It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...
~ A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
Do you know that ages will pass and mankind will proclaim in its wisdom and science that there is no crime and, therefore no sin, but that there are only hungry people. "Feed them first and then demand virtue of them!" — that is what they will inscribe on their banner which they will raise against you and which will destroy your temple...
~ The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky.
The day started with a bomb threat. Two months ago, that fact alone would have thrown the precinct into a loud cacophony of noise; today, there was just a quiet resignation. It had been a week since the downtown bombing and the body count had been high, both for the police force and the ordinary people of Vancouver.
"Have the bomb squad been alerted?" Dillon asked as he looked at the incident board.
Betty nodded. "They're ready and waiting," she said.
"And we still don't have a location for the bomb?" he said, turning to Carlos. "It could be a hoax."
"It could be," Carlos said, "But Kiera's intel is usually good." He glanced across the room to where she was pacing the floor and talking urgently into her phone. She looked up and smiled as she approached them but she had changed since the bombing; she had always been secretive, but the slow and easy humour she'd displayed before the bombing had now all but disappeared.
"I've got a lead," she said.
"Good, let's go," he said, reaching for his coat. The wound pulled slightly, but the pain wasn't too bad.
"Hey, you're still on desk duty, remember, Ferraro?" Dillon reminded him dryly. "You've already had to redo your stitches once, thanks to the bombing - Betty, sign yourself out a piece and go with Agent Cameron."
Betty blinked, but stood all the same. "Uh, yes sir."
Carlos opened his mouth to protest but Dillon cut him off. "I let you come back to work early, despite my reservations, don't make me regret it," he warned.
Carlos subsided but nodded wearily. "Watch your backs," he said to Kiera and Betty.
"Don't worry. Dad," Betty teased. "We'll be back before curfew."
Trust the tech, not your gut.
It was lesson driven home to Kiera on countless occasions during her time with the CPS, but she still couldn't ignore the gnawing doubt she felt as she came to the mouth of the alley. In her time, they would have never approached such an easily defendable position without aerial back up, but Vancouver PD didn't exactly have that kind of budget - or tech.
"I don't like this," Betty said, giving voice to her doubts.
"I'm with you," she said flatly. "Maybe we should wait until-"
A bullet zipped past her ear and the time for talking was over. They fled the alley, pulling out their weapons as they ran for the car. At least her suit gave her an amount of protection, but Betty was vulnerable. Kiera shuddered, remembering the moment Carlos took the bullet. She'd never forgive herself if the same thing happened to Betty. Reaching into her coat, she pulled out the car keys and threw them to Betty.
"Get the engine running," she said. "I'll cover us."
She turned, her CMR feeding her real time analysis. Two on the second floor of the old redbrick warehouse and one on the roof. Deciding the one on the roof was the sniper, she started firing. He couldn't aim if he was too busy ducking.
The car engine revved behind her and she backed up, hoping she wasn't going to run out of bullets before she reached it. She heard the passenger door open and Betty calling out.
And then something stung her neck and she felt her legs buckling beneath her. Startled she pulled the dart out of her neck. They'd tranked her? What the... "Alec, Alec, are you there?"
"Kiera? What the hell is going on? Your stats are all over the place - Kiera?"
The world faded to black.
Uniforms were the first on the scene and the tape was already up when Carlos arrived. Betty was sitting on the back step of an ambulance, a blanket pulled over her shoulders, and he made a beeline for her.
"Are you injured?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No, I'm fine, he just won't leave me alone," she rolled her eyes at the ambulance medic.
"You could be in shock," the medic said.
Betty pulled a face before asking: "Any word yet?"
"No," Carlos said. "Can you run through what happened with me?"
"Sure," Betty said. "Although there's not much to say - we knew something was hinky when we arrived, so we decided to call for back up, but the moment we turned to leave, they started firing. Kiera threw her keys at me and told me to start the car." She hesitated. "And then that's when things got weird," she admitted. "They hit her in the neck with some sort of dart and she went down pretty quickly. I tried to get out of the car but these new guys that I've never seen before came out of nowhere and surrounded us. A van pulled up and they threw Kiera into it. I called it in the moment they pulled away and that's it. The van was a white Nissan but they had their plates blacked out. New tires, no stickers in the window. It's going to be bitch to track down."
Carlos rubbed his eyes. "You recognised no one?"
Betty shook her head. "And they were all pretty young, Carlos," she said softly.
"Hey, we found a phone," one of the uniforms called out. "It looks like Agent Cameron's"
"And that's my cue, they probably threw it away because they were afraid we'd hack her GPS, " Betty said, standing up.
"Hey, where the hell do you think you're going," the medic protested.
"To work, what does it look like I'm doing," Betty snapped, shrugging off the blanket. "Hey, you, give me that damned phone!"
"Bossy, isn't she?" the medic observed, as she walked off.
"She has her moments," Carlos said.
Alec stared at the CMR's feed. This was all his fault. He should have seen the information trail was false, should have known that liber8 would try something like this, but he'd been overconfident and too sure of the data. Damn it!
