The Tell-Tale Heart
by pari106

Disclaimer, rating, etc. on chapter 1.

Chapter 2

'Oh, God, Zack…'

Max suddenly felt gripped in a vice tighter than the isolation tube that had held her for that first week of her


Dear, God, that can't be Zack. Don't let it be Zack. Please, please, not Zack…

"He's been so useful to us. His liver and kidneys went to an X5 wounded on a mission…"

Zack. It was Zack. Zack's alive! Zack…

Max felt the room spinning. Her heart raced…the heart raced. She didn't know whether she wanted to
scream or be sick, or, most likely, both.

Fuck, what had they done to him…

Zack…if that was Zack…lay on a table like a cadaver ready for dissection. He was restrained at his ankles
and wrists, and secured in some sort of body harness. His face… All X5s were designed to be beautiful,
seductive. Zack had been, as well. But that attractive face wasn't visible now, hidden under some sort
of…apparatus, riddled with respiratory devices. His arms were pulled out at his sides, and various wires
ran into his body from a cluster of machines circling his bed. His chest…

One, long, red scar spanned the length of his chest. His skin was pale. He wasn't moving. Not at all. But
she'd said he was alive…Renfro…

Then Max saw. Zack's face was covered…but one of his eyes was not. And it was open. One blue eye
watching her. The skin around it looked scarred, older than Max remembered. She remembered baby blue
irises full of life…these eyes had darkened almost to black, they were dull and lifeless…

But alive. The eye found her and focused on her face.

Max felt a horrified sob work its way up her throat, and she had to bite her lip until it bled to keep the
sound from escaping her. A tear trailed down from her wide, brown eyes. She was caught in Zack's gaze.

Could he see her? Did he recognize her? They said he shot himself. She'd *seen* him shoot himself.
How could he still be alive? How much of the Zack she remembered was still alive in that shell of a strong,
healthy body?

Was he even conscious? Was he in pain? Did anyone ever talk to him? Look at him like anything other
than a science experiment? Was he afraid? Was…

'Jesus, Zack, I'm sorry….I'm so, so sorry! I love you, Zack. Please, please forgive me…Zack…'

Max tried to communicate to Zack with her eyes, signaled him through the window with the placement of
her palm against the window in front of her, as if she were reaching out to him, trying to touch him…

"…his heart, as you know, went to you," Renfro was saying.

Max's eyes closed. …liver…kidneys…heart… Fuck, they were using him as some sort of living donor.
How the hell could these bastards do this to her brother? To Zack? He was so strong; so smart. He was
stronger than any of them. Damn it, he was a good person, even if he wouldn't admit it…

In her mind, Max saw the security camera playback roll forward once again, as she had before during one
of her propaganda sessions. She saw Zack standing there like she remembered him, alive and strong,
defending her prone figure from Renfro and the doctors and guards around them. He'd been shot in the
shoulder, and was covered in blood, but his aim didn't waver as he pointed his gun at their enemies…

He leaned down to tell her something…

His words couldn't be heard over the tape, but Max heard a voice in her dreams. She didn't know if it was
her imagination, or her memory, but she could hear Zack's voice in her mind now. 'Fight them, Maxie.
Promise me you'll fight them…'

Then he stood, pointed the gun to his head, and…

Max's eyes flew open.

"I wanted to give you a chance to say goodbye," Renfro was saying now. Max heard her, but her eyes
didn't leave Zack until the shutters had closed between them, totally separating him from her view. Neither
of them blinked until those shutters were down.

Then Max turned to Renfro.

"He's being moved to another facility," she was saying as she strode over to a desk.

Max watched her movements, but they didn't really register in her thoughts. In her mind's eye, Zack still
lay there before her…

"We have some very interesting plans for him," the sadistic bitch was musing, not realizing that the woman
standing a foot away from her was reviewing all the lessons she'd ever learned on how to kill a woman
with a spoon…

"One thing's for certain, though," the director said harshly, turning back to her prey.

The prey that would soon become predator.

"You're the reason he's there," she told Max coldly. "Don't you see, 452?" she spoke passionately,
flipping through a pile of pictures, lying at her side, as she did. "You're poison. You destroy everyone you
love…your brother Ben, sister Tinga. And this man."

