A/N: Seamagik-ism of the day: I can only please one person a day. And that one person… is Nic. Every day. Sorry. All you other people, well… Yeah. Sorry.

I will say one thing, 'cuz I've already caught a comment about this, and usually I take 'em to heart, but I just can't justify changing this chapter... In my mind, there's a difference between rushing and making something realistic. I'm dumping them in a new situation, I'm not going to NOT tell them what's going on. Author's perogative, baby.


Chapter 14: Overload


It was a warm May day when the ship powered into the polluted waters off the coast of California. The warmth kept on climbing and went right on into sweltering well before they'd even hit the grungy docks of smog-filled Los Angeles.

She watched the city grow closer from her balcony, watched the future loom larger. The cruiseliner slowed to a crawl as it prepared to be pulled and maneuvered into the docks and Max finally slipped back inside, sliding the glass door gently shut behind her.

"We still alive?" Alec grunted as she came in, lounging on the pristine white of the couch. "Did your fabulous psychic stare ward off all evil doers?"

"Shuddup." Max tossed her hair. "That's not why I was out there,"

He glanced away in mock innocence. "Yeah, whatever you say, sweetheart."

Max scowled at him. And said, after a pause, "You packed our stuff yet?" Probably not, he'd been lazing around on the couch for the better part of the morning, proof he was every bit as nervous about being back as she was.

"I'm getting around to it," He hedged, shifting in discomfort.

"We got less then an hour," Max reminded.

A slow, crooked grin warmed the depths of her body, and sent a thrill down her spine. His voice was deep, playful, "Well, in that case, maybe we should-"

"Momma, I wants cookie!"

Max's head snapped to her son, who was currently in the process of staring up, annoyed, at the shut door of the mini-fridge, high up enough on the counter to be protected from his little cookie-questing fingertips.

"Y'know," Alec said after a moment. "He's gonna look back on his childhood and need therapy for all the innuendos and stuff he's stumbled in on."

"Like he'll even remember this when he's older," Max huffed and crossed the room quickly, lifting her son… away from the glorious contents of the fridge. "Besides," She pointed out, "Who's the one who keeps making all those innuendos in the first place?"

"Want cookie!" Jaime squirmed in her arms.

"You make it so easy," Alec shrugged. And he finished, only half-jokingly… "So, should we put Jaime down for a nap or what?"

"No cookie," Max said firmly to her son and she glanced at Alec and he guess that went double for him. Both men, and she used that term loosely, huffed in annoyance. Max rolled her eyes and glanced down at her son, still pouting in annoyance. "Jaime, why don't you help daddy pack?" She asked with a smile.

"Pack what?" Alec asked lazily from his spot on the couch, leaning back once more, jean clad legs splaying wide. "Our three sets of clothes apiece or one of the millions of matching outfits you bought my son in an attempt to sissify him?"

"Alec," She warned.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm goin'." He pushed himself off of the couch grumpily, headed back to the bedroom.

Max and Alec gathered their admittedly sparse belongings slowly; just a few clothes, a few more clothes for Jaime, two small island souvenirs that they'd yet to show anyone else, and a handful of loose leaf papers covered in the whimsical, child scrawls of their son going crazy with his crayons. Souvenirs were tucked gently in the corner, clothes precisely folded ("Jeez, Alec, it's not like they're not just gonna come right out anyway.") and the pictures placed gently on top of the clothes under Jaime's careful supervision, smoothed out, and eventually zipped over.

"You ready for this?" Max asked, staring at the ceiling as the three lay sprawled on the orthopedic mattress that Max was so going to buy/steal/whatever once they hit Seattle.

"No," But his head turned and he smiled ruefully over top of Jaime's head. Max smiled back, because neither was she.

"What do you think it'll be like?" Max turned to watch the ceiling once more, her eyes going distant as she tried to imagine Seattle, T.C., everybody they'd once known.

"Dunno," Alec said after a moment. "Part of me wants it to be the same…" He shrugged, "But the rest of me knows…" He trailed off and Max nodded in understanding. 'Cuz she knew it too; knew that it could never be the same. All they could hope was that it wasn't too different; that they weren't being propelled into a world even more foreign then their island had once been.

The knock from the suite's front door startled them from their lazy musings. Cindy's raised voice from the hallway made them sit up. "Y'all ready?"

Alec grimaced as Max stood.

"Ready as we'll ever be," He heard her mutter as she crossed into the living room and he gathered up their son and their belongings.

Cindy was waiting fairly impatiently in the hallway. Or at least, Max figured it was impatience that kept her friend shifting from one foot to the other. "Where's Joshua?" Max asked, glancing around, in an attempt at conversation.

"You know how he feel about having to hide his face," Cindy frowned, forcing her nervous moments to cease. "Doggy Dog already gone."

"Logan already take off?" Alec asked in a very, very neutral tone as he stepped into the hallway, dropped the duffel, and pulled the door shut with his Jaime-free arm. Max quirked an eyebrow at his question. So did Cindy.

"Nah, he waitin' on the main level," Cindy looked away, controlling the smile when Alec rolled his eyes. "He got all y'alls passports and stuff."

"Passports?" Max asked in confusion, as they made their way down the hallway "How'd he get pictures of us-"

"We just usin' copies of the same ones y'all used last time you was on a boat." Cindy shrugged, pressing the elevator's call button.

The ride in the elevator was a silent one. Alec nodded to Logan as they stepped from the small compartment, Max shot him a quicksilver smile, and Jaime happily ignored him. The walk down the ramp was equally silent, Max and Alec just touching shoulders as they made their way down the large gangway. Apparently those in first-class and the penthouses were let off before everyone else… Thank goodness. There were only a very few well-dressed passengers milling around, waiting to be let through Customs and onto U.S. soil.

The Pulse had destroyed more than just checking account numbers and stock portfolios; with the government suddenly broke, and beyond indebted to nations like Russia and China, many a government agency had fallen by the wayside. U.S. Customs… was not one of those agencies. It was still goin' strong, thanks in part to the government's attempts to forestall some of the illegal smuggling that kept on thriving despite their best efforts. Also because, with the Pulse, losing Superpower status and what not, most government officials had been gripped with the blinding fever of xenophobia, and so refused to cut funding, thereby sparing many a sadistic, bored Customs official from the unemployment line.

The customs worker looked between them in confusion after Logan had handed off their documents. Then at Jaime. Then back at them.

"Randy and Carrie Travis?"

Max blushed scarlet and snatched the passports from the counter. It took her a moment to realize that their passports said nothing about the pretended sibling relationship they'd used as a cover all those years ago and that the woman was merely waiting for their son's information… and sighed in relief when she realized that the good old U.S. of A was as sleazy as ever. A fifty dollar bill passed underneath the bulletproof glass, through the little half-moon opening, and nothing was said about the lack of documentation for their two and a half year old.

"Did you bring any fruits or vegetables with you?" The women asked in a bored tone as she pocketed the fifty that Logan had slid to her.

"No." Max answered honestly.

"Any weapons, including, but not limited to; machine guns, sawed off shotguns, small firearms, and/or knives?"

Dang, the government sure was getting upfront about these things.

"Lady, we barely have any luggage!" Alec interjected.

She repeated, like she hadn't heard him, "Any weapons, including, but not-"

"No." Alec scowled. Max shot him a look, 'cuz really, he should have known better.

