HELLO! Well, this is it... the final curtain. The final chapter. The final part of the final day. Nearly two years after starting this story, it's done and dusted. And just in time for Christmas as well. Enjoy, my friends. It's a whopper of a chapter, the biggest one by far, and I promise the closure that I promised at the start of the story is there. Enjoy and strap yourselves in..
DISCLAIMER: See Chapter 1
24: 10am – 11am (WET):
The following takes place between 10am and 11-08am, Washington Eastern Time:
Events occur in real time
As the seconds ticked by, it finally hit Jack who the voice on the radio belonged to. He hadn't heard it since New York, since seeing Kim for what appeared to have been the last time. "Stephen?" he cried out, not expecting to hear his voice considering what Chloe had told him only ten minutes ago. "Yeah, Jack – it's me. I have someone here who wants to talk with you" Stephen replied, his voice immediately being replaced by that of a young girl. "Grandpa, is that you?" the voice asked and Jack could tell from even a mile away who it was. "Hello, sweetheart. How's my favourite grand-daughter been all these years?" the former agent simply could not resist smiling at hearing Teri over the radio, though Novick's eyes rose in unexpected surprise and he found himself mouthing the words "grand-daughter" to Chloe, who could only nod. She at least knew who Teri was, having met her several times during Jack's recovery from the prion variant and before she took up the job at the new CTU in New York.
"I'm doing good, I can't wait to see you again!" Teri responded, though Chloe made a slight face in confusion – something about how she was responding didn't sound right. "Neither can I, honey. Can I talk to Dad again?" Jack responded and after a few seconds, Stephen's voice returned. "Everything ok, Jack?" he asked. "Yeah, everything's fine. Only I'd heard from Chloe only ten minutes ago that when Kim tried to contact you, she heard what appeared what to be an ambush? Did you get away or...?" the former agent asked the burning question on the tip of his tongue. "We did, yeah. Pierce got ahead of us with Patrick, pretty sure he's within the city limits by now. Teri and I, we managed to hide.." Stephen explained, doing a pretty convincing job considering he was staring down the barrel of a gun currently held by Henderson. "That's brilliant to hear, well done the two of you. But this guy, who was he...?" Jack asked, obviously unaware of who was there as well. "We don't know, but he was certainly American. Clean-shaven, not much hair, rather tall.." came the reply, with the characteristics mentioned sending alarm bells through the ears of Jack, Chloe, Belcheck and Novick. Only one man fitted that description, there was no need for names.
"..and I think I know where he could be" Stephen added, re-attracting Jack's attention. "Go on" he said. "When he first took us hostage, he mentioned something to Pierce. Something about going to a burnt-out building that we'd passed minutes before-hand" his son-in-law revealed. To Jack, it suddenly hit him what Stephen meant by burnt-out building. Guardstrom HQ. "You think he's gone back to that building?" he asked. "Pretty sure, Jack. Something about a chain of events starting and ending there.." Stephen replied. Even though he knew only the basics, the pieces of the puzzle began to come together. The chain had indeed started at Guardstom HQ – when Benediktov had attacked under the false pretence of a supposed attack on Russia, giving Henderson the chance to get his hands on the super-weapon. Had Henderson not lied to the Russian General, events would not have gotten to the point that they were at now. It made sense for that chain to end where it had started. "Alright, Stephen. I'm on my way, hang tight and I'll come and find you!" the former agent declared.
Stephen looked up at Henderson, who simply shook his head. "That's not a good idea, Jack. Forget about me and Teri – we'll be fine. From what we've seen, this guy's dangerous. He's much more of a priority!" he insisted. Jack was a little taken aback but from further thought, the guy did have a bit of a point; Henderson was right within their grasp. If he tried to find his family, then he could easily get away and they'd have to hunt him down all over again. Who knows what he could do if they didn't capture him soon? "You're right.. ok, just try and see if you can get to the White House as soon as you can. Kim's already there and I promise I'll see you soon" he conceded. At that, Stephen hung up and looked straight ahead at Henderson. "You did very well.. very convincing indeed!" the gun-man remarked. Stephen ignored this and looked to the side at his young daughter. "Alright, I've done what you asked. Now what?" he replied, looking back ahead. "Now? Now we continue my original plan – heading to the remains of that building. After all, Jack's expecting yoi there!" Henderson insisted, unflinchingly.
It was then that Stephen realized the man before them still had plans for him and for Teri.
As for Jack, almost as soon as his conversation with Stephen had ended, he had started racing into action – the confirmation that Henderson was potentially near Guardstrom HQ meant he had no time to race. But as much as Novick knew they couldn't let this chance to catch their man slide, he also knew that Jack couldn't do it alone. "Jack, listen. I appreciate we need to find and capture Henderson soon but I'd rather you didn't do it alone. You and Belcheck are gonna need back-up" he insisted. The former agent looked at the Acting President, almost sighing and shaking his head. "I appreciate we'll need back-up Mike, but WHERE are we going to get back-up at this stage?!" he responded, almost snapping. "And to be fair, sir, even if we found help, how quick could they meet with Jack? A second wasted.." Chloe jumped in, backing up her friend. "..is a seconds advantage to Henderson – do you not think I realize that, Chloe?" the Acting President snapped back.
Belcheck could feel the tensions rising between the three people before him – and it was at that moment that a thought dawned in his head. "What about the Marines? You know, the ones who helped at the Capitol Building?" he proposed. Jack stopped and thought about the proposal. "What about it, Mike?" he asked. "It's.. it's not that bad an idea. Ever since the Capitol was cleared for potential damage, I ordered them to wait there until I gave them new orders. If you're happy having them, Jack.." the Acting President replied, looking towards the former agent. "Alright, let them know. Tell them Belcheck and I are headed straight for Guardstrom!" Jack insisted, not needing to be told twice. The Serb mobster would have responded at that point as it quickly became apparent that Jack had forgotten something important but he had no chance to say anything as suddenly Jack's phone began to ring. The former agent immediately snapped it open and put it on speaker. "This is Bauer" he spoke into it. "Hey, Jack! It's me, just thought I'd let you know Heather and I are not far off from the city centre!" a voice replied. Gumushan.
Almost immediately, Belcheck came up and took the phone off Jack. "Gumushan, it's Belcheck. Whereabouts are you exactly?" he asked. "I'd say about five to ten minutes away. The only reason I'm ringing is we may need some help; Heather has started hacking into the weapon.." the Turkish-Cyprian explained as he looked over at Heather, who looked like as though she was in a world of her own, fighting through what appeared to be Project Connaughton's mainframe. To Jack and Belcheck, Gumushan's response needed no further explanation. If Heather was hacking into the weapon, there was a strong chance Henderson would pick up on it and send the super-weapon after Heather to kill her. "Hang tight, I'll meet you on the outskirts – until then, just keep the girl safe!" Belcheck said suddenly, much to the surprise of Jack. "Thanks, 'check. You're a life-saver!" Gumushan replied before hanging up. "Belcheck? I'm gonna need you with me.." Jack attempted to reason, only for the Serb to stop him. "If we're gonna stop Henderson, we need someone to stop that weapon as well – if me going to help Gumushan is best option available, so be it; we need to give the girl as much time as we can!" he pointed out.
Jack sighed, knowing the Serb mobster was right on that front. "Alright.. I'll go to the HQ on my own, with the Marines. You give Heather as much time as she needs to hack that thing!" he relented as he turned to face Chloe. "Chloe?" he started. "Way ahead of you, Jack! If you go now, the Marines will be ready by the time you pass the Capitol Building" the former analyst replied. Not needing to be told twice, Jack climbed back into the car he and Belcheck had arrived in and raced off down the road. "Belcheck!" Chloe yelled suddenly and the mobster turned around just in time for the former analyst to throw him a pair of car keys. "They're the keys to one of the cars belonging to the Secret Service; go help Gumushan!" she explained. Again, the Serb mobster didn't need to be told twice and he ran in the direction of the parking garage whilst both Chloe and Novick headed back inside.
Outskirts of DC
Racing off of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway was the sports-car – and much to the surprise of the driver, being forced to drive at the speed he was by his passenger, there was not much in the way of activity going into the city. "That's odd – I would have thought the streets would be a bit more packed considering what you said about the attacks!" he noted, a tad suspicious as he peered over slightly over at his passenger.
"Your thoughts are valid, young Edward. But you are missing a key factor. If people can't get out, they go underground. Clearly the citizens are simply hiding out of sight." General Benediktov replied calmly, giving what he believed to be a reasoned explanation for Ed's suspicions – though admittedly, he also knew that people would not have been able to get very far anyway because of the military checkpoints that Acting President Novick had given the order for a couple of hours ago. "Well there's that.. but still, it's a bit scary. As an American, I would never expect a city like Washington DC to be as subdued and silent as this – heck, I doubt wherever the hell you come from in Russia would be as silent as THIS!" Ed pointed out whilst keeping his eyes on the road as they approached the city limits. "That is true, you are right. And for the record, I am actually from Yekaterinburg. It's a very nice place, I recommend you visit some time" the General said calmly, straying a little off topic much like he had done on the Yuri Dolgorukiy.
"Oh right. Well, I'll certainly consider visiting this place on the off chance that we GET OUT OF THIS ALIVE!" the driver suddenly snapped, having shifted from early sarcasm. Benediktov was a little surprised by this outburst. "For all this talk you have of trying to eliminate a chain of destruction and of using those things, General, you've not even given any consideration to whether or not we're gonna get out of this in one piece or not! This may surprise you, but I have a family and I would much rather have the luxury of being able to see them again..." Ed insisted. A still silence fell between the two men. "And considering I'm helping you, the authorities are gonna brand me a traitor regardless of whether you're trying to stop these people or not, so I won't get to see your Yekaterinburg anyway" he finally added. Benediktov sighed. The driver was right in all cases. This was essentially a suicide mission and no matter what the overall circumstances may be, he had no right whatsoever to bring an innocent man into his death plot. Ed was just a bystander.
"You are quite correct, Edward. I had no right to bring you into this. But at the same time, I had no use for you beyond getting me to DC. As soon as we're at the right place, you are free to go. No ifs, no buts. The police and the military won't suspect a thing" he replied. Ed looked at him, the relief on his face now fully clear. "You really mean that?" he asked. He had to make sure. "I do really mean that. For the record, however, I also have a family. A daughter. What I am doing, bringing down the chain of destruction, I am doing it for her. Your actions in driving me here, you have done them for your family even if you don't realize it" Benediktov confirmed. Ed sighed and would have given a half-smile if not for the fact he could see something in the distance. It looked like a checkpoint, a military checkpoint. "I think we better slow down" he said. The General peered ahead. "No need to stop.. just accelerate through it" he said almost as if it didn't concern him. "Are you kidding? We can't accelerate through a military checkpoint, that's just asking for trouble!" Ed spluttered. He couldn't believe that Benediktov was actually proposing the idea. "I said... speed through. As soon as we're through, you're free to go!" the Russian insisted, pulling his gun out of his holster.
Ed clearly did not like the idea being put forward, but considering General Benediktov was the man with all the cards, he wasn't about to risk his life – not that he was this close to being able to escape with his life. He pushed down on the accelerator and watched through the windscreen as the checkpoint came closer and closer. Soldiers dived out of the way as the sports-car raced through. The General looked out through the back windscreen. "Here's good, stop the car!" he ordered, the words that Ed was dying to hear. He pushed down on the brake and put the car into the lowest gear, letting out another sigh of relief as the car screeched to a halt. "Alright, I'll take it from here. Get out!" Benediktov ordered, pointing his gun at the driver. Ed didn't need to be told twice and he scrambled out of the car. "I appreciate what you have done for me, son. If I get the chance before everything goes down.. I'll make sure to tell of your innocence" was all he heard from the Russian before he moved into the drivers seat.
Ed could only watch as the car raced off down the road, unsure of where Benediktov was going. It was probably for the better.
Outskirts of Guardstrom Headquarters
Considering the slight state that the limo was in – especially considering that it had essentially been run off the road after the near-miss with the missile – it was still drivable, much to Henderson's surprise. It had taken a minute to get it running and turned around, but he had managed to do that and now he was reaping the rewards. He drove the limo up a slight hill and it arrived just where he had expected it to – outside the large car park of Guardstrom Headquarters. He smashed the limo through the barbed wire fence and raced towards the wrecked, but remarkably still standing, remains of the front building before finally coming to a screeching halt.
In the back, Stephen slowly looked up – as soon as the limo had smashed through the barbed wire fence, he had resisted all the pain he felt from trying to move his leg and left over Teri. Henderson strolled out from the driver's seat and towards the back, forcing the door open. "We are here.. come see the surroundings of the final showdown!" he remarked very sarcastically. Stephen slowly got out and slammed his hand onto the roof to keep himself on-balance as he helped his young daughter into the open. The moment Teri was out, he had a look around the surrounding area – and was openly shocked by what he saw. On the far side of the limo, he could see what appeared to have been a steady row of parked cars, all smashed up and wrecked as if they had been smashed into by a large vehicle. Following the row of smashed cars, he found himself looking at the front building for the headquarters. His eyes widened as he saw what remained of the building – it was completely wrecked with pieces of rumble flooding the ground floor and surrounding what appeared to have been a fuel tanker. Something big had clearly gone down.
In the distance, however, Henderson could clearly hear what he thought were sirens. The missile attack had managed to trick the few military members guarding the remains of the complex into leaving the area and now it was pretty likely they were coming back. "Let's move! We don't get in now, chances are we never will!" he ordered, pulling out his gun and pointing them at his captives. But Stephen only glared at him. "I can't very well move anyway.. YOU'LL have to help, just tell Teri where to go" he pointed out. Henderson did not look happy at this but with the sirens coming ever closer, he sighed in annoyance and moved towards Stephen. "Alright, I'll help you get inside" he said as he put his gun out of immediate reach and allowed the young father to put his shoulder over his. "Teri.. just do what the man says" Stephen said as his daughter looked back at him, deathly scared. Henderson pointed towards the rubble. "Walk over the bits of rubble, I know there's an underground route beyond that" he ordered. It was incredibly fair to say that Teri just did not want to have to do this but considering the clean-shaven man had the upper hand, the young girl had no real choice. Her legs feeling like jelly, she made her way towards the rubble.
United States Capitol
Almost as soon as Jack had arrived at the Capitol Building, obviously the earlier scene of an attempt by Guardstrom to utilize one of their canisters of VX gas as well as a forced siege by Belcheck to get the attention of the White House and warn them of a mole of their ranks, he could see a group of US Marines on the grass outside. He climbed out of the car and walked towards the group, their leader spotting him. "Mr Bauer?" he asked, getting the former agent's attention. "That's me" he said, quickly spotting he hadn't seen this Marine before. "Connor Boyle, sir. Ms O'Brien has already spoken to us, we'll be ready to go as soon as the helicopter is here" the Marine explained as he shook hands with Jack. The mere thought of having to travel in yet another helicopter would have been enough to put Jack off travelling in them for quite some time – anyone looking at him would have thought the former agent to be cursed when it came to helicopters and whilst he was anything but superstitious, he wouldn't have said he disagreed with the idea – but he had to get to Guardstrom HQ as quickly as possible. Going by car just would not have cut it.
"That's fair enough, though might I make a suggestion? We actually land in the park and head to the HQ by foot. If Henderson spots the helicopter, the operation will be dead before it's even started" Jack suddenly proposed. Boyle mulled it over and realized the former agent did have a point. Whilst they needed to get to the remains of the HQ as quickly as they could, they needed to be discreet as well. They'd managed to corner this Henderson character but it would all be for nothing if he spotted the helicopter coming towards him; he would just go back on the run and they'd be chasing shadows until they got him, which meant an increased likelihood of another attack. "Very well, Jack. I'll tell the pilot when he gets here" he agreed. "Thank you" Jack said and at that, the Marine left to inform his group of the change in plans. The former agent looked out at the landscape surrounding the Capitol Building – and it was then that he spotted the fallen remains of the Washington Monument, one of the first targets during the various attacks on the city itself. One of the victims of the vicious power struggle between the Allied Forces of Europe, Guardstrom and Henderson.
At least when everything was done and Henderson was caught, the truth would trickle out. The American people would know who the terrorists are; and in thinking about it, so would the countries of Europe. The various governments of the European countries, as well as the European Commission, had already contacted the White House to personally condemn and disavow the A.F.E – many of those governments, including the Ukraine, Russia, Bosnia and Croatia, had all denounced the group as "opportunistic far-right terrorists trying to spark war". Couple that with General Benediktov openly surrendering in return for playing a part in trying to stop Henderson and the group was fin-
Jack suddenly stopped dead in his thoughts. Benediktov! Because everyone had been so focused on closing in on Henderson, they had completely forgotten about Benediktov. Following the attack by the super-weapon as reported by Gumushan, the General had practically disappeared. He was still out there and no-one had any idea of where – though the Turkish-Cyprian had theorized that maybe he was already in or on his way to the city, trying to locate Henderson himself. "God-damn it.." the former agent swore. What if he went back on his word, used the missiles to continue his campaign of terror against the country? Ok, from Gumushan said, it looked as though the General's only target at present was Henderson but that could very well change. He was suddenly pulled out of his thoughts by the sound of spinning rotors above him. He looked up to see a helicopter coming in to land on the grass outside the Capitol Building. As much as he dreaded the thought, Benediktov was the last thing on his mind. Henderson was in control of one of the most advanced and most powerful weapons he had ever seen and he took priority over the General. "Jack! Let's move!" Boyle shouted as he climbed onto the helicopter. The former agent wasn't about to be told a second time and he raced across the grass to the helicopter, accepting a helping hand from the senior Marine as he climbed aboard.
As the helicopter slowly climbed back into the sky, Jack shook his head. As soon as they had Henderson, they HAD to find Benediktov – not just for him, but also for the missile launchers.
Belcheck could see the helicopter rising into the sky from outside the White House – that was the signal he needed. "Jack's airborne! Keep me informed of how he does" he said, speaking into a radio as he climbed into the car parked outside of the building. "Will do, Belcheck. It won't be much as we're trying to keep Henderson in the dark but when I get something.." Chloe said over the radio as the Serb mobster started up the car.
"Got it. I'll hopefully see you later. Good luck!" he responded. "You too" the former analyst finished, as Belcheck pushed down on the car's accelerator. It headed down the gravel road, away from the White House and onto the road surrounding it, before sharply swinging the steering wheel to the left. It wasn't going to be busy trying to protect Heather and Gumushan from being killed, especially with that dangerous weapon flying through the skies, but the Serb had to at least try and help them.
Skies above Washington DC
Speaking of Project Connaughton, at that moment, the super-weapon was in a circling formation over the skies of the city. For a moment, everything seemed fine with it.. but then for a split second, the spinning sphere underneath the main body of the weapon went dead. There was no activity from it whatsoever.
And then just as soon as it had gone dead, the sphere came back to life. And then it went dead again. For 20 continuous seconds, the sphere flip-flopped between losing all activity and then coming back to life as if it hadn't been affected. Someone was clearly happening to the weapon's main-frame, as though someone was trying but so far failing to hack into it. But considering the rate that the sphere was flip-flopping, it was surely only a matter of time before control was ultimately lost.
DC City Centre
Down on the ground, meanwhile, Benediktov was racing along the roads of the city centre. There were less military checkpoints than he thought there would have been, but that didn't matter too much to him. He just needed to get to Guardstrom and fast – at the same time, he had no definite evidence that Henderson was at the wrecked remains of the headquarters but he just had a gut feeling that the man who had used him as a pawn would be there. Besides, the missiles had also tracked the super-weapon to the HQ; what more evidence did he need that Henderson was there?
As he carefully raced through the streets, sometimes being able to drive on the roads and other times having to drive on the pavements in order to avoid parked cars, he suddenly picked up the briefcase and snapped it open. He pulled out a launcher, alternating between looking over it and looking out at the road ahead. It was probably a good thing that he chose one particular moment to look out at the road as had he not, he would have been so concentrated on the launcher that he would have ended up missing the hole in the road. "Damn it!" Benediktov swore in Russian as he slammed on the brakes, but it ended up proving to be just too late as the car fell through the hole and landed in the tunnel that he had been in nearly 2 hours previously, the car still on its wheels. The General quickly made sure to check that the launchers were still in one piece. He climbed out of the sports-car and looked up at the hole, shaking his head.
