Renaissance

 

 

After an unexpected battle with drug traffickers and mother nature, Jack returns to Washington DC, where he finds himself appointed by the president to be the public face of the Twelve Shepherds investigation. The country and the government now look to him to stop their campaign.

But the Shepherds have gone into hiding.

With no new leads to pursue, and a growing unrest among the population both for and against the Shepherds actions, Jack finds himself in a no-win situation. He’s forced to wait for the Shepherds to make the next move.

His wait won’t be long. The General has been keeping a close eye on the public’s reaction, and with the nation-wide protests dominating the people’s attention, he launches Rubicon, the final operation of the Shepherds’ plan.

It’s a plan that places Jack between two warring tribes. To survive, he may have to pick one.

 

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The first two chapters of Renaissance: 

“Let us remember we are all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order, and the right of peaceful protest.”

—Barack Obama

—One—

 

The cab let them out in front of the building, and Jack grumbled a little when Sydney grabbed his arm as he got out. The stiches over his eye and the splint on his arm, combined with the bruising, made him a bit of a sight. A few passing agents eyeballed him curiously as they made their way inside. Jack and Sydney crossed the lobby and walked over the seal on the floor to the front desk. Karen looked up and her mouth fell open.

“My god, Jack. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Karen. Had a little run in with some bad guys down in Florida.”

“We heard. But I… Are you sure you don’t need a few days off?”

Jack gave her his best disarming smile. Karen had been at the front desk of the building for many years, and couldn’t help regarding the agents as her own children.

“No, it looks worse than it is; the doc says I’m fine,” he lied. “And duty calls.”

“Okay. I’d maybe get a second opinion if I were you. How are you, Sydney?”

“A little beat up, but Jack got the worst of it. Is Deacon in his office?”

“Yes, and I was told to inform him of your arrival. Are you heading straight up?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Good luck.”

They passed through the security gate and headed for the elevators, both of them still exhausted from their ordeal in Florida. Sydney reluctantly punched the button for the top floor and then let herself fall back against the wall with a sigh.

“A massage, at an all-day spa. Someplace with no phones.”

“I said all right the first dozen times,” Jack replied.

“Someplace with wine.”

“Okay.” Jack had promised her a day off at a spa after she’d pointed out repeatedly that their injuries were all his fault for choosing to drive through a hurricane. Jack had quickly given in just to placate her. He was hurting himself, but he knew there was not going to be any time for a spa day. They had come straight from the airport to the Hoover building to report in. Luckily, Debra had gone to the beach house to batten down the hatches in case Hurricane Nancy decided to work its way up the coast. He’d called her on the way into town, and she was already on her way. He’d have that do deal with after they met with Deacon.

It was going to be an ass chewing. Like a disobedient teenager, Jack had refused to come home when told to, and instead gone off to Florida to pursue the latest Twelve Shepherds’ target. The encounter with the drug traffickers could not have been predicted, but he doubted that was going to lessen their boss’s wrath any. Maybe his injuries would help a little? Either way, they would soon find out.

He turned his head to check on his partner. She was leaning against the wall with her eyes closed, grabbing whatever rest she could before the doors opened. He didn’t blame her. They had been through two days of hell in Homeland, and the flight from Jacksonville to DC had been too short and bumpy to get any real rest. The hurricane was out to sea now, but its reach was still sufficient to make their flight a miserable one. The hours of inactivity had done nothing but allow their battered muscles to cramp and stiffen, and they both now made noises when they sat or got up. It was like they had each aged twenty years.

“You okay?”

Sydney opened her eyes. “Yeah, a little stiff, but—”

“No, I mean… are you okay?”

She turned and looked at him. It wasn’t just a casual question. In the last few days she had survived getting shot at, beaten up, held hostage, and then almost drown in a sinking car. It was a lot for anyone, even a seasoned agent, to take.

“I… I’ll know in a couple of days if I’m not, I guess.” She shrugged.

“Where’s Lenny?” Jack asked. Sydney’s current boyfriend was an Interpol agent based in France. The two of them had been trying hard to make a long-distance relationship work.

“I sent him a text. He’s flying in on Sunday.”

“Good.”

Before any more could be said, the doors opened.

“Let’s get this over with.” Jack said as he led her off the elevator and down the hall. A passing secretary glanced at Jack’s face, and then smiled a nervous apology before quickly moving off on her way.

