Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Angel so don't sue me. Thanks. :-)
A/N: WOW! I can't believe I made it to PART THREE of a trilogy! :) Thanks for reading along and please feel free to review! I love reviews!
Ex Multus Familia: Part 3
"It still looks depressing." Sidda folded her arms against the chill wind; in the middle of Seattle winter even a transgenic could feel the cold, especially when they were only wearing a leather jacket.
Alec slipped an arm around her and pulled her in close. "We're trying to clean it up," he said, his sigh blowing a gust of warm air across the top of her head.
They had been out walking; Robin had insisted that they let her watch Aiden for a bit. She said it was imperative they get away for their mental health and wouldn't take no for an answer. And as much as Sidda loved Aiden, she was sort of grateful to Robin. It was nice to have some alone time with Alec every now and then.
"Mmm, peace and quiet," Alec said.
Sidda laughed. "I was just thinking that." She shook her head. Aiden was well into the wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-stage, and it had been a little rough on the two of them. It sometimes felt like he was awake all the time, which had to be physically impossible…right?
Alec tugged on Sidda's hand and pulled her along the road, away from the rubble of the Cultural Center. It had mostly been cleaned up, blocks of usable stone and wood moved to fix up other buildings, smaller buildings being constructed in its place. But bits and pieces of the skeleton of the old place were still there.
"You know they're just biding their time," Alec said.
Sidda rolled her eyes at him. He had developed an annoying habit of seeming to be able to read her mind way too easily. "But still…"
"Hey, at least Max has chilled out about letting us go to the farm," Alec said. Recognizing that she was going to have a mutiny of her hands if the transgenic were restricted to Terminal City any longer, Max had finally given into pressure to ease up on restrictions, despite the fact that they hadn't managed to get any closer to discovering who the Familiars in the government were and which group of Familiars exactly was after them.
"Well, much longer and most of us would have gone anyway," Sidda said. Not all of them had lived in the city for years like Max. When they hadn't been in their dorms or in the training buildings, a lot of them had been in the woods around Manticore or in deep cover missions where they had a whole lot more freedom.
But even the 09ers didn't like the feeling of being penned in constantly. It wasn't really in a transgenic's nature to stay put for very long…Max was sort of unique when it came to that particular need. Most of them did feel a need to be with others of their kind though, and being in a large group allowed them to do that more safely than if they were only with their squads. Small squads would have been easy for the government to take out if they had the right equipment.
Alec smiled and raised an eyebrow as he looked at Sidda. "Some of us did go away," he reminded her.
"Hey, that's not fair!" Sidda scowled at him, but she couldn't keep it up for long when Alec made the same face right back at her. A pouting scowl was just a funny look for Alec.
"Come on, dork," Sidda said, angling toward a road that would eventually take them back to their apartment. "We better go relieve Robin of babysitting duties before she pulls her hair out."
"Are you kidding?" Alec asked, even as he complied with Sidda's directional change. "That woman loves those babies. I'd swear, if we weren't careful, she'd probably make off with Aiden in the night or something."
Sidda snorted, not even bothering to deign that ridiculous idea with an answer. As if Robin would actually ever steal a baby from someone.
When they got back though, Robin did look slightly harassed. She had her arms folded and was glaring down at Aiden and Taylor, who both had very innocent looks on their faces. It was amazing how natural that look was for children, even when they weren't even old enough to realize they were using it.
"What happened? Sidda asked as she and Alec stepped into the nursery.
Robin shook her head. "They're just being their usual selves. Always fighting over the same exact toy; can't use the one that looks just like it, noooo, they have to have the one that the other is holding!"
Alec raised an eyebrow. "Aiden actually managed to play tug-o-war with Taylor?"
"Not really," Robin said, smiling slightly, "But it always sets them both off into crying fits."
"And it's absolutely lovely," Sidda said sarcastically. She'd had to deal with this sort of incident several times herself.
"Oh, Seth called," Robin said as she picked up Taylor and Alec picked up Aiden, who squirmed around in his arms. "He said that there's supposed to be a meeting at Headquarters tonight." Her tone became more serious. "We've gotten some new information on a split in the ranks of the Familiars. Also, some of the transgenics have been advocating for revenge against Telic, as you know, and someone's probably going to call for some action on that tonight."
