Prologue: X5 593

Gillette, Wyoming, 2000.

Manticore training room.

The nurses watched as the young X5's ran around the room, pretending to be little kids, playing with the toys that aided in their hand eye co-ordination, reading pretty picture about war, or just running for the sake of running.

The three leaders watched form behind the mirror. Donald Lydecker, Miranda Stonewall, and Kurt Meric stood talking about the children, decided on the groupings, deciding who got which child.

All three were decorated war heroes, all three left the force for different reasons, but they all wanted to be able to raise the next generation of soldiers. They were ready to train the children, to create the greatest generation of soldiers ever.

"There are ninety two children," said Lydecker, "So who gets thirty one, and who gets one less."

"I know the first one I want," said Miranda, a Japanese woman of about thirty with long brown hair.

"We're not even there yet," said Kurt, a black man who towered above most of the soldiers.

"I don't care," she said, "Who we take should reflect who we pick as the Commanding officer. The three that were born first, X5 599, X5 596 and X5 593 have all shown signs of leadership. They help soothe the little ones and are ahead of any of the others in motor skills."

"I agree," said Lydecker, "Those three should be split up."

"Fine," said Kurt, "I don't care which one I get."

"I do," said Miranda, "I want X5 593."

"The girl," said Lydecker, "She is an excellent specimen. I think I'll take X5 599."

"Fine. I'll take X5 596. I think that because I got last choice I should get thirty one," said Kurt, "And I think that Miranda should get thirty one because I've seen the list you made Deck. You want the cream of the crop."

"They're all good," said Lydecker.

"X5 656, X5 452, X5 734, X5 493, X5 631, X5 210?" said Kurt; "They're the best."

"I'm fine with him taking them," said Miranda, "As long as you get what Kurt and I don't take."

"Fine," said Lydecker, "Let's get down to business."


X5 599 sat at a table, watching the other X5s run around and act like little children. He knew they wouldn't be allowed to play once they were in squads. He knew they would be kept separate and taught to fight. That was the way things were.

He didn't even notice when X5 593 joined him at his table, and she was followed by X5 596. She sat on one side of him and reached out, touching his little hand with hers. He pulled away and she stuck out her tongue.

"Oh. It's you," he said, "What's wrong?"

"They're going to split us up," said X5 596, "I heard it from Lydecker. We'll be in different squads."

"Why?" said X5 599.

"Cause we're the best," said X5 593, "And they know it. We'll each be the CO of thirty X5s. They're going to split us up."

"But we've been together since we were born," said X5 599, "I remember getting up and holding your hand before I could even walk."

"Well we're being split up," said X5 596, "The female said so. I'm with her. You're with Lydecker X5 599."

"This sucks," said X5 593.

"This what's?" said X5 599.

"This sucks. It means that this is a horrible situation. If something is horrible, it sucks."


"Well I'm not going to just let them do this. The third night we're apart, I want you to meet me in broom closet," said X5 593.

"Why?" asked X5 596.

"Because you're are my brothers. You heard what Hanna told us. We're a family. I am not giving up my brothers."

"You're insane," said X5 596.

"X5 593 is right," said X5 599, "We are a family."

"I know!" said X5 593, "A good family."

"I still think we shouldn't," said X5 596.

"I think we should," said X5 599, "And you X5 593."

"Don't call me that," she answered, "I don't like being a number."

"What?" said X5 596, "That's out designation. We are X5's."

"Do any of the nurses have numbers? Why is Lydecker Lydecker? He has a name, and so should we."

"I think you're right," said X5 599, "I want one too."

"I guess I should take one too," said X5 596.

"Since we're family, it should start with the same letter."

"Zell," said X5 593, "My name is Zell."

"Why Zell?" said X5 599.

"Hanna was watching TV yesterday. There was a drawing of a boy fighting. His name was Zell."

"Then your name is Zell," said X5 599, "What about me?"

"Zack," said Zell, "Your name is Zack. Zack is a good name."

"And me?" said X5 596.



"Yeah. Zephyr was something from a card I read."

"So we're Zack, Zell and Zephyr?"

"Yes," said Zell, "You're my brothers, and I would do anything for you."

"I would give my life for either of you," said Zack.

"As would I," said Zephyr.

"So we'll meet three days after we're separated?" said Zell.

