Monday, September 16, 2013

Splinter Cell - FanFiction: The Day they took Sam's Voice away...

About Three Months before the Blacklist began...

He was supposed to be out. After what happened in Washington, he had more than earned an out. He was supposed to be gone, retired, away. He was supposed to be with his daughter.Washington, the attack, Grim's team of "Replacement Sams", he was supposed to be done with it. But "it" wasn't done with him, it seemed.

And so here he was, hanging from a pipe in a shadowy corner near the ceiling of a formerly abandoned warehouse, and his left leg just started to cramp up on him. Crap. He really was getting too old for this shit.

It had been one these terrible coincidences usually reserved for video game tie-in novels. An overheard conversation, some suspicious behavior, and suddenly all of Sam's instincts had screamed for him to do something - and so he did. A part of him had been glad to know he hadn't lost his edge. That same part was cowering in shame ever since he had realized that his suspected terrorist plot was nothing more than a small local drug-lab. And although he would never admit it, he was eternally grateful to Grim for not mentioning it, or bailing out on the "mission".

He had contacted Grim - albeit with some reservations - shortly after spotting the "Cell". Their behavior had indicated that something was about to happen, and Sam had forced himself to swallow his pride, and called the woman who had been his friend and handler, who had probably more than once saved his life on a mission with crucial Intel. The last time they saw each other she had shot him. (Granted, she'd had good reasons. And a few days before he had slapped her around a bit, but she had asked for that. Literally.) Still, now he didn't know what she was to him.

Grim, on the other hand, was as professional as always, and more than willing to use Sam once more if it helped prevent a terrorist attack.
"Sam, is there a problem?" she'd said when she picked up. She hadn't even asked who it was.
Hey Grim. Nice to hear your voice, too. How have you been? Faked someone's daughter's death, lately? But who was he kidding. He wouldn't say that. She knew what it would take for him to call her, and time might be of the essence.
"Hey Grim. Nice to hear your voice, too. How have you been? Faked someone's daughter's death, lately?" he said. Well, what do you know? Old dog, new tricks.
"Sam. Is there a problem?" Grim's voice was almost as cold as before, albeit with a hint of annoyance. Sam took a completely childish amount of satisfaction from that.
After he had filled her in, she said: "I can have a Satellite with IR on your location in 30 minutes, a SWAT Team in 35, but from what you have told me, I recommend you go in now."
"I'm not armed." Sam said.
"You have your left arm, and your right arm. I believe you are "armed" enough."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence."
Silence. Then:
"I will stay with you on comms and provide Intel support."

And so she had, trying to get a make on Sam's terrorists, then, when Sam had tracked them to their hideout, providing him with a blue-print layout of the warehouse on his phone and several different paths of entry (a fire escape, a drainage pipe, a window, and he was in). All the while she had been her usual, professional self, even when "terrorism" was revealed to be "small-time meth-cooking" (she did cancel the Infra-Red satellite request, however). It had been Kobin who first named her to Sam as the "Ice Queen", and it might have been one of the most astute things that despicable little creep had ever said.

Thinking of the man who had bragged about killing Sam's daughter, even if just for show, made Sam want to hurt things. "People-Things". And almost as if on cue, one of the drug dealers, a kid no older than 25, a baby, really (my God, had he grown old) went into the corner to take a leak.  Sam's corner. The guy was going to regret that.

"Baby" was dressed in baggy pants, a hoodie, and the obligatory "gangsta"-accessory of a shiny, new Glock in his waistband. What had initially confused Sam into thinking "terrorists" was that Baby, as well as his three Compadres ("Uno", "Dos" and "Tres", each right now "cooking" at one of the three stations in the center of the room with those ridiculous gas-masks on), had a decidedly Middle-Eastern look about them. From the way they talked, though - "Bitch"-this, "Fuck"-that, and all - they were at least second or third generation Americans. As if further support of that theory had been necessary, Baby steadfastly refused to stop texting on his Smart-Phone while "doing his business" one-handed.

