2:00 P.M. -3:00 P.M.
The Following Takes Place Between 2:00 P.M. and 3:00 P.M.
WARDEN AIR BASE
The row of cars pulled up on to the tarmac, just short of the airplane. The back doors of the armored vehicle were opened and Jack and Sydney came out with the shackled Nina Myers.
Sydney looked at Jack. His expression hadn’t changed since their last conversation. “Dixon says field and tactical teams have been assembled,” she said slowly as they walked to the plane.
“Good,” was all Jack would say.
“I’m just curious,” Sydney said. “You didn’t dope my drink, by any chance?”
Jack just glanced at her, briefly, before looking straight ahead again. “What are you talking about?”
“Well, you want to be Nina Myers’ sole handler, and you’ve already made it clear that you’re not my biggest fan; I’m just wondering if you wanted to kill two birds with one stone.” Sydney wished she could take that last phrase back.
Jack’s expression didn’t change. If his stone-like expression didn’t change soon, she was going to ask him if he had ever taken lessons from her father in holding a poker face. “Agent Bristow, you’ve already proved how skilled you are in handling yourself when attacked. I have no doubt that if I made an effort to remove you from your post, you could fight me off. “
Sydney didn’t say anything this. She knew it was true.
“Beside, George made it clear that he’s not going to let me alone with Nina, no matter what I think.” Jack finally turned to Sydney. “So the answer to your question is, no, I didn’t put anything in your drink.”
“But make no mistake; Mason put me in charge of handling Nina,” Jack said. “You want to help, fine. But I’m calling the shots here, and don’t forget it.”
By now they had reached the plane. The agent on the scene handed Jack the papers he needed to travel with Nina Myers. “The agents who are traveling with you are already on board.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure of your position, Sydney,” Nina chimed in, her voice irritatingly “helpful” with her suggestion. “On this trip, you are definitely going to be the third wheel.”
“Shut up and get on the plane,” Sydney ordered. “And it’s Agent Bristow to you.”
They climbed on board. Jack headed towards the back of the plane where the other agents were seated. “We’re gonna need two lines of communication with CTU,” he told them. “One mobile and one for the translations. Gonna be tricky ‘cause their phone lines are shaky.”
“It’s already done,” said the agent on the right.
Sydney looked at Jack. “God bless Marshall,” she said as she took her seat.
The plane began taxiing down the runway.
Dixon knew that Sydney could handle Nina Myers and Jack Bauer if it came down to a direct confrontation. However, he also knew that Syd wasn’t going to give her full attention to them. If she was distracted for long enough, Jack could take advantage of that opportunity to kill Nina. He knew all too well that it took a lot of strength to be on the same side as the person who’d murdered your wife, and not act on your impulse.
He knew he was that strong a person. He proved if every day that he came to work and Arvin Sloane went home alive. He couldn’t imagine Jack doing the same thing.
His cell rang, interrupting his reverie. “Division, Dixon,” he said.
“Dixon, is this line secure?”
The phrase speak of the devil had never had truer meaning. “That depends, Sloane. Are you using your own cell?” he said, wondering what this was all about.
“I am. But you can never be a hundred percent certain about anything in this world, especially today.”
Any reflective side of Sloane’s personality was about as irritating as sand in an open wound. “Why did you call?” Dixon growled.
“Because I couldn’t reach Sydney, and I can’t afford to distract anyone else from finding the bomb.” Sloane took a deep breath. “I have reason to believe that there are elements within the government who may have interests contrary to that of President Palmer.”
Dixon immediate reaction, considering the source, was to dismiss Arvin and tell him to shove his “reasons” in the darkest hole Sloane could find, and seal himself in with them. Instead, he asked, “On what do you base your Intel?”
“I have several sources at Defense, State, and throughout the intelligence community,” Sloane said. “Several of those sources have reported events that might be part of a larger conspiracy. After Raeburn was removed as director of NSA, President Palmer had a meeting with the Saudi ambassador. As we both know, Saudi Arabia… supposedly… supports Second Wave. At that meeting they agreed to some sort of information exchange relating to the bomb, ” Sloane swallowed. “The President agreed to this exchange against the advice of Stanton at NSA and members of his own staff. The Saudi ambassador was in the process of taking that information to his government, when the helicopter he was in crashed.”
