Walking Wounded

Disclaimer: I claim no rights to Dark Angel, or any of the characters you find here.

Spoilers: Set one month after the events of Exit Strategy, which included spoilers for the entire series.

A/N: Sorry for such a short and ridiculously late update- I've been writing and rewriting this chapter for months, and I finally decided to scrap most of what I had, save the three measly paragraphs below. Still, I wanted to post what I had, and let those of you still reading this thing know that I'm still writing it. Thanks for your patience, and for reading!

Chapter 15: Pyrrhic victory, Part 1

Transgenics liked to gossip; they were a lot like ordinaries in that way. For the past month, most of Terminal City's gossip had centered on X5-494. Stories ranged from entertaining to heart breaking, far-fetched to outright, over exaggerated drivel. They painted 494 as a trickster, a renegade, a loyal soldier betrayed by his own command, a loyal soldier who betrayed his command (for love, for money, for loyalty to his fellow soldiers, for personal outrage at Manticore's principles, or for no real reason at all).

Dix wasn't fond of hearsay. He always took rumors with a grain of salt, and never sought them out. Nonetheless, no amount of avoidance could have prevented these stories of 494 from reaching his ears. After the first few weeks, he even stopped chastising every transgenic who came within hearing distance, spouting whatever new anecdote the gossip mill had dredged up. He learned to file the incidents away to examine at a later time, when he had the energy and inclination to separate fact from fiction.

While no substantial amount of time ever materialized- they were in the middle of a siege, after all- he had managed to squirrel away a few minutes here and there, and discovered a few commonalities in the stories themselves. 494 was competent and a good tactician, an excellent marksman, but easily distracted when it came to hand-to-hand. He was dangerous, but not ruthless, and saw no shame in retreating and regrouping. He had killed, but wasn't a killer. He'd been punished for refusing to kill, sent to the basement, tortured and experimented on. He wasn't a killer.

It was a bluff. A well played, well executed, entirely believable bluff. It had to be. Dozens of stories couldn't be wrong.