(12:00 pm – 1:00 pm)
Erik shakes his head. “Jack, I can understand why you want to rescue her, she’s your mother. But you know I can’t sanction a mission to recover Elizabeth. Deep down, you understand that. Despite your recent heroics, the Russians will not be willing to just hand her over and the relationship between our government and theirs is still frosty.”
Jack sits up, frustrated with Ritter’s political reply. Before he can respond, Erik, reading Jack’s mood, says, “I can’t stop you going independently, but I would strongly advise against it. You are likely to end up back where you started, a fugitive, forever looking over your shoulder. Apart from anything else, you are physically in no fit state to go anywhere. Think about it. Just let Kate handle it for now and I promise I’ll help her as much as I can. I’ll also see if I can find out why the Russians want her so much. Let me do some digging – it might help.”
Leaning back in his bed, Jack holds the mask over his face to take a couple of breaths. His passion for making sure Elizabeth is safe is already being overpowered by plain common sense. He knows that Ritter is right and he can’t really ask any more of Erik at this stage. Ritter was in a governmental arm lock. All the political manoeuvring was one thing that Jack hadn’t missed at all during the last few years. He would just have to get used to working within it again.
Resignedly, Jack mutters through the mask, “Thanks.”
Ritter acknowledges Jack’s realization with a nod and a small sympathetic smile.
Jack lifts the mask again “There is one other thing. I want to speak to Chloe and Kate about the plan. I want them in on this, on the team.”
“That was a given. They’ve already been briefed. But we needed your buy in before we could move forward. I’ll get them to come over. I have a message from Heller I need to share with you all.”
Ritter pulls out his cell and dials.
Kate and Chloe are sitting on the couch, their eyes closed from exhaustion. They have been awake for almost thirty-six hours – not to mention the lack of sleep during the preceding weeks from constantly watching their backs in their various Moscow “safe” houses.
Kate feels herself drift into that limbo state between the conscious and subconscious, only to be jolted by the buzz of her phone. Sitting up quickly, she looks around the room then answers the phone. Her sudden movement wakes Chloe up.
“Yes?” Kate says.
“Kate, Jack has agreed. Can you and Chloe meet me in his room?”
“We’ll be right there.”
Kate hangs up the phone, slides it back into the pocket of her jeans, and motions to Chloe.
“Nap time’s over,” she says to Chloe. “Jack’s on-board.”
They both stand and stretch, wishing their down time had been a little bit longer. They walk out the door to make their way over to where Jack and Erik are waiting.
The small black car cruises down the street. Belcheck is glad there is an absence of other vehicles – it means there is a chance that they will get in and out unnoticed. He glances back and sees Katya quietly staring out the window, apparently lost in thought.
“It should be up just ahead,” Anton says, turning the vehicle down a narrower, even less-travelled street. “I just hope there are no surprises waiting – we didn’t secure it or hide it in our hurry.”
“I’ll be ready,” Belcheck says, checking the magazine of his pistol.
Anton swings sharply into the junk yard, turns slowly to the far left, then spins the car in a tight circle on the loose dirt and stops facing the abandoned container on the other side of the parking lot. They all look at the truck with the shipping container strapped to the flatbed. The door of the container door is ajar.
“It’s how we left it, so it doesn’t look tampered with but all the same, let’s be careful.” says Anton.
The three exit the vehicle and slowly walk toward the container, watchful for any activity. Anton, with his weapon poised, leads the way with Belcheck on his right and Katya on his left. Keeping a close eye on the surroundings, Belcheck feels fairly confident that they are safe. There is one set of tire tracks in the dirt, but it doesn’t look like they were made recently.
At the door to the container, Anton peers inside using a small flashlight atop his pistol, scanning for possible danger.
“Looks clear,” Anton says and climbs inside.
After a moment of looking more closely, he notices a slight movement behind the bed. He quickly pulls his pistol back out and advances toward it.
“Put your hands up,” Anton says.
When there’s no response, he repeats the command in Russian. Slowly, two hands poke up from behind the bed. The man is very thin and pale, due to either excessive drugs or starvation. Or both.
“Who are you?” Anton questions in Russian.
“This is my home,” the man says.
“No, it’s not,” Anton says. “This belongs to us. We left it here yesterday and are coming back to move it again. You need to leave now.”
“Please,” the man begs, “I have nowhere else to go and I’m too far out of town to get back in time to find somewhere before early afternoon, everywhere will be gone before I get there.. Let me at least stay the night. I’m not doing any harm, I’m looking after it for you..”
“Why should I believe you?” Anton asks.
