Disclaimer: I don't own 'em (unless they're originals). Please don't sue me. It's so not worth it.
A/N: Well, here we go again. Let's see, what've I got planned for you this time? Murder, angst, love, secrets… Ahhh, it's good to be back. Hope you enjoy the ride!
BEFORE I SLEEP: WHISPER
"They're all killers. All they need is a trigger."
Chapter 1: Fifty-Seven Days
One, two. One, two. Left, right. Left, right.
Brax simply lay on his back on the cold cement floor, staring up at the ceiling with vacant brown eyes. The rhythm was as familiar to Brax as breathing.
Footsteps. They were coming for him again.
"Brax." Lydecker heard it too and grabbed hold of the bars that separated their cells. "Answer me, 813."
The transgenic didn't move. Every muscle in his body had locked and all he could hear was his blood roaring in his ears. Lydecker's hoarse voice seemed impossibly far away…
"813!" Lydecker barked, putting the full weight of twenty years of authority behind the three syllables to no avail. The transgenic didn't even blink. The Colonel gritted his teeth in frustration. One of his kids was being physically and psychologically dismantled and there wasn't a damn thing he could do to stop it.
Weeks had passed since the Familiars had taken Mole away and Brax had become more and more withdrawn, retreating into his own mind to escape the abuse. His voice had given out weeks ago. They'd cut him, burned him, broken bones and gleefully resorted to electrocution and sleep derivation later on. These reptilian bastards were thorough. Lydecker had to give them that.
No-one can resist torture indefinitely. Not even you.
His own words, spoken so long ago, echoed in his mind. Donald Lydecker was no stranger to war. He'd seen it over and over. It was brutal, ugly and unforgiving. No amount of training could have prepared Brax for such an ordeal and Lydecker hadn't felt such a deep-seated need for vengeance since Tinga had been killed.
Others involved with the project had always struggled to comprehend Lydecker's rather twisted paternal attitude towards the genetically-engineered killing machines they'd cooked up. They couldn't possibly understand.
"Brax." He tried again, keeping his voice pitched low this time. "Brax, can you hear me?"
Nothing. The X5 was borderline catatonic. He hadn't so much as twitched in days – not in Lydecker's company anyway. When the Familiars had first brought Brax and Mole to their cosy little prison, he hadn't looked any different than he had at Manticore when Lydecker had last seen him. His dark hair had been short and spiky, the rest of him muscular and toned in ways most ordinaries could only wish for – the epitome of the battle-ready warrior.
Now his hair was longer, oily and matted. He'd lost so much weight that his ribs were clearly visible under skin that was scarred and almost translucent after two months with no sunlight. He was a shadow of his former self.
Then the door opened and two ordinary-looking men with Caduceus brands on their skin walked in.
Cohen and Ross were unarmed, as they had been for the last two weeks. That in itself made Lydecker's blood boil. They believed without a shadow of a doubt that Brax wouldn't or couldn't resist. They thought the X5 was finished, that it was just a matter of time before his body followed his mind into death. The colonel honestly didn't know whether they were right or not. He'd never known a transgenic that wouldn't fight tooth and nail to survive, no matter how dire the circumstances might be.
Either way, Lydecker wanted Ames White's head on a plate. No one fucked with one of his kids like this and got away with it.
Cohen glanced down at the X5 lying on the floor where they'd dropped him the previous night and shook his head, smirking slightly.
"You know the drill, Lydecker. Back it up," Ross reminded him.
Steely blue eyes glittered menacingly but the colonel complied, moving away from the bars as Cohen unlocked the cell.
The Familiars weren't going to stop until they killed Brax. At first they'd been trying to wrest the locations of the transgenic safehouses out of him but over the last couple of weeks he'd been reduced to nothing more than a plaything. Lydecker hated to see one of his kids brought so low.
So when Cohen grabbed hold of Brax's arm with every intention of dragging him out of the cell, Lydecker thought he was imagining it. The vacant look in Brax's eyes evaporated only to be replaced by something else. Something dark, fuelled by rage and pain. Something inhuman.
That was the moment when Brax just… snapped.
A low, menacing growl and the sharp crack of a neck breaking was all the warning the Familiars had. Brax threw Cohen's body aside with a snarl and leapt at Ross, hitting him squarely in the chest and propelling them both out of the cell and onto the floor.
Lydecker didn't waste a second, reaching through the bars to grab hold of Cohen's wrist and drag him closer. The keys dangled just out of reach, clipped to the Familiar's belt. He forced himself to concentrate on the task, trying to block out the sounds of Ross's death throes and the sensation of blood spraying against his skin. His fingers closed around the prize just as reinforcements burst in.
Lydecker's gaze strayed to Ross and his usually cast-iron stomach twinged.
The man's jaw had been literally torn off, leaving a gaping hole that was pumping blood onto the floor in an ever-expanding pool. He was still twitching, his eyes wide and staring.
Lydecker watched in grim silence as the animal wearing Brax's face dodged bullets and blades, tearing his opponents limb from limb in a feral rage. Not since the X2s had the colonel seen such carnage. He swallowed the bile rising in his throat and inwardly cringed as he witnessed the total, violent disintegration of one of his kids.
The Committee had once asked him how long an X5 could hold out against ongoing torture and now, finally, he had a definitive, blood-soaked answer.
Forty-Eight Hours Later
The entire building smelled like blood. The metallic odour hung heavily in the air, so potent that he could taste it.
Ames White ran his tongue across the roof of his mouth, his fingers tightening on the pistol in his hands as he crept cautiously down the corridor. Behind him, the Phalanx moved silently in his wake. The outpost had failed to make contact for over twenty-four hours and the Council had finally become alarmed enough to demand answers.
They'd already found several bodies strewn about outside, torn to pieces, and they stepped over several more as they made their way further into the complex.
White knew of only a few things on the planet that had the ability to overpower a Familiar and the desire for revenge warred with self-preservation. They hadn't spent ten thousand years creating a superior race only to be cut down by an animal.
They followed the bloodied trail, becoming more aware with each step that this could not have been an orchestrated attack. It had been a massacre; a wholesale, merciless slaughter of anything that got in the way.
When they arrived at the lowest level, where the captives were held and interrogated, White had the squash down the urge to roar in frustration. Two cells were empty, their doors standing open and White knew exactly who had occupied them.
"No survivors," Valance declared quietly.
"Sir, we found the surveillance tapes." Dawes' voice buzzed through the earpiece. "I think you should see this."
"Valance, you're with me," White said crisply, turning to leave the grisly room and join Dawes.
"Sorensen's not going to be happy about this," Valance muttered.
Ames watched the footage without saying a word, clenching his jaw angrily.
"Your orders, sir?" Dawes prompted him as he paused the tape, holding the image of the berserker X5 on the screen. Behind him, Lydecker could clearly be seen, standing calmly in his cell.
White's cold eyes held a promise of retribution.
"Find them and kill them."