I make no bones about this; this fic is totally a guily pleasure. The Blue Lagoon was on TV the other day and I did an O-ho-ho, a la Peppy Le Pew style. That being said, forgive me. :3
This chapter contains spoilers for Hello, Goodbye. But come on, if you're a M/A shipper, I'm not spoilin' anything. Set about a month or so after F.N. Standard disclaimers (all hail Fox and James Cameron) apply. If you think this chapter moves fast, it's because it's the set up for the scene. The real meat begins next chapter.
Chapter One: Wrecked
At what point does a good day go bad? At what moment does the happiness cease to be enough to get you through?
If the answer involved Alec in any way, it probably wouldn't be too far from the truth.
Max had no problem with Alec per se. Not including, of course, his resemblance to a brother she'd killed, his part in a certain virus of the kill-my-not-like-that-boyfriend variety, and his ability to attract trouble and bullets as if a shiny red target was perpetually stapled to his ass. Nope, other than those big, glaring details, Alec was actually a pretty likeable guy.
Just not right now.
"So let me get this straight." His voice was somewhere between strangled and dangerous, having given up on mutinous and disgusted only moments ago. He squeezed his fingers tighter against the bridge of his nose, as if doing so would somehow make her statement reasonable. "After all the platitudes about making a stand, fighting for a cause… You're just going to up and leave."
"It's not even like that." Max's voice was soft, reasonable.
Alec rolled his eyes, throwing his hands in the air. "So tell me what it is like, Max! An extended vacation?"
Her eyes narrowed. "What it's like, Monty Cora, is me going to get the cure, that I could have had months ago if it hadn't been for your sorry ass getting caught by White."
"Hey," he protested, unable to suppress the smirk that crept on to his face. It was easier to smirk than it was to show his hurt. "I didn't force you into anything. You could have let my brain explode."
Max stared at him a moment. Did he really think she was that heartless? Probably. Nevertheless… "Yeah, I could have, but I didn't. I helped you out. Now I'm asking you to help me out."
"Max," Alec frowned, once again all seriousness, "I'm not going to take over Terminal City so you can cruise around New Zealand. In case you haven't noticed, we're kinda in a tight situation, here."
As if she needed reminding.
"Alec," Max sighed, sinking back into her worn chair, "If there's a chance I could find this Doctor guy Logan was talking about, I'm gonnna take it."
Alec stared hard at her. She knew she wasn't going to like what he said next. The tightening around his eyes gave it away. "Because having sex with a guy you couldn't touch even when you didn't have a virus is sooo much more important than all these people you pledged to lead?"
She leapt from the chair as if it were on fire, leaning forward over her desk, her eyes blazing. "It's not even about that, so don't even start with me! Logan can't leave TC. End of story." She held up a hand to stall his protest- "White knows about him, it's not safe out there."
Alec had to give her that. As long as she didn't throw in that bullshit about Logan being such a great hacker and good PR, he could stomach keeping old Logey boy around. Emphasis on the old part. He smirked.
"And since he's staying here," she continued, recapturing his attention. "It'd be kinda nice to not have to worry about him dropping dead any time soon."
"Send another X-5."
She fixed him with a serious frown. "This is my problem, Alec. I'm not sending someone else to do my dirty work."
His crooked smile almost lit up the room. "What, thinkin' you might have to rough Logan's Miracle Doctor up a bit?"
She tried hard to suppress the smile that threatened to ruin her serious mood. In the end she let it. Fighting with him took too much energy. And let's face it; her acidic words never fazed him. He actually seemed to kind of enjoy their fighting. Masochist. "There is that. Also, c'mon, Mole would have a field day with that one."
True, true. Mole had made his feelings about "Ordinaries" pretty clear over the last month.
Max scowled. Try as she might, she couldn't get the transhuman to show Logan any semblance of respect. Most of the transgenics didn't have a problem with Eyes Only, actually respected him for helping them out, but the few sticks in the mud that couldn't stomach ordinaries would raise hell if they learned she sent out one of "their kind" to further her relationship. Not that the cure was about that. Nope. Not at all.
"Does Logan know we're not together?" Alec asked suspiciously, interrupting her musings. He'd feel pretty dumb if Wonder Legs did know. After all, that elaborate scheme he'd pulled off yesterday, involving his hand and her ass, had nearly caused him to be castrated. He'd hate if he'd risked his future children for nothing.
"No," She ground out, as if she too were remembering his ingenious approach to warning Logan off. He took a protective step behind the desk, just in case. She must have known what he was thinking, because it was her turn to smirk.
