Disclaimer: The following story is a work of fan fiction, and in no way intended as a challenge to the legal ownership of Dark Angel.

Note: This story is set in Season Two, between Exposure, and Hello, Good-bye.

The Stronghold

by Fin Tuscany

1. Alec Misses His Shot, pt.1

Crash was loud and crazy busy, packed with Jam Pony crew. Like working stiffs the world over, Max and Original Cindy were splitting a pitcher and chewing over the day. Cindy generally liked to get the work related complaining in right off the top. Max was good for a few drinks, but sooner or later she'd get around to moping about Logan and there was nothing to be done about that. Cindy had true faith that Max and Logan would beat the virus and get their lovin,' but her girl had world weight on her shoulders and that was a fact. "Normal was too happy today," said OC suddenly. "Did you see that?"

"I know!" said Max. "What's his deal? He was almost a person."

Sketchy flopped into a chair, sloshing beer on the table. He was wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt. "Productivity," he said.

"Productivity?" asked Max.

"What are you wearing?" said Cindy with obvious distaste. "What is that thing on your back?"

"I just beat Alec's ass at the pool table," announced Sketchy.

"You did not," said Max.

"Ask him yourself. He's chatting up some hottie at the bar."

"I will," said Max.

"We need some sunglasses if you're going to wear that ugly thing," said Original Cindy.

"It's vintage. I like it," said Sketchy.

"You would," said OC.

"My man Alec gave it to me," said Sketch, with some pride. "It's part of an ongoing campaign to make up for getting the crap beat out of me."

"A limited campaign," said Alec, joining the table. "But hey, have fun while it lasts." He and Sketchy enjoyed a complicated handshake. Max rolled her eyes.

"Don't sit here," she groused. "There isn't enough room."

"I thought you were at the bar," said Sketch. "How did you hear what I said?"

"There's plenty of room," said Alec. He gave Max an obnoxious one-armed hug, and stretched out his legs. He said to Sketchy, "I was right behind you, man. There's no action at the bar."

"There's no action here, neither," said Cindy. "We just piss and moan."

"Let me guess," said Alec. "Max is mooning over Logan, again."

Cindy sighed, exasperated. "That part of the evening hadn't started yet. But thank you for bringing it up."

"I am not mooning over anybody," said Max. "Let's get back to productivity."

"Yes, let's," said OC.

"Whatever," said Sketch. "Business is a-hopping. Deliveries are up. Normal can't believe how fast we're getting those packages out."

"Some of the new messengers are uniquely qualified," Alec said wryly, dismissing the subject.

"It gives Normal more time to work on his stupid leaflets," Cindy said, exchanging a glance with Max.

"Tell them I beat you at pool," Sketch demanded.

"You let him win," said Max.

"Low blow!" said Sketchy. "Way to hit a guy where it hurts."

Alec shrugged. "Sketchy beat me fair and square. I've never thrown a match, and I don't plan to start now." He shot Max a dark look.

"Oh, please," said Max.

Alec made a face at her. He said, "I'm not feeling so hot, anyway."

"What do you mean?" said Max.

Sketchy took a long swig of beer, burped, and said, "He was all thumbs."

"That's attractive," said Cindy. "Those are some nice manners."

"I'm just saying he missed his shot. I nearly fell over," said Sketch. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

Max raised an eyebrow, surprised. She and Alec were transgenics, escapees from a secret military breeding program known as Project Manticore. They were the X-5 model, superior warriors. Except for the bar codes on the back of their necks, they could pass as human. X-5s were genetically enhanced, and certainly not clumsy. The gene for clumsiness had most likely been ruthlessly eradicated by a faceless Manticore scientist. Super soldiers did not trip over their own feet.

Alec seemed to follow her line of reasoning. "I don't know what the problem is," he admitted. "It's weird. Maybe I'm coming down with something."

"Like what?" said Max. After all, they also had enhanced immune systems. "That's not possible. I've never been sick."

"What does that have to do with Alec having a cold?" asked Sketch, looking at her curiously.

Original Cindy, who knew the truth, cleared her throat. "That is just nasty," she covered smoothly. "Who wants to talk about germs?"

"I'd rather talk about Max's love life," said Sketchy. "Give us details. Sweaty details."

Alec laughed out loud. "Yes, give us all the details, Max."

"Shut up," said Max.

"Now you're just being mean," said Cindy.

"There she goes," said Alec, looking at Max. "Show us that lip, Max. That's quite a pout."

"Stop it," said Max.

"You guys are like brother and sister," said Sketchy. "Mom, he's touching me! She touched me first!" Alec laughed.

"That is just too creepy," said Max. "I'm outta here." She tossed some cash on the table. "You're not sick," she said to Alec, "you're imagining things." She shrugged into her jacket, and hit the bricks.

"Now look what you did," said Cindy.

"Aw, I was just foolin' around," said Alec.

"It's true," Cindy allowed. She was always fair. "My boo can pout."

"Yeah," said Sketchy, dreamily.

"Oh, stop it," said OC crossly. "Now you're making me leave, too. See, here I go."

With that she floated away, hoping for better luck elsewhere. Alec and Sketchy sat at the table. "This is no fun," said Alec.

"How come we always have to pay for Cindy's beer?" said Sketch. "We have no girls and we're stuck with OC's tab."

"Ah, jeez," said Alec, fishing around in his pocket. "I don't mind. I always enjoy Cindy's company. Unlike Max, Cindy is a real lady."