“I’m telling the truth,” the man shrugs resignedly. “I have nothing else to bargain with. If you are going to shoot me, Just do it and get it over with.”
“I don’t want to shoot you,” Anton says, lowering his weapon slightly, but keeping his finger on the trigger. “You want one more night?”
“I can find something else tomorrow.”
“Fine. We need this container protected, so you can stay here tonight and look after it.. I’ll even pay you. Ten thousand Rubles now and twenty thousand tomorrow, if everything is still good.”
“Thank you,” the man says, finally lowering his hands.
Anton holsters his weapon and pulls out ten thousand Rubles and hands it to the man. He takes it, thumbs through the bills, and puts the wad into his pocket.
“If there’s any funny business,” Anton warns, “you’re a dead man.”
The man nods and sits down on the bed. Anton turns and jumps down from the container and starts leading the others back towards the car.
“So now what?” Katya asks. It was her first words in hours.
“I’ll call my contact at the dock and make arrangements to bring this back there in the morning,” Anton says. “Then we find Elizabeth, rescue her, and ship her out of the country just like we brought her here.”
Belcheck almost laughed inside at the way Anton spoke so calmly and matter-of-factly. ‘Most people would scoff at how improbable that sounds. But,’ Belcheck thinks, ‘most people haven’t seen a person smuggled into Russia, help an international fugitive escape out of the country, and minimize a terrorist attack in less than twenty-four hours.’
Belcheck’s thoughts are interrupted by his phone’s ringtone.
“The President isn’t quite so understanding about having her released,” the voice says. “But, he is willing to let me see her.”
“Do you think he’ll come around?” Belcheck asks.
“Not sure. We go way back, but his generosity has limits. I don’t know if I can push too hard right now. Apparently he and other officials are pretty upset about what she did in the past.”
“What did she do?”
“I’m not sure. He wouldn’t say. That’s why I want to speak with her – so I can find out what happened. Maybe I can get some leverage. I want to help, but I‘m in a difficult position, I can’t disobey a direct order.”
“Understood. Thanks for the update. Keep me posted.”
Belcheck ends the call and looks up to see the other two staring at him, wondering.
Belcheck updates them, “Not much luck yet, but he’s going to go see her.”
Erik is sitting quietly, watching the man next to him as he sleeps, thinking back to his first dealings with him in London. Since then, he has constantly had to re-evaluate his personal opinion of Bauer and even in the last few hours, his opinion has been changed significantly. ‘I can’t help but admire his integrity and commitment.’ He was starting to understand why Kate and Chloe had risked so much to try and rescue him. ‘I’m almost starting to like the guy.’
At the sound of the door opening, Jack immediately opens his eyes and sits up, “What took you so long?” he demands from behind his mask, anxious to hear what Heller has to say.
“Sorry, we were over in G Block,” Kate says apologetically.
Jack, frustrated with his mask, pulls it off and throws it on the bed. “G block? How big is this place? Where the hell are we?” he mutters to nobody in particular, exasperated by his circumstances and inability to get on with the plan.
Erik, surprised at Jack’s steel will to stay awake, despite the sedatives pumping into his arm, says evenly, “It’s an old CIA outpost, used now on a part time basis for special reconnaissance and other operations. It’s also used as a base for arctic training for Delta force.”
Kate walks round to the other side of Jack’s bed, picks up the mask and without saying anything, gives Jack a hard stare and puts it within reach of his hand and then sits down next to him. Jack resignedly puts the mask back over his mouth and Chloe, following Kate’s lead sits down on the other side of Ritter.
“Now that we’re all here,” Erik starts, “I have a video I need to show you. Heller made it about a fortnight after the incident in London. With his advancing condition, he didn’t know if his mind would be reliable enough to tell you in person. It turns out that he was right.”
Erik turns toward the TV screen on the wall opposite Jack’s bed and presses a few buttons on a remote. After a few seconds, Heller appears on the screen.
“Jack,” Heller says, “if you’re watching this video, it means that you are back on US soil and have agreed to join this plan. First of all, I’m glad that you are back home safely. I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but I have always had great respect for you and the job that you do…..“
Jack had huge respect for Heller too, as a man and as a father figure and was touched by his words. Despite what happened to Audrey, somehow Heller had seen beyond that. He drags his mind back on to the video.
Heller takes a sip of water and continues. “……and recognize the sacrifices you have made on behalf of your country. My condition is worsening, so I felt it necessary to get this on video. Hopefully, I will be able to speak to you in person at some point, but there are no guarantees. I had the idea to reinstate CTU when I took office, but I didn’t have the support at the time; nor the means to make it happen, so I was waiting for the right time. The events in London made things fall into place: First of all, it was obvious the time had come to bring it back; and secondly, I knew who needed to head it up, and that Erik Ritter was the contact I needed to help make it happen.”