Alec turned thoughtful and realizing that his future progeny were no longer in danger, he came around to perch next to her on the desk. "So he knows we're together, and yet still pushin' for that cure, eh?"
She turned and sat next to him, shrugging. "Yeah. So?"
He glanced sideways at her, his half smile making his eyes gleam. "Just never pegged him for the type to steal another guy's girl, is all."
She laughed, rolling her eyes. "Don't worry, Hot Boy." she teased, using O.C.'s moniker, bumping him playfully with her shoulder, "You know you're the only man for me."
She shot up from her desk, turning to stare at the door with wide eyes. "Logan!"
Alec only barely contained his glee. Man, it was just too easy. "Logan, my man! We were just talking about you!"
Logan arched one eyebrow. "Yeah, I caught that."
Oooo. Ouch. Alec spared a glance at Max's stricken face. He slung an arm over her shoulder, leaning in to murmur in her ear. "Maaaax," he singsonged, "you look like a fii-iiish."
For Logan, it was almost painful to watch. Alec's arm draped across her shoulder, her body relaxing as she turned to look up at him, almost affectionately… It was so much like the day he'd caught them coming out of her apartment, the same day she'd admitted that she had left him on his deathbed to be with that… that… sociopath. Well, the day after he'd been on his deathbed, if you wanted to get technical. But any way you slice it, Logan, the good guy, was the one left hangin' and Alec, the screw up, was the one that'd got the girl. It just wasn't fair. It wasn't... right.
More painful than any of that, though, was watching him touch her. Logan almost wanted to weep in happiness when Max shrugged out of Alec's half embrace.
"What's up, Logan?" She asked, all business, as she edged away from everyone's favorite smart Alec.
"Got the tickets you needed. And the passports." Logan couldn't bring himself to glare at Alec. Couldn't even bring himself to look at the younger man.
"Wait," Alec glanced at Max. "Tickets? Passports? As in more than one? Plural?"
Max turned to him, shooting him a look that even a blind person would interpret as 'duh.' "You didn't let me get to that part. When I asked for your help, I didn't mean that I wanted you to take over TC." Yeah, right, as if she'd ever do that. Place'd be sporting strip joints by the time she got back.
"Oh," Alec seemed dumbfounded for a moment, before his usual persona, i.e. Mr. Annoy-the-hell-outta-Max, reasserted itself. "That doesn't mean that I don't stand by my argument. You can't just leave, Max. You know what people around here will think?"
Max was only too sure what they would think. That she was a 09-er, a traitor. That she couldn't stick anything out. "Alec," she pleaded, "I've got to do this. I can't worry about what everyone else thinks right now. The chain of command is rock solid, so it's not like I'm leaving TC leaderless. I need someone to watch my back-"
She sent a level gaze at Logan before he could open his mouth to protest. "Someone that I won't accidentally smack in my sleep and kill."
Logan wanted to bring up the fact that she had shark DNA and only very rarely slept… but the very real danger of touching, thousands of miles from a lifesaving transgenic transfusion, kept his mouth firmly closed. Instead, he nodded, curtly, miserably, but he nodded just the same.
"For the record," Alec piped up. "I think this is a really bad idea."
He left it unsaid that he would go with her. That part was moot. As much as Logan didn't like to admit it, Alec always had Max's back. And then Logan winced, remembering yesterday's very territorial display, involving Alec's hand and Max's backside. Bad analogy. He glanced up in time to catch Alec's wicked grin, as if the transgenic knew exactly what he was thinking.
Watching Alec smirk superiorly at Logan's jealousy, Max knew that this was the moment when her good day, cure and future happiness aside, just couldn't be good anymore.
She had to tell Logan the truth.
"You told Logan the truth?!"
Max shrugged, watching Seattle grow ever smaller from the window of the private aircraft. "Yeah, so?"
"Max," he leaned over her, snapping the window shade shut, forcing her to look at him. "Do you not realize I risked life and limb two short days ago just to warn him off?"
Her eyes narrowed, but her voice remained sugary sweet. "If you're bringing up how you shoved your pervy hand down the back of my pants, here's a tip... Don't." All sweetness dropped from her voice as her face tightened into a glare. "Neither your life nor your limb is safe, considering the fact I still might rip off your arm and beat you to death with it for even thinking about touching my ass."
