8:00 A.M.-9:00 A.M.
Disclaimer: Jack Bauer, President David Palmer and the rest of the team at CTU belong to Joel Surnow and all the staff at Real Time Productions. Sydney Bristow and the team at APO are the property of J.J. Abrams and the people at Bad Robot. I don’t own them and I never will. I’m just borrowing them for a little while.
Explanation: This story may seem a little familiar to you at first, and there’s a reason for that. As a lunching point for this work I am going to be retelling the events of the second season of 24 with the cast of Alias joining the hunt for the nuclear bomb. As the story progresses I intend to be making certain changes to how the day went on based on certain people and associations from Alias.. In other words, what happens to some of the characters from 24 on Day 2 may be dramatically different then in the real thing.
In addition, there are some other provisos.
1. This story assumes that the events in Day 1 occurred before Sydney woke up in Argentina and found that two years were missing from her life. It also assumes that a year has passed since then and that we are now into season 4 of Alias. I don’t have a specific episode in mind, but no one yet knows about Elena Derevko yet, Vaughn hasn’t gotten any hints that his father might be alive, and Sydney and Vaughn have resumed their romantic relationship.
2. Jack Bristow will be playing almost no role in this story. This you can blame on the author. I just don’t know how I could manage to have two characters with the same first name and job without an enormous amount of confusion. Perhaps in a future story, I’ll figure a way around this molehill, but I can’t find a way now.
3. Kim Bauer will be playing a far more limited role in this story. (Pauses for applause) This story is going to be complicated enough without Kim getting caught in bear traps and being stalked by cougars.
4. Kate Warner’s role will be much more limited. I’m not sure what role the Warner family is going to be playing in this new story, but the focus is going to be less on them,
Now as to spoilers--- almost everything of Season 1 and a goodly amount of season 2 of 24 will come up. Season 4 of Alias will be in play. There may also be bits from other seasons but you’ll have to read to find out (diabolical laughter)
Still there? Then let’s start the clock.
The following takes place between 8:00 A.M. and 9:00 A.M.
An Undisclosed Location in Seoul, South Korea
When you work in intelligence, the only way that you can survive is if you perfect a poker face and wear it every day for the rest of your life. And if you wear that face for long enough--- say, thirty years --- that mask becomes the only face you have.
Therefore, if the casual observer had looked at Jack Bristow as he monitored the ‘interrogation’ of the prisoner, you might have thought that he was completely indifferent to what was being done to this man. You might think that he wasn’t seeing the drills and poisons that they were forcing on his body, that he didn’t hear the screams of pain from the tormented man, that he didn’t smell the mix of blood, chemicals and urine that was coming from the detainee. And, to a degree, you would have been correct. Jack Bristow wasn’t seeing any of this--- he was just observing the ‘routine extraction of information from a known hostile’, as his colleagues in the CIA would have put it. In occasions like this, the double talk helped make the unpalatable acceptable. It even helped you get past the fact that they already knew most of what this poor man had to say--- they just needed one more important detail that only he could provide.
Sometimes--- particularly in the last few years--- he wondered when he had finally become thick-skinned past the point of no return. .It was an exercise, though--- Jack knew that once you passed a certain point, there was no going back. More often, he wondered if his daughter had reached this point yet. He didn’t think she had, but she would probably reach it soon. It might even come sooner than she thought.
Suddenly, he became aware that their captive had shouted out ‘All right! All right!” in Korean. He realized that this might be it. Jack walked up to the prisoner, and ignored the scars on his body, the blood under his fingernails, the stench of rot that was coming from him. All of these were irrelevant. What he had to say was not.
“Tell me when.” he said in Korean.
The prisoner gasped and spat for several seconds before he managed to speak. He said one word.
For the briefest of moments, a wave of cold went through Jack Bristow. Then the part of him that managed to operate even in the midst of crisis kicked in. He took out his cell phone and began to make the call he needed to
“This is Bristow. It’s today. Get everybody on the wire--- NSA, Homeland Security, FBI.” Pause. “Yes. Get in touch with the Los Angeles director of CTU. And notify Director Chase. They need to enact Directive 6- A1 now.”
