OUR CAUSE HAS GONE INSANE
TAGLINE: He helped her escape. So why does the caller ID say Renfro? An AU story in which Logan is dead, Manticore still exists, and Alec can't decide which side he's on.
DISCLAIMER: I am a mere writer of fiction and do not claim to own any of the concepts behind the Dark Angel canon. Full credit goes to Cameron, Eglee, and reluctantly, Fox. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of myself. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: I know, I know. Haven't updated KWAF for a while, but the great imaginary writer's block monster has reared it's ugly head. I don't want to give y'all a crappy chapter, so hopefully this little one-shot will help me get over my problem. Oh, wait. It's not a one-shot any more. Crap.
Sometimes Max swore that Seattle had no weather. You know those days where the sky is a dull gray, there is no wind and the temperature is not quite cold enough for a jacket, yet too chilly for just a t-shirt. Yes, today was a weather free day.
To be fair, the city usually had very pronounced weather patterns. They usually involved rain, and Max wasn't very fond of rain. She also wasn't a fan of wind, so a no-weather day suited her just nicely, and it was a shame it had to be spoiled by work.
"Bip bip, Maxine. I don't pay you to use the talky-stick!"
Max paused in mid sentence and rolled her eyes, "for the last time, Normal. My name is Max, not Maxine. Don't make me put the smackdown on your flat ass."
"I haven't got all day Max. Will you do it or not?" The voice on the other end of the phone was almost drowned out my Normal's angry retort.
"Yeah, we'll do it. Since when do I have a choice?"
"You're a good soldier Max, but one of these days your mouth is going to get you in a sticky situation."
"Yeah yeah. Tell it to someone who cares. What time's the pickup?"
"7pm. Don't be late or I'll give you surveillance next time."
"I'm not the one who takes forty-five minutes to pick out the right jacket." She hung up.
"Please tell me you didn't volunteer me again?" The frustrated voice came from the other side of her locker door, where an athletic young man was putting on some cycle gloves.
"She wants us both. Says it's a two person job and you are the only other person around here who I think will be able to take out a bunch of Pakistani militants." Max crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. "Besides, this is all your fault in the first place."
"Why do you insist on blaming me for our situation? It was going to happen whether I was involved or not!" He turned away and headed for the dispatch counter.
"7 o'clock, Alec. Don't be late or I'll kick your ass from here to next year!"
He didn't even look at her as he gave her the finger.
The flight to Pakistan was largely uneventful. Alec had arrived on time, and they had left without incident. After five minutes, Alec's jiggling was starting to wear on Max's nerves. Ten minutes after that, it was starting to make it difficult for her to concentrate on her military strategy book. After half an hour she couldn't stand it any more and hit him hard in the head with the hefty volume.
"Couldn't you have brought something to do? Are you seriously going to sit there fourteen hours waggling your foot?" A mock pouty look was staring back at her and she felt no remorse at her sudden violent outburst.
"I'm going to have a nap. I'm just not tired yet." The voice was slightly higher pitched than normal, eyebrows raised. It was reminiscent of a seventeen year old explaining to their parents why they had just paid four hundred dollars for a pair of sneakers.
"So read up the mission file or something, just please, for the love of god stop moving around!" She turned back to her book and moved a few more inches away from the still jiggling man beside her. Alec moved closer, making sure his leg was touching Max's. He knew she had already read the same book twice before, and was only doing it again to make him look bad in front of the small backup unit sharing the plane.
"I can think of something far more exciting...." He was leering at her now. Max gave him a dark look and shivered in disgust. Alec leaned back and went to sleep, he was wearing her down.
Although the operation was not an an officially sanctioned by the military, their commander had somehow managed to get a hold of an old KC-135. The long range and decent cruising speed made it perfect for a clandestine HALO jump into the Hingol National Park.
The pair of transgenics waited patiently for the plane to come up on the drop point. The altitude was around thirty-seven thousand feet and on the edge of what their human companions would be able to survive. Max furtively glanced at the unit's leader who was standing to her left, he looked totally relaxed.
