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MERCY AMONG THE CHILDREN, 2/3

posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Mercy Among The Children, Part 2
Author: marinw
Rating: PG
Characters: Africa!Jack/ Michael (OC)
Summary: Pre-Redemption, Minor Spoiler warning. Jack makes a new friend. Sort of.
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.
A/N: Title taken from the novel by David Adams Richard. Thanks to cybertoothtiger for the beta.

The soldiers had one rocket.

Jack banked the Cessna steeply to the left, a maneuver better suited to a fighter jet. The rocket shot past the plane but almost clipped a wing. It exploded some distance above the Skyhawk, the starburst explosion turning a quadrant of the sky white.

Michael screamed.

“Shut up!” Jack yelled.

Because of the shortness of the field-turned-runway, the plane was climbing at too steep an angle. He was in danger of stalling. Jack lowered the nose slightly once they were above the forest, and began climbing at a safer rate.

The irony was that Jack liked to fly. Usually.

Jack looked at the fuel gauge. He only had an hour’s worth, maybe less. It would be enough. It had to be.

Once he reached five thousand feet, Jack estimated that he and his unwilling passenger were safe. Relatively.

The sky was populated by a few puffy clouds, but the overall visibility was good. That was one piece of luck. Jack retrieved his sunglasses from one of his many pockets.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you. I needed to focus. We can talk now.”

Michael stared straight ahead.

“Those men wanted you to join their army, didn’t they?” Jack asked Michael in an attempt to start a conversation.

“That is no concern of yours, white man.”

“I have a name. I would appreciate it if you would use it.”

Michael answered with a glare.

Despite himself, Jack couldn’t help but feel a little hurt. In his travels, he had learned how three years of Noah Daniel’s foreign policy had made Americans less than welcome in many areas of the world. Sometimes the reception was so hostile Jack claimed to be Canadian.

Jack wasn’t completely innocent of racism himself: He still felt uncomfortable around Asians.

“Michael, I’m not kidnapping you. I’m not going to sell you or force you to fight. I just want to take you somewhere safe. You don’t have to stay there if you don’t want to.”

Jack wasn’t sure if that last sentence was a lie.

“You’re going to have to trust me.”

Nothing.

“Have you ever been in an airplane before?”

More nothing.

If you’re captured, don’t talk. I can respect that.

“Fine. You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. Just don’t try to kill me again. I’m not the enemy. I’ll prove it to you.”

At this altitude, Jack could see the landscape of jungles and field. It was lush and green. There were many people, but no huge highways or buildings. At first glance, this corner of Africa looked like one of the few areas of the world man hadn’t managed to damage.

The lovely landscape below him was deceiving. Sangala had endured plenty of damage.

••••

The fuel gauge read empty just as Jack reached the village.

He was going to have to glide to a landing. Either that or crash.

Jack made his angle of decent very gradual. He had flown gliders before, decades ago, but those sleek aircraft were designed to fly without engines.

A multi-engine commercial passenger jet can land without fuel. I can do this.

There was wind that changed direction so often Jack couldn’t choose one end of the field over the other. The small plane was buffeted about.

“Hang on. The landing’s gonna be a little rough.”

Michael’s small hands gripped the sides of the co-pilot’s seat. His brown knuckles were turning white.

This aircraft required less room to land than it did to take off. That would be an advantage.

A sudden gust of wind lifted the plane’s high wings and caused the Skyhawk to stall when they were less than ten feet above the field. The plane dropped straight down, blowing out another tire and snapping the strut in at least two pieces. The plane came to a stop, resting at an angle resting leaning over on one wing. The door was inches above the ground.

The landing was messy, but quiet. And no fuel meant little possibility of explosion. That wouldn’t have been a good way to make an entrance.

He looked over at Michael.

“You okay?”

Michael was trembling, but said nothing. The kid was tough.

“Let’s go.”

Jack unbuckled himself and pried open the door. Once outside, he reached into the back seat and slung his courier bag around one shoulder and his duffle around another. He extended his hand to Michael.

The boy insisted on getting out of his restraints and out of the plane himself, refusing to take Jack’s outstretched arm. Michael didn’t gather his belongings because he didn’t have any. He immediately eyed the handgun still tucked into Jack’s waistband.

“Don’t even think about it.”

Michael started to run.

“Stop!” Even burdened with his luggage, it was easy for Jack to catch up with him. He knelt before the boy so that he could communicate face to face.

“Michael, I could have let the soldiers take you. But I didn’t. Not even after you tried to shoot me. I put my ass on the line to rescue you. I think I’ve earned the right to ask something of you in return.”

Michael folded his arms in front of him.

How old is he: Ten? Eleven? Does it matter?

“C’mon,” Jack said. “There’s someone I want you to meet.”

Jack started to walk away. Miraculously, Michael followed.

After a few minutes of walking they reached the compound. There was a lot to see: A large, half-constructed building, some cabins, something that looked like a supply shed. A few Jeeps in various states of repair. Farm equipment. A garden filled with some valiantly growing vegetables. This place was a community.

And there were children! All boys, most of whom were too engrossed in a soccer game to notice the newcomers.

Had they even noticed the approaching plane?

“See,” Jack said, “I told you this was a safe place.”

From one of the cabins a dark-haired Caucasian man emerged. He was quite short, even compared to Jack.

He looked so much older.

Jack wondered how much older he must look. It had been fifteen years.

The other man stopped in his tracks and his jaw dropped in recognition.

“Jack?” He asked incredulously. “Jack Bauer?!

Jack grinned. “Hello, Carl.”

TO BE CONTINUED…