Jack Sylvane hadn't been stranded in the strange new world of 2012 for long but he already knew that this was the worst thing that had ever happened to him.
This was worse than what he'd seen in the war and worse than the knowledge that he couldn't feed his family afterwards. This was worse than feeling like a failure because of it and worse than the decision to rob a grocery store to try to at least temporarily solve that problem. This was worse than finding out that the store sold stamps so he was now a felon and worse than being imprisoned in Leavenworth. This was worse than having had to defend himself in the shower and worse than being sent to Alcatraz because of it. This was worse than Tiller's inexplicable obsession with seeing him suffer and worse than all the blood that Beauregard had taken.
This was worse than Sonya not being able to handle his imprisonment and asking him for a divorce. It was even worse than the realization that she had married his brother – his own brother! – and had a son with him and lived the life that they should have shared with him.
He had gone to sleep one night in Alcatraz and then woken up still in Alcatraz but somehow, while he was sleeping, the world had changed.
He had woken up to the sound of a girl screaming. He hadn't seen a girl outside of Dr. Sengupta since his wife had stopped coming and he hadn't seen a child since he'd been sentenced in the first place. A prison – even a normal one like Leavenworth – was no place for a child.
The very first thing that anyone had said to him in the strange land of 2012 was that he needed to leave Alcatraz. Well, that was the last thing he had ever expected to hear but he wasn't about to argue.
He was worried for a moment when the guard stopped him before he got to the ferry. Had they realized that he wasn't supposed to leave after all? But no, the man had only wanted to make sure that Jack had a ticket. He reached into the pocket of the coat that he had found laying over him, not sure what to do, and much to his surprise had found a ticket and the money to buy one if he had needed to.
But even if he had nothing, what were they going to do? He wasn't allowed to remain imprisoned at Alcatraz and it wasn't even a prison anymore. The people who woke him were on some sort of tour. There was a book he found with his own picture in it and it had been very interesting to learn that he had died thirteen years in the future, thirty-six years in the past. Fortunately, no one seemed to recognize him. And why would they? It was impossible, after all.
He also found a picture of Tiller. Tiller the deputy warden had become Tiller the celebrated FBI agent; he had a medal and everything. Somehow, in the missing forty-nine years, Tiller the sadist had become Tiller the hero. He had gotten to escape Alcatraz before this had happened and gotten to live a long, full life like a normal person. Jack had been flung into the future and left to try to make sense of it all.
It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. It wasn't possible. It had happened and he had no idea how to fix it. There probably was no way to fix it. He had tracked Tiller down.
He had killed a man before he'd been sent to Alcatraz but he hadn't considered himself a murderer for it. That man had attacked him and he had to defend himself. The authorities hadn't agreed but he knew he wasn't wrong. If he hadn't already been a prisoner, the reaction to that death might have been very different.
Tiller, though…Tiller was a nasty, hateful man and part of him – a large part – believed that he deserved everything he got. Still, he had shown up on Tiller's doorstep forty-nine years after they'd last met and stabbed him to death in a matter of minutes. He'd acted out of hate, no matter what his reason was, and now he was a murderer. Now he was no different than any of the others at Alcatraz.
Tiller had made him a murderer. In the end, he supposed that that meant that Tiller had won the private war that the deputy warden had decided to wage against him. The ending had never really been in doubt, had it? Tiller had all of the power and, as a prisoner, Jack had virtually none. He may have claimed Tiller's life but Tiller had taken his soul.
And then there were two more men, one of them a cop. Cop killers were always treated far worse than other killers. And there had been another cop shot but, as far as he knew, the man had survived. He hoped he had, actually.
And when that blonde detective, Madsen like 2002, had asked him why he realized that he had no answer for her. He had just been doing as he was told but that wasn't really an answer, was it? Lots of people were told to do lots of things every day but they didn't always have to listen so why did he? It was maddening, not understanding his own behavior. And now he was a murderer three times over.
He had to get that key, though. He didn't even know what it opened or how he knew of it but he had to get it. Someone was using him and he didn't even know who or how.
