2233-09-12 - Balls Up

When Cate learned that Jacob wasn't who he claimed to be.

Date: 2233-09-12

Location: Somewhere

Related Scenes: None

Plot: None

Scene Number: 547

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Three years ago, on Hibernia, when Jacob was undercover as Sean McConnell.

Cate paced back and forth in the empty kitchen, checking her phone for the millionth time. It had been close to an hour since Sean texted her, saying they needed her here for a “house call”. She knew that could mean only one thing - one of the rebels had been hurt and was in need of her services. And that meant that something had gone wrong, and Sean was right there in the middle of it. She prayed he wasn’t the one hurt, and resisted the urge to text him back and ask what was taking so long. She couldn’t risk distracting him if they were in trouble. Instead, she kept pacing, her stomach tied up in knots.

Her phone rang, and she nearly jumped out of her skin. The restaurant had been abandoned long ago; the rebels were the only ones who used it now. The shrill ring tone broke the eerie silence, echoing through the kitchen. A glance at the caller ID showed a blocked number, but she answered it anyway. “Hello?”

“Don’t come to the house.” Her heart sank when she realized it wasn’t Sean. She immediately recognized the voice of Harry, her uncle’s right-hand man. “Everything’s balls up. Go to the Lodge instead.”

The Lodge was their code-name for the restaurant she was standing in. Cate’s brow creased in confusion. “Wait, what? I’m already at the Lodge. I’ve been here for half an hour.”

“You’re at the Lodge?” When she confirmed it, there was a long silence on the other end. She guessed it was because Harry was talking to her Uncle Jack. Then Harry’s voice came back on. “Something’s frakked. Get out of there. Wait at the north end of the alley. We’ll pick you up.”

She desperately wanted to ask him what the hell was going on, and if Sean was all right, but she knew better than to talk over an un-secure line. Especially if something bad was going down. “Got it,” she replied, anxiety giving her voice a clipped edge. Slinging her medical bag over her shoulder, she hurried out the back door to the alley.

Fifteen minutes later, a familiar white van pulled around the corner. It paused by the alley, the side door opening even before it came to a complete stop. Cate hopped in, and had to catch her balance when the van immediately lurched forward again.

In the back were Harry and Jack, the latter clutching a bloody rag to his shoulder and looking pale. “Gods, Jack,” she gasped, crossing over to his seat. She knelt down beside him, even as she scanned the rest of the van. “Where’s Sean? And Tommy?”

The look that Harry and Jack exchanged stabbed fear through her heart. Jack then looked at her, his lips thinning. “Tommy’s dead.”

Cate reeled back, shaking her head in stunned disbelief. She almost didn’t register the rest of her uncle’s words. “The coileachs (Ed note: Celtan for 'rooster', derisive name for the Virgon troops on account of the red trim on their class A uniforms) attacked the safe house. Tommy took a bullet in the head.”

Tommy was her cousin - not Jack’s son, but one of her other uncles. She remembered the tow-haired boy she had played with as a child. Thinking of him lying dead, murdered by soldiers - it brought tears to hear eyes. “And Sean?” Fear gave her voice a hollow sound.

She could see the bad news on her uncle’s face even before he said anything, and sucked in a sharp breath. Jack let go of the bandage on his shoulder to cup her face gently. “Him and Ian were holding off the bastards so we could get away. Brave lads. Like as not, the coileachs got them both.”

Like as not. That meant it wasn’t a certainty. There was still hope. But that hope wasn’t enough to stop her from feeling sick inside. She sniffled, eyes blurring with tears, but tried to pull herself together. Jack was bleeding. She unzipped her satchel and got out some supplies. Trying to focus on her job, even as her mind was on her boys.

“Cate.” She looked over at Harry, who wore a serious frown. “What were you doing at the Lodge?”

Cate sniffled again, giving him a blank headshake. “That’s where you said to go.”

“Who said?” Harry asked.

“Sean’s text - an hour ago. It said ‘house call at the Lodge’.” She saw them exchange glances again, and asked, “What is it?”

Jack was busy grimacing as she tied the dressing around his shoulder, so it was Harry who answered. “We needed you at the safe house. Tristan Hawkins was sick. Sean was supposed to text you the address. We didn’t decide to go to the Lodge till after the coileachs attacked and Jack got hurt. That’s when I called you - didn’t want you walking into a trap.”

Cate squinted at him in confusion. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why would he send me to the wrong place? Did Tristan make it out?”

“No, they got him,” Jack grunted through gritted teeth. Tristan was his oldest and dearest friend, and Cate squeezed his uninjured arm in quiet sympathy. He didn’t directly answer Cate’s question about Sean, but instead said, “Something stinks about this whole frakking mess. And I promise you this -“ There was a hard edge to his voice that Cate had never heard before. “We’re going to find out how the hell those bastards knew where to find us.”

Cate tended to Jack’s shoulder more properly once they were able to pull over and stop. Jack urged her to come with them and lie low in the safe house for a couple of days, but Cate had shook her head. She needed to get home and see if there was any word from Sean. It had been three hours, and dread was already gnawing a hole in the pit of her stomach. Jack kissed her on the cheek and told her to be careful, and they dropped her off near a train station.