Alec didn't know what to do. Kiera's stats said she was still alive but unconscious. Her CMR also told him she was still on the move. They were going west along the highway. There had to be something he could do, but who should he call - Carlos? Yeah, that would go down great. Hey, remember me, the guy whose stepbrother shot you and then helped blow up a building of innocent people? Well, guess what, your partner has been kidnapped and I know where she is...what do you mean, am I a terrorist?
There was an alternative, of course, but Matthew Kellog was definitely a last resort. He and Kiera seemed very friendly of late, and Kiera had admitted she'd told him of his involvement but he still didn't trust the guy.
"C'mon, Kiera, wake up," he muttered. "Tell me what to do."
The precinct was jumping when Carlos arrived. With the double whammy of a bomb alert and a kidnapped agent, everyone was on high alert. He spotted Betty waving him over.
"What's up?" he asked.
"I hacked her phone," Betty said, without preamble. "It took me a while, Kiera has some serious encryption on this thing and she seems to have this very clever automatic wipe app for her phone history that I've never seen before - but I got into her contacts and it's kinda weird. She's got less than a dozen numbers in it, and one of them is Alec Sadler-"
"The kid from the farm," Carlos said. "I think Kiera felt bad for him."
"-and Matthew Kellog," Betty finished.
"The guy from Liber8?" Carlos asked, his mind turning.
"Unless there is another Matthew Kellog we don't know about," Betty said wryly.
Apart from the little intel Kiera had given them in the first week of the taskforce, little was known of Matthew Kellog - they didn't even have a picture. Now that he thought about it, Kiera hadn't mentioned him since that first week, which was strange in itself. Kiera was usually like a dog with a bone when it came to loose ends... a certainty settled in Carlos' gut as a few more pieces fell into place, but there was only one way to be certain.
He reached for Kiera's phone. "Trace this call."
Betty looked at him worriedly. "Carlos-"
"Just trust me," he said. "I've got a hunch."
Kellog smiled as he saw the number pop up on his phone. To be honest, he didn't think he'd hear from her this soon. Kiera had a pretty predictable pattern when she felt she had something to feel feel guilty about, and Kellog wasn't fooling himself, she felt extremely guilty at the moment.
"Let me guess, you've changed your mind about dinner," he teased as he answered the phone. "I know this fabulous-"
"Hey, remember me?" said a distinctly male voice that was most definitely not Kiera. He sat up straight. The voice seemed familiar. Where had he heard it before...ah.
"Detective Fonnegra," he said. "This is not your phone." Quickly, he tapped his tablet and checked his security perimeter. Wherever he was, he wasn't nearby. He wondered how efficient the local constabulary were at triangulating from cell towers. Note to self, invest in a satellite phone.
"Kiera has been taken by Liber8, do you know where they took her?"
Well that was unexpected. "They took her alive?" Kellog asked, eyeing the time on the wall clock. He'd give Fonnegra another fifteen seconds before he hung up.
"You sound surprised," he said.
"That's because Liber8 wants her dead," he said, coming to a decision. "Meet me in that little cafe Kiera is so fond of in twenty minutes." He hung up, and debated whether he should take the battery and sim card out of the phone for good measure. He decided against it. The advantages of keeping an open channel of communication outweighed the risks. He grabbed a jacket, one that he could hide a gun underneath without being obvious; he had a funny feeling he was going to need it before the day was out.
"I can't believe you're doing this," said Betty said, looking to Dillon for agreement as Carlos made to leave. "Don't you remember what Kiera said about this guy? "If his lips are moving, chances are he's lying."
"I don't think Kiera told us the whole truth," Carlos said stubbornly. "You weren't there, Betty, the guy saved my life. There's more to this than we know."
"Either way, I want you to call in within thirty minutes. If we don't hear from you, we're going to assume he's hostile and take appropriate action," Dillon warned.
"Hey, no argument from me," Carlos said. "Keep me updated on the situation." He left the precinct without a backwards glance and Betty sighed.
"This is such a bad idea," she muttered.
His main monitor chirped and Alec sat up, his eyes taking in the data. Kiera had stopped moving. He did a quick search on her GPS location and frowned. Liber8 had moved location again, another fairly upscale address in a leafy neighbourhood. They were definitely not short of funds, thats for sure.
Kiera's vital statistics spiked and Alec waited worriedly, what the hell was going on?
"Good day, Kiera, I don't believe we've ever been formally introduced," said a familiar sounding voice. It was a woman's.
The video feed came to life and Alec felt a stab of relief when Kiera's voice answered, shaky but audible. "What do you want, Valentine?"
"Can't you guess?" Valentine asked wryly. She was sitting in a chair in front of her, legs crossed. Behind her was a simple white wall.
"I gave up trying to second guess you a long time ago," Kiera said.
"Oh, I'm sure you have," Valentine drawled, "Let me keep this simple. I want Alec Sadler and it has come to my attention that you know where he is."
"Excuse me?" Kiera said, sounding genuinely puzzled.