He hadn't been in control of his own life for so many years now and now it appeared that he'd have to resign himself to not even understanding it anymore.
He had gone after that key before he'd even tried to find Sonya. He could understand why he'd had to find Tiller first but some blasted key?
Sonya was dead.
She had been dead for four years already. Died of cancer in her eighties.
At least Alan had the decency to not lie to him about that even if he didn't have the decency not to steal his wife while he was in prison for trying to keep her from starving. He had really expected better from his brother.
And what did it say that Alan hadn't noticed that he wasn't really merely transferred? It wasn't just a few weeks or months that Alan had failed to notice. No, he had failed not only to notice but to even try to get in contact with him for thirteen years. He could understand feeling awkward about Sonya and avoiding him for a little while but thirteen years?
He was almost surprised that Alan had even gone to his 'funeral.'
Alan had taken care of Sonya, though, and that couldn't be forgotten. They hadn't had enough money to live on even before he had lost his income by being sent to prison and then Sonya had to survive on her own. She was worse off than ever and heavily reliant on Alan's support. Jack hated that it had come to that but was grateful that Alan hadn't just let her starve. He knew that Alan didn't have that in him but that didn't make his actions any less meaningful.
And he and Sonya had been separated for years on end. She had been so wonderful to stay as long as she had and he only wished that she could have continued to stay. He wasn't going to be released for years on end and so Sonya knew that she was just in for more of the same. If she had stayed then he only would have seen her for a few, precious hours every few weeks and never been allowed to so much as touch her. They were sitting two feet from each other and had to communicate by phone.
If Sonya had stayed true to him then she never would have had an opportunity to be a mother and he could see even just from the photos of her and little Alan Jr. that that had made her the happiest woman on Earth. It was a little much that Alan had named their son after himself but then they'd never agreed on that. He could understand her loneliness. He was just as lonely as she was but, unlike him, she could do something about it and she did. He just wished that it hadn't been with his brother.
If she had chosen someone else, anyone else, then it still would have hurt but it wouldn't have been such a betrayal. They were supposed to be the two closest people to him in the world and then they had just decided to turn to each other for their happiness and cut him out completely. The sad thing was that they hadn't been all that close before his arrest and it was his imprisonment that led to their initial bonding.
Still, the photographs didn't lie. Alan had made Sonya very happy and even if Sonya hadn't have left him he still would have left her in 1963 when he was thrown into the future. If Sonya had stayed then she would have had thirteen more years tied to a man that she could no longer even see or hear from. He was glad that she was spared that and spared of what it meant to be a convict's wife. And if it was with Alan…well at least he knew that she was well taken care of.
He had to see Sonya and when he found out that she was dead he had to see her grave just to make himself believe it. She'd been younger than he was the last time he saw her. At a glance, his nephew might have even been older and wasn't that disturbing?
But what really made everything hit him hard was when he saw Alan slowly making his way into the room. He had gotten old. That was what he should look like if he was even still alive but it wasn't. The world had changed and he was cruelly left behind.
He knew that he was never actually going to shoot his brother, especially when he looked like one strong breeze could knock him over. Just the same, he didn't know how much time he had before someone realized who he was and he figured that he could cut through all those questions he couldn't answer (questions like "Why haven't you aged?" and "Why did they say you were dead?") a lot quicker with a gun at his side. It turned out that he was right about that.
And with a gun, he was able to get Alan Jr. into a chair and tie him up so that he wouldn't be able to call the police or try to stop him from taking his brother away. He was never going to have shot his nephew, either. The boy was innocent and, what's more, he was a part of Sonya. What kind of a man would he be if he could cut down a part of the woman he loved? The only surviving part?
He knew the minute that he saw the headstone that he couldn't blame her for any of it. She was just a good person caught in a bad situation and trying to make the best of it. He felt his anger melt away and suddenly he was finding it hard to even blame Alan.
Of course that was when he had gotten caught.
