Max's Revenge

A Story From the

Semi-Dark-Angel AU

by STFarnham

Lancer47

License:

This work is licensed under the: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. To view a copy of this license, visit: creativecommons dot org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

No commercial use of this work can be allowed for obvious reasons.

Most of the characters herein are owned by people who aren't me, but I'm not making a dime off this stuff.

Author's Notes:

I ripped CSI from the present and plopped it down in Dark Angel's time without any explanation. Try to cope.

This is a dark piece with no romance of any kind. The idea festered in my head and I had to expel it. Here is the result, I hope you all like it.

Rating:

T ( R ) for descriptions of extremely uncivilized behavior and violence, and some rude language. The story is not suitable for younger members of our audience.

Summary:

How would a Crime Scene Investigator react to finding a corpse with really strange DNA? What might such a thing mean to the investigation? Find out here...

Common Semi-Dark-Angel Prologue

In my Semi-Dark Angel alternate universe, Manticore is a little bit more civilized. Lydecker isn't a murderous S.O.B., he genuinely tries to do right by 'his' kids, although he is still a son-of-a-bitch. In general, the ethical standards are higher in this 'verse; but there is still plenty of room for improvement. As a result, there was no breakout of '09, because Eva wasn't killed and none of the kids felt betrayed. Training continued on as before, but with more respect towards the students. There were also no assassinations of innocent people. There were some assassination missions, but always in a military context, with clearly defined and (nearly) lawful objectives.

By the time the X-5 soldiers hit their eighteenth birthday, they were full fledged officers in the United States Army, complete with pay, seniority and benefits. They were so well trained and so skilled at their work, and had proved themselves so many times, that Manticore X-5s and X-6s (budget constraints didn't allow for X-7s) were in demand from many different parts of the government; especially when anything unusual came up. And the few people who knew what they were were very impressed with their professionalism and expertise.

Publicly, they were known only as a very advanced military unit. There were no 'X' series that were inhuman in appearance. (If there were any, they were disposed of humanely, or at least quietly). Even their bar codes were invisible, readable only under ultraviolet light.

Prologue

0643 5/17/2020

Detective Serrano scanned the warehouse interior, slowly, carefully, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Well, that was a forlorn hope really, everything was out of the ordinary. First, three dead bodies: two naked men, body-builders apparently; and one clothed man, a camera operator. There was one ripped brassiere lying on the floor, looking lost and out of place. There were two sets of photographic fluorescent lights shining brilliantly. A professional looking digital video camera was mounted on a tripod overlooking the entire scene. Unfortunately, the memory card was smashed on the floor under the tripod, the little door still hanging open on the camera. But, a wire led from the camera to an office in the corner, so maybe there was a duplicate on a computer somewhere.

One of the deceased body-builders looked like his face had been hit by a bowling ball, and his right foot looked like it had been smashed by a hydraulic ram. No bowling balls or rams were visible. The other dead nude looked like he'd been hit by a sledgehammer right above his heart. Same with the cameraman, who was also sloppily hamstrung on his right leg.

The detective sighed quietly as he contemplated the dead. For some reason, it always seemed worse to him when the corpses were undressed at the scene; undignified and graceless. He waved to CSI Warrick to go ahead and get started. It was going to be a long night.

Chapter I

1153 5/21/2020

Captain Brass looked at the crime scene with an experienced homicide detective's eye. There was something different about this one from most in his experience. It seemed more violent than usual to him. He had seen many violent episodes, or more accurately, the aftermath of violence. And they were all ugly. But this one seemed soaked in violence. There were smashed plants all around, a destroyed picnic table, and nine corpses, eight men and one woman.

Catherine Willows and Laura Sidles were taking pictures and eyeballing the scene. In a few minutes they would be joined by the other CSIs and evidence collecting would begin in earnest.

"I can't quite get my inner mind's eye wrapped around this one, Catherine. Usually, it just jumps out at you, which one was the shooter I mean."

"I know what you mean. But you know what to do: follow the evidence."

Sidles joined Willows in muted laughter, gaining them odd looks from some of the cops on the scene.

