Author's Note: This alternate reality Jericho fanfic mostly takes place after the end of season 1, though some of the action from season 1 is highly referenced, particularly in this first chapter. While I am a huge fan of the show and am delighted that it has returned for an abbreviated season, one of the things I am missing during this second season is the character interaction, as well as the emotions that go along with putting back the pieces of broken lives. Also, since my favorite character, Heather Lisinski, has not been featured as prominently, I took it upon myself to (A) put together the backstory of where she's been and what she's done and (B) write what I would have liked to see happen upon her return. Be warned that I do tend to delve into all things sappy, though as the story progresses, I will be incorporating Jericho's action/adventure aspects, as well, with my own twists.
Any constructive feedback you can offer would be cherished, as this is my first attempt at a Jericho-based story.
Chapter One: "Old Dogs and New Tricks"
No one who knew Heather Lisinski would ever have considered her dangerous. When she was younger and her best friend Ted Lewis tried to convince her to skip Coach Libby's first period biology class to go get donuts, she flatly refused. At New Bern High School, she was voted 'best personality,' not 'most likely to succeed.' In truth, she simply wasn't ambitious. The most 'danger' she'd ever put herself in was rolling her youth minister's yard with toilet paper, and even then, no one suspected that innocent, safe Heather had anything to do with the prank. No, Heather Lisinski was not an adrenaline junky. She preferred the beaten path to the road less traveled, tinkering with engines under the hoods of cars instead of getting frisky with boys in the backseats, drinking light beer instead of hard liquor, and teaching third graders in a small town rather than pursuing her doctorate at a big city university.
And yet something changed along the way.
"Rule #11. Old dogs can learn new tricks when the occasion calls for it," Heather muttered under her breath, though still within earshot of Eric Green. She found herself astounded that she was in her current position, playing the role of saboteur and spy with Eric, someone also considered equally safe and by most who knew him, the model of responsibility.
"What is about you and these rules?" his voice was coarse, sullen as he studied the iron bars of their holding cell.
Despite their situation, Heather managed the faintest of smiles, though with their backs to one another, she knew he couldn't see. "Rules to live by, Eric."
"Not everyone lives by rules."
Heather nodded. Truer words had never been spoken. She'd returned to her hometown hoping to bring light—literally—into what had become a dark world. With her interest in science, her knowledge of machinery, and her tenacity, it seemed a win-win situation to help get the New Bern factory in working order following the EMP and retrofit it to be able to produce wind turbines so that some sense of warmth and normalcy could be returned to both New Bern and Jericho. Leaving the relative safety of Jericho had been her first foray into dangerous territory, though she was naïve at the time about just what dangers awaited her.
"I'm taking a page from your book and throwing caution to the wind," she'd told a disbelieving Jake Green on a cool autumn night months ago.
While the factory did produce turbines, she quickly found that desperation and demagoguery made people willing to do things they'd never consider under normal circumstances. Ravenwood's attack and plundering of New Bern, as well as Philip Constantino's rhetoric and rise to dictator in deeds, if not in words, had seen to that. The people she'd known, even people from her father's church parish, were manufacturing mortar rounds and plotting a takeover of the neighboring town of Jericho. She'd not believed it at first, not been able to wrap her mind around it.
Despite everything, she wanted to believe in the good of people. After all, these were people she'd known her entire life! She'd babysat Mr. Kafferty's twin girls when she was in high school. Mr. Schultz's wife had been her cross country coach in middle school and he, himself, had coached in the town soccer leagues. Both worked in the factory since the blasts changed the face of their nation five months ago, and both were working toward making war of a new kind.
It was Eric who convinced her to do more investigating, that there was no logical explanation for the detailed map hidden in the factory, a map specifying the layout of Jericho and its resources. It had all been right in front of her; she just didn't want to see it.
"So what do you think the people back home believe about us? What we're still doing here, I mean."
Eric swallowed hard as he wrenched at the handcuffs that bound his wrists together. The skin was rubbed raw, but still he tested the boundaries of the cold metal. He'd been trying not to think much of home, of what he left behind, of what he'd lost. An ache far more potent than the sores on his wrists gnawed at him when he thought about the last time he'd held April's hand as she lay dying, promising he was there for her when, in truth, he hadn't been for some time. He shuddered at the thought of looking into the eyes of his disappointed mother and father and his efforts to make peace with a brother who, despite breaking his parents' hearts over and over, was now perceived as the town's savior-in-residence…
"If we're lucky, Stanley and the others have clued everyone in to our 'disappearance.'" He shook his head. "I can't imagine Jake letting it go at that."
Heather smiled at the mention of Eric's brother. She'd nursed an enormous crush on Jake Green since his return to Jericho, coincidentally and thankfully on the day of the attacks. From the moment she watched him save Stacey's life on the school bus she'd been drawn to him. Every glance he gave her made her heart flutter, and she found her mouth and her foot getting fairly well acquainted with one another in his presence. "I can't either."
