Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel.

Anyway, lately I've has some pretty serious re-arranging in my life, which has actually motivated me in terms of writing. And found the perfect analogy for how I feel about Dark Angel's cancellation in Buffy with whole heaven thing. For a few short years we were given this amazing brilliant, story. Then it was taken away, by the network that screened it. Sometimes you think, hey, it would have been better never to love something that much- but then I'd rather get yanked out of the perfect place then to have never known Dark Angel. Yes I'm obsessed. And I'm sorry for the late update.

But on the plus side this now has an arc and has gone from high chance of being dropped to being finished.

Chapter 3

Skin Deep

"You know the whole point of sunshine is to enjoy it, not to spend the whole time glued to that" Logan smiled, trying not to actually grin.

Yes when he had originally proposed coming to this school organized picnic- yes the word was picnic, it had been a break from all the crazy hell that the four days prior that the mysterious new associate principal had brought.

The timing of it Friday, the day that everyone loved almost as much as Saturday and Sunday. Mr. Lydecker's absence was just the icing on the cake.

Max put her hands to her hips. "You going to answer me Logan or do I need to take you and your little friend to the pretty little creek?"

Logan closed this screen. 'I'm sorry Max, I'm just trying to find anything I can on 'him'" Despite wishing to save his notebook from being wrecked, it was the truth. Logan was determined to discover anything and everything that he could on Lydecker, Donald. And the actual lack of information cropping up was just all the more the challenge.

"Defying Zack's orders?" Max ruffled his hair slightly. "Good boy" Some things actually seemed to be settling down. Some things at least. Valerie was sending her a glare and talking to her friends, laughing. If Max really cared, she could listen to the latest, really racist insults.

She was relatively new, how could she earn the dislike of a girl she first met stumbling into a bathroom. Especially a drunken one who should barely be able to remember that Max went to Chesterfield High let alone her name. But there she was, glaring. Max just shook her head and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. So that's where I put it.

Zack came over, and sat on the table. "Logan, would you mind telling your ex girlfriend to get a new hobby" he sounded pleasant, but that came of running around on a field with other guys doing the ritualistic, grunting and running around. For some one so serious it could be surprising for the uniformed that he did like the sport but then Max had been gifted enough to hear his lecture on the sport. And by gifted she meant bored half to death.

How it involved strategy, tactical awareness and broken down into something that sound more like a military maneuver which would change the face of the country than a sport that most high school boys did for girls. To get them, chalk them up in that conquest bad way. Max highly doubted Zack even thought with that part of his brain. Logan was staring at Valerie and she looked at him.

Max leaned on her elbow. "So who broke up with who?" she asked, half heartedly trying to get Logan to spill. He merely turned away slightly- stone faced. This topic was like trying to make a freak who believed a scooter was a bike understand how messed up they were. Either way any talk about old relationships which involved Logan shutting up quick, and a sure fire way to kill a conversation.

She groaned frustrated, where was someone interesting to talk to- where was Zane- over by an old oak talking to Asha Barlowe. Did he ever quit trying to cross names off the 'have I done her yet' list?

Regarding him, Asha frowned. "I'm sorry, could you repeat that" she said with a hint of a smirk. Zane decided that he would not be unhappy if a piano fell from the sky and squished the cheerleader.

It had seemed to go pretty pain free, in exchange for her not going to Mr. Lydecker about them who he knew that Asha had not wanted to go to in the beginning- he would help her investigate Associate Principal Atkin's death and anything she did would not name him or the others.

Zane gritted his teeth. "Thank you Asha, I deeply appreciate the favor you are doing me and I am thrilled to do so"

It's was like she was out to get him, sure his shirt had 'Nuke the Planet till it Glows!!!' but that was funny. Girls were wound too tight- take his surrogate 'sisters'- they seemed easy going then you say the wrong thing and you were dead before you heard them shriek.

Smirk widening, Asha nodded. "Now that wasn't so hard"

Asha Barlowe is a demon escaped from Hell to torment me. Zane rested his hands behind his head. "This is your game Asha; I'm just the source you are dragging around"

Asha seemed to be resisting the urge to say something cutting but she managed to keep her mouth shut. Smart move in Zane's mind. "Well first off would be the school records which would show where Lydecker came from. I believe the school will be empty in a few hours…"

"Are you insane or just stupid?" Zane asked, mock seriously. "I mean it's breaking and entering- and that's illegal"

Pushing her braid back, Asha just looked at him dubiously. "I wouldn't think that mattered to you -you were the one who broke into the local swimming pool and put that chemical that made the swim team all purple and blotchy"

Zane wagged his eyebrows. "They never proved it was me"

"Can you stop screwing around or do you need to be brought to task every five seconds like a dog?" Asha questioned scathingly and she took a moment to compose herself. "As I said, no one's going to be in there this afternoon, we hide in the supply closet until everyone's gone- so that's our window... are you in or not?"

