"You can't seriously expect us to accept this." Said one of the less than human looking transgenics. "The kids, okay, I get that. They were at Manticore, they are hiding from Manticore too, but come on... the father is one of the freakish bastards that White comes from. No matter how much you tell me this is a good idea, I'm telling you the guy is a plant or something."

"Come on... he's here to protect his kids." Mole said. "Besides he's useful." This was actually more important to Mole than anything else. He liked the idea of someone that had seen real war on their side. He liked the idea of someone that knew the inner workings of the government on their side. Not to mention this cult.

"Guys... " Alec said stepping forward. "The fact of the matter is...he's here. He has no love for our enemies, and he's willing to help us as much as we help him. We don't have so many friends out there in the ordinary world that we can afford to turn one away."

"And can I remind you that 'he' is still in the room?" John rumbled from the back. "The fact of the matter is, Manticore wants my children to rebuild. That's right. Everyone in this room owes their very existence to the fact that Manticore took my sons, put them in stasis, extracted cells, and made all of you guys off their DNA one way or another. Whether directly like Alec here, or just perfecting the technique enough to make Mole. And I don't go anywhere without my sons."

"Okay. So you tell us. What do we get out of this deal?" Someone asked. "Other than Manticore and your cult on our asses even more than before? I gotta live here. We all do. You aren't one of us. Yeah, okay, so your kids contributed genetic material, thanks Gramps, but that can't be the only deciding factor."

"The east border will fall down within a year." John said. "The sewers are open to infiltration. There's a silo that can be converted into a watch tower. I found all that on my morning run. I know where weapons depots are. I know where munitions factories are. And I know the ins and outs of every single black ops and covert mission and project our government has done in the last twenty years, up to and including Manticore. I know the Familiars, how they think, how they react, what they'll do. Should I keep going?"

"I'm convinced." Mole said. "Anybody got anything that trumps that, I'm all ears." Someone snickered at that but hushed at a look from the transgenic.

"Okay then that's settled. Great. So we pick out rooms and everyone is happy." Alec said as he ran a hand through his hair. "And then we get to work fixing things."

"I expected it to go worse." John said with a shrug as he went outside the room where Dean and Sam were. He didn't want them in there, he fully expected it to get a whole lot nastier than it had. "Good news. The lizard one likes me." He said with a grin.

"That's good. Mole is the one that you need to have like you. No one pisses off Mole. Well except for Alec and Max, but they get to." Sam said. "Everyone likes them."

"I like Mole." Dean said. "He plays a mean poker." John laughed at that.

"Come on, let's get ourselves some rooms and figure out what we need for them." The list of defensive weaknesses he'd already pointed out would keep them busy for a while. Then he'd lay down what else he found. If his boys were going to stay here, they would be safe.

"Guess we need to score some more iodine tablets." Max said to Alec. She was still waiting for Winchester to flip on them.

"We can pick some up on the way back from work." Alec said. "Although I have a feeling we need another kind of job to bring in enough money to fix things around here. Inside, anyway. Have to be careful what we fix outside."

"Thought everything was supposed to be simpler here?" Max said. "We'll figure something out, we always do, right? We're okay right now, so I can concentrate on the important things. Scoring my two luxuries. Bathtub. And a real bed."

"Those your only two luxuries?" Alec asked with a smile. Things were going better than he had thought. Winchester was in, the boys were safe, and everyone was pulling together. Don't think about the sword of Damocles hanging over all their heads. Just keep it to the now and maybe just maybe it would all work out.

"My bike is a necessity." She said. "It's not a luxury, so, yeah, pretty much." She didn't wear makeup. She bought trendy clothes only when shopping with OC. "I took a peek at some of the unclaimed rooms, they look....about expected for rooms that have been abandoned for so long. Gotta say, I was surprised Mole of all people jumped on the Winchester band wagon so fast."

" Winchester is military. He thinks like a soldier. That's gonna appeal to soldiers, Max. " Alec understood her lack of trust. But he had a good feeling about it. Almost losing the boys again had woken the man up. He'd do what it took to protect them. And screw over the ones that wanted to hurt them. The last was what made Alec trust him.

"Yeah, I guess." Max said. "Come on, let's go round up some supplies, we'll worry about how to pay for the rest of it later. Food, iodine, and my luxuries. Then maybe you can convince Dean to splice in cable for you." That was one of Alec's luxuries, she knew that.

Alec slipped an arm around her shoulders as they walked out. "It's gonna be okay, Max. I promise." He told her, knowing she was worried.

Sam looked at his father and brother. "So this is home now." He said. "You know I never thought I would say this, but I am glad not to be going to school right now." He grinned. "Guess that means I go back to borrowing books and stuff."

"I'm sure I can find some independent study for you both to do." John said as Dean made a face.

"And here I thought I got out of it all." He said as John laughed. John felt...lighter somehow. Like a weight had been lifted off him somewhere along the way.

"So are we back to training and stuff again?" Sam asked. At the moment he didn't mind so much. If anything was coming at them, he wanted to be able to help defend his friends and family, and not be a burden. It was different when it was just the hunt.

"We are." John said. "It's a little town in here, lots of places to go running. Man made obstacle courses from all the debris, lots of places to shoot." He wanted to see what the initiation had done to his sons.

Sam nodded. "Okay. Do you think we can convince them of the truth eventually?" He asked. He knew that they were having a hard time believing in the supernatural. It made sense, science always conflicted with what it considered superstition. And well… transgenics were the product of pure science.

"I don't know, son." John said. "But we'll keep them safe from it anyway.." Manticore, Familiars, the supernatural, John had his plate full.

"Well, I for one am glad that it's returning to normal for us." Dean said. "This place isn't so bad, even if we have to take pills."

"It should be sufficient to keep us safe. And no one is going to expect me to have brought you here." John said and normally this would be the last place he would go.

"Hey," came a gruff voice, "welcome aboard. Why don't ya let me show ya around?" Mole said around the cigar. "And you can point out those weak spots you noticed as we go."

Dean grinned. "Hey Mole. Dad, this is Mole. Mole, this is our dad, John Winchester. I figured you two didn't get really introduced with all the yelling and stuff." He said.

