24: The Unwritten Hour

Deet! Doot! Deet! Doot! Deet!

The following takes place between 10:00pm and 11:00pm.

Jack Bauer is driving down a dark road in Los Angeles at nighttime in a black SUV. It is very late. Despite it being the city of Los Angeles, there are no lights. Everything is very, very dark and ominous. He picks up his cell phone and makes sure you understand that it is Motorola or AT&T or something he can kick a terrorist’s ass with. Mashing a speed dial button with extreme urgency, he slams the phone up to his ear.

The urgency of the situation causes him to scream into the phone. “Chloe! It’s Jack!”

“Jack?” Chloe asks, annoyed. “Why are you shouting? I am indoors and you are in a luxurious 2007 bulletproof SUV and it’s totally quiet inside. With my sophisticated technology I can tell that you don’t even have the radio on.”

“What technology?” Jack shouts.

“I can’t tell you that. It’s classified. Need-to-know basis only, and you don’t need to know for this mission,” she says rather snottily. “So why are you shouting at me if you can hear my snideness so clearly?”

“I don’t know,” Jack rasps, still screaming into her ear.

“Well my ears are bleeding so I’m going to transfer you to Mr. Buchanan. Thanks a lot, jerk – I mean, Jack.”

“Chloe, wait! I need a throat lozenge, and for some reason I am gasping for breath as if I’ve just run a triathlon! Of course this makes no sense because I’ve been reclining in this very comfortable SUV for the past fifteen minutes. At any rate, I need you to triangulate my position and send a team to bring me some Ricola!”

Chloe makes an exasperated noise. “But Jack, I’m gonna have to switch the hooey converter on the WOPR while rerouting the thingy mcjobber to Milo’s ass!”

“Just do it!” Jack rasps. “And nothing with a lemon flavor! Now transfer me to Bill!”

“Fine,” Chloe whines, and transfers the call.

Jack is having a hard time waiting. Despite being totally alone on the road, he is constantly checking the rear-view mirror while looking out every single window of the vehicle except for the windshield. This is not dangerous in the slightest, because any virile male who wears nothing more than a t-shirt and a windbreaker to a gunfight never needs to watch the road, he only needs to look out for the terrorists. Finally, Bill Buchanan, the Director of CTU, picks up the phone.

“Jack,” he says mildly, “it’s Bill.”

“Bill! It’s Jack!”

“Yes, Jack, I know. I just acknowledged this. Where are you?”

“Bill! I – I -” Jack gasps, blinking his eyes a million times. It’s not enough so he gives it one more hard blink, just in case. “I’m heading east on I-5 in pursuit!”

Bill pauses for a moment, then leans over the phone, quietly contemplating the conversation. “Jack,” he says quietly, “I-5 runs north-south, not east-west. Can you figure out where you are, or should I send a team to get you?”

Jack gasps for breath, pumping up his lungs like a pair of Adidas until he has enough oxygen to start shouting again. “Not really, Bill! My eyes keep blinking rapidly! I’ve been doing this for so long now that I can’t get them to stop! They’re on autopilot!”

Bill sits down in his large, leather desk chair and folds his hands on top of the table. “Calm down, Jack,” he says quietly. His eyes squint slightly. “Perhaps then you can tell me what exactly you are in pursuit of? I don’t know of any urgent terrorist missions we are actively fighting against at this present time.”

“I’m in pursuit of a goddamn burger! I need FOOD, Bill! It’s an emergency! I haven’t eaten in like six seasons now!”

Bill nods sagely. “Understood. Report back to CTU when your mission is complete.”

“Understood,” Jack screams back.

With the phone call complete, Jack flips the phone shut with much machismo and purpose and stuffs it back into his pocket, where he keeps it near his large gun that always has enough bullets, even after he has unloaded three clips into a single terrorist and only then, narrowly manages to kill them. Blinking as fast as he can, he glances out of both sides of the car. He spots a pedestrian out for a walk. Swerving his SUV to the side of the road, he drives up onto the sidewalk and jumps out of the vehicle, brandishing his weapon.

“Get down on the ground!” He screams.

The little old lady Jack has apprehended tries as hard as she can to get down on the ground, but she’s using a walker so it’s hard for her to do much. Jack stands far back with his gun pointed to her, waiting for her to finally get down on the ground. He’s still blinking like he’s got a severe case of tourette’s.

“Anytime now, lady!” He shouts at her.

