Title: Relegare Ira, Reperire Caritas

Author: Ashantai

E-Mail: ashantai@hotmail.com

Archive: Please ask!

Pairings: No romantic pairings, just friendship/family ones

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: Probably any episode Zack's ever appeared in, but I'm not sure... definitely Some Assembly Required.

Summary: Follows my story "Via Memorius" - you should read that one first!!

Disclaimer: I don't own Max, etc., or Dark Angel (I wish!!) but I like to watch them on tv. Please don't sue me for loving your show; I can't help it. :)


This story is part 2 of the Via Memorius series. Click on my name to see the rest (they are numbered 1-4)


RELEGARE IRA, REPERIRE CARITAS

The young man smoothed his spiked red hair into a more professionally-looking flatness and entered the service garage. It was a little classier than the one he'd worked at in Hollywood a year ago and Kansas for the past few months; this one had a television in the waiting room- it had a waiting room- and a small table with free coffee and cookies. He stepped up to the desk and the secretary- secretary?-, who was about his age, smiled at him shyly; he knew he was gorgeous, but right now what was important was getting this job. He had loads of experience, but there was no help wanted sign outside and mechanics could be surprisingly picky about who they worked with. One of the job interviews he'd had in the past had consisted of a fifty-two-year-old guy in dirty overalls asking him to take apart and reassemble a motorcycle engine in under four minutes. He'd done it, but the event had just served as one more piece of evidence that mechanics were weird people. Of course, some might argue that he himself was a lot weirder...

"Reason for leaving last job?" the secretary asked, trying to sound professional but flushing slightly as he smiled broadly at her.

"I accidentally punched through the wall of the garage when I didn't win the lottery," he told her. She laughed but he'd been serious; oh well, it was probably better that she didn't believe him.

"Name?" she asked him next, grinning at him.

"Alexander Roberts," he said, then flashed her a charming smile. "But you can call me Zane." She flushed crimson and took his resume from him, glancing over it.

"Wait here for one moment, please..." she said. "Zane." Then she stood and walked into the back, where the boss must have been. Zane watched her go, already imagining what could happen between the two of them if he got this job.

"Do not attempt to adjust your set," a voice suddenly broke through the daytime television droning from behind him. He turned and looked at the screen and saw a man's eyes, with bars of red, white and blue on the top and bottom of the screen, and the words 'STREAMING FREEDOM VIDEO' rolling across them. Zane was immediately all ears; this was the man and the exact type of broadcast that had forced him to leave his home in Hollywood a year ago. Then, it said his position, as well as those of three of his sisters and one brother, had been compromised and Lydecker was onto them. He'd gotten away, as he could only assume the others had, and now, in Santa Fe, he braced himself for what the 'freedom video' would say this time.

"This is a streaming freedom video bulletin," the voice of the eyes continued. "The cable hack cannot be traced, it cannot be stopped, and it is the only free voice left in this city. New information has come to light about the Project Manticore Facility." Zane held his breath. "Manticore-trained doctors and scientists have been performing covert procedures on prisoners involving mind control, employing techniques such as exposure to propaganda and subliminal messages, torture, and psychological manipulation. All this is done in order to turn the prisoner into an obedient slave ready to do Manticore's bidding. Recently, a failed attempt on the life of a high official in the Eyes Only informant net was carried out by one such prisoner." An image of the Manticore chimera symbol appeared on the screen, and the caption 330417291559 scrolled underneath it. Zane's heart nearly stopped; that was Zack's barcode. What was this guy saying, that Zack had been captured, reprogrammed... turned? It couldn't be, that was impossible! But Zane had left three messages on Zack's contact mailbox over the last year, two of which had been important, but his brother hadn't phoned him... Zane swallowed hard as the transmission on the television continued.

"Members of the Manticore staff have perpetrated crimes against this individual; but he has escaped you. And now, the tables have been turned: Manticore wants you dead for the information you have. Only you know how to reverse the wrongs that have been done to this man. This message is going straight to you, right out of Seattle and across the United States. Eyes Only knows who you are, and you will be punished. Come forward, and a deal may still be possible."