John nodded at Mole. "Sounds good. "We'll go check out these weak spots, come on boys. I'm going to show you what I look for."

"Yes sir." was the automatic response from both boys.

Mole nodded in appreciation. "Alright them. Let's see what we can do to get this place in shape." He said as he started to walk. He didn't view his fellow transgenics as weak, he just figured most of them had forgotten they were soldiers, not ordinaries. There was no world of peace. Not for anyone. It was more so for them.

"So this is the east fence." John said. "See how it's starting to corrode? The amount of rain we get, it'll rust away in less than a year, and the radiation makes it worse. We should order iron. Iron should hold up well, especially if it's heat treated and blasted with salt."

"I only got two problems with that. Who can afford it? Because in case you haven't noticed, we pretty much scavenge everything around here, and if we did order it, having it delivered and installing it would draw attention. So… assuming we can get past the first hurdle… I mean a little larceny is good for the soul after all… how do we go about doing this undetected?"

"We fortify the sewers last. Bring everything in through there." John said. "Metal working plant has a huge sewer outlet. Stay on the industrial line and it's pretty wide, not to mention unused. I figure we can skim off the slush funds for things we need to buy."

"Black market." Dean said. "People don't care who they sell to as long as they get paid. Trust me."

"Sounds like a plan to me. What's next?" Mole said, listening to the man, not only for his insight into their security problems, but making sure he hadn't made a mistake by pushing for him to be allowed to stay with them there in TC.

"Can only hide activity in here for so long." John said. "Especially as more transgenics and transhumans start to filter in, someone's gonna give it away. We'll need weapons. Military grade, none of those bottle shooters you can get in the streets. Anti aircraft defenses, maybe some radar, cameras at the perimeter, start a depot of our own. Since the collapse of the economy, a lot of bases were vacated without clearing out. Depots were just abandoned, not hard to secure some of it."

"I'm thinkin' we should come up with a site B while we're at it. Some place that ain't so obvious. Right now this is fine, but later on when everyone sorts it out, it's gonna get hairy and one day they will storm the gates." Mole said nodding at everything John was saying. "Never put your eggs in one basket. Not when it's survival that's on the line."

"Like I said, there are some abandoned bases, but I don't think some of your buddies will go for that." John said with a shrug. "At least here they can pretend they're still in the real world. Apartments and everything."

Dean just walked beside Sam, absorbing everything. "Dude, they're like BFF now." He said to Sam with a chuckle.
"I think it's great." Sam said. "I like Mole."

"At the end of the day, they want what everyone else in the world wants. A chance to wake up and see the start of the next one. It gets ugly, they'll move. We just gotta make sure it's not someplace Manticore or your buddies in the government will figure out easy. So how big is this slush fund you were talking about?"

"A couple hundred million dollars." John said. "Gotta love the funds they set aside for black ops. Can never be accounted for, no such thing as receipts then. Easy to transfer from one account to another. That enough for some iron and weapons?"

"And a few… creature comforts… " He said with a grin. Thinking of food, cigars and iodine pills. He was definitely liking having Winchester around. This could be good. "We'll have to start checking out these bases. See how far we can get away from the beaten path."

"Get some beer and you're on." John said. "The boys stay here though."

"Dad." Dean said.

"No, until it's safe, you're in here. It's a big place, it should be hard to get bored, right?"

Sam looked at his brother then back to his father. "We gotta let him splice in cable or he will never stay put." He said "Trust me… he gets bored really easy… you know… like Alec." He said so that Mole would at least understand.

"Cable is a good thing." Mole said after a moment's thought. "Right up there with locks on a door if we have to in order to keep people where they ought to be. Alec gets into trouble, but he can get out of it… usually. You don't want to go getting into trouble right now, Kid. Not just you that would have to pay for it."

"We'll get cable. It'll be the easiest thing we'll do. Internet too, we should know what's going on outside the gates. 24/7 news channels, something's bound to leak before it happens." John said. "Looks like we got our work cut out for us. How much convincing do you think it'll take to get some help?"

"Not much. We're all going stir crazy around here anyway. Come on, let me introduce you to some of the guys." Mole said and led the way back toward those he knew would be helpful.

"Joshua!" Sam exclaimed and ran for the canine transgenic. "I missed you!"

"Little little friend!" Joshua said and easily picked Sam up when he came running over and gave him a huge hug. "Joshua was worried. "

"Yeah, we were worried too." Dean said, giving Joshua a hug after he put Sam back down.

"We're gonna stay… my dad too." Sam said. "We can all be together. Are you still painting?" He looked over his shoulder at his father. "Joshua does great paintings. Alec used to sell them for, like, thousands of dollars."

"Joshua still painting." Joshua said. "Joshua #357 is about little friends. Joshua #408 will be about little friends coming home." He decided.

"Dude, we're in art. That is so cool. Isn't that cool, Dad?" Dean said with a grin.

"Ahm, yeah." John said, not sure how to take Joshua. He saw a great deal of intelligence in those canine eyes. But the speech patterns said otherwise. He would bear watching. Although maybe Sam would stop hounding him about getting a dog now. "I wouldn't mind seeing that painting."

Joshua looked at John carefully. He remembered Max and Alec talking about him, Max was convinced the man was insane, and a danger to everyone around him. "Joshua paints from here." He said, touching his chest over his heart. "Little friends are here too."

"Good to know." John said. "That's where I keep them, too."

"Joshua was the first." Sam said. "He doesn't have a bar code or anything. I wonder how much of us are in there."

John looked at Joshua. Maybe height, he thought. David was tall. He thought about his other son, a wave of regret and pain passing through him. It was disconcerting to say the least that he was in a compound filled with genetically engineered creatures, and his sons had been the template more or less.

"Joshua's good people." Mole said. He thought he was a little too trusting for his own good, but figured that was the canine DNA. It also made him loyal and protective. If Winchester wanted someone to protect his boys he could do far worse than Joshua.

"I'm keeping my mind open." John said. "Promised the boys." If he could go on patrols with a man sized lizard, a canine man wasn't that far of a stretch.

