.” Jack sighed.

If only he could get a read on what Higgins wanted, he might find an angle to get them out of here, or at least some of his personnel. But if Higgins had taken them for leverage against him, there wasn’t much he could do.
So far, all Higgins had said was that he was gonna kick him around, which was exactly what the sonofabitch was doing.

Eyes still closed, head leaning back into the corner of the small room, Jack felt the pull of sleep on his mind. He knew he needed to rest as much as possible before Higgins came back for the next round, so he pulled his knees up, crossing his ankles and wrapping his arms around his knees. He pried his eyes open for a short moment, seeking eye contact with Bill who was thankfully watching him.

“Warn me.”

Bill nodded, a look of concern on his face.
They both knew he could take a lot of abuse.
They also knew everybody had a breaking point.
Bill was worried Higgins was planning on pushing him over it.
He closed his eyes again and rested his forehead on his arms. He was as good as he could be, protected by the walls and the barrier his arms and legs formed. There was no easy way to land a quick punch or kick other than to the head. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about that. Within moments he was on the edge of sleep. When someone called out to him, he heard Bill hushing them and knew better than to struggle away from the advancing darkness. He let it sweep him up, offering no resistance at all and tumbled into a light but welcomed slumber.

He had no idea how much - or should that be ‘how little’? - time had passed since the darkness had swept him up, but Bill’s warning came much too soon. There was no way he could struggle back to full consciousness by the time they got to him. He barely had time to lift his head. Two pairs of hands grabbed him and pulled him up, holding on because he was too weak to stand on his own.
Carl was there.
Jack could see him through the retreating veil of sleep.

“Get him back on the bunk.”

Jack forced his eyes open when they started to move and found Carl’s.
“If you wanted me on the bunk, why didn’t you leave me on it in the first place?” he launched.

Carl replied with his fist.
It collided with Jack’s gut, sending a scorching shockwave through him.
The men let go of him and he fell to his knees, doubling over until his forehead touched the floor. Arms clutched around his gut, gasping for air, Jack almost passed out. A thin film of cold sweat covered his face and neck at the suddenness with which the shockwave hit his brain and he stayed down, absolutely incapable of moving. His gut was on fire all over again.
The hand on his shoulder was all but comforting.

“A little tender around the gut, Bauer?” Carl asked sarcastically.

He pushed up again and nodded to his men who grabbed Jack’s arms and pulled him back up.
Face contorted in pain, gut on fire, Jack didn’t fight them.
He was too busy agonizing to fight them.
He stood hunched over, in too much pain to straighten his back and Carl shoved him against the shoulder. Jack hit his knee on the edge of the bunk and crashed down on it, grunting upon the not-so-soft impact. He kept his arms clutched around his gut, breathing in short and shallow gasps but someone grabbed his left wrist and started pulling on his arm. For a moment, Jack resisted it, but an elbow to the chest changed his mind about that. Then again, they had no trouble yanking his arm out to the side as he doubled over, wheezing after another hard blow. They held his arm out to the side and let him relax after the blow, waiting for his breathing to level out a little.

The tug on his arm snapped him back to reality again and he turned his head, focused on Carl with some difficulty.
The bastard was holding up a syringe.

“Wanna know what I got here for you, Jack?” Carl asked with a grin.
The flash of panic in Jack’s eyes was enough to widen that grin.
“It’s Beroglide,” Carl stated, “I’m sure you’re familiar with what it does. Now I’ll make you familiar with what it feels like when it does that.”

At a nod, the men pinned him with a little more conviction and Carl quickly inserted the syringe into a vein.
Problem was, Jack knew all too well what it felt like when the Beroglide took effect. It felt like you were drowning, with only one difference, there was no water filling your lungs, just no oxygen either. It paralyzed the diaphragm, which impedes with the expansion of the chest cavity, which in turn keeps the lungs from filling up.
Once injected, the drug didn’t need long to have effect.
The second time around wasn’t any easier than the first time, it wasn’t something you could get used to. No oxygen meant no oxygen and there is simply no way in hell a human body can function without it, so no matter how often the drug was used, one could not get accustomed to its effect.
But Carl wasn’t a complete madman.
He was a calculated madman.
He knew what he was doing.
And he knew he wanted to make it last.
So he only injected a small amount of the drug into Jack’s bloodstream.
Just enough to cause discomfort and a slight raise in adrenaline.

He left Jack struggling for air for a few minutes, then reached for his arm again, syringe in hand.
Jack tried to jerk away, but the men jumped in and pinned him easily, holding his arm down for Carl to inject more of the drug. The adrenaline soared as his breathing became even less easy. He tried taking big gulps of air, but only got a little into his lungs. He had no idea how far Higgins was going to take this and a light panic crept into his mind, realizing the sick sonofabitch might push him all the way with this. He could draw it out, administer small amounts of the drug at regular interval, making it increasingly difficult to breathe until he finally couldn’t draw a breath anymore.
He knew there would be no mercy shot.
Not from Higgins.
Not for him anyway.

Minutes later, his fear was confirmed.
He tried harder to get away from them.
They retaliated in a more painful way.
He slammed back down on the bunk after a fierce punch, tasting blood in his mouth again and felt the syringe pierce his skin. He had absolutely nowhere to go with four men holding him down. His arm wouldn’t move an inch and as soon as he tried to move his body, they knocked him down again.

“Like a fish out of the water.” Carl joked.
It made his men laugh.
It made the others revolt again.
This time, Carl wouldn’t let his fun be cut short by their ruckus.
“Shut them up.” he snapped.
Two of the men left the cell, Jack wasn’t going anywhere anyway and they drew their weapons, firing without warning.
The guns cracked with deafening noise inside the small room, the noise bouncing off the walls.
Chloe screamed as two bullets whizzed by her head and Gael ducked into the corner to avoid getting hit.
Higgins was in the middle of the room.
Everybody could see him.
“Shut the fuck up or they’ll start taking aim.”
He went over to Bill’s cell and pointed his gun at his face.
“You seem to have the biggest mouth, Buchanan, you’ll be the first to go.”
Bill held his ground, hands on his hips, challenging but not defying.

Higgins holstered his weapon again and went back into Jack’s cell.
He was still gasping and Higgins checked his watch.
It would last another ten minutes before the effect started wearing off.
He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall, watching Jack, enjoying the sight of him struggling for air but hardly getting any. He wasn’t done yet.
Fifteen minutes later, Jack’s breathing was almost back to normal, chest heaving to draw more oxygen into his lungs now that he could again, but fully aware it wouldn’t last long. He could see Higgins from the corner of his eye. The sonofabitch was waiting for it to pass so he could come back for more.
For the next ninety minutes, Higgins toyed with Jack, injecting enough of the Beroglide to put him on the edge of a panic, struggling and desperate for air without pushing him too far. It was a pity, but he couldn’t kill Jack.

At least not yet.

After almost two hours, Higgins switched drugs.
He let Jack ease off the last shot of Beroglide, nodded to his men to hold him down even though they all knew he didn’t have the strength to fight them anymore, and injected something different.
Jack’s first reaction was one of panic because it was a much larger dosage as before and he was convinced Carl was giving him a lethal shot of Beroglide. Convinced the bastard would stand by and watch him suffocate.
That fear was quickly erased when he recognized the drug for what it was.
It was heroin!
It caused a different sort of panic.
The one he had felt at the first sight of the syringe.
Higgins leaned closer when he saw Jack’s reactions to the drug.

“Your file is a mighty interesting read, Jack … mighty interesting.”

He tapped Jack on the shoulder and signaled to his men.
They left the cell and locked up.

Jack felt the heat spread through his veins and rolled his head.
This couldn’t be happening.
Ramon and Hector Salazar had gotten him addicted to the crap while he worked undercover and it had taken him almost four months to kick the habit once he got back from it. If Higgins knew that about him, it meant he had access to top-secret and heavily secured files. If he had access to that information, he had access to everything and anything he wanted.
Including all of their schedules.
It had been a piece of cake for him to snatch them all up the way he had.
But why?
Why had he snatched all of them up?
It couldn’t be about payback.
Unless he wanted to use the others to force Jack into doing things.

Ahhhhh …”
The sudden cramp hit with tremendous force and he couldn’t have stopped from crying out if he had wanted to.

Three different voices.

Something’s wrong here’ his mind screamed.
His body was rattled by another spasm.
A violent one.
He cried out again.
Softer this time.
He didn’t want the others to worry.
He rolled away from them and curled up tight as another spasm tore through him.
Within moments, he was trembling all over, sweat pouring down his brow, chest heaving laboriously.
He lay moaning and shivering, the moans louder each time a spasm shot through his tired body.
He heard Bill’s voice.
He could barely make out the words over the rushing of his blood in his ears.
He was trying to get the others to calm down.
There was nothing they could do anyway.

He lost track of time.
Lost all notion of time or even space.
His universe once more reduced to constant and overwhelming pain.
His brain skidded to a halt at some point and he stared blankly at the wall in front of him, eyes wavering whenever the spasms were too much to handle, slipping in and out of focus.
When the pain finally subsided, he slipped entirely out of focus.
He needed to rest.
Needed a break.
Needed to let his body take a breather.

But Carl wasn’t going to let him.
As if it was timed, Carl and his goons walked into his cell minutes after Jack relaxed.
They grabbed him, rolled him over, held his shoulders so he couldn’t move.
Carl stooped down beside him, slapped him in the face a few times to get him to focus.

“How was the trip, Bauer?” Carl mocked.

“Fuck you.” Jack whispered.

They all laughed.
“Well, if you enjoyed that one, I’ve got another one right here.”
Jack didn’t get the time to pull his arm away, they were all over him and he felt the needle slip into his vein again.
“Happy trails.” Carl joked.
They let go of him and left the cell, locking up again.

“What the hell do you want from us anyway?” Bill snapped as Higgins left Jack’s cell.

“Absolutely nothing.” Higgins replied, meeting his eyes frankly, “That’s why I’m having a little fun with an old buddy.”

“You call that fun?”

“Of course,” Higgins chuckled, “don’t you? I’m sure Jacky-boy there has loads of fun torturing poor souls for information. Now I’m torturing his poor soul … only difference is, I’m doing it just for the heck of it.”
He laughed an evil laugh and walked away, leaving everybody but Jack fuming at his remark.

“Jack?” Bill called the moment Higgins shut the door behind him.
“Jack, can you hear me?”

“Yeah.” Jack moaned in response.

“What did he give you?”

“Bad trip.”

Bill knew what it meant.
So did just about everybody else in this room.
There were however a few people who didn’t know about it.
Ryan was one of them, Curtis and Gael the others.
Michelle knew only because Tony did.
Chase knew because he was Jack’s partner and had known about the Salazars pressing Jack from the first time they did.
Chloe knew because she had stumbled onto a nonchalantly discarded syringe in his office one day.
He knew because he had debriefed Jack about the mission.
The fact this Higgins guy knew meant just as much to Bill as it did to Jack.
High-level security breach.

Nothing happened for a moment, but when trouble hit, it hit big time.
Jack suddenly cried out.
Not in pain though, in panic.
He pushed away from the wall, teetering on the edge of the bunk.
He brought his arms up to cover his head as if to protect it.
Gasping he rolled, tumbling off the bunk but jumping up at once, eyes wide in panic, looking around in bewilderment.
He ducked, wrapped his arms around his head again to protect himself.

“Jack!” Bill yelled, hoping to snap him out of it.

He turned at the sound of the voice but his eyes didn’t see Bill, they saw something that scared the living daylight out of him and he scrambled to the back of the cell, holding one arm in front of him as if to keep a safe distance between himself and whatever he thought was coming at him.

“Jack, it’s Bill!” Bill tried again, “Snap out of it, Jack!”

He slammed into the back wall, knocking the wind out of himself this time.
He turned, bringing his left leg up, tucking his head in and wrapping both arms around him.
His breathing was ragged and his heart pounded furiously in his chest.
He couldn’t get away.
He tried to sink into the wall. Press through it somehow.
There were other voices.
More of them.

Ahhhhhhh … nooooooo … NO!

He swatted at the hands reaching for him.
They weren’t human hands.
Six digits.
Three phalanges ending in a sharp claw.
Fiery red eyes ablaze above a protruding snout filled with razor sharp teeth, two-inch fangs.

He ducked just in time to avoid the claws and he heard them scrape along the metal wall above his head. He lunged and scrambled for the far corner, kicking and flailing as he went, coming up too fast and slamming into the wall once more. The panic had him in a tight grip now, he couldn’t get away, he had cornered himself. The bunk blocked his escape on one side, one of those beasts kept him from going back the way he had come. It shrieked suddenly and Jack slapped his hands over his ears to block out the noise. Panting in panic, he tried to squeeze deeper into the corner, hoping to stay out of their claws.
There were more of them now.
Three or four, he couldn’t really tell.
He kept his head tucked in and his eyes averted, hoping not to enrage them any further.
Hoping maybe they’d forget about him and leave.
Maybe, if he made himself as small as he possibly could and stayed really still.
He pressed harder against the wall, cursing his body because it wouldn’t blend in with it.

He cried out in fear when it shrieked again, pressing tighter yet to the wall.
The high-pitched sound cut through his skull and straight into his heart, causing it to stutter violently.
He was gasping for air and struggling to stay in the corner
Out of sight.
Out of reach.
When it lashed out, he knew he had failed.
He tumbled forward as the claws ripped at his arm, tearing his skin from shoulder to elbow, leaving three long gashes.
He tumbled out of the relative safety of the corner and he felt another tug. This time, the claws tore the skin on his back and he screamed in horror and pain. They grabbed him, claws digging into his arms, leaving deep wounds, drawing more blood. The foul stench of their breath made him nauseous and he felt his stomach revolt.
They shook him.
Sniffed him extensively.
Shook him again.
He crashed to the floor when they let go of him.
He lay trembling in fear and pain, blood gushing from multiple wounds.
He roared when he felt six claws puncture his skin and pierce through his shoulder.
They stayed there, pinning him to the floor, writhing in agony.
He cried out again when they retracted.

Another lash caught the side of his head, ripping at his face, tearing his skin and slashing his eye.
Blood gushed out of the wounds and his own high-pitched cry bounced off the walls.
He had to get away from these things.
But he couldn’t move.
He couldn’t move his left arm anymore.
And he could hardly see a thing.
His vision clouded.
Another blow to the back tore the skin wider apart.
He had to protect himself somehow.
But he could hardly move.
He rolled onto his side with great effort, panting, wheezing.
Pulled his legs up.
Wrapped his arms around his head.

Whimpering and panicking he lay.
Blood pouring out of the wounds at high speed.
He was fading rapidly.
Blackness crept up on him.

They stood over him.
Fiery eyes ablaze.

He was burning up.
Every inch of his skin felt like it was on fire.

Still they waited.
What for?
Still they watched.
What for?

One of them approached.
Looming over him.

“Please …” Jack managed in a whisper, “… please … no …”
It stopped moving.
Didn’t touch him.
Didn’t hurt him.
Didn’t help him either.
“… please …” Jack whimpered once more.
It cocked its head.
“… please don’t … please …”
It lifted its arm.
“… no please …”
The claws came to a rest against the wall above his head.
“… please don’t …”
It lowered its head.
He could smell the foul stench again and gagged.
It drew its claws across the wall, the screeching sound cut through Jack’s skull and he yelped in fear, tightening his arms around his head.
No …
The claws left the wall, tapped his skull.
“… please don’t … god no … please … please don’t … please …”

He repeated it endlessly.

His whimpering pleas filled the air for a long time.
Nothing any of them tried worked.
They couldn’t snap him out of it.
Whatever it was, it had a firm grip on him.
If only they had been able to get to him, shake him, slap him in the face if they had to.
But they couldn’t.
They were locked up and so was he.
Alone in a cell.
Victim to some sort of hallucination.

When Higgins walked back in almost two hours later, he took a load of insults from the outraged CTU agents, but he ignored them all and went straight to Jack’s cell, finding him exactly the way he had expected.
A whimpering pool of dribble.
So much for being a tough bastard
He kicked him in the shoulder hard enough to get his attention. Jack looked up at him with bloodshot eyes. Eyes that had seen horrible images for almost two hours. Eyes dull with the horror of what had transpired before them. Eyes dull with pain and shock.

“Time for another run, Bauer.” Higgins snarled, stooping down.
“Don’t even think about fighting me.”
He grabbed Jack’s arm and yanked it away from his body, stretching and twisting it.
The needle slipped in without a problem and he emptied the syringe without hesitation.
“You fucked up my life, Bauer,” Higgins snarled as he pushed up, “now I’m fucking up yours.”
The vicious kick to the ribs only emphasized his words.

