The intruder sat in an old wooden chair, his hands placed on either arm rest and restrained by zip ties at each wrist. His casual black t-shirt had been ripped off and dumped in tatters onto the floor. Kate nervously paced the room, concerned with how they had been found and, by whom. Just how many others had he told or knew of their presence here?
Belcheck emerged from the kitchen with a large glass, filled to the brim with ice-cold water. He walked behind the bound man and emptied the glass over his head, prompting him to awaken and jolt back and forth where he sat, sputtering weakly.
Chloe stared at him, arms folded. She continued to rack her brain, attempting to work out how this guy could know her, but to no avail.
Now awake, their captive threw a wry smile in Kate’s direction. She stopped pacing the room to look at him in disdain.
“You’re making a mistake here,” he challenged before she could say anything.
“No, you made the mistake by coming here,” Belcheck intervened before Kate could respond. “You are going to tell us what we want to know. Let’s start simple. Who are you?”
A knock sounded on Morozov’s office door. “Da?” he asked prompting one of his aides to enter. The young soldier held a small brown, square paper bag. The aide placed it down on the table near Jack before uncuffing Jack’s hands and then leaving. Jack looks up at Morozov, slightly confused, asking ‘What is this?’ with a silent look.
“I thought you might be hungry. Please, eat,” he said with false politeness.
Jack looked back at the bag. Morozov must be planning something, he contemplated. Yet again the thought of escape crossed his mind-after all, his hands were free now. But it was risky. And besides, Jack was hungry.
His hand sneaked towards the bag, lifting up one side just enough to see inside – like a young kid getting an early peek at his Christmas presents while preserving the wrapping just well enough not to be noticed by parents. It was a sandwich. After a moment, Jack opened the bag properly, removed the sandwich and began to unwrap it. It was a grilled cheese sandwich. Warm. Golden. Jack still debated whether or not it was a trick. After what felt like hours given his hunger, he decided to take a bite. He was still conscious of the fact that it may be a trick, but with the malnourishment he’d suffered from eating nothing but vile prison slop these past six months, he is willing to take the risk.
Morozov watched with interest. He could plainly see the conflict taking place within Jack’s mind. “If I was in your position, I wouldn’t trust me either. This isn’t exactly a situation that screams trust, and given the number of people who have betrayed you over the years…”
This utterance stopped Jack taking a second bite. Instead, he looked up at Morozov and gave him a cold, hard stare. Nina Myers, Tony Almeida , hell, even President Taylor. Jack had put his faith in those people and they had betrayed him. What he has gone through in Russia hasn’t erased those memories, and Jack didn’t take kindly to being reminded of them.
“I hope I didn’t hit a nerve,” Morozov said with a slight chuckle obviously glad that he had found a way to exploit Bauer, who had feigned indifference and returned to eating. “But I assure you,” Morozov continues, “every word I am telling you is the truth. There will be an attack here, in Russia, today.”
“Yes, you said that already.” Jack said between savoring mouthfuls. This could be the last food he ever eats, so he was going to enjoy it for as long as he could. If he angered Morozov by playing disinterested he didn’t care. He knew that eventually he would anger Morozov anyway and calculated that it just may give him an advantage.
“Tick, tock, Mr Bauer.” Morozov had begun to tap his hand slowly on the table. His impatience with Jack was growing by the second. He knew it was just a tactic – that Jack would respond soon enough. But time was not a luxury he had. Undaunted and resolutely unhurried, Jack finished his sandwich. He wiped the edge of his mouth with his thumb and forefinger and smiled at Morozov.
“I want to see my family again, so yes, I’ll help you. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m doing this to help Russia especially after everything that your government has taken from me.”
Still tied to the chair their unwanted visitor steadfastly refused to divulge any information. He took another blow to the face, and then a punch to the stomach. Chloe looked at Kate in concern, not for the well being of their tight lipped prisoner, but for Kate herself, who was barely flinching. Chloe wondered just how Kate had become so immune to seeing someone tortured. Sure, Chloe had gotten used to it a little after knowing Jack for so long, and she knew this was necessary, but at no point had she ever been able to remain completely impassive to the pain being inflicted.
Jack and Kate, Chloe suddenly realized, got along for a reason, and it was becoming obvious to Chloe what it was. Both are cut from the same cloth, willing to do what’s necessary at all costs without batting an eyelid. She knew she could never do that.