"Yeah, me too." Mole said. Normally, the last person he would be standing around talking to would be an ordinary. Revved up or not, Winchester was an ordinary. But he was a useful ordinary. He didn't think either of them would get past their prejudices entirely, but they could work together. They had their own to protect and as long as their own insisted on mingling, then they would have the same agenda.

Dean ignored Dad and Mole, they were getting into sentry mode, and that's the one thing he hated. Because it was during sentry mode that Dean had to try and stay still and quiet. While doing nothing. So he talked to Joshua instead. "And then, I got sent to an all boys' school."

"Yeah, Dean whined because there weren't any girls around." Sam rolled his eyes. "Dean forgets about cooties. Girls are loaded with them."

Joshua stopped. "Really?" He said. "We have to tell Alec. When Joshua had fleas, they took a long time to go away."

"Depends… is he getting Max cooties or some other girl's cooties?" Sam said. "Cause… I don't think it's as gross for Alec and Max… "

"Now he's just making up rules." Dean said with a laugh, remembering that stage. He was glad he got over it though.

"Just Max coo-ties." Joshua said, drawing out the unfamiliar word. "Max's are okay, but no other girl? How long do they last? Should we warn Alec anyway?"

"They last until puberty." One of the passing transgenics said. "Cooties are in the eye of the beholder."

"They are not!" Sam insisted. "Cooties are real. Tommy Randall told me how his brother got sick because he was kissing girls."

Joshua scanned the area until he found Alec and dragged him over to the group. John stiffened, he couldn't help it. Just on account of whom Alec looked like.

"Sam. Tell him." Joshua insisted. "He has to be warned. Tell him. We don't want Alec to get sick."

"Alec knows about cooties, don't you? You know… girl cooties. Joshua didn't know anything about them."

Alec did his best not to smirk. "Cooties huh… well… I think you get immune to those later on. Or they go away or something."

"Nuh huh." Sam said. "A friend of mine at school told me that his brother got sick cause he was kissing on a girl. Cause of the cooties."

"Dude, I think that was mono." Dean said. "Girls grow out of cooties around thirteen. Then they jump to the little kids."

"That's not what Tommy Randall said." Sam insisted.

"Sam." Alec said as he knelt down to look Sam in the eyes. "Do I look sick at all? Trust me, if grown women had cooties and made all the guys sick then there wouldn't be any kids cause moms and dads wouldn't be able to …. be… moms and dads."

Dean snickered at that. "He's got a point. Dad, did Mom have cooties?"

"Your mother most certainly did not have cooties." John assured his sons.

Sam looked dubiously between the three of them. All boys knew that their friends knew more about life than their parents. Especially when it came to things like cooties, and what kind of meat was really used to make hot dogs. "Yeah… okay… so at 13, huh? Just… automatically goes away at 13? Sounds fishy to me."

"There are only a limited number of cooties." Dean attempted. "So when girls are born, they automatically get some. But they've got to take them from the older ones."

Sam gave his brother a look. THAT look. "You don't believe in cooties. But I remember you getting sick a lot before… and you were cutting class to hang out in closets with girls."

Dean sighed. "I tried." He said. "But Sam, you can go tell Max she has cooties. She'll love that."

"No matter how much I believe in cooties, I am not telling Max that she has them…besides… she's part cat. Maybe transgenics don't have them at all." Sam said.

Dean was trying not to laugh. He was trying very very hard, because he didn't want to hurt his brother's feelings. So instead he turned to Mole. "You should show my dad your private weapon collection. He'd enjoy it as much as you."

"Well, now that we have that cleared up, I'm gonna go find Max and head off to work." Alec said. "We'll be back later with more iodine pills for you guys." He, too, was trying not to laugh. At least not until he could get to Max and tell her.

"It is an impressive collection if I do say so myself." Mole said about his weapons. "Most of it scrounged cause you ordinaries throw away some of the most amazing shit."

"Not this ordinary." John said wryly. "The only thing I throw away is cartridges when I can't reuse them anymore." He still had the weapons he modified shortly after his wife died.

Sam smiled. "Trust me, he waits until they are completely unusable to toss those out too." One of the first things he had ever done to contribute to the hunt was learn to refill those cartridges.

"So you and Max are together? Logan 's out of the picture? That's good, right?" Dean asked Alec, now that Sam wasn't talking about cooties anymore.

"Yeah, that's good. Logan is … well he's in love with her still, but he's handling it. Just don't bring it up around him. Once your dad lightens up the reins a bit, we'll go get a few burgers and make a little cash."

"Sounds much more fun than ripping off the government." Dean said. "Dad was talking about ripping off slush funds to pay for improvements around here."

"Now that would be hilarious. Although if you ask the government they have about a billion dollars in money already here." He said with a laugh. "But hey, there is more to life than repairs. Like… cable. " Alec said.

"Cable is a necessity." Dean agreed seriously. "Could probably get some satellite reception with one of those towers. Lots and lots of channels."

"Now we're talkin' what do you need to make that happen?" Alec asked. Satellite was something he could get into. They could probably use it to help Logan hack into the uplink as well.

Dean had already spoken to a couple of the transgenics who were more technologically leaning than weapon leaning, and knew exactly what he needed, and started to list them for Alec. "You need paper? It's a list."

"I'll remember." Alec said, and he would too. Like most x5s he had an eidetic memory. If he wanted to he could remember anything he was told, or saw. Sometimes even when he didn't. He definitely wanted to remember the list Dean gave him. "Okay. I will get the stuff."

"Then we'll have cable and the world will be good for a while." Dean said with a laugh.

"Or at least not boring." Alec said. "Gotta get to work. I will see you tonight." He headed out to find Max and go into the office before Normal went ballistic.

"So," Max said with Alec caught up to her, "cooties?"

"Cooties." Alec said. "Sam is convinced that girls have cooties. Apparently some kid he went to school with had an older brother that caught mono or something. Because the whole thing started cause the guy got sick kissing girls. Of course Joshua has never heard of cooties."

"So obviously if anyone's going to be infested with cooties, it's you." She teased him. "Sam's going to spray you down with something later, guaranteed."

