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Damaged – Ch. 20

Finch was in a state of full-blown panic, his heart racing, his mind circling around the same, unhelpful thought – This was all his fault. Reese had warned him to stay away from the library, had cautioned him to be careful, but he hadn’t listened. And now Reese was God only knew where, suffering some unspeakable torture, and where was Finch? Having a panic attack on the sidewalk outside the library, of no use to anyone.

After escaping from the Eighth Precinct station in a car Fusco had helped him steal, he’d ditched the car and hailed a cab, giving an address near the library without thinking. It was his hub, his sanctuary, the center of his solar system, and the only place where he’d have the tools to give him a chance of finding Reese.

But now he hesitated. What if Snow had agents waiting inside for him? He wouldn’t be any good to Reese if he were captured. But he wasn’t doing any good standing on the sidewalk, either. Finally, he couldn’t take it any more and he pushed through the gates and plastic sheeting draped over the scaffolding, punching in his security code with a trembling hand, but the system was dead, probably by Snow. He’d have had to disarm it to get inside earlier.

Moving cautiously, Finch entered the old, silent building, looking for incongruous footprints in the dust as he made his way up the stairs to the second floor. Every dark corner, every noise from the street below made him tense and jump, familiar shadows suddenly menacing, open doorways suddenly a threat. He limped slowly down the long corridor toward the center of operations, finally allowing himself to breathe a sigh of relief as he emerged into the main room, the quiet hum of his electronics the only sound in the silence.

Making a beeline for his chair, Finch dropped down into the seat with an audible cry. The pain in his hip and lower back had reached an intensity that not even prescription painkillers would be able to touch, not that he’d allow his mind be muddled by narcotics. He was having enough trouble concentrating as it was. Reaching out, he pulled his keyboard closer and glanced at his monitors, a frown creasing his brow. Why- How were the monitors on? He’d triggered the emergency lockout before Snow had taken him. And perhaps even more disconcerting was the nature of the information displayed on the screens.

It was briefs of all of their cases – Theresa Whittaker and Judge Gates and Andrea Gutierrez and Leila – all of them, and that wasn’t what he’d been looking at before the lockout.

A soft sound behind him sent a thrill of fear coursing through his veins and he started to turn the chair, only to feel cold metal press against the back of his neck, just above his collar.

“Are you armed?” asked a smooth, calm voice, one Finch quickly identified as Agent Evans.

“No,” Finch said, ashamed of the tremor in his voice. The gun against his head withdrew, but he didn’t dare move.

“Keep your hands where I can see them,” Evans said, moving into Finch’s line of sight. They regarded each other for a moment, then much to Finch’s surprise, Evans tucked his gun away inside his jacket. “This is what you do?” Evans asked, nodding his head toward the monitors. “You helped these people?”

“Yes.”

“And over there-” He nodded toward the List. “Those were people you didn’t help?”

Couldn’t help,” Finch corrected.

“I see,” Evans said, his gaze moving slowly back and forth between the monitors and the List, a thoughtful frown creasing his brow. “Reese,” he said simply and Finch nodded.

“How did you unlock my system?” Finch asked.

“I didn’t have to,” Evans said. “It was just like that when I arrived. I didn’t touch anything.”

That didn’t make any sense, but Finch found it hard to believe Evans was lying. He had no reason to. “So what now?” Finch asked after a moment. “Will you take me to Agent Snow?”

“No.”

“I beg your pardon?” Finch had to have heard him wrong.

“I’m afraid Agent Snow has lost sight of our mission this time. He’s let it become personal, and while I can’t stand against him, that doesn’t mean I have to be successful all of the time. There’s no reason why I have to find you. You don’t seem to have done anything wrong, unless putting your faith in the wrong person is a crime.” Something in his tone made Finch think that he believed he’d be guilty of the same thing.

“I didn’t put my faith in the wrong person,” he said. “John is a good man, even if I’m the only one who can see that. Please, tell me where he’s being held.”

“I can’t.”

“Agent Evans, I need him.”

“And I need to follow orders. You may not be a threat, but I’m not convinced that he isn’t, and until I’m ordered otherwise, Reese must be neutralized. Detained and brought in for questioning if possible, eliminated if necessary.”

“Always with the fucking orders,” Finch muttered, peeling off his glasses and rubbing his face with one hand. God, he was so tired. “Agent Evans,” he started, but when he looked up, the man was gone. Finch sighed and put his glasses back on, then turned to the monitors, surprised to see them all black again, the information vanished. All except for a single nine digit number. Finch turned away, a churning in his gut. He couldn’t deal with this right now. He couldn’t help them, not without Reese. If only Reese hadn’t disabled his phone, Finch could have tracked-

“Oh!” Finch nearly leaped out of his seat grabbing for the keyboard and mouse. He called up his tracking program and typed in the number to his own phone – the one Snow had taken. It was a long shot – Snow could have ditched it or disabled it – but it was the only chance he had, the only chance Reese had. He waited, holding his breath and then-

The program shut down. Finch frowned and opened it again, only to have it close itself immediately. “What the hell?” he muttered. He opened the diagnostic program he’d written and ran a systems check, but everything was working normally. He tried the tracking program again, with the same result.

