A/N: Well, my faithful readers, this is it. The epilogue of this long drawn-out story and the last you'll be reading of what is probably by best work of fiction on this site. It basically covers everything that was left open in these last few chapters, and brings closure for most of the main characters. Admittedly, I haven't been too proud of the writing towards the end of the plot. I felt that this story was at its high point when it first started, when my writing style was at its best. Despite that, I wasn't planning on letting it go unfinished, as I have with another of my works. Regardless, here is the epilogue I promised would arrive yesterday. (Yeah, sorry about that.)
Justice is Blind
Price stared at him for what seemed like an eternity. Sitting on the other side of the glass, a mere several feet away, was the man who'd brought about so much death and suffering. Was that a hyperbole? No. It was the truth, regardless of exactly how deep his involvement had gone. It didn't matter whether Palmer had simply enabled the cold-blooded killers or pulled the trigger himself. He was complicit, and he'd eventually tried to cover their tracks to save his own ass. To RAINBOW SIX, Vincent Palmer was nothing more than a common criminal.
Then again, a simple criminal? Now that he thought about it, no. Palmer was not worthy of being called a criminal. He was a monster. He might not have looked like one, but the true monsters never did. He was among the lowest level of scum that existed on earth.
"Has he said anything?" Price asked in a raspy whisper. Standing with him behind the one-way mirror was Tawney.
The head of intelligence shook his head. "No. I think he's waiting for you to go in."
There was a moment of silence that followed. "He won't have to wait long."
Lieutenant General Vincent Palmer, US Army, had given up trying to relax almost as soon as he'd arrived at the garrison. He knew that, with his capture, life as he knew it had now come to an end. It didn't matter now whether he talked or not; anything he had to add to the information they'd gathered was simply extraneous. RAINBOW's intelligence department, along with FBI and CIA, had assembled enough evidence to put him away for a very long time.
It was a terrible feeling, to be confined. To know that you were trapped in such a way that you would never see the light of day again. Palmer had always been claustrophobic as a child; he wondered what circle of hell a term at Leavenworth would be like. Already he was enduring a preview. He'd been sitting in one of the holding rooms at the RAINBOW garrison for what must have been at least ten hours. Long hours of silence, with nothing to do but sit and wonder why he'd done what he'd done. It was funny; he hadn't come to any good conclusions.
When Price entered the room, without even casting Palmer a brief glance, the prisoner almost relished the company.
"I know what you're going to ask me." The disgraced three star general murmured, not even sure if he should have been talking. It was no secret that Eddie Price hated him with every fiber of his being. Before, when Palmer had just been an incompetent leader, Price had merely resented him. With the truth revealed, he loathed him. "You are going to ask me why I did it. Then you're going to read me their names. The names of everyone on Loiselle's team, and after that, you'll yell. You'll ask me if it was worth it, the six hundred million. For the deaths of ten good men. And I… I won't really have an answer. Because the truth is I can't tell you why I did it, or if it was worth it; I don't know."
Price wasn't moving. He hadn't taken the seat across the table from Palmer, and he hadn't made a gesture of any kind. Instead, he was standing like a stone tower over the traitor, boring holes into Palmer's forehead with his own merciless glower.
"I don't care why you did it." He said after several seconds had passed. "I don't even care if you think it was worth betraying us. Because the truth is, all I care about is the fact that you'll burn in hell for what you've done. But besides that, I will know exactly how far the roots of your betrayal reach."
Then he took a seat. Price managed to find the mind to bring in a notepad and pen, and was ready to take down anything Palmer said in seconds. "Talk."
At that word, Palmer made his decision. In the hopes that maybe, just maybe, he could appeal to the merciful side of his captors, the man who had once been RAINBOW SIX disclosed every aspect of his activities with Hosaam Al-Jaali and his involvement in Mohammad Abdul-Basir's conspiracy.
