|Way of the Gun
Author: ZeroGain PM
Some choices can't be unmade, sometimes there's no reset switch. Sheriff Carter almost never has to use his gun, but one girl's death sets in motion events that may push him beyond the breaking point. Set post S04E09. Tags: Dark, Death, Angst, H/C.Rated: Fiction M - English - Crime/Angst - Jack C. - Chapters: 20 - Words: 75,280 - Reviews: 77 - Favs: 17 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 01-27-11 - Published: 01-01-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6612306
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
WAY OF THE GUN
For Whom the Bell Tolls
by John Donne
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
After the fiasco at the rogue project's bunker, Bob and I, and the rest of the surviving security team members, were recovered and rushed to GD Medical to have our injuries seen to. It was a chaotic mess, and since my injury was non-life threatening I pretty much got to sit and wait for attention. I spent my waiting time next to Alli's bed, since Doctor Malavi had finally rescinded the no contact order. Kevin and Zoe took shifts waiting with me, but I stayed as long as they'd let me, and fought to stay longer still.
Henry and Grace make one hell of a pair. Each is brilliant in their own right, but together they find solutions neither could alone, and that's saying something.
On Monday, the day after the... resolution... the pair had finished solving all of Pilar's codes from her book cipher, and managed to put together that information with everything they already knew.
I ran in to Henry on my way back to Allison's room. The doctors had finally released me after seeing to my hand. I would keep it, but even the dermal regeneration techniques Global had couldn't handle all the scar tissue. I'd have a reminder pretty much forever of how close that had been. Good, maybe it would remind me of the potential consequences, if things ever got this bad again.
"Jack!" he said, brightly, smiling with genuine excitement.
"Henry." I replied. Hope had flared in my heart just based on his attitude, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. He had a medical kit in one hand, and a slate tablet in the other. "Please tell me that's what I hope it is."
He smiled sympathetically, clapped me on the arm after juggling his burdens, and followed me into Allison's room. The treatment was amazingly simple. After a discussion with Doctor Malavi where I could follow maybe three words in ten, most of those being the pronouns, Henry injected a syringe filled with a clear solution into Allison's IV line and activated a program on his computer.
The other technicians made room for me and I took up a spot opposite Henry so I could hold the hand not hooked up to the tubes and wires. Her skin was cool to the touch. It tore at my heart to see her like this, and for the first time in a long time I actively prayed.
It wasn't out loud, but I know from the glance Henry gave me that it was obvious what I was thinking. I bartered with God, and pleaded, cajoled, demanded… you get the point.
Henry and Doctor Malavi continued to compare notes about the procedure, but I paid them very little heed, and simply continued my negotiations while I tried to nurture hope. At least they were making positive sounding noises.
A while later, I don't know if it was minutes or hours, Idha Malavi put her hand on my shoulder and quietly said "We're backing off the sedative now. She appears to be reacting well to the procedure."
I nodded, not trusting myself to say much of anything. Shortly after that, her hand warmed slightly, and flexed, and she gripped back. I leaned forward and brushed her long brown hair, somewhat lank and bedraggled, back from her brow, and her eyes fluttered open.
Quietly I whispered to her, my anxiety thick in my voice, "Alli, honey, can you hear me?"
She blinked a few times, as if confused, then looked into my eyes and smiled. "Hi, Jack" she said. Her voice was slightly slurred, and rough. She hadn't spoken for days, after all. Softly she continued, "I was dreaming about you."
The wall of stoicism holding back my tears broke, and I leaned in and kissed her. She kissed me back.
A while later the whole lot of us, Alli, me, Kevin, Zoe, and Jenna, were all gathered around Allison's bed in her room talking with Henry and Idha. Really it was a lot more like them talking to us.
"Well, the important thing to know is that we believe we've countered everything that could be used against you, Allison." he said.
Her brow furrowed as she considered the options. "So what you're saying is that you can't undo the work that's already been done? Up here?" she tapped her head with the forefinger of her free hand. Her other was occupied holding Jenna.
Kevin had come rushing in shortly after she'd awoken, and the two of us had to be chased out of the room by Idha shortly after so that Allison could be tended to medically. It's always uncomfortable when they start taking things out of you that they put in place when you were zoned out on drugs. Now, though, we were all pretty much one big jumble of relieved and happy people. It felt good.
