Jack was finding out more about himself by the hour living with his ex wife. He was a lover of old movies. He thought that grilled cheese should be a three meal a day staple. He had a high pain tolerance and apparently he had let her nurse him before. That nail through the bottom of his foot? Yeah, that was from their old house when they’d replaced the fence.
He was also not a fan of fancy clothing, suits or otherwise, so there wasn’t a suit to be had, let alone a nice jacket or a tie. So he settled on a polo shirt, slacks, and a leather jacket, thinking that he looked more rock star than academic. Still, it was what he had. Jack made his way up to what was called The Harper Building – a research lab that was apparently contracted out from New York University. It was where his offices or labs or whatever you wanted to call the space apparently were. It was an unassuming looking building probably full of people thinking things up for a living. After all, any place with a fully armed security guard sitting at the front desk had to have something pretty interesting going on somewhere inside. They didn’t just rent people to sit and look pretty. Not at places like this, anyway.
He had a plan. Of course he had a plan. He was too smart not to have one, especially when he knew that there was no way he was walking in there without a plausible reason. He wouldn’t make it an inch past the front desk if he wasn’t prepared with something. He was sure that he could have called and made an appointment, but if he called for an appointment, then they’d know he was coming. He wasn’t all that sure that the building wasn’t being watched. After all, if Boris and Natasha were still looking for him, why not stake out the lab he’d originally come from? Of course, it made sense to him, but that wasn’t to say that everyone else would take that logic and run with it.
The plan was fairly simple. He was going to walk in, say something about having a meeting with Ames, and maybe he could explore in peace. It wasn’t the best plan he’d ever come up with – or so he certainly hoped. But it was all a gamble at this point. He just hoped that it came in as a good one.
So he was going in blind, but he was still prepared. It was broad daylight, he had a gun in his waistband, and he had a couple pain killers in him, so if he needed to run, his side would hopefully leave him alone long enough to get away. If not, well, again he had the gun. He didn’t know if he could shoot one or if his past self thought that carrying one around would supply all the intimidation factor he needed, but either way, Jack knew the gun was loaded. He’d read online how to check and he was probably lucky that he hadn’t shot himself, but he was glad he was lucky rather than having another hole in him.
It was all that in mind, that he walked into The Harper Building. He strode up to the front desk with purpose and was about to open his mouth when the guard smiled at him. He hadn’t been expecting that. In fact, he hadn’t been expecting anything. Maybe a grunt of acknowledgement or some polite inquiry about how he could be helped that afternoon. No, this was something he just couldn’t account for. It was far too familiar, especially for someone who couldn’t remember anything past a few weeks before hand.
“Hey, Doc,” the guy...Tom, if his nametag was correct, greeted jovially. “What brings you back to our neck of the woods? Doc Ames said you got some private contract and moved uptown.”
“Yeah...I definitely got a private contract.”
If only he knew what a contract it was.
“That’s great,” Tom offered. “So, what brings you back to our neck of the woods?”
“You know how it is in the private sector. They want results.”
“I hear ya. They throw out the perks, but you gotta pay the piper.”
“That you do,” Jack agreed, hoping that Tom knew what he was talking about. “And I hit the wall last night trying to get the right combination on a DNA strand I was manipulating.”
Who knew if you could actually do that shit? Tom sure didn’t. He just nodded sagely.
“I gotta tell you I have no idea what that means, Doc.”
“It means that I’m going to go up and bug Ames until he either agrees to give me some ideas or just fixes things for me.”
Tom grinned then, looking like he was far too amused by that. “You can take the man out of the project, but you can’t take the project out of the man.”
And other sayings that made no sense. Jack nodded along anyways, thinking it was the polite thing to do, especially since he really didn’t care what it meant and as soon as he was past this guy, he could head upstairs and see if there was anything he could find out in his old space, or even from Ames himself.
“So, is Tyson in or...?”
“Yep, Doc Ames has been holed up there all day. I think he’s trying to come up with someone more impressive than what you’ve got going on in the private enterprise. I think he was a bit jealous when you took off.”
And it couldn’t have been helped, seeing as how this was all part of the plan.
“Well, we’re still friends and he’s going to look into my findings for me,” he replied. “I might even yank him over to my end of the world.”
“Oh, the foundation wouldn’t like that,” Tom chuckled. “Why don’t you go on up? He’s probably just finished lunch.”
