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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Fifth Horseman

AUTHOR’S NOTE: What if Heather had accompanied Jake on his “Four Horsemen” road trip to Wichita after Emily reneged? I think that she would have, and perhaps she should have. Here’s what happened in an alternate “Jericho” universe where she did. This more or less follows the storyline of the episode, but the dialogue is slightly different, and I’ve tried to limit myself to the interaction between Jake and Heather rather than revisiting the entire story. (In other words, I’ve glossed over the parts you already know.) Clarke

DISCLAIMER: “Jericho” and all characters, storylines, and trademarks associated with the program are the intellectual property of Junction Entertainment, Fixed Mark Productions, CBS Paramount Television and/or CBS Studios, Inc. The following story is a work of fan fiction intended solely for the entertainment of the writer and a small circle of friends. No infringement of copyright is intended or should be implied. If anyone at CBS happens to read this, please permit me this brief sojourn in your sandbox. Thanks.


Jake made tracks for his vehicle. Damn Emily, anyway. He was ready to head to Wichita to try to find her fiancé -- if he could -- and all of a sudden, she’d decided not to come with him.

They’d both seen the satellite broadcast at Bailey’s Tavern -- the strange Chinese map showing the U.S. cities that had apparently been attacked with nuclear devices. They knew it was more than just Denver and Atlanta, now. This was something nationwide, if the report was true.

Jake had seen no trace of Wichita on the map, but Emily thought she had seen it, and decided that her fiancé was dead. It brought to a head the tensions that had been building between the two of them since the events at the Richmond ranch.

You’re the one who should be dead, Emily had yelled at him. On this particular trip, she might just get her wish, he thought to himself.

Gail Green was standing by Jake’s car with a few things and some words of caution. He thanked her, kissed her, assured her that he’d be careful, that everything would be fine. They’d gone through this routine hundreds -- no, thousands of times. His mother knew the drill all too well. He had always come back in one piece, somehow.

She headed home to tend to Johnston, who still wasn’t feeling well.

Just then, Jake saw someone hurrying to him from outside Bailey’s.

“Jake,” said Heather, out of breath. “I heard what Emily said. She’s not going with you on the trip to Wichita…”

Jake shook his head as a confirmation.

“Let me come with you,” she pleaded.

“Heather -- “

“I want to help. I want to do something.” She thought about how she’d been unable to save Scott Rennie in the mine. She’d seen the Chinese broadcast -- the red concentric circles marking the attacked cities had sent chills up her spine. She was tired of feeling helpless, she wanted to take action, and above almost everything else, she wanted to be with Jake.

Jake tried to dissuade her. “Heather, it could be dangerous. God only knows what we’re going to find. It might be…brutal.”

“If Emily could handle it, so can I,” she told him evenly.

She had a point there, Jake thought.

“Please let me come,” Heather repeated softly. “Look, I don’t want you to be alone out there. If something should happen to you…”

She touched his hand, just as she had on the school bus, on the day they were headed for the fallout shelter.

Why was she so worried about him?

It moved Jake, despite himself. After what Emily had just said -- in the street, for everyone to hear -- this girl was like a breath of fresh air. She cleared his mind.

Jake looked at her for a long moment. On the school bus, in the shelter beneath Jericho Medical, and in the salt mine, she’d been more than helpful. In fact, she’d been calmer than he’d been at the time. She could keep her cool. She could handle herself in a crisis situation.

He took a deep breath, making his decision.


Heather exhaled in relief. She almost broke into a smile.

“I’m going to load up with some supplies. If there’s a breakdown, or if we run into somebody, we might need them.” He walked in the direction of Gracie’s market. “Give me a few minutes.”.

She would have waited the whole day for him.

* * * * * * * * * *

The last sputter of static fell silent about forty miles from Jericho. “There goes the walkie-talkie,” Jake said, solemnly. The car radio was quiet as well -- no radio stations on the air.

Heather pulled out her cell phone and flipped it on. Not a trace of a signal.

They were alone.

