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The Flour Moth

Discussion in 'Creative Writing & Arts' started by verdantheart, Mar 9, 2003.

  1. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    since a couple have requested I post this . . . and because we have a re-run tonight . . .

    <span style='font-size:14pt;line-height:100%'>The Flour Moth</span>

    By the author known as verdantheart on this forum

    Disclaimer: This work is based on characters from the television series Alias, characters and concept © 2001 - 2003 JJ Abrams/ABC. Please contact the author before republishing this work in any form.

    “Precious Pain” © Melissa Ethridge 1987. Permission for use not requested at this time.

    A few words about this story:

    This story is a writer’s exercise based on ideas that continued to interest me in the fall of 2002. I typically resist writing “fanfic,” but I thought it would be a good opportunity to work on dialog and action--I’m typically stronger on description (the sort of thing they tell you to dispense with these days, alas!). I began writing this story around Christmas 2002 and finished polishing on February 25, 2003.

    The story is basically a character study of Jack from his POV and ponders his level of despair during the time between the “death” of his wife and the time when Sydney discovered he was an agent. The structure is a little unusual in that it is based at a time during Sydney’s tenure as an unknowing SD-6 agent alternating with flashbacks to a time just after Jack returned from prison. A few notes:
    • Don’t expect the usual surprises you’d find in Alias; it’s not that kind of story.
    • The McGuffin is a Rambaldi-like object. We now know that Rambaldi goes back a lot further with Sloane and Jack--I thought this might be a problem.
    • I used Devlin, although he might not have been senior enough at the time to have been in charge of the operation I put him in charge of--but maybe he could have been. I tried to discover his first name, but failed, so I named him George, after Jack Bauer’s boss George Mason in 24 (RIP). I also named Cretchner Al.
    • Sloane probably left the CIA for more than just the reason stated, but hey.
    • I thought the use of “Precious Pain” was perhaps over the top, but I couldn’t resist and I think it worked out pretty well.
    • Vaughnoholics beware, Vaughn doesn’t appear in this story because it occurs before either Jack or Sydney met him.
    • If you’re looking for a happy story, this isn’t it (“ponders his level of despair” probably clued you in on that . . .).
    Hope you enjoy it.

  2. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Jack inserted the key into his door, turned it, and entered. He heard someone inside, but this time it did not bother him because he recognized the noise as the bustle of his housekeeper, Mrs. Martinez. He didn’t exactly enjoy coming home while she was still working, but at times it couldn’t be avoided.

    “Mr. Bristow, I’m glad you came home early,” said Mrs. Martinez in her light Mexican accent. “You have flour moths.”

    “I have what?”

    “Flour moths.” Mrs. Martinez showed him a couple of open-ended cardboard boxes. “I bought traps. You have to use your flour sometimes, you know.”

    “Yes, you’re right, Mrs. Martinez, of course. I’m sorry.”

    She picked up the flour canister and opened it, showing him the contents. She shook the flour, revealing tiny maggoty larvae and empty pupal skins. “You have to keep a careful watch. If you don’t, they hide in there and grow,” she said. She tossed the contents of the canister into the trash. He watched her gather her things as they exchanged brief goodbyes and she left.

    Jack examined a trap and the sticky paper it contained. There was a small, red square of bait stuck to the center and already a few moths adhering. The moths were still alive and struggling. They were very plain, small and gray. One forlornly waved an antenna that was not yet stuck to the paper. There was something about the sight of it that disturbed Jack deeply. They’re all male, he thought, lured irresistibly by the pheromones in the bait. And once they were trapped, they were immobile, frozen.
  3. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Jack remembered when they came to him. They asked questions, endlessly. But Jack couldn’t answer. How could he? Where could he begin? He didn’t want to discuss any of it. It was bad enough he had opened up, all the way up, to this woman who had passed it all along--every secret--every emotion--to the enemy. Must he go over it all, all over again, to his employer? How far must loyalty be tested? How deep could the morass of humiliation be plumbed? The numbness had already started to set in. The immobility.

    Yet there was still one bright spot. Sydney. Poor Sydney--she seemed as broken as he felt, yet he felt that his presence still comforted her.

    But that presence was to end soon, for the FBI grew tired of asking questions of this nonresponsive CIA agent and ordered that he be held for interrogation. He had to look for some way to see that Sydney was looked after.

    Not long before he was scheduled to leave, Devlin arranged for a meeting. Jack sat across from Devlin in his office.

    “Have you heard from Arvin Sloane recently?” Devlin asked.

    That wasn’t the question Jack had expected. “A couple of times.”

    “Has he told you that he’s planning on leaving the CIA?”

    “I know he’s dissatisfied, but--”

    “Has he told you that Project Christmas is being shut down? The committee that was convened to assess the damage done to US intelligence due to Irina Derevko’s infiltration of Project Christmas through you came to the conclusion that the project was irretrievably compromised and that it was in the better interests of US security to shut down the project than to risk its being used against us.”

    “You realize that enough work has been done on the project already to compromise US security.”

    “The mop-up is our job, Jack. You have your own. You have to answer charges. Personally, I don’t see how you could possibly be a collaborator--everyone here has the highest regard for you, Jack--but the FBI doesn’t know you. And, Jack, you haven’t exactly been forthcoming.”

    “George, I just--they ask these questions, and I try to answer, but . . . I just--”

    “I understand,” Devlin said, looking uncomfortable. He moved on. “Very few people know about the breach. It’s under the highest classification. We’re going to tell everyone you’ve been assigned to a deep cover mission and as so far as you’re concerned, Laura died in a traffic accident and funding was cancelled for Project Christmas.

    “Meanwhile we do have a job for you.”

    “While I’m in prison?”

    “Well. If it comes up, before, during, after. We want to know if you’re contacted by Arvin Sloane.”

    “About what?”

    “We’re not certain. He’s not happy. He feels that the decision to cancel Project Christmas was premature and we think he might do something . . . unwise. We’ve had a couple of profilers write up a report and--”

    “On Sloane?!”

    “--the results are pretty disturbing. I want you to take a look at it before you leave.”

    “He has been pushing hard for me to train Sydney in the Project Christmas protocol. He’s made it a sort of ‘favor.’ If I do this favor for him, he’ll see that Sydney’s looked after while I’m away.”

    “Pretty appealing, under the circumstances.”

    “Yes. We have to assume that the KGB knows that Sydney tested out as a top prospect and that Sloane has been hounding me for months to have her trained.”

