Sorry for the long break. I really struggled with this one. It should be easier from here on out. It's just that not much happened here until I got to the end, and I wrote and rewrote this a million times, trying to make it at least halfway interesting, even though not too much takes place. I've also dealt with some stuff in real life. But yes, I'm okay.
Monday, May 13th, 2024. 09:00 AM - Paris, France
Sitting on the floor of the subway station and trying to gather his thoughts and pull himself together, Adam's mind is racing in a million directions at once.
Conflicted isn't even the word.
The entire morning has been a rollercoaster. He got pulled into whatever is going on with the terrorist threat half-way accidentally. He didn't want to get involved, and then he did anyway, and just as he did, he watched a boy not older than 18 blow himself to pieces right in front of his eyes.
Now he feels like it was a mistake to get involved.
But at the same time, what exactly is going on? It has to be something big.
He and Raymond chased Amal Hassan to the subway station, and Adam knows for a fact that a man like Hassan wouldn't be involved in something unless it was really massive - massive enough for him to risk getting himself exposed like this.
Raymond tries to contact Adam again, and Adam responds.
"Black, what's going on? Talk to me."
Adam gets back to his feet from the floor.
"The bomber couldn't have been older than 18. I tried to talk him out of it. I didn't."
"But the passengers were saved, right?"
"Yeah, they're fine."
"Adam, you tried. That's what anybody could ever ask of you. You saved those people. They owe you their lives."
"I hate this shit."
"I know. But men like you and I, we chose this job to make a difference. Pull yourself together. Something is going on, and we need to get to the bottom of this. You don't want to look back on this and think to yourself that there was something you could have done. I don't know you, but I know your track record. Adam, you can make a difference."
Raymond is, of course, right. He doesn't know, but he hit Adam right where he needed to be hit.
Adam's biggest fear in life has always been the what if.
What if he could have done something, but didn't. That's what's cost him the most in life. It's what his father taught him about life as a soldier: if you have the power to do something, you're obligated to do something.
That's why for men like Adam it can be the ultimate burden to have the skill set necessary to stop threats like these.
When you have the power, you can't just walk away.
"Where are you now? I jumped off at the next station to the north."
"I'm tailing Hassan, I'm closing in on your position, I'll pick you up."
Adam gets to his feet and runs up the stairs to the streets.
People have gathered to the streets to panic about what happened, as something had blown up in the subway tunnel. Adam navigates through the crowd, sees Raymond's car and quickly jumps in.
Raymond points to a red car up ahead.
"That one. You two have a history?"
"Yeah. He was the head of a sleeper cell years ago back in the States. I apprehended him and tried to break him for information."
"No. He's a man willing to die for his cause. There's no way anyone can break him; he can withstand inhuman amounts of pain. That's why we can't risk being seen. He needs to lead us to his destination, and this time, we're doing this my way."
Unlike someone like Tyson, Raymond respects Adam's history and experience. He has no problems taking orders from Adam.
"Do we have anything on the plane bombing?"
"Nothing much. We couldn't get anything out of the passenger list. What do you make of it?"
"Dubois talked to me about diversionary attacks taking place, but it seems too random to bomb a plane down in the middle of nowhere. There has to be a reason. Maybe there was something on the plane they wanted."
"So, you mean someone hijacked the plane to get something and escaped with it?"
"Well, I guess."
Unbeknownst to Adam and Raymond, Hassan is aware that he's being followed. In fact, the entire point was to get someone to follow him. He is on the phone with Daivari.
"Are you sure they took the bait?"
Hassan eyes his rear view mirror.
"Lead them on. We still need some time for preparations."
The UNESCO building is filled with people to the point that it's quite hard to get around. It's also excruciatingly hot.
Clara and Madeline are busy taking photos, as everybody is awaiting the arrival of Presidents Abbas and Levesque.
Both Presidents are escorted to the building in their respective limousines, accompanied by the security detail.
The security is indeed top notch. It's highly unlikely that anything unexpected could possibly take place here.
In addition to doing her job, Clara is still puzzled by the woman she saw that looked like Iris. It's quite a coincidence that someone would look so much like her and have official business in the building today.
No unauthorized personnel is here today.
"I'm still wondering about Iris' twin sister that we saw."
Madeleine is more focused with just doing her job, although she does agree that it's strange - if only in an amusing way because, to Madeleine, the idea of not one but two people having such a bad taste in clothing is highly humorous.