The secretary came back into the room, grinning, looking down at Zane's resume as she went to tell him that he'd gotten an interview. She looked up, but her smile fell away and was replaced by confusion and distress as she surveyed the empty waiting room. Outside, a truck revved its engine and tore into the road and out of sight.


Zack stopped at a payphone outside of Seattle, almost smiling as he thought of Max, who would probably be at a similar payphone herself soon, calling the contact number he had finally given her. As he'd written to her, he knew how much having that number would mean to her, and he liked the thought of having made her happy. A thought at the back of his mind told him that it could be a mistake, but Zack had decided that the possibly of a breach in security was an acceptable tactical risk.

As Zack took a quarter out of his pocket and lifted the receiver of the telephone, he caught sight of a television behind the glass of an electronics shop, showing live news coverage of police officers gathered around the entrance to an old, run-down apartment building. He swallowed as the camera panned to two paramedics pushing a stretcher away from the building with a body bag on top of it. Zack looked away.

He'd had to kill Alyssa, he knew, and the soldier part of him stood by his decision to do so. But the other, less apparent part, the human side of him, had known Alyssa, had considered her a friend. Of course, all the memories between them had occurred when he'd believed himself to be Adam, but still... she'd been kind to him, helped him uncover his true identity and remember everything that had happened to him. It wasn't fair to her that he'd killed her; it wasn't fair to him that he'd had to. She'd known too much: that Zack was alive and well, where Alec and Max lived... Manticore could have easily gotten to her; she was a gentle woman, and would have been susceptible to an interrogation. But even so... he just wished he hadn't had to do it.

Zack shook his guilty thoughts away; what was done was done, and now because of his decision- which he still believed to be right- Max would be safe. And Alec, though he cared less about him since he hadn't been protecting him for over ten years, and nor did he grow up with him. And, of course, Zack himself would be safe, something he took comfort in only because it would mean the others' safety as well.

He dialled the number he'd given Max and before his brief message could finish punched in the twelve-digit code to give him access to the mailbox. It had taken him several hours of wracking his brain to remember it, but finally he had because it was made up of select numbers of each of his twelve escaped siblings' barcodes in a random order.

"To record a new greeting, press 1," the automatic voice of the mailbox droned. Zack tapped his fingers impatiently on the base of the payphone. "To listen to new messages, press 2." Zack hit the two and waited.

"You have seven new messages," the voice told him; Zack's face paled. "If at any time you would like to repeat a message-" Zack hit the one to listen to the first message.

"Zack, it's me."


Zack walked stealthily through the foliage, over logs and debris, holding a semi-automatic in his hands and seeing his breath in the cold darkness of the forest around him. The little girl walking just behind him stopped at a motion of his hand, along with the other two children with them. He turned to them and made some signals of direction. Ben and Jace nodded, heading off to take up flanking positions as they moved in on the objective. The child before him gazed up at him with a sweet face and watched attentively as he instructed her with hand movements as well. The moonlight caught in her half-inch fuzz of blonde hair and Zack smiled down at her with love before continuing through the trees, the little girl walking obediently behind him, her machine gun ready.


Syl; she was close to tears.

"God, I hope you get this message. I'm so worried about you." Her voice shook. "I tried to get to you, but... the X7s- there were too many of them. I'm sorry. I hope you're alright. Krit and I got out okay, so don't worry. We know about Max, Lydecker told us... I can't believe she's gone. Our little sister..." Now she was crying. "Zack, please escape and get this message. Call me; I'm back in Sacramento. 916-555-1297. And Zack... Max wasn't your fault. Don't think that, okay? I love you."

"1:02pm, Sunday, May 24th, 2020," the automated voice stated after the message had finished. Two days after the assault on Manticore. He'd have to call her and tell her Max was alive, and that he was okay. He pressed the button that would bring him to the next message.

"Hey Zack."


"Tell Ben to stop yelling," the little boy said fearfully, sitting down next to Zack. "The guards will hear him." Zack turned and looked toward the window Ben had climbed out of, seeing Max staring out of it. He frowned.

"What did we do wrong?" They heard Ben's voice scream from the High Place. Zack looked at the boy next to him and touched his shoulder.