Heller stops again to take a sip of water.
“I want to make one thing clear. This isn’t the reason I signed your pardons. At great personal risk, you and Miss O’Brian both showed your loyalty to your country and to the fight against terrorism. That shouldn’t go unrecognized and the pardons are a demonstration of the gratitude the United States has for the part you both played in stopping Al Hazari.”
Heller pauses and refers to his notes.
Jack sees Chloe out of the corner of his eye lower her head to stare at her lap, embarrassed by Heller’s words. ‘She’d never been one to accept compliments of any sort. And that obviously hasn’t changed’ he thought. ‘I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without her and I won’t be able to set up a new CTU and run it without her either.’
Jack focuses back on the video message.
“And you were right, Jack, you should have been given a chance to put your side of the story before you were labelled a fugitive but then you also know and understand how sometimes these things don’t happen because of the political landscape. You were, and are the only person I can see being effective in this role. You understand both sides: both the political system, with its benefits and limitations, and also the need to make quick decisions in the field. The initial plan was to have CTU established like it was before, under the direction of the DoD – an official agency of the government. I know and have worked with President Hayworth and understand his reservations regarding CTU – he didn’t approve when President Taylor reopened CTU in New York. We have been able to devise a strategy to resolve that hurdle.”
Heller points off screen, indicating that he was referring to someone in the room with him.
“I approached Agent Ritter because he had seen, first hand, what you did in London and at what risk to yourself. He would now understand what sort of man you are. A good man and the right one for the job. I’m sure he has told you that at first, he had reservations; but I gave him some background and context to what he had on your file, and he quickly came round to the idea. He had just been promoted to the director of European affairs within the CIA, so he was in a position to work with me. We agreed that he would approach you when he felt the time was right. Once you had agreed to the plan, he would request a transfer to the clandestine division, Stateside. With that position, he would create a covert unit nested within the division.”
“That’s where you come in, Mark.” Heller paused a moment as Ritter’s voice, off camera, politely pointed out his error. “I’m sorry. I called you ‘Mark.’ I meant to say ‘Jack.’ Let me take a moment to share my vision a little more.”
Heller looks up at the camera. “Jack, I believe that you will be the one to make this happen. If it wasn’t for you, things in London would have been much worse.”
Heller’s eyes seem to look straight into Jack’s. ‘Does he remember what happened to Audrey?’ Jack wonders, as Heller’s eyes bore into Jack’s.
“You will report directly to Director Ritter. There will be an internal review board, made up of people selected by mutual agreement between you and Ritter. It is to the board that you will need to justify any acts conducted in the line of duty. In the heat of the moment, you will have complete freedom to do things your way, Jack, but CTU also needs to be answerable to someone. If you can’t retrospectively justify your actions then you will have to face the consequences. You will have access to all the same intel resources that were available at CTU. Ritter has been able to requisition the old CTU servers and although much of the intel has been superseded, Miss O’Brian is more than capable of getting everything updated. You said it yourself: when you are brought in, it is to get results. You’ll need the right team and resources to do just that. I also promise that you will have the freedom to assemble your own team.”
Heller’s reference sent Jack’s mind back to the Senate courtroom where some years earlier, he had stood trial for the actions he took and the decisions he made while at CTU. Those words were true years before that trial and were still true today.
“That said, I have taken the liberty to make contact with one man who we both trust and that I believe will be an asset to you, should you choose to bring him on board: Aaron Pierce. Ritter has his information. That is all that I will leave you with for now. Ritter will be able to assist you with the rest of what you need. Jack…Thank you.”
Heller’s face slowly fades as the screen goes black. It is a lot of information for Jack to take in, not to mention the torrent of memories that are flooding his mind – both good and bad.
“Jack,” Erik says, bringing Jack back to the present, “I know this is all happening pretty fast. We do need to get moving, but we don’t have to do anything right now. I also need to debrief you. Chloe and Kate have covered most of it, so it can wait till you are feeling stronger.”
“I’m fine,” Jack says, raising his mask to his forehead. “And, Kate…Heller didn’t mention you, but I know none of this would be possible without you either. Getting Al Harazi, saving Putinov…rescuing me. You were a big part of that. You didn’t have any reason to trust me, but you did. Thank you.”
Kate nods, appreciating Jack’s words and she surreptitiously wipes a tear from her eye, trying to hide her emotion.
