A/N: Sorry for the tragic and unnecessary delay. RL took over, then I got lazy, and then I moved to another country and... Yeah.
Happy Birthday lisa0316!
And so after some heavy revision and correction from the initial drafts of this pain in the arse chapter, here is:
Coda watched Desi as she sat quietly by herself, refusing to partake in their younger siblings' fun and games. It was dark, and the clouds were threatening to break open and wash them all in classic Seattle rain. They would have to move into their sad excuse of a shelter soon. Desi was staring into the flickering fire, playing with a loose pebble on the ground. Her dark hair fell in a mess around her shoulders, masking her face from his view.
She had been like this all day. Subdued and quiet, very unlike her usual self. Coda got up, brushed the dirt off his worn out pants and walked towards her.
"What's up, Dee?"
He sat down beside her. Desi half turned towards him, and then looked away.
"I feel bad, Coda."
Her voice was soft, so soft that even his transgenic ears strained to hear her. Felt bad?
"We killed her, Coda. She was important…" Desi trailed off, not daring to look into her older brother's eyes. She knew what to expect from him. After all, they had spent all their lives together. He would furrow his eyebrows in confusion then take a minute to realise what she was taking about and after that, start to get angry. And she was right. Coda snatched the pebble she had been toying with and threw it into the fire.
"You knew that. We knew that going into this, Desi." Coda's voice was stern and hard, emotionless like the soldiers they had been trained to be.
"But so many people care, Coda. Look at the news, people are scared. She was important to them, more important than we-I thought. And we just took her out. Like that. " Desi pleaded for her brother to understand. It pulled at her heart as she watched the news replaying Max's fall over and over again, hearing the newscaster's exaggerated commentary on the fall and the bloody mess that came after, watching as thousands of transgenics and their supporters crowded around the City to get some sort of news about the situation. It was an unfamiliar emotion.
Coda reached out to her and forced her to look at him. "We knew the risks, soldier. 452 was our target for so long. You knew what you were getting into. And you agreed, Desi. This is not the time for
guilt or regret. Harden up, soldier. This is a victory. We got our job done, like we wanted to. This is a good thing." Coda said.
Desi started to say something to that, but she fell silent. Her eyes shifted to somewhere behind Coda and then darted back fearfully to her brother. Coda whirled around, only to be faced with a round darkness that was the end of a gun. The barrel connected with his head before he could move.
Instantly Desi was on her feet, but the man who'd approached them was faster and he moved just as swiftly as her, twisting her arm behind her and shoving her onto the ground. Desi struggled against the attacker, but to no avail as his immense strength held her down.
Another Manticore soldier.
Her younger siblings had come out now, stepping out from the shadows. She heard him cocking the gun, and then saw from the corner of her eye that it was focused on Coda. The younger kids stopped advancing.
The man let out a harsh snarl, and then whispered harshly to them.
"Tell me why you failed."
"Watch and learn, Cale."
Hostile voices greeted him as he started to stir. His head hurt, and his lip was throbbing. He tasted blood. Ah, yes. He remembered being punched, fighting back, and then knocked out. Logan tugged in vain at the ropes tying his hands to the back of the chair. He heard a low chuckle from behind him.
"It's no use, Cale. Just sit still and watch."
The cold metal of the chair that he was sitting on dug into his neck and shoulder blades. He figured he was sitting in one of those pre-pulse electric chairs, abandoned after the pulse because electricity was too expensive to waste on inmates. The darkness was intimidating. He tried as hard as he could but he did not remember who had taken him. He was walking out of his apartment building when a man had come up and slugged him hard in the gut. He had thrown a pretty good left hook at the man, before being rammed to the ground by two more men behind him. The last thing he remembered vaguely was being thrown into the backseat of a car and passing out.
Dim lights flickered on, and Logan noticed he was in an old warehouse. His ears picked up the faraway rumbling of thunder. There was a television set in front of him, with the red standby button glowing eerily in the greyish darkness. He heard a click, and the television blared to life.
Hoverdrone videos, he realised. He was watching hoverdrone footage. His eyes scanned the screens for anything which may be important. His eyes were still out of focus, tired, exhausted and he was sure his glasses were crooked and on the verge of snapping in two.