"Oh, yay, what a fun meeting to have a week before Christmas," Sidda said after leaning over to kiss Aiden's forehead. Sometimes she really understood Max and her want of a normal life. It would have been nice if they didn't have to worry about people wanting to kill them or them wanting to kill those people right around what was supposed to be a holiday all about forgiveness.
"Well, that's how we managed to get some info from the government team," Robin said. "Some of them are on 'Christmas vacation'."
Sidda sighed. "And of course discussing Telic is inevitable." She understood everyone wanting to do something about it; the tragedy had brought grief to all parts of their community, and had done horrible things to their morale for a few months. They hadn't realized how much working on and in the Cultural Center had mattered to them until it was gone.
But now the temporary one, though smaller, was working, and anger had replaced confusion and sadness. Now they wanted to do something, and many wanted to show the humans that there would be repercussions for thoughtless killing.
Sidda, and a good number of other transgenics, just weren't sure that killing humans was going to solve any of their problems. But then again, Sidda and Alec had been lucky. They hadn't lost mates in the bombing.
Right after the bombing, Everett had been depressed. It had been all they could do just to make sure that he kept himself cleaned and fed; they'd all had to take turns helping out with the baby. But when Everett finally had started taking care of Lisa, he'd also started getting angry.
He wasn't vocal about his anger though, which worried Sidda more than the vocal transgenics did. She was sure that Everett was planning something, doing something. But she had no idea what it was, and none of his friends had been able to get him to talk about anything beyond the mundane.
"Maybe we'll finally get around to doing something about them," Robin said after a few moments of digestive silence.
"I don't know, Robin, I've sort of enjoyed discussing it for months on end," Alec said, his tone pointedly sarcastic.
Robin snorted at that idea. Aiden was gumming one of Alec's fingers, so he couldn't look too angry, but his annoyance at the subject was clear. Like a lot of the community, he had been enthusiastic about swooping in and wiping out Telic before they could try something else, but Max and others had overrode that maneuver with talk of peaceful negotiations. Although Telic hadn't attacked in any major way since the Cultural Center, peaceful negotiations hadn't stopped any protests, and no one was satisfied with that approach anymore.
"Well, you always have been quite the chatterer," Sidda said, leaning against Alec's arm and grinning up at him.
Robin cuddled Taylor closer as the one-year-old wriggled around and waved a little plastic ball in her hand. "Hey, cool it," she said, settling Taylor on her hip.
"Mama!" Taylor exclaimed rather enthusiastically as she grabbed the sleeve of Robin navy hoodie and tugged. She dropped the toy and then stared for her empty hand for a long, confused moment.
Robin gave a mock gasp. "Look what happened. Now what're you gonna do?" She ran her fingers through Taylor's light blond curls. With her golden hair, deep blue eyes, cliché, dimpled cherub cheeks and generally sweet and quiet personality, Taylor was considered some kind of angel hybrid by most of the transgenic population. Humans who got the chance to see her pretty much melted when she was around.
Right now, however, the cherub wanted her toy. She whipped her body towards the floor, causing Robin to have to get an iron grip on her. "Ba! Ba!" she said, reaching for the ball. When it became clear that her arms weren't long enough, she jerked herself upright and stared stretched her hands out to Sidda. "Sa-Sa!"
Alec smirked and rolled his eyes at Taylor's mangled version of Sidda's name. So far, Taylor was only really good at saying words that ended in the 'ah' sound. Oddly enough, she could manage almost any letter that came before the 'ah,' but she was still limited to 'ah' rhymes. He was sort of anxious for her to get past this stage; it was sort of embarrassing when Robin referred to him as Ah-Ah in public. She spent way too much time with the kids…and she didn't mind torturing him.
Sidda laughed and snatched the ball off the floor. Rubbing it off on the corner of her t-shirt, she handed it over to Taylor. "You're welcome," she said, grinning as Taylor grabbed the ball with both hands and stared into it with wide eyes.
"She's thankful," Robin said, sighing.
