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There's no shame in having a bit of help

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Special Agent Erica Evans knew a thing or two about irony. These days it seemed to have invaded her life. How else could one describe the fact that she was working with Kyle Hobbes, a known terrorist, when she had spent the majority of her career tracking and arresting men like him. Or worse yet, how else could she reconcile the fact that she'd met a kind, wonderful man with whom she had great chemistry…and that man was a Catholic priest.

Now her supervisory agent had assigned her to head up a task force to hunt down the Fifth Column, which was believed to be an Anti-V terrorist group. The assignment was right up her alley after all her years working anti-terror.

The only problem was the fact that Erica herself was a member of the Fifth Column and, though the FBI and almost everyone else considered them to be evil hate mongerers, they were simply the only ones who knew the V's were up to no good. The Fifth Column was made up of rebel Vs and humans and they were attempting to save humanity from an alien invasion and potential destruction.

Hello irony.

It quickly became clear that the Fifth Column Task Force was going to become one of those interjuristictional task forces, the likes of which had been popping up everywhere since 9/11. Her team consisted of a whole flock of her fellow FBI agents, several NYPD officers and a mixed bag of other feds: NSA, ATF, a few US Marshals and even the notoriously prickly CTU had promised to send some people. That made Erica a bit uneasy, as the gung ho CTU yahoos tended to make the ATF cowboys look like by the book team players.

Standing at the front of a large briefing room, Erica looked over the assembled gaggle of law enforcement professionals. The 10 FBI agents Sarita Malik had rounded up looked like they had come from a low budget studio's central casting office, an assembly of older and younger men with close cropped hair and black suits. Cleary they were more office dwellers and researchers than field agents. Despite being a random assortment of ethnicities, they all had a sort of blandly generic look to them, as well as generic names. It was a little creepy.

The NYPD detectives and officers were a little less cookie cutter, the 2 detectives studying their surrounding agents with interest while the younger officers seemed a bit uncomfortable being out of uniform.

Back to a corner, the lone NSA agent was watching everyone with sharp blue eyes. In his heather grey suit and leaf green shirt, the pale, red haired man stood out amongst the sea of dark, somberly clothed people.

The two ATF agents had paired jeans with dress shirts and blazers. The younger one had the look of a high school jock turned Abercrombie and Fitch model, while the older, in his navy chino jacket, looked like he did his shopping exclusively at L.L. Bean.

One of the Marshals was a young woman who looked barely older than Tyler. Her partner was a thirty-ish man who seemed to be torn between listening to what his young colleague was saying and doodling on a notepad. It was hard to believe they were one of the services best fugitive retrieval teams.

For the most part, they were ready to buckle down, begin the briefing and pass out assignments, but the team from the CTU had not yet arrived. While Erica thought it would be easier to only have to give one briefing speech, she wanted to get started. They'd just hope the folks from the CTU would be able to catch up somewhere along the way.

As she opened her mouth to call for everyone's attention, two people stepped into the room. The man was middle aged, blond with weather tanned skin wearing jeans, a t-shirt and leather jacket, messenger bag slung across his body. There was something about the way he moved and his general aura that simply screamed, "Don't fuck with me!" The woman was several inches shorter than him (and he wasn't very tall) with brown hair and a somewhat annoyed expression on her face. She too wore jeans, darker washed, with a green blouse, suede jacket and flat boots. The bag slung over her shoulder was clearly a laptop case, not a purse.

Obviously, these two were the missing CTU agents. Funny. They didn't look like the sort of people who would work for an agency that tended to get involved with things that made other federal agents exchange shaken looks and hushed whispers of awe and fear. In fact, no one except Kennedy, the NSA agent, seemed to give them more than a cursory look as they slipped into chairs, the woman pulling out her laptop immediately.

"All right," she said loudly, trying to gather the attention of the assembled men and women. This was going to truly suck. Having to instruct these hard working members of law enforcement to track and arrest members of the Fifth Column, all the while feeding them disinformation and sabotaging their efforts. Yeah, this was going to be fun. "You all know why we're here. The recent attack on a V shuttle has brought to public view a new terrorist threat, calling themselves the Fifth Column. Now, we don't have a lot of information on them yet, but we have a few credible leads."

"Our mandate is to track down these terrorists. We will also be attempting to identify the individuals who died aboard the downed shuttle and make contact with their families. Your respective agencies have sent you over, as they believe you have the skills we need to achieve this goal."

