In that moment, Jack learned another thing about himself – he was a curious person. He was willing to go along with whatever this man wanted if it got him the answers he wanted. His self preservation – something he had prided himself upon up to this point – was taking a back seat.
He forced himself to turn and walk back to where Rand was trying not to look smug. Jack had the impulse to knock that look off his face. He really was feeling like a grumpy bastard right then and keeping his impulses in check was taking effort. It would have been better if he wasn’t hyper aware of the other man. Everything about Rand had him twisted as tight as a spring. The suit, the posture, the easy way he had handled everything...it was all too cloak and dagger. Jack knew he wouldn’t be relaxing around Rand anytime soon.
Rand and his friend led the way in silence back to where there was a big, black SUV waiting. If that wasn’t a bad sign, he didn’t know what was. Black SUVs were another thing he’d picked up on while he was watching TV. Nothing good ever happened to the person who climbed into one of those things, especially when he had a guy on each side of him guiding him there so he couldn’t make a run for it. The whole situation was wrong. But he was in for a penny at this point, so he might as well be in for a nickel, too.
Once he was settled in the back with the guy in the green wind blazer, bench guy walking to another car a few spots behind them, the SUV roared to life and started off down the road. Rand was in the front seat and the driver appeared to be another of those strong silent types with a broad jaw. Well, no time like the present for some answers, he supposed.
“Alright. We’re not in the open any longer. Exactly who are you, how did you find me, and who do you work for?” Jack demanded, thinking he sounded pretty intimidating for the man who knew too little.
“We found you because, even with your memory gone, you’re predictable. You’d hidden in that motel before,” Rand offered. “You’ve frequented that park. You made a mistake in falling into those old patterns.”
Jack only raised an eyebrow at that. It was unlikely that he’d ever stayed there, seeing as how the motel manager hadn’t given him the time of day. Also, nothing about the area had nudged his memory along. He was sure that had he been there before, it would have at least seemed vaguely familiar. That was one mark in favor of the guy lying. Strike one, Jack Bauer.
“As for who I work for, you’ve heard of the FBI? The CIA? Well, we’re another acronym agency, but we’re more in the underbelly of the government. Think of us as the black sheep cousin of those two. They don’t ever mention us, but they know we exist to do the jobs they either can’t or won’t.”
And if that didn’t sound seedy...Rand side-stepping the direct question in “name that Federal agency!” was just the icing on the cake. It sounded made it, really. In fact, he was pretty sure he’d heard that exact explanation in some Mel Gibson movie that had been playing in the hospital. He’d only been interested because he shared the same last name as the guy, but when the main character had ended up locked in the psych ward of a hospital...it had gotten a bit too real for him. He’d had Isaac turn it off before it could get much further than that. Life wasn’t supposed to be stranger than fiction, after all.
“I’m an agent in that agency, and so are you. I was your handler until you went off the rails.”
Jack couldn’t help snorting at that. “Me? Some government agent? Have you looked at me?”
While he was fit, he wasn’t buff. While he was smart, he fit more into the category of ‘smart ass’. He’d tripped over his own shoes that morning and given himself an impressive bruise on his arm, so being covert probably wasn’t one of his strong suits, either. If he were some secret agent for some government agency that didn’t apparently exist in polite circles, than he really had forgotten a lot or their standards were very low.
“I handpicked you to join the team,” Rand replied dryly. “You may not be much to look at, but you’re quite skilled at what you do.”
Jack made a sound of skepticism that caused Rand to reach for a file folder off the dash in front of him and hold it out for Jack to take. Jack grabbed it carefully, not surprised when he opened it to see his own face looking back at him. However, it wasn’t a casual photo. He was dressed to the nines, no smile on his face as he stoically posed for the camera. It wasn’t an unusual shot, but the military uniform was a bit much. If people saw this, his bad boy, just escaped from the loony bin rep was going to end up in the toilet.
“You served in Iraq just after the terrorist attacks of 2001. Apparently you had a brother in the towers that day and you wanted to do your duty,” Rand explained, not waiting for Jack to ask the obvious. “You received special commendation for some quick thinking that saved the lives of your squad, but you were injured in the attempt. While you were recovering, you were given an aptitude test that put you off the charts for a different kind of work. You were moved into a special ops program after that and they trained you to be what they needed you to be. For four years you worked with the military to bring down the major players on the other side, but I convinced you that you could do more good working for me.”
Jack was listening, pouring over his files at the same time. Everything he could hope to know about himself was in there. His date of birth, his home town, his family, his military record... It was perfect. Nothing was perfect.
“And just what do I do for you?” Jack asked, meeting Rand’s gaze.
“You still work to take down our nation’s enemies, but in a different capacity. You work here to take care of problems here on our soil,” Rand replied easily. “You’re a mole.”
“A mole? So I get into groups and gather information before flipping them?” Jack asked, thinking that was...kind of cool. It wasn’t quite James Bond level, but it sounded exciting. He mentally smacked himself for thinking that way. Rand was still on his least trustworthy list and it was gonna stay that way, cool stories or not.
“Exactly. We get wind of a terrorist cell operating and we devote years to getting the right people into the right positions to bring them down. You were good at it, Quinn.”
“Was. You said I went off the rails,” Jack reminded, closing the file, interested to see how far Rand had prepared this story to go.
