Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners (Dark Angel, Fox, etc.) The original characters and plot are the property of the author who is me. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: I know this time I'm late even by my standards and in order to make up for missing October's update I come bearing a longer chapter. Thanks a lot to Larabiehn and storminite who reviewed last chapter and thanks to all of you took a couple of minutes to leave a review. Criticism is always welcomed, take a minute of your time and leave a review.
Last but not less important…thanks to Jenna, grammar will be a serious issue if it wasn't for you. Without further delay, enjoy chapter 15 – "The Boy Who Wasn't There" –
The Boy Who Wasn't There
Saturday 18:30 pm
The man was dressed in a pair of dark jeans and an equally dark shirt, trying to appear casual as he waited by the door, the sour expression on his face broadcasting for all to see just how unpleasant he found his current predicament; the woman standing next to him was also wearing casual clothes, a carefully blank expression on her face, as she scrutinized the events taking place inside the large room.
Kane Sullivan tapped his foot impatiently against the wooden floor, uninterested in wasting what was left of his Saturday waiting for the forensics team to complete their examination. Christine Nichols on the other hand, merely found her partner's childish antics distracting. . . Not to mention annoying. Glaring in her partner's general direction she couldn't help but chuckle at the innocent expression he'd adopted, the man was a lost cause.
Nichols sighed and turned back to check the team's progress in the other room. David Stone's murder had created complications for a powerful group of people in the higher echelons of government, they wanted the case solved and closed, and they wanted it done as soon as possible. But drawing on years of field experience, it was her opinion that the crime scene was far too clean for this to be a simple open and closed case. Not even the forensic team's specialists had had any luck in their efforts to retrieve viable evidence, and by the discouraged expressions they were all wearing she wasn't the only one with doubts.
"What are we doing here?" Sullivan's deep voice rasped against her ear, making her jump slightly; pulling away from her partner she wondered how the idea of personal space could be such a foreign concept for the man.
"This guy was under federal surveillance and there's evidence indicating that he might've been connected with a small faction in the Middle East." She replied calmly.
Kane groaned at the reply, "And let me guess, political BS means that we're the ones who're stuck cleaning up the mess?" Sullivan would admit that he'd seen a lot of things since he'd started working for the Bureau, but one thing that always pissed him off was the infuriating world of the political bureaucracy.
Christine nodded and marched briskly into the crime scene as the head of the forensics team gave her the all clear, "I think Washington actually chose the people they wanted to dump this mess on right after the news was made public."
Quirking an eyebrow at the uncharacteristic bitterness in her voice, Sullivan trailed behind his partner watching as the body of the former CEO of Stone & Heinrich Security disappeared from the view, one of the technicians sealing the body bag. It was ironic that no matter how rich you were in life, in the end, you'd end up reduced to nothing more than a cold body in a bag.
Both agents quietly surveyed the office, noting that the valuable objects placed decoratively around the room reflected the taste of a man who – even according to his employees – spent most of his days sitting behind his desk. The sound of approaching footsteps makes them turn, finding four men dressed in the typical black suits of government agents standing in the doorway
"Agent Sullivan, agent Nichols, we'll be taking care of the investigation from here." The man who spoke was in his early thirties and by the deference the others were showing him, was probably the man in charge.
If there was anything that irritated Christine Nichols, it was someone trying to cut her out of the loop on a work related issue. "What do you think you're doing? This is a federal crime scene."
The man, who'd been admiring the Van Gogh on the north wall, seemed to be amused by her ire. "I'm quite aware of that agent, that's why the NSA will be taking care of it." The twist of his lips might have been labeled a smirk, but it was anything but a pleasant expression.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Kane hadn't been aware of any reason for the NSA to be interested in this case, so the question became whether or not they were bluffing or it was just a last minute development.
Taking a white envelope from the inner pocket of his jacket the interloper presented the pressed white paper to the pair. "This is a signed order from your Director, you're to stand down. From this point forward this investigation is under NSA jurisdiction, your presence is no longer required."
Christine couldn't believe what she was hearing and while she understood the situation it didn't mean that she was going to take it without a fight. "Look agent…"
The man gave another fake smile, displaying a perfect row of white teeth while the look in his eyes remained cold and calculating, he was clearly used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it. "White, special agent Ames White. Now if you'll excuse us..." Turning around after dismissing the FBI pair, White started to bark his usual orders. "Let's get started, I want the footage from the security cameras for the last five days, employee schedules, call logs…"
Powerless against a direct order from the Director of the FBI, Sullivan and Nichols trudged towards the elevator. "The nerve of that man… Just because he's NSA, that doesn't give him the right to act all high and mighty." Christine growled as she jabbed at the elevator's buttons.
"Actually, it kind of does. He's NSA, Nichols, what did you expect?" Kane grumbled, deciding that this could be a good thing for him – now he was free to enjoy his Saturday.
"At least we got a name."
Her tone made it clear to him that she was already dreaming of ways to get revenge against special agent White. Just to confirm his suspicions, Kane resigned himself to asking the inevitable question. "And just what are we going to do with this name?"
She grinned at his worried look. "We're going to find out why David Stone's death is being declared a threat to national security."
"We'll get suspended. Or worse." He sighed.
"Only if they find out." She glibly brushed him off, a plan already taking shape in her mind.
Sunday, 13:00 pm
When they'd been kids Nicole had called him the worrywart of the group. At the age of seven it wasn't the kind of label he'd wanted associated with his name, but the girl could be unbelievably stubborn, so despite his every protest the hideous word had stuck and been used regularly to describe him ever since.
After her disappearance, the word had left a sour taste in his mouth whenever he heard it. That had been why he'd stopped using it – it made him think of her and the time they'd spent together. They'd been good friends, maybe their relationship hadn't been as close as the one she'd had with Finn or Alec, but he liked to think the she considered him a friend. When they find her, and he has no doubt that they will find her, he'll finally be able to agree with her, admit that he is indeed a worrywart and all the worry she's caused him has probably taken ten years off his life. He imagines that she'll reward him with a knowing smile and her cobalt eyes will shine, yeah it'll happen just like that…
Finn raised an eyebrow at the goofy expression on his SIC's face, by some miracle Biggs had chosen to remain silent after they'd left the building, and by the looks of it he was currently lost in his own thoughts. It was rare to see him like that, even if he could be a sarcastic pain in the ass, it had been a long time since Finn had seen such genuine emotion on the other man's face.
As they waited for the traffic light to change a sudden movement caught Biggs' attention, caused Finn's back to tense slightly as he sensed it too, they were being followed.
"It's been years since they've tried something as careless as that. Should we be offended or grateful?" Finn's words dripped with sarcasm as they descended the stairs to the subway station.
"I'll go with the first option. We're being tagged by rookies, it's insulting." Biggs replied, following two steps behind the other man's lead, putting his body between the strangers and his CO, it was standard procedure.
"Probably new recruits if their lack of training is so obvious… Unless they've decided that the best way to tail someone is to get themselves noticed." Finn sneered disdainfully as the doors of the shuttle opened and an elderly couple stepped off the train.
"CIA or MI5?" Biggs offered as they moved towards the last car.
The Elite commander couldn't help but ponder over the strange coincidence; he'd learned years ago that coincidences were almost never as random as they seemed at first glance. "Neither. I think this might be something new. We can always take a sample and find out. Isn't that right, Thanatos?" He couldn't help taunting his SIC with the challenge.
Biggs's eyes glowed with interest, he nodded and doubled back to retrace his steps. He spotted a man barely a couple of years older than him trying, and failing, to follow them discreetly – he had to bite back a laugh when the guy walked right into him. Biggs knocked the stranger out with a single blow, dragging his unconscious form until they reached the last car of the train, he made it just before the doors hissed closed.
Finn usually enjoyed taking the subway on Sundays, especially at this time of the day; people tended not to take the train this early in the afternoon and it was always easy to find empty cars like the one he was standing in. After disabling the alarm, he pried open the outer door, jumped off the shuttle and waited patiently for his SIC, they had 56 seconds left before it would start moving again.