“Is my face really that bad?” he asked Sydney.

“Compared to what?”

Before Jack could answer they arrived at the office and were met by Margaret’s shocked face.

“Jack, my god. You look worse than Greg! What the hell is going on down there?”

“I… you know, Margaret. I’m fine, really, and also a little tired of explaining that. Can you be a dear and just accept that, so we can move on to the next thing? I’ll be happy to tell everyone the whole story later.”

He got a sour look for that, but she quickly nodded. “He’s inside. They’re expecting you.”

“Thanks.” Jack moved past her, and Margaret used the moment to shoot Sydney a questioning look. She gave her a nod of reassurance and another when Margaret pointed at her. They would catch up later, her look said.

Jack walked in to find Deacon standing behind his desk with Larry and Greg sat in the corner. Greg had a bandage on his head, and another on his neck, but other than that, he was dressed in a clean suit and sporting a fresh haircut. Larry looked his usual disheveled self, and he stood at the sight of the two of them entering.

“Jack, you two okay?”

Jack waved to Sydney. “Your turn.”

“We’re fine, guys. Jack got in a fight, and I almost drown, but other than that, it’s just come cuts and bruises. We’ll live. How’re you doing, Greg?”

“I still gotta headache, but I’m good.”

“Laurie?”

“At home with her ankle up. You two just can’t stay out of trouble, can you?”

“It wasn’t anything we planned; the guys opened up on a cop right in front of us. It became a running shoot-out and then just got worse from there. I’m sorry for the delay, sir, but it just couldn’t be helped.”

Deacon rounded the desk and walked over until he was standing in front of them both. He’d read the hasty one-page report Jack had sent from the plane, as well as the report filed by the local police, and now looked them both over from head to toe. Seeing now that Jack had sugar-coated their injuries, he couldn’t help but shake his head as he addressed them.

“I had a royal ass-chewing all prepared and ready to let fly, but Margaret tells me this room has heard enough cursing in the last twenty-four hours to last a year. You two okay? Seriously?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How’s that local sheriff doing?”

Sydney answered that one. “He’s stable. He coded on us once, after we got him closed up, but we got him back. Tyler deteriorated on the ride to Jacksonville. They’re both still in critical condition, but the doctor there was optimistic.”

“Good. Some things happened while you were gone.”

Deacon pointed to the TV in the corner. It was on mute, but that didn’t stop them from seeing that Jack and Sydney were the top story of the day. Scenes from the streets of Homeland traded spots with footage of Jack and Sydney leaving the hospital. Pictures of them in New York and again in Niagara Falls soon followed.

“You’re getting a lot of air time. Fortunately, it may be just the thing you need right now.”

Jack traded a questioning look with Sydney and then another with Larry, who frowned. Whatever his boss’s remark meant, it was something Jack wasn’t going to like.

“You have any clean clothes here?” Deacon asked.

“Uh… yeah. I have a spare suit in my office. Syd?”

“I have some downstairs. Are we going somewhere?”

Deacon turned back toward his desk and answered the question on the way.

“The White House. Go get dressed and meet me downstairs. The president wants to see you.”

“I…” Jack glanced at Greg, who waved his question off. Don’t question, just go, his gesture said.

“Okay. Ten minutes?”

“Make it less. The man’s waiting.”

He and Sydney turned to leave.

“I’ll walk you.” Larry said, jumping up to follow.

The three of them walked in silence until they were back on the elevator. Once again, Sydney pushed the button and then collapsed against the wall as the doors closed.

“Okay, what’s going on?” Jack asked.

“Remember that whole ‘face of the investigation’ thing you said I wouldn’t have to do?”

“Yeah?”

“You were right.”

 

 

Carter woke when the rocking of the railcar diminished. The train was slowing down. He gazed out the window to see them entering the edge of the city, and then examined the GPS’s tiny screen to confirm it was indeed Denver. They had passed through Pueblo and Colorado Springs without stopping, and both he and Tye had relaxed after, confident that their car was going to make it all the way. Tye’s enjoyment of the modern car and its luxurious leather interior was short-lived, as the mild rocking and warm seat soon had him nodding off. It had given Carter time to think.

