A/N1: There will be a lot of time jumps with part 2.
A/N2: A posteriori comes from Latin and literally translates as "from the latter" or "from the one behind." It is knowledge gained through experience.
Chapter 17: A Posteriori
"I think I'm being followed."
A quarter mile away, sitting at a table at an outdoor café that looked out over the coast of the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean collided, Jack picked up his cup of espresso as he asked, "Can you identify the tail?"
"He's tall, dark hair, probably American. Looks like he could be ex-military."
Directly below the hill where the café sat was the winding road Route de la Plage Merkala which led to the harbor, Nouveau Port de Pêche. From his seat, Jack could see down the road to the port. Will would have cleared the port security and be heading to the dirt path that led up the side of the hills and into the section on Tangier called Marshan. He finished the coffee then grabbed the newspaper and stuck it under his arm. He slipped on the sunglasses as he left the café.
The sun was high in the sky and even with the breeze coming in off the water that swayed the palm trees, it was still hot. A dry heat that was common during the summers in North Africa. Wearing a thin beige linen slacks and jacket with a blue button-up shirt, he mixed in with the locals and tourists as he started toward Will's location.
"I'm headed to you. Don't break from your path. I want you to lead him right to me."
As he headed down the street, he walked by various different types of buildings from different eras. Morocco had a rich history of architecture given its many different occupations and influences; there were Islamic influences mixed between French and Spanish rustic with clay tiles, and art deco next to Roman. Most of the buildings were a beige or white to deflect the hot sun, but there were also many colorful colors like blue, pink and yellow that stuck out among the sea of white.
From the water, the buildings would appear that they were built one on top of the other, stacks of homes and flats stacked into the hills. There were spectators sitting on the rocks on top of Tombeaux Phéniciens, or "Phoenician" tombs. Some were taking in the graves while others were admiring the view on such a beautiful day. Stone walls were everywhere and he had to go around many of them to get to the bottom. Once he broke out of the buildings and saw nothing in front of him but the road, grass and the blue of the ocean, he looked to his right and saw Will, backpack on his back, walking along the path.
Further down and following was the man Will had spotted. He wore blue jeans and a white t-shirt under a black windbreaker, sunglasses, and had a bag slung over his left shoulder. His dark hair was cut short and his right arm swung loosely at his side.
Jack turned and walked back between the buildings and rested against a wall that had line of sight on Will and his tail. "Keep coming. Walk right by me without stopping, like you don't even notice."
"That's kind-of hard seeing how I love the way you look in linen."
He tried not to smile but failed as he opened the paper and started reading. In Tangier, much like most places in Morocco, they had signs, menus, and newspapers written in Arabic, French, and Spanish. He had the French paper and was only using it as a prop as Will walked by him without so much as a glance backwards.
Jack counted to ten in his head and then turned right into the path of the man, hooked his arm with his and spun him into the wall. He spotted the gun in the small of his back and grabbed it and shoved it into his back.
The man stilled and said, "Don't shoot. I'm not a threat."
Will was right; he was an American. Jack jerked him to the left as he told him, "Move, and we'll see." The man did as he was told and moved off the wall to his left. "Keep following my friend."
They followed Will up the hill and into a white building and headed up the thin staircase to the top floor and down to the last flat on the far right that overlooked the port. It was a single bedroom flat with only a main room and kitchen combo, the bathroom was off the kitchen and the bedroom off the living room. There was a french door that opened up to a balcony. In the living room was a sofa, table, radio and a couple of chairs.
Shoving the man inside, Jack heard Will shut the door and lock it behind him as he told the man, "Sit down in the chair furthest from the balcony."
The man pulled out the chair at the table and sat. Will went to the bedroom where he dropped the bag and came back out with several zip-ties. Once the man's arms were secured to the chair, Jack finally lowered the gun and then searched him. He removed his cell phone from his pocket and the watch off his wrist and tossed them both on the table. There were no earpieces in his ears.
Will sat in the other chair on the other side of the table and grabbed the phone and the watch. He took the cell phone apart and then popped the back off the watch and checked it. "They're clean," he told him.
Then Will picked up the deck of cards that they'd left on the table. Appearing very nonchalant, he shuffled them and then started playing a game of Solitaire. Jack had told Will if he ever wanted to stay in the room if he had to question someone, to not interfere and to do some mundane task. He chose to play cards. It was disarming but also jarring to the man who sat in the chair and looked between the both of them. He appeared confused and uncertain of what was going to happen, and that was exactly what Jack wanted.
The man looked at him as he said, "My name is Tom-"
"I'll ask the questions," he said as he stared at him before going into the kitchen.
He poured two glasses of water and sat one down in front of Will before taking a sip of the other. It was hot. The man was sweaty and there was no air conditioning in the room. He could open the balcony door, turn on the fan and let in the breeze. He could...but, he wouldn't.
He sat the water down on the table, just out of reach of the man's restrained hand, and then asked, "Now, you can tell me your full name."
"Your passport and identification will confirm that, I'm sure."
"And the dog tags around my neck," Tom told him.
Jack's eyes went up at that. Will had also been right about him being former military. Jack had never taught Will how to tell the ethnicity, nationality, nor possible occupation by clothing, stature, hair-cuts, or whatever the case may be, but Will had a knack for being right most all the time in his observations of people.
He was reminded again about Mexico and learning that Will could quite possibly have been a test subject of Project Christmas. He had yet to breach the subject to Will, wanting to be absolutely certain before doing so, and today was one more indication to him that Will was, in fact, a trained sleeper agent. He was too quick, and too good, not to have been. What worried him was another possibility of who he really was. If he was right, Will had a more serious problem than just being a trained sleeper agent as a kid.