With eight seconds to spare, Biggs shouldered his unconscious charge and leapt down from the shuttle, and joined his CO before they turned to start the trek down the narrow walkways lining the tunnel. "You almost ran out of time. It shouldn't have taken that long." The comment made the SIC roll his eyes in annoyance, but he preferred Finn in a bad mood to Finn in a sadistic mood. Both options were a pain in the ass, but at least with the former he wouldn't have to worry about mind games.
They walked in silence for ten minutes, using the shadows for cover when a train passed. Finn searched the wall looking for something; as he found it, he brushed aside a rusted metal cover plate and typed a code into the freshly visible wall panel. The camouflaged door opened almost silently, an incredible feat considering that it looked like a decrepit section of subway tunnel wall. The hallway it had been concealing wasn't long, but the large door at its end was modern and had a gleaming access panel.
"Nicole and Alec put the space left over from the section of tunnel that collapsed in the earthquake to good use." Finn said by way of explanation; though the place they'd found themselves in bore little resemblance to an abandoned subway tunnel. He paused at the second door, typed another set of codes into its electronic lock and waited for it slide open, "You can leave sleeping beauty here; we'll take care of him later. Right now, we have things far more important to deal with."
"I get the feeling that whatever it is, I'm not going to like it." Biggs declared brazenly, dropping down to sit on the abandoned platform.
A dangerous red sparkle glinted in Finn's emerald eyes. "Actually, I'm looking forward to seeing your reaction."
Biggs felt himself tense at the reply, it had been a while since he'd seen Finn this worked up about something, but this time was different, Finn isn't the same eleven year-old-boy feeling powerless to stop the events around him. The man sitting next to him was one of the most powerful among the Elite, his orders would be followed without question, but that didn't automatically make his decisions the right ones.
"Alec's and Nicole's last mission was compromised from the start. Perseus provided them all of their intelligence. Remember all those glitches in the profiled missions those last five months?"
"The Lars' incident too?" Biggs asked, dreading the answer.
Finn nodded somberly. "The attack on the 5th Division was the last."
"How did it happen? No one has ever broken through our security protocols. Our systems are state of the art." Biggs' voice sounded unsure as he tried desperately to deny this awkward new reality.
"The answer is less complex than you'd imagine and lies in the fact that humans are always flawed."
"What do you mean?"
"The most dangerous enemies you'll ever have are the ones who take the time to study you and search for your weaknesses; when they find them, it's too late, you're at their mercy and the game is almost over. That's what happened to Perseus, they found his weakness and rather than asking for our help he chose to play their game. You know how it ended."
"The 5th Division attack – who were they?"
"Red Eagle. Have you heard of them?"
Biggs' confusion was written clearly on his face; he considered his response before hesitantly offering, "I don't think so."
"Guess who did know about them."
Shock, surprise… And anger. "The Committee." It wasn't a question so much as an accusation, words spoken with disgust.
"Red Eagle isn't listed in any of our databases, but it's in the CIA's, which is an unprecedented anomaly. Alec suggested a Protocol 10 from the Crystal Tower. When you came to the office earlier I was talking with Miles, they've found what seems to be original documentation but I requested that they recheck everything before we make a decision."
It seemed surreal, like everything he'd thought he knew had been nothing more than a lie. Betrayed by their own kind… Where was the logic of it? What could the Committee possibly gain from this? Biggs' knuckles whitened as his steely grip tightened on his gun.
"I'm not going to get drawn into guessing games about why this happened, it's useless and we don't have the time for it. We need to focus on what we know, what we can prove. The fact is that they withheld vital information and as a result both of our commanders were captured, it's inexcusable and I'm not going to let them get away with it."
"Then that means that the meeting with the Committee two days ago, James Ackerman and Senator Crane, the tapes from the DARPA HQ… They were all lies?"
"At this point I'm not sure of anything they've told us, but the probability of the government involvement is high; after all, we know how the system works.
Brown eyes sparkled with barely suppressed rage. "So, what are we going to do?"
"Nothing. Not until we find out what they're trying to accomplish. For now, we have to maintain the status quo for appearances sake." Finn replied in a tone that left no room for a protest.
"And later?" Biggs' tone was almost hopeful, clearly he wasn't any more willing to let them walk away from what they'd done than Finn was.
"For now, just worry about the present. One step at the time." Finn couldn't help but add to himself 'When you calm down, and the desire to rip them to pieces has subsided, maybe we'll talk about it'.
He's sleeping when instinct has him bolting upright in bed, sitting with his eyes wide open and his mind fully alert. He feels something twisting inside him, warning of imminent danger. Jumping from his bed he rushes to the room across the hall, his sister Annabelle who'd still been soundly asleep is understandably startled when he shakes her awake to make sure that she's okay. The seven year can't understand what's happening, and he can't find the words to explain his actions, his parents are going to be less than amused when they find out.
That's when it happens; he hears the sound of boots running up the stairs to the second floor where the rest of his family is sleeping. He tries to move towards the door but a small hand stops him, silently begging him not to leave. Seconds later the siblings hear the terrified screams of their mother, more footsteps and the voice of their older brother Bradley; incomprehensible for an instant before the abrupt sound of a body hitting the floor.
The screams stop and he can hear movement, closer every second. His sister is trembling in his arms and he's forced to keep his hand pressed gently over her mouth in an effort to muffle her sobs. He whispers that he'll protect her, that they'll be alright, but what he really needs at the moment is for her to keep quiet.
He can't believe this is happening, it feels like watching someone else's life. One moment everything had been fine and then all hell had broken loose.
Jason never knew that silence could be so unnerving. His eyes frantically scan the girl's room for a safe place to hide; the closet and the bed were the only available spaces and neither offered any real safety. The moonlight filters through the curtains and the window suddenly offers him another choice, there was an old oak just outside whose branches were just a few short feet away from the roof. If he could get them into the tree house, they could climb down and look for help…it was worth the risk.
Turning around he quickly relays his plan to his sister, carrying her on his back he informs her that no matter what, she shouldn't let go of his neck. Opening the window he steps up onto the window sill and out to the tiles outside, pulling the window closed after him; even if the action only buys them a couple extra seconds. He can hear the steps coming closer as he starts to move across the roof, trying to put as much distance between those men and them.
He uses nearly all of his attention to avoid slipping any more than necessary, his bare feet offering no traction on the tiles and he can feel the sharp shards of tile biting into his skin. He can hear the sound of windows opening behind him and wills his feet to move faster, but stumbles to a halt as he hears the distinct snap-click of a gun being reloaded, shoving Annabelle behind his body while keeping her hand firmly grasped in his.
The man's face is covered by a black mask and his dark eyes are fixed on the pair of children, lifting his gun he aims quickly and fires twice. Jason lunges to his left hoping to avoid the bullets' lethal impact, his scream pierces the silent night as one of the bullets finds his shoulder. Annabelle screams as she sees her brother's blood, she panics and manages to pull away from his grip taking off at a dead run toward the oak tree. She's taken two steps away from him when a bullet rips through her heart, her blood splattering his face as he watches her body collapses bonelessly.
The man's attention is drawn back to the injured boy, knowing that there was little time left before the police would arrive – his orders had been specific, kill the family, leave no one alive, and he will fulfill that mission. Adjusting his aim he readies himself to take the final shot, the kid's light blue eyes watching him with a silent fury, showing no fear of his impending death.
Jason watches as the man aims the gun at him again, but his attention is on the dark blur that had suddenly appeared behind the man, a glimpse of silver shining in the moonlight. The man's eyes widen as a dark stain begins to spread across the front of his shirt, the gun falling from his hands as his knees give way and his body crumbles in front of him.
The pain from his shoulder is suddenly forgotten, his blue eyes focusing on the figure that had appeared so suddenly on the roof. The girl looks younger than he is and is dressed completely in black, her dark hair flying freely around her face, and the gun dangling from her right hand might have been intimidating if she hadn't just saved his life and wasn't currently wearing an expression of deep concern. She placed her gun back in its holster and moves towards him slowly, but spins in a quick motion to shoot a soldier in the backyard that had been aiming towards the roof. She makes a show of replacing her gun in its holster before starting forward again.