Dixon had known about the helicopter crash but not the information exchange. “I’ll admit that’s a different angle on this, but that isn’t enough to suggest that Stanton or anyone else is complicit in some sort of vast conspiracy.”
“The President had made it clear very early in this crisis that there was to be no evacuation of personnel, civilian or military from Los Angeles. Less than an hour ago, the President had to countermand an order of evacuation of military personnel from the city. Stanton gave that order, claiming that it was in place before he took command.”
“It could have been a mistake.”
Sloane gave a humorless chuckle. “You don’t get to as high a position as Stanton does by making that sort of mistake; you know that as well as I do.”
“So, what,” Dixon asked “Roger Stanton is some kind of enemy agent?”
“I know it may sound ridiculous coming from me,” Sloane admitted, “but the circumstances are more than a little suspicious, wouldn’t you say?”
The whole thing had a suspicious odor, but Dixon knew that he couldn’t ignore the possibility. And besides, in terms of enemy agents, it took one to know one. “How do you want to handle this?” Dixon asked reluctantly.
“For now, we do nothing,” Sloane said. “I’ll keep in touch with my sources. See if Stanton has anything suspicious in his history. If I find something, I’ll report it to you. But don’t repeat it to anyone else in the chain of command.”
Right, Dixon thought. “I’ll go along with this for now. But if you come up with corroborating evidence, I’m going to Chapelle. In the meantime keep your ear to the ground.
And then the devil in his head made him add “That’s where it belongs.”
“How’s your Arabic?” Mason asked over the phone.
“Pretty good,” Sydney said. “But you’d better have someone at CTU ready to run back-up.”
“What about Jack and Nina? How are they playing together?”
“How do you think?” Before Mason could answer, she added, “Nina knows that she’s on a very short leash. Hopefully, Bauer will have enough sense not to overstep his bounds.”
‘”Cause Jack’s been demonstrating such good sense,” Mason added.
“Sir, you’re the one who decided to let Bauer run point on this,” Sydney said hotly. “Now is a lousy time to be having doubts.”
“I know that, Sydney,” Mason said. “I was never wild about them bringing Jack here in the first place. But the man gets results and God knows we need some big ones, so…”
Mason was interrupted by another spasm of coughing. For reasons Sydney couldn’t pin down, this was starting to worry her. This was like the fourth time she’d heard Mason racked with coughing since she’d come back to CTU. “Sir, are you all right?” she asked.
“I’ll be fine,” Mason said. “Call me back when you’re on the ground.”
Then before Sydney could say anything more, he hung up.
Sydney knew, given everything that was happening, worrying that George Mason had whooping cough should be low on the priority list. But the CTU director had been acting erratically ever since she they’d met, and if that was affecting his ability to do his job---
She put that idea out of her head. As lousy as a human being Mason seemed to be, if he was relieved of his command Sloane would probably be put in charge. And that idea worried her nearly as much as the crisis they were in.
So reluctantly she put her worries on hold. “How long until we reach Visalia?” she asked one of the other agents.
“Less than ten minutes,” one told her.
Jack had walked toward Nina. “How far from the airport is the man in Visalia?”
Nina narrowed her eyes. “I’ll tell you after we land. Could I have some water?”
Jack then grabbed Nina by the shoulders. “We’re fighting the clock, Nina, so stop screwing around. How far from the airport is Faheen?”
Sydney walked over to Jack. “When we’re on the ground, you can start messing with her,” she said firmly. “Right now, threatening her brings us nothing.”
For a moment she thought Jack was going to keep menacing her anyway. Then he pulled back. “Fine,” he muttered. ”Get her changed. I need her to look like a civilian.”
Sydney unbuckled Nina’s seatbelt and was about to take her to the back of the plane when Jack spoke up again. “No. She changes here. She doesn’t leave my sight.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I’m not joking,” Jack said. “She doesn’t leave my sight until we’re on the ground; I don’t care if she has to go to the bathroom.”
“It’s all right, Agent Bristow,” Nina said in a deceptively soft tone. “It’s not like he hasn’t seen me naked before.”
Sydney definitely didn’t like the idea of Nina getting off on this conflict, so she decided to let this dog sleep. “Fine,” she acquiesced. Sydney moved back to her chair, sitting in front of Jack. “How are you going to use her?” Sydney asked.
This time, Jack smiled with an amused malice as he quoted Nina back at Sydney. “I’ll tell you when we’re on the ground.”