Walking over to Tom, Jack moved his hand under the collar of the shirt and felt the chain. He pulled it out and looked at the dog tags. "Thomas Grace. U.S. Army." Giving him a once over, he reached out and moved his sleeves up on his shirt until he saw the tattoo on his left shoulder. "Special Forces. The tattoo isn't fake, not new ink…You might be exactly who you say you are, Mr. Grace. Why were you following my friend?"
Tom smirked slightly. "I didn't know he was your friend or else I would've been more careful, Mr. Bristow. Or do you want me to call you Jack?"
Jack stared at him for a long moment and glanced over at Will who looked up at him in surprise and shook his head. "How do you know who I am?"
"The same way I know you're a former Alliance member and are currently tracking Julian Sark in an effort to find Arvin Sloane. I've been tracking you since San Pedro, which you didn't make easy. I had help."
He was surprised by how forthcoming Tom was being. A little too forthcoming. Tom wasn't afraid, just confused. And that concerned him. Even though the phone and the watch were clear of any tracking devices, that didn't mean he didn't have one on him or in him.
He gestured Will to the door and said, "Check the hallway."
Will was up and at the door as Jack pulled the gun back out.
"We aren't a threat," Tom restated and Jack tensed at the word "we".
Will stopped at the door and moved off to the side as they heard a knocking. It was soft but urgent. Jack gave a nod as he stood off to the side and raised the gun. The door opened to a young woman wearing a modest outfit and black hijab. She held her hands up as she entered the room.
Once Will had the door shut and locked, he checked her for a gun. "She's clean," he told him before he leaned against the door and crossed his arms.
Jack lowered the gun to his waist as she unwrapped the hijab. She was a blonde-haired American with hazel eyes. She looked at Tom and her arms wavered as she said, "I'm Rachel Gibson. I'm a computer specialist and Tom's...friend."
He looked her over and told her, "Sit down, Miss Gibson."
She crossed over to the chair where Will had been sitting and sat down. Her eyes went to Tom and then looked back at him. "We're after the same thing."
"And what's that?" Jack asked.
"Arvin Sloane. Specifically, Prophet Five."
"How do you know about Prophet Five?"
She looked at Tom who looked at her and gave a nod as he said, "It's okay. Tell him."
Looking back at him, she told him, "I work for them."
Jack looked at Tom and then at Rachel as he asked, "A computer specialist wouldn't go too far without a laptop. Where is it?"
She blushed slightly as she said, "I sat my bag down in the hallway by the door."
Will opened the door and looked around and returned with her bag. He shut the door and took it into the kitchen.
"Will," he warned. "Check it first before you open it."
"I assure you it's not a bomb," Tom said from the chair.
"I don't care what you assure me," Jack said as he stared at him. Once Will checked the bag and opened it, he pulled out a laptop and brought it to him. "Table," he said.
Will sat it on the table and opened it. "Log in," he told Rachel.
She typed in her password and Jack noticed her hands were shaking slightly. Tom still sat comfortably and calmly in the chair as he didn't try to distract him or make a move to escape. He didn't act like his life was threatened, or that he himself was a threat. Will and Rachel went back and forth as they brought up the files on her laptop and she logged into a secure network.
"Jack," Will said as he moved out of the way to show him what was on the screen.
Looking over, he saw a network that was directly associated with Prophet Five and known as The Shed. It was based out of Prague. Rachel hit a couple more keys and brought up a file. It was a file on him. Jack looked at the information and realized that they had classified him as a direct threat. She then typed in Thomas Grace and up popped his file as well. He was also classified as a threat as well but in red across his picture was the word "eliminated".
"You're presumed dead?" Jack asked as he looked over at Tom.
Tom gave a nod as he said, "They thought they killed me in Tehran. Thanks to Miss Gibson, they didn't succeed."
"You're a double agent? Who else are you working for?" Jack asked Rachel.
She looked around at all of them and then said, "Myself. I'm not affiliated with anyone except Tom. We met in Prague and he told me the truth about The Shed. I didn't want to believe him but then I did as he asked and dug deeper into my employer's history and our network. That's when I discovered that Tom was right. The Shed is a branch of Prophet Five and they are a group of terrorists, criminals. That was six months ago. Since then, we've been working together."
Jack looked over at Tom as he asked, "Are you a rogue soldier looking for another war to fight, or are you affiliated with a government?"
Tom stared at him as he said, "The former. It's personal." After a moment, when all he did was look at him, he explained, "They killed my wife."
"It's revenge you're after?" he asked.
Tom worked his jaw and looked away. "Isn't that enough? If they killed your friend, would you not go after them?"
Jack looked at Will and knew his answer. Experience has taught him a lot over the years of who could and couldn't be trusted. He felt no distrust coming from either Tom nor Rachel. He had also learned to accept help when it was presented. Tom and Rachel were there now due to the fact that they also needed the help. There was no other reason.
He stuck the gun behind his back and then walked into the kitchen. He grabbed a knife and returned to stand in front of Tom. "Don't make me regret this," he said before he cut the zip-ties.
Tom rubbed his wrists as he gave him a nod. "You won't."
"There's one more file you should see," Rachel said as she typed another name into the system.
Jack tensed as he saw Will's photo popup and read it over. Will stood next to him and froze as he read it. Looking over at Will, he saw his concern and confusion at the words "Possible Ally".
"What is that? I don't-..." Will shook his head as he stepped away. "Why do they think I might be an ally?" he asked Rachel. "I don't understand. Jack?" he asked as he looked at him in sudden fear. "They think they can get me to turn on you?! My friends?! Are they crazy?!"
"From my understanding," Rachel said as she looked at him. "They believe there's a chance that they can get you to turn, yes."
"They're wrong," Will told her in anger. "I would never." He looked around and landed his eyes on him and said, "You know that."
Jack saw the sudden tears in his eyes and nodded, telling him, "I know that. This is what they think, Will. For them, you're a variable. That's all. They don't know you like I do."
He gave a nod but didn't seem too satisfied. Wiping his eyes, Will looked at Rachel and Tom and asked, "Uh, would you two like some water? Or tea...coffee?"
