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19 August 2015 @ 03:12 pm
Prison Break - Story of Faith (16/27)  
Title: Story of Faith (16/27) - Story index
Author: clair_de_lune
Fandom: Prison Break
Characters: Michael, Sara, Lincoln, Paul Kellerman, Sofia Lugo, Jane Phillips, Michael Jr., LJ Burrows, Original characters
Pairings: Michael/Sara, Lincoln/Sofia (background)
Categories: Gen, romance
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~ 2.750 (this chapter), ~ 60.500 (total)
Author’s notes: This is canon compliant and a fix-it story. In other words, I tried to take into account most of the canon, including The Final Break, and give it a different ending. See chapter one for thanks and beta-readers.

Summary: He had thought that death was black. Dark, at the very least. It was dark at first, after the fireworks he’d created had subsided and their imprints on his retinas had faded. After that, though, there were colors.
After Miami Dade, while Sara, Lincoln and Sofia settle in Costa Rica and try to build a new life, Michael awakes far away from them... (Post-series, canon compliant, fix-it story)


Chapter 16

Soggy soil under his boots, sap-scented air down his lungs, invigorating mist against his skin.

It had been a long time.

Michael was walking so very slowly in the small woods that were part of The Foundation’s property, taking all the time in the world to enjoy and feel each step, how the ground felt soft yet unrelenting, sticking and lodging itself into the tiniest cracks and notches in the sole of his shoes.

Tom was behind him, Lena — his diving instructor — ahead of them, he had half a dozen trackers on him, and long distance surveillance cameras trained on their little trio from a watch post near Mrs. Jamison’s office. The air, cool and crisp, was making his skin and his eyes prickle; the earthy scent of the undergrowth invaded his nose and his mouth; the murmur of the wildlife and of the wind in the trees was almost too loud to bear. It was spring. Spring here was fresh and beautiful and overwhelming.

He halted and pressed his hand against a tree for support.

“Is everything all right, Sir?” Tom asked, hand already on his cellphone to report any situation.

“Yes. Thanks. It’s just a bit too much all at once.”

He’d got the authorization to leave The Foundation’s main building for a one-hour walk.

(“You told me you were open to any requests making it easier for me to focus on my mission. This would help.”)

All he had to do to get Mrs. Jamison onboard was to let his hair and beard grow for a couple of weeks, put on some colored contact lenses, wear glasses, a cap, gloves and a scarf, swear on his son’s life that he wouldn’t try to contact anyone — he didn’t quite get this one as he could have contacted anyone from within The Foundation if he had wanted to but whatever — and agree to the bodyguards’ presence. In the meantime, Jamison’s goons had checked the woods multiple times and secured them, making sure no one would be in position to spot him.

Really, it had been a true walk in the park. Not.

He hadn’t been outside, in the natural sunlight, without some kind of screen protecting him from unwanted eyes for almost four years. He’d been functioning on sunlamps and very, very occasionally sitting in an inner patio in the main building. No outside walks as Kellerman and The Foundation wouldn’t take the risk of anyone spotting him, recognizing him. Of course, after years of being locked up — at least, Fox River had its damn yard — another kind of issue had arisen: he’d woken up one day and couldn’t breathe. Yoki snorted at Tom’s worried report, and her lapidary diagnosis was to marvel that it had taken so long before Michael had started to suffocate.

What Michael did not admit to Yoki was that, maybe, it wasn’t being cooped up for so long that caused the sensation of suffocation.

The night before the episode, he’d learned that the date for General Krantz’ execution had been set. November First. All appeals exhausted, no way out except a presidential pardon that had zero chances to happen. A few days before the anniversary of Michael’s alleged death which Cat, with a twitch of her lips and lack of mercy, called poetic justice.

“Does it make me a bad person to be relieved? Especially after what happened to my brother?” he told Jamison.

She offered him a drink because “You look like you could use one,” and poured herself another glass. “I’m against the death penalty for various reasons.” She swallowed down her scotch. “Doesn’t mean there aren’t a few people whose heart I’d gladly rip out of their chests with a butter knife. Slowly and painfully.” She slammed her glass down and shrugged. “I think it makes you a normal person.”

Krantz going to the Chair was half of his deal with Kellerman. If he managed to complete the other half — and this part was going rather well — he could be out of here and with his family in six months.

Six months sounded like a lifetime away; six months sounded like tomorrow. This was when the hyper-ventilating had started.

“See? What did I promise you when we struck our little deal?” Kellerman said brightly. “Took barely longer than for your brother. Now, you just need to make sure that someone doesn’t break Krantz out of jail before the execution date.”

“Sometimes, I wonder if he grasps the basic concept of tact,” Pat grumbled from his desk after Kellerman had left.