In a few minutes they were joined by most of the night shift. "Warrick!" Catherine said, "You finished with the warehouse murders yet?"

"No," he replied, "we're at an impasse right now, waiting on the computer lab to finish with the hard drives. So here I am."

Half a dozen technicians spent the next twelve hours collecting evidence. The scene was so large and so horrific that all resources were in use. Finally, after the 3-D imager was done, they allowed the bodies to be collected. Eventually, all ended up back at the lab.

0914 6/02/2020

"Doug, you must have contaminated the sample or the machine. Your report shows feline DNA mixed up with human DNA. An obvious impossibility."

"Nope, I was very careful, as I always am. There was no contamination of the machine. It's possible that the sample was contaminated before I got it, but that isn't my purview."

"Run it again. We'll get some new samples first. Make sure everything is clean, then run it again."

1420 6/21/2020

"It's confirmed now. Our Jane Doe had feline DNA mixed up in her. Does anyone have any idea how that could have happened?"

All looked around the table and shook their heads.

"How about any of the others?"

"All plain old ordinary DNA."

"Well, this is weird. We'll send this to the FBI and Homeland Security. I imagine we'll get back some incredulous queries as well as angry missives about wasting time. Oh well, do it."

1635 7/04/2020

Catherine addressed her team, "We are now sure that our Jane Doe killed every one of those men. And she did it with her fists and feet, mostly fists. As near as we can tell, she just jumped into the middle of this group armed men and started punching and kicking. She took a few hits without any evident discomfort. Pretty soon, they were all dead. Then some other party shot our killer, apparently with a hunting rifle since she was hit with a thirty-ought-six. Caught her in the back, probably the only way to kill our supergirl."

"We have got some interesting inquiries from our government, though. It would appear that most, perhaps all, of the victims are actually wanted terrorists, except for the woman. As predicted, there are some fascinating messages concerning the girl with feline DNA. A couple from the head of the FBI lab, telling us to quit fucking around, or else. And some kind of missive from the CDC of all places, heaven only knows what they want. And another from some obscure department in the Pentagon, asking for more samples. We sent them. And then some sort of order to keep quiet about all this. As if we'd follow orders from the military, those buttheads."

1005 7/08/2020

Willows glanced down the hall from her office and noticed a strikingly beautiful young woman of indeterminate parentage, wearing some sort of black military uniform, but without military rank or any other insignia, striding towards her. Catherine watched her because her whole attitude exuded such extreme confidence and certainty that Catherine couldn't look away.

A few moments later the stranger stopped in her doorway and said, "Are you Catherine Willows?"

"Er, yes," she replied, "and who are you?"

The young woman showed her identification and said, "I'm Special Agent Max Guevara, from project Manticore. I would like for you to review and sign off on the Military Secrets Act of 2011, and if you do, then I think I can help you solve your dead terrorist case."

Catherine was puzzled as she studied the three page form that Max handed her. She read it, then looked up and said, "I don't understand this, what military secrets are involved with this case?"

"If you understand all the provisions of the act, and if you understand that if you break any of those provisions that we will put you in prison after a military trial, and that we would require you to obey these rules for a period of twenty-five years, and if you sign that form with a notary public present, then I will explain and help you. If you don't sign, you're on your own," Max said.

Now Catherine was really pissed.

Max continued, "By 'on your own', I mean that my team will remove all the evidence that you have collected, including the corpses, all evidence bags, all lab results, and all reports. At gunpoint if necessary. My men are extremely thorough, so thorough that you will probably have to replace some of your equipment. And we'll leave you holding the bag, so to speak, since we won't sign for anything or ever acknowledge that we were even here. That could make for some fascinating lawsuits down the road, or maybe not, if you're lucky. There's no doubt that you will lose evidence for a number of cases which would allow guilty people back on the street."

Catherine glared at Max. She might as well have been glaring at a brick wall for all the good it did her. She finally said, "I need to discuss this with my boss."

Max shook her head, "No. Not until you sign. If you try to get anyone else involved, we'll just empty out the lab and go through it with a fine tooth comb. Unfortunately, in our endeavor to be complete, we will most likely ruin the reputation of your lab. Sorry 'bout that."