    “Do it.”


    “Do it. You must. We’re counting on you to continue your relationship with Sloane. The way he sees it, you owe him.”

    “I brought down his pet project. He’s never said it in so many words, but it’s there.”

    “He’s going to displace the blame onto us, Jack. It’s in the profile. He tends to place his trust in close personal friends and distrust larger impersonal organizations. He’s predisposed to trusting you. We’re counting on it. If he goes off in another direction, we want him taking you with him. Only he won’t know you never left us.”

    “And all I have to do is betray Sydney.”

    “Come on, Jack, are you really betraying her? She can’t decide right now whether she wants to go into intelligence work or not--but if she should ever choose to do so, you’re giving her a huge leg up--you’re giving her the tools that could save her life. Are you sure you’re not giving her choices she wouldn’t have rather than taking them away?”

    “You’re painting a lot of lipstick on that pig, George. The way I see it, I’m sneaking into her psyche and implanting things there.”

    “OK, Jack, look at it this way, then. You can do this and have Sloane looking over your daughter and us looking over his shoulder, or you can be cut loose and try it on your own. Maybe try your luck with the KGB against who, a nanny?”


    “This is your assignment. You can accept it or resign. I don’t think you can afford to be too choosy under the circumstances. And I don’t see how you can pursue your assignment effectively without doing what Sloane asks.”


    “Sydney will be safer in the long run if she can protect herself.”

    In the end, it was that argument that sold it. Sydney would be safer. Who knew what was going to happen? He could be facing years in prison if they decided he was a collaborator. Sydney would need to be able to make it on her own.


    Just like him.
  4. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Jack had stopped by SD-6 for a meeting with Sloane, but could not resist stopping along a corridor lined with two-way mirrors to the martial-arts training center. There she was, Sydney, his daughter, engaged in a kick-boxing exercise with her partner, Dixon.

    He felt his chest swell with pride as he watched her. He knew how swiftly she was advancing in all phases of the business. Her eyes were tightly focused, her movements swift and natural. That’s right, Jack thought. Don’t think; react. She easily bested Dixon in the exercise and then helped him to his feet. Jack watched with a little envy as they laughed together.

    He remembered when he had found out that she had been recruited. Jack had forced himself to wait before going to see Sloane for fear he would be unable to contain his anger. As he had approached Sloane’s office he had reminded himself of his mission over and over like a mantra.

    Sloane had folded his hands together and regarded Jack calmly. Obviously he had been expecting this visit.

    “You know how I feel about Sydney joining SD-6,” he had said. It had been all he could do to maintain a barely calm and reasonable exterior.

    “A woman has a right to make decisions about her own future, Jack.”

    “Yes. Informed decisions.”

    “Jack. You know it’s hardly safe for Sydney to be fully informed at this point. What if she were to be fully informed about you, for example? What decisions do you think she would make?

    “Anyway, you know that the CIA is no more open than SD-6 when it comes to dispensing certain facts to those who might be most interested in them. It’s a fact of life, and it ensures of safety for those further down the ladder.”

    “Still, Sydney needs to understand--”

    “What, that this isn’t the CIA? Most assuredly not. Why? The very reason that we did this was that we both believed that the CIA failed us--failed the country, the world--Jack! Do you think some idealistic young person coming in is going to understand that? They don’t have the experience, the perspective. No. They have to believe that they are working for the greater good--and that’s exactly what they’re doing. And if it takes a little lie--that SD-6 is a black-ops division of the CIA--to accomplish that, so be it.”

    Jack had regarded Sloane quietly, using all his willpower to push his anger aside. Sloane had always had his eye on Sydney, of course--it was the outcome of Project Christmas. He was ready to open up her box of talents like a Christmas present. But wasn’t his real purpose to test him? Test him and tie him closer, closer to SD-6 and Arvin Sloane?

    Jack reminded himself of his mission, trying to seek some solace in the fact that he was undermining Sloane step by step. But the price today seemed so very steep. “You’re right, Arvin, of course,” he had said, simply, almost meekly. “I just wish you had consulted me before approaching Sydney, that’s all. We might not get along that well--at all, really--but I’m still her father.”

    “Of course, Jack. I understand. And I think you should be involved in some of the decisions regarding her training. Of course, since there’s a conflict of interest, I’d have to reserve any final judgment, but you’ll be informed every step along the way.”

    “Thank you, Arvin,” he had said. He had wanted to strangle the man.

    Jack shook off the memory and put his palm against the cool glass. So much separated him from Sydney. There was so much she didn’t understand--because he couldn’t tell her.

    Later, in Sloane’s office, Jack went over current mission operations with Sloane. Sloane pushed a folder across his desk toward Jack, who opened it and perused the contents. “This is Sydney’s next mission, Jack, but that’s not the only reason I’d like you to take a closer look at this. I’d like your take on the objective.”

    Jack could picture the briefing: Sloane presiding over everything with his cold authoritarian manner; Sydney and Dixon countering that with the warmth of their dual presence; and Marshall, his naturally twitchy delivery becoming even twitchier under Sloane’s cold eye. He wished he could transplant these three from an SD-6 conference room to a CIA one. How much better they would be served--how much better the country would be served.

    The mission was for Sydney and Dixon to obtain an artifact from a University in Prague. Jack looked up with a slightly raised eyebrow. “A 15th century historical artifact?” he asked. “Rambaldi?”

    “Unclear,” said Sloane. “But it’s peaked the interest of K-Directorate. They left the artifact off for investigation. They don’t have sufficient internal resources to do the job, so they dispatched the artifact along with several highly-trained guards.”

    Jack glanced through a few attached dossiers. “They must consider this important. Do you think Sydney and Dixon can handle this mission alone?”

    “I have full faith in their abilities, don’t you? Didn’t you approve Dixon as Sydney’s partner yourself?”

    Jack disregarded the remarks and continued looking through the documents. Dixon’s assignment as Sydney’s partner had been one of the few decisions Sloane had allowed Jack regarding Sydney’s career. Dixon was a good man and an excellent agent, someone Jack would be pleased to work with himself. He had often regretted that SD-6 rather than the real CIA had recruited Dixon, but now he was glad. At least Sydney would be working with someone he could trust.

    “What did you tell Sydney and Dixon about the artifact? Surely, you didn’t--”

    “No, of course not. We don’t even know it is Rambaldi for certain. I said it was an object stolen from FTL hands that had a code hidden inside. The professor--fortunately his credentials include cryptography--is supposed to be decoding it for K-Directorate. I expect I will eventually have to discuss Rambaldi with Sydney sooner or later, but now is certainly not the right time for that.”

