Summary: Crossover of Leverage and The Killing Room (2009).
Crawford Haines didn't escape the Killing Room. They let him go. Now they want him back.
Disclaimer: Neither fandom belongs to me.
Warning: Canonical Suicide Bombers.
Wordcount: ~2400 words.
A/N: Written for leverageland for teamgrifter. I've tried to write it so people who are unfamiliar with The Killing Room can understand it; it works better if you've seen it. Also, Timothy Hutton runs around flexing his muscles in a vest for ages during the film, and he gets covered in blood, and there's shooting, and his character is shady and cocksure and earnest and selfish, so why haven't you seen it?
Nathan Ford really, really hated hospitals.
When Sam died, the walls curled in on him, and he could swear there was blood splattered on each white surface. Blood, and countdowns, and words carved into the walls.
Words like once you're in the Killing Room, there's no way out.
Words that weren't that, but should be, because they were more truth than truth could even be.
Words that didn't make sense, that were memories torn away before he could see if they were real or not.
At the end of the day, the hospital's walls were white and blank, and Nathan Ford hated them, and hated them, and hated them, even before they stole his son away from him.
He didn't remember why he hated them until it was too late.
On March 13th, 1990, as part of a routine orientation of a new observer, Dr. Aaron Philips inducted Emily Reilly into the KR procedures. Under his supervision, he introduced her to the occupants of KR5.
Kerry Isalana, Paul Brody, Crawford Haines and Tony Mazzolla came into KR5 under the disillusion that they were being paid to complete a simple governmental survey, unaware that it was a secret CIA cover of the new MK-ULTRA experiments.
Dr. Philips' job had been to observe KR procedurals. Emily Reilly was a bright young thing, fresh from the academy, with a keen observational talent of interpreting facial expressions, too much empathy, and a streak of ruthlessness Philips knew MK-ULTRA required.
The job would sap all the empathy from her. This job always did.
Reilly barely flinched when newly-wed Kerry Isalana was shot in the forehead to freak out the other inhabitants of KR5. She didn't make a sound at the killing of Tony Mazzolla.
When it came down to Paul Brody versus Crawford Haines, Dr. Philips knew that Emily Reilly was plumping for the convict Crawford Haines to survive, to move onto Phase 2. He understood why. Crawford Haines was handsome, charming, quick witted.
Philips knew better. Crawford Haines was a criminal and at the end of the day, inherently selfish. When Haines made that dashing speech about fighting the security and making a break for it, Philips even had the fleeting urge to join him, to bring down the CIA from the inside, to smash and burn and let the public know the horrifying things that they were doing.
Alas, in the search for Apoptosis, Haines only had one potential: he would never be induced to commit suicide for the greater good, and must therefore be killed by an outside force in order to induce suicide in someone else.
Philips lifted his comms unit to radio in the kill order for Haines, and Reilly grabbed his wrist.
Dammit. He had been so sure she was going to be the cold-hearted bitch he needed as his successor, too. He lowered his gaze at her, unimpressed, already knowing what she was going to say.
"Brody's an inch from killing himself. And that's Haines. That's Haines' do-gooding, power to the people, Three Musketeer rallying. Avert the kill order. Double a shoulder shot with a powerful sedative. Haines just might be..." Reilly tilted her head contemplatively at the small screen, where Haines was still persuading Brody to take arms and take down the operation from the inside. "Fertiliser."
Philips stared at her in wonder. "Using one person to compel others..."
"It's worth study," Reilly insisted. "And if it doesn't work we can shoot Haines in the head later."
There might have been a modicum of sarcasm or mocking in that last utterance, a hint of the attitude Reilly's tutors had warned him about when he made the decision to hire her, but Philips didn't care. He gave the order. The countdown hit zero, and well-armed security guards took Haines down, and took the gun out of Brody's mouth.
"There's something about him, you're right." Dr Phillips voice was as monotone a lullaby as it had been all day.
Reilly clenched her fingers around the support under the table, and unclenched them, back and forth like a kitten nesting. It was the only outward proof she had shown of her humanity for the whole day. Even that would be erased over time. She kept her head level and Philips knew she now held her screaming where it would always be, inside her brain. If any of her horror slipped out, if only for a second, then she would be put inside one of those white rooms. She'd be a victim of MK-Ultra, not an observer. Philips knew Reilly understood that better than most did.
The horror obviously panicked her, but her survivalist instincts steadied her voice. "He did seem to bring that behaviour out in Brody. Maybe wiped, given a new identity, he can bring out that impulse in others." Her words were calm as she stared at Crawford Haines' prone body, his blood streaked out in a firework explosion over the pristine white walls of the Killing Room. Brody was screaming as he was dragged away in a way that made them both realise he thought Crawford Haines was dead.
"I'll get them to keep Haines in stasis until the higher-ups can consider your idea," Philips said, and that was the end of the day's conversation. When he started to induct new observers into the KR program, Philips used to feel the need to apologise to them, or thank them.
Now he knew it didn't matter a jot either way. This place would kill you as soon as keep you, so you kept quiet and did your job. Knowing that being a bastard might one day save the country, and blanking it all out so you could sleep at night.
They flung Brody into Phase 2 of the regular KR programme, and Philips let Reilly work on Haines in her breaks. She broke him after two years and sent him out as a new man. An insurance agent with a new identity—a Nathan Ford. They watched him over the years. It took him a decade to stop being so paranoid. He fell in love. Had a child. That made him withdraw from the company of others; he grew fixated on his wife and child.
So they took his child away. It was terrifyingly simple. Radiation in his drinking water, and placebos in place of his medication, and that was all it took.