"Watch this, Cale." A voice whispered in his ear. He could smell the bad breath of his captor, and he turned away instinctively. A rough calloused hand yanked his head back roughly, eliciting a sharp crack in Logan's neck muscles and he winced.
"I said watch."
He focused on the screen then, trying to make out the slightly blurred image moving on the screen. Max.
"What the hell are you doing with her?" He managed angrily, his throat dry and hurting. He received no answer.
He couldn't tear his eyes away. He made Max out amidst the dark images, laughing with Original Cindy as they came out of Crash. They hugged and waved goodbye as Max got on her bike. She kicked the stand and revved the engine, eliciting drunken catcalls from the men slumped in a stupor in front of the club.
What was the point of watching this?
All of a sudden his view of the screen was blocked and a shadow fell across him.
"This is what happens when you disobey us, Cale. This is what happens when you don't follow the rules. Keep watching your girlfriend." The same sinister voice which spoke to him earlier told him. Logan tried to look up at the man's face, but he had moved away.
He heard the harsh voice somewhere behind him, issuing orders to someone else; whispering in the darkness. There was loud click and Logan realised his captor had been talking into a phone.
A loud bang diverted Logan's attention back to the television. Max's motorcycle jerked in the video, suddenly skidding to the right and crashing in a heap by some dumpsters. The hoverdrone swerved out of range for a moment. Logan let out a strangled yell and the mess at the dumpster came back into view. He saw Max look up directly at the drone, narrowing her eyes suspiciously before crying out in pain as she tried to get up. She wrapped her arms around her abdomen tightly, and crumpled back into a heap on the ground.
Dark substance oozed out from underneath her clothes, under her hands. Blood, he assumed. Logan wanted to throw up. He was shaking; his heart was beating uncontrollably beneath his chest as he cried out to her. He saw Max reaching into her jacket pocket and pulling out her phone slowly, trembling in pain. He could see she was in agony. She flipped it open and pressed a number.
A shrill ringing tone forced Logan to look away from the television screen. It was the sound of his own phone, probably taken off him as he had been dragged inside. Someone picked up his phone and shoved it in front of his face.
The pale blue screen glowed, flashing the words 'Max calling. Answer?' in front of him.
Logan tried to pull his hands free as hard as he could, but failed. The chair scraped noisily against the cement floor, the exoskeleton whirring in protest as he forced his legs to move. His captor laughed. "See? This is what happens, Cale."
The gloved hands flipped open his phone, taunting him cruelly as Logan heard Max's voice come through the line.
"Logan…I got shot..." Her words were forced, shaky, and he could tell she was in pain.
And then the line went dead. Momentarily confused, Logan looked up and saw a finger on the red disconnect button on his phone. Anger rushed through him like fire through gasoline. Logan glanced up at his kidnapper and saw the sinister smile playing across his face.
"You should have just left when we told you to."
Logan woke up suddenly, his heart hammering in his chest and sweating profusely. Relieving the worst moments of his life was not the best way to wake up. How long had he been sleeping? He straightened his glasses and realized he had fallen asleep in his office. The red LED display of the clock read 2:30 in the morning. His phone buzzed silently on the table, listing 23 missed calls for the night. He sighed and turned it off, momentarily considering throwing the damn thing into the trash and then deciding against it.
He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and moved his mouse, bringing his computer back from hibernation. He had asked his contacts to try and retrieve security tapes from nearby buildings and one by one he had been receiving them through the night. Granted, his network wasn't as big as it used to be, but he had to make do. Things were bound to have changed after so many years.
Déj� vu all over again, isn't it?
He sighed. He couldn't get her out of his head, as much as he wanted to. Couldn't get the image if her lying helpless in the hospital, depending on the tubes running through her to live. It brought back the haunting memory years ago as he sat chained up watching the grainy hoverdrone footage focusing on Max's near lifeless body by the dumpsters would haunt him forever. It had changed his life, after all.
If you die on me, I'll kick your ass.
He didn't even know if she really had said that, or if it had been part of his overly active imagination. He had been heavily sedated, low on blood and heavily sedated at the time after all. He ran
a hand through his hair, shaking off the old images playing in his head. He tapped his keyboard, going through the flood of footages he had received.
