Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who is reading and commenting on this story, I really appreciate the encouragement, and I hope you enjoy this chapter.
“Come on,” Chloe whispered urgently as the line rang for the fourth time. Thankfully, this time it was picked up.
Chloe sighed, “Audrey, it’s Chloe,” she paused for a minute pursing her mouth, “Chloe O’Brian, I mean. I’m calling from CTU, I have Bill Buchanon on the line for you.”
A surprised silence answered her and she rolled her eyes. “Audrey? Are you there?”
“Yes, Chloe. I’m sorry, I just…I didn’t think you’d ever go back to CTU.”
“Well, that makes two of us. Please stay on the line,” she added, a false perkiness in her voice to disguise her nervousness. She frowned as her fingers stumbled as she called up to the Head of Operations.
“Sir, I’ve Audrey Raines on five.”
“Thank you, Chloe.”
After patching the call through, she sat back in her chair and huffed. Now what was she meant to do? Technically, she wasn’t even an employee of CTU anymore; she didn’t even have any clearance codes. She glanced around the room and immediately locked on Pressman again.
She crossed the floor determinedly, her arms crossed and stood just beside him. He looked questioningly up at her, an eyebrow cocked enquiringly.
“I worked here for four years, I redesigned the security programmes and tightened up the network systems. I could operate three different satellites on three separate networks focused on different locations at the same time.”
He snorted, “All hail Chloe O'Brian, Goddess and Miracle Worker of CTU! How shall I serve you my Lady?”
She crossed her arms, glaring at him. “Are you done?”
He sighed, rolling his eyes, “Yeah, I'm done.”
“Good. I’m not bragging, Milo, I’m stating a fact. I’m a resource and I can’t sit here doing nothing. Use me.”
Milo let out a breath, clearly still pissed at having her waltz in and take over like the big honcho. “All right. I’m still checking out Mason, but while you were connected to Harrison’s computer we managed to catch a fragment of an e-mail. It needs to be analysed and logged.”
“I’m going to need clearance for that.”
Milo studied her carefully, “I’ll have to clear that with Buchanon.”
“Fine,” she turned on her heel and sat back at the desk. Two minutes later she had level three clearance and several windows of data to sort through.
There was little of any significant interest and she found her thoughts invariably drifting towards Jack and what he was doing at that moment.
Milo appeared behind and leaned over her shoulder and tapped a few keys, until a picture of a girl appeared.
“I thought you might find this interesting. This is Carolyn. Our man’s sister.”
“Sister?” Chloe frowned, not recalling any siblings being mentioned when she'd read the brief biography they'd managed to garnish from CIA. “Well, she's pretty.”
“Yeah, she is, but look at this.” He popped up another window filled with data. “She studied Marine Biology as her major in Brown and worked for JWH Ltd, a pharmaceutical company as a researcher and developer.”
“Have you told Buchanon this?” she questioned urgently.
“Just about to.”
“Why did it take so long to find her?” she snapped irritated.
Milo stiffened, “because she’s his half sister, on his mother’s side. They don’t share the same last name and they haven’t lived in the same house for the past twenty years.”
Chloe nodded, “Okay, I’m…sorry I snapped. I do that sometimes.”
“I noticed. I’m going up to Buchanon.”
“Good, I’ll see what else I can find out about her,” Chloe replied, her fingers already flying across the dark keyboard.
By the time Jack called, the Washington branch had picked up Carolyn and were interrogating her.
“What’s going on?” Jack asked as he connected with her.
“We found who made the virus. It’s Mason's sister. Dr Rockford’s on conference call with Washington to see what more he can find out about it.”
“Has she told us anything about Mason?”
“No,” Chloe admitted mournfully, “she admits she developed the virus, but says she hasn't heard from him since she handed it over to him.”
She heard him sigh over the phone line and wished she could make all this easier for him somehow.
“Well at least it's something. Chloe, can you put me through to Bill?”
“No problem,” she put him on hold and spied Buchanon across the floor talking to one of the agents.
“Mr Buchanon, Jack’s on three.”
Meeting her eyes from across the room, Buchanon thanked her on the phone before hanging up and picking up Jack.