"Well he is currently working on the theory that since cats don't have cooties, and sharks don't have cooties, maybe you don't have cooties either." Alec said. "Dean has expressed his pleasure that we're together."

"Of course he did." She said with a grin. "Gives him hope that he'll land the hot girl."

Alec laughed. "Yeah, I don't think he's gonna have any problem with that." He said. "So I have a list of things to get on the way home to splice in cable, and we have to figure out how to get that monster bathtub of yours brought in."

"Don't even tease me." Max said. "You are splicing in cable, so you get your little luxury too." She said with a grin. "Think Winchester 's going to work out?" Max had her doubts, big time doubts.

"I think his only true loyalty is to his sons." Alec said honestly. "So long as we are the safest bet for the boys, he will work out. But I'd keep an eye on him anyway."

"Oh, I'd planned on it." Max said. "I don't trust him any further than Sketchy can throw him. And trust me, that boy ain't strong."

Alec grinned. "Sketchy is tripping most of the time." He said "I think our best bet is to just make sure the boys stay safe and out of harm's way. It gets too hot around here and he will take them and bolt. He still doesn't like our kind. Still has a weakness for the clone."

"Oh, the clone Sammy shot? Yeah, that should be a joyful family reunion." Max said, shaking her head. "We'll just keep our goals mutual. Keep the boys safe, out of the hands of the Familiars and Manticore. Though I'm glad to have them back, he flipped his lid talking about a demon wants Sam."

"Humor him if it means he stays put. " Alec said. "Who knows what he thinks is a demon having been raised in that cult. Whatever it is, it probably is after Sam with the kid's luck."

"Yeah, except he's good buddies with Mole. You know, the desert operative whose sole solution to everything is blowing shit up?" Max pointed out.

"Who knows what he saw?" Alec said. "We've got some freaky stuff out of Manticore, who knows what that cult came up with along the way? Considering the whole Manticore project came from the cult in the first place. I don't know. He doesn't seem all that crazy. I mean paranoid yes, but delusional? I don't think so."

"Let's hope you're right." She said as they approached JamPony. "Dammit." She said, stopping and pulling Alec aside. "Manticore's in the area."

Alec swore softly and took a deep breath to slow the hammering of his heart. "Okay… guess we're calling in sick today." He said and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head . He turned around and found the next corner to move around. "How'd they trace us to JamPony?"

"I don't know that they're tracing JamPony or just doing sector sweeps." Max said. "We've got transgenics in there. You go warn the others to law real low, I'll get them out." He was understandably freaked about Manticore. She wouldn't push him into this.

"That's what phones are for." Alec said as he took out his phone and called Dean's cell phone number. He knew for certain that the kids would still be at TC. He was freaked, but he wasn't going to back down. Their people needed them in there. His unit.

Max shook her head as Dean answered the phone. "Need lines to sweet talk Maxie already?" He teased. They were supposedly doing independent study (a familiar way to home school back in the day for the Winchesters), but since Dad was off making sure they were getting what they needed, Dean was slacking.

"No, I need you to let people know that Manticore is swarming Seattle . They are doing a sector sweep, so everyone there needs to keep their heads down." He told him. "Especially you guys."

"We will." Dean said. He didn't have any memories of Manticore. He knew it was a bad place, and they'd stolen twenty seven years of his life, but there were no real memories attached. "What about you guys? You guys headed back here? Like soon?"

"After we make sure everyone in town is safe and secure." He said. "Not gonna leave my unit hanging." No matter how much his PTSD was triggered. He was an officer. That meant more than extra duties and privileges in the prison they grew up in. It meant responsibility. Something Max had never understood about him. He avoided it in the real world because he had lived his entire life under the pressure of it all. Now it was time to take up that mantle again. Personal fears didn't have anything to do with it. Not now.

"Just remember you've got a unit back here." Dean said, he got it. He wasn't an officer, but he was an older brother. And sometimes he felt like the most adult Winchester in the first place, including his dad.

"Don't worry about us. We don't plan on anyone getting caught today. Just stay put no matter how bored you get. I'll report in again later."

"Got it." Dean said and hung up so he could spread the message.

Max looked at Alec. "You sure you're okay with this? I mean, I'm not sure I'm okay with this." She had her own share of PTSD.

"Nope. Not okay with this at all, but since when has that had anything to do with it? If we don't get them out of there, they'll go through what we did, at best." Alec said. "Just have to get them to keep their heads down."

"How do we get in there?" Max asked. "Without causing any attention? They probably have our pictures and everything."

"How do you feel about shimmying in the bathroom window?" He asked her as he led the way around to the back of the buildings.

"There are worse ways." She said as they got to the back alley, where a window to the second floor bathroom was. The first floor bathroom didn't have a window, much to everyone's complaint. "Can't wait to see what this bathroom looks like."

"Come down and let me in the back." He said. With his luck, he would climb into the bathroom window and some girl would be in there and he would wind up causing more of a stir than they needed.

"I am so getting my bathtub after this." She grumbled as she climbed on top garbage cans and grabbed onto loose molding and grout, making her way up the wall until she finally got into the abandoned second floor and made her way down.

"They're looking for you, boo." Cindy said, spying Max in the shadows. She was clutching files to her chest, Max's and Alec's. "Only a matter of time before Normal gives you guys away."

"Don't doubt it. But I've got some transgenics to get out of here. Go let Alec in through the back." She said.

Cindy made her way to the back and cracked open the door. "Better hurry, Manticore's not that dumb, they gotta know we've got a back door."

Alec slipped in quickly. "Thanks." He said as she closed the door. "Okay… we have several others inside. Is Manticore actually inside the building?" He asked. "Or are they just hovering out there?"

"Hovering right now. Since Normal hasn't heard of their agency, he's not letting them in, thinking it's a crank." Cindy said. "Don't know how long that's gonna hold out. Especially once White realizes what's going on, he's from an actual agency you know. Look, what other files do I have to pull? I pulled yours and Max's."

Alec gave her the names of the other transgenics working there. "Tell them to put their helmets on before going, even if they are walking the bike or motorcycle out. I'm heading up stairs to check things out just in case we have to hole up. Be careful." He said, taking the files from her to destroy. "Oh, hey did Normal set this place up with fire alarms?"