Suddenly, Sydney noticed Jack had another file in front of him. And it wasn’t Nina or Faheen’s. “What the hell are you doing with this?” she demanded.
“I needed some information,” Jack said coolly.
“So ask me. There’s no need to be going through my file!” Sydney said angrily. “Where’s the goddamn trust?”
“This has nothing to do with trust,” Jack said. “This is about finding the right way to get in the door with Faheen.”
“And you think that something I know will do it?” Sydney demanded.
“I have to have all the bases covered,” Jack said. “Make sure that there are no more surprises waiting in the wings. Understand?”
What the hell, Sydney thought. “All right,” she said. “But after this, you better be off my case.”
With that Sydney sat down, watching Nina as she put on the clothes they had brought on.
“By the way, how the hell did you get my file?”
“I asked your friend Marshall. He can be very helpful.”
“Jack and Nina are about to land in Visalia,” Michelle told Mason.
Mason closed his eyes for a moment “Has Jack got the location of Faheen yet?”
“No. Not until they land.”
Mason heaved a sigh. “Okay. Stay on top of it.” He hesitated for a beat. “Could you send Flinkman up here?”
Michelle hesitated, and then said: “All right.”
Marshall came up warily. As was the case whenever he was in a new environment, he was vaguely afraid that he’d done something wrong. Actually, come to think about it, he was always wary when summoned by any commanding officer. Then again, he worked for Jack Bristow and Arvin Sloane, which could be creepy in its own right. Not to mention that he dealt…
He snapped out of his train of thought as he realized he was already in Mason’s office. “You sent for me, Mr. Mason?” he asked tremulously.”
“Come in.” Mason nodded.
“Do we have any word on, ah, Paula?” Marshall asked.
“As far as I know, she’s still on the table.” Mason said. “By the way, that was top-notch work recovering the encryption code from the server.”
If anything this made Marshall even more anxious. He didn’t think that Sloane had thanked him five times for his tech support in all the years he’d known him. Hearing it from Mason made it sound even weirder. “Um, thank you, sir,” he said timidly.
“I realize that you’re busy,” Mason said, “and this isn’t something I’d normally ask someone like you, but um…” Mason pushed forward a piece of paper. “I need someone to do a back-trace on a phone number and get me an address.”
Now Marshall was even more baffled. “Um, you could’ve emailed that down to me, and I’d have been more than ready----“
“It’s got nothing to do with the nuke, Marshall,” Mason said softly. “And I’d appreciate if you didn’t tell anyone else that you were doing the trace.”
“Um, sir, I’m not sure that I understand what---“ Marshall then looked down on the piece of paper, and he saw that there what the name above the number was. He got it then… or some of it anyway.
“I’ll have it for you as soon as I can.” Marshall picked up the piece of paper, and left without asking anymore questions.
Marshall was a tech, but he was also a father.
Jack had wasted no time in getting Nina to her feet and cuffing her hands behind her back. In a short while, he was going to have to give up custody of this woman, so he intended to spend as much time as they had left reminding her who was in charge.
“Get moving,” he ordered as the stairway from the exit was lowered.
The three of them walked down the tarmac, Sydney first, Nina second and Jack behind her. The other agents trailed behind invisibly.
An agent wearing a black jacket came out to meet him, holding out his hand. “Agent Mason Doherty, FBI.”
“Jack Bauer, Sydney Bristow, Agents Miller and Harris,” Jack introduced his colleagues.
“We’re all set up, ” Doherty said. “All we need is a location.
“Where are we going, Nina?” When Nina didn’t answer right away, he yanked on her wrist. “What’s the location?” he demanded.
“A thrift store on Valley.”
“What’s the name?” Doherty demanded.
“Crescent Collectibles.” Nina seemed reluctant to give up that much.
Jack turned backed to Doherty. “What’s our transport?”
“Three teams, three vehicles, all ready on your orders,” Agent Doherty said. “Crescent Collectibles is in the Dianza District, about a mile from here. We can set up the base here.”
“Do it.” Jack pushed Nina towards the van closest to them. “She stays with me,” he told Sydney.
“And I’m staying with you,” Sydney warned. “Care to let me in on your plan?”
“I’m gonna use her.”
“Use her how?” asked Sydney.
All Jack would say was. “You’ll see.”