Ignoring the cramp in his leg, Sam carefully reversed his position on the pipe - head down, now, with his back to the pipe - then slowly inched towards his unsuspecting prey. It put tremendous pressure on his legs and thighs, but it left his arms free, so he ignored the discomfort. He was going to be sore in any way. He also was definitely out of shape, and that fact irked him to no end.
Closer and closer he got, the shadows masking his dark form from a few casual glances, until Baby happened to look straight up - and straight at him. Sam let go with his legs, sliding down fast the final two yards, then clamped down hard, stopping with Baby`s head within easy reach. A hard punch behind Baby's right ear, and the drug dealer's legs gave out. Releasing and then pushing off with his own legs, Sam somersaulted silently to the ground, managing to catch both Baby and his cellphone before either could crash to the floor and give away his presence. Baby opened his eyes, stunned, but still conscious. Tough little bastard. Sam hit him again, ending consciousness and breaking Baby's nose in the process. He deserved it. Sam had gotten pee on his boots.
For a few seconds he waited, tense, ready to spring into action, Baby's Glock now in his hands. They might be kids, but they had guns, and if they left him no other option he would put them out. But nothing happened. His little takedown drew no reaction. He had to smile. He still had it.

Suddenly, there was something happening, a commotion near the cooking stations, where Uno, Dos and Tres had been busy making new product in the wide-open center of the warehouse. A few frantic shouts, then even more frantic footsteps. Had Sam been detected after all? But no, the steps were running away from him, towards the main entrance, and no sooner had he thought that, than he heard the doors banging open.
"Sam, what's going on?" There was an edge of concern in Grim's voice now. Who knew she cared?
"Something spooked them," Sam growled, speaking for the first time since he had entered the place. "Three of them are running, I-"
Then he spotted it: a broken flask, an overturned Bunsen-burner, bubbling chemicals - and running, panicking Meth-Cookers. He turned, grabbed Baby's limp body and made for the nearest window.
"It's going to bl-"
Some immeasurable force hit him from behind, lifted him up off his feet. The world, or maybe a window, burst into a million pieces. Someone was pouring fire down his throat and his lungs.
Then there was darkness.

There were voices down in that darkness. Faces. The Dead. Men he'd killed, and others whose deaths he couldn't prevent. Doug Shetland, a man who used to be his friend, whom Sam had shot on a rooftop long ago. John Hodge, Killed In Action at Sam's side. Lambert... Lambert, the one who hurt and had hurt him the most. Sarah. Grim. People he didn't know.

Stop. No. Sarah wasn't dead. Nor Grim. What was this? Light. People. People talking.
He tried to focus.
Grim talking. A male voice, a strange voice, answering.

