A/N: I really, really have to apologize. I'm sorry. This has taken me forever! I came back from vacation, safe and sound, and then work stuff happened. It was completely out of my control and has taken over my life. Some days, I'm still not sure if it was a good thing or bad, but I got a big promotion. While the money is excellent, the free time and energy level have both almost disappeared. So it has been extremely difficult to write, since I was mainly doing it while at work. That's no longer possible, so I need to arrange my schedule better and maybe even assign specific times for me to write.
I do hope I still have a few readers, to you all I say THANK YOU for your patience and I am sorry for the delay. I will do my best to keep this story updated as much as possible, as I do like it and plan on continuing it. This chapter might not be too much, I had to re-acquaint myself with everything, but it's a start...
She dusted herself up, trying not to smile. She knew if she was too openly happy to see him, he'd give her attitude. Well, he would give her attitude no matter what, actually. He was just staring at her, puffing on his cigar. She had forgotten how much she liked that smell. It was usually a good sign, that someone had her back, that she was safe. She didn't realize until now, that she had craved for something, someone familiar. She was more nervous in the city than she thought.
But for now, she had to play the game and banter with her friend. She rolled her eyes at the lizard-man. "Aren't you going to say something?"
He smirked "What? Do you want a damn medal because you got me cigars?"
She laughed. She liked Mole. He kept pretending to be grumpy and that he wanted nothing to do with anyone else, but here he was, in Seattle. "Well, you're welcome. You let me know if you need anything else and in exchange, I won't ask you where your hide-out is, deal?"
He nodded. "Deal. So, Joshua has told me lots about you. You're apparently inclined to help us out? I would've thought someone as smart as you would have run away, tried her chance at a somewhat normal life."
She sighed, picked up her bags and started walking out of the alley. He fell into steps beside her. "What's normal anyways? I'm not normal, so might as well stay here and do my part. There's a lot going on. With your help and Joshua's, I can probably do a lot of good for anyone trying to stay on the low side. Everyone deserves to be free and build themselves a life. But I want no trouble, you hear?"
He laughed. "Kiddo, trouble is my middle name. But I hear you. I have no interest of being a caretaker for anyone either. But if you keep those cigars coming, I can keep an eye out in the streets and send any passing kids your way. Maybe you can send them over to Eyes Only."
She knew he was fishing for information, but she wasn't going to acknowledge that.
"I do want to help, but we gotta be careful not to draw too much attention to Joshua's house, it's important that I keep him safe."
"It's ok; we can use the sewers near by and make sure his location stays safe. I'll need another way to get in touch with you, not just send people over his house."
She handed him one of the burner phones she just bought. "This should do the trick."
"A lot of us have already fled to Terminal City, to hide. I will not try to get them to come out. If you have any supplies or help for them over there, that's fine, but other than that, you leave us alone, ok?" He waited for her to nod. "But anyone else I find, I will send to you."
"So, were you coming from Joshua's or going to? Or you just heard a gunshot and decided to play the hero?"
He groaned. "I stopped by Joshua's, heard the gunshot and smelled you, so I figured I'd come and see if everything was OK."
"Well, Mole, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you care. Although the smelling thing is kind of creepy, but I'll give you a pass on that." She winked at him.
"If something happened to you, who would bring me such good quality cigars? The ones I can score for myself are nowhere near as good. It was nice seeing you girl, I'll be in touch. "
She stuck her tongue out at him and waved goodbye. Now smiling, she felt like everything was going to be alright.
The next day, Logan called her while she was exercising on top of her building. That was something she had just started, jogging and exercising. She needed to be ready for anything, yesterday was the proof of that. And the adrenaline and sweating was a fantastic way to vent and work on her anxiety; it calmed her.
He asked her to meet him at Jam Pony; he wanted to talk to her and Max, and apparently Max wasn't returning his pages. Lily was pretty sure it'd have to do with what's been happening in Chinatown and she was eager to help. All those people, it had been such a horrific sight.
She shook the image out of her mind and sat on her bed, putting on her boots, with more sensible heels, she had learned her lesson yesterday. Pride was not convenient, although it had provided a nice distraction.
Once at Jam Pony, she spotted Max and original Cindy at the back of the building, sitting by the lockers, talking. Lily could already feel OC's emotions, she was upset. Well, at least she was OK, and yesterday had been upsetting. She walked towards them, barely registering the man behind the counter who seemed to be yelling at everyone and no one in particular.
Max looked up when Lily was a few feet away, lifted her brows in surprise but still nodded in greeting. Hey, she said she was going to try, and she was.
Lily smiled back at the two of them and put a reassuring hand on Cindy's shoulder, sending a calming vibe her way. It seemed to work as OC's took a deep breath and smiled.
"Girl! I'm glad you're OK, that was something spooky yesterday."
"What are you doing here?" Interrupted Max. "Not that you don't have any rights to visit." She added after a pause.
Lily just shrugged, appreciating the conflict in Max's eyes and thoughts. "Logan's on his way, he asked me to meet you guys here. I guess you've ignored his pages or something?"
"Don't even get me started on that, I need a new one, I was ran over yesterday."
