Perfect.

With a start Alec came to, briefly wondering about the word that had been on his mind and that had brought him back to consciousness. Perfect. Even though his brain felt a little sluggish, his soldier senses kicked back in quickly and he assessed his current situation. He was lying on the ground in what looked to be a small holding cell, very reminiscent of the Manticore cubicles he had spent most of his life in before the escape.

Manticore. It all came back to him then. Fawn, Rommie, being captured. Reindoctrination...

Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the small camera suspended from the ceiling. They were monitoring him. With that thought in mind, Alec forced himself to keep calm and only move very slowly. Relieved to find his hands and legs unbound, he sat up and looked around him, inspecting the bare walls of the cell, the floor, the ceiling, the small barred window high up on the wall opposite a heavy looking door. Yup, he thought, Manticore built. The window was so tiny that no human being could fit through it. The door had no handle, nothing that he could get a hold on to try and pry it open. It was smooth metal - probably titanium.

He stood up anyway, and even though he felt the urge to pace and try to open the door somehow anyway, he ordered himself to remain standing in one corner of the room, as motionless as possible. As if he were waiting for someone to tell him what to do. As if his mind was blank; like it would be expected of someone who had just undergone an intensive reindoctrination session.

After a few minutes of just standing and waiting and trying to come up with a plan for escape, he noticed something else, a pleasant surprise for once. He felt better. Physically, he felt much better than a few hours ago. Whatever they had done to him, at least they had taken care of that toxin in his body in the process. Or so it seemed. Without daring to lift what seemed to be a clean new shirt and take a look at the wound, he was sure the injury had started to heal for real. The pain in his side had finally subsided to a low throb.

Perfect.

He had barely had time to wonder about that, or how on earth he had managed to remain mostly unscathed by their reindoctrination efforts, when that word popped up in his mind again. Perfect. Had the thought of Max and her perfection kept him from going off the deep end, from losing his soul in the reindoctrination process? Could that really be? Max. He remembered how that voice had told him Max was perfect. It had told him she was what he was not. He was flawed, she wasn't, whatever that was supposed to mean.

Awesome, he couldn't help but think, like li'l missy isn't already way too self-confident. He had better make sure that no one told her that she was officially deemed perfect by Manticore... He had to keep his smirk to himself, making his face nothing but a mask showing no emotion.

He remembered other things, too. How they had poked him with needles, how they had told him he would help make the next series flawless. How? By comparing his DNA to hers and finding the difference that way? The flaw? He couldn't let them put Max through this, he had to get her out of that place before they could take her, vivisect her, reindoctrinate her. - They had said they wanted to make him flawless too...

He had to get out of there, STAT. He had to find Max and Logan. And Josh. He had to stop whatever the hell Fawn had started. He had to stop Manticore from thriving even more, behind the S1W disguise they seemed to be using to grow bigger and stronger and ever more powerful.

But how?

Standing in the corner, staring ahead, he pondered those questions when he heard steps on the other side of the door, in the hallway. They were coming closer, then stopped as the door to his cell was opened, the light from the hallway illuminating a silhouette that closely resembled that of Joshua. Alec's breath hitched as his nose told him that it was indeed the big fella, even though his eyes couldn't make out the other one's face yet. The light made the big guy's features look like a black inscrutable mask.

"494 is to follow Joshua now," was all he said and Alec's heart sank. It didn't sound at all like his friend, just cold and soulless. A command. 494... He couldn't remember one time Joshua had ever called him that.

He decided to play along for now, though. He couldn't really do much else, anyway.

He'd do anything to get him out of the cell...


Max wasn't sure how much time had passed when suddenly the door to the place where she and Logan were held opened and the big fella and Alec appeared in the doorway. She struggled to her feet immediately, not sure what to expect, and cursed her body for its weakness. The bullet wound felt nasty and hurt like a bitch. Worse than that, though, was the grogginess that had taken hold of her and that made even the simplest move too damn exhausting.

She frowned when it registered with her how Alec, on the other hand, seemed much better than before. What had they done to him? They must have reclaimed him, she figured. The reindoctrination must have been successful and thus the poison had no longer been of any use to them. They needed him healthy after all. A good little healthy soldier... Unable to keep the sadness and anger at bay which that thought evoked in her, she clenched her teeth. If Alec was Manticore again...

Briefly, she looked down to where Logan was sitting, his useless legs splayed out in front of him, but his eyes were as clear and alert as ever. She could tell that he was just as wary as she was.