The latest he had received was the surveillance tape from the roof of the building opposite Terminal City. Blurry images moved across the screen before a hand appeared and shoved the camera roughly out of place. He heard a small, girly laugh as the camera swung to and fro, transmitting haphazard footage before settling at an angle overlooking nothing in particular.
It looked like it was just some kids goofing off on the roof.
The new camera angle blocked the children from sight most of the time, but Logan could pick them out; able to spy their shadows flitting across the roof, once to the back, and once in the direction of the rooftop railings. What in the world were children doing on the roof, unsupervised? He was ready to dismiss the whole thing and move on to the next video when something caught his eye.
He saw a glint in the grimy footage, a reflection of metal from one of the kids lying flat on the ground, bouncing off one of the convex mirrors hanging at the corner of the roof. That haircut. Immediately, images of young Zack, the picture he'd unearthed for Max all those years ago flashed before his eyes, and the blood drained from his face.
He paused the footage, and blew up the still image. They were kids! He couldn't see them clearly and they obviously had been very careful. Logan gritted his teeth as his eyes strained. He needed his home computer for this. He couldn't use those though, not with Kylie lurking around at every corner. He slammed his fists onto the table, sending a heap of documents flying.
It was nearly three in the morning. Kylie would be asleep anyway, he reasoned.
And if she isn't? You're going to answer all her questions? A nasty voice asked him.
It was a chance he was willing to take.
"We've just received an update from our sources near Terminal City regarding the attempted murder yesterday on Max Guevara's life. A video footage recorded on an eye witness' camera phone clearly shows the transgenic leader falling from the roof of one of Terminal City's buildings after being shot. The shooter could not be seen. No statements have been released from inside the City, and we have yet to confirm if she is still alive or not. The Seattle Police Department has declined to further elaborate on this blatant attempt at murder. Stay tuned for more updates on this situation. You're watching the morning news on –"
The television winked into darkness, and the remote was tossed aside.
"Someone must've paid them off to keep quiet." Alec said, contemplating what he just heard. There was no way under normal circumstances would the Seattle PD stay quiet after what had just happened to Max.
Max nodded silently. She was getting sick of this. Her chest hurt as her wound had not fully healed yet. Alec had convinced Sam to release her in the middle of the night, when there were less people around who would notice them getting out. The less people knew about her whereabouts, the better. Now, holed up in one of the few safe houses left, she was getting restless, and her mind was working in overdrive trying to piece together the shattered puzzle her life had started to become.
Alec turned to Max, noticing her lack of responsiveness and went to sit by her side. "It'll take a while before Terminal City gets back to us. They're doing the best they can." He told her.
"Why would someone want to kill me, Alec? Everything was fine, nothing – nothing was really wrong." Max sounded a far cry from her usual self, her voice hollow and lacking in emotion.
And she was right. Nothing had gone wrong in the past months, more than half the 'ordinary' population in Seattle were still uneasy with the existence of Transgenics, but there had been no riots or demonstrations recently, and certainly nothing serious happening which would result in wanting to end her life.
Then there was that nagging, disturbing feeling that maybe Alec had been right in saying that it may have been due to Logan's return.
And here she was thinking of him again.
The last time she saw him, he was lying beside her, fast asleep with an arm draped across her midsection. She remembered smiling then, still highly intoxicated and thinking it was the nicest feeling in the world to be lying next to him, finally after all those years apart.
Max sighed. All those feelings from when he first left her had been successfully buried, but with him coming back, they slowly were clawing their way up. She tightened her arms around the pillow she had been hugging in an effort to stem the hauntingly unwanted memories from resurfacing. She fisted her fingers into the soft fabric.
Suddenly she heard a loud screech from outside, the noise jarring back into the present. It was followed by a loud crash. Alec was instantly on the move, peering out the window before turning back to Max with a fearful expression on his face.
"We gotta go. Now."
Max immediately sensed the urgency behind his tone. She'd already suspected that the news of her survival wouldn't stay a secret for long, and whoever wanted her dead was going to finish the job. She got up slowly, minding her bandaged chest and peered out the window for herself. Black military
conveys were parked haphazardly at the entrance, a mailbox had been knocked over and she spotted what looked like a group of well armed soldiers making their way inside.
"They're just amateurs, Alec." Max remarked as she noticed the unprofessional set up. They hadn't left anyone waiting on the ground. And honestly, they had made far more noise than necessary to announce their arrival.