It had begun almost a year before Palmer had been appointed to lead RAINBOW. Working at the Pentagon had left him tired and weary, and he no longer had any pride in his service to his country. His only concern at that time had been furthering his own career, and there was rumored to be a position open commanding a multi-national "black" unit. When Palmer had sought out the men and women who had the power to choose the person who would fill that position, he'd been introduced to the joint United Nations/North Atlantic Treaty Organization committee lead by President Ryan. Initially, the board had been less that enthusiastic to grant him the position.
Shortly after, Palmer discovered that two of the people who sat on that committee had been accused of accepting bribes in the past. That was something he'd figured he could exploit.
That was when Al-Jaali had contact him discreetly using messages delivered through a distant acquaintance of Palmer's that was also a friend of the family. Palmer had no qualms about divulging the name of the acquaintance in question to Price.
Al-Jaali's offer was simple: his splinter faction of the CGA could not conduct their activities in preparation for the nuclear detonation with RAINBOW posing a constant threat. Al-Jaali would use money secured by Abdul-Basir to enable Palmer to bribe the board members in question. With their favor guaranteed, and Palmer pushed into a position to aid Al-Jaali's group, the rest of the plan was simple: Palmer would serve as RAINBOW SIX and use his power within the organization to curtail any efforts to stop them from assembling what they needed to build their nuclear device. That was why he'd kept them out of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and had made sure their deployment to the Brezhnev Laboratory of Critical Sciences was delayed long enough for Al-Jaali's Syrian mercenaries to plant the bombs.
When RAINBOW FIVE had initiated Operation: VENGEFUL TALON without Palmer's knowing, that was when the plan had crumbled. Palmer had obviously been unable to hamper an operation he had no knowledge of. When Al-Jaali had been captured, Palmer had been naïve, believing the Islamic extremist to be able to resist his interrogation. He had also been fooled into believing that, with Al-Jaali captured, the trail stopped there, and he was in the clear.
Then they jumped forward. With the conclusion of Operation: PATRIOT and the following identity theft, he'd been spooked. Furthermore, he had not anticipated the backlash from his deputy director and the rest of the organization. He had not anticipated being removed as RAINBOW SIX, while Ryan's committee debated on whether or not he would be discharged and sent back to the Untied States. That was when he'd gotten desperate.
Palmer fabricated a plan to get himself out of trouble. After staging it to look like he'd been intoxicated, Palmer attempted to fake his own death by crashing his car into a tree. Obviously, he'd encountered some unexpected mishaps and had been unable to escape the car before the collision, a mistake that had resulted in him being unable to use his legs.
"So that's it." Price breathed, dropping the pen on the table and staring down the man—if you could call him a man—sitting opposite him. "That's why you did it? Simple greed? Ambition? That's what it took for you to send ten men to their deaths."
"You're like a broken record, you know that?" Palmer barked. "I didn't know those people would have to die when I accepted the money, Eddie! I didn't know what Al-Jaali wanted me to do, how far he wanted me to go!"
And that was it. The trigger. The catalyst that lit the fuse in Price that ran out only a few seconds later. "You collaborated with terrorists!" He roared. "What the hell did you think he would ask you to do?"
Palmer sunk into his chair and sighed. "I don't know. I wasn't thinking about that."
"No, of course you weren't." RAINBOW SIX snorted. "You were just looking for a shortcut. Just trying to get your own career on the fast track, with no regard for who got killed as a result. You are not only responsible for sending ten good men to their deaths, but you brought shame to a good man's legacy. I watched John Terrence Clark build this organization from the ground up; I watched it grow from a pack of dreamers to one of the most formidable special operations organizations in the world! And you ruined all of it."
Price stood and took his papers in hand as he made for the door. As he left Palmer on his way out of the room, Eddie Price wished for a brief moment that the bastard's wheelchair had been traded out for an electric version.
