Summary – When Max found out why he was sent to her cell, she hated Manticore even more. Starts at the beginning of Designate This. For clarity, this is not a ML fic.

A/N: I know what you are thinking – Another 'Designate This' fic! Well, I have to give it a shot too! Hehe! Everything in Season 1 happened. I just modified Designate This to suit my liking! For those of you who had read my other stories, you may find this a bit different. I hope it is ok!

Deception - Chapter 1

Manticore Cell

The cell in Manticore was just like any other holding cell. Cold, damp and depressing. And it was Max's home for the past few weeks since she was released from reindoctrination.

Max was lying down in her bunk. She was waiting impatiently for the guards to leave so that she could carry on sawing the blocks out of the wall. As she has done for the past one week.

Max knew that she needed to get out of Manticore. The feeling of being caged up was beginning to get to her and she did not know how long more she could keep up with the pretenses. Renfro already suspected that she was not fully reindoctrinated. Max frowned as she thought about that woman. She really hated Renfro with a passion. Renfro seemed to have it in for her as well.

Max thought back to the incident which led to her capture. Images flashed across her eyes as she remembered facing off with a younger version of herself. She had been so unnerved that she got careless. And she paid a dear price for her carelessness; she got shot, Zack's now hooked up to a machine and she was under lock-down in Manticore.

Her heart constricted as she thought of her brother. No, Zack's heart constricted, she amended. She could not believe that he took his own life for her. I am not worth it, Zack, she thought silently. Renfro said that she was poison. Maybe Renfro was right. Her siblings were all fine until they came into contact with her. Eva, Brin, Tinga, Ben and now Zack. Max squeezed her eyes shut, trying to shut out the unpleasant images that appeared in her mind at the thought of her role in her siblings' demises.

Max opened her eyes as her ears picked up the sound of approaching footsteps. The footsteps stopped in front of her door. She could see the guard checking up on her through the cell door. She remained motionless until she heard him leave the hallway.

Springing off her bed, she folded up her bunk and hooked it to the wall. She extracted a hidden metal bar from the underside of her bunk. Inserting the flat piece of metal in the shallow groove of mortar between the concrete blocks, she started scraping loosening another piece of block. Not long more and I'll be out of this godforsaken place, she promised herself. I made it out before and I will do it again!

She was working for a good hour before she heard a noise from the hallway. She paused mid-scrape. Rapidly, she stuffed back the block in its original position. She pulled down her bunk and laid down just as the lights to her cell were switched on from outside.

Max sat up as someone entered her cell.

Her eyes widened as she took in the familiar form.

"Ben?" she whispered unsteadily in disbelieve. How? But I snapped his neck! A confused jumble of thoughts started running through her head.

He looked at her wordlessly.

"Ben, is that you? It's me. Max," she asked again, in a steadier voice. She still was not too sure that it wasn't just an illusion.

Smiling at her, he said softly, "Max…" He was still standing in front of the door. He made no move to go to her.

Max got off her bunk slowly, almost afraid that if she moved suddenly, Ben would disappear. She walked towards him, taking in the familiar hazel eyes and dark blonde hair. She felt her eyes fill with tears as she reached out a hand and touched his hand softly. He's alive. Manticore must have somehow brought him back like they did with Zack.

Still smiling, he laid his hand over hers, his thumb caressing the back of her hand as he looked up. His eyes locked with hers. As soon as their eyes clashed up close, Max suddenly felt uncomfortable. The blank expression in his eyes contained nothing of the Ben she used to know. She backed away, suspicious of the man standing in front of her.

"What did they do to you, Ben?" she asked warily. She sat down on her bunk, eyeing him. Max caught a flash of his barcode as he turned to sit. He was definitely Ben but she felt something different in him; something she could not place. Her mind flashed back to her last encounter with Brin. Brin was nothing like who she used to be after she undergone Manticore's reindoctrination. The loving sister Max remembered no longer existed. Max could not help feeling sad every time she thought of Brin.

He sighed and sat beside her, his elbows propped on his knees. Looking sideways at Max, he said, "They found me in the woods and brought me back here. Brought me back to life, then reindoctrinated me, I suppose,"

Recalling the last time she saw him, her spirit sank. She turned to Ben, her pain evident in her eyes, "I am so sorry Ben. I shouldn't have done it. I should have tried harder to get you out. I shouldn't have let them have you,"

Silence followed her proclamation. She saw something flicker in Ben's eyes. Feeling even worse now, she continued, "I don't blame you if you hate me now. If I haven't tracked you down, you would still be free," Free to kill, she thought to herself. Perhaps it was better this way. He did say before that we shouldn't have left. He said that things made sense in here.

Deep in her thoughts, she was surprised to suddenly find him kneeling in front of her. She did not even notice him move. Ben has always been good at stealth, she thought.

