Gillette, Wyoming, 2008

It was nearing 1 am as Donald Lydecker sat in his dark, dingy, government issue office. He worked long hours, often late into the night. He squinted his eyes as he stared at the computer monitor. The only sound in the room was his fingers drumming on the desk.

This was far from being an unusual scene at this hour. It was so common in fact that eyebrows were only raised when he wasn't at his desk this late. At 33 years old he was a dedicated employee who was passionate about his work, even if it was a top secret government project. He enjoyed his time at Manticore, he liked the challenge. The one thing that kept him going day after day was the enormous amount of potential his X5s had. The possibilities with the newest X series were endless and with the right amount of training they could do anything.

While the X series had become his passion, his family had become forgotten and that was the way he wanted it. Most of his fellow employees didn't even realize he had children or a wife for that matter. He kept his personal business to himself. The rare times when he did speak or think about his family his emotions would show, leaving him vulnerable. He avoided this at all costs, and buried everything deep inside.

His wife, was buried in a cemetery about a 10 minute drive from his home in downtown Gillette. She had died around 30 minutes after giving birth to their second child and first daughter, Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn was now about 5 years old, give or take a few months. He hadn't seen her since the day she was born, October 30, 2003. There was also Brandon, he was 9 years old now. He visited his wife's grave more than he visited his own children. They are better off without me.

He knew that he had probably scared his son for life by abandoning him, but he didn't care, he hardly ever did. The sooner Brandon realizes life isn't a fairytale, the better. Lydecker knew his outlook on things was grim, but it was realistic, life was far from easy. He had learned that the hard way with his wife's death.

He married his wife Jessica Ashley Lydecker not long after high school. They had been young, but he had been so in love that he had to make her his. They lived a peaceful life for several years, he served his time in the army, she took classes at the local college and took care of the small apartment they lived in. Three years into their marriage she broke the news to him she was pregnant, they had both been ecstatic to add another member to their family. They bought a house, and settled down.

Brandon arrived two weeks early. He had been so happy to have a son, Jessica had been over the moon with joy. As Brandon had grown over the years he saw himself in his son. It wasn't just his blonde hair and blue eyes, but his facial expressions and his personality. He couldn't believe how much parents passed on to their children, even after years of reading about genetics.

Three years after Brandon was born, Jessica found out she was pregnant again. They had been to excited this time to wait and find out if it was a boy or a girl. Several weeks later they found out they were having a little girl. Lydecker plastered a smile on his face that remained there for months. He would have his own baby girl to love and cherish. He secretly hoped she would take after her mother, so Jessica could have the same experience with her that he had with Brandon. Her due date had been for mid-October, but the baby was nearly two weeks late. He felt that he should have known then something was wrong, but the doctors even said she was fine. It didn't take long to find out she wasn't fine.

He had one family picture of the four of them together, taken minutes after Kaitlyn's birth. All four of them were a family for mere minutes before she slipped away. Jessica had complained of a headache and feeling tired before he had left the room to stay with Kaitlyn. He kissed her forehead and cupped her face, told her she'd be fine and how much he loved her for giving him such an amazing gift. When he returned fifteen minutes later she was gone. She had died from obstetrical hemorrhage, and he felt responsible for not listening to her.

From there it went downhill for Donald Lydecker. He walked out of the hospital and turned his back on his children. For nearly a month he was in a drunken stupor, all he did was sleep and drink, with the occasional meal. By the time he returned to work it looked as if he had aged ten years. Bags had formed under his eyes, he had lost weight, and a cold exterior had formed around him. He had his job at Manticore for several years, so his struggles went unnoticed. If he had still been new to the facility his every move would have been watched. Nobody cared that he was stumbling in late reeking of alcohol, or that he slept on the couch in his office and that he had flasks hidden in his desk. Chances were nobody even noticed, it was best to mind your own business at Manticore.

Lydecker's most unprofessional move however was when he began a relationship with a young doctor, Adriana Vertes. Everyone in the facility knew that there was something going on between them but remained tight lipped. Booze and meaningless sex had become his cooping mechanism for the loss of his beautiful wife. Adriana was pretty but nothing in comparison to Jessica.

He missed everything about Jess. Her dark brown hair, her gorgeous brown eyes, and the way she would smile. She had had an infectious laugh and such a warm personality. She always lit up a room when she entered. Her love of art had always infatuated him, she used to spend hours painting, and drawing. He had been a man of science and math, it had been refreshing to have her energy around. All of her work still remained around his home.

These thoughts sent him into flashbacks of his life before she was taken from him. It was those flashbacks that had turned him into the depressed alcoholic he was now. All he had now were his memories of his one weakness, Jessica. He had been shattered by her death.

Lydecker pushed his thoughts of his out of his mind and continued to stare at his computer screen. He was reading over weekly reviews of the X5s and trying to focus. Without his family the X5s had become his kids. He had watched them grown since they were born. The X5s gave him pride and joy, and he knew it was twisted but he couldn't help himself from feeling that way. After several minutes of reading the same sentence over and over again and not comprehending it he flipped off his computer screen. He sat back in his chair and ran his hands through his hair. Might as well go home to my empty house.

He grabbed his keys from his desk drawer and his jacket from the coat rack, before heading out the door. Manticore was quiet this time of night but as he walked through the halls the few soldiers on duty stopped and saluted him. When he passed he would nod in response. They all knew that Colonel Donald Michael Lydecker was one guy that you didn't want to piss off, that they should never bite the hand that feed them.

At the moment Lydecker seemed to have everything any red blooded American male could want, respect, an attractive woman on the side, and a very good, high paying government job. But truth be told, he was far from happy, apart of him wanted his wanted his family back. He couldn't help but think that there was hardly anything left to salvage of his relationship with his kids. If he wanted them back though, he knew it was far from an easy task.

His sister Christine took care of his kids. She had been only 19 years old when he walked out of their lives, but she stepped up, while he fell. Christine had done her part to attempt to make contact with her brother, but he ignored her attempts. It seemed as though she was done playing games with him at this point. Over the past few weeks his sister had sent him multiple emails, text messages and called several time to tell him she was going to sue him for full custody. He knew she wasn't joking and unless he acted soon his opportunity to get his kids back would be gone. Lydecker walked out of the front entrance to the secret government facility and into the cold night air.

"Christ." He muttered as the cold air struck him. Gillette, Wyoming was not a place to live if you enjoyed warm weather, and that was a lesson that Donald Lydecker had learned well over the years. There had been enough snow and hail storms in this damn town to last him a lifetime. He walked through the parking lot to his black Dodge Durango, and climbed in. He put the key in the ignition and turned it. The car's engine roared to life and hummed softly.

As he sat giving the car a few minutes to warm up he reached into his pocket and pulled out a flask. Lydecker glared at it. Is this really what I've become? He had become a slave to alcohol, and that was something he had never wanted to become. I can't, I need it. As he moved his hand to open it he froze. Your weak. Echoed through his mind. Lydecker grabbed at the flask and twisted the cap on top. So weak. He pulled his hand away from the flask and rolled down the window. He took a long breath and paused, thinking momentarily before throwing his flask out the window of his car. He then rolled up the window and sat in silence.

"Not any more, never again." He stated to himself. Moments later he put the car into drive and left the parking lot. Although it wasn't much it was a start on his road to recovery.