"Just haven't gotten her to say a proper Thah-Yah yet?" Alec said. He ducked as Robin attempted to hit him on the shoulder.
"You're so funny, Alec," she said sarcastically.
"You wouldn't know what to do without me," Alec said.
"Oh, yes, wherever could we find someone to head up the scavenging department?" Sidda said, throwing her hands into the air in mock despair though her grin betrayed her teasing.
"Hey, it's just another part of the job," Alec said, making a face at her as he shifted Aiden to his other arm, "And you don't want to run out of microwavable meals, do you?"
A couple months ago, Alec had been chosen to oversee all their missions out into the city, and one of the major areas that fell under that was thievery and/or bargaining and/or almost-illegal deals. Needless to say, with Alec in charge of acquisitions, Terminal City was better stocked than it ever had been before.
Robin rolled her eyes. "Hush, you never eat at home unless you have no other choice, anyways."
"I've been trying," Sidda said, brushing her hair back behind her ears, "Me and the stove just don't along, unless it's something sweet."
"Mhmm," Robin said, "I'm starting to think that's your excuse so you don't have to cook."
Sidda shrugged, not committing herself to any positive or negative answer.
"You're impossible," Robin said, "And completely ridiculous on top of that."
Alec snickered and pulled Sidda closer with his free hand, nestling her against his side. "Isn't she, though?"
Sidda punched him lightly in the shoulder. "Come on, let Robin have her peace and quiet. She doesn't need you and your words."
"Hey, my words are important." Alec frowned at the amused look that passed between the two women. "It's a conspiracy…"
"Yes, fear us," Robin said, and Taylor gave an affirmative cry of, "Ya-ya!"
With a swift movement, Sidda scooped Aiden out of Alec's arms and smiled at Robin. "Thanks for watching him again."
"No problem," Robin said, "But I might need you to return the favor…"
"Anytime," Sidda said, grinning, "Except Saturdays, Sundays, Friday nights, anytime between 1 a.m. and 12 p.m., not on holidays or any between times like dusk and dawn—"
"And my words are supposedly useless," Alec said. He put a hand on Sidda's shoulder and steered her toward the door. "Later, Robin."
"Good luck," Robin said, smirking as her two friends left the apartment.
They almost always started on time, but for once, it seemed like the meeting was going to start late. The transgenics were restless, and the contagion kept spreading, making them move around and talk even more. Discontented voices were muttering everywhere, and people kept looking around, searching for Max.
"Why is she late?" Sidda asked, looking at Alec worriedly. "She knows how unhappy everyone is."
Alec shrugged; he was one of the few who hadn't seemed to be bitten by the restless bug. Sidda knew that he planned on speaking up tonight, but as long as he got his turn to speak, she supposed he didn't really care when it happened. Aiden was in the daycare with the other babies and a few transgenics who didn't care about the meeting so they had all the time in the world.
"Maybe something new has come in," Seth said from Sidda's left. He and Robin were both there as well; they'd decided that they needed to both come since the meeting was being stressed as very important, and they'd also put Taylor in day/night care.
"Well, hopefully it's nothing bad," Sidda said. "I'm getting tired of these meetings where we found out that we've made a little progress, but in the meantime everyone who hates us is so much closer to killing us."
"No kidding," Alec said. He leaned against the support post that they were near; it went up to the loft above. That was the other bad thing about these meetings; there wasn't nearly enough seating for everyone. It was a good thing that transgenics had a better-than-average stamina. "I just love these morale-boosting meetings."
"Guys, Max," Robin said quietly. The other three quickly turned to look at the entrance to the hallway that they knew led to Max's office. There was no doubt in their minds that that was where she had been, so the reaction was automatic.
Max looked a cat that'd been dragged through hell. Her hair hung limply in a semi-knotted mess, there were shadows under her eyes despite the fact that she hardly needed any sleep, and she seemed a little pale.
"Wow," Alec said. "I don't think she looked like that this morning."
"She didn't look like that earlier this afternoon," Seth said grimly. He pulled Robin in close to him, feeling a need to make sure that his own love was there, safe, sound, and in better shape than Max.
