A/N: This chapter has been a long time coming, but after reading what has now become my favourite fanfiction ever (The Life and Times), I was struck by inspiration. I should really apologise for my over-use of the separating line things but they're really helpful. I hope this chapter makes sense - it's split between a fair few locations and points of view but I think it gave a little insight into all of them. Hope you enjoy it and feel free to tell me what you think =]
An alert from the Hangar. The words couldn't have come at a worse time.
An alert from the Hangar. Lily and Reacher had been taken.
An alert from the Hangar. Jack had to find somewhere to start, and fast.
He glanced at Schofield. His eyes met the other soldier's.
Jack was a quick man. He knew what he had to do.
The low slung farmhouse sat amongst the vast, barren landscape that proclaimed a sort of beauty in of itself. It was unassuming and quiet. Little noise came from it.
And suddenly, it exploded in action.
The carport that sat beside the house was a flurry of movement, transporting the entire team in jeeps to follow Stretch and Pooh Bear's paths.
Curiously, there was a jeep trailing behind the initial two, boasting a squadron of swordsman on the back.
Even more curiously than that was the fact they all had their weapons. The jeep was being driven from Shane Schofield.
An onlooker to this entire situation would be extremely perplexed.
But the only creatures that saw the action erupt were a couple of curious rabbits.
Jack spoke rapidly into his headset. "Sea Ranger, swing wide and cover the perimeter. Pooh, make sure you have the area covered." He hesitated slightly. "Schofield, follow closely behind me." He glanced at Zoe who was sitting in the seat beside him.
She gave him a re-assuring look. "You know it's what she would have wanted you to do," she said without explanation. "Imagine if it had have been me and Reacher taken, or anyone else. 'Daddy, Captain Schofield wants to find his man – well, woman too,'" Zoe continued, mimicking the voice of the girl she'd come to accept as her daughter. "'I think we should trust him.'"
A thoughtful expression crossed Jack's face but he made no reply to her words, as true as they may be, as he slid to a stop outside the back of the hangar.
Jack grabbed a shotgun from the backseat of the car. He doubted he would need it, especially if the forces who had taken Lily and Reacher had merely knocked Astro and Sky Monster unconscious, but after giving the Marines their weapons back, he felt he couldn't be too careful. He slung the gun across his shoulder.
He didn't look like a soldier; battered and dusty brown work boots, faded jeans and a simple black t-shirt was generally his attire while at home. With the gun, he looked like any Australian farmer off to "shoot some pesky dingoes and keep the sheep in."
In reality, Jack was so much more.
His sharp, trained eyes took in everything as he stealthily made his way into the camouflaged building. The Tupolev jet sat majestically in the artificial light, tools and various pieces of equipment scattered around the floor.
Last time his farm had been attacked, someone had been after him.
This time, something had been taken from him. Something Jack had been trying to keep safe but ultimately, not trying to keep in place. This, he realised as he approached a serious looking Pooh, was his downfall.
Schofield was a quick man. This had been spotted from a young age and allowed him to rise quickly and efficiently through the ranks. He was given his own squadron, he became a leader – and did a fucking good job of it. No matter what situation he went into, he did the best he could and anyone could see he had a much better success rate than a lesser man.
His eyes caught the rearview mirror and surveyed his team for a moment. It was odd to see Alice look particularly sombre. He had always been the one to keep the team's morale up, the entertainment with the feisty Reacher. Book II looked focused as always. Bigfoot was mild. It was odd not to see Astro there.
He reflected as he sat in the jeep, awaiting further orders, that the feeling of losing a man never really lessened.
Of course, Egypt wasn't lost, she was merely misplaced for the moment. Schofield felt uneasy. The confidence in his abilities had slipped. He closed his eyes momentarily to regain focus.
Bright blue eyes, looking at him desperately. Maybe he could save her this time. The eyes shut.
His own eyes flew open at the images that still haunted him.
Gant was gone and he had to find a way to accept that.
He turned to his most trusted friend. "Mother, do you still happen to have your radio on you?" he asked, his tone flat and unassuming.
The burly marine nodded as she manoeuvred herself slightly so she could extract the electronic device from the waistband of her trousers. She handed it to Schofield wordlessly.
Schofield studied it for a moment, wondering if the basic plan formed in his head would work at all. Before he could second guess himself anymore, he began keying a code into the radio.