"Can you move?" her voice is barely more than a whisper, as if she's worried that he won't be able to handle it if she speaks any louder.
He nods and feels her arm grab his waist and helping him to stand and supporting his weight, "Trust me." He's about to ask what she means by that when she forces both over the side of the roof never loosening her hold on him. Logic tells him that the fall is going to hurt like hell, but when he opens his eyes he realizes that they're already on the ground. Another boy around his age walks over to them and gives the strange girl a signal. She sighs and places him down to sit on the grass placing something made of dark fabric on his shoulder and instructing him to keep pressure on his wound.
"I'm going to ask you a question now because I can't stay any longer. Do you want to stay here, or do you want to come with us?" her voice has taken on a businesslike quality and he notices that the boy is watching them from the distance, waiting to hear his decision.
The truth was that he didn't want to spend another second in the death filled place that used to be his home, he wanted to forget everything that had happened in the last 20 minutes but he knows that he can't. Yes, he wants to leave, but he can't see any way of actually doing it, he can't leave his family…to leave then wasn't something he was ready to do, maybe he never would be.
"I, I'll stay…" he can't bring himself to continue, the pain and realization that his entire family is dead is suddenly too much and he can feel the ache in his chest.
Her face softens as she nods in understanding. "I'm sorry. I'll try to check on you, just don't give up Zeke."
"My name is Jason." His surprise draws the words out of him even as she smiles at him and the sound of the sirens grows more distinct. Her hand brushes briefly over his cheek as she stands up and joins the other boy before they both disappear into the night.
He didn't know it at the time, but what had happened that night would change his life in more ways than he could ever have imagined.
London, Hollister Tower 26th Floor
Sunday 05:00 am
There was a strange glint in the blue eyes of the young man sitting behind the desk; the barrel of the Glock 17 briefly touched his lips as he kept drumming the gun dangerously close to his face. Irregular strands of blond hair fell near his eyes and partially covered them from view. The man stood abruptly placing the gun in its holster and stalked toward the windows that dominated an entire wall of the office. He senses the city spread out before him continuing at its usual frantic rhythm, ignorant of the decisions that had been taken on its behalf.
He's pensive as he gazed at the date on the calendar. She would be missing his birthday this year. A smirk formed on his lips, he'd be sure to demand compensation when she comes back.
The staccato rap on the door informed him that something important must have happened for Abby to disturb him again. As he rolled his eyes at missing another opportunity to take a nap he finally grunted a reply. "Come in."
The woman who entered the office is wearing a troubled expression on her face and is carrying a crystal box. "Sir, we've got a Level 5 message under Protocol 41." The blonde nodded for her to continue as he moved to sit behind his desk.
The young Asian woman lost herself as she was absorbed watching the figure of her boss, her very young, very handsome and very irritable boss, who looked more like a fashion model than the brilliant hacker that he was. None of the people working in the Crystal Tower knew anything about him other than what had been written in the reports of his exploits before he'd come to work with them. When Zeke had assumed command of the Prometheus Data Center six years ago, no one had believed that the tall, athletic looking teenager with two silver earrings on his left ear could be the renowned hacker from the news. It had taken less than an hour for him to prove them all wrong.
The blonde raised an eyebrow as he waited patiently for Abigail's news, when it was clear that the woman was lost in some sort of trance he decided to interrupt. "Abigail, I'm still waiting to hear why you think this might interest me."
She snapped instantly out of her thoughts at the use of her full name. "We followed the usual protocols and decoded it. We were about to forward the message, but in light of recent events I think it would be best if you gave the final approval. The message is from someone inside the Committee and it's directed to the Elite's CO."
Blue eyes sparkled with a different light as he bit down on his lower lip. "I see. Please, tell Irene to come here immediately." Taking the box from her he added, "I'll take a look at it." She nodded and strolled out of the office without looking back.
Zeke shot the screen an amused look; four different codes had been used to pack the message and while the additional security might have been useful under normal conditions, he was anything but normal. He had to give them points for creativity; he'd never seen someone using Sumerian to encode the body of a message before. The ancient symbols scrolled across his screen, and the first thing he realized was that the values of the symbols had been picked randomly, meaning that it might take him a while to translate. But he wanted answers, he wasn't going to stay in the dark any longer.
Irene Stuart sighed for the umpteenth time that day as she continued her climb up the stairs separating the floor where the Class 5 Analysts worked and the playground of the Crystal Tower's controllers. All the Class-7 analysts worked on the 26th floor, though the man in charge up there had a reputation that was a much more effective barrier than the measly flight of stairs that separated them; that he'd been granted complete authority inside the building and the dangerous aura that he exuded only made him more enigmatic. Now that he's requested her presence, she can't help but wonder why.
The sight that greeted her as she entered the office was unexpected to say the least. The large oak desk in the center of the room clashed terribly with the white walls and the rest of the contemporarily styled furniture, and the man himself was standing with his back to her, looking out at the city through the large windows.
"The desk clashes with the rest of the decoration, doesn't it?" he asked as he turned his attention to her.
She almost choked at his comment, wondering if she might have spoken out loud. He chuckled at the guilty expression on her face. "Windows," he gestures, "reflections on the glass. I don't read minds despite what your colleagues might think." He added.
"I'm sorry sir…"
"What are you apologizing for? It does clash with the rest of the office. I lost a bet, so I ended up with that desk." He mentally patted himself on the back at her palpable surprise. By the end of the day he'd probably be the talk of the entire building seeing as he'd just had spoken more about his life than he had in the last six years.
"But I didn't request your presence just to critique my furniture. Please, take a sit Irene."
He was polite about it, but she recognized the order for what it was, as she sat down she also took the opportunity to look at him more closely. The first thing she noticed was how young he appeared to be, 22 maybe 24 years old at most. The bangs that partially hid his eyes drew her attention, and as he raised his gaze to look at her she felt her throat go dry as she realized how blue his eyes really were. "I understand that you ran a layered matrix search under a Protocol 10 earlier but that you're doing it again, why?"
His voice brought her back to the reason why she was there and she took a couple of additional seconds to think of a proper way to phrase her answer. "The Elite's CO, Erebos, requested that we recheck the data we'd obtained from the first search."
"Was there any indication that the data might have been corrupted?" He knew exactly why the verification had been requested but needed her to confirm it.
She seemed annoyed at the assumption and Zeke smiled to himself at her reaction; she knew that her work was immaculate, free of the mistakes that could compromise the files she worked with, and was not afraid to show her displeasure at being questioned. "None, sir."
He smiled at her and she relaxed slightly. "That will be all Irene, thank you for your time."
She nodded at him and walked to the door stopping in front of it but making no move to pull it open. "Somehow, the desk fits you sir, even if it doesn't match the rest of the office." Irene didn't wait for a reply before walking out the office with her cheeks flushed bright red. After his comment, she'd decided that she needed to get the last word in, and she just had.
Back in the office, Zeke smiled at the empty space the feisty brunette had just left. Picking up his cell phone he dialed in a very specific code and waited. He had a pretty good idea what was going on and if things evolved as he suspected them to, life would be getting much harder before it got any better.
Sunday, 14:35 pm
"That was the last time you pull a stunt like that with one of my people."
As he heard the voice Finn realized who was on the other end of the line. He hadn't expected the other man to find out about his special request so soon. "Long time, no hear Z"
"Don't patronize me Erebos, both of us know exactly what the other is capable of. You know that every Protocol 10 needs my personal approval, so how about we cut to the chase and you tell me what the hell is going on." Zeke's voice sounded as cold and harsh as his own when he was pissed off about something.
Finn sighed at the Crystal Tower's golden boy tone; most of the time that spoiled brat was too good for his own good. "Have you read the files?"
Zeke rolled his eyes, what kind of question was that? Of course he'd read the files, otherwise he wouldn't have been calling. "Red Eagle, Malik and any additional data on both of them. What's the connection?"