Kagame smiled humourlessly. "I wouldn't bother attempting subterfuge. I'm afraid Mr Sadler gave himself away during that episode with your chip. He was a little too good, you see, a little too quick to circumvent our efforts." Valentine leaned forward, and stared straight into Kiera's eyes. Alec felt his mouth go dry. "As you can see, Alec, Kiera isn't about to give you up - but I'm going to kill her very soon if you don't-"
"No!" Kiera said harshly, and the feed went dead - she'd cut him off! Alec scowled and fired off the relevent coding, the videofeed came back on.
He wished he hadn't. Garza filled the screen, her fist was raised and there was blood on her knuckles. He guessed Kiera hadn't told her she was pretty.
"Kiera, are you okay?" he muttered into his mike, she didn't answer. "Kiera, if you can't speak just nod." The moment stretched out and then the videofeed quivered as Kiera nodded. His relief was short lived, however, as Garza struck her again. The videofeed blinked out once more and this time Alec didn't turn it back on.
It was either the cops or Kellog but it wasn't really a choice... Kellog it was.
Kellog tapped the table impatiently as he waited for Fonnegra to arrive. It seemed strange not to be meeting Kiera here but he didn't want to dwell on that thought too closely. Sometimes he wondered at how quickly he'd become attached to her, she was supposed to be a means to an end - a Protector, practically not human at all.
Except she was human, more so than he'd ever expected and, like an idiot, he'd dived straight in, ignoring the complications and Kiera's guilty conscience The fact she was one of the Protectors involved in his first arrest and Laura's death had thrown him; he hadn't remembered her face. To him, they had all been faceless automatons.
For a moment, when she told him, the rage ran through him like a fire... and then it stopped as soon as the expression on her face registered. Kiera Cameron had changed a lot over the last few months. He doubted she'd ever questioned their actions or orders back in their own time or, if she did, she kept it to herself.
So he forgave her, it was surprisingly easy.
"Matthew Kellog?" Fonnegra's voices broke through his thoughts and Kellog kicked himself. This was not the time to let his guard down.
"Sit," he said, he nodded at the coffee on the table. "I ordered."
Fonnegra sat across from him, eyeing him intently. "So you're Kellog, Section Six's guy on the inside," he said. "I guess that's why we've never had a picture of you." Kellog quirked an eyebrow at that. Had Kiera been covering for him? This day was getting stranger and stranger.
He smiled. "What can I do for you, Detective Fonnegra?"
"Do I have to spell it out for you?" Carlos asked. "You can help me find Kiera. I figured Section Six must be keeping tabs on the prominent Liber8 members - especially with you on the inside."
"Mmm, might be a bit more difficult than that," Kellog said. "Haven't you heard? Decentralisation is the key to a well organised revolution. Liber8 operates in cells in order to prevent this kind of infiltration, and even if we did know where Valentine was laying her head, it still wouldn't help you locate Kiera. She'll be somewhere secure in a well populated area, probably in some sleepy suburb that nobody would even look twice at."
"Valentine? Not Travis?" Carlos asked sharply.
Shit! Kiera hadn't told them? Kellog sighed; great, that's all he needed. "Travis is dead, Valentine is in charge. Welcome to the new world order," he said.
"Huh," Carlos said. "Well, I suppose it doesn't matter, all that matters is we find where they're keeping her."
Kellog smiled wryly, Don Quixote tilting at windmillls. "The days when you could take Liber8 down with a couple of squad cars from the VPD are long gone. They're already too entrenched and too organised, plus they've got numbers on their side and one hell of a defence perimeter. All you and your team would accomplish is getting dead. Something Kiera would be very pissed about, trust me."
Carlos gave him a stubborn look. "But you how to find her, don't you?"
"I know where to start," Kellog admitted. "But who knows what will happen if we pick up their trail again."
"You're putting Section Six before Kiera," Carlos said flatly.
Kellog almost laughed. "Trust me," he said. "Kiera wouldn't have it any other way."
"I want Escher's number," Carlos said. "if you're not going to help me, then I guess I'm just going to have to go over your head."
"That's not going to happen," Kellog said, and that was true, just not for the reasons Carlos thought. His phone rang and he glanced down at the text that popped up on his screen, 'unknown number '.
Carlos eyed him. "Are you going to answer that?"
Kellog turned down the call. "Unknown number," he explained. The phone rang again.
"Could be news," Carlos said
"Let's hope not," Kellog said. "I don't know about you, but I think I've got all the news I can handle." He answered the phone. "Yeah?"
"This is Alec. Kiera told you about me.
Kellog blinked. "She mentioned you."
"And as you're having coffee with Carlos at this moment, I'm guessing you already know Kiera is in trouble."
How did he-
"GPS on your phone, traffic camera on the street," he said, as if reading Kellog's mind. "But that's not the issue - I have access to Kiera's liquid chip and her co-ordinates."
"Is she okay?" Kellog asked.
"She's awake and aware," Alec said tentatively. "But they're working her over pretty badly."
"What are they looking for?" Kellog asked.
There was a pause. "Me."