Even as Bristow said all this, all he could think was that after he hung up, everything would be out of his hands. The rest was up to the people on the other side of globe.
Please let Sydney get through this, he thought.
8:03:46 / 8:03:47/8:03:48
As Sydney Bristow settled into her jog around the reservoir, she tried to do what she managed to do every other day and put all of her cares and concerns into another place. This was no small feat, considering that she worked for a black ops unit in the CIA, that the man who ran this unit, Arvin Sloane, was the one person in this world that she would hate and distrust until the day she died—or he did, whichever came first. Not to mention that she was in constant conflict with a terrorist organization that seemed to have made it part of their mission to destroy her life, and that the relationship with one of the men that she loved seemed to be endlessly complicated even though the two of them were practically living together.
Of all these issues, it was her relationship with Vaughn that currently caused her the most distress—unlike the other issues, that was the only one she had a level of control over. This was why, even though her relationship with Vaughn had been going smoothly over the past three months, it was one of the things that concerned her more. Even last night, after the two of them had made love, she had lain awake for some time afterward wondering where they were headed.
It was for these reasons that her morning jogs had become important to her. By running five miles each day, she managed to reach a zone where, for awhile at least, she was able to leave her mind completely blank and focus on nothing but the movement of her body and the racing of her heart.
This morning, however, even this was denied her. Her thoughts kept coming back to the real world and current problems—most specifically, something that had happened three days ago.
Her father had left on a trip to South Korea. This in itself was nothing odd. Her father had been making overseas trips since she was a little girl, even if she hadn’t known until five years ago that they were for ‘the Company’. What was odd was that, unlike most of them over the previous four years, her father had given her no details as to what this might be about, saying her clearance level wasn’t high enough. And since her clearance level was only slightly below his, the situation was worse than usual—and Sydney didn’t even think that was possible..
And if the situation was that bad, it meant that he had been brought in on an official investigation, and officially, her father no longer worked for the CIA.
So the only question remaining was, essentially: Now what?
Her cell phone chose that moment to ring. She stopped running, took a few seconds to catch her breath, and pulled it out.
“Bristow.” she gasped out.
“This is Sloane.”
Almost by instinct, she tightened up. No matter how loyal her boss said he was to this country, no matter how much faith Director Chase said they had in him, she would never be able to relax around Sloane. “Yes.”
There was a pause on the other end. This was odd. Sloane almost never hesitated in his speech no matter what the circumstances. “Sydney, where are you?” he finally said.
She looked around. “I’m half a mile down Sepulveda”
Another hesitation. “I’ve already talked with Agent Vaughn.” he said slowly. “He’ll be driving by in a few minutes. When he picks you up, you’re to come to CTU in Ventura County. Agent Vaughn will know how to get there.”
CTU? What the hell was she going there for? As far as the rest of the CIA knew, APO didn’t exist. “Sloane, was the hell is going on?” she said.
“Agent Bristow, I understand your concerns. However, I can’t go into detail over the phone.”
“Why not?” This was supposed to be rhetorical. Sloane answered anyway.
“Because if the wrong people hear this, it could cause a mass panic.”
Now she was starting to become alarmed. “Sloane, what the…”
“Sydney, wait for Vaughn. Your questions will be answered soon enough.”
With that Sloane hung up.
When Vaughn showed up he brought a change of clothes and one of Sydney’s guns (she never went for a run with her.45) However, he didn’t have any answers as to what Sloane had been talking about. That wasn’t the only thing troubling Sydney though.
“We’re black-ops, and the official word from the Agency is that we do not exist,” she mused. ”Why the hell would he tell us to go to the Counter Terrorist Unit?”
Vaughn shook his head. “According to normal Agency protocol, interdepartmental fusion is only done between recognized sections. A unit like ours wouldn’t even get an invite to the office Christmas party.”
“So what does that mean? That the order came from someone above Director Chase?”
“Maybe.” Vaughn considered the idea. “It could also have been done by someone in a different position in the chain of command, like Homeland Security or the NSA.”