Jack slowly came out of the hallucination, realizing none of it had been real, even though his panic had been real enough. There were no wounds, no gushing blood, no pain other than the blazing fire in his gut. He struggled off the cold floor, barely making it to the foot of the bunk. He held on with his left arm, trying to pull his upper body off the floor, while his right trembled with the effort of pushing up and holding his weight. His breathing was still rapid and shallow, but now that the threat was gone, he finally got a grip on it again and slowed it down.
Bill was calling out to him, so were Tony and Chloe, trying to get through to him, trying desperately to get a response, get confirmation he still had his head attached to his shoulders. He couldn’t form words. His throat was sore and his mouth dry and all he managed was a raspy whisper nobody heard. Their continued calls gave him the strength he needed to clamber higher on the bunk, lifting his shaky body off the hard floor. He found Bill’s eyes and held them wearily, mouthing his eternal ‘I’m fine’ before sagging down again, wedged in the corner the wooden bunk made with the wall. The wood was warmer than the metal walls and Jack soaked it up. It wasn’t much, but it was something. A small improvement of his previous situation.

“Jack, what did he give you this time?” Bill asked, hoping he would stay with them.

“Same…” Jack managed in a barely audible whisper.

“What does he want with you?”

In response, Jack rolled his head, whispering a faint ‘dunno’.
“… needs me alive …” he added after a moment.

“He needs you alive?” Bill exclaimed.

“You’re kidding right, Jack?” Tony reacted at once, “If he needs you alive, why the hell is he doing this to you? Doesn’t make me think he needs you for anything at all except for some vicious payback.”

A low moan was his only response.
Gasping, Jack doubled over again.
Arms clutched around his body, legs kicking, he sagged to the floor once more.
This game wasn’t over yet.
Nobody knew whether they should be thankful the heroin wasn’t mixed in with a hallucinogen this time around. Bill kept pacing the small cell, cursing Higgins loudly, calling him just about everything he could think of. His fury quickly spread to the others and pretty quickly, all Jack could hear was a mixture of angry curses and loud banging. Chase and Tony had taken to trying to tear down the cell door even though they knew they couldn’t budge the steel bars.

“Will you fucking monkeys stop making such a goddamn ruckus!” Higgins shouted when he ran in minutes later.
He looked at Chase, pointed his finger at him.
“Get the fuck away from that door.”
Chase backed down.
He knew there was nothing they could do.
Not now.
“You too,” Higgins snapped, turning to Tony, “back away from the door.”

“Screw you, you fucking piece of shit!” Tony yelled.

“Tranq him.” Higgins snapped.

One of his men came up to the cell, raising a dart gun.
Much to everybody’s surprise, Tony didn’t back off.
The dart sank into his chest, but he swatted it away, keeping it from releasing all of the drug.

“Sonofabitch.” the goon cursed, reloading quickly.

But Tony was psyched up and faster than him.
He stooped down and picked up the dart.
The man yelped when it hit his arm but he raised the dart gun and fired another one at Tony.
He swatted the second dart out of his leg but staggered as the first dose was starting to take effect.
Michelle called out to him, fear and anger mixed in her voice and Higgins cursed again.

“Gag the bitch.” he ordered dryly.

One of the men came too close to Chase’s cell though and Chase pounced him, wrapping his arm securely around the man’s throat and choking the life out of him, using the bars for leverage. The goon tried to pry his hand loose, but it took an intervention from the other guy to get him to let go. It had still taken four hits with the butt of a gun to inflict enough pain for him to release the goon.
Higgins ripped his radio off his belt and called for more men.
Minutes later, six additional men ran in, heavily armed.

“Secure all of them.” Higgins ordered.
“Start with him,” he added, pointing to Chase, “and make sure he stays down.”

Chase backed away from the cell door, but when they opened it, he launched at them, knowing only one could come through the door at a time. His fist collided with the first man’s face, knocking him back and into the path of the others. He jumped the falling man, tackling the one who came up behind, going for the man’s sidearm. If he could get hold of a gun, he might make a difference. But the man wasn’t as easily surprised on this second attack and he countered Chase by dropping to the ground and rolling. Chase was thrown off him and rolled, slamming into the cell Gael was in. Three of them were all over him in seconds and he took a vicious round of kicks. But Gael wasn’t having any of it and when one of the men came within reach, he grabbed him much like Chase had the first one and put a double Nelson on the bastard, holding him back and keeping him away from Chase.
Curtis in the cell next to him pitched in as well, grabbing onto Chase’s wrist and pulling him out of his precarious position, which enabled him to get his feet back under him and stand his ground against the two.

Higgins couldn’t believe this was happening, they were locked into separate cells and still they made more trouble than they were worth. He did the only thing he could think of, went into Jack’s cell and dragged him out into full view.
Enough!” he bellowed.
Everybody stopped fighting for a moment to look up.
“Stand down or he dies.” Higgins snarled, bringing his gun up to Jack’s head.

He was barely aware of what was going on around him, the pain too intense to let anything else into his mind, but the threat to him was enough to calm everybody else down.
Chase had no other choice and the men quickly grabbed him and manhandled him back to his cell.
They tied his hands behind his back and proceeded to kick the living hell out of him after what they gagged him and left.
Gael was next, he took a quick but efficient beating just the same, after what they tied him up the same way and left, going into Curtis’ cell. He had been fighting too, despite the wound to the leg. They used it to their advantage, kicking it a few times to make sure he understood fighting would not be tolerated. He was tied up and gagged as well.
Tony was secured as well, making sure he couldn’t start up again after the drug wore off. Next on their list, was Michelle and even though they weren’t as rough with her as they had been with the men, they still put a few bruises on her. Chloe ducked away in the corner of the cell, covering her head with her arms and they simply grabbed her and tied her up like the others, but left her untouched. Ryan was outraged when they came into his cell to secure him as well but the men quickly realized he had little or no fighting spirit and was all talk and no action. He was tied up and gagged as easily as Chloe had been and they locked the cell again, leaving him fuming at the treatment he was getting.
They all gathered around Higgins who holstered his weapon now that order had finally been restored.

“Lock him up.” he said evenly.
They dragged Jack back into his cell and dropped him onto the bunk.
“You,” Higgins said, turning to Bill, “get your hands on your head and turn around.”
Bill eyed him, his hard and cold gaze locked on the other man’s eyes.
“I’ll give you to the count of three to obey my order, Buchanan, or one of them isn’t going to wake up.”
Bill’s eyes narrowed slightly, his gaze harder yet, but he knew he had no choice but to do as he was told.
He couldn’t and wouldn’t put any of these people at risk.
Very slowly, he raised his hands and locked them on his head.
When he had his back turned, two men went into the cell and secured him like they had everybody else.

With everyone contained and silenced, Higgins turned back to look at Jack who was still agonizing.
It would be a while before he came off it, so he ordered the men out and left.
This was becoming quite the endurance test and he was beginning to regret it.
His biggest problem was that he couldn’t kill Jack.
Not yet.
They had plans and if Jack was dead, it would ruin the plan.
If he ruined the plan for payback, his skin would be worthless.
Shaking his head, he returned to his quarters and dropped on his bunk for a short rest.
He needed it if he wanted to keep from pushing Jack too hard.

He watched the surveillance video for a while, watching Jack squirm on the bunk. Even on the small image on the black and white monitor, he could tell Jack was agonizing and it made him smile. The sonofabitch was paying for everything he had done. And he wasn’t at the end of his pain just yet. They had a few more hours of fun ahead of them. Then again, it would be fun for him, but he doubted it would be fun for Jack.
After about fifteen minutes, he turned his back and closed his eyes. He had to get some rest.
Little over two hours later, he got up from the bunk, checked the video and smiled again. Jack was still curled up tightly, arms wrapped around himself. He was still in pain. It would soon start to fade and he wanted to get there before it did, so he made a quick bathroom break, picked up the gear he needed and went back to the cells.

The only sound he heard were Jack’s low moans and it widened his smile even more.
The others were all staring at him, murderous glares in most of the eyes, but he ignored them and went straight in to see Jack. His men grabbed him and pulled him to his feet, but when they let go, he doubled over again and tumbled back to the floor. Higgins crouched down in front of him and reached for his chin, meaning to bring his head up, but Jack jerked away from his touch and crawled into the corner at the top of the bunk. But Higgins followed him and Jack couldn’t go anywhere else anymore. Higgins forced his head up, meeting Jack’s wavering eyes.
He was exhausted and still in pain.

“Hey, Jack, how’s the trip?” Higgins asked sarcastically.
He didn’t get a snappy remark this time.
“I got another one for you.” Higgins said.
He knew he had to use short and clear phrases if he wanted Jack to understand him at this point.
“See?” Higgins asked, showing him a syringe, “It’s right here.”
Despite the pain he was still in, Jack responded to the threat, trying to pull even further away.
“Do you want it?”
Jack tried his best to focus and he shook his head.
“You don’t?” Higgins asked, feigning surprise.
“Are you sure?”
The men behind him could barely contain their laughter.
“You know what? I’ll give you a choice. A very simple one.”
He waited, letting his words sink in.
“This here,” he showed the syringe again, “is the same as what you just got.”
He raised his other hand and showed another syringe.
“This here,” Higgins said, “is a clean shot.”
“You can choose which one you want.”
He left another blank.
“If you want this one,” he moved the ‘clean’ one back and forth, “all you have to do, is give me your arm.”
“If you don’t want it, I’ll give you the other one.”
Another short blank.
He could tell Jack understood what was going on.
“I’ll give you to the count of three to give me your arm.”
Another blank.
A short blank.
He wasn’t waiting long in between, but when he saw Jack’s arm move, he stopped counting and waited.

It took some effort to get his arm away from his body, he was still in pain and preferred to keep it clutched tightly around him, but if Carl gave him a clean shot, one that wasn’t mixed in with anything else, it would take the edge off the pain and make him feel better. Right now, he’d take a decent shot of heroin over just about anything else.
Carl was waiting for him, but when another flash of pain shot through him, Carl took his wrist before he could clutch it around his body and held it until the pain faded somewhat. When he pulled on it, Jack didn’t fight him. One of the others knelt down and tied off his arm while Carl tapped it to bring out the veins. The needle slipped into his skin without a problem and Carl quickly emptied it.

“You’ll be just fine in a while.” Carl said, removing the syringe.

He met Jack’s eyes again and Jack cringed under the amusement he saw in them.
Sank into the floor under the satisfied and superior grin on Carl’s face.
Carl added to it, by giving him a soft tap on the shoulder, as if to encourage him.
But the man was right.
Jack knew it.
Even through the pain and the fatigue.
He knew it.
Knew the drug would take it all away.
Wipe everything off his mind and take the sting out of it all.
Right now, being numb to the pain would be total bliss.
He needed a break.
The drug would give him that.
How long that break would last, would depend on the quality of the drug and the amount he got.

Moments later, he felt the numbness spread and he sagged a little, finally relaxing after hours of agony.
His eyes glazed over and Carl tapped his shoulder again.

“There you go,” he said, his amusement even bigger now, “let’s get you off that cold floor.”

They helped him back onto the bunk and he stretched out slowly, feeling the drug take over even more.
Carl had given him excellent stuff and it was taking the pain away.
They stayed a little longer, watching him as the drug took over and swept him up.
Jack let it.
He knew better than to try to fight it.
He had tried that at first.
When Ramon had convinced him to join them that first time.
He had tried to fight the drug.
Tried to fight its effect.
Tried to fight to stay in control.
Ramon had merely smiled at him, noticing his battle even though he tried to hide it.
You couldn’t hide things like that from men like Ramon Salazar.
Thankfully he had already told Ramon he wasn’t using heroin himself and the man made no problem about it.
Unfortunately, the drug had taken away a little too much of his pain, and Jack had found himself using more and more, even when the Salazars weren’t around, and even after he had come back from that assignment.

Now he knew much better than to fight it.
There was no use fighting it.
It got the better of you in the end anyway.
Might as well let it get the upper hand right away.
It gave you a better handle on it.

When Carl and his goons left, Jack closed his eyes and rolled his head to the side, letting out a deep sigh of relief now that the hours of pain had finally come to an end. He could only hope the man was done messing with him. At least for now.
He rolled to his side and pulled his legs up, moving into a fetal position.
Carl had really given him excellent stuff.
Better than most of what he’d shot into his veins himself before entering rehab.
Rehab had been hell, but he had gotten through it without losing too much of himself and he had gone back to work, concentrating on that to get his mind off everything else.
Depending on what Carl was planning, he might have to go through that again.
He couldn’t really care about that right now.
All he cared about, was how good the dope made him feel and he took deep breaths, filling his lungs with oxygen now that it didn’t hurt anymore.

He lost track of time and wasn’t aware of anything going on around him.
Everything was quiet, peaceful.
He forgot where he was until the high started to fade.
He came out of the haze to find himself on a bunk in a small cell.
Why couldn’t that have been a bad dream?
But he wasn’t that lucky.
He turned at the sound of the lock and quickly backed up against the wall at the sight of the three men coming in.
If anything, they wouldn’t be able to hit him in the back.
But they weren’t going to hit him.

Carl sat down on the edge of the bunk, acting as if he was visiting an old friend in hospital or something and he produced two syringes again, holding one in each hand.

“Same deal as before, Jack,” he said calmly, “you want the clean shot, you give me your arm.”
“I’m not even gonna make you ask for it, let alone try to get you to beg for it. All you have to do is give me your arm and I’ll give it to you.”

This time, he didn’t need to count.
Jack stretched his arm out without hesitating.
Seconds later, the drug mixed in with his blood.
As soon as it started to spread, Jack moaned softly, eyes glazing over again.
The familiar warmth spread throughout his body and Jack licked his lips. He was breathing deeply, heart pounding and working hard to spread the drug as quickly as possible.
A few minutes into it, Carl reached for him and helped him sit up a little, bringing a bottle to his lips. Jack was beyond caring what was in it, he was parched and drank eagerly when the liquid ran into his mouth. It had no taste and he presumed it was simply water. He would know soon enough.
After he had finished the small bottle, the men left and he curled up, letting the drug take him to a better place once more.
As before, the drug took him to be with Teri again.
It always did.
That’s why he’d had a hard time quitting it.
He liked to be with her.
He loved every moment he could spend with her and couldn’t wait to join her.

When the high faded, so did she.
He felt tears build when she left him.
He didn’t like it when she left.
Didn’t like it at all.
He didn’t like to return to reality.
A reality without her.
A reality without her love and support.
Without her beauty and understanding.

This time, he returned to a different reality.
A reality where he was captive.
Locked up in a cell and in danger.
And not just him.
Seven others along with him.
Seven of his co-workers.
People who counted on him.
People he couldn’t let down.

When Carl came back, he knew what to do.
He pushed into a sitting position and backed up into the corner.
It surprised Carl slightly, but when he sat down on the bunk like before, he saw Jack’s bloodshot eyes and the emotional pain in them. He held out his hand and Jack stretched his arm out, letting Carl prepare him for a next shot.
His eyes were drawn to the needle as it approached his arm and he licked his lips, anticipating the peace it would bring him.
Carl slipped it in slowly and once it connected with the vein, he raised his head to keep an eye on Jack as he gave him the shot. This was going better than he could’ve hoped for. Jack was completely out of touch with everything and he wanted the drug. Needed it. He could tell just by the look on his face.
He emptied the content slowly, drawing it out, but Jack’s eyes never left the syringe.
He licked his lips a few more times and Carl felt his smile widen.
It wouldn’t take much more.
He figured he could stick around for one more. By then, Jack would be completely out of this world and his men would have no more trouble with him. They would be able to handle him from that point on until it was time to load them all up. He was certain a threat to Jack would keep the others in line and he wouldn’t have to worry about it once he left. He’d be able to concentrate on the final preparations for the strike.

The moment he let go of Jack’s arm, he pulled it close to his body, cradling it in the other. It didn’t take long before he sagged slightly, letting his head rest against the wall, a smile playing on his face. It made Carl even more confident about the control he had on him. With the amount of drugs they were shooting into him, he’d be dependent on it in no time and a mere promise of another shot would be enough to keep him subdued. He put the syringe down and picked up the bottle of water, unscrewed the cap and offered it to Jack who drank greedily. He needed the water. Not only because it was cool and soothed his parched throat, but also because he had been sweating like a horse and needed to get his liquids back up. He emptied the bottle in no time and when he was done, Carl pushed up and signaled to the others to leave. He turned back to Jack, leaned close and put his hand on his shoulder, leaning down even more and bringing his mouth right next to Jack’s ear.

“Remind me to thank Ramon Salazar will you.” he said softly.

He tapped Jack on the shoulder and left, locking up again.
No matter how much control he thought he had, he wasn’t going to risk leaving that cell unlocked.
He knew Jack and he knew he was a lethal weapon on legs. If he got out and someone triggered a wrong reaction, he could get completely out of hand. He couldn’t afford to have to kill him to contain the danger.
It was a pity, but for now, he had to lock up his desire to kill him.
Soon though.
Very soon.
A few more hours.

