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Ex Multus Familia

Chapter 1

It was midnight in Seattle. Stars half-dimmed from light pollution glinted in the dark sky, ordinaries filed into bars for hard liquor and rants about mutie scum, and the generators hummed in Sector 7's Terminal City.

Since three weeks ago when Max and the others had put up Joshua's flag, showing their independence and reality to the rest of the world, Manticore transgenics of all types had been making their way to Terminal City. Anomalies, X-series, random projects: it seemed that every experiment affiliated with Manticore had heard about Terminal City and found its promise of protection and contact with other transgenics impossible to resist. They found a way over the barricades or through the sewers or one of the X-series picked them up when they were out in the city on covert missions to find the other transgenics.

Dalton leaned against a pile of half-rotten wooden boxes and fingered the barrel of his rifle. He was on patrol duty on the east side of Terminal City with Jaz, a female X6 who had been on his team back at Manticore, and Samson, an anomaly who had a little too much grizzly bear in his blood. Jaz was about 5'6" with muddy green eyes and dark red hair in a pixie cut to show off her barcode. She wasn't ashamed of what she was.

Furrier than Joshua and taller too, Samson had been created for deep forest and wilderness missions. He was quiet and liked to read poetry; a ragged copy of Tennyson's In Memoriam peeked out of the back pocket of his army pants.

Their assignment was to look out for any transgenic who wanted in and to keep out any ambitious ordinaries who got it into their heads to go vigilante-style into Terminal City. At the moment, there was an uneasy peace between the two sides of this war, but no one was sure how long that would last, not with the protests and riots that took place daily along the fence.

"When are we going to see some action?" Jaz asked. She kicked a piece of rubble, sending it skittering down the alley. "This is boring."

"This is our assignment," Dalton corrected. "You wouldn't say stuff like that back at Manticore."

"Good thing we're not at Manticore, then." Jaz had developed quite the rebellious, smart-mouth attitude since she had gotten out of Manticore. Max said she was acting out or something. Dalton just thought she was annoying.

"Look, Max gave us this mission, and we shouldn't complain about it. Good soldiers don't complain." He glanced at Jaz with dark eyes, daring her to argue.

"Dalton. Wake up. You're spouting Manticore propaganda again," she said. She spread her arms out wide, the sleeves of her too-large jacket drooping. "We're in the real world now. We can complain if we want; no one's going to punish you for it."

"It reflects poorly on the individual to complain," Samson said, his voice rough and bass. He was standing at the edge of the rooftop they were standing on, peering down at the streets below and the nearby chain link fence. "Your comrades will not enjoy your company any more for the complaints."

Jaz rolled her eyes but didn't snap anything back at the anomaly. She actually respected the big guy, even if she didn't respect Dalton.

"We could've gotten a more interesting assignment, like the ones the X5s get. Those guys think they run this place because Max is an X5 too..."

"Jaz, drop it," Dalton said, glaring at her. "Just be glad that you're being useful."

"I'd be more useful out there," Jaz said. She jerked her thumb toward the city that jeered at them beyond the chain link fence. "We could do recon or retrieval missions. You know we could; it's what we were made for. We could even pick up supplies, but they won't let us."

"We'll get to do that soon enough," Dalton said. He shoved his hand through his thick, light blond hair. Were all girls this frustrating? No, Gem wasn't, but Gem was…different. "But we've got to prove that we can do this first, so focus."

"I've proved myself." Jaz rested her hand on the revolver that was strapped to her hip, and her eyes gazed out longingly toward the city. "I've walked this fence for three weeks and cleaned out buildings and searched for random hardware and done a lot of other useless junk. I'm ready for something new."

"You are very young," Samson said. "Your experience with the real world is minimal, and there is a war now. Trust Max and Mole and the other leaders. They know what they are doing."

Jaz tossed her head and made a face, her ski-slope nose scrunching. "Yeah, about that, who made them the leaders, anyway? This isn't exactly an organized operation we're running."