    Among the papers there was a photo of an x-ray of the object, which showed a peculiar and intriguing intricacy and advanced technology for its age. As an engineer, Jack was fascinated and couldn’t help lingering over the photo.

    “I thought that might interest you,” smiled Sloane.

    Jack continued leafing through the pages, but the rest seemed to be op tech and mission details. He committed these to memory as he appeared to simply glance through them. “There’s nothing more about this . . . um . . . artifact?”

    “Nothing. Nothing but the extreme level of importance that K-Directorate is putting on it.”

    “I really can’t tell very much about the purpose of the object by looking at a flat x-ray. A three-dimensional projection from a cat-scan would be much more helpful.”

    “Can you tell?”

    “Whether it is Rambaldi? Not strictly from this. But its complexity would argue for that possibility. I would place a high value on its acquisition.”

    Sloane smiled. “That’s what I thought,” he said.

    On his way out, Jack passed by the martial-arts center again. But he was out of luck, as he knew in his heart he would be. It was empty.
  5. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    A key in a lock--for the very first time in an eternity--the eternity of a six-month term in solitary confinement. When he wasn’t going over every moment of his marriage under the cold impersonal eyes of an interrogator, he was going over them in solitude. The only other thing in his mind was the one thing he had to look forward to--reuniting with his little girl.

    He’d already stopped by CIA headquarters and felt all the eyes on him. How many of them knew? he had wondered. How many really believed the cover story about the deep cover mission, he wondered, thinking that many probably just assumed that he had suffered a breakdown of some kind. He knew there were agents who had envied him--his meteoric rise within the agency, his magnetic wife--he seemed golden. Where was it all now?

    But he was going home--at last--to the one person whose love he could count on. Sydney would love him no matter what mistakes he made. He remembered how she clung to him with her small, strong arms, and found he could smile a little--just a little--in spite of everything.

    “Sydney,” he called, “Daddy’s home!”

    A moment passed. “Sydney?”

    Sydney’s nanny, Mrs. Baker, appeared with Sydney in tow, practically dragging her by the hand. “I’m sorry, Mr. Bristow, Sydney’s feeling shy today.”

    Feeling shy? Jack felt confused. He crouched before Sydney, opening his arms to her. “I’m back from my trip, Sydney,” he said gently, with what he hoped was an encouraging smile.

    Sydney stared up at him, her face getting redder and redder, a frown settling over those dark eyes so like her mother’s. Finally it burst out. “I hate you! I wish you’d never come back! I want my Mommy!

    With that, she tore herself from her nanny’s grasp and ran. A door slammed loudly, like a thunderclap.

    And Jack felt a thousand doors slam shut inside him. His stomach seemed to drop out of his body. She was dead and still she was taking him apart, piece by piece. It wasn’t enough his career was wrecked, even his daughter must still be hers--all hers in death.

    Somewhere, a thousand miles away, Jack heard Mrs. Baker talking. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Bristow, I don’t know what came over her! She’s usually such a good little girl!”

    He heard himself respond, “No, it’s quite understandable, Mrs. Baker. My . . . business trip turned out to be much more extensive than I had anticipated. And it came so close to Mrs. Bristow’s death. Please, see to Sydney. I’m quite all right.” He did understand, too, but it didn’t really seem to help much.

    The phone rang. He picked up the receiver. “Bristow.”

    “Arvin Sloane.” Jack wanted to hang up. Here to collect already? he thought. “What can I do for you, Arvin?” he asked evenly, as if he weren’t reeling.

    “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I’ve resigned. I’ve accepted a position with an organization that offers a great deal of opportunity, that can offer you a great deal of opportunity. I think that you’d agree that your options for advancement where you are have become more limited.”

    “I can’t disagree with that.”

    “Then have lunch with me. As you know, I can hardly discuss the particulars with you over the telephone. However, the short story is that I’ve begun work for a bank, Credit Dauphine, that provides me with a great many connections that I think you would find useful--including aerospace connections.”

    “There’s no reason why we couldn’t at least talk over the possibilities, Arvin.”

    “Good. Let’s have lunch tomorrow, Jack. Meet me at Harris’s at about 12:30.”

    Jack hung up and tried not to think ahead.
  6. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    On his way home, Jack stopped by a bookstore that contained a coffee shop. He bought a paper and a cup of coffee--black, no sugar. The PA played a mish-mosh of pop tunes and rock as Jack read the paper. Jack began doing the crossword--his real work. As he began embedding the details of the SD-6 mission in the crossword grid, melancholy strains of Melissa Ethridge settled over the near-empty shop.

    Everybody clings to their own fear
    Everybody hides some scar . . .

    The music made Jack go rigid inside. Focus, he thought, continuing to enter words into the grid, pausing periodically as though thinking about the answer. He tried to shut out the song. Yet it penetrated, working its way into him as Ms. Ethridge’s voice climaxed as she approached the bridge.

    Each road that I walk down
    Reminds me of you
    This whole town is haunted
    There’ll never be anything new!

    A wave self-disgust passed through Jack in response to this emotional reaction. He reached for the cup of coffee and took a gulp of it. The caffeine delivered a kick, but he found himself wishing for something a little stronger. How long had it been? Of course, since Sydney had joined SD-6. Since he’d had to be more careful about her. Before then, hadn’t he half-hoped that his mission would take him? That Sydney would be set free, the last tie--the biological one, the one he couldn’t erase--severed? He stared at the crossword. Just a few more words . . .

    Precious pain
    Empty and cold, but it keeps me alive
    I gave it my soul so that I could survive
    Keeping me safe in these chains
    Precious pain . . .

    Done! And Ms Ethridge’s voice broke into a heart-rending wail. Jack forced himself to sit yet a few more seconds, then allowed himself to get up and be driven forth on the music. I don’t need this! he castigated himself. The self-pity. The self-indulgence. He’d already analyzed himself and his situation beyond the point of loathing. That was all in the past. He had to do what was needed and that was it. There was no use debating whether it was fair or just or moral. As his face settled back into its accustomed mask, he wondered how much emotion he might have betrayed. He didn’t think it was much, but he knew that had Laura been watching, she would have noticed something.

