Author: Aldebaran8423 PM
A weary Agent Bennett considers his failure to capture Zeta, the cost to his career, his family, and his soul. Posted in honor of Zee’s Independence Day!Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 1,465 - Reviews: 3 - Published: 08-05-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5279503
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Length: 900 words
Date Written: August 1, 2007
Disclaimer: "The Zeta Project" was created by Robert Goodman. "The Zeta Project" and the characters associated with it belong to DC Comics. This story was written for entertainment purposes only.
Author's Note Part One: To celebrate Zee's Independence Day, the day Zeta refused to kill an innocent man and started his run for freedom on August 5th, 2041, here is a drabble which was originally written for a challenge on the Knossos Forum. I know it is kind of ironic to post a Bennett-centric piece on Zeta's Independence Day, but, well, it was the longest unposted piece I had available. Bennett's thinking about Zee in it, does that count? As always, I hope you'll let me know your reaction to my story by leaving a review. Happy Independence Day!
Author's Note Part Two: This story was written in response to the Knossos Forum drabble prompt "Plainclothes Bennet", which invited us to dream up drabbles about out of uniform NSA Agent James Bennett. (Don't even get me started on the Bennet/Bennett discussion…) The original drabble is found in the Fan Fiction section of the forum, in the thread titled "Drabble Challenge 3: Plainclothes Bennett". Many other great drabbles are available there, by several authors, and not all of the drabbles have been posted here at FFN, so head over to Knossos to check them out!
Author's Note Part Three: This note contains spoilers for "The Zeta Project" episodes "The Next Gen" and "Shadows".
"Wayworn" is set after the episode "The Next Gen" written by Hilary J. Bader, teleplay by Rich Fogel, which introduces the synthoid character Infiltration Unit 7 (IU7), who has been sent to eradicate arms dealer Roland Deflores. At the end of the episode, IU7 has been severely damaged during its battle with Zeta, and Ro and Zeta believe it to be destroyed. After Ro and Zeta are gone, it is revealed that IU7 is severely damaged, but still functional. Possibly due to the damage it received, IU7 forgets its original target and selects a new target…Zeta. So it seems clear that the NSA did not send IU7 after Zeta, despite what Ro and Zee assume in the later episode, "Shadows". In fact, IU7 goes as rogue as Zeta, in its own twisted way, as it sets out to hunt down Zeta.
"Wayworn" is also set sometime before the episode "Shadows" written by Hilary J. Bader, teleplay by Rich Fogel, in which IU7 finally catches up to Ro and Zee, and is (apparently) destroyed at the end of the episode.
The character of Sprague is my OC, who will feature prominently in "The Greater Good" when I finally get it written… The character of Lynne is my take on Bennett's unnamed in the series wife; other fanfic writers have used other names for her.
The Knossos Forum: The Knossos Forum is a message board for Zeta Project fans, and can be found at tzpknossos(dot)proboards53(dot)com/. If the address for the forum is not clear to you or you have any questions, you can email me through FanFiction's email service.
Finally, the story…
The black suit and pale lavender shirt lay crumpled and forlorn on the bathroom floor. Bennett regarded the sorry lump of clothing as he stepped into the hard spray of the shower. He had always treated the clothes with care, as though they were a dress uniform, crisp emblems of expertise and authority. Symbolic, that's what it was, that they should now lie in a wrinkled heap in the corner, carelessly cast aside. Symbolic of this whole sorry mess. Water drummed against his skull, cascaded over his closed eyes, across his weary shoulders. Zeta. There wasn't enough water in the world to wash away the stink of each failed attempt to retrieve Zeta, the longest ongoing retrieval in Agency history…headed by yours truly, Agent James Bennett.
He rolled his neck, opened his mouth into the water, imagining it able to flush clean the frustration caking his spirit. Before Zeta, his career had been a string of successful retrievals. Failure had never been an option. Considering the number of active IU's, retrievals were relatively rare, always memorable, but before Zeta, always achievable. Usually they were fairly straightforward, a question of a unit with a malfunction, unable to make its way back to the nearest debriefing site. The units each had homing beacons, it was just a matter of getting within range, tracking the thing down and whisking it discretely away.
Occasionally, infiltrations had gone… wrong. Units had been caught or captured, still in persona, unable to free themselves without compromising their secrecy. These retrieval extrications were always difficult. He raised a hand against the water's stream, massaged the join of neck and shoulder. The necessary secrecy of the program had made for some difficult decisions, but the NSA and his team had always been guided by the ultimate justice, protecting the country and its law abiding citizenry. He sighed into the humid air. Just because decisions were necessary didn't make them any easier.
And on at least two occasions, synthoids had either malfunctioned or had their cover so badly blown open that they had exercised the final option: self destruct. There was no way of knowing the real truth of these missions concluding moments; the truth, along with everything and everybody else within a circumscribed radius, had been blown to kingdom come. And his team had been there to clean up, literally…
He turned his back to the water, opening his eyes in the droplet flecked air. Soap gave soft edges to the hard lines of his body, temporarily hiding the various small scars he'd acquired in the line of duty, pale ridged marks that marred his skin, reminders of tangible adversities faced and overcome.
But Zeta was something different, altogether. Never before had there been an instance of a synthoid discovered, apparently captured, reprogrammed by the very group it was infiltrating, sent on some unfathomable errand, leaving a trail of deepening mystery in its wake…and haunting Bennett's every waking and sleeping moment, an internal wound to his confidence and pride, slowly hardening into an invisible scar… Lynne said she'd never seen his sleep so troubled, in all the years of their marriage. And his frequent absences were taking a toll on her, and on little James as well… but Lynne at least understood the demands of duty.
And now… another synthoid had gone missing. Two at once, on the loose, both of them the first in their series, both of them now operating on some unknown agenda. Bennett felt the tension seize his shoulders again, as he thought of Sprague and his cronies, mobilized as a second retrieval team. There was always a backup team, but it had been a decade since two retrieval teams had been simultaneously deployed. At least it removed the threat of Sprague's team being brought into the search for Zeta. IU6 and IU7 were unknown quantities, but Sprague was another matter… Bennett knew all too well Sprague's agenda: the acquisition of power, by any means necessary. Bennett didn't like him, didn't trust him… and didn't want to have to work with him in any capacity. It would be unavoidable now, they'd have to pool information to determine if there was a connection between the two synthoids' disappearances. Duty demanded a lot of things that James Bennett didn't have to like.
He turned off the tap, emerging clean into the steamy bathroom. The clothes on the floor nagged at him. With a sigh, he picked them up, shook them out, returning them to their authoritative lines as he placed them on hangers. If only everything was as easy.
He tossed water from his hair with his hand. Lynne would be home soon, from dropping off little James at her parents for the weekend. A long overdue weekend of alone time, probably their last for a while. She'd made him promise that tonight, at least, there would be no work talk. He smiled at his wet reflection in the mirror. She knew him well enough not to ask for that restriction for the whole weekend. He knew she'd help him remember who he was, before Zeta. And she'd help him find his focus again, until the job was, finally, done. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he carried the suit and shirt to the waiting bedroom closet. That's what he did, his chosen profession. He restored order. Sometimes, amid the chaos, it was hard to remember that.