A/N: It's finally here! Took a while, but I hope the wait was worth it. Please feel free to leave reviews! It helps when I have feedback and hearing you readers enjoy my work is always a nice morale booster. Favorite and follow too if you'd like! Finals season in college is also upon me, but I'm hoping to squeeze out another chapter before Easter. Enjoy the chapter!
Chapter 7: Contingency
"No... that's impossible," Jason murmured.
"Jason, it doesn't matter. The Director just issued a standing kill order on Peter Durham. If you want to find out the truth about your past, you need to rescue Durham."
"Then give me intel."
"I don't have time to give you a full briefing but everything is in here." Heather handed them a flash drive. "I stole this off of Dewey's personal computer. I'll drop you off at your old apartment. I need to go back to Smith's."
"I've been sent by Dewey to personally collect all of his files after he was to be killed."
"You said Dewey didn't know you were here!" Jason burst out.
"He doesn't know I'm here with you, and I'd very much like to keep it that way."
"Hang on," Nicky interjected. "You knew that Smith was going to be killed and you didn't mention it to us?"
"I was going to tell you in Nixa, but Jason didn't look like he wanted to talk," she replied dryly, recalling how Jason had refused to even take her card. "I asked for your help and you weren't interested. Stroke of luck that Landy told you instead."
Heather pulled up to the front of Jason's old apartment. One look out the window and he was already overwhelmed with deja vu. It had been years since he visited his old home. The doors unlocked and Heather pulled the shifter to park. She turned around as Jason began to open the door.
"No hard feelings, but if you want me to keep bailing you out with information, you had better get on my team. I already cleared the flags on your passports, so you shouldn't have problems getting through customs. Contact me when you get back in the states."
The car sped off, leaving Jason and Nicky in front of the apartment. Nicky watched the car drive off into the distance and make a turn at the end of the block. Jason was still staring at the front gate of his apartment. Nicky sensed something was wrong and wrapped her hand around his. Jason snapped out of his reverie and looked back at her. Nicky understood why he hesitated to go inside. If she had to bet, she guessed the memory of Marie still lived on in this place, where they first decided to go on the run together. But something else told Nicky that Marie wasn't the only reason Jason was hesitating. Abbot was almost right in a twisted way when he said that Jason had killed Marie by simply walking into her life. And now here he stood at his apartment once more, now with Nicky. He had already placed her in so much danger...
"Just a quick stop for supplies and then we'll get a cab to the airport," Nicky offered. Jason nodded silently.
Even though it had been years since the apartment was occupied, rent was still being paid on the building. Treadstone had paid for most of an asset's expenses, and that included room and board. After it was shut down, finances were managed by Blackbriar, which eventually handed down all accounts to Ironhand. With the account being automatically billed, no one had bothered to poke around into the past transactions, since they were all under the label 'Treadstone'. The landlord had changed a few times over the past decade, and Jason's apartment grew a reputation that didn't permit anyone to enter it's doors under the assumption it was haunted or something else superstitious. As long as rent was coming in, the owners really didn't care.
As a result, Jason's old apartment served as a safehouse for Nicky, which surprised him when she pulled a key from her pocket. On various occasions while on the run, she would sometimes return to Paris, where Jason lived and she had been stationed. After spending so much time on the run she was tempted to move in permanently, but wisely decided against it, knowing that more time spent in one place meant more chances to catch her. Every now and then she would indulge her comfort and familiarity, but never for long stretches at a time.
Jason was taken aback by the spartan interior of the apartment. When he lived here years ago decor was lacking, to put it mildly. But coming back years later and finding it even more bare than he had left it stunned him. Bookshelves were empty, walls were bare, counters were clean, windows were covered. The only indication that life existed in this apartment was the cluttered desk. A small server stack sat atop the modestly sized desk, humming contently. Nicky went up to the desk and pulled out her phone, scrolling through it. After a brief moment she nodded and pocketed her phone.
"The house is clean."
"You live here now?" Jason inquired.
"No. I use this place as a safehouse. I have a rotation so that I'm never in one place for more than a month."
"How many agencies want you?"
"Try all of them."
"Having friends like Christian Dassault will do that to you."
Nicky let out a dry chuckle and shook her head.
"Why?" Jason asked. Nicky looked up, taken aback by the one word question. "Why did you do it?"
"Him and me."
"It felt right I suppose. After what I had done in the Program."
