24 Season Zero: Day of Reckoning

Chapter 13

BXJ TECHNOLOGIES HEADQUARTERS, LOS ANGELES

The call was made at 2:30 AM local time in Gaza, but it was 4:30 in the afternoon in California with the sun trying its best to reach through the smoggy air, casting long shadows on the high-rise skyscraper in the Century City area of West Los Angeles where BXJ Technologies had its corporate headquarters. Philip Bauer could never sit still for long and paced back and forth around the plush boardroom with Graem and the rest of the board of directors listening in silence and acknowledging him with respectful nods. Right now the business at hand involved competing for a federal contract with Anderson Aerospace Corporation and its CEO James Heller. One of the board members had suggested that BXJ do business with front companies that might have connections with the ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine but Philip immediately shot down that idea. Philip was a hard edged, ambitious, and ruthless man, in his personal life but especially in business even though there often wasn't a separation between the two for him. However openly breaking the law, such as violating State Department trade sanctions against the ethnic Russian rebels was a red zone for him. His company had too much to lose. Of course Philip sometimes skirted at the edge of the law, and had an army of high-priced attorneys to make sure he didn't go too far onto the edge, but this was too risky.

Philip looked at the bar graph displayed on the screen showing BXJ Technologies stock rising faster than both Anderson Aerospace and against the other local upstart in Southern California, McLennan-Forster. He had to admit he was impressed by Graem. Jack had always been the smarter one, he thought, but Graem's suggestion that they gamble on expanding into other industries was paying off as a consistent stream of revenue was coming in from the offshore oil platforms they had purchased and refurbished from BP and into computer software. If everything went according to plan, they might even open a branch office up in Silicon Valley to boost their research into computer components and supplement the weapons research that was the most profitable part of the company's portfolio.

He was shocked as there was a sudden knock on the door and his executive assistant Marcus name in.

"Mr. Bauer, sir...I'm sorry for interrupting this meeting but it's critical that you take this call now," the recent UC-Riverside graduate said. "It's an emergency."

"An emergency?" Philip repeated to himself, getting up. At least Marcus was better that separating the important bullshit from the regular bullshit, Philip thought. So this better be important.

The two of them entered his corner office with a view of the San Gabriel mountains and the downtown LA skyline in the background.

"Sir, it's very sensitive. It involves your son Jack. He's in Israel, I believe?"

Philip nodded. "Yeah, with the Army, some kind of joint forces agreement with the IDF. Is something wrong?"

"I'm afraid it looks that way, sir," replied Marcus, trying to not break the news too harshly. "I verified it with the file Jack had from his internship here three years ago. I…I believe this is real, especially in light of what's happening over there today."

Philip took one look on the computer screen and motioned for Graem to enter as well. "Thank you, Marcus. Tell them something unexpected's come up and that we will reconvene the meeting tomorrow. Graem and I need to handle this privately. I also assume everything involving the encounter we just had was confidential." What the hell? Philip thought. He knew about the hostage crisis at the high school but why would that have anything to do with Jack? He had already checked in with the Tel Aviv branch office to make sure all the employees were safe since a major American defense contractor that supplied weapons to the Israeli military would certain make an inviting terrorist target but really felt no need to talk with Jack. The news had already identified the American soldiers killed in the attack on the base either by name or personal characteristics, none of which matched Jack's. He still really wasn't on speaking terms with his son, and had actually been wondering if Jack would accept his destiny with the company.

Now Philip was staring into the face of one of the world's most dangerous and merciless men in an email attachment, with a phone number and a message to call on a secure, untraceable line.

"Do you know who I am?" the voice on the video said in an Arabic accent when Philip connected the call. He was surprised that the terrorist knew he even had a secure line, but maybe they were just guessing, BXJ being a defense contractor and all that.

"Nakkash Bin Rahal, the commander of Hamas himself," Philip said simply in greeting.

"I know about you too, Philip Bauer, war profiteer. One of the richest, most powerful men in America, whose fortune was built on the blood of Muslims and other victims of American imperialism around the world. Your son would like to say hello to you."

Nakkash motioned with his hands and Khattab and Ihim marched Jack in front of the camera. His face was bloody and bruised from the beating the jihadists had given him in the helicopter but his eyes had the same defiance they often had.

"Dad, I'm sorry," Jack said simply. "Don't….don't listen to them. They promised me…." Khattab took a nightstick and gave Jack a brutal blow to the lower back, causing Jack to fall forward. Khattab and Ihim both smiled sadistically as Khattab struck Jack again on the head, knocking him out.

"As you can see, he is alive at the moment, but that can change depending on how our conversation goes," said Nakkash in a threatening tone.

"I don't know what you want from me," Philip asked simply. There was no point in continuing this senseless back and forth tirade. "You've made me aware that you have my son as your prisoner, but if you think the President of the United States cares, you don't understand our country. If he's seen as bowing down to Muslim terrorists for the sake of a major campaign contributor, that's going to destroy his political career. It's all about 'we the people', the little guy, the average Joe, whatever. But then I don't suppose you know a thing about American democracy, or any kind of democracy for that matter."

