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ADVENTURES IN REAL TIME 3/3

Posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Adventures In Real Time, Chapter 3
Author: marinw
Rating: PG
Characters: President!Jack/Aaron/Cheng/Surprise guest appearance.
Summary: My own post-Day 5/Day 6 AU (?) mindfrak.
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.
A/N: I am now taking the Kool-Aid intravenously. Much gratitude to my beta, the most awesome sardonicynic.


President Bauer was running out of time.

He had to do something now. He called for his chief of staff.

“Aaron, I’m going to talk to Cheng myself. Turn off the security camera.”

Aaron Pierce narrowed his eyes. “Mr. President, with all due respect, every time you order the camera turned off, something really bad happens.”

The commander in chief emerged from behind his huge desk.

“Aaron, how many administrations have you served in?”

“A few, sir.”

“Then you know how much this country has suffered. And how hard we have both worked to re-build it. I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize that.”

“Even for him, sir?”

“Not even for him.”

“But if you do what I think you’re going to do, it could cause a major diplomatic incident. Aren’t you worried about how the Chinese are going to react?”

“Not half as worried as I am about how the First Lady will react if I do nothing. You’re going to have to trust me.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Whatever it takes. Now please follow my orders.”

“Very well, Mr. President. Give me two minutes.”

“Aaron, thank you.”

Aaron left the room. A minute later, the president followed.

On his way to the holding room he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His hair was now white and had thinned somewhat. He exercised as much as he could given his schedule. Still, his body just wasn’t what it used to be.

Don’t complain about being old. Many people never get the chance.

He entered the room to find Cheng Zhi. They’d had dealings before, many years ago. Cheng’s hair was now white, too. But he still wore the same impassive, unreadable expression.

The president sat down and stared back at his prisoner.

“President Bauer. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” Cheng asked evenly.

“Let’s cut the crap. I know your people have the man I’m looking for. You’re going to tell me where he is, and you’re going to arrange for his immediate release. And you’re going to do this now.”

“And what will you do if I choose not to cooperate?”

“You really don’t want to find out. Here’s what I propose: You’re a political prisoner of the United States. An important one. I’ll release you if your people release my man. It’s simple.”

“I’m insulted, Mr. President. I thought I was more valuable than a single rogue agent. You’re paying a very high price for him. Is there someone who wants him even more?”

“That’s not your concern. Make the call now, or things will start to become a lot more unpleasant.”

••••

The hydrogen-powered Secret Service helicopter flew silently over the Pacific. The President sat in the back. He suddenly felt nostalgic for the old, noisy helicopters that were used in the early days if the century, before the world ran out of oil.

The president had just made a potentially explosive decision. It wasn’t a decision he had made objectively. He knew it was one of those decisions that could change everything. And he knew it was the right choice.

There were times when those decisions had to be made. He remembered the day, decades ago, when he had come to a similar choice. On the day of the California primary he discovered his most trusted colleague was a traitor. He exposed Nina Myers and then moments later resigned from CTU. He had sacrificed his career to protect his family, and he had never regretted it.

Yet that decision had been based on imperfect logic, the assumption that remaining a private citizen could keep his family safe. He had learned that years later, as he walked his daughter down the aisle while a nuclear bomb was detonated over her new home in Valencia.

On that day he decided to run for public office. He sought the highest office in the nation, and he knew he would succeed, because he was Jack Bauer and he could do anything. He was now almost two years into his first term and his administration was proving…interesting.

The United States wasn’t the superpower that it once was. The President focused his attention on restoring the nation to a place of peace and prosperity, not in recapturing its lost glory. Yet he was still one most powerful people in the world. And still he couldn’t keep the people he loved safe. But he could try.

The President’s thoughts were interrupted by a call from Aaron.

“Mr. President, they found your man. He’s alive, but they worked him over pretty thoroughly. The medics are with him now.”

The president barely managed to keep the anguish from his voice. “How far out am I?”

“About fifteen minutes.”

They were fifteen of the longest minutes of his life.

••••

The helicopter finally landed on the deck of the China Queen II. The president tried to wait as the medics worked their patient, stabilizing him so that he could be transferred out of the hellhole of a freighter. When the president could wait no longer he strode into the hold of the ship, flanked by his two Secret Service agents.

The cargo hold was dank and filthy. The metal floor was slippery; ropes and chains hung from the ceiling and were coiled on the floor. Something about this place was familiar. He had been here before.

He saw a man lying on a gurney. A man with blond hair.

“Excuse us, please,” he ordered the agents and the medics. “You can stay nearby, I just need a minute.”

The president looked down at the man. He was covered in cuts and bruises and his own blood. One blue eye was almost swollen shut. His clothing was torn and filthy. But oxygen tubing ran into his nostrils, there was an IV in his hand and his battered body was covered with a blanket.

He opened his one good eye. “Dad?”

“Hello, Jon.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Isn’t is obvious? I came to rescue you.”

“What? How? Did you just create an international incident to get me back?”

“It’s been taken care of. You have nothing to worry about.”

“So what happens now?”

He gently patted his son’s arm. “You’re coming with me to the presidential compound. We’re going to take very good care of you, and we’re going to keep you safe.”

“You mean I’m grounded.”

“The correct term is ‘protective custody.’ But yeah, you’re grounded.”

Jon grunted. “I was thinking about a career change anyway. It’s occurred to me that ‘federal agent’ isn’t the best job for the president’s son. Nobody’s buying my alias. Too much of a resemblance.”

“Jon, you’ve always lived your own life. I respect that. Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Yeah, it is. Really.”

“Good. We can talk about this later. I’m going to give you back to the medics now.”

Jon managed a weak laugh.

“What’s so damn funny?”

“The President of the United States flew out to into the middle of nowhere to rescue one agent. That doesn’t even seem real.”

That doesn’t even seem real.

With that one phrase, the world seemed to shift. But only for a moment.

This happened to him sometimes. Visions of another life intruded upon this one.

The president held steady. The moment passed and the world became solid again.

Jack smiled. “This is real enough for me, son.”

END