"Hah, you mean someone besides Iris wearing clothes like that?"
"Hah. That, too. But still. It really looked like her. Quite a coincidence. Seriously, if she's here, I'm not staying overtime after this. I had plans for today. You know what."
Clara decides to call her boss.
"Hey, it's me. We're at UNESCO already. I was just wondering. Did Iris call you? Did she decide to come to work today after all?"
"No, I haven't heard from her. Why?"
"Hmm, I just thought I saw here. At least someone who really looked like her."
"I doubt it was her. She said she had the worst flu of her life and couldn't get up from bed."
"Right. I guess I was just seeing things. Okay, we'll get back to work."
"Make me proud."
"I will! Bye."
Madeleine assumes from what Clara said that who they saw was not Iris.
"It wasn't her, huh?"
"No. I guess not. How strange."
"People have doppelgangers. I swear Anna dated an exact clone of that guy you hooked up with a year ago, what's his name..."
"Oh, don't go there, hah. The less spoken of that guy, the better."
"Yes. As has been said, that goes for most of your men. If not all."
"Not all! Adam's different. I know it. He was so sweet when he called me earlier."
Clara's face lights up as she brings up and thinks about Adam. To be fair, her face lights up every time she talks about someone she likes. And it's her nature to like, or at least try to like, pretty much everybody. That's just who she is. But Adam brings a very special kind of light to her face. The type you can see from a mile away and get blinded by. Madeleine notices this, too.
"Well, I really, really hope you're right. And I really hope there aren't any skeletons in his closet. I hope you've found the one, Clara."
"I really think I have. I wonder what he's up to right now."
Still following Hassan with Raymond, Adam calls Diane to ask about the plane bombing.
"Diane, it's me. Listen, I want you to upload the passenger list of the plane that went down on my phone. I want the full list; passengers, details, everything."
Over the DSGI Headquarters, the call is on speaker, and Isaac joins in.
"Black, what are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking there was a reason that plane was bombed down. Something we haven't thought of yet. Something beyond a terrorist attack just for the sake of."
"What if there was something on the plane that they wanted?"
"It may have just been a diversion. To take our minds elsewhere."
"It's possible, but we can't look past a scenario right now. I know I don't work for you, but you're gonna have to trust me on this."
Isaac is obviously not supposed to give that sort of information to Adam who is still technically a civilian, but he's already involved, so Isaac figures what's the harm.
"You got it, Black. Diane, upload the passenger details to his phone."
Adam starts to go through the data, and Raymond asks about it.
"No, not yet. Nothing out of the ordinary. No Middle Eastern people on the passenger list, either. They're all Caucasian."
"What do you make of that?"
"Nothing for sure. But maybe the hijacker wasn't a suicide bomber. Us Caucasians tend to work for money. Can't really use it if you're dead."
"Hmh, I guess that makes sense. You know, I've done this job for a long. And something has always puzzled me."
"Why do people do these things?"
"We all have our purpose."
Raymond turns his head to Adam.
Adam drifts away to a faraway place for a second.
"The kid in the subway. What was his purpose?"
Adam recalls the boy talking about his family. And what the western government did to them.
"Revenge. He felt wronged by our governments. I know what that's like."
"A similar thing happened to you, right?"
"Yet here you are."
"I don't work for governments. But if there was something I could have done, and didn't - I don't think I could live with that."
Adam says it out loud not only to Raymond but to himself, as well. In a way, that was his way of coming to terms with that fact. That is his nature, and most likely always will be.
Raymond admires Adam's sense of responsibility.
"I hear that."
Adam continues. He sort of takes the role of a mentor with Raymond.
"I'm no one to give anybody advice on how to live their lives. But I guess the best thing we can do is to try and make decisions that we can live with."
Then he thinks about what the plans for today were with Clara.
"I just hope I can live with mine."
While saying that Adam, is dialing a number on his phone.
Alex Owens' Apartment, Los Angeles
Moments after resting his head on his pillow after a long day, the senior data analyst of the Antiterrorist Coalition of Los Angeles, Alex is annoyed at his phone ringing at his hour.
Even more so than annoyed, Alex quickly feels surprised as he sees Adam's name on his phone.
"Adam? What the hell?"
"Alex, I know I'm calling at a bad hour, but I need your help."
"What are you involved with?"
"That's what I'm trying to find out. I need you to use ATC's database to cross-check the passenger list of the plane that was bombed down in Paris. Cross-check the entire list with Amal Hassan. Anything he's been involved with. Organizations, associates, everything."