"Any illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, or Cuban cigars?"

Max and Alec exchanged an incredulous glance before Alec turned back to her once more and sighed. "No." Even if he did, Alec had a feeling that a little bit more money would have fixed it for 'em anyway.

"Can you hurry it up, please?" Logan leaned in front of Alec, unmindful of the younger man's face, twisting in annoyance. "We have a plane to catch."

The woman gestured impatiently for their passports, which Max grudgingly handed back, and stamped them both, apparently wanting them as much out of her hair as they wanted to be out.

"Anything I should know about before we hit Seattle?" Max asked quietly as she followed behind Alec and Jaime, pushing their way though the security checkpoint.

"We can talk about it later." Logan huffed behind her, focused upon awkwardly maneuvering his suitcase through the shiny turnstile. The guard watched, smirking slightly below his government issued black cap.

Max opened her mouth to tell him that no, now was a good time, when Sketchy jogged up, only barely put together, wheeling an overloaded suitcase behind him. Alec turned and winced, catching sight of the garish Hawaiian shirt. Man, he thought he'd taught Sketch better.

"Man," Calvin "Sketchy" Theodore slowed to a halt, flipping his sunglasses down from the top of his head and onto his red, peeling nose. "I totally overslept this morning." He smiled winningly at the dumpy, apathetic government official behind the counter and she arched one thin eyebrow, unimpressed.

Well. At least some things never change.

"Hey, anybody seen Dalton?" Cindy was glancing around. She finally sighed, catching no sign of the teens. "Guess they ain't been released from they cattle cars, yet."

Max frowned, turning to look back at the ship, and, as if on cue, people began to spill forth from the thrown open, multi-storied doors, down the oversized gangway… And Max ignored the wince at the mass of humanity she'd soon be surrounded by. Guess they'd released the lower levels for debarking; this cruise had seemed far more crowded than the previous one. Maybe the economy was lookin' up... Or maybe Max's idea of 'crowded' had just gotten a lot, lot smaller. Social claustrophobia not withstanding, her eyes couldn't pick out the kid or his partner in crime within the crowd exiting the ship. She sighed. For transgenics and high-powered journalists and kickass females… they sure weren't very put together.

Sketchy answered all the woman's rote, rehearsed questions and got waved through the checkpoint. He followed Max's gaze back into the crowds milling on the dock, on the other side of the counters, waiting to be let onto 'official' U.S. soil, before he shrugged and sauntered over to Alec.

"So I guess this is it then." Sketch grinned loosely at Alec, releasing the handle of his overburdened suitcase and offering his hand to his friend.

"You not coming with us?" Alec frowned down at the offering, purposely stalling Sketchy's departure.

"Back to New York for me." Sketchy shrugged, hand still extended. "Deadlines n' all."

Alec's eyes narrowed only slightly. And got straight to the point. After all, this was the last chance he'd get. "Listen, man. Before you go... we really need to talk."

Sketchy sighed in that typical, put upon fashion of his, his hand lowering slowly, proof that he knew what was coming and that he wasn't a complete idiot. Really, Sketch was amazed that Alec had held off for this long. "C'mon, Alec, I didn't exactly volunteer for this assignment, okay?" He paused at Alec's look and he admitted, "I mean, yeah, I was stoked that maybe I'd get to see you guys again… but c'mon, my editor is a hard man and he overheard me on the phone with Cindy and it didn't take him long to figure out that my missing friends from my old days at Jam Pony were actually-"

Alec only slightly tuned him out as Sketchy nattered on with his excuses. Probably hadn't taken long the man's editor very long, 'cuz if Alec knew Sketchy the gangly man had broken under the pressure of his boss's stare and admited everything and all it's gory details in a frenzied rush.

"Take a breath. And explain something to me." Alec interrupted flatly when he realized Sketchy wasn't planning on stopping for air anytime soon. The man paused mid-sentence and looked questioningly at him. Alec frowned, his face hard. "Why is a big newspaper like the New York Post interested in the whereabouts of Max?"

Sketchy's mouth opened, and snapped back shut. His head cocked to the side and his brow furrowed, and he said in confusion. "We're at war, man. She was the face of the Transgenic Nation 'fore she dropped off the face of the earth. Why do you think he's all over this story?" He could have left it at that, but his face became thoughtful and he continued on. "Plus, the New York Times just got another editor with a Pulitzer and he's got a serious boner to show them up anyway he can. Surprised he didn't send anyone with me, to make sure I-"

"War?" Alec interrupted, his blood going cold. His stomach clenched as he glanced towards Max and Jaime, still standing with Cindy and Logan. He turned back to Sketchy, his face hard. "What do you mean, war?"

Sketchy frowned, pausing in confusion. "Wait, you mean Logan seriously hasn't told you this stuff yet?"

Alec relaxed only slightly. No, he hadn't told them, and maybe that was partly their own fault for avoiding him. But it was something Alec was going to fix first chance he got. Going back to Seattle... if he had to go back, he didn't want to go in blind. He needed answers, and figuring it all out on his own wasn't nearly as efficient as being briefed by someone already knee-deep in the situation. Which is where Logan would come in handy. Later. For now, though-

"Listen, Sketchy, if you're really our friend, you won't write whatever story your toked little brain is cooking up."

Sketchy's face fell as his loyalties from his past battled those of his present. "Alec, we're talking about my job, man."

"Do you really wanna be responsible for White showing up on our doorstep with his goon squad?" Alec demanded. Then frowned at Sketchy's look. Oh no. Here it comes. "Now what?"

"Dude. Ames White is dead."

Alec's face hardened, covering his surprise. Oh, yes. He was definitely sitting Logan down and giving him a good grilling.

Sketchy sighed and ran a hand through highlighted hair. "Alec, you're one of my buddies… and Max… it used to be her part-time job to pull me out of trouble before you came along..." Alec nodded in agreement, like Sketchy had just won his argument for him, and the taller man finally slumped. "I'll hold off on the story as long as I can. But trust me when I say if it's not me, it's going to be someone else." His voice became entreating, almost whiny. "At least I'll cover up some of the details. And I'll keep everything real general. I promise. Short as possible. A blurb."

Alec rolled his shoulders. From what Sketchy had hinted about his boss, he didn't think a blurb would be quite enough. "Look, just…" He sighed, wondering if he should even waste the breath. "Just hold off for as long as possible. Give us a chance to figure everything out."

"Dude, I hope you know what you're asking of me," Sketchy's shoulders slumped in misery once more.

"I hope you do, too." Alec's eyes were hard. This wasn't just some story. This was their lives.

"Any other last requests?" Alec rolled his eyes at Sketchy's despondent tone. "'Cuz my boss is going to kill me when I get back."

"Could always come with us back to Seattle," Alec shrugged, pretending like he didn't have an ulterior motive; wanting someone he knew, trusted, someone that hadn't much changed, at his back.

"And do what?" Sketchy demanded. "Work at Jam Pony again? Hope that Weekly World News takes me back after I told 'em to shove it 'cuz I was moving to New York?"

"Good point." Alec nodded.

"So, you still slumming it in illegal housing?" Max grinned at Cindy, her eyes focused upon Alec's tense body as he jogged over to them. "'Cuz I'm thinkin' we might be needing a place to crash."

Cindy shifted uncomfortably, exchanging a glance with Logan. "Listen, Max-"

"Sketchy's getting ready to take off," Alec swooped down and lifted Jaime. "Going to say bye?"