Henry, continuing the conversation, shook his head first, then said, "No, the assemblers and the core are still in there. We're analyzing the data long term, but everything is so tightly interwoven with your neurobiology that undoing it is as risky as it gets. None of us are willing to take that risk, even if you were to demand it."
I didn't like the sound of that very much, but by now I've learned my lesson about just jumping in while the big brains are talking. Well, mostly, anyhow. It depended greatly on the level of common sense on display. From her expression Allison wasn't too happy about the situation either.
"So the processor and everything else is still there? What kind of risk factors am I looking at here, Henry, Idha?" she asked.
Doctor Malavi fielded that one. "Remarkably few. We're still studying what data we have, but the compounds that Grace and Henry formulated with the late Miss Graham's notes has succeeded in shutting down the assembler's carbon reconstruction functions. They can still build as their construction requires, but only by using supplied materials, the way we normally use such machines."
Henry chimed in. "Also, Allison, Douglas managed to work together a patch to the software in the processor. It's shut down the transponder element, so you aren't in danger of receiving any wireless signals or of being compromised by an outside source."
"No hackers, then?" I asked, trying to clarify the Henryspeak.
"No, no risk at all." He agreed.
"Cool, Mom" said Kevin. "How's it feel being the world's first cyborg?"
She made a face his way, causing him to laugh.
"It's remarkable work, despite it's origins." Henry continued. "When you have some time, after you've had a chance to recover some more, I would really like to work with you on some DNI research. We really do have an amazing opportunity to learn from this."
No one but me seemed confused. "DNI?" I asked.
"Direct Neural Interface, Dad." Zoe answered.
My turn to make a face her way. "Check out the big brain on Zoe!" I teased as I hugged her to me. She smiled and hugged back. I was glad to see that my snappish comments from the day before weren't being held against me.
Alison looked nonplussed by the whole situation. "I don't know Henry. It may take some time, if ever, before I'm ready to deal with this in that method. Honestly it just scares me silly!" I reached out and took her free hand, seeking to impart my reassurances with a gentle squeeze. She smiled back at me, though it was somewhat hollow.
Henry nodded emphatically. "Yes, I figured it might. I'm sorry for how this happened, Allison. I wish there was something we could have done sooner."
He departed shortly after that.
Funerals are hard, there's no two ways about that. Some are harder than others.
Pilar Alexandria Graham was laid to rest on a warm spring morning about two hours after sunrise on a Saturday. The service, one among many that week, was a private affair open only to family and friends. I attended with Zoe, Allison, and Kevin. Reverend Harper gave a moving service that I barely recall. Bob was stoic and ramrod straight, he'd survived his injuries, if barely. Annabelle was a wreck, barely holding it together.
When the service was over, Bob favored me with a precise military salute. I returned the honor, and we parted without a word. He took his wife under his arm and departed to mourn in private. It would be a long time, if ever, before he could say words to me, and I didn't blame him in the least. I couldn't have been half as stoic if it was my girl we were putting in the ground.
A few days before I'd given them back Pilar's bible, after Henry and Grace were absolutely sure they'd wrung everything they could from the notes contained within. The letter that had been tucked in the cover was still there, and before I'd given it back I chose to read it.
The note was written on used paper from a bulletin that once hung in the foyer of the church. The reverse side is an advertisement for some event that the First Church of Eureka was collaborating with other faith communities on. Her voice is plainly audible in it, at least to me. She'd been a guest in my home often enough that I could put just the right inflections in it. Throughout, several words are scribbled out, and the ink on the page, perhaps from a ball point pen, has blurred due to water damage. You can only look at the page and know that they are shed tears.
I know I've been acting strange the last several weeks, and you're concerned and confused. I wish that there had been something more I could do, but I finally figured out that I could at least do this.
Something terrible has happened to me, and I've been hurt badly.
I can't tell you what, I truly can't. The monster that did this has made it so that I can't even tell those I love what's happened! I used to think the attention he showed me was respect and love, but in the last few weeks I've come to learn just how little he loves anything but himself and his legacy.