"Nyx and Hades' last mission." Finn waited for the words to sink in with the other man, and was shocked when he heard a loud crash come over the line.
Blue eyes stared unseeingly at the new hole in the wall as he placed the gun gently on the top of his desk, taking a deep breath he waited a couple of seconds before continuing with their conversation. "The Committee…what position will the Elite be taking on this?"
Finn watched as Biggs shot off another round at the abandoned wagon, he was clearly trying to vent his frustration without collapsing the tunnels. "We're standing by until I can confirm something else."
Zeke nodded at the reply, it made sense. The Elite had to think carefully about how they would proceed and what they would do with the knowledge. "How's your Sumerian?"
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Finn was used to abrupt changes of topic, but that one surprised even him and he wondered if the other man might be using a code he was unfamiliar with. The reply was more mundane than he'd expected.
"We have a message for you, Protocol 41 and it's in Sumerian. I'm sending it now…It's from one of them" Zeke added as an afterthought.
"What's the Crystal Tower's position?" Finn asked back the same question as he started downloading the message.
Zeke sighed disappointedly, "By now you should know where our loyalties lie."
"Glad to hear it." Finn replied, tension draining out of his tone. Confident that the Crystal Tower will back them up with whatever course of action they decide to take, it wasn't much of a surprise when the man in charge over there was so close to the Elite.
"It's amusing to know that we make you so proud…and Erebos, we're on the same side I won't tolerate another stunt like that." Zeke put enough sarcasm in his tone to make it clear that while they were fighting for the same cause he wouldn't allow the analysts to be overlooked.
"I know, I wouldn't expect anything different from you." Finn's reply was the closest he'd ever come to apologizing to the brat.
"As long as we understand each other, that's fine. I'll see what else we can find without creating too much havoc." Was the short reply before the line went dead.
Sunday 06:00 am
Rubbing his eyes tiredly the man cracked his neck in a weak attempt to relax the sore muscles and relieve the tension he was feeling. The cup of coffee lay untouched in front of him, during the last five years he learned that even the things that used to make you feel good can become a hindrance when your body does not function as it used to. He remembered bitterly Adriano's Memoirs and the accurate description of how it feels to lose control over your own body.
"You didn't have to stay here." Maximus' voice brought the oldest member of the Committee back to the present, and Balthazar couldn't help but chuckle at the subtle worry he detected in the tone of the former SIC.
"Ahh, but what would be the fun in leaving?"
The reply was followed by the rhythmic tap of his cane against the floor, causing Maximus to roll his eyes at the childish antics of the older man. "If you're quoting Boreas now it's a clear sign that you should have taken a rest the first time I told you to. You even ignored the coffee."
Balthazar sighed as he toyed with the cold cup. "I did, but it's irrelevant; time doesn't stop for anyone Maximus, not even us. You've started to feel it too, right?"
"No one lives forever Balthazar, not even us." He replied calmly, his fingers gliding quickly over the keyboard in front of him.
The older man groaned at the reply, he already knew that he wasn't going to live forever – In fact, he didn't want to…he just didn't want to lose control of his own life and be conscious that it was happening. Taking a deep breath he opted for a timely change of topic, the current one was too depressing and needed no further explanation – both men knew what would happen in the end. "So what are we doing now?"
Maximus looked up from the screen with a raised eyebrow. "We changed the scenery and now we're waiting."
"That's all? We hide and wait? Damnit Maximus, we're getting older, but we're not useless yet…" the force of Balthazar's fist against the table sent the cup, plate and coffee that had been sitting in front of him flying to the floor, shattering the delicate porcelain.
A pointed look in his direction quieted the older man. "Keep your temper under control Balthazar; we're too old for this kind of action. The next move is the Elite's responsibility; we do nothing until they choose a course of action. If you're uncomfortable with that, you can stay here, I didn't request your presence or your help."
"Fine, we'll wait. Are you sure he'll understand the message?" Balthazar muttered in reply. Maximus was more than capable of fulfilling his threats and he wasn't interested in being left behind.
Blue eyes shone with amusement. "Erebos will have no problem with it."
The older man rubbed his eyes again, "We never should have let this happen."
"She was closer to the truth than anyone else…sometimes I wonder if things would've been different if I had told her the truth then." Maximus drank the coffee slowly as his eyes followed the computer's progress.
Balthazar's eyes widened at the quiet admission, "What are you talking about?"
Maximus' gaze grew distant as he started…"Almost a year before their last mission Nicole came to see me at Dirleton…"
The thick forest surrounding the fortress of Dirleton was completely covered in a blanket of snow; it had been a couple of years since the last time they'd had a proper white Christmas. Maximus smiles at the scene spread out before him, he likes the smell of the cold.
Turning around he raises a surprised eyebrow at the unexpected sight of the girl lounging on his sofa, her hair still glistening with the remains of the snowflakes falling outside and her eyes twinkling with suppressed mirth.
He chuckles at her relaxed position and takes the chair next to the sofa for himself, "I wasn't expecting to see you Nyx, but by all means make yourself comfortable."
The girl smiles as she stands, crosses in front of him and plants a kiss on his forehead; the soft scent of vanilla making Maximus smile at her random show of affection despite himself. Within the Elite Nicole was probably the closest to him, even…after the mission that had nearly killed her. He had been responsible for supervising her training and without realizing it he'd become attached to the girl, an error that Artemis had pointed out several times before finally taking corrective action. That mission had ended with Nicole falling into a coma, an unscripted event included in a supposedly controlled test prepared for Alec and himself, but one that was deemed useful nevertheless. 'Emotional attachments were a dangerous liability,' it was a founding principle which Artemis had been determined to remind them of.
Looking at the young woman in front of him now, he feels a brief pang of sadness, the innocence that had shone from her eyes for so long had finally been extinguished. Her voice interrupts his trip down memory lane, "I was around and decided to check on you. By the way, the security in the complex is a joke, you should do something about it."
He smiled at her comment, for a member of the Elite any kind of security would be a joke. He had thought the same when he had been in her position. "I heard you were taking charge of the situation in Namibia?" he prods gently, redirecting the topic of conversation back to her – after all, it's obvious that she hadn't just decided to drop by arbitrarily, and this visit had nothing to do with social pleasantries.
Her eyes sparkle with amusement, "You shouldn't believe everything you hear, but if it makes you feel better it's been taken care of. Minimal damage and no evidence, as usual."
He nods before turning slightly to pour himself a cup of coffee. "Do you want something to drink, you look pale."
Nicole graces him with an exasperated look, "It's cold outside and coffee will do." She replies glibly, eyeing the tray across the table
"Never bothered you before", he nods placing another steaming cup in front of her.
She leans further back into the sofa, watching the black liquid silently before raising her eyes to him. "Do you remember when you told us about the Elite and why we were different?"
He sips his coffee contemplatively before nodding. "Yes, of course."
"You said that you were forced to rely on science because something had put the Elite's survival in jeopardy." The blatant, open ended statement gives him a sinking feeling as he realizes exactly where Nicole might be headed with the conversation.
His eyes lock with hers as he sets his cup back on the table. "Where are you going with this Nyx?"
"Maximus, what if there are people outside of Prometheus with powers like ours? Maybe not as powerful as us, but similar?" she looks at him expectantly, watching and analyzing his every movement; he realizes with some apprehension that his finest pupil is now studying her teacher, it is disconcerting to say the least.
"I would say that it's an interesting theory, but I'm afraid it's not possible.", he quickly suppresses the sigh gathering at the back at his throat, his own techniques being used against him like this is surely some sort of poetic justice.
Her cerulean eyes harden at his response, and the strength of her gaze makes him question for a split second whether it might have been better to tell her the truth, though he knows that changing his answer now would only be more damaging. He can see the effort it takes to keep her tone even as she replies, "I know it's possible, which just makes me wonder why you'd lie about it. You're hiding something, and it will only be a matter of time before I find out what it is." She smiles then, the predatory upturn of her lips issuing a dangerous challenge.