"Make it a week," said Zack, "Time to settle in the troops."

"Sure," said Zell, her blue eyes flickering.

"What?" said Zephyr, reading the expression on his sister's face.

"It's so awful. I don't want to leave you guys."

"I know," said Zack, "But I'll always be there for you, understand."

"Uh huh," said Zell, shaking her head.

"You going to give your group names?" said Zephyr.

"Yes," said Zack, "It's a good idea."

"Me too," said Zell, "They need names."

"Good. I'll see you in a week," said Zack, watching as Lydecker marched in and began to read off his kid's numbers.


Gillette, Wyoming, 2008

Block 12

Zack sat alone in the high place. His family were sitting talking, or listening to Ben's stories. Zack wished he could shut them all out. He didn't want to deal with them or anyone. He had already been through enough.

Peeps was dead.

Syl had shot at a crow and killed Peeps. Zack was visibly upset. He had not looked at anyone on the way back to the barracks. None of Lydecker's X5s did. Even when they passed Stonewalls crew, they wouldn't look up. Zack thought he heard some say his name, but he couldn't tell for sure.

Zack was upset. He wanted it all to go away. He wanted his family to be left alone. He wanted to leave Manticore and never come back. He hated everyone and everything.

"Zack!" said Jondy, "Come down quick. Someone's here. Another X5."

"What?" said Zack, dashing down. He hoped and prayed it was who he thought it was. His heart soared when he heard a sharp voice.

"Tinga, if you don't tell me where he is you will be sorry," said Zell, holding Tinga against the door.

"Put her down Zell," said Zack, moving between his angered brothers and sisters.

"Zack?" said Zell, turning around and seeing her brother, "Finally."

"What are you doing here?"

"I had to see you."


"I came to talk to you."

"You want to talk?"

"Yes. It's been too long."

"Come up to the high place, we'll talk."


Zell stood on the edge of the high place looking down. Zack had ordered the others to stay down below so he could talk to Zell on his own. She was dressed in the same gown as he was, but she looked different. He could tell she was mad, likely at him. It had been five years since they had spoken. One night he didn't show up for their weekly chat. She confronted him during a training mission and kicked his ass. She hadn't even looked at him since.

She was the master of looking not interested. Zack knew what he wanted to say. He wanted to apologize for everything and go back to how they were. He wanted to see her smile, and make sure she was okay. He loved her as much as he loved any of his siblings. He loved her more than Max, though he loved Zell in a different way.

"Zell," he said, but her look silenced him.

"Zephyr will be here in a moment. Zack, I know you're sorry and you want to be forgiven."

"Yes," he said, "Zell, I'm sorry. Zell I need you."

"You have Max."

"I have Max, I need you."

"That's not what you said two years ago. You said Max was the most important thing in your life Zack."

"Listen Zell, I'm sorry. I made a mistake. I need Max, she's my second in command."

"That's not why I'm here. I came to warn you. Watch your girl Trigs. She's in trouble. She asks to many questions. They took one of mine away today, said she was an anomaly."

"A Nomolie? Those things in the basement?"

"Yes. They started using the torture techniques on her. I heard her screaming. She X5 634, a friend of Trigs. Zephyrs boy X5 638 knows about it too."

"Trigs is in trouble."

"Tell her to keep her mouth shut around Lydecker."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome," said Zell, her eyes shifting to where Zephyr was climbing.

"Zephyr!" said Zack, smiling. Zephyr smiled at Zell, then scowled at Zack.

"Him?" said Zephyr.

"I had to warn him," said Zell.


"Because he is still our brother."

"He left us."

"I'm sorry," said Zack, "I'm so sorry."

"Sorry isn't enough," said Zell, "You made your choice Zack. You chose them over us, and I don't think we can trust you. I forgive you, but things can't go back to the way they were. I wish they could."

"Anything else important to say?" asked Zack, looking sheepish.

"Any of your kids had the shakes?" said Zell.

"Yes. Jack had a bad case. Brin had them too. Tinga did for a while too," said Zack, "What about you?"

"Jadrek did," said Zephyr, "So did Mika, and Case is hiding them from me."

"Cine had them last night, and I left Nina with a case of them," said Zell, "And I've been having them for over a year now."

