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24 Declassified: Trojan Horse
By Marc Cerasini
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Marc Cerasini
All right reserved.
BETWEEN THE HOURS OF
5 A.M. AND 6 A.M.
PACIFIC DAYLIGHT TIME
5:01:01 A.M. PDT
Atwater Village, Los Angeles
Jack Bauer gazed at Utopia, or so the sign proclaimed. But beyond the vacant security gate and tattered chain link fence, Bauer saw only an expanse of pitted asphalt abutting an interconnected cluster of ugly, graffiti-stained concrete block buildings.
Squinting through a telescopic imager, Jack scanned the shuttered loading docks and steel doors, the windows boarded up tight. He double-checked one particular entrance, with the number 9 painted on its flat steel door. Then he tucked the tiny device into a sheath on his night-black assault suit. Now that the sun was creeping above the horizon, he no longer required the imager's thermal or light-enhancing capabilities to pierce the gloom.
Sprawled on his belly atop a rocky brown rise that separated Utopia from another dusty industrial park, Jack lowered his head behind a clump of scrub-grass and adjusted the assault rifle in the Velcro zip holster strapped across his back. He had arrived at his position hours before, moving into place along with five members of Chet Blackburn's CTU assault team, now scattered and invisible among the rocks and low hills around him. Though Jack could not see them, he knew another tactical squad from the Drug Enforcement Agency lurked in the bluffs on the opposite side of the complex. When the signal came, the two assault teams would converge on the buildings in a coordinated two-pronged attack.
In the dead of the hot dry night, the tactical units had converged to surround the supposedly abandoned production studio, unseen and undetected by those inside. Then they waited until the sun was a hot yellow ball surrounded by hazy dust, until the arrival of the big fish both agencies were hoping to scoop up in their net.
Jack shifted position, clenching and unclenching his sweaty hands, stretching his sleepy arms and legs, always careful not to expose his position. He moved a stone that had been chafing him, rubbed his sore neck. Compared to his days as a member of Delta Force, this was not a particularly unpleasant mission. In the line of duty Jack had experienced far worse things than watching the Southern California sun rise from a quiet bluff. Perhaps it was merely his age that made his joints ache, his muscles stiff from inactivity. Perhaps creeping old age also explained why, as zero hour approached, Jack felt an uncharacteristic edginess, an impatience as he waited for the signal to move.
Or perhaps it was the fact that Jack Bauer had to wait for that command, just like everyone else. Working in tandem with the DEA was not part of Bauer's job description, nor did he appreciate taking orders from others. That's why, when Ryan first handed him this assignment weeks ago, Jack refused it. Chappelle didn't seemed surprised by Bauer's reaction; rather he advised Jack to look first, then decide.
"Go to the briefing this afternoon," Ryan said. "Listen to what the DEA has to say. It may change your mind."
To Jack's surprise, his mind was changed after the DEA briefed him and other select members of the intelligence community about the dangers of Karma, a potent new drug poised to hit the streets of America, a narcotic that had the potential to make the crack epidemic of the 1980s look like an ice cream party.
According to researchers who studied a sample of this substance, Karma was a type of super methamphetamine. But Karma wasn't merely a powerful stimulant. The drug also induced a sense of invulnerability and euphoria in the user, sometimes accompanied by mild hallucinogenic reactions. The pharmacological experts who studied the new compound and its effects on the brain believed Karma to be more addictive than crack cocaine or even heroin.
Karma was ingested orally -- dissolved under the tongue like a lozenge or simply swallowed -- and the drug's ease of consumption was an element of its appeal. Virtually undetectable, it could be dissolved in a flavored or alcoholic beverage, which made it the perfect date-rape drug.
No one knew what criminal or narco-terrorist group initially synthesized Karma, but the drug had first appeared in the streets of Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Chechen Republic nearly a year before. Karma was not available in America or Western Europe as yet, because it was difficult to manufacture. It required real laboratory conditions to be synthesized properly. Even after synthesis, the compound broke down rapidly, making for a relatively short shelf life. Complicated, well-equipped labs for churning out the stuff had to be established locally.
The upside for criminal producers was that once the network was up and running, labs would be difficult to find. No illegal smuggling was involved in the manufacturing process. Karma's ingredients were not controlled substances; they were common chemicals available commercially. Already, at least one overseas crime lord was bankrolling the establishment of Karma labs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Montreal.
According to the DEA's best intelligence, the illegal manufacturing facility inside of the Utopia Studios complex was the first of the U.S. labs to go on line. The DEA wanted to shut it down and capture its operators before their poison ever reached the street.
His musings were interrupted when Jack's earbud chirped.
"This is Angel Three. A car's just come off North San Fernando Road. It's moving east along Andrita."
"This is Angel Two. Roger," Jack replied, voice calm.
Angel Three -- Agent Miguel Avilla -- was a twenty-year veteran of the DEA. Thin, wiry and acerbic, Avilla was positioned in plain sight, right outside the studio gate and across Andrita Street from the abandoned movie studio. Unwashed and unshaven, shuffling around wrapped in a dirty blanket, Agent Avilla had posed as a homeless man for the past nine days while he'd observed the activities at the old studio.
To better reconnoiter the facility, Avilla had taken up residence among a copse of twisted . . .
Excerpted from 24 Declassified: Trojan Horse by Marc Cerasini Copyright © 2006 by Marc Cerasini. Excerpted by permission.
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