SAINTS AND DEMONS
Summary: It's been a while since Max has gotten her seizures. Now they're back with a vengeance and Logan has to call on an ex-Manticore scientist to help Max out, awakening old demons for everybody.
Disclaimer: I don't own Max, Logan, et al. I only enjoy getting inside their heads every now and then. Doctor Tavinia Jericho, aka Octavia Johnson, is a product of my own, diseased imagination.
Rating: PG-13, I guess. Probably closer to PG. Just being safe…
Feedback: Yes, please! Feed me, feed me!!!
Saints and Demons
Chapter 1 -- Demons
"You just stay put today, Boo. I'll tell Normal that you won't be into work."
"Thanks, Cindy." Max tried to smile up at her roommate, but found herself wracked by another seizure instead.
Cindy ran back to the side of the bed and wrapped her arms around Max, holding her close and whispering reassuringly until the spasms eased. Feeling as horrible as Max looked, she helped her friend lie back down and tucked the blanket tightly around her. "I'm sorry it's so cold in here, Boo. With the power out..."
"I know." Max nodded weakly. "Crappy timing. Normal's gonna be pissed."
"He'll get over it." Cindy made a face at the mention of their boss. She turned to leave, then turned back. "Do you need a doctor? I could call one..."
"And tell him what?" Max asked weakly. "It's bad, but I've had worse. I'll get over it, Cindy, don't worry."
"I could stay home today--"
"Don't you dare!" Max protested, shaking her head. "Please, Cindy. I'll be fine..."
"I could call Logan..." Cindy suggested.
"So he can come and stare at me all day?" Max shook her head, her sarcasm hiding a deeper concern. "I hate to see him suffer like he does when I'm bad, Cindy. Please don't call him."
Cindy had never heard Max plead before. It was unsettling. "Okay, Boo. Take it easy. You want some more milk? Before it goes bad?"
Max nodded weakly. "It'll be warm. That's good."
"Cool. I'll get it." Cindy fled the room and poured the last of the milk into a clean glass. She sniffed it cautiously before bringing it in to Max, who drained it without stopping.
Cindy nodded. "Sorry, Boo."
"That's okay." Max sighed and leaned back in the bed. "Don't worry, Cindy. I just need a nap and I'll be fine."
"Hang in there, Boo. I'll try to come and check on you during my lunch hour."
"Thanks, Cindy. You're a good friend." Max smiled shyly at her. "I appreciate everything you've done for me."
Max was not just talking about everything that Cindy had done for Max this morning, and Cindy knew it. She blushed. "Just getting my sister's back. Nothing that unusual in it." Cindy left before Max could speak again. Her first stop when she arrived at Jam Pony was Normal's office. "Max is sick."
Normal looked up from his work, illuminated by a small oil-lamp, and eyed her impassively. "And?"
Cindy scowled and put her hands on her hips. "And won't be in today."
Normal sighed. "What's wrong with her this time? Another aunt die?"
Cindy glared at him. Max's frequent absences were a source of great frustration to Normal. "You know that heart transplant she had?" Cindy demanded, folding her arms over her chest.
Normal winced, recalling how Max had marched back into work one day after an unexplained absence of several months and pulled up her shirt in full view of everyone to demonstrate the truth of her heart-transplant story. "Acting up, is it? Well, tell her I hope she feels better." Normal rose and hastily shooed Cindy out of his office.
"I'm going to use the phone up here to call Logan." Cindy informed him as he tried to close the door. Normal looked ready to protest, then changed his mind and nodded weakly. He had met Logan a few times, a nice guy who seemed to genuinely love and look after Max. If Max was sick, Logan was probably the guy to call to find her some medical care, and, for all his bluster, Normal's regard for Max went well beyond an employer's interest in a top employee. For all her personal and physical problems, she was a sweet kid, and he would have hated to see her hurt. So he ignored his own policy against personal phone-calls at work and gestured for Cindy to use his office. She looked a little surprised as he stepped out, but smiled gratefully. Normal shrugged and walked to the front desk.
Cindy smiled and shook her head as Normal closed the door, leaving her in privacy. Like all the employees, she liked to give him a hard time, but, deep down, he was not a bad guy. She picked up the phone and dialed Logan's number, wondering when she had memorized it and why. She honestly could not remember. After the fourth or fifth ring, she began to worry that he might not be home. Because the power was out, the answering machine was not working. She was just beginning to wonder how the hell else she was supposed to get in touch with him when he picked up the phone. There was a loud clatter, as though the phone had been dropped, and then Logan's voice.
"Hello?" he asked, sounding out of breath and a little harried.
"Logan." Cindy wondered where he had been. Shower? Bed? Bed with a woman? She shook her head, knowing the last option was unlikely. "It's Cindy."
"Hey." Logan sounded surprised and almost disappointed. Another mystery for Cindy to work out. "Sorry it took me so long to get to the phone. I kind of had a... problem." He was panting.
Cindy frowned, wondering what the hell was going on. She finally decided that it did not really matter. "Hey, um... Logan, Max is kind of sick. I was wondering if you could hook her up with a doctor?"
"Sure. What's going on?"
"She's been having really bad seizures again. I mean bad. I found her on the bathroom floor this morning. She drank a gallon of milk and took like five of those pills of hers, but she's not much better."
"Okay. I'll... see what I can do. I might know a doctor who can help her out. If not, I'll call Sam."
"Thanks, Sugar." Cindy hesitated. "Is everything okay?"
"I'll be fine." Logan's cheerfulness sounded forced.
"Um, okay. Thanks. I'll be at Jam Pony if you need me."
"Thanks. I'll talk to you later, Cindy. Have a nice day."
"Yeah, Sugar. Bye." Cindy hung up the phone, frowning. Something was up with Logan. Knowing that his down moods could be really down, she muttered a silent prayer for the man before getting to work.