Nathan Ford hardened, but after time, he relaxed into the oblivion of alcoholism, and in that oblivion he forgot why he had to be so withdrawn from people. Others wormed their way into his life. Four people, to be exact. A grifter, a thief, a hacker, and a retrieval specialist once-gun-for-hire. Haines was a convict; it made sense for his pure magnetism to attract other criminals.
After five years, "Nate" showed time and again his team would do anything for him, and then they couldn't wait any more.
It was time for the harvest.
"I don't like hospitals." Nate stuck his hands in his pockets and stared up at the building. From across the street, Emily Reilly watched him through a pair of hi-tech binoculars. It had been nearly twenty years since she'd last seen Crawford Haines, or "Nate" as he was now called.
He'd aged, but he still had that warm charisma that Reilly could see in the way his team carried themselves around him. The girl named Parker, always looking at him with wide, trusting eyes. The hacker, doing what he was told at every move, grumbling but looking to Nate for praise. Spencer, who always had his eyes on his team, always looking out for them when they didn't look out for themselves. Devereaux, who mirrored his movements, leaning into him and doing what he said without asking why.
Reilly taught herself to lip read, initially to complement her studies in reading facial expressions; now she knew it was one more asset on her CV which kept her worth more to her employees alive than dead. Working on MK-ULTRA was paranoia like that every moment of the day.
"We know," Spencer said.
"Not just Sam." Nate dawdled on the edge of the hospital. Reilly has had people keeping an eye on Nate since they let him go. She had a soft spot for the work he was doing, but it was still illegal. His team would save more lives with what she was working on than the five of them could do on their own. "I've always had a thing about them. The white rooms..."
Reilly adjusted the zoom on her binoculars, enough to catch the furrow on his brow. She knew the drug cocktails they gave him after his Killing Room experience were strong, enough to mess with his memory. Maybe it was for the best he didn't remember the white room where he watched two people get shot in the head.
Maybe it made him more effective.
"Something about the walls," Nate said, vaguely. "Never mind. Let's do this."
He nodded at his team. The girl Parker pushed open the hospital doors, right on the view of ten Spec Ops guys with guns.
Even Spencer had no chance, and he used to be under the employ of Damien Moreau.
Philips made the decision to travel down from his swanky new penthouse office in a secret branch of the CIA to see the results of this experiment for himself. It was his idea to place "Nate" and his team in KR5, the same room he had been locked in so long ago.
If Philips could feel emotion any more, he might have felt a vindictive, sadistic thrill on seeing Nate break down on entry to the room.
Nate—it was hard to think of him as Crawford Haines. Haines had been in his experiment for three days, but Philips had been receiving reports on Nate for two decades—reacted in the same manner as children did on being brought back into the environment where abuse had taken place. The memories came back in a flood, in a scream; Nate clawed at the walls where his own blood had patterned the white, and his fingertips stuttered over the messages still scratched into the walls.
There were more now. MK-ULTRA had not stopped, even if there was a potentially better way of creating suicide bombers available to them.
Philips might have even laughed as Nate pitched a fit when the door opened, throwing his body in front of Parker and Devereaux like a mad man.
But he'd lost his emotions year ago, and he did not laugh.
He let Nate stew, in order to break him more, then separated the team and sent Reilly in to talk to him.
"You remember what happened in here." Reilly kept her hands flat on the table and stared at Nate. The guards had restrained him. There was a dead expression in Nate's eyes that she rather empathised with. It was about all she could empathise with nowadays.
"I remember." He shook his head and stared blankly at the wall before his gaze moved to hers. "Paul Brody was about to shoot himself. Your guys shot me in the shoulder. When I woke up you tortured me for years and then I escaped."
"We let you go, Mr. Haines."
"That's not my name," Nate snapped, and then faltered.
"It is your name, Mr. Haines."
"Why would you let me go?" Haines asked then, looking weary, like he didn't expect an answer to the question.
"As an experiment. We aimed to create a weapon in this room."
"I don't understand, why-" Haines started, and then faltered. "I talked Brody into Apoptosis. My example made him sacrifice himself." He looked up at her, eyes wide. "I'm the weapon you trained in this room."
"Correct. Thanks to you, we have four people now willing to give up their lives in order to save you. You're very effective, Mr. Haines. Thank you." Reilly pushed herself to her feet and moved to the door. A rattle of chains proved they hadn't quite broken him as much as Phillips thought they would. There was still life in there. Still a fight. Perhaps she wouldn't have to have him executed after all.
"Kill me instead," Haines insisted, his voice low and persuasive. There, Reilly thought with a cavalier briskness which shocked even her, that's how he does it. How he makes people willing to walk into hell to protect him. "Please!" He was shouting now. "Kill me instead!"
"Really, Mr. Haines." Reilly paused at the door, and turns back, switching off her emotions as she had done every minute of her life since joining the MK-ULTRA program. "That would defeat the purpose. Why kill the golden goose?"
"Fuck you," Haines screamed, "fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you fucking bitch-"
Haines' profanities were cut off by the close of the door. She glanced impassively at one of the monitors as he started yanking against the chains uselessly, again and again.
Reilly sighed and started the next phase into motion, sending Haines into solitary confinement until he was ready again. Haines would rant and rave. He did that last time. He screamed and cried for months. Reilly supervised him the whole time. She is sure it will happen that way again.
When he's ready again, they'll give him a new ID. He'll shed Nathan Ford as an identity as easily as he shed Crawford Haines. They'll wait for him to go past his denial, to forge a new life. Wait for him to gather a new family to him, because he can't help himself.
Then they'll swoop in and harvest the new crop of suicide bombers.
Dr. Philips thought you could make suicide bombers in a lab, and you could; it was just more efficient to make someone to create the suicide bombers for you. And Crawford Haines, Nathan Ford, whatever his name... was the most deadly weapon they'd ever made.