Hearing Belcheck sigh, Chloe looked up from her thoughts to see him disappear into the kitchen, bringing a large bag with him when he returned seconds later. Belcheck made a show of unzipping it and then glancing menacingly at his captive as if to say ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’
As the man in the chair glanced away from Belcheck’s glare, the Serbian pulled a taser from the bag, and rammed it into his prisoner’s unsuspecting left shoulder. The man began to grunt in pain, though he managed the discipline to muffle his moans somewhat. But when Belcheck removed the taser, the effort it had taken showed as he began to hyperventilate. Belcheck applied the taser again. Again he remained silent. “Are you ready to talk yet?” Belcheck snapped and shouted, visibly frustrated that this exercise was apparently getting them nowhere.
“I told you… who I am is not important,” he said through panting breaths. “What’s important is that I can help you find Jack Bauer.”
“And why would you want to do that?” Chloe asked, placing herself between an angry Belcheck and the now talking stranger. She wanted to keep him talking.
“Like I said, I can help you find him. The ‘why’ shouldn’t matter. You’ve spent months searching for him and what have you found? Nothing. I know how to find him. That’s all you want, right?”
Belcheck looked round at Kate and Chloe. Chloe was still staring at the man in the chair, while Kate nodded her head slightly, mostly in hope. Clearly unconvinced, he turned back to his taser and leaned in to begin anew.
I just sort of question why he was holding out at all? Why wait to be tortured for a while then simply divulge the information that you are there to help them?
“Wait…alright…wait,” the bound man interrupted the flow of Belcheck’s practiced movements. “Wait. I’ll tell you.” He stopped to gather his thoughts and a few quick breaths. “ My name is Harry Phillips. I used to work with Jack back at CTU for a few months when he first joined. We stayed in touch over the years. He told me a lot about you, Chloe. When I found out what had happened to him, I started looking into where he might have been taken. I’m here because I think that I found him, and since you’re clearly willing to do a hell of a lot to find him, I thought you’d want my help.”
Belcheck, Kate and Chloe all looked at each other, bewildered and obviously incredulous. “I don’t believe you.” Belcheck told him, leaning closer with the taser again.
“Check my left pocket. You’ll see I’m telling the truth.”
Kate stepped forward reaching for the pocket, but Belcheck’s extended left arm stopped her. After a moment of consideration, he reached into the pocket and pulled out a piece of paper that had been folded over twice. He handed it to Kate, who unfolded it.
The three gathered to look at the photo “That’s the old CTU,” Chloe exclaimed as she recognized the room’s background. A much younger Jack, likely a while prior to Teri’s death, stood with his arm around another man. There was clearly a resemblance between the man in the photo and the man who sat in front of them.
Still, they were skeptical. “How do we know that you aren’t here to kill him?” Belcheck asked, the first question to emerge of the many crowding his thoughts.
“He’s in a Russian prison. Why would I need to bother? He’s dead already.”
Katya and the rest of the group from the van stood around the large table that took up the centre of the room. On it lay a plethora of blueprints, schematics and other random pieces of paper. Eight guards were spread around the room while others had gone to smoke or were guarding the perimeter. Pabiyan Lebedev talked with one of his associates in one corner.
The room itself was very bland. The walls had clearly not been tended to in years; there were small holes and cracks every few square inches and the white wallpaper was peeling in places. The floor was concrete and nobody could move without the others hearing the loud sound of each footstep. It was windowless, and only a bare 60 watt bulb lit the room, hanging directly above the table.
After a short while, Katya looked up from the table, and approached Lebedev. Her left hand trembled slightly, which she hid from Lebdev by placing it behind her back and grasping it with her right. “Sir,” she blurted. Lebedev stopped mid-sentence, looking very displeased to have been interrupted. He turned slowly to Katya, widening his eyes . The look was menacing, his power abundantly clear simply from this look.
“I just wanted to tell you how glad I am that I joined your cause. Russia deserves what’s about to happen.” There was sincerity in her words, but mostly Katya has said this to impress Lebedev. But he continued to look at her with the same blank expression. Behind her back her hand began to tremble again.
“Thank you, Katya, for your loyalty. You have done some good work for us so far.” But his praise was flat and the words had a cold edge. Lebedev paused, and looked towards the rest of the group. “But we are far from finished yet. This is only the beginning.”
Katya looked confused. “It is?” she thought to herself.
“I set out to change Russia, to make it better. One attack will make them listen, but it doesn’t mean they’ll comply. Several attacks, however, and Moscow will be under our control.”
Katya’s anxiety dissipated, sort of, and she smiled at Lebedev. He attempted to return the favour, but could barely form a half-smile, it’s just not in his nature.
“I didn’t sign on for this,” a muttered whisper rose above the low level murmurs in the room. Immediately, Lebedev looked directly at the source, the intensity in his features having returned and amplified.