"I'll take a glass of water," Rachel said.
"Coffee," said Tom as he glared up at Jack. "You know that was a dick move with the water, right?"
Jack watched as Will went into the kitchen as he picked up the glass of water. "Of course I did," he told Tom before taking a drink.
Tom looked at Will and then back at him as he asked in a soft conspiraling tone, "You believe what you said? There's no chance of him turning?"
He glared down at Tom as he sat the glass on the table. The ex-soldier was staring to make him feel mean. Leaning down to him, he said, "Absolutely not. And if you doubt that, I can show you out the door," he said, making that statement as the threat it intended to be.
They stared at one another for a moment before Tom gave a nod. "Just checking."
A while later, Jack had all the information Rachel could tell him about The Shed, her boss Gordon Dean, and what she knew of Prophet Five. He had more names that he added to the list as well as locations of facilities and known associates. "Who's this?" he asked as he brought up a file.
"That's Luc Goursad. He's a scientist."
"Will," Jack said as he turned the laptop to face him. "Does he look familiar?"
Will looked up and once he saw the picture, he nodded. "We met him. Remember, in uh...the Azores?"
Jack suddenly remembered the man who'd been on a vacation with his daughter that they had met nearly a month ago.
Rachel allowed Jack to use her laptop to ensure transparency and as he typed, searching through all the information on Luc Goursad, she told him, "The reason Tom and I are here is because of Kazari Bomani and his brother Lazarus. You stumbled across their connection to Prophet Five in San Pedro when they secured an arms deal with Julian Sark. We were already watching Kazari. I headed back to Prague while Tom made his way here on his own. Then two days ago, we met up because we discovered that the Bomani brothers had a deal going down with the weapons that were acquired through Sark."
Jack gave a nod as he said, "We want to confiscate one of those weapons and put a tracker on the rest and see where they go."
Tom looked at Will as he said, "That's why you were in the port?"
Will nodded. He had Jack's laptop open on the table next to Rachel's and was monitoring the port's secure network. "I was able to plant a decryption device and secure wifi uh...thing, into the server. Sorry, I'm not a hacker. Jack gave me the equipment and told me what to do."
Tom smiled at him and said, "As long as it worked."
"It worked. I have the shipping manifests and access to their credentials. We can easily make these."
"You can make fake ID's?" Tom asked.
"We even have a laminating machine," Will said as he looked up at Tom. "How'd you think we're able to keep changing identities?"
"Good point. I took a couple of security uniforms. I thought it would be me and Rachel going in, but with you two...That changes my plan. What'd you think?" Tom asked as he looked over at him.
Jack glanced up at him and then at Rachel. He worked over a new strategy in his head a moment before getting up and going over to the semi-schematic map of the port that he'd pinned to the wall. "Rachel will stay here as our overwatch. Will, you and Tom will infiltrate the port, locate the shipping container with the weapons and set the trackers while acquiring one of them for us. I'll be here, stationed on the roof."
"You're staying here?" Tom asked. "On the roof?"
He looked at Tom and said, "That's what I said. You'll leave at sunset." Checking his watch, he said, "We have two hours."
Two hours later, Jack sat on the roof of the building as he listened to the Maghrib prayer sounding over the city from the nearby mosque. He wasn't muslim, but he always did enjoy hearing the rhythmic prayers being sung out from the minerates toward Mecca whenever he got a chance to hear them. In its own way, the prayer was quite soothing.
Pulling up the binoculars, he watched as Will and Tom, dressed in security uniforms, neared the entrance to the port. He sat the binoculars down and then opened the case next to him. He quickly assembled the M24 SWS sniper rifle and secured the scope to the top and brought it up to zero in the sights. The M24 had been the U.S. Army's standard sniper rifle since 1988. As he positioned the rifle on the table in front of him and looked through the telescopic night vision scope, he was reminded of his early days with the CIA. In those days he had a XM21 SWS, which was a modified, renamed, M14 rifle which had a maximum effective range with scope of 900 yards. The M24 max range with scope was 1,640 yards. He also had the option of putting a silencer can on the front of it.
He really liked the M24.
Jack checked his comms as he asked Rachel. "Test 1 Overwatch. Can you hear me? Over."
"Roger. Read you loud and clear, Nighthawk," she told him.
He then said, "Sound off Tiger 1 and 2."
Will's voice came in first as he said, "We're good. Over."
"All clear, Nighthawk. Don't forget your glasses. Over."
Jack spotted Tom through the scope and saw him glance back in his direction. Why did he have to be such a smartass? "You're all clear. Keep the comms open."
He watched as Will looked back and then straight ahead as he neared the gate. Jack watched through the scope as they presented their credentials and answered a few questions before being let through. He then swept the area and saw several men, five in total, with rifles slung over their shoulders near the freighters where the shipping containers were being loaded.
He informed both Will and Tom of the guards and then told them, "I'll only have a clear shot between the rows for the first six, anything beyond that you'll have to get the guards out in the open, preferably behind the containers furthest from the ship, for me to have a clear shot at taking them down."
"Roger that, Nighthawk," Tom said.
Will turned to Tom as they approached the shipping containers. "Do you want to split up?"
Tom hesitated a moment as his eyes took in the area. "Yeah. That might make this go faster. Container 52233?"
He gave a nod as he felt a tightness in his chest. Will really didn't want to split up, but it would be the best course of action. There were a lot of containers and even though he had access to the shipping manifest, he had no idea where in the maze of containers 52233 was located. He only knew which freighter it had been loaded off of. There were only two in port and the first freighter that had been unloaded was the one they were interested in.
Tom gave him a look and said, "You good?"
Letting out a breath, he nodded. "I'm good. Just...walking the perimeter." Will started off to his right, going around the back of the containers while Tom went off to the left. He would be going around the front which was closest to where the ships were moored.
