The Children of My Dreams

Summary: In the year 2019 the genetically engineered supersoldier known as Max finally finds a clue as to her heritage. Seems Manticore, the secret government project that bred her and her siblings, has its roots in a small suburban town called Sunnydale.

Spoilers: The whole Buffy canon is game. This takes place in the middle of Dark Angel's first season, shortly after the episode "The Kidz are Aiight". If you're not familiar with Dark Angel, don't worry. All necessary details will be given. Oh, and nothing that happened in DA's second season is relevant here. I'll be going AU in a big way.

Disclaimer: Buffy and co. belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Dark Angel belongs to James Cameron and people. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.

Rating: PG-13

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Part 1: Origins

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My name is Max. It's the only name I have. Well, not quite. I also have a designation. That's X-5 452, but I've stopped using that ever since I escaped from home, or the closest thing to a home I've ever had.

See, I'm not like most people. Most people have a mom and dad, a childhood that doesn't involve being trained how to kill people, and a certain amount of choice as to what they want to be when they grow up. Me, I never had anything like that. Not even a mom and a dad. I was made, not born. Cooked up in a lab.

I'm what you call a Chimera. Mostly human, but with some parts added that are definitely not human. A bit of cat DNA here, some genetic enhancements there, and out pops a girl that is about ten times as strong, fast, and tough as most normal guys around. Sounds cool so far, right? Well, I haven't told you the rest yet.

I grew up in a training camp that was little better than a prison. From the moment we could walk my siblings and I were trained as soldiers. America's finest, that was what we were supposed to be. The unstoppable soldiers of the new millennium. Better, tougher, and completely expendable, seeing as we have no family that would miss us. And they can always make more of us to replace the ones that have fallen.

As best as I can tell I was born, or made, in late 1999 or early 2000. One of about a hundred X-5 soldiers. I never met an X-1 through 4. Apparently they were early experiments, all failures. We were the first who worked perfectly. Well, almost perfectly. We have some deficiencies, but I'll get to that later.

In 2009 twelve of us escaped from Manticore. We used the training they had given us, scaled the barricades, and vanished into the night. Since that day I've been on the run, trying to stay under Manticore's radar while at the same time trying to find my siblings.

At least the first part got a lot easier thanks to some of the other stuff that went on later that same year. September 11, 2009. Someone told me that the date was picked for some sort of historical significance, but I didn't really give a damn. The only thing I cared about was that my staying underground and vanishing had just gotten a whole lot easier.

What happened was that a group of terrorists got themselves a really big toy. A nuclear bomb. And not just any bomb, mind you. A full-sized ICBM with enough tonnage to turn even the largest and most widespread city in the world into nothing but ash. I remember there was a lot of panic when news of the nuke's disappearance went out. Every city was worried that it might be the target for this hammer of God.

As it turns out the terrorists wanted more than just reduce a single city to glowing rubble. They wanted to stamp out the United States, wipe it away from the ranks of international politics and reduce it to the kind of backwater nation that the US itself had so liked to walk all over time and again.

They succeeded beautifully.

The nuke was detonated about eighty miles over the heartland. The radioactive fall-out pretty much ruined the entire farm belt, leading to a famine a year down the line, but the worst part was the electromagnetic pulse. See, when a nuke detonates on the ground the EMP knocks out every computer or other electronic device within a radius of a hundred miles or so. When you detonate it high above the Earth, though …

It was chaos and mayhem like nothing the world had ever seen before. Computers all over the country (and in some parts of Canada and Mexico, too) crashed and burned out. Within seconds everything was gone. Financial data, military secrets, everything stored on a hard disk became so much random bits and bytes. The United States went from superpower to third world country overnight.

A lot of people died that day. Planes fell from the sky, hospital equipment failed, traffic signals died, the whole country descended into blind panic. This dark day was a godsend for us, though. Finding 12 kids on the run in this kind of mayhem was impossible and we got away clean.

That was then.

Now it's ten years later, 2019, and I'm a fully-grown girl trying to make a living in a world that has turned to shit. The US never recovered from the Pulse. It didn't help, of course, that we had made a lot of enemies in the years before that, basically telling the entire world to go screw themselves. So when we asked them for aid later on we got ... well, not nothing, but you get the picture.

Anyway, I was trying to make a living while at the same time trying to continue staying under the radar. Manticore survived the Pulse, even though I like to think they took as much of a licking as anyone else. I've been staying in Seattle lately and had several close brushes with that bastard Lydecker.

Did I mention Lydecker already? Well, in case I haven't, he is the closest thing we had to a father while in Manticore. Which isn't saying much, believe me. He was our commanding officer and put us through the paces, not caring how much it hurt as long as we turned out strong and willing to follow orders. Well, one out of two isn't that bad, right? We did turn out pretty strong.

To bring this thing to a close, I'm currently working as a bike messenger, which pays shit but has the perks of giving me a sector pass that allows access to the entire city. Most people haven't got that, thanks to the continued state of emergency that has been in force ever since the Pulse. Basically America is a police state nowadays and the cops don't like it when the people move around too much.

Being one of the few who is free to move more or less as I please, I have taken up a second job to bolster my income a little. Some people call it stealing. Me, I call it ... well, okay, I call it stealing, too. I have few moral illusions. To regain some brownie points I'd like to point out that I only steal from those that have something worth stealing. Okay, that's more common sense than some kind of morality, but still, give me a little credit here!

