THE BIONIC WOMAN
The Gillespie Project
by the lurker
The light from his desk lamp cast a yellowish glow across the paper on his desk, and added to the amber color of the scotch in his glass. He tossed the rest of the liquid back with the vague notion that it would dull the sense of what he was about to do. But like the glow on the paper, the power of scotch was just an illusion.
He signed the bottom of the hand-written letter on the stationary with the gold governmental seal at the top. He looked it over once again. It wasn't every day that he composed his letter of resignation. There was no choice but to be prepared for this eventuality. He had spent most of his career being primed for one reality or another. It was the very reason he had been successful: he was never caught off guard.
However, there was a first time for everything. He had lost things before, but never of this magnitude, and never with such high stakes involved. He would try and rectify it. He might even be successful. But he needed to be prepared for what would be asked of him if he failed.
He folded the single piece of paper neatly into thirds, inserted it into an official envelope, and licked the seal. He couldn't help but make a face at the foul taste of glue that the envelope left on his tongue. Someone, somewhere, made a career of producing envelopes and stamps that tasted like anti-freeze on cardboard. No matter, it was all a done deal.
Carefully he wrote the addressee on the envelope and slipped it into the top drawer of his desk. It was his hope that the Secretary of the United States would never actually open it.
She could feel the tension throughout the building. It was displayed on the faces of the security people as they checked each person entering the lobby. It was in the dour look of Johnny Zissel's face: he had worn a perpetual smile for the past forty years in his capacity as the OSI maintenance man, but not today. It was in the silence of the elevator as it slowly drew toward the top floor.
She walked down the hall and realized that tension was simply in the air. As she approached the large glass doors leading to his outer office, she took in a long breath. Whatever was up, it wasn't going to be pleasant. The glass doors were the only normal thing she had encountered; they opened and closed with their usual ease, making a slight whoosh as the sides brushed against each other.
Callahan looked up at her, Jamie.....he's waiting for you.
Jamie looked at the concern in her friend's eyes, Hey, what's going on around here?
Oscar's waiting, Jamie.
The tall blonde frowned, but turned the knob on the door of his office and walked in, closing the door behind her. Instead of finding him in his usual spot behind the desk, she found him leaning against the bar in the office, a drink in his hand. The lines in his face appeared much deeper than yesterday, but it was probably the morning light in his office, or maybe just lack of sleep.
She went to greet him with a hug and affectionate peck on the cheek as they always did, but instinct stopped her about five feet away from him. He hadn't moved at all. He was still leaning against the cherry wood bar, arms crossed over his chest, drink in hand. He didn't seem the slightest bit aware of her presence.
Her voice held the tiniest spark of fear, Oscar, what's happened?
His eyes flicked up to look into hers,
He still made no move to greet her, and Jamie felt a slight chill run up her spine. She took a small step closer, examining the tension in his face.
Why do you look like the world is coming to an end?
His eyes glistened with a hollowness that Jamie had never seen in them. His voice was unsteady, full of an apprehension and guilt that spoke louder than words.
I screwed up, Babe.
What are you talking about?
The Gillespie Project.
Dr. Gillespie....the guy who's been working on the germ to end all germs?
He stared hard at her, His little germ is capable of finishing someone off between 12 and 48 hours after exposure. It can be delivered in a variety of ways to a specified target, or to an array of targets.
The fear in his eyes made the chill rushing up her spine push further into her. She swallowed hard, trying to shove down the alarm forming in her throat.
Jamie struggled to keep her voice even, as the pieces composed a picture, Oscar, please tell me this microbe isn't floating around in the air ducts of this building......
No, but Gillespie's gone.
Gone, disappeared, vanished, as in no trace of him, the research, the computer files, or the test sequences: four years and eight-freaking-billion-dollars down the-- He stopped abruptly, and looked into Jamie's eyes, I'm sorry, Babe. I don't mean to take this out on you. There's just no trace of him, we have nothing.
Jamie silently digested the facts for a moment. Her instincts told her there was more.
And what? Gillespie and the project were my responsibility. What more is there to say?
She shook her head at him, C'mon, Oscar, I know you, and you haven't told me all of it.
He looked away, the fear in his eyes making them appear darker than the bitter chocolate Jamie was used to.
His voice sounded like gravel, We have reason to believe that he has fled to the Middle East, where he will probably sell the project to the highest bidder. He looked up at her, Intel suggests that the live microorganisms will be in the possession of some fanatical terrorist organization within 48 hours. Jamie, the ramifications of this.........
His voice died out and he swallowed down the bile trying to rise in his throat. Jamie could feel the guilt emanating from him as if it were her very own. Oscar didn't have to tell her that he held himself solely responsible for the loss of the Gillespie Project; she knew him well enough to know he would. Jamie feared that it went much further than his own self recrimination. She couldn't recall ever seeing his shoulders sag under the weight of a burden, nor such cloud of defeat in his eyes.
Jamie closed the gap between them and stroked the back of his head with her hand, You couldn't have foreseen this, Oscar....it's not your fault.
He stared into his drink, and Jamie dipped her head down to catch his eye, C'mon.......surely we can think of something.....
Oscar set the drink down on the bar, I don't know, Jamie. I just don't know.
