LENGTH: 3,400 words
SUMMARY: Five intersections into the life of Jake Foley. Jake 2.0/Miracles/BtVS/I-Man/Dark Angel/Firefly crossover.
NOTES: This started out as a five things challenge of sorts to clear all the random crossovers from my brain. Then it kind of ran away.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, no profit, yadda, yadda, yadda.
"So you have a bullet in your brain? Wow, that's - lucky, I guess. That you're not dead, I mean. Not lucky that you, you know, have a bullet in your brain."
Evelyn Santos turned at the voice, then had to resist a laugh when she saw the too-earnest face of the speaker. One of the black-suited NSA agents had been pulled out of the anonymous crowd of the same. Now, he stood with her waiting by the metal detectors while airport security and local law enforcement sorted out their paperwork. He was younger than the rest, tall and gangling, and made less generic by his haircut and expression. "I know what you meant," she told him kindly, since he seemed unduly nervous - whether about the checks or about talking to her, she wasn't sure.
"And you have--?" she tried after a moment, eying the rather smoother and obviously more senior NSA agent whose argument with airport security on the other side of the barrier was punctuated by frequent gestures at her companion. Further down, the police were still clearing out the last of the excitable public.
He gave her a huge, awkward grin. "I don't have a bullet. I - have a medical condition. Those things, they kinda mess with me. I guess I must send them crazy right back, but I never actually saw it first-hand, 'cause... well, usually being picked up off the floor at that point."
Evelyn nodded. She thought she'd maybe heard of something like that once. Although even if she had, it didn't explain her inescapable impression that the NSA agent was lying.
"So, you?" he prompted. "CIA? FBI?"
"Police," she said with a smile. "Once upon a time, anyway. Hence the bullet. But today I'm here as part of a team that investigates... unusual sorts of phenomena. We were in the area and one of Alva's government friends thought we might be able to offer a unique perspective." She caught sight of Alva's impatient gesturing and illegible mouthed hurry-up across the commotion, and raised a hand in helpless acknowledgement.
Next to Alva, Paul was staring around with intensity, like he'd never seen an airport before. She wondered if an airport was all he was seeing now.
"You mean, say, unusual sorts of phenomena like sixty-year-old bombers flying into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to execute perfect landings without a living soul on board? And that's what you do?" The NSA agent then spouted a line she'd personally never, ever expected to hear from the National Security Agency, "That is so cool!" He peered at Alva and Paul, and grinningly asked her, "Which one's Mulder?"
She frowned. "I think they both are."
He climbed down a bit from his giddy high. "You must have seen some pretty interesting stuff."
"On occasion. My partners are the experts in the field - I suppose you could say I'm the investigative muscle." She looked him up and down and thought that it could be no bad thing to have a contact in the NSA. She extended her hand. "Evelyn Santos."
"Jake Foley..." He took her hand only briefly - which was a relief, because he had an oblivious bone-crusher of a handshake - before diving into his inside jacket pocket for a badge he didn't need to show her. "NSA?" His grin faded as he seemed to realise how ridiculous he looked, and he hurriedly stuffed the badge away. Straightening himself out in an attempt to reclaim dignity, he said, "I - I'm sorry. This is all still very new to me."
She would never have guessed... but she kept the nugget of sarcasm to herself. It was something of a revelation to her that rookie NSA agents existed. She had always subconsciously assumed, she supposed, that they sprang full-fledged complete with suit, gun, and stony expression from a cloning lab in the National Security Agency's basement. Nothing about this guy had been grown in a lab, that was for sure.
Agent Foley was being waved over to the barrier by his supervisor. He shot her an apologetic glance before diverting his attention. She noticed that he really was very careful to stay well clear of the metal detectors. She wasn't quite sure how he could hear his supervisor above the background noise, given the distance he kept, but he must have done. He returned to her a bit subdued.
"Hey. Well, security won't switch off the metal detectors, so I have to go around--" He made a sweeping motion with both hands that went nowhere. "--So I will see you later, Ms Santos. Evelyn. Maybe. Hopefully."
She caught the weary roll of his eyes as he slouched off. Sketched a wave to him as, halfway to the exit with two airport security men marching formation at his side, he looked back.
When she'd made the claim that Slayers took care of Slayers, she hadn't expected to have to go up against the government to enforce it. She hadn't bargained on potentials who were damn political assassins. Silly her.