“Bill, Harrison’s after calling all of us together to get ready. It’s happening tonight. Within the hour.” Jack glanced around the building, making sure nobody was near him.
“Okay, Jack we’re on it. We'll contact Washington and get our teams ready. Contact us if you can.”
“Bill?” Jack said before Buchanon could hang up.
“I want Chloe running point on this.”
A smile touched Bill’s mouth as he looked down at the table, “I had an idea you might say that. Consider it done.”
“Thank you.” Jack hung up and put the phone back in his pocket.
“Hey, Bauer,” Jack turned at the sound of his name and came face to face with Dresher, one of the men who was slightly more suspicious of him than the rest. “Who you calling?”
“Girlfriend,” Jack replied easily, “you know what they’re like. You don’t show up for dinner and suddenly they think you’re cheating on them with the next door neighbour.”
Drescher’s eyes narrowed. “Didn’t know you had a girlfriend.”
“You didn’t ask.”
“What’s her name?”
“Chloe,” it was the first name that came to his mind and he almost showed his surprise at how easily her name had passed his lips and her image had pushed its way to the forefront of his mind. Drescher glared at him, and Jack grew impatient.
“What the hell is this, Drescher, twenty questions? I thought we had something more important to do tonight.”
“Yeah, which is why we can’t risk anything going wrong. The boss wants to meet us all to over this thing one last time. You sure your girlfriend won’t be causing us any problems?”
“Of course not.”
“Good, cos I’d hate to have to….deal with her myself.”
Jack smirked, a mirthless chuckle escaping his lips. “Trust me; you wouldn’t be able to handle her.”
“As long as you can,” the other man said menacingly.
Jack’s eyes narrowed, “don’t worry. I take care of my own.”
Drescher stared at him for a few minutes before sniffing disgustedly and turning around to re-enter the building.
Jack let out a quiet sigh of relief, and followed the bulky man back to the main centre.
Harrison had locked himself off in another room, allowing only Drescher access to him. His paranoia was unique and Jack guessed that only his inability at computer software had made it even possible for them to hire Chloe to set up their security systems.
Jack settled in the far corner of the room, sitting apparently lazily down on the rusting metal fold up chair and let his eyes covertly scan the room. On the other side of the room, a young man named Colin manned the computer system. From what Jack could gather he’d somehow managed to tap onto a disused government satellite and was using this to monitor the attack targets and any possible agency activities that could affect them.
Harrison appeared at the door, his clear eyes and engaging smile, a hypnotic combination on most of his followers.
“My friends,” he began calmly, “we are here today to prove once and for all that we love our country.”
Around him, Jack saw the four men and two women sit up straighter and listen attentively to Harrison’s every word. He smiled beguilingly at them, a determined and hopeful spark shining from his intense sea eyes. “It is time to open America’s eyes to what she is in danger of becoming. This current administration has succeeding in undoing centuries of work as the leaders of freedom and an example to others. Instead, they have managed to make us the contempt of the world!" He practically spat the words out, his anger reaching out from him and stirring those sitting in front of him.
“Our government’s current policy of exploiting our nations reserves, and those of poorer countries - pillaging them for their oil and other riches that we are rapidly growing short of - while completely ignoring the environmental costs of our actions must stop. Future generations will not thank us for standing idly by while we use up what is left our world’s natural resources.”
He paused, looking around at each and every person before him, determination and passion colouring his voice. “We can not, and shall not, leave our children and grandchildren to clean up after our mess. And it is time we showed our oblivious contemporaries exactly what the world we leave behind will be like for our offspring.”
He shook his head sadly, his mouth set into a grim line. “I know that none of us relish what has to be done, but it seems we have little choice. The way the world works now, the way the government had fooled the American people, has forced us into this action. People have been tricked into believing that we cannot live without oil, money and power, while ignoring the fundamental necessities such as clean air, and water. It is time, my friends, we showed them exactly what the world could be like for the future generations if we don’t act now." The pleading quality to his voice made his blue eyes sparkle and appealed to the others sitting in front ofhim. "We are on a precipice; there is still time for us to change the history of the world, to make a real difference in the world before it’s too late. What we do now, is a necessary evil to make America wake up and realise exactly what the future holds when we can’t even trust the very water coming from our taps, something that we take for granted every single day. In doing this, I am convinced we can awaken America to the dangers ahead of us, and lead the rest of the world to our salvation! We do this for the greater good!”
