1:26 PM - VENTILATION SYSTEM / GIVITAYIM COMMAND BUNKER
Henderson hooked the Sprint cell phone up to a wall charger and placed it on the conference table. He let General Wasser speak first.
"This is General Adi Wasser, head of the Tel Aviv District."
Henderson spoke up. "Captain Christopher Henderson, U.S. Army. Hello there, Jack. Had no idea you're right in the hornet's nest."
"It was highly unexpected, sir," Jack responds simply, not knowing what else to say. He assumed with all that was going on the few that knew about his budding relationship with Rachel probably hadn't mentioned that to his commander yet.
"Private Friedman, would you please authenticate?"
"Yes, sir," she replied from the ventilation system with Jack. "Private Rachel Friedman, internal security division, Tel Aviv District, ID 2700030611."
Wasser pulled up her profile on the display screen in the room. Rachel's official military photo from a year ago came up with her in uniform plus her personal information and her deployment and duty record. He and Henderson both frowned as they saw Ben Gurion Airport listed there.
"Airport?" Henderson whispered.
"Yes, IDF takes care of all the security there. Her unit there is kind of like your Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, and TSA mixed together. She works mostly at passport control and sometimes does luggage inspections. Most women get the easy duties like that, as you can imagine."
"No offense, but shit," Henderson whispered. He had noticed her age and held the rest of his comments to himself. So that's half the assets we have inside, essentially a fucking CBP agent fresh out of high school doing her required military service. Yes, more training than the completely unarmed TSA, but a Customs officer with some firearms experience, not much though. Thank God Jack Bauer is there at least. Bauer better as hell remember all the shit I've taught him. See there's a reason I put him and all those other guys through hell.
"I see this isn't your regular duty assignment," Wasser pointed out to Rachel, speaking louder this time. "But we're glad you're safe. So far all we know is that Hamas military commander Nakkash Bin Rahal is personally in charge of the terrorists at the school. He demanded that we refrain from military action against Palestinian targets plus the entire Hamas platform short of Israel self-destructing. They gave us a timeline to reopen Gaza's airspace and coastal waters and withdraw from the Golan Heights and the West Bank."
"Dammit, he can't possibly think we're going to give them that." A deep sense of dread crept into both her and Jack. This wasn't just to show Israel that Hamas could attack deep into the Israeli heartland or to demand the release of Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli jails. Or even just lifting the blockade of Gaza. They were going full out. There was no possible chance this could end peacefully.
"Okay, what's your situation, Private Friedman?" Wasser asked.
"I was giving the military service presentation to the students, sir, and we were in a special session with the American Birthright Israel group. We went into the hallway to take the emergency calls from our superiors following the Givitayim attack. That's when the terrorists stormed the building. We managed to take out I think 7 or 8 of them before we retreated into the ventilation system. We've managed to access one of the armories within the building and are reasonably well armed at the moment including with grenades and extra magazines for our Uzis and MP5s."
Henderson had an amused look for just a flashing moment. Seven or eight hostiles down. That's Jack Bauer, alright. Never seen him in real combat but I know talent when I see it.
"Do the terrorists have any idea you're there?"
"Not that we know of, sir," Jack replied.
"What can you tell us about the situation inside the school?"
"All we know is they've cut off all radio communications outside and that there are at least 50 terrorists armed with assault rifles and machine guns, and grenades, most of it from the old Eastern Bloc. We don't know for sure where the hostages are, if they're in centralized locations or if they've been dispersed around the school. Sir, we can attempt to acquire more intel for you," Rachel told them.
"No, please hold your position," Wasser told her. "Both of you. At least thanks to you two we know the size of the force we're up against." He turned to Henderson and commented how he couldn't believe this many terrorists have managed to cross the border. "There's no way you two can single handedly take on all of them and if you're crawling around the building you risk exposing yourselves. They'll kill both of you on the spot. They already killed every single adult in the building. Please stand by, we'll keep you updated on the rescue operation."
"Sir, if I may, we have the element of surprise," Jack said, "Captain Henderson, we've managed to survive so far thanks to our training. You've trained me well for all scenarios, sir, and I trust Rachel…..excuse me, Private Friedman completely after seeing her in action." Jack indeed was surprised at Rachel's skills with the gun. Some people are just naturally good shots.
Henderson thought for a moment. "Bauer, are you thinking what I think you're thinking? You've never done this yourself, only witnessed it that time in Kuwait and frankly you were kinda queasy."
"I know what's at stake. I'm going to get you the information you need."
