And The Children Shall Lead Us, Part 2
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the original characters or places.
As Alec looked through the one way mirror into the room where TC held their monthly news interviews, he hesitated, taking a deep breath. The first few months after the Jam Pony siege had been very tense; until the government realized how resourceful the transgenics were and that they wouldn't easily be subdued. Realizing that if they pushed Manticore's creations too far they'd either have an all out war on their hands or they'd end up with the X-series leaving Terminal City and scattering amongst the ordinary society, they decided that a compromise was the best option. A tentative truce had been reached that allowed the transgenics that could blend in to work in certain areas outside of TC and the transhumans to remain in TC with certain benefits provided by the government. Over time, as the truce became more stable, Max and the other leaders of TC decided that they needed to work towards better public relations and began monthly interviews with the press, with the three major local news stations taking turns sending a reporter to Terminal City each month. And today was the day that Maggie Wallace was to conduct the interview, or Brunehilda, as Alec liked to call her. She had a perpetual scowl on her face and no personality at all, hence Alec's pause to brace himself before facing her. Max refused to even be in the same room with the woman. He only hoped she didn't scare little Nadia even more.
"Well, here goes nothing, kiddo." He commented to Nadia, shifting the little girl into his left arm as he pushed the door open with his right hand. He almost laughed at the shocked look on the reporter's face when she saw the "rogue X-5 former assassin," as she had called him in the intro to her last interview, walk in with a baby in his arms.
"Hello, Ms. Wallace." He greeted her, holding out his hand to her, forcing a hand shake from her as the cameras were already rolling. He could see the distaste for the action on her face as she shook his hand briefly with a feather light, slightly sweaty grip. Alec then moved to sit in the chair across from her, easing Nadia down onto his left thigh as if he were an old pro with babies. He winced slightly as Nadia gripped his left ear with her right hand as her left hand grabbed his sweater once again. The baby stared at the strange woman across from them, but didn't cry.
"Is that…a.…" Maggie Wallace seemed at a loss for words.
"It's a baby." Alec replied with the obvious, a dazzling smile lighting his face.
"Is she…your baby?" the reporter questioned, trying to hide that the thought appalled her.
"No…no," Alec chuckled. This might be fun after all. "She's a friend's."
"Oh…" Wallace nodded, then turned to toward one of the cameras to officially start the interview. She hesitated a moment, as if gathering her thoughts. "This is Maggie Wallace reporting live from Terminal City. Today I'll be talking with Alec McDowell, Terminal City's second - in –command." Turning back to Alec, she started, "Hello, Mr. McDowell."
"Good afternoon." Alec replied, looking at the camera in front of him and speaking to the public at large.
"So, can you tell us what's been going on in terminal city since last month's interview?"
"Sure," Alec answered, then paused, biting back a gasp as Nadia squeezed his ear tightly, as she watched Maggie Wallace closely. Alec reached up trying to loosen the baby's grasp, noting with surprise the strength in her tiny hand. Max had grabbed his ear in frustration on a couple of occasions during the last year and although Alec was sure that Nadia's motives where much more innocent, she could give Max a run for her money in the amount of discomfort she inflicted.
"What is he thinking?" Max asked Luke as she looked through the one way mirror to see Alec holding a baby during his interview with the notorious Maggie Wallace. "He's using a baby for a PR stunt?" She asked incredulously.
"He's using MY baby for a PR stunt." Gem corrected, having just joined the pair. "I'll kill him."
"Well, actually…" Luke hesitated, uncomfortable with the vibes coming from both the X-5 females. "The baby somehow wondered into headquarters and attached herself to Alec. He really didn't have a choice. The poor little thing became hysterical when I tried to take her from him."
At Max's questioning glance, Gem gave her a guilty look. "I'm sorry….it's just that….she's gotten so fast…I turned my back for a few seconds and she was gone. I'm really going to have to put some locks on the nursery doors that the children can't reach."
Alec decided that today would be the perfect time to discuss TC's need for more medical supplies and supplies for their fast growing second generation of X-5's. As he talked to the television audience through Maggie Wallace's interview he unconsciously patted baby Nadia's leg.
Nadia continued to tug at Alec's ear, although she'd released the death grip she'd had previously. As she looked between Alec and the female reporter, she jammed her plump thumb into her mouth again.
Alec, seeing this action, immediately reached down to remove the girls thumb from her mouth, but stopped suddenly, closing his eyes at what seemed more of a feeling than a true memory. He could feel his own disappointment as a rough grip pulled his own tiny thumb from his mouth and a gruff voice ground out, "Suck it up, soldier. And stand up straight" He blinked suddenly, his breath catching. After a few tense seconds, Maggie Wallace's voice pulled him back to the present.
"Mr. McDowell, are you ok?"
Blinking rapidly, Alec focused on the reporter across from him. "What….ah…yeah, I'm fine." He muttered. Looking back down at Nadia, he released his grip on her arm, leaving her thumb in her mouth, affording her that small measure of self-comfort. Patting her arm gently, he turned his head toward hers, placing the briefest of kisses to her temple. "Yeah, I'm fine." He reiterated to Maggie Wallace, trying to regain his composure.
Max looked on as the interview progressed, confusion and concern growing as Alec seemed to suddenly zone out. And then, within a few seconds the episode was over, although the distressed look on his face remained. Max wasn't sure what had happened, but she was sure from Alec's "I'm fine" that he was not "always alright" as he usually insisted.
As Gem watched, she knew exactly what was going through Alec's mind. From the time that Nadia was a tiny baby, Gem had been compelled to pull her tiny fist from her mouth anytime she saw it there. It was disturbing to her and even more so when she realized that the action was ingrained in her from Manticore. She'd worked hard over the last year to stifle that reflex, vowing that she wouldn't subject her child to the same harsh discipline that Manticore had subjected her to.
Once Alec composed himself, the interview continued, although Alec really wasn't as focused as he should have been.
Nadia, meanwhile, seemed to become more comfortable with the situation and soon wiggled herself free from Alec's lap. Before Alec realized it, she was approaching Maggie Wallace, a smile on her face as her spittle covered hand reached out toward the reporter.
Ms. Wallace reflexively scooted back in her chair as the little transgenic approached her and that action was almost more than Alec could tolerate.
"She's not poisonous," he hissed. "She's just a baby."
Maggie Wallace's eyes snapped back to the transgenic sitting across from her. "I know….I…I know…" She stuttered.
Nadia seemed oblivious to the discomfort of the two adults as she reached out to touch the gold bracelet on the reporter's wrist. "Pwetty" she cooed in a beautiful little voice. She patted the bracelet repeatedly, grinning up at Maggie Wallace, who to her credit only flinched once. "Pwetty…Pwetty."
"Yes…it is…isn't it….darling." Maggie hesitantly reached out covering the small hand with hers, surprised at how soft and warm it was.
Alec sat watching in amazement as the first smile he'd ever seen on Maggie Wallace's face appeared. Well, maybe Brunehilda has a heart after all. He mused. And maybe….just maybe…the children shall lead us.