"Ah, Mr. Bauer, that was not what Jack told me when he offered himself up as a hostage." Philip's eyes widened at this revelation. How could this possibly be true? He had assumed Nakkash's men had kidnapped Jack off the street or something, or maybe during the attack on the military base. "Jack convinced me that your family's importance would get me what I need." Nakkash paused. "I can tell you are surprised by what I just told you. We had captured his girlfriend and he offered to exchange himself for her, and now we hold both of them hostage. Well at least you can be proud that the son you raised is not a typical American coward."

Inside, Philip was seething. He had no idea Jack was seeing a woman over there, certainly not something serious. So Jack would be willing to give himself up this way for a woman? Give up his future? The future of this family? Yet he maintained his composure as he continued his conversation with Nakkash. He needed Jack back alive, not just on account of the fact that Jack was still his own blood despite their differences. Philip still sincerely believed that Jack was critical to ensuring BXJ Technologies maintained its dominance and prestige. Jack had the hard edginess, personality, and determination that Philip saw in himself, something he felt was missing in Graem. For years he had wanted to mold Jack to take over this company. And now, he thought, his mind spinning, Jack would be indebted to him if he ever got him back from the Middle East alive.

Nakkash continued, "I actually realized, however, Mr. Bauer, that what will really benefit me is not what your President can give me, but what YOU can give me, and you will give it to me if you do not want to see Jack beheaded."

"And what is it that you think I can do for you?" Philip retorted, "If you're asking for a constant stream of money to bankroll your terrorist operations, I hope you realize the CIA knows all of your secret bank accounts and regularly looks at wire transfers from each one, especially those originating from the United States."

"You Americans are always thinking about the money," Nakkash commented, shaking his head. "That is not what I want. Mr. Bauer. We already have all the resources we need. What we need is a way to enable ourselves to use the weapons we have obtained, and that is where you come in. I know that your company has recently developed the SEC-77 stealth missile guidance system, and that some of it is currently being produced at BXJ Technologies' location in Tel Aviv."

"You're mistaken, Mr. Bin Rahal….."

"You think I am an idiot?" Nakkash asked, his voice rising. "I have my sources, Mr. Bauer. Do not think for a moment I do not have people inside the Zionist who know about the kind of business they do with BXJ Technologies. I am going to make myself very clear. These terms are non-negotiable. You will have three hours to prepare a package of five of the SEC-77 microchips from your local office to be delivered to my people at a place of my choosing. There will be no further warnings. If you do not meet this demand, your son will die." The screen went blank.

Graem stared blankly at his father, then quickly glanced around the room to avert Philip's stare. "I…..I can't believe this is happening," he stammered. "Jack even having a girlfriend over there…..I had no idea. Now Hamas? Gaza?"

"Well it IS happening!" Philip said in an aggravated tone. "It was probably some fucking month long fling on his deployment, hell, the way I had my temporary pussy when I was stationed in South Korea, she probably expected me to marry her and bring her back here." He slammed his fist into the table. "Dammit, it was always this thing I was worried about with your brother. He could never calm down and think straight!"

Graem breathed in and out deeply. "How are we going to handle this, dad? If we give into his demands, even under duress, we'll be directly aiding a foreign terrorist organization, one that just slaughtered dozens of teenage kids in a high school. I'm sure that thanks to James Heller and his influence, the government's already watching us despite the money you donate."

Philip held up his hand. "As far as we're concerned, that conversation never happened. This was a secure line, and the moment you leave this room I want you to personally disassemble and dispose of the hard drive and wipe out all the communications records for today as a precaution. Is that understood?"

All the thoughts of staying on the straight and narrow were dissipating now. This had to be handled. He needed Jack alive, both for Jack's purpose in this company and for the leverage he could use to persuade Jack to finally take his place at the table regardless of whatever reservations he had.

"Of course, father," Graem replied with deference.

"Get in contact with Dan Harrison in Tel Aviv, I don't care what time it is over there, wake him up if you have to."

"Understood. My only concern is whether Harrison can be trusted. I know he's proven his loyalty to this company repeatedly, even accepting a transfer to…."

"He doesn't need to know the truth," Philip connived. "Make him believe it's a last minute contract with the Israeli government, that he's meeting with someone from Mossad, or the IDF or some other local Israeli agency. If Nakkash can find someone who speaks English, he'll never know the difference."

"It will be done," Graem replied, "My only concern, if I may, is that if Hamas uses this technology to successfully attack civilian areas, then reveals this to the world on his end. We can of course deny it, but Harrison can corroborate his story if he finds out he's not really meeting with the Israelis."

"I have it handled, Graem. Trust me"

US ARMY FACILITY, GIVITAYIM FACILITY, TEL AVIV /DEFENSE MINISTRY

"Ten hostages suffered some injuries from Sokolow's bomb but none of those are life threatening. All the others are unhurt and have been accounted for," General Wasser reported back to headquarters as Christopher Henderson listened on. Overall, the terrorist siege at Ariel Sharon High School had claimed the lives of over 20 students and 60 adults including the executed hostages and the initial assault, but had the final rescue failed, the death toll would have reached well over a thousand.