"I don't see how that is a problem for us, Maxie. It's not like our escape plan is very un-amateurish." Alec replied, earning an annoyed look from Max.
Alec was already reloading his gun. He grabbed the backpack he'd brought along and let out an impatient sigh.
"We still have to go, Max. Amateurs or not." He gestured for them to start moving. Max took in a deep breath and together they exited the room.
The elevator from across the hallway already had the flashing lights steadily climbing to their floor as the two X5s made their way to the stairwell. They paused before opening the door, listening for any incoming threats before entering. Footsteps rapidly ascending the stairs echoed up to them, and with a silent upward gesture from Alec and a nod of approval from Max, they both raced up the stairs.
Max's enhanced hearing caught bits and pieces of conversation as they made their way up, all of which related to her and her immediate capture. A blinding pain from her chest made her stop for a while, her chest throbbing with the sudden exertion. She urged herself to move faster, but try as she could there was only so much pain she could ignore. She could feel the bandage getting soaked with blood inside her shirt, and she guessed her wound had re-opened. Alec had gone ahead, disappearing into the next flight of stairs.
Just a few more flights, Maxie.
She repeated the phrase to herself, simultaneously mentally cursing Alec for choosing the only safe house where the escape route was via the roof. She heard the door to the roof slam open ahead of her.
Few more steps...
She was breathing heavily now, the front of her shirt drenched in a mix of sweat and blood. Her eyes refused to focus, and the world swam before her eyes as she spotted a blurry shadow coming into her view. She felt herself being steadied, her shoulder now being supported by Alec as he half dragged her up the remaining steps.
"Hang in there, Maxie. I won't let them get us."
She heard him whispering over her head as he let her lean against some sort of a wall. She heard a zipper being pulled, assumed it was Alec taking out his gear and let herself drift away. It was always better to deal with pain when you're not conscious of it.
Alec pulled out a long cord from his backpack, attached a carabineer on one end and snapping the metal securely onto a little hook protruding out from the wall. Flinging the cord around Max, he twisted it into a secure knot before hooking it onto his own carabineer attached to his belt. He gave Max a once over, taking in her bloody shirt and heavy breathing. Her eyes fluttered open for a moment before closing again.
"Nah, Maxie. You got the wrong guy." Alec muttered as he picked her up.
He gave the rope a strong tug and threw the now empty backpack over the edge. He heard voices from behind the door, coming up from the stairwell and realised with slight terror that he'd taken too much time. Hurriedly, he wrapped an arm around Max's limp form and climbed over the side.
One arm firmly around Max, Alec scaled the side of the building with expert ease, his feet pushing off from the side as his other arm let go of a little rope each time he swung down. Approaching the ground, he let go of the rest of the cord, landing with a silent thump on the road. He untied Max, released the carabineer and left the mess on the ground. They were at the back of the building, away from where the military conveys were parked. Alec ensured no one was around before he untied Max and let her slump helplessly against him. He pulled out his phone from the pocket, but before he could dial a number, it started ringing.
Without bothering to check the number, he flipped it open and let out an impatient grunt into the receiver.
"Alec? It's Logan. Listen, we need to talk."
Alec remained silent for a moment. He still had his suspicions that Logan had something to do with the mess that they were in at the moment, and Logan, in his frantic tone was not helping the situation. Max let out a groan by his side, and her grip on his arm tightened. He heard a shout from above, and had no doubt that the men had found the cord hanging off the edge of the roof. He made up his mind.
"Meet us at Joshua's. And bring a doctor."
He heard Logan's voice at the other end saying more, but he snapped the phone shut and shoved it into his pocket. They made his way along the back alley of the building, Alec half carrying a now delirious Max, all the while staying alert for any signs of eminent danger.
Alec had parked his car behind a large container truck, easy to navigate pass, and made his car difficult to spot from a distance. He unlocked it and strapped Max in before moving to the driver's seat. He turned the ignition and the car roared to life. Making sure he was clear to go, he reversed out and onto the road.
It was time to get some answers.
I'm no good with action, I admit. But honest to God, I tried. Hopefully the next chapter won't take me this long... As always, reviews are always welcome.
Hope you had a wonderful weekend Lisa!