From the floor of his apartment, Logan reached up and tried to return the phone to the receiver. Even after he had pulled himself into a sitting position, he could not quite reach. Cursing, he threw the receiver across the room. It reached the end of the cord and snapped back, grazing his forehead. He cursed and wiped away a stream of blood.
"This day sucks!" he shouted to no one in particular.
It had started well enough, to be sure. But then his exoskeleton had shorted out. His legs were still splayed in front of him on the floor, twitching spasmodically. When the phone had begun to ring, he had considered ignoring it. Then he had considered that it might be Asha calling with some S1W emergency. Or that doctor he had been trying to contact. Or Max, calling to just say hi. And that last one had propelled him to crawl from the kitchen, where he had been when the suit shorted out, to the computer-room.
As he sat there, trying to figure out what he was going to do about Max, it occurred to him that it was not the day that sucked. It was not even the situation. It was life that sucked! Here he was, broke, broken, unable to walk, unable to so much as touch the woman he loved. No wonder so many of his days lately had been bad ones. Shaking his head, he crawled back towards his bedroom to get the ridiculous suit off and climb into his wheelchair.
Oddly enough, being in the wheelchair was faintly comforting. Or, at least, comfortable. At least he was back in control of something. His body had not been his to control in a long time, and he had gotten used to that, more or less, but it still bothered him that he did not always have control, did not always know whether or not, in five minutes or five hours or five seconds, he was going to be in control of his own movements. It must have been how Max felt when she got those seizures.
Remembering Max made him feel less sorry for himself as he set his mind on how he was going to make things better for her. Sam, he suddenly remembered, was out of town this week, away at some conference or other, convinced that this time he would actually find the answer and free Logan from his dependence on the wheelchair and the exoskeleton. And, of course, he would be quietly spreading the word about Manticore at the same time, furthering the Eyes Only agenda.
So who to call to help Max? He wished, for the thousandth time, that he could go to her and hold her in his arms and reassure her that everything would be okay. Doctor Jericho was still not replying to his attempts to get in touch, which left Bling. He was not quite a doctor, but he knew about Max, and he would help them. He bent over to pick up the phone and replaced it in its cradle, trying to think. After a few seconds, he dialed Bling's number with a shaking hand.
"Logan!" Bling sounded pleased to hear his friend's voice. "How's it going man?"
"Not great. Max is kind of sick, man. She needs a doctor, but..."
"She at your place?" Bling interrupted.
"I'll be there in twenty minutes. I just need to call up Kev to take over my morning rounds."
"Thanks, Bling. I appreciate it."
"No problem." As Bling spoke, Logan could hear keys and papers rattling in the background. "Any progress on that virus thing?"
"Still working on it. I've put out some feelers trying to contact an old friend who might be able to help, but she hasn't returned my calls yet. I think she's still pissed at me for getting that price put on her head."
"Yeah, well, that turns a lot of women off for some reason. Look, I'm out the door, okay."
"I'll meet you there." Logan promised, hanging up the phone. He started towards the door, stopping long enough to grab his cell-phone. In the car, he dialed Max, praying that she would answer. The cell-phone must have been right next to her bed because it was answered on the second ring.
"Hello?" Max's voice was weak. "Logan?"
"Yeah, Max. How are you holding up?"
"I'm sorry. I told Cindy not to call you. I'll be fine, really."
"Bling's on his way, Max. I just want you to stay on the line with me until he gets there. Can you do that?"
"I think so, yeah. But... talking's hard."
"Then I'll talk and you can listen. Sound good?"
A slight pause, then, "Yeah. Okay. I'd appreciate it. I hate these things."
"I know. Just hang in there. Tell me what triggered the seizure."
"You promised I wouldn't have to talk." Max's voice was little more than a weak croak.
"I know, Max, baby, just hang in there. You've got us all really worried about you. I just need to hear your voice right now. Just... hum if that's all you can do. Just so I know you're still with me."
Max began to hum weakly, and Logan hung on to that sounds like a life preserver. He was searching for his sector pass with one hand when he heard Bling's gentle voice speaking to Max over the phone. As he handed his pass to the guard, Bling spoke to him.
"I have her now, Logan. I'll take good care of her."
"You'd better, man. She's all I've got. I'll see you soon."
Logan hesitated at the door of Max's bedroom. He had not been inside since her return, and he was reluctant to enter uninvited.
"You're okay, man." Bling rose from his chair by the bed and walked over to Logan. "She was hurting so I gave her a shot of morphine. She'll sleep it off and feel a lot better."
"Thanks." Logan sighed and stared at her.
"I know it must be hard on you..." Bling ventured.
"You have no idea." Logan sighed and closed his eyes. "When she's like that, all I want to do is put my arms around her and hold her close. I can't even offer her that comfort anymore, Bling." He felt tears burning his eyelids. "Why is this happening to us?" he muttered to no one in particular.
"You know why, man." Bling sighed and wheeled him into the living room.
"Yeah..." Logan sighed deeply. "Is she going to be okay?"
"I honestly don't know. I've never seen anything like this before. I'm not a neurologist, Logan. I'm not even a doctor."
"I know. I had to call someone, though."
"I'm not faulting you, man." Bling shook his head and sat down opposite Logan. "But she needs a doctor."
"Not just any doctor. She needs someone who used to work at Manticore." Logan closed his eyes again. "Did I mention she won't return my calls?"
"Who? You mentioned that you were trying to contact an old friend about the virus..."
"Yeah. We went to high school and college together. She... kind of used to work for Manticore. She's the one who gave me the original information about them. She's been in hiding for years, though. She could be dead and I wouldn't know it."
Logan nodded. "I don't know if she's dead or still running or just pissed off. If I could get in touch with her, though, I know she could help Max with these seizures."
"Then you have to get in touch with her." Bling's voice was even more gentle than usual, a sure sign that he had bad news to share. "Max is running a high fever, Logan, and showing signs of some neurological impairments. Now, they could be from the fever."
"Or the seizures might have finally fried my brain?"
"Max! You shouldn't be up." Logan wheeled towards her, stopping when she backed away.
