As Jacks came to, his vision steadily turned from a cloudy mess to a watery blur, and back. He was sitting against a corner, probably still inside the hospital Shatner had instructed him to go to for the meet. Beyond his own heavy breathing it was silent, though he was sure that Shatner was somewhere close, probably gushing over the fact that he had managed to get Jacks to fall for the ambush. Just as Jacks thought of how far or near this 'mutual' friend of Ed and Ian were to his location, he felt someone lean on his shoulder. A massive blurry object appeared in the little vision he could muster. Shatner was on his heels, hunched over in front of him like a small kid would be over a sleeping puppy.
"I told you not to bring anyone with," Shatner said in a whisper. His voice was clear, composed. He sounded Australian, unlike over the phone.
Jacks tried to talk but couldn't. He then felt a straw in his mouth, followed shortly by what tasted like filtered water. The straw was removed and he tried again. "I swear I was not followed," he managed as he tried to clear his vision winking repeatedly.
"Then how do you explain the bloody tank that arrived a couple of minutes after you did?" Shatner asked in another whisper. The weight on Jacks' shoulder vanished but the blur in his vision remained.
Shatner was right in front of him but still managed to make him feel like he had vanished from the room. "I don't know what you're talking about." Jacks was adamant, he had no one for back up.
Shatner nodded in quick succession as he seemed to believe the young agent. He stood up, or at least Jacks figured that he had since the blur in front of him vanished.
"Wait!" The moment Jacks said that, Shatner was back, leaning on his shoulder again. Jacks had figured out what Shatner might have meant by tank.
Ben stirred heavily in his sleep and Connor, who had fallen asleep in his office, had just woken up when he heard someone or something make some noise outside his office window. He made his way to the window and peeked through the blinds but his porsche was the only thing in view. Connor then made his way out of his office and down the steps into the main part of the pub. Ben's breathing started to become bad so Connor hurried to his side and rocked him awake slightly. Ben coughed hoarsely sat upright and starred at Connor blankly, catching him slightly off guard. Connor blinked and pushed Ben back down who continued to sleep the moment his head touched the couch.
Connor stood up right and glanced at the windows, half broken, shot and dirty from the previous assault on his pub. He could swear that he saw something, but his attention was rocked back to Ben as he coughed once more, more hoarsely than ever. Connor looked at him for a moment longer as he stirred a bit and started mumbling. Connor leaned closer and heard a name that even he could not believe. Aaliyah.
Connor got his cellphone from his breast pocket, pressed a few keys and pressed the phone against his ear as he moved toward the window.
"Yeah?" Ed asked from the other side of the line.
"Hey, I think you need to get here... There's something you should hear." Connor peered through the blinds as he spoke. "I think someone is outside, listen, Ben said some--"
As Connor spoke, a RPG rocket shot through the window centimeters from his face. With less than a second to think, Connor braced himself and jumped through the now-entirely broken window as the rocket hit the opposite wall, right above where Ben was sleeping.
It was over in a couple of seconds. Connor had been in the field long enough to know that no extravagant explosions or dramatic sequence would take place but it still felt surreal. He had been back in the field only since the General had reinstated him -under false pretenses no less- a couple of months ago, but he had not managed to feel so vulnerable in years.
Connor was pulled back to reality as his phone rang in his hand, where he had it in a lock. He looked at it for a second before he realised that his hand was shaking, and finally let go of it. It fell onto his right hand, which he used to answer the call.
"What happened?" Ed asked. I was clear that he was driving.
"Look," Connor started and cleared his throat, he then looked up and saw that a person was running around the building opposite the street. Connor tried to move but his leg was too hurt. "Someone just blew the bar to pieces, and Ben with it."
"I'm on my way."
"No, whoever did it probably believes I'm dead. I think it'd be best if it stays that way. Listen, Ben mentioned a name."
"What name did he mention?"
"Aaliyah," Connor listened, then carried on after he had no reply. "I think you should go see the General. I'll tie up things on my end. Get Jacks or someone to help."
"Jacks... I'll get him for you. Good work, Connor." The call ended.
Connor stared at the phone then let it fall to the ground. Connor tried to get up but couldn't, so he just propped himself up against the light pole.
Safu was going through a number of blueprints with CNet that was strewn and laid out on an ancient table in the library. Not much of Stronghold Romulus had been changed in order for the building to both fit the aesthetic of the surrounding buildings in the Vatican, as well as not to draw attention to the stronghold. While they were calculating how much it would cost to expand the library in order to accommodate an adequate science and laboratory wing JR and Laura walked into the library. Laura being the higher ranked agent among the two, took a flash drive from JR and held it out to Safu.