There was a Shepherd’s cache in Denver. One that any of them could access if needed. It was small and held no vehicles; just the necessities to assist one of them if they were on the run. It was monitored by William, just like all the others, so if used, he would immediately know. Carter had been thinking about the cache and weighing the risks of visiting it for the entire trip up from El Paso. If Dayton’s intent had been to take him out, he could be waiting for him there, but Carter doubted it. The things happening in the paper had him wondering about the General and the mission. Was it time? Had Rubicon been activated? He didn’t know. He needed information, and for that there was only one place to go.

The flashing lights and ringing bells of a major road crossing flashed through the interior and across Tye’s face. It was enough to make him stir.

“Where we at?”

“Denver. Should we be thinking about getting ready to get off?”

Tye rubbed his eyes and took a good look at the passing scenery before replying.

“Got about… fifteen minutes, I’d say. Thas if they goin’ to the yard they did last time. I was on a box then, so not sure.”

Carter slid down in the seat as they passed another busy intersection. It wouldn’t do good to be seen riding in the car right now. Someone could call it in and have the cops waiting when the train stopped. There was really nothing to see but the lights of city’s suburbs passing by anyway. He watched their progress on the tiny map instead. He had dimmed its brightness to its lowest setting hours ago.

“So, we get off in the yard,” Carter said. “Then what?”

“Food would be good. There’s a kitchen not too far from there. Be open in a few hours.”

“After that?”

“Hell, I dunno. I take it one problem at a time, ya know?” Tye laughed.

Carter rubbed his growing beard. It was still in the itchy phase, and he was dealing with it. He thought about how he might separate himself from Tye—at least long enough for him to visit the cache.

“Is there somewhere you hang out around here?”

“Stayed a few times at a mission when the snow was bad and the trains weren’t running. It wasn’t a bad place; just not my thing. Likes to keep moving, but the snow don’t care about that, I guess. Why?”

“I got an old friend, here. He may have a few spare dollars. Thought I might stop by.”

“Hmmm. You sure? In my experience, it’s a good way to lose the friend.”

“Old Marine Corps buddy.”

“Oh, well, thas different. At least for a few visits. I s’pose I could hang around a bit.”

Carter turned to the GPS and played with the buttons. Tye watched for a minute before losing interest and taking in the passing buildings. Carter found the yard they were travelling to and then explored the area around it. Like in most cities, it was a mixture of things. The railroad had been built early, and the town had grown around it. The yard was now surrounded by three major highways in what would now be called an industrial section. He saw a lumber yard and distribution complex for the Coors Brewing Company nearby. Several warehouses. After that, it was a short walk to the suburbs in one direction, and downtown in the other.

“You see that Pepsi place, you know we getting close.” Tye said.

Carter saw the Pepsi Center on the map and nodded. “Got ya.”

He kept scanning the downtown area until he found it. It was another ten blocks or so, but that was nothing to Carter. Just south of the park, he found the library. Moving the map around, he memorized the route and the major landmarks before moving on and locating the storage facility. It would be another schlep from there and even farther back to the yard after. Could he do all that in one afternoon? Was it best to keep traveling with Tye? He’d have options after the cache. Maybe best to think about them once he was in and out safely.

“Where this mission at?” Carter was adopting Tye’s poor English without realizing it.

“Oh, about a half mile towards town. Just past the stadium and then south a few blocks.”

On the way, Carter thought. Good. He’d drop Tye off there, and then continue on. He checked the clock in the corner of the dashboard. Three hours until sunrise. He wanted to be through the city and waiting when the place opened. If the distances were easy to navigate, he should have no problem.

“There she is.” Tye pointed.

Carter looked up in time to see the stadium appear on their right, its rust colored façade lit up by several lights even at this early morning hour. It faded away behind them as the train slowed and then passed under a major road.

“We best be gittin’ out,” Tye said.

“Right.”

They both popped the doors and slipped out onto the railcar itself. The cold night air found its way inside their clothes, and they both shivered as they hunkered down behind the Lexus. Carter reached up and returned the keys to their previous hiding place, before huddling on the steel next to Tye.

“Gonna have to remember that key trick; this’a been a bad ride without ‘em,” Tye remarked.

“Yeah, I guess so. Didn’t think it’d be this cold.”

“We been going uphill for the past four hours,” Tye said.

“You can tell.”

They sat in silence as the train slowed further and finally stopped. Tye hopped off with a practiced motion, and immediately set off in the direction of the downtown high rises. Carter followed with only one look back toward the engine. Nobody emerged to challenge them, so he kept walking. Soon they were across the yard and through a convenient hole in the fence. It seemed like the buildings were right in front of them.

