Disclaimer: In a past life, I claimed this show as my own, and I was drawn and quartered…at least, that's what my therapist tells me…

Rating: PG-13 for language and violence

Timeframe: Post AJBAC

A/N: Okay guys. Here's the next installment. I got tired of being predictable, so there's a couple surprises…or maybe you won't be as surprised, who knows? And there's some predictability of course. Doesn't matter. I can hear 'Max and Logan get over the odds together and live happily ever after' in fifty different languages, and still not get tired of it. Anybody else agree? Maybe not, maybe all I'm getting is tomatoes and flames, so I can make some homemade pasta sauce :-)

I'm sinkin slowly, so hurry hold me

Your hand is all I have to keep me hangin on

Please can you tell me, so I can finally see

Where you go when you're gone

If you want to I can save you

I can take you away from here

So lonely inside, so busy out there

And all you wanted was somebody who cares

-'All You Wanted' Michelle Branch

Chapter 14

Wannabes and Uncertainties

Max filed out of the cabin after her brother and sister, telling herself that Logan would be fine until she got back, and not daring to look behind her. Approaching the stolen car from earlier, she noticed a figure in the front seat, but it was too dark for her to tell who it was. She had forgotten that Syl and Krit had supposedly gotten in touch with a contact, and her mind wondered who it was. When they got to the car, Syl automatically went to the driver's seat, which Krit palpably protested, but silenced at one look from her, and he and Max climbed into the back. Their guest turned around to face them.

"Max," he greeted her without a smile on his face.

Max's heart froze, and her gaze turned steely cold. "Daddy dearest," she seethed.

She could've sworn the corner of Lydecker's mouth turned up a little. "Now is that any way to talk to the man who saved your life?"

The burning rage flared up in her. "Saved my life?!" she spat at him incredulously. "You tortured me everyday for two months!"

"I did what I had to do to keep you alive," he protested calmly. "It may not seem that way, but if you think about it, you'll realize that if you were in the same position, you would've done the same thing."

"Whatever." Max wanted to choke him right about then, but Syl interrupted them.

"Max it's okay. Lydecker was the one who called me back while we were at the penthouse. He warned us that Manticore had sent a TAC team to take us out."

Max was silent, digesting every word her sister had said.

"Where to first?" Syl asked. Max knew she was only trying to prevent World War 3.

"We gotta stop by the penthouse. Maybe whoever tried to get rid of us is still there."

"You got it," her sister replied, and turned the car in the direction of their destination.


The sun had climbed over the horizon some time ago when they finally reached Fogle Towers, and Max wondered what Logan was doing at that time. She and Syl stepped off the elevator, and down the hallway toward the penthouse door. When they reached the apartment, they found the door cracked a few inches. Max hadn't been exactly awake when they made their escape, but based on accounts that she'd heard from her siblings, the door hadn't been left open. She tensed immediately, listening for sounds from the inside. She soon found that whoever it was obviously didn't mind being found, because they weren't being very quiet. She could hear them moving around, stepping on shards of glass. Quietly, she motioned her sister in with her, and together, they snuck into the house. Max peeked around the corner to see a young blonde girl standing in the middle of the room looking around. She tensed, wondering who it was.

"Oh, it's just her," Syl whispered. Max gave her a confused look before the two X5s stepped into plain view.

"Can we help you?" Max asked with a hand on her hip.

The girl spun around automatically to face the others. Syl raised an eyebrow as a memory flashed through her head.


Syl sat up. "Who the hell are you?" she asked.

The young girl cocked her head to the side and placed a hand on her hip. "I think I reserve the right to ask that question."

Syl scoffed. "Not if I asked it first."

Her eyes narrowed at Syl. "Name's Asha. I work for Logan. And you are…?"

Syl paused before straightening up. "Syl," she answered simply.

(end flashback)

"Logan's friend, Asha," Syl addressed her in a monotonous voice.

"The one and only," Asha replied stonily. "And you would be…Logan's alleged girlfriend's sister, Syl."

"In the flesh," Syl countered.

Max, however, glowered at the girl. 'Alleged'? Who the hell does she think she is? "Well, whoever you are, Logan's not in right now, obviously. But I'll let him know that you dropped by."

"Wait a minute, what the hell happened here?" Asha questioned them. "When I left here two days ago, this apartment was in tact."

"Yeah, well a lot can happen in two days," Syl said.

Asha's fixed them with a heated glare. "Where's Logan?"

"He's safe," Max replied, glad to have the advantage of knowing where he was and the option of not giving away said information to this girl.

"Safe where?"

"Away from danger…can I ask what exactly it is that you're doing here anyway?" Max was getting tired of this girl with her superiority complex.