Minutes after they had left, Jack pushed up slowly, keeping his footing unsteady and his movements slow and inaccurate for the benefit of whoever was watching. He was, however, in full control of himself.
That was something he would have to thank Ramon for.
Twice Jack had been confronted with things he had done while on a high.
Twice too often.
It hadn’t taken him long to learn how to stay in control, Ramon hadn’t given him much choice. And once Ramon understood Jack wouldn’t be tricked again, he had given up on trying to trick him.
Now, Jack used the knowledge of the drug to keep its effects contained.

He made his wobbly way to the door and leaned heavily against it, letting his eyes take in what he could see.
Bill was on his bunk, arms behind his back, gagged.
He couldn’t see Michelle, but he knew she was in the cell next door to Bill so he called out to her.
She got up and he saw she was tied up the same way as Bill.
Bill was on his feet also, having heard Jack call out to Michelle.

“Are you guys okay?” Jack asked quietly.
Both of them nodded.
“Is everybody tied up?”
They nodded again.
“What happened?” Jack asked, locking his gaze on Bill’s.
The look on Bill’s face said enough.
“You pissed him off.” Jack chuckled.
Bill’s look turned to worry.
“I’m fine.” Jack said, “I can handle it.”
The question was obvious in Bill’s eyes.
“I’m fine, Bill, don’t worry.”

He didn’t look fine.
Didn’t look fine at all.
He looked ghostly.
His eyes were dull and lifeless.
He couldn’t be fine after everything that bastard had put him through.
But Jack wouldn’t be Jack if he didn’t gut his way through just about everything.

He sagged to the floor again, hugging himself for the benefit of the surveillance.
“Don’t worry, I’m fine.” he whispered, hoping to set them at ease.
Higgins had to be convinced of one thing, the others of the opposite and all in the same set-up.
It wasn’t easy.
Thankfully, most of them couldn’t see him, and since everybody was gagged, the ones who could see him, couldn’t say anything to upset the others. It made the part to play less complicated.
After a while, he struggled back to his feet, using the bars on the door to pull up and he made it back to the bunk, dropping on it and curling up, his back to the door. It was warmer on the bunk than on the floor.

Higgins came back a few hours later, again sporting the syringe filled with heroin.
Everything happened as before, Higgins gave him the shot, then let him drink. The two goons stood back, relaxed and confident their presence was hardly needed. When he was done, Higgins got Jack’s attention.

“I’m not gonna be here for your next fix, Jack,” he started quietly, speaking slowly, “but I’ll leave everything you need with them,” he pointed to the goons, “they’ll give you what you need.”
Jack nodded slowly.
“You’re not gonna give them any trouble, are you?”
This time, he shook his head.
“Good. If I hear you’ve given them any kind of trouble, I won’t let you have any more.”
The flash of panic confirmed Jack was already dependent on it.
“I don’t want to do that to you, Jack, but I will if you make me.”
Jack nodded again.
“Good, I’ll see you a little later.”
He tapped him on the shoulder as if talking to a young child and pushed up.

Jack sagged as the drug took over and the smile crept across his face again.
He licked his lips, sucked his lower lip between his teeth and pinched it slightly.
The lock turned on the door once more and Jack let out a sigh.
Higgins was buying into it.
He thought about it for a moment.
Had he been wrong?
Should he have tried to spring the three of them?
Or had he been right?
He didn’t think the goons would bring reinforcements when they came back later.
It would be easier to get the better of two men rather than three.
Especially since the goons always stayed near the door, so by the time he got by Higgins, they would’ve locked the cell up again. Then they could call for back-up and come in headstrong to take him apart.

No, waiting for it had been his best option.
He knew they’d mess up somewhere sooner or later.
If only two of them came in next time, that would be messing up.
He could handle two men.
Especially if he was high.
For now, he saved his energy.
He would need it.
All of it.

They came back before the high had started to fade.
Even better
He jumped at the sound of the lock and sat up straight, eyes wide in a perfect panic.

“Take it easy, Jack,” one of the men said at once, holding up the syringe, “we’re here to help.”
Jack zoomed in on the syringe and visible relaxed, letting out a sigh of relief.
The man approached slowly, holding the syringe in view and Jack lowered himself to the mattress again, but the ‘wrong’ way around, putting his feet near the wall and his head at the foot of the bunk.
The other stayed back a little, but he didn’t stay by the door like before, he followed the other one to the bunk.
He wouldn’t make it out of the cell as quickly.

“Hey, are you sure about this?” the other one asked.
“I think he’s still pretty much fazed out.”

“You heard what Carl said,” the other man replied, turning to look at his buddy, “the more needle marks they find on him, the more inclined they’ll be to run tests and the more heroin they find in his blood, the easier it will be to believe Bauer went rogue, taking his team with him to pull this off. The G-8 won’t know what hit them.”
He turned back to Jack, holding out his hand and Jack raised his arm without hesitation.
“Besides, just look at him, he wants it.”

The other man shrugged and stayed at the foot of the bed.
The first one slipped the needle into Jack’s arm and quickly emptied the syringe.
Jack licked his lips as before, eyes glazing over with the increased level of drug running through his system. He was reveling in the feelings the drugs were bringing him and he rolled his head slowly, moaning softly, and he pushed it back into the flimsy mattress, but before the men could leave, Jack whispered something.

“What?” the first guy asked, leaning a bit closer.

“Water …” Jack repeated, “… please …”

The guy did exactly what Jack expected him to do. He turned to his colleague and held his hand out for the water. Jack knew they had it with them, Carl had been giving him water every time, they both knew he needed it, and so he knew these men would have water for him as well.
With the goon facing his colleague, Jack saw his opening and he moved in the blink of an eye.
He snatched the syringe out of the man’s left hand.
He had no trouble doing it.
They weren’t expecting trouble.
Weren’t expecting him to fight, let alone attack them.
He thrust his arm upward, plunging the needle into the man’s throat. He gasped, but Jack pulled back and thrust again, aiming a little higher and this time, the needle hit its target. It punctured the artery and the goon grabbed at his throat. Jack let him. His hands hit the needle, causing it to move around in the vein, making him cry out in pain this time.
Eyes wide in shock, the man watched Jack roll off the bunk and charge the other goon who had started for the door.
He tackled him just as he passed through and Jack’s momentum threw them to the ground.
The goon rolled and Jack lost his grip on him. His attack was swiftly rewarded by a kick to the ribs, which threw him down again and the goon jumped to his feet. Jack rolled and pushed up as well, chasing after him and he caught up before he reached the door. Jack slammed into him, running him straight into the metal bars on Curtis’ cell, knocking him half unconscious without having to put any effort into it.

He backed away and the man tumbled to the floor, unable to stay on his feet after the hard knock to the head.
Jack dropped down on top of him and locked his hands on the man’s throat, choking the life out of him. The man was struggling for air, trying to pry Jack’s hands loose, but he wouldn’t be budged.
Suddenly something hit him in the arm and he almost lost balance. He looked up at once and saw a guard, gun aimed at him. His hands unlocked from the man’s throat and he shifted his weight, reaching between his legs to the goon’s sidearm, pulling it clear of the holster and bringing it up before the other man had a chance to pull the trigger again.
The gun bucked in his hand.
Both bullets ripped through the other man’s skull and he crashed to the floor.

The sudden wail of the alarm was deafening in the small room and Jack cringed for a moment.
He had no idea who triggered it, but it probably meant they would be having visitors pretty soon.
He looked down to the man he had been choking. He was unconscious, so he pushed up and grabbed one of his wrists, dragged him into his cell and checked on the other. He was on his knees, doubled over on the bunk, gargling and groping at his throat. There was no threat from him. Jack quickly patted his unconscious victim down, finding a knife and two spare clips for the gun. He found another knife, gun and ammo on the other, plus the keys to the cells. With that, he pushed up and left the cell, checking the hall before stepping out into the open.
It was clear.
He closed and locked the cell to make sure there was nobody in his back. Then he crossed the room to Bill’s cell, slipping the key into the lock.
But the damn thing wouldn’t turn.
He cursed quietly and tried again, jiggling it a bit.
It still wouldn’t turn.
Bill was right there, waiting for him to unlock the damn door already.

“I’ll have you out in a minute.” Jack said quickly, testing the lock with the key.

Bill called out behind his gag and Jack looked up, meeting his eyes.
He reached into the cell and pulled the gag down.

“Don’t waste your time, Jack,” Bill said quickly, “you can’t unlock them while the alarm is on. It happened when Curtis tried to escape, too. You have to get out of here and get help.”

“I can’t leave you here.”

“You have to, if they capture you again, all will be for naught, you have to get out of here.”

“Turn around.”
Bill turned and Jack cut the ropes tying his wrists.
He handed Bill one of the guns and a spare clip.
Then he moved to Michelle’s cell and cut her loose too.
But when he moved to Chloe’s cell to cut her ties, Bill called him back.

“Jack, you’re wasting time, you have to get out of here.”

He knew Bill was right, so he handed the knife to Michelle.
“Can you reach her?”

“I’ll try,” Michelle said, “but Bill’s right, you can’t stay here. They’ll catch you if you stay.”
He met her eyes and nodded.
“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, don’t worry.”

He turned and went to Tony, cutting him loose as well, handing him the knife so he could free the next one.
He also handed him the gun and a spare clip.

“What about you?”

“I’ll take his.” Jack said, nodding towards the guard he’d shot.

“A’right. Be safe, Jack, and get help.”

Jack nodded and hurried out of the room.
The spare clips weighed heavily in his pocket but he knew he might need them.
When he reached the downed guard, he plucked his gun out of his dead hand and searched him for more ammo, also retrieving his knife. A knife was a trusted ally in silent combat.
He took a moment to check the clip and noticed only one bullet was missing, the one that had tore through his arm. It made him look at his wound. It was bleeding, but he didn’t feel any pain. The drug made sure of that.
He pushed up and moved out. The door behind him was closed. They had two guns, four clips in all, and two knives. They were as safe as they could be and they could at least defend themselves.
He had to find a way to get a message out to CTU and let them know about a possible threat against the G-8.

He came across another guard, disposing of him silently and efficiently, hiding the body as best as he could. When it was out of sight, he moved on again, trying to locate the control center. He had to get to a phone or a computer.
He got into trouble instead.
The wailing siren kept him from hearing the voices and he turned a corner without checking it first. The four men saw him and he barely had time to duck back behind the corner. Guns were raised and bullets slammed into the ground and walls all around him, one even nipped at his leg but without doing any damage. He couldn’t run. There was no cover within easy reach. They would gun him down without hesitation. But he couldn’t just sit around and wait for them to turn the corner, they wouldn’t let him surprise them and would jump into view with their weapons at the ready. If he managed to take one of them out, he’d be lucky.
He did the one thing they wouldn’t be anticipating.
He raised his gun and stepped into view, taking quick aim before they realized what was happening. The gun bucked in his hand and one of the men went down. The others ducked for cover instead of returning fire and Jack took advantage, changed his aim and plugged two slugs into another one, sending him to the floor with a squeal. He wasn’t dead, but he wouldn’t be coming in pursuit anymore. Jack stepped out of view, turned and sprinted away from the corner, hoping nobody would come after him for a few seconds. Halfway the hall, he slowed down and turned, keeping his gun trained at the corner. Anybody stepping out into view would have to duck faster than the bullet could fly.

He kept backing away until he felt something cold press against his neck.

“Stop right there.” an angry voice snarled.
Damn fucking siren’ Jack cursed silently as he raised his hands, moving his gun off target.
“Hands on your head.”
Jack had no choice but to obey and someone snatched the gun out of his hand as it came level with his shoulder.
“Lace your fingers.”

A hand locked on his shoulder, pulling him back.
They pulled him around the corner and slammed him up against the wall, sticking two assault rifles in his face.
He knew those weapons.
They were CTU-issue assault rifles.
The men holding them wore the standard assault uniform.

“Stand down.”
Mike Doyle came into view, relief playing on his face.
“Jack, are you okay?”

Jack dropped his arms and nodded.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
He accepted the gun back and pushed away from the wall.
“How did you find us?”

“Us?” Mike asked.

He obviously didn’t know about the others.
“Everybody’s alive Mike. Bill, Curtis, Michelle, Tony … they’re all here.”

“You’re kidding me right?”
Jack shook his head.
“I put a tracker on you before you left. Just in case.”

“How many?”

“These four and two more outside in the van, running surveillance.”

“Okay, we need to get a message out, they’re planning an attack on the G-8.”

“What? When?”

“I have no idea. Soon.”

“There’s a meeting scheduled for tonight at 9. What do you know?”

“Nothing. I overheard two of these guys talking and they said something about the G-8.”

“That’s not much to go on, Jack. Who’s behind this?”

“I’m not sure, I don’t think the guy I saw is the brains, I think he’s more likely the muscle, but it could give us a lead. He’s a former member of Special Forces by the name of Carl Higgins. I bet he’s running the team on this.”

“What’s it got to do with you?”

“I’m not sure, but I think they’ll try to make it look like we attacked the summit.”


“I don’t know, Mike, I only overheard a short bit of conversation. Can you warn your men to give a heads up to the security at the summit, tell them to be extra vigilant.”

“They always are, Jack.”

“I know they are, Mike, will you just get the warning out to them already.”

“Fine, let’s get out of here.”

“Not without the others.”

“Jack, I-”

“I’m not leaving without them.” Jack snapped angrily.

Mike sighed, resigned to follow Jack’s lead on this.
“Fine, you lead the way.”

“We have to shut off the alarm first, or we won’t be able to get the cell doors open.”

Mike frowned and sighed again, waving towards the hall from which they had grabbed Jack.
“You lead the way.”

“I have no idea where the control center is.” Jack sighed in turn.
“Do you have blueprints of this building?”
Mike shook his head.

He suddenly thought of the two men he had shot, one of them wasn’t dead.
And where were the others?
He figured they’d be coming after him.
Unless they called for back-up first.

“Hang on.”
He moved to the corner and peeked out from behind it.
He had to duck at once because the men were only a few yards away.
“Get back.”

He flattened himself against the wall while the men scrambled to get out of sight of anybody coming down the hall.
Jack showed two fingers.
There were two hostiles.
He took another quick peek, looking into the barrel of a gun a few feet away now.
He pulled back and signaled to the others to stay put while he dashed down the hall.
The men saw him move and hurried after him, thinking they had an easy target.
When they turned the corner, they found themselves staring into the barrels of four assault rifles and a gun.
It limited their options.
The men had them secured and stripped of their weapons in no time.

Jack moved in on the one closest to him, slamming him into the wall and locking his left hand on the man’s throat while sticking his gun in his cheek.

“Where’s the control center?” Jack barked angrily.
He hated wasting time and they were wasting a lot of it.
They had to get the others out of here and warn the G-8 of the potential threat.
The guy didn’t respond.
“I’m not playing around, buddy,” Jack snapped, “either you tell me what I want to know, or I pull the trigger.”

“Fuck you.”

Jack pulled the trigger, blowing the man’s brains clean out of his skull.
He turned to the other guy as the body crashed to the floor, grabbing the guy in the exact same way.
“Same question for you, buddy.” Jack snapped, “Where’s the control center?”

“I … I’ll … I’ll take you there …” the guy stammered.

“Good.” Jack growled.

He let go of the man and nodded to one of the agents.
The agent grabbed the guy’s arm and pulled him away from the wall.
Jack was about to follow, when he felt a hand on his arm and he turned back.
It was Doyle.

“What’s that on your arm, Jack?”

Jack knew he was referring to the needle marks.
“They had some fun.”

“What kind of fun?”

“The kind that ends up rather unpleasant for the one on the receiving end.”

Jack!” Doyle snapped in a reprimanding tone.

“Look, we don’t have time for this, the bastard shot all kinds of shit into my blood because I reported his ass back in Special Forces. I’m fine. We’re wasting time, let’s go.”

“I don’t think you’re fine, Jack, I’m gonna take point on this.”

Fine … you take point.” Jack sighed, airing his annoyance, “Let’s just shut this damn siren off already, before my head blows up.”

Doyle nodded to his men and they moved out, Doyle on point, the agent with the hostile behind him, two more agents behind them, and Jack and the fourth agent bringing up the rear. Jack didn’t really mind not being on point, he wasn’t wearing flak and he wasn’t entirely lucid. If he were, he would’ve checked the hall behind himself earlier instead of backing up against the gun. They turned into the hall Jack had come out of and the man led them into the one where Jack had shot the two others.
They found the men, one dead the other wounded and they secured him, emptying his weapons and taking the ammo with them.
Their prisoner guided them through the facility and it surprised Jack to see so little hostiles, but just as he thought that, they came under fire and were forced to dive for cover.