"You've put me between a rock and a hard place."

"Yes, and I'm the rock. The hard place, though, is out in your labs. I should mention that I don't actually care which way you decide because either way I will get my answers and protect the Military Secrets that I am bound by law to protect. You however, will get royally screwed unless cooperate with me. And I warn you, I have a really big screwdriver."

Catherine read the form again, grimaced, and had her secretary witness while she signed it with a flourish. She handed it to Max. Max checked the signature against other letters and forms on Catherine's desk and asked to check Catherine's identification. When she was satisfied, she put the forms in her briefcase and said, "Good, now we're on the same team. I'd like to start with the dead bodies, if you don't mind."

"Catherine, who is this?" asked Gil, leaning against the door frame and looking like he just ate a lemon.

Max handed him another set of forms and started her spiel again.

1115 7/08/2020

Max looked at the corpse of the cat-woman in the mortuary. Catherine could have sworn she saw a tear in Max's eye, otherwise she remained stoic. Max turned the corpse and shined her borrowed UV lamp at the back of the neck. To Willows surprise, a ghostly image of a bar-code showed up.

Max said, "Her identity is confirmed. You may complete your paperwork with the name , ex five dash seven oh two'."

"The hell kind of name is that?"

"It's her identity code, we called her . Her identity, even her existence, is classified at the highest levels. She was the clone of my sister, one of them anyway. That last is for your information only, that is not to appear on any paperwork at all."

"Does that mean that your DNA is like hers?"

"Yes."

"How did that happen?"

"Are you sure you want to know? If this had occurred even five years ago, my superiors would have simply wiped out your whole lab and everyone in it or connected to it, just in case. And by 'wiped out', I mean smoking craters and unidentifiable corpses. But we're not nearly as secret as we used to be."

"Yes," Kathy whispered, "I still want to know. And in my job, I'm good at keeping quiet. And, when I think about it, and putting together the clues, I already have a pretty good idea of how this must have happened."

"Yes, of course, my clone-sister and I were products of an on-going gene engineering experiment. We're called transgenics. It's all a part of Project Manticore. Most of us are military personnel, a few have gone into Federal Law Enforcement. And I do think that's about all you should know. Except for one more thing: be very very careful of anyone from project Manticore."

"Including you?"

"Including me."

1407 7/08/2020

After Max studied the 3D image at the lab, she and Catherine went to the crime scene. Max wandered about, pausing here and there to study details, looked up now and then to calculate trajectories and lines-of-sight. As she looked carefully at the spot where 702 had landed, she looked up to the overhanging roof structure. The area was essentially open, but next to a warehouse with various structural beams and cranes sticking out over what was apparently an assembly area for large steel objects.

Max asked, "Did you send anyone up there to check for evidence?" pointing to the overhead about thirty-five feet up.

"Well no, there didn't seem to be any reason to. Why, do you see something?"

"Yes," Max said, her eye focused on the beams above her, "702 probably jumped from there to ambush the terrorists."

"No one could jump from that height and still be able to fight when they hit the ground!"

But Max was hardly listening as she flexed her leg muscles and, facing the back wall, leaped about ten or twelve feet up and grabbed a handy vertical flange formed from the joint of two sheet metal panels and climbed gracefully, finally stepping out onto a deep flange I-beam. Catherine watched in open-mouthed astonishment. Above Max's head was a sheet metal roof that extended about ten feet from the metal wall behind Max. A network of open-web triangular trusses jutted out and up, carrying the load for a set of overhead gantry crane tracks. Max stood up and walked out on the ever-narrowing beams, with a light step and no apparent concern about the height.

She stopped when she was directly over the spot where 702 had landed and bent down to study the top of the flange, which only about six inches wide at this point. After a few moments, Max stood up, forgetting about the beams over her head. She banged into one and fell off the beam. Catherine watched as Max flipped over in the air and landed gracefully.

"OK," Kathy said, "you did that on purpose, just to show off right? I see what the feline DNA does for you. Looks handy. Although, thinking about 2D cross sections of muscles vs. 3D mass of muscles is giving me a headache; I'd guess there must be more to it than just more efficient muscle structure, otherwise you're violating the laws of physics."