And that was as far as the good news went, Prime Minister Weinstein thought. Ambassador Cornett thought the same thing, and it was clear from the Israeli leaders' expressions that they were outraged that the ambassador had interjected in their plan once it was found Jack Bauer was on board the helicopter.

"And what about the nukes and the helicopter?"

"We still haven't located the missing weapons," Wasser replied, "They could be anywhere in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank even. There's also no guarantee that it will even be used in the near future. Hamas can easily hold on to them as a future bargaining chip when we move in to destroy them and with the small size of the weapons they can be hidden anywhere. They could be in any apartment building, store, basement, mosque, whatever in the Palestinian territories, or maybe even Lebanon or Syria. We don't even know what direction the terrorists escaped in, unfortunately."

"What about the helicopter?"

Henderson answered, "DOD satellites and a Navy AWACs aircraft traced Nakkash's chopper to the Khan Yunis district in Gaza. Based on our existing CIA intel, the landing site was not a known Hamas facility but remember that Hamas controls the entire Gaza Strip and Khan Yunis is particularly radicalized and is a hotbed of support for both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. They can also be anywhere within the Gaza Strip in an hour and with Hamas's crackdown on suspected Israeli collaborators our sources on the ground in Gaza are very limited. Langley does have emergency assets on the ground but those are for operational, not espionage purposes." He didn't add that these were American assets and even their Israeli friends were not privy to the details.

Doron slammed his fist onto the table. "We had Nakkash in our crosshairs and we let him get away because one American soldier with a powerful father does not know how to follow orders!" His anger was directed as much as Cornett as to Henderson and Jack. "You Americans do not understand anything! We have been fighting jihadists for fifty years! We know what it takes! We know the sacrifices that must be made and we make them for the greater good!"

Henderson tried to put things in perspective and do damage control at the same time over Jack's unexpected actions. "With all due respect even neutralizing Nakkash will not stop the nuclear threat. The entire attack on the school was a ploy planned by Timur Sokolow to get the weapons into the open so they can be stolen. Bin Rahal is not acting alone, and even with him dead the terrorists can still carry out whatever plan of blackmail or destruction they have in mind with the weapons. We don't believe they will use them inside Israel or attach them to Hamas rockets because the radiation spreading into Palestine is too great. They wouldn't want to contaminate the Al-Aqsa mosque after all. I think the most likely targets are in the West. The best course of option now is to come up with measures to prevent them from smuggling them into the U.S. or Europe."

KHAN YUNIS, GAZA STRIP

The Hamas guards who escorted Jack to the cell pushed Jack roughly toward the ground into the same cell as Rachel and slammed the doors shut. It was as narrow as a regular American prison cell except much filthier with the plaster falling off the walls. Jack's head from throbbing from the brutal blow Khattab had given him but he forced himself to think straight. He needed to be fully alert and functioning if he was to find a way out of here. Jack immediately rushed over and embraced Rachel, gently rubbing her back and massaging her arms. He then gently kissed her on her cheek and her neck. Like Jack, she was dirty and sweaty by now but he just couldn't let go of her.

"This is all my fault, Jack, I'm so sorry," Rachel said quietly.

"No, you did everything you could back there! You were outnumbered, but tactically you made the right call to split up. You managed to..."

"Jack, I mean I'm the one that got you into all this shit! I was the reason you were at the school!" She paused, her guilt building up as her mind went further back. "Jack, if you had never met me, if you had never gotten in my car that day, you wouldn't be here right now."

"Rachel, look at me," Jack said, looking straight into her eyes. "If I could turn back the clock, I wouldn't have done a single thing differently. I'd glad Henderson pulled that surprise operation on us, because it brought us together. None of this is your fault." He waved his hands toward the terrorists chatting in Arabic down the hall. "It's their fault. Don't you pin this on yourself. And remember all those hostages that were rescued and the part that you played in it. Maybe the man upstairs does have a plan, I don't know. Me, you, all this. I'd say we're quite a team."

Rachel saw no point in holding anything back right now. "You know, it all just feels so dumb now in hindsight, what happened last night."

"Last night?" Jack's mind thought back to a little more than 24 hours ago. That fun night out, the nice slow dance at the bar, walking down the block to her downtown apartment and taking in the view of the city. Was that really just a mere 24 hours ago?

"What about last night?" Jack asked. "Really seems like a different lifetime."

"How I made you sleep on the couch. I didn't want to go too fast, you know, rush into things. I wanted to wait till we're sure our relationship was going somewhere before we went there, like it would be more meaningful. Just feels so...so pointless now. Now those guys...and what they're going to do to me."

"We're going to get out of here. I give you my word," Jack told her, giving her the most reassuring look he could. "If any of these animals lays a hand on you, I'll make sure there's more than hell to pay."