    As he left the shop, he discarded the newspaper, well-marked with coffee rings, in a trash receptacle on his way out.
  7. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Jack sat down heavily at the desk in his home office. He’d locked the door. At last he could relax a little. He put both elbows on the desk and rubbed his face in his hands, finally resting his head in both of them. His head seemed to weigh far too much, as though the thoughts in it were as massive as they were tangled.

    Sydney had been waiting for him when he had arrived at home. She wanted to punish him, he thought, lying in wait to look him in the eye with that defiance, then run to her room again, slamming the door, shutting him out. But this time her defiance had met an impassive mask. He had shown no expression in response to her explosion. What could he do? he thought. It hurts. I can’t explain to her why I was gone. She can’t understand. I can’t make her pain go away. And the thought of what his daughter was going through because of . . . it was overwhelming.

    He stood, took a heavy bookend off of the top of a tall bookcase, and pulled a key off of the bottom that had been affixed there with putty. He used it to open the bottom drawer of his desk. In it were a few things that needed to be secured. He took out a bottle of whiskey and a glass and poured himself a shot. “To Sydney,” he whispered, and downed it in a gulp. It was warm, but he didn’t care. He poured another shot.

    He reached for another object in the drawer and regarded it carefully. The Baretta was heavy and cool in his hand. Somehow it seemed reassuring--something he understood; something he could control. He pressed the barrel lengthwise against his fevered temple to allow its coolness to penetrate.

    He downed the drink and placed the gun before him on the desk. He had thought about it before, of course. He poured again. He’d thought about it a lot. In detail. He’d considered it between questions during interrogations and during the long, sleepless nights in solitary. He’d thought about the implications and the ramifications. He’d thought through all the arrangements he should make and he’d made them. He’d thought it all out and there were just two things--two--keeping him hanging on.

    First, there was duty. Didn’t he owe it to all those he failed so miserably to find a way--some way--some how--to make it up? It was impossible, he knew. A losing proposition. But it was his error. His responsibility.

    Second, and most importantly, there was Sydney, the little girl who now professed to hate him. He knew, intellectually, and deep down, that she didn’t really mean it, but it hurt. It hurt so much--and he’d reached his limit. Hadn’t he?

    The woman he loved more than life had betrayed him--proved she didn’t love him, used his love to murder his friends and ruin him--yet sometimes all he seemed to care about was that she was dead and he could never hope to gaze into her eyes again. His foolishness led to so much destruction and death, and even his daughter looked on him with such unbearable anger. It was too much.

    He took the Baretta, released the safety and placed the barrel to his temple. That would end the pain--it was a much better numbing agent than the whiskey. It was so wrong, but so compelling. The moment spun out and the room became vivid, the pool of warm light from his desk lamp seeming to brighten, the faint sound of his heartbeat rising to a pounding. But then he heard something else.

    It was the muffled sound of Sydney, sobbing disconsolately in the next room. Suddenly he realized that she would connect his action to her treatment of him and blame herself for his death. It would only add to her pain--immeasurably. Even later, when she better understood what he might have been going through, she would see her behavior as the final straw that pushed a man over a precipice.

    He couldn’t leave her that legacy. What her mother had left her with was bad enough. He put the safety back on and locked the Baretta in the drawer for good measure. But he left the whiskey out. He wanted to see just how numb whiskey could get him.
  8. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    By the time Jack got home, he found a message waiting on his answering machine--actually, a non-message, as though someone had called the wrong number, listened to the answering machine, and hung up. He made his own call to confirm the meet, and suddenly developed a hunger for Chinese food. He rendezvoused with his handler, Cretchner, in the back room of their primary meeting location, a secured restaurant.

    Cretchner wasted no time getting started. Jack liked that. “I know you don’t have a lot of time, Jack,” he said. “You mentioned that Sloane was rushing this matter.”

    “Yes. It’s of utmost importance to him--he thinks it’s a Rambaldi artifact. However, I can’t tell you exactly what this McGuffin is--or even if it is in fact genuine Rambaldi.”

    “Our intel indicates that it may well be the genuine article. We have historians tracking leads down and they tell us that Rambaldi is connected to something like what you’ve described.

    “Meanwhile, it’s imperative that we intercept this artifact--”

    “I don’t think we can get a team in before SD-6 and once it’s at SD-6 headquarters, removing it without detection will be problematic--”

    “Since Sloane is putting such importance on it.”

    They looked at each other for a moment.

    “We’re going to have to intercept the SD-6 team,” Cretchner said.

    Jack started to say something, but Cretchner broke in. “I know it’s your daughter’s mission, but I don’t see any way around it. We have to find a weak point where we can attack without doing damage to any assets, enemy assets included.”

    “I find it difficult to categorize my daughter as an ‘enemy asset.’”

    “I’m sorry, Agent Bristow, but that’s what she is.”

    Jack grimaced. “They’re dealing with K-Directorate, then CIA. Fine. But I’m running this team. They should be free of K-Directorate by the time they get to Tabor, but unless there’s an emergency they won’t contact SD-6 until Gmund to avoid any possible detection of their signal. The extraction point isn’t until Vienna. I’d suggest rigging the safe house--gas them, take the artifact.”

    “Simple and clean. You should only need a couple of support personnel. I’ll make the arrangements and contact you. Can you cover SD-6?”

    “I need to service my cover at Jennings. I have appointments at Tokyo. Airplane parts. I’ve already arranged for my double to play my part there. Plus, I have some minor intel to pass along to Sloane when I get back.”

    “What do you need me for?” Cretchner smiled.
  9. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Jack awoke, feeling a familiar throbbing ache throughout his body. He wanted to moan with it, but suppressed the urge. She’d stolen his career, his daughter’s love, but worst, the worst was this. She’d stolen his wife. Not just her life, but every memory that they’d ever built together. During the day he could push it down, rationalize it. And yet somehow his traitorous heart just couldn’t get it and just kept on aching for her, looking for her in the night.

    He was supposed to have this stellar intellect. It was what the CIA recruited him for, wasn’t it? But as intelligent as his mind might be, his heart seemed just as stubbornly stupid.

    One night of revelation just didn’t seem to make up for ten years of marriage. The marriage felt real. The explanations just made logical sense. All the puzzle pieces fit, but they didn’t seem to fit into any part of him. It was a paradox. Devlin, Sloane, they thought he would just hate her and be done with it. Move on. It didn’t work that way.

