|Up to Zero
Author: Paper Pieces PM
The hardest thing he'll ever have to do is return to the ones he deserted... (CHAPTER ELEVEN UP!)Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Angst - Chapters: 11 - Words: 25,136 - Reviews: 56 - Favs: 8 - Updated: 04-03-04 - Published: 01-15-03 - id: 1179910
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N- Holy expletive, Batman! What? A new chapter of Up To Zero? Is it true? Yes, it is, and believe me when I say, I'm friggin' psyched. Much thanks to everyone who emailed and reviewed after the last chapter and slowly but surely motivated me to keep working, despite my misgivings with the current Mutant X season. Needless to say, I was very happy (read: crushed) by the way they tossed Emma (and Lauren) to the wayside like that (not to mention Season 2 as a whole). I did decide to stop watching. That was my choice. However, I have some loyal fans on ff.net who will never let me get away, and in a way, I thank all of them for that. Maybe, I'll start watching again. (I will admit though that I saw the episode with Brennan and Jesse vs. the computer game. I was a little upset that Forbes never took off his shirt. I was so hopeful…) Also, please bear with me if you see any mistakes, continuity, grammatical, or series-wise. I a). may have forgotten little details that happened at the beginning of the story, b). didn't get to have this beta read, c). have definitely forgotten a lot about the series in my time away. So anyway, on with the reading. Reviewing = fun.
PS: If vega is reading this, email me.
He was still awake.
No, not awake. Only seemingly so. He'd fallen asleep at the computer, head propped up in the palm of his hand, watching the code drip down the screen.
In a way, it didn't surprise him. Ever since he was a little boy, Jesse had always been very diligent in his problem solving. It had been the quality Adam had most praised him for. It was in that way that the young boy had taken after him.
Even now as the older man watched him, he could see him in his mind at the ages of thirteen, eighteen, and twenty working on the same equipment with the same intense look and air. From afar, he examined the man as he would a specimen.
The changes in six months were astounding. He seemed to have aged years in his time away, perhaps making up for the years he'd spent in extended innocence. He'd kept up his training, which surprise Adam the most. His muscles were larger and stronger. His hair and face remained the same with exception of his once golden hair had turned more brown and dark.
From their conversations, he knew that Jesse had grown emotionally in his time away. He spoke his mind. He carried himself with confidence. He thought ahead even more so than before. He seemed comfortable in his new persona.
One painful thought came to Adam's mind as he took his first steps toward the computer and the man working it. Jesse had gain something that Adam couldn't have given him. He'd passed a trial by fire, one that Adam had never expected. He had underestimated what he had thought of as a boy, but was man, and now that Jesse found his identity as such, Adam realized, he'd held the molecular back. He had obstructed his growth. Jesse had been better off without him.
Before he could delve too deeply into the idea, he was at Jesse's station with a hand on his shoulder. "Jesse,"
The twenty-something lifted his head sleepily and moaned in answer.
"You should go to bed. You've been working all day."
Jesse rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand, wiping the dried bits off his eyelids. He slowly straightened in his chair. "God, what time is it?"
"Almost one in morning. You can come back and work more once you've had some sleep."
"Yeah," He answered blinking his tired eyes. "Let me just shut…"
His body froze as his voice halted. Intently, he stared at the screen. His hand reached out and scrolled down the page, viewing the decoded files.
"It finished," he stated, confused and surprised.
Adam smiled and patted Jesse's shoulder as he leaned in closer. "Let's see what we have."
With lightening quickness, Jesse clicked through the files, scanning each page. "They look like emails..."
"…From Eckhart," Adam finished, "to someone named 'Ember.'"
"Never heard of him"
"Me neither, but it looks like Eckhart was ordering New Mutants from him."
"Yeah, a Botanical Molecular, a Chemical Elemental, and a Telempath." Jesse read from an open document. "Think this is our guy?"
"Possibly." Adam answered. "Are there anymore documents besides these emails?"
"Just one." Jesse clicked the final file open.