Just behind her appeared Logan and Everett. Logan looked pissed; his jaw was clenched and his eyes were narrowed. Everett still had that wall of impenetrable calmness up that he'd developed lately. It was simply impossible to read anything behind those cool eyes and the serious face. And he'd refused hypno-therapy, not that any normal transgenic blamed him for that.
"Well, that doesn't look good," Robin observed as Everett moved away from the other two and melted into the general crowd. Was it Everett who had made Max look so upset? Was something happening with Telic?
"Does Everett ever look good these days?" Sidda sighed.
"For that matter, does Max?" Robin said. Because now that she thought about it, Max hadn't looked good since the day the Cultural Center had been bombed.
Alec laughed and shook his head. "We're just a bunch of really, really messed up transgenics."
"Because we were doing so fine before we came to Terminal City," Seth said, his lips twisting slightly in a wry smile. He squeezed Robin's waist. "Personally, I am much happier than I was at Manticore."
"Yeah…" Alec said. He looked down at Sidda and winked. "Though I do miss some of those deep cover missions. Like the ones that involved champagne and fancy hors d'oeuvres." It was a mark of his training that Alec took on a perfect French accent when he said "hors d'oevres."
"Oh, hush," Robin said before Sidda could say anything. "You know I could make any of that stuff."
"Yeah, but he also knows he has to help in the kitchen if he wants it. And you see how much Alec cooks," Sidda said. She was fond of her mate, but he hated household chores with a very male passion.
"Shh, Max is about to talk," Seth said, nodding to the center of the room. Max was standing on a table there, and she'd held up her hand for silence. The room quickly grew quiet in a few seconds; transgenics were very attentive to their surroundings and it hadn't taken them long to notice Max's hand.
"Before we start into some of the other business of this meeting, I have an announcement to make," Max said. Her voice was quiet, calm, and heavy. Seth wondered if this was what had caused her to look so awful when she came out.
"I've decided to resign whatever this position is called in May." She gave a weak laugh as conversation buzzed for a moment, and then she held up her hand again. "I can't be in charge forever, and I don't want to be. I made this announcement at the beginning of the meeting because I think we also need to start discussing what sort of government we want. Now is as good a time as any to get started.
Max was right. Though she had never been officially in charge, everyone in Terminal City had just sort of assumed it. They brought their problems to her, and they held her accountable when things went wrong. It was probably the latter that had really taken a toll on Max; she doubtless didn't want all that responsibility resting on her.
"All right, let's move on to the Familiar report," Logan said, interrupting the renewed conversations. He held up a piece of paper. "To protect our deep covers, our agent wrote us a report instead of appearing in public. He doesn't want to risk blowing the assignment." Logan looked around for a moment, then back down at the paper. "I'll just go ahead and read it, unless anyone objects," he said.
No one did.
"Though it has been hard to get any information on the Familiars at all, what with their being a secret from even the government, we have managed to glean a few facts. The most notable being that there is actually a split in the Familiars. There are those who are the type we are most acquainted with; we term them "the reactionaries." And then there are those we term "the traditionalists." The reactionaries are those who agreed with White's way of thinking. They seek to destroy all transgenics, thinking of us as a sort of abomination and a threat to their whole culture. The traditionalists, however, are more involved in the government, and more concerned with public image. For now, they prefer to use us in exchange for our cooperation. Their plans for the future are unclear, but whatever they want to do, they want to do it quietly. To them, the reactionaries are too messy and too public, and in the minds of the traditionalists, are becoming a danger and a threat. Both groups are getting aggravated with the other. Our hope is to exploit this somehow, and cause them to turn against each other."
Logan looked up, a half-smile on his face. A weakness if the ranks of the Familiars was definitely a good thing.
"That's the end of the report," he said simply, clicking the microphone off and then setting it down.
"Well, that's fan-freakin'-tastic," someone snapped from the loft, "It's either be used or be killed with them."
"Doesn't have to be," Mole said. The reptilian transhuman was sitting a table near the front of the room, a cigar dangling from the corner of his mouth. "We can kill them just as soon as they'd try to kill us. And we can do it better."
"Oh, yeah, great idea," said a female X6. She shot Mole a glare. "Because killing sprees are really going to make us look good to the Ordinaries."