"What's with this funny taste in my mouth?"
Bling rose and took her arm. "Morphine. Remember?"
She shook her head weakly, but allowed herself to be led back to bed, staring at Logan as she went. "Thanks, man..." she managed before another seizure hit.
Bling gently broke her fall and bore her to the ground, muttering reassuringly as he rolled her onto her side and cradled her until the seizure eased. He looked up at Logan. "I know you're trying to reach that doctor, but try harder. I'm not sure how much more of this her body can take."
Logan nodded, shaken. "I'll be back when I have something."
Logan sat nervously in the small teahouse, twirling his empty cup in his hand and staring around anxiously. He wondered what was taking her so long, and if he would even know her when he saw her. He wondered if she would be able to help, and willing to. He wondered about a lot of things, especially as the petite redhead who had just entered the teahouse took one look at him and started straight towards him, her face grim, her eyes unreadable. She wore jeans, and the kind of brown t-shirt that soldiers still wore under their BDUs. The waist-length black hair that had once been her pride and joy had been died auburn and was cut close to the head in a kind of spike. She had lost weight, too, Logan observed, and not in a healthy amount. Still, she looked nothing like she once had, and he supposed that was the point.
"Thank-you for coming, Tavi."
She reached into her purse and pulled out a bottle of pills, helping herself to a few. "Do me a favor and tell Eyes Only that, next time he used me real name in a broadcast, I'll take those baby-blues as a souvenir and he'll have to find a new handle."
"I'll pass that along." Logan shifted uncomfortably. "But he needed to get in touch with you."
"He has. What?" Tavi glanced anxiously over one shoulder. "You do realize that I've spent the last ten years trying to convince the world that I'm dead? That the bounty that's on my head because of Eyes Only specifies how many pieces I should be cut into before I'm allowed to die?"
"I know, Tavi." Logan sighed.
After a slight pause, she spoke again. "I was sorry to hear about your... accident." Tavi allowed compassion to creep into her voice, her hard manner falling away. She was afraid, the only reason for her harsh words, but she was still his Tavi.
"Thanks. I appreciate it." Logan covered one of her shaking hands with his own. "I'm sorry to have had to call on you like this, but it's very important."
Tavi nodded weakly. "What's going on, Lo?"
"One of your kids is sick."
Tavi's eyes widened and her already-pale face went even whiter. "They're still alive?"
"I promised you I would do what I could to take care of them once I found them. The ones who called themselves Max, Zack, Krit, and Sil are still alive."
"Tinga, Ben, and Brinn are dead. The others I don't know about."
Tavi nodded weakly. "Which is sick?"
Logan recoiled. "How'd you know?"
"For Max it was always seizures. If it was Krit or Jondy, I'd be more worried about Werner's, but for Max it was always those damned seizures. How is she?"
Tavi rose. "Bring me to her."
Logan hesitated. "She doesn't know about you, Tavi. I never told her anything."
"That's just as well. Max was a defiant one. She wouldn't accept my help if she knew my past."
"Then I won't tell her." Logan left some money on the table and started towards the door. "Let's go."
Tavi paused suddenly. "Logan? How did Ben die?"
"You really don't want to hear that story right now."
Max's fevered sleep was haunted by dreams. She hated dreaming, if only because the dreams that were not nightmares were memories, and the memories were often worse than the nightmares. She was having trouble separating this particular dream-memory from the reality of her present situation. She was sick, she knew, with a high fever and horrible seizures, but beyond that she just was not sure what was real and what was not.
Was she in a Manticore isolation unit or at home in bed? Home? Manticore is my home. I am X5-423.
"No!" she cried, struggling up through the darkness, "My name is Max."
"Take it easy, Max..." a gentle male voice whispered, pushing her back into the soft mattress.
Was it Lydecker? He sometimes came to her when she was sick. But the voice was wrong for Lydecker. No, it's not Lydecker. It's Bling. Bling who? Was he a doctor? A nurse with Manticore? Another phantom in her mind like the gentle man with the glasses? What was his name?
Logan. His name is Logan. Oh... Of course. Logan. Her imaginary friend, right? No. He's not imaginary at all. He's real. He's my guardian angel.
A female voice, "Hang in there, Boo. Everything's going to be okay."
"Everything's going to be okay, lovely. I'm going to take care of you."
"Doctor Jericho?" Max muttered, trying to open her eyes. Even when she did, though, she could not see clearly for some reason.
"No, Boo. It's Cindy."
"Cindy?" Max asked in confusion.
"Yeah, Boo. Bling's here with me. We're taking care of everything."
"We're taking care of everything."
"Yes, Doctor..." Max muttered weakly before drifting back into sleep.
"I think she's delirious." Bling muttered to Cindy, placing a cool washcloth on her forehead.
Cindy nodded and wrapped her hands around one of Max's. "I hope Logan comes through with this doctor friend of his soon."
"What's wrong with her, Tavi?"
"I don't know, Deck. The seizures should not be this bad." Tavi looked over at the little girl on the hospital bed. "We've got her on so many tranquilizers that it's a wonder she can still move. But she keeps having seizures and she keeps struggling against the restraints."
"You can't let her die, Tavi. Not this one. She's not like the others."
"I know, Deck. Your X5-423 is special. I know. I'll take care of her."
"She's awake." Lydecker moved to the side of the bed and touched the girl's cheek in a gentle caress. "Can I sit with her for a while?"
"Just don't let anyone catch you." Tavi muttered, leaving the room, chart in hand.
The little girl tried to sit up, but was stopped by the restraints. Panicked, she struggled.
"Take it easy, Max..." Lydecker whispered gently, putting his hand on her chest and gently pushing her back down.
She looked up at him, afraid, surprised that he knew about her secret name.
"That's right, Max," Lydecker whispered, pulling a chair next to the bed. "I know all about the names you have for each other. But it's okay. I won't tell. You're my kids and I love you. Especially you. I shouldn't even be here right now, but you're different. You're special. Do you even know that about yourself? If you had known her..." he trailed off as Tavi re-entered the room.