Adam scanned the tables up on the screen and nodded. "Supply records. Read this."
Jesse examined where he was pointing to. "A shipment of governors with no location specified..."
"…Hidden in a heavily guarded folder with emails to 'Ember'." Adam finished.
"Bingo." Jesse replied, tapping the mouse to copy the files over to the Sanctuary's memory. "So, now what?"
"Now, we track the emails to their system. From there, we gather as much information as we can and make a concrete plan."
"So my work here isn't done?"
Adam shook his hand and patted his shoulder. "Not by a long shot, but for now, go get some rest."
* ~Break~ *
Emma's long, cloth pajama pants swished silently as she walked into the Sanctuary kitchen. Her arms wrapped themselves her slender and frail torso, hugging herself to keep her shoulders warm under the thin straps of her tank top. She looked around the room with sleepy eyes. After a quick scratch to the dry skin on her arm, she made her way to the table and pulled out a chair for her to sit. Without even thinking, the telempath propped her head up in her palm, leaning onto the cool metallic table with her elbow and closed her tired eye.
Sleep had barely come the night before. After her talk with Shalimar, her mind had been sent onto a strange, confused buzz. What the feral had explained didn't feel real to her. She'd never sensed anything but love from Jesse towards Adam. The fight, his words, his actions, none of it seemed like the Jesse she knew, but lying wasn't like Shalimar either. The pain in her eyes and body language had seemed too real.
Emma slid her hand over her eyes. Since the seizure, her instinctual barriers had been made harder to erect. She couldn't have risked trying to read the feral. Letting it slip slightly would have cause a flood of all the emotions in a fifty mile radius to come crashing into her brain. It'd happened before. It hadn't been pleasant.
She knew the drill. She was only allowed to use her powers during training with Adam.
It was like her arm was tied behind her back. Life was more complicated. She had to guess at feelings and emotions, and things like faith in people was not one of her strengths.
But then, she'd done it so long, she should have been used to it by now.
"Morning, Em," Brennan said with a bright, awake smile. He was already dressed, hair still slightly damp from the shower, hand hanging limp at the end of his sling. "Sleep well?"
"Not really," she replied, trying to smile, "but I'll get over it."
"Oh," he answered. The smile disappeared off his face. "Something wrong?"
"Nothing new," Emma answered as the elemental took the seat next to her, "same old, constant questioning of myself and my abilities."
"Em," Brennan sighed, "it'll get better. I promise."
"You've promised that far too long and often, Brennan," she replied with a hint of remorse. "I hate being crippled like this. I don't know how much longer I can go on without going crazy."
"Come on, kid. You're strong. You'll make it through."
"I just…I hate not
knowing where people stand and what they think. I mean, that's been apart of me
since I was born. It feels like I have a blindfold and," Emma sighed "I don't
even know where I stand anymore."
Brennan reached out to touch her pale slender hand. "God, Em. I don't know what to tell you. Why don't you go take a walk or something? Clear your head…"
"Right," she answered sardonically. "I'm sure Adam would love to have the walking-time-bomb wandering around the city."
"Well, you'll have your com-link. Besides, you just had an injection yesterday."
Emma nodded. "Yeah, that's true. Okay, I'm gonna go get ready."
*- Break -*
Her neck jerked forward from the momentum of the jet black disc shooting into her skin against her spine. A painful cry of distress escaped as she sobbed, head hanging down to her chest. Her arms pressed hard against the restraints. She was helpless, afraid, and alone.
Kerry smiled as she handed the heavy equipment to the lab technician standing by. The scene refused to evoke any pity in her heart. Instead, she wanted to laugh. She held the power. She was doing the world a favor with it. One more was off the street.
She circled to get a better view.
Tears streamed down the girl's ruddy cheeks. Her hands curled in fists against the metal armrests. Her red hair stuck to the moisture and scared expression.
"I wanna go home!" The girls sobbed, coughing and spitting involuntarily from her panic.
"You're not going anywhere." Kerry motioned to the two guards standing at the door. "Her cell should be ready by now."