"I'm sick and tired of caring what Ordinaries think," someone shouted from the back of the room. There was a grumble of agreement, and the person who said it stepped forward. It was Jaz, sporting newly dyed purple hair, a scowl on her face. "They don't care about us, why should we care what they think?"
"Because they're the people who control our existence?" the other X6 replied, a condescending expression on her face, "Or did you forget that they're the ones with all the bombs?" Jaz let out an animalistic hiss, but the other X6 ignored her.
"Calm down," Seth said, his calm voice rising so he could be heard over the conversation that was starting to break out among the transgenics. "We need to think about this rationally, or we're going to end up just like the Familiars, broken into opposing factions."
"Seems to be working good for them," Mole said, throwing a frown at the X5, "Kill us or use us, whichever, either way, we're still looking down the barrel of the gun pointed at us in the end."
"Unless we turn the gun on them," someone called out, and there was a volley of agreement.
"And the mob goes wild," Alec teased, his voice only audible to Sidda as he bent down near her ear.
She glanced back at him, a wry expression on her face. "Can't we keep it to a dull pandemonium?"
He shook his head with a mischievous look on his face, and she leaned back against him, glad that he always took everything in stride. Alec never lost his head, no matter the situation, and she would always love him for that.
Logan and Max exchanged a look, and Max leveled the group with a glare.
"Look, we're not going to be labeled as the dangerous faction of militant freaks who've taken to assassinating government officials," she said, staring them all down, "We do that and we're all dead, Familiars or no."
"So, basically are choices are death or death," another transgenic piped up, his tone dark, "Because I don't really see another way out of this."
"Then you're stupid," Alec announced without any preface. Sidda caught his hand and squeezed it as he stepped out, catching everyone's attention. "Look, I'm all for kicking some Familiar ass, but let's face it, they've got the high ground when it comes to governmental preference."
"So what're you suggesting, Pretty Face?" one of the transhumans sneered, her forked tongue slithering out of the corner of her mouth.
"Turn them against each other," Alec said with an unapologetic shrug, "If we're not smart enough to set the old school Familiars against White and his gang, then we're a pretty pathetic lot anyways." Smirking, he looked around the room and then glanced at Seth for support.
"He's right," Seth said slowly.
Mole gave a sarcastic snort. "You'd say that. He's your best friend."
"No, I'd tell him if he was wrong," Seth said, crossing his arms over his chest, "But I think he's right. This time."
"Thanks, buddy," Alec muttered, rolling his eyes. Seth ignored him.
"Look, we have more military training in this one room than most of the U.S. military has combined, and we're skilled enough to execute almost plan we come up with," Seth said, his normally quiet voice carrying throughout the crowd. "We're up against a lot. Most of the nation hates us or thinks we're going to launch a world-domination attack at any time."
"Which would be awesome," Dalton announced from where he was sitting on the catwalk, "Transgenic Nation, here we come!" There were some tension-breaking chuckles before everyone looked back toward Seth.
"Max is right too. We need to show people that we're not just military machines. So going out and killing a seemingly innocent group of people isn't going to get us any favor," he said, "But if we make them reveal themselves, show that they're really the ones who really want to eradicate the human race."
"Why don't we just let them?" Jaz asked, a fierce glare on her face, "That'd be one less group of haters we'd have to deal with."
The room was quiet, and most eyes were focused on Logan, the only Ordinary in the room. He didn't squirm under those stares; instead, he gave a small, sardonic smile. "Well, if the only solution to your problems is killing everyone in your way, then far be it for a race of almost seven billion people stand in your way."
Jaz refused to look away, at least until Max gave her such a scathing look that she was forced to look at the floor. "We are not going to be like the Familiars," Max declared, brown eyes burning, "I don't want to hear another word about knocking off the human race, got it?"
The silence lasted a few more moments before Dix broke it. "All right, so let's say we do decide to expose the Familiars. How do we get them reveal themselves? They're not exactly going to parade around with banners proclaiming they're human-killers."
"We do have Eyes Only," Krit said from where he and Syl were standing on the catwalk, "Seattle's darling. Couldn't he be America's, too?"