Asha wasn't easily intimidated, and she ignored the question and refused to cower under Max's angry stare. "Right. Away from danger…as long as he's around you, he's in nothing but danger. I know what you are," she continued, "and I know who's looking for you. The same people who did this." She motioned to the catastrophe that used to be the living room of Logan's penthouse apartment. "Logan has been hunting and searching and doing everything in his power to take them down since the day you left. You can't honestly tell me that you think that he's safe wherever he is. If they found you here, they'll find him there, and when they do, I'm sure you already know it won't be pretty. Then again, being what you are, you probably won't even care."

Max had her pinned on the wall before she could even blink. She loved how Asha had said 'since the day you left', like she'd purposely gone out and gotten shot and killed.

"Max!" Syl tried to talk her down, but Max ignored her.

"You wanna throw down, Barbie?" she hissed at her, her own face inches from the other girl's.

Asha simply smiled at her. "Temper, temper," she taunted the X5 her voice coming out in short gasps due to the pressure on her trachea. "I'm a lover not a fighter unless absolutely necessary. I came to talk to Logan about something."

Syl managed to pry Max's forearm from its position before she crushed the young girl's windpipe. "Well we'll give him the message," Syl glared at her. "Now I suggest you get out of here before the people who did this come back and finish the job."

Asha gave them a harsh look, rubbing the tender spot on her neck, before turning and leaving without saying another word.

Max felt like her blood was boiling. "Who does she think she is to be analyzing my relationship with Logan?!" Max fumed.

"Asha—" Syl cut her off, but her sister wouldn't give her the chance.

"—doesn't know anything about us! She doesn't know anything about me!"

"Well, maybe she—"

"—had the unmitigated audacity to stroll up in here like she owns the place, and start throwing blame around. How dare she?"

Syl gave up. "Well, obviously you've got her number."

"And Ima dial it up, 1 800 style."

Syl cracked a smile at that. "Yeah, now really isn't the time for all this."

"Gee, what makes you say that?" Max asked sarcastically.

Before answering and without looking, Syl quickly drew a knife from the strap on her ankle, and with a quick snap of her wrist, embedded it in the neck of the soldier who stood quietly in the corner of the room. He fell to his knees before slumping over on the floor, blood spewing from the handle of the dagger.

"That does," she answered her sister.

Max nodded. "I see your point. Let's get back to the guys before Krit disembodies Lydecker." With that, the two sisters turned and left the empty apartment.


When they got to the car, they found Krit standing outside leaning up against the front hood.

"Couldn't stand staying locked up with him?" his sister taunted him.

"You've experienced him first-hand for the past coupla months, Maxie. How can you even ask that?"

Max shrugged. "We had one guy up in the apartment."

"Yeah," Syl corroborated, "and one bitch."

Krit knitted his eyebrows.

"Never mind," Max interrupted. "So do you guys have a plan or what?"

"Actually yeah," Krit replied. "I had a chat with our good friend, Donald. Seems he's got a man on the inside. Some kinda lab tech."

"How do we know we can trust him?" Max was skeptical. Several scenarios of betrayal ran through her head, and none of them ended up with her alive.

"We don't, but it's all we got to go on for now." Krit's voice was serious, as though he had taken some time to try to convince himself of the very same thing.

"Ok, guys. Let's pile it in, and move it out." Max put herself in charge. She felt that although all the X5s had a beef with Manticore, hers was completely and totally personal. She'd been held prisoner in that place not once, but twice, and they were due for their payback. This mission wasn't just for her, but also for Eva, Tinga, Ben, Brin, Jackand everyone else who'd had their lives taken away or basically destroyed by Manticore. This had to be it, this had to be the end, and Max refused to go down without seeing Manticore go down first.


It was late afternoon when the van pulled up to the gate outside the Manticore complex. Max was nervous. Her brother and sister had explained what the plan was on their way there, taking the entire time to iron out details up until the very last moment. It made her even more anxious that the back-up plan was to get the hell out. In her experience, missions like this had more than often gone askew, and they really needed a contingency plan, but there was none. It didn't matter. If they were caught, they wouldn't be given the chance to escape and start over again.

The three X5s sat in the back of the van, their wrists and ankles bound. Lydecker pulled up to the window, and spoke with the guard there for a moment before the gate was opened. As they pulled off, Max could hear him notifying the director that 'Deck was on the way'. She hoped this would work.


Logan awoke sometime much later to the warm rays of the infrequent Seattle sun shining on his face. His eyes fluttered open, and the first thing he noticed was the absence of the dark-haired beauty who had been beside him the night before. He sat straight up and fixed his glasses on his nose before looking around. Everything had been as it was the night before, except that Max wasn't there.

He stood, and walked through the cabin, calling her name, hoping against hope that just maybe she didn't go. Well, she might not be here, but maybe she went for a run or something. Yeah, she doesn't sleep that much, maybe she got bored and needed to burn off some energy. He went and stood staring at the window, expecting her to appear over the hill or from around the corner of the driveway.