As they dragged her away, she continued to scream, "Let go out me. Don't you have a heart? Let me go!"
"You're not allowed in here."
Kerry looked up from the glass window, forcing her face back into its rigid expression. "Just looking around. I didn't see a restricted sign."
Shalimar crossed her arms over her chest defiantly. "We don't allow outsiders into the lab," she added scathingly.
Kerry rolled her eyes, "Don't you have a punching bag somewhere you should be beating the crap out of?"
"Listen, Jesse may want you here, but nobody else does, so why don't you just go home."
"Go to hell."
Shalimar scoffed. "Is that the best you can do?"
"No, I could also kick your ass before you even blinked, but I decided to go the less violent approach. Why don't you get out of my face?"
Shalimar face morphed into disgust. "You think you can come in here, with your bitter, angry attitude, rejecting any kind of friendliness we try to give you, injuring one of my friends without so much as an apology, turning the other against me, and then tell me to get out of your face? At least, I'm not a cold-hearted bitch who gets off on being pissed all the time."
She paused, looking Kerry up and down. "No, I take that back. I bet you don't even have a heart."
The stinging insult throbbed in Kerry's chest, tingling around her eyes to well up the tears. She willed it away, biting her lip hard, and forcing a stern expression.
"Maybe you should examine yourself more closely before you start dealing out labels, kitty."
Kerry stepped forward to leave the window. Shalimar's eyes didn't leave the spot where she had been standing in silent defiance of her existence.
"And oh, yeah," Kerry turned before she met the door, "he was against you before he even met me."
*~ Break ~*
The air felt smooth in Emma's lungs and throat. It had been too long since she'd been in the city, and now even the smog and dust in her lungs were nirvana. Such a feeling reminded her of a time that seemed so long ago. The cars whizzing by seemed almost exciting, and all the faces of those around her were so different. A small smile curved across her face.
The word throbbed on the screen like a beating of a human heart. Jesse simply stared, eye's furrowed and mind hopeful. Perched eagerly on his chair, he felt the answers to their question just out of his reach. Their search now rested on speed of the tracing program.
The sudden screeching of brakes pulled Emma out of her daydream. Her head whipped frantically behind her to search for the car or truck that took off to fast, something innocent to ease her fears.
A black van pulled out of an alley not a hundred feet behind, the driver wearing sunglasses and staring her down.
Nervously, she tucked her head down to her chest to avoid being seen.
Jesse tapped his fingers against the desk. Quickly, he pulled up the make-up of the tracking program, scrutinizing the code for weaknesses or possible upgrades. A few words, increased the number of paths to search at once, another specified the account he was looking for.
He impatiently glanced at the door and all around.
Emma walked faster along the sidewalk, pushing her way past pedestrians. Silently, she prayed it was simply paranoia.
The van pulled out onto the street.
"Come on," Jesse pleaded in a whisper.
He stood, placing his arms behind his head and paced across the room. The wait was hung on him like an unwanted itch.
Emma turned the corner into another street. Her legs began to push her into a run, and she glanced back to watch the suspicious vehicle
The van turned the corner after her.
Jesse covered his hand with his mouth and jogged to the next computer, pulling up the tracking program on its screen. Connecting the file to the source pile, he set the new machine working.
"Oh my god."
Emma sprinted down the sidewalk at full speed, dodging people and other outdoor obstacles.
The van pulled down the street, tires screeching.
Panic rose in Emma's chest as she quickly discarded her clunky shoes and ran barefoot. Her lungs stung in her chest.
"Adam!" she called out his name into her hand, voice trembling in fear and fatigue.
The menacing vehicle pulled past her, the driver smiling like a villain.
The van jerked onto the sidewalk, cutting the telempath's escape off. The doors popped open.
Men in black swarmed out of the compartment and jumped on her like prey. She screamed with all her might, struggling in their tight, cruel grip.
"Adam!" Jesse shouted with a smile.
"Adam!" Emma screamed as the white cloth covered her mouth and her body ceased to jerk.