Tavi walked over to the little girl with a needle in her hand. The little girl struggled again, wide-eyed and afraid.
"Everything's going to be okay, lovely." Tavi's voice was gentle and reassuring as she emptied the contents of the needle into the little girl's IV. "I'm going to take care of you."
The little girl relaxed as she felt the pain that had been tormenting her ease.
"Take it easy, Max..."
"We're taking care of everything."
The little girl nodded weakly and closed her eyes, allowing darkness to claim her.
Lydecker and Tavi stood side by side staring down at the little girl who meant more to them than anyone else in the world, who very well might die tonight if Tavi could not help her.
Lydecker spoke first. "She'll be okay. She's a fighter."
"You think that's what's keeping her alive?" Tavi shook her head. "You've never gotten it, Deck."
"It. The thing that keeps her alive. Keeps all of them alive."
"My kids are fighters."
"Our kids may be fighters, but that's not what keeps them alive."
"Love." Tavi checked the little girl's IV to avoid having to look at Lydecker. "Love and faith. We never designed them to have those, haven't had them ourselves in years, and yet our kids found a way to have both. And that is what's keeping 423 alive right now."
"May I sit with her?"
Tavi nodded and turned to leave. She hesitated at the door. "Let me know when you get tired, Deck. I'll take over for you."
Tavi hesitated in Max's living room long enough to pull on a white doctor's coat and to empty the contents of her duffle-bag onto the coffee-table. Ignoring the fact that most of the items had spilled onto the floor, she picked up a long needle and tourniquet.
"What's that? What are you doing?" Logan looked uneasily around her, trying to maneuver his chair for a better look.
"She'll be dehydrated and require fluids. I'm going to sink an IV. It'll also be a good way to deliver drugs directly into her blood-stream."
"What kind of drugs?" Logan demanded.
Tavi rolled her eyes. "Let me be the doctor, Lo. I'm not going to do anything to hurt one of my own kids, and if you don't have faith in that, you shouldn't have called me."
Logan bowed his head contritely. "I'm sorry, Tavi. It's just that I worry about Max.
Tavi eyed him sharply, surprised. "You love her." It was not a question. Without waiting for a reply from Logan, she returned to her work. Finally, after what seemed like hours to Logan, she picked up several items, dropped them into a smaller bag, and turned to face him. "Take me to her."
"Her bedroom is this way."
"At least the lights are back on. It's a bitch to work when--" Tavi trailed off on the threshold of the door to Max's room. She stared in awe at the young woman lying in the bed. "Christ, she's beautiful, Logan."
Cindy and Bling looked up, more than a little surprised by the comment. Cindy spoke first. "Yeah, she's even hotter when she hasn't been seizing constantly for two days."
Tavi blushed and immediately made her way to the bedside, shooing Bling and Cindy away. She began laying IV tubing and a bag of saline on the nightstand. She picked up the needle and watched Max seize for a few seconds. "I need two strong bodies to hold her down."
"I'll do it." Bling stepped forward. "I'm a physical therapist for people with paralysis."
"Which makes you strong." Tavi nodded with approval. "Good." She looked at Logan. "Hey, Lo, how about using some of that great upper-body strength that I hear paraplegics are supposed to have?"
Logan shook his head and backed away.
"I've got it." Cindy said, stepping forward. "What do you need?"
Tavi stared at Logan in confusion, but quickly drew her attention back to the present. "Okay, since she is, at this point, having pretty much one constant seizure, I'm going to need her stable for long enough to sink this line. Do either of you have a problem with blood? No? Good. What're your names?"
"Okay. Cindy, come sit here by me. The only thing I need you to worry about right now is keeping her arm still. Here. Hold it in your lap and don't let her move it. Bling, you concentrate on holding her still if she has a seizure half-way through this."
Bling crawled across the bed until he was sitting next to Max. "Ready."
Cindy nodded weakly and drew Max's arm into her lap. "Ready."
As Tavi tied the tourniquet around Max's arm, she noticed Logan wheeling closer to the bed to observe the procedure. Recalling how he felt about blood, she was not surprised to see him pale as she unwrapped the long IV needle. She found herself falling into her teaching mode, narrating exactly what she was doing, as much for Logan's benefit as anything.
"Now, the needle does not stay in the patient. We simply use it to place a very fine piece of rubber tubing into the vein. Once you have isolated a vein-" like all X-5's, Max had incredible veins "-you simply slide the needle in, being careful to avoid terminating at or near a valve, which will slow down delivery. Once you have blood in the tubing, that means you've been successful. Now you simply slide the needle out, leaving the tubing in. A little bleed-back is not uncommon." Tavi heard Logan wretch as her white coat was sprayed with blood. "Now you apply the hep-lock, and you're ready to go." Tavi finished screwing on the lock and glanced up at Logan, who looked pale, but otherwise okay. "Logan, hand me that tape."
Tavi quickly taped the tubing to Max's arm to prevent slipping of the tube, then she rose. She picked up the bag of saline and looked for somewhere to hang it.
"We can put a nail into the wall, if that'll do the job." Cindy offered.
Tavi smiled at Cindy and nodded. "Perfectly."
The operation was soon accomplished, and Tavi hung the bag of saline on the wall over Max's bed before connecting the tubing to the line on the arm. She sat down on the bedside and felt for Max's pulse.
"What is that?" Logan asked, pointing to the bag.
"Saline. Just like they would give to you or me if we got dehydrated. It's what comes next that's different. One-twenty-eight."
"One-twenty-eight what?" Logan asked.
"That's unheard of." Bling protested.
"Feel free to take it yourself. You know that pulse goes up in response to dehydration?"
"Yeah, but she'd have to be..."
"Exactly." Tavi nodded. "I'm not going to have enough saline."
"I might be able to get you more." Logan offered. "How much do you need?"