ARAB NEIGHBORHOOD, SOUTHERN ISRAEL

Dan Harrison parked two blocks away and walked toward the arranged meeting point, fearing whoever his employers had asked him to meet would know what car he drove and follow up on him in the future. Dan was one of the project managers at BXJ Technologies' Israel office. Philip had told him a story about how due to the terrorist crisis, they had secured an emergency contract with the Israeli government regarding weapons systems but that the details were classified. He was told to personally bring the component to the meeting with an Israeli government representative here in this southern Israeli town. He was totally shocked that the meeting spot was so far from Tel Aviv, and in a heavily Arab community too. But the Israeli government representative that Philip transferred him to insisted this was the best way to not draw attention to themselves, hiding in plain sight.

Dan had to admit he was nervous as he rounded a corner and the Hebrew and English lettering on the storefronts turned into Arabic. Dan quickly walked past a table on the sidewalk where several Arab men in traditional white robes were smoking hookah and eating shish kabobs. These men glared at him with open hostility in their eyes. Dan finally saw his destination, a clothing store located inside a partially enclosed Arab bazaar. Due to the late hour, or early hour depending on one's perspective, there were only a few shoppers around, which was for the better given that Harrison would certainly stand out as a Westerner here in the bazaar. Dan turned around and saw the hookah smokers still eyeing him. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door of the store despite a sign on the door saying "closed" in Arabic.

There was gruff shouting and cursing in Arabic and Dan knocked again. An Israeli Arab man opened the door roughly and glared at him, shouting first in Arabic then in halting English. "This say we closed! What you want?"

"I apologize, I cannot read your language, sir," Dan replied. All this was part of the agreed upon exchange to see if this man was truly the contact. After all, it was the CEO of the company himself that arranged this meeting so this put Dan at ease. He had read his share of spy novels and seen plenty of spy thrillers as well. Now this was actually interesting, he thought. A nice break from the engineering department in that Tel Aviv research center where BXJ Technologies owned an entire building.

"Ah, American!" the Arab said in broken English. "I will make exception for you. Come in," he said graciously. "You buy something, yes? I have finest Arabian souvenirs you can bring home!"

Dan stepped into the brightly lit store which sold Arabian clothing, and ceremonial swords, and had large Persian carpets hanging along the walls. A traditional Arabic melody played on the radio. At least this music was still allowed here, Dan thought.

"Sorry for all this precautions and making you come all the way down here," the man now said in good English with a slight Israeli accent. "I hope you like my store."

"Interesting cover. We...we're pretty close to Gaza aren't we?"

"Ah, yes," the man replied, "But this is an Arab neighborhood so Hamas shoots the rockets further away toward Sderot. Like we said, the last place they would expect us to be. So, let us get down to business, shall we? First of all make sure you convey to Mr. Bauer my appreciation in expediting this process. As you know, we are in a crisis situation and nobody knows how far this will escalate. After all, this is why we have these contracts with BXJ and cooperates on so much research here."

"Indeed," Dan replied, opening up his secure briefcase and revealing a high-tech device with multiple computer chips and control pads on it.

The Israeli Arab nodded. "Looks good, let me check out the specifications." The man spent a few minutes investigating the device and smiled. "Just as Mr. Bauer promised." The man got up and the two walked toward the door of the store, Dan in front. Dan never saw or heard what happened as the Israeli Arab removed a silenced pistol and shot him in the back of the head. Ali, the man who had helped smuggle Nakkash Bin Rahal and Mahmoud al-Harazi into Israel months ago, smiled as a Palestinian emerged from behind one of the Persian rugs.

"Went according to plan. I will personally take this through the tunnel this time. Clean up this mess and dispose of this infidel dog. After all, this is a respectable business."

HAMAS BUILDING, KHAN YUNIS

Nakkash went into the cell area where Jack was being held, with Khattab and Ihim both accompanying him, pushing a metal cart with several electronic devices on it. The Muslim terrorists guarding Jack and Rachel greeted Nakkash respectfully in Arabic and stepped aside.

"Jack Bauer!" Nakkash said in a taunting voice, beaming. Jack wondered what the hell this demented lunatic was smiling about now. "Ah, you do not seem excited to see me?" Nakkash turned and looked at Rachel as the other Muslim men eyed her ravenously. "You neither? I hope you get used to your new life in Gaza. I swear, you will think its getting better even as it gets worse, as we will make sure you get used to it!"

Khattab, Ihim, and the two low-level Hamas thugs broke out in wild laughter.

"What the hell do you want?" Jack said simply. He was tired of this game and of Nakkash's brutal arrogance.

"Ah, to show you something. A gift that your father gave me to show his love for you, Jack," Nakkash said, pulling the cart right in front of the jail cell now. "Do you know what this is, Jack?" He pointed to what looked like a small rocket of some sort. Jack had no idea and was not in the mood for trivia.

"Let me guess, one of the kayusha or Al-Samoud rockets you received from the Iranians?" Rachel replied bitterly. Of course it was only a guess since her duty assignment wasn't missile defense or anything related to the Israeli Air Force. Those were the two models she knew from the news coverage of the rocket barrages coming from Gaza. They were the ones with the extended range that could reach her family and friends in Rehovot and even in downtown Tel Aviv.