“And the only reason they’d do that was if there was a possibility of a major threat to national security.”
Vaughn nodded. “Like we don’t already deal with that sort of thing.”
Sydney mulled this over for a moment. “But that’s another question: we’re CIA, most of our work is international affairs.”
There was a moment of silence as they pondered this. “You don’t think this could have anything to do with the trip your father is on?” Vaughn asked.
Sydney pondered this. “Could be. But if it’s company business, why wouldn’t he tell m… us about it?”
A smile briefly crossed Vaughn’s face at Syd’s slip. “Maybe its got something to do with this new administration. When Palmer took office he said he wanted to make some major overhauls in how the government does its business.”
“And you think he’s actually following up on it?” Sydney said with incredulity.
“Stranger things have happened.”
“Not much.” If that were true, wouldn’t Palmer have considered taking Arvin Sloane out and shooting him? Sydney redirected the conversation slightly. “Don’t you have any contacts with CTU?”
Michael shook his head. “I worked with them occasionally when I first joined the Agency but even before I became… your handler, most of my work was overseas.” He paused. “But you know Dixon worked with them pretty closely while he was head of operations a couple of years back.”
The second Syd heard this, she felt like slapping herself on the forehead. Of course Dixon had worked with CTU. His job as operations head over the past three years would have put him in constant contact with domestic operations even when he had been working with her against the Covenant.
“Yeah, he worked with them when there was an attempt on the President’s life a year ago.”
Sydney frowned. When she’d erased her memories of the past two years, she had also wiped out any information of current events. “That was when, about a month before I resurfaced?” she asked.
“Yeah.” There was another moment of uncomfortable silence. The last year had been a difficult one for both Sydney and Vaughn. Neither of them liked to think of hell that Lauren Reed had put both of them through. Even though their relationship had been mended, Syd had the feeling that it was still pretty brittle. “Look Syd----“
“Vaughn.” Syd held up her hand. “This is probably going to be a high pressure day for both of us. I think that we need to agree right now, they we try and put the personal stuff on hold for awhile, okay?”
Vaughn thought for a moment, then nodded. “Probably just as well.”
The Los Angeles Counter-Terrorist Unit was a very large facility--- it had to be considering the gravity of the job that was being carried out within its walls. The security was high level even for that of a government agency, with nearly a dozen guards watching the front door alone.
As Vaughn drove up to the gate, Syd had a thought. “Does our identification work with other CIA departments?”
“I have a feeling were going to find out soon enough.” Vaughn looked at Sydney. “Ready?”
Sydney pulled on her jacket. “Let’s go.”
As Vaughn parked the car, Sydney saw a comforting sight--- at least one that assured they would not be walking into the lion’s den alone. “Nadia.”
Sydney’s half-sister walked over from her car to join them. “You have any idea what this is about?” she asked.
Syd shook her head. “Um, your father didn’t tell you?” It still galled her to refer to Sloane in terms that weren’t derogatory.
“No.” Now Nadia was frowning. “He said that it was a matter of dire importance but that he couldn’t go into detail over the phone.” The three agents began walking over to the front door.” He sounded very concerned.”
Sydney knew Sloane well enough to take everything he did---- even his interaction with his daughter--- with a grain of salt. “What do you mean?”
“It took him a minute just to say what he did.” Nadia looked around. “He seemed worried.”
Now Sydney was becoming curious. In all the years she had known Sloane, he always appeared unflappable. For him to sound concerned even for a moment was very out of character. What could have him so concerned? Nerve gas deployed in the subways? The threat of biological weapons? What?
Having cleared the electronic security system, the three agents walked into CTU proper. It was an impressive site, even to people who had seen the interiors of many such buildings.
The structure of the interior was a fusion of glass and steel. There were closed off rooms around, to be sure, but most of the offices were visible to the naked eye. There were also desks outside the offices. And everywhere, or it would seem to the untrained eye, were computers and screens at which data and information seemed to flow at an amazing rate There were at least fifty people sitting at their desks and probably twice as many walking around. Everyone moved with the efficiency and sense of purpose that you would hope to see from this kind of unit.