"Well yeah," Max replied, "naturally the bone core must be strengthened, without getting heavier, and they did some work on healing and interchangeable organs, and we are all universal blood donors; and our blood has some remarkable healing properties. Some of the new artificial blood being introduced into the medical field is a direct result of Manticore research. And they did something to make our flesh tougher and more resilient."

"OK, so what did you find up there?"

"Footprints. 702 undoubtedly lay in wait overhead."

"Another feline trait?"

Max looked surprised for a moment, "Ah, I hadn't actually considered that, we were taught about overhead attacks in Tactics 101—in our second grade class—but some of us might prefer that mode for that very reason. I'll need to ask some of the researchers back at Manticore."

Catherine frowned at her.

"Still," continued Max, "it's not the lying in wait or her attack on the terrorists that has me concerned. It's the fact that someone was able to murder her afterwards that has me worried."

"You're not really an investigator, are you?" asked Catherine.

"No," replied Max, "in fact, I can tell you now that the main reason I am here is to find and deal with her killer."

"Are you going to be the judge, jury and executioner, like your sister?" Catherine said, somewhat disparagingly.

"Depends," said Max.

"On what?"

"On who it is and whether or not I have a termination order when I find them. Perhaps this would be a good time to remind you that you have signed off on the Military Secrets Act of 2011. If you don't like anything about my work, and should you decide to do anything about it, you could easily end up in prison. And your child will end up a ward of the state. It gives me no pleasure to remind you of these facts Catherine, but I do want you to understand the consequences of non-compliance."

2313 7/08/2020

Gil Grissom leaned back in his chair and ate an apple while daydreaming. He idly picked up the interim report on the warehouse murders. He was tired, even though his shift had only started at eight. Ever since Special Agent Guevara had arrived they were all jumping through hoops at high speed. Gil was getting seriously ticked, but he was unable to think of anything he could do about it. He flipped the page one-handed and looked at a set of photographs on the next page. His chair suddenly slammed forward, he dropped his apple and stood, violently shoving his chair back into the bookcase behind.

Max was looking over the shoulder of one of the lab techs, much to the irritation of the tech, when she noticed Gil nearly running down the hall. She instantly decided to follow, since she hadn't seen Grissom quite that motivated before.

Gil skidded into the computer lab, with Max on his heels, and waving the photos around said, "This video on the warehouse murders! Where is it! Run it for us now!"

He turned to Max and handed her the report in his hand. When Max saw the pictures she too became insistent on seeing the video.

The lab technician said, "Yes sir. I recovered an ordinary Hitachi Solid-State Holographic Hi-Reliability Memory in their server, which was stuck back in a closet. Someone tried to erase it, but they didn't know what they were doing and so we were able to reconstruct the complete session. The vid actually runs for three days, there's action at the beginning and at the end, I've cut out the middle seventy-eight hours as they just show the passage of time. But I sent the complete vid to the research section though—a continuous video of these kind of wounds, slowly festering, with various insects, they should find it worthy of study."

A picture came up on the big screen bolted to the wall. Max and Gil sat down to watch:

Interior of a warehouse. White walls with spray-on insulation on metal panels. There was plenty of light so that the floor padding and plastic tarp was readily identifiable. There was a large paper background hanging from the overhead. The camera lens was set on wide angle. Two men dragged an unconscious girl into the field of view and the camera started to zoom in. The girl was X5-702. The men disrobed and started to undress the girl. One of the men (Male-1) removed a dart from the girl's neck and showed it to the camera.

"Tranquilizer dart," he said with a smirk, "she never knew what her."

To the surprise of both men, the girl started to stir. "Shit," said the other (Male-2), "the stuff must be losing strength or somethin'."

"Uh, what the...? Who...?" she mumbled incoherently.

Max interrupted, "Wendy—I mean—702 is faking it, Gil. She's almost fully conscious now."

The men had removed 702's pants, jacket and shirt. She appeared to struggle mightily while trying to stand up. "What's happening to me?" she asked fuzzily.