“You did. We had you undercover in a cell that was looking to use biological weapons. Mainly, they were looking at dispensing a drug that would trigger people with certain genes. Imagine a weapon that targeted only a specific person or group of people and then imagine it in the hands of terrorists,” Rand explained. “We set up your cover as someone who questioned the government a lot in his college years, made you a researcher in that area; got you a grant and a magazine article, too. Within six months, they were knocking at your door and you let them think that they were reeling you back into the ideals of your youth. You went in deep with them and we lost contact. It wasn’t the first time, so we didn’t panic. However, three weeks ago you disappeared off their radar, along with all the research and cultures that the cell had been gathering.”
Jack looked down at the file in his hand, studying the manila as he took in what Rand was saying. It was a great plot for a novel. Robert Ludlum eat your heart out. However, it was a huge leap of faith for him to think that this was his life. It was just too far out there not to be made up.
“We don’t know why you went under, and we don’t know why you disabled your tracking chip, but we’ve spent the last few weeks trying to find you, Quinn, especially once we found out about the amnesia.”
“I’m no use to you if I don’t remember anything,” Jack pointed out, figuring a spy with no memory wasn’t much of a spy.
“No, but you will eventually remember. When you do, we want that knowledge in the right hands. We know that the attack is planned – you gave us that much – but you never got the chance to report the specifics,” Rand explained. “We need you to get your memory back before something terrible happens.”
Jack met Rand’s eyes for a long moment. Everything he said seemed to be pointing in the direction that he was the good guy. If his story was true, then Jack needed to get his memory back for national security purposes as well as personal ones. It was a lot to take in. Still, even though his brain was still processing it, his gut was screaming at him that something still wasn’t right. He felt more like a possession than an actual person in that moment. It was like a game of hot potato – whoever had him when he had his memory back would have a surprise.
“If I disappeared with the research, then shouldn’t the threat be gone?”
“We don’t know that for sure. There could be something we’re missing. If you manage to get your memory back, we can determine exactly how far they got and what they’ve got planned.”
“Yeah, you said that already,” Jack pointed out, causing Rand to sigh a bit. Really, the man was reiterating something Jack knew all too well. He needed his memory back for a lot of reasons.
“I don’t know what else to say, Quinn. All I know is that my agent knew what was going to happen and he chose to disappear. I’m trying not to be mad about it, considering you don’t remember anything, but you put me in one hell of a spot, kid,” Rand added, looking back out the front window, as if he was done with the conversation.
“Sorry, but you have to admit, my life could be the back story to a Matt Damon character,” Jack pointed out. “I don’t know what to think or believe at this point.”
“Trust me, I could come up with a more believable story if I thought that would help you believe I was telling the truth, but I just don’t have the time to kid-glove you here.”
He definitely wasn’t getting the kid glove treatment. In fact, if this was reality, it needed to tone it down a lot.
“So, you know everything about me?” Jack asked, knowing there was one thing he could ask that would cause him to ignore his gut and trust the other man completely.
“Everything right down to the scar on your left ass cheek,” Rand replied dryly.
Jack consciously kept himself from shifting in his seat. He did have a scar on his left cheek, but if the guy had his medical file, Jack was positive he’d know about every one of the scars that marred his skin. It was just more fuel to the paranoia inside him that kept saying something wasn’t right. Well, he supposed he was going to have to ask now.
“Who’s the woman with red hair?” he asked, eyes focused on the other man.
Jack saw it. Rand paused, eyes flickering between the driver and the road in an attempt to come up with an answer. He had no idea who the woman was. The one clear memory Jack had was a total mystery to this man who was supposed to know everything about him.
The man in the green wind breaker shifted beside him, hand buried in his coat. It was obvious he had shifted to check the gun underneath. That made the hair on the back of Jack’s neck raise in a bad way. Yeah, this was turning out to have been a very, very bad idea.
“One of our agents, Sandy, has red hair. You and she flirt back and forth a bit,” Rand explained. “I’ll introduce you to her when we get back.”
He was sure that someone he casually flirted with wouldn’t have been his first memory. No, whoever the mystery woman in his head was, he was sure he loved her very much.
It was then that he knew he had to get out of the SUV. Wind breaker must have sensed it, because he moved quickly, drawing a gun from his jacket. Jack reacted on instinct, knocking into the other man and forcing the gun up. He banged it against the window beside the guy’s head until he dropped it. Wind breaker threw a punch at him, knocking Jack back a bit, but it only gave him more room to level a powerful punch of his own to the guy’s chin. Wind breaker’s neck snapped to the side and he groaned, clearly dazed. Jack’s fist landed another punch to the same place, rendering the man unconscious.
“Quinn! Stand down!” Rand roared. “Pull over, Hawkins!”
“But sir...”Hawkins argued.
“I said pull the hell over!” Rand growled, turning around in his seat to grab for Jack.
Jack felt more like a wild animal right then than a person right then. Every move was a survival instinct and when Rand’s hand touched his shoulder, Jack reacted to the threat. Bringing his own arm back to catch Rand’s in a hold, Jack brought his arm forward, hearing a loud pop and Rand’s agonized scream at the same time. He’d dislocated the man’s elbow, if not his shoulder, too.
The SUV swerved then as the driver aimed for the shoulder of the road to pull over. Jack didn’t want to be around when it finally did stop. Visions of being tied up and thrown in the trunk came to mind as the best case scenario. The worst? Well, his brains didn’t need to be splattered all over the shoulder of the road. Opening his door, Jack heard Rand yell something at him before he took a tumble out onto the open road.