Title: Up to Zero

Author: Paper Pieces

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Ultimately none, but J/E sometimes finds it's way in there when I'm not looking.

Summary: The hardest thing he'll ever have to do is return to the ones he deserted.

A/N- This story is very different from anything I've ever written. As such, I don't expect to be any good at it. I welcome all comments/criticism as long as it is polite. I don't have a beta reader either, so anyone interested can email me at ladywhitedragoness@yahoo.com . Thanks!

Chapter 1: The Beginning

The cold night air stung her lung. Her heart thumped in time with the beat of her shoes hitting the pavement. Fear made her skin tingle and her heart leap into her throat. Getting away was the only option. Capture would be more painful than she wanted to think about.even fatal.

Screeching tires.. the sound of guns going off.

They were close. She didn't dare to look back. They had a vehicle.under normal circumstances she could out run it, no question, but not now.

'God,' She prayed desperately. 'I'm not ready to die'

They flew out of anywhere and everywhere, four of them dressed in black, impossible to see except for the bright streetlights. They swarmed on her like bees to honey, roughly subduing her, grabbing her hands and legs and swiftly knocking her to the ground. Fatigue set in, numbing her attempts to free herself. Suddenly, as her tears began to flow, she knew it was over.

A flash of light sent a sharp pain to through her skull from her eyes. A scream of pain hit her ears. She thought it was her own, but her own mouth was being shoved into the paved road. Her right hand was free. Something fell from the black winter sky and landed a few feet away. The sound of impacts on flesh rained in the air.

Within seconds, she was free. A gentle hand touched her arm and rolled her over. The stunning women's face contorted in concern.

"Are you alright?"

"Come on, Emma. We have to get her out of here." Another thick male voice called out. Arms slipped under her legs and behind her shoulder blades, pulling her against someone's strong chest.

"This is Brennan." the woman, Emma, said to her calmly. "He'll take care of you. Don't be scared." She looked away. "Shal, let's get out of here!"

It started as a twitch in the back of her neck. That twitch grew so abruptly and so enormously that now she knew the scream was hers. Searing pain flooded every point of her body, such pain she had never felt before, such pain that she wanted to die right there.

The others began shouting over her screams. She didn't feel the man put her down on the pavement. She didn't see Emma almost faint from feeling her pain. She didn't hear the other's panicked shouting.

Suddenly, she had slipped into a peaceful blackness.

* Break *

The warehouse loft was dark. The only light shown in from the moon outside the far window. It reflected off the brass bed frame and stained the concrete floor just beyond the tattered rug. The rest of the time- blemished wood walls absorbed the darkness.

The large metal door opened and shut. Laughter rang out in the cool empty silence. Two dark figures danced through the open door frame, embracing each other and then pulling apart.

One of them sighed. "The powers out again."

The other laughed and wrapped his arms around the other. "Candles or.no?"

The female giggled in a deep playful tone. "Candles"

The man tore away from her to the table on the opposite side of the room. She went quickly to the bed, shedding her overcoat and tossing it on the hard floor. She lay back on the white sheets and dangled her feet on the edge.

Striking a match, he quickly lit two thick candles, one blue and one purple. His hand shook the fire out and tossed the burnt piece of wood into a small dish that served as the matches' graveyard. Carefully picking up the blue, he walked over to the bed, and placed it on the small bedside table. He used the same candle to light three more, two small red and a pink. The dark wax dripped from the already melted pool and cooled on the freshly lit candle. He watched silently as the fire liquefied the spot and mixed the deep blue in with the pure pink.

"You were great tonight." The women said sliding herself to the far side of the bed. Her deep hazel eyes sparkled in the firelight as she made the comment. A sly half grin crossed her lips.

He smiled back at her as he took of his long brown leather jacket. "Oh yeah? When?"

She crawled up to the pillows and rested right her arm across it, propping up her head with her other hand. "It's hard to chose a favorite."

He turned and sat, only to stretch himself out beside her. Her body moved closer to his as she rested her right arm across his chest. "You weren't so bad yourself."

"Thanks." She leaned in for a long kiss. He obliged, taking the opportunity to explore her familiar mouth once more. She brushed the single loose strand of shoulder length wavy hair behind. "Don't get too excited, big boy," Her soft sultry tone gave him chills. "I have to change first." He smiled at her again as she rolled over and left the thin mattress. She sauntered over to the other side of the room. "So, how many do you think we took out?"

"Nine or ten" He replied, placing his hands in a relaxing position behind his head. She stood away from him as she lifted her shirt over her head with two hands, glancing back to see if he was watching, and smiling because he was.

"I was thinking twelve." She answered hanging the tight black t-shirt on the chair beside the bureau. "Are you sure?"

"Ten, twelve, forty-two, a hundred." He sighed as she reached over to pull open a drawer. "What's the difference?"

She shrugged. Her hands grabbed a dark gray, baggy T-shirt and quickly slipped it over her head. With a flick of her wrist, she removed the long butterfly clip from behind her head. The mass of wavy shoulder length hair fell into its place as she crossed the room again.

"Now why did you put that on? It's only gonna come off in a minute."