"It's got a sprinkler system. It's an old building. Normal too cheap to actually hook it up to an alarm system." Cindy said. "You get this going, whatever you're doing, I'll grab the files."

"Bring them upstairs." Alec said as he headed up the stairs. He didn't want to burn the place down, so it had to happen some place that would only really damage the upstairs. As little of it as possible. It also couldn't look like arson.

Once upstairs, he spent a little time looking around. "Max." He called out softly as he looked around and found a few things that looked promising. Very promising. By the time the fire department was through no one would really be able to tell that the place had been disturbed at all.

He turned on the radiator in a far corner, and then went to get the old painting supplies that had been stored up there. A logical accelerant and a logical heat source.

" Normal is going to flip." Max said, seeing what Alec was eyeing. She had been keeping a look out, looking out for any move from Manticore. "But it should work." She said as Cindy came up with the other files.

"Here you go." She said, handing them to Alec. "I've set the file cabinet under one of the sprinkler heads too."

Alec rewarded her with a broad smile. "You rock." He told her as he ripped the files into small pieces as though they were tissue paper. Once the radiator was heated as high as it would go, hot enough to blister skin, Alec mixed the paper bits with the painter's rags, which were laden with turpentine and oil paint. The cans were set around it in a seemingly haphazard way that would focus most of the heat around the papers and rags.

He held a lighter close to the radiator until the rags caught from the heat and flame, then covered it with a nearby tarp, again haphazardly. It would contain the burning paper fragments, and rags, preventing the fire from spreading too far before the fire department could arrive. He waited until it was good and hot, then went to hold his lighter under the nearest water sprinkler.

Max watched outside. "They're getting ready to move." She said, reading the lips of the men.

Cindy held a now empty folder over her head as the sprinklers went off. "Damn. Original Cindy just got her hair done too."

"Go." Alec told her, "We'll meet up later at the bar." He pulled up a hoody that covered his bar code and most his face. "They'll notice if you aren't out there giving Normal what for." He looked to Max. "Let's get our people out of here."

Cindy snuck back down the stairs and found Normal . And immediately began ragging on him about her hair. And her clothes. And her shoes. All the while the water was pouring out of the sprinklers and Normal was trying to save packages and organize a calm evacuation. Which wasn't working.

"I so deserve my bathtub now." Max said as she started rounding up the transgenics.

Alec got them their helmets and gave orders on where to rendezvous later. They were soon leaving the building on their motorcycles, earning the pleasure of Normal as they grabbed packages to take with them, mostly as cover but he didn't know that.

Lydecker's men were on foot, circling the area. By the time they could get into vehicles and pursue, the transgenics were out of their reach.

Max took off her helmet a few miles away and shook out her hair, exhaling in relief. "That was a close one, Alec. It's like all the nets are dropping at once."

"Yeah I know. We may not be so lucky next time. We need to call everyone together and start working on contingency plans. Lydecker isn't going to give up just because he couldn't get in there once. Especially with there being such a convenient fire."

"The only thing close to a contingency plan that we have is the old military base." Max said. "All we want to do is just live. And I'm getting sick of defending myself to everyone outside TC."

"Right now we have very few choices. Keep on hiding in Seattle, while Lydecker and White race to see who can take us first, we can fight back directly, which would wind up with us becoming exactly what they say we are, or we can find some place to hole up and ride out the storm."

"Is there such a place?" Max said, shaking her head. "We were all created in a lab, we're all the enemy once people like Lydecker and White start spinning it. Lydecker wants us all herded back to Manticore. White wants us all destroyed. Either way it's not a good outcome. I don't know? That base Winchester was talking about? If it's remote enough, might buy us some time."

"That's about all we can hope for." Alec said. "In the mean time, we need to gather everyone up and make sure they know to keep their heads down until this blows over."

"Yeah, that should be a piece of cake." She said as she and Alec started calling all the transgenics they knew. Since they'd roped a lot of them into Jam Pony, it wasn't hard to track most of them down.

Several hours later they were all back at Terminal City , and the place was in an uproar.

"Look, I'm not saying move today... but we need to make sure we have someplace to move to and a way to move there if things get any hotter. We almost lost a lot of people today."

"Then we need to start scouting." Mole said. "We've got some covered vehicles. I say we start scouting and see what we come up with. Check out that base, anything else we come up with. Volunteers are with me."

John nodded. "I'm with you. You boys stay here." He told Sam and Dean, giving a look to Max and Alec. An unspoken, unnecessary take care of them.

"Dad!" Dean protested. "Come on." It was like house arrest.

"He's got a point." Max said. "Manticore and the Familiars want you two. You're staying put until we get a feel for everything. Besides, there's tons of stuff to do around here. We've got displaced people, weapons to clean, and fix. Restocking.....I'm really not making this sound good."

"There is also the weekly card game down on the first sub level. They will be out two players since Mole and I are gonna be gone. You and Max can sit in." Alec told Dean. "And you can help them set up the computers. A lot of the stuff we have scavenged is pre pulse and a lot of us aren't familiar with it." He told Sam. Not entirely true but true enough.

Dean sighed. "Fine." He said. Left behind again. Treated like a kid. But at least he got to play cards. Some consolation prize.

John nodded. "We'll leave in about an hour, that good?" It would be good to breathe some air that wasn't radioactive.

"That's good." Alec said and assigned someone to go and get two volunteers to go with them, someone else to get the vehicles ready and assigned another X5 the job of getting over to Logan 's place... formerly Joshua's place, and tracking down a few more options for them. "I'll expect a report when we get back." He was sliding back into officer mode. It was what he was designed for. Leading covert operations and assassinations. He didn't question that he was becoming less the carefree troublemaker, and neither did those who had grown up with him or trained under him.

"Expect a report?" Max teased him as everyone moved out. She understood the sentiment. It was the phrasing. Way too military like. She'd imagined some sort of community, not a platoon.