Jason opened his mouth in a silent "Ah." and nodded in acknowledgment. He supposed he understood what she meant. The lead ball of guilt dragged and tugged at the heavy chain attaching Jason Bourne to David Webb. He could not separate the two, no matter how much he tried. His only recourse was to accept Bourne and make him as human as possible. He had forced Bourne to apologize to Irena Neski and Marie's brother. But what good had come of it? Irena remained without parents, and Marie's family, however disjointed, was even less whole than before. He had to make amends some other way. Taking down Blackbriar wouldn't change the past but it could change the future. How many lives could have been saved if he had been successful the first time he would never know. Nicky had picked up where he left off. The same mission, different methods. He could scarcely blame her for doing what she did, but the protective instinct that autonomously manifested itself whenever he was with Nicky showed up once more.
"Nicky, I can't let you come with me."
"Wait, Jason, please don't try to do this again. Let me-"
"No!" he barked, louder than he wanted. "No," he repeated softer. "There's every chance that this is a trap, there are too many uncertain variables, you're still injured, I just... I can't focus on the mission and protect you at the same time, even if I tried."
"I can take care of myself. In case you forgot, I've been running on my own the past 10 years without your help."
"This is Ironhand! I made this mistake with Marie, and –" he stopped in his tracks, instantly regretting his words that summoned his memories of Marie, and with them the guilt he felt. He took a breath to regain composure. "I dragged her into my fight and she died. I brought you into my fight, and you almost died. I'm not risking you again."
Nicky stepped forward, literally unwilling to back down. "This is my fight just as much as it is yours. I'll be damned if I don't help you somehow."
Jason ran a hand through his hair, exasperated. "Nicky, I can't do this –"
"Can't do what?" she pressed.
"I can't lose you again!" he let out suddenly.
"And if I lose you, what then? What happens when I'm on the sidelines and it's too late? You're not invincible, Jason. I'll stay back and out of sight, but just let me help you. You're not alone. We're in this together, all the way to the end."
She was determined. Stubborn, even. Jason's mind raced to produce a logical answer that would force Nicky to see his reasoning. For one, she was still injured. Compared to an ordinary CIA goon, she would stand a solid chance of survival, but the potential of a close quarters encounter with Sebastien or any other Ironhand asset spelled a quick and certain death. Jason feared that even he may be unable to fight off an Ironhand asset in his current age and weathered condition. Combat aside, any other party brought into a mission would divide his focus on personal survival. Fighting an entire army by himself was hard enough, but if he had to protect Nicky at the same time, it could mean the end for both of them. His logic was sound and led to one conclusion, to not bring Nicky into the field.
But when he looked into her eyes he realized he saw more than the razor sharp logistics coordinator who had a desk job. He saw the woman who had outrun an asset in unfamiliar territory, who had risked her life just to afford Jason an open shot at Desh, who had with barely any training run dangerous field operations for 10 years. He saw Nicky, who had taken a bullet for him, stood back up, and fired back. He relinquished his overprotective hold on her and with it, some guilt.
"On one condition: if I'm in danger don't try to rescue me."
Meetings killed his soul metaphorically, and with a certain twist of fate sprinkled with irony, would kill him physically. According to the file intercepted by Lee, Peter Durham was to be picked up by a personal driver after his meeting with other agency officials. Driving down the expressway, he was to be assassinated by sniper fire from a nearby rooftop at the end of the street. Heather knew that Dewey assumed Jason would talk to Durham after regaining some memory. Any information Durham potentially had on Dewey needed to be disposed of. Saving Durham was not only a point for the side of freedom, it was a point for her too. That paranoid old man had to be removed, and who better to take his seat than a budding young Heather Lee who really understood the future of intelligence?
Jason had resigned to go into the field with Nicky, but he wanted her as far from danger as possible. She had checked into a nearby hotel that overlooked the same street, but was out of range of the sniper. She was scanning radio frequencies and was to be his eyes in the sky. Once again, she was coordinating logistics for his operation, but things were different now.
She checked her watch: 1:47PM. The meeting started at 1:30PM and she had estimated an hour for the meeting. Her nervousness made radioing Jason a knee jerk reaction, but decided against it. He would contact her if he made contact with the asset. She needed to trust him.
