Hunched over Melanie’s ancient laptop, Jack couldn’t imagine anyone in the twenty-first century still operating off an internet cord, but here he was – forced to sit on the edge of the couch, Dell poised on his knees as he typed away. He did suppose that it was better than nothing. Or she could have had no internet. That would have made things really difficult to deal with.
So far, he’d been in the apartment for two awkward days. Of course, Melanie had her twelve hour shifts at the hospital, but the times when she was home and they both weren’t sleeping were just awkward. It was like shoving two people into a room when they knew what the other looked like naked and then told them to pretend the other wasn’t even there. Jack didn’t remember what Mel looked like naked, but he sorely wanted to, which was why he was hunched over her computer instead of hitting on her or just ripping his pants off and suggesting they have a party.
Seeing as how there were no more clues at the last scene, Jack wasn’t all that sure what he was looking for, but he figured that the internet was a great tool for such things. Now knowing that Boris and Natasha thought his name was Dr. Dean something or Dr. something Dean, he had a jumping off basis for finding his last alias, and maybe some clues about where he could find the book he’d supposedly stolen. He supposed that since he’d stolen the vials, it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility for him to have stolen the book, as well. He was sure that that book was some kind of journal or log or something. Whatever it was, they wanted it back. Still, it was as if his other self, as he had started to think of the person he’d been when he’d had his memories, had wanted that piece of the puzzle well and truly hidden with the lack of clues he’d had at the last location. The vials were clean, the bag it was in held no hidden clues, and he had no idea where else to look for it at this point. Maybe if he could find himself online, he might get somewhere.
As it turned out, Rand hadn’t been lying. His cover into the cell had been impressive. He only had to type in the words ‘Dr. Dean, genetic scientist’ and an article with his face popped up in the first ten links.
Dr. James Dean – and even he thought that was the most glaringly suspicious name out there, next to John Smith and John Doe – was a working on gene manipulation to isolate cancer or something along those lines. He didn’t quite get it, seeing as how he was featured in some scientific publication that was sure to attract the attention of the cell. Clearly, they’d seen it and figured he could help them arm this weapon. That had been a mistake on their part, but it had been a win for Rand. It was also a win for him. He must have spent months learning and preparing enough so that he could pull off the act. That just threw on another level of interest into who he must have been. If he was smart enough to figure out all this advanced science in months, then he must have been a genius or something. It apparently wasn’t just Jeopardy that he was good at. Though, he had the feeling that if he was that smart, he would have been able to have figured out everything in the last few weeks much more quickly. Heck, he might have been smart enough to not have wiped his memory in the first place.
But James Dean? That was just sad. Next time, he was going to pick the code name and it was going to be something with a bit more dignity. Like Richard Kimble or Gene Simmons...
Something looked promising, though. Apparently Dr. James Dean had an office in Manhattan that was shared by another doctor – Tyson Ames. Maybe the guy knew something or maybe he was clueless. Either way, it would be worth the trip to talk to him.
“So, what are you up to?” Melanie asked, coming into the room with a banker’s box in her hands.
“Looking up Doctor James Dean,” he replied with a small smirk.
“And who is Doctor James Dean?” she asked, setting the box down on the coffee table.
“Apparently I am.”
Melanie snorted a little. “You would pick something stupid like that for a name.”
“I was hoping that my superiors were responsible for that.”
“Well, they’re not, James Tiberius Kirk.”
Damn if she didn’t have him there. He really hoped that when he was able to get the bottom of the hole he was digging, he actually had a respectable name...and that it wasn’t going to be Quinn. Blech.
“Say, what’s in the box?” Jack chanced, thinking he needed to get the heat off himself and onto something else – anything else – even if it was a mystery box.
“This is your box, Jim.”
“My box?” he asked, setting the laptop on the couch beside him.
“Your box,” she replied, turning it so he could see his name scrawled on the side. “I thought about throwing it out, but I figured I could guilt you with it when you came back.”