Of course they were. Because nothing was ever simple. "I'm guessing Kiera isn't willing to give you up?" Kellog asked.
There was another pause on the phone. "Do you think they want to kill me?" He sounded so young - probably because he was young. he'd be a kid in 2012.
"I don't think it's on the cards," Kellog said. "From what Kiera told me, your continued life is in their interests."
"Maybe I should give myself up, then," Alec suggested. "If they won't kill me, there's nothing to lose."
Actually, there was quite a lot to lose, but he guessed Alec already knew that. The kid had guts, he'd give him that. "I think we'll try a less drastic option first," he said. "Use a different kind of leverage." His mind flashed to the time travel segment in his yacht. Valentine was off the table; she was Kagame's chosen successor and a true believer, she would follow Kagame's instructions until her dying breath. Garza was a follower, she'd take Valentine's lead... but Lucas was an option. Without Kagame's driving vision or fear of Travis's brute force, it may be possible to convince him that returning to their own time was the more attractive option. He always had the shakiest motive amongst them for joining the movement – guilt.
"Valentine doesn't strike me as the kind of person who strikes bargains," Alec said, interrupting his flow of thought.
"Who said anything about Valentine? I'll be in touch." He hung up and the looked at the Detective across the table. He had an expectant look on his face.
"Well?" he asked.
"I have her location," he admitted. "But that is only part of the problem. If we go in there with guns blazing, she's going to be dead before we make it though the door."
"But you have a plan," Carlos said. It wasn't a question.
"I think I may be able to sneak in when they're not expecting it," Kellog allowed. "But this isn't a team effort."
"I'm going with you," Carlos said stubbornly.
"I don't think that's a good idea. Your face is known to them," Kellog reminded him. "I'm going to have to set up a meet with one of them to negotiate."
"So I'll wait outside," Carlos said. "You can wear a wire."
"That's not the way I work-"
"I don't give a damn about the way you work," Carlos cut in. "Those bastards kidnapped my partner! I'll keep the department off your back and make sure nobody calls in the Calvary at the wrong moment, but I'm going with you!"
Kellog knew a losing battle when he saw one. "Nix the wire, and you can come along," he said.
"Deal," Carlos said.
"Well, alright then," Kellog said, smiling easily as he wondered how he could ditch the Detective if he needed to.
The Protector wasn't talking and Sonya had the feeling this wasn't going to change anytime soon. Not for the first time, she wished Kagame had left more guidance for her. His letter had been brief, explaining that their return to 2012 had not been an accident and that he's done a deal with the devil in order to save the future.
Alec Sadler had sprung them from jail and sent them to 2012 to change history - why? What was in it for him? She was determined to find out and getting her hands on the younger Alec Sadler was her first step - because there was no way that the Alec Sadler from her future sent them back to 2012 without a game plan for himself.
She made her way to the back bedroom that Lucas had turned into a clean room, and went inside, Lucas was on the other side of the clear plastic curtain.
"Any luck?" she asked.
"Not yet," he said. "The suits are hardwired to the Protector's DNA and specifically designed to be tamper proof. Without her in it, it's just a useless piece of nano-fabric."
"Keep trying," Sonya said. They had suspected the Protector would be wearing the suit under her clothing, which is why they'd aimed the dart at her neck. If they could hack it, it could give them some amazing advantages.
"If we could access her chip, it might give us a back door into her suit," Lucas suggested.
"I thought you couldn't get through her chip's firewalls anymore," she said.
"Not remotely, no," Lucas said. "But pretty much any firewall will eventually crumble if you attack it through a hardwire connection." He held up a lead.
Sonya quirked an eyebrow. "If you break through her firewalls, can we backtrack Alec Sadler's position through his connection?," she asked.
"It's possible," Lucas said.
"Then that's what we'll do," Sonya said. "Do we need to bring her up here?"
"No," he said. "Just give me a few minutes to collect what I need and then we'll be in business."
Valentine graced him with a smile. Something was going their way at last.
"Nice boat," Carlos said wryly as they stepped onto the yacht's deck. Kellog could practically hear the wheels turn in the Detective's head.
"It's not much but it's home," he said. "Coffee should still be fairly fresh, help yourself. I'll be back in a moment." He left Carlos in the galley and descended into the cabin below. He had hoped to keep this game piece in reserve but, if he played it right, they should have Kiera back in a couple of hours. He opened the safe, reached inside... and came up empty.
He didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. She'd stolen it back, of course she'd stolen it back. Why hadn't he seen it coming? He pulled out his phone and called Alec.
"She stole it back," he said.
"I presume we're talking about time machine segment?" Alec asked.
"You presume right," Kellog said. "Did she steal it before or after the bombing?"
"Not sure," Alec said. "That was your leverage?"
"Yup," he said tersely. "I don't suppose you know where she's hidden it?"
"Not in her bathroom again, if that's what you're wondering," he said. "And no, I don't know where her new stash spot is."
"Great," Kellog muttered.
"So what now?" Alec asked.
"Now we bluff," Kellog said, shutting the safe.