    For a moment, he pushed the memory of Irina away and pictured Laura one evening as they walked down the beach at sunset. She had laughed at him because he had come on a whim, completely unprepared, picking her up directly from work in his business suit to take her to a seaside restaurant. He had taken off his jacket, shoes and socks and she had playfully pulled off his tie. They had laughed and chased each other along the beach and he had caught her in his arms in the dying light. And as he enfolded her in his arms, she had reached up and entangled her fingers among the curls of his hair at the base of his skull, drawing his head down close to hers. “Laura, my Laura,” he breathed quietly into his pillow. And, comforted, he finally slept.
  10. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    They were stationed at a makeshift command post in a small shack that housed a blow-off valve for a natural gas pipeline not far from the safe house. The safe house, apparently little more than a shack itself (but actually much sturdier than it appeared), was nicely visible from the location amongst the brushy countryside.

    Coulter and Jenkins watched Jack with some amusement as he suited up. Jack wasn’t even supposed to see any direct action, but he wasn’t going to take any chances. He made sure that every inch of his body was concealed, particularly his face. His head was covered with stocking material that extended over his chest and was secured below his arms. It could not be pulled off easily during a fight. His eyes were concealed beneath mirrored goggles. Even his hands were concealed within supple black goatskin gloves. He began going over his equipment.

    Coulter began laughing. “You’re just going to be watching,” he said. “All dressed up and no place to go!” Jenkins joined in.

    Although they couldn’t see his face, Jack cut them off with his tone and force of presence. He wasn’t laughing. “I’m your backup,” he said simply. “If I have to come in, I won’t have time to get ready. I can’t afford to blow my cover through simple lack of preparation. I’m in a long-term undercover op. There is an agent arriving down there who knows me.”

    “Good point,” said Jenkins, chastised.

    “This is supposed to be a simple operation. It’s the simple operations that you have to use the most care in performing because you have the most temptation to take it easy--relax too much.” He softened his tone just a little. “Keep that in mind and you’ll do fine.”

    Jenkins and Coulter picked up their gear and headed toward the safe house. Jack watched from his post as they hooked up the gas unit. This will be a gentle way to prevent Sydney from inadvertently harming her country, Jack thought. Sleep gently, Sweetheart.
  11. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Arvin Sloane had aged a great deal in the short time since Jack had last seen him. Lines had deepened and new lines had appeared in his face. The two had met at Harris’s, a familiar restaurant, but Sloane had then taken him through a side door to another car, which was waiting. This car took them to another restaurant that Jack didn’t recognize. They were quickly taken to a private dining room in the back. Sloane was quick to point out that the room had been secured.

    “Arvin,” Jack said, “what is all this about?”

    “An opportunity. Jack, realistically, what do you think your future at the CIA can be? How far do you think you can rise within their structure now?”

    “I hadn’t given it too much thought recently because I’ve been preoccupied with obtaining my liberty. However, given current circumstances, I’d assess my career choices as limited. I’ve been discussing them with Mr. Devlin over the past couple of days. Of course, I’m on probation at first no matter where they place me.”

    “And that mark on your record will always be there. It will always prevent you from reaching your potential. I may be able to offer you a more attractive alternative, Jack.”

    Jack leaned back attentively as they paused while their salads were brought in. Here it comes, he thought.

    “You’ve heard of the Alliance of Twelve, of course.”

    “Of course.”

    “I’ve agreed to join them.” Jack paused almost imperceptibly in mid-bite and glanced a Sloane. He continued chewing, listening carefully as Sloane described how and why he had been recruited. “We’ve had many discussions about the shortcomings of this government--and how they might be overcome,” Sloane said.

    “That’s true, we have. And we’ve had many personal experiences with that, haven’t we?” Jack allowed.

    “There’s another reason why you might want to consider joining us,” Sloane continued.

    Jack knew what he was getting at. Sydney; the fact that she needed a protector; Project Christmas; a lot of little factors that added up to a load of pressure. “I take it there will be consequences if I decline your offer?” he asked.

    “I trust you, Jack, but I know for whom you work. There will be consequences, naturally. You know what they are.”

    “Very well. I think you can expect a positive answer.”

    “If you need time before you start work with us, I understand. It can be arranged,” said Sloane. “However, I need your answer as soon as possible. Is there any reason why you can’t give it to me now?”

    Jack pressed his mouth into a thin line. “I need to consider all the ramifications, Arvin. You know how careful I am. Have me followed. I’ll be going back to work. They expect me. I will tender my resignation. You’ll have your answer very shortly.”

    “Very well, then. You can have 24 hours. I’ll have someone take you back to Harris’s.”

    Jack allowed SD-6 agents to follow him back to CIA headquarters. There he met with Devlin.

    “I’ve been contacted by Arvin Sloane,” said Jack.

    “We know.”

    “I know. I spotted the tail. It’s logical for you to keep tabs on me, at least for a while. There’s a few reasons for you to suspect that I might be . . . disgruntled.”

    “Apparently Sloane thinks so as well.”


    “What did he want? He resigned from the CIA shortly after you left us.”

    “He wants me to help him set up a division for the Alliance of Twelve. SD-6. He promises a great deal of opportunity--for power, influence--in exchange. I’m afraid I may make the hit list if I turn him down.”

    “Very good. Your mission is going forward very well then. Make sure you stay in his good graces.”

    “And what are my limits?” Jack asked.


    “Meaning, what if he asks me to do things that are illegal, immoral? How far do I go?”

    “The Alliance of Twelve is a formidable opponent, Jack. There’s no telling how far you can burrow into it if you tie yourself to Arvin Sloane. The first months will be especially critical and you will be left to yourself, totally out of contact except for dead drops to us letting us know your status. We will contact you when we believe that your position is stable enough to begin normal undercover operations. Up until that time, you will need to do whatever it takes to gain Sloane’s confidence.”

    “Whatever it takes . . .” Jack thought about what that might mean. What it probably did mean.

    They made arrangements. His handler would be an agent he knew fairly well, Al Cretchner, a man he felt he could trust. They arranged simple dead drops, the first one far enough into the future so that suspicion would be even further allayed. But before he began, he was to arrange for a short “vacation” which would be used for mission preparation. He’d take off for the vacation, shake his tail, and double back to Langley for intensive training.

    As Jack prepared to leave, Devlin caught his arm. “You know that I’m giving you a lot of rope here. Don’t hang yourself with it.”