Tavi looked into her bag. "Five more units should suffice, Lo. I could make do with three in a pinch."
"I'm on it." Logan assured her, wheeling out.
"Thank God he's gone..." Tavi muttered. Seeing Bling and Cindy stare at her, she added, "It's always the same with boyfriends and husbands. They can't handle the sight of the girl's blood. Plus they have a habit of getting in the way." She grinned at Cindy. "But then, that's just guys in general."
Cindy laughed and nodded. "Sister, you couldn't be more right."
"Hello, man right here." Bling tried, but failed to sound wounded by the banter.
"Excluding medical professionals, of course." Tavi winked at him before returning her attention to Max.
"Um, what exactly did Logan tell you about Max?" Cindy began cautiously as Tavi began searching through her bag again.
"I know everything about her that I need to in order to treat her properly, if that's what you're worried about. And I have no plans to expose her if that's what you're worried about."
"I've known about Max's kind for a long time. That's all you need to know. Bling, could you run into the living room and get me a syringe marked 'seretonin'?"
Bling nodded and left.
"He knows, too." Cindy told Tavi.
Tavi nodded. "Max should work harder to keep her secrets secret."
"She works damn hard on it, but circumstances keep..."
"Getting out of control. They have a way of doing that, I've noticed."
"You can say that again." Cindy gently touched Max's forehead. "Can you fix her?"
"She's touched a lot of lives out here, hasn't she?"
Cindy nodded. "Yeah, she has. If you knew her, you'd understand that."
"I do." Tavi said ambiguously. "And I'm going to do my best to fix her."
"Not a problem. Cindy, right?"
"Right. But I don't think I caught yours."
"Octavia Johnson. Tavi."
They shook hands as Bling returned with a handful of syringes. "I wasn't sure how many you'd need."
"Then it's just as well that you brought all of them. I'm Tavi, by the way." Tavi grinned at him as she relieved him of the syringes. "How much does she weigh?"
"She wears a size two." Cindy offered.
"That doesn't necessarily say a lot regarding her weight." Tavi frowned and regarded Max thoughtfully. Had she actually once had the gall to tell Lydecker 'When you don't have all the information, you sometimes need to make an educated guess based on the available data'? Shaking her head, she recalled Brinn's weight and made a guess.
"What are you doing?" Bling asked, interested.
"The seizures are basically a result of her body's inability to produce adequate amounts of seretonin. The pills and the milk help because they give her more to work with. Injecting IV seretonin bypasses the production process, so unless she's too far gone, it should slow or stop the seizures."
"Should?" Cindy asked.
"Theoretically." Tavi replied, emptying the syringe into Max's IV and picking up another. "Sometimes, other factors come into play as well. If her fever's been too high or lasted too long, or if she's hit her head..." Tavi trailed off, not wanting to finish.
Cindy eyed her suspiciously. "You seem like a person who's dealt with this kind of thing a lot."
Tavi's eyes flashed as she regarded Cindy. "Could we say the recriminations until later, please? I've got a patient here that I'm trying to save."
Cindy recoiled. Tavi had not raised her voice, but she had not needed to in order to convey the anger and frustration of those words.
"Sorry, man." Cindy's voice was soft, but Tavi's face softened.
"Me, too. This is harder on me than you could know." The lights flickered and came back on. "Oh, thank God. Finally, something about this day is going right." Tavi sighed softly. "Bling, grab me that last bag of saline."
"Check." Bling tossed the bag to Tavi with practiced ease, then turned his attention to the rest of the contents of the doctor's bag. "You don't plan on using all of this on Max?"
Without looking up from changing the IV, Tavi shook her head. "Of course not. Most of those are for... other people."
"Some of these are very controlled substances."
"Thanks for the education." Tavi muttered. "Cindy, how long since Max has eaten?"
"Um, nothing but a gallon of milk since the seizures started."
Tavi frowned. "Right. Bling, toss me one of the small bags of glucose solution. We'll piggyback it with the saline. She's probably hurting for nutrients right now."
"Here." Bling tossed her the smaller bag. "Potassium?"
"Good call. You'll have to hold her down while I inject it."
"Why are we holding her down?" Cindy asked nervously, staring at Max who was as still as death except for the steady rise and fall of her chest.
Bling spoke first. "Potassium can hurt. For some people it's just a mild sting. For others, it's worse, but--"
"For Max, it's torture." Tavi interrupted. Aware that both Cindy and Bling were staring at her, she connected the bag of glucose to the IV tube. "It might be better to give her a shot of morphine first."
"Even in her condition?" Bling asked.
"Even in her condition." Tavi stared at Bling, subtly challenging him. Without Logan here to back her up, her ability to treat Max effectively depended largely on her ability to convince these people that she knew exactly what she was doing. The problem with that strategy laid in the fact that, if they knew she had been Manticore, they would be that much less likely to trust her to treat Max. "You've never seen her react to a potassium injection. I have. Now give it over."
"Here." Bling frowned and handed her the potassium injection.
"Look." Tavi sighed. "I know you two don't trust me. Hell, you probably think I'm some kind of monster without even knowing me. Fine. Whatever. I'm not here to win any popularity contests. I am here because Logan Cale called me. He called me. Because he trusts me to treat Max. So if you don't want to, don't trust me. I don't know you, and I don't care about your trust. All I care about is making this precious child well. You can help me, or you can leave."
Bling sighed and closed his eyes. Finally, after a long wait, he handed her a syringe of morphine. "If you hurt her, I'll kill you."
"You'll have to get in line behind Logan and Cindy here." Tavi turned her attention back to Max, injecting the morphine into her IV.
"Wh..." Max's eyes fluttered.
"Lots of deep breaths, lovely. I'm here to make you all better. I'm going to take care of you. Everything's going to be okay."
"Doctor Jericho?" Max asked weakly, looking around in confusion.
Tavi smiled and shook her head. "No, lovely. Just a friend of a friend. Now I want you to close your eyes and count back from a hundred."
"Yes, Doctor Jericho."