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. "I'm sending you all the intel I have to your phone. I'm also adjusting the positioning of the satellite you gave me the codes for; I can't set up the a proper Lydar system without using Kiera's suit, but I should be able to give you basic surveillance and tap their cell phones."
"Appreciated," Kellog said, wondering why he suddenly merited this magnanimous treatment.
"Yeah, well, you're going to need all the help you can get," Alec said. "You were really going to give up the device segment for Kiera?"
Kellog grinned into the phone. "Talk to you later, kid."
Carlos knew something was wrong the moment he climbed the steps. Kellog's smile just seemed a bit too forced. "What's up?" he asked.
"Slight fly in the ointment," he said with a shrug. "We're going to have to move up the schedule a little."
"You've got a location?" Carlos asked, he knew he sounded impatient but he'd seen the carnage these guys were capable of. he didn't want Kiera in their hands longer than they had to be.
"Yeah," Kellog said, eyeing him.
"Well, that's all we need," Carlos said, heading for the deck. "We'll take my car."
"I think we might be better off taking mine," Kellog said,
Carlos turned and gave him a long look. "And why is that?"
"Because your car is signed out from the precinct and low-jacked," he said, with that knowing smile that was already beginning to get on Carlos's nerves.
"I gave you my word I'd keep this between us," Carlos said. "We won't be tailed."
"It's not the cops I'm worried about," Kellog said. "Liber8 hacked the precinct's low-jack signal months ago. If we drive in there in your car and we might as well paint a bulls-eye on our chests.
Carlos wanted to ask why he was only finding out about this now but held his tongue. He could chew Kiera out about it after they'd rescued her. "Fine," he ground out. "We'll use your car."
The door slowly opened, and Kiera knew she was in trouble when Lucas stepped into the room. He had that half worried, half excited expression on his face that she remembered only too well from his time as a engineer with the Sadler Group. When he produced the lead and nodded to Garza to restrain her head, she knew what was coming. Panic set in but she ground her teeth together. She didn't them to see her fear, even if it was only for a few moments more; once she was jacked in, she'd have no more secrets.
" Kiera, are you okay? Your EKG has gone crazy," Alec asked suddenly, and she felt a heady burst of relief at the sound of his voice. Which was crazy because Alec was only seventeen years old and she was still alone in this room.
"This won't hurt," Lucas lied, as he inserted the needle through her skin. "I just have to find the connection and – ah.." She tried to buck her head and pull the connection loose but Garza held her head in a vice.
"I don't know why you're panicking so much," she drawled. "The CPS has been messing with your head since the upgrade of '74, you should be used to not having a mind of your own by now."
Lucas must have seen the puzzlement in her eyes because he shrugged. "It was the next logical step," he said. "I'm surprised your husband didn't tell you about it. He authorised the upgrade for your division." It was as if the air went out of the room. It couldn't be true. Greg would never do that, not without telling her...except it wouldn't be the first time Greg kept something from her, would it?
And then Lucas was in her head and there was nothing more; no thought, no volition, no awareness. Kiera wasn't sure how long she was trapped but suddenly Alec's voice came roaring back into her head.
"Kiera, Kiera, can you hear me? Listen, I have the video feed back on. Nod if you can hear me." But Garza was still holding her head, and Lucas was scowling at the screen in front of him. Alec had obviously found a way to block his hack, but who knew how long it would last.
"Shit, shit, shit!" Alec ranted. "Listen, Kiera, Kellog and Carlos are on their way and I'm going to try and buy you some time - the thing is, the only way I can do that is by turning your chip off. He'll be able to turn it back on but it'll take about an hour to reboot. Hold on, you're going offline in three, two, one-"
"What the-" Lucas's eyes narrowed accusingly. "Your chip has been turned off."
"Don't look at me," Kiera said hoarsely. "You're the one with the hardwire connection."
"It's Sadler, isn't it?" Lucas said, as he studied the laptop in front of him. "He must know I can turn it on again so I guess he's trying to buy time - for what?" He eyed Kiera warily.
"He wasn't exactly forthcoming," Kiera lied. "I guess he's a bit shy about sharing his secrets with the girl with a hackable brain."
Lucas straightened, a pensive look on his face. "I'm going to tell Sonya what happened," he said.
"Your funeral," Garza said laconically. "What should I do with her."
"I don't know, gag her, tie her up, the usual," Lucas said dismissively.
The relief must have shown on Kiera's face because Garza smirked down at her when Lucas closed the door. "Don't worry, sweetie," she said. "The fun and games will start again very soon."
Biting his lip, Alec eyes followed the information streaming across his screens. He had rigged the prototype into his system and while it was an uneasy mismatching of tech, the resulting data stream was still quite literally decades ahead of its time. Once he'd designed a compatible operating system for the liquid chip technology - which would take another month, if he kept to his schedule, - then he'd have the processing power of Kiera's suit at his fingertips. It was a heady thought.
