A/N: I'm going all Indigo Girls on this one. That's just the way it's working out. I have no real explanation for it.

Three months post-Berrisford Agenda, mid-Pilot. Things go a little differently for Max at the beginning of Season One. Alternate Universe.

(The Basement Chapter One)

And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode
I try to trace them to my youth
--Galileo, Indigo Girls

It had been nine years, but Max had not forgotten just how much she loathed being trapped in a small space.

Damn it. She took a deep breath and tried to lift her body from the cold stone floor of the cell. No luck, though – the muscle relaxants hadn't worn off yet, and she only succeeded in rolling over. Face-first on the concrete wasn't an improvement. Last time I ever pretend to be a do-gooder, she thought savagely.

She'd caved when Lauren looked up at her with big, weepy eyes. She'd been moved to pity. It didn't take a transgenic strategist to see how the scene was going to play – Edgar Sonrisa would call Lauren with a tape of her daughter crying, maybe send her a finger or two. Momma would freak and immediately turn over the evidence. Then Sonrisa would plug them both, and if they were very lucky, their bodies would still be recognizable when they washed in on the tide. So Max intervened. Short work for a revved up girl, really – Bruno Anselmo was not exactly Donald Lydecker.

Which was pretty ironic, since Colonel Lydecker had also been there. Waiting. She'd almost pulled it off – Max had seen him glance at her borrowed firefighter's getup, then look away without comment – but something had obviously clicked. A few hours later, Max handed Sophie over to Lauren, then revved her Ninja's engine and rode off… directly into a Manticore roadblock.

One positive – Lydecker had thought enough of her to assign fifty men to the takedown, and she'd still almost gotten away. But six tasers to the abdomen were hard to shake off. And then the injections.

Max coughed violently, lungs pained. The only light came through the six inch steel-mesh window high on the cell door. When she had regained consciousness, she knew precisely where she was.

At Manticore. In the basement. With the 'nomalies.

Unfortunately, right now, she was too drugged for anything beyond resigned disgust at her predicament. They could have at least put me on the cot. "Fuckers," she spat, coughing again, tasting blood.

"No kidding," a voice replied.

What the hell? "Who's there?" Were hallucinations a side effect of tranquilizer overdoses? She couldn't remember.

"It's the Easter Bunny," the voice deadpanned. "I'm down the hall. What's your designation?"

"My name is Max." She tried again to struggle to her feet. Still no luck.

"Isn't Max a boy's name?"

"Does this affect you personally somehow?" she snapped, frustrated.

"Jeez, touchy." It was definitely a male voice, adult but relatively young, and somewhat hoarse, as though it hadn't been used in a long time. "Don't you have a designation?"

Max ignored him. Probably a trick. Send someone down here to play friendly, soften up the captive. Fuck 'em all. Lying on the floor was getting very, very uncomfortable, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't make her body cooperate beyond a hopeless belly-crawl.

"Can't move?" the voice said conversationally, as though he were asking about the weather.

"What, can you see me?" She raised her head, checking for surveillance cameras, but she didn't see anything. They wouldn't be stupid enough to give me access to anything with an electrical current, anyway.

"No, but I can hear you flop around like a dying fish. Relax. They probably shot your ass full of thiobarbital. It'll wear off in a few hours."

Know-it-all. Max continued to wriggle for another few moments, just to spite the voice, then rested her cheek against the concrete, exhausted.

"Let me guess." This guy really didn't know when to shut up, did he? "You're one of the oh-nine-ers."

She closed her eyes. A nap would feel really good right now, she thought fuzzily. "Oh-nine-ers?"

"Yeah. The escapees," he said, sounding disgusted. "The traitors."

Max felt she would be offended, if she were able to feel much of anything beyond cold. "What would make you think that?"

"Because," he said, as though it were obvious, "they only put the real fuck-ups down here."

"Like the 'nomalies?"

There was a beat, then a short, rusty laugh. "You mean the genetic anomalies? Nah, they're down the hall aways. Special Operations found a use for them. This is Psy-Ops now, sweetheart. Long term Psy-Ops for the serious head cases."

"How long term?" Max tried to curl into a fetal position, to retain a little heat, but only managed to turn onto her side before giving up.

"Well," the voice clucked his tongue, "I've been down here for about eight weeks now, and I fucked up big, but it's not like I tried to escape. I've probably got another three or four months to go. You, though, you're going to have to go through total reindoctrination. I'm thinking that's gotta be a year."

"A year?" Max echoed, briefly startled back to awareness.

"At least," he said affably.

"Is there a way out of here?" she asked, trying to stay focused, which was difficult when the walls kept moving.

"Oh, yeah, plenty of ways." The voice dripped sarcasm. "I could waltz right out if I wanted, but I'm really partial to the décor. 'Cold and dank' just speaks to me."

"Smart-aleck," she said. Asshole, she thought privately. "Why are you so chatty, anyhow?"

There was a long pause. "Like I said, I've been down here eight weeks. You're the first company I've had. Aside from the Psy-Ops workers. They aren't much for conversation, though."

She stifled a long yawn. "Do you have a name?"

"I have a designation. I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."

"A designation is not a name." Max could feel the world fading away again, but names were important. "I'm calling you Alec."


"Because you need a name," she replied, distant.

"I don't need a name. I have a designation and that's plenty. And I'll even share it with you if you ask nicely." He waited. And waited. "Hello? Uh… Max?"

She was asleep.

A/N: God help me, I'm going to do a chaptered WIP. You know why they call them WIPs? Because it's like getting beaten with one. My muse is a relentless little whore, so reviews tend to lead to quicker updates. So please review!