Title: Breaking the News
Author: Jade Hunter
Disclaimer: None of the characters and properties of Dark Angel belong to me. This takes place after And Jesus Brought A Casserole.
A.N: Yes, I rewrote this one, too, though not as thoroughly as Remember to Forget. Elsa, by the way, is the character who narrated Remember to Forget, and is now resting uncomfortably in Manticore.
He heard the sound of lock being picked and reached for his gun. Hiding behind the island counter separating the kitchen of the apartment from the living room, he waited.
The door creaked open.
Holding his breath, he focused his ears, and frowned. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't hear the sound of footsteps or breathing. But there was always the slight rustle of clothing, the minuscule crunch of shoes crushing cheap carpeting, so he waited.
The intruder checked the bedroom and bathroom, and, seeing no one was there, got careless.
"She's not here," came a whisper, so silent that he was sure humans could not have heard it. And to whom were the words spoken? There was obviously more than one intruder, or this one was a nut job.
No, there was another, frustrated; "What now?"
Their voices came closer, their footsteps falling heavier now, and he waited until they were almost on top of him before standing from his crouched position, poised to shoot.
They jumped back reflexively, and he relaxed.
It was only Krit and Syl, eyes wide and surprised, exchanging relieved looks and coming out of fighting stances as they recognized him.
"Andy," Syl sighed. "Thank goodness."
Andy holstered his gun, and the petite blonde flew into him, burying her head in his chest in a bear hug, startling him. After a long moment, she stepped back, and Krit came forward to pull him into a rough embrace, patting him heavily on the back.
He frowned again. Not that he had minded the emotional greeting, but those hugs had more to them than happiness at seeing him. "What are you doing here?"
They exchanged looks.
"We tried the contact number," Krit explained briefly, frowning. "But it was changed, so we decided to talk to Elsa."
Andy scrubbed his face with one hand before saying, "Yeah, I'm the one who changed the number."
Syl blinked in surprise, "Why?"
He knew what she was really asking: why you? Every single one of them knew that, although he was the secondary alpha male, he hated shouldering any responsibility, preferring to hand over his 2IC duties to Elsa, who had been secondary alpha female, but was now the only alpha female with Eva's death.
Krit's eyes became guarded, "What are you doing here?"
Andy gazed around at the quiet apartment, unable to look at his youngest siblings as he told them bluntly, "They got Elsa."
Syl sucked in a sharp breath. Andy closed his eyes briefly; news like this was always bad for morale, and add to the fact that Elsa was the big sister, the closest thing to a mother any of them had ever had… Even Ben, strange as he had gotten, had found it in himself to love her; if Ben were alive, he'd be off searching Manticore and all of its sub-bases for any sign of Elsa.
But Ben was dead.
"Are you sure?" Krit asked grimly, wrapping an arm around Syl for his comfort as much as hers.
Reluctantly, Andy nodded. "Yeah. They were here, the locals attested to that. And they must have gotten her, because they haven't stripped the place down."
It was true. If Elsa had gotten away, Manticore would have systematically taken every scrap of her things, to analyze them in an effort to get into her mind and predict her next moves. But here the apartment was, looking insultingly normal, as if its resident would stroll in with a bag of groceries at any moment.
Manticore had left the place intact because they didn't need anymore insight to Elsa. They had her.
Then, Syl crumpled. Her legs gave out from under her and she slid to the floor, making no moves to stop her fall. Krit, still holding her, went down as well, and not involuntarily. Both their faces were twisted with grief, and Krit clenched his free hand into a fist, lips thinned with blazing anger and eyes shining with suspicious moisture. Syl's eyes were likewise wet, but she jerked her hand roughly over her eyes to wipe the tears away before they could fall.
"What's the matter?" Andy demanded, muscles tensing as he prepared for the worst.
Yes, Elsa had been their big sister – he even considered her that way, despite being physically older than her by a few months – but this was alarming. Neither Krit nor Syl were ever the type to be reduced to tears by loss.
Something else was wrong.
When Syl made no move to answer, Krit sighed and spoke up, "You know that Zack called us, right?"