He pouted, pushing himself back into his seat unhappily. "Jeez, try to do a friend one little favor…"
She said nothing, merely turning back to the window and pushing open the shade once more. Couldn't even see Seattle anymore…
"Besides, if anything, we all know that you're the one who wants to touch-"
"Don't even finish that sentence." Her voice was deceptively mild.
"Lighten up, Max. I'm just saying, if anyone has a fascination with anyone else's ass around here-"
"I will kill you."
The flight from the private airfield in Seattle to the deserted runway in Los Angeles was possibly the longest two and a half hours of her life. And that was saying a lot, considering everything she'd been through.
An entire plane to themselves, courtesy of an Eyes Only contact, and he'd just had to sit next to her, chattering incessantly the whole time. Boy may be easy on the eyes (or so they say) but Manticore could have at least programmed an off switch in there somewhere. Boy could talk the ear off a brick wall.
For the most part, she'd ignored him, replaying her conversation with Logan over and over again in her mind.
"We… we were never together." … The sheer relief and happiness on his face as she came clean… "But why?"… the searching looks, the pained expression… "I had to push you away. I didn't think we'd ever find the cure and-"… the silent understanding, the forgiveness she had no right to ask of him… the gloved hand coming up to cup her cheek. "We'll have the cure, soon."
Alec's whistle and nod at the car waiting for them had her crashing back to reality. Hefting her duffel over her shoulder, she moved quickly across the tarmac, Alec close on her heels.
The ship left port at exactly 2:30 p.m. And billionaire oil heirs Randy and Carrie Travis were safely aboard. Sure, they looked nothing like each other, the only trait they shared being devastatingly good looks, but Max refused to pretend to be his wife. It'd never fly; she enjoyed hitting him upside the head too much. Alec would have been put off by that, but he was too busy focusing on less important details.
"I mean, come on! Randy? Randy? He did it on purpose, Max. He was making a statement."
She smirked, focusing on pulling a shirt from her bag to toss in the bureau. "Oh really?"
He threw up his hands in exasperation, "I mean, he's got issues with me, I get that. But seriously. Randy? Why not just call me Slutty Travis? Or Wants-a-Lay Travis. Or-"
She turned to him, putting up a hand to stall him. "Okay, before you get graphic, let's get one thing straight." When she was sure she had his complete attention, she smirked. "I'm the one who chose Randy."
He paused. She could almost see his thoughts turn inwards. He rolled his shoulders, pursing his lips in thought, before focusing on her, tongue in check and wickedness in his eyes. "Well, you do know me pretty well-"
She scoffed, turning to stuff another shirt into the drawer that they would be using for the next 24 days. It would have been preferable to fly straight to Sydney, Australia, and then on to New Zealand, but their forged documents wouldn't stand up to the scrutiny it took to fly out of the U.S. these days. Cruise liners, however; a little more lax about these things. Especially since only the filthy rich could afford to go on a cruise and the filthy rich, both pre- and post-pulse world, could get away with a lot more than any old average joe. So, while spending more time with Alec was like opting for an unnecessary root canal, it was also the only way they wouldn't have their pictures flashed across government databases, where any official, Ames White included, could see them.
Post-pulse world sucked.
Whistling jauntily, Alec pulled the shirt over his head, moving towards the bathroom and a much needed shower. A little over three weeks on a private cruise, every whim satisfied by crewmembers paid to please him, every need catered to by women desperate to snag a handsome billionaire… To think, if the Pulse hadn't happened, they would have flown to New Zealand.
Post-pulse world rocked.
Ames White had never been a patient man. In fact, he was frequently reprimanded by those who believed themselves his superiors for his rash actions. The loss of his son had only served to make him more impatient. For this, though… For this, he could wait.
"Continue to monitor the room. Any mention of my son, you call me immediately. Understand?"
The men under his command exchanged glances, but nodded just the same. White's obsession with recovering his son was becoming a hindrance the Conclave wouldn't tolerate for much longer. Now that the truth of 452's DNA was coming to light, their desire was to terminate, not subjugate.
If White wouldn't take action, the Conclave would.
Alec was a very discriminating man.
Okay, not really. Hot and willing was about all it took.
But he wasn't stupid. Cruise liners might seem big, but really, when it came down to it, not so much. Which was why, as of yet, he hadn't picked a lucky lady to grace with a midnight rendezvous. If the infamous Little Suki and Lorraina incident had taught him anything, it was that small spaces and multiple women didn't mix… No… wait… he couldn't help the grin that came with that particular mental image.