"And what, if I may ask, raised your interest in that old story in the first place?" he stalls, retrieving his empty cup.
"Wouldn't you like to know? Thanks for the coffee Maximus, we'll have to do this again sometime." she blows a kiss before opening the window and jumping down.
Maximus stared after the half closed window, the shadows dancing through the snow outside, barely noticing the snowflakes that fly into the studio.
Balthazar remained silent for a long moment before daring to comment, "You think it's possible that she met someone on the outside?"
Maximus closed his eyes, if they considered the number of missions that the Elite were sent on and the number of people they interacted with, even for brief periods, the chance of an encounter like that was higher than they could afford it to be. While it might have been improbable, it wasn't impossible; and it was a variable that they had failed to take into account when they had trained the Elite for their role within Prometheus… "I know for a fact that she did. And I'm almost positive that he became a member of Prometheus."
"That's not possible, we would have noticed." Balthazar interjected harshly, the search for children with the powers, or at least the traits, of an Elite had always been a priority for the Committee even after the current Elite had been structured.
"We would have if he had joined one of the SO squads, but what if he was somewhere else?" Maximus gave voice to the question he had been forced to face four months ago.
Balthazar rapped his cane against the floor impatiently. "I have overseen every one of the Divisions at least once and I've never noticed anything out of the ordinary."
Maximus bowed his head briefly in acquiescence, that much was true, he'd also been to every Division and had paid special attention to their members but found nothing out of the ordinary – and that's how he'd realized what had been right in front of him the entire time. "Tell me, Balthazar, have you been to the Crystal Tower?"
A grunt was the only reply to his question, "You know the answer to that; the Crystal Tower is the Elite's pet project. Our presence there would have been considered a transgression…" and then everything made sense, Balthazar's brown eyes widened in comprehension.
Maximus nodded as comprehension dawned on the other man, "Exactly."
Sunday 15:00 pm
Finn's scanned the symbols on his screen, Zeke had told him earlier that it was Sumerian but at the same time wasn't. Maximus had sure chosen an interesting way to deliver his message, using a code only two Elite would be able to decipher on sight. He read the last part out loud without realizing what he was doing. "Fiat justitia, ruat caelum." (1)
Biggs approached him making sure that his steps were loud enough to be heard, approaching an Elite without advance notice could be fatal to a normal human and painful even for another Elite. "Even if heavens fall…isn't that a little bit overdramatic even by our standards?"
Finn glanced at the brown eyed man, gauged his mindset, and, satisfied with what he saw, ignored the question. "I see you've calmed down yourself."
Biggs let out a longsuffering sigh before sliding down the wall until he was sitting on the ground. "I figured that you wouldn't tell me anything until I got a grip." Glancing at the screen he arched an incredulous brow…"Is that Sumerian?"
"Sort of." Was the curt reply Biggs received before the other man changed the topic, "We should confirm where our 'sample' came from?" Finn added as he closed the lap top and placed it once again inside his bag.
He knows that their next move will be decisive, which makes it even more imperative for him to consider every possible scenario before making any decisions. It should have been Alec's duty, not his…but at the moment he is the Commanding Officer of the Elite, making it his responsibility. Besides, there was always the firm understanding that Alec would skin him alive if he managed to screw up. Finn suppressed a groan as he felt the beginning of a headache, he'd never been the kind of guy to agonize over the 'what ifs' and 'could have beens' of life, and he certainly wasn't about to start now.
Biggs couldn't help but worry at the thoughtful look on his friend's face; even just standing calmly the way he was, those green eyes still had golden flecks in them...the players were taking sides and the battle would leave no one unscathed. The revelation of the Committee's betrayal was something he was still struggling to comprehend; it was hard to believe that they had been stringing the Elite along for two years, prefabricating lies delivered perfectly to make everyone believe that they were all working towards the same goal… while, in reality, they had been nothing more than pawns.
He realized that they'd been sitting silently for several minutes, both of them lost in their own thoughts. Biggs covered his worries with a hopeful look, "Can I do the honors?"
Finn repressed the urge to roll his eyes and nodded in confirmation instead. "We're leaving afterwards, so be at the airstrip by 1700. And Thanatos? Make sure he's still breathing afterwards." After a life of missions together Finn didn't bother to include obvious recommendations and Biggs was glad, they both knew the drill by rote and a single look from the man in charge was more than enough of a reminder, 'don't be late or you'll get left,' though 'If you break it, you have to pay for it, so make damn sure you don't break anything,' was probably his favorite.
Biggs nodded sharply and waited until Finn disappeared through the metal door before typing his access code to the room where the 'sample' had been left. The man was awake and was watching him warily. A dangerous smirk danced across the Elite's face. "Glad to see you're awake…I've got some questions and you're going to provide the answers. Oh, before I forgot, you do know this is nothing personal, right?"
Studying the panicked look on the man's face, Biggs' eyes sparkled with interest. "On the other hand, maybe you're right and it might be personal."
Saturday 22:30 pm
"You know Nichols. This is not my idea of fun." Kane Sullivan complained lowly from his place in front of the door.
"I'm not making you stay Sullivan." Christine replied dryly, her attention never leaving the screen in front of her.
The man snorted. "You're joking right? I know whatever you're doing, it'll be ten times worse if you do it on your own…and I'll somehow get dragged into it eventually anyway."
For the first time since they'd snuck into the FBI building, she turned from the screen. "I'm not a child Sullivan, I don't need supervision."
"I know that, kids' problems are easier to fix." he snarled under his breath. Kane had had a bad feeling about the whole thing from the beginning; it was unwise to start a fight with another agency and admitting so had nothing to do with a lack of bravery. Put simply, this was a suicide mission, and by the time he'd run out of arguments trying to explain that fact to Nichols, he still hadn't been able to change her decision to go.
"Why don't you leave then?" she asked as she refocused her attention on the endless string of code in front of her.
He paused to consider that, it was a tempting offer after all. Why was he still there? Well, for a lot of reasons really. First, she was his partner and, as they'd gotten to know each other she'd also become his friend; second, she'd risked her life in order to save his countless times and he wasn't going to let her get hurt, because even if the woman was a nutcase, he still cared about her. He considered his answer carefully, realized quickly that those weren't the answers she'd ever want to hear from him, and settled for the usual one instead. "Shut up."
She was doubtlessly about to unleash a scathing retort when something caught her attention, she'd successfully hacked into the NSA database. "And then there was light…"
He glanced halfheartedly in her direction, a worried expression etched firmly in his features. "You found what you were looking for?"
"Depends, I haven't found anything on David Stone, but Thomas Hathaway, the NSA's former Deputy Director of External Affairs, had requested a pretty specific search for an MI5 agent while he was in Seattle. Two days later he was demoted and transferred far, far away."
"You don't really think the search was the reason he was transferred, do you?" Kane asked the question, but suspected he already knew the answer, in power games of this magnitude there were no limits or rules.
"The MI5 is an efficient, ruthless bunch of people, and they've helped God and the other guy indiscriminately meaning that both sides are indebted to them. If they'd wanted Hathaway out of the game they only had to ask, and that seems to be exactly what they did."
Sullivan whistled softly as he listened to her suspicions, it had been the first rule they'd all learned, don't play with fire if you don't want to get burned. "Did you find anything about the agent?"
Christine checked the info on the screen before replying. "There's almost nothing about it here, all that data has been wiped with the exception of his name and the search location. Tyler Scott, 24 years old, stationed on Seattle, no address, no pic, nothing."
Despite the lack of useful information there was a glint of satisfaction in her eyes; being able to hack into the MI5 database had put a smile on her face, though she'd opted not to test her luck any further and she started to erase her trail. As she was about to close the program, a deleted message caught her attention; it was an interesting read, but her partner's deep voice forced her to finally close the last window and shut down the machine.
"So you think this 'Agent Scott' might be the key to explaining why Hathaway found himself kicked off the island? Nice story Nichols, but it doesn't do anything to explain the NSA's sudden appearance in our backyard." He tried to divert her from what was sure to be her next bad idea.