The three agents looked for a familiar face and found one. “Marshall!” Sydney called out.
The technical expert was at one of the computer banks working alongside a modestly attractive woman with black hair. “Syd! Hey! You’re here!” Marshall rose to his feet. “I mean, of course, you’re here, I mean, cause when Mr. Sloane tells us where to be that’s where we all have to go….”
The three of them were all used to Marshall nervous ramblings, but they also knew that sometimes you needed to turn him off. “Marshall, where are the others?”
“Oh, right! Paula, could you handle this for a minute? Thanks.” Marshall rose to his feet. “Dixon’s over there with Mr. Almeida, going over some intel from Homeland Security about chatter over the phones. Mr. Sloane’s upstairs with Director Mason. They’re, um, having a discussion on protocol.”
As if there was some invisible cue, a man began shouting. “I understand what Raeburn said, and I’ll follow through. Now get the hell out of my office!”
Sloane walked out, looking as cool and detached, certainly not out of sorts about whatever had just happened. He began walking down the stairs.
Then another man came out of the office, but for a few seconds Syd was blinking because she thought she was seeing Sloane again. The illusion was quickly dissipated because it was very clear that even though the man had a gray, receding hairline and a ridged forehead, he also had the fringe of a beard and was at least ten years Sloane’s junior.
As if realizing what had just happened the other man---- who must have been Mason---- yelled down at the momentary lull that had followed. “Alright people. Get moving! Department heads and Authorized personnel in the conference room in three minutes!” With that Mason walked back into his office.
“So much for camaraderie between sections.” Vaughn said, only half in jest.
Syd remained quiet. She had a vague idea what had caused the disagreement and she didn’t like what it presaged for their working with CTU. She needed to get a better read on things, though, so she walked over to her old partner who seemed to be chatting amicably enough with an active Latino man.
Dixon saw her coming. “Syd, this is Assistant Director Tony Almeida. I worked with him a couple of years back on that Anthrax scare in Oakland.”
Almeida stepped forward. “So you’re Sydney Bristow. Marcus’s told me a lot of good things about you.” He offered his hand.
Sydney only gave Almeida a cursory handshake. “Dixon, do you have any idea what’s going on?”
“From what I can tell, what’s going on is some kind of corollary to Executive Order 6A.” Off Sydney’s blank look, Dixon elaborated: “When David Palmer was elected he said that one of his earliest goals to improve the way that foreign intelligence operates during potential crises was to change how intelligence agencies react. Executive Order 6A gives the President the authority to consolidate intelligence networks under one agencies jurisdiction in case of an elevated threat.”
“Like when Homeland Security is raised a level.” Dixon nodded. “But what’d the threat?” Sydney asked
Dixon paused. “They’re finishing the final verification.” There was a longer pause and looked at Almeida as if waiting for him to finish the sentence
But Almeida didn’t fill in the blank. He merely turned to Dixon and said: “The briefing’s in the conference room.” Then he started walking away.
Sydney was a good read of body language and she was pretty sure that both she and Dixon had been told to fuck off. It was pretty clear that the people in power at CTU didn’t like the people from APO and Sydney had a pretty good idea as to why.
Rather than focus on that problem she decided to deal with the other, more pressing concern. “Dixon, do you have any idea what this about?” Syd asked her partner.
Dixon hesitated for a bit before answering. “Before I came in, Sloane asked me if my children had someone they could go do in case of trouble.” He paused again. “Somewhere outside of Los Angeles.”
Suddenly Syd put it together. “Are you saying…”
Dixon nodded. “I think it’s the big one. And I think we need to get briefed ASAP.”
With that, he headed towards the conference room where several of the other agents had begun to gather. Sydney followed him.
In the briefing room Syd saw that, with the exception of her father, the entire APO unit was present. She hoped that the presence of Weiss, Dixon and Vaughn--- people with standing in the agency--- would ease the minds of those who didn’t trust Arvin Sloane. She doubted it, though.
Sloane filled no one with respect.