“We can move as you feel comfortable,” Erik continues. “And as the doctor allows.”
They all know that Jack will be doing more than the doctor recommends, but no one voices it. Jack shifts a little in his bed.
“So, about Aaron…” Jack starts.
“I have his number right here,” Erik interrupts, pulling a phone out of his pocket.
A clay pigeon shoots out and is quickly shattered by the racing bullet. The pieces drop to the ground, joining the dozens of others that met the same fate earlier.
Aaron lowers the shotgun and takes pride in yet another victory.
“20 for 20!” a man yells, still wearing the earmuffs.
“Thanks,” Aaron says. If he was a man to smile, this would be one of those times.
“When’s the last time you went shooting?” Aaron’s partner asks.
“Last week,” Aaron says. “I keep myself in practice.”
“I’m just glad I’m on this side of the barrel.”
Their conversation is interrupted by a light ringing. Aaron looks down and pulls his phone out. It says ‘Unavailable,’ but Aaron answers anyway.
“Aaron?” the voice says. “This is Jack Bauer.”
“Just a moment, sir,” Aaron says, then turns to his friend, “This is private. I’ll be back.”
Aaron takes a dozen steps before returning to the call. “It’s good to hear your voice, sir.”
“Thanks,” Jack replies. “It’s good to hear yours, too. I guess you know why I’m calling?”
“I don’t know all the details, but, yes, I do,” Aaron says.
“I’m not sure when I’ll be able to be there,” Jack continues, “but I think we need to talk in person about an employment opportunity.”
“Just let me know when,” Aaron says.
“Hopefully within the next couple of days,” Jack says. “I’m waiting on medical clearance to fly. As soon as I can, I’ll be heading your way.”
“Good,” Aaron says. “Can’t wait to see you, sir.”
“Thanks,” Jack says, handing the phone back to Erik.
Erik with a wave of his hand says “Keep it, it’s for you. It’s untraceable so you can call anybody you want. You can talk for up to three minutes undetected.”
Erik turns to the others, “Do you already have ideas? Or do any of you have questions?”
They shake their heads in unison.
“Not at the moment,” Jack says. “I need a little time to process and think.”
“Fine,” Erik says. “If you need me, I’m down the hall.”
He turns and leaves the room, leaving Kate and Chloe with Jack.
“So what do you think?” Kate asks Jack.
“Not much to think,” Jack says. “It’s basically what I’ve been doing my whole life.”
“I guess so,” Kate says after thinking about the truth in that statement.
“I just wanted to get rid of Ritter,” says Jack with a hint of a smile, “I want us all to be able to speak freely. Firstly, I’m interested in Elizabeth, can you give me an update.”
“I’ve talked with Seminov,” Kate starts. “He believes that she was taken to the same prison you were. He is trying to get her released.”
“How?” Jack says. “It sounded like she wasn’t popular. And that’s an easy place to get lost and forgotten.”
“You weren’t forgotten,” Chloe adds.
“You know what I mean, Chloe,” Jack says. “Does he have some kind of leverage?”
“He has a personal relationship with President Putinov,” Kate continues. “That’s how we found out about your pardon. He was also asking about Elizabeth.”
“I guess you haven’t heard back about that yet?” Jack asks.
“Putinov doesn’t seem too quick to agree,” Chloe says, “but he did agree to allow Seminov to go talk with her. He hopes to get some more information about what she did that would cause this.”
“Erik said he’d do some digging too, hopefully he’s already putting some feelers out.”
“Anton, and Katya are still there, with Belcheck, to help.” Kate adds. “They are working with Seminov to make this happen. They are preparing an escape for her, in case she’s not released willingly.”
“We agreed not to have contact with them – Belcheck’s idea – so nothing can be traced back to us,” Chloe says. “Seminov is the contact between us, so we don’t know their status yet, either. If they need to…improvise…Belcheck has a plan to minimize Seminov’s connection.”
Jack nods. “Okay, I also want to make sure you both are comfortable with the plan. I want you both with me but I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do. Are you both okay working for the Government again?”
“Yes, I’m in,” Kate nods and Jack looks across at Chloe who looks troubled. “Chloe?”
“I blamed them for Morris and Prescott. I was wrong, I know that now. Adrian lied to me and I was taken in by him and helped leak information which put serving Americans at risk. How can I lead a team and expect people to work with me after doing all that?”
Chloe hangs her head and Jack sees a tear fall onto her knee. Before Jack can say anything, Kate leaps out of her chair and crouches down in front of Chloe.