Sydney didn’t say anything else. A picture was forming in her mind, and she thought it was a very dangerous one.
She didn’t raise an objection because it probably wouldn’t be dangerous for her… and the more time she spent with Nina Myers, the less she cared what happened to her.
Sloane walked past his daughter and touched her on the shoulder. “Nadia.”
“What is it, Dad?” Nadia was never quite certain how to address her father at work. Sydney had no problem talking with her father but their relationship was far more established than that between her and Sloane.
“I’ve been trying to get an update on what’s happening,” Sloane told her “What with the bombing and the arrival of Nina Myers, I’m still not up to speed on everything that we’ve found over the last three hours.”
Nadia was a little surprised by this. As head of APO, her father was relentless in making sure he was kept up to speed on every detail of an operation. Then again, he wasn’t in command here and he had been in the hospital a couple of hours ago.
“Mason led a raid on a warehouse just inside the city limits and found a residual amount of weapons-grade nuclear material. Langley is using satellite playback to find out who was there. A suspect was killed on the scene but we’ve had a hard time identifying the body. A couple of hours ago, Tony and Vaughn went to track down the connection to Sayed Ali we found. The man they were talking with is Reza Nayer. They checked in about an hour ago. Vaughn said that they hadn’t gotten very far with the man.”
Her father was silent for a few moments. Nadia couldn’t help but notice how pale he looked. “Dad, are you sure that you’re all right?” she asked reluctantly.
“I was in a building that exploded, Nadia,” Sloane said quietly. “Anyone who says that he’s all right after an explosion of this magnitude would be lying.”
“That’s not what I meant, ” Nadia said. “You sure you shouldn’t still be in hospital?”
Sloane spoke in a gentle tone that he didn’t use much, even with her. “Nadia, I’ll be fine. Besides, I wouldn’t feel right resting when so many others have gone to their graves today.”
That sounded like the right words, and Nadia desperately wanted to believe them. But considering how much everyone at CTU seemed to hate her father, she wondered if the more productive thing for the unit was for him to be somewhere else. She hated the people at CTU for thinking this way.
She also hated them because there was truth behind it.
“What’s our time and visibility?” Sydney asked Doherty.
“From the time we get in, we estimate thirty seconds.”
“What about going through the roof?”
“We’re looking through the plans to see if it’s viable.”
Jack spoke up for the first time in a few minutes. “If he’s so willing to die, why didn’t he get out of Los Angeles?”
“Faheen doesn’t want to be collateral damage but that doesn’t mean he won’t give up his life for the cause.”
“We can’t take that chance,” said Sydney. “We need him alive.”
“What about gas canisters?” asked Doherty.
“Won’t do any good,” said Nina. “He knows all our protocols and he’s ready for them.”
“How does he know all our protocols?”
“She gave them to him,” Jack fixed Nina with a poisonous look. “It doesn’t matter. You’re going in.”
Now Nina started to look worried. “You can’t be serious,”
“He knows who you are.”
Nina shook her head. “He also thinks I’m in prison.”
Jack pushed Nina towards one of the cars. “Then you’d better convince him you got out.”
Nina stopped moving. “The day the bomb is going to go off? He’ll know I’m lying.”
“You’re a good liar, Nina,” Jack said grimly. “The only way he’s going to know is if you let him.” He yanked open a door and pushed her in.
“He’s gonna put a bullet in my head before I can say hello,” Nina argued, “and then he’s going to turn the gun on himself!”
Jack slammed the door shut. “We’ll make sure he doesn’t turn the gun on himself.”
Even Sydney raised a brow at that. “Jack, are you sure this is the right play?”
Jack glared at Sydney. “Don’t tell me you’re taking her side.”
“Hey, if we lose her before we can get to Faheen, we have nothing.”
“This is our only shot at stopping this nuke,” Jack said. “And we don’t have time to come up with a better plan.”
Sydney knew Jack was right about that. She knew Nina had been good at fooling people in the past. She just hoped that she could pull it off this time.
Mason took a swig of bottled water. “How it going?” he asked Michelle.
“All the channels are open; all we need now is the feed.”
Mason put down the water. “Make sure the translation program is on line, too,” he said.
Weiss spoke up. “Sydney knows Arabic.”
“Do I really need to explain fail-safe contingencies to you?” George said, exasperatedly. “We need someone on our end to make sure there are no screw-ups. All right?”
