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20 February 2008 @ 01:58 pm
Numb3rs Fic: On U.S. Soil  
Written for numb3rs100 Challenge February 2008 Rewind – In Another World, Ivory Tower, Prison, Surface

Title: On U.S. Soil
Pairing/Characters: Charlie, Margaret, Alan, Don, OCs
Rating: PG13
Word Count: 800
Spoilers: None
Summary: Charlie wakes on September 11, 2001 and wishes he hadn't
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ

017. In Another World

They come collect him out of bed - literally - standing there as he throws on yesterday's jeans and a t-shirt he hopes is from the clean pile. They grab his bag and confiscate his cell phone before he realizes this isn't some sort of drill.

He's on a military transport jet before he's even fully awake, sitting in the barren fuselage on jump seats amongst a gaggle of civilians as confused and shaken as he is. It's all foreign to him, another world - dreamlike and surreal yet with cold hard edges. He feels like he's floating, sleepwalking.

He wants to wake up now.

He recognizes two of them - a young math prodigy from USC he met at a recent conference anxiously biting her already blunted fingernails and a visiting professor from Stanford, here for a lecture series on low-dimensional topology.

The jet finally takes off when the last wave of passengers arrives and they're at cruising altitude before anyone speaks.

There's been an attack on U.S. soil they're told.

Where? An embassy? A timid voice asks.

He goes cold when he figures out the answer before it's spoken, the shock leaving him dazed and in denial.


124. Ivory Tower

He has no clue where he is, but he's underground and surrounded by military. He assumes NORAD, but knows logically the government must have more than one facility safe from nuclear warfare.

They assure him his parents have been notified that he's under their protection; have to keep the brain trust safe.

When they first arrive, they are all shown the video footage: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Flight 93...

Some people cry, others rant - demanding to know if their families and friends back east are safe. A few claim it's a hoax, that the government created the footage just to scare them into service.

As proof they bring in a TV connected to a satellite dish and let them flip through the channels before tuning into CNN. Familiar faces behind the microphones tell them it's real.

In the stunned silence that follows, they are given their assignments: predict when and where the next attack will be, help find who is responsible.

Until they provide answers they remain there, locked in an ivory tower away from the sunlight.

Once the briefing is done, they offer them breakfast.

Charlie's one of the lucky ones who can keep it down.

105. Prison

Day Nine.

He wants to scratch it into the wall, like he's Papillion or something, lost in captivity.

He's given them their answer: no follow up attacks will occur - and the news bears him out. In the days following 9/11 there are no new attacks on U.S. interests.

But they don't believe him.

He's tempted to just fill his boards with P vs. NP, knowing the military men guarding them wouldn't know the difference, but his fellow mathematicians would. He's pretty sure they'd keep his secret though and wonders if he looked closer at their equations what he'd really find.

The isolation is complete. No Internet access. No email. No phone calls.

Three meals a day, served in somber halls where no one talks at the long metal tables, vacant eyes staring lost into anonymous rations.

Prison would almost be better.

What they do give him access to is data: active terror cells, known cell leaders, missing and stolen explosives...

He feels sick.

They escort him back to his chambers at night and lock him in. He rests his forehead against the door and traces the number one against the cool metal nine times.

Night Nine.

Solitary confinement... Again.

020. Surface

After twenty-two days, he surfaces.

His mother peppers his face with kisses, going on about how her baby boy has grown an actual beard. His father assures him everyone they know back east is fine.

Don calls halfway through the big welcome home fuss. He's at Ground Zero.

Charlie feels guilty not realizing sooner that as an FBI agent now Don's part of the alphabet group charged with domestic terrorism. Of course he'd be working it.

Charlie manages to extract himself from his parents' smothering love long enough to go to his room to talk to Don in private.

It's bad. Don tells him. Like war bad.

It is a war, only one where you can't shoot at the enemy.

After the call Charlie showers, discards the foreign clothes the military purchased for him and tries to slip back into his old life.

He lies in bed wide awake for hours, unable to erase the images that haunt the darkness.

He finally pulls the covers over his head and tries to sleep.

He wishes he could wake up and have the last three weeks just be a bad nightmare.

He's pretty sure everyone else around him is wishing the same thing.

Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on February 20th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
Not a sequel to Novice, but in the same vein because I liked it.

I don't recall seeing any other 9/11 fic in this fandom, but this is what the prompts wound up inspiring in me.