But then he stopped. He looked down where he had landed, realizing exactly where he was – the tunnel going away from Guardstrom! He smiled as he peered down the tunnel, the same tunnel that Walkman had tried to use in her failed escape following Cannavale's attack on the complex. The same tunnel that Bauer and that Serb guy had blown open in order to locate the Walkman girl. His task had just gotten a whole lot more easier. He had planned to be extra on the lookout in the event of Henderson detecting him, but the guy would never suspect him coming in from this level and this direction. He quickly climbed back into the car and grabbed the launcher. He was going to put Henderson right on edge and make him essentially go on the offensive against shadows; by the time it began clear to him that the Russian was pulling him into a false sense of security, it would be too late. He would be right on top of him and then, and only then, would he be able to secure his revenge.
Starting the car engine back up, he began to make his way down the tunnel but considering what happened with the hole in the road, he decided to be a little cautious in the event he ran into someone or something that could ruin his plan. He put the car into the second-lowest gear and put all of his attention on the launcher, programming in co-ordinates.
Henderson turned out to have been correct. There was indeed an underground route just beyond what remained of the front building that led to the lower levels of the complex – and that was where he and his two captives currently were, making their way down to the below-ground levels of the headquarters. There had been concerns raised that the small tunnel wasn't very stable and could very well collapse at any given moment but they were brushed aside without even a thought. At present, Teri was having to help her father down through the small tunnel mainly because Henderson was looking over the controls for the super-weapon. Normally he would have trusted the artificial intelligence for Project Connaughton but following the near-miss missile before the end of the last hour, he simply could not leave it to chance.
"Hold up, you two. I need to check over something quickly" he suddenly said to both Teri and Stephen. Both of them looked at him like as if he was mad considering the instability of the tunnel, but he paid no attention to them. He scanned the controls before pressing down on a button with what looked like a microphone above it. "How is the current position of the weapon?" he spoke into it. "Project Connaughton is currently overflying the DC city centr..." the A.I voice replied before suddenly cutting off abruptly mid-word. To Henderson's further surprise, many of the lit buttons on the control set went dead over quite a number of seconds. "Connection terminated, please re-connect or take manual control.." the voice slurred, like it had been hit with a variation of a virus. Stephen and Teri noticed the look on Henderson's face; he couldn't understand what had happened.
And then it hit him. "No.. no that can't..." he said, slowly beginning to panic. There could only be one explanation for what was happening – someone or something was trying to hack into the main-frame for the super-weapon. The weapon was currently running on the orders given to its Artificial Intelligence and not being operated manually with the controls. "Connection re-established!" the voice suddenly said with the lights coming back on; that's something, he thought to himself. He looked up at his captives, desperately trying but failing to not let the panic show. "Come on! Sooner we're out of here.." he snapped as he jumped to his feet – he pressed the briefcase with the controls inside close to his chest and started to herd his captives down through the small tunnel. His job had just gotten a whole lot harder. The weapon operating on A.I was one thing but the weapon having to be controlled manually was another matter. It meant that he would have to be on even more of a lookout for Bauer when he eventually arrived. He would have to re-think his plans so far and very quickly as well.
Finally, it appeared that the end of the tunnel was in sight – as he watched Stephen and Teri make their way towards what looked like the way of the tunnel, he turned his focus towards the controls. After another scan of the controls, he disabled a large red button. "Warning – Artificial Intelligence controls disabled; please re-connect or take manual control!" the voice insisted. "Way ahead of ya, calm down!" Henderson responded sarcastically, almost like as if he was literally talking to someone in the flesh, as he started to secure the controls to his body with the metal poles. "That's more like it.." he added as moved for the control sticks themselves, before finally joining his captives at the very end of the tunnel. It wasn't what he wanted but it would have to do.
Outskirts of Guardstrom Headquarters
The helicopter rose into the sky and back towards the city centre, having successfully dropped off Jack and the Marines within the Colmar Manor park. The Marines were now lying on a gradient, on the grass, and scanning the area beyond the park with periscope binoculars. "What do you see, Pence?" Boyle asked one of the Marines using the binoculars as he lay next to Jack, who was waiting and plotting their next move. "To be honest, sir – not that much. The complex is still pretty much standing and there doesn't seem to be much... hang on!" the man called Pence stated before stopping. "What is it, son?" Jack asked.
"It may not seem like much but ahead of us.. there's a large gap in the chain fence leading into the car park – and ahead of that, right near the remains of the entry-way, I can see a limousine there!" Pence explained. But before the former agent could reply, he was interrupted. "Sir!" another Marine nearly shouted as he raced towards Boyle. "For gods sake, Arnold, keep your voice and your body down!" the leader of the Marines snapped at his youthful sub-ordinate. "But sir, you and Mr Bauer need to see this!" Arnold insisted, turning on his heel and heading back to where he had emerged from. Jack and Boyle looked at each other before moving to follow the young Marine, making sure to keep out of immediate sight in the process. As Jack spotted where Arnold was standing, he noticed almost immediately what it was that the Marine wanted him to see – there were long stretches of dirt going back a long way and going way over the gradient towards the chain fence that looked like as though the grass had been torn up. Torn up by a vehicle?
"Considering what Pence said about the limo outside the main building, I thought this might explain where it came from" Arnold explained. Boyle looked down at the tracks. "That's good actually, Arnold – any idea what the tracks originated from?" he asked. "Yes! I checked further and it seems that they originally came from literally right next to the road! Almost as if someone had run the limo off the road to begin with.." the young Marine theorized. "Well then.. if Henderson is in there as originally thought, we know HOW we got there. Arnold, tell the others we're closing in. We go over the gradient in two minutes!" Boyle ordered. "Sir!" Arnold nodded and saluting before heading to tell the remainder of the group of Marines. "To tell you the truth, Jack, I didn't think Henderson would be as sloppy as to actually leave dirt tracks – but his mistake, he'll pay for it.." Boyle said as he walked off.
But Jack was concerned. Something felt wrong, very wrong. This was around the area that he had gotten that phone call from Stephen from – and come to think of it, if Pierce had been driving, then he should well have been driving a limo. Yes, he had heard from both Stephen and Teri and Stephen had said that Pierce had managed to get ahead of them, but there was this nagging feeling he had that the phone call had seemed too good to be true. Why would Henderson use such an obvious vehicle and why would he leave tracks to his location for anyone to see? In fact, come to think of it, he hadn't seen anything of his son-in-law or his grand-daughter at all. They couldn't have gotten very far on foot and they couldn't have used the limo considering where it currently is now either – and surely the remaining vehicles used in the motorcade couldn't have been that far back or else he would have seen them by now. There was one possibility left but the mere thought of it sent a chill down his spine.
Trying to shrug it off, he headed back in the direction of the group of Marines.
Approaching the outskirts of the city centre on the parkway, in pretty much the same fashion as the sports-car about 10 minutes previously, was the ambulance. In the front driving seat was the unnamed paramedic, who breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the sign indicating that they were only a few minutes from the outskirts of the city. "Al? We're not too far off from the hospital" he called, expecting his colleague to hear his voice. But no reply came. "Al?" the paramedic said again, frowning. And it was at that point that he realized; he hadn't heard a peep out of his colleague since they left the crash site. He had known Al for years and he was rarely ever this quiet. "You there, Al?" he asked again and tried to force open the panel between the front area of the ambulance and the back. But it wouldn't budge.
So he was lucky that at point, the panel suddenly opened – but then Gumushan emerged, pointing a gun at the paramedic. "Terribly sorry for the inconvenience, my friend, but I'm gonna need your ambulance" he said. The paramedic tried to keep a straight face and turned his focus back to the road ahead of him. "What have you done with Al?" he snapped. "Nothing too serious – he's unconscious at the minute but he'll be back with us sooner rather than later" the Turkish-Cyprian insisted as he climbed into the passenger seat. "Now please, just get in the back with the girl. Circumstances have changed and we can't afford to go to the hospital, not at this stage anyway" he added. The paramedic looked at him like as if he was mad, but then looked out at the road ahead of him. "Alright, if you're gonna take the wheel.. make it fast" he relented before unfastening his seat-belt. Gumushan looked at him gratefully as he waited for the paramedic to climb out of the drivers seat before squeezing past. He managed to get his hands on the wheel, just as the original driver made his way into the back. His eyes quickly widened as he settled eyes on his friend and fellow colleague.
"Don't worry – he's still alive, we've not killed him" Heather said unflinchingly and without even looking up from the iPad she was using. The paramedic looked rather unnerved by the teenager's attitude but said nothing as he sat down, only to jump straight back up when Heather snapped. "God no! Gods sake, how did he realize?" she almost shouted, startling Gumushan slightly. "Everything ok?" he asked, worried as to what the issue was. "No! Don't ask me how, but Henderson's figured out what we're doing! He's taken manual control; even if I manage to hack in successfully, it won't mean anything. I'll just be a bystander within the main-frame!" the teenage Walkman replied. That was not what Gumushan had wanted to hear. "How close are you into hacking in fully?" he asked. "About another 25 minutes and it should be done – but you clearly didn't hear me because unless Henderson goes off manual control, I won't be able to do a thing!" Heather snapped, under the belief that the Turkish-Cyprian hadn't listened to what she had just said. "Alright, alright. We'll think of something, Henderson can't take manual control forever after all" Gumushan wisely pointed out.
At that point, his phone began to rang and he snapped it open in an instance. "This is Gumushan" he said. "Hello, Mustafa! Just wondering whereabouts are you at the minute?" a thick accented voice replied. Belcheck. "At present, Belcheck, I'd say about five minutes from the city itself. But we may have hit a problem" he replied. "What kind of problem? Please don't tell me it's with the weapon main-frame!" the Serb replied as he navigated the empty DC streets. "Well let's be honest, yes and no. Heather's still able to hack into the main-frame but she suspects Henderson has taken manual control. Unless the weapon goes off of manual control, Heather won't be able to do a thing once the hack is complete" the Turkish-Cyprian explained. "Ok, I can understand that.." Belcheck replied. He felt a little unsure on how to comprehend what he had been told. What if Jack was unable to get anywhere near Henderson once he found him – or worse, what if he's killed whilst trying to stop him? Henderson would have a clear shot to take his destructive reign to the next level. It was fair to say Jack's task had gotten a lot more harder.
Unless.. unless there was some other way of fighting back AGAINST the manual control! He had no idea on whether it was possible to actually do that but it was worth a shot. "I may have an idea. You may think it's stupid or crazy or even both, but if it works.. Henderson will have a fight on his hands!" the Serb mobster quickly added. Gumushan suddenly became rather interested. "Oh? What is it, I'm interested?" he asked. "Can't tell you right now, Mustafa. All I can say is that Henderson's taken manual control, there's a strong chance that he could well be coming your way! You're gonna have to drive like crazy but we need to get the weapon low enough to the ground! All I can say for now!" Belcheck responded before promptly hanging up. Gumushan was bemused and bewildered, almost like a deer in the headlights. What the hell was Belcheck planning on doing? He talked as if it was a plan only a maniac would attempt.
Below the city and within the tunnels, meanwhile, Benediktov was still on his way towards Guardstrom HQ from underneath. But he was still going at a bit of a snails pace compared to when he was racing through the streets above him, as he still had some focus on the missile launcher in his hand. He was having a bit of trouble trying to locate the trail he had used to track the super-weapon back towards the headquarters. "Come on.." the General hissed as he once again tried to follow the trail and lock onto the co-ordinates. But again, he failed. Normally, he would have thrown the launcher away from his grasp and taken the chance to calm down. But this time, something about his failure felt a-miss to the Russian. One minute he had been able to follow the trail, but then the next minute it had vanished without a trace; what could have made it disappear like that?
"Hang on a minute... who says I have to target the weapon?" he suddenly said to himself. In his over-excited and overconfident haste to move quickly and completely spook Henderson, he had instinctively decided to target just the weapon and nothing else. Who said he had to target the weapon only? There were plenty of targets that would work just as well in catching out Henderson. He grabbed the launcher and quickly keyed in a new set of co-ordinates before immediately firing. Within an instance and hundreds of miles away, the calm of the ocean was rudely broken as a missile emerged from the surface of the North Atlantic and rocketed into the sky. Just what was the General's target?
DC City Centre
To the relief of Gumushan at the wheel of the ambulance, the DC city centre was in sight. The sooner he and Heather got into the city and out of what was likely to be the immediate line of fire, the better – Heather's reaction to having been effectively locked out of the weapon's main-frame was all the Turkish-Cyprian needed to know in that they were likely going to be targeted. But at least he knew that Belcheck was on his way to meet them; he felt just that bit more at ease knowing the Serb mobster was going to try and help deflect any attempts made against the teenager's life.
He quickly peered up at the skies, making sure there was nothing out of the ordinary. The last thing he needed was to see that large weapon descending towards him. But little did he know that there was something in the clouds above the city, preparing to descend from its white camouflage. Project Connaughton. Through a mild stroke of luck and through using what he could of the controls, Henderson had managed to lock on to the location where the attempt to hack into the super-weapon had originated from and was now using it as a guide for manual control. "Alright, easy does it.." he remarked to himself as he set to work. He and his captives had made it through the tunnel, with the first thing they had found being a wrecked hallway just one level above the very location that the super-weapon had been constructed in – Stephen and Teri could only watch through the shattered and dark remains of the platform overlooking the abandoned laboratories, as Henderson set to work. He slammed the control columns forward, with Project Connaughton suddenly going into a steep descent out of the clouds and towards the city and critically, towards the ambulance approaching the city limits.
Because Gumushan had been fixated on trying to avoid the abandoned vehicles ahead of him, he did not spot the large weapon emerging from the clouds – but Belcheck, rapidly closing in on Heather and the Turkish-Cyprian, did see it from the corner of his eye. Normally, he was stoic and rarely showing emotion, but on this occasion, he was starting to show signs of panic. His breathing elevated and he grabbed a firm hold of the steering wheel, before slamming down on the accelerator. If the weapon found its target, then Gumushan and the girl were practically dead. Nothing could survive being hit with whatever that weapon had for artillery – and then he, the Acting President and Chloe had no hope of stopping Henderson beyond Jack finally tracking him down. Who knew what Henderson could do in the time it took for Jack to find and kill him? The city was practically edging towards complete destruction and the consequences would be disastrous not just for the country, but effectively the rest of the world.
As he alternated between scanning the road ahead of him and the weapon descending closer and closer to the ground, he finally spotted the ambulance approaching from the left of the road approaching. He had a split-choice decision to make – and he made it as he raced towards the road ahead of him. High above him, the weapon continued its sharp descent towards the ground and the ambulance, Henderson managing to get it fully in its sight. "And.. fire" he said grimly as he pressed down on a blue button. On the weapon's right-hand wing, a panel opened up to reveal one of the remaining anti-tank missiles. Almost as soon as the panel had been opened, the missile was launched. It immediately rocketed downwards at a steep trajectory, the ambulance in its sight – and it was only when heard the missile being fired that Gumushan looked directly up. As he peered through the windscreen, his eyes widened at the sight of the anti-tank weapon plummeting towards him. And because he was so fixated on what was above him, he failed to notice the car coming towards the ambulance from the right.
Belcheck closed his eyes in anticipation, as the car slammed into the side of the ambulance. Because the car had been travelling quite fast, the Serb mobster largely expected the force of the collision to send the ambulance flying onto its side and along the side of the road for some distance – whilst admittedly crazy, he also knew that the weapon wouldn't be able to target the vehicle straight away. If manual control had been taken, the chances were that Henderson would have to get into a position to attack it from above and doing that in the weapon's current descent and position wouldn't have worked. But the ambulance had actually managed to absorb the energy from the collision and it managed to stay completely up-right, the energy instead pushing it straight down the road and out of the missile's line of fire. As a result, the missile raced past the two vehicles and slammed into the ground, exploding on impact but with enough energy to smash the windows of Belcheck's car, him opening his eyes at the sound of the glass breaking.
At the controls of Project Connaughton, Henderson could still see his target on the small viewscreen. It had happened really fast so he wasn't sure what was going on, but in the mind of Henderson, he had missed. "God damn it!" he hissed. He wouldn't be able to target them again from the position the weapon was in and he pulled back on the control columns, Project Connaughton rising back into the sky once again. On the ground, there was no time to lose. Almost as soon as he had realized what exactly had happened, Gumushan had spotted the car and then spotted the Serb mobster in the driver's seat. Perfect timing, he thought, as he got the vehicle back into gear and raced off down the road – Belcheck following, before noticing the weapon racing back into the sky. They had to shake Henderson off at all costs.
As the Serb moved quickly to catch up with the ambulance, the weapon turned sharply to the left and spun fully around until the sphere underneath the main body was directly in line with Henderson's target. "Let's try that again.." he said to himself as he pushed down on the control columns, the weapon picking up speed as it descended once again. On the road, despite the damage to the car, Belcheck was able to draw level with the ambulance and exchanged as close a look as he could with Gumushan. He took a deep breath and shook his head at what he was about to do. He knew it was practically suicide but the plan involved getting the weapon really close to the ground. He unbuckled his seatbelt, lined up the car with the ambulance and jumped onto the passenger-door, grabbing a hold of the wing-view mirror and then the door handle. Gumushan could only watch in disbelief but had no time to say or do anything as a voice came from the back of the ambulance. "What the hell is that thing?!" Al the paramedic roared in a combination of confusion and shock on top of the headache was experiencing. Belcheck ramming the car into the ambulance had managed to bring him out of his unconscious state and upon spotting his colleague in the back and the Turkish-Cyprian man who claimed to be Heather's guardian driving, his first instinct had been to open the doors at the back of the vehicle.
The first thing he had seen? A massive winged weapon descending towards them, ready to fire at the ambulance. Upon hearing the paramedic cry out, Gumushan knew almost straight away that the weapon was chasing them. "CLOSE THE DOORS! HANG ON BACK THERE!" he shouted as he grabbed the clutch and moved into a higher gear, before looking out at the road and turning sharply to the right. The ambulance moved onto another road,with the signal on the controls for the super-weapon picking this up. "No worry, I'll just scare them into stopping" Henderson said as he gently guided the control columns to the right – before pressing down on the blue button. On Project Connaughton, the panel positioned over the anti-tank missiles on the right-hand wing once again opened up. Within mere seconds, one of the remaining missiles was launched
In the car park for Guardstrom HQ, meanwhile, two Marines were scouting the area immediately surrounding the remains of the front building. Arnold turned towards the rest of the group and signalled them forward. But it was as Jack was passing the car that Arnold was positioned against that the explosion could be heard. He immediately paused and turned around, horror settling in as he could see the rising smoke in the distance. Only one thing could have had the fire-power to do that. The same reaction and feeling of horror was felt in the Oval Office, as Chloe could only look out of the window at the rising smoke. The Acting President rushed into the room and the former analyst turned to look at him, the blood slowly draining from her face. She had seen what was undoubtedly the cause of the explosion, as she had just made out a large black winged vehicle race into the sky. "What do you want us to do, sir?" she asked. As it was, however, nothing could really be done. The two secure points for the White House were inoperable and pretty much every point of the city was at risk of attack. Beyond hoping that Jack and Belcheck were able to do what they needed to do, that wasn't much that could be done. The fate of the nation was once again in the hands of Jack Bauer.
At the impact site, meanwhile, the entire scene was one of chaos. Cars were on their side or even upside down, with some on fire, and a massive hole in the road had been blown – revealing the underground tunnels linking back to Guardstrom Headquarters. As for the buildings on the side of the road, one had been completely destroyed and another had a massive hole at the front of it, like as if something had smashed into it. As Chloe had spotted, the super-weapon was flying away from the site of the explosion. From what Henderson had seen through the scanner on the controls that linked to the sphere on the underneath of Project Connaughton, his target had been eliminated and he saw no further reason to keep it on manual control. As such, it was returning to its pre-programmed orders of patrolling the city from the skies.
But as the super-weapon rose steadily into the sky, a figure slowly climbed his way up the left-hand wing and towards the main body. Against all odds and perhaps by a stroke of complete and utter luck, Belcheck's kamikaze and suicidal plan had worked. He had evaded detection and had made his way onto the weapon. He wasn't quite sure how it had happened but clearly a combination of the weapon getting low enough to the ground and then bizarrely the explosion from the missile impacting the ground had given him enough kinetic energy to get a hand on the weapon. But with the distraction of trying to ensure he didn't lose his grip, he was unable to see what had happened to Gumushan and Heather and the paramedics onboard the ambulance. But until he managed to find a way inside, he wouldn't be able to find out if they were alive or not.
Not that far away, meanwhile, the missile from the Yuri Dolgorukiy rocketed through the skies towards its target. But unlike the other missiles fired from the downed submarine, it was completely ignoring DC altogether – the other missiles had flown over the centre of Delaware to reach the capital city whereas this one was overflying that of Ocean City and heading upwards.