    “You’ve had six months to inspect me inside and out. Isn’t that enough to satisfy you?” Jack asked.
  12. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Jack watched as Coulter and Jenkins finished hooking up the gas unit. Jenkins tested the remote control unit and flashed him a thumbs-up signal when Jack suddenly heard a shot and saw Jenkins drop. Coulter bounded for cover and Jack heard the sounds of more gunfire.

    Damn, thought Jack, K-Directorate. How did they locate this place? “Gibbon? Gibbon!” he shouted Coulter's codename into his comm link. Now I’m going to have to go in, he thought grimly. He watched as the K-Directorate agents began to appear, securing the area.

    This was going to be simple, he thought, briefly running a final check of his equipment. “Jaguar to Hightower. Do you have imagery? How many?”

    “Cretchner’s voice came over his comm link. “We count seven other than you--makes two good guys, make them down, five bad guys. We make two more, moving in rapidly.”

    “How far away?”

    “About five minutes.”

    “Very well. I’ll let Sydney and Dixon assist me with K-Directorate,” Jack said. “Jaguar out.”

    Jack moved in carefully. This was going to be a little tricky.

    He could see them. One was checking the gas unit--apparently they thought it was a pretty good idea. Too bad that plan wasn’t going to work out for them, he thought.

    The other four were working their way into a hidden position in the brush nearby. The fifth man was scrambling to join them as quickly and silently as possible. Jack worked his way down towards the safe house as quickly as he could without betraying his position.

    Jack circled to a hidden spot roughly in between the group and the door and awaited Sydney and Dixon. Just then they appeared around the corner of the safe house. Perfect, thought Jack, and he quickly squeezed off four shots before anybody could move. One disabled the gas controller unit and two others whizzed by Dixon and Sydney’s ears. The last shot dropped a K-Directorate agent who was foolish enough to leave himself somewhat visible.

    Sydney and Dixon immediately dove into the doorway. The K-Directorate agents sprang from hiding. One man headed toward Jack’s position, spraying it with machine-gun fire while the other three made for the safe house. The odds looked reasonable, Jack thought, hunkered down behind a convenient boulder. The agent blundered near Jack’s position and Jack grabbed the machine gun, flinging it away.

    The man attacked and Jack countered easily, moving out of the way, grasping his wrist, and pulling it down further in the direction of the thrown blow than the man had intended. With his arm thus pinned, one leg had most of the man’s weight on it. Jack took the man’s knee out with a well-aimed kick, causing the man to scream out in pain and collapse. He followed this up with a quick blow to the man’s neck, causing him to lose consciousness. Jack trussed him up with electrical fasteners.

    Jack felt a little exhilaration as he made his way carefully around the corner of the safe house to the back. It was on missions that he felt the most freedom. He was the farthest away from the need for cover. He could share pictures of his daughter with CIA contacts in distant locations--people Sydney would never meet. And when he had to engage in hand-to-hand combat, it seemed to serve as a release, allowing him to unleash his frustration and pent-up anger in short, controlled bursts.

    Jack’s fighting style was, to say the least, atypical. Somehow, it seemed natural for him to incorporate principles of anatomy, mathematics, and physics into fighting. Yet all that knowledge seemed reduced to an instinctive understanding, implemented with almost preternatural reaction and speed. Even as age slowed him slightly, his caginess kept him deadly.

    As Jack rounded to the back, he found Dixon engaged with one of the agents and was forced to wait for a moment as Dixon dispatched the man. Jack felt very hurried, worried that Sydney would be finished before he could reach his objective, but he couldn’t afford to help Dixon out. With some appreciation he watched as Dixon engaged the man, countering his advances expertly and finally catching the right opening and following it up. He was able to knock his man unconscious with a few well-aimed blows.

    As Dixon finished the man off, Jack crept behind and quickly put Dixon into a sleeper hold. Dixon tried to struggle loose, but Jack had the advantage and plenty of strength to keep it. Eventually Dixon slipped to the ground. Damn mission, Jack thought.

    Jack checked Dixon’s condition and secured the K-Directorate agent with electrical fasteners. He entered the safe house through the window in the back. He could hear Sydney fighting in the next room and resisted a strong urge to help her out. She’ll be fine, he told himself. She’s facing two agents at most. She’ll be fine.

    He immediately located a latch hidden behind a specific board in the wall and opened a hidden compartment in the floor. He raised the floorboards above the compartment and pulled out the pack containing the artifact and shrugged it onto his shoulders.

    Just a few steps to the window and out and a short run and ride to the extraction point.

    But as his feet began to scramble to the window, a couple of shots ricocheted near them. “Hold it,” said a familiar voice, “right there.” He slowly turned toward the voice to see Sydney standing in the doorway. “It’s like you knew just where to look,” she remarked. “Hands in the air. Easy.”
  13. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Jack sat at the dinner table as Mrs. Jones brought in a supper of roast beef. Sydney crept in, her dark eyes edging around Jack’s chair. She had a hopeful look on her face. “Daddy?”

    He seemed to go rigid inside, yet his face remained impassive. All at once, all the thoughts that had been swirling in his mind came together. How was he going to do it? Sloane knew what Sydney meant to him and he’d simply continue to use her as a flail to beat him with. And how could he do what he had to do--do the kinds of things he knew Sloane would demand of him--without affecting Sydney? Devlin had told him to “do whatever it takes.” What kind of man would he inevitably become? He couldn’t stand the thought of Sydney being associated with such a person. That such a man would be himself . . .

    And there was another thing. The probability that he’d get away with it was pretty small. Devlin said the profilers tabbed Sloane as needing to trust someone--as identifying specifically with Jack--but they’re ignoring how subtle and paranoid he is, Jack thought. One false move and I’m six feet under and Sydney attends another parent’s funeral. He remembered her heartbroken sobbing. Wouldn’t it be better for her if we weren’t close? If I could disconnect her from my poisoned life, she’d be free to forge a better life for herself, leaving me behind. And I can do this dirty job--without casting mud on her. If Laura could pretend to love him all this time, he could pretend not to love Sydney--somehow.

    All these thoughts came together as in a thunderclap. “Sydney, it’s time for dinner. Please sit down,” he said.


    “Sit down and eat, Sydney.”


    “I’m not going to ask you again.”

    “Yes, Dad.” She went around the table to her chair, marching like a soldier, and sat down rigidly. She picked up a fork and slowly began to eat her salad. She didn’t seem very hungry.

    He wasn’t hungry either. He began carving the roast beef, and placed a slice before his daughter. The roast beef looked good, lean and showing just the right amount of pink, a little juice running out. He was doing the right thing; why did he feel like he had carved out his own heart and fed it to his daughter?