"Ah, even better than that!" Nakkash replied. He turned the missile over so Jack and Rachel could see the Hebrew lettering on it.

"It says Jericho-Seven," Rachel quietly translated the Hebrew text for Jack but shook her head. "I don't know what that means." She looked at Nakkash in confusion though the unease only rose up in her body. Whatever this was, she was surprised these Palestinian terrorists were in possession of it.

"I see even you are surprised, Private Friedman," said Nakkash. "I guess your government even kept it a secret from you, a soldier in your army. This is something that officially does not exist. It is an Israeli 25 kiloton mobile nuclear warhead, straight from the secret laboratory in Dimona. You see, everything that happened at the school, our demands, you thought that was our endgame? You thought that was it? That was only to set things in motion."

Jack and Rachel looked on silently, digesting what they had just heard and saw. This could not be happening, Jack thought to himself, yet the truth was staring him right in the face. It was like a nightmare he couldn't wake up from. First the suicide bombings in the morning, then the prolonged school siege, their captivity to the Gaza Strip, and now this. He didn't want his father to negotiate for him. In fact he didn't expect Philip Bauer to do so. None of it made sense to him. Maybe if Graem was kidnapped but not him. It must be because Philip needed Jack, it wasn't just out of love, came the thought at the edge of Jack's mind. He couldn't believe he was thinking this negatively of his own father but whatever connection they had before had been seemingly destroyed once he failed to agree to join the company.

Nakkash continued, "All that happened at the school was for this."

"And what is 'this' that you're referring to?" Jack demanded. Deep down he knew what the answer was, but silently prayed that he wouldn't have to hear the answer. Jack was not so lucky.

"We have four more of this…..this beautiful design. Sooner or later, we would have learned to properly program them to their targets, but that could have taken months, even years. But thanks to your father I also have this." He held up some kind of silicon chip that he had just removed from the warhead. "This is a stealth guidance system developed by BXJ Technologies at your Loma Linda research campus. With it, these warheads will also be untraceable by radar or satellite. We will chart an indirect, zigzagging flight path that cannot be intercepted visually by America's best fighter pilots and drones. So, Jack, instead of waiting months or years, now we can move up the timetable and strike when the momentum is still here."

"You're insane, Nakkash!" Rachel almost screamed. "You know as well as I do that if you fire these rockets anywhere in Israel, depending on the wind directions the fallout could come right back here, or to the West Bank. And even the most accurate warheads miss their targets sometimes. Not to mention the retaliation that will come from not just my country but from the United States. And trust me, if you launch a nuclear attack, you're singing your own fucking suicide note! It won't end with another ceasefire. You'll see the complete annihilation of Hamas the way the Americans completely wiped out Saddam's Republican Guard during Iraqi Freedom, no matter how much collateral damage there is! Your lies will no longer get the world's sympathy. All those "Free Palestine" idiots in the outside world will disappear back into the woodwork. You can kiss the idea of an independent Palestine goodbye for at least another generation. Why don't you go out into these streets and ask the people you claim to be fighting for if they want to go along with this? It's because of people like you and your sick, delusional dreams that your people still don't have your own state, which believe it or not I personally support. But then I guess having your own country was never the real goal, was it? It's all about destroying mine."

Nakkash chuckled though he had to admit she was right. He didn't need to drink alcohol in a club like the young infidels in the West, like he saw Jack and Rachel doing in her phone pictures. He didn't have to shoot himself up with drugs or smoke a joint of weed. All he needed was jihad. Waging jihad, basking in its pride and knowing Allah smiled down on him and imagining the virgins that awaited him in paradise, that was the greatest high he could dream of. Nakkash simply could not live without jihad, because he thrived on it. He was addicted to killing. "It was your governments that made me this way," came the only bullshit reply he could muster. "Your people give us no way out of this humiliation except through jihad."

Nakkash returned to the subject of the stolen missiles. "You see, the target is not Israel. This has never been just about Israel. Yes, we will destroy your country and liberate Al-Aqsa as the Koran has prophesized, and your people will convert to Islam or fall by the sword, but that will come in due time after my victory today." He turned to Jack.

"This is where I am different from my predecessor. Muhammad Ajaz only thought about Palestine. That is not enough, Jack! I…..I think of the big picture, Jack, like you Americans say. I dream of a larger caliphate along with my brothers throughout the Muslim world. The Zionist occupation of Palestine is only part of a larger war on Islam, a war led by the Great Satan, America.

"What is worse than the occupation of Al-Aqsa by the Zionists, Jack, is the occupation of Arabia by America and your puppets in the Saudi royal family. Your imperialist soldiers and oil companies desecrate the holy sands on which Mecca and Medina stand. You poison our countries with your greed and decadence. You steal the wealth that Allah, may his name be praised, has bestowed upon our land. Your aircraft carriers sail the Persian Gulf like it is America's own backyard, protecting the apostate sheikhs who betray Islam and prostitute themselves before the West.