It was an eerie feeling, knowing you were walking to your death, surrounded by the people you'd opposed almost all your life. If Al-Jaali hadn't known any better, he might have said it was the feeling of defeat. But he was smarter than that. He knew that his victory, while not present in this life, would be glorious in the next.
He was in Israel, in a small, dark building people rarely entered. Many who did, never came back out. Just like he wouldn't. As he looked upwards at the spot at which his life would come to a miserable end, he wondered for a passing moment if it was worth it. Had all the prayer, devotion, and murder been worth it in the end. Had he really secured a place in heaven as he believed he had. He dismissed any such doubts a second later. Of course he had. His faith was the path of the true, and the righteous. It was the infidels who should be doubting. It was their afterlives which were in jeopardy.
The Israeli government hadn't taken long deciding what to do with him. Hosaam Al-Jaali was a murderer, and his sentencing had been swift and deliberate. Despite the idea of death looming over him, Al-Jaali swallowed his fears and took the opportunity to show the Israelis what true courage was.
Before he had realized how much time had passed, he felt his body being shoved forward, a noose descending over his head and tightening around his neck. The black hood that concealed his face kept him from looking at the faces of the cowardly executioners that surrounded him. The time had come. Allah had decided.
With the preparations complete, Al-Jaali smiled under the black hood and used his last full breath to condemn the Israeli interlopers and the Zionist movement. May they all face the consequences of their actions. Infidels.
Out of nowhere, the rest of the world dropped out from under him. Al-Jaali's body dropped perhaps a foot, while his legs contorted in horrific ways. He was shocked by the pain. The noose, tight around his neck, had fractured his larynx and nestled under his jaw. His eyes became wide as saucers as he stared pitifully into the black fabric of the hood that left him without any kind of connection to the rest of the world. The only thing that existed was the pain.
Then he began to panic.
Instinct told him to reach for the rope bound around his neck, but his hands were restrained behind his back. That was when it happened. Years of faithful dedication to his ideology abandoned him in an instant. His beliefs had limits. He didn't want to die! He opened his mouth to scream under the hood, but found himself lacking the necessary breath.
It wouldn't be much longer. As his muscles all simultaneously tried to fight off the reality of perishing in such a manner as this, Al-Jaali knew his vision must have been fading.
The blood loss to his brain was too great. The last bit of consciousness he had was used to ask why God had abandoned him.
The executioners all watched in impassive bliss. There was no remorse, no regret, and no emotion. Hosaam Al-Jaali had chosen to live his life as a murderer, torturer, and a terrorist. His loss would not be mourned, and none would grieve over his death. His sinful existence was only to be forgotten as time went on. The only consolation for his victims being that justice had finally been served.
Golovko frowned in the comfort of his personal car as he scoured the daily newsletter for anything of interest. It wasn't that he'd hoped for anything bad to happen to the Americans, just that such a occurance would have met serious political repercussions for President Iltcenko. The only way to avoid war in those circumstances would have been for the man to relinquish his office to a successor supported by the Americans, and that would have meant excellent advances in his career. Golovko had been acquainted with Ryan and the CIA for years. He was a natural choice.
But it was not meant to be so. Iltchenko retained the rights and responsibilities of the highest office in their land, and all it meant was that his secret dealings with the press had all been done in vain. Well, perhaps not in vain. There were sure to be more mistakes while that man remained President of the Russian Federation.
He was surprised when his cell phone rang. Golovko didn't usually get calls before work.
"Sergey. It's good to speak with you again, moi droog." Ryan greeted.
Golovko smirked. "And you, Mr. President. I did not believe we would ever speak again when I heard of the incident at the White House. How are you?"
"Well I'm fine, Sergey. It's not like it's the first time I've had a gun pointed at me." He joked. "But all jokes aside, I suppose the resolution of that crisis means good things for your country. NATO is backing down with Abdul-Basir dead and the nuke dismantled, which means Aleksei Iltchenko will be able to retain his office."
Yes, that is lovely. "I suppose so."