Jack nodded, heading towards the elevators. “Good to see you, Tommy.”
“You too, Doc!” Tom hollered back, waving after him.
Stepping onto the elevator, Jack waited until the doors closed and slumped. That had taken far too much of his energy, but it had provided him with a lot of information. Tyson Ames was a bit sore about his departure from the department. Tom was definitely friendly, but he had no idea what research was going on in the building, and he probably didn’t get paid to know. He’d also learned Ames had just had lunch, so it was likely that he’d have the man’s uninterrupted attention for a few hours, if he needed that much time. After all, Ames could know nothing, or he could be at the forefront of everything and this could be some elaborate set up. Boris and Natasha could be waiting for the doors to open and he could end up with a fatal wound this time. It wasn’t the most positive train of thought, but it was certainly plausible. He checked the gun at his back, making sure that it was still there and well within his reach. If he was surprised when the doors opened, he wanted to make sure he had a surprise of his own.
It was rather anti-climatic when he did step off the elevator into a large lab space. There were desks and bookshelves covered in papers, tables full of equipment in the middle of the room, and the steady hum of machinery and refrigeration units. This was another place Jack thought must have been familiar at one time, but now, it was just something out of Star Trek or Doctor Who. It was all beyond him at first glance.
There was a rustling off to his right, so Jack went in that direction, following the sounds to an office. The door was open and he caught sight of an older man hunched over his desk. He was busy at work, clearly involved in what he was doing, seeing as how he hadn’t even acknowledged that someone had come off the elevator and clearly made their way across the lab space. Jack watched for a moment, picking up the available details, hoping that Ames was going to be reasonable about all this, and hopefully helpful.
“Dr. Ames?” Jack called, hoping he wouldn’t startle the man too terribly.
Ames, for his credit, didn’t look too shocked. He froze, but after a moment, he looked up and there was no fear in the man. He simply looked intrigued by what he was seeing right then.
“James,” he greeted, shoving his glasses more firmly onto his nose. “I didn’t think I’d see you again, not before they declassified what you’re up to,” Ames offered. “I haven’t seen any news about the cell, so I trust you’re still making headway?”
“You know?” Jack asked, a bit blown away by that.
“Of course. Who do you think they found to teach you all that science you needed, Agent?” Ames asked. “I take it that you’re not here to reminisce?”
“No. I may need your help, Ames,” Jack explained, stepping into the office and closing the door. “I was compromised and decided to wipe my memory.”
“How?” Ames asked, intrigued.
“I...some drug.” Jack shrugged. “I don’t remember, but my dealer seemed to think obtaining it was a big score.”
Devine wasn’t exactly his dealer, but how did he explain Devine to this guy? Saying he’d rescued the guy, got him a job making the stuff, and then asked him to wipe his memory...no, dealer was better.
“It would be. The Army’s working on it currently as a PTSD drug, which means it’s still experimental, and it’s highly classified. I actually don’t know how your dealer got a hold of it.”
“Then how do you know about it?” Jack asked, thinking it was a valid question.
“I consulted in a building where they were using it. Even when something’s classified, it’s never really classified when men are screaming down the hall,” Ames replied absently. “I don’t even want to know how you came to know about it.”
Jack shrugged, figuring that he probably knew about a lot of things that he shouldn’t.
“The point is, it should have fried your brain. You should be a vegetable.”
“That may be why I woke up in a tub full of ice.”
Ames gaped at him for a moment before chuckling. “You always were bright, James. The brightest agent I’ve ever worked with.”
“You train a lot of agents to be geneticists?”
“I train a lot of agents to be a lot of things in the realm of science,” Ames answered sagely, standing up from his desk and rounding the table. “It’s not what I saw myself doing in life, but I’ve seen my work somewhat in action and I’m glad I signed up to teach the greatest actors the world will never know.”
The way he made it sound, it was a noble calling after all.
“But, you said that you were here for a reason,” Ames prompted, clearly done with his ‘noble warrior’ speech.
“Yeah. I’m sure what I’m about to tell you is classified, but I’m at a loss here,” Jack sighed. “From what I’ve discovered after my brain rebooted, the cell has a working on a biological weapon targeting specific DNA. A targeted weapon that can’t fail.”
“Then why haven’t they exterminated all the colored people?” Ames asked, catching Jack’s look of surprise. “Come now. I was briefed on your mission. How else could I have made you perfect?”