Again trying not to read into Max's thoughts too much, she still got an image of an encounter with a man, a crash and then some private conversing and confusion. It took all she had not to frown. What was wrong with Max and Logan? Why would they put themselves into those situations with other people, when they obviously, desperately, wanted to be with each other? She rolled her eyes, and handed Max a phone. She'd brought one just in case, with her number, Logan's and Alec's already in there. Then the man came from behind the counter and yelled "Bip, Bip, Bip" to which Max and Cindy replied they were on a break. Lily shook her head in surprise.
Logan chose this time to walk in, making the man, Normal, Max called him; throw in a few more insults, only to be ignored by everyone else. This was an odd place for sure. Lily wasn't quite sure she got it, but Max seemed perfectly at ease.
Original Cindy understood they needed to talk privately so she went back to get a package from Normal, while the three of them walked around the corner, out of earshot.
"I just spoke to Matt, we need to look into this Chinatown business, there's something there. Max, you aware of the situation?"
"Kind of. OC was there yesterday, she's been upset about it, and I understand Lily was there too, although I'm not sure how it affects us."
Lily narrowed her eyes at Logan, anticipating what he was going to say. He knew it wasn't going to be well received so he was still hesitating on how to say it.
"There have been 23 victims so far, at first one, and then yesterday 22, all Chinese. The M.E said it was some kind of pathogen, toxin, but they couldn't tell what exactly. They've never seen anything like it. There's panic, rumors and people are asking questions."
He was aware that as soon as he said "Toxin" Max also narrowed his eyes at him. He now had both girls staring hard at him. He sighed.
"Matt asked me to bring this up to Eyes Only. There are Manticore rumors, they think someone is hiding there and it could be the cause of all this…"
"What exactly are you saying Logan? That a transgenic is responsible?" Lily glanced at Max, knowing it wouldn't be long until she exploded.
"Not as in he's killing them, but when you were at Manticore, were you aware of any experiments that involved virulent bacteria or…"
Lily closed her eyes. Oh Logan! This was not going to end well.
In a quiet but deadly voice, Max answered. "No. And why would you be jumping to conclusions? If this has something to do with me and my furry little friends, then how come the victims are all Chinese? Manticore's always been real big on equal opportunity. Maybe it was something they ate, or some bug that got released from a lab. Why do you have to go and blame this on me and mine?"
Logan threw his hands up in the air, still not getting the point. "Come on Max! This is nothing new to Manticore, working on stuff like that. Look what they did to you and me!"
Lily reached for Max's shoulder but she was shrugged off. "Because I'm poison doesn't mean we all are. You can ask for my help when you have facts. I gotta get back to work."
She stormed off, before Logan could say anything else. He turned to Lily, his eyes pleading.
"You dug that hole on your own Logan; I'm not going to help you out. That was insensitive and a bit insulting. But I'll grant you one, I, too, have heard rumors. They know me in Chinatown and I've been in touch with Sung, so I can look into it, discreetly. But Logan, for your sake, never assume again that we are to blame for a tragedy. We might not be completely human, but we have feelings, and you made a mess of Max's just now."
She didn't even care to wait for him to answer; she turned around and left him standing there.
It didn't turn out to be as easy as she thought. She was becoming a familiar face in Chinatown, and that was not necessarily a good thing. People would talk to her more easily, but they would also be able to point her out in a crowd. After this matter was resolved, she would have to stay away for a while, let the dust settle.
Rumors there were, everybody was talking about a deformed man, bleeding from his hands and face. But there was barely anything else. And it wasn't like she could just ask, she had to play it casual and listen with all her senses. It was just luck that she felt the tension from the little motel. She focused and heard a very frantic Chinese man tell the Police about the "creature". She didn't hesitate and hurried inside, silently walking past the clerk and behind Matt and another cop. She willed everything she had for them not to see her. She almost flew up the stairs, having picked up the transgenic's location from the man's brain.
She walked in, no time to knock and faced the man standing there, unpacking a suitcase. The drawings she had seen in the police station and the images in people's minds helped her with the shock. He was highly deformed, hunched over and his bandaged hands were soaked with blood. She lifted her hands, showing him he had didn't have to fear her and then she showed him her barcode. He smiled back at her, a sad, tentative smile that really tugged at her heart.
Lily knew she had to talk to him, warn him that the Police were on their way up; she could hear them. But before she could open her mouth, there was a crash outside by the window, a flash of color and a little voice screaming "Help, Help!"
Without a word, the transgenics went to the window and saw a little boy hanging there. He must have climbed on a ladder to look through the window. They pulled him in and Lily took a step closer to the door, knowing everyone else had heard the screams and were coming. They needed to think fast. She glanced back and saw the deformed man and the kid smiling at each other, mutually fascinated. She fought a smile herself. But there was no time for any of this!
The door was kicked opened and at the same time the warning escaped her lips "Matt, wait!" a shot rang out. The other cop had been a step in front of Matt Sung and shot at the transgenic, aiming to kill. Lily's heart stopped for a second. The clerk from downstairs, the little boy's dad ran to the kid and hugged him. She couldn't stay here. She wasn't sure Matt had noticed her yet, but the kid did so she had to run. She threw a very disappointed look at the cops and made her way down the stairs.
She just couldn't believe she didn't have time to do anything, to save him. She wasn't faster than a bullet nor was she resistant to them. Coldly, technically, there wasn't anything she could have done. But she still felt guilty and sad. And the mystery wasn't resolved; she could tell that something else had killed all those people. There was still work to do.
Thank you if you are still reading :)