The men and women around him cheered and clapped, and Jack had to admit, the man was good. His intentions were good, his methods…seriously off kilter. He imagined if the man ever ran for election, he’d have no trouble charming the voters to get himself into office. Maybe there he could have made a real difference instead of setting down a dangerous and destructive path he’d chosen.
“Our time has come,” Harrison said carefully looking around the room and making eye contact with every person in it. “We will save the world by showing them it’s end. Be ready to leave in ten minutes.”
The room came to life, moving and gathering their weapons and necessities. “Jack,” Harrison called, “I’d like to speak with you for a moment.”
Jack followed Drescher and Harrison into the other room. Drescher hung back near the door, leaving Jack and Harrison to talk up front.
“I know originally we had planned that you would stand guard at the front entrance, but I find I would prefer it if you were with us.”
“Why? Isn’t it a bit late in the day to making changes to the plan?” Jack questioned carefully.
Harrison smiled grimly, “I would normally agree, but with your military training I’d rather keep you close. I’m not anticipating any trouble, but you never know.”
“Okay, if that's what you really want,” Jack's eyes narrowed but otherwise he showed no signs of his unease.
“It is," Harrison replied.
Jack nodded, and left the room, his fingers already twitching to dial a familiar number. Harrison stared thoughtfully at him as he disappeared down a corridor.
“Do you still have your doubts?” Drescher asked quietly coming to stand beside the slighter man.
“Yes,” Harrison admitted.
“Then we shouldn’t bring him,” Drescher replied insistently. “If we can’t trust him-”
“It’s even more reason to bring him with us,” Harrison interrupted. “You know the old adage Dresch – ‘keep your friends close, and your enemies…’” his voice drifted off.
She emerged from the shadowed corridor looking as stunningly beautiful as she always had.
Chloe felt her jaw slacken for a minute. She had assumed that she was still in Washington, and seeing the tall blonde suddenly walk through the corridors like she always had surprised her.
The former analyst felt a bubble of resentment rise through her. Audrey Raines always looked so good, so perfect. Not a hair out of place or a smudge of mascara. Even after she’d been forced to endure the torture methods of CTU, via Jack, she had somehow managed to look like she just stepped out of a beauty salon ten minutes later.
Yes, Audrey Raines was everything the world told her was elegant, refined and beautiful, and a small part of Chloe hated her for it.
She didn’t know how she managed it, but somehow Audrey looked even better than the first time she’d met her almost five years ago. Her Gucci suit hugged her body like a glove and showed off her long legs. Her hair was pulled back with a gleaming silver slide, with not one strand daring to slip out of place.
Chloe could understand what had attracted Jack to her. She was gorgeous, and the thought suddenly occurred to her that Terri must have been a very beautiful woman.
Chloe had only a few moments grace to get over the initial shock and anxiety of seeing her again. Her study of Jack’s former girlfriend was suddenly halted by her subject finally finding her among the crowd of CTU analysts and locking eyes with her. Chloe tensed and she could see the tension settle into the other woman’s frame.
Audrey smiled tightly at her, if you could call it that. It was more of a subtle upward motion of lips that were tightly pressed together.
Chloe nodded briefly at her, and forced herself to look back at the computer screen in front of her and break eye contact with her.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Bill Buchanon approach the Secretary of Defence’s daughter.
The blonde turned at the sound of her name, a bright smile on her face as she shook hands with the CTU director and quickly kissed his cheek.
“Bill, it’s good to see you again. I wish it was under better circumstances.”
“You’re not the only one. Shall we?” he swept his arm towards the steel stairs, allowing her to precede him up to his office. He glanced behind him briefly at his former senior analyst only to find her staring intently at her screen, a line between her eyes as she pretended to ignore that one of the reasons her friendship with Jack had fallen apart had entered the building.
Buchanon sighed, shaking his head. He never thought he’d ever have to deal with ‘Bauer’s Angels’ ever again, but it seemed the day had taken another interesting turn.