It was a satellite radio, designed for any sort of military combat. Somehow, they'd managed to splice together the convenience and clarity of phones with the durability of a portable radio and then supplied over ten thousand marines with them.
They could reach anywhere in the world, or so they'd been told.
As the radio began to make an odd noise between a gurgle and a dial, a grim smile crossed Schofield's face. They'd soon find out if the army was telling the truth.
Egypt was a quick woman but that's not why she'd become a soldier.
She'd never heard the comment Stone had made what seemed like years ago in his office but she would have smirked at it. "She could have been an analyst or a cryptologist but instead she joins the grunts."
It certainly said something about her personality, if nothing else.
For a woman who possessed enough brain cells to be offered a position that high was surely a woman worth reckoning with.
It said a little more that she rejected that job to serve a country that had never been hers.
Egypt glanced sideways at the girl beside her. Similarly to herself, her hands were bound behind her back. Her brown eyes were wide with fear but Egypt could also read something along the lines of acceptance and anticipation in there. It perplexed her.
Lily noticed Egypt's eyes on her and turned to look at her. "You can read Thoth." It was a statement spoken in a small yet commanding tone, in the poorly lit conditions of wherever they were being held. The room they were in bumped and bounced around, leading Egypt to believe they were still driving.
"Yes. I can read it, I can translate it and I can speak it," Egypt replied, resting her head against the cool steel. Some sort of freight train or truck, she mused. She couldn't remember how she'd got here. Her first memory after turning to see Astro crumple to the ground was Lily shaking her awake.
"How did the army find out?"
"They were going through the normal background checks every entrant faces. A random scan they do on one in every hundred for any special abilities was performed on me but no results came through. However, the room they tested me in, I think the guy must have been fairly high up because he had a file sitting on the desk marked 'Top Secret'," she explained.
Lily's eyebrows raised. "And what did you do?"
Egypt smirked. "Borrowed the file for a moment. It was pages of coding, all different sorts and imagine my surprise when I realised I could utterly understand one page."
"That's the page written in Thoth?" Lily asked and Egypt nodded.
"So I let them know and they offered me a job but I…" She trailed off and shrugged.
"How long have you been a soldier for?" Lily continued, her voice a little more curious and open. She settled back slightly as well, an unconscious gesture of opening up to Egypt.
The elder woman shrugged. "I'm twenty-three now and I enlisted at age nineteen. You can do the maths, can't you? Your file said you were bright."
"I'm very bright," Lily said simply. "I can speak fourteen languages." Egypt's eyebrows raised infinitesimally at this piece of information. Lily's tone was quiet and unassuming. Lily knew what she said was the truth. She wasn't boasting, she was merely stating. "Why did you become a soldier?"
This was one of the questions Egypt had the most difficulty answering to herself, sometimes. She never really knew why, it just felt right. Working with a team, protecting something, something about the army just attracted Egypt and she slotted in like the reverse of a puzzle piece.
"To protect my country," she answered finally, feeling somewhat dishonest for reasons unknown for giving Lily the standard answer. She didn't view West's daughter as a child; there was something otherworldly about her, and no one could miss the bright, intelligent and emotionally capable gleam in her eyes.
She didn't miss a beat. "Your country?" she asked dubiously. "Judging from your name and your skin tone, which is remarkably close to mine-" and here Lily glanced at her arm to demonstrate her point, "I'd say that the United States are not in fact, your country."
Egypt rolled her eyes. "I've lived there since I was five. I don't really think it's your call to make."
She was certainly stubborn. "But you were born in Egypt, yes?"
"Gee, whatever gave you that idea?"
She pulled a face and Egypt was struck by how young she was then. She'd read the files. She knew she was of fourteen years of age. She knew an awful lot about Lily West. Perhaps it was only fair that Lily West knew a little about Egypt Reacher in return. But Egypt had never been one for fairness.
"You know, it's pretty weird to be named after a country… not weird, uncommon," she re-phrased after a moment, apparently not wanting to slight Egypt's name.
"Well, I think it's much more symbolic to be named after a dry, barren country that still manages to be majestic throughout its hardship than after a flower that wilts if you don't give it water and constant attention," Egypt retorted. Lily didn't look taken aback. On the contrary, she met Egypt's statement with a slight smile.
Egypt found she couldn't help herself any longer. "Why aren't you crying or freaking out or…" She trailed off, having run out of options. "We've been taken by faceless men and you're sitting here, asking me my life story and insulting my name."