“All right.” said George Mason. “What you are about to hear has been triple sourced and confirmed by NSA and Homeland Security.” He took a deep breath. “There is a nuclear device under terrorist control on American soil.”
Even for people who were prepared for this kind of event, it was still a shock for Sydney to hear it.
Not surprisingly, Sloane recovered first, as though he had been expecting it. “Where?”
“Los Angeles.” Mason then answered the next obvious question. “The intel indicates it will be detonated some time today.”
There was a brief pause as the enormity of what Mason had said sunk in. Almeida recovered first. “How do we know this?”
Mason tapped on a keyboard. An Arab with beard appeared on one of the screens behind him. “This man is Mamoud Raji-Faheen, a terrorist who we believe has been associated with several fundamentalist groups. He has been associated with several acts of terror, the most recent of which was the Valentine’s Day bombing on the West Bank.”
Sydney found herself nodding. She, like the rest of the agency, had received briefings on this less than six weeks ago.
“Two days ago, we learned that the secondary purpose of this attack was to create the illusion that Faheen had been killed. We didn’t learn this until five days ago” Mason tapped another key to show a picture of Faheen and an Asian man. “NSA had the man on the left, Jason Park, under surveillance. It was pure luck that we found Faheen was alive.”
A woman on Mason’s left with light brown hair in a ponytail took over. “After Park was grabbed we spent two days extracting information from him. Less than half an hour ago, he told us that Faheen has been planning this attack for two years.”
“Why wasn’t Faheen picked up then?” asked Vaughn.
“The photograph wasn’t analyzed until after the two men had separated.”
This struck Sydney as more than a little suspicious, but she decided to let it pass for now.
“Who controls Faheen?” asked Dixon.
“A relatively new splinter group called Second Wave.” said Mason
“And who backs them?” asked Weiss.
“Officially, they are not recognized by any of the Middle Eastern States.” Mason typed on the screen to reveal a map of the region. “Unofficially, half the countries in the territory have some kind of training camps within their borders.” He tapped on the screen. “But right now, foreign affairs are the least of our concerns.”
“What are our major concerns?” asked Sloane.
Mason fixed him with a look of extreme distaste. “You know, if I have to answer any more questions like that, somebody shoot me. Our major concerns are using all of the resources of this government in order to stop this device from being used.”
“Do we have any leads on the domestic front?” Tony asked.
The look of disgust disappeared from Mason’s face. “Unfortunately, chatter on the usual frequencies has been non-existent, no known members of Second Wave have been spotted on American soil, and there are no associates of Faheen anywhere.” Mason then grew silent. “We do have one possibility in Los Angeles but its shaky.”
“Why?” asked Vaughn
“There’s only one person who can do this, and he’s avoided any of our attempts to---“
Mason’s cell rang. “Yeah?” He was quiet. “He’s on his way?” Pause. “Just get him in here. We’ll figure the rest out then.” He hung up. “All right people, I need this room clear.”
There was a murmur of dismay among the assembled. “But we haven’t finished the briefing.” someone said.
“Look, I don’t know if he’s going to go through with this. But if he sees an army of agents gathered around, he’s going to think he’s being ganged up on and he will bolt. So clear the room.” He stood up straight. “And remember, from this moment, we only communicate within this envelope. We do not call friends, we do not call family. We don’t have to like it but this is our job. So let’s get to it.”
It wasn’t exactly the St. Crispin’s Day speech but most of the agents left without complaining. Sydney was almost at the door when Mason spoke again. “Agent Bristow, Agent Dixon, a moment of your time.”
Vaughn exchanged glances with Sydney who shrugged and hung back. Mason appeared to be their superior and you did what your superior wanted.
As soon as the room was empty of everyone except Sydney, Dixon, Mason and the brown-haired female agent, Mason turned to them. “I’ll make this quick. The agent in question is Jack Bauer.”
The name meant nothing to Sydney but it clearly meant something to Dixon. “ Bauer? He’s been inactive for more than a year. How the hell can he in any shape to help?”
“NSA says he’s the best shot we have at finding this guy. Bristow, there’s an observation room next door. Go there and… observe.”