Using his flashlight, he started checking the numbers printed along the sides. Will would click it off whenever he saw someone coming toward him. He would give a brief nod in passing and kept moving, even if it meant having to pass up a row. Once the real guard was gone, he turned back and checked the containers he missed. The longer he was exposed in the open, the worse the ache in his chest grew.
It wasn't from fear, but something else entirely. The ache also felt familiar. Adrenaline but also anticipation? Was that it? Was he anticipating something? His five senses seemed enhanced from the adrenaline rushing through his body. His hearing was clearer, his eyes sharper, and reflexes faster as he worked his way along the back rows. Maybe he was just imagining the clarity that focused his mind and made him suddenly less afraid and more confident. He didn't want to be too self-assured, but he felt enough of it that his hand no longer shook. Was this what Jack felt when he was on a mission?
He heard a noise and stopped as he turned around. Standing still, he flicked off the flashlight and listened. What did he hear? Will had no weapon. Tom had his gun, which Jack had given back to him. Gripping the flashlight tighter in his right hand, he neared a corner of one of the rows of shipping containers and heard the sound again.
It sounded like metal on metal? A clunking, clank sound, like a chain. Peering around the corner, he saw a guard at a container in the middle row chaining up the door. When he turned and spotted him, he grabbed his rifle and started toward him.
"Target moving towards me from between the containers," he whispered as he backed away.
As the guard exited from between the containers, he said something in Arabic as he raised the rifle. Will blinked as he heard a whistling noise and then the side of the man's head jerked at an odd angle as his body dropped to the concrete pavement.
He blinked down at the dead guard as he heard Jack's voice in his head.
"Take his rifle, keys, and check the container he was locking up."
Will stepped over to the body and took the keys and rifle off him. He looked down at him and then grabbed his legs and pulled him back into the shadows between the containers. There was no exit wound and the man died instantly, limiting the amount of blood.
He stepped over the dead guard and hurried to the middle container. It took him about a minute as he tried several keys before he found the right one. As he unlocked the container, he heard another noise and raised the rifle as he saw a shadow move and then Tom was rounding the corner.
Will let out a breath and pulled the chain off the door as Tom lit up the numbers on the side. 52233. Tom smiled at him as he said, "Nice work."
They got the doors open and he handed the rifle to Tom as he stood guard. Will stepped into the container as he pulled the tracking devices out of his pocket. He had five in total and there were six crates. After attaching one to each of the five crates, he grabbed the sixth one and opened it. Inside was a long missile. It looked highly dangerous and not something he should handle without care.
Putting the lid back on it, he said, "I'm going to need a little help."
Tom moved back into the container and grabbed one side of it as he grabbed the other side. Together they managed to lift it and carry it out of the shipping container. It wasn't as heavy as it appeared. In fact, it was surprisingly light.
After placing it on the ground, Will went to lock up when Rachel spoke into his ear, "There's a guard coming. Tom, behind you on the left."
"Jack?" Tom asked as he raised the rifle. "If I have to fire this thing, our cover will be blown."
"I don't have a clear shot. Two seconds."
Tom stepped out between the containers and right into the guard; he muttered an apology as he knocked him in the shoulder, forcing the guard to turn and follow him. Will heard the guard say something as he started following Tom. He continued to listen as Tom led the guard back down between the containers.
Will followed their voices and stopped at the edge of the container and saw Tom standing out in the open. The guard stepped out and said something again, which Will was certain was "who are you?" in Arabic before the guard's body jerked as it went limp and he hit the ground.
Will looked up, toward the buildings as he said mostly to himself, "They're going to know something's up with all these dead guards."
"Let me handle that," Tom said as he took the keys from him and went to another locked container.
He watched as he searched the keys until he unlocked it. After he got the door opened, he grabbed the dead guard and dragged him over into the container. Will grabbed the other guard, the first one Jack killed, and dragged him back to where Tom was waiting. Once both guards were in the container, and both containers were locked up, they grabbed the crate and started moving.
They didn't leave the port as Will directed Tom across the shipyard. The area between the shipyard and the next dock over was covered in darkness. There were no lights to illuminate the empty open area. There were rows of building materials and slabs of concrete, stacks of brick, and rows of steel beams in preparation for a construction project that hadn't gotten off the ground yet.
As they neared the road, he heard Jack's voice in his ear, "You have two cars en-route. They'll be rounding the corner in less than a minute."
Will looked up and spotted the car's headlights as they whipped around the corner. They were coming back from the shipyard, meaning they were on their way out of the port. They sat the crate down and Tom sat on top of it as he pulled out a cigarette.
"You smoke?" Will asked.
"Only when I need to act like I'm taking a smoke break. Want one," Tom asked as he offered on to him as the first car passed by.
The second car stopped. The passenger window rolled down and the driver, a bald African man leaned over and glared at them. He spoke English. "What are you two doing away from the ship? I'm not paying you to sit on your ass."
Will realized it was Kazari Bomani. The driver of the other car could have been his brother Lazarus. "Sorry, sir," he said and realized he maybe shouldn't have spoken English.
Kazari stared at him and said, "You're an American?"
He suddenly laughed and spoke with a French accent as he said, "That was good, oui? I told you I could fool anyone with that accent." He slapped Tom's shoulder in jest and Tom chuckled and shook his head as he reached into his pocket. He pulled out some money and he held it up to him. Will took the money and showed it to Kazari as he said, "I won the bet."
Kazari stared at him a moment longer before telling them, "Get back to work or you will be fish bait by morning."
Will swallowed hard and stuffed the money in his pocket as Kazari rolled up the window. Once the car was out of sight, he told Tom, "I'm keeping the money. I earned that."
Tom was still laughing as he stood. "Where are we going with this?"
Pointing over to where the personal yachts were moored on the next dock, Will told him, "The Rendezvous."
"You're out of sight of all the cameras and there haven't been any alerts from the security alarms," Rachel told them. "I think we're in the clear."