The thing is, he still hadn't screwed up the courage to tell Kiera the full extent of what his future self had done. He already knew she wouldn't approve and he'd experienced firsthand her cold, pragmatic streak. He wouldn't put it past her to break into his lab and steal the files and tech - but it was already too late for that to work. Alec had an eidetic memory, she'd have to kill him to make sure the future tech was erased from this timeline, and he was pretty sure Kiera wouldn't do that... pretty sure.
Things were a bit strained since the revelation he'd dropped on her the previous week. Her trust in him had taken a blow and he didn't blame her because, although he hadn't admitted it aloud, the picture his future self had painted of Kiera's timeline didn't sound like a place he wanted to live.
Movement on the screen caught his attention. The image sensitivity wasn't as good as when he used Kiera's suit to filter the data and there was no way he would be able to make out the sex of the moving forms in the house, but he could do a headcount and see how many were in each room - an educated guess told him Kiera was the one in a stationary position.
The question was, how to pass this information onto Kellog without him putting two and two together. Kellog knew the survellance tech in 2012 wasn't able to imitate the functionality of a Lydar system and he also knew Kiera was currently in possession of her suit. He wasn't stupid, he was going to figure it out.
And the answer was just as simple. The chip came back online in less than an hour and then the odds against Kiera's survival went up. She would die trying to protect him. Alec reached for his cellphone.
Kellog could just about make out the top floor of the redbrick house over the high stone walls and solid wooden gate. A cursory look through his binoculars told him the electronic security lock would need more than a crowbar to open. He sank back into his seat. He couldn't see any guards but he couldn't rule out the possibility. For all he knew, every house on the street was occupied by Liber8, it wasn't a rare thing in 2077. Carlos shifted in his seat and Kellog put a hand on the detective's shoulder as he went to open the passenger door.
"Not yet," he said.
"Why not?" Carlos asked impatiently.
We don't know who's inside the house," Kellog said."We need to wait a while, see who comes in and out of the building - not to mention figure out a way over that wall without getting ourselves killed."
"Meanwhile Kiera is in there, still a prisoner," Carlos said grimly.
"She's a big girl," Kellog said.
Carlos turned in his seat to face him. "What is with you and her?" he asked abruptly. "Do you two not get along or something?"
Kellog blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Excuse you?" Carlos echoed. "You sit there, acting as if you couldn't care less if she lived or died and every time I push you to take action, you prevaricate. What the hell is your deal?"
"Huh," Kellog said, and then smiled. "Detective," he said. "I think it's fair to say you're so far off base, you're not even in the same ballpark. I'm being cautious, that's all, and if you knew these people like I do, you would be too. She's still alive, I'd like to keep her that way."
Carlos slumped back into his seat. "But why and for how long?" Kellog opened his mouth but Carlos waved his answer off before he uttered it. "Don't bother, you're even more economical with the truth than Kiera is, and that's saying something."
Kellog shrugged and settled back into his seat. The street was a study in sleepy suburban living, although he did notice the lack of kids on the street. A sign of Liber8 occupation or parental paranoia? His cellphone chirped and this time he recognised the number - Alec.
"Hey," Alec said. "Here's the deal - there are only four in the house. One upstairs in the front room on the left. Three downstairs - one in the backroom, in what the floorplan says is the kitchen, and two in the room in the front right. One of those two figures is completely stationary, so I'm guessing that's Kiera."
"Any way of figuring out who's in the room with her?" Kellog asked, sensing more than seeing Carlos's tension.
"No, sorry, their surveillance is on a closed circuit so I can't hack it and I had to turn Kiera's chip off to buy her time," Alec said. "I won't have visual a for another forty minutes and by then it'll be too late - your friend Lucas has found a way of hacking the chip through a hardwire connection. Once she's back online, she's toast.
For a moment, Kellog felt panic, he couldn't see a way out. He took a deep breath and buried it. "What else can you tell me? Any security outside on the property?" he asked, as he opened the car door and Carlos, not questioning it, followed suit.
"Nope," Alec muttered. "It was the same the last time I found them. They aren't exactly the friendliest of terrorist groups." Kellog felt a moment of irritation at that and squashed it. This Alec wasn't the same guy they left behind in the future - not yet, anyway - and he has no idea how bad things will get. What happens in the future, stays in the future.
"Exits?" he asked.
"House or property?"
"Property," Kellog said.
"Just the one you're looking at, although the back wall looks over an alley," Alec said. "And before you ask, no, I've no way of popping it open remotely. That's on a closed circuit system too."
"Well, I guess we'll have to just smoke them out then," Kellog said uneasily.
"You don't sound too happy about that," Alec observed
"Lets just say I prefer to have all my variables locked down tight before I walk into a lion's den," Kellog muttered.
Carlos quirked an eyebrow at that and Kellog had a glimmer of an idea. "Call you back," he said, before grinning widely at Carlos. "Detective Fonnegra, I've a proposition for you."
Carlos gave him a wry look. "I'm not going to like this, am I?"
"Oh, Detective, I'm hurt," Kellog said. "Truly, I am, don't you have any faith in me? Now, about that backup you mentioned earlier..."