"452." It was Joshua who addressed her, Alec merely standing to the side, his gaze held by some spot right over her left shoulder.

She stood there, rigid, and stared at Joshua, who used to be her friend. What had they done to him, to Alec? What had that woman, Fawn, done? It better be reversible, Max thought, anger taking over, or she would see to it herself that Fawn paid for all of this dearly.

"You are to report back to duty. You are to follow Joshua."

Already, the big guy had opened her cell and was reaching in to grab her arm, obviously anticipating her not wanting to come willingly. She allowed it, though. After all she wasn't stupid. She knew she was in no position to put up much of a fight against someone as strong as Joshua, not with that toxin running through her veins. Besides, he was not alone. It was two against one when it came done to it. Max couldn't really count Logan, who would never be able to help her in a fight; not in his current state.

"Max." Logan said urgently, trying to lift himself up, but to no avail. She met his gaze and shook her head. She hadn't given up yet, not entirely, though she knew that's what Logan was thinking.

Before she had time to come up with something to say to him and let him know that even though things were looking pretty bleak right now she would find a way to get them both out of there - to get them all out of there, she saw Alec morph out of his seeming stupor back into his old self and blur into action.

Whirling around, he grabbed Joshua from behind and with a swift movement that the other one never saw coming, knocked him out with a well placed blow to the back of his neck. The big fella slumped to the ground with an awkward thud and a stunned Max was left standing in front of a grinning Alec. "Good to see you too, Max," he said, his grin wavering when he noticed how tired and drawn she looked.

"We gotta get moving, Max. I'm sure Fawn's troops are already on the way - there're cameras everywhere in this friggin' place."

Max's gaze traveled to where Logan was sitting, then to Joshua's body lying motionless on the ground. It took her a moment to process what Alec had just said - and what it meant. "You want to go without them?" she asked incredulously. No way would she leave her friends behind in a place like this.

"We have to, Max."

"You are out of your mind, Alec. I'm not gonna leave Logan and Joshua behind, not with Fawn-"

"Max. Don't make this harder than it already is. It's not like I wanna leave them, alright? But it's the smart thing to do-"

"The smart thing?!"

He should have known that she'd explode on him. He should have known better than to tell her. In fact, he should have just grabbed her, thrown her over his shoulder and run for it. Thinking about it, Alec decided to do just that now. There was no time to let her vent, especially since he didn't even know yet where to go from there. It was not like he had planned any of this: the attack on Joshua had pretty much come out of the blue, startling even himself.

Therefore, he just blurred into motion again and hoisted her up off the ground. "We'll come and get them later, alright? First we need to get out of here."

"Let me down," she bit out, fighting him tooth and nail, cursing under her breath as she felt her body betray her. Right now she was no match for Alec's strength, not at all. "Let me the hell down!" she demanded again, but Alec held on to her relentlessly and stalked off to the door. "Sorry, Log," he said, turning around before stepping out into the hallway. "We'll come back and get you, as soon as possible."

The Ordinary nodded at him, if with an empty look on his face. "It's alright, Max," he then said, shifting his stare from Alec to her. "He's right. You guys need to take this chance. You need to go."

"Logan-"

"I would only slow you down. You know they'd be on you in no time if you were to take me with you. Without my exo..." his voice trailed off and he simply nodded at her again. He smiled at her sadly, and Alec felt Max's struggle die down, felt the tension leave her body in defeat.

"We'll come back and get you, Logan," Alec announced, like it was a fact. He respected the older man for what he had just said, for knowing it to be true, for being willing to face that truth head on. The two men looked at each other somberly, then Logan grinned.

"You take care of her, Alec. Now get her out of here."

"Sure thing, man."

"And, Alec?!

"Yuh?"

Logan rubbed his eyes, then looked at Alec imploringly, "Don't let her down until you're out of here. She'll tell you that she won't do anything stupid, she'll tell you that she knows you're right. But that's not true. - She'd run straight back here, you know that. So - just get her out of here first."

Alec nodded. For a moment, respect for the other man shone in his eyes, before he turned to leave the room, Max hanging from his shoulders, too exhausted to fight him anymore. She couldn't look at Logan.

If only she had all her strength. She could carry Logan, and Alec could carry Josh. - What would happen to them now? What would Fawn do to them? Tears were welling up in her eyes, angry tears she couldn't stave off.

"Logan..." she whispered. "Josh."

But Alec was already carrying her out of the room, into the hallway; and all she could see was the shiny floor through a veil of her own stupid tears.