Alex sits up.
"Even ignoring the fact that what you're asking is illegal because you don't work-"
"Alex, you know me. You know I wouldn't be asking this if it wasn't important. I'm working with DGSI in Paris on something. But ATC has a wider database and access to more data on Hassan. Lives are at stake."
"I had no idea you were back in the field."
"Neither did I, but things happened. Do this for me, okay?"
Alex indeed knows Adam, and that he has a tendency to be right - especially in these sorts of situations.
"Fine. It's gonna take me a minute to set things up."
"Try to hurry. I'll send you the data."
Presidents Abbas and Levesque are prepared to give their opening speeches to officially begin the ceremony.
Clara and Madeleine are in prime position to take photos and take in the event.
President Abbas is having a few final words with Zafeer.
"It means a lot to me that you've chosen to support me today, despite your political disagreements over the event."
"You are the President, Bashar."
"Yes. But I'd like to think that our friendship is one that goes beyond politics. And your friendship humbles me, Zafeer."
Zafeer gives Bashar a fake smile and a handshake before excusing himself.
"Excuse me for one second. I will give a few statements to the press. They are getting restless. I will calm them down before you give your opening speech."
Zafeer disappears into the crowd of people, but instead of going to talk to the press, he goes to find Mia.
As they come across each other, they find a more private spot where they can talk.
There's too much going for anyone to really pay attention - except for Clara who followed Zafeer with her eyes, and noticed that he ran into the woman she saw earlier that looked like Iris. She mentions it to Madeleine.
"There she is! Is that Iris? Just look at her, seriously."
Madeleine cares less about the whole thing but has to admit that the resemblance is indeed there. They're too far away to really say for sure, though. And it almost looks like a bit more than just a coincidence.
"Well, either that's Iris, or someone just really wants to look like Iris. And I'm hard-pressed to understand why, hah."
Clara has that reporter's curiosity about her. It's not in her nature to just let something like this go. It's too weird. Even though, in her mind, it's probably nothing. She just has to know.
"What? Clara, we have work to do."
"I'll be right back. Just cover for me for a second."
"This is the gig of a lifetime, Clara!"
"I won't be gone for long, I promise."
Mia and Zafeer look around to see if anyone is close enough to listen in and have a brief discussion. Zafeer is nervous and agitated, unlike Mia who is calm and collected, as always.
"You're almost late, Mia."
"Don't start with me now. I have everything ready."
"We need to make this happen before the treaty is signed, but during Bashar's opening speech. The whole world needs to be watching."
"I know the plan, don't worry about it. I took down a passenger plane just a few hours ago, I think I can handle this. Relax."
Clara followed Mia and Zafeer and is keeping an eye on them from a distance. She's too far away to actually hear anything, but instinctively she hides behind a corner because something about their body languages yells secrecy. It seems like whatever is taking place is something people shouldn't know about. As a reporter, naturally, Clara wants to know about it.
She admits to herself that this is silly, but whatever is going on seems too odd to ignore.
Alex finally finishes going through the passenger list data, and comes up with something. He sends Adam a picture of Mia.
"I think I found a connection."
"Who is she?"
"She's on the list under an alias, but that's Mia Evans. A top-level mercenary. There's very little on her here, but she's had past dealings with organizations that have been associated with Amal Hassan."
"She's what we're looking for. Does fanaticism fit her profile?"
"No, not at all. By all accounts, she's a professional. Not a fanatic."
"So we have to assume she brought the plane down and is still alive. Alex, thank you."
Adam disconnects the call and briefs Raymond.
"Alex found something. A Mia Evans. She was on the passenger list under an alias. A top mercenary, not a fanatic. I know Amal Hassan, I know his history. He wouldn't be involved in a pointless plane bombing. And if he was, they could find someone else for the job. Someone willing to go down the plane. They needed a professional. People like her don't come cheap. They were after something. Something on that flight."
"What could that possibly be? It was just your regular passenger flight."
"That's we need to find out."
Daivari is setting things up on one computer, watching a feed from UNESCO on another. Whatever he is working on has something to do with the circuit board that Mia grabbed from the plane.
Daivari is a highly intelligent man.; his focus and concentration are intense. There's very little, if any, emotion about him. He knows what he wants and what he needs to do to get it. He's one of those people who can scare you with their high level of intellect. Especially when that intellect comes completely free of any sort of emotion.
Everything seems to close to being set.
