Title: Family and Machine Guns

Author: Ashantai

E-Mail: ashantai@hotmail.com

Archive: Please ask!

Rating: G

Spoilers: 411 on the DL, Pollo Loco, Hit a Sista Back, AJBAC

Summary: A short story in which Max reflects on all the post-escape siblings she's seen so far on DA.

Author's Note: PLEASE review!!


I grew up in a place where we were created by scientists. We were genetically-engineered perfect soldiers, made to win a war on the off-chance they might need us to one day. But mostly we were experiments, and we turned out to be far from perfect. We had defects they didn't know about for a long time. Some of us died; some of us they killed when they found out about those defects. We were made to be soldiers, nothing more.

Only we were something more; we loved each other. We were a family. They didn't program love into us, but we had it just the same. I don't remember a time when it wasn't there because it always was. Imagine Manticore hearing me talk about my unit members as a family. But they were a family, and after the escape all I wanted was to get that family back again.

Zack- I searched for you for so long. You were the CO, our big brother, my protector at all times. You always made me feel safe as a child, you were the first person to teach me about love, the first person I ever trusted with my life and heart. All those years I searched for you, and finally found you. Or you found me. But you weren't what I had thought or hoped you'd be. You were still Manticore; still a soldier. It made me sad. But it also made me love you a thousand times more. Because you were the CO, our big brother, my protector at all times, and under all your training and discipline and duty, under all of it, I saw your blue eyes shining bright with love for me, too, Zack.

Brin- I saw you briefly when Zack had no other choice but to let me. That was a day that now seems like ages ago. You were afraid, sick, but still so beautiful. A long-lost friend, my sister. I was so scared you wouldn't be okay again, and that I had found you only in time to witness your death. Then Lydecker came, gave us an out. Gave you an out. You chose to take it. I didn't make you do it; Zack didn't. But only a fool would think that made it any easier to give you back, and only a fool would think we didn't blame ourselves. Zack especially. It was his fault as far as he was concerned. And again, I only loved him more for it. He cried with me. Did you know he could cry, Brin?

Jace- a little girl so afraid of everything when we were growing up. You were even afraid to break the chains that Manticore had given us and run away. I left you behind because Zack said we had to move. I wanted you to come with me, but I never thought they would make you hate me. Now you're in Mexico with your baby named Max, tanning on the beach. Safe. I'm so glad you got out of there finally, and that you're okay. I miss you, though not as much as the others I'll admit, because you stayed behind that night. I didn't even hug you goodbye when you left. But I am happy for you, happy for my niece or nephew, happy that you're out in the world, happy that you're free. Stay safe, Jace.

Ben- what happened to you? Why were you so different? Why were you so lost? You were running from yourself, I know. But didn't you realize you couldn't win? You taunted me, told me I was a killer, a predator. Sinful, wicked, evil. You wanted something. Your eyes were begging behind your hurtful words. But I didn't know what you wanted. I'm sorry I yelled at you, called you your worst fear, said the most horrible thing I could ever say to you. I was angry; I didn't mean it. I was scared; I didn't know how to save you. I'm so sorry. I didn't understand that night you went up the roof, either, screaming for Jack at the Blue Lady. Now I do. Far too late, I know, but I do. I can give you what you want now, what you were begging for with your eyes that day in that old factory. You don't have to be afraid now, I promise; it was never your fault. You were always a good soldier. Lydecker can't hurt you anymore and neither can the nomlies. And I don't care what anyone else says- I know where you are, Ben.

Tinga- I had grown up beside a sensitive child with deep, dark eyes, then I met a woman with the same eyes- my sister, now a mother. I watched you look at your son as the love shone out of your face, and it made me cry with joy. He was so beautiful, and you were so happy gazing at him. Then the unthinkable happened, and Lydecker wanted you to give yourself up to save Case's life. You would have done anything to save that little boy. I would have done anything, too. But Zack didn't seem to understand. He made me so angry when he wouldn't help. Only then he did help, just in time. I couldn't believe I had ever doubted him. He loved you so much, you know. Case, too, though he'd never admit it to anyone. In the end you did give yourself up for your son; of course you did. We were going to get you out, me and Zack. We were going to... I'm so sorry; it wasn't supposed to be like this for you. But don't worry. Your son escaped the king. He's safe thanks to you, and you never have to go back to the castle ever again, Tinga.

Krit- I saw you for such a very brief time. Too brief. I remembered you in Manticore, tough and quiet all at once. A conundrum with a small smile on full lips and dark, attentive eyes. Zack brought you in to save me from Lydecker. Perhaps a bit of an overreaction, but I didn't mind- I got to see you, didn't I? Even if just for a while. I died that night, but don't be sad. Zack saved me, it's along difficult story, but I'm okay. I wish I could tell you that. I wish I could tell you that's Zack's okay now, too. At least for the most part. He's safe at least, and happy. Isn't that what he always wanted for us? I wish I had gotten more time to see you, talk to you, ask you what you've been doing all this time. I didn't get a chance to find out anything about you. I know this, though, without a single doubt: I love you, Krit.

Syl- Like Krit, I saw you for only a short time. Blonde hair, brown eyes, a cute smile on a pretty face. You were so you. I remember growing up with you in Manticore. Your wide eyes, the gold halo of half-inch hair capping your head. I remember nights with you sitting next to me, listening to stories. I remember a training exercise, a bird that scared us because we'd never seen one. But don't be sad. It wasn't your fault he died. We didn't even know guns could kill us then. I remember the assault on Manticore, hearing your voice over the comm as we took it on. Were you as excited as I was? Were you as scared? I'm okay now. Zack is, too... I remember a little girl with a shaved head and wide brown eyes, who smiled softly and understood death far too soon. I remember a young woman who was as tired of running from Manticore as I was. But I wish I had gotten to know you better, and I would have loved to have had more time to talk, Syl.

I've wished for so long to see all my siblings again, and there have been some of you I have been lucky enough to meet back up with. I got such joy from looking at your faces, but most of you I got such pain from, too. But the trouble is, I can't pretend it wasn't worth it, because it was. So I'll go on hurting until I find the rest of you, knowing that I'll probably lose more of you along the way and so scared of that fact. One day we'll all be a family again, I know it; one day. You are my brothers and sisters, the first people I ever loved, before I even knew the word 'love.' You are all the most important thing in my life, and we'll see each other again. I promise we will because I will never stop looking for you. Not ever.