"Yeah, just a sec." She turned to Cindy. "You were saying?"

Cindy sighed, rolling her eyes. Didn't that just figure. "Go say bye to that fool 'fore he start blubbering. Cindy will be tellin' you later."

Dalton and Zasz chose that moment to break through the crowd, ducking around people, breaking through groups, like it was some kind of game or something. Max rolled her eyes at their antics before she walked towards the man that'd once been, if not one of her closest friends, at least one of the most memorable.

She pulled away from the smothering hug fairly quickly, frowning up at him. "Listen, Sketch-"

Sketchy rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Alec already busted my chops. No story until you guys get everything figured out. I'll try." Max glanced in surprise at Alec, who shrugged. What did she expect?

"Little man," Sketch turned to Jaime, still held in Alec's arms, ignoring Max's eye roll. "Good to meet'cha. You know how to bump fists?" Jaime stared in confusion at Sketchy's extended fist, before the man helped the boy make his own fist, tapping it lightly with his own.

Logan shook his head, smiling lightly. Cindy shook her head, her mouth twisting. Logan turned to look at her as Dalton slipped through the turnstile, avoiding all questions by simply flashing his military badge. Zasz sauntered through only moments later, chest puffed out, his eyes flicking disdainfully over the checkpoint guard who was now paying them close attention.

"So..." Logan frowned at her, "So much for telling Max about Seattle,"

"I'm gettin' around to it," Cindy frowned at him, eyes narrowing.

Alec closed the door of the taxi, tapping the glass, one final farewell to the tall, sunburned man inside. Max and Alec watched in silence as the taxi pulled away.

"You have the feeling that we're about to find out that the whole world is radically different?" Alec mused aloud. Max glanced at him, shooting him a small, strained smile. They turned as one to look at Cindy and Logan, talking to Dalton and Zasz, still near the Customs booth.

"You have the feeling that they haven't told us everything?" Max asked.

Alec smirked. "Baby, that's a given." Jaime grasped his leg, frowning slightly, his face burying into his father's jeans as he wondered why it was so loud here, and smelly, like fish, not like home, and why it was all so terribly, terribly boring.

"Guess it is partly our fault," Max admitted softly, as the other group started walking towards them.

"Yeah, maybe," Alec frowned. "But some of the stuff they could have told us about anyway, whether we wanted to hear it or not…" He turned to look at her, his hand grazing the top of his son's head absentmindedly. "Did you know that Ames White is dead?"

Max's mouth dropped open. "What?!"

His eyes darted towards her. "Yeah, that's kinda how I felt when Sketch just told me."

"Just told you what?" Logan asked as the other little party made it to them.

"We can talk about it later," Max replied, deadpan, in almost the exact same tone Logan had used on her only minutes ago. His mouth twisted a bit, maybe in annoyance, maybe in mirth, but for now, Logan let it go. Max did too. Yes, she wanted answers, but on a dock, surrounded by civilians, maybe wasn't the best time for this.

"Well, this is it," Logan shrugged, expensive blue shirt moving over lean shoulders. "Quick trip to the airfield and we'll all be in Seattle before you know it."

They took separate taxis to the airfield. Jaime was annoyed at being seated between his Mom and Dad, kept trying to squirm free of the lap belt and crawl over his Dad to get a good look at the scenery whizzing by. Taxi drivers hadn't changed much, Max noted, not with relief, as they turned a corner practically on two wheels and Jaime shrieked in happiness. At least someone was having a good time.

The airfield that they followed the other, larger taxi to was not the same one they'd been dropped off at on that fated trip so many years ago. That trip had been about secrecy, about hiding from White, and the airfield they'd landed at had reflected that; small, overgrown, at the far outskirts of the city, cracks in the old cement. Made for a quick, quiet, not totally legal drop.

This airfield was a real airfield. More than one runway. Blinking lights. Small charter jets lining up to take off. A little terminal, off in the distance. Private, powerful money worked behind the scenes here, and, again, Max wondered what had happened to Logan.

Alec whistled, long and low, as the car slowed to a stop behind the first taxi. He shook his head. "Guess that answers that question."

"What?" Max asked, brow furrowing.

"See for yourself," Alec shrugged, unbuckling himself and his son. Max did the same, stepping from the car. She turned, looking over the top of the taxi, at Josh, waiting patiently for them near a small, white plane.

On the side of the small, personal jet, so clearly; Cale Enterprises.

"Okay," Max shook her head, "Now I'm just starting to get pissed off," Alec arched an eyebrow at her in amusement, keeping a tight hand on his son's shoulder.

Alec let Logan deal with paying and tipping the driver. Obviously he could afford it.

"Guess you really missed the boat on this one," Alec murmured behind her, climbing up the rollaway steps, into the aircraft. "You coulda married a billionaire,"

"Don't start with me, Alec," She warned, making her way as far to the back as she could, sinking into one of the plush leather chairs. Alec lifted Jaime into the seat next to her. The seats were in two's, and one of 'em had to sit next to Jaime, and it wasn't gonna be him 'cuz that would leave the seat next to Max empty, leaving room for- anyway, Jaime was happy to sit next to his Mom, kicking his feet. Everything was so strange, so different, to the little boy, and trying to keep up was beginning to make him a little bit tired.

Alec sank into one of the seats across the aisle, marveled at the leg room, and, like his son, promptly fell asleep. Max shook her head in amusement. Her brain was wired with questions. She couldn't be paid at this point to sleep.

The plane had been in the air for a little over an hour when Max finally unbuckled her seatbelt unable to stand it any longer. She slipped past Jaime, face still slack, slightly pouty, in sleep. Alec didn't stir as she passed him, but she knew without a doubt his eyes opened as she walked up the aisle; she could practically feel his gaze burning across her back as she slipped into the seat next to Logan.

The older man put down the newspaper, removed the silver-rimmed glasses, and turned to look at her, waiting patiently.

"Ames White." She said simply, quietly. "Dead. How?"

Josh, across the aisle, looked up from the chicken dinner he'd been working on.

"A small war broke out after you left," Logan started slowly.

"I figured it'd be too much to hope that would be sorted out before I got back," She interrupted, muttering darkly.

His laugh was soft, and not at all humorous. "Not between transgenics and familiars…. It was a war within the Conclave, familiar versus familiar."

"What?" She demanded, surprised.

Logan shook his head. "This... isn't going to be simple to explain. You sure you want to hear it all now?"

"You just told me a war was goin' on." Her face twisted in incredulity. "Only an idiot would want to walk into that kind of situation blind. So yeah, I wanna know. What happened?"

Logan sighed. "Remember our good friend Ames White?"

"Whole reason for this conversation," She reminded.

"Apparently after you left, there was some kind of rift between him and the Conclave. Something went down the day your boat exploded, something either White, or the Conclave, wasn't happy about." Logan sighed, stretched his legs in his gray designer slacks. He relaxed back into the chair, shaking his head only slightly. "The Conclave tried to gently retire him and then when he wouldn't go, just tried to kill him instead. He repayed them by leading a faction of familiars against the uppers..."

Transgenics, well-noted for their intelligence, are just as capable of brain-dead, word-killing shock as the rest of the world. "You're shitting me," She said, her eyes wide.