Around the room heads were nodding and faces were serious, listening attentively, looking at the photos of the destroyed shuttle displayed on the wall…except for the two CTU agents, who were peering at something on the woman's computer screen. Erica sighed, uneasy, as she didn't know what they found so interesting, and their entire job was rooting out terrorists. If anyone had a chance of getting on the trail of her and her friends in the resistance before the first meeting was even over, it was them.

"You have something of interest, Agents…?" Damn it, she hadn't had time to look over the stack of files Malik had shoved into her hands only moments earlier. She hated being unprepared.

The male agent looked up, clearly disgruntled by the interruption while the woman scowled deeply, fingers flying over the keys. "Just wondering why none of the Crime Scene photos on the wall show the bodies…or should I say the skeletons?"

"Cause someone deleted those images from their mainframe and altered the evidence lists. Fortunately not before we got copied on everything," his partner muttered, still intent on her work. "The user ID for the deletion is a Paul Kendrick, but who wants to bet someone ganked his code to throw suspicion off themselves?"

"Probably right, but you know the drill," the man glanced at Erica momentarily. "Who is Kendrick and how fast can we get him into interrogation?"

They were met by silence and the pair heaved irritated sighs, somehow managing to roll their eyes while simultaneously exchanging looks of contempt before glaring up at agents around them, who were approaching to peer at the computer. Before they got too close, the man narrowed his eyes, freezing everyone in their tracks.

Now Erica saw why CTU agents were feared. The guy was giving off serious 'Stop or I will rip off your arms and beat you to death with them' vibes. But they had copies of the deleted images, the ones she had seen for a moment before they were purged from the FBI's system. "Paul Kendrick is my AD," Erica began as Malik pushed forward.

"How did you people get access to FBI files?" she asked sharply, looking like she wanted to yank the laptop away from the woman, but the look in the man…and honestly, the woman's eyes stopped her. "There is no way you should be able to have our intel without our knowledge…and what do you mean skeletons?"

Erica took note of the fact that Malik seemed more peeved by the existence of the photos than she was interested in their content. Several of the other FBI agents seemed to share her feelings, but the majority of the agents in the room were simply trying to get a better look at the screen…without breeching the very clear personal space bubble the CTU agents had established.

The female CTU agent looked up at Malik with narrowed eyes, the expression on her face clearly imparting her low opinion of Malik's intelligence. "The CTU is copied on any terrorism related case. Duh."

There were a few chuckles from the assembled agents and Malik glared at them but after so recently being on the receiving end of the male CTU agent's far more threatening gaze…okay, enough of the male/female CTU agent stuff. Erica looked at them and asked, "Who are you two? I mean names. Mine's Erica Evans."

"Jack Bauer."

"Chloe O'Brian."

That explained so very, very much. Not only were they experts in the field of counter terrorism, but they were more or less revered and feared in the field, having had a hand in averting over dozen major attacks on US soil. Bauer's much redacted record stretched back over more than 20 years, but it wasn't until Chloe O'Brian entered his world that he found a true partner in his sometimes extra-legal, world saving activities.

That was when the two of them basically became law unto themselves and did what needed to be done in order to save the world and let the powers that be play catch up after they averted the crisis.

Clearly, the majority of the agents, as well as many of the police officers, knew their names. Those not in the know were wide eyed as their colleagues whispered in their ears.

"You're Jack Bauer?" Malik looked torn between smirking and vomiting. It was an odd look and Erica filed it away for further contemplation.

"Kendrick's in his office," Erica informed the room, then said, "I'll go ask him to meet me in the interview room. Bauer, O'Brian, with me. Everyone else, hit up your informants, see what you hear. We need a starting point."

Reaching out a hand to O'Brian's computer, Malik said, "I'll copy…."

Bauer's hand wrapped around her wrist, catching her before her fingers made contact with the computer. O'Brian pulled the screen further toward herself and snapped, "I'll send you all copies. Touch my system and I'll hurt you."

Malik glared. "We're on the same team here. Don't you trust me?"

"No," Bauer and O'Brian chorused and he continued, "No offense, but we've had some bad experiences with moles. I don't trust any of you as far as…" he glanced around the room, eyes lighting on a tiny, Latina police officer, "…she could throw you."

The tall, strawberry blond officer beside her quirked a grin down at the woman and said, "Angie's stronger than she looks."