1:45 BACKSTAGE AREA
"How many men have we lost?" Nakkash demanded as Khattab came back from his patrol and updated him on the explosion and dead bodies in the hallway.
"Eight have been martyred, emir," Khattab replied disappointedly.
"So there are more soldiers still in this building?"
"I do not think so," Khattab told them, "The entire bathroom was demolished and there were remains everywhere. Our men killed the kafirs before they were martyred."
Nakkash nodded, acting more relieved. "The infidels kill themselves only when they are cornered. We kill ourselves because we celebrate martyrdom. Make sure all the men's patrol patterns are set. We do not want any more surprises."
Khattab nodded respectfully. "Yes, emir."
2:02 PM – VENTILATION SYSTEM
Jack and Rachel looked through the schematics again and had the base forward them a more detailed map of the ventilation system inside the school. The entire building was connected though the ventilation system though some were obviously a lot narrower than others. Both their ears rang from the humming of the heating system and the wind itself exhausted them, but it was a hell of a lot better than scrambling out in the open. According to the digital map sent to Rachel's phone, the vent they were in curved around into the far side of the building and ended at a large mechanical room where the industrial scale air conditioning, heating, and plumbing systems were. Outside was a secluded enclave with several dumpsters and more air conditioning units and natural gas fixtures. Rachel also received photos from a high-altitude drone as well as enhanced images from a CIA spy satellite the U.S. had diverted from its previously geosynchronus orbit above northern Iraq. It clearly showed the images of the terrorist positions on the room and on the exterior of the school property as well as the heavy military presence surrounding the schools. Tanks, armored personnel carriers and military Humvees packed the blocks surrounding the school and the residential areas nearby had been evacuated.
After observing the mechanical room from the vent for an extended period of time, Jack knew the patrol patterns. A team of four terrorists led by Farad would enter the mechanical room and bypass it to continue outside to check the perimeter again. Jack was certainly glad both their cell phones were fully charged.
"Once more of them go missing, Nakkash's going to suspect something and he may threaten to kill the hostages if we don't surrender. He can still contact us through the building's PA system," Rachel brought up her concern to Jack.
"I think I have a way around that," Jack told her. "We need to ambush this patrol and capture that one who seems to be more senior than the others, the one in the checkered headdress." Jack motioned for her to be quiet and take up her position at the other exit from the vent on the other side of the room as Farad and the other three terrorists entered the room, chatting in Arabic.
Suddenly, Jack jumped from the air vent, dropping ten feet and hitting Farad in the head, knocking the wind out of him. He immediately elbowed Farad in the throat and brought his pistol out, firing one silenced shot straight into the temple of another terrorist. Simultaneously, Rachel fired another silenced shot, hitting the second man in the back of the head. The last terrorist drew his weapon to kill Jack but Rachel shot him dead as well from her hiding position before she came out and joined back on the main floor of the maintenance room.
Jack nodded. "We ought to get into hunting in America. You'll make a great partner."
Rachel nodded with the smallest hint of a grin. "Can't wait for that."
"Watch the entrances, and check these bodies for IDs and see if they have heartbeat sensors or grenades. We need to get any IDs we find, even fake ones, to command. I need some answers, and this scumbag right here's going to give it to me."
Farad laughed over the sound of the mechanical whirling and spit in Jack's face. "Ah, so there are still two more hiding in the shadows, ah? I knew there was something up. I knew it! I could sense it!"
Rachel got in front of Farad. "Clearly you underestimated us. You're going to tell us where the hostages are and what kinds of explosives you have this building wired with," she demanded angrily.
"Or what, sharmoota?" Farad says haughtily with a nasty smirk on his face.
Jack punched Farad squarely in the face twice, sending a stream of blood out of his shattered nose and knocking out two of his teeth. He socked Farad in the groin, the Arab doubling over in pain and groaning. Rachel looked over in shock as she finished securing the bodies of the dead terrorists.
"Jack, are you sure about this?" Rachel asked with uncertainty. She occasionally got tough with suspicious passengers but it never involved anything physical. She was actually under explicit orders to never lay a hand on a suspect except in self defense, no matter how suspicious or hostile someone might be acting. That had always been common sense for her.
"I know what I'm doing. What you're trained in, what you did with me the first time you met me, that was questioning. This is an actual interrogation." Jack put his arms around Farad's neck and shot him in the left leg.
"Ahhhhhhhh!" Farad screamed until Jack knocked him out.
"Get that cleaning towel, we need a gag, make sure he doesn't alert anyone. Go into that closet and find some cables to tie him up with." That was done just as Farad was waking up again. He jerked up but couldn't move through the cables.