Looking at her, Zane's blue eyes were deadly serious despite the light tone on his face." For illegal and possibly mayhem filled fun- hell you don't have to beg Barlowe- it makes you look easy" No matter how forced this had been- Zane planned to get as many red faced expressions- such as the one filling the blonde cheerleader's face at that moment, as he could.


Max hated being at school after it was over- for anything. But she needed a teacher to sign off on changing a class- so that's where she was. She stuffed the permission slip in the back of her pocket and passed Zane and Asha the former, who then pretended not see her.

Glaring, Max returned the snub. What was it with guys and ignoring you when they had a girl on their arm?

She walked into the office to check for Mr. Vansen. The teacher was deep in conversation with the guidance counselor. The teacher took the note and signed it quickly. They were talking about some fundraiser for the Arts department.

She was quick to shove the signed note in her pocket- good bye home economics and hello auto shop. Max was pleased with herself, and to make it even better there was no sign of the associate principal.

Max could see Valerie walking down the hall, and stepped away to avoid her.

"It seems like I should be doing that" Max could tell Valerie was sober, by her tone. It was high strung and biting- and she could actually focus on one place. "I mean you are the ethnic percentage" Max hated that- whenever anybody talked down to her like just because she was Hispanic meant that she was something ugly in the scenery.

She kept going.

Valerie was not taking the hint, and kept following her. "I mean we've all seen your mother- I mean she must have been on something to sleep with whoever your daddy was"

She stopped. Max could take any insult, day or night – but when it came to her mother… no one insulted Hannah and got away with it. "How would you know about fathers or mothers?" Max said, rounding on the alcoholic redheaded teenager. "You are just a stuck up, self absorbed drunk whose parents will be just happy if she finishes the ninth grade…and by the way I hope they promised you a new nose if you actually manage not to drown in your own vomit"

Valerie looked furious and raised a hand and Max caught it. "Don't push your luck"

"Guevera, Collins!" Just her luck, associate principal Lydecker was walking down the hall with Rafer trailing. Rafer had green paint on his pants- the exact type that had been graffited across the flagpole. "Do we have a problem?"

Max gave an icy look at Valerie. "No sir, Valerie was just expressing her love for the school's multicultural community"

Lydecker didn't seem to buy it but Rafer started muttering something about how he fixed the flag which seemed to draw a cold ire. "As you were" he said and continued to move towards the head office. Max found it weird how Mr. Lydecker acted like he was out of the army or something.

"Keep away from Logan…" Valerie spat.

Max had 'we aren't even like that' on her tongue- and then she smirked. "But we're so cute together" she mocked.

That sent the other teenager fuming. Max was just counting her blessings that Mr. Lydecker had not been just coming around a few moments later because that really was all that had saved Valerie from being black and blue. But really, all this over a guy? Valerie need priorities…besides Max would never go out with Logan. Sure, he was cute in that intellectual type of way. But he was like her- which meant it would be like sleeping with her brother…just because she and Logan didn't look alike did not mean anything. Blood wise, they didn't have something that made them siblings. They had the whole deep rooted connection… and it just was a shame.

Right at this moment Max really needed to talk to her mother.

Zack had gotten Max's message and had come straight over. That and his sister was currently engaged in some type of DVD marathon with a friend. All Zack knew was if he heard one more tone deaf rendition of 'It's the Best of Both worlds' he was going to do something unpleasant. Max's house was a simple one story house that had used to belong to Buddy Thompson. He knocked once on the door. He hated doorbells. They were nauseating and he had deliberately damaged the one at his house just so he didn't have to listen to it. Zack wasn't very tolerant when it came to a lot of things. But it wasn't him… it was everything else.

The door opened and Hannah, Max's mother gave a disarming smile. "Come in"

"Where's Max… please?" Zack didn't need it getting back to his parents that he was being rude- as far as his dad was concerned- the day camp last spring break had worked.

Hannah closed the door. "Taking a bath, I'm the one who had her page you… please sit down …did you want something to drink?"

Zack shook his head and sat down at the closest end of the pine table. He didn't like the sound of this. "No…alright then… can you tell me why you asked my daughter to lie to me about Donald Lydecker?"

Zack knew from prior experience it was better to be straight with an adult rather than try to sugar coat it once it got that far.

"Because it seemed necessary" Zack was feeling uncomfortable under Hannah's stare.

"I've ran into your parents a few times… they said you were quite the leader" Hannah set down her cup of tea and looked at Zack. "Donald Lydecker is a very dangerous man… and you no matter how special you think you are- you're a seventeen year old boy… I am not going to ask why you have never said anything to your parents… but I'm here now and as an adult-"

Zack looked obstinately at the lacquered pine. "You are in the loop…"

Hannah smiled. "I am the loop… Zack, the parents are the ones who protect their children not the other way. This isn't saying you are not immensely capable… but you're a child and you should be grateful for that everyday… you have no idea what Donald Lydecker would do to you…"

Frowning, Zack looked up. "How much do you know ….about us?"