Logan looked away, his mouth twisting. "When the Conclave tried to kill White, there was a small uprising. Apparently White had more support than they realized. Kind of like the old powers-that-be against the newer, more pedantic breed of cult members."

"Ames White?" Max questioned. "Pedantic? Logan, that guy was a fanatic on a good day."

"Yes, White was insane." Logan nodded. "Yes, White killed his wife. But White also kept letting you live in the hopes of regaining his son," Logan pointed out. "Not something any of the truest of believers would have done. And apparently, he wasn't the only one that was chafing under the rule of the Conclave. Feelings in the face of our modern culture were starting to run high; the beliefs that'd been passed down from generation to generation were getting diluted within the lower echelons, not like the higher ups that lived and breathed the word of the Cult. Those less powerful members weren't accepting the deaths of their first two sons as easily as they used too. Weren't always going with a carefree heart to kill their human wives after the acceptance of the third child into their schools." Logan shook his head. "And honestly, even sometimes the third child failed the administration of the snake venom, and men were faced with three dead children, one dead wife, and nothing to show for it but a whole lot of nothing."

"You say that like they have feelings or something," Max scoffed.

"Everyone has feelings, Max." Logan sighed.

"Not them." She argued.

"Anyway," Logan continued, "White came to represent the more modern, if still obviously insane, nature of snake worship. In his 'plan', maybe some humans would get to live; as chattel obviously, slaves, but still alive. What's the point of being supreme if you have nothing to rule over?" Logan shook his head, laughed ruefully, well aware of how sick it all was. "Transgenics, of course, would not be so lucky. And he was charismatic enough to add to the followers he already had. Some of the familiars liked him because of his slightly more relaxed views on family. Some familiars liked him because he promised a new world, a world that the Conclave was slow in delivering. Some followed him just because he talked a good game. Guy practically became a cult leader in and of himself."

They fell into silence, as Max digested it all. "How do you know all this stuff?" She finally asked, after a long pause.

"We had some people on the inside," Logan said quietly, not proud to admit it.

"What?!" Max demanded.

"Some transgenics volunteered to receive the Caduceus, the mark of the Cult." Logan admitted. "And the fragmented nature of the Cult made it easy for them to slip into ranks. Plus it helped that only the Conclave knew the identities of all its members. With communications broken down, familiar fighting familiar, Conclave members scattered across the world, leading the True Faction against White… Well... Some transgenics are used to taking on roles anyway, and it wasn't easy, and I'm not saying we didn't lose some people, but it wasn't as hard as it should have been either."

"What?" Max demanded. "Are you kidding me?! You sent my people into the heart of the enemy?"

"No," Logan shook his head. "They volunteered. Sandeman asked, and they volunteered."

Max's brain quit functioning. It… it was all just too much… She stood, looked back at Alec, watching her, not even pretending that he wasn't listening to every word that had passed between them. Dalton and Zasz, Josh, and Cindy, they were all listening in the confines of the small plane, solemn and grim-faced.

"How did he die?" She asked softly, still standing in the aisle, knowing she shouldn't feel even the least bit of remorse for a man so sick. She glanced back at Jaime, shifting in sleep, and for a moment-

"His father…" Logan shook his head. "It came down to it, and Sandeman shot him. Twice."

Max stared at Logan for a long moment, unblinking, before moving back up the aisle. Jaime was still sleeping, curled into the leather of his seat, completely unaware of the conversation that had flipped Max's world view on it's axis. She sank into the seat next to Alec, shoved open the shade, and peered out the window at a blue, blue sky that her eyes couldn't see.

"Hey," He asked gently. "You okay?"

She looked back at him. Looked at her son, asleep across the aisle.

"I want to go home," She said.

Alec smiled, a bit hard, and his arm came up around her shoulders and she ducked underneath to lean into him. He didn't say anything, just pressed his mouth against her sun-kissed hair.

Zasz, watching, turned back to Dalton and made a kissy face, but his friend just popped him on the arm. Logan glanced back, just for a moment, and was forced to turn away from their solidarity. He slipped his glasses back on, turned back to the newspaper, and told himself that life goes on. Even when it hurts.

Jaime woke up shortly afterwards, and the rest of the flight was all about keeping him entertained. Josh even tried, coming back to sit next to the hyperactive child. Josh had a way with kids, 'cuz Jaime finally settled down and listened to the tall, strange man and his stories of Seattle, of the place they were going.

Not home. Max was leaning into Alec once more, as she listened to Josh talk. Not home.

This airfield was every bit as privately owned, and well taken care of, as the last one. It was almost within city limits, and Max's breath caught as she caught sight of the familiar Seattle skyline once more. And yes, she finally recognized it for the first time. Admitted it. It was home in a way, always would be. The first place she'd truly been attached to. The first place she'd made a place for herself and a stand for herself. So many memories. She'd fallen in love for the first time here. Came to know the man that would eventually be her husband as more than just a soldier, but as a friend and a Second. Made some of the best friends a girl could ask for. So yeah, yeah she could own up to it. Home. Not as much of a home as the island had come to be, but holding a special place in her heart regardless. It was almost unbelievable, almost surreal, the feelings that bubbled up as the plane came in for landing, touching ground in Washington, in a place she never thought she'd see again.

Alec watched the emotions play across her face. And sighed. Seattle.

Yes. He'd fallen in love here. Lost love here. Recognized his self-worth independent of Manticore or illegal antics. Stepped up to help lead Transgenic Nation. Tried to be a friend to Max, when she let him, set them both on the path that would eventually lead to love and to Jaime. But this place? Seriously? It held more heartbreak than happiness. He'd lost Rachel. He'd lost Biggs. He'd been on guard against constant attacks from White, from Max, and even, sometimes, from Logan. This place wasn't home. This place had been a temporary shelter, a place that he couldn't leave, not while he had responsibilities, not while Max was still there, and those nebulous feelings of 'owing her' and something else kept him attached. Seattle.

Welcome home, he told himself, mirthlessly.

Cindy and Josh slipped into a dark unmarked car, already waiting for them. Logan had his own car, one that was most definitely not Bessy, but every bit as unremarkable considering the amount of money the man must have. Guess, apart from those designer slacks, Logan just wasn't the flasy type.

Dalton and Zasz…

"Hey, kid, where you goin'?"

"Home," Dalton replied with a shrug and sunk on to the-

"HEY!" Alec's eyes widened in recognition. "Is that my motorcycle?!"

The seventeen year old ducked his head and he muttered in embarrassment. "You weren't using it…"

Alec circled the Bandit slowly, looked over the new parts and the old paint. "Anything else you appropriated of mine while I was away?" He asked blandly.

"Only the ladies," Zasz grinned, his smile splitting his freckled face as he climbed onto the back of Alec's… make that Dalton's… screw that, it was Alec's… bike.

He loved that bike…

"I'll give it back," Dalton slumped and his voice bordered on the pouty, on the petulant, but it didn't faze Alec much.

"See that you do." If it'd been one of his jackets, that'd be one thing… but his bike? He paused at Dalton's dismayed face, and sighed.

"Thanks for taking care of it," He finally nodded at the teen, in an attempt to soften the blow, and Dalton glanced up in surprise. The teen nodded with the brevity of an adult, and then ruined it by grinning and peeling off.

Max's eyes followed them as the two teens disappeared up the road. "Kind of makes me wonder what happened to my Ninja." She glanced at Jaime, watching the motorcycle roar away in wonder. "Guess those days are done."