It took them another ten minutes to get around the dock. Will was sweating and felt ready to collapse as they got to the yacht. They sat the crate down on the dock and he wiped his forehead with his arm and gave a nod. "Well, that was fun."
Tom looked over the boat as he smiled and said, "You're putting this on your boat?"
"No other choice. Don't worry, it won't be for long. We didn't plan to confiscate a missile without having a plan on what we were going to do with it." Will looked over Tom's shoulder and gestured his head behind him.
Tom looked over his shoulder and saw Rachel and Jack approaching. They were carrying all the bags, including the rifle case. As he approached, Jack asked, "Any complications?"
He shook his head. "None."
"Nice shooting," Tom shot at Jack as he walked by. "Were you Special Forces?"
Jack gave him a kiss before glancing at Tom and said, "No. What to come along? We can drop you off anywhere you want along the Mediterranean between here and Italy."
Will watched as Tom and Rachel checked in with one another with only a look. He had a feeling they were more than just "friends".
"Spain would be great. I can catch a flight back to Prague from Madrid," Rachel said as she handed over her bag to Jack and he helped her onto the deck. "And I have a lead on Gordon Dean's second in command in Portugal. Tom should be able to handle that on his own if you two have something else going on."
Tom managed to get on himself as Will stood and looked at the crate with the missile. He heard Jack tell Rachel, "We do, actually. We'll be going after Luc Goursad."
Looking up at the people standing around on the deck of the yacht, he said, "Can I get some help?"
Jack looked over at him and then at the crate before jumping back down. Together, along with Tom's help from the deck, they were able to get the crate up and onto the deck.
After strapping it down, they got underway with Jack at the helm.
It only took them a little over an hour to reach Algeciras, Spain where they said goodbye to Tom and Rachel. Jack and Rachel had set up the same communications procedure as they used with Sydney in order to keep in contact. Will thought it felt good to actually finally have more allies in their fight against the former Alliance members who'd escaped apprehension by the CIA and FBI, and those who were associated with this Prophet Five group.
Jack said he would inform the CIA once he had enough information and knew who the CIA mole was, besides Hayden Chase, but at the moment they were no closer to identifying the mole. Not even with access to Rachel's Prophet Five network were they able to identify the mystery person.
He was reminded of the file that Prophet Five had on him and he couldn't help but be enraged by the knowledge that the terrorist group actually considered him a possible ally. They obviously thought he was that weak-minded or willed, or they didn't really know him.
As Jack steered them further down the Mediterranean as the sun was starting to rise, he got up off the bow of the boat and walked back to him at the helm. Grabbing him by the back of his neck, he pulled Jack into a deep hungry kiss. When he left him go, Jack stood staring at him in shock but with a goofy looking smile on his face.
"I will never turn on you," he told him.
Jack gave a nod as he told him, "I know."
"Good," he told him before he switched on the autopilot and then pushed Jack until he fell back into the seat. He leaned down and kissed him again before dropping to his knees.
Jack never took his eyes off him; not even when he took him in his mouth. Jack was incredibly quiet in most all things he did, sex was no exception. He really didn't know how he did it. There was a restraint he had that Will didn't understand. It persisted even when it shouldn't've. He wondered if he would ever figure out a way to make Jack plead and beg the way he did to him all the time.
He did tell him a while later, after he regained his ability to breathe, "I love the way you do that."
Will kissed up his chest, over his neck and jaw, as Jack pulled him against him and held him for a long moment as he rested his head on his shoulder. Will then felt Jack's hand slipped inside his shorts hand wrap around him as he kissed his neck.
Sometime later, Will had no idea because time didn't matter when they were on the boat, he spotted land. It was an island in the middle of the Meditterranean that they were headed towards. All he knew was that the island was where they would be unloading the crate into the possession of someone named Bini.
Tuili, Sardinia, Italy
Jack leaned against the entryway into the small little house in the middle of Tuili. Around the house was a cement block wall that barely reached his height, and he stared past the wall, beyond the open field, and to the hills and mountains in the distance as the sunset. In his hand was a hot cup of coffee with a little whiskey mixed in it thanks to Charles, Bini's husband. He had left the bottle for him before leaving him and Will alone.
Bini and Charles owned and operated a bed and breakfast in town. The little house off a dirt road in the middle of a field had been a hideaway in Bini's family for decades, having been built during times of uncertainty and war when Allied forces bombed the hell out of Sardinia, especially the city of Cagliari during World War II. Dug into the ground under the concrete and clay house was a bomb shelter. It was in that bomb shelter where they stored the crate with the missile until they could get Bini's nephew who worked at the Salto di Quirra to come out and inspect it.
Before the war, a lot of the island had been uninhabited and untouched from modern society. There were still sculptures and ruins standing from the Bronze Age and structures and relics from the Roman occupation and Spanish conquest. The Judiest.
Then the modern era entered and post-World War II Sardinia became home to military bases, like Decimomannu Air Base and Salto di Quirra, which was the biggest scientific military base in Europe. Currently sixty percent of all Italian and NATO military installations in Italy were on Sardinia. And they used its uninhabited areas to test their experimental weapons. Not all of the areas, but enough of it.
During the 1970's, Sardinian nationalism and local protest movements generated momentum and power as a number of bandits-called anonima sarda-started a long series of kidnappings, which ended only in the 1990's. Because of the political unrest, various militant groups including Barbagia Rossa and the Sardinian Armed Movement perpetrated several bombings and terrorist actions between the 1970's and the 1980's. From 1987 to 1988, there were 224 bombing attacks reported.
It had since quieted, and the movements have all but died down, and, like what always happens, the town's people rebuilt and moved on. Now Sardinia was considered a tourist destination. He had met Bini and Charles during the time of uncertainty and destruction during the late eighties. He'd been working his way across Europe, generating contacts and associates as the criminal Jack Donahue. But also along the way he'd generated a genuine friendship with some locals, like Charles and Bini, willing to offer a foreigner a helping hand.