The familiar scene of a waiting bay greeted General Benediktov as he finally made his way into the complex proper. This had ironically been the last place he had been in on his last short visit to the headquarters, which at least gave him an idea of where he was going. He just had to plot his route into the main building backwards and go from there. As he climbed out of the car, he grabbed the briefcase of launchers and grimly looked at the already-active launcher. It appeared to be closing on its target. "45 seconds.." he said to himself as he peered over at the open doors into the hallways. He finally shook his head, inexplicably opting to make his way back into the car instead.
Several levels above him, Jack had finally made it himself into the remains of the front building. Much to his surprise, the tunnel leading into the lower levels had been left open for all eyes to see and whilst the former agent had concerns that it was a trap, he knew there was no faster way into the lower levels. Boyle had already done a very quick sweep of the dark route downwards and concluded it to be overall safe – as such, Jack was already in the midst of making his way through the tunnel with the Marines joining him one by one. He quickly stopped and peered back up at the men accompanying him. "I recommend you get your weapons ready. You don't know who or what is going to greet us" he ordered, pulling out his own gun and quickly making sure that it was loaded. Some of the Marines understood his reasoning and did as they were asked, but others were just a little more sceptical – they instead looked up towards Boyle, who nodded. "He's right. Do what he says" he insisted, pulling out his own gun. At that, the sceptical Marines followed suit, some of them even checking to make sure the guns had enough bullets.
On the surface and next to the entry-point to the tunnel, there was one last Marine on guard. He had been ordered to remain next to the entry-point and report any suspicious activity that he saw. As such, he was standing on a big pile of rubble and holding a pair of binoculars in his left hand and his portable radio in the other hand. He grimly scanned the car park before him. In the sky and above the clouds meanwhile, the missile was racing towards its unknown target – until finally, the clouds broke and it began to descent. Towards the remains of Guardstrom Headquarters. To the Marine on guard, he couldn't see anything out of the ordinary but all of a sudden, he could hear something. Something that sounded like it was coming closer and closer to the building remains. He rushed out and turned on his heel, looking up.
This proved to be his last action before impact point, as just seconds later, he saw a missile slam into the building and explode spectacularly. The Marine was knocked off of his feet by the shock-waves of the explosion, as the building effectively collapsed in on itself. The unstable structure finally gave way and collapsed onto the ground slowly. Inside the tunnel, the explosion happened so quickly that Jack practically froze and could only turn around just in time to see a massive fireball smashing into the tunnel and enveloping Boyle. "MOVE!" he shouted as he raced down the steps, the rest of the Marines following suit. But the fireball moved even quicker, making its way through up to 10 Marines and closing in on the former agent. Jack smashed himself against the door and felt the door come off its hinges and slide along the floor of the corridor, closing his eyes as chaos ignited all around him. The fireball smashed against the door-frame and slowly dissipated, leaving a long trail of burnt, dead Marines on the steps of the tunnel.
But by now, the whole weight of the remains of the front building had come crashing down on itself. The weakened structure ultimately gave way and the tunnel collapsed in on itself, with the underground levels surrounding the tunnel also collapsing. Jack couldn't see anything as he had closed his eyes in wait of the mayhem coming to a stop, but he could hear all sorts of destruction – rubble crashing to the floor and metal giving way against the strain of wreckage. By the time the dust had settled, the tunnel was essentially just a big long stretch of rubble whilst walls had been collapsed and other bits of twisted metal and rubble lay around parts of the underground level looking over the laboratories. On the surface, the surviving Marine slowly got to his feet and looked towards the remains of the front building. Or rather, what WAS the remains of the front building. Apart from a few bits of wall standing on the far-left, the far-right and the very back, there was nothing. Not even piles of rubble. The Marine quickly realized that that was because the rubble had collapsed in on itself and was now below ground-level. But what was it?
An attempt to kill Jack or an attempt to spook Henderson should he be inside? He grabbed his radio. "Sir, this is Banks. Please respond!" he spoke into it. Nothing, not even static. "SIR!" he yelled. Again, nothing. "Oh god.. oh god oh god.." Banks said, panic setting in. He looked back towards what he could of the city and retuned the radio. "This is Marine Operative Kevin Banks calling the White House! Come in, Mr President!" he said, trying to sound professional.
On the very bottom of the building, meanwhile, Benediktov looked up from his bracing position and peered around him. The area was largely intact. He looked at the launcher and noticed that the pre-programmed co-ordinates had now disappeared. The missile had hit its target. "Good.. right then. I don't know where exactly you are, Henderson, but I know you're in here – and when I find you, you are going to regret EVER crossing Andre Benediktov!" he snarled to himself as he grabbed the briefcase and made his way towards the open doors leading into the complex underground. Speaking of Henderson, almost as soon as he had heard the explosion, he had put the controls close to his chest and dived for cover. The seconds ticked by when suddenly, there was a loud smash not too far from him. He looked up and followed the sound of the smash, his heart stopping as he saw the remains of the platform on the laboratory floor. Shortly after taking out the ambulance where the attempted main-frame hack had been traced to, he had ordered his captives to move off the platform and head down another level into the laboratories. This proved to be an order that saved his life and that of Stephen and Teri.
Henderson uneasily got to his feet and peered around him, looking at his captives. He had absolutely no idea as to what that massive explosion was but it must have been powerful, considering that it managed to destroy a platform several metres below ground-level. "Are you both ok?" he asked his captives. Stephen rose an eyebrow but nodded. "Right, that's good at least. But I'm gonna need you both as lookouts. I have a sneaking suspicion someone may be out to get me.." Henderson remarked. Stephen looked at him with a face of incredulity, but it was Teri who spoke up. "After you? You're trying to lure my grandpa into a trap and you're in control of some ridiculous weapon but somehow someone's after YOU?" she remarked. Stephen resisted the urge to smile, he could see a lot of Kim's temperament within Teri. "That is correct. Far-fetched it may be, but it is correct. One thing you need to remember, young lady, is that there is never only one villain in any given situation. Sometimes, there may be more than just one person trying to destroy your way of live" Henderson explained, except even he didn't sound too confident as he said it. He sounded distracted – not even bothering to look at the girl before him – and very much on edge. Everything that was happening against Jeremy Henderson and not working in his favour was starting to get to him.
"What do you mean, IT'S GONE? A building doesn't just disappear, Banks!" Chloe snapped into her phone, as she paced the Oval Office. Novick was watching her. "Believe me, O'Brien, I know it sounds ridiculous but IT'S TRUE! I am standing in front of what was Guardstrom HQ and believe me, THERE IS NOTHING THERE NOW!" Banks snapped back, pointing at the remains of the complex even though there was no-one else to show the remains to.
"Alright, alright – son, this is the President. Suppose something did happen. Do you have any idea what caused the complex to disappear?" Novick stepped in, noticing that Chloe was showing signs of losing her patience. "..YES! Yes, actually. There is. About a split-second before it all happened, I saw something coming down from the sky. It looked like a missile but it wasn't like anything I've seen" the Marine said, trying to recap what he had witnessed take place. Chloe frowned. There was only one logical explanation, but it meant one thing. "If it's a missile, sir, then chances are it's Benediktov. But there's been no reported signing of him since he went to Jack to Baltimore.." she pointed out as she lowered the phone and covered it with her hand. "Well, we'll have to assume it was him, Chloe. Who else really has access to missiles and the means to actually launch them?" the Acting President pointed out. They couldn't prove it was actually the Russian General, but then again who else could it be? And come to think of it, Benediktov had no real reason to attack Guardstrom HQ beyond looking for Henderson so that could only mean that Henderson was indeed within what remained of the complex.
Novick took the phone from Chloe's hand. "Banks, do you think you'd be able to make your way underground?" he asked. Needless to say, the request was met with incredulity by the Marine. "How, sir? The front of the building has collapsed in on itself, there's no way inside!" he pointed out. "Actually there is – I'll order the helicopter to come retrieve you, there is another way inside and you need to take it" the Acting President ordered. Banks was stumped at what he heard; another way inside the complex? He had no idea how there would be another way inside, but if the Acting President said there was, chances are he was right. "Yes, sir. I'll give you an update in about 20 minutes" Banks said before hanging up. In the Oval Office, Chloe was about to try and say something to Novick – but was interrupted before she had the chance, by the arrival of an older Secret Service agent. "Sir.. I just got contacted by one of the checkpoints within the city. They've just picked up a young man who claims he was kidnapped by General Benediktov" he explained, albeit a little uneasily and somewhat unconvinced.
The mention of the Russian got the attention of both Chloe and the Acting President. "Who?" Novick asked. "Someone called Ed Plowright. He's happy to debrief you, but you'll need to come with me" the agent said. The Acting President didn't need to be told twice and he quickly followed the agent, Chloe following suite.
Outside the White House, meanwhile, another agent was standing next to the security patrol point at the end of the stony road. He was very much on edge considering what had been going on and the fact that he hadn't slept in nearly 3 days. His state of mind was telling him to treat anyone he hadn't seen before as a threat and from the corner of his eye, he could see a car that he hadn't seen before today approaching the front gate. Paranoia taking over, he grabbed his gun and forced his way of the security point. "TAKES YOUR HANDS OFF THE STEERING WHEEL!" he roared at the top of his voice as he appeared in front of the vehicle. The driver immediately did as he had been asked, as the agent made his way towards the car. "Hands on the car, spread your legs out!" he ordered once again, his paranoia shining through as he made his way to the back of the older man doing as he had been ordered. "Driver's licence?" he snapped angrily, pointing his gun at the back of the older man.
"Farage? What the fu*king hell are you doing?!" another agent suddenly yelled as he ran up towards the security point. The agent named Farage looked at him. "What do you think I'm doing? I'm not just about to let someone into the White House, not at this point! He could be working for Benediktov or Henderson!" he snapped back. The second agent looked at him like he had completely gone off the rails. "Just look at who you have at gunpoint, you blithering idiot! He's not a threat" he yelled angrily. Scoffing, Agent Farage turned the man he had at gunpoint around – only to immediately go white and recoil in shock. The man who he had held at gunpoint was no threat to anyone. It was Aaron Pierce. "Oh go... Mr Pierce, I am so sorry, sir. I had no idea.." he said, immediately scared. How could he have been so stupid?
But to his relief, Pierce wasn't angry. "When was the last time you said any sleep, Agent Farage?" he asked calmly and kindly. "Not.. not since the first reports of an attempt made against the President in London were reported" Farage confessed. "I see.. go get some sleep, that's an order" the older man ordered. Whilst he was no longer technically an agent, he still had a credible reputation amongst many Secret Service agents and many of them would still make sure that they followed his orders to the letter. Farage looked at his partner, who nodded. "Yes sir" he agreed and immediately walked off towards the White House. As for his partner, he walked up towards Pierce. "Agent Pierce, we've been looking for you! What's been going on?" he asked, crossing his arms. "I apologize, son. I got a bit distracted on the outskirts of the city; tell me, is there a Kim Wesley currently here?" the veteran replied. The younger agent rose an eyebrow. "Yes, she is. Why do you ask?" he inquired.
Pierce said nothing, instead motioning towards the back of the car. The younger agent, whilst a little confused, walked towards the car and towards the left-hand side. To his shock, he could feel a sleeping toddler. "Mrs Wesley's young son. The only person I was able to escape with when we were ambushed" Pierce explained. The younger agent looked at the veteran. "Then.. where's her husband and daughter?" he asked. Pierce looked at him. "I have no idea. Mr Wesley told me to take Patrick and run; he was injured so he stayed behind with Teri" he said. The fog within the younger agent's mind began to left as he took in the veteran agent's words. And then it hit him. It meant only one thing; Mr Wesley had lied, either intentionally or under some kind of threat. "Come on!" he yelled as he raced back towards the White House. Whichever way anyone looked at it, Pierce's words had thrown everything out of the window. If Mr Wesley had been too injured to move and Henderson had found him, then Jack was quite possibly being led into a trap.
On the road that had been attacked by Project Connaughton in its pursuit of the ambulance, there was little in ways of activity. But within the building that had had a massive hole blown in it, there was actually activity taking place. The ambulance was remarkably still in one piece, on its side within the wreckage. And on the inside, all four people were still alive – although seriously injured. Heather had a cut to the head and what appeared to be a broken foot, whilst Gumushan looked like he had been in a massive punch-up and lost. As for the paramedics, Al had a broken arm whilst his colleague had whiplash and concussion.
Heather was not letting her injuries affect her, however, as she was still rapidly working on hacking into the weapon main-frame. "Oh yes... oh you stupid idiot, you really shouldn't have done that!" she suddenly remarked. Gumushan, who was in the midst of being helped into the back of the ambulance by Al, looked up. "What is it?" he asked. "Clearly Henderson thinks we're dead – because the weapon is no longer under manual control. As soon as I'm into the main-frame properly, we'll be able to control the weapon however we please!" the teenage Walkman revealed. Only the paramedics were absolutely confused. "Alright, does someone want to tell either one of us just the hell is going on? What is with all this talk of super-weapons and main-frame hacking and everything?" Al demanded to know.
Heather peered at the Turkish-Cyprian. "You tell them, I've got this to do.." she wheezed before returning to the hacking operation before her. She needed to focus and get the hack complete before Henderson potentially realized that she was in fact still alive and fighting to undo all of his hard work.
The first thing that Jack felt as he came to was bits of twisted metal on top of him and pieces of rubble all around him. As he lifted the metal up, he looked up at where the tunnel had previously stood.
To his horror, that tunnel was no longer there. In its place was simply just a massive pile of rubble and twisted metal. He looked along both sides of the corridor, shock setting in as he saw rubble and metal lying everywhere. He looked up at the ceiling, immediately noticing that there were cracks appearing all over the place. And they were getting bigger. Getting to his feet, the former agent spotted what appeared to be some kind of collapsed platform overlooking something. He instinctively went in that direction and managed to time it pretty well, as the ceiling over where he had woken up suddenly caved in. Jack could only watch as rubble smashed onto the floor – what the hell had happened that could have led to this? Ok, it had been said that the building and the tunnel to a lesser extent were not exactly as stable as he had hoped they would be, but there hadn't been any evidence to support the remains of the building suddenly collapsing in on itself or neither he or the Marines would have even set foot in the tunnel!
Whatever it was that had caused this, it must have been pretty big! Peering around the remains of the corridor, Jack then spotted a flight of stairs going downwards. Whilst a little suspicious of what could be at the bottom of the stairs, the former agent was not too keen on the thought of staying in a corridor where the ceiling could collapse at any given moment. As a result, he quickly made sure he still had his gun and made his way quietly down the stairs. The seconds ticking by felt like minutes as he made his way to the bottom – and found himself in what appeared to be some kind of laboratory. Holding his gun close to his body, Jack started to love around his new surroundings as he spotted what looked like the remains of the collapsed platform just ahead of him.
"Grandpa!" a voice cried out and Jack immediately pointed his gun in the direction of where the voice had come from. His face was a picture of shock and confusion as he saw his son-in-law and grand-daughter reluctantly step out of the shadows. "Stephen.. Teri?! I don't.. what the hell are you doing here?" he finally spluttered. "I'm sorry, Jack.. we had no choice" Stephen replied sadly, unable to look his father-in-law in the eye. The former agent turned his head, curious as to why Stephen was suddenly apologetic. "What do you mean, no choice?" he asked. "It means exactly what he said!" a voice declared and Jack turned around just in time for someone to completely smash their first into his face, sending him flying backwards. "Boy.. that actually felt good. And it worked!" Henderson remarked as he touched the fist he used to punch Jack's lights out with his other hand, scoffing at what he'd done.
DC City Centre
Within the remains of the ambulance crash site, Gumushan was able to force open the back doors to the ambulance. He looked back at the two paramedics, who couldn't believe the story they had been told. "So let me get this straight – the pair of you are working with Jack Bauer who strictly speaking shouldn't even be in this country and the White House to stop a potential war between some washed up Russian General and a guy who you think is controlling whatever that winged monstrosity was?" the unnamed paramedic said. "Pretty much that, Brian – and before you ask, Jack Bauer is entitled to come into the country. President Heller officially pardoned him for what he did" Heather addressed, again not even bothering to look up from her hacking job. Brian proceeded to look at Gumushan, clearly realizing that trying to extract any further information from the teenager was not going to work.
"Ok, but why and how did you two get involved? Strictly speaking, I doubt the White House would pick a teenager and some random Turkish-Cyprian to fight off terrorists" he asked dryly, actually making a bit of a valid point about why two people seemingly ill-equipped to fight such a terrorist threat were fighting that threat. "Well, I'll admit you do have a point on that. I'm afraid we can't really reveal too much at this stage, but what I can tell you is that.. well, I was investigating someone who turned out to be related to one of the terrorists" Gumushan replied, managing to stay calm under the pressure of the questioning. "Uh-uh. I see. And the girl?" Al said, turning towards Heather. "I got involved because of some shady business dealings my mother managed to get herself drawn into. Now if you two are done playing 20 Questions, can you please shut up? Having to endure your endless questioning is getting on my nerves!" the teenager replied, very much dead-pan and not even bothering to look up once from her work.
But then at that point, Gumushan's phone started to ring. Heather finally looked up and glared at the Turkish-Cyprian. "Alright, alright.. I'm answering" he insisted as he grabbed the phone and opened it up. "This is Gumushan" he said, speaking into the phone. But as the seconds ticked by and he heard the caller's voice, he froze. "Wha.. how are you.. how did you?" he spluttered slowly. He knew who it was but he couldn't understand how this person was talking to him. Having heard Gumushan speak in the uncertain manner that he had done, Heather looked up. "Alright, yeah.. um, it's for you Heather.." the Turkish-Cyprian said as he handed the teenage Walkman the phone. "Hello?" she asked, curious as to who it was that had left Gumushan lost for words. And as it was, the caller left Heather herself lost for words. "I don't.. how can it be you?" she asked slowly. Brian and Al exchanged a confused look. A strange morning had just gotten even more confusing. "Alright, yeah.. I'll do that. Just stay on the line" she added as she set back to work, hacking into the main-frame.
For the second time in less than ten minutes, Jack found himself coming to – only this time, he wasn't actually able to move his arms. He could feel them behind his back but he instantly knew that they had been tied together. Presumably by whoever he was that had punched him in the face. As he opened his eyes, he could see Stephen and Teri sitting on two chairs underneath a large window frame. He was about to again ask them what the hell was going on, when he could sense someone starting over him. "I'll tell you this now, Jack. I think I preferred the photos my dad kept of you in his office; you looked good back then than you do now" he heard that person joke and he slowly rolled his body over onto his back until he looked up at the person. He knew immediately who it was. Jeremy Henderson.
Henderson proceeded to turn on his heel and walk away, conveniently ignoring the glare Jack was giving him. Sighing, he smiled as he turned back around. "I never thought I'd see this day.. the day I got to meet Jack Bauer! The hidden hero America didn't know it needed and a master-man in counter-terrorism.. oh and the killer of my father!" he continued, suddenly turning angry as he finished. Jack used his tied up hands to push his upper body up from the floor. "Well, it seems to me that you're sticking your head in the sand! Your father was a traitor and a terrorist.." Jack retorted. "Oh please, DO NOT give me that warped attitude. You are much smarter than that, Jack; DO NOT take the Fox News approach, snap out of it! You know damn well my father was a patriot!" Henderson snarled, really getting angry. Jack nearly snorted. "A patriot? Funny, I don't remember many patriots actually being complicit in the murder of innocent Americans and sanctioning the murder of a former President!" the former agent snapped back. Henderson slammed his hands on top of the briefcase carrying the controls to Project Connaughton.
An unsettling silence fell as he composed himself. He'd gotten to this stage, he didn't want to lose control of a situation where he had the upper hand. "You would say that, Jack.. but all that is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. I could go on all day at the amount of people who screwed my father, a great man, over but I won't because that.. well that would be far too easy. I'm gonna let my actions speak for themselves" he finally said, securing the controls to his body as he spoke. Finally, he turned around, hands on the control columns even though he knew the super-weapon was in Artificial Intelligence mode. Jack scoffed. "So I was right all along.. you do have the controls. But really, what is this going to achieve? I'm the one you're clearly after so why do you need a weapon of near-mass destruction? You've got me, just shoot me" he pointed out. Teri looked at her father in worry at some of Jack's words, but Stephen reassuringly hugged her.