"Someone has to lead us," Dalton said. He didn't like where she was going with this idea. "They were the ones who were ready for it."

"I'm just saying—"

"Don't say it."

"You can't stop me from talking or having an opinion, Dalton." Jaz scowled at him, and he saw her shift into a position from which attacking him quickly would not be difficult. Dalton responded by clenching his fist.

"Maybe I can when you're being stupid."

"At least I'm not a mindless sheep. Maybe Manticore put extra complacency in your mix."

"And maybe they put extra bitch in yours."

By the look on her face, that comment surprised her. She stepped toward Dalton, menace in her movements. "I'm going to hit you so hard your donors will feel it."

A heavy hand fell on Dalton's shoulder as he started forward to meet Jaz halfway. He really wanted to drive his clenched fist into her teeth, knock some sense into her.

"Let go," Dalton said. He tried to shrug out of Samson's grip, but the older man squeezed his shoulder. Dalton winced and remembered that Samson was a lot stronger than him. Grizzly bear DNA could give you wicked powerful muscles.

"Be silent," Samson demanded. His small, honey brown eyes were staring beyond the fence, into the city.

"What?" Jaz asked, her gaze following his.

"Do you hear it?" asked Samson.

"Hear what?"

"Shut up and listen, and maybe you'll hear it, Jaz," Dalton said. Jaz frowned at him but stayed silent. Samson had made her curious. Stepping out of Samson's hold, Dalton strained to hear whatever the anomaly had heard. He could hear an anti-transgenic protest going on somewhere, but that was probably in Swiffer, Terrence, and Campbell's patrol area. There were always protests going on up there since it was close to a main gate into Terminal.

Dalton tuned out the protest's shouting and focused on the streets to the east. There were normal city noises and then…footsteps. Someone…no…multiple someones were running toward the fence. Dalton looked up at Samson. "There are people coming."

"It's probably just a couple of X5s coming back from a shopping trip," Jaz said, "We never get anything interesting over here."

"If they are, they're not blurring," Dalton said. He walked over to the edge of the rooftop and leaned toward the east, into the wind. "They're not blurring…and someone's limping."

"Maybe they're taking their sweet time about it," Jaz replied. "Enjoying their time out of Terminal. I know I would."

"Maybe that's why they don't assign you to go out then," Dalton snapped at her.

"There is danger following them. I smell gun smoke and blood," said Samson. Samson's senses were more enhanced than the others; if he tried, he could probably smell a hotdog that was cooking in Sector 12 from where they were standing.

"They're in trouble," said Dalton. Adrenaline started pumping through his veins in anticipation of a fight. "We should help them."

"Good, we finally get to do something," Jaz said. She pulled her revolver out of its holster and leaped across the gap between the roof they were on and the nearest roof on the other side of the fence. Before Dalton or Samson even started to follow her, she began roof-hopping, heading toward the sounds of the other transgenics.

----------------

"Come on, Sidda, we're almost there," Robin said anxiously. She clutched her one-month-old Taylor closer with her left arm and pulled Sidda along with the other. Sidda wasn't in the greatest shape. Her ragged brown-blond hair was covered with dirt from a fight a few blocks back, and she had a few scrapes on her cheek and one arm. Her hoodie had disappeared during the fight, and one of her pant legs was ripped. That same leg had a bandage around the calf muscle where Sidda had gotten shot while keeping one of the street thugs away from Taylor. While they were fighting, Robin had nestled Taylor into a nearby box to try to protect the baby, but apparently one of the thugs had seen her do that. He had definitely ended up a lot worse off than Sidda.

"Go ahead without me." Sidda pulled her arm out of Robin's and paused to lean against a brick wall. She winced at the pain shooting up her leg. Getting shot in the leg wasn't normally much of a bother, but she'd been running a while on the wounded leg now. It was beginning to take its toll on her. She glanced at her stubborn friend; Robin's blue eyes were narrowed in disapproval.