"He's sad about Jack," Zack told him, just managing to keep back the shake in his voice. He was sad about Jack, too. The child looked up at him.

"Make him stop yelling," he said again, in a smaller voice. "Or I'll beat him up." He was hiding his fear with toughness, as always. Zack turned to tell Max he wanted Ben back inside, but the sirens suddenly broke the silence of the night. The little boy next to him covered his ears as though in pain, his eyes filled with both anger and fear.

"Go back to bed, now!" Zack called to Max, motioning for the rest of the children who were up to do the same. All but the child beside him scampered away quickly, climbing between their blankets and closing their eyes. Zack, worried, gazed toward the window, knowing that he couldn't leave most of his siblings alone in order to save one brother already in the process of being apprehended. The boy sitting on Zack's bed hesitated for a moment, looking out the window. He started to stand, fists clenched, but instead shivered suddenly as Ben's voice stopped screaming from the roof and the yard outside was flooded with an unholy light.


Krit; his always-gentle but tough voice was pained.

"I'm okay, so is Syl. I'm sure she's called you. I still can't really accept that Max is dead, but Lydecker told us she was. I hope he was lying. Anyway, when you get out and get this- because I know you'll get out, Zack- I just wanted to tell you that I love you, and Max dying wasn't your fault, alright? So call me. I'm in Great Falls, at 406-555-7644. Bye." Zack was unsettled by this message, almost identical to Syl's. How had his brother and sister known that he would blame himself for Max's death? The answer was, of course, because he blamed himself for everything negative that happened to his siblings, but Zack didn't want to dwell on that.

"11:19am, Monday, May 25th, 2020," he was told. He clicked the one to hear the next message.

"Zack, hi."


"... and then all the children in the castle got away, and they went out into the Real World and they were very, very happy." For once it was Tinga trying her hand at a story, and though Ben had been slightly put out at first he was enjoying it now. "And the evil king never found them, because they were too smart."

The children sitting around her smiled at each other, pleased that this story had been much nicer than most of Ben's. Brin looked at Tinga, two sets of dark eyes meeting, one thoughtful and one cheerful.

"That was a wonderful story," Brin, always ready to compliment, to love, said in her sweet voice. Next to her, a little girl was grinning at Tinga, her blue eyes wide with fascination at what she'd just heard.

"It was great," she said happily in a high voice. She looked at Zack, meaningfully. "And one day it will happen."

"One day," Zack agreed.

"If we're good soldiers," Ben added solemnly. Zack looked at him.

"We're good soldiers already."

"Maybe the Real World is the Good Place," the blue-eyed girl suggested. Before Ben could say what he undoubtedly would say, Zack stood.

"Time for bed," he said. All the children stood except Max and the other girl; Zack knew they didn't sleep. He gazed down at them, frowning and starting to tell them to go to bed anyway, but the older girl looked up at him and smiled sweetly. Zack's frown fell away, and as he looked at her he decided that there was no real harm in them staying up. He left them there, playing and whispering together, two happy little sisters, and climbed into his own bed contentedly.


Jondy; she sounded frightened.

"I need to see you." Zack held his breath. "I think Lydecker's onto me, but I heard Manticore was gone, so I don't get it. Anyway, there have been some guys following me around for almost a week. They haven't tried anything yet, but I'm a little nervous. Can you come to Austin? I just hope you're close..." She added quickly, "I gotta go. I'll wait for your call. 512-555-3864. Bye, Zack." His breath caught, his hands started shaking. Jondy. Jondy had needed him- when? And he hadn't been there.

"3:13pm, Friday, July 17th, 2020," the automated voice said. Oh God! Zack panicked. Almost seven months ago! She had needed him almost seven months ago and he had never called; he'd been stuck in Manticore and Jondy had been in trouble! Zack hit one to hear the next message, dreading what it might reveal next.

"Zack!"


"Do you think the stars are bigger up there?" a little boy, his face without its usual smile as he gazed up through the window at the sky.

"Why would they be bigger?" Zack asked, looking at him. They were sitting on their beds in the quiet barracks.