"Oh, Jack... oh dear Jack. Sometimes I think you need to realize it's not always about you. Yes I am angry at you for killing my father and everything that you did to ruin his life – especially after everything he did for you – but you're actually only one part of the plan. It's the government I'm after, always has been ever since I first made contact with one Andre Benediktov" Henderson said. Jack almost double-taked at the mention of the Russian General and it was his face that sent Henderson's eyes wide as he realized what was going on. "Oh, Jack! Didn't you know? I thought your analyst – who was it, Chloe O'Brien – knew everything! Clearly not.. alright, I guess you deserve to know that as well" he conceded.
"About five years ago, I was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Charges that weren't really proven but the judge wouldn't hear anything of an appeal so I was left to rot. And six months ago, I was contacted via phone by someone calling himself Benediktov of the Allied Forces of Europe. He'd done some research into me and wanted to know if I was willing to take part in a big revenge plot against America. Frankly, I was a bit amazed that not only had I been contacted about it but that the prison staff weren't tapping the call because otherwise I would have had the privileges I'd built up gone with a click of the fingers. But I said yes to it, not gonna pass up the chance for revenge on a country that had screwed my father and I over repeatedly! But then only a few weeks later, I got some inside information that this underground contractor called Guardstrom was in the process of developing a super-weapon. I didn't tell anyone of course, but the gears in my head began to form a plan. I was going to take advantage of the General's very lovely offer and essentially shove it back in his face! It took time, but I was able to form some trustworthy contacts on the outside who would help me with my plan. I trust you may have met Cannavale before his slightly untimely death?" he proceeded to explain at length, pausing to let Jack understand what had been said so far – and then spotting the former agent's eyebrows go up in shock at the mention of Cannavale.
"Anyhow, everything was set in motion from the moment Benediktov left to hijack that submarine at the very south of Greenland. Everything from that exact event has been planned pretty much to precision – all so that you could be witness to my ultimate vengeance against what was and what never will be a great country" Henderson finally finished, noticing what seemed to be a flurry of emotions on Jack's face. "What is it, Jack? Everything a bit too complicated to take in?" he nearly mocked. Instead, Jack gave no answer and his emotions appeared to give way to pent up anger. "You're telling me.. you knew everything was going to happen and you DIDN'T TRY TO STOP IT?" he slowly snarled, the anger building up. "Well, maybe a few things had to be changed because you often failed to follow the script but otherwise, yes. Everything was pre-planned to build up to this moment" Henderson nearly teased but that proved to be a mistake as Jack's anger promptly exploded with the force of a volcano.
"YOU... YOU ARE JUST LIKE YOUR GOD-FU*KING FATHER, YOU BASTARD! YOU COULD HAVE EASILY LET ME BE FLOWN TO RUSSIA, GET YOURSELF INSIDE THE COUNTRY AND TAKE YOUR REVENGE INSIDE ONE OF THE GULAGS! BUT NO.. YOU ARE EFFECTIVELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MURDER OF COUNTLESS PEOPLE! YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATHS OF EUROPEAN SOLDIERS, COUNTLESS AMERICAN SERVICEMAN AND WOMEN AS WELL OF MEMBERS OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY! YOU, SIR, ARE A TRAITOR TO YOUR PEOPLE!" he yelled at the top of his lungs and far beyond, even forcing Henderson to slightly cover his ears. As he watched the anger of the former agent fade away, he shook his head at the agent standing before him – within all the yelling, he had managed to scramble onto his feet. "You can think that all you like, Jack. But here's the thing – I'm not the traitor here, Guardstrom is. I'm not the terrorist, the Allied Forces of Europe are. You must have heard all the worldwide denouncements of the group. Even Russia wants nothing to do with them and that's saying something! By doing what I am doing, I'm helping America wake up as to who the real terrorists are and by letting this next attack take place, they'll realize the truth. America will split itself down the middle and civil war will undoubtedly spark, whilst the real enemies on the other side of the world will see this happening and make their move. I'm not the traitor here, Jack. Believe me, I am just the middle man in all this" he said soothingly.
Jack looked at him like he was almost insane but said nothing. Henderson had clearly lost it, so trapped in his beliefs that he was willing to see America self-destruct just for the sake of revenge. This guy was quite possibly one of the worst characters he had ever come face to face to – he had even managed to outdo Cheng Zhi and his diabolical plot to plunge America and China into war! But it was also clear that he held all the cards at the present moment. What could he do? It was more than likely that any attempt by himself to stop the weapon from whatever Henderson wanted it to do would likely result in the death of either one of Stephen or Teri. Why else would they be here beyond Henderson using them to lure the former agent into the trap he was currently in? He could only watch Henderson as he used the controls to plot in what appeared to be co-ordinates. But what were they for? He dreaded to think.
In another part of the underground complex, meanwhile, Benediktov kicked open a closed door and peered inside. All the room was just a number of chairs and tables. No immediate signs that Henderson was in there. "Where could he be?" the Russian said quietly as he shook his head. He knew that checking behind every door was just going to waste a lot of time he couldn't afford to waste, but Henderson was a cunning bastard. He had managed to pull the wool over his eyes before and what were the chances that he was doing it again by likely hiding in an obvious location, expecting the General to go right past him? He made his way back into the corridor and moved onto the next door, only to then realize on that the door had a name-plate - "Underground CCTV Footage". Benediktov quickly realized that the room before him was essentially his shortcut to finding Henderson. He immediately moved to open the door, only to find it locked. He tried again and again, nothing.
He frowned, shaking his head. He needed to get inside. He got himself into position and launched a massive kick at the door. It took another kick and another kick, but finally the door broke down. He looked inside, making sure there wasn't anyone else waiting to ambush him – and it appeared there was not. He walked inside fully and immediately spotted the series of security monitors on the right-hand side of the small room. He scanned the monitors meticulously, surprised that they were still intact this many hours after the attack he had launched alongside Cannavale. But finally, he found who he was looking for. On the monitors, he could see Henderson; but it was then that he also spotted Jack Bauer just a few metres away from Henderson, his hands tied behind his back. So he is still alive, but what the hell could have happened that had led to him being a prisoner of Henderson?
He now knew where to go, he thought to himself as he left the small room – and by the time he was finished, Jeremy Henderson was going to regret the day they ever crossed paths.
DC City Centre
Back within the ambulance, Heather was still typing away – Gumushan now holding the phone next to her eye so that she had both hands available. But then all of a sudden, she just stopped. She looked up in shock. "I.. I've done it. I'm in the main-frame! I've gotten access to the weapon!" she finally spluttered in delight. She was fully expecting the hack attempt to last a lot longer than it had done, but she had managed to get into the main-frame for the super-weapon. In other words, she now had control of the weapon created by her mother and stolen by Henderson. Unless Henderson took manual control, she could now control the winged monstrosity.
"Give me the phone!" she ordered Gumushan, ignoring the looks she was getting from the two paramedics. The Turkish-Cyprian handed her the phone. "Ok, good news – I've hacked my way in. We are now in control of the weapon..." she started, somewhat happy for the first time in many hour, but then her smile turned into shock as the person she was talking to on the phone replied. Gumushan noticed. "What is it?" he asked, concerned. "It's.. it's the weapon. Henderson's just programmed it to attack the White House!" she revealed. Al and Brian's reaction to this revelation said it all, as the Turkish-Cyprian looked at Heather with an expression that told her "explain". "That's just it – Henderson's about to attack the White House! I wouldn't be as worried because we have control over the weapon, but what we're doing.. it's gonna take a couple of minutes for Henderson to be locked out completely. Henderson could very well be able to launch his attack before he's locked out" the teenager revealed.
Gumushan shook his head in disbelief; even after they had done what they had worked to do, there was still a chance that Henderson could destroy his intended target? "We just have to hope it doesn't happen straight away.. that Henderson is distracted long enough.." Heather said, a mixture of fear and worry in her voice.
For the Acting President, the last few minutes had been nothing more than a complete blur. He had been briefed by Ed Plowright about what had happened and had firm reason to believe that Benediktov was by now within the remains of Guardstrom HQ – and then barely seconds after speaking with the young man and assuring him he would not face charges of treason, he had gotten a call from near the security point at the front of the White House. To hear that there was an unexpected visitor during the entire crisis was one thing, but to then learn that that visitor was Agent Aaron Pierce was another entirely. And coupled with the fact that he had an alternate account of what happened with the ambush, the alarm bells had been triggered in the minds of both Novick and Chloe. What if Jack had been led into a trap?
Wasting no time, both the Acting President and the former analyst were heading towards the Oval Office. "Any word from Jack?" Novick asked one of the agents, who could only shake his head. "We've tried the phone he had numerous times, but no joy so far. Either the power's been knocked out or something's happened to him, we just have no idea" he admitted. Chloe's heart sank as coupled with what the Marine Banks had told her a few minutes before speaking with Ed Plowright, it likely meant that something had happened to Jack. He always came through, always, but something in her heart was telling her "not this time". Finally, the trio reached the Oval Office. "Agent Pierce is inside, along with Ms Wesley" the agent explained before opening the double doors. Chloe was surprised to hear Kim's name mentioned but when she looked inside, all her questions were answered. There, on one of the sofas in the Office, was Kim hugging a young boy with all her might. Even though Chloe had never seen the boy before, she knew who it was. Kim's son.
Pierce looked up as the doors opened and immediately saw the Acting President. "Mr President!" he started as Novick walked in, heading towards the man he had known and trusted for many years. "It's good to see you, Aaron – no other person I'd rather be talking to" Novick said and admitted as he held his hand out, relieved to see the veteran agent standing before him. The two shook hands. "You remember Chloe O'Brien?" the Acting President added as Chloe walked up. "I do.." Pierce remarked as he shook her hand as well. "Sorry to intrude, but a quick question – is that..?" she asked, keeping her voice to just above a whisper so that the older men could hear but Kim couldn't. "Yes, that's Ms Wesley's son. Mr Wesley ordered me to take him with me when we were trying to escape.." the veteran agent explained, keeping it simple and confirming what Chloe already thought. "Yeah, I need to ask about that. You said that Kim's husband ordered you to get to the city centre by yourself because he was injured but yet we had Stephen tell us over the radio that he was fine and just hiding.." Novick started.
But it was at that moment that Chloe spotted something. Beyond the sofas, she could see an open laptop sitting on a table – but that wasn't what had attracted her attention, it was to do with what was on the laptop screen to begin with. She walked slowly towards it and analysed what she saw on -screen. It appeared to be an electronic overview map of the city centre, distinguished by the fact that in the middle of the screen, where the White House should be, was a large red pinging signal. She wasn't quite sure why she had been attracted to something as mundane as this, but it didn't matter at this moment; mainly because just seconds later, a large orange signal appeared on the screen. And it appeared to be edging closer to the red signal, aka the White House. Chloe was a bit puzzled to say the least and she quickly got on her knees, checking the screen more closely. The orange signal was getting closer and closer and all the while increasing in size. Like as if something was closing in on the White House at an alarming rate.
Suspicious, the former analyst pulled her phone out of her pocket – but before she could even open it, it began to ring. "O'Brien" she spoke into it, snapping it open before it had even finished its first ring. "Oh thank god, Chloe! We may have a big problem!" Jimmy O'Franklin from Radar Control, who had helped Jack locate the Yuri Dolgorukiy nearly six hours ago, cried into the phone. "Jimmy? Calm down. What's the matter?" Chloe insisted, realizing something was amiss but not wanting to get worked up too quickly. "It's BAD, Chloe! No other way of putting it! I was checking the satellites over the city centre and they picked up something huge coming our way and descending at the same time – I reckon it'll be above us in around a minute or so!" O'Franklin explained, as he rushed from one desk to the next in another part of the White House building. "WHAT'S coming our way?" Chloe snapped, trying to bring the radar operative away from his panicking. "You'll laugh at this... it's this massive winged aircraft! I've never seen anything like it before, it's like one of our Navy fighter jets crossed with a Klingon Bird of Prey!" O'Franklin finally replied.
But Chloe was no longer listening. When she had yelled at the operative to explain to her what was heading for the White House in the midst of a descent, she had attracted the attention of Novick. As the former analyst lowered her phone, horrified by O'Franklin's explanation of what he had seen through the satellites. True, he could not have used fandom description to sum up what he'd seen, but it essentially meant only one possibility. The weapon. Novick put his hand on Chloe's shoulder, making her flinch as she turned around. Kim looked at her, clearly concerned for the friend of her father. Chloe very rarely acted like this. "It's coming... no matter what we do, we're dead.." she said slowly. She was the most scared she had ever been in her life. Project Connaughton was racing towards the White House and most likely, ready to attack it.
Whilst Henderson could have easily followed the flight-path of Project Connaughton as it raced towards its target, he decided that was too easy a thing to do. He wanted to show his three captives just what he was about to do. "And... hey presto! We have lift-off" he joked as a screen came to life behind Stephen and Teri. The two of them, coupled with Jack, watched as the visuals came into effect. What they were seeing was actual live footage from the spinning sphere underneath the main body of the super-weapon, only all they could see at the minute were the clouds.
Jack looked up at Henderson. "Please... don't do this. You have what you want, JUST END THIS!" he practically pleaded. Henderson could only scoff. "If this is what you consider to be your last ditch attempt to convince me otherwise, Jack, then you really need to rethink your priorities. Yelling didn't work, why should gentle begging and pleading?" he smugly retorted without even looking up from the controls. He did have a point, the former agent said to himself mentally, but that didn't mean he couldn't just stop trying to convince him to stop all this. "Look.. Jeremy, you've made your point. You want vengeance against those who you believe have wronged you. You've done enough damage to the government and you're complicit in the deaths of innocent Americans – just kill me and end it there!" the former agent then responded. He knew that the younger Henderson was probably even more evil than his father, but surely somewhere in his cold body, he had something resembling a heart. "Wrong again, Jack. This is only the beginning of the end. It's time to take my revenge to the next level, it's time the real criminals paid for what they have done.. and one other thing. I would have thought you'd be happy at my "damage" to the government. After all, wasn't it the Chief of Staff to that bastard Heller, who started the chain of events resulting in the death of your beloved Audrey?"
Jack was wrong. Henderson did not have something or anything resembling a heart inside his body, as proven by his twisting of the knife comment about Audrey. Before the former agent could respond in anger, however, Henderson moved back towards the live feed from the super-weapon. "AH! Here we go! The next stage is in sight, Jack! Watch and witness the overdue destruction.. of America!" he openly declared as the super-weapon emerged from the skies and descended rapidly towards its target. The White House. Jack's heart froze and his blood drained away once again as he saw the intended target. Henderson was pretty much going for it. The crowning moment of his vengeance plot.
Inside the Oval Office, terror was seeping in. Secret Service agents, as well as Pierce, were scrambling to try and move Novick to safety. Kim was desperately hugging her son, who stood unaware of the terror around him, whilst Chloe was staring out of the window. Her breathing escalated as the weapon flew into view. Underneath the main body of Project Connaughton, a large panel opened up near the back and two large weapons were gradually lowered until locked into position. M242 Autocannons.
Within the laboratories of the headquarters, Jack wanted to shout and beg Henderson not to fire, but he just could not find the words. Stephen grabbed Teri tight and enveloped her in a big hug, determined not to let her see what was about to unfold. "Autocannons firing in 10... 9... 8... 7..." the weapon's A.I voice declared. Henderson gave a devilish smile, his ultimate revenge about to be fulfilled. The sweat poured from Jack's forehead as he stood unable to do a thing. As the seconds ticked by, the weapon moved closer and closer to the target. "...6... 5... 4... 3... 2..." the voice continued until suddenly, the feed went blank. Henderson's controls shut off one by one, just as they had done in the tunnel leading to the underground levels. "Connection to weapon terminated, unable to complete programmed orders. Please re-establish connection.." the AI voice suddenly slurred. Henderson froze, shocked at what had happened. Jack looked towards him, surprise turning into relief and delight.
Just outside the White House, Project Connaughton suddenly gained lift and gradually rose back into the air, the Autocannons barely missing the roof of the building. Watching through the windows, Chloe saw this take place and looked up at the ceiling. "What was that?" she said quietly. Everyone else could not understand what had just happened. The weapon had descended enough to the point where it was looking ready to fire on the building, but then it had just risen back up and not attacked whatsoever? What was going on exactly? A theory coming to mind, Chloe quickly raced towards the laptop that had first alerted her to something being wrong and set to work. She needed to get radio communication opened up as she had a hunch as to what had going on.
Back inside the laboratories, Henderson was desperately trying to get the connection to the weapon back online. But regardless of what he did, nothing worked. Somehow and even as he tried to switch to manual control, he had been locked out once again and this time, it looked to be permanent. "Come on, what's the matter with you?" he hissed before finally pulling back on the control columns. This seemed to have done the trick as the live visual feed sparked back to life – only instead of approaching the White House, Project Connaughton was now flying back into the skies above the DC city centre. Henderson sighed in relief, knowing that it was probably just a slight glitch. Then all of a sudden, the visuals changed once again; this time, everyone within the laboratories could now see what appeared to be some kind of advanced cockpit and it appeared that that cockpit had a pilot. "I'm dreadfully sorry, Mr Henderson – it would appear that your aircraft has suffered from a slight case of hijackingentis! We would happily return control to you but frankly, why should we considering all of the destruction you've wreaked?" a female voice suddenly called out, almost seeming smug and delighted at Henderson's loss of controls.
As for Henderson, his jaw dropped and he literally stopped dead as he took in the words of the woman he was hearing. Jack, on the other hand, was as delighted as he had been for quite some time. He knew who that voice. "Oh, Heather! You really came through.." he said, shaking his head in disbelief. At the mention of the name Heather, the pieces of the puzzle came together for Henderson. Despite the weapon controls telling him otherwise, the teenager who had tried to hack into Project Connaughton was still alive and now she had somehow gotten into the main-frame after all.
Back in the White House, thanks to Chloe's efforts in trying to set up a radio communication link, everyone in the Oval Office had heard Heather's admission. Whilst none of them had met the girl or knew what she really sounded like, the fact they had someone TAUNT Henderson that his control of the weapon had been lost all but confirmed that it was likely the teenage Walkman. "Any joy so far, Ms O'Brien?" Pierce asked, to which Chloe shook her hand. "Not quite; I'm trying to establish a connection with wherever that voice came from but it's been very well masked, like someone doesn't want us to talk with them" she admitted, just before her phone began to ring once again. She reached for and opened it. "O'Brien" she spoke into it. "Have you figured out the dots yet, Chloe?" a gruff European voice suddenly. Chloe paused and frowned, before finally realizing who was talking to her.
"Belcheck?" she spluttered, with her mentioning the Serb mobster instantly attracting Novick's attention. "That's me, Chloe – have you figured out the dots?" Belcheck responded, still pressing for an answer to his question. It took a few seconds but finally, the former analyst figured out just what the Serb was trying to say. "You mean... that was you, you hijacked the weapon?" she asked. "Well to be fair, you can't give me all the credit – BUT I am currently at the controls for it! You have to thank the Walkman girl for getting in though" Belcheck remarked, as he sat in the weapon's cockpit. He had his right hand holding the phone next to her ear, with his left hand on the left-hand control column. The control columns looked exactly like they did for the portable controls currently in Henderson's possession, with the control panel missing a large shaped slot on it; almost like the portable controls could just slot in like that. "Wait, so Heather is definitely alive?!" the former analyst replied. Even though she knew that Heather was alive from hearing her declaration, it felt like a relief for it to be confirmed beyond a doubt. "She is – I'll patch you through!" Belcheck insisted. The seconds ticked by until finally, Chloe and everyone else in the Oval Office heard the Serb speak again.
"Heather, you're on with the White House!" he said. "Hello? Mr President?" Heather said, albeit her voice sounding a little unsure – hence her decision to address the Acting President above everything else. "This is the President, young lady. I do have some questions for you though" Novick responded. "That's fine, sir. Go right ahead" the teenager replied and the Acting President took a bit of a deep breath. He had a lot of questions to ask and what honestly felt like not nearly enough time to do it in.
Henderson had been still and silent for what felt like an eternity. He was desperately fighting to regain control, but nothing worked. He stopped dead, removing his hands from the control columns. Jack could then only watch as Henderson's anger exploded – with a snarl and a growl, he ripped the control from his body and hurled it onto the floor, the metal surrounding the controls smashing apart. "I KNEW I SHOULD HAVE GONE IN FOR THE KILL!" he roared, struggling to comprehend how on earth his plans had failed like that. Jack decided to make one last attempt to get through to him before things went beyond the moral horizon. "Henderson?" he started, only for the man in question to interrupt. "NO! Oh no.. no, Jack, we are way beyond convincing me to give up!" he snapped before storming forward and practically throwing the former agent to the ground. Finally, he pulled out his gun and stormed forward towards the other two captives in the laboratory – and promptly grabbed Teri, hauling her back and forcing her into her knees before pointing the gun at Stephen. "Any movement from you and your daughter gets a bullet in the hand!" he warned a terrified Stephen and then turned towards Jack.