They regrouped, keeping the hostile out of sight to keep him from getting shot, they needed him to direct them.
More hostiles came up behind them and opened fire without warning. Jack was in their immediate line of fire and a first bullet struck him in the shoulder, but then a shadow moved between him and the hostiles. He heard the distinct tap of bullets hitting a Kevlar vest and seconds later he found himself pinned under someone’s weight while more gunfire erupted around him. He struggled to get out from under the agent who scrambled off him now that the hostile fire had stopped.
It was Doyle.
Realizing Jack wasn’t wearing a vest, he had thrown himself in front of him to keep him from getting gunned down. Now they both pushed up and Doyle checked on the fresh wound. The bullet was still in Jack’s shoulder but he didn’t feel any pain.

“You okay?” Doyle asked worriedly.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You can’t be ‘fine’, Jack,” Doyle replied, “you look like shit and you’ve just been shot in the shoulder. You can’t be fine.”

“Mike will you stop acting like you’re my babysitter already. We have a job to do here.”

“What did they give you?”

“Oh, gee, Mike, I’m sorry, I forgot to ask.” Jack replied sarcastically.
“How the fuck am I supposed to know?” he added angrily.

“How are you feeling?”

“Lightheaded and pissed off.”
He raised his weapon and fired two shots over Doyle’s shoulder as one of the hostiles came into view. He put two neat holes into the man’s chest and turned back to Doyle.
“Happy now?” he asked, pushing to his feet again.
He tapped one of the agents on the helmet and walked by him.
“Cover me.”
He walked out into the hall, keeping an eye on the hostiles ahead, knowing his back was covered.
A first shot tore through one man’s leg and he put two more bullets into the man’s chest as he dropped into full view. His buddy returned fire, but he was aiming wide and Jack merely stooped down, continuing his progression until he had a clear shot, taking out a third man in a matter of seconds. He swung to the other side, bringing his gun around on a terrified youth.

“Don’t shoot.” the youth gasped.

“Drop your weapon.” Jack snapped, keeping his gun on target.
The youngster did, not wanting to get gunned down over something he didn’t necessarily believe in.
But Jack got himself a lucky break, the kid was wearing a vest.
“Take off your vest.” he ordered dryly.
The youngster obeyed hastily and handed it to him with a shaky hand.
“Now pull your belt out.”
Again, no hesitation.
The kid really didn’t want to die here.
“Face the wall and put your hands behind your back.” Jack snapped, gun still trained at the kid’s head.
He slipped the vest on and moved in on the kid, snatching his belt out of his hand and quickly tied him up with it.
“If you wanna live, you stay put.” Jack snarled into his ear before letting go.

The youngster nodded frantically and Jack secured his vest correctly.
He was good to go and looked out into the hall, noticing Doyle’s men were still pinned down.
This was taking too long.
He tucked the gun in his belt and picked up the youngster’s assault rifle, bringing it up.
He whistled sharply and one of the agents turned to look at him, so he signalled for him to cover his back and the agent nodded, changing his position to be able to provide Jack with cover fire if necessary.
Jack stepped out into the hall and advanced without hesitation, going straight for the enemy, firing short bursts each time one of them poked his head out. When he passed by Doyle and the men, one of them got up and advanced with him, each covering a side of the hall. Jack took out two men on his side, the agent gunned one man down as well and it forced the others to retreat.
The agent turned the corner first, given the fact he was wearing full body armor.
He opened fire on the retreating hostiles and took another one out of action.

“Clear.” he called when the others had turned the next corner.

The rest of the group joined them while Jack and the agent kept the halls covered.

“Which way now?” Jack asked their prisoner.
He pointed down the hall the others had retreated into.
“They’re falling back to the command center?”
The guy nodded.
“Okay, let’s go.”

Jack took the lead over from Doyle.
It happened naturally, he was used to leading and now that he was wearing a vest, nothing could keep him from taking it.
Doyle wasn’t entirely happy with it, but given Jack’s state of mind and condition, he knew better than to challenge him at this point.

Their captive gave them directions leading straight to the command center and even though they ran into some more hostile fire, the men had no serious trouble getting there. A few more hostiles were gunned down, wounded or killed as they advanced steadily. When they came up to the command center, their progression was stopped by the heavy fire doors that had been closed. No way they would get those open. Not even with explosives.

“Is there any way in?” Jack barked at their prisoner, shoving his gun in the man’s face.
Eyes wide in panic, he shook his head.
“There has to be.” Jack barked again, “What about a ventilation system? They need air in there don’t they?”

“I … I dunno …” the man stammered.

Dammit!” Jack snapped angrily, turning away from the man.
“There has to be a way in. If only Chloe was at CTU, she would find it.”

“What?” Mike chuckled, “You mean O’Brian?”
Jack turned at him, an angry glare coming across his face at the amusement on Mike’s face.
“She couldn’t find her own head if it weren’t attached.” Mike continued with contempt.

“Son … of … a … bitch!” Jack growled, lurching forward.
His fist smashed into Mike’s jaw with tremendous strength, causing him to stagger two steps back.
“Don’t you ever talk down on her again.” Jack bellowed grabbing Mike’s flak and smacking him into the wall.

It took two of the men to get him to let go and focus on the problem at hand.
They had to find a way into that command center.
Jack turned away, running his hands through his hair, trying hard to concentrate.
They needed air.
There had to be a ventilation duct leading into the place.
Had to be.
He started checking the walls.

“Wait here.” he said as he jogged back to a room they had passed by.
He was in luck, it looked like it was their cafeteria or something along those lines and in the small kitchen, Jack found what he was looking for. He hurried back into the hall and signaled to the others to stay put. He jogged to where they had gunned down a few hostiles and retrieved two assault rifles, slinging them around his neck in a cross so that he could hold one in each hand. He could cradle them under each arm and the strap across his body would help him support the weight. He moved the guns back and jogged back to the kitchen, holding the weapons against his body with one arm to keep them from poking him in the wrong places.
Mike was waiting for him.

“What are you doing, Jack?”

“I’m gonna follow that duct and see if it leads me into the command center.” Jack said quietly.

“You don’t even know where it’ll take you.” Mike exclaimed.

“Well it’s still better than standing around with my thumb up my ass waiting patiently for the fucking door to open, don’t you think?” Jack snarled angrily.
“Can’t your ‘surveillance team’ get a read on that room?” he asked sarcastically, taking maniacal pleasure in dishing Mike’s people after he dished Chloe.

“Let me check.” Mike replied.

“What? You hadn’t even thought of asking yet?” Jack snarled.
“No wonder they slapped your ass back down where it belongs.” Jack growled quietly as he headed for the kitchen.

Mike Doyle had made a very brief pass at Division, but had found himself demoted to the San Diego office as second in command of the Field Operations Department there.
He turned his attention to the ventilation system overhead and quickly located a panel he would be able to pry open. He could hear Mike talking into his coms unit for a moment. Jack didn’t let that stop him from prying the panel loose and letting it drop to the side. He clambered off the counter again and retrieved a chair from the other side of the room, put it on the counter and clambered up again, climbing up on the chair and poking his head into the ventilation duct.

It was Mike.
Jack looked down and saw him standing at his feet.
He bit back the sudden urge to kick him in the face and waited.
“There are seventeen hostiles in there.” Mike said worriedly.
“This duct will take you there, but you’ll never be able to take all of them down and I can’t possibly ask any of my men to join you on a suicide mission.”

“It’s not a suicide mission, Mike, I’m trying to stop an attack against the G-8. If I can get in there, I might find out what they’re planning and we’ll be able to give the security at the summit precise information about what’s coming at them.”

“Jack, you’re crazy, let’s just get out of here.”

“Screw you, Mike.”

“You’re on your own, Jack.” Mike warned.

Jack jumped down to the counter and then to the floor, marched out of the kitchen and into the hall, straight to the men.
“I’m going through that ventilation duct.” he stated sharply.
“There are seventeen hostiles in there.” he continued, pointing at the fire door.
“Any one of you want to cover my ass?”

“I’ll come, sir.” said the man who had helped him secure the hallway only minutes before.

“Agent?” Jack asked.

“Baker, sir.”
Jack’s eyebrow raised half an inch at hearing the name.
“Ricky Baker, sir,” the agent said, “Tom’s my brother.”

“Well agent, Baker, I’m not surprised at all. Balls run in your family.” Jack said, slapping the man on the arm.

“Yes, sir, they most certainly do.”

“Well, let’s go kick some terrorist ass.”

“Boo-yahh, sir.” Agent Baker replied.

It made Jack chuckle and they headed to the kitchen together. Mike started to protest, but Baker waved his complaints away with a dry “This is agent Bauer’s pond they’re pissing in.” and Mike backed off under the hard stare he was getting from Jack who had clambered onto the chair already.

“Do you have a 20 on those hostiles for me, Mike?” Jack asked, “So I know what I’m walking into.”
Mike nodded and handed his PDA over.
“Good. Keep an eye on that door and don’t let anybody out.”

Mike nodded grimly and left.
There was no use arguing with Jack at this point, he was still as strong headed and stubborn as ever.
He would only have himself to blame if he got killed in there.
Problem was, he would be taking one hell of a good agent with him.
But Baker was probably as stubborn as Bauer and Mike didn’t think he’d be able to convince him to let Bauer go in alone.
Especially not since his brother had served with Bauer for long years.
He shook his head and joined the rest of his men.

“Sir?” Baker called just as Jack started to hoist himself into the vent.
He stopped and looked down.
“Don’t you think we should have a look at their positions first? Before we blast in there?”

“Do you think we should?” Jack asked with a grin.

“It might be better to know where to point our guns. I don’t wanna waste ammo killing computers and chairs.” Baker grinned back.

Jack crouched down on the chair and pulled the PDA into view. There was a large group of hostiles near the middle of the room, probably huddled behind desks or such for cover. A few more were along one of the walls and two stood near what Jack perceived as the door leading to the hall. They did indeed count seventeen red dots.

“If these guys have their backs turned, we can take out the pack with one solid blast.” Baker said, pointing to the large group.
“Those guys are probably manning the computers or controls, most probably technicians and not soldiers. These two are likely to be the heavily armed ones guarding the door.”

“Yeah.” Jack sighed happily.
This was going to be good.
“Let’s go.”

He pushed up and hoisted himself up into the duct. He slowly crawled forward in the cramped are, holding both of his weapons onto his back to keep them from scraping along the metal or banging into the walls and he pulled himself along on one arm only. Baker followed suit, having swung his weapon onto his back as well. It was easier for him though, he had a Velcro strap on the back of his gear with which he could secure the weapon, he didn’t have to hold it and could use both arms to crawl along.
They came to an intersection and Jack hesitated for a moment, they could go in either direction, it was a four-way intersection. He looked back at Baker who motioned to go left.
They could always retreat if it was the wrong way, even though crawling backward wasn’t all too easy if you didn’t see where you were going. He didn’t want to end up kicking Baker in the face.
Baker’s call ended up being the right one.
After a few yards, the duct turned right and led them forward again. Jack passed by a grid and peeked down carefully. The grid was obviously set in a wall and looked out into the command center. They were near one end and for as far as Jack could make out, they were more than likely in for a dangerous landing if they tried that way. But he could see light falling into the duct about fifteen feet ahead and he signaled back to Baker to keep moving. Baker nodded and they pushed on quickly. They were in the wall and it was less likely they would be heard by the men.

They reached the next grid and Jack peeked out carefully. Not that they were really at risk of being spotted, all the hostiles had their attention on either the door or the surveillance feed. The images flipped by on one screen and Jack waited for a moment, watching the monitor to see what they saw, figure out how much they knew. Mike had put their prisoner on his knees in the middle of the hall, but his men were all hidden. No way could the hostiles figure out what was going on and if everybody was there or not. Jack smiled as he crawled a bit further into the duct to allow Baker to get a look for himself.
The largest group of hostiles was indeed huddled together behind a couple of overturned desks and metal filing cabinets. The four men by the wall were armed only with a sidearm while the rest of them carried automatic rifles. The two near the door were the only ones who wore flak. That was why the rest of them had chosen the protection of the metal furniture.
There was another grid fifteen feet further and Jack whispered to Baker to stay put while he checked it out. If he had a clear landing spot, they could each go through their own entry point instead of having to squeeze out of the same hole. The one who went in first would be alone for long seconds and the second one coming through could get taken out by hostile fire if they were quick enough to react. He crawled along and quickly checked from his new position, then signaled back to Baker. He would go through this one, Baker through the other.

Now came the hardest part.
They had to wriggle themselves into a position where they could kick the grid out of the vent and go through the gap with minimal time loss. Baker had the advantage of size because he was a few inches shorter than Jack, but Jack had the advantage of minimal gear. He slithered around in the cramped space and managed to put his feet up against the grid without stomping it out too soon. Bringing both the rifles around, he checked on Baker. He had to hold his head to the side because he couldn’t sit upright, but he met Baker’s eyes, who was in an equally awkward position and he nodded. They were set to go.
Jack nodded back, he had a weapon in each hand, Baker only had one so he was the one to count down. Jack kept his eyes on the man’s hand as he showed three fingers, then two, then one. He made a fist and pointed forward, slapping his hand on the barrel guard of his rifle as he put pressure on his legs, kicking at the grid full force.
Jack kicked in the same instant and both grids flew out of the duct.
They hit the ground in a loud clang but by the time the men looked up and realized what was going on, Jack and Baker were jumping down and they opened fire even before they were on the ground, mowing down three men in the very first seconds of their assault. Jack caught himself on his feet, sagged through his knees to absorb the impact and pushed up again without moving forward. He stood tall, both rifles spewing a constant spray of bullets. He hit furniture and men alike, not pausing to see if a man was wounded or dead before moving his guns to the next target. As if orchestrated, he moved to the left of the pack and Baker to the right, mowing down hostiles with accuracy and speed.

He grunted as a bullet slammed into his vest, then another and a third, stitching a path across the front of his vest, moving up higher towards his left shoulder. A bullet bit into his exposed neck. A next one grazed his cheek and nipped at his ear before slamming into the wall behind him. Then he heard the distinct triple burst from Baker’s assault rifle and the hostile using him for target practise went down without a sound, blood squirting from his torn throat and face. Baker had taken no chances and went for the kill.
Jack’s left rifle spat out its last few bullets and he dropped it from his hand, letting it hang by his side, bringing his left arm around to support the other rifle and give him better accuracy.
A quick look around the room told him most of the hostiles were down, dead or injured and the few remaining ones where huddled on the floor, trying to protect themselves from the gunfire. Jack checked on Baker who nodded. He was okay. Jack lifted the rifle off his shoulder and dropped it to the ground, drew his gun and tossed the empty rifle off his other shoulder. He could feel the blood trickle down his face and neck, soak his shirt.
He didn’t give a damn.
He didn’t feel anything anyway.
He moved over to the hostiles near the controls while Baker covered his back.

“You!” Jack yelled, kicking one of the huddled men in the leg, “Open that fire door!”
The man looked up in fear.
“Do it!” Jack snapped, kicking him again, “NOW!” he bellowed.
The man tucked his head in at the booming voice but he scrambled to his feet and hurried over to the controls.

“Don’t you fucking dare!” came a commanding voice from across the room.

One of the downed men was trying to struggle to his feet and Jack went over to him, cuffing him with the barrel of his gun.
“You in charge?” he barked at the man.
He got a cold stare in response so he kicked at one of the wounds.
Are you in charge?” Jack demanded again.
The man shook his head.
“Then shut the fuck up!” Jack barked.
He turned to look at the man at the controls.
“What are you waiting for?” he snapped.
The man quickly turned to the controls and released the fire door.

It slowly creaked out of the way and seconds later, they saw the prisoner tumble into the room.
When no shots were fired, Mike and his men appeared behind him, shoving him down into a corner.
Jack went over to the man at the controls.

“Do you want to live?” he asked, putting the gun against the man’s temple.
He nodded quickly.
“Then shut off this goddamn fucking alarm already.” Jack snapped.

The man hit a button and the siren died down.
Jack let out a deep sigh of relief now that the assault on his hearing finally ended.
Once the hostiles had been disarmed and secured, Baker came over to check on Jack.
He waved him away at first but Baker insisted.

“Sir, you’re bleeding from the neck, let me at least check it.”
Jack met his eyes and saw the determination in them.
Determination and concern.
The same mixture of emotions he had seen so often in his brother’s eyes.
He nodded and tilted his head back and to the side to allow the agent to have a good look at the wound.
He briefly touched it but got no reaction from Jack, so he bluntly poked at it. Still he got no reaction.
“Doesn’t that hurt, sir?” Baker asked worriedly.
Jack met his eyes and shook his head.
“Do you feel my touch?” he asked, touching Jack’s neck a little higher.