It was several hours later that he realized that she wasn't coming back. She'd left. Went to battle her living nightmare to the death. It was then that how good the chances were of her never returning became apparent to Logan. He leaned his forehead against the cool pane of glass. All the while one thought piercing his consciousness. Why didn't she wake me up?...


Max lay on the ground in the dark cell, listening to the water dripping from the pipes. She had been laying there for hours. How the hell did I end up back here? She wondered. It seemed like only last week she had managed to escape from this place, not by her own doings of course. Oh wait; it was only last week… She struggled with the handcuffs on her wrists, but was unable to catch the lock. Her brother and sister had been taken to separate cells, the location of which she was unaware. Deck double-crossed us. Why should I be surprised? He said he'd make sure we got out of these stupid cuffs. They weren't supposed to be X5-proof. Her mind soon drifted to Logan, and she nearly cried. I'm sorry Logan…I tried, but I guess it just wasn't good enough.

Just when she had started to lose hope, the lock on the door of her cell turned and clicked. Max sat straight up, preparing herself for the worst. The door opened and in walked a man in a white lab coat.

"452, I presume," he said coldly.

She glared at him. "When are you people going to get it right? My name is Max."

Then to her surprise, he laughed heartily, before brandishing an iron chain with a key on it. "Deck said you'd be the most petulant of the three."

Max was confused. "Who the hell are you?" she asked defensively.

He paused for a moment before bending down and turning the key in the lock of the cuffs on her ankles.

"I'm Lydecker's contact, Victor," he replied, before standing and pulling her to her feet by her shoulders. He turned her around and released the lock on her wrists.

Max rubbed them, attempting to get rid of the black and blue marks which had begun to form, and turned to face him, before narrowing her eyes.

"Jace's Victor?" she questioned.

Immediately the man's face showed surprise and wonder. "You know Jace? Where is she? How is she? What happened?" He couldn't seem to get the questions out quick enough.

"She's fine," Max answered him. "And if we make it out of this, I'll give you her whole life's story, but right now, I'm on a mission and I don't have a lot of time."

"Right," he nodded, his head back in the game. "I've got the keys to the other cells; the ones holding your brother and sister. Do you wanna let them out, or should I?"

Max seemed to think on that for a moment. "I've got somethin I gotta do first. You let them out. Tell them I'll meet them at the designated spot in five."

He nodded his comprehension, and the two headed off in opposite directions.


Renfro smiled at the man before her. "I must say Deck, I thought you lacked the intellectual capacity to pull a stunt like this off." As she spoke, she edged slowly towards her desk.

Lydecker held the gun level, his aim on her secure. He wasn't taking any chances. She had killed Tinga, for whatever sick twisted reason. He couldn't let her get away with that. No one got away with murdering his kids. No one.

"Yeah, well it doesn't really matter what you think now does it? You've corrupted this whole program from the moment you got here. It's done nothing but go downhill. Then, you had the effrontery to murder one of my kids, you selfish heartless bitch." The former director spoke in a tranquil voice, as though he had rehearsed this in his head a million times.

It didn't faze her. "'Your kids'?" she mocked him. "Got a little attached did we, Donald? This was an experimental project at best from the very start, and you knew that. But you let it go to your head. That's the whole reason behind my being brought in. I was following orders. Which came directly from the head of the committee I'm sure you already know."

He shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I'll take this all the way to the president if I have to. Everyone who even had anything to do with my kid's death is going down. I'll make sure of it." Before Renfro could blink, he fired two rounds into her chest. The look on her face as she slid down the wall was nothing short of grim determination.

The colonel swallowed hard before turning around, directly into the pathway of a uniformed guard. Immediately the soldier's finger went to his trigger, and the gun went off. Lydecker had been too stunned to move.


Max looked up from her position on the floor to the man she had feared her whole life. The guard hadn't even seen her coming. Split seconds before the gun went off, she had managed to wrestle him to the floor, knocking his skull against the corner of the desk was an undetermined bonus.

"Are you hit?" she inquired in a voice that said that she really didn't care one way or another, but felt obligated to ask.

Her voice pulled him out of his stupor. "No. No, I'm okay." He was silent as she picked herself up off the ground, kicking the soldier in disgust. "Max…you saved me."

"Yeah," she muttered audibly. "Now we're even. The next time I can guarantee you won't be so lucky."

Lydecker nodded, as though he hadn't expected anything less from her, and the two left the room.


They found Krit, Syl, and Victor waiting just outside the door to the control center.

"Max," Syl spoke when they finally arrived. "We've been waiting forever. Where the hell have you been?"