“Chloe, put that behind you. When I look at you, I see somebody who saved the life of the President of the United States because she’s a brilliant analyst. I see somebody who was willing to travel half way round the world and risk her life to rescue her friend because of her loyalty. I see somebody who then helped save the President of the country who had imprisoned her friend. That act alone saved the United States from being implicated in a terrorist attack which shows your allegiance to America. I haven’t known you that long Chloe but I know that I would rather work with you and Jack than without either of you. It won’t take long for others to see the real you.”
Kate looks across at Jack and with a wicked smile says, “And besides, anything you may have done, pales into insignificance when compared with Jack’s record of misdemeanors.”
Chloe lifts her tear stained face and looked first at Kate and then Jack.
“Sorry. I’m just really tired. But if you want me on board, I’ll do it.”
“You need to want it, Chloe. Don’t do it for me or Kate,” says Jack firmly.
“I do. But it will cause some problems with the other staff.”
Jack smiles at her, “Chloe. Don’t worry. They’ll have to answer to me and Kate first.”
Seminov steps out of the car and looks up at the building. If it wasn’t for the three-meter high fence with barbed wire around the perimeter and armed security guards walking about, it could pass for almost any other building. It only stands three stories high, but Seminov knows that it goes at least five stories below the surface.
He closes the car door and walk briskly inside the building. The entryway is a small room with a security door across from him. Next to the door is a window with a security officer.
“I’m here for Elizaveta Hejduk,” Seminov says to the guard, showing his credentials.
The guard verifies the badge then turns to his computer. After typing a series of keystrokes, he looks at Seminov and says, “She’s been transferred.”
“What?” Seminov says. “She was just here.”
“It says that she was transferred at the top of the hour,” the guard says, reading from his screen.
“Do you know where?” Seminov says.
“It says it’s an undisclosed location,” the guard replies.
Seminov pounds his fist on the window sill. “Is there anyone that would know her location?”
“Only General Morozov would know that,” the guard says.
“Can I talk to him?” Seminov says. “I have orders from the President to talk to Hejduk.”
“Let me call him and see.”
Kate picks up her phone and dials a number. She closes the door behind her and sits at the table as the phone rings.
“Yes?” The answer comes after a few seconds.
“Just checking on the status,” Kate says.
“I’m at the prison now,” Seminov answers. “She’s been moved, and I’m trying to find out where. I don’t think I’ll get an answer, but there are two places I can think of that they may take her.”
“Let me know what you find out,” Kate says. “Jack is anxious to find her.”
“I understand,” Seminov says. “I’d like to talk to him sometime, but it’ll have to wait for now.”
“Understood. I’ll pass the message on. And thanks.”
The call ends and Kate puts the phone away. She takes a deep breath and decides to wait to tell Jack until she hears back from Seminov, hoping that he’ll get the new location.
“It’s Jack. Do you happen to know what happened to Suvarov?”
Erik, slightly surprised at the question, says “The Russians reported intel that he’s dead. I don’t know the full details though. I can ask around. Why?”
Jack ignores the comeback but inwardly recalls the moment at the house when he and Belcheck had been fired on as they were all making their escape. Out of the corner of his eye, he had seen Suvarov start to come out of the building and then turn to retreat back into the safety of the house. Jack had seized the opportunity to fire off a bullet and had watched with satisfaction as Suvarov had gone down. ‘That’s for Renee, you sonofabitch.’
“I’d like to talk to you about one other detail,” says Jack unemotionally.
“Where would I and my team be working from? Since we’re staying under the radar, we wouldn’t be working from Langley, would we?”
“No,” Ritter answers. “We’ll have an office space somewhere. It’ll have to be secure, but discreet. There’s no specific place yet. We were hoping that Hayworth would agree to an official department, but we do have a couple of ideas.”
“I’d like it to be on the west coast.”
“In Los Angeles?” Ritter asks. “Can I ask why?”
“I used to be based there, I have contacts,” Jack says. “And I don’t want to be in Los Angeles necessarily, but close enough to make visits to see my daughter.”
“We might be able to arrange something,” Ritter says after thinking for a moment, now understanding Jack’s motive for enquiring about Suvarov. “I’ll see if I can make some calls.”
“If you don’t mind, I have a contact there that can help find a place. I just need to make a call.”
This was a pleasant surprise! Thank you so much!
Wow wow wow! I bet you were laughing when I posted how disappointed I was last time that we had reached ‘the end!’ Loving the new direction we are being taken in, the possibilities are endless for great storylines.
Thank you so much, as always you leave me wanting more!
Until next time