“I feel a pressure but I can’t make out what it is.” Jack replied softly.
Baker’s worry deepened but Jack’s eyes burned into his.
“Don’t worry about it.”

“Sir, you’re not feeling anything.” Baker exclaimed, “How could I not worry?”

“I’ll explain in a minute.”
He pushed off the console he was leaning on and motioned for Baker to follow him.
“Mike, I’m heading over to let the others out of those cells.”
Mike nodded.
“Hold down the fort for us, huh.”

Jack picked up another assault rifle on his way out, just in case they ran into more trouble and Baker checked his ammunition.
They walked side by side, rifles at the ready, ears strained.

“So?” Baker asked after they turned into another hall.

“When Mike asked me earlier what they had given me,” Jack started, “I told him I didn’t know.”
Baker nodded.
“I do know … he gave me heroin.”
Baker gasped.
“And some pretty damn good stuff too.”

“How …?” Baker managed in a gasp.

“Can I function?” Jack asked.
Baker merely nodded.
Jack stopped and flung his rifle upward, letting the barrel rest against his shoulder.
“What I’m about to tell you, I’m only telling you because I trust you.” Jack said, his icy blue eyes piercing Baker’s.
Baker nodded again.
“I was addicted to it a while back.”
Baker’s eyes went wide.
“I worked undercover for months, trying to bring the Salazars down.”
Baker nodded, he heard about that.
“You know what the Salazars are into, don’t you?”
Again, Baker nodded.
“I had to use to maintain my cover.”
It dawned on Baker and his eyes narrowed again.
“When I had to use practically every day, I soon became dependent on it, but I managed to keep enough control over myself to function normally.”

“So right now you’re high?” Baker asked softly, as if he were afraid the walls might have ears.

“That’s right,” Jack confirmed, “that’s why I don’t feel anything.”
“I’m too fucking high to feel anything. I’ll be sore as hell when I get off it, but for now, I’m perfectly capable of doing what needs to be done.”

“If I may say so, sir,” Baker started quietly, “you look like shit.”

It made Jack laugh and he slapped Baker on the arm.
“I bet I do, they had some other fun with me first.” he said with a wink.
“Come on, let’s go get the others. I’m sure they’re gonna be worried sick now that the alarm has been shut off.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Hey, I preferred what you said earlier.” Jack joked.

“What?” Baker asked a little confused.

“Before we went in.” Jack said, “Let’s go get the others.” he repeated.

“Boo-yahh, sir.” Baker said.

“That’s the one.”

It made both of them laugh and they continued down the hall, smiling but not any less attentive for that matter. They still kept their eyes and ears wide open. It would suck pretty much to get gunned down after the war had been waged.

They didn’t have any encounters along the way and reached the holding room without a problem. Jack opened the door and called out to let them know it was him. He didn’t feel like getting shot by his own people. He quickly went from cell to cell to unlock them and the moment they were all out again, turned into a rather emotional height. Tony and Michelle fell into each other’s arms, disregarding the fact they were surrounded by co-workers and bosses and stood hugging and kissing for quite some time. It made Jack grin to see the two of them display their love so openly. He knew they were together, and most of the others thought they were, but this time, they left no room for question. Chase on the other hand got almost smothered by Chloe. She threw herself at him and broke down in tears of relief. It looked like Chase had gotten himself roughed up along the line somewhere and from Michelle’s reactions he gathered something had happened either to her or to Tony. He would have to find out what exactly.
For now, he had other things to deal with.
He signaled to Baker and went to the cell they had kept him in.
The one he stabbed had long bled to death and the other one stood near the back of the cell, looking pretty much beat and defeated. Jack unlocked the cell and went in, checked for a pulse on the first one and tossed the body off the bunk when he found none.

“You can follow his trail,” he started coldly, turning to look at the other, “or you can tell me what I need to know and live.”
“The choice is entirely yours.”

“What do you want?”

“I want to know what’s going on.” Jack stated bluntly.
“What’s Higgins doing? Who’s paying the bills? What’s happening at the summit? Who? What? When? How? Everything!”

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen at the summit.” the man replied quickly.
“I’m not part of that detail.”

“What detail are you part of?” Jack snapped, lowering his hand to his gun.
If this guy had no information for him, he might not live much longer.

“The one in charge of the prisoners.” the man blurted out.
“We were supposed to get you ready and take you to the rendez-vous point.”

Jack’s hand fell away from his gun.
Maybe the guy had something interesting to say anyway.
“Keep talking.”

“What do you want to know?”

“I already told you,” Jack replied, getting annoyed again, “everything.”
“How were you supposed to get us ready? By what time? Where’s the rendez-vous point?”

“We’re supposed to make all of you change into a different set of clothes and then load you up into a truck and take you to the rendez-vous point about 3 miles from the summit.”

“By what time?”

“By 8pm.”

“What’s the time?” Jack asked.

“Four, sir.” Baker replied.

“Keep talking.” Jack said to the other guy.
They still had some time.
“What kind of clothes?”

“A special gear Carl has prepared for all of you. His men will be wearing the same.”

“Okay, what time do you have to leave here in order to be in time at the rendez-vous point?”

“By six thirty.”

“And until then?”

“Well, Carl said we had to give you another shot and threatening to hurt you further would keep the others in line so they’d change without giving us too much trouble. But we can use force if we have to.”

“We’re not gonna survive it anyway.” Jack added in a low growl.

“No.” the other confirmed.

“If you had to give me another shot, that means there’s more where that came from.”

“Yes, it’s in Carl’s quarters.”

“Do you know where those are?”


“Take me.”
He turned to Baker.
“Escort them to the command center, I’ll join you there.”

“Are you sure, sir?” Baker asked.


Baker knew Jack would have no trouble at all with the guy. Even if the guy tried to give him some.
Jack motioned for the hostile to follow him out of the cell.
“What’s your name?”


“Good, Tyrell, why don’t you show me the way.”

They set out, Baker and the others falling in behind them, each going their own way at the first intersection. Jack and Tyrell went to the left while the others continued straight ahead. Five minutes later, Tyrell stopped outside a door.

“This is it.”

“What are you waiting for?” Jack snarled.
Tyrell felt the threat, quickly opened the door and went inside.
“Where is it?”
Tyrell went to a desk and retrieved a black case.
He handed it to Jack who pointed to the desk, so Tyrell put the case down on the desk.
“On the bed, hands on your head.” Jack instructed coldly.
“Move a finger and I’ll blow your head off.”
Tyrell nodded and sat down.
Jack went to the desk and picked up the case, opened it and felt the immediate pull of the drug on his mind.
There were two vials in there, one full, the other half empty.
“Is all of this the good stuff he’s been giving me, or is any of it mixed with something else?”
He didn’t want to end up shooting the wrong shit up his veins.

“The mixed stuff is in the other drawer.” Tyrell replied.

Jack opened the drawer and saw a similar case, red this time instead of black.
It was too simple.
“Did Carl give you the syringe or did you have to fill it yourself?”

“It was ready in the black case like he said it would be. He told us to check how much was in it and to give you the same amount again later on.”

“To keep me subdued.”
Tyrell dropped his eyes to the ground.
That had been the idea.
Instead he broke loose and now everything was going to shits.
“Do you know where that gear is you were talking about?”


“You’ll show me in a minute, for now stay put and don’t move an inch.”

He pocketed the black case and started to rummage through the desk, looking for clues or evidence of what Carl Higgins and his men were up to, but he found nothing. He turned away from the desk, but stopped and turned back, retrieving the red case as well and slipping that into a different pocket.

“Let’s go.”

Tyrell pushed up and walked out into the hall, keeping his hands on his head, he hadn’t been told he could drop them, and the last thing he needed was for a lunatic on dope to get mad at him. He took him to the large dressing room where a rack stood near one wall, eight hangers dangling on it. The gear looked futuristic and at first made Jack think of diving gear. But when he approached, he could see the Kevlar pads in all the right places, giving full protection while limiting the amount of gear needed to be caried around. He checked the names and found his, so he picked the hanger off the rack and tossed it down on a bench.

“In the corner, on your knees, ankles crossed.” Jack ordered dryly.

Tyrell didn’t hesitate and dropped to his knees in the corner Jack had indicated.
Jack quickly changed out of his clothes, dropping the flak he had borrowed from that kid and noticing the holes in it.
He held his breath for a moment while his brain registered the fact he could’ve been dead already.
He shook his head, letting out his breath and got out of his clothes, quickly changing into the gear. It felt weird at first with the incorporated Kevlar pads, but he grew accustomed to it in no time. By the time he was done lacing up his boots and stood back up, he didn’t feel any difference from regular clothing anymore.
He called out to Tyrell to get his ass up already and they headed back to the command center.
The first reaction he got came from Tony.

“You goin’ space travellin’, Jack?” Tony asked with a huge grin.

“Yeah, and so are you, buddy.” Jack grinned back.
“Tyrell here is gonna take you boys and girls to the dressing room and you’re all gonna change into a set exactly like this.”

“What’s the idea here, Jack?” Bill asked, stepping away from Mike.

“They were supposed to get all of us to change into this gear, then load us into a truck and take us to a rendez-vous point not far from the summit.” Jack explained, “Higgins’ men wear the same gear, I’m thinking they’ll attack the summit and frame us for it, leaving us behind as casualties.”

“Why?” Chappelle asked.

“Why what?” Jack asked, throwing him an icy look.
“Why try to frame someone else for something you’ve done? Maybe so nobody’s gonna try to catch you and punish you for doing it.” Jack said in a sarcastic tone.
Chappelle’s blood started to boil and they could all tell he was about to blow his top.
“Why the fuck else do you think this is happening, Ryan?” Jack launched before he could say anything.
“Higgins has a personal grudge against me, what better way to get payback than to frame me for something he did?”

“So we’re in this because of you?” Chappelle exclaimed.

“Bravo, Ryan, you finally got it.” Jack complimented sarcastically.
“If I were you, I’d start moving and get changed. We have to leave at 6.30 if we want to make it in time.”

“I’m not going.” Chappelle said, putting his hands on his hips.
“I have nothing to do with this and I am not going anywhere unless it is to Division.”

“Ryan, don’t make me smack you.” Jack warned bluntly.
“They took you for a reason. I don’t know what reason, but they must have one, so stop whining and go change.”
He pushed passed him and went back to the computers.
“Does Higgins have anything on the attack stored on these computers?” he asked harshly.
The man flinched at the sound of his voice, but before he could say anything, the same guy as before told him to shut up.
Jack turned, drew his gun and stomped across the room, backhanded the guy and put the gun against his temple.
“One more peep out of you and you are not going to like what I’ll do to you.”

“Fuck you.” the man barked.
He turned his head up, ignoring the gun pressed against it and spat at Jack.

Jack kicked him in the gut, causing him to double over, holstered his weapon and pulled out the red case.
You … are going to wish … you had never … laid eyes on me.” Jack warned slowly.

He picked the syringe and a vial out of the case and filled the syringe.
It would serve as a test to see if Tyrell had lied to him about the clean heroin being in the other case.
If the guy didn’t start howling in a few minutes, he would know Tyrell lied and he would have a little ‘word’ with him.
A little black-case word.
He punched the guy all the way down and grabbed his arm to hold him still so he wouldn’t break the needle, but when he tried to insert it, the guy started thrashing around and Jack couldn’t hold him on his own. A dark blue shape suddenly dropped down on the man’s back, pinning him face down to the ground, the barrel of an assault rifle tickling the side of his neck.
It was Baker.
Jack swiftly inserted the needle and emptied the contents of the syringe into the man’s blood.

“Give him some space.” he said quietly.

Baker pushed off him, reached down and grabbed his arm, pulling him away from the pack of prisoners.
If he started thrashing and kicking, at least he wouldn’t kick any of the others.
It would keep the whole lot of them from wailing and moaning.
It would keep him from having a headache.
He went back over to the guy at the computer and pointed to the screen.

“Higgins.” he said, “His files. I want them. Now.”

He spoke in telegraph style.
Short sentences.
To the point.
There was a time to play and there was a time to work.
This was the time to work.
And if the man didn’t feel the same way, he could and would be relieved of duty.

“I can’t access them.” the man replied quickly.
“Everything you want is on these machines, but I don’t have the passwords.”

“Who does?”

“Higgins and Thorpe.”

The man realized his mistake and kept his mouth shut.
“Get the fuck out of my sight.” Jack snapped.

An agent grabbed him and secured his hands behind his back, then shoved him down with the others.
The bigmouth was starting to show the first signs of pain by now.
Jack smiled and turned back to the computer.
He needed Chloe for this, but she was changing right now.
He would have to wait.
He hoped he wouldn’t have to wait too long.
Baker took advantage of the hiatus to dress Jack’s wounds properly now that he wasn’t running around anymore.

“The bullet’s still in there, you need to get this looked at.” Baker stated after checking the shoulder wound.

“Can you get it out?” Jack asked.

“I’m not a doctor, sir.” Baker replied.

“Then maybe we should see if they have one handy.” Jack said, nodding to the hostiles.

Baker went over to the group of men, clutching his assault rifle in a convincing way while Doyle came up to Jack again.
“What are you gonna do with that guy?” he asked, pointing to the hostile writhing about on the ground.

“Nothing.” Jack replied evenly.

“Nothing? You can’t leave him like that.”

“Why not?” Jack snapped, “They left me like that for hours. I don’t see why I can’t have a little payback of my own.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Piss off, Doyle.” Jack growled, “You want to end it? Put a bullet through his brains, it’ll be over in a second.”

Baker was pulling one of the hostiles to his feet on the other end of the room and Doyle decided to leave it be. There was no reasoning with Jack at this point.
“This here guy says he might help.” Baker said.

“Can I have a look at the wound?” the man asked hesitantly.
Jack peeled the clothing away again while Baker cut the plastic tie wraps that held his wrists together.
He checked the wound quickly.
“I’ll need a few things.” the man said.

“Can you get it out and stop the bleeding?” Jack asked in a low growl.
The man nodded.
“Then get your tools.”
He met Baker’s eyes.
“Stay with him.”

Baker nodded and took the man out of the room.
They came across a first group who had finished changing into their gear.
Tony, Curtis, Michelle and Chloe appeared at the door and Jack’s breath caught in his throat.
Those women looked absolutely smashing in that gear.
It complimented every single curve of their body and he had to force himself to look away to keep from gawking at either of them. Curtis was limping slightly, but when asked, he told Jack he dressed the wound.
He was good to go.
Tony and Chloe were unhurt at first sight, but Michelle had a few bruises on her face.
She looked absolutely lethal in that gear and Jack had a hard time not staring.
He could hardly keep his eyes above shoulder level.
Thankfully, they all knew he was on a pretty big high and Tony saw the fogginess in his eyes when they locked.

“Don’t you be ogling my girl.” Tony whispered, leaning close to him.
The friendly slap on the back confirmed he was joking.

It did the trick of pushing Jack’s mind off the women and he turned to the computer, taking Chloe by the arm.
“I need you to work your magic on this thing,” Jack started, “everything we need to know about their plans is on this machine. Carl Higgins is one of the men, Thorpe, first name unknown is the other. He must be the big fish coz when the guy said his name, he realized his mistake and kept his lips sealed.”

“Okay, Jack, I’ll see what I can do.” Chloe replied, taking a seat at the computer.

She set to work and he stayed by her side until Baker came back with the medic.
He grabbed a chair and pulled it a bit away from the desk Chloe was sitting on, sat down on it and peeled the top half of his gear down, revealing his scarred chest. The guy set his tools down on the drawer section of one of the overturned desks and picked up a syringe, meaning to fill it with an anesthetic.

“Don’t bother.” Jack said, stopping the man from filling it.


“Don’t bother.” Jack repeated, “I won’t feel it anyway, just get the bullet out and stop the bleeding.”

“But I … I can’t …”

“If you can’t,” Jack replied in a snarl, “I can always find someone else who can.”
With that, he drew his gun and aimed it at the man’s head.
He quickly put the syringe down and picked up the scalpel.
“Better.” Jack growled, settling back down.

He leaned back in the chair, making sure his shoulder rested against it, offering the best possible support in this situation. The man set to work and much to his surprise, Jack never budged when the scalpel sliced into his skin, widening the wound the bullet had caused so he could get in there to retrieve it and clean it thoroughly. It took him three attempts to get the bullet out, but in the end he managed. He cleaned the wound, stitched it up and put a bandage over it.

“I’m done.” he said quietly.

“Thank you.” Jack said, pulling his gear on again.