"Nah, nuthin' wrong with some weekend joyriding." Alec glanced at her, smiling slightly. "Just don't try and strap my kid to the back, 'kay?"

Max snorted. "Yeah right."

"You guys coming?" Logan called from his car, one foot already in as he leaned against the open driver's door.

Seattle's familiar skyline was disappearing, rapidly growing larger, taking up their full vision, until, finally, they were in the city proper. The windows, rolled tightly, didn't detract from the sounds of the city. All the people. The buildings. Max kept getting distracted by the sense of wonder, the feelings of fear. She kept having to tune back into Logan's talking, sitting next to her in the driver's seat.

"You can stay with me for a few weeks, until-"

"Thanks, Logan," Alec interrupted, from the backseat, and Max was finally forced to pay attention. "But we'd rather get a set-up of our own, as soon as possible."

"We could always stay with Cindy," Max suggested, looking back at her husband.

"Might be a tight fit," Logan said grudgingly, wishing the other woman had been upfront with Max. Wondering why he was the one who'd have to admit, "She's staying in a hotel."

"A hotel?" Max questioned. "But-"

"Sketch wasn't the only one to move to New York," Logan sighed. Cindy so owed him.

Something within Max snapped. Betrayal. Something. She didn't know. Why couldn't they have slowly told her these things over the course of the last two weeks? Why were they throwing all this shit on her now? Anger bloomed in her chest and she opened her mouth and-

"Listen-" Logan started, hoping to forestall her anger.

"Alec's right," Max ground out, ignoring the Cindy situation for now. She'd be giving her 'girl' a talking to later. "Do you really want us underfoot for the time it takes us to get an apartment? We'll just crash at T.C. for awhile, there's bound to be somebody that'll take us in."

Logan stared expressionless at her and glanced away.

Max sighed. "Logan, it's not that we don't appreciate-"

"Max, there is no T.C. Not anymore."

Her mouth went dry. "Wha- What? What are you talking about?" The day just kept getting better and better. Max glanced back at Alec, and he was already looking in her direction, his face bland.

Is this the part where our brains start melting out our ears?

She turned back to Logan.

Logan sighed. The car took a sudden right and the next ten minutes were spent in stony edged silence. They left the fancier districts behind, the cleaner districts that housed such things like Fogle Towers, and art museums, and a world that refused to believe in the Pulse. Max's eyes burned into the side of Logan's face. She didn't even realize, as they passed through first one checkpoint, and then another…

She'd traveled these streets before. Clean buildings were giving way to grunge and debris. The impeccably dressed replaced by those barely scraping by. Wealth turned to dirt. Illusion to reality. They were headed into the heart of Seattle.

"See for yourself." Logan finally said into the silence as the car slowed to a halt.

Chainlink fence; toppled. Buildings; burned out shells. Spray paint, die transgenic scum, faded colors, no longer bright, aged, in stark relief against charred brick. Silence; haunting, powerful, overwhelming.

T.C. was a ghost town once more, a dead zone within the center of one of the largest metropolitan areas left in the United States.

"What…" Her hand pressed to the glass of the car window in shock. She struggled to control her voice. "What happened? Where is everybody?"

"Gone." Logan replied softly. "There might be a few transhumans left in the deepest parts of T.C…" Logan shrugged. "But they're reclusive even for transhumans… don't talk to anyone, much less me."

"And everyone else?" Alec's voice, deep and thoughtful, startled Logan and he glanced back over the seat at the other man. "Dalton said he was going home. Where, exactly, is home?"

"They're gone," Logan repeated firmly… "Most, like Mole, went to ground. Some went to the military. Dalton is probably half way to Gillette, Wyoming by now."

No.

Her mouth went dry.

No. She hadn't fought so that they-

"Long story," Logan sighed and put the car back into gear, began the slow pull away from the ruins of what'd once been the headquarters of a civil rights movement that'd shocked the nation. That Max had once spearheaded with an iron fist and a surprisingly noble heart.

They only got a few blocks when Alec frowned. "Pull over."

Logan glanced back in confusion. "Wha-"

"Just pull over, man." Alec resisted the urge to huff in annoyance, kept his tone as calm as his temper and frayed nerves would allow.

The car rolled to a stop and Alec got out, headed towards a payphone. Max glanced between his back and Jaime for a few moments before Logan sighed and gestured for her to follow him. "I'll watch Jaime," He said gently.

Max frowned. Then nodded, and slipped out of the car, crossing the hard sidewalk, her nose protesting every step of the way. The air conditioning of Logan's vehicle had hid it from her, but the smell of the city in her overdeveloped nose; of humanity, and pollution, and… For a moment, she thought she might wretch. So much for missing the smell...

She controlled the urge to dry-heave and leaned against the booth next to him, watching as he punched in some numbers.

He glanced at her, putting his hand over the mouthpiece for just a moment, "Hey, go wrangle every quarter you can out of Logan. This might take a while." Then he glanced back at the phone, a large, fake smile blooming on his face as he turned away from her. "Mickey, my man! How you doin'? … What do you mean who is this?" He glanced again at Max and shooed her away, turning his back to her.

Alec would make his own way. And that was final.

She sighed, heading back towards the car to talk Logan out of all of his change, but that didn't mean she didn't catch some of Alec's conversation.

"You want me to break your kneecaps, you punk? Don't act like you don't know me just 'cuz of all that money you owe me."

Her head whipped back towards him and he was watching her again, smiling blandly. He shrugged, still speaking into the phone but his eyes didn't leave her. "Yeah, I don't care how long it's been since you've heard from me. A debt is a debt, buddy."

Logan rolled down the car window, leaning over the stick shift to look up at her. "He could just use my cellphone, you know."

Max shrugged, unwilling to admit to Logan that these were the types of calls that the man would probably prefer not to be traced to his phone.

"Got any change?" She asked, instead.

"Break your kneecaps?" She asked blandly when Alec hung up on the dialtone with a huff.

Alec shrugged. "You gotta talk to them in a language they understand, Max." He held out his hand and she deposited some more change in it. He turned back to punch in some more numbers and Max settled in for a long wait. Alec's network of contacts had once rivaled Logan's own, if some of his had been a tad more shady. This might take a while. Alec would probably run out of change before even making it halfway down his mental list.

"So?" She asked, when he hung up on the call that'd eaten the last of the coinage that Logan had supplied them with.

"Half of the contacts I tried were either dead or had changed numbers. More likely they were dead. The other half sounded like they wished I was dead." He pulled away from the payphone, frowning. So much for collecting the money that was owed him. He ignored Max's disapproving stare. Another reason he disliked Seattle. That expression on her face had seemed like a constant in his life, last time he'd been here.

Max glanced back at the car, where Logan was waiting with Jaime. Of the two, Logan looked the most uncomfortable. Jaime seemed to be chatting a mile a minute. From what she remembered of Logan, which was practically everything, kids weren't his strong point. She frowned again, ignoring Alec's put-upon sigh. It's not that she completely disapproved of Alec's extensive contact list; she just didn't want her family put back into that crowd. Although, honestly, she knew Alec didn't either, but at this point, probably felt like he had to to wrangle up some quick cash, proof that this changed world was getting to him and he was starting to get desperate. "So, should we-"

"Max, I am not sleeping in the same house as that man."