“I’ll meet up with you at the mission.”

“Okay.” Tye shrugged.

Carter left his friend at the first street corner they came to, and broke away to the south. Once he was out of sight, he quickened his pace to the mile-eating stride of the infantry soldier. He kept to the shadows and moved with purpose, following the map in his head until he came upon his destination.

The Denver Public Library. He walked its perimeter and finally decided on a dark corner belonging to the art museum next door to wait in. He checked his watch before settling back. A few hours. He made sure the rising sun wouldn’t reveal his location too soon and then looked for any company which might find him interesting. He ruled out both, before closing his eyes and letting himself relax a bit.

He was about to take a major risk, one that could end in disaster—or something else. Something he wasn’t sure of yet.

 

 

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.

—Elie Wiesel

—Two—

 

Jack left Sydney on the elevator to go to her office in the basement while he and Larry walked off in the direction of his. They both kept their mouths shut until they got to it, and Jack quickly opened the door before motioning Larry inside.

“Okay, what’s going on?” Larry said.

Larry walked to Jack’s desk and planted his butt on its edge. Jack noticed a pile of mail on its surface and forced himself to look away. It was not unusual. If the box on the wall outside his door got too full, the night security team would move it inside. As much as he wanted to paw through it right now, he had to wait. For a moment, he considered telling Larry about the message, but discarded the idea quickly. He didn’t know enough yet.

“You mean with your meeting?”

“Yes, with the meeting. It’s more than just to brief them on what happened, isn’t it? Why’s Deacon being cagey?”

“I’m guessing he made you the same deal he made me, and now he has to go back on it.”

Jack walked to the closet while stripping off his shirt. Inside, he found two still in the plastic from the dry cleaner and breathed a sigh of relief. He couldn’t remember if he had restocked the closet or not. Maybe Margaret had conspired with Debra? It wouldn’t be the first time.

“It’s become a popularity contest—at least that’s what they think. They’ve decided that Deacon is too much of an official face. With the Director in the hospital and unlikely to return, he’s no longer the face of the investigation. I mean, the people expect him to be in charge. Nobody is surprised or… intrigued, I guess, when they see him on TV giving a briefing. That, and, well, you know.”

“What?”

“He looks too… bureaucratic. Another old white guy in a suit. One that looks like he should be behind a desk. They want someone less, I don’t know, rigid? Is that the word I’m looking for?”

Jack worked on getting the suit on over his fractured ribs and sore muscles. He grimaced while he pulled a new shirt on and crunched this new information. He tugged too hard and a button popped off. Cursing himself, he stripped off the shirt and reached for the second.

“What you’re telling me is that I’m the new face of the investigation?”

“Pretty much. Like Sydney said, you’re already famous.”

Jack slipped a tie over his head and snugged it down.

“How’s my hair?”

Larry gave him a grin. “You’re asking me for hair advice?”

Jack eyeballed Larry’s head and his perpetually mussed mop of hair. “Good point.”

“If you really want to know, I think the style goes well with the bandages and sutures. It’s a defined look.”

Jack finished with the tie and put on the jacket before standing in front of the mirror on the inside of the closet door. He tried to smooth the hair into place, but the bandages only allowed him so much. A few strands still stuck up no matter how hard he tried. The bruises on his jaw, combined with the sutures and bandage over his eye, seemed to nullify the hair anyway. Screw it. He gave up.

“Why Sydney?”

“What do you mean?”

“Deacon said both of us. Why her?”

Larry shrugged. “She’s famous, too. Maybe not at your level, but they want her standing next to you just the same, I imagine.”

“Show the public we’re taking it seriously, that kind of thing?”

“I imagine you’ll get all this from Deacon on the ride in.”

“Yeah… all right. Let’s you and I have another drink real soon. Okay?”

“Sure.”

With that, Jack filled his pockets with his keys, his wallet, and a small notebook, before they both filed out of the room. Jack’s gaze landed on the pile of mail sitting on the desk as he pulled the door shut. He’d be back here soon to examine it.

Larry waked him to the elevator. The doors quickly parted, and Jack hopped on.

“Any advice?” Jack said.

“Keep your mouth as shut as possible. Write everything down the minute you leave.”

The doors started to close.

“Will do.”

 

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