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24 Declassified: Veto Power
By John Whitman
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 John Whitman
All right reserved.
of 3 A.M. and 4 A.M. Pacific Standard Time
3:00 A.M. PST
Greater Nation Compound
It was three o'clock in the morning and Jack Bauer was on his belly in a barranca in the high desert above Los Angeles. He couldn't see his team or even hear them, but he knew they were moving into position. He could taste the dust in the air, kicked up by their boots as they surrounded the compound. Bauer lifted his head above the lip of the barranca and studied the collection of one- and two-story houses surrounded by a ten-foot wall. There were lights strung across the top of that wall every fifteen feet. At the moment each bulb gave off only a faint orange glow, like the ember of a dying fire. But they were motion sensors -- the minute anyone moved within ten yards of them the lights would flare up and silent alarms would go off inside the compound, turning all his careful planning into chaos.
Jack stifled a yawn. He hadn't slept much in the past two days. After the sting operation in King City, he'd led the interrogation of Heinrich Gelb, the neo-Nazi turned Greater Nation foot soldier. They'd put the screws to Peterson and Edgars, too, of course, but Jack had known from the start Heinrich would crack first. His youth was against him, but there was more to it than that -- Heinrich was a weakling. That's why the little Greater Nation hit squad had chosen him to be the heavy when they attacked the foreman -- cowards always make the best torturers. So while Edgars and Peterson were stuck in their little rooms giving the cold shoulder to the other interrogators at the Counter Terrorist Unit, Heinrich sat in his metal chair under a bright light, pouring his guts out to Jack, the video recorder, and the Federal prosecutor. Heinrich was still talking when Federal prosecutor Martin Padilla gave Jack the nod he'd been waiting for.
On any other case, CTU satellites would have put Jack's quarry in an electronic vise. Not only would Jack have known where his target was, he could have known what he had for lunch and how many bites he took before he swallowed. But Jack's case was so low on the priority list that he'd had to rely on human intelligence and a payphone to confirm his target's whereabouts. His request for a CTU special entry team was rejected, and his call for FBI or Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms units fell on deaf ears. All personnel had been assigned to higher-priority missions. Jack had been forced to commandeer the local special response team. Local training was hit or miss. He just hoped that if rounds started going off, they hit what they aimed at and missed him.
His ear bud chirped twice: his Baker team was in position. Once the signal came in from Charlie, he'd broadcast the go tone, and the fun would begin.
The local special tactics team was out of Lancaster, California, which borrowed its law enforcement from the L.A. County Sheriff Department. The L.A. Sheriffs had provided him with their Special Entry Bureau, their version of SWAT. That was a good unit, but they'd gotten most of their experience serving high-risk warrants and laying siege to cornered bank robbers. He'd done his best to prepare them for the possibility of real resistance.
"These Greater Nation guys are militia," he had said during a midnight briefing. "Real militia, at least as far as they're concerned. They're probably welltrained and they're definitely well armed. They're anti-government types."
One of the SEB guys, with "Bastion" taped across his vest, laughed. "They're all anti-government when we kick down the door."
Jack didn't smile. "Most guys are only fighting to stay out of prison. These guys just might fight for a cause. I just spent six months with them. There are a lot of true believers on the other side of that wall. They've got just enough training to be dangerous but not enough to know when to give up. They're also weekend warriors. They'll need to get psyched up before they put any rounds down range. They won't put up a real fight if we hit them hard and fast."
"Hard and fast," Bastion said approvingly. "Just how I like my sex."
"Yeah," said another one, "that's what the captain told us."
Locker room talk. Cops doing an entry. Soldiers psyching themselves up for battle. It was all the same.
Three chirps in his ear. It was seven minutes after three and Charlie unit was ready. Jack moved his right leg quietly until it touched the leg of the agent next to him. He knew that man would do the same to the man beside him, all the way down the short line of cops. He waited until he was sure they were all prepared. None of them moved, but something changed -- something electric in the darkness. Bauer thumbed a small transmitter in his hand, sending out an urgent five-burst signal.
Then he was on his feet, sprinting toward the soft glow of the sensors on the walls. He was vaguely aware of footsteps around him, but his mind was focused on the distance to the wall. Fifteen yards away the sensors kicked in and lights flared on so brightly they seemed to make sound. Anyone wearing night vision would have been blinded, but Jack had done his prep work and none of his people was surprised. Ten yards to the wall. Jack picked up his pace -- inside the compound, alarms would be sounding, paranoid militia men would be trying to remember the drills they had learned, and someone somewhere would be chambering rounds into an automatic weapon purchased at a gun show in Orange County. Five yards to the wall. Jack gathered himself and jumped. He kicked off the wall with his left foot and went up, and for a moment he . . .
Excerpted from 24 Declassified: Veto Power by John Whitman Copyright © 2005 by John Whitman. Excerpted by permission.
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