Chapter 1

Jack stepped out of his air-conditioned room at the Peoria Motel 6 and the heat hit him like a ton of bricks. As he walked to his beat up Chevy, he wiped away the beads of sweat that had instantly formed on his temple. He slid easily into the truck and put on the sunglasses he had left on the dashboard.

The truck's air conditioning had stopped working long before Jack had purchased the truck from an old man in Phoenix three weeks ago, but he didn't care. He could afford better, but couldn't see the sense in a luxury vehicle or a four star hotel. Not here anyway. On the island, Jack had grown accustomed to doing with out, and the simple pleasures of a working vehicle and a shower were enough for him.

Actually, the locale seemed much more suited to a man like Sawyer, and Jack chuckled to himself as the thought crossed his mind. If Sawyer could see him now, big city doctor in Nowheresville, Arizona, content just to live the simple life of a rusted out truck, cable tv and Chinese take out. What, oh what would he say?

He pulled out of the motel's driveway, one hand on the steering wheel, the other draped out over the open window. Blasts of hot August wind hit his face and he pressed on the gas. The truck topped out at about 50mph, but he knew it would only take him 15 minutes to arrive at his destination. The short drive had become second nature during the three weeks he had lived at the motel on the outskirts of Tucson. He flipped on the radio, but today, just like the days before, only a country station would come in. He switched it off. Although he was sure this new spare way of life had something to do with self punishment, he wasn't willing to subject himself to that kind of torture. So as he drove, he allowed his mind to wander.

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They had only been on the island two months before they were rescued. Jack, while excited about the prospect of returning to civilization, had known instantly what it would mean for Kate. In the back of his mind, he had always wondered if Kate would opt to stay on the Island rather than be taken back into custody. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, he had never gotten the chance to find out.

One morning, nearly 6 weeks ago - had it really only been that long? Jack wondered to himself, it felt like years ago – Jack had been on the beach discussing the Locke/Hatch situation with Kate and Sayid when they had seen 3 black hummers drive up along the shore. Stunned, most of them had stood slack jawed and stared as men clad in black military style coveralls had had exited the vehicles quickly and run up to the large group of survivors. Jack had found it incredibly difficult to wrap his brain around what was going on. Was it the Others? Where did they get the vehicles and the military issue rifles?

Jack saw Kate reach for her bag and turn to run, but unthinkingly, he had grabbed her wrist. He didn't want to face whatever this was alone. He had cursed himself daily for that small gesture.

"Kate Austin?" one particularly gruff looking man said as he approached them.

Kate looked at a loss for words, but finally she must have decided that a lie wasn't going to save her now. She nodded slowly. The man, who Jack would later find out was Agent Westin, seemed to take Kate down in one fluid, violent motion. Her arm was wrested from Jack's hand and mere moments later Kate was flat on the ground with Westin's knee in her back. She didn't struggle as she was placed in hand cuffs and jerked into a standing position.

Westin, who looked disarmingly similar to Locke, barked orders at the men behind him, "Round up the others for questioning and debriefing. Jameson, take this little firecracker to the brig immediately, 3 armed guards at all times. Don't take your rifle off her!"

Jack and Kate had only seconds before she was carted off, but Jack couldn't say anything to her. The words caught in his throat, and he felt his eyes begin to water. He swallowed a hard lump in his throat as his brow furrowed, but he didn't take his eyes off her. She held his gaze, her eyes dry but expressive. He tried to convey his regret at his momentary lapse in judgment. She seemed to silently forgive him with a small smile, and as they roughly pulled her to the nearest SUV, she whipped her head around to look at him again, silently mouthing the word "Jack."

The rest of them had been unceremoniously told to gather all their belongings and find anyone not on the beach. They were to be ready to leave the island that had been their home within the half hour. There was a ship waiting, just down the beach and out of sight, ready to take them all back to Sydney.

The ship, while big enough to be a cruise ship, was gun metal grey and unmarked. The interior, what Jack saw of it anyway, was extremely utilitarian and seemed to be military. Once in his new quarters, which he shared with Sayid, Charlie and Sawyer, they were all summarily questioned by Westin and his men. Each survivor was taken separately to a room that looked suspiciously like it belonged in a police department. There was even a two way mirror on one wall. They were all questioned about their time on the island and the chain of events. There was particular focus on the "unexplainable or strange phenomena" of the island. The entire thing was very disconcerting. Made more so by the fact that none of the men questioning them or guarding them would answer any of their questions. "All your queries will be answered in Sydney" was the standard reply.

After his debriefing, Charlie had been deposited back at their room by two armed gaurds. He rubbed his arms where they had gripped him and he shouted at them as they turned to go "Its not like we wanted to crash on that bloody Island!"

Sawyer chimed in sarcastically, "I may not be up on my army lingo, Private Ryan, but I thought "debriefing" meant that we were told what the hell is going on!"