Eric turned to Heather and, not for the first time, regretted involving her in his suspicions. If only he'd handled it on his own. Though he had to admit that if it weren't for her, he would likely already have been dead. Her assistance procured him a stay of execution and managed to cease the production of mortar rounds for the time being. "If we get out of here, do you think you and Jake…?"
"When we get out of here," Heather corrected. "But no, I don't think I'm Jake's type."
"He never did know what was good for him." And it was true. Eric wasn't foolhardy enough to think that he and his brother hadn't been given every advantage. They had strong parents, a home rooted in love and tradition, the prospect to advance their educations, and better than average intelligence. How someone who was so smart could be so damn foolish was beyond Eric. Jake was given chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity, and he'd squandered each and every one. Still, his parents never gave up hope that one day he would stop being an adolescent in an adult body and start towing the line.
Since the attacks five months earlier, they'd been working to rebuild their fractured relationship, and Eric was beginning to rely on his older brother more than ever before. In spite of this, Eric still had his moments when he would have liked nothing better than to knock sense into Jake. The situation with Heather Lisinski was one such case.
"I'm not dangerous enough."
Eric tilted his head, motioning their surroundings. "There's plenty of danger to go around for everyone."
"How about that?" Heather mused pointing to the stenciled words spray-painted onto the holding cell's wall. "No spitting. No smoking. We are definitely living on the edge." She turned and smiled at the tall, bearded man.
Eric shrugged, finding her smile to be infectious, albeit briefly. "I'll have to tell Mary about those rules. Maybe she could apply them to her tavern, as well."
"Eww. Does she have spitting problems at Bailey's? That definitely puts a new spin on the frothy drinks she serves."
"How can you be so upbeat?" Said in a different tone, it might have been a recrimination. More than one person had accused her of being flippant at inappropriate times. Yet Heather sensed no harshness in his tone; it was more of incredulity.
"Because, at the risk of upholding my Pollyanna reputation, we're going to get out of here, Eric."
He was silent.
"We are," she said more forcefully. "Your family needs you. Your mom, your dad, Jake."
"I let them all down."
"Mary needs you, Eric."
Eric sucked in a breath. He couldn't bear to let his mind go in that direction. He knew Mary Bailey loved him, but what did he have to offer her? He was an empty shell of himself. The day April and Tracy died, something within him did, as well.
"You don't have to be strong all the time," Heather insisted.
Eric slumped on the cot and changed the subject. "You know we can't say anything. The questions are going to come, Heather, and we can't say a word to Constantino or his deputies about Jericho."
Heather nodded. She'd already demurred giving details about Jericho's strategic posts, population, and resources when she'd been questioned conversationally as she worked in the factory getting the turbines into production. Knowing what she did now, divulging information to the occupants of New Bern was akin to helping enemies strategize for war. Only this time, they wouldn't be asking for information in a conversational manner. They would be demanding it, and if what they'd experienced thus far was any indication of the lengths Constantino was willing to reach, Heather was also certain that they'd do whatever it took to get the information. "I know."
"I need you to promise me something," Eric said standing once again and moving close enough to Heather to whisper in her ear. "If you have the opportunity, I want you to run. Get as far away from here as you can, let people know what is really happening here. Do not come back for me."
"Eric, we're in this together. I couldn't just leave you!" Her outburst was louder than she'd intended. She lowered her voice. "I won't leave you here alone."
"You know this town. You know these people. They may lower their guards around you. They won't around me. I'm handcuffed. You're not."
Heather shook her head. "I don't know this town. Not anymore. It's a moot point, anyway. Do you think they're just going to let me waltz out of here? I tried to destroy their factory! Let's face it, Green. I'm Public Enemy Number One." The words felt foreign as they came from her lips. Safe, boring Heather Lisinski, Beta Club president, salutatorian, bookworm, grease monkey, and tomboy extraordinaire was now a nefarious New Bern criminal. If their circumstances had not been so dire, she would likely have found the irony exceptionally amusing.
"No, they won't let you go without a fight, but if the opportunity presents itself, promise you'll take it. Don't let me factor into your decision."
"Ms. Lisinski." The man Heather recognized as Bart Travers, one of Constantino's deputies, appeared in the corridor. He wore the beige uniform of the New Bern Sheriff's Department, though prominent sweat stains on the uniform contributed to his generally unkempt appearance.
"Promise me, Heather," Eric repeated as he reached out his cuffed hands and squeezed her own small, cold hands. "Promise me."
"Ms. Lisinski," Bart Travers repeated, the patience wearing thin from the sound of his voice. "You are to come with me." He retrieved the cell keys from his pocket and opened the door while another deputy fixed his revolver upon Eric. Travers eyed Heather with a mixture of wariness and appreciation as his gaze traveled the length of her body. "Constantino requests the honor of your presence."
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. She loathed the incessant sound. Why wouldn't it stop?
Is this death? Is this judgment day? I'm in trouble if it is.
Slowly the young woman sat up, her eyes adjusting to the light that greeted her. An astringent chemical scent filled her nostrils. No, it wasn't judgment day. She was in a medical facility. She looked down at her body, at the light blue cotton pants she wore and the white t-shirt.
