A/N: Me, naughty writer; you, (hopefully) forgiving readers. I had a difference of opinion with my M/Z muse, and for several months we weren't on speaking terms. But we've reconciled now, and we both agree it's about time we got back to the story.

So…spank me, forgive me, review me.

An extra special thanks to Deb, without whom I'm sure I would have given up on this story permanently.

And thanks to everyone who still continued to review the story despite months of inactivity. You kept it from dying a quiet death…though sometimes your encouragement earned angry glares from the frustrated author.


Compromised


Chapter 5: Reunions



"An ambush," Alec hissed, ducking behind the metal canisters just in time to avoid a new hail of bullets that came flying in the duo's direction. His side burned with pain where one had grazed his flesh earlier, but he forced himself to push the sensation aside and concentrate on avoiding any further damage. "Should've known it'd be a fucking ambush!"

Well, in all fairness, he had known. It was just Max who hadn't listened to him, too far gone in her concern for dear ol' Zack to give much consideration to their own safety. He understood her guilt-really, he did…but the girl really had to learn to balance her priorities. When she set her mind to something, it was like she completely forgot about everything else around her…everyone around her.

For perhaps the thousandth time since that fateful day he strolled into her cell-and, essentially, into her life-Alec cursed his own stupidity. Manticore had tried to teach him that emotional ties were a weakness…but would he ever listen?

He eyed the temperamental brunette who crouched down, tense, beside him. Her expression was grim, but there was that familiar firm set to her mouth as she leaned back against the barrier, her position nearly identical to his own.

Peering the over the top once more, he fired off a couple of shots.

So much for Logan's intel. Oh, he'd gotten them the location of the warehouse, all right, but it seemed that White had been expecting them all along. Alec was almost ashamed; he'd never thought he'd see the day where he, with his two decades of military training, would be duped by the Familiar. Again, he blamed it on Max's bad influence. He remembered being a better soldier than this back in the day. This was just so…unprofessional. And to top it off, as far as he could tell, Zack was nowhere on site. No doubt, as part of White's plan, safely stashed away at some highly secured facility awaiting his attention. Alec-and Max-had expected the Familiar to use him as a bargaining chip, in exchange for his missing son, but apparently he had other intentions.

"We're gonna have to try to make a break for it," he told Max as he fell back into place. They were cornered. All White had to do was wait until the pair ran out of bullets, which wouldn't be long at this rate, and then they'd be sitting ducks.

Speaking of whom, the familiar-no pun intended-voice called out into the sudden quiet, "Come on, 452, make it easier for all of us. There's nowhere for you two to go."

Alec rolled his eyes, but turned toward Max. "You'd better answer him, or he's going to get all antsy and start wondering what we're up to."

Her expression conveyed a similar degree of annoyance at the agent's words. "Right," she returned loudly, "and I bet you'll even promise not to hurt us if we cooperate."

Her gaze focused on Alec, who was giving directions via hand signals. A curt nod was her only response.

"Well, no…" White replied; they could practically hear the smirk in the agent's voice. "But how about we work out something in terms of a quick and painless death?"

Alec heard her let out a soft snort. "When you put it like that…" she drawled sarcastically. "Fuck you."

He saw her turning to get into a better position from which to launch herself to her feet. Alec grabbed her arm and turned her back, shoving the butt of a gun in her direction when she glanced at him questioningly. He'd liberated it from one of White's men on their way inside the warehouse, when he'd informed Max that the place was too quiet and he didn't feel right about the whole thing.

She swiveled toward him, her eyebrows drawn together as her mouth tightened to reflect her displeasure. "No way. You know my policy."

She hadn't listened then either.

"And here's my policy," he returned impatiently. "Stay alive. Which you won't be doing if you rush into a crowd of armed, trigger-happy goons with nothing of your own." He paused briefly, tilting his head as he heard the sounds of movement. White's men were closing in on them while they sat here, arguing. Alec shook his head in irritation, "And not to mention the fact that they're led by a sociopath who has admittedly made it his life's goal to kill you."

As if to punctuate Alec's words, White continued, "I don't think you get it, 452. It wasn't your death I was talking about…you, I'm going to enjoy killing. 494 too," he seemed to add as an afterthought.

Alec rolled his eyes heavenward, mouthing the word 'goody' in response. So nice to know he hadn't been forgotten.

"But your C.O. there…" White paused, giving a dark chuckle, "What's he going by now? Adam?"

Alec heard a sharp intake of breath from Max, so soft he wouldn't have picked it up if it weren't for his enhanced senses. White let the threat hang in the air, and Alec watched the myriad of emotions pass over her face, settling finally on a sort of blank determination. Her jaw clenched, and she took the proffered gun from him without another word.

"Max," he began uncertainly, a sense of unease pouring through him. As relieved as he was that she'd conceded on that particular point, he knew White was merely goading her-even if there was truth behind his threats.

"Ready?" she demanded, ignoring his concerned look.

Alec paused. Goading or not, what other choice did they have?

"Yeah." He turned to his own side, his body tensing in preparation. Eight bullets left… Gotta make 'em count.