"No way am I leaving you," Robin said, brushing her long blond hair out of her face and putting one hand on her hip. "You took that bullet protecting Taylor. We're not that far, and we're in a sort of empty area. We'll get over just fine." She glanced around to confirm her confident statement. There really weren't that many people around them. Yet. She could hear the sector police who were following them, but at least she didn't hear anything ahead. Except…

"What's that?" Sidda said, hazel eyes snapping open as she straightened up. She'd heard the same thing Robin had. The two glanced at each other and sighed simultaneously. They really didn't want to have to get in another fight again.

"I really should get a sling made for Taylor if I'm gonna keep carrying her around," Robin muttered as she stripped her leather jacket off. She wrapped it around Taylor and then, glancing around once, set her down carefully. "If shaking wasn't so bad for you, I'd just keep holding you, but for now mommy's gotta do some fighting," Robin cooed to the baby.

Sidda rolled her eyes and moved away from the wall so she could better listen and look for any signs of where their attackers would be coming from. Ordinaries weren't normally this silent. She could still hear the distant voices of the ordinaries who had already been chasing them, and she could hear minor sounds nearby. And there it was again…that slight scuffling sound of feet carefully movie across pavement and metal.

Sidda held up her hand to indicate the signal three people to Robin. Robin nodded once in agreement and then crouched low and moved forward into position. They'd been working together so much in the last year or so that they hardly needed hand signals anymore. Fighting together was almost instinctive for the two.

The sound of footsteps on metal. A red-headed female suddenly stepped around the corner of the building on a fire escape a couple stories above them. She leveled her revolver at them. "Stop there and identify yourselves," she ordered.

"Jaz!" a voice cried from behind her. "Don't!"

Sidda and Robin weren't about to stop and find out if this Jaz was a friendly or not though. She had pointed her gun at them, and that was all the warning they needed.

Robin blurred up the steps while Sidda darted underneath to start climbing up the back of the fire escape. The red-head tried to fire at both of them but failed to hit either one. Robin and Sidda were both on her in a moment. Sidda punched Jaz in the back while Robin engaged her from the front. When Jaz turned to deal with Sidda, the older girl grabbed her wrist and twisted, forcing Jaz to drop her gun. Robin swept up the discarded weapon. It fit perfectly in her long fingers, just like all of those Manticore-issued guns back in her assassin days. The only thing missing was the silencer.

"Hold it," Robin ordered, pointing the gun at Jaz. Sidda twisted the girls' arms behind her back.

"Bitch," Jaz snarled. Sidda yanked Jaz's arms tighter, a malicious grin on her face. She didn't take kindly to being called names, but she wasn't going to waste her breath on a comeback for this tart.

"Wait, wait!" Robin swung the gun around to point it at the young, blond-haired boy who stepped around the corner with his hands held up. He was immediately followed by a huge bear-like man who Robin recognized as a North American Deep-forest Unit or a NADU as some Manticore personnel called them.

"Oh." Robin lowered the gun slightly, though not all the way. She glanced at Sidda who used one hand to push back some of the fringe hair of Jaz's pixie-cut away from the back of her neck.

"X-series," Sidda announced, but she didn't let go of Jaz.

"If you're transgenics, why did you attack us?" Robin demanded. The boy had the grace to blush and look slightly uncomfortable, but he also gave Jaz an accusing glance.

"I didn't attack them," Jaz said defensively, "I just asked them to identify themselves."

"And you pointed a gun at us," Sidda reminded her.

"Jaz does not always think before she acts," the NADU said, giving the girl a stern look. The fur over his brows crinkled in all directions as he frowned at her, and Jaz managed to look slightly ashamed. She glanced down at her feet before looking back up.

"I was just trying to make sure they were who they claimed to be," Jax muttered. She suddenly twisted her arms, trying to get out of Sidda's grasp, but Sidda only tightened her hold.

