TITLE: Instinct
AUTHOR: Roseveare, t.l. PG-13
LENGTH: 20,000 words approx
SUMMARY: When Jake screws up badly on a mission, other factions at the NSA take the opportunity to push forward modifications to the Nanite Program.
NOTES: Set after 'Arms and the Girl'.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, no profit, yadda, yadda, yadda.



Chapter 1

The jump to the target rooftop was a stretch, and one he wouldn't have attempted without Lou hollering in his earpiece that they were running out of time because, hey, most people used the ground and nanites did not equal Spider-man. But certain delusions slipped through when you were waiting any moment for half a city block to be reduced to rubble on your watch. Well, kind of on your watch, if anyone else actually thought enough of you as an agent to rate you that responsibility.

Billions of dollars in satellite and listening equipment just to triangulate the wrong building and the wrong suspects and waste a half-hour that the hundreds of government employees occupying the real terrorist target couldn't afford to waste, and Jake got the sense that Lou wasn't just now feeling any happier about the allocation of the half-billion that had accidentally ended up inside him. He'd thought about pointing out that at least they had an agent that could run above the traffic. Thought about it.

Landing jarred enough to give him a bad moment wondering how the nanites were at fixing broken bones. He also managed to fumble his gun, dropping it and then kicking it ten feet across the flat roof when he put a foot forward to catch his balance. "Damn it!"

"Jake..." Lou said warningly. Maybe there was a hint of concern. Yeah, and maybe he was 007.

"I got it--" He scrambled for the weapon, hoping like hell that the NSA didn't have any kind of visual fix on him. File for future reference, Agent Foley: holster gun when jumping off really tall buildings. Considering he'd only just been cleared to carry a firearm, he wasn't wasting any time in making a fool of himself with it - to that matter, SatOps probably had a pool running on how long it'd take before he shot his own foot. He collected himself, panting, on the rooftop, firearm safely holstered. "This is the place, right? I mean, this time, this is definitely the place?"

"We're all out of other possibilities to try." Lou's tone suggested that when he got back he was going to be treated to a course of How Not To Ask Stupid Questions In The Field 101. "Jake, back-up is on the way, but I need you to find some way to stall them. We don't have much time."

"Yeah. Assuming this is the right--"


"I'm on it." Concentration pulled up the sounds of the six storeys below into sharp focus. Too far - supervisor's office with the badly tuned television on in the basement, residential apartments on the lower floors, somebody playing country music way too loud on third, the groaning of the gears supporting the old elevator that was stopped on fourth. He eased back into the upper floors - subtly different echo of sound in space; larger rooms, open plan, mostly unfurnished offices. A man laughed and shifted his grip on a remote detonator, depressing keys that sparked electronic imagery in Jake's brain but didn't make the vital connection.

He tried to interface, but the nanites came back empty. Jesus, the technology was stone-age. The man's grip shifted again. Lou was gonna eat his guts with her cereal for breakfast. "They're here. There's a remote device, but I can't connect to it. The tech's kind of out of date. Maybe if I was closer..."

"Get closer. Don't let them set off the device," Lou barked. "Kyle's team have located the target and evacuation is under way, but we need time to get those people to safety."

"Okay. Uh, this roof looks in pretty crappy repair..." He zig-zagged across it, trying to pinpoint the whereabouts of the activity on the floor immediately beneath. The remote device still eluded his interface, and he figured it was hard to misread the intent of the purposeful, "Let's do this," voiced by the man holding the device.

"Okay..." He took a deep breath. "Okay. Lou, I'm going in."

"Jake!" Lou said sharply, and it occurred to him as he was punching downwards through the roof, that possibly she hasn't been thinking of anything so direct. Like, cut the lights, play with the electricity, any number of things he hadn't the concentration to do while he was plunging ten feet down in a cascade of dust and debris, because wow was the roof in a crappy state of repair.

Landing in the midst of a room full of nonplussed terrorists, on the other hand, Jake figured that whatever Lou's original intent had been, he was now pretty committed.

He drew his gun before they'd had time to react and yelled, still coughing, "NSA. Do not move! You - put the device down. Slowly."

