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Posted in 24_fanfic

Title: In This Twilight
Author: marinw
Rating: PG for angst.
Characters: Jack
Summary: Post Day 6. Jacks visits Valencia.
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.
A/N: Title taken from a song by Nine Inch Nails. Damn you, Trent Reznor, for singing about the apocalypse so beautifully. Thanks to my beta reader,sardonicynic.

Infiltrating the perimeter was easy.

It didn’t take long for Jack to slip into a FEMA tent and steal a Hazmat suit.

She wasn’t here. She wasn’t here. She wasn’t here.

Jack repeated that mantra to himself a dozen times.

Whatever else you see, remember that she wasn’t here.

Jack could have come here in an official capacity. All he had to do was convince Nadia to be reinstated on a ‘provisional’ basis. Then he had remembered what happened the last time that had happened. The was no such thing as provisional reinstatement, not at CTU. Not for him. Jack wasn’t making that mistake again.

This way wasn’t exactly legal. But it was much faster.

Jack didn’t tell anyone where he was going. In admitting he needed help he had opened himself up to constant scrutiny: He was staying at Bill’s house and Bill didn’t even pretend not to baby-sit. And Jack sure as hell wasn’t telling Dr. Schreber about this. He had only agreed to talk to the shrink about China. Nothing else.

The buildings and vegetation were gone, leaving only the foundations of the houses and schools and businesses and hospitals and everything else that had once stood here. There were carcasses of cars and trucks, tossed about the landscape where they had landed at odd angles. Even the air seemed to be a strange color, a slight yellow cast, almost beyond the range of human vision.

Just a suitcase nuke, and the winds had been favorable. So said the soothing voice of the Fox News anchor.

The asphalt, the arteries of this one-was suburb had fared slightly better, large chunks of the roads were upturned but the street grid was still recognizable. Jack relied on that grid now, he had downloaded a back-dated Google Earth scan into his iPhone. He had been gone twenty months, and cell phone technology had continue to develop ahead of almost everything else. Human nature had remained exactly the same, and human nature was all that really mattered. Human nature had created a wasteland where Valencia had once been.

Jack followed that grid now, searching for the correct address, knowing that the street signs had all been obliterated. He had made sure, absolutely sure, that his daughter wasn’t here. Finding her current location was easy enough, and Jack hadn’t even bothered clearing the browser history after he had used Bill’s computer. After Chase had left Kim, the house had been sold. Now Kim wasn’t even in Los Angeles.

I love you, Daddy. But I can’t be with you.

Those were Kim’s wishes and he had to respect them.

Jack stopped walking. He had reached the place where the house would have of been. There was nothing much to see, really, just a few chunks of lumber and concrete. A large hole in the ground where the basement had been.

She wasn’t here. She wasn’t here. SHE WASN’T HERE.

Jack thanked the god he didn’t believed in.

Jack turned to leave, and then he saw it, almost cut off by the limited peripheral vision offered by the helmet. A tricycle. Or the remains of one, turned upside-down. A tricycle, not unlike the one he and Teri had bought for Kim’s fourth birthday.

The house may have no longer belonged to Kim and Chase. But it had belonged to somebody. Somebody with a child young enough to use a three-wheeler.

That one detail was simply too much.

Jack sank to his knees, clutching the awkward shape of the inverted-cone helmet with his gloved hands. He screamed.

This was what happened when he ran out of time. This was what happened when he did everything he could possibly do and when everything wasn’t enough.

This was what happened when one suitcase nuke was allowed to detonate. This nuke was just an instrument, it didn’t care if Jack had spent twenty months in a Chinese prison and had just been forced to kill his friend.

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I couldn’t stop it.

No one was here to offer Jack forgiveness.

He didn’t even try to stop the tears that streamed down his cheeks, hidden behind the thick plastic of his helmet. He was still human and he could still feel and he wasn’t ashamed of that.

After a few moments Jack looked about furtively. There were a few workers in the distance, identical in their bright yellow Hazmat suits, moving the radioactive material and any human remains that could still be identified. He had to get out of here, before someone saw him, and started asking questions and demanding to see some identification.

Jack had timed his visit carefully, between shifts, so that no one saw him as he entered the de-con tent. He stripped himself of the suit and stood under the scalding water of the shower, relived that no one could see his naked and scarred body. He retrieved his street clothes from where he had hidden them.

He had done what he needed to do and no one had seen him. He didn’t have to explain himself to anyone.

Now that he was ready, he slipped through the perimeter and back into the world.