Baker took the guy over to the group of prisoners, tied his hands behind his back and shoved him to his knees.
Meanwhile Jack wheeled his chair next to Chloe’s to check on her progress.
She was hunched over the keyboard, fingers flying over the keys and that perpetual scowl on her face.
It was in stark contrast with the gear and he smiled. He didn’t know why, he just did.
The rest of the gang joined them in the command center and Bill assumed command over Doyle’s team, much to Mike’s dislike. He hated to be side-tracked but he said nothing and simply nodded, walking away from them just as Chloe broke into one of the secured files.

“Gotcha!” she exclaimed.

Jack pushed up and moved behind her chair, placing his hands on her shoulders.
He could feel the warmth of her body through the clothes.
His hands tightened a little on her shoulders, giving her a bit of a squeeze to congratulate her on a job well done and he leaned down a little. When he spoke, his voice was loud and clear though.

“Not bad for someone who wouldn’t find her own head if it weren’t attached,” Jack said, increasing the pressure on Chloe’s shoulders even more, “isn’t that right, Doyle?”

On those last words, he turned to look at Doyle, who stopped at the sound of his name.
Seeing the twinkle in Jack’s eyes, he knew what he was up to, but he wasn’t prepared for Chloe’s reaction.
She looked at Jack first, but since he had his eyes locked on Doyle, she turned to look at him too. His reaction confirmed Jack wasn’t making this up and her arm moved faster than lightning. She picked up the first thing her hand encountered and she flung it.
Doyle tried to duck, but he hadn’t anticipated such a violent reaction from Chloe and he wasn’t quick enough. The object hit him squarely in the head and he yelped in pain and surprise, pulling away in order to avoid more of Chloe’s wrath. The wireless mouse clattered to the ground, the red laser light died on impact and it rocked back and forth for a moment before it came to a halt on its side, belly up. Doyle stampeded out of the room and Jack nearly wet himself laughing at the whole thing.
He staggered two steps back, nearly tripped over the chair he had been sitting in and fell into it, rolling back a few feet, a rumbling laughter rolling out of him. He couldn’t believe Chloe had just pitched a computer mouse at Doyle and hit him with it and he couldn’t, for the life of him, contain his amusement.
Chloe swiveled her chair back and turned her attention on the screen again, with Bill coming in to see what she had found. Jack burst out laughing again at the sight of her scowl and he crossed his arms on a nearby desk, dropping his head on his forearms, laughing a hearty and uncontrollable guffaw that ended him in tears and gasping for air. He tried a few times to control it, taking deep and controlled breaths, but it got away from him each time he lifted his head and saw Chloe’s pout or the dead mouse on the floor. The image of Doyle’s indignation when it hit him kept popping up in his mind and he kept laughing. It worked its magic on the others too, they all needed to let out some steam and pretty soon Tony and Michelle were stifling their laughter while Bill tried to keep his cool while going over the information Chloe uncovered. She was really digging deep into the bowels of the system now and displaying intricate plans and back-up plans for everything that had already happened and for what was about to happen.

If they didn’t move fast and stop it, a few of the world leaders were going to have a very nasty evening.

Jack realized he needed to get a grip on himself and started to push up. The only way he would ever get a grip on himself, was to get out of the room, away from Chloe and away from that mouse. He burst out in another fit just thinking of it and he staggered but a strong hand steadied him and when he looked up, he saw Tony’s smiling face.

“Come on, let’s go for some fresh air.” Tony said, wrapping his arm around Jack’s shoulders.

Chase came up and walked on Jack’s other side. Just in case.
Both men had assault rifles slung over their shoulder and Jack still had his weapons too, so if they had left a few hostiles out and about, they wouldn’t get far.
They ran into Doyle just as they reached the exit and Jack burst out laughing again, unable to control himself. Doyle’s expression made it even worse and Chase had to help Tony steady him. They both knew it was the combination of everything that was happening, the drugs, good and bad, the adrenaline, having gotten shot and the sheer incredulousness of Chloe’s reaction to Doyle’s remark.
Nobody doubted Jack’s words.
They all knew how much he valued Chloe and how much he loved to work with her.
She had his back, he had hers.
That point had just been proven.

“You’re an ass, Jack.” Doyle snapped.

“Yeah, well, at least he didn’t get hit in the head with a wireless mouse.” Tony replied at once, throwing Jack in an even bigger fit of laughter.

Doyle stampeded back inside without another word.
Jack was gasping for air again, wiping away the tears that fell from his eyes.
Meeting Tony’s eyes was enough to set him off again though and he leaned back against the building, holding his sides as they started to ache despite the drugs in his system. It was a good kind of pain. One he hadn’t felt in a damn long time.
Tony and Chase let it be for a while, allowing him to finally get it back under control. They could hear him taking a few deep breaths, interrupted by small fits of laughter, followed by more deep breaths, interrupted again by another round of chuckles. In the end it took him about 20 minutes to get it back under control.

“You good?” Chase asked, putting his hand on Jack’s good shoulder.

“Yeah,” Jack sighed, “but I think I wet myself.”

It resulted in yet another round of chuckles, but this time, it didn’t get away from them anymore and they went back inside.
Jack wiped away the last moisture on his face and took another deep breath, letting it out in a deep sigh.
That was it.
Jack was back on track.
And so were they.
By the time they reached the command center, Chloe and Michelle had managed to unlock and gather all the information. They arrived just in time to bend over the plans for the night with the rest of them.
This was going to get tough.

But as tough as it seemed, Jack knew he had an excellent team with him.
With Chloe, he had the best data analyst on this side of the universe and Gael was her second by very little.
Tony, Chase and Curtis were some of the finest field agents he had ever seen.
Michelle and Bill had a quick eye and could make split second decisions that turned out to be the right ones most of the time and they both had field experience to top it off.
As for Ryan, nobody really liked him much, but he did have his value.
He was a great tactician and once he bent over the problem at hand, he zoomed in on it, analyzing the enemy set-up and the building lay-out. Together with Bill, Tony and Ryan, Jack formed a plan that just simply could not go wrong.
If everybody did their part.
That was the big question.
This plan would require Ryan to strap on a gun and start shooting at people.
And bullets this time, not words.

He tried to avoid that possibility for a while, tried to redirect, even tried to get Doyle to step in for him, but in the end he had to conclude there really was no other choice.
He had to do this.
Besides, there was no gear for Doyle and Ryan’s wouldn’t fit him. Ryan was taller and lighter.
They would require the gear in order to make this plan work.
Once Ryan had drawn the final conclusion, his skin turned ashen and he pinched the bridge of his nose, frowning deeply. When he walked away from the table the plans lay on, Jack followed him.

“Are you going to be alright, Ryan?” Jack asked quietly, reaching for Ryan’s shoulder.
There was no reply.
“You’ve had weapons training,” Jack stated quietly after a long silence, “and we all know this is the only option we have.”
Ryan turned to look at him, a little baffled to find Jack so soft-spoken.
“I need to know if you’re going to be alright, Ryan.” Jack continued, his fiery blue eyes piercing and intimidating.
“If you’re not certain you can pull this off, we’re not going through with it, we’d be walking straight into our deaths.”
He paused, giving Ryan time to digest everything.
Usually it happened the other way around when Ryan thought he was using too many and too big words with Jack.
He really took him for a moron most of the time.
One day, he would come to regret that attitude.
Hopefully, it wouldn’t be today.
“We can do this, Ryan, but only if everybody does their part.”
He nodded this time, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes.
He knew what was at stake.
He knew whose lives depended on them making this thing happen.
“Do you want to go outside and brush up on that weapons training before we head out?”
He nodded again.
“Okay,” Jack said, patting Ryan on the shoulder, “you’ll do great. We’ll go over the plans again before we go.”
Ryan nodded once more and opened his eyes again.
He was scared.
But he was going to have to suck it up and Jack could see the determination in his eyes.
He would be alright.
“Curtis,” Jack called, turning around, “how’s your leg?”

“It’s fine, Jack.” Curtis replied.
It had been dressed and he had taken a few painkillers.

“Okay, get a few guns and take Ryan outside for some target practice.”

“Okay, Jack.”
Curtis pushed up and went right for the door, grabbing Tyrell’s arm along the way.
“Take me to your armory.” he snapped to which Tyrell quickly nodded.
One of the agents tagged along.
Tyrell would be coming right back after he had shown the way.

With Ryan out of the way, Jack, Tony and Bill went over the plan again and they still came to the same conclusion, they needed everybody.

“Are you going to be alright, Jack?” Chase asked when they were done.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” Jack replied as always.

Chase came closer, took a hold of his arm and leaned over.
“They’ve been shooting that shit into you since last night, Jack.” he said quietly.

“Don’t worry, Chase.”

“This is going to be a long night.”

“I have Higgins’ stash, I’ll fix up before we get there.”
He met Chase’s eyes.
“I’ll be fine.”

“You’re scaring me, Jack.”

“It’s the only way, Chase. You don’t expect me to stay on my feet without a little help after what they did to me, do you?”
He shook his head.
Not with the abuse he’d been put through.
The beatings, the bad drugs, the multiple gunshot wounds, the exhaustion.
He wouldn’t go far without a little help.
“I have to fix up again if I want to see this thing through, Chase. You and I both know it.”
Chase merely nodded.
He did know.
“But believe me when I say this, Chase, I’m even more scared than you are.”

Chase held his eyes for a long time and he could see the fear in them, but only because Jack had told him it was there and he knew what to look for.
It was the fear of the drug.
Fear he wouldn’t be able to get it back under control again.
Fear he would have to go through rehab all over again.
Fear it wouldn’t let him kick it this time.
Fear the drug would tear him apart entirely this time.

That was what Jack was afraid of.
He was afraid of sticking that needle into his skin.
Afraid that might be the end of him.
Afraid he might not be able to turn away again.

He didn’t fear the drug itself.
He knew how to control the drug.
Knew how to make it into his ally.
Knew how to make it work for him instead of against him.
Knew it and controlled it.

He feared the act.
The act of shooting it into his own blood.
The act of inserting that needle.
The piercing of his own skin.

It compromised everything he had fought for at the rehab center.
Compromised everything he had achieved.
Compromised his sense of victory.
Victory not only over the drug and the grip it held him in.
But victory over Ramon Salazar as well.

That was what had pulled Jack through rehab.
Not only getting rid of the filth that threatened to ruin the rest of his life.
But getting rid of Ramon’s influence on him.
Ramon’s control over him.
Ramon’s filth.

He had gotten clean.
In more than one way.
Cleansed his body from the toxins.
Cleaned his mind from them too.

Now he was about to turn back to it.
And it scared him.
But he knew he had no other choice.
He knew the only thing keeping him on his feet at this time, was the dope.
The only thing that could possibly get him through what lay ahead, was the dope.
He was already dependent on it again.
He needed it.
Needed it to get through the rest of the day.

And the worst part of it was that he would have to fix up in front of all of them.
There would be no way out of it.
They had to ride in the back of the truck.
He couldn’t afford to fix up in private before heading out.
He had to do it a few minutes before they reached the rendezvous point.
Even if he rode in front, he couldn’t afford to stay up front so close to the rendezvous point, Higgins might have men on the lookout and if he was spotted riding up front and looking in more than decent shape, Higgins would be alerted.
It couldn’t happen.
There would be no more denying it.

Chappelle would more likely than not, have his skin over it.

The only thing he was thankful for, was that Doyle wouldn’t be there.
It was a meager compensation.
It most definitely did not outweigh the rest of it.
But Chase was right there.
A comforting hand on his shoulder.
Understanding and supportive.
As always.

He turned and met Tony’s eyes as he looked up from the plan.
Tony knew as well.
Knew about the addiction, knew beyond a doubt that was what Chase and he were talking about.
He also knew Jack would have to fix up before doing this.
He didn’t need to be convinced.
He simply knew.
Jack was in too bad a shape to do anything without a boost.
But there was no judgment in those eyes.
Only understanding.
And an unequalled support.
If anybody gave him any kind of trouble, Tony would be there to back him up.
To stick up for him.
As always.

And with Tony, Michelle as well.

He turned and walked away.
He needed a moment to himself.


Needed a moment to come to peace with what had to happen and control his fears. He couldn’t let them get out of hand or he would be the one walking them to their deaths instead of Ryan. He didn’t go far, he didn’t have to, just needed a moment of privacy before heading out. He couldn’t afford to fuck this up, too much was at stake. They had no means of alerting the security without alerting Higgins’ men and it would turn to a bloodbath if he was alerted. The plans were clear enough and Higgins had two separate contingency plans. One in case something went wrong with the group of scapegoats and another one if anybody tried to alert the summit security of a possible attack.

He went back in when Curtis and Ryan came back, Ryan with a worried look on his face, Curtis with something that might be considered hopeful. He met Jack’s eyes and nodded, it would be just fine.

They all geared up and set out, climbing into the truck. Tyrell would drive with Doyle riding shotgun, the jeep that tagged along was driven by another one of Higgins’ men and three of Doyle’s men rode in that. They could give support if needed.

The ride was smooth but about an hour into it, Jack started feeling the need. The drugs were wearing off and he should’ve gotten another shot a while ago, he was stretching it already but he couldn’t afford to fix yet, they weren’t close enough. Instead he moved into a corner and wrapped his arms around him, hugging himself and trying to concentrate. He had to stay in control.

Had to.

Doyle called back a while later, letting him know they were drawing closer.
It was time.
He plucked the case off the bench and filled the syringe with some difficulty. His hands were shaking and they were clammy, something he usually wasn’t troubled with. When the syringe was ready, he slid off the bench and onto his knees, putting his back to the others. He knew they were watching. There was nothing else to look at. He didn’t need to meet their eyes when he did this. It was the last thing he needed. Displaying the weakness was bad enough already, fixing up in front of them made him feel even worse. Made him feel like a fraud and a fake, living a lie.

He stripped the gear off and tied the elastic band around his arm, feeling their eyes on him.
It was almost too much to bear, but he focused on the task at hand, trying to shrug off everything else.
He pumped his hand a few times and his veins popped up, the blood pulsating through them. He brought the syringe around but as it closed in on his skin, his hand started to tremble. He couldn’t control it, it became worse and he knew he’d never get it into his vein if he tried now. He closed his eyes and held his breath, willing his hand to be steady.
It was still shaking when he opened his eyes.
Even more of a failure now.
He couldn’t even do what had to be done.
He tried again, but his hand refused to work.
Refused to commit that act of self-destruction.
It had a mind of its own and it fought the commands he sent it.

Tears shot to his eyes and he blinked to clear his vision, forcing the tears out of them.
He tried again, fighting his hand as if it belonged to someone else.
He couldn’t do it.
He just couldn’t do it.
Couldn’t fuck himself up.
Every inch of him screamed in mutiny and he gasped as more tears dropped from his eyes.

They watched him as he tensed up, shook his head, struggled with himself and his demon.
He knew they were watching.
He knew they couldn’t help.
Nobody could help him.
Not on this.
He was on his own for this one.
Or so he thought.

The hand on his bare shoulder was warm.
He saw the boots come into view but he couldn’t bring himself to looking up.
He figured it would be either Chase or Tony, maybe Bill.
He wasn’t ready for who it really was.
When the other crouched down, he was compelled to look up.
He couldn’t ignore the presence any longer.
Even if it was only to accept the comfort they offered.
He got more than comfort alone.

He looked up to see Ryan crouching down, a worried look on his face but understanding in his eyes.
“Jack, I commend you,” Ryan started quietly, “for accepting to do this.”
He gave his shoulder a bit of a squeeze.
“But I commend you even more for your inability to actually do it. It proves beyond a doubt you are not dependent on it, no matter what anybody says or thinks.”
His hand fell away from Jack’s shoulder and he reached for the syringe.
“Here, let me help you.”

Jack let Ryan take the syringe out of his grasp and he felt the relief wash through him.
He wouldn’t have to do it after all.
He wasn’t going to mess himself up again.
Ryan took his wrist and brought his arm up, angling the syringe and inserting it carefully, connecting with the vein.
He looked up at Jack before emptying it, but Jack’s eyes were closed, a frown on his brow, so he emptied the syringe slowly, gradually shooting more of the venom into Jack’s body. When he removed the syringe, Jack let out the breath he had been holding. Ryan pushed up and put his hand on Jack’s shoulder again.
It gave him a lot more than just some comfort.

“Thank you.” Jack said in a soft whisper.
He knew they would never think the same about each other after this.
Everything had changed.

Jack struggled back into his gear, feeling the drug speed through his veins and he sagged against the bench, hugging himself tightly, waiting for the initial rush to pass. Once it passed he could get in control of it, but he had to ride it out first.
Minutes went by and they watched him with growing worry.
Shivers rattled him and he was still hugging himself tightly, his breathing rapid and ragged, carrying an occasional whimper or moan.
What if he couldn’t get a grip?
What would happen?
What if the drug got out of control this time?
What if?

