Title: Ante Officium

Author: Ashantai

E-Mail: ashantai@hotmail.com

Archive: Please ask!

Pairings: Dunno yet... :)

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: Probably lots because I have a thing for flashbacks... likely any episode Zack has ever appeared in will be spoiled. :)

Summary: When White captures Joshua, Max enlists the help of Zack and a small army of X5s to save him from becoming just another piece of erased Manticore evidence.

Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel, wish I did, don't sue me please.


This story is part 3 of the Via Memorius series. Click on my name to see the rest (they are numbered 1-4)


ANTE OFFICIUM - Chapter 1

"You have one new message," Zack's voice mailbox told him. He hit the one, and Max's soft, happy voice came over the line.

"Thank you, Zack," she said, and there was a click. Zack hung up the phone and frowned for a moment at the non-emergency call, then slowly smiled as he shook his head and deposited a second quarter, dialling a number from memory. It rang eleven times.

"Hello?" a sleepy, slightly annoyed voice finally answered; Zack checked his watch and realized it was past 0200, both where he was and in Helena. He'd lost track of the time.

"Krit?" Zack asked; he heard a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line as his brother awoke fully.

"Zack?" he breathed. "Is that you?"

"It's me. Sorry it's taken so long to call."

"I've been so worried about you, Zack!" he cried. "How long have you been out of Manticore? What did they do to you, are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Zack said. "Don't worry. Listen, though, Max isn't dead." There was a short pause on the line. "Krit, did you hear me?"

"Lydecker said-"

"She was dead, but... it's complicated."

"You saved her." It wasn't a question; there was a relieved smile in his voice. "I knew you wouldn't have let her die."

"Yeah, well..."

"How is she?"

"She's good." Zack smiled into the phone. "She's doing fine."

"What about Syl, have you talked to her yet? She'll be so happy to hear about Max."

"I'm going to call her after I hang up with you," Zack told him. "How's Chicago?"

"Nice. I've got a place right on the lake. It's really great, you should come see it."

"Maybe later," Zack said. "I've got some things to take care of."

"You always do... You sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine." Zack cleared his throat. "Well, I should let you go back to sleep."

"Yeah, right. You think I'll be able to sleep after this call?" Zack smiled, allowed a brief pause.

"Anyway," he continued, "I just wanted to let you know Max and I are fine."

"Thanks, Zack," Krit said softly.

"I'll talk to you later, alright?"

"Okay. I love you, Zack," he said. Zack stood there for a moment, remembering Jondy and Zane walking into the shadows, devastated, alone... because of him.

"I love you, too, Krit," he said, barely above a whisper. He hesitated. "Take care of yourself. Watch your back, okay?"

"But Manticore's gone," Krit's confused voice came.

"Just don't let your guard down," Zack insisted.

"All right, I won't," Krit said slowly, after a moment.

"Good. Bye, Krit." Zack hung up the phone, took a huge breath, and deposited another quarter. Syl answered on the third ring; she was in California, two hours before Zack.

"Hello?" she answered cheerfully.

"Hey," Zack said, glad to hear her voice again after all this time. He heard a thump as the phone tumbled from her hand, then a muffled sound as she dived after it, bringing it shakily to her ear.

"Zack, thank God," she breathed through relieved tears. "I've been waiting ages for you to call me! I was almost sure you were dead."

"Yeah, sorry about that... I've had things to take care of. But I'm okay, Syl. How are you doing?"

"Everything's fine here," she said, then added quickly, "What did they do to you?"

"Nothing I couldn't bounce back from," he answered, shrugging her question off. There was a short pause, then her soft, shaking voice came over the line.

"I tried to get to you, Zack, I really did. But the X7s... there were so many of them. And you were at least half a klick away before... I- I didn't see them until they were already on you. I'm sorry, Zack. I should have tried harder to..." She swallowed hard.

"Don't cry, Syl," Zack said softly. "It's okay, I'm just glad you got yourself the hell out of there. I'm just glad you're okay now."

"And our little Maxie..." she sobbed.

"Max is alive," he told her, and there was shocked silence for several moments.

"Lydecker lied to us?" Her voice was filled with fury when she finally spoke. "I'm going to kill that-"

"No, no, he didn't lie," Zack said, though he immediately regretted sticking up for the man they all hated and didn't really know why he'd done it. "Besides, he might already be dead."

"I don't understand."

"It's complicated," Zack echoed the explanation he'd given his brother. "Look, I have to go now. I just wanted to see if you were okay."

"You're not going to come and see me?" She sounded so disappointed that it hurt him to hear her say it.

"No, I have some other things I have to do," he said gently. "I'll visit you another time, okay?"

"Okay..." She sounded so sad.

"I love you, Syl," he said after a moment.

"I love you too, Zack," she answered, sounding both surprised and delighted that he'd said it first. He smiled, relieved to hear the happiness in her voice.

"Bye, Syl," he said, and hung up the phone. He started to turn away from the phone booth, but something made him hesitate, deposit another quarter, and call his voice mailbox again.

"Zack," his message started. "This better-" Zack punched in the code and there was a beep.

"You have one new message," the automated voice said. Zack frowned; how had he known that? He hit the one to hear the message.

"Zack, it's me. I don't know if you still check this mailbox, but I didn't know who else to call. I want you to come and see me, if you're still the CO. It's not an emergency, and I don't even know if you're going to call me back. Maybe you're dead." The voice lowered, sounding almost uncertain. "I hope you're not dead. You always said you'd look out for all of us, even if... Anyway, I'm calling you because I remembered that. So you'd better come. You helped me once, Zack... well, lots of times... saved my life. And I am grateful, though I know... I know that I haven't shown it. I couldn't show it. But now... I don't know what's wrong with me, if it's wearing off, or if it was always just me and never them and I was weak..." The voice became annoyed. "Look, this probably doesn't make a lot of sense to you, and it makes even less sense to me... I'm in Carson City... Nevada. The number here is 775-555-5762. So just call me, okay?" There was a click, and he stood there for several moments, staring disbelievingly at nothing.


Author's Note: Yes, I know, it took pretty long for Zack to return Syl and Krit's calls... but he was busy with Jondy and Zane and White and getting shot and all that... and it wasn't like they were emergencies... so yeah, it's all good. No worries. :)