Title: Future of the Future
Author: Nimitz4
Rating: R
Show: DA
Genre: Romance / Drama
Pairing: Ben / Other
Type: WiP

Summary: The story takes place at the beginning of FN – on the night Max burns down the Manticore facility she's being held in, releasing a number of transgenics / nomalies - to scatter into the night.  All this time Max has lived with the guilt of believing that her disturbed brother died at her hands…but did he really?  Since when did Manticore allow mainstream medical science to dictate what it could and couldn't do?  So - what if another troubled soul was set free that night as well…  

Author Note: I can't take any credit for the song lyrics, they belong to the clever Stealers Wheel - their song "Stuck in the Middle with You", played during the Tarantino film 'Reservoir Dogs", suits Juno to a "T".  Special thanks again to Adrolien – her wonderful feedback keeps me on track J
Disclaimer: I don't own DA – the lucky Mr's Cameron & Eglee do…the only thing I own is the drool over the DVD jackets.

Future of the Future

Layer: 003 – Fallen Angel

Obviously sensing that the beauty approaching them was a serious competitor, the shorter man hesitated.  Unwilling to risk losing their prize through a rash decision he alone had made, he cast a querying glance at his buddy.

The tall woman recognised the silent consultation that passed between the two men, and her full lips curved in a mocking half smile.

'What's the matter?" The husky melody of her voice carried across the crowd.  She stuck out her bottom lip and frowned in fake concern.  "Scared of a real challenge are we?"

Snickers and derisive laughter spread across the crowd of onlookers, in appreciation at her taunt.

Ben casually glanced around.  Judging by the increased number of casual observers starting to gather around the table, apparently he wasn't the only one who felt that the situation was about to become interesting.  Turning back to focus on the three people at the centre of interest he waited with a sense of expectation.

Both men reddened slightly, embarrassed by her statement.  The shorter man experienced a rush of peevishness because her challenge had hit the nail on the head.  It was always easier to "play" somebody out of their money if they weren't expecting the professional level of game he and his partner were capable of playing.  The method of operation guaranteed a good return on investment, but the golden rule was to never play against anybody who knew the "playbook".  Like a punch line in a joke, or the twist to a good tale - it only worked if the "mark" didn't see it coming.

Which clearly wasn't the case now.  Thanks to the altercation with their last dupes, this woman and practically everyone else in the bar, now knew how they operated, thus rendering any chance of making more cash impossible.  Plus she looked like she could handle a pool cue.  Which was all the more reason to turn her challenge down.  The greasy conman made his decision…a fake smile spread across his thin face, exposing a number of missing teeth.

"Not at all…I just think this game might a little too rich for the…lady."  His chosen tone clearly indicating his belief that she was anything but one.

A dangerous stillness seemed to envelope the woman, and her eyes narrowed slightly at the insult.

The corner of Ben's mouth quirked with amusement, as he noted the flash of anger in her eyes, and the slight tautness in her features as she fought to control her reaction.  He glanced across at the hustler.

*Big mistake buddy…big mistake*

The woman just stared silently at the two men on the other side of the pool table.  She noted the triumphant grin on the smaller one's face as he savoured his insult, and the poorly contained hilarity of his taller companion as he leered at her toothily.

Fixing them in her green gaze, her right eyebrow arched upwards as if in silent consideration.  A smile began to slowly spread across her full lips.  The expression transformed her face into a picture of happiness, but it never extended to her cold eyes…and the grins began to fade from the faces of the two men, as they felt the beginnings of a chill uncertainty.

Her smile broadened as she slowly reached up and down the front of her vest.  Every man in the bar gaped, their eyes transfixed by the simple movement, riveted by the journey of her hand.  Ben could have sworn that he heard a collective gulp echo across the room.

After some delving about between her generous cleavage, she withdrew her hand with the same deliberate movement, clutching a substantial bundle of notes in between her fingers.

She held the curled bundle of money up for everyone to see, and then wiggled it pointedly at the short man in silent challenge, before placing it on the edge of the table, on top of the other money.

"I'd say this Lady has it covered…so, are you still too scared, or are you ready to play with the grown ups?"

A droplet of sweat appeared on the man's forehead and ran down the side of his face.  The two men exchanged a "look".  His eyes large with excitement, the taller guy nodded his head in encouragement.  The smaller man again stared at the large collection of money - his greed obviously warring with his natural cunning and instincts.  The greed won out in the end.

His eyes slid across to the tall leather clad woman and he slowly bobbed his head in agreement.

"Double or nothing…"

She smiled at his acceptance, and then reached out to pick up the nearest pool cue from the table.  Testing it for straightness and weight, she ran her fingers up the length of the stick.  Staring pointedly at the man she caressed the wood suggestively, and her wide mouth opened in a wild grin.  A low wolf whistle came from one of the appreciative onlookers.

"Don't worry, I'll try not to hurt you…too much."