Heather comforted herself with the knowledge that she and Jake were together. There was food and water and other necessities in the back of the vehicle, if anything happened. And surely God was up there, somewhere, watching over them -- she had little doubt of that.

They weren’t entirely alone, she decided.

The car sailed down Kansas 183, headed for Wichita. On any other day, this would have been a busy road, but they had not seen one other vehicle -- not even an abandoned one. The endless emptiness was eerie.

Coming around a bend, Jake spotted something large looming ahead. He slowed down.

It was a Boeing 757, smack in the middle of the highway. A juxtaposition of the absurd.

They stopped.

Heather hopped out of Jake’s vehicle, hurrying toward the plane. She’d seen smaller planes at the Jericho airfield ever since she was a child, but never something this big, this close. The mechanic in her was fascinated. More than that, she wanted to help anyone who might still be on board.

“Heather, be careful,” Jake called to her, getting out of the car, following behind.

She stopped about a hundred feet short when she saw that the plane’s emergency chutes had been deployed. All the passengers were gone.

Jake caught up with Heather, instinctively placing his hands on her shoulders. They both saw the same thing -- an airplane without any people.

“Where did they go?” she wondered aloud.

“They must have evacuated the plane and tried to walk to safety,” he assumed. Safety -- that was a relative thing in this new world, he thought.

“Should we go looking for them?”

“If the plane landed when the bombs went off,” Jake considered, “then they’ve been gone from here for a day or more. They could be anywhere. I don’t see the point of -- ”

“Oh my God, Jake,” Heather exclaimed. “Look.”

Behind the giant 757, in the distance, another plane, smaller. Unlike the jet, it had not made a successful landing. Smoke was still billowing from its crushed shell. And there was something on the ground, next to the plane, in a mass, almost unrecognizable.


“Oh my God,” she said again, her voice breaking.

Jake felt suddenly protective of Heather. He quickly turned her around and pressed her face to his chest.

“Don’t look, Heather. Don’t look at it.”

It was the first time he’d held her, and she was surprised by his sudden embrace. He was trying to protect her, to be sure, but there was a tenderness to his touch that she hadn’t imagined…his fingers in her hair…

Did Jake care about her, just as she cared for him?

She couldn’t be sure.

Heather allowed herself to hold on to him for a moment, his arms around her, in the middle of the highway. It felt like the two of them against the world.

To his surprise, she was unafraid, despite her shock.

“We have to do something, Jake,” she said, looking up at him. “We have to help them.”

That was pure Heather, he thought, wanting to help others.

Even at this distance, Jake could tell that there was nothing to be done. Not a sound came from the fallen plane. There was no movement among the apparent horror that lay on the ground…and had been there for more than a day.

He looked at her, shaking his head.

“I don’t think anyone but God can help them now.”.

Heather glanced again, reluctantly, and nodded back. He was right.

Jake peered down the road, past the planes, squinting at something.

“Look over there,” he said, pointing. “Smokey Hill Bridge is blocked. You can see it from here. There’s no way to get around that, even if we had enough fuel for a detour.” He let out a sigh. “We’re not going to make it to Wichita.”

Emily will be so disappointed, thought Heather. She didn’t want the long trip to be for nothing.

“Maybe we can take something back with us,” she suggested.

Jake gave her a curious look.

“The black boxes, on the planes,” she said, her voice rising. “Jake, we don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the world. We don’t even know why they landed here on the highway. Maybe the black boxes could tell us something.”

“If we can find a way to play them back.” Jake thought back to his five years of training. Perhaps he could.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to get the black box out of the jet,” he told her, not explaining how he knew that. “But maybe the passenger plane…”

Which meant navigating the tangled mass of bodies.

Jake was sorry he’d mentioned it. Heather caught his look, knowing exactly what he was thinking. He didn‘t want to subject her to this.

“I’ll deal with it, “Jake said to her, grabbing his tool box from out of the car.

He felt Heather gently take his hand.

“We’ll both deal with it,” she said, softly.

Jake grasped her hand tightly. Brave girl.

They walked toward the carnage at the downed airplane, still holding hands.