"Zell?" said Zack, "How? You're a good X5, the Nomolies cause them."

"Its genetic Zack," said Zephyr, "The Nomolies? Please…"

"Leave him alone," said Zell, "He's not like us."

"I know," said Zephyr, "And that's why I'm leaving."

"Fine," said Zell, "Tomorrow? The usual?"

"Of course," said Zephyr, climbing down the drainpipe to his Barracks on the first floor.

"You have the shakes too…" said Zack.

"Yes. I was the first to get them. They think they can fix them."

"Zell, listen to me, I want to help you."

"How? How can you?"

"We want out. Some of my group is planning an escape…"

"No Zack."

"Why not?"

"Because its not me. It's your group, not mine. Mine is happy. Mine likes it here."

"What if they kill one of yours?"

"They have Zack. They shot me in front of them. I'm still here though, but my group fell in line."

"Zell, you're lying to yourself."

"No Zack. I am who I am, and that's all I can be. A soldier, a fighter, and an idiot who still wishes that we could go back to how we used to be."

"Zell, I need you."

"You need Max."

"Zell, she doesn't understand!"

"And I do?"

"Yes. You always have."

"Please Zack. You're begging."

"Zell, get it through your head that I love you and I don't want to lose my sister."



"In a week, climb down the drainpipe after lights out. I'm on the second floor. We'll talk."

"Thank you Zell."

"Your welcome."


Gillette, Wyoming, 2009

Block 12

"Why Zack? Why do you want to leave?" asked Zell. She was upset, practically fuming.

"They took Jack away when he had the shakes, and now Max has them bad. Zell, if they come for her, I'm leaving," said Zack.

"No," said Zell, "No, you can't leave."

"I would die for Max."

"Funny, that's what you told me years ago when we were giving each other names."

"Zell, I want you to come with me."

"No Zack, NO!"


"I belong here."

"Where they torture you and hurt you?"

"With my family."

"Aren't I your family?"

"Yes Zack, but so are the twenty eight kids asleep in my barracks."

"I'm your brother."

"Then stay."

"Max needs to go."

"Who do you need more," asked Zell, "Me or Max."

"Don't make me answer that."

"Listen, I won't go, but I'll help if I can."

"Thank you Zell."

"You owe me big for this."

"I know."

"One day, will we meet up?"

"Yes. Of course, you and me. We'll go find something fun to do."

"Lets go dancing."


"It's a form of exercise. You move around a room to the rhythm of music."


"We'll go dancing."

"Yes Zell."


"I know. I'll miss you too."

"You know how I feel."

"I know. I love you too," he said as he shimmied up the drainpipe to his group.


"Stay on your beds!" shouted X5 593 to her group. When she gave orders, she changed from the X5s beloved leader Zell to a monster that had no mercy, X5 593.

"Zell!" said Sara, one of the X5s, "Zell, what's going on?"

"Stay on your beds," she shouted again, and a chorus of 'Yes Ma'am's followed.

"Zell, I'm frightened," said Kikai. Zell's face softened and she walked to the little boy.

"I think the other X5s are leaving."

"Leaving?" said Cine, "Why?"

"Because they aren't good soldiers," lied Zell, "Not like us."

"That's good. Bad soldier lead to fallen comrades," she answered. Zell walked over to her own bed and sat down. Her bed was in the corner, and had the wall on the side and the headboard. She leaned against the corner and sighed. The gunshots had shattered the silence of the night, awakening her group. She knew Zack must have been running.

She watched her group sit up and talk to each other, wondering why the others would want to leave. Zell watched as they slowly began to drift off to sleep, while she sat and watched. Zell didn't need to sleep. Her and Jaim. They stayed up all-night and watched over the little ones. They must have had shark DNA, joked Cine.

Zell wondered who made it. She watched as a few X5s were dragged back into the building, and a few bodies were dragged back. She hoped Zack made it. She wanted to see Zack succeed. She wanted him to live. She wanted to go dancing with him.

She listened as the guards blurted out the names. Max, Jondy, Tinga, Zane Syl, Krit, Ben, Kiri, Igen, Hurst, Creeg, Brin, and Zack had all made it out. Zack was free.

Zell settled into a comfortable position and thought about her brother Zack.

Authors note: First of many chapters. R&R PLEASE!!!!!!!