CHAPTER 1 - WHAT THEY DON'T KNOW
Jack Carter stared at the screen in front of him, silently reminding himself to keep the blank look of confusion on his face. On days like these, it wasn't too hard…for supposed geniuses, they really were idiots, just as the Department had warned him.
"Uh…" he said, continuing to stare blankly. "What am I looking at here?"
Allison proceeded to respond in her usual, long-winded and slightly condescending way, while Carter tuned her out and silently wracked his brain.
Okay… he thought to himself. Now, how would Jack Carter respond? Remember… Jack Carter, not Johnson Carter. You're the simple, layman sheriff: Jack Carter.
Finally, he replied with,
"Wait…so we simply have to turn off," he gestured with his hand, "that thingy? The advanced optical, uh, whatchamacallit?" He inwardly cringed at how ridiculous he sounded, but pushed forward anyway, selling his part.
Henry nodded. "Yes, but in order to do so safely, we need to be able to deactivate its outer shield, otherwise," he said, motioning towards the picture on the screen. "The whole thing could become unstable and end up frying all of Eureka's electronics…"
Jack saw Henry's genuinely worried look and, reluctantly, gave up his hand.
"Uh, doesn't McPherson have that new thingy of his that tunes in with optical frequencies to do, you know…whatever it does? Can't we use that?"
He inwardly grinned like a fool when he saw four pairs of eyes look at him in shock, consisting also of Fargo and Zane.
Surprisingly enough, Zane was the first to agree with him.
"Actually…that could work." He looked at the three scientists' eyes that were now focused on him with incredulous looks on their faces, and Carter watched in amusement as Zane winced slightly and then explained. "All we would need to do is adjust the settings so that it's on the same frequency as the A.O.W.R. and I could do that here in my lab."
Fargo slowly nodded.
"Well, considering what's at stake, as head of GD, I fully authorize you to do whatever is necessary to turn that thing off."
And with that, and a pointed look at both Henry and Allison, he walked as imperiously as he could out of the room…and then ruined it by stopping in the doorway, looking back at Carter and saying…
"Oh…Dungeons & Dragons is at your place tonight, right? Seven?"
Jack rolled his eyes and gave the younger man a nod. With that reassurance, Fargo left the room completely just as Jo Lupo, GD's very own head of Security and ex-employee of his, walked into the room, an amused look on her face at the last bit of conversation she'd heard.
She waited until Fargo was out of earshot before saying,
"Dungeons & Dragons, huh? I thought you were more of a Battleship type of guy."
Her grin was wide and he responded by saying, "Yeah, well, don't tell Fargo that. He's been kinda down recently, so I suggested we have a game night one night and made the mistake of letting him pick the game, so we now have a twice weekly D&D night."
She let out a small laugh and gave him a look, casting a glance around the room only to see Allison and Zane hard at work.
Jo's mocking grin, though, had softened slightly, as did her eyes, and quietly she said,
"He's been having a lot of pressure, recently, from the DOD…it's nice that you're helping him."
Jack just shrugged.
"Hey, it's what I'm supposed to do right? Protect and serve? Admit it," he said, shoving his hands into the pockets of his pants, "If Fargo gets sad, then he gets depressed, and then depression turns into homicidal anger combined with his dangerously genius mind, and the next thing you know we're trying to explain to the government why there's a crater where the Department of Defense used to be."
Jo chuckled at that and gave him another smile.
"You're not wrong about that."
Jack motioned to the immensely thickly clipboard in her hand. "So, what's that?"
She let out a long-suffering sigh and he tensed for what might be coming. He knew her tones and could read her sighs as easily as he could his own.
"As head of GD's security, because of the fact that we're under imminent threat of total electronic shutdown, that would also include the destruction of backup generators," she added as an important side note, "I'm required to check all electronic security in all of the labs and give out hard-copy instructions on specific manual overrides for each individual lab in case of actual electrical meltdown."
"Ah," he replied, giving her his usual look and she just smiled.
"Yeah, I know," she said, gesturing to the papers in her hands. "You don't envy my job now, do you?"
He gave her a grin.
"No money in the world…"
She rolled her eyes and then pointed with her head towards Allison and Zane in the corner of the lab. "So, what are they doing?"
Not thinking about what he was saying, he said…
"Oh, Zane is just recalibrating the ionic and electrical sensors in McPherson's quasi-optical slash ionic gamma inducer so that Allison and Henry can go ahead and use it on the Advanced Optical Wegman's Ray, so that it'll safely shut down without emitting any electro-magnetic pulses that could wipe out all of Eureka. It's fairly simple. My idea."
Jo looked at him in surprise, wondering at what he'd just said, but Jack, realizing what he'd almost revealed, quickly covered.
He pointed towards the three scientists on the other side of the room and then placed his hands on his waist.
"At least…that's what they told me."
He easily slipped on his adorable, layman's expression, slipped his hands back into his pockets, and hoped that Jo bought it…and silently sighed in relief when she just gave him a weird look and said,
"Okay…I'll just go ahead and give them their, you know, their papers…"
With that, she walked across the room, and the sheriff, seeing his moment, quickly escaped the room, knowing that the problem was pretty much solved and that they would no longer need him around. Of course, they never thought that they needed him until they royally screwed something up…which, in Eureka, was every other day, at best.
He stepped into his house and smiled when he heard…
"HELLO SHERIFF CARTER. HOW WAS YOUR DAY AT WORK?"