Michael smirked at his analyst. “I don’t wonder anymore.”

(Kellerman did grasp the basic concept of tact. He just cared very scarcely.)

No one was planning to break General Krantz out of jail. Not anymore, at least. Michael had been keeping an eye on this option since the beginning, and the odds had decreased with the passing months. Too complicated and expensive in terms of manpower, money and resources at first when The Company needed to regroup; counterproductive now as far as the New Heads were concerned. The General’s support provided a useful caution for the all-comer operatives and for some executives, but why would Ms. Acero, Mr. Smythe and their respective inner circles have wanted to hand over the leadership to an old man locked in maximum security and waiting to be roasted in the chair? At this point, Ms. Acero, Mr. Smythe and their respective inner circles were the only ones in position to plan an escape — no executive and even less so no group of operatives could pull it off — and they certainly had no intention of going there.

Wolves eating the older wolf. Michael didn’t even need to get his hands dirty.

(To get his hands dirtier. Dirtier. His hands were already quite dirty. Covered in blood and tears.)

Michael’s plan had anticipated a side effect of the date for Krantz’ execution being set: the competition between Acero and Smythe amped up, the clashes and confrontations becoming more frequent and more brutal. People on both sides were being captured and interrogated and killed. They couldn’t leave the Hydra without a clearly identified main head after Krantz was dead. Better than that, they needed a clearly identified main head before Krantz was dead.

No surprise here, no need to be a genius to foresee it.

Coming up with responses covering the possible outcomes did require a genius; working with a team.

Said outcome was as brutal as the battle between Acero and Smythe had been, and played out in Guatemala, in an abandoned factory — go figure why those guys loved travelling and meeting in crappy places so much. Michael monitored it through the usual channels, rubbing his sweaty palms together all the while.

(Too close, way too close. Sara, Linc, and Mikey were on a beach, in a shop or on the deck of a bungalow a few hundreds of miles away. Of all places, did Acero and Smythe need to choose Central America?)

The analysts and he had planned for possibilities and contingencies. This time, he had a plan B, and a C, and a D even, each of them decreased in various options. They just hadn’t really foreseen enacting one of the options of plan C — there was a reason why they only labelled it plan C, you know?

Plan C was meant to be set in motion if Smythe’s people wiped out Acero herself.

* * *

“Fuck,” was Kellerman’s reaction, the word falling quiet and dispassionate.

He was in DC, his office displayed on the Wall of the control room at The Foundation. Even watching him on the monitors, Michael could have sworn that there was a glimmer of regret in Kellerman’s eyes. Whether it was regret that Acero had been killed or that he hadn’t been the one holding the gun, no way to say, though. The guy was pretty screwed up, and Michael spoke from experience as himself knew a thing or two about being screwed up.

Kellerman was checking the pictures and the short footage sent through secured channels. The encounter had been fast and violent, enough to elicit a twitch of lips from a man who had been there, done that multiple times, in the most gruesome ways. Maybe it was different when you were sitting behind a desk, when it was a slightly grainy video playing for you. You could handle and manipulate people, but in the end, they decided how and when and where to pull the trigger.

It was over within a couple of minutes: Acero shot in the stomach and collapsing onto herself, drawing and pointing her own gun at her opponent. She missed; only got his thigh, put a hole in the muscle and in his overpriced and over-British suit. She was a good shot, but not from this angle, not with blood and life already flowing out of her. There was no sound on the video, no way to know — not for now — what she told Smythe and what he replied before firing another bullet, this time right between her eyes. The pool of blood expanded around her, dark and sticky, spilling from her flank and from her skull, staining her curly hair and white pant suit, as well as the tip of Smythe’s shoes when he stepped closer and leaned over her.

Michael made an effort to remember that he was watching a woman dying. One who had caused pain, one he had tracked and set up and ambushed and hoped for her capture — at best — or her death — if it had to come to that. He’d been way too flippant about enemies dying during the last months, maybe because they were faceless and nameless for the most part. Or maybe because in his plan, in his scheme, they didn’t hold the pivotal role that Acero had held.

“He took something from her pocket,” Kellerman said. “Have you been able to define what it is?”

“We’re trying to figure it out, but he’s fast and his hand half-hides whatever it is. We also have a team working on the transcript of their conversation. Maybe the resolution is good enough for the lip reading expert to get something out of it.”

The satellite vid had run to its end and there was only static on the screen now.

(Blank screen. Leave Acero behind. Next step.)

“So plan C?” Kellerman prompted.

Plan C was ready.