Renfro held up a picture of Eyes Only's trademark blue eyes, framed between the streaming freedom feeds
that were his other calling card. Those were Logan's eyes.

The pictures circled through Max's brain. Ben…blood trickling down his face…Ben smiling at her…the
sound of his neck cracking, as he lay there in her arms while she sobbed over him. Tinga, telling bedtime
stories to her son…hanging, lifeless in the tank where she died… Logan, and how good it had been to see
him that day she'd driven up to Foggle Towers to find an ambulance parked at the door, thinking he'd shot
himself…And Zack.

Zack filled her mind.

"I know you had some sort of relationship with him. You're still holding onto some idea that you're going
to be with him again, but that's not going to happen. He thinks you're dead. That's why he's been causing
so much trouble…"

Zack as a boy; Zack the first time she'd seen him and realized who he was. Zack in front of the fire,
smiling; Zack in chains, as they led him away from the Seattle police department. Zack crying in her arms
after she'd helped him escape from Manticore…

Zack shooting himself so that she could live.

"We're going to find him. And we're going to kill him. And then you'll…"

'Fight them, Maxie. Promise me you'll fight them.'

There was no warning. If Renfro had been looking for one, perhaps…but she hadn't expected this. She
hadn't expected there to be any defiance left in this one. 452. Max. Her name was Max! She wasn't just a
number. Her brother was Zack. Zack was still her brother; he was a man, not a bunch of spare parts.
Renfro knew she still felt this way, but she didn't expect her to have the strength to do anything about it.
She didn't bother to notice the predatory gleam that had come into Max's eye, or the tense stance she had
suddenly taken. She didn't notice the way Max watched her movements, like an animal watching its prey.

She had no idea what was about to happen until Max pounced.

The guards had been watching her, of course. Max knew this. But neither they nor their guns could have
deterred her from her course of action. She didn't really see them. She didn't see their weapons. All she
saw was Zack, lying there, one eye open…

'Fight them, Maxie…' The words took on a rhythm in Max's head, repeating again and again like a
mantra. Steady, pulsating. Like the beating of a drum. Or a heart.

Renfro screamed. Max had the satisfaction of hearing her scream before the bullet found her.

One hand twisted in the evil bitch's platinum hair, the other closed around her throat. But before she could
squeeze hard enough to crush her throat, the shot fired off. And hit the arm whose fist had been about to
close around Renfro's throat.


No, she was so close…

The shot stole the strength from Max's arm, and another shot came from the other direction, hitting her in
the thigh, ruining her balance. Renfro was slipping free.

But Max couldn't let her go. She couldn't even feel the gunshot wounds. This had been her breaking
point. But she would be damned if she would go down without taking that bitch with her.

When Max lost her balance, both she and Renfro fell to the ground, and the other woman started to inch
away across the floor. Max reached for her again. She could vaguely hear Renfro screaming at the guards
to hold fire, but the words meant nothing to her. She rose on her haunches to pounce again…

But didn't get the chance.

Two more guards had burst into the room, and these had high-powered tazors.

The charges hit Max and robbed her of the last of her energy, causing her to topple over on her prey.

"Jesus Christ, get a doctor in here all-fucking-ready!" Renfro screamed, pulling herself out from beneath
the now incapacitated X5, and trying desperately to regain her trademark calm.

A swarm of guards were at her side, offering assistance and apologies for firing without her orders, but she
waved them off without a second glance.

She felt for 452's pulse. It was there, strong and steady. She'd live.

"Get out of here and find that doctor," she ordered the nearest guard, tired of their hovering. The men
complied, nearly tripping over themselves on their way out the door.

Renfro was left to collect herself and steady her breathing. She eyed 452 and the shuttered window to the
room where 599 was kept. Perhaps she'd just found a button she was better off not pushing.

She considered this thought as she sat there, accompanied by only 452's troubled breathing, the hum of the
machinery around them, and the strong, steady beat of a heart…

A/N: Okay…was that cheesy? It was, wasn't it? Oh, well, there it is. I might continue this later on, after
I've finished a couple of my other stories. What do you think?