"You did this, Jack! You started this whole chain and now it's time to strike back! I may still have a use for you yet, but I can't say the same of your family..." he added, finally pointing the gun at the top of Teri's head. The girl, clearly terrified, could see her father and grandfather's expressions. "NO!" Stephen cried, whilst a helpless Jack cried "HENDERSON, PLEASE!".
But then seconds later, all hell broke loose. Metres behind Henderson, there was a large metal wall panel – which suddenly exploded and sent pieces flying everywhere. Stephen was knocked onto his side, whilst Henderson went flying forward, loosing his grip on his gun in the process, and Teri immediately ducked and covered. Jack could only close his eyes and wait for the seconds to tick by before reopening them. Henderson slowly got to his feet, unsure of what had just taken place. He quickly saw his gun and his gut instinct made him run for the gun, but mere seconds before he could grab it, he was slammed from behind and thrown to the floor. Neither one of Jack, Stephen or Teri could see who it was, but they could see Henderson wrestling with the figure – until finally, Henderson was grabbed by the throat and hauled off the floor.
"Hello, Henderson.. remember ME?!" General Benediktov snarled as his face emerged from the shadows, a combination of anger at the man who betrayed him and delight at having finally caught up with said man. Henderson's eyes widened at the sight of the Russian. "Gen... General.. how are you here?" he could only splutter out, considering his throat was being slightly compressed by Benediktov. "You pulled the wool over my eyes, now it's time for you to pay, WITH YOUR LIFE!" the Russian could only say before dropping him like a sack of potatoes onto the floor. He glared at Henderson as he gasped for breath, before noticing the American standing not too far from him, a look of evident surprise on his face at the sight of the General. He gave a wry smile. "You're a sight for sore eyes, Bauer.. here!" he remarked before throwing the briefcase of launchers at Jack's feet. "Sorry, I had to use a few more. But there are still six of them in there, so we're all.." he added, not giving the former agent a chance to say anything in response. But he was unable to finish what was saying, as it was now Henderson's turn to throw himself at the man before him.
Benediktov slammed his foot into the face of Henderson and quickly spotted the gun, leaping towards it – but Henderson grabbed his leg and hauled himself up, landing on top of the General. The two forced their hands around the other person's necks, stuck in a vicious brawl; that was, until suddenly the Russian used his hands to force Henderson off of him and send him flying into a wall, concussing him. He landed on the floor, slightly delirious and out of it. Benediktov then turned to Jack. "I would say it's done, Bauer. Do what you need to do and then we'll deactivate the launchers as promised" he said as he suddenly fell to his knees, putting his hands above his head – almost like as if he knew what to come. As this was happening, Stephen quickly rushed forward and helped remove the rope tying Jack's hands behind his back. Almost as soon as his hands were free, the former agent rushed towards his grand-daughter, who was still in a position of duck and cover. "Teri! It's ok, sweetheart – you're safe!" Jack assured the young girl, who looked up and immediately hugged her grandfather. "Jack... what the devil are these?" Stephen suddenly asked and Jack looked towards his son-in-law, who had opened up the briefcase the General had thrown and was looking at six remote missile launchers. "It's a long story and frankly we've not the time to discuss it.. you two have to get out of here!" the former agent insisted, getting to his feet and racing over to his son-in-law.
"Where though? We heard that bang from what was likely near the tunnel, I guarantee the way we're going out won't be the same way that we came in" Stephen wisely pointed out. Jack alternated between looking at his family and looking at Henderson, still looking out of it next to the wall. "MR BAUER!" a voice called from the gap in the wall where the Russian General had destroyed and all three family members turned around to see a Marine coming towards them through the rubble. It was Banks. "Banks? How did you..?" Jack remarked, very surprised to see him alive and in one piece considering what had happened on the surface. "I was outside when it all went to hell. Had to find a way inside on order of the President and ended up following... Benediktov?" the Marine started trailing off as he spotted the Russian standing in the middle of the laboratory in a surrounding position, with Henderson seemingly knocked out behind it. He couldn't quite believe it – Andre Benediktov, a man who had written himself into history as a despised terrorist trying to fulfil what he considered to be "revenge" on the behalf of Europe, had surrounded just like that. "That doesn't matter – you need to get out of here and take Stephen and my grand-daughter with you!" Jack insisted. Stephen looked at him, confused.
"Wait.. you're not coming with us?" he asked. The former agent shook his head. "I have one last thing to do – but I promise, I will see you both!" he said as he got down to his grand-daughter's level and hugged her tightly. It did hurt to have to yet again leave the young girl just minutes after seeing her for the first time in many years, but it had to be done. He had to finish what had been started and save the country, save the world from a slow self-destruction. "Promise?" Teri said sadly, knowing that her grandfather had promised he would catch up with them four years ago, only to then disappear in an attempt to avoid the Russians trying to kill him and his own fellow Americans trying to capture him for what had taken place in New York. "I promise, sweetheart.." Jack said assuringly, even kissing Teri on the head in the process. "Now please, go!" he added sternly, addressing all three people. It worked, as Banks led Stephen and Teri out of the laboratory and into the hallway, back towards the tunnels.
With that sorted, Jack immediately turned back towards Benediktov. "I'm not gonna lie, General.. I wasn't sure if I would really see you again after what happened at the Port. But you kept your end of the bargain. Show me how to deactivate the launchers" he said sternly, motioning that he could move from his surrender position before heading towards the open briefcase of launchers. He turned it around and pulled it fully open, revealing all six launchers in-tact. "It'll take some time; but with the Serb still in the air and the girl pulling the strings with controlling the weapon, we can afford that time" Benediktov pointed out as he took one of the launchers. Of course, what both men had failed to do was make sure that Henderson was actually fully unconscious – whether they forgot or they just assumed that he was unable to really do anything, it wasn't really known. But neither of them had given thought to even making sure that Henderson was restrained before they set to work and that slip of the mind was set to be of big consequences.
Mainly because Henderson was slowly but gently coming back into it. He had somehow managed to regain his senses and looked up at the scene before him – the man and girl were gone, but both Bauer and Benediktov were ahead of him and with the remote launchers for the six remaining Yuri Dolgorukiy missiles. And an idea came into the head of Henderson. He might well have lost control of Project Connaughton, but that didn't mean that there were still potential weapons available to him. All he needed was one missile to do what he now had planned. He slowly got to his feet and edged gingerly forward. He didn't need to be right behind them to surprise them, but he needed to go far enough to jump at them. He crept forward slowly, shaking his head to try and clear it further. "And hopefully, with one flick of the switch, that should be one launcher deactivated.." Benediktov remarked as he stared at the screen. Finally, it fully shut down. "One down, five to go" he remarked as he threw the launcher onto the floor and promptly stomped on it, crushing it into tiny pieces.
"Well, I'll only need two!" a voice remarked and before either one of Jack or Benediktov could register what had just been said, Henderson threw himself at the Russian and both collapsed onto the floor, with Henderson then smashing his legs into Jack's legs and knocking him completely off balance, resulting in the briefcase of launchers crashing onto the floor and sliding towards Henderson, who grabbed two launchers as quickly as he could – literally just as the Russian hauled him off of him and grabbed him by the shirt. But Henderson was prepared for that, as he slammed his feet into the Russian's legs and escaped from his grip. From the corner of his eye, he spotted a piece of metal that had broken off from the half-exoskeleton surrounding the controls to the weapon and grabbed it, swinging it with enough force that he sent Benediktov flying backwards into Jack, who was just in the middle of getting back to his feet.
Using the chance as best as he could, Henderson moved quickly to program in new co-ordinates for the missiles he intended to launch. Quickly managing to regain his own senses, Benediktov once again launched himself at Henderson and both men went flying onto the floor. "Bauer! Could do with some help!" he cried as he struggled to keep Henderson under control. Jack looked around and quickly spotted the rope that had coincidently been used to tie up his own hands, picking it up and racing towards the Russian General. "I'll take it from here, you check those launchers!" he insisted, pushing Benediktov off of Henderson and immediately tying his hands behind his back with the rope – all whilst resisting repeated attempts by Henderson to get the former agent off him. Finally, he was able to do it whilst Benediktov grimly examined the two launchers. For the first time since stealing the submarine back in Greenland, his face went white.
"Bauer... we may have a problem! I have no idea where they're going!" he said slowly as he picked up the launchers and turned around so that Jack could see what was on the launcher screen-pads. Benediktov had good reason to go white. The launchers had been activated, co-ordinates laid in. And as the General said, he had no idea where or what they were being launched at.
At the bottom of the ocean, in the long minutes that had followed the last missile launch, the Yuri Dolgorukiy had slightly fallen into its left-hand side – in essence, the remaining five missiles that could be launched were now facing the ocean surface at an angle. And then two of the hatches opened up. Within seconds of each other, one was fired and then the second one was fired. Both raced towards the surface and rocketed out of the water and towards the sky so quickly that it felt like a "blink and you'll miss it" scenario. Both raced into the sky before levelling out and moving into what was a horizontal angle, in the direction of the state of Virginia and presumably, Washington DC.
"Jack, Jack! Slow down and start again! What's going on?" Chloe insisted as she moved back towards the laptop. She and practically everyone else in the Oval Office had not been expecting to get a phone call from the former agent and when Chloe had tried to answer, Jack had practically almost started yelling about "impending danger" and "missiles". "I just told you Chloe, we have a problem! We have Henderson in custody but he managed to gain access to the missile launchers – you've GOT TWO HEADING YOUR WAY!" Jack responded, looking over the launchers in a bid to figure out where the missiles were headed. "Jack, sorry to interrupt – but did you just say "we"? Who's there with you?" Novick suddenly interrupted over the phone, having heard the former agent. Jack looked over at Benediktov, who was making sure that a restained Henderson was going nowhere. "General Benediktov is with me, sir; he saved Stephen and Teri, he came at just the right time! And speaking of, you should be hearing from Kevin Banks any second now. He's got my daughter's family with him, both of them are safe!" the former agent explained as he made his way over to the Russian General.
"Alright, Jack – we'll let Kim know.." Chloe said, only to be interrupted. "Chloe, I don't care what you do. But you need to tell Heather about the missiles; she's controlling the weapon and that means she has to blast those things out of the sky!" Jack insisted, handing the Russian the launchers and indicating to him to try and find out what and where they were targeting. "Alright, Jack, we'll do that. But I thought you might like to know; we've located Belcheck. He's in the cockpit for the weapon, alternating control with Heather" the former analyst explained, managing to resist the urge to smirk at how ridiculous but true it sounded. Jack was very surprised to hear this. With regards to how he actually managed to get inside the weapon, he had no idea but in the grand scheme of things, that didn't matter. His Serbian ally had managed to come through at a really critical time and that was good. "Tell him he has to hurry; we reckon the missiles could reach their target within the next couple of minutes. We'll ring back if we figure out where exactly the missiles have been programmed to destroy" the former agent insisted as he hung up.
He looked over at Benediktov, who was grimly and critically looking over the launchers and trying to figure out what exactly they were targeting.
Skies Above Washington DC
"From what I've been able to ascertain, the best way of destroying the weapon would be to do it over the North Atlantic. That way, no chance of anyone being killed" Heather explained over the phone to Belcheck, who was holding it in position between the top of his shoulder and his right ear as he held both hands on the control columns for Project Connaughton. "That works for me. I'll just eject over the water – I got in the cockpit, I can easily get out.." the Serb replied, agreeing with the teenager's suggestion, when he was somewhat interrupted. Taking his left hand, he checked the phone and realized someone else was trying to call him. "I'll be one second.." he told Heather before taking the next call.
"Everything ok, Chloe?" he asked. "No, we may have another problem on our hands! I've just spoken with Jack, two missiles have been launched at the city!" the former analyst replied quickly. The alarm bells within the Serb's mind started to ring at that. "Where have they been programmed to target?" he asked. "We don't know! Jack and Benediktov are trying to figure out where, but nothing so far. But whatever happens, you and Heather need to stop those missiles from hitting their targets!" Chloe insisted, as if the Serb didn't need to be told. "Alright, alright. I'll tell Heather – try and track the missiles as best you can, we don't want to be hitting them blind!" Belcheck rightly pointed out, before hanging up and returning to his original call. "Heather? We have a big problem and we have to stop it! The White House just told me that two missiles have been launched at somewhere in the city!" he continued.
Almost immediately, the teenage Walkman had looked over at the main-frame she was now sharing control with. Controlling the weapon was one thing, but actually firing the large variety of weapons within the two wings? That was actually something else entirely. "Alright, but we'll need to track their location as well! I should be able to get the weapons active to the point where you can use them but we can't fire without knowing where the missiles are!" she responded, essentially repeating what Belcheck had told Chloe. "I know! Chloe's gonna tell us when they're on the White House radar but until then.." the Serb mobster replied, the phone now back between his head and his shoulder considering he needed both hands at the control columns. "I get that. Anyhow, you should be getting weapons capability on your end any second now.." Heather explained and as the seconds ticked by, the various lights on the control panel within the super-weapon cockpit began to light up. "Weapons activated – firing capability now available from Project Connaughton cockpit" the Artificial Intelligence voice revealed. "It's done, I've got it. You'll most certainly going to have to take control of guiding the weapon itself but provided Chloe gives us the co-ordinates.." the Serb mobster responded almost as soon as the A.I voice had finished speaking.
"I get that, I can do that. Just make sure the artillery fires or we're done for!" Heather said. She looked up at the three men around her in the ambulance; Gumushan as well as Al and Brian had all heard Heather's conversation with Belcheck. To the two paramedics, whoever this person was causing all the chaos and destruction, he was hell-bent on not going down without a fight. The Turkish-Cyprian, meanwhile, had a gut feeling that wasn't going away. What if Henderson had figured out that he had been yet again locked out of the super-weapon by Heather and Belcheck? He couldn't prove it, but something inside him was telling him that they had to get as far away from here as possible.
In the skies above the east of the State of Virginia and heading in the direction of DC, meanwhile, were the two missiles. As with all the other missiles that had been launched from the Yuri Dolgorukiy, they looked like nothing was going to stop them as they rocketed towards DC.
Back in the Oval Office in the White House, Chloe had been overlooking the aerial map of the city centre ever since talking to Belcheck. The red signal indicating the White House was obviously still on the screen, whilst the orange signal indicating the super-weapon was flying further and further away from the city. She was still waiting for any sign of the two Russian missiles, so she could alert Belcheck in time. At that point, Jimmy O'Franklin raced in – holding his own laptop. "You were right, Chloe! We've picked them up, here are the missiles!" he almost yelled, slamming the laptop right into the one showing the signals. The former analyst looked at the second laptop. O'Franklin was right; two blue signals were on the screen and getting closer and closer to the city. "Any idea on where they're headed exactly?" Novick asked, walking towards the two analysts.
"Yeah, I certainly do. It looks like the targeted co-ordinates are for just north-west of the Embassy for the Commonwealth of Australia – 38.911126, -77.040749" O'Franklin explained, looking over the screen. That was all Chloe needed as she opened her phone and dialled a number. "Belcheck? It's me, we have the target co-ordinates..." she started.
Ever since Henderson had been restrained by Jack, he had remained silent and propped up against a wall panel, watching the former agent and the Russian general closely. The one good thing about the situation was obviously that the two missiles had been launched and neither one of Bauer or Benediktov could do nothing personally to stop it.
Suddenly, he felt a shadow on top of him and looked up to see General Benediktov looking down at him and glaring. Henderson scoffed. "You've certainly changed your tune, General – a few hours ago, you were so hell-bent on destroying this country you destroyed your own transport! What's changed?" he remarked in an almost sarcastic tone – only he wasn't expecting Benediktov to once again grab him by the throat and slam him back into the wall, his legs off the group. Jack immediately looked up and saw the scene. "General! I wanna take him alive, let him pay for his crimes" he insisted as he walked up to behind the Russian. Exchanging a glance with him, Benediktov looked back at Henderson and finally dropped him onto the ground, but before getting in nice and close so he could look into his eyes. "I may despise this country with every drop of blood inside me, but I NEVER intended to start a war because of it – and I CERTAINLY NEVER started all of this for personal vengeance! I just wanted to show America that Europe still is and always will be a force to be reckoned with.." he hissed quietly before pushing Henderson back into the wall and letting him slide down it, back onto the floor.
He turned back towards Jack, who sighed and returned to the two activated launchers before him. At that point, he quickly spotted something on one of the launchers. Both missiles appeared to be moving closer and closer to their shared target. The former agent immediately opened his phone and dialled a number, Benediktov managing to grab a look at the screens in the meantime. "Chloe, it's Jack. You'll be having in-coming in the next couple of minutes!" the former agent said into the phone.
DC City Centre
By now, the two missiles were practically on the outskirts of the airspace for the capital city. Above the city skyline, Belcheck could only sit and wait as Project Connaughton was manoeuvred into position by Heather on the ground; she would use her successful hacking of the weapon's main-frame to control the super-weapon, whilst the Serb mobster would fire any one of the variety of weapons onboard in the hopes of successfully hitting and destroying the missiles before they reached their target.
For the first time in quite some time, Belcheck was feeling the nerves. He wouldn't really argue with the suggestion that he had been through a lot in the last couple of days and was running on complete fumes, having not really slept properly since he and Jack had arrived in England about 18 hours before his operation to break Chloe out of the CIA Offices in London commenced. He was amazed that he was still awake, but he knew it likely wouldn't last. He knew that Jack, Chloe, probably Novick and a lot of people in the White House were probably in the same boat he was in, but until Henderson was stopped and taken into custody or even killed, they couldn't rest. It was as simple as that.
Suddenly, his phone began to ring. "Yes?" he spoke into it, trying to remain stoic and calm in the face of a huge task. "We've got company, Belcheck. The White House just told Heather that the missiles are approaching – get the weapons ready!" Gumushan said as he watched over the teenager working. "You don't need to tell me twice, just make sure I'm in position!" the Serb replied sternly. "I can assure you you're in position. Are the weapons ready?!" Heather snapped back, just as sternly. The two paramedics could sense the tension not just within the ambulance but over the phone as well, but they knew this pretty much was as tense a situation as one could really get. "Yes.. they are. I have a bit of an idea of what the key ones are at the least so..." Belcheck finally replied, suddenly hanging up the phone. The time for talk was over and it was time to take action. It was pretty basic and simple saying this, but the missiles had to be destroyed before they found their target.
Suddenly, the Serb mobster could feel the weapon picking up speed – which surely meant that it was heading to intercept the missiles. He wasn't too sure as to where he was going exactly, but on the outside of the weapon, it certainly looked like as though he was heading for the northern part of Bethesda. As for the missiles, they were now rushing in from the North-East of the capital city, as they had just rushed over the small census-designated area of Columbia. They were approximately two to three minutes from their target. From within the ambulance, Heather was using the weapon's main-frame to track the missiles – and finally, she hit the jackpot. She was able to pick up the signal of one of the missiles. She would have preferred to pick up the signals for both of the missiles but one would almost certainty do for now. In the airspace above the outskirts of DC, the weapon continued to race through the skies, Belcheck waiting for the exact time to start using the various artillery available to him. All he needed was an alert from Heather telling him when to strike – and finally, that alert came to him in the form of a ping from his phone. Not wasting a second more, the Serb mobster decided to try the weapon's computer. "Activate.. primary weapons within main body" he decided at last, knowing what the weapons underneath the main body were.
Underneath the body and behind the spinning sphere, the front two auto-cannons lowered into position. "Auto-cannons locked in and ready for use" the Artificial Intelligence voice for the computer declared. The Serb mobster wasted no time. "Fire auto-cannons!" he ordered, aware he would likely miss but also aware that he had to fire somewhere. On the outside, the artillery shells within the auto-cannons were fired. But on this occasion, as he had expected, the shells ended up missing the target altogether – on the plus side, however, they did manage to explode either side of the missile, a move that managed to see the missile slightly off-course. Following the missile's course from the ground, Heather was quick to pick up on this. She could only hope that Belcheck would continue to fire because if it went slightly off-course enough, it would end up in the line of fire for the auto-cannons.