One of his grunts approaches him to see how everything is coming together.
"Are we on schedule?"
"Good. The whole world is watching."
Zafeer decides to go back to President Abbas after giving Mia some final words.
"I need to go back before anyone gets suspicious. You know what to do."
"I got this, I got this, okay? I'm, like, three times as good as I'm pretty. You just do you, and I'll do my part."
Zafeer leaves, and Mia starts heading in the opposite direction. Clara decides to follow her.
What's the worst thing that could happen, right?
Besides, if something fishy is going on, she wants to be the one to break the story. It's probably nothing, but still. It just seems like it's worth checking out.
Clara's suspicions of something fishy going on are confirmed as she witnesses Mia pick the lock on the door that leads to the basement of the building.
Mia doesn't close the door all the way through. Clara stops and thinks of a second. She's stupid, and if it were anyone else taking a foolish risk like this, she'd advice against it, but she's always been better at giving advice than following advice. So she follows her.
Zafeer joins the ceremony just in time for President Abbas to give his opening speech at the podium.
He is nervous as he heads in front of the people, the media, the cameras, and everything, but his as soon as he begins to speak, his voice exhumes confidence, and he becomes relaxed. He knows he's here for the right reasons.
Shaheena is proud of her husband. And President Levesque looked at Bashar as a man he is proud to be partnering with.
The only person in the audience not happy is Zafeer, but he's doing his best to hide it with a plastic smile. In reality, he's nervous.
Shaheena glances Zafeer and notices something being off. She can't put her finger on it, but the nervousness is evident to someone who knows him as well as Shaheena does. She figures that it could be just the political disagreements between him and Bashar, though.
"I stand here today as a man of great humility. I can not express in words what this day means to me. And how much what we're doing here tonight means to me. We are here to take a step in uniting two worlds that have spent too much time waging war on each other. Sacrificing too many lives. Lives of good men and women. I am not a perfect man, I have made my fair share of mistakes in the past. But believing in peace - that has never been one of them."
Everybody else is focusing on the speech, Madeleine, however, is starting to wonder about Clara.
"Jesus Christ, Clara. Where are you?"
Hassan continues to lead Adam and Raymond on, as he receives a phone call from Daivari.
"Are you in position?"
"Are you sure the authorities are following you?"
"You know what to do. Then head back here. It's almost time."
Hassan ends the call and makes an unexpected turn to a wide alley, which detracts from the route Adam and Raymond were expecting him to take.
Adam and Raymond follow suit, even though they both realize something is up. However, they have no time to think about it as a series of bullets hit the car.
The car slides as Raymond hits the breaks and they jump out of the car to take cover behind it.
Hassan's car drives through the alley as a bunch of shooters have jumped out of cover and are firing at Adam and Raymond's car.
They retaliate in kind but are outnumbered, which allows for Hassan to drive away.
Everything the group has done so far has been so meticulously planned and well-organized that it makes it evident that these are pros after something big.
Adam and Raymond find a chemistry together that allows them to fight back at the shooters, but Adam takes charge of the situation as they strategize behind the car.
"It was a trap, and we walked right into it! Ray, you take out the shooters at your 1 o'clock, there's three of them, I'll take out the ones on the left, you got it?"
"Yeah, I got it!"
"And remember: we need one of them alive, Hassan's gone!"
Adam is the more skilled of the two, and he's also the one to take more stupid risks. It's not like it's a conscious decision, it's simply the only way he knows how to do the job.
He also runs out of bullets faster.
Raymond opens the door of the car and hands Adam another gun, and this slight lapse of concentration gives an opening for one of the terrorists to throw a grenade their way.
Adam jumps and pushes Raymond out of the way just in the nick time.
The grenade blows up the car in spectacular fashion, forcing Adam and Raymond to find another place for cover. They roll behind a trash compactor, and Adam notices Raymond's been hurt.
It's nothing serious, but he's clearly out of commission for the time being.
"I'm okay, just keep firing!"
Adam continues to fire. This is precisely where he was never supposed to find himself in again.
But here he is.
It's all instinctive at this point, and upon counting to five, Adam steps out from behind the compactor and lands accurate shots to take out the remaining shooters, except for one who he takes out by shooting him in the leg.
Adam keeps his weapon aimed at the hostile as he carefully approaches him.
Raymond also climbs back to his feet and follows suit.
As Adam gets to the hostile, the hostile tries to go for his gun, but Adam kicks it away, and steps on the bullet wound on his leg.