"I don't even wanna know what's goin' on in that sick, little mind of yours." Max commented, turning on the complimentary laptop (not so complimentary that it wasn't bolted to the desk) for her morning ritual, i.e. sickening webcam feed to a certain TC inhabitant involving long, longing glances, soft sighs, and all manner of other things that made Alec feel like taking a running dive off the side of the ship.
"Don't knock it till you try it, sister." He grinned.
She turned to face him. "First of all, I am not your sister. Secondly, considering whatever you're thinking probably involves a threesome, I'm gonna go ahead and say shut the hell up."
He covered his very real surprise with a hand that came up to his chest in mocking exaggeration. "Maxie! You know me so well!"
"Don't call me that," She muttered, turning back to the computer.
His hand dropped and he shook his head at her turned back. "Seriously, it wouldn't hurt you to lighten up, Max. We've been on the ship a week already and you've barely come out of the room. There's still two more weeks to make the most of! Nothing holding us back, tying us down…"
She didn't turn to face him. "If you're trying to get me to sleep with you-"
"Not everything is about sex, Max." He groaned. "Believe it or not, getting in your pants isn't really high on my list of priorities."
"Plus, I've already been in your pants. Remember?" Waggle of eyebrows aaaaand cue angry Max.
"Which I still may kill you for," she huffed. "So don't push it."
She still wouldn't turn to face him. It's not like she'd even started her precious video feed, didn't she at least have the decency to face him? ...And why was this bothering him so much, again?
"Come on, Max, at least come up on deck with me later. Little sunshine, a little swimming. It'll be fun."
"We're not here for fun." She ground out, staring intently at the screen. Come on, stupid computer. Pick up the satellite signal already.
He rolled his eyes. She could be such a stick in the mud. "Yeah, yeah, the end result, all business, I get it. But heellooo!" He threw his hands up for emphasis, even though she had yet to look at him. "We're on a cruise! Beautiful people, smiling faces, good food, warm sun! Would it hurt to let loose for a little while?"
She finally turned to face him, fixing him with a shining smile. His guard was instantly up and his entire body tensed in wait for the blow. She cocked her head, smile never dimming, her tone of voice portraying all the disgust her face didn't show. "Well, we can't all be sociopathic sluts like you, Alec." A sickening scrunch of the face that he wanted to punch off of her and she was once again turned towards the computer screen, just as the connection took.
His eyes narrowed. "Yeah… Because heaven forbid the Ice Queen thaw enough to let a mere mortal touch her." he spat, as Logan's face filled the screen.
"Excuse you?!" She whirled in her seat, but he'd already stormed out of the room.
Logan's shocked question had her turning dumbfounded back to the computer. "Oookay... What was all that about?"
"What the hell was that about?" She hissed when he shambled in the next day, wearing the previous day's clothes and a self-satisfied smirk.
"What can I say, Max." The smirk never left his face, but his eyes were ice cold. "You've got me pegged. Happy-go-lucky, sociopathic, slut Alec, that's me. Just needed to unwind, is all." He stretched towards the ceiling, the exaggerated movements painting pictures in her mind she wasn't quite comfortable with.
"Well, I'd say congrats, but it looks like you're patting yourself on the back enough for both of us. Now, you wanna tell me what got your panties in a twist yesterday?"
He fixed her with a blank stare. When he said nothing, she sighed, her eyes rolling. "I don't read minds, Alec. Kinda need you to work with me here."
The silence stretched into an uncomfortable length, and she had to resist fidgeting on the bed where she sat. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, his shoulders rolled and as if by magic her seemingly carefree Alec was back with a grin.
"Don't you have a video love fest you need to see too? I'm kinda tired." He glanced pointedly at the bed she was sitting on. His bed. So Max did what she usually did when she couldn't figure Alec out. She retreated.
Her voice woke him from the comfortable dream of a warm embrace and hair that was too long and too dark to belong to the type of woman he usually went for. That being the case, he was actually glad she did wake him.
"Was it the sociopath comment?" She asked.
He glanced at the clock. 1:30 pm. Wha-
"Yesterday." She explained, in response to his befuddled expression. "Did you get mad because I called you names?"
He sat up, scrubbing his bleary face with his hands. "God, Max, were you sitting here this whole time watching me sleep?"
She reared away from him in disgust. "Hell no! I talked to Logan, got some breakfast…"
His hands dropped from his face and he leveled her with a knowing gaze. "Okay, fine. Did you obsess about this the whole time I was asleep?"
Her silence was really the only answer he needed. He rubbed tired eyes, leaning into the headboard. "Can we just drop it, Max? It's not a big deal."