Lucas recognised the number on his cell even without Kellog's name flashing on the screen. Lucas wasn't a fool, he knew exactly why he was calling. It hadn't taken him long to figure out Kellog had played him at the fight club - and he had been more than happy to fall for it at the time - but he'd heard what Kellog had said to the Protector before he'd lost the connection to her chip. They weren't friends anymore.
The phone rang again, and Lucas cursed his own weakness as he answered. "Yeah?"
Just giving you a heads up, you're surrounded," Kellog said.
"What?" Lucas ran to the window and peeked through the blinds. Shit, there were two black and whites, one on either end of the street - they must have had their low-jacks disabled. Kellog was across the street with the cop. The jerk was waving at him.
"If you give her up, you might get out of there alive," he said.
"How the hell did you find us?" Lucas asked.
"Oh, didn't you know, both she and the suit are jacked," Kellog said laconically.
"Shit!" Lucas exploded as he stared back at the suit. He knew, of course, that it could be traced but the frequencies and encryption they used should have been streaks ahead of the VCP's capabilities. "Alec Sadler," he concluded aloud.
"Too little, too late," Kellog said. "Get out while you still can." He looked up at the window and gave him a sloppy salute as he hung up. The asshole.
"Sonya!" he shouted. "Trouble!"
"Get ready," Kellog said, as he watched the blinds swing back. "This could get messy real fast."
"I'm still not sure about this," Carlos said grimly.
Neither was Kellog but he didn't have time to second guess himself. "Look, I won't lie to you, it's risky but as long as Sonya still needs the information Kiera has, she won't kill her - the problem is, pretty soon Sonya is going to break out her bag of pharmaceutical tricks and then it's game over. We need to do this now"
Carlos grimaced but held his cellphone to his mouth. "Rev the sirens. Let them know we're here."
The sirens blared, and Kellog felt his phone vibrate in his hand. It was a text message from Alec. "On the move. K still inside. Bodyheat still warm." Kellog wasn't going to ask how he'd managed to get a infra-red scan of the building because he suspected he already knew the answer. He may be still a kid, but Alec Sadler didn't need anyone to draw a map for him. He must have somehow got the jump on his own innovations.
Kellog winced at the thought, he had done a lot of research on time travel when they'd first arrived in 2012, and implications made his head hurt. Kiera would be pissed... unless she already knew. That was a real possibility.
"They're out of the house," he said aloud, and he popped his trunk.
"We're going to need a battering ram to get through that gate," Carlos said.
"I have a swifter solution" he said and grabbed a small plastic case from the trunk. One of the things about hanging out with Travis and Garza so much was that you tended to pick up a lot of skills that fell well outside the parameters of normal - like how to assemble a plastic explosive, for example.
"Is that what I think it is?" Carlos said."Shit, once you commit, you don't hang about."
"Gate go boom," Kellog said with a bright smile.
Carlos let out a laugh. "You are definitely certifiable, man."
"Section Six prerequisite," Kellog said glibly. "Cover me."
The detective pulled out his gun and followed him to the gate, eyeing the security camera warily as Kellog attached the explosive to the lock. "How can you be sure they're gone?" he asked.
"Didn't you know? Big Brother is watching you," Kellog said, before adding: "And yes, that's something you should be worried about."
"I'll keep that mind," Carlos said dryly.
Kellog smirked and waved him away as he pulled out his cellphone. "It's a shaped charge but it pays to be careful," he said, as he backed up and flattened himself against the wall. "Cover you ears."
Carlos was beginning to really hate bombs.
His ears were ringing and his clothes were covered in dust and gravel as he staggered back onto his feet. Kellog barely spared him a glance.
"You're on your feet, good," he said, his voice a distant echo. "I think I may have used too much C4."
No shit, Sherlock, Carlos thought irritably as he eyed the gaping hole where the wooden gate used to be. "Kiera," he said.
Kellog nodded, leading the way, and Carlos wondered at his surefootedness. How the hell did he know where he's going? He had joked about Big Brother earlier, maybe there was a little truth to it.
They slid into the house through the patio doors and and crossed the livingroom into the hall. Kellog pointed at a door and pulled out his own gun. He should have known the guy was carrying.
"Kiera?" he called out. There wasn't an answer. Carlos shifted until he had his sights on the doorway and, nodding, Kellog shifted to the side of the door and gently pressed down on the handle. The door slowly creaked ajar and he felt his mouth dry as he spotted Kiera gagged and tied to a solitary chair in the middle of room.
With a perfunctionary glance into the room, Kellog was inside. He definitely knew something Carlos didn't. He winced as Kellog ripped the tape from her mouth.
"You need to get out of here fast," were the first words out of her mouth.
Kellog paused and then looked at the chair. "Valentine?"
Kiera nodded. "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again."
"Now you make with the jokes," Kellog said. ""You know, once is unfortunate, twice is becoming a habit, I'm beginning to think she doesn't like you."
"Last time it was you strapped to the chair, remember?" she said pointedly
"Ah, but you were the target," Kellog said with an easy smile as he glanced down at his cell and tapped on its screen. Carlos watched as he pressed send and rolled his eyes.
