Summer, 1981 Undisclosed location, Eastern Europe
Jack Bristow stood over the man in front of him. He wasn't certain of the man's name, but Jack was well aware of the man's affiliation. Jack had been tracking the man's whereabouts and activities for the past year and a half as part of his current mission for the CIA. All signs pointed to this man being a member of the KGB. Jack had, in fact, confirmed that information shortly after he had captured the man the day before. That wasn't all of the information that he had obtained. The report that he would file when he returned to Los Angeles would be sizable and include more new and valuable information about the KGB's targets, missions in progress, and their undercover agents, than the CIA had been able to obtain in quite some time.
At the moment, however, none of that mattered to Jack. He was still standing in mild surprise, tinged with amusement over the man. He had just told Jack after a significant amount of...persuasion that the recent mole in the CIA was not in fact a mole from inside the CIA, rather the mole was the wife of one of the CIA's most trusted officers. The woman's current alias was Laura Bristow. Jack hadn't been able to stifle a laugh behind his usual implacable features. The man's story was so incredibly ludicrous. Even Jack's suspicion honed mind refused to believe it. His Laura would never be capable of the cold blooded assassinations that the mole was accused of committing. She loved him more than anything, except perhaps for their daughter and he felt the same way. No, it was an idea so preposterous it wasn't even worth thinking about.
Jack prepared himself to continue interrogating the man, starting with extracting the true answer of the mole's identity. The man he was interrogating likely didn't know that he was Laura Bristow's husband or how much he would pay for trying to pin those crimes on his interrogator's wife.
"Jack." The friendly voice of Arvin Sloane, his current partner at the CIA, from behind him, made Jack turn around in surprise. Arvin wasn't supposed to be there. He was supposed to be monitoring the area from the surveillance system that they had set up outside. It was a reasonable precaution given that any number of hostile agents could be looking for them at that very moment.
Arvin walked over to Jack and clasped a friendly hand on Jack's back, ignoring Jack's disapproving glare. "How's this going, Jack? Does our friend here have any useful information?"
Jack noticed the look of hungry, almost predatory interest on Arvin's face. This was different and far from the usual affable image that Arvin usually presented to the public. Jack wondered suddenly what his friend's personal interest in this was and why this whole situation was suddenly worrying him. "He does." Jack answered shortly and bluntly. "I'll assemble the report on the way back to the States. Until then you can continue the surveillance while I finish up with this interrogation."
Jack knew that he was being blunt, but he would worry about bad manners later. Even in this relatively safe moment, he wouldn't forget that he was out in the field or the dangers that that included.
Arvin seemed to transform in front of his eyes. "I'm sorry, my friend, but I'm afraid that I can't do that." His voice was low and cold, colored by regret. "You see, our KGB agent has revealed too much information. He knows too much to be allowed to live."
"What are you talking about, Arvin? The CIA doesn't summarily execute prisoners, nor is that decision left up to field agents in a non life or death situation."
"You can't be that blind, Jack. You know that there are more forces at work than the CIA." He cocked his head. "This man has intelligence that could be potentially damaging to a number of people. You see, Jack, it's in my best interest for this man not to return to the United States or to even live long enough to begin that journey." The man on the floor began to whimper as Arvin took several steps back. "He has revealed information that was previously unknown to the CIA. His knowledge of the true mole at the CIA, for example. That also means that he has access to other information within the KGB that I need to destroy. It isn't time yet for the CIA to know about my...extracurricular activities." Before Jack could move, Sloane had removed his gun from its holster and pointed it towards Jack and the prisoner.
"Arvin," Jack tried to remain calm. This situation had slipped out of his control in an instant. For once his mind was having trouble processing the total implications of this new information. A few things, however, were clear in his mind. Arvin Sloane was not his friend and he was also a threat.
Sloane didn't seem to be paying attention to what Jack was saying, however. He was too intensely focused. For a moment, Jack thought he saw flash of regret pass over Sloane's face and then it was gone. "I'm sorry, my friend, but this is good bye. You're too patriotic for your own good, Jack."
Jack lunged forward at the same moment that Sloane squeezed off two shots. He wasn't nearly fast enough, however. Jack Bristow dropped to the floor, silent and unmoving. Two more shots rang out. Arvin Sloane walked away into the night with a small smile, content in the knowledge that his somewhat questionable activities were once again safe from discovery. He missed his wife. Three weeks of absence from Emily was almost unbearable to him. It would be good to see Sydney as well. After all once he carefully released the information that Irina was a KGB plant and she was extracted, Sydney would officially be an orphan.
Then she would become his child, his and Emily's. They would have the perfect family and when she grew up, she would fulfill the prophecy for him. It was the best outcome for everyone. He would have a beautiful daughter and he would achieve Rambaldi's greatest prophecy. This mission had turned out better than he could ever have hoped.
Late Afternoon Los Angeles
Heat clung to the air as Laura Bristow stepped out of her car. The air shimmered as it rose off of the dark asphalt around her as she walked towards the open gates of the small elementary school where Sydney was taking swimming lessons during the summer. Her daughter was due to finish in just a few minutes and she was there to pick her up.
It only took her a few moments to enter the small room where the parents were required to wait for their children. Laura glanced tiredly around the small room, noting the yellowed posters reminding parents about long outdated Girl Scout meetings beside others that bore the usual public service announcements. She gazed unseeingly at one poster with bold letters and numbers, loudly proclaiming the telephone number of the local poison prevention center, as her mind drifted back to her earlier meeting with her handler. She had wanted to beg and plead with him about any information he might have about Jack, but that was impossible.