He'd spent many long quiet days and even longer quiet nights in the little house during the winter of '88. As he stood in the house now, he felt as far removed from civilization as humanly possible. If he had it his way, if his life had been different, and if he didn't feel such an obligation to his sense of duty, he would have stayed there in that house for the rest of his days.
It had electricity, a wood burning fireplace, a small kitchen with only a two burner stove and an oven big enough for a loaf of bread to bake, a small refrigerator, and a bathroom with working plumbing. There was no separate room for the bedroom as the bed was near a far wall and the windows were square and tiny and had shutters made from wood over them which could be pushed out and propped open.
It was rustic, solitary, and dark when the sun set over the mountains with only the glow from the fire lighting the room. He could turn on the single light bulb hanging from a wire going across the ceiling, but the fluorescent light seemed intrusive in the middle of nowhere. Besides, he didn't want to wake Will.
Looking over, he watched as Will slept in the middle of the full sized bed. It had been a long couple days and one of the reasons why he picked Tuili, besides needing a place to store the crate, was that they needed rest and refuge. They couldn't get too comfortable anywhere, and they also couldn't think they would always be safe on the yacht either.
They could afford a little break from time to time with a normal bed and running water, solid ground under their feet, and time to regroup and plan. They had leads, more names, and big picture consequences making themselves known with each passing day. It was big, huge, whatever Prophet Five was doing, Jack could feel it. This wasn't simple criminal activity. Arvin Sloane wasn't a simple criminal or terrorist. He was a big picture guy. He wanted the world. His ego wouldn't let him desire anything less.
He needed time to plan out his next moves and think about any and all contingencies. In a perfect world, that would be all he needed: a plan. However, he'd been taught early on with the CIA that the best field agents were improvisers. The ones who could develop and make their own plays and their own rules while on the run. "Conform, and you are dead. Adapt, and you live to play the game another day." His instructor at the CIA "Farm" had not only taught him that most invaluable lesson, but was living proof as he had been a soldier during WW2 and then a field agent for the CIA from 1950 to 1968. He lived through the height of the Cold War, and had been a developer of the first Eastern Bloc spy network. He learned a great deal from the man.
Will had been through a lot in such a short amount of time. He still struggled some nights to sleep due to the torture he endured in Taipei. He had his entire life uprooted and flipped around and completely destroyed. Yet, through it all he had remained strong, and resilient, and adaptable. He took it all mostly in stride and continued on. And the thing was, he wanted it. Will accepted the risks and the responsibility. He wanted to walk side-by-side through the darkness with him, and not wait for him on the other side in the light.
It was something he'd always wanted and had thought he had before with Laura. He thought he had a true confidant, a true ally in this crazy and dangerous world of the spy game, only for it all to be a lie and delusion. A brutal betrayal. Knowing Will could be a sleeper agent had both unnerved him but also interested him.
It unnerved him because of the file about Will on Prophet Five's network. If he was activated by the wrong people, he would be a very dangerous enemy. It interested him because if activated by the right person, he could be a very valuable asset.
However, that wasn't his only concern. His concern was the fact that Will had seemed, through his actions and adaptability now, that this wasn't anything new. The way he used his gun in Taipei wasn't due to the training as a kid, but muscle memory of using it before. The way he picked up on the fact that Thomas Grace was ex-military and American wasn't due to the training as a kid, but actual acquired knowledge a spy learned while in the field.
He had a very strong and unsettling instinctive feeling that Will had already been an active operative. He just needed to prove it before he confronted Will about his suspicions. Another thing that unsettled him was the obvious fact that Will had no idea.
There could have been any number of reasons, but the most logical were either amnesia or memory repression. He didn't like either of those options, but they were the only two he could think of that weren't another huge betrayal. The third option was that there was no amnesia, no memory repression, and that Will knew what he was and was lying to him.
He couldn't believe the third option. He refused to believe it. There was no manipulation coming from Will. He'd learned from Irina how to spot a spy in his bed. Will wasn't one.
However, life was never what he wanted it to be. He couldn't rule it out completely, no matter how much it hurt. In Vietnam, he had learned one essential truth about himself and his life and that was he was his only savior. There was no one else on earth or in the Heavens that was going to save him. If he didn't do it himself, he was as good as dead.
As he looked at Will sleeping peacefully, he realized that if Will ever did turn out to be his enemy, if he ever did turn on him in an attempt to end his life, that it would be the first and only time he would welcome death.
Not only because he wouldn't be able to bring himself to kill Will, but because he would have been the damn fool who'd fallen for his greatest enemy twice. If that ended up being the case, then his death would have been well deserved.
He really hoped it didn't come to that.
Will jerked in his sleep. Jack took a drink of the coffee/whiskey blend and watched as Will had another fit as he jerked again and then held his breath before gasping out for breath before jerking himself awake. This behavior had been a constant for months, mostly after a mission. Will never told him what he was dreaming about, or why he would hold his breath, but Jack had his suspicions.
Will rubbed his face and head. He always complained of a headache afterwards. Looking over at him, he blinked in confusion before clarity set in and he smiled slightly. He got out of bed, walked over to him and wrapped his arms around his waist.
Jack leaned back into him and shut his eyes slightly at the embrace. Will then took his drink from his hand and watched as his face contorted out of surprise before he swallowed.
"Isn't it too late or early or something for whiskey and coffee?"
Jack took another drink and shrugged. "I'm too wound up to sleep and too tired to be awake."
"I guess in that case it's the perfect combination." Will relaxed into him for a moment, gave him a kiss on his neck, and then let go of him as he walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water out.
He turned around and watched as Will leaned against the counter and took a sip of the water. Jack didn't know how to talk to Will about his suspicions unless he just came right out with it, but at the moment that could be the worst thing to do. It could cause him to retreat even more, or worse, making him resent him.