* * * * * * * * * *

Using Jake’s tools, Heather managed to remove the cockpit voice recorder from the commuter plane, intact. She went about her task with single-minded determination, but later, after they’d loaded the box into his vehicle and headed for home, Jake noticed her trembling, and reached over to comfort her.

This couldn’t have been easy for her, Jake thought, even as strong as she was.. He was glad that neither of them had been alone in this place, on this day. Her instincts had been right.

He held her hand for the rest of the return trip. Heather was more than grateful.

Less than an hour later, without incident, the two of them were back in Jericho.

At Town Hall, they heard the frightened voices of the two pilots talking about mushroom clouds at Denver and Kansas City and over Texas, the collapse of the entire air traffic control system -- leaving the planes essentially flying blind -- and their frantic attempts to land, anywhere, before their fuel ran out.

It shook Heather, even more so than what she had seen earlier in the day. It was the breakdown of society as she knew it. The scene repeated itself over and over in her mind, on a thousand different planes, in a thousand different locations. Ten thousand planes, Robert Hawkins had said, with no place to land. All facing the same fate. Some surviving, some not. There was no way to know…

There would be no more flights, not like there used to be, Heather pondered.. She thought, all too terribly, of her mother and sister in Los Angeles. My God, how would they ever get home?

And then the revelation, miraculously uncovered by Jake, that the airplane carrying Emily’s fiancé had touched down safely in a field north of Kansas. He was alive. For the first time since she’d seen the map of the attacked cities on the Chinese broadcast, Emily seemed like herself.

Heather clasped the hand of her best friend. She was glad for her.

But Heather had been handed an awful lot to think about this day.

She began to retreat into herself.

* * * * * * * * * *

That evening in the town square, Heather sat alone, her face emotionless. This was supposed to be a celebration -- the last of Jericho’s perishable meat being cooked for everyone to enjoy, and many of the townspeople happy for Emily’s news -- but Heather was numb.

The planes. The voice-recorder tapes. Scott Rennie. The day had profoundly affected her. She wanted to go home and sleep it off, but she knew she could not sleep, and tomorrow would never erase the events of today.

Suddenly, a plate of barbecued steak plunked itself down on the table in front of her, attached to the hand of the one person who could make her smile. Somehow, he did.

“Thank you,” she said to Jake, a little self-consciously.

He sat down at the table beside her.

“I’m sorry about your friend,” he said softly. “My dad told me.”

Heather whispered an almost inaudible thank-you.

Jake caught her distress. “Thinking about what we saw today?”

She nodded. All those dead bodies piled together, like the films she’d seen of the victims of the Nazi concentration camps in World War II. She didn’t want to linger on it, but it lingered just the same.

“You’ve never seen anything like that before…have you?”

She shook her head, not wanting to think about it any more.

Jake was reflective. His thoughts were suddenly far away.

“You never get used to it.”

His comment brought Heather back to herself. She saw the distant look in his eyes. Where had he been, and what had he been doing, for the past five years?

Better not to ask him that, she decided. Maybe she would find out in time, if she got to know him. God, she wanted to. Perhaps it could start here, now.

Heather reached out and took Jake’s hand, as she had before.

“Thanks for what you did today,” she said softly. “Thanks for letting me come along. Thanks for being there for me on the way home.”

“Seems to me I should be thanking you,” he told her gently.

There was a moment between them as their eyes met.

Jake allowed himself a good, long look at her. In the soft evening light, with the fire sparkling in her eyes, she was prettier than he’d imagined.

“Heather,” he said, trying not to stare, “you‘re really…helpful.” It wasn’t the word he wanted to say. “I mean…you’ve done an awful lot for this town since the bombs went off. I’m starting to think we’re not going to get along without you.”

That brought another smile.

“There’s a lot that’s going to have to be done if Jericho is going to make it, to survive whatever has happened out there. My Dad and I are working on some things…well…I could sure use your help.”


She’d give him the moon and the stars, if he asked her.

“Anything,” she said, with emotion, meaning the word.

Their hands were still together. Jake and Heather smiled at each other. Jericho might be isolated from the outside world, but they were not alone.

And there might just be a future after all.