"Johnson, lovely. My name's Johnson." Tavi muttered as Max drifted away.
"Who's this Doctor Jericho who Max keeps asking about?" Cindy demanded of Tavi.
"Someone we both knew in a past life. A researcher who cared too much about all the wrong things. She's been dead for a long time." As she continued her work on Max, Tavi flatly refused to answer any more questions about anything even remotely related to Manticore. The only words out of her mouth were occasional updates on Max's condition. "Her pulse is back down." or "She seems more cognizant."
By the time Logan had returns, Max was simply sleeping, resting off her ordeal. Tavi was grateful to see him because it meant that the questions of the others would be put on hold. Manticore was simply not a subject that she would ever feel comfortable discussing. Cindy and Bling wandered off to get some rest, leaving Tavi and Logan alone with the sleeping Max.
Tavi spoke first, in a low voice. "She recognized me."
"I thought that would make you happy."
Tavi shook her head. "You think she'll fondly remember the good times? Those kids never had good times! The only thing I ever did for her was to make the pain go away when Deck or Renfro pushed too hard."
"You loved her."
"So did Deck. How's she feel about him now?" Tavi waited as Logan struggled for an answer. "She hates all things Manticore and she has a right to. How I felt about the kids makes no difference in the long run. I'll be going as soon as she's stabilized."
"Tavi." Logan sighed and wheeled himself closer to her, taking her hands in his. "When you gave me that tip about this secret government genetics lab, do you remember how I reacted?"
"You didn't believe me. I remember."
"After everything we'd shared together, I didn't believe you. But you fought, and you gave me proof, and you made me believe. And when those kids broke out, do you remember what you did? What you made me do?"
She nodded. "I made you promise to take care of my kids if you could. I've seen your broadcasts. I'm satisfied that you've kept your promise."
"Now it's time for you to keep yours." Logan's voice was firm.
"I'm scared, Lo." Tavi shook her head. "It's time to let those kids move on. I was selfish to ever want or expect to be a part of their lives. They deserve to live without being reminded of the things they went through."
Logan shook his head. "You made a promise, too, Tavi. You promised to protect them."
"Too late. They have all the protection they need in you. They're more than capable of taking care of themselves, for that matter. Most of them would as soon kill me as look at me, and you know it."
"You just want an easy out." Logan's voice was accusing.
"Damn straight, I want an out!" Tavi's voice rose in pitch, but not in volume. "I once had to put one of those kids down!" she hissed. "Like a bloody dog, I had to put him down. Do you know how many times I have sat in my bed at night with a syringe of the same shit I used on him and considered ending it right there? I have no more right to live than any of the corrupt scum that you take down on a regular basis, Lo!"
Logan let go of her hands and grabbed her shoulders instead. "You have as much right to live as I do."
"No. I'm a killer. I deserve death."
"You're not the only one in this room who's killed, Tavi." Logan's voice was a whisper. "All three of us have. I've killed and I've incited others to kill in my name. At least Max was trained to kill and you were ordered to. I don't have those excuses."
"Then you know what it feels like."
"Yeah, I know exactly what it feels like. I also know that, sometimes, when life seems so dark that you're afraid there will never be another dawn, a bright spot appears on the horizon and a hand reaches out to pull you back to reality."
"You really do love her..." Tavi observed, glancing at the sleeping woman.
Logan nodded, unashamed. "Cindy once told me that no one can really know Max without loving her. I guess I'm lucky enough to be loved back. But the truth is that that's a cold comfort these days."
He bowed his head. "When I started trying to get in touch with you, it had nothing to do with Max's seizures."
Tavi frowned, then thought. "It couldn't have. It's been over a week. She's only been getting them again for two or three days. What's going on, old friend?"
Logan looked up with a surprised laugh. "That's the first time you've called me your friend since you came back."
She shrugged. "Overdue, I guess. I'm sick of letting my fears dictate my behavior. So, what's up?"
"Max has this virus..." Logan took a deep breath. "It's been specifically coded to me, to my DNA. I can't touch her without dying."
"Ouch. And you love her and she loves you?"
Logan nodded and rubbed his head. "I tried to contact you because I thought you might be able to fix it."
"Because Manticore did the big bang before you could get the cure from them?"
Logan nodded again. "You got any aspirin in that little black bag? I think I'm getting a migraine."
"For a migraine, I can do better than aspirin. Let's have a look at you." Tavi pulled out a small penlight. "When's the last time you slept?"
"Um, about three hours the night before Cindy called me about Max, which was... three days ago, I think."
"About that long since you've eaten, too, I'll wager."
Logan nodded weakly. "Sorry." He hissed as Tavi shone the light into his eye. "Hey!"
"Yes! Could you get that light out of my face, please? It hurts."
Tavi shook her head and reached into her bag, extracting a pair of bottle. "Take one each of these."
"What are they?"
"Excedrin and a nausea agent." She held up a glass vial and syringe. "You'll need a shot of this, as well."
"What is it?"
"Imitrex. Pull up your shirt. We'll give it to you in your stomach."
"Give it low so it doesn't hurt."
"Done." Tavi filled the needle and pulled an alcohol swab from her pocket. "Feel that?" she asked, gently touching his stomach just above the belly button.
As she gave the shot, she asked, "They say you were shot? Saving a little girl's life?"
Tavi swiped away a drop of blood. "Was it worth it?"
"At the time, I wasn't so sure. Now I know better."
"It must be hard to have a relationship with a woman."
"I used to think so, yeah. But Max never cared about any of the things that I thought were supposed to get in the way of a 'normal' relationship."
Tavi smiled fondly at the woman in the bed. "She must be one hell of a woman, Lo. You're a lucky man." She disposed of the used needle and replaced the bottles in her bag, then rose. "Come on."
"Where are we going?"
"I want you to lie in a dark room for fifteen minutes until the imitrex works. Hey, Cindy. Can Logan borrow your bed?" Tavi whispered, noticing Bling asleep on the sofa.