Weiss knew better than to argue. “Fine.”
“ Mr. Mason” a techie interrupted. “I have Tony Almeida on the line.”
“Hold it.” George walked over to the phone. “Yeah, what is it?”
“Nayer’s starting to talk,” Tony said. “He claims that Bob Warner made the transfers to Sayed Ali. Of course Warner is denying he knows anything about it.”
Mason considered this. “Bring them both in,” he said. “We’ll separate them, turn up the heat.”
“Are you giving me the OK to arrest these people?” Tony asked.
“If that’s what it takes.”
“What charges?” Tony asked.
Mason shrugged. “I don’t care if it’s jaywalking; just bring them in.”
“Okay.” Tony hung up.
“How long until we are ready to go?” Mason asked.
“Less than ten minutes,” Michelle responded.
“All right,” George said. “Let me know when Nina is on the move.”
Mason walked over to Marshall’s area of the floor. He lowered his voice. “You get anything on the number I gave you?”
“Um, yes, sir, Mr. Mason.” Marshall looked through some of the papers. “I have a residence and a place of employment for the man you’re looking for.”
George raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t think you’d be able to get that one,” he said, surprised. “Thanks a lot.”
“Um, Mr. Mason,” Marshall said, “I know that it’s none of my business that you want to try and contact” Marshall lowered his own voice “your son. But you really think that you should be expending all this energy on it?”
George was quiet for a few seconds. “You married, Marshall?” he asked.
As someone who routinely went off on tangents in his own conversations, Marshall was only minimally set back by the question. “For about a year,” he said.
“You got kids?”
“Yeah, he’s just over six months now. “ Marshall smiled. “He’s great. Eats all his Gerber’s, started crawling a little while ago…” He trailed off. He knew, despite Mason’s words, that he didn’t care about his son.
“I was a shitty father,” Mason said. “From the day John was born, he never came first. I don’t know if it was the job or me or…” Now Mason trailed off. “I never cared for him or his mother as much as I should have.”
Up until that point, Marshall had thought Mason wanted to find his son to tell him to get out of LA. Now another idea was starting to occur to him--- one that could have consequences beyond his job. “Mr. Mason, are you all right?”
Abruptly, Mason’s mood changed. “I’m fine, Marshall,” he said swiftly. “I just want to make sure my son is safe.” He began to walk away. “Thanks for your help.”
Mason walked back towards his office. As he did, he ran into Sloane.
“Arvin, could I have a moment of your time?”
The sarcasm in Mason’s voice was so clear that only a deaf man could have not noticed it. But Mason got that Sloane seemed to have some kind of force-field that let it just went right through him. “What is it?” he said neutrally.
“You’re up to speed on the situation with Reza Nayer and the Warners?” he asked his APO counterpart.
“Yes, I just talked to Agent Vaughn a few minutes ago. He brought me up to speed.”
“Tony and Vaughn are bringing Warner and Nayer to CTU. I want you to monitor them until I get there. I’ve got a meeting that can’t wait.”
Sloane looked curious. “With whom?”
Mason stiffened. “None of your damn business.”
“George, there’s no reason for this continued hostility. I know that you’re upset that you’re working with me, but if you get over your stubbornness, you’ll find I can be of assistance.”
“I know, Sloane, which is why I’m giving this detail to you. But don’t take this to mean I trust you or that we’re ever going to be friends.” Mason pointed downstairs. “Now go over to holding and get to work. I have to keep on top of Visalia.”
Sloane meekly retreated. For what had to be the fifth time that day, George wondered what Agency idiot had decided this traitor deserved to run his own unit. He realized, however, that it was futile to wonder, because he was probably going to go to his grave without ever learning the truth.
One of the reasons Mason was insistent on heading CTU was because he didn’t want the possibility to arise that Sloane would have to take over for him. He also knew that the time was coming where he would have to decide who would replace him. He just didn’t want to face it yet.
But soon, he thought, I’m going to have to deal with it. And my instincts haven’t been working so well for me today.
The car slowed down. “All right,” Jack said to Nina. “Once we get an ID through your camera, we’ll be inside in thirty seconds. Get out.” When Nina hesitated, Jack got pissed. “Get out!”
Nina got out of the car and began walking the remaining two blocks to Crescent Collectibles. Sydney got on the wire. “All units, be advised: Nina is in play.”