He knew that nothing good could come from being stranded in a world where nearly half a century had passed for everyone else and he didn't even legally exist anymore and he had already done everything he had intended to do (and a few other things) so what was there for him? More imprisonment? He'd rather die and he'd tried to get Madsen to shoot him but she'd refused and Hauser's snipers hadn't killed him. They hadn't even injured him enough that he couldn't be brought straight to New Alcatraz.
The walls were white and sterile and hopeless. The cells were just as small as they were in the old Alcatraz but it was so much emptier than it had once been though Hauser assured him that it would be full soon. He wasn't exactly looking forward to seeing any of those people again but it would be…comforting, perhaps, to have someone in the same position as he was in. Maybe it would even restore some semblance of normality to the world.
There was some normality in that someone in charge hated him although at least Hauser had the good grace to explain why. Tiller was his friend, apparently. He wouldn't have really thought of Tiller as the type to have friends but, then again, everyone did. Well, he didn't anymore but that was because everyone he had once counted as a friend was either dead or at least in their seventies and probably older.
"Another returned prisoner," said the voice in the cell next to him. Ernest Cobb, the sniper. He sounded displeased.
"You're not usually one to make conversation," Jack said after a moment.
"No," Cobb agreed thoughtfully. "This silence is so wonderful. I wish they would kill more of the prisoners so we could keep it."
"That's rather morbid," Jack replied. He couldn't help but agree, though, or at least wish he was one of the dead ones.
"Still, if I must have people around me then at least you're quieter than some of the others," Cobb continued, ignoring that. "I'm glad this happened. A few days of freedom and then all the quiet you could want."
"How can you say that?" Jack demanded, disturbed. This was the worst thing to happen and those few days of freedom had only made his situation worse, both in Hauser's eyes and his own.
"I just told you," Cobb answered. "It's quiet. I can only imagine what it will be like once more than a handful of us are returned."
"Loud," Jack suggested.
"Loud," Cobb echoed, sounding depressed. "And I can't shoot anymore."
With that, he lapsed into silence as he truly did hate conversation.
Jack knew that not everyone would return to this new prison. None of the guards would be locked up and there were new guards so they wouldn't need to be put back to work. And he had seen at least one body bag so there would always be at least one less prisoner than there had been in 1963. At least one man lucky enough to escape this fate.
He had been questioned time and time again about damn near everything it seemed. Most recently it would appear that he played a role in getting Johnny McKee recaptured. That saved lives, of course, but he rather hoped that that didn't get out and that they didn't take his cooperation as encouragement to keep asking him questions. He didn't want people to die but he also had to live with his fellow prisoners and if they knew about his cooperation then they could - and would - make life very difficult for him. He got enough of that from Hauser and Beauregard and was rather hoping to avoid facing it on all sides.
Hauser claimed that nothing had changed, really. Forty-nine years had passed and their situation was exactly the same.
Jack couldn't believe that and, furthermore, he didn't want to. Were they truly to be locked up until they died in a time not their own, hidden from the world for all eternity? Hauser said that they were and as far as Jack could tell he was the one who was in charge but he had been a young man in the sixties – Jack had seen him, regardless of what Hauser claimed – and so he wouldn't live forever. Jack would probably outlive him. He definitely would if fate was cruel and it had proven just how cruel it could be many, many times over the years.
He didn't know what else he expected, though. None of the others could be trusted back in society. Even if they hadn't proved it before they were arrested they had made it absolutely clear when they had their few days of freedom and went immediately back to their old tricks.
Even he had gone out and killed three people.
And then he didn't dream anymore. He couldn't think of the life that he wanted outside of Alcatraz's walls because that world didn't exist anymore and he knew next to nothing about this new one. And every time he closed his eyes, he saw nothing. He didn't know what that meant but it couldn't be anything good. It made him feel like he was less and less human by the day which was a feat that even a few years in Alcatraz hadn't managed.
So New Alcatraz was terrible but he didn't have any better ideas and Hauser evidently didn't either though he wasn't sure that the man who was both older than he was and paradoxically younger was really trying all that hard.
But even if Hauser was right, even if half a century could pass and nothing changed…wouldn't that just make it worse?