“Yeah...well, even I didn’t know it was a racial thing,” he offered, thinking that explained Rand.
“It could start there, but imagine if you had the DNA of the president? Or an African warlord?”
“Point,” he offered, thinking it was a valid one. “I sabotaged it. I stole the base that you would combine the DNA with, took all the research, and left them crippled.”
“I thought mission parameters said that you were supposed to bring evidence and take down the cell.”
“They were. But I got a hold of a recording. Rand and whoever he works for wanted the information. It wasn’t about taking down the cell anymore. It was about obtaining the science behind it so it could be turned into a weapon for the military.”
“My god,” Ames uttered. “The weapon and it’s deployment could have been virtually anything, which is why they needed someone on the inside. Imagine what the government could do with it. There would be no accountability.”
“I must have thought the same way,” Jack offered. “It didn’t sit well with me, enough so that I got rid of everything they could use. Or so I thought.”
“Oh?” Ames prompted, clearly intrigued.
“I have the vials, but the research is missing, and both Rand and the cell are after me for it.”
“If Rand wanted to find you, he could. Your GPS chip is good to within five meters.”
“He found me once, but I made it harder on him than it had to be,” Jack replied, shifting the jacket and his shirt collar to show off the livid scar on his shoulder.
“You had your tracker removed?” Ames pointed out the obvious. “Tell me someone helped you.”
“Again, I shorted out my memory, but I’m pretty sure I did it on my own.”
“It’s a wonder you didn’t cut the artery. They place these things so that you can’t remove them without major surgery.”
Jack shrugged a bit, fixing his collars again. “All I know is that I’m off his radar now. He found me once, but I think it was a fluke.”
“You went to the inn outside Boston?” Ames asked, catching the surprised look on Jack’s face. “It’s a meeting point. Agents in the area use it. Two nights often signals a meet.”
Jack inwardly sighed. No wonder he felt so antsy staying so long. He knew he was getting attention drawn onto himself. Now he knew why.
“You sure know a lot about all this.”
“I’ve been at this a long time,” Ames replied. “I’ve been training your kind since 1972.”
Jack nodded, looking around the office. There was research pinned up all over the walls, most of it for different fields of science. This guy wasn’t kidding when he said he trained many different covers in the science fields. None of it looked relevant to his problems at the moment, but he hadn’t really expected to just walk in and see that there were answers on the wall.
“James, again, I really don’t know why you’re here. If you say both Rand and the terrorists are looking for you, this isn’t the best place for you to be.”
“I’m out of clues. I don’t have the research or any idea where the cell meets.”
“I think I might be able to help you with that,” Ames replied, moving to the filing cabinet on the wall. “A package came for you last month. I put it away until you could come for it.”
He reached into the cabinet and pulled out a mailing folder. It was far too thin to contain the secrets he was hoping for, but it was something. Jack carefully ripped it open, pulling out two sheets of paper, both part of some handwritten letter.
“Here’s the plan. They built a bomb first. Set it off. It’s a suicide mission. You know what’s at stake,” he read aloud, not liking the idea.
Jack set the paper down, looking over what was on the next page. There were drawings of what looked like a weapon – the bomb type, not the bio weapon kind. He committed them to memory before folding the paper and shoving it in his pocket. Yeah, he knew what was at stake. And he didn’t know if he could live with himself if it didn’t succeed.
“James...You can’t mean to do this,” Ames rasped, holding the discarded piece of paper. “There has to be some other way.”
“And if there isn’t, I have this,” Jack replied, patting his pocket. “For now, it’s an option. I still have to find the cell.”
“I bet you wish you hadn’t been so foolhardy with experimental drugs.”
Jack couldn’t disagree. If he could remember where the cell was, he wouldn’t be in this pickle.
“I’ll keep that in mind for next time,” Jack assured him.
“If there’s a next time, you deserve to fry your brain,” Ames offered. “But I’m serious, James. You need to be careful. I know you may not remember me, but I remember you. You’re someone who would be missed by many people.”
Jack had the feeling that this was a moment, but right then, his heart wasn’t in it. He was too focused on the idea that he might have to kill himself to get this done. The fact he might have to kill other people didn’t bother him as much as he thought it would. He wondered if that made him a sociopath or if he was just that desensitized. And if he was that desensitized, then he had to wonder how many times he had killed to protect the greater good.
Well, that was morbid.