"Please, every time you get whacked out, something goes down." She fixed him with a look that clearly said you know it's true, so don't even argue. "I'd like to know what's goin' on now before I have to bail your ass out of trouble later."
"Max," he explained slowly, as if to a child, "We're on a cruise in the middle of nowhere. What trouble could I possibly be in?"
She continued to glare at him and his jaw hardened, but his voice remained very carefully bland. "I really don't feel like arguing right now, so can we just drop this?"
"Who says we have to argue about this?" She argued.
"Do you ever get tired of being a bitch, Max?" he sighed, running a hand through his hair.
Oh no, he didn't!
"As much as I'd love for you to launch yourself at me while I'm still in bed, just hear me out, okay?" He held up his hands entreatingly.
"Fine," she said tightly, "But don't make me regret it."
"You're no fun." He began.
"Regretting it," she singsonged.
"Not as much as me, believe me, but I've got to say it." He swung his legs over the side of the bed, his eyes catching hers. "You're my friend, Max, have been since you broke me out of jail and told me about Ben."
She didn't want to say that she'd thought of him as a friend since Rachel Berrisford; since the first time she'd seen past Ben's face, past Manticore's training, and to the real man inside. It'd be too humiliating to admit that now though, especially since he counted the beginning of their friendship six weeks after that episode.
Alec continued on, even after her eyes flicked away from him. "And being my friend, I'm kinda wondering what's going on with you lately. I thought that we were sorta close; you told me about my clone, I stole a car for your clone… we bonded." He shrugged before continuing on. "...But ever since you found out about the cure, you've gotten more and more grumpy. Shouldn't you be happy about this? And if you're not happy, then why the hell are you taking it out on me?"
"I am happy," she protested, a little bit too forcefully by Alec's reckoning.
"Then why have you been sulking in our room for over a week? And what's with the name calling?"
"I hate the ocean."
His head cocked, he stared at her questioningly.
"I have nightmares sometimes… About Manticore…" She explained. Yeah, okay, so maybe she didn't sleep often. But nightmares were haunting no matter how often they occurred.
"Aaah." He nodded sagely. "The Tank."
"It's not the cure I'm unhappy about." She insisted, "It's being on a boat in the middle of an ocean with nothing around to save us should said boat sink."
She glanced down miserably, as though the confession pained her. "I can usually do boats, harbors, pools, whatever… but the middle of the ocean, sea floor thousands of leagues down, no land in sight?" She looked back up at him, gauging his reaction to this weakness.
He bit the end of his tongue, eyes crinkling in delight. She waited patiently for him to spit whatever he wanted to say out and stop looking so damn gleeful. "But you've got shark DNA, Maxie."
"Yeah? Well, I've got a lotta cat in me too, and cats don't like water."
"And why do you think I wanted to listen to this? If I wanted to understand the mating rituals of animals, I'd go to the zoo." White tore the headphones off in disgust, looking away from the recorded video of the almost flirtatious transgenics.
"Just commenting on a weakness, sir."
Ames let out an incredulous laugh, eyes narrowed. "I don't pay you to comment. I don't pay you to think. I pay you to do what I say. Don't call me again unless you've got news on my son."
Ames White was not a patient man. He couldn't take much more waiting. He did, however, store that delightful tidbit about 452 for future use. So a shock prod didn't faze her, eh? Maybe a good dunking would do the trick, then. He looked again at the incompetent men that surrounded him. Only a handful were Familiars and even they couldn't get anything right. It was time to take matters into his own hands.
"Get him on the phone," White's voice was menacing. "This isn't getting us anywhere. I'm through waiting."
Alec stepped out of the bathroom, toweling his hair off. "Should I even ask if you want to come up to the deck with me?"
"Probably not," She smiled. Max had never been good at apologies. But she tried anyway. "Listen, about the name-calling, and stuff…"
"Apology accepted." He shrugged, sitting down on his bed to pull on his boots.
"Who said I was apologizing?" She scoffed, sitting next to him to pull on her own shoes. "Seeing as how you got some last night, can't say I was too far off the truth."
He glanced sideways at her, his face twisting in amusement. "Max, I spent last night at the bar with my good friend Whiskey Jack."
"So," he glanced at her boots, now securely tied. "You coming up to the deck with me?"
"If I fall overboard, I am so kicking your ass."
"Logan Cale. This is Ames White. I'd like to discuss a business proposition with you." Ames White smiled as he heard Cale suck in a breath. He tapped the image of 452 and 494 as they exited their room. Not much longer, now.