Where was she? What had happened? Who had found her? The last thing she remembered was being in a car travelling away from New Bern. One thing she did know was that she wasn't in New Bern anymore. The structure in which she found herself was a large tent of some type.
Despite her lack of energy and the soreness that pervaded her body, she commanded her legs to work. She swung them over the side of the hospital bed, and her socked feet hit the cold floor. Unsteadily, she made her way to the doorway, spreading apart the inner flaps and then the outer ones.
Blinding sunlight met her, along with a flurry of activity. She willed her blue eyes to stay open and focus, despite the involuntary impulse she had to squeeze them shut. Where was she?
Men in fatigues loaded and unloaded from flat bed trucks and Humvees. Helicopters were circling. A city of tents extended outward.
She had to get help. What if Eric was still in New Bern? Had he made it out safely? What if no one knew what was being manufactured in that factory, what she had indirectly helped them to accomplish? She just hoped to God that there was someone who would be willing to assist. She had to let them know what New Bern was planning so she could get back to Jericho and warn them. With purpose, she walked to two soldiers, hurrying as quickly as her lethargic body would allow her.
"Please. I need to speak to whoever's in charge." Her firmness and sense of purpose took both men by surprise, so much so, they didn't try to steer her back to the medical tent.
"Right over there," one of the soldiers pointed.
Heather Lisinski looked past two soldiers and saw a man with salt-and-pepper hair sitting on a crate and looking at the ground. A fellow soldier was dressing a wound on the older man's arm.
"Excuse me. Sir?" Heather didn't hesitate. She only hoped she wasn't too late.
The man looked up at the young, slender brunette. "Colonel Hoffman," he supplied. "You don't have to call me 'Sir' unless you plan to enlist."
"There's a city called New Bern. It has a munitions factory. It's planning to overrun the town of Jericho. People are going to get killed. They tried to kill me, but I got away. You've got to help these people."
He threw down a cigarette. "Where is this?" he asked, though his tone suggested that he was less than interested.
Disbelief began to well up in Heather. This man had to help. He had to! No, keep your cool, she told herself. Think logically. "Kansas. It's not far from the Colorado border. "
Colonel Hoffman took a deep breath. "I wish I could help. My orders are to secure the roads in this area."
"I don't get to make these decisions. I'm just a government employee."
He chuckled wryly and looked to the man dressing his arm before gazing back to the young woman. "The United States." Upon seeing the look of confusion on her face, he asked, "Are you all right, Ma'am?"
Heather's mind was racing. When she was at the Black Jack trading post with Jake, Johnston, and Dale, she'd had the impression that the United States no longer existed as such. "We heard there were six different people claiming the presidency."
"There were. In fact, there are still a couple of hold outs. Texas. Bloc in the East. The new federal government has been restored in Cheyenne, Wyoming."
"Colonel, this is an emergency. You have to go to Jericho. The fighting could be happening right now!"
He lifted his hand to motion her silence. "I am really very sorry, Ma'am. Castbury, see that she gets back to the medical unit."
"C'mon, Ma'am," said a young soldier approaching from the side. He indicated for Heather to follow. With the large rifle he held, it was difficult to argue.
Still, there had to be something she could do….
The hours seemed like days.
What was wrong with these people? And why wouldn't this doctor leave her alone?
"Ouch!" Heather protested as the doctor injected her with a small syringe. "What are you doing?"
"It was time for your medication. I had to do it quick. We're evacuating."
"Evacuating?" She flew past the doctor and outside, once again leaving the confines of the tent. The doctor chased after her, grabbing hold of her. "I want to go home," Heather stated forcefully as she pulled her arm away from the female doctor.
"Our orders are to take people out of the conflict zone. You'll be safer in Cheyenne."
Heather wanted to scream. Why would no one listen? The thought of the people she cared about caught in a war zone nearly made her physically ill. It was at that moment she saw Colonel Hoffman. She ran to him, desperate to make one last plea.
"Colonel Hoffman? What is all this?"
"Sir, we head out in five minutes."
"Roger that," he replied to his soldier before turning his attention to Heather. "Jericho's been moved up to Priority Number One on the list."
Relief and gratitude flooded over her. She wasn't certain why the sudden change had been affected, but she wasn't bound to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth. "Thank you! God, thank you!"
"This is all thanks to you. Don't worry. We're going to get things back to normal again." He looked to his men. "All right. Saddle up."
Heather turned away and smiled. Everything was going to be all right. It had to be. Everything would go back to normal. They would put their lives back together again. With a government to depend upon, people would cease panicking. Infrastructure would be restored, along with order. Jake, Emily, her students—all of them would finally be safe again, truly safe.
The sound of a helicopter flying overhead caught her attention. She looked to the sky and was met with the sight of a tall flagpole. Waving proudly in the wind stood the symbol of the nation.
Her smile fell. Where there should have been horizontal stripes, she saw vertical stripes instead. Where fifty stars should have been arranged perfectly in a rectangle, far fewer stars were presented in an oval.
The flag was wrong.