Jack frowned, wondering how badly he’d fucked up as a husband if she was going to guilt him with his own things. Still, a box of his very own stuff was thrilling. After all, he didn’t own anything but his clothing. And a gun. With interest and excitement, he pulled the box in front of himself, running a hand over the dusty top. This must have been how kids felt on Christmas morning. He pulled the lid off and looked down at what was definitely a load of crap.
Carefully he pulled out a bowling trophy, a shaving kit, a bike lock, two plaid shirts, a tennis ball, and finally an inter-office envelope.
“Be careful with that,” she directed.
Jack raised an eyebrow, carefully twisting the string on the envelope and opening it. He reached in and pulled out a plastic covered photograph. It was an eight by eleven shot, black and white, professionally taken. He was expecting a wedding photo or maybe a graduation picture. What he saw made no sense, but it tugged at his gut.
The scene was a sidewalk beside a brick building. There were flowers, toys, notes, cards...everything you’d expect from a memorial. But the man kneeling on the sidewalk, his left hand pressed against the wall as he clearly grieved was what got him. That was him, torn up and completely broken down. He didn’t know who he had lost, but there were other people in the background looking just as broken up.
“What is this?” he asked, unable to look away from what he was seeing.
Melanie sat down on the arm of the couch, looking over the picture thoughtfully.
“Five years ago, we were on our honeymoon and I dragged you into a photography showing without knowing that it was a fundraiser for a Nine Eleven monument. They were showing prints a photographer had taken that morning, but also in the weeks after. You saw that one and I couldn’t get a word out of you,” she explained. “The photographer came over and she talked to you for a while. When we left, you were still in a mood, but you finally managed to tell me later that your brother was a police officer, one of the ones who ran into the first building that morning.”
So Rand hadn’t been lying. He had a brother and he’d lost him to terrorists, propelling him onto a destructive path. No wonder he’d gotten into this line of work. From the absolute look of grief on his face in the picture, he could see where his motivations had been.
It was also making something in the back of his skull itch, another memory that took a moment to root its way out. He could see a guy in a blue uniform, smiling, ruffling Jack’s hair fondly when he’d teased him about smelling bacon. He was big – bulky like a football player – but good natured. Big...Jim. Jim. His brother’s name was Jim. He glanced sideways at Melanie, thinking he’d have to leave that out. She was mad enough at him about his name without telling her that he’d stolen it from his deceased older brother. Maybe it was a way to keep his memory alive and maybe it was just something he’d chosen for the Kirk factor. He didn’t know what he was thinking at the time. All he knew was that now he had a bunch of feelings going through his head and they just weren’t all that pleasant right then.
Melanie seemed to get it, setting a hand on his shoulder and patting it consolingly. Right then...he didn’t have time for a pity party, though. He stood up and winced a bit as his side pulled.
“You don’t happen to have an old suit hanging around, do you?” he asked, thinking he needed something presentable if he was going to turn up at an office.
“Why, are you going somewhere?” she asked, looking surprised.
“I need to go down to Dr. Dean’s office and see what I can scrounge up. I may have left myself something there,” Jack explained.
“Jim, listen...it’s alright to have a moment and miss your brother. And before you say you don’t remember, I saw your expression.”
Jack sighed a bit, rubbing at the spot of tension that was living between his eyebrows. This was not a conversation he wanted to have. Not now, not ever. He had the feeling that if he stopped to acknowledge that his brother was dead, he wouldn’t be able to get back up again.
“I don’t have time right now. I have to stop them,” he told her, having already sat her down for the conversation about how he was an undercover agent trying to bring down a terrorist cell from the inside.
“Oh, Jim,” she sighed.
“Jack. Please, don’t call me Jim.”
Melanie frowned but nodded. Jack nodded back before turning and walking over to where he’d left his duffle of clothing. Clearly she wasn’t going to be supplying him with one of his old suits, so he’d have to pick the most scholarly looking thing in his bag and hope that it actually worked to fool the intellectual masses, mainly one Tyson Ames.