I confess I chose the prompts, so there may be something there...

Very special thanks to beta iolsai for her assistance with this fic.


Emma DeMarais
iolsaiiolsai on February 20th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession
<3s this so much :)

So well done.
It's one of the most touching stories you have ever written!

ETA: How do I make the cute heart?

Edited at 2008-02-20 10:12 pm (UTC)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 20th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession
Thanks. I put a lot more work into this series than I did almost any of my past drabbles. That and rereading the timeline of the attacks? /shudders/ Not fun research.

♥ is made by typing an ampersand, the word hearts and a semicolon without any spaces between them.
iolsaiiolsai on February 20th, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession
Well, it was definitely worth all the hard work!

I reread that story at least 6 times.

Now, just what is an ampersand?
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 20th, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession

& = Ampersand (and sign)

iolsaiiolsai on February 20th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession

Aw, cute! Thanks!
medjai_trowamedjai_trowa on February 20th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
Wow! Just... Wow. This is incredible.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 20th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much.

This is one topic where shock and awe is built in. Hard to tackle, but so dramatic...
fredbassettfredbassett on February 20th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Dificult subject to tackle - well done!!
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 20th, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

Not a subject I'm likely to go back to any time soon indeed...
hear me roarmagisterequitum on February 20th, 2008 10:38 pm (UTC)
This was great. Very touching and very moving. I especially like the Ivory Tower one.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 20th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I really hope some more people take on this set of Rewind prompts. I found them to be really evocative, but then I'm naturally biased.
hear me roarmagisterequitum on February 20th, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC)
I know. I am so bad. I have mine all planned out. Runs with that one drabble I wrote about Megan running away.

But I have a massive Research paper that is due on Friday that is consuming my time. Thus, I can only put out the little individual ones right now. =(
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 21st, 2008 05:55 am (UTC)
Hey, there's a reason why Mel and I abolished deadlines at the comm! We're writers with lives too!

Any time you can get them in is great with us. We just enjoy fic and love seeing it come in whenever it arrives...
Jelsemium: Cat's eyejelsemium on February 21st, 2008 06:08 am (UTC)
Excellent story. I think you treated this subject very delicately, and I can so see Charlie being hauled in for this. (But why is Margaret surprised that he has a beard? He was in his twenties then.)

I wrote some pre-series stories about Claudia, which included a 9/11 story. If you want, I'll send you the links.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 21st, 2008 06:14 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad to hear this.

As we've seen in canon, Charlie's fond of stubble, but he never has a full on real beard - just a range from well past 5 o'clock shadow to three day's growth. This would be three weeks of beard which - I'd imagine - it's quite possible Charlie never did before. Margaret's always going to see him as her baby boy and I think the shock is more that he was away *long* enough to grow a full beard versus him actually being *able* to grow one.

Sure, pop in the links. I like Claudia. I should write more of her myself... /gets a David/Claudia bunny and runs off to write it/ Thanks for the push!
andi: Don & Charlie promoadmiralandrea on February 21st, 2008 06:31 am (UTC)
Very interesting. I liked this, the sense of disconnection and lack of understanding. And that Charlie wants to speak to Don in private, away from their parents. Very moving story.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 21st, 2008 06:34 am (UTC)
Thanks. I felt like this was a rare moment of bonding for the brothers plus Charlie would want to shield his parents as much as possible from the knowledge that he and Don know far more intimately than they do from just watching it on TV.
(Anonymous) on February 21st, 2008 11:22 am (UTC)
Scary... Very scary
rubynye on December 31st, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC)
Now this is a story about 9/11 with something to say. I usually don't read such stories (I won't go into my reasons here, they're uncheerful) but I knew you'd have something to tell, about Charlie's use to the government (and Don's) as well as his reaction as a citizen.

Well and awesomely done. *applauds you*
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on January 1st, 2009 12:04 am (UTC)
I'm sorry if this is a difficult topic for you. /hugs/ I did want to cover this at some point, especially from Charlie's POV even though Don as an FBI agent would have been actively engaged after the attacks, seeing as how the FBI has domestic jurisdiction.

Not sure if you've read Novice - another rewind series - but to me they kind of are kin to each other. I don't want them to be in the same universe, but they do go hand in hand in my head.

Thanks for your kind praise and thanks as always for yet another one of these lovely romps through my back catalog. They always make me happy and make a lovely holiday gift. ♥