"What, you want Logan to make Eyes Only a nationwide cablehack?" Max asked incredulously, but she didn't see the gleam in Logan's eyes.
"Great, we depend on an Ordinary for our survival. That's always worked out so well in the past," Jaz said darkly. She looked around for support, but everyone was ignoring her at this point since her comments weren't very constructive.
The female X6 who'd spoken up earlier leaned forward, a gleam matching Logan's in her eyes. "You know," she said slowly, "that wouldn't be such a bad ideas. We'd need to gather some evidence that they plan on killing humans first, of course, but once we have it…"
"The Ordinaries would know, and the Familiars would be suspicious of each other and angry, if they thought one of them had turned traitor," Logan said excitedly. He was all for anything that would get his message promoted across the country.
Seth exchanged a look with Alec, who nodded. This was much better than taking out all the humans, and it would work well towards the goal of getting the Familiars to turn on each other and take care of themselves. If they could somehow plant evidence before the broadcast was released, then the different sects of Familiars would be only too happy to get rid of the other. It could work quite well.
"I could definitely help you set up a nation-wide hack," Krit was saying, getting into that usual excited mode that came out whenever someone started talking about anything that involved some skill with technology. Krit loved and needed to feel useful to Terminal City, and the stuff they were talking about was right up his alley.
More conversations broke out as people debated between themselves if using Eyes Only was a good idea, and how exactly they would go about getting the evidence they would need for the broadcast. Getting into Familiar territory wasn't exactly the easiest thing for a transgenic to do, especially if they were trying to get evidence from the group more likely to be violent towards Ordinaries: White's reactionaries.
"So wait, does this mean we're leaving the humans alone?" Jaz's sharp, incredulous voice cut above the hum of the gathered transgenics' conversations. "We're not doing anything about them?" When no one automatically supported her, Jaz added. "I'm not suggesting we knock them off here, but still…shouldn't something be done about them?"
Alec rolled his eyes. Jaz had such a one-track mind; it was very difficult to convince her to change her opinion once her mind was made up. And then there was the matter of public honor. In her mind she would lose face if her idea wasn't chosen.
"And what brilliant plan do you have, exactly?" he asked. "Since apparently bringing the Familiars' plan to their attention doesn't count as doing something about the humans' opinions of us?"
Jaz was silent for a moment, and her cheeks turned red with what was probably controlled anger. "There was that hate group Everett got into," she finally said, bringing up something that had been quietly not talked about for a while. "I don't see why we can't deal with people like those."
There was absolute silence. That was a sore point for many of the transgenics there, and there were many who were still bitter about the fact that Max hadn't let them take their revenge on Telic yet. And this was probably the root of what had caused Max to announce that they needed to decide on an official form of government so that she could step down.
"Telic will be taken care of," Everett said flatly, glancing at Max once, then back to Jaz. "There are those of us who will make sure of it." His tone allowed for no argument, and there were several murmurs around the room at his statement. Max's eyes narrowed with anger, but she didn't say anything. At this point, she was probably just hoping that whatever revenge was taken would be quiet. There was no way she could keep the transgenics away from Telic for forever. At least enough time had passed that the transgenics wouldn't automatically be linked to Telic killings. Hopefully.
Jaz sat back at that statement, her eyes fixed on Everett. She didn't say anything more, because there was no reason for her to. What she wanted was going to happen, and she was probably going to try and be a part of it.
"I sort of feel sorry for Max," Sidda whispered to Alec. She turned to look at him. "I wouldn't want to be stuck in the middle of this situation."
"Definitely not," Alec murmured as he held her close to him. He still remembered the bombing, and the panic he'd felt when he'd been certain Sidda was dead. If she had died, Alec probably would have been right up there with Everett, making life difficult for Max. And that was the problem. It was easy to see why the transgenics wanted to go after Telic, but it was also possible to see the other side, why they shouldn't go after the organization.
Logan called the meeting to order after that; a note was made to put a group together to look into solidifying the plan against the Familiars, and then they moved on to the topic of what sort of governmental system they wanted Terminal City to have.
Sidda yawned and leaned back against Alec again. It was going to be a long night.