"I don't know." The boy shrugged. "One of the nurses said that they're actually huge balls of fire. Did you know that, Zack?"

"She was just kidding," Zack said, because he didn't know. It sounded like a joke to him.

"Oh," the child took this as fact, as everything Zack said was to his siblings. He stared at the stars. "Well, whatever they are, they're pretty," the boy said softly. Zack smiled down at him, nodded.

"Yeah."

"Zack?"

"Yes?"

"I love you," the boy said; he had always been a child who could easily express his emotions, though the guards and the nurses- and most of all Lydecker- discouraged emotions.

"Me, too," Zack said, laying a hand briefly on his bald head in affection.

"The nurses told me a joke today." He was always getting those and retelling them to his siblings, though they didn't always understand them, and neither did he. "Wanna hear?"

"Sure," Zack said, putting an arm around the child and gazing up at the peaceful sky.


Zane; he was excited.

"I need to talk to you. I think I've met the one! You know, the one? I think we're going to get married, bro! I love her so much... her name's Vanessa. Isn't that a great name, Vanessa? Call me- I'm in Kansas. My number's..." Zane's voice got quieter as he moved his face away from the phone. "What's the area code here, baby?" A female voice said something, and he spoke into the receiver again, "505-555-2948. Anyway, I'll talk to you, man." There was a click, and Zack rolled his eyes at this message; his 'greeting' specifically said that this mailbox was to be used for emergencies. Zane; he never changed. God, Zack loved him.

"12:07pm, Tuesday, July 21st, 2020," the automated voice told him. Zack pressed the button.

"Zack, it's Zane again." He sounded worried. "Where are you, man? I got a call from Jondy yesterday, don't know how she found me. Anyway, she's scared pretty bad. I'm in New Mexico, so I went over to Texas where she's living. There were some guys following her- she said she called you but you never showed? That's not like you; what's going on? She and I are going to stay together in Santa Fe until we hear from you, okay? If that doesn't make you call, I don't know what will. Tactical exposure and all that. Phone us, bro. Bye." But the phone didn't click off, and Zane came back onto the line. He sounded sheepish. "Oh, and don't worry about my last message. Vanessa's gone. We... well, never mind. Just call. Same number as last time, 505-555-2948." He disconnected.

"12:29am, Wednesday, July 29th, 2001." Zack moved on to the next message.

"Zack, you're scaring us! Where are you?" Jondy sounded terrified; her voice was shaking. "We're okay, me and Zane, we're not in any trouble, but we're worried about you. Why haven't you been returning our calls? I really needed you in Austin, where were you? I-" She choked on her words as her tears started.

"Give me the phone, Jondy," Zack heard Zane's gentle voice in the background. After a moment his brother came on the line. "Look, this isn't funny, man. Where are you? Call us, please. Same number as before, in Santa Fe." There was a short pause, and then Zane said softly, "I love you, Zack." He hung up, and Zack closed his eyes briefly at the painful message. I'm so sorry, he thought, a lump gathering in his throat. He should have been there! But at least Jondy was okay, though he didn't like the idea of them still being together. It was tactical exposure, just as Zane had joked. But it wasn't a joke, Zack knew. Not to him.

"5:23pm, Thursday, December 10th, 2020," the voice told him. Zack punched the button impatiently.

"Zack, it's Krit," his little brother's voice came through to him. "I haven't heard from you, but I'm sure you must be out of Manticore by now..." He swallowed hard. "I'm just calling to let you know I'm leaving Great Falls. I've got an apartment lined up in Helena, with a view of the mountains. It's going to be great! You should come visit, when... Well, when you're ready. I'm sure you have a lot to do." He cleared his throat. "Anyway, the number there's 406-555-9600; I'll be moved into the place in about a week. I'll see you soon."

"7:15pm, Wednesday, January 11th, 2021," the automated voice said; two weeks ago. Zack hit the button again.

"There are no new messages. To repeat-" Zack hung up the receiver, stood there for a moment, emotions churning in his head: guilt, relief, sorrow, pain, grief, anger, love... Then his face hardened in determination as he climbed onto his motorcycle. Now he had a specific destination, a mission; he revved the engine and headed for Santa Fe.