"Settling old scores," was her vague reply as she glanced at the colonel. She motioned to him to input the code to open the door, which they all prayed hadn't been changed. He stepped forward, and pressed a series of button, and after a few seconds in which they all held their breath, the small blinking red light turned green, and the door slid open. The X5s quickly disposed of the two soldiers inside, and Lydecker inserted the disk he carried into the system. They all watched the screen anxiously, and within moments, the information began to disappear.

The colonel stood from his seat in front of the computer. "Move out," he stated simply.

"Don't we have to take the disc with us," Victor asked. "If they find it, won't they somehow be able to track it back to you?"

"No," Deck replied, "the virus is self-destructive once it's done its job. Besides, there won't be enough left of this place to even save the computer when we're finished. Now let's move out."

The five of them left, and Max stopped once they hit the corner.

"We've gotta let them out, if we don't they'll burn when this place goes down." She didn't wait for any acknowledgement that anyone agreed with her, and instead turned toward the barracks. She barely even noticed her brother and sister following her closely behind. She rounded the corner and ran headfirst into a soldier. She looked up into his face and had to hold back a smirk.


"Max?" he asked equally surprised. "What the hell is going on?"

"Home sweet hellhole's goin down. You can either help or get out the way," she replied in a tone that said she didn't have time for pleasantries. He didn't reply, so she pushed right by him, and kept going. Turning the next corner, she found herself in the barracks. She stopped at the first door, and punched in a code. Miraculously, the door swung open, and Max was met with ten pairs of eyes from young soldiers who immediately stood at attention.

From some distant part of the building, they could hear explosives going off. The colonel must have succeeded in his part of the mission, and the X5s knew they wouldn't have much time.

"Get out!" she yelled at them. "Now, let's go, move! This place is burning down!" But the children simply looked at her with confused expressions on their faces.

"Max," she heard the voice of her brother from behind her. "You're an X5. Just pull rank."

"Right," she nodded at him, before turning back to the kids before her. "Soldiers!" she said in a strong voice. They instantly straightened up, looking straight ahead. "The base is under attack. Move out, stay with your unit and go to ground until you receive a signal to do otherwise. Dismissed!"

They saluted her, and ran out the door as though they finally understood that their lives were in danger. Max turned back to her brother and sister. "Krit, Syl," she addressed them, "we'll never make it, you guys gotta help me."

"We're on it, Max." Syl was already making her way down the hall to the next room, and Krit quickly followed suit. Max soon heard an explosion in the building somewhere near them, and she knew they were running on borrowed time. Smoke began to billow down the hallway, and they could see flames from just around the corner by the time the last room had been emptied.

All three were coughing as they made their way down the opposite hallway looking for a way out.

"What happened to Lydecker and Victor?" Max wondered.

"Don't know," Krit replied, "but hopefully they got out, cuz we have neither time to look for them, or wait for them."

They reached a stairwell, and found a window at the bottom of it. The flames so close to them that Max could feel the heat on her back. She took a running start at the window, and leapt through it feeling the glass slice her arm, and hoping that her brother and sister were close behind. Wow…déjà vu…she thought as she hit the ground. And the rest was darkness.


Max awoke to the sound of a horn blaring loudly. And then her brother yelling, "Yeah, the same to you too dumb ass! I swear, some people drive like they bought their licenses at the bubble gum store."

She sat up, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in the side of her head.

"You see?" Syl said to Krit without looking at him. "Guys are aggressive drivers. I knew I should've taken the wheel." She turned in her seat. "Hey Max, how you feelin?"

"Fine. What happened?"

"You blacked out. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Max responded, sitting up straight and looking her sister in the eye. "Where're Lydecker and Victor?"

"We found them waiting outside Manticore. They're meeting us in Cheyenne. They took a separate car."

"Cheyenne?" Max was confused. "Why are we still in Wyoming? Aren't we going back to Seattle?" A little voice in the back of her head was beginning to shout irrational things at her. Things like 'she was never going back'; and she began to panic.

"No, baby sister," Krit replied. "It's too dangerous. We have to make sure Manticore really went down this time. Too many people saw our faces, and if there's any chance that the place is still up and running, they could be hunting us down right now. And I know what you're thinking, but if we go back now, we could be leading them straight to him."

Max sat back in her seat defeated. Couldn't argue with that logic. She stared out the window as one small tear made its way down her cheek. The realization had hit her that she wasn't out of the woods yet. She might never see Logan again, and that thought was more painful than any torture she'd ever endured. She leaned her forehead against the window, watching the dark trees pass her by. All the while one thought piercing her mind. Why didn't I wake him up?...


Post: Ok, therein lies the roller coaster ride for the longest chapter of the story. Had a couple cameos from your favorite characters Asha and Alec, cuz it just wouldn't be a story without them. Thank you all my reviewers, I can't express my gratitude for your thoughts enough. Ok, last chapter comin up soon like hopefully within a week or so.