"Sure. You know where it is, Logan."
Tavi grinned. "The plot thickens."
"Not that much." Cindy laughed. "I'm gay."
"Good for you. Do you need help, Logan?"
Logan shook his head and wheeled into Cindy's bedroom, hitting the doorframe once before making it inside.
"Tell me you drugged him?" Cindy muttered to Tavi. "He hasn't slept since I called to tell him that Max was bad."
Tavi smiled. "He gave me a perfect opening. Said he had a headache. So I said that the morphine was Excedrin, the Ambien was for nausea, and the Atavan was imitrex." Tavi shrugged unrepentantly. "He'll be asleep in ten minutes. Sometimes men just don't know what's good for them. Especially Logan. Always going after all the wrong woman. About time he found a straight shooter. Speaking of which, I'm going to go check on Max."
Cindy stared after her for a second before following. "Are you gay?" she asked quietly as Tavi checked Max's IV line. "Not that it's any of my business, and I don't really know why I'm even asking, but I was kind of getting the vibe that there was history between you and Logan."
"Oh, yeah, lots of history. We were engaged for a while in college."
"Oh, my bad."
"I thought I was bi at the time. I was wrong. Poor Logan has the worst luck that way."
"Oh." Cindy nodded. "How's Max?"
"She's been better." Tavi bent to feel for Max's pulse. "I won't know for sure until she wakes up, but I think she's going to pull out of this just fine."
"That's good to know."
Tavi looked up at Cindy curiously. "When's the last time you slept?"
"It's been a while..." Cindy admitted.
"Do you mind crashing with Logan? That way I can keep an eye on Max without disturbing you."
Cindy grinned. "Gee, I hope Max doesn't get the wrong idea."
Tavi laughed softly. "Welcome back to the land of the living, Max. By the way, your roommate is sleeping with your boyfriend."
Laughing and shaking her head, Cindy left. "You wake me when my Boo wakes up."
"Scout's honor." Tavi held up her hand in what was either a boy-scout salute or a very rude hand-gesture in Brazil... she could not quite remember which. Grinning and shaking her head, she sat down to Max.
After a few moments of silence, she began whispering. "I don't know if you remember me or not, but I remember you. I was there when you were only a desired outcome on a computer-screen. I was there when Deck said 'no, her eyes can't be blue'. I was there when you were put into your mother and there when you were forced out. When you were sick, I cared for you, and when you were well, I rejoiced for you. When you named each other, I looked the other way. When you discovered faith, I knew that you would make it. X5-423, I am the closest thing you ever had to a mommy, and I can only pray that you do not remember and hate me for it."
"They're gone, Jericho." Lydecker paced furiously around the office. "How could you not have seen this coming?"
"You saw all the same things that I did, Deck. Signs. You looked the other way, too. Maybe, deep down, this is what we wanted for our kids. The final step in their journey towards perfection. Every time we tried to deny a basic human need to them, they created it anyway."
"What are you talking about?" Lydecker demanded. His hands were shaking. He needed a drink.
"We denied them individuality by giving them numbers. They gave themselves names. We denied them faith by never letting a whisper of it creep into their narrow little lives. They found their Blue Lady. We denied them freedom. They took it anyway. We made them too perfect, Deck. Too human."
"No!" Lydecker shook his head furiously. "We'll get them back. We'll fix them. We'll make sure it never happens again!"
Tavi sighed. "How many got out? Which ones? Who was the ringleader?"
"Zack orchestrated it. Him, Tinga, Brinn, Krit, Max, Jondy, Ben, and Sil are the ones we're sure on. There may have been others. Not all the bodies have been found."
"How many bodies are we looking at?"
Lydecker shook his head. "At least nine." He considered and shook his head. "Ten."
"Who's the ten that you're not sure on?"
"Jinx went through the ice. We may never find her."
"Worst case on how many escaped?"
"A dozen. Not more than a dozen." Lydecker sighed. "It won't take us long to round them all back up."
"I'll put the retrieval team together, Deck. You look like you need a rest."
"Thanks, Tavi. I appreciate it."
It took Tavi the rest of the afternoon to put together a suitably incompetent team. By the time she left the Base, she was shaking almost as bad as Lydecker had been in the office. She helped herself to a pill as she stepped into the phone booth, more than fifty miles from the Base and twenty from her home. She had bought the phone-card with cash at the Base Exchange and planned on running it through the shredder as soon as this call was over. In her heart, she knew that these precautions would not be adequate, but it was the best she could come up with. Her hands were shaking so badly that she had to dial three times to get it right.
The phone rang so many times that she was afraid he was not home. Finally, slightly out of breath, "Cale residence."
"Lo. It's Tavi."
"Hey, Tavi! Long time no see! Sorry it took me so long to answer. I was just getting back from a game of basketball with the guys. How have you been?"
"Lo, listen carefully, I don't have much time."
Logan's voice went from lighthearted to serious. "Should I record the call?"
"Only if you have the capacity to distort my voice. I'll call you back in twenty minutes."
"I'll be waiting."
Tavi drove as far and as fast as she could. It took her twenty-three minutes to find another pay phone. This time, she dialed a different number, and she was not surprised that Logan answered before the first ring was done.
This time, the voice was distorted. "Eyes Only."
"This is informant 423. I have information for you."
"I am recording this conversation and your voice is being electronically distorted before audio capture. Go ahead."
"Do you recall my information about the government genetics lab in Wyoming? The one breeding super-soldiers?"
"Yes. I remember. Go ahead."
"The project is code-named Manticore, and a group of approximately one dozen of these genetically enhanced soldiers has escaped. If they are found, they will probably be killed. You have to protect them." Tavi's voice took on an anxious edge.
"How can they be identified?"
"They're children, ranging from eight to approximately ten years old. Their heads are clean-shaven and when last seen they were barefoot and wearing hospital-style gowns. Their only distinguishing feature is a bar-code tattooed at the base of each of their skulls." Tavi nearly dropped the pay phone as her cell-phone rang. "One second, Eyes Only... Hello?"