“What did you say?” Lebedev asks as he approached the young man, now flushing red in embarrassment and no small amount of fear. He did not respond.
“Say that again,” Lebedev ordered, noticeably louder this time.
“I…I said that I didn’t sign on for this. Katya told me that it would be one job and then I’d get paid.” There is a noticeable tremor in his voice.
“You are Vitaly, yes?”
Lebedev began to walk slowly toward him. As he did, he picked up a blue pen from the table.
“I respect that about you, Vitaly. Not afraid to speak your thoughts. I too, am like that. Men like that, like us, they are hard to come by these days. Unfortunately, what I don’t tolerate is people who do not respect me. My father once told me that to not show respect to another is not only to dishonour that individual, but to dishonour yourself. Vitaly… you have dishonoured yourself.” As he finishes the sentence, he brutally jammed the pen into the side of Vitaly’s neck and quickly removed it. There was an audible release of air from the fresh hole in Vitaly’s larynx. Then the blood followed, gushing from the small, clean wound. He dropped dead almost instantly.
The eyes of everyone in the room widen. Several took a subtle step backwards, the sound of their shuffling feet the only noise in the room now.
“Anyone else?” Lebedev shouted in challenge.
Virtually all of the men glanced away, while Katya could not take her eyes off him, even if her hand still trembled. Everyone had now been reminded that Lebedev is in charge.
Morozov himself led Jack out of the room into the corridor, forcing Jack to pause at the door while Morozov spoke in Russian with a guard. Jack wanted to know what they were saying, but they spoke quietly enough that he couldn’t accurately make out the words. While he waited, he shuffled his right leg slightly. He had forgotten what it felt like to be dressed in such normal attire. He had become relatively accustomed to the same prison jumpsuit he’d been wearing for the past few months. This was an odd yet nice change, but Jack needed a little time to re-acquaint himself with the clothes.
“I hope you feel more comfortable in those, Mr Bauer.” There was a hint of pleasure in Morozov’s voice. He was enjoying having this much power over Jack, who simply gave him another cold stare.
“Let me guess, another show of good faith?”
“Not at all. If I had my way, you’d still be wearing that prison jumpsuit… or not, depending on which prisoners you encounter.” Morozov chuckled to himself while Jack’s anger flared. “It would seem a little suspicious if you were out there looking like a prisoner, would it not?”
Jack took a step towards him to try and intimidate him as best he could, but to no avail. One of the guards pushed Jack, and he resigned himself to follow Morozov down the long hall. Jack continued to look around for a possible escape route but noted nothing feasible, once again. His mind strayed from this thought and he began thinking about how he’d get away once he left the prison. If he waited until after this ‘mission’, they may dispose of him before he could attempt escape. If he was going to do something, he had to do it early.
As they approached a door, Morozov stopped Jack. “The men will be under your directive, but they still work for me. They were trained by ex-KGB members. So don’t try anything. They will not hesitate to kill you if you attempt to escape.” Morozov took a phone out of his inside jacket pocket. “If our source attempts to provide us with more intelligence, it will come directly to this phone.” He hesitates before letting go of the phone. “I will be able to see exactly everything that happens on this phone. Every call, every text. If you attempt to communicate with anyone on it, I will have you killed.”
Jack ignored yet another in this long series of threats Morozov has made. There had been so many the desired effect of fear just wasn’t there. “Just so we’re clear, if I stop this and you don’t let me go, you’ll regret it,” he stated defiantly.
“That I do not doubt,” Morozov acknowledged with a self assured smile, playing along but not taking Jack’s threat with much concern.
Morozov turned to lead Jack down the remainder of the corridor. As he opened the last door, Jack was taken aback by the force of wonderfully fresh air that hit him. It was the first time in months that he’d breathed clean air. Months of the foul, re-circulated air of the prison were immediately cleansed from his lungs. Jack took in deep breaths and the moment. He forgot about everything else, and simply took in the oxygen and the warmth of the sun, savoring the sensations for as long as he could, knowing he might never get another chance like this.
After what felt like an eternity, Jack was led towards a nearby car, black with tinted windows. Despite this it didn’t seem to stand out as a government vehicle. As Jack approached the car, the driver standing next to an open door identified himself as Ivan.
“He’s one of my best bodyguards. I’m sure you know what will happen if you test him,” Morozov informed Jack. Morozov’s constant reminders were beginning to irk Jack.