A few seconds later, Jack got out of the car. Sydney had been less than thrilled with this, but she couldn’t dispute the logic: It was possible because of her connections to the Covenant that someone in Faheen’s organization might recognize her. This was a case when Jack’s being out of play for more than a year would be a bonus.
As Nina walked to Faheen’s store, Jack put his com in. “Staying on frequency one. Sydney, you there?”
“Copy,” Sydney said. “Video feed ready on your command.”
“Right. Moving into position.”
From the car, Sydney watched Nina’s progress through a camera that was hidden on Nina’s neck. She saw Nina approach an Arabic woman and tell her that she needed to talk with Mamoud. The woman denied Nina was there until she said: “Tell Mamoud that Nina wants to seem him,” in Arabic. The woman backed away and had a heated conversation with someone out of shot.
Finally, the woman came back. “Follow me,” she said. She then led Nina into the back of the store. The second she was inside, they forced Nina to the wall and searched her for weapons. The agents outside could only pray no one looked at her pendant too closely.
“Sydney, all I’m getting is static,” Bauer said. “What are they talking about?”
Sydney was fluent in Arabic, but these people were speaking low and fast. Still, she was getting the gist of it. “They’re asking how she got out of prison. Nina says she escaped.” Then there was movement. “They’re taking her further back into the store. Looks like the room near the east exit.”
Nina approached a room with beaded curtains. “She’s talking to someone in the next room. Lighting’s not very good; I can’t tell whether it’s Faheen.” Nina began to speak again. “She’s still explaining how she got out of prison. I’m not sure they’re buying it.”
“Can you tell if it’s Faheen?” Michelle’s voice said in her ear.
“We can’t move in until we have confirmation of the target,” Jack pressed. “Is it Faheen?”
“I can’t tell,” Sydney admitted. “He’s still in shadow.”
Then the screen went dark. “Shit!” Sydney yelled. “I just lost visual!”
“That’s it.” Jack said. “We have to move in now!”
Sydney got out of the car, pulled out her weapon and ran for the store. By the time she got there, the FBI had smashed in the entry point in the ceiling, and a firefight had broken out. Before Sydney could reach the door, Agents Miller and Harris had smashed it down, and bullets were flying out of it.
Why can’t they ever go quietly? Sydney thought to herself as she began firing. She didn’t know how many men were in Crescent Collectibles, but there were already three dead Arabs on the ground.
An Arab armed with an M16 was firing from behind the cash register. The stream of fire had already taken out two agents. Sydney threw herself against the nearest wall and fired three shots at the terrorist. One of them caught him in the neck and he fell to the ground, squeezing a final round of shots as he fell.
There were at least three more terrorists shooting at them, but Sydney paid them little mind. She had to find Faheen before he took his own life. She ran to the eastern part of the building, where she thought Faheen had been hiding.
Another terrorist ran at her firing a Hauser 10. Sydney dropped and fired as she rolled. Both of her shots found her mark, and the Arab went down.
He’s the distraction, Sydney thought. He was there to buy Faheen time. She quickened her pace.
In the back she found Faheen with a gun under his chin. Without slowing to think, she fired a shot into the terrorist’s arm. His gun fell to the ground and he collapsed.
With Faheen in sight, Sydney came back to herself. The shooting had stopped. The government, by benefit of superior numbers, had prevailed. “Faheen’s been injured!” Sydney shouted. “Get him out of here and get ready to prep him!”
Agent Doherty had came in behind him. “Where’s Myers?” he shouted.
Because Sydney was concerned that Faheen stayed alive, she didn’t process the question for a moment. Then as she got to her feet, it hit her. “Jack, we have Faheen. Do you copy?”
There was nothing but static on the other end. “Jack, do you copy?” Sydney knew she was wasting her breath. “That stupid bastard,” she muttered. “Seal the building off!” she ordered Doherty. “Make sure no one gets out. Michelle!” she said, turning her com to frequency two. “I need satellite telemetry showing me what exit Nina used to get out of the building!”
“We’re on it.” Michelle said.
Sydney knew that when they found Nina, they’d find Jack. She just hoped that they got to Jack first.
Jack caught up with Nina in the next building over--- he knew he was on the right track when he found the dead cop with a missing weapon. He found her less than a hundred yards away in a stairwell about to blast open a locked door.