The man felt his mouth go dry, as he experienced the distinct feeling of being in "over his head".


He stared at the table in disbelief.  *This can't be happening*

The only pool balls remaining on the pool table were his.  Not only had she managed to clear the table in record speed, he was still reeling at some of the "impossible" shots she'd made with casual ease.

He turned his head to stare in shocked mortification at his partner – only to find his buddy staring at the table with the same dumbfounded expression on his face.

He felt a horrible pressure in his chest, as a panicked feeling washed over him.  For a terrible moment he thought he couldn't breathe and then he gulped in a mouthful of air.  He tried to recall how it had come to this.

He and his partner had agreed that he'd be the best opponent against her.  Both he and the woman had called for the "break" toss, naturally thanks to his "lucky" (i.e. rigged) coin he'd won the toss.

With well-practised ease he'd taken the first four shots, and felt like he was settling into his usual pattern, and that's when it had happened.  He'd lost a shot.  A single shot…

It gave her an opportunity to commence play.  Which he hadn't initially been worried about, figuring she'd eventually miss a shot, and he'd get control again.  He'd been wrong…so wrong.


She'd smiled at him politely as she held up the coin.

"Do you mind?  I like "mood" music when I play."

He'd rolled his eyes and snorted in disgust, but shrugged his shoulders in agreement.  "Whatever bakes your burger…"

She flashed him a grin, and sauntered over to the nearby jukebox.  She fed the coin into the machine and pressed a button.  Returning to the table the first strains of the song began to play out - the sound of a steel guitar followed by a thumping hypnotic bass. 

Well I don't know why I came here tonight /

I got the feeling that something ain't right…

The woman picked up her pool cue and started to play, singing along to the music, as she moved around the table.  The tapping click of her first ball striking against another, pushing it into the pocket, followed quickly by another, and then another - almost in time with the beat of the music.

I'm so scared in case I fall of my chair /

And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs…

She lifted her pool cue, and hips swaying to the beat, edged around to their side of the table.  She lifted the cue up and undulated around it, singing whilst her green eyes fixed on the two speechless hustlers.

Clowns to the left of me /

Jokers to the right /

Here I am – stuck in the middle with you…

She grinned.  Her eyes returned to the table and she lowered the stick - two more balls flew into the pockets.  Finding her next target, she lifted the stick again and started to dance to another corner of the table.

Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you /

And I'm wondering what it is I should do.

It's so hard to keep this smile from my face…

Leaning down she lined up the mark in her eye, and then looked up to smile sweetly at the men.  Not even bothering to watch as she took the shot.

Clowns to the left of me /

Jokers to the right /

Here I am – stuck in the middle with you…

The tall greasy guy gawped at her as she winked up at him.  Arching her back, she pushed herself up until she was standing.  Resting one end of the stick on the ground she held it at arms length using it for balance as she slowly swayed her head back and forth, letting her dark red brown hair curtain her face, dancing to the beat.

…and your family all come crawling /

Slap you on the back and say /

Ple..ea..eaa..ease.  Ple..ea..eaa..ease.

Trying to make some sense of it all /

But I can see it makes no sense at all.

Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor? /

You know, I don't think I can take anymore.

With a shimmying sliding movement she danced around the end of the table.  Raising the cue over her arms she slid it down her back, balancing it low down, against her hips, she lined up another shot.  The ball ricocheted off one edge of the table only to rebound off another green felt 'wall', and into the pocket.

Clowns to the left of me /

Jokers to the right /

Here I am – stuck in the middle with you…

Lowering the length of the stick until it was resting against the curvaceous swell of her backside she shimmied against it.  She flipped the stick around her, holding it in front of her she began to salsa to the music with her eyes closed.  Crooning to the song, her warm husky voice sending shivers through those listening in.

…and your family all come crawling /

Slap you on the back and say /

Ple..ea..eaa..ease.  Ple..ea..eaa..ease.

Her eyes flicked open, staring directly at her opponents.  She pouted her lips and blew a kiss in their direction, before approaching the table yet again.  With a nonchalant yet professional poise she set about clearing the remaining ball off the table in breathtaking speed.

And I don't know why I came here tonight /

I got the feeling that something ain't right /

I'm so scared in case I fall of my chair /

And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs. /

Clowns to the left of me /

Jokers to the right /

Here I am – stuck in the middle with you…/

Yes – I'm stuck in the middle with you…/

Stuck in the middle with you /

Here I am – stuck in the middle with you /

As the final beat from the song extended into silence, the two men could only stare in mute disbelief.  She had won the game in the time it had taken for the song to play out.


Ben laughed to himself as he watched their faces.  Their dumbfounded shock was priceless.  He felt like applauding her display, although there had been no surprise at the likely outcome.  No ordinary human could beat the superior skills of an X5 at pool.

*Don't feel so bad guys – you've just been beaten by a genetic freak*

She stood on the other side of the table, waiting for the realisation to sink in for the two hustlers.  Her chin length rich red-brown hair covered half of her face as she coolly surveyed the table.