    The roast beef tasted like cardboard.

    They ate in silence. When Sydney excused herself, he watched her small, retreating form with a pang. It’s for the best, he insisted to himself. The sooner and further she separates herself from me, the better. Everything I touch is turning black. And it’s only going to get worse.
  14. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Jack didn’t like what he was about to do. He was extremely glad that he had the advantage of having watched Sydney practice fighting while she had not had the chance to see anyone fight quite like he did. He pretended to have given up and waited patiently as Sydney approached.

    “Who do you work for?” Sydney asked. “K-Directorate? FTL?”

    Jack had hoped Sydney would come close, but she just came close enough for an easy shot and said, “OK, Mr. Strong-and-Silent, toss it over, nice and easy.”

    OK, Jack thought. Nice and easy. With an exaggeratedly careful motion, Jack slipped the pack off his shoulders, but then swiftly threw it at Sydney’s hands, sending the gun flying, and following it even more swiftly with a burst of power and speed.

    He kicked the pack aside, heedless of the device inside, his motivation to catch Sydney’s flying foot and turn her before she could inflict much damage. She--must--not--discover--who--I--am went through his mind, an impulse more than a thought.

    Sydney was able to manage a couple of kicks, but Jack was able to use his size to maintain momentum and attach himself to one leg and turn it viciously. He followed, throwing all his weight on her, curling his ankles around hers, pinning her shoulders under his broad chest. Given that instant, he was able to draw his gun and place it at her temple.

    Sydney relaxed in disgust and allowed Jack to maneuver her hands together. He bound them, then her feet with electrical fasteners.

    Thank God, he thought. All Sydney would have needed would have been to kill me in what she thought was self-defense and then find out who I am.

    He got to his feet heavily, took up the pack, and stepped into the next room. He secured the remaining K-Directorate agents and walked out the front door. Jack checked on Coulter and Jenkins. Both dead. He trotted toward the shed that served as the command post.

    Sydney looked after the retreating figure and after a while Dixon appeared, rubbing his head. “What hit me?” he asked.

    “I don’t know, he was pretty much covered,” Sydney said, as Dixon cut her loose. “But I haven’t ever seen a fighting style quite like that one before. You know, there was something--nah, really freaky. That guy kinda reminded me of someone.” It was something about his size, the way he moved, and he was left-handed. The guy just reminded her too much of her father. But of course that was impossible. Her father sold airplane parts--he was completely committed to the banal. Freak-ola.

    Déjà vu moments are always weird.”

    “Tell me about it.”

    “Can’t be K-Directorate. He left them trussed up like turkeys. You know what else? He left this in my hand--at least, I think it was him,” said Dixon, holding out his hand, palm up, to Sydney. In it was a packet containing a dose of two Tylenol. “The man has a strange sense of humor.”

    “Or something,” said Sydney, rubbing her wrists and feeling stranger than ever.

    Jack ran, his hands shaking--hell, he was shaking all over. For once he was thankful Sydney hated him. Any playful wrestling between the two of them and she would have known. Then it struck him that this was the most physical contact that he’d had with his daughter in years--he’d been all over her! He’d put a gun to her head! And the realization hit him like a bomb--the sinkhole that opened up under him after Laura’s death just kept getting bigger, and no matter how hard he tried to prevent it, no matter how hard he tried to cut the ties between them inevitably he had dragged his daughter in after him. Laura, Devlin, Sloane, all the evils of the world, they’d all drowned him in muck and were now sucking his daughter in after him. And he, who should be embracing his daughter--yearned to embrace her--found himself facing off against her instead. The disgust and self-loathing was overwhelming.

    He dropped to his knees and dragged himself to the foot of a tree, where he allowed the waves of disgust to wash through him in a most physical fashion. He vomited his guts out. “Jaguar, are you all right?” he heard Cretchner’s voice in his ear, carrying a note of concern.

    “Yeah,” he said between hitching breaths. “I got kicked pretty good in the stomach back there. Gotta get moving.”

    And he stumbled the rest of the way to the command post, where a motorcycle was waiting.
  15. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    He was supposed to be on a brief “vacation.” He had told Mrs. Baker and Sydney that it was a business trip and Sloane that he simply needed to get away for a couple of days all by himself.

    But it was all about preparation for long-term undercover work. And since he wouldn’t be making his first contact with the CIA until come time in the future--for his own safety--there was a great deal to work out: protocols, and, importantly in his case, psychological readiness.

    Jack met with staff psychologist Dr. Franklin Thomas. They shook hands. Dr. Thomas said, “I won’t beat around the bush with you, Agent Bristow. You’ve been through immense psychological trauma and it was against my recommendation that you attempt this sort of mission.”

    “I’m not looking forward to it myself, Dr. Thomas, but I don’t believe I have much choice. Just my knowing that Arvin Sloane is involved with the Alliance of Twelve gives him motive to kill me if I don’t join him. And if I don’t join him, Mr. Devlin has assured me I will be fired, leaving me with no protection--and no protection for my daughter.

    “So, Dr. Thomas, as much as I might tend to agree with your assessment of the relative state of my mental health, I don’t have the luxury of turning down my assignment. So please don’t turn down yours, and do me the courtesy of withholding any unconstructive criticism. Assist me in withstanding any scrutiny SD-6 may bring to bear on me. I think that they might have brought in McCullough.”


    “Sloane has the contacts, yes. So you understand how important it is for me to be fully prepared.”

    Dr. Thomas shrugged. “We’ll do the best we can, of course. What you’ve gone through has left you in an unstable psychological state. The person you most trusted proved to be something completely different than what you thought she was. Relating normally will be difficult for you. Operating under cover--” he shook his head.

    Jack frowned. “I can’t afford to be negative about this. I have to do this, not complain about my odds of success. I will succeed, Dr. Thomas. I must.”

    “Well, I can’t complain about your attitude, and that’s much of the battle. Perhaps . . . perhaps we can make the trauma work for you. But we still have to start by creating a new psychological center of gravity--as it were--around which you can build your structure of compartmentalization. I’m going to begin by hypnotizing you--”

    “Hypnosis?! I don’t see why that’s necessary.”

    “Agent Bristow, right now you feel a great need to feel in control. It’s understandable, but it won’t give us the information we need to help you do your job. If you truly want to be successful, I’d suggest that you cooperate.” Dr. Thomas’ voice softened a little. “These sessions aren’t recorded; they’re kept in the strictest confidence. I need agents’ trust for this training to work.”