"As you can see, this isn't turning out well for you," Jack told Farad. "Tell me where the hostages are." Farad seemed to ignore them. "I won't ask again. WHERE ARE THE HOSTAGES?" Jack screamed.
"Fuck you and your Jew bitch! I will say nothing! You will both die, I swear to Allah! No matter what you do to me, I will not betray my brothers!"
"Allah isn't going to make him stop this," Rachel said despite her own shock at what she was witnessing. "Allah doesn't even exist. You're the only one who can make it stop. Tell us where the hostages are." Inside, it was hard for her to control her queasiness but she forced herself to remember the big picture, the 1500 innocent children held hostage right in this building. She hoped Farad would break without Jack having to torture him further but knew that was a long shot. These are not normal circumstances, she told herself, but she sincerely hoped her verbal threats would convince him to break, even though she knew it was unlikely.
"You are wasting your time with me. When I don't check in in the next few minutes, they will come looking for me. Nakkash will kill hostages if you won't surrender yourself for your execution," Farad said smugly.
"This isn't working," Jack said to himself. He thought for a moment. "I'm going to have to enhance this interrogation."
Jack grabbed Farad and dragged him toward the door that opened to the outside AC/heating system which was in a fenced in area out of visibility for most of the terrorist patrols on the roof. "Jack, how far are you going to go with this?" Rachel asked. Her mind raced. She didn't want to imagine what she was about to witness. Yes, if they got out of this alive their superiors would understand, but still she had never been as troubled before in her life at what was going on.
"As far as I have to," Jack replied, the certainty increasing in his voice.
"Thanks for reminding me of my time constraints, you bastard pig," Jack snarled at Farad, ignoring Rachel's question.
"I don't know Jack," Rachel said to him as he dumped Farad next to a large AC fan unit spinning. "Even Mossad takes hours or days to break someone, especially a trained terrorist like him."
"We don't have fucking hours or days!" Jack shouted, surprised as his own impatience. Rachel blinked and stepped back. She had never seen Jack this outraged before. "This is not your airport thing where the worst thing you can do is put someone in holding or not let them into the country. There are over a thousand innocent children in this building and unless this piece of shit gives me some answers, many of them will not survive today."
"Jack, I know what's at stake but….."
"We don't have another choice, Rachel," he said, softer this time. He immediately regretted snapping at her but apologies would have to wait. "You don't have to look. You…you can turn around." Jack had never felt as pained before in his life as he saw Rachel take a few steps back. He didn't want her to be anywhere close but there was no other way. He needed this information. Without it the hostages lives, and their own lives, would be over soon.
"What, this good cop bad cop bullshit? I know what this is!" Farad spat.
"I can be more bad than you can ever imagine. This is your final chance," Jack told him.
Farad simply smiled again through his broken face. "You think I am afraid of you, American bastard?"
"Damn you for making me do this!" Jack shouted in a mix of rage and torment.
Without warning Jack grabbed Farad's right hand and jammed it into the exterior fan unit. The rotating blades sliced off three of his fingers and part of a fourth. Blood sprayed outward in a red fountain. Jack retracted Farad's hand from the fan, the mangled flesh dangling from bone.
"Ahhhhh!!" Farad screamed in pain.
Jack grabbed his hand again and brought it toward the fan once more.
"No! I…I tell you, American, I tell you!" Farad says through the intense pain.
"You better not bullshit me!" Jack said. "Where are the hostages being held?"
Farad had trouble speaking through the pain. Jack looked at Rachel, who averted her eyes and looked like she was about to vomit. He was sorry she had to be here, to witness this. He knew that even if they got out of this, even if she understood how necessary this was, she would probably never see him the same way again. He would never see himself the same way again. He knew that as much as they both might want to, they would never forget what was happening. Even if she didn't feel repulsed by Jack, this is a scene Rachel would have to live with for the rest of her life. And it was all because of this pathetic bastard right here.
"They are split into three groups," Farad said, "The freshmen and sophomores are in the gym. They are in the bleachers on both sides of the gym, and some are seated on the gym floor. The juniors and seniors are…..fuck you American! Allah will give me strength! I beseech thee, Allah….."
Jack took Farad's other hand and forced it into the AC fan. This time all five fingers were mangled and Jack held it inside firmly. "No more bullshit?"
"OKAY! I SWEAR! Please!" Farad cried, tears of pain and rage falling from his face. Jack removed it.