But once the rush passed, his breathing leveled out, slowly going back to a normal pattern.
Sweat glistening on his brow and with an elevated heart rate, Jack pushed up and slid back onto the bench, leaning his head back and breathing deeply. The shivers stopped and so did the moans. It took a moment longer, but then Jack wiped his brow, clearing the sweat off it and ran his hand across his face. When he finally turned back, he was in complete control of himself again.
They were good to go.

They reached the rendezvous point not ten minutes later and the tension suddenly rose.
This was it.
If they didn’t make it past this point, the whole plan went down the drains.
Doyle pulled his cap deep into his eyes while Tyrell talked to his colleague, letting him know everything had gone as planned and they were waved through. When the truck started rolling again, they geared up, checking their weapons one last time before kicking into action. Jack knew the jeep had stayed behind, only the truck went through, so it was just the eight of them and Doyle. But Doyle had to secure Tyrell and keep him from alerting anyone while they moved into position.
Before they got out, Jack got up and picked up a spray can he had taken along.

“Just so we don’t end up shooting each other once we have those helmets on.” he explained.

He sprayed the chest and back on each of them after what Tony sprayed some on him.
It would be visible with the ultra-violet filter incorporated in the helmets they would recuperate.

“Make sure to switch the filter on as soon as you get a helmet.”

They all nodded, realizing they were seconds away from a highly sensitive operation which might cost each of them their lives.
Being in it together made it less scary, but no less intense and Jack felt the air around him thicken with nervous anticipation.

As soon as the truck stopped, he brought his weapon up, aiming it at the door.
When it opened, he pulled the trigger without hesitation, sending a burst of three bullets into the chest of the man beyond. He jumped out at once and fired at another one standing close-by, then swiveled around and kept his finger curled around the trigger, spraying the area and cutting down two more men. He heard gunfire from the other end of the truck and hurried around. He was just in time to see another man tumble to the ground, shot by Doyle.

“We’re clear back here.” Jack called.

Doyle turned around and nodded.
It was clear on his end too.
He hauled Tyrell out of the truck and marched him to the back, shoving him up against the truck while the others jumped out.
Jack pointed to the jeep and Curtis, Chloe and Ryan went up to it. Jack would join them and drop them off at their designated spot, going the farthest himself. The others would get to their position on foot.

He checked his watch with the rest of the group and sent them on their way while he headed over to the jeep, getting in behind the wheel and checking his watch with the other three as well, making sure they would all move at the same time.

He dropped off Chloe and Curtis first. They had the most important task ahead of them. Curtis had to enable Chloe to take over the communication system after what she could orchestrate them. Once they had their helmets, Chloe would switch each of them to a sub channel so they would be able to communicate with each other without Higgins’ men knowing, but while keeping them all on the same frequency as the hostiles. Curtis would have to get her at the controls and move on once she was set and secure. She had a gun too and she knew how to use it should the need arise, but she shouldn’t be in any kind of trouble.
At least he hoped she wouldn’t be.
He’d never forgive himself if anything happened to her because of him.
Her or any of the others for that matter.

He dropped Ryan off and wished him good luck, thanking him once more for his help earlier.
Then he moved to his own position, checking his watch, realizing he had to get a move on.
Curtis and Chloe had reached their target in the meantime and Curtis moved in while Chloe watched his back. It didn’t take him long to deal with the two people in the back of the van. A double tap to the chest took out the first, throwing him out of the chair he’d been sitting in. The sound of the body crashing to the floor made the other swivel around, turning into the bullets as they spat from the barrel of the gun. Curtis quickly got rid of the bodies, making some space for Chloe and called her. She clambered in and took the controls.

“Go Curtis, you have to hurry.”

He nodded and hurried off, closing the door of the van but waiting until she locked it from the inside before moving.
He ran as fast as his burning leg allowed him to and he quickly came up behind the group of men he was looking for. Three of them, all dressed in similar gear. He knew they had the same kind of protection he had and he knew where he had to aim his attack.
A first shot tore through the neck of the first one, taking him out in a matter of seconds. The second one turned, bringing his rifle around while the third one fumbled with his radio and Curtis shot him first, keeping him from alerting anybody. The bullet tore through his hand and dug into the radio, smashing it, then drove into the man’s hip, sending him in a spin which gave Curtis time to deal with the third man. The butt of his rifle made solid contact with the man’s helmet and he knocked it off, sending it tumbling to the ground, leaving Curtis with a wide open target. He hit again, striking at the man’s exposed skull this time and the impact knocked him into oblivion. He took the third out as swiftly as he had the first two and secured them, hiding the bodies from view.

He then got a hold of one of the helmets and put it on, securing it. Nobody would be knocking his helmet off his head. He reached down and retrieved the radio off one of the men, plugging it in and clicking it twice, signal for Chloe to switch him to the sub-channel.

“Are you okay, Curtis?” came Chloe’s worried voice.

“Yes, I’m fine, am I the first?”

“No, Tony and Chase have called in already, I haven’t heard from the others yet.”

“Okay, I’m moving into position.”


Curtis moved cautiously, keeping his eyes wide open. These men weren’t supposed to move in yet, so he had to make sure not to get caught. In the meantime, Ryan had also reached his targeted group. The clammy feeling that took possession of him made his breath flow in short gasps, his heart pounding in his chest, battering his ribs from the inside.
Three of them.
How the hell was he going to kill three men?
He had no experience with this.
He had hardly any experience at all.
He was the District Director, not some field agent.
Cold sweat beaded on his face, trickled down his spine.
Thankfully, he was wearing gloves. His hands weren’t slippery.
He clutched the weapon in his hands, breathing hard.
He couldn’t do this.
But he had to.
He couldn’t bail out of this.
If he did, the others would die.
He couldn’t be responsible for the deaths of all those agents.
Not even that hotheaded, protocol-breaking, insubordinate Jack Bauer.
Not even him.

If it hadn’t been for Jack, they’d be in a lot more trouble now.
They would be just about ready to be executed and used as scapegoats.
Thankfully, Jack had been there.
Thankfully, Jack had been used to the drugs.
Thankfully, Jack had gotten out.
He owed it to him to do his part.
He owed it to all of them, but he owed it to Jack more than anything.
Because Jack had shot that venom into his veins again in order to be able to stop the massacre.
Because Jack Bauer was willing to give up everything to stop this.
If Jack Bauer could push everything aside, then he should do it too.

He set one knee down and wiped at his brow with the back of his left hand. The glove absorbed the moisture without problem and he blinked twice to clear his vision. Very slowly, he raised the weapon and took careful aim. With one last deep breath, he put the crosshairs on the first man’s head. He swallowed hard, steadied his hand and pulled the trigger.
The man’s head jerked back, blood spraying from the exit wound and Ryan felt his stomach knot up.
The others jumped in surprise, looking at their buddy on the ground and one of them approached to check on him, which gave Ryan a clear shot at him. With shaking hands and fighting his rebellious stomach, Ryan curled his finger tighter around the trigger and a second bullet spewed from the rifle, cutting through the air and lodging itself into the other man’s skull. He went down without a sound. The last man stood petrified.
Ryan had no trouble bringing his rifle around and putting another bullet through another skull.
The man’s cry was cut off and his body crashed to the floor as Ryan retched.

He dropped the rifle and caught himself on both hands, vomiting, his stomach having gotten the better of everything else. A cold shiver ran through him and it made him shudder. He had just become a ruthless killer. Merciless. They hadn’t been given a warning. They hadn’t been given a chance to surrender. They had been shot in cold blood. He threw up again and when he sat back on his heels, he felt tears stream down his face. He let his head fall back as far as it would go and wept silently.
Wept over the loss of life.
Over the unnecessary use of violence.
The merciless killing.
The undeniable truth.
Sometimes a situation called for it.
This situation had called for it.
He didn’t have time to warn them.
And he wouldn’t have survived it if he had given them one.
Jack had been right in asking him if he was alright.
He wasn’t.
This wasn’t him.
This wasn’t what he did.
This … was insane.
And worse yet, he wasn’t at the end of it yet.
He had to kill again.
But he couldn’t.

He hung his head and covered his face with his hands.
He couldn’t.
But the image of Jack fighting with the syringe came back to him.
The devastation on his face.
The pain in his eyes.
The fear.
Fear of the drug.
Fear of losing his life.
He sobbed heavily, shaking his head.
If Jack could do that, accept it as the only possibility and accept … no … offer … to do this, then he couldn’t bail out on this.
He couldn’t.
If he ever wanted to be able to look another person in the eye.
He couldn’t.
If he wanted to keep his dignity.
He couldn’t.

His arms fell away and he looked up, looking at the three lifeless bodies up ahead.
Looked at the men he had killed only moments before.
He had to do this.
Slowly, he reached for the rifle while wiping at his face with his other hand. He pushed up and managed to get back to his feet, staggering for a moment, but keeping his footing. He took another deep breath and held it, then forced his foot forward. He covered the distance to where the first man lay, stooped down to retrieve the radio he carried on his belt and turned to the side to pick up a helmet. He plugged the radio in and put the helmet on, tightening the strap under his chin. He clicked the radio twice like Jack had told him to and fumbled with the helmet to switch on the ultra-violet filter.

“Are you okay?” came Chloe’s voice over the radio.

“Yes, I’m fine.”
His voice was barely more than a whisper and his throat was tight but Chloe heard him.

“Did you have any problems?”



“Is everybody on?”

“No, Jack and Gael haven’t reported yet.”


He moved on, taking one shaky step after another, trying to stay alert. Trying hard to stay conscious.
He had a moment to regain control over himself again. He would have to be in control in order to survive this thing.
For now, he was still breathing.
That was an important victory already.

As Ryan moved on, Jack had caught up with his target. He had the biggest threat to deal with, the largest group of hostiles. With Curtis having been shot and Chase having gotten roughed up beyond reason, the choice had been between him, Tony and Bill. But both Tony and himself had quickly talked Bill out of even thinking about it, he lacked recent experience. Jack had put it bluntly, Bill was too rusty to take this bite out of the cake. And between him and Tony, the choice had been easy, Tony had Michelle to consider, he was alone anyway. So there he was, facing five enemies who all wore protective gear and automatic assault rifles.
He approached stealthily, thinking about the possible options he had when one of the men excused himself and walked away from the group. Rifle slung over his shoulder, helmet dangling from the strap at his hip, the man put some distance between him and his companions to relieve himself and Jack smiled to himself.
It was one hell of a way to go.
He actually loved to take them out when they were taking a piss or a dump.
He’d done it more than enough already, often on covert operations or during an escape and it always brought a weird sense of satisfaction. Killing a man when he was at his most vulnerable and not expecting an attack.
His grin widened when he came up behind him.
Very slowly, as if it were a ritual, he brought his arms up.

When he was in position, he struck, fast as lighting, like a cobra shooting forward to strike, his hands shot over the man’s shoulders, taking his chin in a firm grip and snapping his head to the side so fast and with such force, the neck snapped like a twig. Not a sound escaped and the man sagged in his grip, losing control over his bladder as the life rushed out of him and releasing the contents of it as he had been planning on doing.
Jack lowered the body to the ground and removed the helmet and radio, clipping it to the belt and plugging it into the helmet. When he secured the helmet, he clicked the radio twice to let Chloe know he was online.

“Are you okay?” she asked a split second later.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Jack replied, “give me a status report.”

“Everybody’s called in, you’re the last.” Chloe replied.

“I’m not clear yet, I took out one of them as he separated and recovered his helmet, I’ll let you know when I’m clear.”

“Hurry, Jack, it’s almost time.”

“I know.” Jack replied under his breath.

He went back to the group and fumbled with his helmet to keep them from asking what he was doing wearing it already, but moments after he got there, they all geared up and he knew he was hopelessly behind on schedule.
What the hell had happened?
Where had he lost so much time?
Had he lingered too long dropping Ryan off?
Or hadn’t he driven as fast as he should’ve?
He had discarded the jeep and made his way over here.
Had it taken him too long to cross the distance?
He had no idea.
All he knew was that he couldn’t let these men reach the building.

He fumbled with his helmet a little longer, letting them get ahead, but one of them turned back and asked him if everything was alright. Jack noticed the others kept moving and he shook his head, holding up his hand as if to say ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with it’ and the man came back to where he stood. Jack tapped the side of it as if to signal his radio wasn’t working well and the man took off his own, putting it down next to them. He pushed up but never made it as something hard smashed into the side of his skull, colliding fiercely with his ear and causing a few blood vessels inside to pop under the pressure. He crashed to the ground with a grunt but before he could cry out – in pain or for help – Jack’s hands locked around his throat and he choked the life out of the man in a matter of seconds. When the body went limp in his hands, he kept the pressure up and counted off ten more seconds, making sure there would be no recovery. He then pushed up and hurried after the others, catching up with them only moments later, quietly coming up behind them. As long as they didn’t turn around, they wouldn’t notice only one man was behind them instead of two. It gave him some time to think about the best course of action.

Two down, three to go, but they all wore protective gear and they were closing in on the building ahead. He couldn’t open fire at them. He’d have to aim too carefully to take them all out before they could return fire and the sound would carry too far and alert others to trouble. If they were alerted, they would switch to their back-up plan and that would make it a lot harder for Jack and the others to pull off their stunt. It was hard enough as it was and he was glad enough everybody had gotten the better of their targeted group. Even Michelle, Gael and Bill. And, what was more surprising, even Ryan. He’d had no doubt Chase, Curtis and Tony would get the better of their targets, they were experienced field agents and he knew Bill had more than enough of that to go around, so that didn’t surprise him much. Gael seemed to know his way around guns too and he knew Michelle had weapons training. Ryan had been the only weak link in this thing.
Then again, Ryan had gotten the better of the men and he was the one lagging behind with three more hostiles to neutralize before they reached the building and met up with the others.

Then he noticed the knife on one of them.
That was it.
He could use the knife and take them all out in silence.
He hastened his pace a little and drew nearer to the man.
But how could he pull this off without alerting the others?

He hesitated for a moment, walking half a step behind the other, but then he tripped, steadying himself on the other man’s shoulder with one hand and pulling the knife out of its sheath with the other. The man turned back, his hand coming up to help steady his friend and Jack looked back and down, cursing softly under the helmet. He heard the other guy’s muffled chuckle and felt the slap on his shoulder.

“Watch where you put your feet, man.”

“Yeah.” Jack huffed.

When the man turned back, he struck, slipping the blade under the edge of the helmet and driving it into the man’s neck, cutting through skin, muscle and nerve tissue, and cartilage.
The man sank to the ground without a sound.
When he pitched forward, Jack held on to the knife and it slipped back out of the wrecked neck.
He kept his eyes on the others who never looked back and he caught up with them. They were drawing close to the building and he had to make his move. Quickly.
But the men were walking side by side and he didn’t get an opportunity to snuff either of them unseen. That opportunity offered itself to him when they turned a corner. One of them lingered a step behind and Jack struck, his hand getting a hold of the edge of his helmet and yanking his head up, the other hand coming around and the sharp knife sliced through the soft skin on the man’s exposed neck, cutting through without difficulty. He felt the man tense up in shock as he realized what was happening, but he didn’t have a chance to react as the life poured out of him along with his blood. Jack eased him to the ground, keeping him hidden behind the corner of the building they were entering. He waited, counting off the passing time in heartbeats. Twelve heartbeats later, the last man came back around the corner, spotting the downed man first, the standing one next. By the time he registered every detail of the scene and started reacting, Jack had already planted the knife in his throat and yanked it to the side before the man had a chance to make a move. Once more the knife cut through everything in its way.
The man grabbed at his throat but couldn’t prevent the fatality.
Couldn’t prevent the blood from pouring out of his sliced arteries, the air from rushing out in an unnatural way and his life from slipping through his gloved fingers.
He sagged against the wall, looking up at the dark shape stood over him and he could imagine the victorious grin on his enemy’s face. Then, everything went black and he fell to the side.

Jack clicked his radio.
“Chloe, I’m clear and at the building.”

“Everybody’s in position Jack, we were waiting for you.”

“I know, I had to improvise.” Jack replied, “I’m moving into position now.”

He rounded the corner but stopped, remembering something.
His hand came up and he quickly switched on the ultra-violet filter before entering the building. If he found himself face to face with one of his own, he wouldn’t be at risk of shooting them. He looked down and saw the highlighted spot sitting in the middle of his chest, the filter was on and working properly. He tightened the grip on his weapon and pushed on, entering the lion’s den. It was just eight of them against the core of Higgins’ men, twenty five of them, split in two groups, one leading the attack, the others covering their retreat. They would be waiting for the call telling them the truck had arrived with the prisoners and Higgins had to be going mad by now. Either he was raging at the incompetence of the men he had left in charge of handling the prisoners, or he was raging for not taking care of that himself. Or he was worried sick something had happened in which case he might already be contemplating going to the contingency plan. But he hadn’t given that order yet, otherwise Chloe would’ve informed him or he would’ve heard it over the radio.
They still had time to pull this off.