"You ever done this before?" She asked.
"Yeah. Never gone above thirty five though. You?"
"First time for everything." The soldier raised his eyebrows.
"Your first time and they're throwing you out at this altitude? I sure hope you're built the way they say you are. Especially without oxygen." He pulled his own oxygen mask on and patted her on the shoulder. Max pulled her gray balaclava over her goggles.
Two minutes later she was plummeting to the ground, waiting for her altimeter to show five hundred feet. The noise from the air rushing around her was almost painful to her sensitive hearing and she could feel the tip of her nose going numb, but it she couldn't deny it was an exhilarating experience. She could see Alec about a hundred yards to her right hurtling towards the earth at terminal velocity. She briefly wondered if he had done this before, and then decided it was a stupid question.
She could see the ground coming up fast and checked the little gauge attached to her wrist. It was only a few seconds before it hit five hundred and she pulled the cord, the chute deployed and she was jerked upright. She let out a deep breath. No training, no PT, and above the altitude cutoff. Welcome to being government property.
Alec was running towards her across the dark desert, having only landed a short distance away. Their group was to travel in teams of two to a compass point approximately ten kilometers away from their current location. Only when the full group had reassembled at the rendezvous point the team leader of the support group would brief them on the assignment. According to him it was under Renfro's orders no-one was to know the details until the last possible moment. Max knew this was so Alec and herself didn't back out, it was obviously going to be a bitch of a job.
"So what do you think, Rescuing an X5 who's got themselves in a sticky situation? Theft of nuclear warheads? Maybe Renfro's finally got desperate and needs us to kidnap her a boyfriend." He was looking at her with raised eyebrows and a mock sympathetic face. Max poked her tongue out at him.
"Come on, time to head to the rendezvous. Don't want to keep the boys waiting." She checked her GPS and started walking towards the dot showing on the screen.
"Max, wait a sec." Grabbing her arm he turned her to face him, expression unusually serious, "I know you resent me for getting you into this, but I really am sorry."
"Now's not the time, Alec." She was frowning.
Alec let go of her arm and she turned back in the direction of their destination. The last thing she needed now was her pain in the ass partner having a guilt induced epiphany. Silently, she started in the direction of the little flashing dot, not waiting for Alec to follow. He could go to hell if he thought she was going to let him lead the way.
It took them less than an hour to travel the short distance to the rendezvous point, the rocky and mountainous terrain was going to be difficult for the rest of their team to traverse, but for the two transgenics, it was no different than a normal day of avoiding homeless people and gangsters in Seattle.
They sat in uncomfortable silence on a rocky outcrop. All of Alec's attempts at conversation were shot down by Max, who insisted they should maintain complete silence. Alec had pointed out that they were about to have a conversation regarding their target and attack strategy with the rest of the team but she wouldn't have a bar of it.
"Max, are you forgetting that I am technically the one in charge here? After all, I'm the one who was assigned to keep you in check."
"No. You pissing me off reminds me of Logan, which in turn reminds me of this ludicrous situation I find myself in. Please shut up now."
Her words hurt. Although he had been following orders, he still felt the responsibility of Logan's death hanging heavily over his head. He almost wished he had waited a few moments before shooting her with the tranquilizer so she could have transmitted Eyes Only's last ever message. At least then he could be sitting in a bar somewhere hitting on a hot blonde, not stuck in the middle of a rocky desert waiting to do god knows what for a group of people he wasn't entirely sure if he was loyal to.
"Do you speak Urdu?"
Max ignored him. It had been a trick question anyway.
She continued to ignore him until the rest of the team arrived, their gray fatigues almost invisible in the darkness. Alec was impressed, for a bunch of ordinaries they were surprisingly quiet, Most of the Manticore soldiers were about as quiet as a herd of Elephants crossing the Ganges.