Andy nodded wordlessly.
"Well, it turned out that Max was in trouble," Krit explained. "She got caught by Lydecker when they tried to rescue Tinga."
Motioning for Krit to continue, Andy closed his eyes, remembering. Visions of a small little girl who had loved Ben's shadows, who had seen Jack dissected, who had gotten the shakes, who had been unafraid to smile danced past his eyelids. The girl who had ruined their lives.
"Turned out that Manticore wanted Lydecker's head on a platter, so to speak," Syl spoke up, shrugging indifferently. "So he let Max go, and she brought him to us."
Andy sighed, relief coloring his thoughts. But…if Max was okay, then what was the matter? A thought struck him; "What about Tinga?"
Krit's lips tightened again, and Syl shook her head. "Dead."
"Fuck!" Andy cursed, and his hands fisted as they registered his desire to hit something. "Fuck it all!"
"That's not all," Krit interrupted. "There's more."
Syl nodded. "Well, Max had a reason for bringing Lydecker back with her. And since we were there, the three of us and Logan – "
"Who's Logan?" Andy frowned.
The two exchanged glances with each other before Krit finally admitted, "Max's, uh, friend. He knew all about us, and Manticore."
Immediately, he was enraged. "She told him?"
Always, always, it seemed that Max was doing something to compromise not only herself, but the rest of them as well.
"Don't know," Syl said succinctly. "Didn't have time to ask. We were too busy planning to take down Manticore."
Andy's jaw went slack with shock; "What?"
Krit became agitated, "We thought we could do it. Lydecker was familiar with the layout, he had the codes, and Logan hacked into the surveillance feed. We thought we could do it. All we needed was to blow the DNA labs. Syl and I took one lab, Max and Zack got the other, and we were on our way out when…"
"They discovered us, apparently," Syl took up narration of the tale. "Because they sent the X7s after us."
"X7s?" Andy echoed. He didn't like the sound of that at all.
"You should've seen them, Andy," Krit shook his head. "They were around puberty, andtheylooked like…like us. Like we did before we escaped. Made from our DNA."
"But improved," Syl added bleakly. "Stronger, faster, better. They even had hive minds! Zack's own damn clone got him in the shoulder and dragged him off back to the base."
"When we got back to the rendezvous point, Logan was knocked out and Lydecker told us that Max was KIA," Krit finished gruffly.
KIA. Killed In Action. Max.
And Zack, taken down by clones, taken back to the place that he had escaped from twice before, defying all odds and cementing his godly status with his younger siblings.
Andy felt…he didn't know why, but he felt detached, indifferent almost, as if everything was happening to someone else and he was just an observer. Then he saw the looks on Krit and Syl's faces, and crashed back into himself. It hit him like a truck, and he slowly lowered himself to the floor next to them.
"Zack," he began softly. "Elsa. Tinga. Ben. Brin. Max."
They were quiet, looking at him with wide eyes, clutching each other's hands, sadness and uncertainty plain in their expressions.
"Twelve of us got out. Two of us are back there, four of us are dead. There are only half of us left," Andy counted off, dazed at the figures.
"And Jace," Syl said, equally softly. "And her baby."
He looked at them, his youngest siblings, and realized that they were coming to him for reassurance now, for instructions. This had never been his specialty, but he knew that he was the only one left, and as the oldest alive, he had certain responsibilities. He might not like it, but he accepted it as a mission, one he would finish, to the best of his abilities...for the others.
Suddenly, he stood, rattling off a string of numbers; "The new contact number," he clarified at their confused looks.
They nodded, and Syl tightened her grip on Krit's hand. "What now?"
"We do what we've always done, baby sister," Andy replied firmly. "We survive."
Syl acknowledged his answer, and Krit asked, "What about the others?"
"I'll go around and tell them," Andy answered, knowing that a message would be too impersonal for something like this. Zack had always visited each of them for previous losses. "You two just get somewhere safe and call."
With those orders, Syl and Krit left a few moments later. Andy checked to make sure they hadn't left any traces of their stay before climbing out the window and dropping to the alley below. He had a long day ahead of him.