"Too much" Hannah said, "And I will do anything to shield Max… all of you from that- you never deserve to have that knowledge…" She looked at Zack and what she saw… Hannah never saw what people like the associate principal saw. Instead she saw the teenager- who was trying to grow up faster. Who may play the part of a leader- but he was little more than an older, protective brother. Not a soldier, a commanding officer. But a young man who was capable of asking for help.

Whistling, Zane used his credit card to jimmy the cheap lock. It was better than watching the cheerleader go through a lunchbox that had too many keys that she shouldn't have. "Open"

Asha rolled her eyes and walked forward to the filing cabinets.

Zane walked to the desk, and sat in the chair. He tossed Asha his cell phone. "Come on… take a picture for me…" He leaned forward and picked up a pair of glasses, sitting them on the bridge of his nose.

She groaned "Only if you stop going on about how I want to jump you" Asha took it quickly and then started to go through her key collection.

"Excellent" The picture- would make a great addition to his collection, and would be his own little victory of the night. Still the prize of his collection of picture moments would have to be the one of Zack- with drool on the side of his mouth. Zane was saving that for a very rainy day. This was more for fun. Zane opened the drawers as Asha started to go through the records.

The insides of the drawers were – too neat. It was like someone really OCD had organized them and unlike Rae and her obsessions with post it notes - this wasn't even funny.

Zane picked up the stapled sheets of paper and folder that had sat alone in the bottom drawer. It was a complete list of the students in the school, by age. And the folder was even more bizarre- it was empty apart from a list of numbers. There were exactly twenty four sets of numbers on the list… all proceeded by 'X5'- some of the numbers sort of followed each other… and there was also a column for gender, and age. He put it back… it was all nonsense. Besides if it was something- Zane could pull it up in his mind any time he wanted. "I got nothing…"

Asha held up a report. "I have something, now why would our esteemed associate principal have a copy of the coroner's report for Ms Atkins?"

Zane shrugged and walked over, reading over her shoulder. "Heart failure… from what?"

"An overdose" Asha frowned and went to the copier, slipping the page in.

"No way" Zane said, shaking his head. "She busted down on anybody she thought was on an energy drink… Atkins wouldn't do cocaine…"

The copier light illuminated Asha's face, reflected in her eyes. "My dad says they found evidence of usage… all this bull about post partum depression- there's no way it was true you saw her… this is a cover up… but I'm…"

Zane looked at her. "Going to drop it- Barlowe, if this guy is good enough to do this kind of cover up…then he's too dangerous to go after directly, besides we tell what we found here to the parentals…"

"And they ask what we were doing here" Asha crossed her arms. "Damn…"

"You aren't going to tell-"

Asha shook her head. "Never was going to… I'm not sure what's up with you and your little friend circle- but telling a potential killer… too far, I just needed a witness- in case I found my smoking gun"

He leaned over and was almost disappointed when he noticed no barcode. Asha was cool, in a way. "You aren't smelling my neck, are you?"

Zane wagged his eyebrows and closed his eyes. "You use the good stuff in your hair" And that made twenty seven red faces. As well as a bruise that would last a few hours. Asha could hit hard for a girl that wasn't Max or Rae.

He hated knowing that Hannah was right. Zack was glad that at least she hadn't hit the real truth. The fact was he wanted his parents to know- and Zack's confidence went down whenever he thought over their possible reactions. He was the strong one, and he never wanted his parents to look at him differently.

Zack walked in the door, and hung his jacket up. There were no sounds of tone deaf freshman- so he assumed that his little sister was already in bed. In the rec room, his father looked up from watching a CSI rerun. "If they ask…" Killian Dawson whispered, bring Zack into the conspiracy, "The DVD is misplaced"

"I told you not to get her that movie" Zack smirked and he picked up the case. "I can misplace it" he said seriously.

Killian nodded and Zack sat opposite him. "Don't, you know your mother gets annoyed when things go missing"

Zack threw his dirty socks at his father. "I spared you from Titanic… don't tell me its absence for two months was not welcome Dad"

His father threw them back and Zack caught them, feeling the tension leave. He loved his life- in truth… Zack had a place where he belonged and he would fight to keep it against any attack. It might make him weak but it was a weakness that Zack could live with having.

To Be Continued…

Before anyone asks- imagine a Zack who never had to guard against sentimentality- who didn't have enough training to make him as emotionally cut off as the adult we saw in DA… hopefully I got it right- while still feeling like him.

Okay… please review… even if it is to yell at me for being a very lazy author. I have reformed…I think.