"For decades Jack, our Muslim freedom fighters have attacked America around the world to convince your country to leave our holy lands yet you have only increased your imperialist crusades into Iraq and Afghanistan. I realized that no matter what, your government will never remove your military presence from the Muslim world. So today, Jack, we will do it ourselves. In less than five hours, the age of American colonialism in the Middle East will come to an end, Mecca and Medina will be free, and our honor will be restored. After what we achieve today, America will be in no position to retaliate against us."

Nakkash pointed to the nuclear weapon, with a fanatical look in his eyes as he was possessed by some kind of evil demon. "And that is how we will do it. Thank you, Jack Bauer, and to your father, for making this possible for us."

Rachel waited till the footsteps had disappeared down the hall before speaking. "Maybe it's for the better. Right now we have a better shot at finding those weapons than months later when the trail's gone cold and Nakkash attacks us by surprise. I just hope my people or yours have assets in the area."

Jack nodded. Maybe this time it was her trying to make him feel better, but she really did have a good point. "We're going to have to get the hell of here first."

"You got a plan for that?" she asked him, surprised his mind was working so fast, especially under these conditions and everything they had just gone through.

"I think so, but I'm going to need your help here." He walked her through what he had in mind. "You think you can handle it?"

Rachel nodded. "Not like there's much of a choice right now. We're really running out of time." Jack could see the uncertainty on her face.

ROCKET LAUNCH SITE, QISSARYIA MARKET, GAZA CITY

The Hamas guards quickly waved through the small motorcade that went through the crowded Gaza City bazaar where some open-air merchants were just beginning to get their stands ready for the day. Palestinian police also stood guard up and down the block. After all, they too were an arm of the Hamas government that had ruled the Gaza Strip for years now. It was purposely small and not heading to one of the more well known Hamas hideouts to minimize attention from the satellites and drones that no doubt that always plied the skies above Gaza. The Hamas men and police were especially aggressive this day, shooing away the civilians who had gathered to look at the vehicles filled with armed militants.

"Make way! Back to your business! Yallah! Yallah!" Khattab shouted as the small throng of people stepped aside. The trucks kicked up a cloud of dust as they came to a stop near the end of a muddy, unpaved alleyway with three to four story buildings on both sides, several of the walls pocketed with bullet holes and many windows missing.

Nakkash embraced Mahmoud Al-Harazi in the traditional Arab Muslim manner as the Hamas second-in-command emerged from the doorway, glancing back and forth to make sure nobody was watching them. The missiles were covered under heavy layers of tarp so that even the local residents did not know what they were. Nakkash had personally picked out this location, one that even most of Hamas was unaware of, though technically Hamas could commandeer any building in Gaza now that they control the government here. That this location was located right by a crowded bazaar went without saying just in case airstrikes were launched, though he thought that was unlikely due to the secrecy of the location.

"I am so proud of you, brother," Nakkash said.

"The praise is to Allah," Mahmoud replied. "I hear the American arms dealers gave you what you requested in exchange for your hostage. I see they are all negotiating with us after all."

"Their weakness is showing," replied Nakkash, "And we will build on this weakness until the Great Satan crumbles before us. What is the timetable?"

"Arya and his men are programming the guidance systems now and finalizing the targets," Mahmoud updated him, referring to the Iranian terrorist present at the attack on the nuclear transport convoy. Arya was an engineer formerly working for Iran's illegal nuclear program when Nakkash recruited him. "The Americans and Israelis still do not have any idea where we are, or even where their hostages are being held. The missiles should be ready for launch in less than four hours."

Nakkash nodded. "Let me know the moment Arya finishes his work. Mahmoud, the moment we launch our attack, there will be retaliation. I need you and your men to go to the front line in Beit Hanoun so you are ready when the retaliation comes. We will disperse ourselves so even if the Americans kill me, you will carry on our jihad. If Allah wills it, you will be the one who liberates Al-Aqsa from the Zionists."

"Yes, Emir. We will be ready."

Nakkash smiled in confidence at he looked to the east and saw the hint of dawn on the eastern horizon over the stark, white and gray mid-rise skyline of Gaza City. He got down on his knees, his head pointed toward Mecca, and unfolded a prayer rug as the call to prayer began echoing first from the Ibrahimi Mosque under Imam Ravid, quickly followed by mosques all across the city. Even though he had not slept for more than 24 hours now, Nakkash had never felt more awake in his life.

HAMAS FACILITY

Ihim returned with a group of six more terrorists, unlocking the door of the jail cell. Ihim barked orders in Arabic and several of the terrorists slammed Jack against the wall, beating and kicking him.

"Ibn himar! Bashok aleek!" came the Arabic profanity as the Palestinians continued to attack Jack, who blocked several of the blows and kicked one of the terrorists in the chest, sending him flying back against the bars. Another Palestinian pistol whipped Jack and slammed his head into the wall, knocking him out. "Enough, Mustafa! You and Salim move this cursed infidel!" Under Ihim's orders, they then dragged him to a neighboring cell.