"Tavi? It's Deck."
Tavi did her best to sound casual. "Yeah, what's going on?"
"I'm not sure what you did, Tavi, but it was stupid!"
Tavi could tell by his voice that he had been drinking. The shit must have really hit the fan after her departure. "What do you mean, Deck?"
"Renfro wants your head on a platter, Tavi. Literally. What did you do?"
"Nothing! What are you talking about?" Tavi's voice was shaking as bad as her hands.
"She thinks you've been leaking to the press."
"Bullshit! Have you seen a single news report, even in the tabloids, about us? If someone had been leaking, it would be all over the front page of every paper from the Weekly World News to the New York Times! Tell Renfro to get a life, Deck."
"She wants you back here in five minutes to explain yourself."
"Tell her I live twenty minutes away and that I'm in the middle of a bubble-bath anyway. Tell her if she thinks I'm going out in this cold with wet hair she can kiss my frost-bitten ass."
"I'm serious, Tavi. If you don't get your ass back here ASAP, you're going to be more hunted than our kids."
"At least tell me what they think I did, Deck. You owe me that."
"They think you've been smuggling documents out of Manticore. They think you've been leaking them to either the press or a foreign power." There was a long pause. "They're already selecting the firing-squad, Tavi."
"Take care of our kids, Deck. Promise me you'll take care of our kids."
"I'll do my best."
"No. Don't say you'll do your best. Say you'll take care of them."
"I'll take care of my kids."
"Thank-you, Deck. God bless you. Bye."
"Tavi!" Deck shouted as she hung up the phone.
"Did you get all of that, Eyes Only?" Tavi asked into the pay phone.
"Every word. I'm sorry."
"You promised it wouldn't go down like this!"
"It wasn't supposed to. Look... You know where to go. One of my people will be there with a new identity and enough money for you to live comfortably for several years wherever you want. He'll be waiting for you tomorrow night at 8:00."
"Thanks, Eyes Only. I'll bring you those files I've been promising you."
"Me, too. Just... whatever happens, promise me you'll take care of my kids."
"I promise you. I will take care of them if it costs me my life."
"Bless you. This is informant 423 signing off."
Tavi hung up the phone and leaned against the wall of the phone booth, sobbing. A police siren that could not possibly have been meant for her reminded her that it was time to get moving. She emptied her car of her valuables and medical supplies, and of the precious disks, and stopped at the first bank she saw. Emptying her bank account, she suddenly realized exactly what Lydecker had done. He had given her time to get away. The teller had seen the look on her face, watched her begin to shake and had immediately called a manager who had found her a chair. It took her fifteen minutes to compose herself, at the end of which time she had thanked both profusely before fleeing like a thief in the night.
"Who are you and why are you in my bedroom crying?" Max asked weakly, sitting up.
Tavi looked up, shocked. "I'm sorry, lovely. I didn't mean to wake you. I'm a friend of Logan's. A doctor." She rose swiftly as Max tried to get up. "No, don't do that. You'll pull your IV line."
"IV?" Max looked down at her arm in surprise. "Oh... I guess the seizures were pretty bad, huh?"
"Pretty bad. Logan informs me that they're the worst he's ever seen you have, but everything's going to be okay now. We took care of you. You were delirious for a while. Do you remember? You called me Doctor Jericho?"
"Did I?" Max frowned in confusion. "I... I must have been pretty out of it."
"You were running a high fever." Tavi helped her lay back down. "I think you thought you were somewhere else."
"Oh. I'm sorry. You don't even look anything like her."
"Old friend is she?"
"She was... kind of my pediatrician. She took care of me when the seizures got really bad."
"Well, now you have me for that, lovely."
"She used to call me that, I think."
"Well, it's a fitting name." Tavi smiled at her and checked the IV line. "One more shot of seretonin, I think, for good measure."
"You're giving me seretonin?" Max asked, surprised that this stranger could have known the proper treatment for her condition.
"Well, Logan told me that the seizures are caused by your body's inability to produce adequate amounts of seretonin, so it seemed like a logical treatment. Certainly the anti-seizure medications weren't working."
"Logan was here?" Max asked, sitting up again.
Tavi gently pushed her back down. "He's still here. He'd been up for three days, so I gave him something to help him sleep. He's in your roommate's room now, sleeping."
"Three days? It's Friday?"
"It's Saturday. You've been ill for four day, or so your Cindy tells me."
"Ill, like, unconscious?"
"Unconscious, delirious, or sleeping. Yes." Tavi nodded and delivered the seretonin into Max's IV. "You're a remarkable young woman, Max, if half of what Logan has told me is true."
"Wh... what did he tell you?" Max asked uncertainly.
"A great deal, indeed. But you needn't worry. Us fugitive-types have to stick together, after all."
"You're a fugitive? From who?"
"The same people as you, actually. I learned some stuff that I should never have known and then I was stupid enough to tell Logan about it." Tavi smiled down at her. "Try to rest, lovely. You've had quite an ordeal. No normal human would have survived it. Even you will take time to recover."
Max nodded weakly and returned her head to the pillow. "What's your name?"
"Octavia Johnson, lovely."
"Why were you crying?"
"Just reliving old times. So sorry."
"It's okay. It's nice to meet you." Max yawned loudly. "What did you give me?" she asked accusingly.
"Seretonin. It will make you sleepy. It's one of the things seretonin does in a normal body. Don't worry. I won't give you anything without telling you what it is and what it does first. Scout's honor."
Tavi smiled at Max and watched her fall back to sleep. Wiping away a final tear, she walked over to the sleeping woman and stood there, watching her chest rise and fall. She bent over and kissed Max on the forehead.
She leaned close to Max's ear and whispered. "I've missed you, baby, and I've been so worried, but I'm so proud of you."
"It's time to start talking."
Startled, Tavi looked up to see Cindy standing in the doorway, arms folded over her chest.