Ryan grunted in agreement. "Yes. You must be very disappointed."
Golovko looked up from the newspaper and furrowed his brow. "I'm sorry?"
"Come now, Sergey. We've known each other for a very long time. Did you really think that wouldn't see through you immediately? I'll admit, it took a few moments of consideration, but I know what it is you were planning."
There was a moment where Golovko was genuinely impressed. He and Jack Ryan had, indeed, known each other for a long time. In that time, they'd become more rivals than true enemies. Golovko respected his nemesis in the world of American intelligence, and the feeling was mutual. But such a relationship made for a considerable lack of secrecy between them.
"Quite ingenious, actually. Leaking such matters of national security to the media, in order to further your own political career." Ryan commended him. "What an interesting way to use free press for your own motives. But I'm afraid power plays such as that are generally looked down upon in the Russian political scene."
Once again, his American counterpart had somehow forced Golovko into a most awkward position. Got yourself in check again Sergey. "You are most correct, my friend. What is it you want?"
Ryan spoke in a demure, almost friendly manner. "Nothing, Sergey. I am not going to blackmail you with this information, nor will I expect anything more from you. I simply found it prudent to remind you that… we are always going to be looking over each other's shoulder."
Golovko smirked at that and set the paper down on the seat next to him. "Thank you, Mr. President."
It was a bit chilly out that night, enough so that Tawney had a mind to wear his heavier leather coat to their brief meeting. It was late enough into the darkness for most places to be closed, given the hour of their discreet rendezvous at the near empty parking garage. Moscow was a rather dreary place, the Brit mused.
"William." A voice called in the darkness, and Tawney turned to see his cohort approaching from the elevator. "I didn't think you would come."
"Didn't think I'd come? What kind of wretch do you take me for?"
Mokashev smiled at the comment and offered his friend a cigarette from the box in his pocket, which was graciously accepted. "A neculturny old man, that's what."
"You said you wanted to tell me something." Tawney reminded him, whipping out his old lighter and lighting the cig in his mouth.
The two men began a brisk walk around the top floor of the parking garage, speaking of matters not to be heard by the public.
"We have heard from our sources in the Middle East. Your friend, Al-Jaali, was executed in Israel yesterday." Said the senior analyst of the FSB. "His trial was nothing if not a formality, the sentencing went much the same way."
"Is that all?"
Tawney looked over and saw his friend shake his head. "Pakistan has ushered in a new politician to fill the void created by Mohammad Abdul-Basir's death. The file we have on him at the office seems to indicate he is much more reasonable than his recently deceased colleague. There are little to no traces of radical practices in his history, and he seems accepting to the prospect of opening his country to the international community. May be a good place to start in getting a foothold for RAINBOW in the region."
"I have wondered, at times, if it is the best thing for RAINBOW to stay active." Tawney conceded. "We used to be a beacon for other countries. A conduit through which the people of different nations could set aside their differences and work together to protect innocent people. That was the vision behind John Clark's work when he first started the unit. But now, it's grown into something… overpowered and grotesque. I think Palmer is responsible for making it that way. From now on, people will cease to remember us for all the good we have done, all the lives we saved. Instead, RAINBOW will be characterized by one man's betrayal."
They stopped walking. Tawney sighed and stared at his friend.
"Domingo Chavez had another heart attack."
Mokashev closed his eyes and exhaled. "How is he?"
"Not good. It was a lot worse than his first one. The doctors had trouble reviving him, and they're saying he might need to be hospitalized." The head of intelligence at RAINBOW shook his head in disdain. "Happened right when he heard the news of what Palmer had done. Right in front of his wife and Eddie Price."
They stood for several seconds, just basking in the news. Lyov Mokashev did not know Ding personally, save for anything Tawney had told him over the course of their friendship. He knew enough to know that it was a deeply troubling matter for anyone who heard.