But before either transgenic could make a move, the world exploded in chaos.


*****


She ran right into him, and his free hand came up to steady her. In the other was the semi-automatic gun he'd liberated from one of the men who'd gone down in the explosion he'd set off moments earlier. It was a definite step up from the 9mm he'd been toting before that.

The air was so thick with smoke and debris that neither of them saw the other until it was almost too late to avoid their collision course. She instinctively brought up her own hands in defense, and he released her, taking a step back to give her room.

Her eyes widened as she finally focused on his face, and her arms went slack, easing down to her sides.

"Zack," she whispered, voice hitching slightly.

Then something collided into her from behind, sending her flying forward, almost right into him. Only her hands, stretched out flat against his chest, kept her upright. He glanced down and was surprised to find that one was still awkwardly gripping a black Beretta.

"I don't do guns."

"Fuck, Max!" the source of the impact hissed out angrily, drawing his attention away from that brief flash of memory. "What the hell-"

"Ben?"

It was said softly; just one small word, but it ended the outburst abruptly. The other man glanced over sharply.

"Hey, no," he said quickly, hazel eyes widening for some reason. "I'm Alec-his non-psychotic, much more charming, identical twin." And then, adding as an afterthought, "And that's not just something I came up with to keep the cops off my back."

Zack frowned at that, realizing he must still have a ways to go in recovering his memory; almost none of that made any sense to him. He forced himself to push aside the distraction as his fingers tightened on the gun in his hand.

"Zack, what-" Max began, but he cut her off abruptly.

"No time. Let's go," he said, his words swift and clipped. It was an order, not a suggestion, and it fell from his lips naturally. As did the expectation that it would be followed without question.

"Sounds like a plan," the man who'd identified himself as Alec said, urging the reluctant brunette along.

The trio made their way out of the building, the sounds of their pursuers recovering and regrouping after the unexpected attack following them. Outside, Zack led them toward the barren land behind the compound. Out front was where White and his men had left their vehicles. That would have been the predictable route, Zack decided quickly, and even if they encountered minimal resistance acquiring one of them, it wouldn't provide them with much of a head start. Nor would they have time to shoot out the tires of the remaining vehicles.

No, they'd have a better chance going for the truck he'd stashed off the road on the other side of that patch of woods just up ahead. Once they reached the cover of the trees, the men after them wouldn't have a chance. Not without their combination of enhanced vision, speed, and agility. Neither of his two companions questioned his choice.

The line of trees, and the line of fence encasing the property, still loomed a good fifty yards ahead when gunfire sounded behind them. Zack twisted around to return a few rounds, hearing Alec do the same.

More bullets, and suddenly Alec cursed. The sound of a body hitting the ground made him pause.

"Alec!" Max cried out.

Zack saw her start to backtrack, but Alec called out in a strained voice, "Damn it, Max, go!"

"Alec, I can't-"

Zack caught the look the other man sent him; he'd never make the twelve-foot high mesh fence on only one good leg. He grabbed Max's arm.

"I'll cover you," Alec instructed him.

He tossed the semi-automatic to Alec, who caught it and immediately put it to good use. "Max," Zack said sternly.

"Hurry!" Alec yelled out over the sound of gunfire.

While Max hesitated, Zack gripped her arm tight and pulled her alongside him, so she was forced to either comply or fight him off. He released her when she finally opted for the former. He spared a glance in her direction and saw the hard look of determination on her face, as she ran beside him, keeping up to his pace.

He didn't have to look at her again to know that she'd cleared the fence right with him, and soon they had both entered the safety of the trees, their darkness blanketing the pair.

The fading sounds of battle behind them ended abruptly.


*****


Only once the other two transgenics were obviously out of sight did Alec stop firing. Lowering his weapon, Alec made an exaggerated show of tossing it aside, before dropping heavily onto his back.

"Hey guys," he said. He raised his hands in surrender, elbows resting on the hard ground. "Unarmed, injured, potential ransom here; don't go doin' anything crazy."

They approached him slowly, with caution. Until White stalked up right through the midst of his agents, all of who stepped aside for their boss like a timid Red Sea parting for a rage-a-holic Moses.

Without hesitation, White raised the gun, aiming it directly at the center of Alec's forehead. He smiled humorously. "I don't need you alive to use you as bait, 494."

Alec smiled back lazily. "But if you killed me, you'd miss my wit and good-natured ribbing."

White leaned in close, crouching over the prone figure. "The only thing I'll miss is hearing your screams of agony as you beg for your death." He stood slowly and placed the gun back in its holster before saying, "Which is reason enough to keep you alive."

He started to walk away, but before Alec could breathe a sigh of relief for that brief, albeit grim, stay of execution, the Familiar quickly turned and slammed a foot into his wound. Alec released an involuntary grunt of pain, just barely stopping himself from reaching for the leg at the sight of the half dozen or so guns attached to tense fingers and trained solely on him.

White smiled with genuine pleasure. "I'll be sure to make the most of our remaining time together, 494."


--to be continued--


(hopefully, in less than 10 months)