* * *

This wasn’t pre-Fox River all over again; this was a Sona replay. In colder weather and nicer furniture. In other words, Michael couldn’t afford to come up with an elaborate plan, polish the details and study every contingency. There was no time for that, and too many contingencies, too many people out of his reach to take into account, which meant that he had to draw the main outlines and fill them in on the go. Put up the walls and decide as each brick was cemented what he would make with the space he was creating.

Plan C was his main outline: isolate Smythe by offering bargains to his allies and supporters, neutralize those of them who wouldn’t go there, arrest the other ones. It was easier than it would have been with Acero: his network was smaller, wary and on its guards after what had happened to the two other New Heads, more inclined to defect and strike a deal.

(Remove the foundations from Smythe’s building and see how long he could hold on to thin air.)

“We think that the item Smythe retrieved from Ms. Acero was a chip with a list of her supporters and compromising intel on the less supportive of them.”

Michael looked up from his computer and turned toward Mrs. Jamison who’d been leaning against the door of his office for a couple of minutes, watching him as he was lost in data and intel. She was displaying her usual poker face, but Michael knew her enough to read beyond it.

“Shit.”

(Not good for plan C. Not good for any plan, actually.)

“My thought exactly,” Jamison admitted.

Probably in more colorful terms when she’d had the news broken to her, though.

“And why do we think that?” he asked.

“Because the lip reading expert has finished transcribing the vid and according to him, this is what Acero told Smythe before she died.”

She sounded resigned and matter-of-factly; ready for the next move whenever he would be, too. He wondered how long she’d been doing this, building plans and planning operations that could turn to ashes within the blink of an eye. As far as he was concerned, four years was already too long a time for so many things slipping out of his control.

He summoned up the memories of the footage. Acero had said something and then Smythe had shot her a second time. A deadly shot. The first one had only hurt her, no matter how badly.

“Perhaps she offered him the intel if he didn’t kill her, but he didn’t keep his word?” Tom suggested.

“No,” Michael and Jamison replied at the same time. She didn’t bother to explain why, so Michael took over. “It’s not consistent with her profile, and she knew what she was getting herself into anyway. She knew probabilities were that one of them would end up dead when they met. She gave it willingly.”

Maybe they’d had a deal...

“Honor among murderers?” Jamison snorted.

... or maybe, worse than that, Acero had put the survival of The Company above everything else, even defeated, even knowing she was about to die.

Shit didn’t even begin to describe it.

“We need the content of that chip. Pat can take care of our current research while I—”

“Mr. Kellerman and I will handle the field team,” Jamison cut him off. “I’m putting it together right now, and will brief them tomorrow. I need you to go through the experts’ reports and then to focus on tracking Smythe.”

He leaned back in his chair and pondered whether it was worth fighting for it; whether it was smart fighting for it. Jamison had conducted dozens of this kind of search and retrieve operations, probably participated in a few herself — not to mention Kellerman — and he would be more useful working on the ways and means to strip Smythe down of his supporters.

“They still don’t trust me to make the hard decisions if needed,” he told Yoki on their next appointment.

“They don’t want you to make that kind of hard decision. They know what effect it has on you. It’s not good for you, which means it’s not good for the mission. And on a side note, how cocky are you?”

“Excuse me?”

“For being so sure you would handle it better than they will?”

It wasn’t about skills. He wasn’t questioning Jamison’s, and he’d had a first-hand experience of Kellerman’s.

“It’s not like that. It’s just—”

He shut up. He could almost hear Lincoln’s chuckle, his brother asking him ‘Not too painful to let ’em be in charge, control freak?’ Yoki probably knew what the issue was; Yoki was almost as good and sarcastic as Linc when it came to forcing him to face his flaws.

“They know what they’re doing, and believe it or not, they’re better at this than you are, especially when they team up. Do what you are better at doing, and what hardly anyone else is able to accomplish, okay, Michael?”

He shrugged and threw her a glance over the rim of his glasses.

(He needed reading glasses now. Yoki was putting it down to previous illness and injuries, medical treatments, all what he went through at Sona and after, rather than to age — “You’re thirty-five, Michael, you don’t know yet what old means.” Still. Glasses and a cane. He was a real catch, and Sara would be so lucky to have him back.)

“And maybe this chip is a good thing, after all.”

Smythe in possession of all of Acero’s assets being a good thing. There was a reason why Yoki was a psychiatrist — and a neurosurgeon, and an oncologist, and possibly a few others MDs and PhDs she’d never cared to mention — and not a strategist.

“It has nothing to do with strategy,” she replied wisely. “It’s about optimism. You catch Smythe, between his own intel and the chip, you get the list of all the main people involved in The Company, right?”

Right. He only needed to catch Smythe. Piece of cake.

TBC
--Feedback is always appreciated :)

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