Obviously figuring she'd given it enough time she began to move towards the cash.  "Well now, it's been a treat - thanks guys.  I think I'll be going now…"

The action seemed to break the stunned stupor of her opponent.  He lifted his eyes from the table and his face hardened with resolve.

"Actually I don't believe you will be…going, that is.  You play a nice game, but my partners and I will be the ones who say how it will play out now."

Taking his cue from his partners' words, the taller guy grinned evilly and nodded in agreement.

An uneasy silence pervaded the air as the crowd sensed the impending conflict.  Ben felt his body tense in anticipation, and he shifted slightly in his seat, in readiness to assist his sister if need be.

"Me and my buddy here are going to collect our money, while a friend of ours," at this the click of a gun was noticeable, their hidden companion again fulfilling their role, "ensures that you don't try anything stupid.  It would be a real pity if something nasty were to happen to a pretty face like yours…"

The woman appeared unfazed by his words.  She stood quietly opposite, the pool cue held across the front of her thighs, and her jade eyes watching them from across the table.  A curious wisp of a smile flickered across her lips.

Suddenly, with incredible speed she kicked out at the corner of the table, her foot making direct contact with the bottom of the table pouch, sending a pool ball rocketing up into the air.

In a simultaneous fluid motion she swung out with the thick end of the cue like a bat.  The crack of the wood as it impacted with the ceramic ball carried loudly across the room.  The ball ricocheted with a blinding speed directly into the crowd, straight into the face of a bullish thickset guy standing near the bar.  A spray of blood flicked out from his broken face into those standing nearby, and he dropped like a felled tree.  There was a distinct metallic thump of a gun falling from under his coat as he hit the ground.

The two hustlers just stared in horrified shock at their partner.

Without waiting for their reaction she grabbed the edge of the pool table and with a gymnastic grace, swung herself under the structure.  She slid across the floor on her back, coming to rest between the two men.  Swinging her legs up over her head and back, and using her shoulders, she flipped up to a standing position.

With a sinuous grace and speed she threw the stick down in front, at the last moment kicking it up at the taller of the two men.  It impacted him squarely in his solar plexus, winding him, causing him to choke for breath.  The stick rebounded off his chest back into her waiting hand.  Using both hands she spun the cue across her body, before slamming it into the side of his head, knocking him unconscious.

Twisting the stick over her wrists like a baton, she spun sideways and turned to face the smaller hustler, who was starting to advance towards her.  She lifted the cue above her head, and then brought it down hard, slamming it into the edge of the table.  It splintered and split width-wise across its centre.  Rending the two halves apart, so that they became two separate weapons, she proceeded to twirl them around her wrists, one in each hand.  Her face was an impassive mask, but her eyes glittered with a hunters' zeal as she moved towards him.

With an awesome display of fighting skills she began to pummel the remaining hustler.  Thumping him across his face with first one, and then the other stick, until he was a senseless wreck.  His face a bloodied mess he uttered a garbled moan before collapsing onto the floor.


The room was utterly still, every eye was trained on the woman as she stood above the two fallen men.

Despite obliterating her opponents, she still maintained a fighting stance carefully studying the crowd, waiting to see if any other adversaries came forth to challenge her.  She only relaxed her stance when she'd assessed that there was no immediate threat.

As if by silent agreement the crowd started to disperse.  Although there was a tangible sense of satisfaction from the onlookers – the regulars appreciated a good fight when they saw one - it wasn't the kind of place that was "witness" friendly.  Most of the patrons strictly adhered to the Three Monkey motto – they neither saw, heard nor talked about anything…unless they were offered the right price of course.

Watching the onlookers move away, she tilted her head from side to side an audible snapping pop rang out, as she released the tension in her neck.  She carefully placed the sticky wooden batons on the pool table, before reaching out to collect the pile of money.  With a quick movement she bundled the notes into a roll and stashed them back down the front of her vest.

Glancing quickly about her once more, she seemed satisfied that it was safe to move away from her nearest weapons.  Walking with a confident grace she made her way towards the door, passing by Ben as she did so.

As she moved past him, Ben noticed that there was a slight spattering of tiny blood flecks across the porcelain of her cheek, creating a simulated blush on her skin.  Apart from that she showed no signs of having just taken on three guys single-handedly.  She'd barely broken a sweat.

There was something about her demeanour though that he couldn't quite place at first – and then it hit him.  She looked…*Relieved?  No…more like…sated.  I think it was the fight she'd wanted all along – the money was just a bonus.  Interesting…*

He watched as she walked out the door, patiently counting out a period of time in his mind, before casually rising from his chair.  He threw some money down on the counter, and tossed back the remainder of his drink, grimacing slightly as the bitter liquid burned his throat.  Making his way to the bar entrance he felt a strange excitement pass through him.  A tight smile broke across his features.

*Time for a family reunion…*