For the last three months he'd been attempting to help Will work through everything with the use of meditation. However, Will would start the practice and then become defensive and stop abruptly. He noticed that that was Will's fallback response to everything. It was another reason why he knew something was deeply wrong with Will. No one was as apprehensive about focusing on their own life than Will Tippin.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked as calmly as possible.
Will shrugged, took another sip, and then pulled out a chair and sat at the small table in the middle of the room.
Jack sat down across from him and waited a few minutes, giving Will time to think and be the one to take the initiative if he wanted. He never did. "Your dream...was it Taipei?"
He watched as Will rubbed his head and deflected. "It wasn't anything. I don't remember."
It was a lie, and a common one. Jack looked at the table as he tried to figure out a way to work around Will's apprehension. It wasn't easy. He wasn't a psychologist, but he knew a lot about trauma and memories. He also knew how to interrogate. He didn't want to interrogate Will, though it did seem that way at times when it shouldn't have been.
"It helps to talk it out."
Will didn't look up at him as he twisted the bottle between his hands. His breathing was even but the twisting indicated his anger. He was getting angry. "Jack-"
"We don't have to talk about the dream. Let's work our way there. Tell me a story."
"What?" he asked in surprise.
He looked at him and leaned back in the chair as he took a sip of his drink, appearing as non-confrontational as possible. "A story. Tell me about your parents."
Will shook his head and looked away. "They were great. Very loving and open. Like I said, I shouldn't have-"
"That's not a story," he said.
"You asked me to tell you-"
"It's a summary, a generalization," he said. "I can generalize and say my father was distant and didn't love me. But, that's not a memory I have of him. Or how I know that he didn't love me by giving a specific example." Jack downed the rest of his drink as he looked over at him and told him, "When I was ten years old I learned Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano to impress my father. He'd been a struggling musician his whole life, never could get it right. I went to play it for him and he got so upset that I could play it with a single flaw that he restricted me from playing in front of him ever again. I kept playing because my mother loved it, but my father couldn't stand listening. What I realized later in life was that what he really couldn't stand was that I was better than him at something. He hated me for that. That's a story I have of my childhood. I want to hear one of yours."
Will opened the water and took another sip. He was thinking but he saw the frustration building. "I don't see why this will help. It's hard for me-"
"Will, it shouldn't be hard. It shouldn't anger you-"
"It was a difficult time in my life," he said and it was a repetitive answer Will had for not wanting to talk about his parents.
"Yes, it was," he reassured him, "but you should be able to remember the happier times. You said they were loving, how?"
Will sighed and pushed up off the table and said, "I really don't want to talk about this right now."
Jack watched him and shook his head. "Will, I'm going to tell you something and I really need you to listen to what I have to say. You deflect whenever I ask you to talk specifically about a memory. You get defensive and combative and then you change the subject or you give a generalized answer-"
"What-" Will stopped himself and then said, "I shouldn't have to prove to you that I loved my parents or that my parents loved me because you had a crappy childhood."
He was used to this by now that nothing Will shot back at him stung anymore. He realized that it was a defense mechanism and wasn't personal. He took a moment, letting them both breathe, before he continued, "That's not what this is about. This is about who you are and your memories. You asked me to help you through your trauma. When I try to, you fight me at every turn as if you really don't want to get better."
Will started pacing as he said, "I want to get better, but…"
"But something is preventing it from happening. You keep shutting down. Are you hitting a block in your mind? I can't help you if you don't tell me-"
"What does what happened in Taipei have to do with my parents, Jack?!"
He stared at him and worked out an answer that should have been satisfying to anyone else. "Both were instances of trauma. Both need to be dealt with, and remembering how your parents helped you through rough times during your childhood could help you through what you're feeling now."
Will regarded him a moment and shook his head. "I don't-It's not going to work. There's no point."
Again, Will shut the suggestion down almost instinctively instead of due to actual consideration. There was a deeply seeded fear inside Will that surrounded his entire life before the death of his parents, and Jack was fully aware of that fact now. It wasn't that Will didn't want to talk about them, it was that he couldn't.
Jack didn't think Will actually had any memories of the parents he claimed to have loved so deeply. "I want you to do me a favor. I want you to investigate someone for me."
Will's eyes lit up at that. "Yeah, sure, of course. Who is it?"
Looking at him, he said, "You."
They stared at one another a long moment and then Will shook his head in disbelief. "Me? I'm as open as anyone you've met, you told me that."
"You are, which is why it's odd how you're not being open with me about what your life was like before 1996. Will, I know about graduate school and how you met Francine. I know how you became friends with my daughter. I know about your work at the newspaper. But, you haven't told me anything prior to graduate school."
"There was that time when I learned magic. I was with Amy and our mother."
"Okay, what were you doing? Where were you?" he asked, trying to get a more descriptive response.
Will sighed again in annoyance and shrugged. "I don't know, Jack. It was a long time ago. All I know is that we were happy, Amy was there. That's it."
He gave a nod. "Anything else?"
Will rubbed at his head. "Uh, watching 'His Girl Friday'. I'm sure I saw that with my dad. We were at the movies. I was like, five or something. It's my earliest memory and my favorite memory."
He gave another nod and waited. When Will didn't say anything, he said, "You spent a little over twenty years with your parents, Will, is there anything else?"
"This is ridiculous," he said as he slammed the water bottle down and dropped his head as he rubbed it. "You don't understand how hard this is for me to think about them."
"Why is it hard? Because they died? Or because you really don't remember who they were?" He sat forward and leaned on the table as he told him, "It's possible for someone to believe that they have a real memory when in fact it's a false memory implanted in their mind. Take this memory of learning magic as a kid. How much do you want to bet me that at first you didn't remember that you learned magic as a child. I bet you realized you knew sleight-of-hand one day and Amy started talking about when you were kids how you loved magic. She talked about you learning it. She talked about it so much over time that you actually started to have a memory of learning it. Will?"