He went down the hall and reached a first intersection, checking on his left, two men were coming down that hall. Both dressed in similar gear. Both sporting a big blotch of ultra-violet paint on their chests.
Jack stepped out into the hall and signaled to them, one of them raised his hand in return and they joined him, going down the second part of the hall with him, walking side by side and filling the corridor up.

“Everything a’right?” Tony asked, putting his hand on Jack’s shoulder.

“Yeah, I had to improvise along the way, but I didn’t have any problems.” Jack replied, “You?”

“Clockwork.” Tony replied and Jack heard the grin through his electronically transmitted voice.

“You?” Jack asked, turning to the other man.

“Piece of cake.” Bill replied.

“Good.” Jack huffed.

Chase, Curtis, Michelle and Gael would be meeting them on the other end of the building, Ryan should be working his way towards them. Just as he thought of Ryan, someone stepped out into the hall ahead and they froze, bringing up their weapons. The man turned, away from them first and they saw the paint on his back.

“Ryan.” Jack said quietly and they all watched him jump in surprise.
“We’re behind you.”
Ryan turned back and they could see him let out a sigh of relief.
They knew it was relief.
“Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” Ryan replied, a tremor in his voice.

It made Tony chuckle.
Those were usually Jack’s words.
Thinking of the fact Ryan had just killed three men and now spoke the words Jack usually used, made him laugh despite the danger they were all in. He saw movement and turned to look at Jack who had turned to look at him, having heard him laugh. The playful jab flirted with the edge of his shoulder without really connecting with it. They both knew what Tony was thinking.
They came up to where Ryan was waiting and he fell in behind them while Bill slowed his step somewhat and let Jack and Tony take point, staying by Ryan’s side. The poor man would need every bit of help he could get.
They pressed on, now pressed for time and finally reached the staging area.

Just as they reached their positions, they all heard Higgins’ voice coming over the radio, ordering the strike team to advance to their final position and Jack cursed under his breath. They would never stop them. They were bound to pursue. Hopefully they would catch up with them before they carried out their mission, but if the second team held their ground, they probably would move on to the back-up plan and it would turn into a bloodbath.

“Chase come in.” Jack hissed into the radio.

“Yeah, Jack?”

“Where are you?”

“We’re coming up to our position, where are you guys?”

“We’re in position but the first team is moving out. We’ll have to split up.”

“What do you want to do?”

Jack looked at Tony who nodded, then at Bill who nodded too.
“We’ll go after the strike team, but we’ll need you to give us cover while we break through.”

Chase looked at Michelle, Curtis and Gael in turn, both men were ready for it and Michelle nodded too.
“You call it.” he replied to Jack.

“Okay, let me know when you’re in position.”

“Give us thirty seconds.”

“You’ve got them.”
Jack turned to Ryan.
“Ryan, we have to go after the strike team, are you coming with us or not?”

“Where are the others?”

“The opposite side of this room.”
Ryan hesitated.
“You have to make up your mind Ryan, either you come with us and you’re ready to move, or you stay here, but you’ll be on your own and you’ll have to help the others give us cover.”

“I don’t know if I can do that.” Ryan replied, his voice shaky and hesitant.

“If you’re coming with us, you’ll have to do your part, Ryan, I’m not taking dead weight on this one.” Jack replied sharply.
“Decide now.”

They saw his chest heave as he took a deep breath.
“I’m coming.”


“Jack, we’re in position.”

“Okay, Chase, we’re ready.”

“Let’s do this.” Chase replied.

The four of them stepped out into view and opened fire at once, taking high aim since none of the hostiles were wearing their helmets yet. The chaos was completed by Jack and his team stepping into the room and opening fire from the other side, pinning the hostiles under the crossfire. They tried to return fire, not understanding why their own people were shooting at them, but then Jack heard Higgins’ voice over the radio.

“Jack, you fucking bastard.” he snapped dryly, “Kill them.” he yelled at his men, “Kill them all.”
He turned and tapped one of his men on the shoulder, then ran into the hall the strike team had disappeared into.

“Chloe, can you scramble the radio?” Jack asked, taking aim at one of the men and watching the bullets slam into his skull.
Dead on impact.

“Done.” Chloe reported a second later, “I only scrambled their frequency.”

“Perfect.” Jack replied, pushing on, firing relentlessly at the men who tried to scramble for cover.

Some of them had gotten their helmets on by now and those who were left standing made a much harder target of themselves, but the relentless fire from both sides of the room forced them down. Jack and his team punched through with little or no trouble thanks to the excellent support fire they were getting from Chase and the others and they ran through the hallways, chasing after Higgins and his men. Ryan was lagging behind, but he was determined to stay close to them, he didn’t want to be left behind and on his own, he would be unable to defend himself for long. So he hurried after the others, the blotches of ultra-violet paint dancing in front of his eyes.
That had been another bit of brilliant thinking on Jack’s part.
Maybe the man wasn’t as bad as he thought after all.

Suddenly, Jack opened fire and Ryan looked beyond the three running shapes.
The two men who had broken away from the pack moments before were in front of them, running down the hall.
Well, at least one of them was.
The other was down, clutching his left leg.
Jack fired again and Ryan watched as the other one threw himself to the side to avoid the spray of bullets, then he turned and returned fire. His aim was dead on and the bullets slamming into his chest stopped Jack dead in his tracks, threw him down, left him gasping for air as the wind was knocked out of him. Both Tony and Bill raised their weapons and the man ahead dashed for the other side of the hall, once more avoiding the bullets. Ryan stopped beside Jack who was struggling to get up, grunting in pain. The Kevlar pads had protected him from the bullets, but the impact had been incredible and it was always painful to get shot, even if the vest took the impact. Ryan held out his hand and Jack pulled himself to his feet with his support.
He mumbled a quick thanks and hurried off after Higgins.

The man he’d shot in the leg lay motionless on the ground, having taken a fatal shot from either Tony or Bill as they had drawn near. He had probably raised his weapon on them, they wouldn’t have shot him without a reason. Their backs were covered by Jack and Ryan. They moved past the body and hurried after Tony and Bill. More gunfire erupted and Jack sprinted away from Ryan, catching up with Tony and Bill and opening fire at Higgins who had forced them to dive for cover. He stayed in full view though, challenging Higgins, daring him. Higgins took the dare after slipping on his own helmet. He knew he was practically invulnerable.

He fired a short blast at Jack who took three more impacts to the chest and arm but without consequences and he returned fire, aiming low and going for the legs.
Higgins squealed under his helmet as the bullets tore through his knees.
A weak spot in the armor he had never stopped to think about.
Who would ever think of aiming at the knees?
But Jack wore the same armor.
He knew which were the weak spots.
And the sick bastard used them.
He caught himself on his arms as his legs were cut out from under him.
For a moment he tried to steady himself on his knees in the hope to give Jack a taste of his own medicine, but he couldn’t stay on his knees and he dropped to the floor, lifting his weapon once he was down. But Jack wasn’t waiting around for him to take another shot at him. Instead, he advanced, rifle trained on him.

“Drop the weapon!” Jack yelled as Higgins tried to lift it.
“Drop it now.” Jack warned again, but Higgins had no intention of giving up without a fight.

Jack’s finger tightened on the trigger and the weapon spat out another short burst, each of the bullets slamming harmlessly into Higgins’ chest. They didn’t do any damage but threw him flat on the floor, the rifle clattering back to the ground. He took careful aim this time and squeezed the trigger again, firing three bullets since the weapon was set to full automatic and all three bit into Higgins’ armpit making him cry out in pain. There was no way he would raise that weapon again.
Jack closed the distance and kicked it out of his reach anyhow.
It was a reflex.
Tony and Bill were two steps behind him.
Ryan three steps behind them.

“Secure him.” Jack said to nobody in particular.

Bill stooped down and picked up the assault rifle Jack had kicked out of Higgins’ hands, untied the shoulder strap and stooped down next to the man. With a little help from Jack in the shape of a vicious kick to the ribs, they rolled him over and Bill quickly tied his arms behind his back. Higgins took another kick to the ribs before Bill could pull him up and he took a step back, letting Jack at him. It was no use trying to stop Jack, too much had happened for him to not get a little payback for what Higgins had put him through earlier. But Jack didn’t take the time now. He reached down and pulled on Higgins’ arm, rolling him to his back once more, unfastened the strap on the helmet and ripped it off, tossing it down the hall, missing Ryan’s leg by mere inches as he stood in the middle of the hall. His hand locked on the edge of the suit and he pulled Higgins into a sitting position, then pulled him along and shoved him up against the wall. He let go and stood up, looking down on the agonizing man. In a sudden surge of anger, Jack took support against the wall with his left hand and kicked his right knee into Higgins’ face, smashing his nose on impact and ramming the man’s skull into the wall full force, knocking him into instant oblivion, blood running freely from his shattered nose. He’d be back later for some fun of his own.
For now, they had a group of eight assassins to stop.

“Move out.” Jack snapped, taking point again and hurrying down the hall.
He heard the running footsteps behind him and knew the others were following.

“Jack, come in.”
It was Chase’s voice.

“Yeah, Chase?” Jack replied quickly.

“We’re clear. Seven hostiles in custody, the rest is dead.”

“Good work, Chase.” Jack complimented, “Is everybody alright?”

“Yeah, we’re alright.” Chase replied, much to Tony’s relief, “How are you doing?”

“We caught up with the two who broke away and we’re in pursuit of the others.”

“Okay, good luck.”


Moments later, they came up to double doors.
Three guards lay dead on the floor, they never had a chance to draw their weapon and defend themselves.
Beyond the doors, shouts could be heard.
Then a sudden burst of gunfire, followed swiftly by panicky screams.
Jack pushed through the door on the left, putting his shoulder against it and leveling his weapon the moment he cleared the door on the right. What he saw stalled his breath.
The eight men had shot four more guards just inside these doors, a group of three held another bunch of guards at gunpoint, the rest of them had their weapons trained on the representatives of the eight countries.

“Chloe, I need you to unscramble their radio and patch me in.”

“I’m on it, Jack.” Chloe replied at once.
She was paying attention.
“Go ahead, Jack.” her voice sounded moments later.

“This is agent, Bauer,” Jack started, seeing the reaction in the men ahead, “your back-up team has been apprehended, your leader killed.” Jack lied, “You have no way out, put down your weapons.”
The men looked at each other.
They hesitated.
“Lower your weapons and surrender now or you will be killed.” Jack continued.
To emphasize his words, he fired a short burst into the air.

The men jumped at the sound and turned to the door, finding the four of them at the door, dressed in full protective gear, weapons at the ready. Two of the men holding the guards back lowered their weapon at once, realizing these men could not have reached them if Higgins and the rest of the team were still in position. The guards quickly overpowered the last one and retrieved the weapons. But the more delicate part of the operation was yet to come.
Five heavily armed men in full protective gear held the representatives of eight of the world’s most powerful countries hostage.

“Surrender now or die.” Jack commanded again, “You will not get another warning, this is your last chance.”

In response, one of the men raised his weapon, turning it on the Russian representative.
Jack took aim and squeezed the trigger before the other man had a chance to do so. Again, he went for the weak spot and mowed the man’s legs out from under him, sending him to the ground with a sharp cry of pain.

“Stand down now or you will be shot.” Jack repeated sharply, advancing but keeping his weapon aimed at the group.

They hesitated.
Not sure how to react.
But the pace on the four men was determined and they closed in steadily.
The guards were staying out of the melee for the time being, but they were on the loose as well, which meant a larger group to fight, coming at them from two sides. One of the men lowered his weapon, setting it down on the floor by his side and raised his arms.

“Take off your helmet and lace your fingers on top of your head.” Jack instructed.

The man obeyed and took off the helmet, dropping it by his weapon, raising his arms as he stepped away from both items. One man down, four in custody, it left three against the batch of them and the others gave up as well, surrendering to the advancing agents. Once the situation was under control, one of the guards radioed for reinforcements and the representatives were quickly lead away to safety.

“Chloe, we’ve got the situation under control. Call it in.”

“I’m on it, Jack.” Chloe replied, calling the proper authorities to come take the surviving hostiles into custody.

He took off the helmet and dropped it to the ground, switching off the radio as well. Tony took off his helmet as well.
“Higgins?” he asked softly.
The look in Jack’s eyes confirmed.
He was going back for more.
“Need a hand?”

“I wouldn’t mind one.”

“What are you going to do to him, Jack?”

He turned and met Ryan’s eyes.
“You don’t want to know, Ryan.”

“I do, Jack,” Ryan replied, “after what he put you through, I do want to know.”
“Are you planning on getting back at him?”

“What do you think, Ryan?” Tony asked sarcastically.

“It isn’t going to make it go away, Jack.” Ryan continued, ignoring Tony’s words.
“It isn’t going to take that poison out of your veins and it isn’t going to heal those wounds.”
He left a blank, giving Jack a chance to reply, but he stayed silent.
“You need medical attention, Jack, you know that, don’t you?”
Jack nodded silently.
He had been losing quite a lot of blood.
“And if you want to keep the drug from taking over your life once more, you should tackle it now, before you become dependent on it again.”
His words froze Jack to the bone.
Chappelle had known.
“Leave Higgins to the proper authorities,” Ryan said, almost pleading with him to listen to reason, “your own health is more important now. Don’t throw away your life because of him. Now is the time to tackle the drugs in your system, Jack.”
He left another blank.
“I won’t help you fix up again.”

He saw the understanding in Jack’s eyes.
He knew Chappelle was giving him an out.
Knew Chappelle was offering him a chance to get away with his reputation intact.
If he went after Higgins, Chappelle would bring him up on a lot of shit.
The drugs in the first place.
He nodded his agreement and Ryan nodded to Tony in turn.
Tony would bring Higgins in here so he could be handed over to the proper authorities.

Ryan clicked his radio.

“Yes, Ryan?”

“We’ll need an ambulance here.”

“What happened?”

“Jack needs to be taken to hospital ASAP.”

“I’m on it.”

“Thank you, Ryan.”

“No, Jack, thank you.” Ryan replied, taking Jack’s outstretched hand and shaking it.
“If it hadn’t been for you, we would all have died tonight. I commend you for the sacrifice you made. None of us could’ve asked you to make it. None of us would’ve dared to ask you to make such an enormous a sacrifice. You saved us all, Jack, and you did it on your own.”

“No, I didn’t,” Jack replied, “I had a little help.”
“You did great.”
Ryan blushed slightly under the compliment.
“And I really do need to thank you, Ryan.” Jack continued.
“For what you did earlier and for what you did just now.”

“Go to hospital and kick that shit before it takes control again.”

“I will … thank you for giving me the opportunity.”

They shook hands again and Jack felt a sudden rush of energy coming off the pencil-neck he despised more than not.
Their relationship had taken a sudden and disorienting turn.
It would take them both some time to figure out exactly where they stood from now on and how they felt about the other, but it was looking good. The foundation was solid now, based on undeniable respect for each other.

Tony and Bill returned with Higgins and shoved him down with the rest of his men, leaving them under the watchful eyes of the guards and they joined Jack and Ryan again. Jack had taken a seat and a thin film of perspiration was visible on his face. Things were catching up with him, the heroin in the first place, the wounds, the beatings he had taken, the lack of food, the adrenaline, the excitement. Everything that had transpired since the moment he had been plucked out of his house. They needed to get him to a hospital soon or he would collapse.
Thankfully, two paramedics pushed through the double doors through which they had entered and Ryan called them over at once, pointing to Jack as being their patient.

“What’s wrong with him?”

“Multiple gunshot wounds,” Ryan started, “arm, leg, upper chest.”
He stepped out of the way as the men helped Jack off the chair and onto the gurney.
“He’s been assaulted physically repeatedly and he’s been subjected to drugging as well.”
One of the paramedics looked up from securing Jack to the gurney.
“Heroin.” Chappelle explained.

The man turned back to Jack and made sure to secure his arms under the strap.
It would guarantee their safety should Jack suffer a negative side-effect to the drugs.
They wheeled him out only moments later, followed closely by the three men, leaving the summit guards in charge of things.
Their presence was no longer required.
They met up with the others along the way and they tagged along, all of them happy they had made it out of this thing with their hides still attached. Jack knew the drug was wearing off and he was glad he’d made it to the end of this, coming out of it in one piece, but most importantly, without having gotten any of his friends killed or maimed.
Whatever happened after this, he would have that achievement to look back on. Like Ryan had put it, he had saved their lives. Theirs and the summit representatives as well.
And he had also saved his own life.
In more than one way.
The future lay ahead of him.
It was his to live.
Ryan had given him that option.

The End.

No comments:

Post a Comment