"Oh Allah! Ahhhhh!" Farad was screaming and crying out of control now. Jack had no sympathy for him, this wild animal who was ready to murder more than a thousand innocent children, who cooperated with people who murdered hundreds of civilians earlier that day. "The upper classmen are in the auditorium, in the center section. The Americans were in the auditorium but they are being moved to the band room. There are explosives under the gym bleachers and wired around the auditorium and around the stage! I don't know about where the Americans are being held, if there are explosives there."
"What kind of explosives are there? Where else in the building did you sick bastards place the charges? "
"I…..please….I'm not sure but some of the men guarding the hostages have suicide vests. They should be from the same design." Farad looked at his mangled hands and wailed. "Nakkash the leader, he splits his time between the different places and I think the office. The entire building is not wired, most of the explosives are where the hostages are. I don't know the rest, I don't know exactly how many bombs Nakkash has made, I was recruited recently, I only arrived in Israel weeks ago. Please that is everything I know. Please!"
Jack nodded. "I believe you. I told you I would stop once you told me what you knew. I'm going to keep my word." He added. "I'm also going to do you a favor. I'm going to make your pain go away." Before Farad could protest, Jack raised his pistol and sent a bullet flying into his brain.
2:45 PM – MECHANICAL ROOM
Jack and Rachel dumped the bodies of the dead terrorists into the dumpster, covering them with more garbage. They made their way back to the mechanical room then heard more shouting in Arabic.
"Farad? Are you here? Farad? You outside? "
Jack nudged Rachel gently as he peeked through a crack in the half open door. "Three more of them. We'll come from both directions then fan out across the room then retreat."
Rachel nodded. She and Jack both went into the doorway, firing silenced shots from their pistols, taking down two of the men immediately. The third man got two shots off as Jack dove along the floor. He got upright and drew his gun, shooting the man twice in the chest. They added those bodies to the dumpster and went back into the ventilation system.
3:08 PM – COMMAND BUNKER, TEL AVIV
Henderson and Wasser were definitely glad that Jack was able to break the terrorist. At least now they knew the statement about the entire building being wired was a bluff. The bad news was, there were still enough explosives to kill all the hostages and the terrorist did not know the make or model of those devices. CIA and local experts had been trying to hack into the school's security feeds but with no luck thus far. None of the terrorists Jack and Rachel had killed so far had IDs but all came back either on Israeli or CIA watch lists or prison records. Most had a history of violence. Their assets in the school had requested this information be forwarded to them. Henderson wanted why, but he had to trust their judgment. After all they were the ones on site, at least until a rescue squad arrived on site in the next hour or so. Time was already running out, and the first deadline was approaching. So far Jerusalem had not ordered any kind of pullback from either the Golan Heights or the Palestinian territories.
Henderson dialed Rachel's cell phone again. "Okay, we have what you requested. What exactly were you looking for?"
"Sir," Jack replied, "The terrorist I interrogated said he had only been recruited recently. He was the fourth picture we sent you. The others?"
"The other three had all spent time in Israeli prisons. All part of Gaza's traditional terrorist network."
"Okay, what can you tell me about the fourth man?"
"Farad Zubayda, born in Beirut, Lebanon to Palestinian parents. He previously served with Hezbollah until we defeated them in Lebanon," General Wasser told them. "Apparently he went to Gaza to continue the jihad, bringing his experience with him."
"What mosque did he attend in Lebanon? Was it a Hezbollah mosque?"
Wasser looked more closely at the file. "Yes, the Imam Khomeini mosque in South Beirut. That's an Iranian-built mosque in a Shiite part of town."
"And you are saying he was a recent addition? Are you sure?" Jack asked again.
"Yes. Nakkash had to recruit from other Palestinian movements to put together his team. In addition more non-Hamas volunteers have come to join since his coup against Muhammad Ajaz. Ajaz was a strict Sunni, while Nakkash Bin Rahal believes in a more pan-Islamic movement, at least until the Jews and Christians are defeated."
"Ok good. Keep us updated about the rescue operation."
"Of course, Bauer," Henderson replied.
3:30 PM – BAND ROOM
Erika Rogers trembled in fear even this long after the initial terrorist takeover of the building. This was not supposed to be happening, she thought to herself. David took her hand, gently squeezing it. She couldn't believe how something as little as that made her feel a little better. Two or three terrorists, none of them with much knowledge of English beyond the basic threats and commands constantly patrolled the room and the hallway outside. Erika wanted to pray, but didn't even know what God to pray to. Her newly discovered father, the reason she was here was Jewish but she knew nothing of the religion really. Her mother had taken her to a Catholic church as a child and she was baptized as an infant, but she never truly felt like she belonged in the Catholic church either. She just hoped that whatever God was up there would protect her on this day.