She pulled him into her arms, and could feel from the tension in his body that he was fighting to keep a lid on his swirling emotions. It was strength that he needed from her now, and she owed him at least that.
Jamie ran a reassuring hand across his back, We'll think of something. Please don't worry.
He buried his face into her neck, pulling her close.
AIR FORCE CARGO PLANE
SOMEWHERE OVER SPAIN
Jamie leaned back in the uncomfortable seat. She had never become accustomed to the ride of a cargo plane. She swallowed hard, trying to ignore the pressure she was feeling. The mission was not only vital to National security, but also to Oscar's longevity as the Director of the O.S.I. He had not let on to her how much hot water he was in over the loss of Dr. Gillespie, but Rudy had never been any good at keeping secrets from her.
She had stayed in his office with him, a pot of coffee and a pile of papers, maps and theories, all night, devising a way to recover what had been taken. The plan which had sprung forth was not exactly a fool proof party line, but for each passing hour that they failed to act, the chance of recovering any part of the project diminished. The fight that had come at around five in the morning was still fresh in her mind.....
He shook his head at her, No Jamie, I'm sorry, but this is just too damned dangerous. I can't let you do it.
Well I'm sorry too, Oscar, but I don't see any other options right now. If you have an idea you haven't put on the table, feel free.....
His eyes narrowed, as they did when his anger threatened to overtake his reason, Which part of the word no' didn't you understand? The n' or the
She rolled her eyes at his sarcasm and came right back, This is as solid a plan as we're going to nail down right now, and you know it.....God, if I were any other agent, we wouldn't be having this discussion--
The anger in his voice scared her slightly, --You're damned right about that, I wouldn't allow anyone else to question my authority and get away with it--
--That is so unfair, Oscar, I'm not questioning your authority; but if we're going to be brutally honest, you wouldn't be having this problem if I wasn't the agent slated for the mission. If you have so little confidence and trust in me, then why don't you just--
He slammed his hand down on his desk, the loud slap causing Jamie to stop in mid sentence. Oscar leaned closer across the desk, his eyes glowing with anger, his nostrils flaring slightly.
Is that what you really think? That I don't have confidence in you? That I don't trust you?
Jamie had never witnessed such unchecked hostility in him, and she found herself frozen in silence.
His voice grew dark with ire, How could you possibly say something like that to me?
He paced the length of his office like a caged animal, glaring at her. After a few minutes, he stopped, and ran his hands over his face.
When he finally continued, his tone was soft and gentle, I would trust you with my life, Jamie, don't you know that?
She looked deeply into his eyes; he meant it. She felt moisture begin to sting her cheeks, and she quickly wiped her face.
You are right about one thing; it is precisely because it's you that I am hesitant, but not for the reasons you think. Wearily, he plopped down into his chair, leaning into the cool leather, It isn't because I don't have confidence in you, or that I don't trust you....it's because I can't bear to lose you, Jamie. Which I suppose is one more reason that I should be replaced as Director: I've lost my objectivity.
Jamie felt the moisture welling up in her eyes again, and she looked away for a moment, then she walked over to his chair, and knelt down in front of him.
Has someone actually suggested that you step down?
After a moment, he nodded and looked away.
She placed a gentle hand on his knee, Then that person hasn't been paying attention. He looked back at her and she smiled slightly, You lost your objectivity with me a long time ago, and despite that, our successes far outweigh our failures.
My lack of objectivity regarding you is not the only problem.
The Gillespie Project.
Which brings us back to I have to go in, Oscar.
Why are being like this?
He pulled the hand resting on his knee into his own, Tell me, Jamie, how would you feel if you couldn't recover the missing files, and we were attacked with that very technology?
Oh c'mon, Oscar, they're not going to--
--Just answer the question.
Jamie looked away from him, and said nothing. Gently, he pulled her face back toward him.
It would tear you up inside, and we both know it.
She gripped his hand tightly, I know you're just trying to protect me, and I love you for that Oscar, I do, but right now, this is the best plan we've got, and I'm the best choice for the mission, and you know it. We have to do what's right in the big picture. I know you don't like to let numbers decide these kinds of things, but this time, there's no choice. I've got to at least try...
He shook his head, What if our intel is faulty?
Like that's never happened before.....
What if you're captured and I can't get to you in time?
Oh c'mon Oscar, that's a risk I've taken on every mission since I started working for you.
He heaved a large sigh; there was no talking her out of it, and he knew it. But the thought of her going into such unfriendly territory alone, petrified him. His fear of losing her was something he had never overcome; this was just one of the few times he had allowed her to see it.
His voice was almost inaudible with resignation,
Jamie looked out the window of the plane, it was pitch black on the ground, and she could see nothing. She knew that they were now flying over vaguely hostile territory. The running lights of the plane had been turned off, and they were on instruments only. She shivered slightly: maybe Oscar had been justified in his fear, maybe this was only a fool's errand.
She closed her eyes. She couldn't afford to think that way, and she knew it. She pressed the button that lit up the face of her watch, and glanced at the time. Only one more hour to go, and she would have to face the thing that scared her more than any mission ever could: she would have to parachute into the target zone.
Jamie couldn't dwell on it, if she did, she would lose her nerve. And none of them could afford for that to happen.