If she had known she'd have to contend with the NSA to get this girl out? She so would have given this one to Faith.
Getting in had gone down without a whisper. They'd taken out the agents guarding the temporary cell without a hitch. Smooth and sweet. Everything had been perfect, in fact, until the guy with the scruffy hair who looked more like someone's loser college boyfriend than a trained NSA agent had shown up.
At that point, every alarm in the building seemed to have starting blaring at once, and NSA-loser-guy proved to have an implausible knack for throwing Slayers around, if no shortage of surprise at being called to go up against a group of girls who could match him blow-for-blow.
Buffy hung back and warily watched the workout he was giving her team, taking in his moves - strength and speed aplenty, enough to match any Slayer, maybe more than enough. But he had only a rough, instinctual skill to wield them, lots of brute force and little training. And because that was kinda her thing these days, it crossed her mind that she could have done something with him, if he wasn't, y'know, a him.
He shook off a perfectly executed strike from Angela that by rights should've floored him for an hour or two, returned with a kick that blantantly put full weight on the leg Rebecca's follow-through should have put out of action. No way was this guy just human.
"What is he?" Angela demanded, echoing Buffy's thoughts with added frustration.
"Are you a demon?" Cynthia asked sharply.
"Are you mad?" The young man was backed against the wall now, the three younger Slayers venturing cautious attacks and being ever more frantically held back. "Who are you women?"
Buffy could detect no hint of the supernatural about him. She remembered Riley, and remarked, "I guess those efforts at making supersoldiers have moved on up."
"What?" It had been a stab in the dark, but he gave it away with his eyes, for an infinitesimal split second. "Look, I'm Agent Jake Foley. I work for the NSA. You people haven't killed anyone yet, and I'm guessing you don't intend to, but the woman in that cell - she's done a lot of bad things. She needs to be locked away. Even if she's a part of your wacky Amazonian Kung-Fu sisterhood..." He winced at Rebecca's rude snort. "You need to let us deal with this."
"Wrong," Buffy said. "She's mine to deal with. By more right than you could begin to imagine."
He was strong, and fast, and had some uncanny sharp senses going on, but she'd been doing this a long time. He wasn't quite quick enough to clear the path of her flying leap over the heads of the younger Slayers, or to dodge the kick that took him in the side of the skull. He spun from the force of the blow, hit the wall, and fell in a sprawl of gangly limbs. Buffy checked his pulse - its drumbeat was fierce beneath her pressed fingers.
"Government experiments," she dismissed, exasperatedly, to the girls who looked on in interest. "C'mon, let's get her out before he wakes up."
Darien Fawkes was bored. It had been three days already and if the Official didn't break soon he was gonna go stir crazy in this goddamn cell. It wasn't as though they weren't both well aware this was just a petty show of power - no way was the Fat Man wasting as valuable an asset as an invisible man by throwing him in a cell in some remote government facility and throwing away the key.
...He was pretty sure.
"Boba Fett and Wolverine," prompted his companion in government-sponsored captivity, from the next cell - without whom the aforementioned crazy might well have happened days ago.
"Boba Fett. Easy. He'd take down Wolvie from a distance and de-claw him while he was out."
"Hey, Boba Fett is mincemeat if he makes one slip-up."
"Boba Fett doesn't make slip-ups. Move on, my friend."
"Okay..." Silence descended again as they lapsed back into thought. Since the state had seen fit to provide neither of them with furniture, they each leaned against the back wall, separated by the mesh of bars and the three foot space between the cells.
It hadn't escaped Darien's notice that his neighbour's cell was heavily reinforced. Kinda made him wonder. Not much to look at: skinny kid, bad hair, encyclopaedic knowledge of nerd culture - recognised some of his quotes, which as far as Darien was concerned always counted as a point in favour.
Must be some sort of freak to rate the 5-star accommodations. Didn't seem too polite to ask, though - besides, and more to the point, he really wasn't looking to find out that his genial companion was some sort of superstrong mass murdering psycho, and Darien knew the way his luck went. Better not to ask.
"Hong Kong Phooey and Roger Rabbit," he spouted. The silence was getting to him.
"I'm not even gonna dignify that with analysis, man."
"Ah, come on, Foley. Least I'm not totally hooked on the Star Wars pantheon."