"You grew up out here." Alec said. "How you and I and Logan all work together is normal for you. It isn't for them. For us, really. We've only been out a little over a year." He with a grin. "And not everyone moves as easily between the two as I do." He knew she was teasing, but she had to understand that things weren't going to work her way all the time. It couldn't. "So... you are ordered to have fun while I am gone... " He teased in return. "Make sure Dean doesn't get all the money in the card game down stairs."

"Yes sir." She said with a chuckle. "Though I plan to clean them all out. Just....we're all running away from Manticore now." Manticore was trying to catch them all. And everyone within these walls didn't want that. "So just remember that, okay?"

"We are what we are, Max." Alec said. "We just don't have to be slaves too. Fighting that… isn't going to bring any of us any happiness, and right now… what we are… is what's going to save us."

Max had tried her whole life since running from Manticore to not be a soldier. Not be a killer. Not be some sort of overpriced government made to order operative. And now she felt like she was being forced back into that niche and she wasn't sure she liked it. She also wasn't sure how much she liked the fact that everyone else could slip so easily back into it either. But she smiled. "Hurry up." She said. "I clean them all out, I might be in a good mood after. A really good mood."

Alec grinned. "I like the sound of that." He said, and hurried off to get his own crap pulled together for this mission. He wished Max could see that there was a middle ground. It wasn't an all or nothing. He knew why she couldn't. He understood it. He had been in and out of Manticore for a few years. Away missions had taught him how to slip in and out of soldier mode. 494 could be put away until needed by Alec just as easily as he had been by Manticore. Right now he was needed.

John was packing the stuff he'd need when he saw Alec. He couldn't help it. He looked so much like Dean, probably a mirror of what Dean would look like in just a few short years that sometimes he stared. He wasn't sure how he felt about all of it, but was able to put it all on the back burner for the mean time. Probably forever. He cleared his throat as he threw the pack over his shoulders. "Ready to go?"

Alec nodded. "Yes." He said. "We probably shouldn't take your car this time. They will be looking for it. " He knew that would be a difficult choice because the arsenal he knew was in the trunk. But David would be out looking. And they couldn't afford an altercation with the ... cloned familiar.

John nodded. Everything in that trunk was useful and would probably be needed. But today, the last thing he wanted was to into it with David. "You're right." He said. "So we'll make do with what we can carry, that's all." He'd fixate on that one difference. No matter what the hand was, who might be looking, Dean would never suggest not taking the Impala. He liked to find the differences between Dean and Alec, no...he needed to find the differences.

"So." Alec said with a broad grin. "How long has it been since you've ridden a motorcycle?" He asked. It would be the best choice really, that way if trouble did show up they could split up and maybe someone would make it home in one piece. Not to mention the fact that they had greater mobility.

"It's been a while." John said with a chuckle. "But I doubt they've changed much. Don't worry, I can keep up."

It wasn't long before they were out of Seattle and riding down the road with forged passes and full tanks of gas. Alec hoped this base proved to be the safe haven they all needed. It was supposed to be their back up but he had a sinking feeling it was going to become home sooner rather than later.

Mole was covered head to toe. No piece of scaly flesh was exposed, even his helmet was darker than everyone else's. He would have preferred to take a van or a car. At least then he could smoke a cigar while investigating. But he recognized pulled rank when he saw it, and Alec had definitely pulled rank.

"It's about an hour to the base at the speed we're going." John said. It truly was like riding a bike, you didn't forget. Riding a motorcycle, or being a marine.

"If this place works out, we're gonna need to work out all the alternate routes, and set up a couple of safe houses along the way." Alec said. Things didn't always go to plan, and they needed backups set up for their backups. Places to be secure without leading the bastards to the rest of the refugees.

John Winchester always had a contingency plan. Even when everyone else thought he was flying by the seat of his pants, he had a contingency plan. For example, the night of the initiations. He had the happy plan, where his boys survived and everything was fine and they went on with life. Then he had the plan where everything went south. What had happened closely mirrored the plan he had set up. Escape, call for back up, ensure the safety of his children.

"Sewers run right under the city to the base. Or at least outlet a half mile from the base. We'd have to shore that up and close off that access at some point. There are several warehouses along the way, most people don't bother with, and they're not even worth squatting in." John said with a shrug.

Alec nodded. "Alright then, " he grinned a little inside the helmet, "let's get a move on. " He sped up the motorcycle faster still, confident that the others could match his reflexes and keep up . He pulled off the main road, at the designated point. He could imagine racing Max through these back roads, with their pot holes and sudden obstacles, pushing each other harder and faster- neither yielding... then he cleared his throat as those thoughts woke up the tom cat in him.

They arrived at the base, it was abandoned, so nothing worth anything would still be in there. One of the old Cold war installations that had been hanging on until the Pulse happened, when everything shut down. "They don't build bases like this anymore." John said as he took his helmet off. "The buildings themselves should be fortified and in good condition. This was going to be one of the launching pads if the USSR decided to attack us back in the day. It's an old Naval base, actually spent six months here when I just a bit younger than you, Alec, waiting to go over to Nam ."

"Do you still remember the base?" Alec asked, it had been a long time ago for John, and Alec wasn't sure how good a Familiar's memory was. His own? He remembered everything that had ever happened to him. Even though he told Max otherwise.

"I do." John said. "It's helped by the fact that one base is nearly the same as any other." He said with a shrug as he jimmied off the lock. No one had bothered to break in before, everyone knew anything worth stealing was gone. He opened the gate for Alec and Mole. "And on the plus, yet selfish, side, means I don't have to swallow iodine capsules every day." Or more correctly, his sons didn't have to.

"Yeah, it will be good to get the kids out here." He and Max had spent a lot of time looking after those kids. He knew that John was their father, but he still wasn't sure how far he trusted him where the boys were concerned. He had been brainwashed for a long enough time that he had been willing to risk them to that damned ritual.

"More room to run." John said. Terminal City was big, but it was also decrepit and falling apart. And he knew Dean. Dean couldn't sit still if it were left up to him. Room for the boys, and sure the other transgenic children, to run around would be a good thing.

"Barracks will be familiar to the new escapees." Alec said. "A transition period. It's not easy getting thrust out into your world ... some of us had a few experiences outside... but I think it's been hard on the younger ones."