She chuckled at the transparency of his attempt before asking, "And whose name do you think is being considered for the recently vacated position?"
"Cold, and stuck up government type? …Might it be Special Agent Ames White?" He guessed with as much mock surprise in his voice as he could manage.
Christine chuckled softly. "Bingo."
"Great. Can we get out of here now?" he asked, pacing the length of the floor anxiously.
She huffed out an indignant breath as she pulled away from the computer and joined him by the door. As they walked down the empty corridors she couldn't help getting in the last word though, "Jeez Sullivan, you're worse than a girl."
Kane's glare was lost in the darkness of the corridor. "I still want to have a job in the morning Nichols."
London, Hollister Tower 25th floor
Sunday 06:30 am
Ann drank her second cup of coffee as she re-read the events from the last six hours; working on a Sunday was even duller than usual and she used the reports from the last two days as her own version of the Daily News gossip column. Although this morning the best gossip had been from the inside rather than the outside, a fellow C5 had had a face to face meeting with the Crystal Tower's Controller and survived the experience.
It wasn't like the man was hideous, quite the opposite actually, and if she wouldn't know better she would have thought that Zeke was one of them. There was something about the young man that intrigued her endlessly and it had nothing to do with his icy demeanor or ruthless tactics. No matter how much he tried to deny it, sometimes she would catch the flashes of compassion sparkling in those blue eyes.
Eyes as blue as the sky.
An insistent beep from her computer forced her attention back to the screen. As she read the message her eyebrow arched skywards, there was definitely an anomaly if the latest information was correct. She sighed heavily to herself, two attempted break-ins within the last three days was more than just a coincidence, and quickly started working to isolate the rogue signal, determine, and mark its point of origin. A pout formed on her lips as she verified the search results, apparently this Sunday wasn't going to be as dull as she'd thought.
Abigail was checking the last details of her report when she got the message in her mailbox. Her curiosity got the best of her and she opened it, reading its contents and running the program based on the specified parameters. She sighed in dejection as she realized what it was she was looking at; Zeke wasn't going to be happy…not at all.
He wakes up screaming, breathing raggedly, covered in a cold sweat. He knows that his foster parents won't come to check on him, the first time they'd tried it he'd made it clear that he didn't want or need their help. His eyes adjust to the darkness slowly and he scans every inch of his room, the shadows making him nervous though he finds a small comfort in knowing that there is nothing wrong with the rest of the room.
His breath catches in his throat as he watches the figure facing the street that's perched on his windowsill, it's partially hidden in the shadow of the tree and he can barely make out the outline of black clothes. Could they have followed him? His hand slides under the pillow and wraps firmly around the handle of the knife he keeps hidden there, before moving slowly to get out of the bed. He doesn't get far before the figure turns around and he takes an involuntary step back.
Her hair looks shorter now, barely covering her neck, and she looks… fragile, broken… But he knows better. He'd seen her shoot two men in cold blood, but she'd also saved his life six months ago – he remembers that very clearly. Her lips form a small smile as she takes a tentative step toward him.
"I was afraid you wouldn't remember me." Her voice is soft and her wide eyes give her an almost innocent look.
He manages a mute nod as she glides closer to him until eventually she's standing directly in front of him, wrapping her arms around him and whispering in his ear, "I'm sorry." He can't tell if she's asking for his forgiveness for what had happened, though he'd never blamed her, or if she needed to be forgiven for something else.
"It wasn't your fault." He whispers back. He's not sure who's to blame, but he'd sworn over his family's graves that he wouldn't stop until he found the truth. The men who had died in his house had been nothing more than the pawns, and he wanted the person moving the pieces on the board.
She deftly slips the knife from his hand and for an instant he panics, she smiles reassuringly and places the knife back under his pillow. She crosses the room again to perch on window again. "I'll protect you now Zeke, try to get some sleep."
He was about to remind her that his name was Jason, only it wasn't anymore... The witness protection agency had changed his name to Michael, a name he despised. Zeke actually sounded interesting, different; maybe it wouldn't be such a bad option. He climbed back into his bed and watched her gazing quietly out the window, the idea that he safe was soothing and he's asleep before he realizes it.
Abigail knocked twice before she entered the spacious office, she hadn't seen him leave so she knew that he had to be there somewhere. She took tentative steps forward until she found him, sprawled across the oversized sofa, one arm flung over his eyes and the other dangling off the cushions and brushing the floor, he looked like a kid. She cleared her throat to make her presence known and found herself looking down the barrel of a gun before the clock on the wall could announce the arrival of a new second.
He stood in front of her pointing the gun at her head, blinking quickly before apologizing and moving to place the gun back in its holster. The young man stretched his arms over his head before he took a seat behind the desk. Abby sighed in relief as she willed her breathing to return to normal; Zeke would never harm a hair on her head, but that didn't mean that the guy couldn't scare her to death. It had been her fault this time; he'd told her several times that sneaking up on him was forbidden for her own safety.
"Sorry." He repeated again, "So what was worth risking life and limb to wake me up Abby?" he tried to lighten the mood and graced her with a rare grin, eyes sparkling at the flushed expression on her face.
"One of these days boss you're going to be the death of me." She chuckled before quickly adopting a more professional attitude; business first, carefree conversation later…"Ann found an anomaly, someone ran a new search on Boreas' location. This time they hacked into the MI5 databases."
Blue eyes, still clouded with the remnants of sleep, regarded her almost blearily. "I understand that the first breach originated in Seattle, where was the most recent?"
"San Francisco, Sir."
Zeke rubbed his neck, silently cursing the couch he had had the misfortune of falling asleep on. "I find it hard to believe that the NSA would try something like that after the last time results."
"The latest breach was originated from the FBI Headquarters." She announced their latest bombshell.
Zeke's eyes clearly showed his interest at the latest development, "Go home Abby, I'll take care of this."
"Are you sure, sir?"
Zeke gave his assistant a quick once over, the C7 analyst looked exhausted, even more so than usual which something he would try to fix later. Abigail was one of the few people he considered close to him, even if he usually tried not to show it.
"Don't blow this out of proportion, you're practically asleep on your feet." He chided, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes as she grinned in response, strolling out the door without looking back.
Abigail smiled to herself as she turned off her computer, Zeke was her self appointed work-in-progress; when she'd first met him, she had been amazed at how someone so young could be so cold and aloof. In fact, she'd believed for months that the kid was actually incapable of showing any kind of emotion other than impatience and boredom. But slowly and surely she had been making progress; he wasn't smiling and talking non stop with her, of course, but lately he'd grin at her more often and his eyes would hold more than just their usual coldness.
Behind the closed door of his office Zeke read the report displayed on the screen and muttered to himself "So, we have a new player." Picking up his phone he pressed in a number and waited until the person in the other side answered. "I need the security footage from the FBI HQ in San Francisco, I want everything you've got from yesterday."
Seattle, Sector 11
Saturday 23:45 pm
There were sixteen of them including a bird, a moon and a spider.
The brunette sighed softly and started her count again. The dark spots on the previously white wall had been keeping her entertained, she'd counted all sixteen stains on the wall multiple times, and found that if she squinted she could make out the blurry figures of a flying bird, and a moon. She'd also discovered a lonely spider that had been working on its web ever since she'd first noticed it more than forty minutes ago.
The man had told them he'd be done in six hours, there had been no reason for them to appear in person, but the anxiety had them here, waiting uneasily for news almost a full hour before early. She wondered if maybe the exhaustion of the day was taking its toll on her, lately things seemed to be moving on slow motion or at least that was how she felt them. Rubbing her tired eyes, Max glanced in Logan and Jake's direction; both men apparently engrossed in an animated conversation to pass the time as they waited for the final test results.
She knew that she should be excited, eager, but most importantly, hopeful. This could be their opportunity for happiness, their second chance to have the 'real thing' they'd been denied so long, but she wasn't feeling any of the things she should be; it was with some derision that she realized that even in a situation like this she didn't react the way anyone else would. She was nervous, but not for the right reasons; she was eager to be miles away from this place and fervently hoping for a negative result. Standing less than 20 feet away from her was the man she loved, though she was beginning to doubt that she was still in love with him. Original Cindy had asked her that exact question and she hadn't been able to come up with an answer. Even now, she still can't.