When she made it back to the apartment, she immediately called out, “Sean?” Sean's cat Herman wrapped himself around her feet with a soft meow. Cate picked him up, grateful for the feline headbutt-hugs, and carried him as she moved more fully into the apartment.

It only took a minute to tell that it was empty, and that there were no messages on the com unit. She sank down on the couch, taking a shuddering breath. Was he dead? Hurt? Languishing in a holding cell somewhere?

That’s when she noticed the envelope on the coffee table. Brow creasing, she reached for it. It had her name on the front, in Sean’s careful handwriting. She opened it.

“Dear Cate,” it began. “I’m sorry…”

She didn’t get more than a sentence into it before her eyes were so blurred with tears that she couldn’t read any more.

“He sold us out,” Cate told her uncle, her voice breaking. It had been 24 hours since she found Sean’s letter. 24 hours since the bottom fell out of the world she knew. His letter gave no details - just apologized for what he’d done and made it clear he wasn’t coming back. At first she had been tempted to say nothing, but the truth was bound to come out. Better to be up-front with it. So she contacted Harry and arranged a meeting with Jack.

Now Jack held Sean’s letter in his hand, saying nothing. But the grave look on his face said enough.

Sniffling, Cate pressed on. Rambling, mostly. Trying to make sense of things. “It must’ve been when they arrested us after Jana’s wedding.” They had been released, but only after twelve grueling hours in military custody. “Gods, Jack, it was awful for me - probably worse for him, since he’d hit one of the coileachs. They must’ve threatened him, flipped him.”

She knew it was a flimsy excuse. They all knew what they were signing up for. They all knew that if they got pinched, they had to keep their mouths shut and take the rap. Give up their freedom - their life, if need be - for the cause. But resolve had wavered that night. Had his broken?

Jack folded the letter back up, pacing for a moment as he rubbed his chin with his hand. “Give us a minute,” he told Harry. Once the other man had left and closed the door, Jack sighed and faced her. “I think it’s worse than that, Cate.”

She blinked, frowning. “Worse? How the hell could it be worse?”

Jack sighed again and came to sit on the couch beside her, leaning forward with elbows on his knees. “We figured he’d flipped after he sent you that message. Steered you away from the trap. Only way he could’ve done that is if he knew it was coming. So we started digging.” He paused, eyes boring into her. “There’s a thin veneer, enough to throw off a casual scan, but underneath that? Sean McConnell doesn’t exist. He’s a ghost.”

Cate stared at him, unable to comprehend what he was suggesting. “What?”

Jack pressed on, as if she hadn’t said anything. “And we talked to some contacts over in Two-Shakes’ group. They don’t know anyone named McConnell. His story about coming up through the mob? Bullshit.”

Cate felt as though her head were spinning. This couldn’t be happening. “No, that’s not possible. Tommy knew him. They were friends.”

The sadness in Jack’s eyes surprised her. It ignited a kernel of doubt. “Tommy vetted him. Vouched for him. Only way he could’ve done that is if he was in on it.”

She sat there, her mouth hanging open. “No. No. He couldn’t have done that. Neither of them could’ve done that. There’s got to be some kind of mistake. Something you’re missing…”

“We checked into Tommy too, Cate,” Jack said, his voice soft. “It’s not a mistake. He’d been flakey since the train bombing. Blamed himself. Near as we can figure, he cracked. The coileachs must’ve gotten to him. Flipped him and got him to bring in Sean. And Sean used you and Tommy to get to me.”

Cate shook her head violently, rejecting his words. Jack watched her in silence as she tried to hold the tattered threads of her composure together. His jaw was set in an unpleasant expression. “Cate. I know you three were close. If they got to you…”

Shock registered on her face as she stared at him. “You think I turned too?”

“People do stupid things for love.” His voice was grave, and the doubt in his eyes hit her like a punch in the gut. “And people are gonna ask… if they turned, and you didn't, how come you’re not in jail? I can protect you, Cate. But you’ve gotta come clean with me. Right now. Tell me everything those two were up to.”

“I have no idea what they were up to!” Cate fired back, indignant anger flaring up. “I didn’t flip. Twelve hours in the hot seat, and they did their damndest - but I didn’t break. I would never turn on you, you know that! Frakking hell, Jack, you’re like a second father to me. You really think I could introduce someone to you if I knew they were a frakking traitor? That I could date them, live with them…” And that’s when it hit her, the gut-wrenching reality of what Jack was telling her. If Sean was a plant, then everything she thought she knew, it was all bullshit. She’d been living a lie. She choked back a sob, covering her mouth.

Jack sighed, and pulled her into a hug while she cried on his shoulder. He had known her all her life. He recognized the same raw grief he had seen after her mother was killed, and her father sent to prison. “Sssh. I believe you, Catey. It’ll be all right.”

She cried for a little while, and then Jack pulled back and tipped her chin up so she looked at him. “Cate, listen to me. That boy is a dead man walking.” His expression was deadly serious. “You hear from him, you find out anything about him, you tell me. You understand?”

Cate nodded at him through tear-filled eyes. “I understand.”

But it was a lie. She didn’t understand any of this.


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