“That’s it?” said Bristow doubtfully.
“Don’t worry. If he says yes, things become a lot more fun.”
Dixon turned to her. “Do it, Syd. This will be delicate.”
Sydney didn’t like this, but right now she decided to go along. As she left, there was only one thing on her mind:
Who was Jack Bauer?
Sydney had hoped that she would have gotten some time to talk to Vaughn or Weiss, ask what either of them knew Bauer, and why he had been inactive for a year. She was about to do so, when the man himself walked into CTU. She had never seen him before, but she could tell who he was by the way the atmosphere changed. No one said a word but for a few seconds the hustle and movement of the agents slowed as they saw someone they clearly hadn’t expected to see again.
Bauer had blondish-brown hair and a scruff growth of beard--- almost like Vaughn, though Bauer was clearly six or seven years older than him. What was different was the intensity and the darkness that seemed to come off him like heat distorting the light around it
Sydney’s first impression of Jack Bauer was that of a caged animal. He seemed detached and uninvolved--- he might even think he was detached and uninvolved--- but Sydney had the idea that this man could strike out at the slightest provocation.
Right now Bauer was talking with Almeida. Sydney decided to go to the observation room and watch from there. Bauer’s personal life was his business. His professional life was hers.
Sydney walked into the observation room. A few seconds later Bauer and Almeida entered the office.
George Mason got to his feet. “Jack.” he said quietly. “Well, Jack Bauer this is Michelle---“
“What am I doing here?” Bauer cut right to the point.
Mason decided to do the same. “There’s a rogue nuclear weapon somewhere in LA. Intel says it’s going off today.”
Bauer clearly was in the business--- his expression gave nothing away. “How good is your intel?” he asked calmly.
“Very. NSA did the groundwork. They have high probability leads in several regional cells that might be involved.”
Bauer took this in. “How close are you to locating a prime suspect?” he asked bluntly.
Mason was just as blunt. “Not close at all. That’s what you’re here for.”
Bauer paused, nodded--- and then turned and walked out the door.
“Jack, what the hell—“ Mason started.
“Let me talk to him.” said Almeida, following behind him. After a moment’s hesitation, so did Dixon.
As Tony had expected, Jack went right to a phone and began to dial. “Jack…” he began.
Jack held up his hand. “Sweetheart, it’s me.” Pause. “No it’s not about us. They called me back into CTU and gave me some information. I can’t tell you what this is about but it is absolutely critical that you and I get out of Los Angeles as soon as possible.”
Whatever Kim said it was not pleasant because a few seconds later Jack was saying “No, no damn it.” He then redialed the number. “Honey, its me. If you don’t want to leave with me, fine but you need to get out of Los Angeles. It’s not safe here. So please don’t tell anyone but call Aunt Carol. I’m sending someone to pick you up now. Just go there and call me on my cell.” He paused. “Sweetheart, please just do this for me.” He hung up, picked up his jacket and started towards the door.
“Jack…” said Tony.
“Tony, I don’t have time for this.”
“Wait a minute.” Tony got right in front of him. “The reason you were called in was because it’s a background match. You’re the only one who can run with this.”
Jack hesitated, but only momentarily. “I don’t care.”
“Jack, we can get to Kim before you can, we can get her out of the city, we can keep her safe! But the best thing that you can do for her right now is help us find that bomb!”
This time Jack didn’t even hesitate. “I trusted everybody at CTU to keep Teri safe last year and I lost her! I’m not going to lose my daughter too!”
He tried to get past Tony who continued to block his path. “I know Jack. I was here when it happened.”
This gave Jack pause. “Tony, I know you did everything you could. I just--- I can’t lose Kim.”
Jack was practically at the door. Suddenly another voice spoke. “Jack.” The ex-agent paused. “It’s Marcus Dixon.” This apparently meant something to him because he turned around.
“We met at one of those trauma therapy groups Doctor Hiller held six months ago. You told me about Teri, I told you about Diane, remember?”
Marcus walked up to Jack. “Tony could you give us a minute?” Tony hesitated. “Please.” Tony backed away.