“I’m trying,” she cries, weakly.

Jack pants for breath while standing on the side of the road, while exerting no energy whatsoever. “What in the hell is that in your pocket? Oh my God, you’re a terrorist!”

“No!” The lady protests, still trying to get down on the ground. “It’s my pacemaker!”

“Well I’m gonna have to confiscate your device!” Jack shouts, waving his weapon around.

“Are you crazy?” The lady asks.

Jack looks annoyed. “Listen, lady. Just tell me where the nearest fast food restaurant is. I need to know NOW!”

“Oh,” the lady says, trying to get back up. “There is a McDonald’s -”

“McDonald’s?” Jack thunders, blinking wildly. “I barely have enough breath to shout at everyone, let alone be able to try and suck up their goddamn milkshake through the straw! That might finish me off, dammit! In-N-Out Burger – that’s the only one you need to know, lady!”

“It’s three blocks from here!” She points weakly with one hand, grasping onto her walker for dear life with the other.

Jack jumps back into his SUV and drives erratically off in the direction the old lady pointed in. When he finally sees the In-N-Out Burger, he swerves all over the road as if he is trying to dodge bullets even though he isn’t being shot at and his SUV is just as bulletproof as it was in the beginning of the hour. Somehow he makes it to the ordering station without driving over it and demolishing it. Jamming his finger down on the automatic power window switch, Jack opens the window and points his gun at the speaker.

“In-N-Out Burger, can I–”

“Yes! I want food!” Jack shouts.

“What would you like to order?” The speaker box asks.

“I don’t know! My eyes are blinking like they’re sweating profusely and I can’t read the menu! What do you like?”

“Uh, okay… How about a Cheeseburger and some fries?” The voice asks.

“You must be some kind of terrorist! Give me a Double-Double! And some fries!” Jack rasps into the box.

“With onions?”

“Yes!” Jack rasps. “Terrorists hate to smell oniony breath when you are interrogating them! I get up real close and gasp fairly hard up their noses. It’s quite uncomfortable for them!”

“Riiiiight… Would you like a drink with that?”

“Yes I would!” He shouts.

“Ok…” the voice pauses, waiting for the specifics, but Jack never gives up information to the bad guys.

“Uh,” the voice says, “what do you want to drink?”

Jack waves his weapon around. “I can’t tell you that! It’s a matter of national security!”

“Well, sir, if you can’t tell me then I’m not sure how to help you.”

“Maybe I can help you!” Jack shouts back.

Jack steps on the gas, peeling away from the ordering mechanism. He stops five feet from where he started, in front of the In-N-Out Window. The youth who had been speaking with him opens the window and regards him like he’s a crazy freaking nutter.

“Sir,” he says, “I need you to go back and finish placing your order before you drive up to the window. You need to give me your drink preference.”

Jack reaches through the window and grabs the young man by the throat. “I told you,” he screams, “I can’t tell you! It’s a matter of national security!”

Releasing the frightened burger worker, Jack pulls himself through the car window and miraculously squeezes his aging ass through the drive thru window. A lidless drink is sitting on a soda fountain dispenser nearby. The young man grabs it and offers it to Jack.

“How about a Coke?” He asks with a shaky voice. “It’s diet.”

“Diet? Do I look like I need a Diet Coke?” Jack grabs his gun. “Don’t answer that! Put that Diet Coke down nice and slow and get down on the ground! Hands above your head!”

Jack grabs the Diet Coke off of the ground and starts to pour it over the poor kid’s head. “Maybe YOU want some Diet Coke, punk!”

He pauses and takes a sip. “Hm, actually this is nice.” He nods with approval down at the soaked young man. “Refreshing.” He takes another sip. “All right, I’m taking this – and I need to use your bathroom! I don’t want anyone going in there until I come out, or I’m holding you responsible! What I do in there is a matter of national security!”

Jack runs and leaps over the front counter, taking out a nice couple with two kids.

“HAHA!” Jack rasps over his shoulder as he runs to the bathroom. Pulling out his gun, he kicks open the door, slamming it into the face of a patron. The man falls to the floor, unconscious. Jack grabs him by the leg and pulls him out of the bathroom, kicks the door open again and dashes inside, gun pointed and ready. There’s someone using a urinal.

“Get out!” Jack screams! “A bomb is about to go off! GO!”

The man at the urinal does not turn around. “A bomb? Where?”

“In my pants!”