Jason made his way across the lobby to the elevator and pressed the top floor. Instincts told him that if he was to perform an assassination, he would take the stairs to avoid being seen. He needed to rely on the element of surprise, and didn't want to risk an early encounter with Sebastien. The elevator reached the top floor and he made his way down the hallway looking for a maintenance door.
Nicky looked out the window with her binoculars and scanned the faces of the men outside. The binoculars were linked up to a computer with facial recognition software in case Nicky couldn't recognize the faces walking through the doors. The computer was also linked in to the hotel security cameras where Jason would be waiting for the asset. The computer had been scanning tirelessly, but neither had popped up.
Jason found the maintenance door at the end of the hall and checked for signs of someone else tampering with the lock. None presented themselves, and he proceeded cautiously. The stairwell going to the roof was dimly lit and reeked of old cigarette smoke. Jason stepped out onto the roof, weapon drawn. He looked around the roof and saw nothing. The whole roof was an empty expanse, save for the stairwell that provided the only protrusion on the entire roof. No sign of Mathys. He decided to radio Nicky.
"I'm on the roof but there's no sign of Sebastien."
"I don't see him here on the ground either," Nicky replied.
"Keep looking," Jason ordered.
Jason looked around the entire roof and found nothing. He walked all the way to the edge of the roof where the asset would have been set up to take the shot facing the street. He peered over the edge onto the fire escape below, but even then, there was nothing. No sign of Sebastien, or anyone else for that matter.
"Do you see anything?" Jason radioed Nicky after spending a while waiting in hiding on the roof. His watch said it was almost 2:30. In a few minutes the meeting would be over and Durham would be assassinated, but there was no sign of the assassin.
"No," Nicky responded.
"Scan the hotel windows and tell me if you see anything."
Nicky took another pair of binoculars and faced the opposite direction. Her eyes snaked along the windows, from side to side all the way to the top, looking for an open window or a sniper on the fire escape. Still nothing.
"I'm not getting anything."
"He should be here."
"Jason, I don't like this..."
"He'll be here."
The glare from the reflective coating on the windows was distracting to say the least. Every glint of sunlight looked like the reflection of a sniper rifle scope, and Nicky found her eyes darting back and forth between all of the shimmering lights. She looked away and closed her eyes for a few moments, and greenish spots dotted her vision where she had been staring into the light for too long. She returned her gaze. Her mind resolved itself to finding the sniper, and she began to systematically go through each of the windows starting from the top.
"Did you find the sniper?"
"No. Did you find anything?"
"No, nothing! It doesn't make sense! Why would Heather lie to us? Everything else in the file was true."
"Hang on," Nicky said, ignoring Jason.
A few stories from the top there was a single frame that didn't reflect the image of the building opposite it. That one rectangle was slightly offset, breaking the reflected logo at the middle. As Nicky zoomed in on it, she saw that the window was slightly ajar, and the barrel of a rifle protruded from the opening.
"Jason, I got him. Sniper 3 floors down from the roof, 4 windows from the east side."
Jason ran back to the stairwell and hurriedly ran down the 3 flights of stairs. His heart thumped loudly in his ears as his feet echoed down the concrete steps. He threw open the door and nearly bowled over a surprised hotel cleaning lady. He made his way to the end of the hall but realized he couldn't simply count the windows as the number of rooms. Some rooms would undoubtedly have several windows, but he didn't know how many to count. He was out of time. A bright red fire alarm sat conveniently on the wall, and he pulled it. Flashing lights went off and the sirens sounded. Frightened guests began to pour out of their rooms, save for one room that remained unopened. The rooms adjacent were both evacuated. He peered into one of the open rooms and saw that each room was allocated 2 windows. Forth window from the east made it the second to the last room in the hall. Sure enough, the second to the last room was still closed while its adjacent rooms were open. Jason stood off to the side of the doorway and produced the card key he had picked off of the cleaning lady when he bumped into her.
The lock beeped quietly, and lucky for Jason, was drowned out by the fire alarm and commotion. His hand pushed the door open as slowly as possible, just enough to clear it from the bolt housing.
Durham was out of time.
With a vicious kick he opened the door and drew his weapon. As Jason scanned the room, he found a rifle propped up on a table by the window, barrel pointed outside. The scene was eerily still. The placement of everything seemed too perfect.
This was all wrong...
Did he radio Nicky? Everything within him begged him to tell her that something wasn't right, but if this was a trap, he couldn't afford to let slip the fact that Nicky was here with him, helping him.