Sometimes she wonders if the only reason she'd stayed in Seattle the first time Zack had ordered her to leave had been because of Logan or because of her friends. Now that she's thinking about it the answer is obvious, friendship was something she'd never experienced before her arrival in Seattle, and she hadn't been ready to give it up. Her friends became her family, for all their quirks they had accepted her and suddenly she hadn't been alone anymore, she belonged with them. Out of all of them, only Cindy had learned all of her story and accepted her status as an X5 without so much as a raised eyebrow; the outspoken woman had proven time after time that she couldn't care less about the fact that her Boo was a revved up killing machine. Max was Max and they were friends, nothing else mattered in her book.
And because Cindy's opinion was one of very few which actually mattered to her, Max had to give her friend's advice careful consideration. The woman's insight was certainly impressive, OC had always managed to pick up on things that even her superior X5 brain missed… Things like the attraction she'd been denying for a certain rogue X5.
A frustrated groan died in her throat, Max would admit that her timing was horrible; she couldn't have chosen a worse time to acknowledge those feelings. The last time she saw Alec they hadn't been on the best of terms… "I already told you Max, I'm not your charity case, you don't have to look after me and I don't have to explain my decisions to you."
Surprise didn't even begin to describe what she'd felt that day; somehow she'd ended up against the lockers with Alec's body pressed dangerously close to hers. Every detail of that short lived moment had been locked into her memory, the way his fingers held both her wrists, the strength radiating from him, the way his breath had caressed her skin and it had felt like she was drowning in those hazel eyes. If Alec had been his usual womanizing self he might have made a quip about her flushed appearance, but he hadn't. In fact, maybe he hadn't even been paying enough attention to notice. The worst part was that if he had tried to kiss her, in that moment she would have let him. Had he always had that power over her? Was she really so blind that she'd failed to notice it before now?
Maybe she was, or maybe not. Things were always complicated with Alec.
In the beginning, she hadn't been able to help thinking of Ben every time she'd seen him, and then as they'd started to interact with each other the differences between the cocky new X5 and her brother became too obvious to be ignored. Although she'd never denied that he was attractive since she first laid her eyes on him, it hadn't come as a surprise; after all, he was designed that way. Acknowledging that Alec was physically attractive was not the problem, but it was more important that it wasn't the only reason she seemed to be attracted to him.
Lust, she could deal with. Something deeper or more meaningful than that would only spell trouble for her. It didn't make sense, most of the time they were at each others throats. He's an insensitive playboy, immature, selfish, and arrogant – a screw up incapable of doing anything right. Right? He's insufferable, and it's the only reason she's ever talked about him. Right?
Still, every time she'd called he'd come, complaining all the way maybe, but he'd always been there to help her when she needed him. When White's men had caught her, he'd come back for her. He might've screwed up the cure at one point, but he hadn't asked her to give it up. She could have let him die; it was would've been fair, he'd tried to kill her after all…but she hadn't been able to do it.
There were so many things she didn't know about him. Ignoring him was easier, fighting with him and blaming him for everything was easier than trying to understand his motives. Maybe she'd always suspected the type of power he could gain over her and that was why she'd kept her distance. At least, it had been until now.
Hew newfound awareness of the problem was like an opened can of worms, and no matter how hard she'd try she'd never be able to get all of the worms back inside and pretend it hadn't happened. She'd learned the hard way that there was no turning back once you've been faced with the truth, but it made her wonder what she was going to do now. She still cares about Logan, she doesn't doubt that, but things hadn't been the same after she'd returned from Manticore, maybe it was because of the virus, or maybe it wasn't. One way or the other she can't help but wonder if caring about someone is really a good enough reason to start a 'real' relationship with them – she isn't sure that she even wants that type of relationship with Logan anymore.
He'd been watching her quietly and he wondered what she could be thinking. In the last six hours he'd been recalling all the moments they'd spent together, their first encounter, the quid pro quo work arrangement and her initial stubbornness to accept it, the dinners at his apartment, the arguments over jobs, Max had turned his life upside down and he could only be grateful for it.
In a few more minutes this nightmare would be over and they could finally be together. They were going to get their happily ever after. A contented smile settles across Logan's features.
Osaka, Private Airstrip
Sunday, 16:58 pm
The young man sat quietly in the waiting room, he took a sip of his coffee and looked briefly at his watch before immersing himself in the book he'd been reading for the past half hour. Finn rubbed tiredly at the bridge of his nose and wondered where exactly his SIC had gotten off to; the man was running abysmally late for the second time that day.
He'd spent the last hour reviewing all the data they'd been able to collect so far. Maximus had sent him coordinates, though the Committee member had refused to provide any information about what they might find at the location. He figured that whatever was going to happen it would have to be soon, hopefully only hours, a day at the very most; Biggs wasn't the only one running out of time here. Still, the only information he had was the place, there was no timeframe and no background, and absolutely no way to create a profile.
What could have so much relevance that it had compelled a Committee member to use a code he'd taught them when they were kids? He knew Maximus well enough to understand that whatever was going to happen, he wanted them to stop it before it started. But what could be so important? And more importantly why should they help the same organization that had been lying to them all this time…
With exactly fifteen seconds to spare a disheveled Biggs came sprinting into the complex colliding with another passenger and reacting too slowly to stop the ordinary from tumbling to the ground.
Finn heard the commotion and set his book down, bemusedly turning to see his SIC apologizing profusely to a middle aged man who he'd apparently run down. He got the suspicion that whatever animal had been mixed into Biggs' DNA cocktail, there was no possible way it was feline, the guy was a klutz. As Biggs escaped his personal bowling pin, a man in a dark suit moved to greet him, prompting Finn to stand and follow after them, their jet was ready. Biggs shot a sheepish look at Finn and shrugging his shoulders by way of explanation.
Finn rolled his eyes at the absurd gesture; this was going to be a long flight.
London, Hollister Tower 26th floor
Sunday 07:30 am
The man stared at the frozen image of a couple, the poor light had made it difficult to get a shot clear enough to be used in the image analysis program, they'd needed to clean it up some but he'd eventually been happy enough with the results. Though rather than providing the answers he'd been looking for, he'd merely ended up with more questions.
Why were two FBI agents involved? What motive was there for David Stone's murder? He had had doubts whether Stone had been executed by an Elite, but the lack of evidence collected by the authorities and their baffled expressions had been enough proof to confirm his suspicions. But then again, why had they killed Stone? It was infuriatingly circular logic, but the man hadn't been in their database, an oddity making it unlikely that the Elite had ever been previously interested in his affairs. And the Elite did not kill randomly.
After starting a multi thread search through the databases of the CIA, FBI and NSA Zeke stood up and shuffled over to his coffee machine. God bless Nicole and her incredible idea to send it to him, even if he suspected that she'd had her own reasons for the gift; after all, she was addicted to coffee. Walking back to his desk with a steaming cup in his hand, Zeke's eyes widened at the results on the screen.
'Subject under surveillance, confirmed connections with Red Eagle operations inside North America'
That was certainly unexpected. It was time to see the situation from a different perspective, a closer one. Picking up his phone he pressed the keys slowly. "Get ready, we leave in two hours."
Almost two years ago…
Seattle, January 2019
Manticore, Psy Ops Facilities
Robert watched as his patient's chest rose and fell rhythmically, being fed through IV lines for nearly two months without any type of physical activity had taken its toll, and the young man looked thinner…almost fragile. It was hard to believe that this was the same man who'd killed six armed soldiers in less than two minutes.
A smirk slowly formed on his lips, 494 was his personal challenge, a puzzle far too complicated for most people – but then, Robert Fanning was not most people. The thrill and excitement of having his own Pandora's Box waiting for him to unleash all of its secrets was intoxicating.