"They've got barracks." John said. "And on base housing for those that are ready for that. You know, real houses and duplexes." He'd lived with Mary in a duplex for a few years after their marriage, and a bit after Dean was born, before retiring from the Corps for a 'normal' life.

"Everyone can get out for a little sun and fresh air. Until the next round of attacks from one side or the other." Alec said with a sigh. There was no way they wouldn't get caught in the middle again, be it days weeks or months in the future, it would happen. This was just another place to hole up in the mean time. Which meant after everyone was settled they would have to start looking for the next place.

"You might be able to hold this place." John pointed out. "It was built to be held. It was built to withstand attacks and launch counter attacks."

"And that's what everyone needs to believe. It will be easier as we get more refugees. They will be more likely to come if we have a place we can really fortify."

John looked around the base as they walked. "Shouldn't take too much." He said as they walked around. He smiled a bit at the playground they found, wouldn't take much to revamp that at all. Sam would like that.

Alec got on the motorcycle once more and started to tour the base. He wanted to get his own feeling for the place. John would know what the Familiars would look for but he knew transgenics and Lydecker.

John walked the place with Mole, examining infrastructure. "The generator actually works." John said. He knew how to access it, he'd had to back in the day once. It actually had to be looked for, which was probably why it was still there. "Just have to top it off and we should be good to go. Nothing wrong with a few creature comforts after all."

"Now you're talkin'." He said as he lit up another cigar. "Speaking as a creature… I am very fond of my comforts." They were usually few and far between, if the truth be told.

John had to chuckle at that comment. "I wouldn't dream of telling you to stop smoking. I can just imagine you in nicotine withdrawal."

"It ain't pretty, I can tell you that, and for me that's sayin' something. What about you… what's your creature comfort?" He was still trying to sort out this man. So like them, yet his revulsion was so plainly on his face when he wasn't in complete control. Like when he looked at Alec.

"Honestly? Tequila." John said. "Or whiskey. Doctor said a few years back I should lay off a bit. I did for a while, but now I figure now's not a time to stop drinking."

Mole nodded. "Amen to that." He said. "So this thing... you and Alec... that gonna be a problem?" He figured blunt was good. Especially since he liked the guy, and Mole always appreciated the direct approach. Beating around the bush usually meant trouble.

"Probably." John said, just as bluntly. "Every time I look at him, I'm reminded that Manticore stole my sons for twenty seven years and cloned them, took their genes and did things with those genes. Robbed my sons of their lives and robbed me of them. Because Alec is pretty much a direct clone of Dean."

"But you dealt with the other clone pretty well... not trying to be a dick, but... what's the difference if you got that one from the same test tube factory?" He could understand where the man was coming from, but at the same time, it was important that he and Alec keep it stable. Transgenics would side with Alec over a Familiar or a normal any day.

"Because he was an exact clone." John said. "Basically Sam's twin. Dean and Alec, the differences are subtle, but they're there. On a genetic level. Let's say you had a son. And someone kidnapped him, took his genes, and made another person who looked exactly like him, but inside , on the genetic level, was more, I don't know, shark than lizard?"

Mole actually smiled a little around his cigar. "I may not be the one to make that comparison to...for me... I don't see any little Moles in the future. Breeding wasn't allowed at Manticore. They had all the embryos they could want. I'd take a son any way I could get one, clone or not..and if I were to have that son... by some strange quirk of fate... and they made another one of him... a little extra shark in the mix wouldn't worry me unless I had to pay the dental bills, cause with my luck the kid would get the teeth." He said. "But I get it. Alec reminds you of Manticore... reminds you of loss. But he's a good kid. Even if he is an X5. Officers. Go figure."

"Ah." John said. "Problem number two. I was enlisted when I was in the Corps. We used to make fun of the officers." He said with a laugh.

"Yeah well, just remember some of those traits that you find so annoying...actually came from you." Mole teased. He found it hilarious really. "Then again... same could be said for all the human lookin' ones. Your boys... you never have to worry about them being treated like anything but gold in our crowd."

"I was planning on blaming it on the cat and shark and whatever else they spliced in there." John said with a laugh. "But I guess I'm the only parent in existence that knows exactly what their kids are going to look like when they grow up."

"Could use a few scales, but otherwise I guess they're okay lookin' kids." Mole said with a big grin. "Let's see what else we can find while Captain Commando runs around checking the defenses."

"They're great looking kids." John corrected Mole. "I want to check out the armory. I know it's empty, but we can fill it with our own stuff soon enough. I need to make sure it's not with a leaking roof first."

"Lead on." He said, stuffing the stogie back in his mouth, his rifle resting casually against his shoulder. "I'd like to see a full armory again. So how long were you with the CIA? Seems like a hell of a jump from soldier to hunter to spy."

"Does it?" John said as they headed toward the armory. "Not really when you think about it. When you're a soldier, you're hunting what they tell you to, the bad guy of the week. When you're a hunter, you're, well, hunting. And researching, and learning all you can about whatever you're after. CIA? Just more research and hunting. I was a Marine for almost ten years. A hunter from the time Sam was one until about five years after they were taken from me. CIA for over twenty years. I knew how to slip on and off identities like a coat from my years as a hunter, who do you think taught Dean to make fake IDs?"

"I think the kid perfected it on his own. He could just about get me through check points." Mole said as they walked.

"Dean did get pretty good at it." John agreed as they got to the armory and he forced the door open. "I think the student surpassed the master in that area. Okay I don't see any water damage."

"That's a good sign." Mole said. "So what happens when the other one eventually shows up?" He asked. "You know he's going to track you down and probably have a mad on, feelin' all abandoned or something stupid like that."

"I didn't abandon him. I gave him a choice and he made it." John said, with an edge to his tone. "I wanted him to come with us, he chose not to. And I don't know what's going to happen. It'll be messy, however it goes."

"Does he think like you as much as your boys do?" Mole asked. It was important. He wanted to make sure that they weren't setting themselves up for a Familiar invasion.

"David was raised differently than Sam and Dean." John said. "Because of that, he doesn't quite have the ability to think outside the box."

"Good. Then with any luck we won't have him knocking on our door because he can figure out where you would have gone."