"Vincent Palmer will be tried internationally, but it won't amount to much." Tawney continued, the telltale signs of contempt echoing in his trembling voice. "He'll play to the people's sympathetic side, use his unofficial status as a cripple to get off easy. That son of a bitch is going to get a slap on the wrist and go free, while Abdul-Basir takes all the blame. Meanwhile, he will remain responsible for so much suffering, so much pain."
"Sometimes," Mokashev interrupted, "we must take a step back from our own personal bubbles and take a look at the world we live in. We must realize that, unfortunately, people do not always get what they deserve. That is what the afterlife is for, my friend."
Tawney's friend gripped him by the shoulder and patted him a couple times. "I have never before been a very religious man. But I do believe that Vincent Palmer will pay for what he has done. You just have to sit back and realize that it is not the place of you or me to decide to take justice into our own hands. Such is the nature of our world."
"Laws exist for a reason." He continued. "And breaking them… that simply serves to lower ourselves to their level."
Tawney returned to his hotel room later that night, and son found that his meeting with Mokashev had gone late into the wee hours of the morning. Ready to finally relax after a long day of collaborative work with the FSB, he fell onto his bed after discarding his shoes near the door. With one hand, he snatched the remote off the dresser and switched on the television.
He'd been feeling such a blend of emotions over the course of the past few days. Feelings of contempt and remorse, and other such grim things. Palmer's capture had only served to remind him of the loss of his friends. For the moment, all he wanted to do was lock himself away and curse those that had wronged him and his loved ones. Instead, he had to satisfy his feelings of anguish by accepting the fact that good men were now either dead or dying, and the scum that had brought about their pain was eventually going to be released to the world a free man. For several minutes Tawney lay there on his bed, wondering why it was the world could be such a cruel place.
Instinctively he looked over at the television screen after finding himself unable to sleep. The channel, who's name he failed to catch, ran international news all day long.
Eventually a story caught his attention. Somebody had been killed, an older man in his fifties. A supposed military veteran, the man had been in the custody of the FBI in Washington when the car he'd been riding in had been in a collision with a tractor-trailer on its way to the J. Edgar Hoover building. The two bureau agents in the vehicle had remained unharmed, the only casualty being the prisoner, one… Vincent Palmer.
Tawney sat up in the bed and stared at the screen, which was now flashing footage of the wreck along with the anchorman's monotone commentary.
From then until the end of the story, Tawney remained speechless. He didn't bother calling anyone, and didn't bother dwelling on it for much longer. This just meant that it was all over. All of it. There was nothing more to be said regarding the past several months. The hellish ordeal was over, and the bad guys had all gotten what was coming to them. First Abdul-Basir had met his demise at the hands of America's scrappiest commander-in-chief, followed by his co-conspirator Al-Jaali. Now Palmer had joined them, and there was nothing more to be said on the matter.
Laying back with his head on the pillow, Tawney was left contemplating the depth of Mokashev's words to him, and wondering if there really was some omnipotent force that ensured justice would always be served.
Was one of the reasons RAINBOW existed? An entity of swift reparations, founded by a man who had once seen the horrors of a world where murderers and other vile beings could go free, and who had later made it his mission in life trying to change that.
Perhaps, there had always been more to John Clark's legacy than he or any of his friends at RAINBOW had ever realized.
A/N: I really don't have much else to say that I could finish with. Again, I sincerely hope you all enjoyed reading Rainbow Six: Black Sheep and strongly advise that any of you who have not read the original work by literary genius Tom Clancy, go and do so now! It's entitled Rainbow Six, and is a part of the Jack Ryan series of novels that began with the well-known The Hunt for Red October. It's a book that serves as a much better thriller than what you just read, written by a man I'd love to some day be considered on the same level with. However, I'm humble enough to admit that, right now, I'm nowhere near that good, and would love for my readers to offer me any insight into how I could improve myself as an author. So, as usual, I ask that anyone with some free time would take the opportunity to leave a review. Thank you, and have a wonderful day.