"Given that you were the one that just likened me to a wilting flower, I'd say you were being the insulting one. And I'm… well, I'm actually fairly terrified." There was a slight waver of emotion in her voice. "But I've seen my Daddy save people when they were in trouble before. I'm in trouble now and he'll save me. All of them will." Her tone was firm and resolute and Egypt found herself wanting to believe her.
But her hands were bound in such a strange and intricate fashion, she couldn't help but worry that these men were professionals and while there might be a chance for Lily to be rescued, Egypt doubted she would.
What she wouldn't give to have Mother or Alice watching her back at this point.
She didn't reply to Lily's comment and closed her eyes. The steel rattled and moved around her, granting her little solace. She tried to think up various ways to escape their metal prison but her mind just kept turning over Lily's last words. "I'm in trouble now. He'll save me."
So much for a sharp mind.
"Fairfax? Yeah, it's Schofield." Even in a time like this, Schofield could find it within himself to let out a brief chuckle at the data analyst's words. "Yes, I know I always call you when I'm in trouble. Yes, I'm in trouble and I'll take you out for drinks next time I'm in the states."
"Sounds like a plan." Schofield could picture the young man, slouching in his chair with his converse'd feet on the desk, jeans hanging loosely around his ankle and one hand absentmindedly clicking on a constant stream of data. "So what can I do for you, Scarecrow?" David Fairfax queried.
"Jack West's farm, Australia. A member of my team and Wests' daughter have been removed from the premises. Our pilot should still be in the area. Her name's Kent, Tiffany Kent. I need you to co-ordinate with her to scan the area so we can get a lead on these people… This is big, Dave, I know that much."
Despite how little Scarecrow did in fact know, he could sense from the gravity West had spoken with at the farmhouse when he'd outlined how they would approach the situation.
"You want a DNA trail of sorts for them? For whatever vehicle they've left in, assuming they didn't leave by foot?" David clarified.
"Yes, exactly. As soon as possible would be helpful too."
"Okay, I'm on it. Be in touch." The line clicked dead. Schofield opened the door of the jeep.
His marines stood in a group, slightly off to where Jack was leaning over the back of a chair. One of the red-headed twins was scrolling down a laptop on the same chair, enlarging and shrinking a screen that looked very much like a map.
"Captain West, I've organised for a sort of DNA trail to be followed of their escape route," Schofield said. The other people in the group looked surprised he made a comment. He studied them each in turn.
The woman, West's wife, she was clearly a brilliant soldier, as well as fiercely loyal of her family. She reminded him of Gant in a way – but then everything seemed to these days.
The twins almost seemed as though they'd be better suited in a basement, playing video games. Schofield could imagine them getting along perfectly well with Dave Fairfax.
The burly, bushy-faced Arab and the tall, surly hollow cheeked men were not to be crossed either. Both of them seemed to exude extreme "don't mess with me" vibes, which was an achievement for the Arab, who had worn a jovial smile.
Astro would occasionally meet his eyes before turning away. There was an odd look on his face, so out of place that Schofield wasn't quite ready to write him off as a traitor just yet.
The pilot had remained largely silent except for a brief moment at the beginning when he'd spoken about Lily. He seemed to care for her a great deal, but Schofield had gathered that they all did.
Schofield knew that he had to co-operate with this team in order to keep his safe and get Reacher back. It was easier to do that if he made connections, even if they were minor ones.
The final member of West's team stood away from the group. Rough and unshaven with an arrogant smirk on his face, Schofield was only slightly gladder when he reminded him of Reacher and not of his dead girlfriend. Sure enough, there was a sort of refined taunting quality that both the Sea Ranger and the Barbarian seemed to share.
Would the two teams combined be enough to retrieve Lily and Reacher?
Schofield didn't know but he'd soon find out.
"So what's the deal with this Scarecrow fellow?" Pooh Bear's normally booming voice was lowered.
Surprisingly, before Jack could reply, J.J. drawled a comment from beneath the wing of the jet. "He's an American soldier. This guy's record… Well, I'd almost say it's as good as ours. Facing down moles down at Wilkie's Ice Station while discovering a nuclear powered jet. Last I heard, he was on a bounty list as one as the only men who could disable a set of missiles that could destroy the entire world." There was a silence, somewhat tinged with admiration.
"A member of his team was taken. From what I've heard about him personally, he'll do anything to get her back," Jack added.
"That's why he's here?" Stretch queried, his eyebrows raised. "That's the only reason you know you can trust him?"