    “Very well,” Jack said. Nevertheless, it took several attempts for Jack to relax enough for successful hypnosis.

    “Jack, I want you to think back. Think back in time to when you felt completely safe and happy.”

    A few moments passed and then Jack smiled. “Where are you, Jack?” asked Dr. Thomas.

    “I’m home. In the kitchen. It’s sunny--really sunny.”

    “What do you see?”

    “I’m with Laura and Sydney,” he said. “Laura’s making dinner for us. She makes excellent spaghetti. She’s giving me Sydney to hold. Isn’t Sydney the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen? I know I’m biased, but . . .” Gradually a shadow began to cross Jack’s face and a slight frown creased his brow. “Something’s wrong--” he began.

    Dr. Thomas broke in. “Don’t worry about anything else, Jack. Push the thought away. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is this moment, this perfect moment, your perfect family. Everything else is unimportant. Focus on this. Focus . . . Picture the moment . . . This is your center.

    “Now, when I count to three, I want you to wake, feeling refreshed, and I want you to remember everything that happened. One . . . two . . . three.”

    Jack opened his eyes. “What is this?” he asked incredulously. “I’m not sure I’d call that safe.”

    “You said this spy, Irina Derevko, is dead, didn’t you?”


    “Well, then. There is no harm in using her alias, Laura, to keep you in one piece, is there? Using her memory to center you is harmless if she is not around to upset your balance.”

    “How can you say that? She--”

    “She ultimately betrayed you, but emotionally you don’t accept that. It’s in this file, and it’s clear from this brief exercise. But because she is dead, you can safely treat her as two people: Irina, the spy who killed your friends and wife, and Laura, your wife. Doing this will answer many emotional needs for you. It will allow you to function, Agent Bristow.”

    “But they’re one and the same--”

    “And you can’t forget that. You don’t have to: intellectually. But as far as your emotional center goes, you have to use what you have. And all you have is Laura. So use her. Think of it as a way of having your revenge on her, if that makes you happy.”

    “If it makes me happy--” Jack repeated. What would make him happy, he wondered, under current circumstances? “Give me my life back. That would make me happy.”

    Dr. Thomas looked at him with sad compassion. “I wish I could,” he said. “We need to do some exercises, Agent Bristow. More hypnosis to solidify this approach, some undercover simulations, and then some psych testing simulations. It’s a full day, and then we come back in for more tomorrow.”

    “Of course. I’m sorry.”
  16. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    He remembered the very first time. Very clearly. It was one of those very boring graduate mixers, but Professor Chalmers had been very specific about his attendance for some reason. He seemed to think that Jack Bristow wasn’t a very social person.

    Jack had been trying to come up with a mathematical equation that could formulate exactly the correct amount of time to linger to satisfy social appearances when he saw a tall and strikingly beautiful woman across the room. She was standing elegantly with a rather bored expression on her lovely face--and no wonder. That idiot Trent Preston was trying to impress her with one of his adventures in nuclear physics. Her eyes began to wander a little and rested on his for a moment. And before those eyes moved on--as distant as they were--he imagined he detected a spark in them.

    They say love at first sight is like a thunderbolt. Jack had always believed it--and he had so long believed that like a thunderbolt it went both ways--an exchange of charge, positive and negative, male and female, yin and yang. She had said so and he had believed her. He needed to believe her.

    But the thunderbolt can leave a fulgurite marking its passage through the sand, while the storm itself passes, leaving no imprint on the sky. The sky is unmarked, while the earth is scarred. Laura was always so ethereal, wasn’t she? He had always been the rock, the foundation that their fortunes were laid on. And now she had floated away like a dream and his family’s fortunes seemed to have fallen away like a landslide.

    Ever since she died it seemed like all the decisions had been taken away from him. He was stuck. Prison, SD-6, facing off against his own daughter--where were his choices in any of these? Must he ever be trapped, never get out? Even Sloane’s course was influenced by what she did, he thought, bitterly. And I am chained to him, increasingly. And he wants to chain my daughter to row in the same galley. Well, I won’t have it.

    An odd thought struck him out of the blue. Had Laura survived, wouldn’t it be even worse? Could he have kept himself from chasing her--like the complete sap he was? It was more than fifteen years later and she was still there, impossible to let go. An ocean of whiskey couldn’t wash her memory away. A bullet might blow her out of his brain, but that was out of the question. As unbearable as his life had become, Sydney’s could be better--hers must be better. He had to hold on to watch over her, ensure her future. Destroying the Alliance, giving Sydney the choice to join the real CIA--or make whatever choice she wanted--would do that. But meanwhile, he felt forced to stay his miserable course.

    Once again at home, he regarded the moth trap. Wasn’t it just like this? Like the moth? It had all started with her, hadn’t it? The female didn’t even have to be there at all for the illusion to be complete. Had she given him anything of herself at all? Was any of it real?

    Did it even matter? The chain of events still led to the same place. He was still trapped.

    Like the flour moth.

  17. Scarlet Crystal

    Scarlet Crystal Bibbity Rabbity

    Dec 30, 2002
    one question: how did you get to be on a team?
  18. verdantheart

    verdantheart Guest

    Hey, do you really read that fast? I'm team because I write the Spy family/Spy dad columns . . .
  19. Irina Bristow

    Irina Bristow Rocket Ranger

    vh that was absolutely brilliant, your writing skills are impeccable (that’s an understatement, you’re a columnist, your writing skills are seamless). Your insights into Jack’s life and feelings, tore at my heart, you’ve taken what happened to him, all the pain he’s gone through; the loss of Laura, the truth of Irina, the distancing from Sydney, and the inevitable hate of Sloane; and somehow made it graspable. You had me in tears, which is a very hard thing to accomplish (I hardly cry). You really have empathized with Jack and have a strong knowledge of his character. I loved the mission with Sydney and Dixon, that was remarkable, and I do love Jack in action. Vh this was incredible, I hope you this some what incourages you to write more character analysises

    :unsure: sorry I should have edited the last line :shamefullyembarrased: I ment to say I hope this somewhat encourages you to write another or more character analysises (not sure on the plural form)
  20. lenafan

    lenafan Rocket Ranger

    Jan 22, 2003
    So. California
    Wow, a long piece to get through but worth it. I like your columns a lot and have all of them printed out for study. I'm going to get this story on paper too.

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