Finch slammed his hands down on the table. “Fuck!” This couldn’t be happening. Reese’s life was on the line and his fucking computer was malfunctioning! He started to get up, but the screen went black, white lines of text appearing in the center of the screen, and he slowly lowered himself back into his chair, for several very long moments unable to do more than stare.

PROGRAM TERMINATED

DANGER TO SYS ADMIN

The Machine. The Machine. Why- How- It couldn’t- Self-preservation. It didn’t want him getting caught, being tortured, revealing its existence. It was the only thing that made sense, and even that explanation was a stretch. Then a third line appeared, that nine-digit number again.

“I can’t,” Finch said, knowing his words would be picked up by the microphone in his headset and in the spare cell phone in his desk. The only question was if the Machine would understand him. Realistically, it shouldn’t – he taught it to filter conversations for keywords, not to understand human speech, but this wouldn’t be the first time he’d spoken to it. “I need Reese. I can’t help anyone without him.”

ASSET REESE, JOHN

STATUS: CRITICAL

Finch cringed. “I know. I have to find him, I have to get him back.” He pulled his keyboard closer and tried to open the tracking program, but the Machine shut it down again. “Damn it, I created you! Now let me save him!” he shouted.

DANGER TO SYS ADMIN

“I know how to shut you off,” Finch threatened. “Do not-” All of his monitors went dark. Mouth suddenly dry, he tapped at the keyboard, but the system was unresponsive. The Machine had locked him out. He couldn’t shut it off. “Jesus…What have I done?” he whispered. It wasn’t just self-preservation, he’d given the monster a will to live. And if it could get through his firewalls to remotely shut down his system, God only knew what else it was capable of. It could shut down power grids, cripple global communications, crash satellites, launch warheads-

One of the monitors flickered back to life.

ASSET REESE, JOHN

STATUS: CRITICAL

COURSE OF ACTION: SEEK ASSISTANCE

Then the number appeared again.

“Assistance?” Finch said. “You mean this person can help us?” The number began to blink on the screen. “All right, all right, but I’ll need access to my-” The system booted up, restored to normal. Finch momentarily considered trying to run his tracking program again to look for Reese, but it wasn’t like he could fool the Machine. He opened a search box and entered the number, surprised and confused when it turned up information on a twenty-two year old woman in Oregon named Heather Baker.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” Finch said. “How can she help us?” The Machine responded by opening his facial recognition software. “I take it she’s not who she appears to be.” The Machine didn’t answer, but then, it wasn’t really a question. Finch supplied her picture to the software and started the program running. It would take several minutes to search the global database, time Finch wasn’t sure they could afford to spend. If this didn’t work, he was going to take the Machine apart with a screwdriver.

He managed to bite back a cry as he levered himself up out of his chair, but it felt like he had razor wire running beneath his skin, shredding his damaged muscles with each step he took. Part of him wanted to just sit back down and never move again, but he needed a drink. He wanted whiskey, but tea would have to do. After putting the water on to heat, he limped back over to his chair, unsure if he’d be able to get back up again. When this was all over, assuming he didn’t get himself killed, he needed to make an appointment with his physical therapist. It shouldn’t hurt like this.

The search hadn’t finished yet when the kettle began to whistle. He started to get up, but the pain made him want to vomit. Swallowing his pride, he used his good leg to roll his chair across the room, turning off the hotplate and pouring the water through his loose leaf tea without getting up. Careful not to spill the hot beverage, he rolled back across the room and up to his table, raising his mug to his lips just as the program finished running and displayed its findings across his monitor.

“So, Heather Baker is really Julie Keane…” He typed the new name into his search engine. “Who are you, Miss Keane?” He raised his eyebrows as a flood of information filled his screens, his mouth slowly dropping open as he skimmed the headlines. Julie Keane was the daughter of CIA Director Douglas Keane. She was also presumed dead after her mysterious disappearance almost five years ago. The Director had a long list of enemies, however no ransom demands were ever made and no one ever took credit for the kidnapping/murder. Her boyfriend, a young man by the name of Andrew Garcia, was also a suspect, but no charges were ever filed and he too disappeared about a week after she did.

So what was she doing in Oregon? A quick peek into her life answered that question fairly conclusively. She was married to an Andrew Baker, and it didn’t take software for Finch to recognize him as her boyfriend, Mr. Garcia, nor to calculate that their now four year old daughter must have been the catalyst. She was seventeen, got pregnant, and ran away with her boyfriend. It seemed to have worked out for her, at least.

“Wait,” Finch said, realizing what the Machine intended for him to do. “I can’t use her like that. She’s not a pawn-”

ASSET REESE, JOHN

STATUS: CRITICAL

VIOLENCE IMMINENT

“Shit,” Finch hissed. Trust the cold, calculating mind of a computer to be able to weigh one life against another. He’d just have to take precautions not to put her in danger. He could do this. He pulled his keyboard closer, fingers dancing. “I just need to find a number for Director Keane’s number-” He stopped as a phone number appeared on the screen. “I don’t suppose you can get me a phone, too?”