The terrorist yells in agony.
"I promise you, next time, I'm not missing the bone! What's your objective?"
"I'm not telling you any-"
Adam applies more pressure to his foot, and the terrorist screams even louder.
"What is your objective! What is happening at 10 o'clock!"
The hostile screams, but there's still no answer. Adam applies even more pressure, kneels down and places his gun on the hostile's healthy leg, right above the bone.
"What* is happening at 10 o'clock!"*
Finally, the hostile breaks.
"UNESCO! President Abbas!"
Raymond finds this hard to believe due to the strict security measures in place at UNESCO.
"The plan is to use a bomb threat at UNESCO to get Abbas out of the building. To set him up for an ambush."
Adam immediately thinks of Clara.
Without hesitation, Adam grabs his phone and makes a call to Clara in an attempt to warn her about the bomb.
Clara has followed Mia down to the basement of the building, witnessing her breaking her way in - which shows she's up to something she's not supposed to be up to.
Clara peeks around the corner and sees Mia crouching down to do something with her camera. She seems to be disassembling it, or something, but Clara can't quite make out what's happening.
Mia calibrates the camera - or something else that is disguised as a camera - and once she's done, makes a call to Daivari.
"Okay, the bomb's in place. Is everything else set up?"
Clara is shocked.
Clara is unsure what to do but decides she should notify someone in the security detail, but as she tries to sneak back upstairs, her phone rings.
Mia immediately turns around and catches up to Clara, grabbing her by the hair. Clara has never been more afraid in her life.
"Please don't hurt me."
"Oh, don't be such a damn cliché."
Mia held her phone in her hand with Daivari still on the line.
"Is there a problem?"
Mia places the phone back on her ear.
"Someone was snooping around, I'll take care of her."
Mia plans to snap Clara's neck, but Daivari stops her.
"She might be of some use. I have an idea for a hostage. Get out of there."
"Well, whatever you say."
Mia tightens her grip on Clara's blonde hair.
"The less you fight, the less painful this is gonna be, okay?"
Mia drags Clara away from the bomb as the timer goes off and it explodes.
The explosion isn't massive, but big enough to get noticed and cause mass panic.
The speech by President Abbas is interrupted as the security detail goes into rescue mode.
Adam is panicking because Clara's not answering her phone.
"Son of a bitch."
Raymond gets done notifying DGSI about what happened, and Adam urges him to get them to UNESCO.
"We've got to get to UNESCO now!"
"What about the the host-"
Before Raymond finishes his sentence, Adam kicks the hostile in the head, knocking him out.
"Cuff him and drag him in the car, we need to go! Move!"
The two Presidents are being escorted out of the building. Zafeer uses the ensuing confusion as a distraction to step away without anyone noticing and sends a message to someone on his phone.
Bashar and his family enter the limousine that exits the building.
Outside, Mia is holding the terrified Clara, watching what is transpiring.
Bashar's limousine makes its way out of the building, and as it does, a Middle Eastern man is waiting for it to reach a specific spot - until using a remote device to trigger a bomb under the road.
As the limousine stops, it's rammed by two black vans, one of them hitting it from an angle that causes the door to break enough for the men who come out of the van to drag Bashar and his family out of the limousine and into the van.
Additional bombs take out the security teams and police cars that were on duty. Everything is in chaos mode.
Mia begins to move towards the van, as well, but the mass panic causes a crowd of people running around and bump into her, giving Clara an opportunity to try and get away.
She runs in a random direction and thinks for a moment that she may have gotten away. There's an unanswered call from Adam on her phone, so a call to him is just a click away.
Adam immediately picks up the call.
But before Clara has the chance to answer, Mia grabs her from behind.
"I told you earlier: try something, and I'll break your neck. Now be a good girl and don't do anything dumb, you got it?"
Adam hears all of this as the call went through.
"Clara! What's going on?"
Clara doesn't get a chance to answer as Mia throws her phone away.
One of the two vans comes to pick Mia up, and she shoves Clara in the back.
I hope you liked it, thanks for reading. This is where the story kicks into high gear finally, so look forward to that. I want to comment that Adam recovering from the previous chaper's ending so quickly was a bit of a copout, I'll admit. The original idea was for him to be out of action for longer, and have Clara's kidnapping then be the trigger for him to get his shit together.
But no matter how many times I wrote it, it always felt wrong for Adam's character to just walk away. So, this is what I came up with.