There was silence and nobody moved, which was good. The silence wasn't so good, because the problem with nanite hearing was that at certain times he became hyper-aware of his own heartbeat when he'd really rather not be. Nobody moving was definitely good, though, because he'd told them to not do that. And he wasn't freaking out, not at all. The moment stretched.

Then... laughter wasn't the response he was hoping for. He turned his gun on the perpetrator, and only then noticed just how much the firearm - which he'd never actually drawn before on a living, breathing human being - was wildly shaking in his hands. You look ridiculous, a voice inside his head laconically told him. It sounded a lot like Kyle. So what? he told himself. I've a gun, they don't. It's under control, right? "You - you think you'll still be laughing when you're staring at the inside of a jail cell?" he stuttered.

It had sounded less lame in his head.

In his earpiece, Lou's voice was tinny and far away. "Jake, you need to control this situation. You've got them, that's good. Now hold them." There was an intensity of patience and concern in her voice that made him suspect more than anything else that he must have really dumped himself in it this time.

"I think you need to lose the gun before you hurt someone, kid," the guy with the sense of humour suggested.

"Wouldn't want that." That sounded better. Yeah. Jake breathed. Shit, Lou... the whole of SatOps was listening in. He was going to be hearing about this for weeks if he didn't save this pretty damn spectacularly. "I'm NSA. You're all under arrest. I told you to put the detonator down. Do it now, and do it slowly."

To his relief, the guy very slowly lowered his arm to the floor. Until halfway down, when his foot snaked out and casually hooked the gun from Jake's hands, sending it skidding into a corner of the room.

Jake spent an even more embarrassing moment staring down at his empty hands like Wile E Coyote just figuring out he'd stepped onto thin air above a really big canyon, before a fist in the kidneys from behind recalled him to action.

'Action' only loosely speaking, being that he was already halfway to his knees at that point, but hey, movement was still a step up.

He twisted aside, caught the boot that was headed his way and pulled on it hard. Punched out as a face fell within his reach. He felt the nanites kick in with a vengeance and surged back to his feet. Kyle's training advice reverberated in his head, 'You've got strength, not skill - if you do have to get yourself into a fight, get in close enough to use it and don't try to match anyone's fancy moves.' He made a try for the lights, more for confusion's sake than to blind them, but had to divert his attention from the nanites to the gun that was being levelled at him... Speed he could call to bear and did, whipping the weapon out of the man's hand before he could fire. It smashed to bits against the far wall. A yowl suggested he might have caused some considerable damage to the wrist as a bonus.

Four of them, one mostly down, one clutching his wrist... He had a pretty good idea that four was too many in any case, nanites or no nanites. The linebacker with the detonator took the opportunity to bludgeon him across the face with it, and... well, Lou had told him to get closer, but interfacing with the thing was kind of off the cards for now.

"Jake," Lou was buzzing in his ear, and probably had been for a while, "Jake, what's going on?" She stopped when the linebacker followed through with a roundhouse punch of his empty fist, dropping Jake to the floor, and he couldn't feel the earpiece any more. A fizz of energy from the nanites jolted through him, replacing fear and pain with a lot of adrenaline, and he pushed himself up onto hands and knees, momentarily high on the artificial strength. Yeah, he could take these guys...

Instead he took a kick in the gut that curled him over, and even nanite-enhanced resilience took a second to shake it off. He heard a surprised exclamation that was half curse, as he started to drag himself up again, then a loud 'click' sounded next to his ear and a drawl of a voice advised, "Don't bother to get up again, kid."

Jake's head stiffened halfway through turning as the mechanisms inside the gun strained with further movement, a grating shift quieter than regular ears would have heard. He was a fraction of an inch away from dead, and he wasn't that fast. His eyes slid to the side as he carefully froze every other part of him. Tiny serial numbers printed on the smooth black surface of the weapon sprang into sharp focus.

Oh, yeah. That was his own gun, all right.

Lou was going to be so pissed.

"Nobody's with me. I'm on my own," Jake said again, spitting blood with the words.