Jack rushes to the man and grabs him by the collar. Grunting and groaning, he pulls the man back with all of his strength, as if they are in a fist fight to the death, even though they are not. The poor unsuspecting individual tinkles on his Cole Haans.

“Hey!” The man exclaims, trying to shake and pack himself back into his drawers. “My shoes!”

“Bill me!” Jack screams, and throws him out the door.

Jack investigates the rest of the bathroom, but he is now alone. He jumps into a stall and parks himself on the toilet. His phone is in his hand. Flipping it open, he smashes his fingers urgently down on the speed dial.

“Bill Buchanan.”

“Bill!” Jack rasps. “I’m at In-N-Out Burger and I need backup!”

Bill squints down at the speaker phone in the most non-urgent fashion he can muster. “What’s the problem, Jack?”

“Just trust me! Have Chloe send a HazMat team to my location immediately! And I think we’re going to have to evacuate the premises!”

“HazMat?” Bill asks. “Why?”

“Because I can’t remember the last time I pooped!”

“Jack,” Bill says, looking slightly disturbed, “are you using the facilities while on the phone with me?”

Jack screams exasperatedly into the phone, “Yes!”

“That’s disgusting – oh God, did you just fart?” Bill reaches up to disconnect the call. “I’ll have Chloe send a team. Don’t ever call me from the toilet again or you’ll be on the receiving end of a Court Martial. That’s a promise, Jack.”

The next 30 minutes is spent locking down the area while HazMat swarms In-N-Out Burger. When that operation is over, Jack finally eats some food.

Deet! Doot! Deet! Doot! Deet!

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The B.O.

She was trying to sneak up on me from behind, but I smelled her coming before she even got close. It was one of those smells that stops you in your tracks and makes you say, “My God, is that me?” And your arms are in the air and your head is down; you’re trying to catch a whiff of your pits just to make sure it isn’t. When she stepped around my cubicle with all of the grace and nuance of a dancing lumberjack, I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or afraid. I decided it was the latter, and tried to ignore her as best I could. It didn’t work.

She stopped at my desk, greeting me in her nasally, mousey voice. It was passive-aggressive, I knew, and she was as likely to ensnare me in her trap as she had the last ten times she approached me with her stupid requests. My left hand was on the mouse by my keyboard, and I figured the cord could reach far enough that I could swing it around my head like a lasso and bean her on the forehead. The image in my mind was strong enough that I actually smiled back at her. She must have mistaken the kind of smile it was because she proceeded with her inane ramblings about needing someone to make 400 copies of something and having it distributed to the region. Or something. I was barely listening. My mind was on the floor in front of my cubicle where she was sprawled out, knocked unconscious by my small, black, plastic weapon with “Microsoft” printed on the top. She must have sensed that I was somewhere else, because she teeter-tottered closer with her spiked heels, trying to maneuver her 48-year old thighs through a skirt a 28-year old should have been wearing instead.

The smell grew stronger, thicker, as I watched her impending assault into my precious airspace. “Go away!” I wanted to scream, but the smell was too much – what if I opened my mouth and it got inside me? Perhaps this torture was her way of forcing me to bend to her will. But I would not. I had already fallen for it once when I was new, and I refused to do it again. I wanted to fight fire with fire, but sadly enough I am not the kind of person who can call upon flatulence at will.

She was still staring at me, waiting for me to volunteer. That was how she did things. She liked to suggest tasks that needed to be done, and then wait for you to volunteer yourself for the adventure, as if you were standing in line for Space Mountain. I had to hand it to her, to keep coming back to me for more punishment took serious balls. In fact, I was pretty sure that’s what she was hiding under that skirt. It was linen. It lets the boys breathe. In any case, I was still bound and determined to not do whatever it was that she wanted.

“Oh,” I say, and I turn back to my computer.

Then I ignore her. With most people, the “Ignore Them and They Will Go Away” Theory(tm) does not work. However, it works on her, and I will tell you why: Only the strong survive, and I am stronger than she is. Not in smell – I checked my pits earlier, and I was fairly certain, although I’m not above going for a second opinion. No, when it comes to battle, I am simply willing to go farther than my opponent. And my nose hairs were protesting so I had to act.

When she left, I could still smell her like she was standing on the other side of my cubicle wall, trying to stare through with laser beams that could shoot out from her eyes. But I knew she was gone, even though the smell remained. I had won another battle, although the war wages on, because that is how stupid she is.

She will be back.