"Well well. This is kind of disappointing," said Male-2, "we had planned to rape you while you were still out. So when you woke up, you would wonder who had you first."

"What? What? Why?"

"Oh, we're you're worst nightmare, we make snuff films."

Gil interjected, "I thought those were a myth."

"I thought those were a myth," she replied, starting to look more awake.

"Nope, guess again. Although, the market is very small, even tiny. But it pays well. Still, we wouldn't do it if we didn't enjoy it so much. First we'll gang rape you, then we'll force you to do things that disgust you, then we'll torture you until you beg for death. It's a living, for us anyway."

Male-1 grabbed 702 around the neck with his left hand and ripped off her brassiere with his right. He turned her violently and wrapped his arms around from the rear, grabbing her breasts savagely. 702's right foot raised rapidly and pistoned down in a blur, smashing Male-1's right foot over the arch. Flattening the foot, the bones and flesh ground together. He let go and she smashed the back of her head into his face. He collapsed like sack of potatoes, dying as he fell.

From the left side of the camera view, a pair of Taser wires flew towards 702. approximately three tenths of a second after they touched her skin, she grabbed the wires and yanked. The Taser flew into her hand. She then threw it high speed outside the frame. There was an audible thunk, a scream and a crash. Using the distraction, Male-2 had grabbed a gun from his pants that were on a chair behind him, and started to fire it at 702. She blurred towards him, jinking sideways enough to avoid the bullets. She grabbed the gun and broke it, ammunition and pieces of the gun scattering through the air, bits of metal twinkling in the bright lights. Then she hit Male-2 above the heart with her right fist; he collapsed instantly. The she walked off screen. They could hear an off-screen moan, a plea for mercy, and a solid thunk. The moans stopped.

The image jiggled a moment, with a bit of static. Then 702 came back into view. She found her clothes and dressed. The image blacked out.

The technician said, "It was right here that she removed the memory card and smashed it, not realizing that the camera was tethered to a computer. Then she spends an hour or so cleaning up her fingerprints, I guess. Then she leaves. We watch the wounds fester for two and a half days then someone comes in, watch:"

Two men in expensive business suits walk into the frame. They looked at the corpses dispassionately, but didn't approach any closer.

"Well, now we know why they never delivered the goods. Get the memory card out of the camera."

"It's already out boss, look, somebody stepped on it."

"Hmm, I think these fuckin' weirdos have a computer setup, better follow that wire and see if it's recorded on disk."

They go out of view.

The technician said, "We deduce that they found the computer and tried to delete the file. They didn't know how to permanently remove it though. But they did manage to turn everything off so we have no further record."

Max said, "I'll need a copy, an edited version on DVD, three sets, and the original drive. You may keep copies, since you've already seen it." She turned to Gil and asked, "Do you think you can identify the two suits anytime soon?"

"Well, that's an unknown. We're trying right now, and so far no luck."

Max hand the tech a card and said, "Email the short version to this address." Then she turned to leave.

Gil said to Max's retreating back, "Join me for a cup of coffee in the break room Max?"

"Too much work Gil," she said, "later maybe."

"Do you ever sleep?"

"Rarely."

Gil filed that bit of information away and went back to his office.

Max grabbed her secure sat-phone and punched a speed number.

"Lydecker."

"452. You should receive an email from Vegas CSI shortly. It's an edited video, recovered from another crime scene. I'm messengering the whole hard drive to you for further analysis. There are two men at the end, two men that are unidentified so far. I need you to work on the ID. I need to find them, and question them.

"You got it Max. I see a large file coming in now, that must be it. Back to you soonest." He hung up.

0755 7/09/2020

Catherine, Gil, Max and Laura were at the conference table.

Catherine said, "So, our working hypothesis is that the suited guys somehow identified 702 and shot her, or had her shot. Any ideas on how they did it?"

She received nothing but blank stares.

Max said, "After we identify them we should be able to find the connection. Actually, I don't care how they found her, I just want them."

Catherine shivered at Max's cold and bleak expression. The meeting broke up.

0914 7/09/2020

Max's sat-phone chimed. She went into the nearest interview room and answered, "452."