If he received even the slightest hint that she actually cared about Jack, it would be a death sentence for both she and Jack and Sydney. She was worried, though, about Jack. He had returned home late from missions before, but he had never been this late. He had been gone for almost two weeks longer than he had told her and his secretary at the CIA was stonewalling her.
Laura felt her fist clench in involuntarily in fear and frustration. There was nothing that she could do to help Jack. That would destroy them all, but she didn't have to cheerfully accept that fact. She closed her eyes slowly and leaned back into her uncomfortable chair.
Unbidden the image of the last time that she had seen Jack played in her mind. She could almost feel his lips on hers as they exchanged one final, searing good bye kiss. The memory did little to ease her worry, but it did bring a momentary shadow of a smile to her face even as the pain of missing him doubled in her chest.
"Mommy, Mommy," the excited voice of her daughter and the clamor of running children brought her sharply out of her thoughts.
"Sydney," she greeted her daughter with equal enthusiasm, her smile widening as the little girl ran towards her. Laura opened her arms wide and caught Sydney in a warm embrace. She held her daughter tightly to her chest and gently stroked her daughter's still damp hair with one hand. "Did you have fun today," she asked pushing all of her worries and fears away in the face of her daughter's youthful innocence. She listened with patient silence as Sydney chattered about her lesson.
Even at a young age, Sydney was already becoming very athletic and she loved her swimming lessons. As Sydney spoke, Laura studied her daughter carefully. Most people who saw her with her parents, saw only Sydney's obvious resemblance to her mother. Laura, however, never saw that. Instead she saw more of Jack in Sydney. She saw his large ears and his fierce stubbornness, although she supposed they could both take credit for that.
She wondered as she and Sydney walked towards the car, just what Sydney would be like as an adult. Would she favor one parent over the other? What would her mannerisms be like? Who would Sydney become and what would her life be like? They were questions Laura often asked herself. Usually right before she reminded herself that she would never get to see or know Sydney as a grown woman. It was a sobering thought and one that made Laura cling all the harder to the time that she had now, the time that could come to an end at any moment without notice. One little missed detail could blow her cover to the CIA and one wrong move could betray her true feelings for Jack to the KGB. At any time she could be forced to leave Sydney and Jack behind forever. It was a thought that she had faced countless times in her nightmares.
When Laura pulled into the driveway of their modest home a little over half of an hour later, she immediately noticed the dark blue sedan parked in front of the house. The part of her mind that operated under constant suspicion noted that the sedan was a Government Issue car. A chill ran down her spine and all the events of the day, both before and after she had met with her handler flashed through her mind. As far as she could remember nothing suspicious or unusual had happened. Her meeting with her handler had been short and she was certain that she hadn't been followed.
She smiled calmly as she walked around to unfasten Sydney's seatbelt and let her daughter out of the car. The oppressive heat in the air was forgotten as she clutched Sydney's hand tightly in her own and waited for the men in the car to approach them. She didn't recognize either of the men as they approached, but she easily pegged them as agents.
The first man, and the older of the two, was the first one to speak to her. His face was solemn, but gentle. He couldn't quite meet her eyes. "Mrs. Bristow," he asked with a gravelly voice.
"Yes," she replied with uncertainty that didn't have to be faked.
"I'm a colleague of your husband's. My associate and I need to have a word with you. May we go inside?"
Laura's smile faltered, but she nodded, "Of course," she turned back to the house, resisting the urge to scoop Sydeny up tightly in her arms in a futile gesture of reassurance. The realities of being the wife of a CIA agent and of her own precarious situation where confronting her sharply at the moment and whatever the agents where there for, she didn't think they were bringing good news.
"Is Jack okay? Did something happen to him?" She half-turned to open the door of their home and caught the grimace on the face of both agents. They didn't answer. Her heart clenched in her chest as she offered them a seat on the couch and gently ushered Sydney into her own room. "Why don't you play in here for a little while, Sydney? I need to talk to these men."
Sydney's smile was obedient but not as exuberant as it had been a few moments ago. She seemed to sense Laura's seriousness. "Okay, Mama," she said quietly.
Laura turned to leave the room. "Mama?" Sydney's call stopped her before she had even left the room. "Mama will Daddy be home tonight?" The plaintive note in Sydney's voice made Laura's heartache. Sydney missed Jack as much as she did. Laura wished that she could promise Sydney that everything would be okay and that he would be home soon, just to see Sydney's eyes light up with happiness, but that wasn't possible. "I don't know, Sweetheart." She said softly, "I miss him too."
Seeing Sydney's face fall made her want to rush back over and comfort her daughter, but there was nothing she could say to make up for Jack's absence. She just hoped for many reasons that he got a little time off when he finally returned home.
The two agents were waiting for her where she had left them in the living room, still standing in front of the sofa. She looked questioningly between the two men. Finally the first man stepped forward again, awkwardly. "Ma'am, you might want to sit down." She didn't protest his gentle suggestion. "Mrs. Bristow you are aware that your husband was on a mission?"
"Ye-" the man's inadvertent use of the past tense when reffering to Jack almost immediately caught her attention. "What do you mean 'was on a mission'? Is Jack coming home?"
"No, Ma'am I'm afraid not." He straightened up, drawing himself to his full height. Formally he announced, "Mrs. Bristow, I regret to inform you that your husband is dead."