"You can wake up again, kafir!" Ihim said. One of his subordinates gave Ihim a bucket of water which he splashed on him. Jack jolted awake and realized he was in the neighboring cell.

"Ah, I want you to watch this, American," Ihim said with a devilish smirk on his face as he went back toward Rachel in the neighboring cell. She looked very weak and terrified as the towering beast came upon her. "You are going to watch us have some fun, Jack!"

"I will be next, Ihim!" Salim shouted, looking at Rachel with a twisted, possessive expression on his face. The other terrorist protested but Ihim silenced them. "Leave me, wait in the outside corridor!" he ordered.

"But I want to watch this!" insisted Mustafa, the first young terrorist. "They say you are a man among men. I want to watch you mount this Zionist whore like a camel and break her for me."

"We should find more like her, then we can have our own harem for our men!" Salim suggested.

"I say leave us!" Ihim shouted, "Stand watch outside and do not disturb my privacy. Yallah!" The two other Arabs left in disappointment, closing the door to the cell block behind them. Now it was only Ihim and Rachel in the cell, with Jack watching helplessly outside.

"Ah, but YOU can watch me," Ihim said to Jack. "You will see me go further than you have with her, bismillah." Ihim then took out his phone and started playing some fast paced Middle Eastern belly dancing music and turned to Rachel. "Ah, let me get in the mood. Let me get started," he said, panting like a crazed wolf. "I hope you are ready for this." She looked at him with a helpless, fearful expression on her face.

"What happened? Where was that fire that Nakkash described?" Ihim asked Rachel as he removed the turban off his head and then his Islamic robes. "I hear that you killed many of my fellow warriors. Some of the bravest sons of Arabia who have devoted their lives to jihad denied paradise because they were slaughtered by a woman."

Rachel maintained her silence. Inside she really was trembling though her mind was whirling as she took in the situation to look for a window of opportunity to act. She glanced at Jack who flashed her a quick look of reassurance. C'mon Rachel, you can do this, Jack thought silently. Ihim slapped Rachel across the face with his pudgy hands in a rage as he thought of the dead jihadis. She screamed in pain and backed up though her fear and pain was turning into a rage deep inside her. I have to keep my mind clear, Rachel thought, desperately forcing herself to not be blinded by her mix of emotions at the moment. The fear and disgust toward this towering beast, plus the knowledge that there were five nuclear missiles to be launched in the next few hours toward American targets across the Middle East.

Ihim finally removed his belt, letting it hang loose and unzipped his pants, forcing himself onto Rachel. Her teeth clattered as Ihim roughly caressed her face and chest, licking her neck with his repugnant tongue like a wolf preparing to the carcass of a hunted animal. "Come on, resist me, let us make this more fun!" Ihim taunted loudly then made unintelligible sexual remarks in uncouth Arabic slang. He ripped open the uniform she was still wearing and then tore off her bra. Rachel prayed that her moment would come soon as she could not allow herself to be violated any more by this vile creature. Ihim's mouth drooled as pressed his face on her breasts and licked, sucking on her nipples.

"You will be mine, woman!" Ihim shouted, panting and sweating, "When I am done there will be nothing left for Mustafa and Salim!" He grabbed her away from the wall and the two of them tumbled roughly onto the bare moldy floor, Ihim forcing himself on her. "You will get to experience all of us but I have it fresh!" Ihim continued speaking to Rachel as he exposed his genitals, "All the recruits will experience this, you will give them a taste of what paradise will be like!"

Before Ihim could go any further, though, Rachel made a lightning move and grabbed his loose belt, quickly wrapping it around Ihim's neck. At the same time, she pulled as hard as she could on his kaffiyeh headdress, further strangling him. Both Jack and Rachel herself were surprised by how powerfully she had Ihim in her grip. She wasn't really the tough girl type, but when you were in this kind of situation, you found strength you never knew you had. As the large Palestinian grunted, Rachel grabbed the keychain that had fallen onto the floor and tossed it to Jack, then kicked the gun over. Ihim fought back, thrashing but Rachel tightened the grip on the belt until Jack, although handcuffed, fired a shot with the AK-47 that hit Ihim in the lower leg, causing him to collapse and scream in pain.

"Ahhhhh! Salim! Mustafa! Get in here!" he called out as loudly as he could through the choking even though the gunshot was enough to alert the two terrorists. Rachel pulled harder on the belt and it was now easier to incapacitate Ihim with the bullet wound in his leg and he soon fell into unconsciousness. Jack quickly dove to the ground, pretending he was also shot as Mustafa and Salim burst through the door.

"Ihim! Are you okay? What happened?" They looked in shock at Rachel who was now whimpering on the floor and Jack who was sprawled across the ground. "Ihim!"

Then without warning, Jack suddenly took the AK-47, which was hidden beneath his stomach, and opened fire. Two rounds struck Mustafa in the chest, splattering blood into the wall behind him. Jack moved the gun a few inches and then blew Salim's head off before he could aim his weapon.

