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DOWN TO ZERO

posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Down to Zero
Author: marinw
Characters: Jack
Rating: PG
Summary: He was running out of time
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of Fox
A/N: Written for a 24n'more challenge. Total crack!fic, and a bit of a Fourth Wall. Thanks to my beta cybertoothtiger.

He had less than an hour.

He had forty stories to climb.

Don’t look down, Jack told himself. He hated heights. He was okay when he was at the controls of a helicopter or a small plane. Climbing--that was something else.

So what if the power was out? Couldn’t he have used the stairs? No, the building was automatically sealed when the electricity was cut off. Blowing the doors would have attracted too much attention. A helicopter? Too many people would see it. A compact figure dressed entirely in black would be difficult to spot. If they didn’t know what to look for.

Jack had Navy Seal suction cups on his feet and in his hands. There was a climbing belt about his waist, but the slick steel surface of the building offered no place to lasso an anchor point.

He had done this before, in the Special Forces. Years ago, before Jack had gone through heroin withdrawal and spent time in a foreign prison or been exposed to a weaponized virus. And he wasn’t getting any younger.

The building didn’t care.

He scaled the building quietly, controlling his breathing. Arm over arm, not releasing one hand until he was sure that the other suction cup was secure. He was on the far side of the building, away from the crowd. Chloe was feeding a false satellite image to all the surveillance servers.

Before pulling himself up another floor, he glanced at the illuminated surface of his watch.

He wasn’t going fast enough. Despite the winter air, Jack was sweating , the moisture emanating from his head soaking his ski mask. He didn’t have the luxury of wiping his face, as both hands very, very busy.

There was light coming from the street. Not useful, as Jack couldn’t look down.

He had refused the night vision goggles. They rendered everything flat and green and pixilated.

At least he had some light to work with. Small, powerful maglights attached to his wrists provided about five feet of illumination in front of him and hopefully wouldn’t be detected by any onlookers. There were emergency spotlights shining out some of the glass windows. One of the spotlights struck his eyes with its harsh light. For an instant Jack was back at CTU or Division, conducting an interrogation or being interrogated himself.

Jack looked away from the spotlight. Not a good time for a flashback.

Still, the vertigo was there. He stared at the top of the building, too far away, its outline was silhouetted by the cloudy hazy. urban sky whose diffuse light pollution blocked out the stars. His world seemed to turn upside down and he felt like he was looking downwards. He had to stop. Just for a moment, until the world righted itself.

Jack continued to climb. Arm over aching arm. His lean, powerful thighs quivered with the effort, his ankles protested from the awkward angle of his feet being planted on the building’s wall. He forced himself to be aware of each movement while trying not to acknowledge the pain.

When he finally reached the top of the building he feared it was a mirage. It wasn’t until his gloved hand grabbed a water pipe cropping out from the roof that he allowed himself to acknowledge that this part of his mission was over. He pulled himself up over the wall and fell onto the dirty concrete of the roof.

It was not yet time to rest.

Jack ripped off his ski mask. and pulled off the suction cups. He got to his feet. The target was a good forty meters away. He ran.

Once he arrived at his destination, he let his backpack fall from his shoulders. He then opened the pack and pulled out a small, powerful battery and a set of cables.

He was almost out of time.

He opened the electrical panel, and studied the layout with the focused beam of his mag-light. He attached the cables to what he hoped were the correct outlets. He switched on the battery.

The huge yellow digital clock sprang to life. In the distance, he could hear the roar of the crowd below.

The stupid tradition had been saved.

Jack collapsed in back of the clock. He hyperventilated. This exertion had simply been too much. His physical therapy and exercise regime hadn’t taken scaling a tall building into account. That left Jack with his muscle memory and shear force of will.

He felt sick. He felt very, very annoyed.

This was all the terrorists wanted? This was their only demand? For the clock to be lit in the middle of a very specific blackout which had shut down only a few key buildings? There was something else going on. He would find out later.

He sure as hell wasn’t going back down until the electricity was restored. Then he could take the elevator like a normal person.

He heard the thumping of the clock. That clock had always been there, somewhere in his mind and always just out of his reach. When the clock started, something was about to happen. Something which inventibly ended reasonably well for the world and badly for him.

He thought he was finally free of the goddamm clock. Now he had re-started it.

Without looking, he knew what time it was.

11:57…11:58…11.59…12:00

The crowd went wild. Jack could hear the strains of Auld Lang Syne coming from a powerful portable sound system.

2014 began.

THE END