He didn't think they were interested in answers any more. He'd had the presence of mind to open with a suitably blustery assertion that the troops were just readying to break the doors down, to make damn sure they didn't, say, hurry up setting off the bomb before the cavalry did have chance to arrive. He hadn't had to fake the fear that had convinced them it was only a bluff. Or the desperation when he'd changed his story, wondering when they ever were going to arrive.

He'd thought it was pretty clever, but knowing his luck Lou and the guys had been cut off and only heard the embarrassingly bad part earlier. Not that he particularly wanted the whole of SatOps listening in as he was beaten to death, but it might come off as more heroic than, as he currently suspected to be the last impression of Jake Foley to be burned into their thoughts at his immanent demise, stupid.

Hey, Lou, I'm distracting them, Jake thought at the earpiece, wherever it might now be. Play for time? Check.

It probably wasn't a role they'd envisaged for their half-billion dollar super-agent, but he could hear the cars pulling up outside, and Agents Green and Cayman exchanging terse words as they, the mythical 'backup', finally arrived, after an eternity that probably wasn't more than seven minutes, rooftop-to-punchbag. There was a cellphone in the pocket of the guy standing on his forearm, but Jake's attempt to send a message to Green failed miserably, because it was kinda hard to concentrate with someone trying to break your wrist.

They were headed straight up for the top floor anyway, and Jake was grateful for that because things were starting to grey out. His hearing receded back in to the mere mortal confines of the room, and even the noise within the room had taken on a weird echoing quality. Then everything seemed to catch up with him at once and the rest of the world was swallowed into a confused, echoing oblivion.

He could only have been out a minute or so. Long enough for the terrorists to resume their pre-pummel-Jake-fest activities. It took him a moment to remember that large guys not beating him up anymore was bad, but the nanites were unresponsive and the rest of him was letting him know in no uncertain terms it wasn't going anywhere without them anytime soon. He had no idea whereabouts Green and Cayman and the backup had got to.

One of the bombers was muttering, "Kid can take a punch," as he shook out his fist.

"If he found us, so will the rest. We need to get the job done and clear out of this dump. Finish the kid. We're done here, and I'd rather be out of town before this hits the news." He picked up the detonator control where it lay on an empty desk, and Jake watched through half-closed eyes.

Last chance... The nanites stirred into sluggish life as he willed them to ignore his physical state and focused on the device, forcing interface with circuitry about three decades out of date... Where had these guys got their equipment, anyway, an antique market? He remembered Lou's crack about this group's 'domestic terrorism on a shoestring'. Yeah, no kidding.

His nanites might be sluggish, but his focus was better, and it wasn't going to take much, just a push here to jam the mechanism...

The click seemed to fill the inside of his head, as a finger depressed the control a hair's breadth before him; before Agents Green and Cayman, too, as they burst in the door at the head of a team, yelling that they were NSA and nobody should move, just in case the terrorists had forgotten the spiel already.

Jake still felt the overwhelming relief of their arrival wash through him for an instant before it fully hit that their arrival was too late.

"Foley--" Cayman said, with surprise descending into a curse as he took in the scene. Make that half a curse, because that was when the noise and reverberation of a large explosion in the next street block shook the building. "Jesus." Cayman's attention wavered as he voiced the oath.

Jake saw it coming, and the nanites obligingly hit him with everything they had left. He lurched upwards to clumsily knock aside the man who held his own gun, succeeding a fraction of a second before it was fired. Cayman collapsed with a bullet in his side that at least wasn't in his heart, and Green put three more into the shooter as Jake rolled clear of him.

"Damn it!" Green shouted, eyes not betraying even the briefest flicker to his partner. "I will shoot the next man who breathes. Foley, pick up the gun, you rookie piece of shit."

Out of the window, Jake could see the reflection of black smoke and flickering flames, dancing and rising in the glass of the buildings on the far street corner.

"Oh, man," he groaned, clawing for the gun with the hand that still had feeling in the fingers.

Lou was gonna kill him.

Kyle was going to help her.

And even Diane wasn't going to be able to muster a tear or kind word over whatever wretched bits were left when they'd done.