"Okay team, gather round." Higgins, the unit's leader was spreading a map of the area out on one of the few level patches around. He pointed to a symbol on the map, at the same time nodding in Max and Alec's direction. "This is your target. And before you ask, yes it is the Hinglaj Mata. You are extracting an important asset to the program who is being held captive in a facility buried behind the shrine. Gibb here has an EMP which will kill all the electronic devices in the area, which shouldn't make much of a difference because this is only a rudimentary prison. The device will cut out any visual and audio devices for approximately two minutes, by which time I expect to see you heading back here."
"What resistance should we expect once inside the facility?" Max was starting to get suspicious.
"That's where things may get interesting. This is a Conclave site. You should expect resistance from low level familiars, most likely those who's genetics make them suitable for little more than guard duty. You shouldn't come in contact with any Phalanx but be prepared for possibility of some unusual abilities. Any questions?" He looked at the two transgenics and appeared unsurprised when Alec spoke up.
"Who's the target?"
"You'll know him when you see him."
It had gone off without a hitch. No telekinetic familiars, no Phalanx, no resistance whatsoever. The morons the Conclave had left in charge hadn't even noticed the sparks from the gas cutter they had used to open the door of the cell they had the prisoner in.
Even so, Max was royally pissed.
Colonel Donald Lydecker stood in front of her, hands still cuffed and a scowl on his face so deep she prayed the wind would change.
"Are these handcuffs really necessary?" His voice was as calm and cool as ever, not betraying the obvious strain he had been under for the last few months.
"Bosses orders, Deck. Can't let you out of the cuffs until you've been through a fully psych assessment." Higgins looked mildly amused at his former commander's current predicament. Lydecker's face remained impassive.
"Remind me again why we didn't leave him there?" Max turned to Alec, her frown almost as severe as the older man's, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Because then we would end up straight back in the Manticore machine, waiting for some LASIK surgery." He glanced in Higgins' direction. "Come on, time to move out, it's a long trek." Higgins nodded.
"Split up into your original pairs. Deck, you're with the Kryptonians here." He waved his hand towards the two transgenics, who both pulled a face. Lydecker's scowl softened a little. "We'll see you at the next rendezvous."
Alec walked towards Lydecker and grabbed an arm. "Come on, old man. Time for a nice long walk." He pushed him towards Max, who was already heading for the next little blipping dot on her GPS.
An hour later and the complete silence was starting to get to the Colonel. These two used to be two of the most free thinking of his 'kids' and now they both appeared to be the perfect Manticore pets. He knew the reindoctrination Max had been through over the past six months or so would have been extreme, eleven years on the outside needed harsh treatment which she wasn't trained to resist, and he knew Renfro wouldn't have pulled any punches.
494, however, was a bit of a mystery. Lydecker knew he had resisted reindoctrination in the past, and the Berrisford mission hadn't been an exception. He had been in the assessment room himself when he had been cleared to go back to training, and recognized a complete fleecing when he saw it. 494 appeared on the surface to be a rigid, emotionless piece of government property, but Donald had known the kid since he was born. This was 494 doing what he was bred to do – resist any and all attempts at information retrieval. This unit was one of Manticore's best.;
"What's the deal with you two anyway? Are you really Renfro's pet chimeras or do you both have sticks up your asses for a different reason?"
"Shut the hell up Donald, or you'll have my boot so far up your ass your spleen will be full of rubber."
"So I'm talking to Max then, not 452? Must be a pretty big stick then, if you're working for the ice queen."
"I swear to god, if you don't shut your pie hole I'll happily give you back to the Familiars."
The rest of the trip was spent in yet more silence. He knew the transgenic pair were frustrated by the slow speed they were having to travel, but being given enough food only to stay alive wasn't the best way to prepare for a half marathon. When he finally felt the ground leveling out he breathed a sigh of relief, and not long after the small group stopped.
"The rest of them should be here shortly, their route's may have been longer but they weren't weighed down my a malnourished, dehydrated old man." Max looked pointedly at the aforementioned 'old man' and Donald for the first time in his life felt grateful to two of the kids who had caused the most anguish in his stress filled time on earth. He sat down on the dusty ground, trying to avoid the small rocks that seemed to be there solely for him to trip up on.