"This is Lydecker, check your email, use decryption code five. The two men in question run an extensive illegal drug smuggling operation and have their hands in many other criminal operations. Find them and kill them, kill them all, including associates if you can find any. You can call for backup anytime you need it. I don't care how you do it, just kill them."

"Understood. Out."

0102 7/12/2020

Max stood outside a mansion on the outskirts of Las Vegas. She was wearing dark, nearly skintight clothes. They were a mottled dark gray to slightly less-dark gray. She wore soft rock-climbing shoes, a short fitted jacket and a hood with wrap around goggles. Thin flexible gloves completed her outfit. When she entered a moon shadow she became invisible to all except cats.

There were two guards at the front gate, they were unconscious. There was one guard at the back fence, he too was unconscious. There were six exterior cameras, all had been unplugged. The power had been disconnected along with the telephone lines. She dropped a small black box in the flower bed. It stabilized itself in the dirt with folding tripod legs and sent an antenna up about a foot. There was a near silent click from the box and anything within a five hundred meter radius that transmitted on any radio frequency was jammed.

Max walked around to the side of the house where the light was dimmest and scaled the brick wall. At the second floor she opened a bathroom window and slithered inside. She stepped silently to the hall and stopped, listening. She listened for five full minutes. Max knew how to be very patient. When she was satisfied that there was no one wandering about sleeplessly she started down the hall. She moved slowly and gracefully, and soundlessly, her soft-souled shoes thin enough to feel the grain in the wood floor. At the master bedroom she spent two minutes just turning the knob, another three minutes opening the door wide enough to slip inside. When she finally made it to the bed she was able to identify the male occupant as one of the two suited men at the end of the video. If she hadn't been masked, and if there had been an observer with sensitive enough eyesight, they would have seen a feral grin flash across her face. The huntress found her prey.

The other occupant of the bed was a lovely young woman, snoring softly in a deep sleep. Max slowly removed from her jacket a small stainless steel bottle with a glass dropper. Moving in slow motion, she positioned the dropper a few centimeters above the man's mouth and gently squeezed the rubber bulb between thumb and forefinger. A fat viscous drop of clear liquid fell onto the man's lips. Max put the dropper back into the bottle and the bottle back into her pocket. While she watched, his tongue licked his lips. A few moments later he sort of jumped a tiny amount, and then stilled. After another minute, when Max could no longer hear his heart, she slowly retraced her steps to the hall and went to the next room.

0741 7/10/2020

"Captain Brass," said Max, "here is the identification of the men from the warehouse murders. If you wouldn't mind, set up a swat team. I took the liberty of obtaining warrants for their arrest, as well as to search the house."

Brass was boggled. He said, "Well, I guess there are some advantages after all to working with Federal Agents."

"How fast can you get an arrest team together? Frankly, if you can't get us out there in under an hour, I'll call in my own team."

"Oh, no no, that won't be necessary. Let me make a call and we'll be there in," he stopped to look at the address on the warrant, "thirty minutes. Forty tops."

Half an hour later they were were on the way when the police radio started in with emergency calls for the same house. This caused much consternation among the police captains coordinating the raid. No one noticed that Max seemed unconcerned. So the SWAT team arrived at their target along with a gaggle of ambulances and emergency vehicles.

Max and Captain Brass walked in the house, while the rest of the team secured the perimeter and let the EMT's work. What they found in the house was odd, to say the least.

2234 7/10/2020

Gil stood at the end of the conference table and said, "Preliminary reports show that five apparently healthy men in that house, between the ages of eighteen and forty four, died last night between the hours of eleven at night and six this morning. All died of heart attacks. To say that we are bursting with suspicion is a wild understatement. Toxicology will be working overtime to get to the bottom of this."

"Gil," asked Max, "was there any sign of forced entry?"

"No, there was not. No power or phone lines were cut, no broken windows or locks, no out of place footprints, or anything, except the guards. There were three of them and it looks like they all passed out about the time. We took samples of their blood and stomach contents for testing."

Captain Brass asked, "Are we reasonably sure that these are the men who ordered, ahh, 702's, murder? Are they the one's implicated in the snuff film business? And what about the supposed terrorists?