"Stretch, I would have expected you of all people to understand the loyalty between teams."
The Israeli's eyes flashed but he said nothing.
"So what's our plan of attack to find Lily, Jack?" Sky Monster asked.
A loud mix of beeping and static filled the hangar, bouncing off the walls and over taking the quiet conversations that were occurring. The source was a device Schofield was holding in his hand, Jack noted as he glanced at the other soldier.
Schofield lifted the device to his ear. "Comic, this is Scarecrow. Report on your location?" His voice held some relief.
"Scarecrow, I'm over the farm. I was only at the army base near Brisbane, refuelling. Your friend Mr Fairfax has managed to co-ordinate his technology and well, it's certainly impressive." Jack was able to identify the speaker's voice as an American female, as warped as it was. Another member of his team?
"How far would you say you are from getting results?"
"I'm sweeping the area now." A brief pause. Everyone in the hangar was hanging off each word emerging from the radio. "I've found it." The excitement in Comic's tone was clearly able to be heard. "A clear trail leading towards the edge of the country. It seems they've travelled by truck, gauging by the fuel readings I'm being given."
"Can you plot a course to follow them? I know it's a lot to ask of you, but situations have changed." Schofield's voice was calm and authoritative. "We'll follow you…" He glanced at Jack, who jerked his head at the jet. "We'll follow you in a Tupolev just as soon as you give us the co-ordinates."
She told him them before promising to radio. Schofield lowered the device and turned to Jack, clearly awaiting commands. Jack felt grateful to him for this and clasped his hands together.
"Right team, you heard Captain Schofield. Load everyone into the Sky Warrior. Monster, we need to get to that location sharpish." The bearded pilot was already hoisting himself into the cockpit of the plane.
"With all these extra men, it might have been a little more helpful to have the Hali," Pooh muttered as he walked around to the stairs on the side.
"The Hali?" Jack heard one of Schofield's soldiers query, the Mexican one.
"The Halicarnassus," he explained.
"Jack's old 747. Greatest plane that ever lived," Zoe added, following Pooh's trail.
"What happened to it?"
A grim smile flickered across Jack's face. "I used her to treat an ancient trap system," he said without further explanation.
While the 747 was admittedly bigger, the Sky Warrior still boasted a fair few qualities. The door to the cockpit opened into a seated area, complete with desks. After that, the plane was completely gutted of any other comforts. Weapons hung on the wall of one side and a jeep sat bolted to the ground on the other. Yes, the Halicarnassus had been a great plane but the speed the Warrior would allow them now would be to their advantage.
The doors to the hangar slid open automatically and the plane powered out onto the vast landscape, quickly gaining enough speed to lift off. Jack slid the shotgun off his back, snapping it in half and removing the ammunition from it.
He glanced up to see a serious looking Marine looking at a weapon of his own. Jack had only seen it once before, in fact he'd used it to stop his imminent death once before.
"Is that a Maghook?" he asked. The Marine glanced up in some surprise that Jack recognized the object. Jack extended his hand, clearly wanting to study it. The other Marine hesitated.
"Sure is. How do you know about them?" he asked as he passed it to Jack.
Buck Riley. His name finally came to Jack from the files he'd studied once upon a time. Call-sign: Book II. Jack wondered for a brief moment who Book I had been. "I had a bit of an altercation last year at the second vertex with some Marines. Rouge ones, of course. Anyway, I was plummeting down into a chasm." As he'd suspected, none of the Marines displayed confusion at his terminology. They already knew about the vertexes, the machine, the pillars, everything.
"And one of those Maghooks saved my ass." He passed the Maghook back.
"They've saved the Scarecrow's a fair few times too," Mother added. "Sydney Harbour Bridge story was a personal favourite of mine."
"Sydney Harbour Bridge?" The query came from Zoe this time. Though not a native to Australia as her husband was, she was familiar with the famous landmark.
"Two Maghooks. One negative charge, one positive. The length of one would not be enough to cover the distance as it was for you Captain West."
"Ah, it's named for the arches," Jack said with a nod. "Clever."
"We Americans are sometimes," Mother remarked.
"Get them out of the truck. Watch out for the soldier!" The voice was muffled by the steel walls of the truck. The back doors slid open and light spilled in. A man clothed in black moved to the back of the van, grabbing first Lily and then Egypt. Lily noticed they held Egypt tighter than she needed to be. Good. This was to her advantage if they believed she was nothing more than a silly little girl.