"What is this?" Safu asked, slightly skeptical. The couple of weeks that Romulus had been running at full capacity thanks to CNet, nothing seemed to jump up on the radar, no matter how many leads the agents attempted to follow regarding the counsel.
"Well, with the Pope now officially resigned, JR figured that we could sneak deeper into the building, find out what the archive rooms were storing," Laura explained and glanced at JR, who stood about a meter behind her.
"We have special clearance, all we have to do is ask."
"No wait," Laura said quickly before Safu could disregard their findings. One thing about Safu's lead is that he was a man of action, only if concrete evidence presented itself and nothing less, regardless of what he thought or believed, it had worked out for the best of Romulus so far. "While we were sightseeing the other day, JR noticed a couple of suits with silver briefcases hurrying down one of the hallways. We checked it out."
"Why did you not tell me this?"
"Honestly we thought nothing of it," JR said form the back. "They entered the archives, so we waited around. Two hours later they came out without their briefcases. We went in after they were gone, but could not find anything of the sort."
"With security focusing around the whole Pope thing, we figured now would be the best time to go into the other sections of the archive. It took me less than a minute to hack into it, otherwise I would have asked CNet."
"So what is this?" Safu asked, now examining the flash drive.
"We don't know. It's a lot of info on something, but I could not get any deeper. I thought it best to make copies and bring it here."
"Right under our noses. That leads me to believe that the Vatican must have been infiltrated."
"Impossible," JR said from the back again. "Those files were last accessed ten years ago. If anything, those men were only just setting up."
"It can be that they have nothing to do with anything," Laura continued. "But I think its worth checking out either way. If only to have the Agency records restored from before the Fall."
Ed arrived at the hospital he knew Shatner would be waiting, and saw that CNet had been there only moments before judging by the prints in the dust. Ed drew his pistol and hurried inside where he found CNet hunched over in the corner.
"What happened?" Ed asked.
"EMP grenade. I am guarded, however the blast rendered my limbs useless."
"Why did you even come?" Ed asked and peered around the corner and up the stairs.
"I felt that Jacks was in danger."
Ed looked at CNet and peered around again. "He never was in any kind of danger until you arrived. I'm certain your stats would have mentioned that. Where is he?"
"Down the hall upstairs, inside one of the offices. I cannot get infrared on this building."
"This used to be Shatner's practice... Damnit, CNet."
"I felt he was in danger," CNet repeated and turned his automated, featureless head in Ed's direction.
"I know. I'll go and relieve the situation."
"Commander," CNet said as Ed stood up and started skulking up the stairs. "Be careful."
Ed moved slowly throughout the rooms, sure that Shatner had surveillance already on him. He passed the first set of offices when he heard a beep and stopped dead in his tracks.
"What have you done to the boy, Shatner!" Ed demanded and took a cautious step. Another beep went off. "You were supposed to hand him the information. Nothing else!"
"Come now, you know I'm a man of my word!" Shatner stepped around the corner down the hallway, his hand sin the air. He had no weapon on him, besides his signature coat Ed and the others knew him by. "Jacks is safe. And the information is all there, just as you instructed in Egypt."
Ed lowered his weapon at that and took another step, this time there was no beep.
"How did you know my mines were duds?"
"I've known you since university, you moron," Ed said as he shook the tall Australian man's hand. "As promised, I had one of the new recruits get your transport back home."
"Thank you, Edward. You have no idea what this means to me... Having been a wanted man for so long over there. Now I am finally able to secure my new identity."
"Take care, man."
"I will." Shatner turned and walked down the stairs Ed had come from. He stopped to stare at Ed move around the turn in the hall. His eyes shot wide open when he heard Jacks ask if CNet was fine. Shatner then hurried down the stairs and fell down next to the AI.
"He's fine. Stand up," Ed said and helped the younger agent up. Ed then searched Jacks and retrieved a small SD card from his pocket.
"What's that?" Jacks asked as he noticed that he had his weapons holstered all along. Shatner had never taken his weapons from him. "Why did you not come here by yourself anyway?"
"I was followed. Turns out the person who followed me attacked Connor's bar, which is why I need you to get over there now. I still have some things to do."
"Right," Jacks said and hurried down the hall with Ed. They got to the bottom where they found Shatner inspecting CNet for damage, and tinkering here and there. Ed nodded and beckoned for Jacks to go so he did.
"Say something," he said and Shatner merely looked at him. CNet was confused at what was going on.
"Why is the man who just threw an EMP at me, now trying to fix me?" CNet finally said, which caught Shatner completely off guard. The Australian man merely stared in awe.
"This is why Jacks came in the first place..." Ed said and held up the SD card so CNet could see. When the AI said nothing, Ed continued: "this is you, CNet. Or it was. On this SD card, Shatner stored everything that he had on you while he was busy creating you."