Gil replied, "All good questions, and and we have no answers. We are still investigating, but with all the suspects dead, we are probably not going to make much more progress. We'll see if we can fill in any blanks, but in my professional opinion, we are stopped."

1112 7/11/2020

Catherine walked into the CSI lab and immediately ran across Max and a stranger. "Hello Max, who's this?"

"This is my boss, Colonel Lydecker. Colonel, this is Catherine Willows, CSI Supervisor."

"How do you do, Ms. Willows. I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

"Yes, me too. You run an interesting outfit, Colonel."

"So Catherine," asked Max, "what brings you in during the day shift?"

"Court, I had to testify this morning. It wreaks havoc with my sleep patterns. I'm going to do some paperwork, and head home. I'll see you later."

As Catherine left, Lydecker said, "Well Max, you did your usual first class work. I'll be off, and I'll see you after the loose ends are wrapped up."

1146 7/11/2020

Max bumped into Catherine on the way out. "Excuse me."

"Oh, it was my fault," said Catherine, "say, would you like to join me for lunch?"

"Sure, I could stand to eat."

They drove along in Catherine's car, towards downtown. Max spoke up, "Do you mind if we make a quick stop first? I need to check with some of my contacts and pick up a report."

"No problem, where to?"

"12509 38th street."

Ten minutes later they pulled up to an apartment block. Catherine noted that it was less than upscale. Considerably less. Max opened her door and said, "This is kind of a busy street, why don't you wait around the corner, in the alley?"

"Sure."

Catherine pulled up at the side of the apartments and picked up her notebook. She was engaged in the results of chemical analysis when, completely out of the blue, a man smashed into the hood of her car. She jumped, her computer dropped on the floor unheeded, a papers scattering here and there. She opened her door and stepped out, looking at the body in amazement. He still seemed to be alive. Suddenly, she shifted into gear, checking for a pulse, grabbing her first aid kit from the trunk. She heard a noise and looked up. There, in a third floor window directly above the car, stood Max. She was up on the window sill, one hand holding onto the jamb, the window slid completely open.

Max jumped outward. She flipped around in mid air and landed on her feet, facing the body, her knees flexed to take the shock of a three story jump. She walked over to the car and felt the man for a pulse.

"Max," shouted Catherine, "this guy fell onto my car! Can you do first aid while I call for an ambulance?"

"You'd think two bullets and a three story fall would've killed him, wouldn't you?"

"What, what? You did this? I mean, you did this! Why Max? And why make me an accessory?"

"Cath, this is the sniper who shot 702. I have orders to deal with him." Then she placed her fingertips on the man's neck, carefully feeling around for the major arteries, and squeezed with her thumbs. About a minute later, he was dead.

"Max," shouted Catherine, "what did you do?"

"Pop your trunk open."

"NO, we can't screw up the crime scene!"

Max smiled at Catherine, "Why not, it's not like we don't know what happened. Besides, we aren't going anywhere. I just want to put him out of sight until my clean-up crew gets here." Max plucked Catherine's cell phone from her hands. "You won't be needing this until later."

0720 7/12/2020

Max was cleaning up the paper from the desk that had been temporarily assigned to her, putting some documents in her briefcase, feeding a shredder with the rest.

Catherine walked in, "So, leaving us?"

"Yes, there's nothing left for me to do here."

"You did it, didn't you."

"Did what Catherine?"

"You went into that house two night ago and murdered those men, just like that you did that sniper yesterday. How can you sleep with yourself?"

Max looked at Catherine and said, "I don't sleep."

Catherine was taken aback. "So can you tell me this, what connection was there between your clone sister and her murderers?"

Max thought for a few moments, feeding a few more sheets into the shredder while she pondered. Finally, she said, "They were in college together. They both shared several advanced classes at UCLA last year."

"Whoa," said Catherine, "that's unexpected."

"Further, 702 was using the same name here that she did in college. That was a huge mistake. One that any of us could make at any time." Max snapped her briefcase shut and said, "Don't forget about the Secrets Act that you signed. I'll be seeing you."

"I sincerely hope I never see you again."

The End