ERROR

“That’s fine, there’s one in my desk,” Finch said, rolling himself across the room again. He always kept a spare cell charged in his drawer, just in case. He dialed the number on the screen, his heart starting to pound as it rang through. He had to get this right. Reese’s life depended on him.

“Hello?” answered a cautious man’s voice.

“Hello. Director Keane?”

“Yes. How did you get-”

“That’s not important right now,” Finch said. “I have information concerning your daughter, Julie.”

“What the hell is this?” Keane hissed. “My daughter is dead.”

“No, Director, she is very much alive. In fact, you’re a grandfather, and if you ever want to see her or your grandchildren, you need to listen very carefully. At this moment, one of your men, Agent Mark Snow, has my associate, a man known to you as John Reese, in his custody. I want my man back. Now.”

“I don’t know anything about that,” Keane said. “The CIA does not conduct operations on US soil.”

“You official position doesn’t interest me. I know Agent Snow has him; I saw him taken away with my own eyes.”

“Please, my daughter-”

No, Director,” Finch all but barked. “You will have John Reese released now, or I will personally make sure you never see your daughter again. Now call Agent Snow.”

“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” Director Keane asked. “You could be making this up.”

“Can you afford to be wrong?” Finch asked. “Your granddaughter’s name is Annabelle. She has her mother’s eyes. Your grandson’s name is Riley-”

On the other end of the line, Keane drew a sharp breath. “Riley was the name of her best friend in grade school. He died of leukemia when they were ten. After his funeral, she told me if she ever had a boy…There’s no way you could have known that.”

“Are you ready to make that call, Director?”

“I don’t have the number.”

Finch reached for his keyboard, but the Machine, always listening, had already displayed it on the screen. “Luckily, I do,” Finch said and read off the number. Then the monitor changed again, filling with a column of alphanumeric codes and their meanings. “Oh, and Director, I’m well versed on CIA codes, so be sure you give the proper one for an immediate withdrawal. And put it on speaker-phone, if you don’t mind.” A moment later, Snow answered, his voice making Finch’s skin crawl.

“Hello, Director,” Snow said, sounding out of breath. “What can I do for you?”

“Do you have John Reese?”

“Yes, sir. I was just preparing to debrief him-”

“Let him go.”

Silence. Then, “Excuse me, Director, did you say-”

“I said let him go. He is to be released alive and unharmed. You’re to return to headquarters immediately for debriefing. Do you understand? That’s a direct order, Agent Snow, a code Alpha Tango-six-six-two.” Finch’s gaze zipped down the column, relieved to see that Keane had given the right one.

“Sir, I don’t- He got to you, didn’t he? That fucking gimp with the glasses. What did he say-”

“Watch yourself, Agent, or someone might think you were questioning orders.”

“No, sir,” Snow growled. “Withdrawing immediately.” The line went dead and Finch released the breath he’d been holding in a shuddering rush.

“Now where’s my daughter?” Keane demanded.

Finch hesitated. “Forgive me, Director, but if I give you that information now, there won’t be anything to stop you from calling Agent Snow and rescinding your orders. I will call you once Reese and I are safe.”

“That was not the agreement!”

“I don’t believe there was an agreement, Director,” Finch said, losing patience. He needed to go find Reese. “This will ensure that you don’t arrange any surprises for me or Reese. Just sit tight and be patient; I’m not looking to make an enemy of you or the CIA, I just need my associate back.” He hung up, his heart pounding. He did it. He hoped.

<– Prev   ~*~   Next –>

8 Comments
  1. Mamahub permalink

    GO MACHINE!! WOOT, WOOT! *fistpump*

    Let’s just hope this really works. And that something similar happens in Season 2 to help Reese rescue Finch! Great job.

    • Of course it’s going to work, lol. It’s fiction and I don’t have any better ideas. 😀
      That would be awesome. I hope so, too.
      Thanks! ^_^

  2. The Machine found a way!! Way to go with leveraging!! XD

    Poor Finch. I want to massage his poor hip for him. Maybe he and Reese can get away for a much-needed vacation… preferably somewhere warm.

    Just one typo: “knowing his words were be picked up” 😉

    Can’t wait for the conclusion! And sure hope Snow gets his!!

  3. rainiejanie permalink

    One word–WOOHOO!!

  4. Hotsey Totsey! I love your writing, I love the machine (blast its ugly capsitors), I love Finch, I love the world now that Reese is going to be rescued! Way to go Finch and your big brain.

  5. Cindy K. permalink

    Excellent interpretation of canon detail plot elements. Evans might be (or have been) a respectable agent until teamed with Snow. The machine (Super, Firewall, Wolf..) does appear to “think” and protect. Nice use of it as a character coming into play – totally unexpected.

  6. I’m glad Evan’s was a good guy in this. 🙂 And I loved the Machine’s role and how it screwed with Finch, as well as Finch bargaining. 😀

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