I wonder if he's done to Luisa what he's done to me, but I think I'll never know.
The worst part is that I made it all possible, and now he's taken what I made and used it against me.
I wish that I could say this to you both. I just want to hug you Mom, and Daddy I wish you could just hug me and make it all better, but you can't.
Only I can.
I'm leaving this bible with Pastor Eve, and I hope she can get it to Sheriff Carter. Whatever happens in the next few days, please think well of me.
I tried to do good.
I love you both!
There is no signature.
I don't know what Bob or Annabelle thought after that. With Bob's involvement in the earlier stages of the project before Nathan and Henry shelved it so many years ago, I suspect he knew full well exactly everything that happened.
As the party dismissed, and the workers began filling in the grave, I walked by and left a single hyacinth lying atop it. "I'm sorry" I murmured, and moved on.
There would be a more public memorial service for Pilar later, but I never attended. Zoe told me it was sweet and meaningful. I just felt hollow and empty when we talked about it.
As we left the funeral, Allison gravitated toward another section of the graveyard. I knew where she was going and followed. Zoe and Kevin left in her car, leaving the two of us to our own journey.
Allison was doing remarkably better. Her color had returned, there was a spring in her step again, and her smile was back. There seemed to be no lasting injury on the surface, but the surface is just that.
We'd shared the same bed every night since, but hadn't done anything more than sleep in it. Mostly she cried herself to sleep at night and let me comfort her. I was thankful for that. Rightly so, she saw the implanted machines in her head as an invasion, nearly the same thing as though she'd been raped.
A few times in the night I wished I could kill Baxter over again, only this time do it slower, but I did my best to hide such sentiments. I was afraid that Alli would take my anger as her fault, and that's the last thing she needed.
Our meanderings carried us to where I knew they would. A large marble plinth marking the empty grave of one of Eureka's most dedicated and brilliant scientists. Nathan Stark. Allison's former fiancé and ex-husband.
"I miss him" she said, quietly. Then glanced at me guiltily.
I gathered her in an embrace and said "It's okay. You two were close and I don't hold that against anyone. I miss him too." I said. Then I smirked and added in a teasing tone, "A little, anyway."
She smiled, but her eyes were brimming with unshed tears. "You want to be alone for a while?" I asked. She nodded, not saying anything. I hugged her again and kissed her forehead.
"I love you, Alli. Take all the time you need, I'll be here when you're done." She nodded her head and pulled away from the embrace.
I found myself wondering, as I gave Alli her space, how Nathan would have handled the events of these last few days. Would he have found the answers sooner, or would he have had his own distractions? And how would he have solved it? It wouldn't have been guns blazing, I knew that.
Dear Christ what a red-letter day. Me wondering if being more like Stark would've saved the day...
In the end she said a few words to the silent marker, bent gently and kissed his portrait, then came back over toward me. We hugged again and walked out of that place together.
Andy had to be almost completely rebuilt. The damage done as he'd tried to hold the entryway into the bunker was extensive to the point tat 80% of his physical mass had been obliterated or rendered unusable scrap. Zane, as it turned out, had kept a copy of Andy's core personality from before the event. After I had confronted him about my suspicions, he'd come clean readily. That was enough of a shock as it was, that when he offered the uncorrupted "original" Andy by way of compensation or penance, I let it go at that.
Besides, at this point the two of us were co-conspirators in a number of felonies. I was hardly fit to go about decrying his actions during the crisis when I'd done what I'd done.
He did do one last favor for me. I snuck him into the bunker facility one evening before the full cleanup had begun, and we dismantled everything in Baxter's databases on Project Lobot.
In effect, we burned his research to the ground, ensuring that if anyone else wanted the brain control technology, they'd have to get at it another way, or at least face some severe trial and error.
When actual cleanup began, there were questions, but the slash and burn that Zane had done for me was masterfully crafted to look like intentional work done by Baxter himself, in case of his compromise and death.
I sure some spook in Langley would think it entirely too convenient, but that was their problem.
As soon as he was released from the scrappers at Global, Andy was back to his old self, though perhaps some of the Mayberry never came back. SARAH was thrilled, at least.