She just wanted to be back with her mom in their backyard in Pataskala, Ohio cooking barbecue chicken on the grill. Looking at the band instruments around the room she forced her mind to take her to the sidelines of Mountaineer Field where she cheered while the marching band did their formation stuff at halftime. Erika remembered the Mountain State Brewing Company, the microbrewery where she bartended over the summers and on a weekend here or there, all the regulars that had become like extended family to her. She hoped against hope that she would see all that again. Erika always knew there was evil in the world, but evil was always something in the news. This was right here and now. She was somewhat familiar with the on and off conflict in this region from watching Fox News back home, but she could not understand how anyone even remotely rational would be acting in this way. She told herself that if she ever made it home to America alive, she might not ever leave the country again.
Bilal walked into the room with that crazed, menacing look on his face. "The Israeli government has missed the first deadline," Bilal said in accented English, turning on the overhead display and connecting a computer to it. "We are about to give them a demonstration of how serious we are. It is only fitting that you get a taste of it too."
Nakkash stormed back into the auditorium with three armed terrorists accompanying him. He didn't expect the Israeli government to give in to his demands, at least not by the first deadline. The enemy always negotiated, Nakkash knew. The difference is the amount of killing that took for them to reach that point. Nakkash walked down one of the main aisles of the auditorium with a menacing swagger waving his gun around. He would pick out one male and one female student from each grade. He would leave the Americans for now, until the next deadline. He went into the senior section first. This was the group he had the least sympathy for. In a year they would be serving in the army, occupying and killing Palestinians. He pointed the barrel of his AK-47 at a slightly overweight girl sitting toward the middle of the row.
"You, sharmoota!" Nakkash said. "Come here!"
The girl began crying and her friend, a male student, stood up. "Please, don't take..."
Without warning, Nakkash tilted the AK-47 to the right and fired a round into his face followed by one to his chest. His body tumbled backward into the crowd of students. He would leave the corpse among them to remind them the consequences of challenging his authority in any way, including speaking out of turn. Nakkash relished the power he held in his hands. Your drones and fighter jets and Mossad hit teams have hunted me my entire life. Now I am the hunter. Allah tells me who should be next, and I carry out His will. The girl he had wanted moved forward. She seemed to accept her face and walked over quietly, looking down at the ground. Nobody else resisted as he accumulated eight hostages and the other terrorists marched them into the back where the video footage was also set up now.
3:45 PM DEFENSE MINISTRY, JERUSALEM / BACKSTAGE AREA, HIGH SCHOOL
Defense Minister Doron got everyone's attention as the videoconference clicked on again. The Cisco screen changed into an image of Nakkash Bin Rahal standing with his assault rifle. The Hamas banner emblazoned with Koranic verses and two assault rifles was hanging behind him.
"The first deadline has passed," Nakkash said simply.
"Mr. Bin Rahal, we're working as fast as we can. As you can see we have held back from retaliation for your attack and have conducted no missions in the Gaza Strip. Military withdrawal needs time, the orders need to come from command..." Prime Minister Weinstein began.
"This is negotiation, Mr. Prime Minister. You think I will give you something for nothing? Huh?"
"Sir, please, I assure you we are expediting the process to the greatest extent possible," Weinstein said. Ambassador Cornett wanted to chime in but held his tongue. He had already let his emotions get the better of him and that was a terrible mistake as a diplomat. He was only glad there were no Americans being threatened in this round. General Wasser and Captain Henderson were already assembling a team and coming up with insertion plans at the school with the help of Jack and Rachel's intel but they needed some time.
"You have another hour to reopen Gaza's airspace and territorial waters, and to begin your withdrawal from the Golan Heights and West Bank. In exchange for this extra hour, I will take these eight individuals."
The camera panned to the right, following Nakkash and the eight hostages came into view. Some were crying while some seemed to accept their fate with stoic expressions on their faces. Nakkash pointed his AK-47 into the chest of the first hostage and fired a long burst. He did the same with the second and third. Then he picked up the pace and mowed down the rest of the hostages in a row. With that, Nakkash spoke into the camera again. "Your next hour begins now. I suggest you spend your time wisely or this will be repeated."
Nakkash went over to Khattab, who was holding the camcorder. He reviewed the video.
Nakkash smiled. "You captured this perfectly. Next best thing to a live feed."
"Thank you, emir," Khattab replied, also smiling. He spat twice on the bodies of the executed hostages.
"Make sure this video is sent to Al-Jazeera as well as the Western networks. We shall see how much longer our friends in Jerusalem and Washington hold out."