Elbowing her friend with a smirk, Angie chuckled, "Shut it, Ned."

That reminded Erica that some form of introductions were in order. She had hoped people would have mingled before the meeting began, but they had simply congregated in small huddles and looked at each other suspiciously. Yeah, this whole team thing was working out really well.

On the plus side, if the task force had internal strife, then it could only mean good things for the Fifth Column. She hoped.

"Before we go, if you haven't made an attempt to let your new co-workers know who you are, can you at least introduce yourselves?"

Still trying, and failing to stare down Bauer or O'Brian, Malik gritted out, "Special Agent Sarita Malik."

While the others grumbled and sighed, the cookie cutter FBI agents followed Malik's example.

"Special Agent James Davis." Tall, generic brunette.

"Special Agent John Miller." Shorter, generic brunette.

"Special Agent Robert Smith." Skinny, dirty blond.

"Special Agent Michael Anderson." Skinny, light brown hair, glasses.

"Special Agent William Taylor." Broad shoulders, freckles.

"Special Agent David Jones." Brawny, graying at one temple.

"Special Agent Charles Johnson." Younger than the others.

"Special Agent Joseph Brown." Curly hair, dark tan.

"Special Agent Thomas Wilson." Tall, African American, buzz cut.

"Special Agent Christopher Williams." Tall, African American, shaved head.

Even with the physical differences, Erica was considering slapping name tags on the lot of them.

One of the police detectives, a tall man of Native American descent spoke next, which prompted his colleagues to speak as well. "Detective Virgil Lake."

"Detective Nola De Luca." Pretty, Italian descent, slight accent that said her parents were from the Old Country.

"Officer Edward Doyle. Call me Ned." The reddish blond who had spoken earlier.

"Officer Angela Lopez." The petite Latina.

"Officer Jason Hall." Dark blond hair and pretty blue eyes.

"Officer Cliff Young." Tall, handsome African America guy, looked young.

"Officer Xiomara Hu. Mara's fine." Pretty, tough looking young Asian woman.

The tall, lanky, flame haired NSA agent went next. "Liam Kennedy." Simple and direct. Good.

"Agent Kavan Baker." The compact, dark haired ATF agent with all America, L.L. Bean look.

His partner with the abbreviated faux hawk, said, "Agent Noah Green."

"Marshal Sam Hernandez." The senior Marshal with light brown hair that seemed to defy gravity, a dark tan that suggested they worked in a sunny climate and bright brown eyes.

"Marshal Lily Young." Young, fair, auburn haired woman, with slightly sunburned cheeks.

She was probably not going to remember half of their names. "Okay, off to your assignments," she said, then led Bauer and Chloe off to the interview room before moving off to ask Kendrick to meet them there. The senior agent was on the phone, but said he'd be along shortly.

Re-entering the room, she saw O'Brian was back at her computer, with Bauer hovering behind her. As much as they seemed strongly opposed to having other people encroaching upon their personal space, that same reluctance clearly didn't extend to each other.

Without looking up, Bauer said, "You do know what these pictures mean, right?"

"Other than the fact that we have a mole in the bureau?" Erica asked, trying to obfuscate until she figured out whether she could trust them or not.

"And the fact that a terrorist organization wouldn't destroy evidence that proved they didn't kill a shuttle full of innocent civilians, so that begs the question who would?"

"Someone who wanted to blame said organization for murder. But who would that be in this situation?" O'Brian continued, picking up his train of thought without pause. "Who would have the most to gain?"

"Well, the obvious answer would be the Visitors," Bauer concluded. "They came out of the whole debacle looking like the wounded party and public sympathy is with them more than ever."

"Wait, wait." Erica interrupted their rapid exchange of thoughts. "You two arrived at that conclusion from those pictures?"

"And naturally suspicious natures that have only been reinforced by many years of betrayal and horror," O'Brian snarked. "What's behind your reasoning?"

Erica stared at them. She could follow their leaps of logic, but her own burgeoning sense of paranoia prevented her from letting the sense of nascent hope their words inspired show on her face. If they were on her side, the Fifth Column had just found some highly trained and seriously scary friends. But, if they were trying to play her, she had little doubt that Bauer would fail to take them down. It was more or less his raison d'etre.

Hell, life was so much easier before the alien ships showed up.



Thought the Fifth Colum Could use some kick ass help!