“Drop it,” he ordered. Nina hesitated for a long time before finally dropping the gun. She then raised her hands over head, walked down the stairs, turned around and fell to her knees.
Jack very slowly walked up to her.
And then he put his gun to her head.
Sydney sped along the hallway, nearly tripping over a dead body as she went. Considering the tendency of Jack Bauer to leave corpses in his wake, she felt she was hot on his trail.
A moment later, she found out that she was right.
Jack and Nina were at the top of a staircase. Jack had Nina on her knees, hands behind her head. The gun was clearly on the ground, Nina was disarmed.
There was a problem, of course, since Sydney couldn’t have anything easy in her life.
Jack wasn’t going for his cuffs, and his gun was pressed against the back of Myers’ head. He slowly ground the barrel against it, and Sydney didn’t need to ask what Jack was doing.
She raised her gun, and opened her mouth, ready to tell him to stop. Then she paused. Why should she? Nina was no longer useful. And she was becoming more and more apathetic about Nina’s continued existence the longer she tried to play Bauer off against anyone else in CTU. She knew it would piss him off, and it didn’t matter.
Sydney had realized just what else she didn’t like about Nina Myers.
Nina was Arvin Sloane, only younger and female.
Both traitors, both master manipulators, murderers, and both given a new lease on freedom by the same country they’d betrayed.
At the moment, the only difference was that Jack Bauer could kill Nina without fail, and no one would care enough about her to pursue the matter. Oops, Nina was dead, so sorry about that…how about we get that nuke?
Arvin Sloane had bought his continued freedom with Rimbaldi souvenirs; Nina with a far more fleeting currency.
And she had a far more dangerous adversary on her tail.
Sydney blinked, and wondered just how much that said about her—that Jack Bauer could settle all accounts with his wife’s killer, and Sydney hadn’t with the man who had murdered her fiance and her best friend.
If Arvin Sloane had been in the same position—arrested, incarcerated, and moments away from being let loose upon the world with only his word that he would be a good little villain from now on—would she be in Jack’s position, right this moment, with her gun against Sloane’s skull?
Well, probably not…
All of the introspection was over in a split second. She slowly lowered her weapon, wondering just how similar she and Jack Bauer were.
Sydney hadn’t even known she had been holding her breath when Jack had pulled the handcuffs from his belt and yanked Nina’s arms behind her back. He pulled Nina to her feet and turned to go back down the stairs.
And Sydney was there, waiting for them. Her gun was down, and her posture had already relaxed…she had to have been there for more than a second. She knew what he was about to do.
Jack nodded at her, and mouthed, quite clearly, “Thank you.”
Bristow nodded as the two of them came down the stairs. Nina’s eyes widened with terror—coming to the same conclusion Jack had. Neither of them wanted to keep her alive.
Sydney watched Nina’s reptilian gaze register the terror, and something occurred to her. Nina had been having far too much fun at her expense, trying to play her and Jack against each other.
It was time for that game to change.
Sydney moved with lightning quickness as the two ex-CTU agents walked by her. She grabbed Myers and pushed her back towards the stairs.
Jack took a step back, habitually reaching for his gun, but paused, hand in mid-reach. “What the Hell?”
Bristow’s gaze was on Nina, blanking out Jack altogether. This was a side of her Jack hadn’t even suspected was there—her eyes were narrowed, mouth set in a hard line, and her gun was up and leveled at Nina.
Sydney took a step back from Nina. “Run.”
Nina blinked, mouth slightly ajar, eyes wide with fear. “What?”
“I. Said. Run,” Bristow repeated in a low, hard voice. She did not yell it, and her voice wasn’t even above conversational volume, but it was deep and cold. “Your gun is still up there. Go get it.” Sydney smiled evilly. “I’ll wait for you.”
Jack raised his brows and took a cautious step towards Sydney, and gently advised, “You don’t want to do this.”
Sydney allowed one corner of her mouth to turn up in a smirk. “Oh, come on, Agent Bauer. It’s what you want, right? Nina dies, and we can all get back to finding the nuke.” Her gaze was fixed and locked on Myers. “You see, she made a mistake. I deal with a traitor every day of my life, so she thought that I was the harmless one. What she doesn’t get is I don’t like dealing with Arvin Sloane. I despise him. I want him dead. And she’s spent the last two hours trying to mimic him.” Her brows darkened. “You’re such a good judge of people, Nina, what do you think my thoughts have been about since you decided to play games with us? I don’t know you, and I have no problem dealing with you.