He got into the car, and much to his pleasure, it contained leather seats. ‘Nice to sit on something comfortable, for a change,’ he thought to himself. Ivan turned to face Jack. “Do not even think about escaping, Mr Bauer. Mr Morozov would not prefer not to have to go to Plan B, and I’d prefer not to get your brain cells all over my back seat. Are we clear?” Jack nodded, all the while thinking about how sadistic that sounded. He contemplated Ivan’s words for a while, mentally questioning whether that was how others perceived his own threats. He looked out of the window at Morozov as the car pulled away, and breathed a sigh of relief to be getting away from the prison, even if it was only temporary.
Phillips now stood at the table with Kate, who was typing speedily on the computer. Chloe stood by the window, scanning the area to ensure that he had no backup, no one that could be watching them. Belcheck lurked in the corner, his hand hovering at all times near his gun. After a heated discussion they had cautiously untied Phillips. Yes, he had worked with Jack. So at some time in his life he had passed a high level government security clearance check. But that doesn’t mean he was clean decades later. So they hadn’t returned his weapon. Belcheck wasn’t taking any chances and he knew Jack wouldn’t under similar conditions. Phillips plugged a flash drive into the computer.
“What have you got on there?” Kate asked, not convinced his only objective might be to wipe her hard drive and all her data.
“I’m bringing up my files on where I think Jack was taken.”
Kate began to speak. “Yes, I know you have tons of files on where you think he is,” Phillips interrupted, “but I’m not especially interested in going through your search. Honestly, it’s a waste of time. I’d much rather just find him.”
Kate gave Chloe a look of annoyance at the insult. Chloe shook her head and rolled her eyes. Another ego to deal with if they keep him around. If they keep him around. He hasn’t proven a thing yet except that he’s an ass. But getting Jack back was the priority, though, and that it didn’t matter how they did it.
“What do you know that we don’t?” she challenged Phillips. He left the table and began to slowly walk towards Chloe. She made a slight hand gesture towards Belcheck, who put his gun at the ready.
Phillips saw their little bit of communication and sensed the gun coming to bear on him. He raised his hands in a show of compliance and stopped his approach. But his tone remained cocky and self assured. “You’ve been looking in all the wrong places,” he accused. “You see, they took Jack to a secret facility in the heart of Moscow. It was set up by the KGB back in the 70’s and doesn’t exist on any record. I only know about it from whispers I heard at CTU. The place specializes in torture of Russia’s enemy combatants. Imagine a prison where all of the guards were like Jack, but better.” (sorry but THAT would be a waste of tremendous national resources!!:)
“Jack may be expert at inflicting torture, but he’s also pretty good at enduring it. You obviously don’t know him well enough to know that no one breaks him,” she defended her long time friend.
Phillips just shrugged. “Whether he talks or not doesn’t matter. No prisoner has ever come out of there alive, Chloe.”
Chloe’s expression dropped. She had faith in Jack. He’d been in seriously tough spots before and he’d survived. But something about the way Phillips said it scared her. She knew they had to get to him fast, but now it felt even more urgent. “So this facility, you found it? How?”
Phillips was getting noticeably irritated by the onslaught of questions. “I have a friend who has friends in high enough places to show me where to look. Now do you want to keep playing 20 Questions or do you want to find Jack?” Phillips returned to the computer, and after pressing a few more keys, pointed at something on the screen. “Here. I narrowed it down to this one location. It was a steel refinery in the 1960’s, but the last record of it was renovation work in 1971. This has to be it.”
Kate and Chloe looked to Belcheck. i added the following paragraphs because I’m a little incredulous that they would blindly go to this prison on his word with no proof. Do what you want with it.
“Chloe,” Belcheck ordered softly, “Take him into the other room.” Chloe complied despite being miffed it was clear that Belcheck and Kate were going to strategize without her.
Kate led Belcheck back to her computer. “Look,” she said pointing at the spot Phillips had identified. Belcheck nodded. Kate brought up another screen. “These are all the secondary locations we came up with. We had…or have…two primary possibilities left. There are hundreds of these less likely locations but we were going to have to work them if the last two primaries proved empty.” She laid the two maps over one another, Phillips and hers. “There,” she pointed to where one of her markers lay exactly beneath the arrow on Phillips’ map. “He might not be lying,” she concluded.
Belcheck saw. The locations were the same. Perhaps confirmation there was a secret prison there. Perhaps a coincidence and a possible trap. He decided. They’d been here for weeks with no results. Phillips could have led people to their location. His gut told him to take the risk. “Let’s go.”
Kate grabbed the bag of weapons from the closet. Chloe had heard Belcheck’s directive and was walking Phillips to the door. Belcheck was starting out too when Phillips stopped him. He gave Phillips a stern, vexed look before understanding, then taking the gun from his trousers and returning it to Phillips, who checked the magazine. Once he was satisfied, they all exited the room.