"... was some scarring to... Well, you'll see. We did what we could."
More light, darkness fading. Words he understood, but their meaning didn't register.
"Scarring? What kind of scarring?" Grim's voice again, real concern there. Concern about what?
Then the words did register. Concern about him. And Sam clawed at the darkness, willing his eyes to open, fearing what he might see.
"He's waking up. He's waking up."
It was Grim, her face close to his. Her skin so soft, her hair shiny red silk, and her, so cold, so pretty, a diamond in ice.  Okay. That was not right. He had to stop that crap, right now. He blinked, hard, took a ragged breath. It hurt, and he welcomed the pain, the focus it brought. They must have pumped him full of drugs and pain-killers. He had to watch his mouth.
"Sam? Sam!" Grim was talking to him again, her lips moving, those lips, and Goddammit! he had to focus! He fixed his eyes on her. He tried to nod. It didn't work.
"You`re in a hospital. The Meth-Lab exploded. Do you remember?"
 A flash of light, flying through the air, hitting something hard, flames. He wasn't sure he remembered, wasn't sure he wanted to, but his body sure as hell did.
"You dragged out that kid and you've been caught in the blast. You've been in and out of it for a few days now, but the doctor says you'll be fine." More concern, now, in her voice, on her face, and it was contagious.
"But... the, the... Okay, just... the Doctor's going to remove the bandages from your face, now. Okay?"
Sam tried the nod again, and this time he actually managed to move his head. It hurt, but it helped wake him up, feeling returning to his limbs. An explosion. He'd been caught in an explosion. Hesitantly, he started moving fingers, toes, arms and legs, indescribably relieved to feel everything there and responding.
A new face stepped into view, a man in a lab coat, spectacles, a bow tie.
"Please, do not move now." the Doctor said.
Slowly, carefully, as if at any moment he expected to find pieces of flesh falling off, the Doctor peeled off the bandages. Sam's eyes were fixed on Grim the whole time. Her face would tell him how bad it was. There was hope. Then concern. Then something he never hoped to see in her face, to see in any woman's face: barely concealed horror.
Sam tried to talk, take the initiative, anything to stop feeling this helpless, but his throat felt like it had been strewn with rusty, old razor-blades. The doctor reached out and gave him a small plastic beaker of water, the kind old people use. Sam could barely hold it with both hands. But the cool liquid felt like rain on desert sand, and for a second there, he was in bliss.
Then Grim started talking, calm, composed Grim, talking to him soothingly. He had never been more scared in his life.
"Sam, I- I`m sorry, it's... " She sighed, struggling with or for the words. "I won't lie to you, Sam. It's- it's bad. Your face, it's... it's just like before."
And then she smirked. Grim. A crack in the ice. And Sam decided right then that he might actually grow to like her again. He didn't relish that he had to get blown up for it to happen, but "every silver lining", and so on.
Another snicker, this one louder and less cordial, drew Sam's attention. The man, the kid, stood in a corner, casually leaning against the wall, but his attitude pretty much owned the whole damn hospital. Black, military bearing, late 20s, early 30s, fit. The way he carried himself tried to scream "lethality", but Sam could take him, he knew that. And as soon as he remembered how to move his legs, he would go over there and wipe that smile off his face. Any time, now. Oh, who was he kidding?
Sam grunted wryly, fighting hard not to laugh himself - he knew well that laughing always hurt. He tried talking again, and although still rough, he managed to bring out a few words.
"Yeah, yeah, make fun of the injured-"
Then he stopped. Something was wrong. Very, very wrong. Grim was staring at him. She had heard it, too.
"What the hell is wrong with my voice?!" His voice. Was this his voice?
Grim's concern suddenly seemed very real.
"What the hell is wrong with his voice?! Doc?"
Sam's eyes fixed on the Doctor, as the man took a tentative step forward, cleared his throat, suddenly somewhat nervous. Sam's eyes will do that.
"Well, both the ventricular and aryepiglottic folds were-" he started.
Grim's face showed slight annoyance at the Doctor's use of medical jargon, but she remained quiet. Sam on the other hand, turned one rough word into a threat.
The Doctor sighed heavily. "You... practically inhaled burning liquid. Which, as most doctors will tell you, is `bad´". He did those air-quotes with his hands when he said "Bad". Sam hated people who did the air-quotes.
"Doc." A death-threat, now. Violent and slow.
Fidgeting, the Doctor started talking, trying to sound indignant, but with more than just a little bit of "apologetic" and "please don't kill me" in his voice. "You burnt your vocal chords. As I said, there was some scarring. We had to... improvise. "
Improvise. "You changed my voice?!" Of course they had, he could hear it well enough.