"As much fun as it is to watch you two trade barbs and text your friends, can someone tell me what's going on?" he asked.
"There's a bomb attached to the chair," Kiera said quietly. "It's pressure sensitive. I think she rigged the house too."
Kellog nodded as he untied her. "It makes sense. She didn't have enough to time to take all the sensitive stuff with her and she wasn't about to let you have it."
They were leaving something out. He could see it in their body language and the way they were looking at each other. He could see a couple of other things too. Shit, how could he have not spotted that? These two were a lot more than than just coworkers.
For a moment, Carlos felt both a pang of disappointment but then curiosity rose its head again. If there were ever two people who embodied the phrase 'odd couple', it was these two.
"Is there a pool nearby?" Kiera asked, with a small smile.
"Kellog shook his head. "Not even a duck pond," he said. "How fast can you run?"
"Faster than you," she said.
"Hold on, hold on, are you two seriously suggesting we try and outrun a bomb?" Carlos protested.
"Have you got another suggestion?" Kellog asked.
"How about this for a novel idea - we call the bomb squad." They looked at each other.
"Nah," Kellog said.
"Too much paperwork," Kiera agreed.
"Ah, now I'm seeing the connection between you two," Carlos said. "You're both frigging nuts."
Kiera shrugged. "On the count of three," she said firmly.
Carlos really, really hated bombs.
The bomb squad arrived about ten minutes after the house blew up and Kiera's mouth twisted into a smile as they sniffed through the ruins like a disappointed dog looking for it's ball.
"You're lucky to be alive," Inspector Dillon said as he patted her arm awkwardly. It was probably as close as he'd ever get to a hug.
"Thank you, Sir," she said, as she accepted a cup of tea from Betty. It was loaded with honey and Kiera struggled to keep the grimace from her face. They obviously thought she was in shock. Garza had given her a good working over, she must look a fright. They'd already sent Carlos to the hospital, not wanting to take a chance with his previous injuries, and it had taken quite a bit of convincing before they relented and let her stay.
"Your friend is gone?" he asked lightly.
"I'm afraid so, Sir," she said. Kellog had disappeared faster than the Scarlet Pimpernel after they'd outrun the blast, leaving her to come up with the lies. Something told her things would have gone a lot smoother if their roles had been reversed. To top it off, he'd somehow succeeded in rooting himself even further into her life; she'd have to talk to him about that.
Kiera stood up abruptly. "If it's okay, I'd like to go home," she said.
Inspector Dillon gave her a long look. "I'll get one of the officers to drive you," he said.
"No, no, I'll... get a taxi," she said.
Dillon raised an eyebrow. "How about we wait until the medic clears you first," he said gently.
Tired, Kiera nodded and sat on the ambulance step again. She hoped they had good painkillers.
It wasn't as if Kellog hadn't expected him to be already there when he arrived at the yacht. He'd messaged Alec the co-ordinates, after all, and he'd deliberately taken the long way home just in case he'd been followed.
He just had forgotten how young seventeen looked.
"Nice digs," Alec said, before sipping from his coffee mug.
"Make yourself at home," Kellog drawled.
The kid smirked, jerking his head towards the canvas bag. "It was a bit touch and go. If you hadn't texted me, I'd probably be dead. Although a bit more detail might have been helpful. 'BOMB' wasn't exactly a comprehensive description."
"Haven't you heard? Brevity is the soul of wit," Kellog said as he opened the bag. Kiera's suit was neatly folded inside. "So..." he said. "How much did your older self tell you?"
Alec shrugged. "Enough to make me nervous," he said. "But not enough to be of any real use."
"And the diagrams for every patent the Sadler Group holds, of course," Kellog said dryly.
"And maybe even a few more than that," Alec admitted. "i knew you'd figure it out. I'm thinking my future self has a pretty healthy sense of entitlement."
Kellog burst out laughing. "If only you knew, kid."
The kid leaned forward, a suddenly grim expression on his face. "Any chance you'd fill me in?"
Kellog looked at him warily. "You should ask Kiera," he said.
"I already have," he said. She's already told me all she's going to."
"Listen, my view of the future is very different to Kiera's," Kellog warned.
"I was kind of counting on that," Alec said.
The tablet on the kitchen counter chirped and Kellog looked at it. "It's Kiera," he said.
For a fleeting second, the kid looked unsure. "Should I stay?" he asked, a moment before Kiera appeared at the doorway.
"Permission to come aboard again?" she said, stepping inside before he could answer.
Kellog smiled. "How about I whip us up some supper?" he suggested. "I've always found it best to conspire on a full stomach."
"Well, you should know," she said, but her words were softened with a smile of her own.
"Alec has got you a present," he said, pointing at the bag.
She opened it and gave a delighted cry. "My suit!" She looked up, her face sobering as she saw the expressions on their faces. "You're buttering me up. What is it?" she asked.
"I think we need to talk," Kellog said. "About our future, about everyone's future...but, first, Alec has something to tell you. You'd better sit down for this. I'll get the scotch."