Three months later…
The machines attached to the young man's body were the only sound in the room. The heart monitor and EEG's monotonous beeping kept time for the doctor wearing the pristine white lab coat, and despite the black shadows under his eyes and disheveled appearance, there was a glimmer of satisfaction in his eyes as he glanced at the monitors. A content sigh escaped Fanning's lips as he checked the young man's progress, everything was moving according schedule just like he'd said it would.
Hastily writing down his latest instructions on the chart, the doctor took a moment to inspect his patient. There were a few details that still needed attention before the subject could be revived, and the ghostly pallor of his skin was one of the most obvious. Five months since his capture and X5- 494 was nearly ready to be re-introduced to Manticore.
The subject, X5 – 331845739494 to be precise, had been more valuable than they'd originally thought. They hadn't even known he was X5, so the results of the initial DNA tests had shocked both the medical and military staffs. That analysis had clearly shown faint traces of the original X-series genetic markers, although 'faint traces' was perhaps too strong a term to use considering the fact that Manticore's enhancements had been extensively filtered and improved – used only as a template for the final product which was currently strapped to the examine table. Whoever had made the alterations to Manticore's design, Dr. Fanning had to admit that the result was a piece or art.
When he'd started working on 494's case he'd been determined to uncover all the secrets of the subject's unique DNA sequences; it was his goal, and he was well-accustomed to getting what he wanted. However, he'd been wholly unprepared for what they'd uncovered as the days gradually turned into weeks. It became increasingly clear that, for perhaps the first time, his goal might be unattainable. The unique situation he'd found himself in had proven that some things were out of even his reach – and one of them was 494.
It was impossible to create an accurate genetic map of 494's DNA and while they had some understanding of the segments that had been enhanced by Manticore, the majority of it remained a mystery. In all his years of practice, Fanning had never seen anything like it; 494's cell structure changed continuously, mutating and re-structuring itself. The test results were never the same twice and there was no way to accurately interpret the readings that they had managed to take.
Director Renfro had been livid when she was informed of 494's particular situation. Fanning wasn't sure if she was angered by the fact that she couldn't get the answers she wanted from 494, or if it had something to do with the recent visit of some high ranking military officials. And so their quest had begun, though the decision didn't make much sense to him, Renfro had declared that he was to turn 494 into a completely unremarkable X5 during a five minute meeting. Every test result and file pertaining to 494's capture was destroyed; any evidence of 494's unique physiology erased.
The first stage had been intended to eliminate 494's additional physical features, however the task had been harder than they'd expected and rather than eliminating those features they'd mostly been forced to use chemical suppressors to disable them on a temporary basis. It had taken Fanning three long months to stabilize 494's reactions to the cerebral inhibitors they'd needed to administer just to restrain the additional abilities they'd seen demonstrated. The missing barcode at the back of his neck had proven to be another headache, it had been wiped out of his DNA, and while Fanning trusted his experience to solve a problem seemingly as simple as that, something had warned him against doing anything drastic. Manticore accepted his equivocations and settled for the old fashioned way, tattooing the mark that otherwise would have been genetically encoded.
Fanning's next task had been to block all of the young man's memories, replacing the missing information with facts Manticore had provided; 494 was to receive a new life based on carefully crafted lies, and a meticulous combination of drugs ensured the process' success. Now, there was nothing left to do but take care of the small details and revive their sleeping beauty.
Seattle, May 2019
His eyes were fixed on the scene taking place below as the white coated figures finished reconnecting all the monitors to the subject who was now strapped to a steel chair.
"Heartbeat and brain activity are normal." his assistant informed him in a mechanical tone.
Robert watched the nervous faces of his team, the wide eyes and clumsy movements, all of them aware of what was at stake today. If things went the way they were supposed to they would live to tell the tale, if they didn't, well, there would be no reason to worry about tomorrow. His eyes narrowed on the brainwave pattern displayed on the main monitor, 494 was enjoying the last minutes of his induced coma.
"Ladies and gentleman, let's start with the DBS." (2)
Five hours, thirty-five minutes and nine seconds later, the gracefully oscillating waves of the EEG changed to short, erratic bursts of activity – 494 was waking up. It would take some time before the patient could be fully conscious, and the staff was well-aware that things could still go terribly wrong at this stage.
The air was cold and Alec found himself standing on snow covered ground surrounded by tall pine trees in every direction. He scanned the space looking for an explanation for his presence in the strange place, no matter how much he tried to he still had no memory about how he got there. He felt numb and as he looked down he found that he was dressed only in a t-shirt, pair of jeans, and sneakers. Something was definitely wrong.
Ann Miller watched silently as doctors and technicians fussed over the subject. She had been one of the nurses assigned to the boy for the last two months, and now she could feel only an indescribable sadness as she gazed at the his motionless form. She had seen the recording of his violent attack against the guards, but she also had seen the precise moment when his spirit broke. He might have been trained to be a soldier, but she'd recognized the look in his eyes, and a true killer would never have been able to feel so much despair, so much agony.
In any case, it would be over soon, they were bringing him back.
The snow started to fall and he sighed in annoyance, he needed to find shelter – dying of hypothermia was definitely not the plan. . . And that was when he heard it – Forgetting the cold and his lack of proper clothing, he was completely enthralled by the distant sound breaking the eerie silence of this cold place. The notes were full of melancholy, an endless sadness turned into music – somehow Alec felt that he knew the song.
The staff was ready to proceed with the last of the DBS, and all eyes were focused on the young man strapped to the metal chair in the center of the room. His dark blond hair had been cut was now shorter than it had been when he'd arrived six months ago, his skin looked tan and the ghostly paleness that he'd exhibited only a week ago was gone. They'd made sure that even the smallest details had been covered in order to turn the lies into reality. The last electric jolt was applied into 494's brain. Their work was done and now there was nothing else for them to do but wait.
His eyes found the figure standing alone, her back to him, a black silhouette in the middle of the snow. Her dark hair moved with the wind, catching snow flakes while the gentle movements in her arms and bobbing of her head indicated that she was responsible for the sound. A violinist crouched in the snow in the middle of nowhere, playing a song he could have sworn he knew. There was something missing, something important, he could feel it.
Alec tried to reach her but found he couldn't move…not an inch, much less a foot. He knew he hadn't moved but he found himself closer anyway, and still too far away. His lips moved but no sound came out, he couldn't voice his questions – they resounded only in his mind. 'Who are you? What are you doing here?'
The woman stopped playing as if she had heard him anyway; she didn't turn around or acknowledge his presence. 'It doesn't matter now.'
Her answer caught him by surprise, her voice sounded familiar too. He tried to remember where, or when, or who she was. . . And a blinding pain knocked the air from his lungs, left him gasping and breathless; his eyes lost focus as he fought to stay on his feet, suddenly dizzy and losing feeling to the rest of his body. The figure moved her head slightly as if she was trying to look at him over her shoulder without really facing him, 'It's time for you to go.'
The pain intensified and he fell to his knees, eyes tightly shut and his hands clutching at his head. He felt like his brain was about to explode. The pain was unbearable and he bit down on his bottom lip trying not to scream, tiny drops of blood falling on the white snow as the song started once again, drifting slowly across his mind as the tremors coursed through his body.
'It's time for you to go.'
The voice was drifting away and he couldn't remember where he was, who he was…
The brain activity spiked again. 494 was nearly conscious. Fanning watched as the ashen lashes parted and green orbs stared unfocusedly for a couple of seconds. Robert gave a signal and the laser that had been placed in front of the subject hummed to quiet life, the focused red light making contact with 494's retina and provoking an involuntary jerk from him in response. Fanning let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, picking up the phone and pressing the numbers, he waited.
"The subject is awake."
Elizabeth Renfro walked through the doors into the room, her high heels made a deafening racket in the previously silent room. Her eyes scanned critically over the disoriented face of the subject, paying special attention to his expression. Satisfied with what she found she allowed her lips to curl into a cruel smirk.
"Welcome back, 494."
To be continued…
(1) let justice be done, even though heavens fall
(2) DBS, Deep Brain Stimulation