It only took 494 a few hours to realize that tactically, this may not have been the best plan. He knew less about Seattle than he did Terminal City, and it only took him a few minutes to pick on up the tense, suspicious ambiance that seemed to seep from everything and everyone. It was like the city was tensed and holding its breath for something, but he had no idea why.
The streets weren't very crowded, but a few pedestrians dotted the otherwise empty landscape. They looked at him as he walked by, and their expressions embodied that strange tension he felt in the air. Terminal City still loomed in the background, but he could feel a strange sense of release with every step he took. Finally no more pretending to be Alec. He was free.
He was also lost. Not knowing anything about the city, he wasn't sure where exactly he was or even where he wanted to go. He hadn't really thought of a destination before he'd left, a fact that seemed ridiculous in hindsight.
He stopped at a long line of cars and other types of transportation, realizing that the area up ahead was roped off. Frowning, he drifted to a spot in line and waited to reach the front.
When he did, a man in some sort of uniform greeted him with a gruff, "Sector Pass?"
"Uh," 494 said, pulling up short. He had no idea what that meant. "Sorry?"
"Let me see your Sector Pass," When 494 didn't move, the guard gestured angrily. "Come on buddy, does it look like we've got all night? Show me your pass and I'll let you through."
"I don't…." He decided not to finish his sentence and began patting his clothes instead, hoping that maybe Alec had a Sector Pass. His hands eventually found a small, square card stuffed in his back pocket. He pulled it out. "Uh, here."
The man took the card and used some sort of scanning device to check it. 494 tensed himself to run, but the man just handed his card back and gestured for him to cross through.
"Jam Pony messenger, huh?" The man said before 494 had walked through the blockade.
"Uh, yeah," He replied, although he didn't know what that was.
"I heard about the hostage situation that happened over there. Those trannies do anything to you?"
"No," he answered, hiding his bewilderment. Then he slipped through the barrier.
He spent much of the day this way, because every few miles there was another Sector Checkpoint. He didn't really understand what they separated or why they were there, but from what he gathered it had something to do with controlling people. Keeping them in the city unless they had the right pass; being able to detain them if they didn't.
He still didn't know where he was going, and eventually he was far enough from TC that he stopped feeling the urge to keep moving. He made it to Sector Nine and walked more slowly, feeling his way around. There was a definite sense of familiarity with this part of the city, but he couldn't pinpoint any specific places or things.
Where was he going to go now? What exactly did he want to do? It was a question he was certain he'd never been allowed to ask at Manticore, and maybe that was why he drew a complete and total blank. He had no idea what to do next.
There were a lot more people on the street now, and the crowds were making him slightly uncomfortable. He instinctively pulled himself into the shadows and began taking less traveled paths, even though the stench was a little stronger in these places and itched at his nose.
He couldn't restrain his eyes from glancing everywhere; he'd never really seen anything like Seattle before. All of the buildings towered over him and seemed to block out what little of the sun was available through the curtain of clouds in the sky. It was a little better-looking than Terminal City in some of the places he passed through, too.
He sensed a sudden shift in the atmosphere and hastily glanced around, but nothing immediately stuck out. Then again, he wasn't exactly sure what would stick out, but nothing screamed "danger," at least.
He walked a little further on and then looked around again, the hairs on the back of his neck still reacting to the sensation. It was then that he noticed a small group of men; there was nothing at all unusual about them except that they kept glancing furtively in his direction. And he'd seen them before.
Heart rate beginning to speed up, he walked a little faster. He could hear their footsteps now, and just when he thought about blurring away, one of them spoke.
"You got some nerve, asshole!"
494 stopped and turned, confused and a little intrigued. "What?"
Bad move. Because now they'd formed a circle around him, and he noticed that they were gripping strips of wood and metal bars in their hands.
"You think people wouldn't recognize you?" The first one spoke again, pounding a two-by-four into his meaty fist. The first thing 494 noticed about him was that he was covered in dirt; the second was that his face was twisted into a hateful snarl.
"Recognize me?" 494 asked blankly, still not following. He was tense now, but only in response to the animosity and crude weapons; he didn't understand the situation at all.
"From the news, you freak," The man breathed, taking a step closer. Then he swung the pipe and nailed 494 so hard in the jaw that the transgenic automatically staggered to the ground.
He was on his feet in a second, and it felt like a switch had been flipped. With frightening ease, he grabbed the metal weapon and whipped it through the air. It smashed into the dirty man's head and he went down immediately.
Then, as if the first attack had been some sort of cue, suddenly 494 was being hit from all sides. He struggled for a moment to find a weak spot in the ranks, and then he succeeded in securing another weapon—a piece of piping this time. He swung both simultaneously, which caused the circle to back off a little bit.
The men surrounding him were looking uncertain now, but one of them rushed forward, wooden bat raised. 494 caught him in the stomach with the metal rod and then slammed the pipe into his back. There was a loud crack, and the man fell to the ground and didn't get up again.
Yet another attacker stepped forward and 494 snarled, twisting his weapons in his hands. A look of stark terror passed over the thug's face and he halted dead in his tracks. Then he glanced around at his companions and the circle tightened around 494, who stiffened in preparation.