But his neighbour pushed off from the wall, stood up, paced to the front of the cell. Darien cut the guy some slack - if he felt crappy after three days in this hole, he figured three months entitled the other fellow to the odd bout of moodyness. 'Specially considering that the lab-coated guys with the tasers - really cautious lab-coated guys with tasers when they ventured into that cell - hadn't once yet come for Darien.
And he was very grateful for that small blessing. Thank Christ even the Official's evil little stone chip of a heart had some limits.
"Look, buddy," Darien said seriously, "When my boss finally lets up and gets me out of here, I will put a word in for you. Swear on my life." He raised his hand in a boy-scout salute. "The Agency I work for, I am sure they can find a use for whatever you are." Which wouldn't be anyone's top choice of a life, but had to be better than here.
Foley, though, had stopped dead in front of the bars, head cocked, listening. "They're coming."
Darien couldn't hear anything, but grimaced at the thought of tasers. Even as a witness, that zap sound and the burnt smell? He could live without.
Then he saw the grin spread over his cell-buddy's face. "I told you my friends would be coming for me."
Which put in mind a whole strike team of superstrong geeky twentysomethings all with hearing like bats, but what walked through the door was a less promising po-faced dark-skinned guy in a suit, who was flanked by a couple of nervous labcoats.
The po-faced guy smiled unexpectedly. "Ready to rejoin the world, Jake?"
And Foley... boy, had he been wrong about this guy, 'cause he practically stood to attention while they unlocked the damn cell.
Darien wouldn't have minded seeing him pound on the labcoats a bit. He had all the sympathy in the world for anyone on the receiving end of those bastards' attentions. Foley, though, just gave 'em a flat, vaguely threatening look as he stepped over the threshold. His friend - partner? - welcomed him with a clap on the shoulder that was also somehow kind of a 'screw you' to the labcoats, and everyone present knew it.
Herded by his partner to freedom, he looked back at Darien from the door. "See you on the outside, Fawkes."
Darien smirked. "Maybe not."
Which was all fine and dandy, not to mention as suavely cool a parting as an invisible man could wish for - at least 'til they'd gone and he found himself sat in the stone silence staring at an empty adjoining cell.
Obviously, it all went to hell. Logan, meet plan: plan, meet hell - in Max's world, nothing but the purest of logic. The truck that was supposed to stop ended up tipped on its side with half its load decorating the street, the big coffin-shaped crate they wanted was split open in the middle of the mess with its contents spilled out on the tarmac - and the damn Manticore doctor was running straight into it all in full view of the heavily armed guys who probably weren't too happy about their truck.
And Max? Hanging from the cable above the street like a spare part, still absorbing the fact that their 'advanced pre-Pulse technology' was a man.
The Manticore doctor hunched over the body sprawled naked on the street. The only reason she wasn't dead was because Logan thought pretty fast on his feet for a guy who couldn't walk. Max could hear the gunfire and worried despite herself that he was a sitting duck in the car. Hoped he could manage not to get himself shot up - again.
"Crap." Max dropped from her upside-down perch, reached the ground via the bulk of the tipped truck, and took the Manticore doctor in a running dive, yanking her behind a pile of overturned crates that she hoped like hell didn't contain anything that went 'boom'. "Do you want to die?" she snapped, this close to letting her fist elucidate how not-happy she was that they appeared to have been conned into stealing a person in exchange for their promised information. She didn't like doctors who'd worked for Manticore to begin with, no matter how short a time they insisted they'd stayed there.
The older woman's eyes flashed desperate fury, and she was already thinking that maybe this was not what she'd assumed when mad scientist lady yelled, "He has been in that box since the Pulse! And if I don't administer the repair patch in the very narrow six minute window of opportunity post cryogenic revival, he is going to die. Permanently. And then the last decade will have been a huge waste of time-- Get the hell off me!"
"Repair patch?" Max held up her fist; clasped safely in it, the syringe seized from the Manticore doctor's hands in their diving roll. Received a breathless nod in reply.
"Fine." She dived again, sorely missing a time pre-Logan when dodging bullets hadn't been a favourite daily sport. She jabbed the syringe into naked-guy's arm and discarded it; rolled them both back into cover with far more bodily contact than she'd needed. He was cold and he felt dead. Gross.
The Manticore doctor seized him from her, shaking his shoulders like she expected instant results. "Jake! Jake, wake up! I know I've been a... a really long time, but I wanted to make sure it would work, and then I couldn't get you out of that vault, and then these really terrible guys got there first and just took everything and I barely knew what to do... Jake!"