As they approached Phillips’ car, there was the sound of metal pinging off the ground just behind them. Before anyone could react, a hail of bullets were flying in their direction. Belcheck and Kate laid down cover fire as everyone rushed towards the car. The gunfire appeared to originate from only one source, but it was reasonably effective. The back and rear right windows of Phillips’ car shattered as they got in. Tires screeching they peeled away with Belcheck relentlessly firing back at the shooter.
“Who the hell was that?!” Kate shouted, enraged over what had just happened.
“There was some guy following me, but I thought I shook him yesterday,” Phillips declared far too nonchalantly over his shoulder as he drove the car fast, away from the attacker. “He’s Russian, I’d expect, which means I must be on the right track.”
“And you couldn’t have told us that before?!” Chloe shouted, incensed at his stupidity, arrogance, and carelessness.
“I told you, I thought I lost him,” Phillips retorted defensively, knowing he had made a huge blunder.
Chloe reached for the gun in her jeans. This guy was not worth it. She had a very bad feeling. It was Belcheck who laid a gentle hand on hers to stop her. He brought his head close to hers. “Let it play out, Chloe,” he whispered into her ear. “Let it play out. Then I will take care of him.”
Ivan stopped the car just outside a large, very nondescript building. It looked neither new nor old from the outside and was painted entirely grey. There was one door visible to Jack, wide enough to fit one person through at a time. He stepped out of the car, but Ivan placed his hand on Jack’s chest before he could take more than a step. He looked around. There was nothing and no one to be seen.
Jack instinctively went on high alert. Could this be a trap, or an execution perhaps? Was the threat Morozov described even real? He didn’t know, but his instincts were telling him something was off. But he thought of Kim, and imagined seeing her again. Seeing his grandson for the first time. He was still holding out hope, however unlikely, that he’d get to go home, and that was all he was holding on to. So for now, he swallowed the doubt and prepared himself for whatever was to come.
Just then, five vehicles pull up, and a total of eleven men emerged from them, all dressed in black from head to toe with machine guns around their necks. They approached Jack who read this as a sign that Morozov just might be telling the truth. The group surrounded Ivan’s vehicle and looked at Jack in anticipation.
“Morozov apparently has intel that the targets are inside that building,” Jack began flatly, hardly convinced himself and having difficulty convincing this group of Russian… Russian what, he wondered? KGB, counter terrorists? Hell, they could be the terrorists and this is all some sort of elaborate trap. To hell with it. “Look, you probably know more about this threat than me so I’ll cut to the chase. Let’s stop this thing so I can go home.” Jack’s words were far from motivational, but the men responded anyway.
One of them came to Jack, removed a handgun from his left holster and reluctantly handed it to him. It was an MP-443 Grach in matt black, and what Jack thought to be a perfect weight, though he’d have still preferred his SIG Sauer. He hadn’t handled a gun in months. He’d rely on muscle memory and years of doing just this.
As he was checking the magazine, which, much to Jack’s surprise, was fully loaded, the soldier who handed him the weapon finally spoke. “You know what will happen if you try to use that on any of my men, уголовное.” Obviously he was used to being in charge, and though Jack took some pleasure from taking that power away from the soldier, he was angry at the insult delivered. He knew that he was a criminal he didn’t need the reminder, not here, not now.
Jack let it go and moved toward the building. The team followed suit. It felt strange to be back in this position after so long, and as much as he didn’t really want to be doing this, he was feeling a slight sense of enjoyment. As they reached the door, one of the men grabbed a breaching shotgun and blasted it open. Jack entered first, with the rest of the team following close behind. Passing no doors on the way, they followed the long corridor to the end, where there was a large double door. Jack kicked it open.
On the other side of the door was an enormous room, quite like a warehouse.
There were three large windows on each wall; one side looked out onto the city. But there was nothing inside the room – no people, no furniture, nothing to suggest that anyone had been there recently. As the team looked around, the phone Morozov had given Jack suddenly vibrated in his pocket. The text message light blinked.
“You can’t stop it, or us.”
Before he could contemplate this message, Jack heard a loud sound from the east. He rushed to one of the windows and looked out towards the city. A large cloud of black smoke billowed above the buildings. He and the others watched the smoke rising, gathering size and height, putting many city blocks into shadow. The dark clad Russians around him seemed as surprised and puzzled as he was. Or they were damn fine actors.
Jack sighed and looked at the defiant message displayed on the phone before slamming it into his pocket. Frustration, uncertainty, and what already appeared like failure welled within.
“Damn it!” he shouted, not caring who heard.