"I just called the police!"
The sudden shout was enough to send the entire circle scattering like feathers in the wind. 494 stood motionless, stunned by the abrupt lack of competition. He clenched his fists tight around his bludgeons and whirled around to face whoever had yelled.
He was faced with a very frightened, very pale man in wire-framed glasses. 494 prepared to swing.
"Alec!" The man shouted as he ducked. "What the hell are you doing?"
494's mouth dropped open and his hands fell limply to his sides. He let the pipe and the crowbar slide through his slackened grip, his head tilting in defeat.
Just when he thought he'd escaped Alec.
"Hey, Logan," Max said perfunctorily, but she didn't wait for him to return the greeting. "You know those heat sensors that the cops use now to track us down?"
"Uh, yeah," Logan said, valiantly trying to keep up with the conversation.
She gripped the cell phone more tightly in her hand. "Is it possible to shut them down all at once?"
There was silence for a moment. "I don't think they're all connected to one database or program, so probably not. I might be able to get you one, though, if that would help."
She thought about whether or not it was worth it to swing by Logan's place. She could probably pick up a few more useful supplies. "You think you could?"
"I still have a reasonably secure contact within the Sector police," Logan answered. There was a waited pause, and then he asked the question she'd been waiting for. "But why, Max?"
"It's…uh," She bit her lip and then told herself to just spit it out. "It's Alec. He kind of… took off."
She heard movement from the other end of the line, like he was shifting. "You mean ran away?"
"Yeah. And the thing is, he has no idea what's going on out in the world and I really, really need to find him before he gets himself into trouble."
"Okay," Logan said, speaking as if he was trying to soothe a startled animal. "Just calm down. Come by my place, and I'll see what I can do."
She bit back her impatience; Logan was only trying to help. "Alright. I'll be there in five."
It took her less than that, actually, and as she crawled out of the manhole a few blocks from Logan's house she went over the facts in her head. Alec had been outside approximately three hours. He'd probably retained his talent for blending in; after all, she hadn't noticed that he was unhappy enough in Terminal City to leave. She'd even hope that maybe, given enough time, he would start remembering.
But he'd left, and he'd had about one hundred and eighty minutes to get himself into trouble. Knowing the way Alec could find trouble on a normal day with all his memories, she sped up her pace. Logan was expecting her, so she walked right through the door instead of knocking.
"Back here!" He called, and she followed his voice to his computer room. Everything looked a lot more low-tech than what he was used to, but the screens and wires and electric humming were still impressive. "It'll take me about an hour to get the thermal scanner," He informed her once he looked up. His fingers continued tapping at the keys even while his gaze was diverted.
"Oh," Max said, slightly disappointed. She'd gotten used to the transgenic efficiency in Terminal City, but not everyone could move at the speed of light. "Got anything for me right now?"
He paused and pointed to a device on his left, which was spewing out police scans. "Nothing's come up so far, which is good. That doesn't mean that White's team hasn't found him, but I think he's probably safe from them for now. They're still putting most of their effort into getting you."
Max released a heavy breath and allowed herself a small moment to relax. Then she stiffened up again. "How am I going to find him, though?"
Logan smiled at her this time, and she was about to ask him what could possibly be good about this situation. Then he tapped his computer mouse, and a large picture of Alec flashed up on the screen.
"He's passed through a few Sector Points since he left. I've tracked him through to Sector Nine, and he hasn't shown up since then."
"So there's a good chance he's still there?" Max asked, trying to keep the burgeoning hope out of her voice. It would only make things worse if she didn't find him immediately.
"A very good chance, although the cameras are down in Sectors Two and Four. So if he's passed through those, we wouldn't know."
Well, that broadened her search a little. Still, he had limited it enough that she returned his smile. Well, more like stopped grimacing, but it was a start.
"Okay," She said slowly, ordering her thoughts together. "Do you have a sweatshirt or something I can borrow?"
Logan looked startled, but he nodded and walked towards the back of the house. A second later he reappeared with a large gray jacket in hand.
"It's not your favorite, is it?" She asked, holding her hands up. "Because you can't have it back after I… you know…"
He smiled at her again and tossed the jacket her way. "It's fine, Max. Did you get cold all of a sudden?"
"No," Max said, tucking the clothing into place. She pulled up the hood and then reached into her pockets for a pair of overlarge sunglasses. "It's just, if I'm going to be walking around out there, I'm going to need some sort of disguise."
"Wait, you think people might recognize you?" Logan asked, suddenly sounding concerned. He took a step forward, and she took one back to keep the distance between them.
"They saw me on the news for the Jam Pony incident, and I've been in the papers since then," Max said calmly, making sure he hair was tucked into the hood. "There's a good chance people will know who I am."
"Can't you do this another way, then? Send someone else to look for him—someone the media doesn't know?"
"No." Max said firmly.
She shook her head and turned towards the door, resisting the urge to run a weary hand over her eyes. He wouldn't understand, but she'd try anyway. "Because they can recognize Alec, too."