"We... saved your voice."
Sam felt like hurting things, again.
"You changed my voice." Not a question, now.
"We did what we-"
"You 'Michael Long'-ed my voice!" Sam growled, the anger immediately silencing the blabbering doctor. The anger felt familiar, and now Sam was most definitely awake.
"What with the who, now?" It was the black kid, still trying - and failing - to sound cool and aloof.
Before Sam could vent a bit of his anger at the kid, the Doctor once more tried to defend something he should by any right be proud of having achieved in the first place. "We-"
But Grim laid a hand on his arm, silencing him just as effectively, but a lot more gently, than Sam had. Then she looked at Sam, and he saw something else in her face he didn't like: compassion.
"Sam," she said. "It's... it's not that bad." And yet her voice made it sound pretty damn bad, indeed. "We... we can get used to it... " A pause. Then, quieter, "Eventually..."
"You 'Michael Long'-ed my voice..." that strange voice said again, and it took him a moment to realize it was his voice, his voice like a stranger in his head.
"Who's 'Michael Long'?", the black kid asked. My God, how young was he? Who was he to even be in here?
"Oh, you know." said the voice that might be Sam. "Michael Long, Michael Knight, The Foundation for-" The look that kid gave him then, between confused and amused, fired Sam's anger up again. "Goddammit. Hasselhoff!"
The black kid turned to the Doctor, speaking quietly, but intentionally loud enough for Sam to hear.
"Doc, did he get hit on the head really hard?"
"Oh, shut up." Sam tried to growl, but his voice didn't seem to work that way anymore. It sounded really... young. "And stop making me feel old."
"I don't see how I can..." That grin again. Oh, how Sam wanted to wipe it off the kid's face with something heavy. "I mean, that actually is one of those rare things that are literally biologically impossible."
The fact the kid was even here, meant he was in Grim's confidence. He was important enough to be here. And Sam figured he owed Grim both for the extraction and the medical care. She`d probably even foot the bill.  He considered being grateful and diplomatic for almost a full second. For Sam, that was a very long time.
"Listen up, kiddo-", he said, and the way he said that last word immediately made the little guy square up and bristle. Sam smiled.
Then the Doctor stepped in, and Sam had to respect the man's courage to put himself between two so obviously dangerous men. Or maybe he was just stupid. With smart people, that's hard to tell, sometimes.
"Alright." the Doctor said, regaining a little authority. "The patient needs rest."
Sam didn't think so. "The patient needs a blunt object to teach today's youth an object lesson in respect." he growled, and was inwardly glad that despite the higher pitch, it sounded menacing enough. He hoped.
The Kid of course, didn't back down, either. "Who are you again?" he asked, taunting Sam. "Your face is familiar, but the voice is all wrong..."
"That's enough, both of you!" And there she was again, the Ice Queen, asserting her authority. "Sam, you do need rest. Briggs? You will shut up. Doc?" she said, turning to the Doctor. "Take good care of him." Sam had a few choice words on his lips about who'd need taking care, but bit them back when she added: "He's still needed." Yes, he might really start to like her again.
She squeezed Sam's hand, with a smile, then she and the Kid - Briggs, his name was Briggs, Sam had to remember that. Grim and Briggs left, and then the Doctor began talking about treatment options and rehab, but Sam wasn't listening. He suddenly felt very tired.

He was getting old. He knew it would happen, had thought he would welcome it happening. He thought he had wanted to be out, but if he was honest with himself, retirement was driving him crazy. There was nothing in the world like being out there on the razor's edge between life and death. And if there`s one thing he had learned on that latest "mission", it was that he missed the weight of his tri-focals on his head. The real ones. Not that Sonar-Thing.
But was he still sharp enough? It wasn't like he had just put up a stellar performance. After all, here he was, an old man in a hospital bed. Or was he? He wasn't that old. Harrison Ford had made that horrible Indiana Jones 4 (that scene with the fridge really didn't make any sense), and he was what, then? 66? And let's not forget Sean Connery ("My right thumb. Left one's much too powerful for you." Classic.)
Maybe he could shape up again. Maybe hit up Victor for a job. Maybe do some consulting. Maybe...

This short story is fan-fiction. It was written for fun and enjoyment, and, as such, is not exactly part of the official "Canon". To find out what happens next, go play Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

All Characters and Trademarks are owned by their respective owners.

For all your PS4 or Xbox One needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere... 

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