He'd gone very still and didn't look up at him as he shook his head slightly. "You're not making any sense."
"Is it more ridiculous that you only have two distinct memories of your life before you were twenty-one years old, or that I'm right?"
Will was quiet before saying, "I only dated girls in highschool. I never told my parents-"
"Do you remember those dates? Those girls? Their names? Will?" Again when he didn't say anything, Jack said, "Our minds like to lie to us all the time. They also like to fill in gaps. It's easy for those gaps to be filled when we are being told things by someone else. Someone we believe would know the truth because we believe that they were also there."
"You mean someone like Amy?" Will said as he looked over at him. In his eyes he saw a lot of questions and anger. "Jack... she's my sister. My sister!"
"Tell me, did you remember an instance from your childhood before she brought one up, or was she always the one who had to remind you of what happened to you?" he asked.
Will thought about it and then said, "This is so...You don't know what you're talking about! There is no way-"
"Despite what we want to believe, memory is highly suggestible through different techniques including guided imagery, hypnosis, and suggestion. And when confronted with evidence that a memory is false or deliberately implanted, the person who was manipulated becomes combative and defensive. Much like you have been whenever I try to bring it up. Memory repression can also cause low self-esteem, anxiety issues-"
"How do you know all this?" Will asked him as he stared over at him. "You're not a clinical psychologist."
Jack stared up at him as he took a deep breath and said, "I worked on a project many years ago with children. They were subjected to memory manipulation, and the implementation of false memories and phrases as triggers. It was called Project Christmas." He watched him very closely as he told him, "Will...I think you were one of those subjects."
Will stared at him as his body stilled and his breathing got heavier. "You-you think what?"
"Are you-Is that why they think I could be an ally, Jack?!" he suddenly yelled at him. Jack had seen Will scared before, and frustrated, but never angry. "How long have you thought this about me?"
He regarded Will a moment and then answered, "Since Mexico. You said something that was an indicator that you've been trained using Project Christmas."
Will glared at him and worked his jaw. It was tense. "I knew something-" he stopped himself and shook his head again. "You're wrong."
Jack watched as the defensiveness went back up as Will once again went back to denial. It was a repeat cycle. "I want to be. You can prove me wrong."
He turned away and gripped the edge of the counter as he tried to calm down. Then he said, "Alright, I will. I'll prove to you just how fucking ridiculous this is." Will grabbed the water bottle and walked out.
Jack didn't ask where he was going or for how long. They were in the middle of nowhere. It wasn't like Will was going to run off.
After two hours, he finally grabbed a flashlight and left in search of Will. He didn't get very far as he spotted Will the moment he opened the gate. Will was sitting in the middle of the field, staring up at the night sky. Jack clicked off the flashlight as he neared him.
Stopping next to him, he looked up and let out a deep breath. The moon was high enough in the sky to shine light over the field and the stars filled up the entire sky.
"It's not Taipei."
Jack gave a nod even though Will wasn't looking at him. He knew the dreams weren't about Taipei. If they were, Will would've been able to talk to him. The dreams scared Will, terrified him, and caused him to be apprehensive and to get angry. They were about something he didn't want to think about or know and that bothered him to the point of causing him to have nightmares.
"Do you know of the Misawa Air Force Base in Misawa, Japan?"
That confused him as he looked down at Will. Will had his eyes on the sky still. "I have heard of it."
"Have you ever been there?"
"I think I have." Will turned his head to look up at him then. "I never knew about the base, never even heard of it. Nothing, Jack, but I see it in my dreams. I let you believe that my insomnia and nightmares were about Taipei but they aren't. I feel nothing when I think of Taipei and what happened to me. I don't even regret killing that guard. It doesn't bother me. What bothers me is Japan. It's like I'm being haunted by a memory I have no memory of. With my other memories, they are vague and distant. I don't feel anything when I think about them. They're just there. But this one. It's...I feel afraid. I feel angry. So...it has to be real."
Jack had sat down while Will had been talking, and he looked over at him as he asked, "What happens in this dream?"
Will looked away and out across the field as he said, "It's not what happens, but what I'm certain did happen. It's a memory, Jack. I know it is. There was a man. He was a fighter pilot. United States Air Force Lieutenant. Name on his uniform was…Richards. I see him so clearly...I hear his voice. A voice I don't recall ever hearing before in my entire life, but I know it. We're walking, talking, he's showing me something...A plane or a weapon. Then... he's-" his voice caught as he shook his head. Reaching up, he rubbed his eyes, wiping the tears away that had fallen. "He's terrified. Scared. Jack," he said as he looked over at him. "I-I think I killed him."
Jack flinched back at the pain in his eyes and voice. He let out another breath and nodded. He'd been expecting to hear something like that but it still hurt and caught him off guard.
Will turned away and shook his head again. "What if...What if Prophet Five is right?"
Jack reached over and grabbed his shoulder as he gave it a squeeze. "Will, fundamentally, you're still you."
"But what if I was a bad person. Jack-"
"The training was never meant to reprogram behavior. Only to add certain qualities and enhance abilities that were already there. Who you are, how you think, what you feel, and what you consider important in life is not going to change. You're a good man. You will always be a good man," he reassured him.
Will swallowed hard as he gave a nod. "I hope you're right."
"Do you trust me?"
He looked over at him as he told him, "Of course I do."
Jack smiled slightly at his earnest response. Will really did trust him. Moving his hand up to behind Will's neck, he pulled him closer and gave him a kiss. "Then trust me."
Will moved over until he was sitting in his lap with his back to his chest. Jack wrapped his arms around his body and held him close.
"Who the hell am I?" he heard Will ask a moment later.
Jack hugged him tighter as he told him, "That's what we're going to find out."
Question: Who is Will Tippin really? Any guesses?