And to her relief, though she did not realize this at the time, the Serb mobster did continue to fire. The auto-cannons fired two more artillery shells and whilst they again missed, one of them managed to explode closer to the first missile. Again, the missile veered slightly off-course and Belcheck continued to fire. Finally, he hit the jackpot. One of the shells was fired and crashed into the back of the missile. In one massive explosion, the missile was ripped apart and the burning wreckage started to plummet towards the ground at an incredibly high speed. On the ground, both Heather and Chloe spotted one of the blue signals disappearing from the weapon's main-frame and then the screen on the laptop showing the signals respectively. "One down, one to go.. come on, Belcheck! Deliver the goods" Heather said to herself as she began programming the weapon to start going after the second missile. What the Serb mobster couldn't have known was that the second missile had gotten a bit of a head-start on the weapon as a result of him taking time in trying to destroy the first missile; he did realize that maybe the missile was out of his target range by virtue of the fact that the weapon was picking up speed and racing through the skies back towards the city centre.
This was going to be close, far too close for his liking. He was set to have one shot to destroy it and that was it, he did not want to end up causing even more damage and destruction to the capital city of the country than what it had already experienced. Ahead of him, the missile began to close in on its target as it veered sharply to the left – Heather noticing this and taking action to ensure the weapon stayed closely on its tail. Timing it as best as he could, given he had no idea where in front of him the missile was, Belcheck took a shot at pot luck and fired the auto-cannons. By a stroke of complete and utter luck, the shells managed to hit their target. Much like what had happened with the first missile, it exploded spectacularly on impact. Back within the ambulance, Heather saw the signal for the second missile disappear, much to her delight. "It's done! Tell Belcheck the missiles have both been downed" she ordered Gumushan, who did as she asked.
In the Oval Office, the second blue signal vanished from screen. As Chloe realized what had happened, she heard an explosion coming from somewhere in the city centre and looked up. The second missile. "Yeah, yeah.. listen, Belcheck. Just fly that thing out to the North Atlantic. We'll see you in a few hours.." Gumushan explained over the phone as he hung up. But then there came a second explosion and that explosion could be heard very clearly; a bit too clearly for the Turkish-Cyprian, who quickly put two and two together and realized what was likely about to happen. "THE MISSILE WAS TARGETING US! COME ON, LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!" he yelled and as the weight of his words hit home for Heather and both of the paramedics. All four people scrambled to get away from the crash-site, as the debris from the explosion started to plummet down towards them. Brian and Al were able to make it out of the doors to the ambulance and started to help Heather out, as a burning piece of wreckage rocketed downwards towards the sight. It slammed into the wrecked building and practically demolished it in one go. Heather and the paramedics were forced backwards by a combination of the shock-waves and dust, as more and more burning bits of wreckage crashed down around them. 30 seconds previously, it had looked like a simple accident site; but now, it looked like a bomb site with the wreckage and destruction burning everywhere.
Within the weapon's cockpit, not knowing what had potentially happened to Heather, Belcheck visibly relaxed at what Gumushan had told him. The signals for both missiles were dead. They had managed to intercept and destroyed them. He immediately moved for his open phone and began dialling a number. The call was picked up pretty much instantly. "Give us some good news, Belcheck" Chloe insisted, the Serb recognizing the worry in her voice. "It's all good, Chloe. The missiles have been destroyed. You can all relax.." he insisted, Chloe and Novick breathing a sigh of relief at the news. Their faces relaxing was a good sign to everyone else in the Oval Office. But then Chloe noticed something odd on the map displaying the coloured signals for the White House and the super-weapon.
"That's good, but are you aware you're flying away from the city?" the former analyst replied after a few seconds, confused over the orange signal heading upwards on the screen. "I am, but don't worry. Heather has programmed the weapon to fly out towards the ocean where we can crash it safely. Mr President, any chance of a helicopter to come rescue me?" Belcheck replied calmly, making his request to the Acting President in the process. Novick was a little surprised at both the request and what Heather and Belcheck were doing to get rid of the weapon, but in thinking about it, it was the most logical option available. "Very well, Mr Belcheck – you've done a lot for our country in the last couple of hours, I think it's only right we do that for you. We'll follow the signal for the weapon out to the North Atlantic and I'll send a helicopter to retrieve you" the Acting President responded in agreement.
"Thank you, sir.." the Serb finished before hanging up. Across both the super-weapon's cockpit and the Oval Office, there were faces of relief and delight. The chain of destruction in the city that had first been sparked by the aerial assault in the early hours was nearly at an end. All that had to be done was to bring Henderson and Benediktov into custody – and considering how the Russian General had openly agreed to surrender himself in return for being allowed to bring down Henderson, they only had one person to worry about. As long as Jack was able to bring him out of the remains of Guardstrom Headquarters in one piece, the city as well as the rest of the nation could relax.
But little did Belcheck, or in fact anyone within the White House, realize what had happened in the north of the city centre. It had happened so fast that had someone been inside the wreckage of the building, no-one could have really done anything to save them. By virtue of Gumushan's gut feeling convincing him that they needed to get out of the turned-over ambulance, all four occupants had managed to escape unharmed. Feeling the fire burning over her, Heather slowly struggled to her feet and looked desperately for any signs of Gumushan and the two paramedics. But it was as she looked around that she spotted something on the ground and her eyes went wide with horror. She braved the heat to get close enough to what she spotted and she knelt down to get a closer look – it was the tablet computer she had used to hack into the super-weapon's main-frame. And it was smashed beyond repair. On the screen, she could just about make out some little bits of the main-frame but there was simply nothing that she could do to keep control of the super-weapon in her hands.
Looking up at the sky, knowing that Project Connaughton was likely flying out of the city on her orders, she knew one thing. Belcheck had no idea that control had technically now been passed onto him, but if Henderson somehow realized that the controls he possessed had effectively been reconnected on his end, he could program in an order or something similar – wrecking her plans to destroy the weapon at long last. Furthermore, because of the damage caused by the hack to begin with, whatever the weapon received as its next order, it was set to be the last order it would ever fulfil. It would go all out to complete that order, likely destroying itself in the process. For example, if Belcheck realized what had happened first, he could program the weapon to fly out to a certain point within the North Atlantic and it would likely crash itself into the sea. But if Henderson got to it and did something first... the mere thought of it was far too much to even contemplate.
Back within the underground remains of Guardstrom HQ, Teri burst out into the area of the complex where the convoy had originally been to pick up Walkman three hours previously – she was somewhat surprised to see a tunnel to her left, completely unaware that that tunnel would lead out to the hole in the road in the city centre and away from harm. "Teri! Can you see a car anywhere?" a voice called out and the young girl turned around to see her father being helped towards the double doors by the Marine called Banks. Owing to his injuries and fears that they wouldn't make it out of the complex quickly enough, Stephen had requested help in walking from Banks who was happy to assist.
Teri peered out at the area and almost immediately spotted the sports-car that Benediktov had stolen to get into the complex. "Yeah, there is! At the bottom of the stairs" she yelled back. "See if there are keys in the engine; so if, try and start it up! We'll be there soon" her father insisted. Teri was a little nervous at having to start up a car at her age but if they weren't quick, the awful man who took her and her father – as well as her own grandfather – hostage could very well catch up with them. She raced down towards the car, parked at an angle, and raced for the driver-side door. She spotted the keys in the ignition and sat down in the seat. From having been a front-seat passenger with either one of her mother or father in the driver's seat, she had a basic but limited knowledge of car gears.
She turned the ignition on and the engine roared to life – and then, going more out of luck than knowledge, pulled the gear-stick backwards. The car surged back towards the stairs with such force that Teri was lucky she was able to push the gear-stick back into forward gear and that the car came to a scraping stop just in front of the stairs. At that moment, both Stephen and Banks emerged from the double-doors. "Good work, honey! Let Mr Banks take it from her!" Stephen ordered and Teri climbed through the front seats into the back of the sports-car. Banks helped Stephen down towards the front passenger-side door, but before he got in, he looked back at the double-doors. "Come on, Jack.." he whispered desperately. He knew his father-in-law, even if he hadn't seen him in years – he always came through.
Back within the laboratories, Jack once again had his phone pressed next to his ear. "Great, thanks Chloe" he said before hanging up. "Don't ask me how, but Belcheck and Heather came through. The missiles have been destroyed! Henderson's last attempt at control is over!" he explained to Benedikov, who had been watching the former agent talk over the phone. Upon learning of this latest twist in the tale, the Russian General expressed surprise that turned into smug satisfaction as he peered over his shoulder at Henderson. As Bauer had said, his latest attempt to reclaim control of the situation was over. All that remained was for the two of them to take Henderson and get the hell out of here. Speaking of the man, as soon as he had heard the phone of the former agent ring, Henderson knew that that was probably someone from the White House telling him that the missiles had been destroyed.
How could things have gone so badly wrong? He was in the driving seat and he had all the cards and yet here he was, tied up and surely soon to be handed back over to the police. If he was going to take back control of the situation, he had one last attempt to make that happen and one chance only. He looked to his right, towards the controls to the weapon that he had and suddenly frowned. Even from the angle he was at, it looked like as though the lights to the controls were returning. What if.. that meant the connection was re-establishing itself? He had to get close enough to make sure and then do something to make sure he could once again hold all the cards against the White House. He needed to think of something quickly that would distract Bauer and General Benediktov long enough for him to get to the controls. And he had just the idea, as he overheard the two discussing getting the hell out of the underground laboratories.
"And Bauer.. I wanted to say thank you for letting me help. I've realized what a fool I've been and I'm ready to pay" the Russian admitted. Ever since the truth of how his plans had been manipulated by Henderson for his own ends had come out, Benediktov had been feeling general remorse for his destructive actions. He knew any possible attempts at getting out of what he had done and not being sentenced to death were practically non-existent, but he knew deep down that helping capture the real hidden mastermind of the whole power struggle would bring some peace and resolution to himself at least. Jack nodded at the General's admission, keeping silent. "Get Henderson on his feet – it's time we got out of here" he replied, almost pretending that Benediktov's admission didn't happen. Whilst disappointed slightly, the General understood why it had been ignored.
He walked over towards Henderson, but then frowned at the scene before him. Henderson was drooping to the side and his eyes weren't open, like as though he'd fallen unconscious. Benediktov had suspicions that this was a trick, but wasn't sure. "Bauer? Something's wrong with the bastard here, he's not moving" he said and Jack turned around so that he could see for himself. He should have instantly dismissed the act as a trick, but then he saw what appeared to be blood dripping onto the floor from behind – and coupled with the massive sleep deprivation that he was suffering from, on this occasion, he believed it to be the real thing. "Henderson?" he asked as he got down close enough to check on him. He didn't seem to be moving at all. "Pull him forward, need to undo his hands" he ordered the Russian, who looked sceptical but did as he was asked.
As Henderson was pulled forward, Jack immediately undid his hands. "You're not dying on us now, you know! Not after what you've done to this country!" he snapped as he checked over his hands to try and find the source of the dripping blood – only he found it was coming from his hand, from what looked like an intentional cut on his right hand. And then came a voice from the controls Henderson had for the super-weapon. "Connection re-established. Waiting for next Project Connaughton order" the Artificial Intelligence voice declared. That was something both Jack and Benediktov were not expecting and they barely had enough time to realize just what that meant as Henderson pounced. He slammed his feet full force into Benediktov, sending him flying into his back, before taking his left leg and side-swiping Jack from below, the former agent slamming on his side as he hit the floor. Taking advantage, Henderson leapt towards the controls and nearly slid along the floor as he tried to grab the control columns – but just as he grabbed a hold of them, he was suddenly turned over by the legs and soundly punched in the face by Benediktov.
Jack could only watch as the two started to brawl, the General desperately trying to get the controls out of Henderson's immediate reach at the same time. Finally, Benediktov got the upper hand and grabbed Henderson by the shirt, throwing him back into the wall – but in the process, Henderson once again smashed his leg into the Russian General who fell backwards and tripped over the controls. Realizing what was possibly about to happen, Jack charged forward in the hopes of knocking him away but Henderson was one step ahead of him – the minute that Jack was close enough to him, he kicked his leg out and watched as the former agent smashed into it, unable to stop in time, and fell backwards towards the floor. Henderson had only a few seconds to act so he had to be quick – he had managed to figure out what he needed to do as he rapidly keyed in the co-ordinates for the weapon. Suddenly, he was hauled up and away from the controls and then slammed back into the wall by an angry Jack.
"When you're up on your feet, General, throw the controls away! We're getting out of here in the next five minutes.." he declared, making it clear in his tone of voice that he was not kidding around any more. General Benediktov did not need to be told twice as he grabbed the controls and prepared to throw them as far away from where they were all standing as possible. But then just a split-second before he threw, the Artificial Intelligence voice spoke up. "Order and co-ordinates received" it revealed. "Wait!" Jack said suddenly and Benediktov stopped, having heard the declaration from the AI voice. The former agent grabbed Henderson's throat and slammed it against the wall. "WHAT.. does that mean?" he snarled, demanding to know. Even though Jack had him by the throat, Henderson still managed a smile. "My last trump card, Jack.. if I'm going down, I'm taking you with me!" he sneered. Benediktov looked over the controls and his eyes went wide at what he found. He had not been expecting that. "Bauer – I know where the weapon's going" he said, Jack turning his head and not releasing his grip.
"Where?" he snapped. "Here.. as in what's above us overground. Henderson has somehow programmed the weapon to eliminate me. Got my heat signature and all" the Russian revealed. Jack's face was a mixture of shock and horror. Henderson was so hell-bent on killing him that he would target General Benediktov? The Russian deserved to pay for his crimes against the country but not like this and certainly not by this bastard! "How long?" he asked simply. Benediktov again looked over the controls. "I don't know.. I really don't – it depends on where the weapon is currently" he admitted. Jack shook his head in disbelief before finally dropping Henderson. Several seconds ticked by until the former agent unleashed his anger, punching Henderson twice in the face with enough force to completely knock him out. Ignoring the body slumping to the floor, Jack walked up to Benediktov. "We need to warn the White House, tell Belcheck he's flying to his death!" he said. But to his surprise, the General shook his head. "We could if your phone hadn't broke on that last impact.." he revealed, holding the controls in one hand and pointing at something behind the former agent with the other.
Jack was confused and followed where the General was pointing, only to spot his phone on the floor – and broken into two pieces. Effectively, they had no means of alerting Belcheck or the White House as to what was about to happen. He turned back around towards Benediktov. This was the last thing they needed to say the least. Project Connaughton was now out of practically everyone's control and they had no way of alerting Chloe, Belcheck and the White House before possible impact point. "Right, I'm gonna find a phone – warn Chloe! You just get Henderson ready!" Jack decided before racing out of the lab. He knew they had to leave but he also knew that the White House needed to be alerted, as he raced out of the laboratory.
Benediktov watched him leave and then looked down at the slumped body of Henderson. He was still shocked at the weapon targeting him directly but he wasn't scared. In fact, this was just what he wanted as he had a plan that would kill two birds with one stone and ensure that no-one else would have to die in the process.
East Coast Airspace
Within the cockpit for Project Connaughton itself, Belcheck was unaware of what had happened on the ground and what was about to happen to the weapon itself. But at that moment, he had other things on his mind. He had been trying to call Heather for the last few minutes but every time he tried to ring her, for some reason the phone wouldn't connect the call. Every time, he kept hearing an automated voice telling him that the call could not "be connected". The Serb mobster frowned as he snapped the phone shut. The girl and the Turkish-Cyprian hadn't failed to respond to any of his calls almost immediately for the last hour, so why would they now and why are the phone calls not getting through at all? He looked back at the phone and snapped it back open. If anyone could figure out why they weren't answering her calls, it was Chloe and she would have more options available to her on the ground anyway compared to up in the skies above the city.
But before he could input the phone number to call the former analyst with, there was a sudden chime somewhere within the cockpit – followed by a voice. "New orders and co-ordinates received. Course heading adjusted" the AI voice declared. Belcheck froze. NEW ORDERS? NEW CO-ORDINATES? What the hell was this all about? He hadn't done anything or said anything about new orders! Suddenly, he felt the whole aircraft rattle and shake before it lurched to the right unexpectedly, like as if it was turning. The lurching continued for quite a few seconds before the weapon levelled out. It appeared to be flying normal again, except it felt like as though it was flying in the opposite direction now.
Belcheck's blood ran cold as the idea ran through his head for the second time. The weapon was flying in the opposite direction, as in it was flying BACK to Washington DC! He tried the control columns but they had absolutely zero effect, no matter which direction he forced them in. He was practically trapped inside an out-of-control aircraft heading to somewhere within the capital city; his only option was to eject, but he couldn't do it at the speed he was at and certainly not at the height that the weapon was surely in. He was then suddenly pulled out of his thoughts by his phone ringing; Chloe. As he snapped it open, he didn't get a chance to say a word as the former analyst started yelling desperately. "Belcheck, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!" she shrieked, demanding answers. "Believe me, Chloe – I know just as much as you do! The weapon just turned around on its own, I can't control it from up here!" the Serb mobster insisted, words that send a chine down Chloe's spine. By now, the only people left in the Oval Office were the former analyst and the Acting President, with everyone else having been moved to another part of the building – if this wasn't Belcheck and this likely wasn't Heather, this could only mean that it was Henderson. What had happened now within the laboratories of Guardstrom HQ?
"What about Heather, have you heard from her at all?" Belcheck continued. Chloe's eyes shot up in surprise at the question. "Heather? I thought she was in contact with you!" she responded, making a valid point. "No! I've been trying to get through to her, but my phone keeps saying the call can't be connected. Has anything major happened on the ground?" the mobster replied, now again having to position the phone between his head and his shoulder as the weapon seemed to be picking up speed and he had both his hands on the now effectively useless control columns. "Not really.. not unless you count the debris crashing down from when you destroyed the missiles!" the former analyst realized, remembering the explosions that had happened just a few minutes previously. They all seemed to happen in the north of the city, in the area where Heather and Gumushan had been, so unless they failed to get out of the way of the debris, maybe they had lost the means to communicate.
"Whilst we're thinking about it.. what about Jack, have you heard from him? If it's not Heather doing this, it's almost certainly Henderson!" Belcheck pointed out quickly. "No. I tried calling him before the scanner picked up the change of direction, but he's not responding!" Chloe confessed, noticing Novick coming towards her – the Acting President held out his hand, indicating that he wanted to talk with the Serb mobster. She handed over the phone. "Mr Belcheck, it's the President – at this stage and based on what I've heard from Chloe, I would strongly recommend you eject from the weapon! There's nothing you could do up there, son.." he suggested, trying to look at the growing issues from another angle – namely that of trying to avoid further unnecessary death. "With the greatest respect, sir, that's something I can't do at the minute! I'm too high up in the sky to eject safely and even then, with the speed I'm going at as well.." Belcheck responded, understanding the Acting President's logic but also going back to the points he had thought of earlier, in that he would certainly die if he ejected at this altitude.
"But Belcheck, we can't just leave you like that! No-one deserves to die travelling at the equivalent of the speed of sound!" Chloe pleaded. She had firmly considered Belcheck to be a Serbian version of the Terminator – mainly in that he didn't really display much in the way of emotions – but he was trying to get through to his heart. "I know what you're doing, Chloe.. but you don't have to do that. If a chance to eject safely occurs, I will take it.. but the way I see it, I've fulfilled my part in this world. I've helped you and Jack many times in the last two days and I'm happy to go out now, to ensure you a better life than what you currently have! In the meantime, just get through to Jack.." the Serb mobster responded, before promptly hanging up. Chloe and Novick had no way to react. Belcheck was perfectly willing to sacrifice himself to fully ensure that the weapon was destroyed. He didn't want people to remember him or honour him, he just wanted to make sure that every single innocent person in the world – like Chloe – could keep on living or even make a better life for themselves than what they had right now. In a way, he was like Jack.
Onboard the super-weapon, the Serb mobster snapped the phone shut and allowed the G-Forces taking place as a result of the weapon's speed to send the phone hurtling towards the back of the cockpit. He wasn't sure where exactly the re-planned co-ordinates for the weapon would be taking him, or even how long it would be before the weapon reached its destination, but it surely couldn't be too long. It was only a matter of time, as the weapon raced through the skies towards its target – General Andre Benediktov within the underground laboratories of the remains of Guardstrom Headquarters.
The sound of a gunshot coming from the laboratories, just as Jack was in the middle of trying to find a phone to alert the White House, immediately got the former agent's attention – and triggered the alarm bells inside of him in the process. Who had fired that gunshot and most of all, why?
