About twenty minutes later, things got weird.

It started with the bad phone lines - but that wasn't so out of the norm compared to the second call from Eric Rayburn. "Mr Rayburn, this is Tony Almeida," I said once Michelle had handed me the phone.

"I understand you're the ranking officer on site?" Rayburn cut to the chase.

"Yes, sir, I am."

"Then I need you to execute an order for me."

"Of course." What the hell is going on? I refrained from voicing my irritation at how much time he was taking.

"I want you to copy and transfer your database onto our server. Anything related to the nuclear threat."

What? Why?

"Did you hear me?"

"Yes, sir, I did," I said. "May I ask why?"

"It's procautionary, given the extraordinary threat we're facing today. But I'd like it done sooner rather than later," added Rayburn.

"How soon?"

"By 11:00."

I spent a few moments arguing with him about the impossibility of it before he hung up. Clenching my jaw in anger, I told Paula to transfer the information to NSA, and then turned to go to my desk.

Michelle stopped me.

"Tony, what's going on?" she asked seriously. "I mean, first the phone lines go down and then NSA puts in a rush order to transfer all our data on the nuke."

"He said it was just precautionary." But doubt made me think about the situation. Does Rayburn know something? I wondered.

"Then he would have issued the same order to every agency," said Michelle.

"Take a look at that, will you?" I said, nodding.


She held my eyes longer than was necessary, and it was all I could do not to reach out and touch her cheek.

It hurt, being so close yet so, so far away.


I looked up to find Michelle next to me with a blueprint in her hand. "Hm?"

"That guy over there is asking for you. He claims he was taken hostage by these men that want to blow up CTU. He said that there are bombs here, and here, and here," she added, pointing to various spots on the sheet. "I'll have a squad check."

I felt like I'd been hit. "Order an evacuation now!"

"But we don't know if this - "

"This is why NSA wanted us to transfer over our database." It all made sense now. Adrenaline began pumping through my body. "They knew we were being targeted. Evacuate now."

A grim look settled over Michelle's face as she shouted, "EVERYONE LISTEN UP - "

The phone rang and I grabbed for it. "Almeida."

"This is Lynne Kresge. I'm special Assistant to the president. I'm calling to tell you about a possible threat to CTU," said a harried-sounding woman.

"We just found out about it." My eyes swept the room. People were running, files in hand, towards the exits. That's when I connected Rayburn's call to the grand scheme of things. "NSA knew about this a half hour ago, didn't they?"

Alarms began to sound.

"Just get your people out of there!" Lynn hung up abruptly.

Trying to keep my mind clear of the anger that threatened to overwhelm me, I dropped the receiver, only to notice that Paula was still in Mason's office. "Really?" I muttered.

Paula didn't even look up as I barged through the door. "PAULA, GET OUT OF HERE," I yelled.

"I'm almost done with this encryption."

"Leave it. There's a bomb in the building!"

"We can't lose this data!" she argued.

"WOULD YOU LEAVE IT!" I pulled her away from the computer and ran down the stairs. My heart was thudding; things seemed to be moving faster than usual, yet were strangely clear in my field of vision.

Michelle appeared at the bottom. "Let's go."

I met her eyes, wide with worry. She'd stayed behind, loyal to her coworkers.

The world exploded.

Author's Note

I'm so SO sorry, my lovely readers. You didn't deserve the ridiculously long break between the last chapter and this one.

I am going to be trying to make them a little more personal now (thank you, Stephanie, for your feedback about that) so that it is more interesting. Hope you enjoyed it!