"Alec-"

"Call me petty or childish or whatever; everything's just too weird. Seeing him in P.J.'s might destroy me." Alec leveled her with The Look. She snorted.

"You'd rather we sleep out on the street?" She asked.

"I'll get us a hotel, okay?" He replied.

"With what money? What credit card?"

"I'll take care of it," He frowned.

"Alec-"

"I said I'd take care of it, Max."

She sighed and stifled the worry that she never had to deal with the last time they were in Seattle, pulling off illegal escapades. They could have asked Logan for the money… but really… they didn't even feel right staying at his residence. They sure as hell weren't going to take his money. But that didn't mean she was going to let Alec sneak into some drug-dealer's hideout to steal them enough cash for a cheap motel.

"I'm sorry, are you forgetting the part where I forbid you from putting yourself at risk of injury?" Max demanded.

"Fine," Alec finally grunted. "But if we're staying at Logan's, I reserve the right to make you scream as loud as I want."

Max blushed scarlet. They'd mastered the art of quiet love-making over the last two-years… but once Alec got something in his head… She had no doubt that he'd make her do just that.

"Fine," She huffed, "What do you suggest, smart guy?"

"Well… there is one more option…" Alec trailed off, glancing away.

Max's eyes widened.

"No way in hell!"

"What'll it hurt to call him, Max?" Alec insisted. "He probably doesn't even live here anymore. Probably got shut down years ago."

"I am not staying with Normal and that is final!"


"I'm so happy you're staying with me," Reagan Ronald's eyes were misty and Alec patted at his back awkwardly. The man's arms squeezed tighter around his torso and Alec glanced overtop his head at Max's cruel smile; like he deserved this or something.

"And you, Missy Miss-" Normal finally straightened and sent Max an annoyed glare. "I'll have you know, I fired you while you were away."

"Was that after I stopped showing up to work so I could lead Transgenic Nation or when everyone thought I was dead?" Max asked blandly.

"Both," Normal shrugged and dismissed her to turn and look at Jaime's wide eyes. Max bristled and Alec nudged her entreatingly… Right before Normal's annoyed voice overrode his brain, and he turned to look at Normal, scowling at Jaime. "Hey… you… small fry. Try not to get your grubby hands on the merchandise, okay?"

Ugh. The man was exactly the same, Max shook her head. From his weaselly little voice, to his republican haircut, to the polyester-blend collared shirt. Jam Pony hadn't changed much either... Badly ventilated, poorly lit, not nearly clean enough... And all the workers were so young... she just didn't remember everyone looking so... young... before.

Max scowled and turned to stare at Alec.

"What? He's just jokin'." Alec hoped. And then added, "He secretly loves kids… right Normal?"

Normal looked askance at Jaime. And even though it was an obvious yes, in Alec's mind, Normal grunted doubtfully, "Only if I can make them work for me."

Max smiled slowly, leaning over to Alec and saying de sotto, "I reserve the right to make you scream tonight,"

He watched her in trepidation. "You wouldn't… You couldn't."

"We'll see about that." She smirked, her arms folding under her breasts.

Jeez… Married to her for three years and he hadn't known she was even capable of a smile that evil.


"What's up?" Logan asked when they showed up at his penthouse, his card, with his address written on the back, grasped tightly in Max's unhappy hand. "I thought-"

Max and Alec wore twin frowns. "Can you watch Jaime for a little bit?" Max interrupted, feeling a wee-bit guilty for dropping the bomb, their kid, on the man that she'd once thought she'd end up with. But, well, desperate times... "We would have left Jaime with Cindy, but we stopped by the hotel you said she was at, and... well. She must have been out."

They shared a glance when Logan didn't move from the door, waiting for further explanation. "We got something to take care of," Alec added with a grunt, refusing to say more. Logan finally sighed and stepped away from the threshhold. Sometimes being the good guy... well...

He watched as Max kissed a dark head of hair, whispering for him to 'be good'. As Alec squeezed the boy's shoulder...

Jaime's lower lip immediately started quibbling as soon as the door shut behind them. Well... this would be... interesting.

"...Hey," Logan tried to distract the kid from his unhappiness. Kids were never his strong point. Jaime just turned to look at him, his strange brown-gold eyes tearing up. Oh no.

"You like chocolate?" Logan asked desperately, hoping to stall the waterworks. Jaime blinked.

"Cookie?" He asked.

Logan couldn't help the small smile. If that's one thing Max had taught him; any kid could be won by sugar.


Max and Alec came back a few hours later to whisk Jaime away with more than enough money for a hotel room. Logan was smart enough not to ask. And in return, they didn't ask why their son had chocolate smeared across his mouth. Unhappy looks were exchanged all around, though.

"Never again," She frowned at Alec, when their small family was settled into their room.

He shrugged. Never again, what? Never again leave Jaime with Logan or never again rip off a two-bit criminal? Probably both, with a slight lean towards the stealing bit. But they had to make a living somehow. He stashed the rest of the cash in the hotel's wall safe. Besides, he thought to himself, it's not like they'd been spotted. And really, Mickey should be glad he wasn't at home when Max and Alec had stopped by, or his kneecaps might have been in for it.

Alec slipped a few of the bills into his pocket, slamming the safe door closed, and shot Max a glance before leaving the room, on his way to wrangle them up some fastfood or something. Hopefully Jaime's appetite hadn't been completely ruined.

He came back with greasy fries, heavy hamburgers, sugary cola, and a haircut. His hair didn't brush over the tops of his ears anymore, didn't brush against his collar, and Max frowned at the almost military cut, at the barcode that showed when he moved too vigourously; it reminded her of Manticore.

"What?" He demanded, when he'd caught her staring once more, "You feel like a metro man for a while, and you might go for something this short, too."

"I like it," She finally grudgingly admitted, even if it did remind her of the situation with the transgenics. Military, my ass, she thought to herself, grabbing for a french fry. Jaime's appetite was ruined as it was, guess it wouldn't hurt to pig out on something unhealthy now.

"Max," Alec shook his head, collapsing next to her one the bed. "I'm thinking that the transgenic situation… Well… it's over our heads, now. We're not going to be able to make a difference-"

"We didn't fight so that they could be used like tools," Max's face twisted.

"Maybe they wanted to go back," Alec played devil's advocate. "Max, to a lot of us, that place was the only place that made sense."

"Don't say that," She shook her head, Ben's haunted eyes flashing through her mind. "Don't ever say that again."

He blinked at her for a long moment, before finally sighing and saying, "You were angry 'cuz everyone expected us to be the same. Don't fall into the same trap that they did. We don't know what went down these last couple of years."

"I don't care," She ground out, in her typical stubbornness. "I'm finding the genius whose bright idea it was to send our people back into service, and I'm kicking his ass."

A knock on the door interrupted Alec's smiled response, and Cindy's voice broke through their conversation. "Max? Logan called me, said you were stayin at the same hotel…"

Max glared evilly at the door.

"Max," Alec grunted. "She's your friend," He reminded. One of her few friends left in Seattle, now.

"Some friend," She sniffed.

"Max," Came Cindy's voice, "I'm sorry, I just didn't know how to tell you and-"

The door abruptly opened and Max's steely face met her. Cindy hesitated for only a moment. A moment is all it took for Max's face to crumple a bit. "Everything is so wrong," She admitted in an unhappy voice.