Max grimaced down at the still face. Great bone structure, slack expression, looked really dead. She almost jumped out of her skin when the guy sat bolt-upright with a huge first gasp of breath. Concerned for their cover, she automatically reached out to push him down.
He almost broke her arm.
Freakishly strong. Especially for a guy just woken up from being a ten-year popsicle. Wide dark eyes inches from hers glinted metallically. His fingers were chill, but he wasn't shivering. She was sorta certain he shouldn't even have been conscious. Huh. Guess the government was doing experiments with people a long time before Manticore...
"Jake? Jake!" the doctor exclaimed. She eased his hands from Max, draped them on herself instead. Leaned forward to bury her face in his shoulder. He got a big, dumb puppy-dog look on his face and said, "Diane?" in a voice feeling all its ten years' disuse. His bony hands wrapped around the doctor and pulled her in close.
Max kinda wanted to take the opportunity to point out that a) they were still in the middle of the street, b) the guy was still naked and, like, c) totally too young for her, not forgetting d) there were assholes with guns not twenty feet away.
She didn't, because Logan's car screeched to a halt blocking them off from the gunfire. "Max! Dr Foley!" They were outta there and she didn't need telling twice.
More prosaically as they sped away, she heard Romeo in the back ask Mrs Robinson, "Uh, Diane... where are my clothes?"
The oddness in the new mind aboard the ship throws her off just enough that River doesn't realise it is a new mind aboard the ship. Not 'til they're already leaving the atmosphere of Jirond for the Black, Mal's bad mood reflected in the roughness of the ride and everyone missing Wash keenly, but for different reasons than the usual.
Still puzzling over the oddness of neural pathways sharp like crystal, almost machine-like in their clarity, smooth and clean in her own mind, she leaves Simon puzzling over her latest sea-change as she breaks off a conversation about Jirond's root-veg economy and ventures off to find the source.
She knows exactly where to look up. Peers at him stretched like a spider across the dark of the ceiling cavity outside the hold. Two gleams of silvery reflection peer back down at her.
"You're River Tam." He knows her name and he's not surprised that she found him. He's not worried about being found. He wasn't hiding to keep his presence on the ship secret from them... well, only 'til they left atmo, anyhow.
She picks a name out of the web of thought that's clearer than it has human right to be. "Jake... Foley?"
The silvery eyes spark with the twist of his smile. Then he twists, down from his perch on the ceiling, with the grace of long practice; it takes the knowing in her head to tell her exactly how long.
Not much surprises River any more, but she blinks at him now. "You don't look that old."
He pauses, crouched gracefully like a cat where his feet hit the floor. That, he hadn't expected she would glean. Not psychic - she can see it now; it's the web of his senses, so fine-tuned as to almost make no difference, that threw her off. She can feel the threads of his perception coil around the world for a hundred feet all about him; hear vicariously the soft noise of the air recycling unit breathing over the walls, the thrum of energy in Serenity's hull. Every circuit on the ship a potential appendage...
Maybe a kind of psychic, she corrects herself.
"I was a government experiment, too," she whispers, to the surprised intruder who doesn't look more than a few years her senior, but has centuries in his mind. The memory of Earth-That-Was glitters there. Machines inside him, self-replicating, cell-repairing. Even the cell damage of age.
"I know," he says. In the better light of the corridor, his eyes look human, but it's a good thing she won't have to fight him. Her senses might make her faster, but he's strong, inhumanly so, and he could take most any strike she'd land. She can't predict the outcome. He adds a bit awkwardly, fumbling the smoothness of introduction and letting her catch, for a moment, what might be a trace of guilt, "I don't work for this government."
She nods. She knows that. "Captain Reynolds came here looking for the new rebels." They might have broken the back of the Alliance, but the monster was still crawling, lashing out in its death throes. Why they'd come here - Mal had always been a volunteer. But they'd met a sea of deliberately blank faces and negative thought - too high-profile, damaged goods already, the revolution didn't want them. The lower echelons of it, at least, didn't want to risk it.
"Yeah. Well, they decided to come looking for him. Or they sent me to, anyway." He straightens, runs a hand through his scruffy hair, and spouts a line straight out of the entertainment media of centuries ago. "Take me to your leader?"