Alec let her step on to the elevator before him, following in closely. Pushing the button for the mid-level deck, he shot her a comforting smile.
"Alec," She asked softly. "What if… what if we get the cure and I get back… and it's too late? What if Logan and I have been not-like-that for so long…"
He pulled her into that half embrace he always used when dealing with her. Like he couldn't handle completely holding her or something…
"Is that what's really been bothering you? Max, that'll never happen. Logan's crazy about you. You two were meant for each other. End of story."
"What do you want?" Logan asked guardedly.
"Nothing much. I want Ray. And you're going to tell me how to find him."
"And why would I do that?"
"Because if you don't, I'll have the Familiars near 452 set off the explosives that we've filled the ship with."
Logan's heart skipped a beat.
"See, Max! Salty sea air! Wind in your face! Fun, eh?"
"You are way too cheerful." Max groused as another strong gust stole her breath. She glanced distrusting up at a darkening sky.
"Ship?" Logan asked. "Max is in Terminal City where you and your cult followers can't get to her."
White's laugh was short, clipped. Logan could almost picture the wry, deadpan face he'd be using right now. "Really? That's funny. Because I could have sworn the information on Doctor Xen that I fed you would put her on the only liner headed towards New Zealand."
A cell phone rang behind White. One of his followers answered it, sparing White no more than a disdainful glance. He listened intently, before nodding and hanging up with a murmured Fenos'tol.
"And I could have sworn that one of my Familiars set up a camera in the room of the only couple that matches 452's and 494's descriptions."
Logan was not a man of strong words. He believed in decorum and taste. But that didn't stop the expletive from slipping past his lips when he'd realized he'd been out maneuvered. What's worse, that he'd practically handed Max to White on a silver platter.
"How do I know you won't blow up the ship as soon as I give you the information on Ray?"
"Because I'm a man of my word, Mr. Cale. My son is the most important thing to me."
The man behind White dialed another number, speaking softly in a language long dead.
"Now, do we have a deal?"
The resounding boom was really the only warning they had. The screaming started almost immediately. The deck buckled and heaved, and Max found herself propelled towards the railing at a frightening speed. Shock and fear paralyzed her senses, and only Alec's quick grab stopped her from tumbling over the edge and into the icy water below.
"What the hell just happened?" White turned to stare at the man behind him. He snapped the cell phone shut.
"It is the will of the Conclave."
Whites gun was out before anyone realized what was happening. The man was dead, a bullet between his eyes, shortly afterwards.
"Anyone else questioning loyalties?" White snarled, his gun held high and steady. When no one spoke, he pointed his 9 mm. directly at the man in front of the computer. "Get me security feed of the deck. You better pray she's still alive."
No one had any time to react. Nobody who wasn't transgenic, anyway. Max was tossed into a life boat, courtesy of Alec, and the flames exploding out from the windows, licking their way up the deck, stalled any protest she might have had at the rough treatment. The front end of the boat was already tipping into the air, as if a giant hole had been blown in back of the ship.
"Shit, shit, shit." Alec was muttering under his breath, punching at the deployment controls on the deck. The emergency sirens came on shortly after; the locking mechanism disengaging as the crisis, readily apparent to the ship's customers, was made apparent to the shipboard computers.
"There," White pointed at the screen. "That's them."
He dove off the side of the deck, into the rapidly descending lifeboat, as the prow of the cruise liner climbed ever higher, as the flames burned ever brighter.
This was no Titanic life boat, thank god. This was modern day, Life Saving Appliance Code certified life boat. Which meant it had a motor. Which Alec wasted no time in kicking on as soon as the jarring landing in the icy water was over.
"Alec," Max insisted, "the people."
Only a handful of other lifeboats had deployed. Alec couldn't look back, didn't want to put vision to the terrible screaming he heard.
"The ship's going down too fast, we can't risk it."
"Max," he couldn't look at her, not and retain any fortitude. "There was only a handful of people on the cruise. And not even an eighth of them were on deck, which meant they were below deck. You felt the explosion, Max... Most of them are already dead." He kept his eyes on the horizon.
She could have hated him. Could have, if she hadn't seen how fast the blaze had spread. The ship had to have been packed with powerful explosives… But, why? And who had the kind of authority to-
"White." She muttered.
Alec didn't argue.
In the end, the decision to go back and check for survivors was taken from them. The wind, which had been strong before, only continued to pick up. The sky only continued to darken. And as the sea became more and more choppy, it was all they could do to think of their own survival.
End Chapter One