"What's she got on you, Max? I know she killed Logan, but surely that wasn't enough for you to have a total breakdown?"
"I cut a deal."
"Are you mad? That woman will eat you for breakfast given the chance."
"Apparently I was created for a specific purpose by Sandeman. I told her I would kill myself unless she let me go home to Seattle, she told me she'd lock me up in a cell for the rest of my life unless I did the odd job for her."
"And 494?" He inclined his head towards their companion.
"He's a constant pain in my ass."
"There to keep an eye on you?"
"Got it in one."
"I'm right here, you know. I don't need to be genetically engineered to hear a conversation happening six feet away." 494 sounded mildly pissed.
"What did she call you?"
"Alec." Donald chuckled a little.
"My my, aren't you perceptive?" Yes, definitely a smart alec.
Alec breathed a sigh of relief when the late model Lakota chopper picked them up. It was only a short trip to Karachi, and there was a nice hotel room with a mini bar waiting for him. The rest of the unit had only been five minutes behind the leading group, but it had been the most uncomfortable five minutes of his life. Stuck in the desert with a woman who hated the ground he walked on, and a man who had spent the last twenty or so years trying to beat him into submission was definitely what he would call the ideal situation. Thankfully the chopper had picked them up almost immediately and they were now only an hour away from the aforementioned minibar.
"494." Alec turned his body to the man sitting behind him.
"You, 452, and Lydecker are gonna be staying in the same room. I don't want the Colonel here trying to make a break for it before we get back on Manticore property." The anticipation Alec felt suddenly turned to dread. More time stuck with Miss Sullen and Mr Stoic.
"Gee, I never want this mission to end. You have no idea how much I love spending time with these two." He rolled his eyes and faced back towards the front of the helicopter.
"You know, son, I'm not that bad once you get to know me." Alec didn't turn in the direction of the voice. He continued to stare directly to the front.
"I do know you, Lydecker. You're an asshole."
"And Renfro's not a bitch?"
"She's even worse than you, old man." He didn't attempt to hide the bitterness.
"Then why don't you run? Take a leaf out of Max's book here and live the life you dream about?"
"It's easier this way. I don't want to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. Besides, I've got it pretty sweet." Alec's mouth was set in an expressionless line. The last thing he wanted was the older man picking up on how much he would like to do just that.
"She tried to kill me, you know. Programmed my face into a hoverdrone and sent it after me with a nine millimeter attached."
"I am aware of that operation."
"And you're just going to hand me back over to her? Let her shoot me herself?"
"I think the director's priorities have changed. She doesn't seem bothered about finding the other escapees. Max is the one she wanted."
"And why isn't Max in the compound stuck in a solitary cell?"
"You know as much as I do. Renfro's got some plan for her, and it's enough for her to let Max call most of the shots. Now will you shut up, all this yelling is making me hoarse." He finally turned to face Lydecker, exasperation getting the better of him. Competing over the noise of the chopper was starting to get on his nerves, and he knew Max could hear every word he was saying.
They flew the rest of the way in silence, only occasionally disturbed by the pilot's voice over their headsets. The chopper pad was on the roof of the Sheraton Karachi, a hotel known for it's discretion in sensitive matters. Alec had used this same chopper pad once before after a mission in Afghanistan had gone awry. They had made it from the hotel to the air base without even a hint of suspicion and he hoped this time would be no different. The last thing they needed were a bunch of Familiars knocking on their door at four in the morning.
Alec waved a thank you to the pilots, who were headed to Abu Dhabi. He didn't envy the long flight ahead of them and Chah Bahar was not the most pleasant of airports to refuel at. His own predicament, however, was not much more favorable.
He turned and headed to the freight elevator the rest of the group was now stepping into. It went straight to the basement, where they could change into street clothes and become normal rich American tourists out to experience the culture of the Pakistani nightlife.