“I told you that the worst part of losing my wife was that every morning I had to wake up and face that I lost Diane all over again.” Jack was nodding at this. “You asked me how I could keep doing my job. You remember what I said?”
Jack nodded. “Because of your kids.”
“Right. They’re the only real thing of Diane that I have left, and I couldn’t go on if I wasn’t doing everything in my power to keep them safe.” Dixon paused. :”Now I know that you feel the same way about Kim, and I know you want to keep her safe, and the only way that you can really do that is to help find this bomb.”
There was a long hesitation. For a second Dixon thought that Jack was still going to leave. He added one last thing. “I’ve got people taking my kids out of LA. You go back in, I will make it my personal responsibility that Kim is safe as well.”
Jack considered this. Finally he turned around and headed back to the conference room.
Marcus sighed. “God help me, I hope this is the right thing to do.”
Mason and Tony were in the middle of a serious debate when Bauer returned. “Here’s the deal. I want Grove or Wilson to get my daughter and get her a safe distance out of the city.”
“Done.” said Mason.
“Second, I want to be constantly updated on her status at all times by Tony or Marcus. I’m sorry George, “ he said bitterly. “I just don’t trust you.”
Having gotten what he needed, George was back to normal. “Well, you’re going to have to start, Jack. What’s happening today none of us can walk away from. Tony and I’ll make sure it’s taken care of.” He nodded at Tony, who nodded back.
Bauer hesitated, then sat down. “Tell me about the regional cells.”
The woman on Mason’s right--- Michelle--- handed over a file to Jack. “The most promising one is headed by Joseph Wald.”
Jack took the file without comment. Clearly he knew the name.
“Wald’s been linked to a terrorist group called Second Wave.” He looked at his copy. “That’s why it had to be you. You put in time undercover with him.”
“I put him in jail, George.” Bauer said bluntly.
“Yeah, well he’s out pending appeal.”
“He’s actually on trial for new charges.” said Michelle. “If he’s convicted, he gets life, no parole.”
“How is he linked to the bomb?”
Mason looked at the file. “NSA links him with alleged members of the threat behind the bomb.”
“Why not just pick Wald up?” Bauer asked.
“We haven’t been able to track him down.” admitted Mason. “He’s not at any of the addresses in his file.”
Bauer thought quickly. “Are there any key witnesses against Wald in his trial?”
Mason clearly was unsure where Jack was going with this. “There’s one.”
Michelle handed him a second file. “Marshall Goren. Apparently without him, there’s no case.”
“Good. Bring him in.”
Now George was clearly perplexed. “What? Why?”
“You want me to reestablish my cover with Wald, right?
“To reestablish my cover would normally take at least six weeks. You want me to do it in, what, less than two hours? Where is the FBI holding Goren?”
“Downtown. Right here. In protective custody” said Mason slowly.
“Good. Bring him in. Now”
Sydney would later consider the first sign that this was a man used to having his orders followed. Apparently Mason did too, because he pulled out his cell and started dialing.
What the hell was going on?
“Syd, what the hell are you doing here?”
Sydney was a little startled. She had been so intent on watching the scene before her unfold that she hadn’t seen Vaughn enter the room. “Mason said he wanted me to observe.”
“Him.” she said, gesturing to the conference room, where Bauer was now looking at a computer screen with Michelle.
Vaughn took this in. “So that’s the infamous Jack Bauer.”
“You know him?”
“Only by reputation. He ran this office a few years back.”
“How did he fall from grace?”
Vaughn thought for a second. “About a month before you resurfaced in China, there was an assassination attempt on then Senator Palmer. The men behind the threat were members of Victor Drazen’s family.”
“The Serbian warlord?”
“The same. They targeted Palmer and Bauer himself because of some connection the two men had to Drazen’s assassination. The way I heard it, Bauer practically brought him down single-handedly.”
Sydney pointed towards Bauer. “So why’s he out of favor?”
Vaughn sighed. “From what I heard, members of the conspiracy attempted to kill Bauer’s family as well.” He hesitated. “One of them, a colleague of Jack’s, killed his wife here at CTU. He’s been estranged from the Agency ever since.”