He smiled to himself as he slipped off his shoes and unbuttoned his uniform top and walked into the kitchen. "Good, Sarah. Thank you for asking. By the way, what's on the menu for dinner tonight?"
"QUESADILLAS, AS WELL AS CHIPS AND SALSA. DIRECTOR FARGO IS COMING OVER TONIGHT, SO I MADE HIM HIS FAVORITE DESSERT: DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES WITH KLINGON LETTERS IN RED FROSTING ON THE TOP AND VANILLA CREAM FILLED CENTERS. DO YOU THINK HE WILL LIKE THEM?"
Jack smiled as he heard this, opening the fridge and pulling out a cold soda.
"Yes, Sarah. I think he'll love them."
Taking a sip of his drink, he walked across the kitchen and into the living room, deciding to watch whatever game was on at the moment.
"Hey, Sarah," he said as he sat down, crossing his legs in front of him and propping them on the table. "What games are on right now?"
"NATIONALS VERSUS REDSKINS, JAZZ VERSUS BULLS, PENGUINS VERSUS-"
He cut her off. "The Penguins game, please. I think some mindless violence of men wearing too much protective gear that makes them look fat over a ridiculous small black object that's impossible to see ninety percent of the time is perfect."
With that, the television snapped on and he let himself sink into the couch and watched as the skaters flashed by on the screen, indistinguishable from one another, sticks scraping on ice.
He'd been watching for about fifteen minutes, and had actually started to enjoy the game, when the screen suddenly went dark.
But then a familiar blue and white logo appeared on the darkened plasma screen and he groaned. "Sarah, secure the front door, no one in for the next two hours, understood?"
"Oh, and Sarah?" he added, getting her attention once more. "Do you think I could have some privacy?"
"OF COURSE, SHERIFF."
And with that, he listened as she locked and dead-bolted the front door and then, with an almost inaudible sound, he heard her click off. With a sigh of relief and exasperation, he looked at the television and the familiar logo that graced its' screen and said…
"I'm alone. What do you need?"
The screen then changed to show him a face that was very familiar to him…but not to anyone else in Eureka.
"Johnson…it's so good to see you. How are you holding up out there?"
Jack rolled his eyes and leaned back against his couch, pinching the bridge of his nose and silently wishing that he'd grabbed a beer instead of a soda. It would have at least loosened him up for the conversation that he was about to have.
"I saved their lives again, as usual, Sterling…" He paused and then leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees, his drink balanced in his hands. "And, as usual, not a single thank you from any of them."
The man on the screen gave him a grim smile.
"Well, you knew what you were signing on for when we asked you to do this for us."
Jack grimly nodded, looking at the drink in his hands, debating whether or not to head back to the kitchen and switch it out for a Coors, but as he pondered it seemed Sterling saw how he looked at the glass bottle and he said,
"I'll need you sober for this conversation, Johnson…the orders I'm about to give you come from Drake himself."
At hearing this, the sheriff sat up and quickly placed his drink to the side and looked squarely into the eyes of the man that he knew as Sterling.
"Okay. Fine. What are the orders?"
Hearing the seriousness in his temporary employee's tone, the man got straight down to business and pulled something in front of him, beyond sight of the edge of the screen and then read what was on it, his tone somber.
"Certain…issues have come to light, recently. Mainly about a certain Dr. Blake at GD…" Sterling gave him a look, knowing that the sheriff had once been slightly attracted to the woman, but was reassured when he saw the man have absolutely no reaction to the mention of the woman's name.
"What about her?"
"Her work is promising, but some of her projects are walking a very fine line with what she is approved to do with GD materials. Dr. Donovan, also, worries us."
At hearing that, Jack couldn't withhold the snort of laughter that escaped him. He was not in the least bit surprised that Zane Donovan had captured their notice and that they were worried about him; he was a dangerous man, unpredictable at his best.
"No surprise there," he muttered under his breath.
Sterling quickly explained what he needed him to do.
"We need you to keep a close watch on Dr. Blake's projects…and since you're playing the small-town, Podunk sheriff, that shouldn't be too hard to do," he said, a slight sparkle in his eye as he spoke the words. He continued. "And of course, we expect you to do the same with Dr. Donovan."
At hearing this, Jack held up a protesting hand.
"Uh, not really gonna work, Sterling. The man kind of hates my guts, you know, with me being the one to put him in prison in the beginning and all…"
The man gave him a look, so Jack quickly came up with an idea.
"However, Zane does have a soft spot for Jo Lupo, head of GD Security? And she's always looking for excuses to annoy him, so I could ask her to keep an eye on him for me."
Sterling gave him a stern look, obviously not comfortable with the idea of someone outside of his influence being asked to help out on such sensitive matters. Jack saw the look, however, and quickly reassured his boss.
"I completely trust her, Sterling. She's good at what she does and doesn't ask questions about what she's asked to do. She can do it."
An odd look crossed his boss's face, making Jack slightly uneasy.
"She used to be your Deputy, correct?"
"Yeah, she was," the sheriff replied, wondering why the man was acting odd, but then forgot about it as Sterling quickly snapped back to military conciseness.
"Okay then, Johnson. I trust your judgment…don't make it misplaced."
And with that parting comment, along with a stern look, the screen went dark once more and then the game was suddenly back on the television. He watched as the Penguins got their first goal and then let out a deep sigh.
New orders, new focus. No more play.