Jack jumped a bit when his pocket started vibrating. Ames watched with amusement as Jack reached for the phone. He’d borrowed Melanie’s when he let the apartment, seeing as how the hospital in Boston still had his somewhere. Ever since, he’d had to deal with texts, random calls from Mel’s mother, and several facebook updates. He didn’t bother replying to any of it, but it still made him jump whenever the phone decided to buzz against his thigh. It buzzed again, a sure sign that Melanie was getting a call, or it could be Melanie herself. She had said that she would check in on him when she had a free moment. If that was the case he needed to answer it so she didn’t worry. He wasn’t sure when it had become important to him that Melanie not worry over things, but it had, and he needed to make sure that she didn’t become unnecessarily upset with him.
“Excuse me for a moment.”
“Don’t mind me,” Ames waved him off.
Jack wandered out of the room and into the lab. This time, it was a number from KCH. There was only one person he knew who would be calling from that number, seeing as how Mel had a shift at King’s County Hospital until five. He was hoping she just wanted to confirm they were having Chinese for dinner or something. If she was calling to check in on him, then he was going to feel like a child here.
“Hi Mel,” he greeted.
“Jack, we’ve got a problem,” Mel hissed back, clearly not wanting to be overheard.
“Oh?” Jack asked, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Ames was still in his office.
“There is a man here showing your picture. He’s not a cop, but he looks like he’s carrying around a gun.”
“Does he kind of remind you of Boris from Rocky and Bullwinkle?”
“What?” She asked, sounding really confused.
“Never mind. Has anyone said anything yet?”
“Only that you were a patient and you decided to sneak out in a set of scrubs.”
“So nothing about you and I being married?”
“The only one who knew that was Edith, thank god. She’s promised not to say anything if I give her my recipe for Marscakes.”
“I’ll assume that’s a dessert.”
“Jack, this is serious. What do we do?”
“Go about your business. When it’s time to go home, go home. Chances are they’ll try and find my trail and won’t suspect you,” Jack replied, thinking that sounded reasonable to him.
After all, if he were looking for someone in a hospital, he wouldn’t hang around too long when that person had been gone from the building for more than two days and wasn’t too memorable to begin with. He wouldn’t waste a lot of time on harassing the staff, either, especially when that person had a track record of escaping hospitals without any assistance from the staff. He was sure it was nothing to be concerned about, and if it did become something, he would have to deal with it when it came to it.
“Ok. Ok,” she repeated, more like she was trying to get herself under control.
“It’s going to be fine. I’ve dodged Boris before.”
“Didn’t he shoot you?” she asked.
“Nah, that was Natasha. I think she’s out of commission for a while, though.”
“I don’t know how you do this day after day, Jack.”
“That’s the point. I do this every day. Trust me. “
He hung up after that. He was in the middle of talking to Ames about his plan and now he had this to deal with.
But...this could be helpful.
Jack turned back into the room, giving Ames a shrug. “I need to go.”
“James, let that poor girl go.”
“What poor girl?” he chanced, hoping that he could keep her from being part of this.
Ames just blinked back at him, as if he knew that he was being given a bull shit answer. Jack knew it was a bullshit answer, too, but it was what it was. He wasn’t about to discuss Mel with anyone. Right now he didn’t know what or who Mel was to him, beyond someone who was helping him out in all of this. He could use all the friends that he could get at this point. Ames seemed like he was going to be his friend, but he couldn’t be too careful. She was a civilian. She wasn’t the one who was going to suffer because Jack had a crusade.
“Be careful, Jack. We don’t have connections in this business for a reason.”
“I will,” he replied, thinking that there was nothing between them. She’d just have to go back to being a divorcee and he’d just go back to dealing with terrorists and crazies.
“I’ll hold you to it.”
Ames offered his hand for a shake and Jack accepted it, even allowing the man’s pat to his shoulder like he was favored pupil. The man was worried for him and it was almost nice to have someone other than Melanie worried over him.
“If you need anything, call me,” Ames commanded, and Jack nodded, knowing deep down that this would likely be the last time he ever saw the other man. He was going to be engaging in a suicide mission, after all, and he knew that there was no way he was going to think himself out of this one. He was right – he knew what was at stake. He just hoped that he could follow through with it when push finally came to shove.
And hopefully both Ames and Mel would be able to forgive him for it one day. Even if they didn’t, at least he knew that they’d be alive to keep the grudge going strong.