She lifted her one leg over him to straddle his waist. Pulling his arms out from behind his head, she gently leaned on them to pin him to the bed. A sly sexy grin crossed her face as she touched her nose to his. "I like that shirt to much to have you rip it off me, Mickey. Now kiss me."

* Break *

"The good news" Adam began as he turned from the active computer screen. His fingers massaged his temples, a telltale sign of frustration and exhaustion. "Is that she's not dead."

Emma sighed with relief and looked to the ceiling. "Thank God."

Shalimar put a comforting arm around her friend as Brennan leaned over the circular, wood and metal desk. "And the bad?"

"She's in a coma. There's no way to get any information on the bounty hunters until she wakes up, which gets more and more unlikely every day."

"What about the subdermal governor?" The feral asked, meeting the genius' eyes.

"It could be from any outsourcing project Eckhart ever put into motion. Genomex wasn't exactly quiet about their standard equipment with anyone they worked with." Adam sighed picking the extracted plastic knob off his desk. "However, it does have one distinct difference. The power regulator was completely removed. Who knows what kind of voltage what going through that girl's body last night."

"Was it enough to kill her?" The elemental piped up.

The older man paused. "Possibly" Adam replied quietly and simply. The silence radiated the feelings in the room, but the astonishment and frustration were severely out matched by the anger.

"What information do we have on their headquarters?" Shalimar asked forceful, trying to change the tone from sorrowful to determined. "Didn't you say the Internet search turned up something?"

"I checked it out yesterday." Brennan interrupted. He stood back up with his muscular arms across his chest in his power position. "The place was cleaner a hospital wing."

"What about something underground? Maybe a hidden room or entrance?" Emma turned to the self-appointed second-in-command.

He shook his head. "The padlock on the door had been rusted shut. Nobody's been getting in or out of that place in years."

Shalimar turned to her mentor. "What now? Don't we have anymore leads?"

Adam turned to the large screen to his right. "Map on." A large green and black diagram of the city appeared. The team shifted to see as the focus zoomed in on a familiar section of road and forest. "The attack last night was here. From the direction she was running and the location of the phone booth where she made the call, we can try to trace her course backwards."

"Telling us where she came from." Emma deduced.



"There's an abandoned prison 5 miles south of the main road." The focus moved with the sound of Adam's voice. A large mass of squares and rectangles materialize in the center of the screen.

"Perfect for hold subdued New Mutants." Brennan commented coming out from behind the desk to get a better look. "Who owns it?"

"The government, currently, but its too old to use and not up to codes. The city doesn't want to spend any money on it, but they're apparently keeping it around in case they need it."

"Which means someone's getting paid."

"How convenient." The feral snarled. "How do we get in?"

"I'm still trying to find any trace of the group off the Genomex databases." Adam answered turning back to the three. "Hopefully then I can get into their system."

"How long till you do?"

"Since I haven't found anything thus far, I'd guess a few weeks." The leader sighed.

"We can't wait weeks. More could die."

Adam sighed, averting his eyes from his blonde underling. Keeping his glare on the floor. He pondered the best way to go about what he needed to do.

"Adam." Emma's voice broke his concentration. She's read him. He'd expected as much. The tone was a warning. But as he looked at her to read her face, he saw her eyes weren't angry. They yielded to what had to be done and that emotionally it wouldn't be easy. Ultimately, though, they were supportive.

"I can't do this by myself. I need help if we're going to get anywhere." He met Shalimar's stare. "I need someone with the mind of a hacker and the skills too."

Her eyes widened, mouth forming a thin furious line. "No, Adam."

"It's our only choice, Shalimar."

"No!" She repeated, voice raising along side her mounting anger. "Hell no!"

"More will die, Shalimar." His voice strained to keep his temper, but the daunting task ahead would take time, which was growing short with each passing minute.

"Then we go in now! Storm the place without the security information!" Her hands swung frantically as she approached him.

"I am not letting any of you get killed because of your resentments, Shalimar!"

"Then I'll go." Her golden feral eyes flashed showing the peak of her rage. "Alone."

The silence resumed. Adam glanced at the other two team members standing back from the confrontational woman, both awaiting the outcome of the argument.

Emma's face was focused on the floor, slightly uncomfortable. She knew the women reaction, but didn't understand it. Brennan's look appeared only minutely angry. He had made peace with the event long ago and was determined to move on. Adam knew that bringing him back, however, would uncover wounds.

"Shalimar," Adam looked at her squarely. "These are some of the most effective bounty hunters I have ever come across. This headquarters is almost as impossible to penetrate as their organization. The prison is made of steel and concrete feet thick. There are no windows or any points of entry that aren't next to impossible to break into.and that's without the security. To get in, we'd have to walk through walls."

"So what you're saying is," Her voice dripped with bitterness. "Either way, we're hunting him down."

"I'm afraid so."

"And if I don't?"

"I'm not going to make you do anything you don't want to do, but if you chose your pride before all those lives, then you're not the Shalimar I know."

Her stare intensified in the brief tense moment, willing him to back down. But he was the pack leader, she knew, and it was not her place to question.

"What do we do first?"