Cindy stepped in and hugged her friend, whether she wanted it or not. "I know." She whispered. "I'm sorry." Sorry she hadn't prepared her friend. Life had been hard enough for them, just coming off their island, Cindy hadn't wanted to heap it all on them at once… And by sparing Max on the boat, she'd done just that in Seattle; heaped it all on, 'til they felt like they were bending, falling under the weight of change, close to snapping.

Max finally broke away from the woman, stepping away from the threshold and letting Cindy into the room. "New York, huh?" She made nice.

Cindy shrugged, stepping in and closing the door behind her. "Original Cindy got herself all grown up, with a real job, a cute little pad, and a sweet little chickadee."

"Real job?" Max teased, "Say it ain't so,"

"Girl, not even a saint could work for Reagan Ronald the rest of they lives." O.C. rolled her eyes.

Max settled onto the tan carpet, pulling Jaime into her lap, and Cindy sunk onto the sofa near the hotel door. Alec watched for a moment, as Max grilled Cindy on her new job, her new life, before slipping out the door.

"Why New York?" He heard his wife ask as he closed the door.

"Everywhere I looked," Came Cindy's soft reply, "I was reminded of you. It hurt too much. So when Sketch was 'bout to up and leave, I figured-"

The door clicked shut and Alec sighed. They needed time anyway. And it gave him a chance to do what he'd planned, earlier. Get some answers. Finally.


The knock startled Logan from his quiet musings, and he pushed away from the computer that he couldn't much focus on anyway.

"Alec?" He questioned the ghost of his past, the man's short hair reminding him of years gone by.

The transgenic leaning in the hallway nodded only slightly. "Logan,"

"What's going on?" The older man questioned. "Is Max-"

"Max is watching our son," Alec interrupted, unable to help adding the little dig. Just setting boundaries, he told himself, that's all. "And talking to Cindy," He added after a moment, a bit grudgingly.

"So what's up?" Logan asked slowly, a bit suspiciously. He and Alec had never really been friends. There for a while, Logan knew, he'd been a complete jerk to the younger man. If Alec had just come here to rub his relationship with Max in his face-

"We need to talk," Alec's voice went hard.

And for a moment, Logan realized he'd caught a bit of what Manticore had once seen. 494 could be a scary looking man when he wanted to be.

"Come in," Logan sighed, his baser instincts telling him to lock predators out, not invite them in.

Alec's eyes moved through the penthouse suite. Place was even nicer than Fogle had once been. Way nicer than Sandeman's dump. High ceilings, white-washed walls. A bit softer than the Fogle place, not quite so modern. Maybe Logan was getting softer in his old age. Only a little bit though. The place had actual rooms and open archways instead of those glass dividers he'd once favored, but the furniture was still the same high-end, glossy contemporary type that Alec had always associated with Logan.

"So," he made conversation, still looking around. "Welcomed back into the Cale fold, eh?"

"What do you need, Alec?" Logan sighed.

Alec cut the crap and got right to the point. "Who was the genius that sent transgenics back into service?" He asked, voice like steel.

And Logan knew what he was asking.

Were you the genius that sent transgenics back into service.

"Don't look at me like that," Logan shook his head. "I had nothing to do with it. After you two left, after you, quote unquote, died, leadership of T.C. was kind of up in the air. Some of the more muscle-bound tried to fight for the position." Logan shook his head. It'd been an uncertain time. He smiled a bit. "But in the end, diplomacy won out."

"And happy transgenic leadership went tooo-" Alec prompted, wanting to know who the next person on his list would be.

"A couple of people, actually," Logan shrugged, crossing the wooden floor of the front hall, making his way into the well-furnished study. He sunk back into the leather computer chair, leaning forward over the glass top desk. He clicked on a file, pulled up some pictures. He leaned back and Alec leaned over the chair. Some of the trannies in the pictures looked vaguely familiar. Some he didn't recognize at all. One was 526, Jake, the transgenic from the island. One of them was Mole, and that didn't surprise him.

"T.C. tried its hand at a council of leaders for a while." Logan supplied. "After your and Max's death, they weren't willing to put all their trust on one person." Alec started to protest, and Logan shrugged. "It wasn't anything personal. Transgenics knew, what with the familiars and the populace gunning for them all, that being a leader was to be in a hazardous position; they could die at any moment. With a council, even if one member were to die, they wouldn't be left completely leaderless."

"Sounds… fairly intelligent," Alec grunted, straightening. "So what happened?"

"Sandeman showed up," Logan frowned, leaning forward once more. Bringing a newspaper article onto the screen.

Transgenic Crisis Resolved, the bold type declared.

"Sandeman just showed up out of nowhere," Logan frowned at the computer screen. "Appparently all those years of secrecy after being kicked out of Manticore? Well, he was still working with the government, some deals overseas, and he came back with an offer. Come back to the fold, fight against the familiars, do what you were made to do, and earn citizenship."

"We don't have to earn citizenship," Alec scowled as Logan swiveled to face him. "We were born-"

"Trust me," Logan frowned, unhappy, "Every argument you could make right now? I already did. But some transgenics, well, they were tired of fighting a world that hated them. Just wanted to go back to what they knew, even if it meant fighting for the people that don't appreciate them. So, the council took a vote, and they were split, almost right down the middle."

"I take it Mole didn't want to go back the government's loving, open arms," Alec said blandly.

Logan nodded, smiling slightly. The abrasive transhuman had sided with Logan for once and he'd put it in no uncertain terms what he thought of Sandeman's deal.

"This is a load of horse shit," Mole had pulled out his cigar, to spit at Sandeman's feet.

Logan shook his head, pulling himself from the memory, and his mouth twisted. It made the slight scar above his lip stand out in relief, white and jagged, catching Alec's eye. Logan pretended like he didn't see Alec look at the mark, and pressed on.

"So, since the Council couldn't decide, they let transgenics decide for themselves. Stay or go. Mole's faction, most transgenics, actually, really were inspired by Max. Really did think they had a right to their own life... So they went to ground. A little under half went back to the government facilities, but it was enough that people felt safe once again and all the mania just kind of… faded out."

"I don't get it," Alec straightened, frowning at the computer screen. "Why would they go back? How could they think it'd be worth it-"

"Remember T.C.?" Logan questioned. "All the burnt out buildings? We don't know how the fire started. Just that it did. And it was the icing on the cake for some transgenics; their home, destroyed. Either way, everyone was going to have to leave T.C., why not go to a place where they'd be the ones doing the attacking?"

"For someone who doesn't agree with their decision," Alec pointed out, "You sure got all the answers,"

"It's a fairly human sentiment," Logan shrugged. "The evil I know-"

"Is better than the evil I don't," Alec sighed. Logan started in surprise. "What? I'm not a retard, Logan, I do know some common sayings." Alec shook his head in dark amusement.

Logan turned back to the screen.

"And then-" Alec prompted, sighing, watching the man move his mouse absently, knowing there was more. The way his day was going, there was always more.

"And then the familiar war started. When it seemed like White was going to win, his faction got a little ahead of themselves, tried to start the Coming early, before the big astronomical event that was supposed to herald it. They started taking out humans, and any transgenic they could find, the old fashioned way. With violence."

"And suddenly, transgenics, tools of the military, don't look so bad in the eyes of American Joe." Alec mused. He paused a moment, before asking, "You still keep in contact with Sandeman?"

"Yeah," Logan shrugged. "To be honest, I don't much like the guy. He's a little too apocalyptic gloom and doom for me, but I can get a hold of him if I want."