"He'll figure I'm back on the road." John said. "And it was my original plan before I got shot. Most likely by David, now that I think about it. All my boys are good shots. He'd figure I'd try to get as far away from here as possible."

"Here's hoping he doesn't grow an imagination to go with that intelligence." All clones, no matter what they thought, were created with intelligence. Scary levels of intelligence.

"Or maybe he'll agree with me one day." John said. The loss of David hurt, it did. Clone or not, he was his son.

"Stranger things have happened. You brainwashed him to be a good little Familiar… maybe there is some way to undo that." Mole said. "Although that's usually messy and unpleasant and doesn't always work." Just ask Alec. "Still we have a few from psy ops around."

"So you want me to set my son up to be tortured?" John said. "I'd rather we stay at odds than have that happen. I know all about your Psy Ops. CIA remember?"

"Yeah, remember that next time you look at Alec. He stood up to those bad boys three times. The last time he didn't break… because they wanted your boys. Might give you a better impression of the kid, anyway. So what else is there around here that we need to check out?"

"Nothing." John said. "The barracks and houses we can fix as we go along. Push comes to shove, we can all camp out in the armory if the weather gets bad. So I guess we just wait for Alec then."

Mole nodded and took a seat, getting himself comfortable. He was used to waiting on officers.

It was nearly an hour later when Alec returned, a broad grin on his face. "This'll work. It won't take long to get the proper security up to keep out the latest batch of transgenics and the Familiars."

"Told you." John said smugly, remembering the doubt Alec had had about this place before.

Alec chuckled. "Yeah well, I'm a show me kinda guy. There are places we could even set up small gardens out in the forests. Nothing spectacular, but we could have real food in here easily enough. Which would make life a hell of a lot easier if we are found out and get sieged."

"No kidding." John said. "We'll have to keep our ears to the ground as best we can, see if we can stay ahead of any siege. And make ourselves as self sufficient as possible. The ground should be rested, so growing things shouldn't be too much of a problem. Does anyone know how? It is harder than it looks, you know." There were plenty of farms where he had grown up. Or at least there were. He hadn't been a farmer himself, but most anyone in Lawrence worked in some capacity on the neighboring farms when they were teenagers as summer jobs. It was that, or the town pool, or the grocery store.

"We know how to do a lot of things." Alec said. "Farming isn't one of the things we actually had to try but we'll sort it out. " He could tell them the ideal chemical composition of the soil, he could test the soil to see what they needed to do to fix it, could tell what plants would grow best also due to chemistry. Everything else was printed on the package.

That didn't mean he could farm in this rocky terrain and he knew it. But they would just have to try.

"We won't depend on it for the first year or so... which means we need to jack some supplies."

"Which is what everyone's been doing anyway." John pointed out. "So at least you all have practice with that."

"Oh yeah. And if we are careful we can hit some big fish out here on the road."

"Billions of dollars of R&D culminating into highway robbery. I know a few conspiracy theorists that would get a kick out of that." John said.

"Not the first time we've been used that way. Just this time it's for us." Alec said. He grinned. "The boys get fresh air, Max gets her bathtub, and the rest of us get to stand back and take a breath. It's a good set up. We'll make it work."

"We don't have a choice." John said. "Well, maybe we do on Max's bathtub, but that's your issue." He said with faint grin. He never felt older than he did right now. He wondered if he'd live long enough to see Dean be the age his clone was right now. He wondered on David, if he'd ever understand. Or was he too brainwashed to even try? And if he was, that was John's fault also.

Alec caught the look in John's eyes. It was brief. A flicker of pain that was gone instantly. Shoved down and buried from view. He had profiled John repeatedly. The man they were afraid of raising the boys, the man that had come to TC for sanctuary, the CIA agent, the military man, the hunter. The one consistency was family. And there was only one thing Alec could think of that would cause that look. He hoped John resisted the urge to find his other son... the clone of Sam. "Come on... let's head back home and break the news." He said.

"They'll be elated that for once some good news is being brought into the City." John agreed as they headed back to Terminal City, through the secret ways that weren't being protested at right now.

Alec called a meeting and got everyone in one location- except for those standing watch, and explained the location and the plans. He hadn't been elected leader. He knew that most would figure Max for the job because she had been free longer. That and she was pushy. Not that he minded or would mind if that came down as the popular vote, but leading was what he had been created for, and unlike Max, he had stuck around long enough for the training. So he stepped up to the plate instinctively and stood there waiting for the questions, and reactions to begin.

Dean sat along the side and just watched everyone. He thought it was a good thing. If only because his father and Alec had worked together on this idea. Along with Mole. But some weren't so sure.

"We're fine here. They can't get in here." One piped up. "How do we know this isn't a Familiar or government trap?"

"We have to stop thinking like civilians. We are living in a base that is under siege. They are keeping us in as much as we are keeping them out. But it's all over the news. How long do you think it will be before the Familiars or Lydecker show up and batter their way in here? How long before the people out there become so paranoid about us that they decide to take matters into their own hands? We can't protect the airspace. Drones can get in here easy as hell. I know that's what I would do. Bomb the hell out of the place using drones. Can you say that the people that made us can't come up with that same simple plan? This place isn't safe." He told them "How do we know it's not a Familiar or government trap? Because it's my idea. Do I look like a Familiar to you?"

There were murmurs through the crowd at that. Alec, after all, was an officer. Had commanded many of them on the front lines during different ops.

"You heard him." Max said. "Let's start breaking down this place. Get moved in by the weekend."

People dispersed and set to work. Alec smiled and hopped down from where he was standing and walked over to Max. "Thanks." He said as he slipped an arm around her. Those that had been dubious had been pulled in line by her backing him up. "There are bathtubs." He told her as he kissed her hair.

"Well that makes it worth it then." She teased. She wasn't one hundred percent sure about this idea. But she WAS one hundred percent sure they couldn't stay here.

"We'll still have to be careful... keep an eye on satellites so that everyone is out of sight when they pass over. Keep things camouflaged, but it beats the kids playing in toxic waste." He didn't just mean the Winchesters either. There were transgenic babies being born.