His concerns increasing, Jack quickly ran back towards the laboratories and pressed himself up against the wall next to the large hole, keeping him out of immediate sight. Slowly, he began to make his way through the hole in the wall and into the laboratory, trying to find something out of the ordinary. He frowned as he quickly realized that Benediktov was nowhere to be seen, as he edged closer towards Henderson's unconscious body. Turning his body around so that he was now facing the hole, he suddenly felt someone behind him and turned back around just in time to be punched in the face and forced backwards.
"Sorry about that, Bauer.. I needed to get your attention.." he could hear the Russian General speak up before the sound of what appeared to be handcuffs snapping shut was heard. Fearing the worst, Jack looked up at his own arms – only to find nothing had happened to them. He looked back along the wall and immediately spotted Benediktov sitting next to Henderson, the two of them bound together by a long chain that was wrapped around a pipe sticking out of the wall... and the handcuffs. Jack's eyes rose up at what he saw, getting to his feet and checking out the pipe. "I wouldn't bother, Bauer. To undo all that, you need the key and I just swallowed it" the Russian General said calmly, too calm for Jack's liking. "I don't understand, why...?" the former agent started, Benediktov interrupting. "Why are I doing this? Well, you told me to do this. You said to get Henderson ready and I have – he's ready to face the death he deserves!" the General explained.
Jack was struggling to understand what the General was up to and couldn't speak for several seconds, so Benediktov chose to add to his justification. "The way I see it, Bauer.. Jack.. the only way to make sure Henderson pays for what he has done is for me to die as well, to pay for what I've done myself! I know I said I would hand myself in when Henderson is captured, but the way I see it, this is the only way to make sure justice takes place! What's there to say there'll be an ambush as soon as we leave? We could both end up dead and Henderson would be free to continue his reign of terror" he reasoned. Jack was still surprised but could understand the logic of where the General was coming from. Benediktov knew he had committed atrocities in his quest to fulfil revenge against America and the revelations that both he and President Walkman had actually been pawns in Henderson's grand two-stage vengeance scheme had caused him to realize what he was doing and to feel remorse for what he had done. By sacrificing himself to ensure Henderson's death and to ensure the end of the crisis, it was possible he would at least be able to redeem himself in the eyes of both America and Russia. He would still be considered a terrorist, but at least the governments would realize the sacrifice he had made to defeat the bigger evil.
"I see where you're coming from. Alright, I can accept that, General. It's not ideal as I would rather you both faced justice but considering the overall situation.." Jack finally relented, just before the AI voice on the controls for the super-weapon spoke up. "Project Connaughton is 120 seconds away from its target and counting!" it declared. Benediktov's eyes shot up.. 120 seconds? "Alright, Bauer. Time for talk is over! GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE AND DON'T LOOK BACK!" he ordered the former agent, making it clear in his voice that he was not to be ignored. Jack sighed and finally began to head out of the laboratories, the Russian General watching. "And good luck to you.." he whispered to himself.
As Jack raced through the hole in the wall, he ran as quickly as his body would enable him to do. He had under two minutes to get out of the complex and into the tunnels. He wasn't too sure on how long it would take him to get to the tunnels, but he wasn't about to slow down either. Time was very much against him and for once, there was a chance it would ultimately beat him.
Skies above Washington DC
Belcheck was not still completely 100% sure on just where above the DC city centre was, or even how much time he had until the weapon reached its target. Even as the cockpit and the weapon on the whole shook about because of the G-Forces they were experiencing, the Serb mobster simply refused to let go of the control columns he was holding onto. Suddenly, he felt what appeared to be the weapon dropping in altitude; he wasn't too sure on how much altitude had been lost but he was certain it wouldn't be enough for him to be able to survive. The weapon had to get even closer to the ground than it was now, if he wanted to eject.
On the ground and within the White House, Chloe and Novick were both in position in the Oval Office; Chloe was tracking Project Connaughton using the laptop to follow the signal it emitted, whilst the Acting President was looking out of the window to follow the skyline and to see if the weapon would drop enough for him to see it. "I can see it! It looks like it's going east!" he remarked, the former analyst immediately acting on this and following the signal. It was indeed going east, as if it was heading straight towards... Guardstrom Headquarters. A combination of her worries and intrigue flared up as the phone began to ring. There was a Secret Service agent at the front of the building who would be following the weapon, should he be able to physically see it – and then he would let the former analyst know where altitude it was at and where it was likely heading, based on that altitude. "O'Brian!" she said, having picked up the moment it had started to ring.
"I can see it, Chloe! And it's descending even so slightly lower and lower as it goes.. I think it's headed for the Colmar Manor Park!" the female agent confirmed. Chloe had felt many chills rush down his spine, but this one was particularly cold. The super-weapon, effectively, was on a collision course with Guardstrom HQ. She could only pray that Jack got out of there in time.
As Jack rounded a corner and nearly slipped over as a result, he could see a set of open double-doors ahead of him. He ran as fast as he could, as he burst through the doors and made extra careful to make sure he didn't end up falling down the steps.
He slowed to a halt and looked around, trying to find a vehicle of any kind that would get him out of the complex and into the tunnels and to safety. Finally, he spotted what appeared to be a small service vehicle a little distance away from what appeared to be a large tunnel-mouth. He raced towards it and climbed into the driver's seat, looking for any kind of keys. Opening up a small and hidden compartment, he was relieved to find a blue set. He almost slammed them into the ignition and began to turn them, hoping to start up the small vehicle. The engine groaned and struggled as it tried to find the energy to start up.
Skies above Guardstrom Headquarters
Having felt the altitude drop further in the last 30 or so seconds, Belcheck could tell that the target site was most likely within range – but he still didn't want to eject, not until he knew that the weapon was at a safe height for him to eject.
But he also knew that he would have precious little time to actually eject, so he had to time it to the final second to give him the best chance of survival. All of a sudden, he felt the weapon experience a sharp nose-dive; it wasn't even remotely anything like the altitude suddenly dropping, this was the weapon rapidly falling downwards at what felt like the speed of sound! This was it, now or never, he thought to himself as his left hand battled the crippling G-Forces his body was experiencing and moved slowly towards the variety of buttons on the console. One of them was hopefully the eject button.
Near the tunnel-mouth, Jack was still struggling to start up the engine – until finally, it roared to life. Refusing to waste even a second of time, he forced the vehicle into reverse before moving the gear-stick into forward and allowing the vehicle to race into the tunnel. Within the laboratories, meanwhile, Henderson was slowly beginning to wake up. His head was pounding and he felt like he wanted to throw up. He tried to force himself up, only to be stopped by something seemingly holding down his right arm. He looked in the direction of that arm and his eyes widened in horror as he realized he had been handcuffed to the wall. "Perfect.. you're awake JUST IN TIME TO SEE YOUR DEMISE! See you in hell, you bastard!" Benediktov snarled, his revenge finally complete. Henderson realized what he meant and panicked, immediately trying to pull himself from the wall and failing miserably.
Within the nose-diving super-weapon, Belcheck was finally able to push down on a blue button positioned next to the right-hand control column. He suddenly felt the air rushing through the cockpit and looked up, noticing the metallic canopy now no longer within the cockpit. Finding the last of his strength, he released his grip on the control columns and pushed another blue button. The next thing he knew, he was suddenly within the sky as the cockpit seat ejected from the weapon and began to move upwards into the sky as a result of the G-Forces. Project Connaughton was nose-diving towards Guardstrom HQ at the speed of sound and nothing was going to be able to stop it. Belcheck knew what was able to happen as he began spiralling towards the ground, still in his seat, so he pulled down on a cord – activating the parachute safely secured inside the chair – and covered his eyes in readiness for what was to come.
One second, the super-weapon was visible to anyone who may have been in the surrounding area. But the next second, it had vanished. Project Connaughton slammed into what remained of the headquarters and exploded effectively on impact. A massive fireball emerged and shot up into the sky, almost like a mushroom cloud, before descending back down towards the ground. The explosion could be seen from within the city centre and the agent who had spotted the super-weapon flying east immediately covered her eyes. Inside the complex, explosions ripped through the underground corridors and collapsed everything in sight.
Within the laboratories, the explosions could very well be heard by the two men handcuffed to the wall – and their expressions couldn't have been any more different. Benediktov was calm and accepting of what was due to come, whilst Henderson was desperately panicking and trying everything he could do to avoid the unavoidable. Finally, the ceilings of the laboratory began to cave in bit by bit; a fireball descending from above and engulfing both men, with rubble and twisted metal collapsing in everywhere. Finally, one last explosion took place on the surface before the fires began to die down. The complex was no more, the entirety of the underground having completely caved in and destroyed everything and anything in its path.
Inside the Oval Office, Chloe got to her feet unsteadily and immediately moved to help the Acting President. As soon as they had heard the explosion, even though we were still quite some distance away, both had dived to the ground and waited until they felt it was over. As Novick got back to his feet, Chloe immediately walked back towards the laptop. The orange signal signifying the super-weapon's activity was no longer working. That was it. The weapon had been destroyed, no doubt if there even was any doubt.
The crash site, meanwhile, was now nothing more than a pile of twisted metal, rubble and wreckage. Fires were burning all over the area and the north end of the car park, right in front of the main building, had been swallowed up by the explosion. If there happened to have been anyone else inside at the time, there would have been nothing left of them to bury whatsoever.
Chloe closed up the laptop, now no longer needing a purpose for it. All that was left was to try and find both Jack and Belcheck. Even though she could not prove it, she knew they were both alive. They had to be.
At that moment, the doors to the Oval Office opened and several agents rushed in, accompanied by Pierce and Kim. "Sir! Please get away from the window!" one agent ordered and Novick did as he was asked, recognizing their concern. "Do you have Mr Belcheck on your database, son?" he asked. The lead agent raised an eyebrow. "Sir?" was all he could say in response. "I want a search order put out by the end of the hour; Mr Belcheck has gone missing in action, I want him found immediately!" the Acting President insisted, sharing a reassuring look with Chloe. The former analyst could only smile in relief; at least Novick was taking action and trying to find the Serb mobster, considering how much of a role he had played in ending the power struggle and stopping the crisis right in its tracks. "Chloe!" the former analyst heard her name being called and turned around to see Kim standing next to her. She knew what was about to be asked.
"I heard the explosion.. any word on my dad?" the young mother asked, the concern on her face quite clear. Chloe tried to find the words. "At this stage, not yet. We were in contact with him, but we lost that contact about five to ten minutes ago.." she admitted, her heart sinking as she saw the hope on Kim's face vanish. She moved to be reassuring. "Kim.. you know your father pretty much as well as I do. He'll have survived this, he's survived much worse than this!" she insisted, moving to hug the daughter of her best friend. She was right. Jack had gotten through much worse than this and lived to tell the tale. But to Kim, it wasn't enough. "If you were Jack and you'd just escaped the headquarters, where would you go?" she asked. Chloe was a bit flummoxed by the question, but she quickly came up with the answer. "...in the city centre, just north of here, there's a massive hole in the road! He'll have gone there" she replied, only to be met with a rather confused look from Kim.
"It'll make sense if and when you see it.." the former analyst insisted and at that, Kim immediately made to leave, clearly wanting to get towards this "hole in the road" as soon as possible – but she didn't get too far before literally running straight into Pierce. "Might I ask where you might be going, Ms Wesley?" he asked, having seen the different facial expressions between Chloe and Kim and having deduced from them that Kim had intentions of trying to find her father. "My dad's out there, Aaron. I want to find him, I need to find him!" she explained and tried to move past the veteran agent, only for Pierce to again block her way. "In light of the recent attack, I'm afraid we can't allow anyone to leave the building, Ms Wesley.." he explained sternly, Kim's hopes being dashed and her face sinking. "..that is, without an escort agent – and I would be happy to accompany you!" he suddenly added, his stern expression disappearing from his face. Kim's eyes lit up and she sighed in relief. "If you and Ms O'Brian could please follow me, we can leave immediately" the veteran agent continued, turning around to head towards the double-doors.
Kim started to walk off, but then stopped as she realized that Chloe wasn't following her. "Come on!" she almost snapped, waving her hands to get her to hurry up. The former analyst could only look at the Acting President. "We'll be fine, Chloe. Go! Bring Jack back here.." he ordered and finally, the former analyst moved from where was standing.
DC City Centre
The fire from where the missile debris had landed had started to die down, but that didn't do anything to ease Heather's worries. She had heard the explosion coming from the east of the city and considering what she had seen of the smashed computer used to hack into the main-frame, she could only assume that the super-weapon had been destroyed. With regards to where exactly, she wasn't too sure – all she knew was that it appeared to have been downed somewhere on the eastern outskirts of the city centre... quite possibly near Guardstrom Headquarters.
As soon as she had heard the explosion, her desperation to find either one of Gumushan or even the two paramedics rose dramatically. She couldn't be the only survivor, she didn't want to be the only survivor. She continued her search through what she could of the rubble, only to be caught off guard by a shadowy figure that she spotted from the corner of her eye. The fear within her growing, she turned her head sharply to the left but breathed a sigh of relief; it was Brian. Not who she really wanted to be fair, but she was still happy to see that someone other than herself had survived.
"You ok?" the paramedic asked, immediately moving to hug her. "Yeah, yeah.. just about. Have you seen anyone else?" Heather asked, the relief on her face clear. "Only Al, he's gone to try and find help! Clearly, we're only missing Gumushan" Brian replied, only to be met with a confused look. "You haven't seen him?" Heather almost yelled, her worries flaring back up. "No.. I thought you might know!" the paramedic replied, realizing that no-one had seen him since the debris crashed onto the ground. This was all Heather needed, as she turned towards the wreckage. "GUMUSHAN! WHERE ARE YOU?! GUMUSHAN!" she desperately yelled.
Near the hole in the road exposing the ghost tunnel, three figures had managed to make their way out of the tunnel and back onto solid ground. Just as Stephen had been helped onto the road by a combined event of Teri and Banks, they had heard the explosion. All three people had no idea of what had happened to Project Connaughton or where exactly the explosion had come from, but hearing the explosion on the outskirts of the city had gotten Teri worried. "Don't worry sweetheart. We don't know what that sound came from.. for all we know, Grandpa is just fine" Stephen tried to reassure his young daughter.
"He's right you know, kiddo – I've only worked with your grandfather once in my life and that was today. But I have massive respect for him. He is an amazing person and he has done so much for his family, his country. He'll have survived this, no doubt about it" Banks added on, wanting to try and calm the girl down. As such, it was probably quite timely that there was a slight noise coming from behind them, from within the large hole. Teri heard it and looked behind her, immediately spotting something. "LOOK!" she yelled, pointing upwards. Both Stephen and Banks followed where she was pointing, their eyes going wide as a hand appeared on the edge of the hole. Followed by an arm and then another arm. Someone was forcing their way out of the hole. Teri immediately raced to lend this person a hand, hauling them onto the road with as much might as a girl under 10 could muster. Finally, the person was on the road. "Thank.. thank you, sweetheart. You've done an old man proud.." the person chuckled, moving his head up to reveal that it was Jack. Slightly battered, but in one piece and smiling at his grand-daughter before him.
"GRANDPA!" Teri cried in delight, immediately enveloping Jack in a hug. Stephen and Banks exchanged a look of complete surprise, before rushing over to the edge of the hole. The former agent released himself from his grand-daughter's hug, as he got to his feet – the first thing he did was hug Stephen. "I knew you'd make it! What on earth has been going on, though? That explosion.." Stephen asked, slightly confused by what had happened. "I'll explain later, I really will.. right now though, we should probably find your wife and Teri's mother. She'll be worried sick about us!" Jack responded and Stephen quickly realized he had a very good point. He hadn't seen Kim for nearly 36 hours, not since she'd left for New Jersey temporarily, only to end up captured and bought to the capital city.
But they needn't have bothered trying to start looking very far as barely only a few seconds after Jack had made his point, the sound of a vehicle approaching got everyone's attention. All four people looked behind them as a car appeared out of nowhere and came to a stop – Jack recognizing who was inside. Aaron Pierce, Chloe... and Kim. It was Kim who got out of the car first, shocked at just who she was facing. Her father, her husband and her daughter. All three of them were alive, but it was her father who got the most attention in her mind. "DAD!" she cried and she started to run towards him, only slowing as she got close to him before pulling the former agent into a hug. "I knew you were alive, I just knew it.." she said but as the seconds went by, no response came. "Daddy?" Kim said, starting to grow concerned at the lack of response – but then she suddenly felt the weight of her father pressing down on her shoulder. Suddenly, Jack collapsed and fell onto the ground, face first.
Having been watching from the car, Chloe had been first to realize that something was wrong and her blood ran the coldest it could possibly have been, as she watched her best friend suddenly collapse like that. She scrambled out of the car and raced towards Kim. "Dad? Daddy?!" Kim cried as she got onto her knees. She immediately checked to see if her father was breathing and he wasn't. "Someone call an ambulance!" she yelled out to no-one in particular as she started chest compressions, desperately trying to bring her father back to the land of the living. No-one knew what to do or how to react, except for Pierce who had taken Kim's order to heart and was ringing for help. But there was one burning question on the lips and in the thoughts of nearly everyone in the surrounding area.
In once again saving his country, and effectively the entire world as well, had Jack Bauer paid the ultimate price with his life?
24 HOURS LATER
Exactly 24 hours had passed, following the spectacular destruction of the remains of Guardstrom HQ. Nearby police enforcement and the Secret Service had been on standby for possible counter-attacks relating to the events across Europe and America, but nothing had happened. No possible hints or chatter of a follow-up attack or anything potentially hazardous. In short, it meant one thing; that the power struggle that threatened to destroy America from the inside-out was finally over. All three of President Jordan Walkman, General Andre Benediktov and Jeremy Henderson were dead. Guardstrom was in ruins and its cover-story as a mere drug reproduction company rather than a corrupted contractor exposed for everyone and anyone to see, whilst the Allied Forces of Europe terror group – disavowed by practically every single European country – had been decimated. It was finally over.
It took quite some time for both things to happen, but only hours after the end of the destruction, the power across the city centre had been restored and the terrified citizens that had gone into hiding as a result of the sudden appearance of Project Connaughton had been reassured that the danger was over. Across the rest of the country, everyone had been waiting with baited breath as to just what the hell was going on in Washington DC – reports of varied missile attacks, an aerial assault from what appeared to be some kind of rogue fighter jet, a hostage situation inside the United States Capitol, a destructive stand-off including Naval vessels in the North Atlantic not too far from the East Coast and then the presence of what reporters could only call "a winged monstrosity" had set off the alarm bells for pretty much everyone outside of DC. Only when a short message from Michael Gerrard – who had finally been retrieved from Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base – was released to major politicians in the surrounding states saying that everything that had happened would be explained shortly after 11am the next day did the hysteria and concerns even remotely calm down. In essence, the activity seen in Washington DC over the last 24 hour had led to panic and hysteria not seen since the September 11th terror attacks.
The remaining members of President Heller's cabinet had all finally arrived before the end of the day and once assembled, all had agreed on what would happen – Acting President Novick would address the nation the next day at 11am and officially hand over the job of the most powerful man in the world to the Secretary of State, Michael Gerrard. It would only be until the end of what would have been Heller's tenure and then he would stand aside for the next Presidential election. Senators and politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, were always thinking ahead for that next election – with rumours that a Senator called John Donovan was planning to run for President at that election – but politicians from both sides agreed that Gerrard taking on the role would be best for the country, as having a snap election at this time was just not ideal. As the dust from the day settled and everyone began coming to terms with what had taken place, people began looking ahead to 11am the next day with hopefully an explanation as to what on earth happened between midnight and 11am of the previous day.
Finally, the next day arrived and the extent of the destruction finally came to light, as news cameras and hundreds of reporters from various states descended on the capital city of the United States; the sight of the Washington Monument, destroyed and lying in pieces on the National Mall, managed to send a chill down the spine of even the most hardened news reporters. Everyone knew that Mike Novick had addressed the nation in the early hours of the previous day in the absence of more senior people who could have done it, so there were people who weren't surprised and people who were as Novick walked up the podium near the western front of the United States Capitol, which had been cleared for general use despite some extensive interior damage and the damage to the tunnel-mouth near the Capitol caused by the rogue fighter jet. As he reached the top, he was met by the sound of loud applause from delighted Washington DC citizens who had braved the fear of another attack to see what the former Chief of Staff to President David Palmer and disgraced Commander-in-Chief Charles Logan had to say.