They heard banging on the door outside. "What is going on inside? Salim?"

"Leave us!" Jack shouted back in perfect Arabic, "She just wanted to have some fun! Continue your patrols, especially focus on the exterior, the Zionist spies are everything!" The terrorists just outside the cell block quickly acknowledged and followed the orders, some of them leaving the area to beef up security at the front entrance to the Hamas hideout.

CELL BLOCK

Jack went into Rachel's cell as she put her bra back on, and then her ripped uniform. "You did great," Jack told her, giving her a quick kiss. "We'll have to find some new clothes anyway." Yeah, it definitely would be a terrible idea to go around Gaza with a US Army shirt and an Israel Defense Forces uniform. Ihim was coming to now. They would have to find something quickly after leaving the building, wherever this place was.

Jack punched Ihim in the face and made sure the belt was now tied behind his back. "You obviously overestimated us. It's not the first time someone's done that today," Jack boasted darkly for Ihim's benefit.

Ihim spat at Jack with his filthy mouth though his face was twisted in pain from the gunshot. "You two will never get out of here alive! I have dozens of men in this building. Your governments have no idea where you are. I will kill you, Jack." He turned to Rachel. "But I may still let you live. There is still so much fun we can have together, now that I see you are a fighter after all. You see, I like surprises sometimes…" He stared at her with sexually predatory eyes.

Jack took the AK-47 and jammed it into Ihim's crotch. "I'm sure the 72 virgins will be very relieved to not have to deal with you."

"You….you are crazy!" Ihim shouted. "You will pay for this! You will…"

"I know you're too stupid to see the obvious, like how fucked up your cause is and how delusional your dreams are," Jack said, "But at least I'd thought you'd notice who's holding the gun right now." He fired another shot into Ihim's foot.

"AAAAHHHHH!" Ihim started screaming before Rachel put a makeshift gag in his mouth using his turban.

"Where is Nakkash going with the missiles?" Jack demanded.

Ihim remained silent though the defiant look on his face was dissipating.

"WHERE IS NAKKASH GOING WITH THE MISSILES! I WON'T ASK YOU AGAIN!" Jack screamed.

"I do not know! Please! He does not tell us everything! I am only in charge of Khan Yunis! I just know it is not in my district! I know someone who will probably know it! It is your best bet!"

"WHO IS IT? You better not be shitting me!" Jack said, jamming the gun into Ihim's crotch again, the terrorist convulsing in pain and desperation.

"It is Imam Ravid, at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Gaza City! He is Nakkash's spiritual mentor. He blessed this mission, he knows it!"

Jack nodded and put the gag back on. "Thanks, now this is for what you tried to do to Rachel." He fired a round into Ihim's crotch, the large Arab going into what appeared to be epileptic shock. His eyes looked at Jack with a look of hate and helplessness but his screams were muffled by the gag.

Jack turned to Rachel. "He's never going to hurt you or any other woman again."

Rachel looked at her torn uniform as she fixed her bra. Ihim was a predatory, psychotic and deviant beast. God knows how many innocent poor local girls had fallen victim to him and his men, who ran the neighborhood and demanded favors at a whim. She simply gave him a satisfied look as Jack shoved Ihim forward out of the cell, he and Rachel taking cover behind him as they approached the door to the outside corridor.

HAMAS BUILDING

Jack opened the heavy rusty metal door and pushed Ihim through. They were in a long corridor that had been dark but the morning light was now filtering through the windows. Four terrorists were in the hallway and they began speaking excitedly in anticipation of their turn to rape, which of course would never come.

"Ah, you finally done, Ihim? How was the Jewish bitch? Are Mustafa and Salim still in there?"

Jack pulled the pin off a grenade that Ihim had and waited several seconds before throwing it as fast as he could down the hall. A look of shock registered on some of the terrorists eyes as Jack and Rachel ducked to the right as the explosion tore through the hallway, swallowing up two of the terrorists. The other two were wounded and completely disoriented. Jack came through the smoke and gunned them down in quick succession shooting one through the side and another through the back.

"Ihim! What is…." Two more Hamas gunmen appeared at the end of the hall. Jack pushed Ihim forward, with Rachel behind him.

Jack then popped up behind Ihim and fired an AK-47 round into the first man's heart as Rachel took down the second with the automatic weapon she had scavenged from Mustafa. By now they had reached the end of the hallway and were approaching a common area where four more Hamas fighters were drinking coffee and playing an Arabian board game.

Jack and Rachel each shot down a terrorist but the other two responded, getting up from their chairs quickly and opening fire. Jack held Ihim in front as a shield and Ihim took several bullets in the chest. Jack then dove to the side and fired two bullets into one of the Hamas men then quickly turned and shot the other through the chest too. A terrorist appeared in the doorway about to kill but Rachel caught a glimpse of him and fired several shots, taking him down along with an additional terrorist who came through the door. Jack released Ihim, who fell lifelessly onto the floor next to the bodies of his dead comrades. You must be glad you're out of your misery, Jack thought.


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