Alec sighed, "Let me talk to Max about it first, figure out if this is really the way we want to go."

"Sure," Logan shrugged.

"Thanks," Alec nodded. He was turning to leave before he paused. "Hey, if you don't mind me asking… How'd you know where to find us?"

Logan frowned. "Made a deal with the devil, right before he died," Logan shook his head, asking Alec to leave it at that.

Alec's mouth twisted, and he forced himself not to ask the question that Logan wanted to avoid. Instead, "How'd you even know we were alive?"

"I didn't," Logan replied, soft and dignified. "I hoped." Then he laughed a bit. "Plus, hang out with Sandeman long enough, and maybe you'll start believing in destiny, too."

Alec snorted. "I don't believe in destiny, I make my own way."

Logan's mouth twitched. "Funny. That was one of White's recruiting slogans,"

Alec smiled back, just for amoment. Before pausing, and finally letting curiousity get the better of him, he asked, "One more thing?"

Logan sighed.

"How'd you get the scar?" Alec's head cocked to the side, his eyes glancing over the mark on the right side of the man's lip, marring his lip, curving towards his cheek, slight and faded.

"Got hit by a brick," Logan said blandly, and Alec wondered if he should believe him. "Anything else?"

Alec shifted from foot to foot. Wondering if he should apologize to the man for becoming the husband to the woman that he loved. "No," He finally said, and turned.

"Alec," Logan's voice stopped him. "I think I'm allowed one question, too."

Here it comes.

He didn't turn. Just stayed in the archway of the study, his back tense. "Yeah?"

"How'd… I mean…" Logan sighed. "Why you? Why you?" Logan's voice was soft, tired, and almost broken. Alec had never heard the man sound so… human… before.

He paused, to actually put real thought into the question. He owed Logan that much. His face was drawn as he dredged the answer from his brain.

"You once told me," He mused softly, turning and catching Logan's gaze. "That it didn't matter to you where she came from, or who she was." He paused, and shook his head, almost sadly. "It should have mattered, Logan. Above all else, those are the two things that should have mattered the most."

Alec looked across at the older man. And for a moment genuinely felt bad for the guy. He sighed, unsure if he should say any more. In the end, it was easier to just walk away and let the door close gently behind him.

It didn't answer Logan's question, at least not in the way Alec thought Logan wanted the question answered. But it was the only one that made sense to him, even if Logan Cale never saw it. Alec understood Max on a level that the Ordinary just could not grasp.

Plus, hey, alone on an island. That helped.


He slipped back into the hotel room close to dusk, and Max smiled up at him from her spot on the tan couch. Jaime was in her lap, and her hand ran through her son's fine, dark hair. "Hey you," She smiled, over the noise of cartoons, more than a greeting in her simple words.

He smiled back at the girl who was anything but. "Hey, back." And softness swelled. Maybe Seattle did suck the big one. But at least they were here together.

"Where you been?" She questioned.

"Trying to get answers," Alec sighed.

"Get any?" Max asked softly, resisting the urge to jokingly ask if Logan was in one peice. She didn't know if Alec was in the right frame of mind to take it as the joke it was meant to be. Score one for Max, actually keeping her mouth shut, she thought to herself, almost wryly.

"A few answers. And they all caused more questions," Alec laughed ruefully, leaning back into the door, his head hitting the thick wood gently. He pushed away after a moment and crossed to her, sliding to the ground by her feet, his back against the couch. "Logan wants to know if we want to meet Sandeman."

"I do have some questions for him." Max's fight went neutral, all military commandership, and Alec resisted the urge to snort. Why was it so easy to fall back into that mentality?

"From what Logan says," Alec grunted, eyes flicking over the boob tube, "If we do meet up, don't be surprised if you don't like the guy."

Max's mouth twisted. "Trust me. I'm already pretty prepared for that," Anyone who could create Manticore, create a new race, all for the sole purpose of stopping the Apocalypse, was obviously, while not a sociopath, a little morally skewed. A little narrow-minded for the sake of destiny and humanity.

Alec turned, looking over his shoulder, and sighed at Max's narrow-eyed look. He didn't want it. But he too, felt the familiar call to take charge growing within him. He couldn't… couldn't let transgenics…

Alec sighed again, his head resting against her knees. What a load of shit. All his talk about not letting Max get back into the game, and he was already half-way in.

Max smiled at the back of his head. "Hard, isn't it? To let go,"

"Yeah, yeah," He muttered. "Don't rub it in." He twisted and looked up at her. Looked at Jaime.

"It's not fair to him to get into this mess," Alec finally said. Jaime was oblivious, watching the bright colors play across the television set.

"We're not planning on taking up the reins of Transgenic Nation," Max rolled her eyes. "All we're doin' is finding out what's changed in our absence."

"Then why do I feel like a puppet?" Alec asked, "Tugged along by fate, or destiny, or some weird whatever, back towards some kind of inevitable leadership. Sometimes it feels like even getting stuck on that island was destiny or something."

"I don't believe in destiny," Max shrugged, making a face. "I make my own way."

"Famous last words," Alec snorted.

"So," Max finally asked, relaxing slightly, her hand dropping from her son's silky hair and into her husbands, glanced down across his neck, across the mark that she refused to associate as a claim of government ownership. "What are we goin' to do? We have enough money for a few nights here. But what about jobs? And meeting Sandeman-"

"And going to Wyoming." Alec interjected.

"What?! We are not-"

"I'm not saying we're joining the ranks of the mindless, Max," Alec shook his head. "I'm saying, I want to get a look at that place. I figured it'd still be a burned out shell, not home to Manticore 2.0. You know by tomorrow you'll talk yourself into wanting to go too."

"No way," She scowled, shifting Jaime in her lap. "I am not letting you get anywhere near that place."

"If you get to talk to a man that coded you to be the savior of the world, I don't see why I can't try and talk some sense into the idiots that sold themselves out," Alec argued.

She pinched the back of his neck. He scowled.

"Admit it," He said knowingly. "You want to chew them out just as much as I do,"

"Yeah, duh," Max rolled her eyes. "But it's not like they're gonna let us waltz right onto a military installation and take a poll, 'hey, how stupid are you really?'"

Alec grinned.

"No, Alec." Max shook her head, her arms coming up around her son, almost protectively. "No, and that's final. There's not a damn thing you can do to convince me otherwise."

Alec's grin slipped and his eyes darted to his son. "Yeah," He finally grunted. "Yeah, you're right. Guess we have to just play it by ear for now."

"Good," Max smiled, confidant in her victory.

"So," Alec finally asked, pushing himself up onto the couch, leaning into the side. "Feel like your brains are going to leak out your ears, yet?"

She shook her head, "Alec, honey... they already did that about six hours ago." And she grinned.

"Well, let me help you stuff them back in." He grinned back, and pounced.

"Alec!" She shrieked, "Get off of me!"

Jaime squirmed around his Dad's arm, trying to keep his eyes on the screen. Just like his father. No help at all, Max snorted, not when there was a TV around.

Breathless, she finally shoved him away, and he grinned, leaning back into the couch, his arm settling around her shoulders. She leaned into him.

"My kid's turning into a vegetable," She grumped. "What happened to playing and exploring and all the cute little antics?"

"Ahh, the draws of modern society," Alec shook his head ruefully. "Welcome home, baby."