Admittedly, the Acting President had to wait for quite some time until the applause died down, but soon he was able to start his speech. "My fellow Americans.. for many of you, you will have been asking yourself the same questions over and over in your head for the last 24 hours. What on earth has been going on? Well, some of you will know the truth. But many of you do not know the full facts – we have been through what has been inarguably our darkest day since the September 11th terrorist attacks. We have all, as a nation, suffered a collective loss. Hundreds if not thousands of brave Americans, killed in the line of duty and bravery to protect their country from chaos, from destruction, from terrorism.." he began. Watching the speech on a TV inside the Oval Office, meanwhile, were Chloe, Kim, Pierce, Heather and several Secret Service agents and White House staff. The speech largely became a background piece as the doors to the Office opened, Dr Tanyel Burton walking in. "Someone here who insisted on seeing you all in the flesh.." the doctor explained, walking off to the side of the doors as Jack walked in – complete with a walking stick and looking completely shattered but very much alive.
"Dad.. Daddy!" Kim remarked in shock as she leapt up from her seat and walked over to her father, embracing him immediately. "What are you doing up? I thought Dr Burton recommended.." she started, only for the former agent to interrupt her mid-sentence. "..recommended that I get as much sleep as I possibly can? She did, but I'm honestly fine. Besides, I'm gonna get all the chance to sleep on the way back to Los Angeles with you and Stephen and the kids.." Jack revealed. Kim's eyes shot up as she remembered what she had been told only yesterday; for what happened in New York City and everything in-between that had forced him to flee the country four years ago, deceased President Heller had issued her father with a full pardon. He could return home at long last and he was going to do just that. Kim could only sign in relief at her father's words and she again embraced him. "I can't believe you're finally coming home.." was all she could say. Chloe could only smile at the scene before her, as did Pierce; there was nothing more loving and refreshing than that of a father and his daughter hugging.
"Heather?" Dr Burton said quietly, addressing the teenage Walkman. Heather turned around at the mention of her name; she was pretty much in one piece following the events in the north of the city centre, aside from multiple cuts and bruises on top of her broken foot. She had just one question on her mind. "Were you able to..?" she asked, before the doctor interrupted. "Yes. I was successfully able to identify Mr Gumushan from what was recovered of his remains" she confirmed, which put Heather's mind at ease. As the fallout from the destruction of Project Connaughton died down, rescue workers had finally been able to get inside the remains of the ambulance in their search for the Turkish-Cyprian agent. When they found some burnt remains underneath a pile of rubble, Heather immediately knew that that meant Gumushan was dead. The more the search for him had dragged on, the more she realized that he had been killed and there was nothing that could have been done to prevent that. The two hadn't known each other for even two hours, but Heather had grown to respect Gumushan greatly – mainly because of how they had kept each other's backs and how they had worked hard to protect each other as closely as possible during the end-hours of the crisis.
"Has the Cyprian government been informed?" the teenager asked. "Yes, both the Cyprian and Northern Cyprian governments are in the process of being told. Mr Gumushan's family should be finding out in the next hour or so" the doctor replied. Heather sighed, as she had a feeling that what she was about to say would raise a lot of eyebrows. But she had had plenty of time to think about this and she knew that it was the right choice. Practically everyone who had worked at Guardstrom had been killed and those who survived were likely going to be charged with conspiracy to commit treason or even treason itself – after all, nearly everyone there had played at least a small part in the events of the last 48 hours. Her mother was dead and she had no other immediate family to speak of; no grandparents or aunts or uncles or even cousins and she had never had the chance to meet or know her father, a move that her mother insisted was "for her benefit". "When it's time for Gumushan's remains to be flown back to Cyprus.. I want to go with them" she revealed, a response that shocked the White House doctor.
"I know what you're thinking.. but the fact is, I've got nothing left for me here. Gumushan on the other hand, he did so much to protect me during the end hours of the whole crisis. It's only right his family and his country know the full truth of how he acted yesterday" the teenager continued, her logic now beginning to make perfect sense to Dr Burton. "Well, that would have to be cleared up with the incoming President but from my point of view and after my recommendation, I don't think he'll have much of a case to refuse your reasoning" she replied, delivering a slight wink at the same time. Realizing what meant, Heather immediately started to smile in relief. She knew it wasn't fully necessary for her to go to Cyprus but she felt that Gumushan's fellow countrymen deserved to know what kind of person he was like in the crisis.
As this discussion was taking place, Chloe and Pierce had walked up to where Jack and Kim were hugging. The former agent spotted his best friend standing in front of him and sighed. "Chloe" he said, releasing himself from his daughter's hug and immediately hugging the former analyst. "Well done, Chloe. Everything you did yesterday, everything you did in London.. Morris would be so proud of you" he said assuringly. At the mention of her deceased partner, the tears nearly started to form in Chloe's eyes but she was able to keep herself composed. "Aaron, thank you. Keeping my family safe for so long" Jack added as he moved one arm free, so that he could shake the hand of the veteran agent. "My pleasure, Jack – after everything you've done for this country so many times, it's the least I could do" Pierce insisted as he shook hands with Jack, his respect for him after so many years still intact and still always growing.
"Guys! Mr Gerrard's about to speak!" an agent suddenly said and all eyes turned back towards the TV screen. The agent was right; the Secretary of State was making the long way up the steps towards the platform where Novick was already standing. Gerrard was about to be sworn in as the next – and temporary – President of the United States. Silence fell across the Oval Office, as Gerrard reached the top of the steps. The first order of business; swear in the next Commander-in-Chief. Chloe and Kim had already witnessed the swearing in of a President from seeing Novick being sworn in in the early hours of the previous day, within the underground bunker. The sound on the TV was turned up, as Gerrard placed his hand on the bible being held by the Chief Justice. Novick moved to stand next to him.
"Please repeat after me, Mr Secretary: I, Michael Harrison Gerrard.."
"I, Michael Harrison Gerrard.."
"..do solemnly swear.."
"..do solemnly swear.."
"..that I will faithfully execute the office.."
"..that I will faithfully execute the office.."
"..of President of the United States.."
"..of President of the United States.."
"..and will to the best of my ability.."
"..and will to the best of my ability.."
"..preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States..
"..preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.. so help me god.."
And like that, it was done. Michael Gerrard had become the President of the United States of America. The Chief Justice removed the Bible and the applause from the crowd started all over again, continuing again for quite some time until the President was able to calm them down with a simple shake of the hand. "I did have a speech to give you.. but considering the events of the last 48 hours, I don't think it necessary or appropriate. But what I will tell you all is this. We have experienced some horrific losses in the last few days, losses that no-one else as a country should have to go through. It's time that every single one of you learnt the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" he paused, knowing that those watching his speech were about to react in shock at what he was going to tell them.
"The attacks on our country were not limited to that of a far-right European terror group. Some of our own citizens were involved as well – and I'm sure many of you have heard of Guardstrom? They were not a drug reproduction company as we were all led to believe..." he continued, his voice falling into the background slightly as those in the Oval Office. "What's he doing?" Kim asked, confused as to why the new President was telling so much of what happened as he could. "Once you get to know him, Ms Wesley, you'll recognize that Mr Gerrard is one of the most honest and straight-forward men you could ever see. In this case, he's saying what he thinks the rest of the country and the world deserves to know" Pierce replied. He had actually had the pleasure of meeting the former Secretary of State the previous year and had come to regard him as someone who spoke the truth and had the utmost integrity, something he had not seen in that many Presidents aside from David Palmer.
"..and it was Guardstrom who developed that aerial weapon so many of you below me saw yesterday morning" Gerrard continued through the screen. By now, the slight cheers and sounds heard by everyone who had come out had vanished; instead, there was silent horror as Gerrard's words hit home. Some people weren't entirely surprised as they knew in the past that there had been Americans determined to help the enemies of the nation in some way – but the mere mention of certain Americans willing to split the country in half just for financial benefits sent a cold chill down the spines of hundreds, if not thousands of Americans. "..I can see that many of them still have questions.. and I promise that by the end of the next election, you will have those answers presented to you. For now, all I can say is that..." the newly named President continued, but his speech again became the equivalent of background noise, as everyone in the Oval Office focused away from the speech. Kim looked like as though she was a little disappointed.
"I would have thought he would have at least credited my dad for everything he's done. He's put everything and everyone he loves on the line for years and yet again, the government throw him under the bus!" she said coldly. She genuinely believed Jack should have been given the credit and praise he deserved after so many years of protecting his country and his government from destruction. But to everyone else's surprise, the former agent seemed relaxed. "That.. that is something I wish would happen, sweetheart. But really, I don't care about being recognized. After everything I've been through, I'm going to make the most of Russia calling off their manhunt and Heller pardoning me.. I'm going home and nothing is going to stop me doing that. You, Chloe, my grandchildren, you are effectively everything I have left and I do not want to lose that!" he replied and Kim realized he did truly mean it. Her father was finally coming home. "Oh Daddy.." the tears from Kim's eyes began to flow down and she again pulled her father into a hug.
Chloe literally had no idea how to react to that – Jack had placed her in the same category as his family, saying that she, along with Kim, was "all he had left". But before she could do or say anything, there was a knock on the double-doors. Jack looked up to see a young Secret Service agent poking his head through. "We have a little surprise for you, Mr Bauer. We literally just picked him up from near Guardstrom HQ" he revealed and the doors were then fully opened, revealing Belcheck standing next to the agent. His arm was in a cast and he looked like as though he had been through several war-zones, but he was alive. Needless to say, Heather, Jack and Chloe had different reactions upon seeing the Serb mobster alive and in one piece – the teenager was in disbelief, the former agent was delighted and the former analyst massively relieved. "Belcheck!" Jack was first to speak and he went up towards him, making sure to use his left arm to shake the Serb's hand, considering it was his right arm in the cast.
"So what the hell happened? We've been looking for you for nearly a day, where were you?" Jack asked, genuinely trying to figure out how on earth Belcheck managed to eject from the cockpit of Project Connaughton without too much in the way of injury and how he had even managed to survive considering where he might have ended up landing. "The massive explosion from the weapon crashing.. the shock-waves sent me flying onto the outskirts of the park-land. Got caught in a tree, broke my arm. Found Secret Service by luck" Belcheck revealed, sounding a little sheepish by the end of how he had only found those trying to find him by a stroke of luck. Jack didn't seem to mind too much though. "That doesn't matter.. all that's important is you're here now. Henderson's dead, Benediktov sacrificed himself to make sure of it!" he replied, the mention of the Russian General having killed himself to ensure the death of the mastermind behind the crisis getting a raised eyebrow from the Serb mobster.
"That I was not expecting.." he admitted, having believed that Benediktov was currently in the custody of the FBI – especially considering the promise he made to turn himself in if he was allowed to stop Henderson's reign of terror. "It's true, I promise you. It's all over – you helped bring an end to the crisis, Belcheck, you should be proud of yourself" Chloe added quickly. She knew Belcheck didn't really want to be considered a hero; he strongly preferred to be seen as just a form of "hired help", only he helped those that had helped him in some way in the past. After all, the only reason he had helped Jack with the events in London was because the former agent had saved him. He was here in DC because he happened to have been drawn into the power struggle as a result of Flight 681 being hijacked by the Allied Forces of Europe's "Airborne Cell" and then Jack getting involved in trying to stop it.
The silence between the small group began to grew more awkward as a result of Belcheck not replying, so Heather decided to step in. "What are you going to do now? Now that the crisis is finally over?" she asked. The Serb mobster frowned; he hadn't really thought of that. Then again, that was probably because he didn't have anything to go back to. He could hardly go back to his own country, not after what had happened before he left for London with Jack. Anywhere else in mainland Europe would be out of the question as a result of either immigration rejecting him due to his mob ties or even the mobs in some countries deeming him "persona non grata" for varying reasons. And even though he played a part in stopping one of the darkest days in America from getting even worse, the new government would still raise objections to him being in the country because of his background; he had a feeling that whilst they wouldn't have objections to him staying owing to what he had done, once the American people discovered who he really was, they would be spitting blood at their government "allowing" a mobster to stay in their country.
"I don't know.. truth be told, considering everything that's happened, I hadn't really given much thought to it" he conceded. "Well.. I'm planning to travelling to Cyprus with Gumushan's remains. I would feel a little safer if I had you along?" Heather suddenly proposed, the mention that she was going to the small island located south of Turkey surprising everyone of Jack, Kim, Chloe and Pierce. Belcheck wasn't expecting it either and he gave the teenager a look as if to say she should explain further. "Well, the way I see it, I was a big help to Gumushan in the end-hours of the crisis and vice-versa to me. I think it's only right that I go to Cyprus and tell his family exactly what kind of person he was – and if you were to come, that would be someone else with first-hand experience backing me up" she explained.
The Serb mobster took some time to think about the offer. True, he had not spent nearly as much time with the Turkish-Cyprian as the teenage Walkman had done, but he still knew how much of a help he had been. "Alright.. provided the President is okay with it, I will accompany you to Cyprus" he agreed. Heather smiled at this, happy that she wouldn't really have to go it alone. Jack and Chloe were a little surprised by his decision, but said nothing – Jack in particular believed it to be the best option available. Like him when he fled the country to escape both American and Russian law enforcement four years previously, Belcheck was a bit of a lost soul. He had no family to speak of, massacred by forces linked to Victor Drazen and he had no-one to turn back across the entirety of Europe because of either his mob status or because he had helped bring down Karl Rask. Maybe taking this trip to Cyprus, to help purge the deceased Gumushan of his demons and to let his country know of just what kind of person he was during the attempts to stop Henderson, would help him spiritually. It could help him to purge his own past and to set him on a straight path to a proper redemption.
He gave his Serbian companion a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. "Just remember to drop me a line in the future, I wanna hear from you" the former agent said. "After everything you've done for me and I you, it would be my pleasure, Jack" Belcheck replied, before doing what no-one had expected him to do and what he hadn't done himself for quite some time. Smile. And a genuine one at that. It wasn't a dark smile, or a false smile, or even a sarcastic smile. It was honest and it was from the heart. His path to redemption was underway. As this was happening, Pierce had been on his phone, talking with someone. He snapped the phone shut. "Jack.. we have a car ready outside. If you like, you and your family can leave ahead of schedule – before things get a little hectic" he announced. Jack was a little surprised. It had been agreed between Novick and Gerrard that he could leave later this afternoon and be driven by secret escort to Dulles International Airport – considering the damage it had taken, Ronald Reagan International would be out of action for up to six months – towards a plane ready to fly them first to Charlotte in North Carolina and then home to Los Angeles. But it became clear to him that Pierce was giving him and his family the chance to leave discreetly. No fuss made, no extensive coverage. Just a quiet exit and that was it.
"Yes! Thank you, Aaron – I think we'll take that!" the former agent jumped at the chance, speaking for both his best friend and his daughter. Both Chloe and Kim wanted away from DC as quickly as possible. "Very well, if you three would like to follow me" the veteran agent responded as he started to leave the Oval Office, all three of Jack, Kim and Chloe following. But before the former agent was fully through the door-frame, he stopped. He turned around to look one last time at Belcheck. "Good luck, Belcheck. Again, drop us a line in the future" he insisted, wishing that he was leaving the Serb mobster under better circumstances than this. "Of course, Jack. Go, it's time to go home" Belcheck insisted, echoing the very sentence that Jack had told Chloe back on the outskirts of London when he had offered himself to the Russians to save her. Jack could only nod as he fully left the Oval Office.
The walk towards the main doors of the White House was short and brisk and it was when they were approaching the front of the building that Chloe suddenly realized that she hadn't seen anything of Kim's family; nothing of Stephen, Teri or even two-year-old Patrick. She should have been a little worried that they were possibly being left behind, but the calm faces on both Jack and Kim suggested that there was really nothing for her to be worried about and she relaxed. "Mr Bauer, right on time! Our young visitors are just-about for the off" another Secret Service agent, the same agent who had saved Pierce from accidentally being killed by a sleep-deprived Agent Farage, spoke up and he revealed the rest of his family; his grandchildren and his son-in-law. Teri's eyes immediately lit up at seeing her grandfather back on his feet after what she had seen happen to him 24 hours previously.
She didn't even need to call him Grandpa, she just pulled herself free of the agent holding her hand and raced towards Jack, enveloping him in a hug. Stephen was quite surprised to see his father-in-law back on his feet so soon, but he kept the surprise hidden as he watched towards Jack. "How you feeling, Jack?" he asked, his two-year-old son on his hip. "I'm pretty good, good enough to travel back with you anyway" the former agent replied, keeping a slight bit of his focus on his grand-daughter so that he could see her reaction to what he had just said. Needless to say, Teri went to shock to delight in the space of a few seconds. "You really are coming home?" she asked. "Yes, sweetheart. I am and nothing's going to stop me, not like last time!" Jack replied, remembering the disappointment he could see on her face four years ago when she found out he wouldn't be going with them back to Los Angeles from New York. Teri beamed with delight, before Kim took her hand. "Come on, honey. Let Grandpa go, you and Patrick will have enough chance to be with him when we're on the plane" she said.
Jack could only smile. "You all can go on ahead, I just need to talk to Aaron!" he told his daughter, who nodded and began to herd everyone – including Chloe – out towards the car. As she disappeared down the steps, the former agent turned towards the veteran agent. "Aaron.. there's no words I can say that would come close to how.. how thankful I am for everything you've done. The country's lucky to have you" he finally said. "And we're lucky to have you, Jack. You've done your part so many times, America will always be in your debt even if they don't know why" Pierce insisted, managing to smile himself. Jack could only nod as he tried to find the next few words. In the end, he couldn't really find any. "Give Mike and the President my regards" he said, offering his hand out to shake, which Aaron accepted. "Of course, Jack. Now go, your family's waiting" he insisted. The former agent sighed as the reality set in and he turned around to head down the steps, in the same direction as his family.
As he reached the bottom of the steps, he could see Stephen helping his children into the back of the limo, the sounds of cheers coming from the Capitol Building in the background. Kim looked up and smiled, hugging her father, with Chloe then doing the same to her best friend. The family was complete at long last. For the first time since he had been called in unexpectedly at midnight to help deal with the initial threat to Senator David Palmer, back when Teri had still been alive and life had some kind of meaning beyond just "staying alive", Jack Bauer felt content. He finally had the chance to put the horrors of what he had experienced behind him and start again with life. He felt good.
Cast (hey, I can dream and hope this'll happen, right?):
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer
Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe O'Brien
Branko Tomovic vs Belcheck
William Devane vs President James Heller
Levan Uchaneishvili vs General Andre Benediktov
Peri Gilpin as Guardstrom President Jordan Walkman
Bob Saget as Secretary of State/President Michael Gerrard
Mackenzie Vega as Heather Walkman
Jon Bethernal as Jeremy Henderson
Anthony Montgomery as Cannavale
Elisha Cuthbert as Kim Wesley
Jason Faunt as Christian Evans
Jude Ciccolella as Mike Novick
Tom Hiddleston as Andrew McKaye/Virgil Cummings
Daniel Bruhl as Jurgen Hermann
Elya Baskin as Nicholae Avram
Avery Brooks as Brian Baylis
John Cho as Commander Robinson
David Harbour as Commander Gibson
Eka Darville as Agent Yanes
Well.. there we go. It's done. Firstly, a few things to cover:
1. The themes of the story. The big one is that of redemption. Three characters undergo this in the whole story - Jack, Belcheck and General Benediktov. For Jack, it's a case of fully redeeming himself in the eyes of his country - yes he does it by saving Heller in 24: Live Another Day - but here, he's going one step further. For Belcheck, it's only the beginning of his ride. He has admitted in the past that he has done some awful things by being a part of the Serbian mob and his actions in this story (and London) help to set him on the path to redeeming himself. By agreeing to go to Cyprus so that he can tell the truth about Gumushan, he's helping himself mentally and sending himself on the path to purging his past and starting again. For Benediktov, it's a case of showing that even people like him can see the light; he was misguided in his beliefs and he firmly believed that attacking America would be doing the rest of the world a big favour. Through being used as a mere pawn in a deadlier plot, he came to realise the truth and his sacrifice to ensure Henderson's death at least redeemed him in the eyes of Jack, if not his own government.
2. The ending. I know it's probably weak, but let's face it; all Jack has ever wanted was a happy ending. Even when he kept saving the world, there was always something to throw a spanner in the works. Teri's death. His addiction to drugs. Faking his death. Being imprisoned by the Chinese. Having to leave his daughter behind. Sacrificing his freedom for Chloe. Here, he finally gets it. He gets the quiet exit he wanted and he finally reunites with his family. After everything he's been through, he deserves it.
3. Yes, I did pull a trick. This story is essentially set over 48 hours (72 if you count London). I was a bit forced to do it or else everything would not have been workable, but I do think it does work. Otherwise, what good would ending it with Jack possibly dead after everything he did to get back to his country?
And there we go. Please, rate, review and everything else. See you all next time, possibly