Jack studied her for a long moment, considering what she was doing. This didn’t fit with the character of the woman he’d been working with for half a day.
He sighed. “No, Agent Bristow, I don’t think we should.” He slowly moved towards Nina and pulled her up by her shoulders. “Get to the assault team,” he growled, pushing her in their direction.
Nina scurried away in fear.
Sydney waited until she was out of earshot to ask normally, “Do you really want to throw your life away for that piece of detritus?” She stood next to him and slid her gun away. “I’ve been in this situation, Jack. Her life’s not worth it. Not at the cost of your own.”
Jack nodded. “Have you secured Faheen?”
“He’s being prepped for interrogation.”
“Good.” They stood there a moment. “Thank you.”
“You said that before…for what?”
“For letting me stop myself.” He said ruefully. “It’s nice to have someone trusting my judgment for once.”
Sydney smiled. “When you work undercover as long as I have, you have to have a little method to your madness.”
Jack glanced at her. “And what method is that?”
“I just kept thinking of Sloane.”
Bauer finally smiled. “Well, for a moment, you almost fooled me.”
Sydney nodded casually, brushing it off…she was just afraid of one thing.
For a few seconds there, she actually thought she meant it, too.
“Who’s Mason talking with?”
Marshall didn’t jump up from his work this time, mainly because the person who’d snuck up on him was generally not hostile. “Hey, Weiss,” he said calmly. “Your ribs okay?”
“A little sore, but otherwise they’re fine.” Weiss said. He felt around his bandages around his head. “You didn’t answer my question.”
Marshall looked up at Mason’s office. Less than a minute ago, two members of the LAPD had brought in a young guy in his late teens-early twenties. “I don’t know.” Marshall said.
“You have any idea why Mason sent two cops to pick him up?”
Marshall hesitated again. “I don’t know.” This denial sounded weaker than the last one.
“Is he some kind of informant?” Weiss kept questioning. “Does he have any information on the nuke?”
“I don’t know.” Weakest reply yet.
“Marshall, my man,” Weiss said. “You’re the one who’s always on top of everything. How can you be so clueless about our temporary boss?”
“Well, for one thing I’ve barely known him for seven hours,” Marshall protested. “And for another, I’ve been kind of busy what with the building exploding and getting CTU’s computers back on line and helping get the feed up in Visalia---“
“Whoa, whoa, Marshall” Weiss held up his hand. “I didn’t mean to say you weren’t up on your job! I know you’ve had your hands full; we all have. It’s just you’re the guy who manages to stay on top of everything. You always seem to know what’s going on. And since we’ve got to rely on Mason’s calls, I just figured it would make sense if we knew what the guy’s doing.”
Marshall was torn for a few seconds but decided to relent a little. “I’m pretty sure the guy Mason’s talking with is his son,” he said slowly.
Weiss was surprised. “I didn’t know he was married.”
“He’s not anymore. My guess is they haven’t talked in a while. I think he wanted to get the kid out of LA, he couldn’t reach him by phone, and this was the only way to do it.” Marshall shook his head. “Must be pretty lousy to get that far away from your own kid.”
As bad as a situation was, it was none of Weiss’ business. He’d just needed to know if they had a problem with Mason. Now that he could see they didn’t, it was time to get back to work. “Have Sydney and Jack started interrogating Faheen?” he asked.
“I’ll check the feed.”
“All the blame for the bombing of CTU is landing on Raeburn. You all right with your people?”
“Nothing I can’t handle. What’s the situation with Stanton?”
“I told David about the meetings in the Senate. He didn’t consider it relevant.”
“That doesn’t matter. As long as he suspects only Stanton, we can keep him occupied; have him looking in the wrong direction. The important thing is that he believes you’re credible.”
“I’ll try, but you know my situation. It’s going to be an uphill climb with David. As it is, he’s barely giving me the time of day.”
“I know the feeling, Mrs. Palmer. But don’t worry, you play by our rules, you’re going to get everything you want.”
“I know my role and I intend to live up to my part of the bargain. You just better live up to yours, Arvin.”
“I will, Mrs. Palmer” Sloane said quietly. “I will.”