For the first time Sydney felt sympathy for the man in the conference room. “And he’s the one they want to handle this thing?”
“Bauer was a good agent, Syd. If they brought him, they think he can do the job.”
At that point Mason reentered. “Our friends at the FBI weren’t too happy with me, Jack. I suggest you get what you need and get moving.”
Jack seemed to ignore Mason, choosing to instruct Michelle on how to touch up his cover story.
“Jack, are you planning to let me in on the plan?” Mason said sarcastically.
“I also need you to get in touch with a parole officer named Rudy Collette. I need you to brief him and work him into my cover.”
“Jack.” By now Mason’s patience was running thin. “Look at you. You look like a bum off the street. You’re not talking to me, I just confiscated a witness outside of my authority based on your call, now are you going to tell me what you’re doing?
“No.” said Bauer bluntly
Mason sighed. “Are you losing it, Jack? Because I don’t have the time or resources to clean up your messes today.”
“I’m not losing it George.” Bauer said patiently
Mason clearly didn’t by this but he was prevented from further discussion when two marshals brought a man with handcuffs into the room.
“That must be Goren.” Syd said.
Vaughn wanted to interrupt but never got the chance. Bauer asked the agents if they would put Goren in the chair.
“Michelle, would you excuse us?’ Jack said gently.
Michelle was clearly a little taken aback. “Don’t you want---“
Michelle looked at Mason, then got up and left. Bauer closed the door, leaving just the three men in the room.
“You are Marshall Goren?” Bauer asked casually.
Goren, an ugly looking man, said, “Yeah.”
“Eight counts, abducting a minor. Two counts, child pornography. First-degree murder.” Bauer continued to speak neutrally.
“Hey, I don’t need to hear this noise.” said Goren cockily. “I already made my deal. All I gotta do is testify against Wald. And I walk.”
In her years at SD-6, the special unit, and now APO Sydney had long since thought that she had lost the capability for being surprised anymore. She kept finding, however, that this was not the case—often in unexpected places.
Which explained why she was startled when Bauer swiftly turned around and shot Goren in the chest. She hadn’t even known Bauer was carrying until that moment.
If Sydney was astonished, Mason was stunned. “Goddamnit, Jack, what the hell have you done?’
Bauer, however, had already moved on to other business. “I need a back-up team and a helicopter in fifteen minutes” he said, kneeling over the body.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?!” Mason shouted.
“You want to find the bomb? This is what it’s gonna take!” Bauer said, as he checked for a pulse he knew wasn’t going to be there.
“Killing a witness?” Mason couldn’t seem to get past this.
“That’s the problem with you, George. You want results but you never want to get your hands dirty. If I were you I’d start rolling up your sleeves.” Bauer rolled the body over. “I’m gonna need a hacksaw.”
Sydney, who could add two and two as well as anybody, got out of the observation room in a hurry. As it turned out, she nearly beat Mason to the hall. She had a second to wonder why nobody was gathering around to ask about the shot--- and then remembered that CIA rooms had soundproof walls.
“Believe me, you don’t want to know.” Mason said angrily to an unknown subordinate. “Just get the chopper ready.’ He spotted Sydney. “Agent Bristow, my office, NOW!!”
What the hell did I do? Sydney thought to herself. She walked to the stairway regardless.
By the time she got there Mason was in his office. “’Bring him in, George.’ he mocked himself. “ ‘We need him to resolve this’ My ass!” Seeing Sydney, he turned and managed to regain control. “Agent Bristow, I take it you observed Jack’s latest little performance.”
“You could say that.” she said carefully.
“What do you think of Jack’s work? Speak candidly, Christ knows everyone else is.”
Sydney didn’t hesitate. “The man is a loose cannon and a loose screw. Sending him into the field is like throwing napalm on a forest fire.”
“Glad to hear you say that, Agent Bristow. Because you’ve been elected fire marshal.”
Sydney blinked in surprise. “Sir, are you saying---“
“Congratulations, Agent Bristow. Your assignment is to run surveillance on Jack Bauer.”