Holding her hands in his, he said softly, "Max, listen to me. It's not your fault, okay? You did what you have to do. Don't blame yourself,"

Max looked up into his eyes to see him looking at her with a familiar expression. She smiled as she remembered that this was how he used to look at her back when they were in Manticore as kids. It was the look he gave her whenever she was upset about some unjustified punishment she received from Manticore. Whatever Manticore did this time to him, at least there is still a bit of the Ben I know from before, she thought. Her suspicions evaporated.

Evidently satisfied that Max was alright, he got off the floor and sat back down on the bed. Turning towards her, he asked, "So, how did you end up in here?"

"Oh, that," she said flatly. Taking in a deep breath she continued, "We decided to try to take down Manticore. Obviously it went sideways; Manticore's still here and I am all locked up,"

"Really? You said 'we'. Who else were with you?" he asked curiously.

"Just a few of us. You don't know Logan, he's a friend I have outside. But there were Zack, Krit, Syl and…Lydecker," Max grinned as she saw the look of shock on Ben's face. She knew that it was once unthinkable that Lydecker would team up with them against Manticore. She supposed that the incident with Tinga was too much, even for Lydecker.

"Lydecker? You've got to be kidding right?" he asked incredulously.

"Nope, it's true. Lydecker came to his senses about Manticore and decided to help us," Max said with satisfaction. Then she frowned as a thought crossed her mind. She was worried. She hoped that Lydecker, Logan, Krit and Syl got away safely.

Noting the sudden worried look on Max's face, he asked, "What's wrong, Max?"

Shaking her head, she answered, "Nothing. Just hoped that the rest of them got away,"

"Do they know what happened to me?" he asked curiously.

She did not them about Ben. Max hesitated before she answered, "No, I couldn't bring myself to tell any them. Anyway, I don't have that much contact with them. Did you?" she decided to change the topic. It was too painful.

"Me neither,"

"Zack thought it would be better to keep us apart anyway. He was looking out for all of us, as he had always done. Even when we were back here before the escape," Max said wistfully. She missed having her siblings around. Previously in Manticore, they used to always be there for each other. Now she thought that she was all alone, until Ben walked in through the door.

Unaware of her thoughts, Ben said, "Zack was probably right to keep everyone apart,"

Max nodded, "We should have listened to him. Then maybe he would still be free. He wouldn't be hooked up to a machine just because he gave his heart to me," she said sadly.

"Zack must love you very much to do what he did, Max. I am sure he doesn't regret it,"

"He would have done the same for you too Ben," she said, looking into his hazel eyes. She held it for a second before she looked away. She could still see a faint mask over them, and she felt unnerved by it. She longed to see the familiar warmth she associated with Ben when they were young. Not the masked expression. And definitely not the tortured look he had when she last saw him in Seattle during his killing spree.

"Maybe," he said with a small smile to her remark, "So, Zack didn't tell you the locations of the others?"

Max shook her head, "Fear of tactical exposure. He told me that by doing that, at least if one of us got caught, we wouldn't be able to expose the rest. Which makes sense, I suppose. But I would still like to meet up with the rest. Don't you miss them?"

"Yeah…Won't mind meeting up sometime. Shame we don't know where they are," he said thoughtfully.

Max did not want to broach the subject, but she felt that she had to, "Ben, about the killings…"

He interrupted, abruptly turning away from her, "I don't want to talk about it,"

At a loss for words, Max fell silent. She looked up at him as he sighed heavily.

"Sorry, Max. They did something to me in reindoctrination, and…it's hard to explain. I just don't want to talk about it, okay. Just leave it,"

Registering the expression of pain on Ben's face, she tried to comfort him. As she wrapped her arms around him, she felt him stiffen in rejection.

Hurt, she let her arms fall limply back down. The cuddly bother she used to have back when they were younger doesn't exist anymore. That Ben would not have rejected her hugs. Yeah, Max. Back then you wouldn't have snapped his neck either, a small voice in her said. She cringed involuntarily. Ben was angry at her for killing him. Either that, or Manticore really did a number on him.

Manticore. She frowned as something occurred to her. It did not occur to her earlier in the excitement of seeing Ben. Why did Manticore let Ben in here? It could not possibly be just for a social chit-chat. Manticore wasn't big on these sorts of things. It was unprofessional.

Turning to him, she asked, "Ben?" she waited until he looked at her before continuing, "Why did Manticore send you here to me?"

She saw another unfathomable flicker in his eyes. The look he was giving her was making her uncomfortable.

"What is it, Ben?" she asked anxiously.

The answer he gave was short and to the point.

"We have been paired up as breeding partners,"


A/N: What do you think of it? Pretty uneventful, right? (Grins) So please review and let me know if I should carry on!