She glanced around at the line of trucks that surrounded them. Black, military vehicles, as faceless as the black military persons who had taken them and removed them. Lily flexed her wrists slightly, but other than that remained still.
They weren't in Australia. Lily could tell instantly by the feeling of the air and the temperature. But even if that wasn't enough, the Great Pyramids sat majestically in the far distance.
They were in Egypt. The country.
Lily tilted her head down slightly to look at her watch. She reckoned it had been about eleven hours since she'd last looked at her watch. They must have loaded them onto the plane while still in the truck, as Jack had been wont to do in the past.
"And so I have with me two daughters of Thoth." The voice was dismembered before a man stepped into the two prisoners views. Well dressed and wearing glasses. An American accent that she seemed to be so used to hearing these days. He was Caucasian, with blonde hair and pale skin.
She saw Egypt tilt her head slightly, studying the man who walked in front of them.
"I know you," she said in a low controlled voice that somehow seemed to be shaking with fury. Clearly Lieutenant Reacher didn't take lightly to being taken. Lily herself had been kidnapped before at the end of the Capstone mission some years ago but eventually, her choice had saved her family and the world.
"Do you now? They did tell me they were intelligent before they fired me. They told me you would take my job if you accepted it. You didn't. You choose to go in the army."
Lily was bewildered. But before Egypt could retort, he turned to Lily.
"And you. Rescued from your mother's womb in the heart of a volcano, a pivotal part in the schemes to save the world before you were adopted by the courageous Captain West." He said the word scathingly and Lily instantly felt her anger flare up. She stepped forward, ignoring the soldiers who closed in behind her.
"My father is ten times more courageous than you," she responded, not realising that her tone held a similar quality of fury to Egypt's. "You are faceless and nameless. A coward."
The man chuckled. "I will easily tell you my name, Lily West. I am Anthony Reichs. I used to be a translator, cryptographer and analyst for a sector adjoined the United States Marine Corps. I used to be quite high up in my world."
His words struck a chord with Lily and she opened her mouth to speak but Egypt got there first.
"I knew it had to be you. As soon as you said that, I knew." She had also attempted to pull forward like Lily had but the soldiers were restraining her. Her entire body was taut and harsh, like a killing machine.
"Knew what?" Lily asked.
"Only ten people in the world know that I can speak Thoth. My team, my mother, my superior officer… And the man who discovered the talent. The man with the file on his desk." She gestured to Anthony Reichs. "It was him."
Slow clapping sounded around the area. "Well done, Lieutenant Reacher. I must say, I was slightly disappointed when you didn't remember me."
"I don't know how you found us but you're a dead man."
"On the contrary, Lieutenant Reacher. You're a dead woman if you don't give us the ritual."
"The ritual?" Lily watched as Egypt's angry posture slackened slightly in her clear confusion at the question. "What ritual?"
"The ritual, you know what ritual, you're a daughter of Thoth!" Reichs' tone was both impatient and self-convinced. Egypt glanced at Lily, her face unreadable but for her eyes. She had no idea what Reichs wanted. Lily herself had no idea.
"I don't know any ritual," she said, her tone deadly. "And even if I did, I wouldn't tell you."
Lily winced, knowing that as much as enemies were cruel and harsh, retorting to them was never a good idea.
Reichs gestured to one of the nearest soldiers and the soldier quickly passed his gun over. He raised it to face Egypt. It was a semi-automatic machine gun, privately bought. Egypt met it, her face impassive.
"Go ahead and shoot me," she said flatly. "Clearly you don't need me after you've gone to all this trouble of bringing me here."
"Oh, I can assure you I don't," Reichs said smoothly. He slid the hammer back, the gun fully able to be used now. "One more chance to tell the truth. What is the ritual?"
"I don't know."
"I don't know it."
"I don't know the fucking ritual!"
"Stop!" Lily's voice seemed to speak at a will of its own and she moved in front of Egypt, staring directly down the barrel of the gun.
It seemed that this was the second situation an onlooker would find themselves confused towards. A young, slim girl staring defiantly down a machine gun, standing in front of a woman who was clearly a soldier, surrounded by military vehicles and men and far on the horizon, the Pyramids of Giza.
"She doesn't know the ritual." Lily took a deep breath, wondering what Jack would do. Of course, Jack would have a way out. He always did. All Lily had was time to stall. "But I do."