During one of my heists I met this guy. Blonde, blue-eyed, and with a serious case of hero-complex. Logan Cale, heir to one of the biggest fortunes in all of America. When I busted into his apartment late one night I found out that he led a second life. Ever heard of Eyes Only? He's this guy that hacks into the TV channels and shows the people all kinds of truths the cops and government boys really don't want to have shown. He's brought down quite a few corrupt politicians and such in his time. Which made the whole secret identity thing necessary, seeing as a lot of people regard him as a terrorist and want him dead in the worst way.

After some initial problems we struck something of a deal. I'd occasionally help him out with his latest save-the-world-scheme and in return he would help me track down the others. Somehow I always wind up helping him a lot more than I intend, but that's okay. He's got this really sweet smile and some days I think … well, I try not to think about it too much. My life is already complicated enough without adding more complications to it, so we'll stop that thought right there.

So to bring this whole thing to a close, I got a call from Logan that I should look him up. Apparently he found some sort of big thing he wanted to share with me, something concerning Manticore.

That's when this whole weird thing started.

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"Logan?" Max called out as she entered the apartment. "You around?"

Unsurprisingly she found him squatting before his computers, intently staring at the screen. For someone who'd only recently regained the use of his legs after an accident that should have left him crippled for life he sure spent a lot of time sitting down. Some days Max really couldn't figure Logan out.

"Max, hi! I think I found something you might be interested in."

He had originally promised to help her track down the other eleven children who had escaped from Manticore that night. By now Max knew that they were all safe and sound, something they had made sure of only a few days ago. No, she reminded herself. Not all of them were safe. Brin wasn't. She quickly forced her thoughts away from her lost sister.

Zack, the boy who had been group leader during their time at Manticore, had taken it upon himself to make sure that his fellow escapees remained hidden and safe. He stayed in touch with all of them. Well, all of them except Max, whom he considered too reckless. The nerve of that guy. She had made friends here in Seattle, something she'd never had before, and wasn't about to abandon them all just because Zack regarded attachments of all sorts as a liability.

Just a few days ago she'd thought she finally outsmarted Zack by getting her hands on the contact number he used to stay in touch with all the others, had hoped she'd finally be able to talk to her brothers and sisters again. Only Zack, the efficient bastard, had changed the number even before she managed to call it. So she was right back where she'd started.

"What is it?" she asked, her thoughts returning to the present. "Have you found a way to make something of Zack's number? Contact the others?"

"No, I'm afraid not. It's something else, Max." He brought up several different screens. "I've been devoting some time to finding out more about Manticore. Details about their funding, which government agency they answer to, things like that."

Max nodded. The only way her siblings and her could ever be safe for good was when Manticore was destroyed. Bringing it down by force was next to impossible, seeing as the project still had more than enough loyal X-5 troopers under its thumb, so subterfuge might be their only chance.

"I haven't had much luck until very recently, when I came upon this piece of ancient trivia."

Max squinted her eyes, reading the file he had clicked on. It was dated 1999 and ... what was this shit?

"Apparently Manticore," Logan explained, "started out as a side venture connected to a larger project active at that time. The main project was called the Initiative. I haven't been able to uncover what the Initiative was all about yet, but apparently during its operation they came upon something interesting. Take a look!"

Max speed-read through the file, mumbling along as she did. "First four generations a failure ... unable to incorporate the various genetic enhancements ... adaptable material found, passed all tests ... DNA sequences extracted from subject, perfect for the X-5 generation."

She reached the end of the file, her mouth hanging open.

"Logan, this ..." she began, unable to finish.

"It appears that what the X-1 to X-4s lacked," he spoke softly, "was human DNA capable of surviving the strain of having all these extras crammed into it. They finally found it in a town called Sunnydale, taking it from a girl who was in the hospital there. For some reason the DNA of this girl was ... different. Stronger. They went back to the hospital, extracted ova from her and used for breeding the X-5 generation."

Max shook her head, trying to clear her head. "Logan, what are you telling me?"

He smiled. "I'm telling you I've found your mother, Max!"

Mother? Max felt a little faint. This was bullshit! She didn't have a mother aside from the incubator they had brought her to term in. Her fathers were a bunch of mad scientists who relished in playing god.

"A mother?" she mumbled, unable to even picture the concept.

Logan nodded. "The closest thing you'll ever have to one. It was her cells that gave life to you and your siblings, Max. Her DNA that enabled you to survive having all those enhancements crafted into your genetic make-up."

A mother! Max had big trouble wrapping her mind around that. At least one half of her had come from a real-life person, not some kind of science experiment. A living human being had contributed to making her and not just in the sense of writing a bit of genetic code or pressing a button. It was a concept that boggled her mind.

"Do you ... do you know anything about this ... this girl?" she asked, still trying to bring her racing thoughts back under control. Did the others know? Was this another thing Zack had kept from her? No, not even he would have kept something like that from her and the others. Lydecker must have known. But he wouldn't have told them, of course. It might have taken dedication away from Manticore, might have inspired some feelings of attachment or loyalty that weren't part of the agenda.

A mother! She kept repeating that thought over and over. She had always wondered what it might feel like to have parents. To feel this sort of attachment to someone. To look at someone and know that this person gave life to you in the way nature had intended.

Was she about to find out?

"Quite a bit, actually," Logan said, smiling. "Her name is Faith Wilkins and, even better, she is still alive. I have her address."

He hesitated a moment, looking at her. "If you want it, that is."

Max didn't know how to answer that question.

TO BE CONTINUED