Jason instinctively spun back with his outstretched palm and made contact with a gun. The asset grunted. Jason realized that this was not Sebastien, but a different asset. A few more strikes to his forearm and he dropped his gun. But with his hands now free, he grabbed Jason's gun hand and twisted back, trying to get Jason to relinquish his hold on his weapon. Jason struggled against him but leverage gave the asset the upper hand. Just as he was about to lose control, he ejected the magazine and kicked it across the room, and the other man's eyes followed.
Jason took the momentary distraction to swing his elbow up in a deadly uppercut, catching him square on the chin. Gun in hand, Jason reached back and sliced forward, hoping to land a blow on his head. Too predictable however, as the asset's hand went up to block the strike. He answered with several punches to Jason's exposed side and ribs, causing him to stagger back and drop the gun. For a brief moment, the two assassins were separated and both swayed back and forth in their ready stances, waiting for a gap in the other's defense to fall. The asset feinted a few strikes and Jason responded by backing up and replying. The other man finally threw a real punch at Jason's jaw, which he deflected and dodged. In the split second that he was still recovering from his failed strike, Jason struck out at his inner knee. It buckled as he cried in pain, and he retreated with his other leg, but not before Jason grabbed both his shoulders and planted his own foot behind the asset's retreating foot. Jason spun into his outstretched foot and pushed him, causing him to lose balance over Jason's leg and crash into the ground, hard. With a hand still on the asset's shoulder, Jason drew back and crashed his fist across the man's jaw once, twice, three times, before he blocked and tried to shove Jason off his chest. Jason grabbed the hand used to shove him off, and rolled sideways off of him, bringing the asset's arm across his body and rolling him onto his stomach. Jason's legs anchored themselves on top of the prone man's back, and Jason wrenched upwards with his hands while arching his own back, hyperextending the asset's arm and with a crack, dislocating it. He screamed, in pain. Jason moved his foot off of his back and jammed his heel into the asset's throat, crushing his windpipe. He began to thrash about as his oxygen depleted, but Jason held steady. About a minute later, the asset lay still.
A cell phone rang, and Jason realized it must have been the asset's. A quick search of his pockets produced a small cell phone. The number was blocked, but Jason guessed it was his handler asking for a status update. He opened it.
"Hello, Jason. You really have a way with interfering in my plans, don't you?" It was Dewey.
"From what I remember, that was kind of my job," Jason replied casually.
"It sure is. Fortunately, my job is in the intelligence department, so I always have a contingency plan."
A loud explosion drew Jason's attention to the window, and he ran to it. On the street below, a massive fire had started in the street. Thick black smoke was pouring from the windows of a car that Jason assumed had to be Durham's. The explosion had stopped other cars around it, backing up traffic for quite some ways. Internally, Jason was furious and frustrated. He had let Durham die, and with him his only source that might reveal something about his past.
"Jason, if you remembered who Durham really was, what he did to you, you would be trying to kill him too. Why don't you come in so that we can talk this over, you know, clear the air between us? But not now, I'm in the middle of an operation."
"What he did?"
"Like I said, come in and we can sort this whole mess out. All I want is to talk."
"How can I be sure it's not a trap?" Jason pressed.
"I suppose you can't. There seems to be a misunderstanding between us, you seem to think I want to kill you. No, no, that's not it at all. I want to recruit you, so that we can continue the work we were doing before."
"And what was Greece? Another misunderstanding? I'd die before working with you," Jason spat angrily.
"Have it your way, then. But you'll be seeing things my way pretty soon, Jason. I left a package for you in the hotel mailroom as a token of good faith. I hope it will change your mind about me."
"Don't bet on it."
"Jason, what the hell happened?" Nicky exclaimed, worried. "Coms went down and I couldn't tell what was happening."
"I'm fine, but Dewey was prepared for us. The plan was never to assassinate him at range, it was always a car bomb all along. It looks like Heather was fed false information, or maybe she lied intentionally. Either way, we can't trust her now."
"What's that?" she asked gesturing to the briefcase Jason was carrying under his arm.
"A present from Dewey. He said it would change my mind about him, make me realize that Durham needed to die."
He moved his hand to the latch but Nicky quickly covered his hand with hers. "Wait! How do you know the case is clean?"
Jason didn't answer as he flipped the latches and opened the briefcase.