Jo recovered from her injuries well, at least the visible ones. With her, as well as with Allison, there'd been a significant amount of emotional trauma as well. I had to approach that whole issue in a different fashion than I did with Allison, though that hardly bears being said.
With Jo, I simply let her know that I would stand by her and be there if she ever needed it. Beers anytime, anywhere, and that no matter what happened she had my backing to the hilt. Really that was about all I could do. You can't force your friends and loved ones to talk, you just have to be ready to listen.
Zane and Jo continued to grow closer. After the events of that week they dispensed entirely with the sneaking about. I think the close call was enough to wake even those two. It was good to see. I no longer had doubts about Zane's commitment to her.
He continued for weeks to try and worm the story of Kiyoshi's sword from me, but so far I've demurred. It's from a less happy time in my life, and I generally prefer to leave it at that.
On the business end of things, though. Jo's security staff had been gutted. The losses incurred due to this fiasco were most certainly a black mark, but in the end it was Fargo that surprised me most.
General Mansfield saw the opportunity to replace a recalcitrant officer with someone more to his liking, or in other words a more malleable puppet, but Director Fargo blocked him, and fought him tooth an nail.
A few weeks after the event went down, there were hearings on the issue. I was asked to participate in at least two. While most of the time our government takes its own damn sweet time resolving issues, those in oversight positions for Eureka's management handle affairs fast. Doug, I was starting to think of him more as that than as Fargo, stood up to them, called the general's bluff, and secured not only Jo's job as Chief of Security for Global, but praise from a number of high ranking DARPA and DoD administrators.
After that display on behalf of one of his employees, they began to exhibit be a general attitude shift toward their boss. For a while at least.
After two solid weeks of living at Allison's place full time, the clean up job in my bunker was completed. I'd been in and out since, but it just wasn't the same.
It was in this transitional time that Zoe hit me up with some news. She had applied for, and received, a grant to do intern work off site, and with the Director's approval had selected Global Dynamics as her internship. I was miffed as hell at Fargo at first, but when Allison explained to me that she'd be taking over some of the teaching duties and that Zoe would be working in GD Medical, I relented.
It actually worked out rather well. Zoe, having not been present for the invasion of the house, or the desperate fight after, didn't suffer the same feelings of dread and anxiety that I did. She was more than happy to take up full time residence in the bunker, and SARAH adapted readily. With Allison's blessing (dare I say it delight) she and I moved in together.
After a five week return to Harvard to finalize some classes and finish off some coursework, Zoe made the transfer and once again became a full time resident of Eureka.
I still visit Pilar Graham's grave. It's been years since the events that caused her death, and I and others have moved on. Things have changed, as they always seem to, and so do we.
Her tombstone is a simple and elegant affair. There is a carved garland or various flowers spilling around the edge, framing the text. At the top is an inset portrait of her smiling like the always used to. It reads:
PILAR ALEXANDRIA GRAHAM
B. October the Ninth, 1992
D. May the Thirteenth, 2010
Loving Daughter, Beloved Friend.
Brilliant beyond your years,
You will be missed, Radiant Star,
Our lives the dimmer for your absence.
Every time I make sure to bring a single hyacinth. I leave it atop the grave, and stay for a while to see if she has anything new to say.
You see, you never get to get over taking a life. Not ever.
Sometimes the best you can do is to try and make amends.
Disclaimer: I do not own Eureka or any of the characters or situations, I'm just playing around in their universe for fun and an educational experience.
Author's Notes: It's done! Well... mostly done! I will probably go over it one more time over the next month or so and tighten up or expand some of the details and such based on commentary I've received. I want to thank you for hanging on for the entire ride, I know that's a whole lot of words to pore through.
This story has been a heck of a ride for me as well. One of the things I always wanted to be was an author, and while I realize fanfic doesn't really cut it in that regards, this has been my first largely complete work of any length, and it feels good. I've learned a lot in the writing of this, and I look forward to writing much more.
If you have any comments or suggestions, questions on what happened, and the general who, what, why, where, and when of all of this please let me know either from PM or in a review, and I'll take that into account as I consider edits of the piece.
Again, thank you for reading.
And now my favorite words.