"Look, you know who we are so let me go!" Jaz exclaimed, trying to twist around so she could look directly at Sidda.

"Maybe if you say please," Sidda said. "In a very apologetic way." Her eyes became heavy-lidded, which made her look sleepy, but Robin knew what that really meant. Sidda was very angry and annoyed at the moment, and she wouldn't be in the mood to be nice or merciful to the girl.

"Sidda, I need to get Taylor," Robin said, glancing back anxiously over her shoulder. The ordinaries were getting closer. Sidda sighed, knowing what Robin meant. If Sidda insisted on keeping a hold of Jaz's arms, she'd be caught in a corner by the other two if Robin left.

"Fine," Sidda muttered. She gave Jaz's arms an extra yank for good measure; the girl needed some discipline. Then she quickly moved around to Jaz's front, where she could keep an eye on everybody. Robin handed Sidda the gun and back away toward the stairs. "Go get her," Sidda said to Robin, not taking her eyes off of the three in front of her as she leveled the gun at them.

Robin blurred down the stairs, and she was back only a few moments later. "The ordinaries are coming, we need to move," Robin said anxiously. She ignored the not-so-subtle glances from Jaz and the other two at her baby. X5 babies from the breeding program couldn't be that abnormal in Terminal City; there was no need to stare.

"Look, I'm Dalton," the young boy said, stepping forward. "Me and Jaz are X6s. Samson here is obviously transhuman, and we all live in Terminal City." He hesitated, shifting from foot to foot. "I'm guessing that's where you're going. Let us help you over there before the ordinaries come." He glared a reprimand at Jaz. "We're here to help people like you, we promise." Jaz pursed her lips but didn't say anything in response.

Dalton stuffed his hands into his overcoat while waiting for a reply, and Sidda was suddenly struck by how young he looked wearing the huge, oversized coat with the sleeves rolled up, baggy pants, and a shaggy haircut. He seemed like one of those kids in books who had seen way too much death and reality for how old they were. It reminded Sidda of how much Manticore had screwed them all over. She hesitated, glancing at Robin again.

Robin shrugged; she didn't like the Jaz-girl, but the other two seemed like they were ok and could probably keep the Jaz girl under control.

"We need to go now," Samson said suddenly. To him, the ordinaries' voices were loud and clear, and he could hear their anger and hostility.

"All right, lead on," Sidda said. She gasped when Samson bent down and grabbed her up in his arms. "Hey! I can walk," she protested, pushing against his broad chest. "It's not that bad."

"You can't walk as fast as me," he said, "I can smell that you're wound. You don't need to walk anymore." Sidda frowned resentfully, but she didn't argue. She knew Samson was being logical.

"Hand me Taylor," Sidda commanded Robin. Since she wasn't going to be able to do much fighting anyway, she might as well hold on to the baby so that Robin had her hands free. Robin hesitated, and Sidda gave her an exasperated look. Robin could be ridiculously possessive of Taylor at the worst of times.

"Be careful with her," Robin warned, placing the baby into Sidda's arms. Taylor whimpered a little as if protesting being out of her mom's arms one too many times that day. Taylor had been relatively quiet so far in Seattle, only breaking into full-out screaming during the gun fight a few miles away. But even transgenic babies had their limitations, and Taylor was definitely reaching hers. Even as Sidda was cushioning the baby in her arms, Taylor's face scrunched up as if she was readying herself for another screeching fit. Sidda gently tapped her on the nose.

"You better hush, Taylor. You can cry all you want when we're in Terminal City, but now is not the time," Sidda scolded her. Taylor's eyes opened wide, and she stared quietly at Sidda as if she understood her.

"Ha!" Sidda said with satisfaction. Robin couldn't claim that Sidda didn't have a way with babies now.

"Ready?" Jaz asked, watching the transfer of the baby with a sort of annoyed impatience.

"Yes, let's go," Sidda said. They immediately took off running, Samson's huge footsteps pounding on the pavement.