By Be Boring

Chapter 21: Paradise Lost

"As dawn breaks on this, the third day of the siege at Terminal City, the situation is tense but unchanged. While several hundred transgenics remain barricaded inside the restricted area, police and National Guard stand an uneasy watch at the perimeter--each side seemingly waiting to see what the other will do next."

Kay grabbed the remote and turned off the television, feeling absolutely disgusted. Now Max was trapped inside Terminal City? Of course things had to be screwed up like this. She had been planning on picking up Max on her way to Gillette so that she could get her answers as well, but that apparently wasn't going to be happening. She had found out just before she left about what was going on in Seattle, but couldn't get a hold of anyone. The communications seemed to be down, and Logan wasn't answering his phone at Joshua's. Kay doubted she could get Max safely out of Terminal City and still make her deadline to meet with Sandeman. The meeting would be tonight, and there were already a million problems.

First of all, when she had hugged C.J. the day she had set the meeting with Sandeman, she'd felt the tiny electronic microphone in his hair. It had been on the back of his neck, about an inch into his hair. At first she thought that the Familiars had set him up, probably expecting Max to send a rescue party for him, but then she had seen C.J. seemingly talking to himself a lot. Hey, he could get away with it; after all, he was crazy. It was more than obvious that he was helping his brother again. Luckily, C.J. had not yet seen Ray, so Kay made arrangements to leave immediately for Wyoming. She also brought along Zack, Brin, Ben, and even Lydecker, despite C.J. complaining that they 'made him nervous'. Of course they made him nervous, they might be able to stand a chance against whoever would now ambush them at Manticore.

The next problem was Normal. He'd given her a call the same day the news came out about Terminal City, saying that Max had told him to call. According to him, they had been attacked by people much stronger than themselves and just barely managed to beat them. That was all the information he could give her, he hadn't seen the fight himself. He said he'd been delivering the baby of another X5 during all that was going on. The only smile Kay had had in the last couple days was when Normal told her that the X5 in labor had punched out one of the stronger soldiers. Kay could just imagine the girl saying "I'm having a baby, dammit!" Other than that, she had stayed pretty serious.

Brin and Zack were uncomfortable around each other, even after their conversation, so Brin was staying in the same room as Kay, Ben and Zack in another room, and Lydecker and C.J. in another. There was no relaxed conversation, just dead silence. Everyone else had been warned about C.J. being the enemy, so they were acting secretive around him. Kay had left the bug intact, planning on misleading the Familiars. Right after the hug with C.J., Kay had grabbed the phone and hit the redial button. C.J.'s eyes had practically popped out of his head.

"What are you doing?"

She had shrugged carelessly at him. "I just realized Gillette would be a bad place to meet him because of its high profile." She had actually hung up the phone while she was talking, so the line was disconnected before Sandeman could get to the phone. She had proceeded to fake a conversation with him. "Sorry, I just wanted to change the location. Do you have any other ideas? Yeah, that'll work fine. Same time? Ok." She had hung up the phone and smiled to C.J. "Now we can proceed with the meeting."

Kay had known right away that it had been C.J. who had suggested to Sandeman that they should meet at Manticore, so she figured she could keep the same location just as long as the Conclave didn't find out. Now she just had to make sure C.J. never figured out where they were going. Everyone had taken turns distracting him when they went through cities, Brin once actually kissing him, saying that she just wanted to kiss a crazy man once in her life. All the men had just stared at her in shock while Kay burst out laughing in the driver's seat. One of the other most important things was that they couldn't let Kay's name slip in front of C.J. Kay was pretty sure the Familiars didn't know her name, but she still didn't want C.J. finding it out. Ben had let it slip once, but that was before he knew about the threat their new crazy man represented. They also weren't letting Ray's name slip, the last thing they needed was for the Familiars finding out he was alive. If what the Skeptic had said was right, then they would set off the Coming just as soon as they found out. There was also the fact that C.J. might try to steal him back, and although Kay knew the kid wanted to go back, she felt it was her duty as Wendy's friend to make sure he didn't.

Right now Kay could only gaze at the TV and wish she could help Max out. Normal had also told her that Logan, Sketchy, and Original Cindy were in Terminal City with them. Kay knew they wouldn't be able to take it in there too long, maybe another day. She knew Logan had some of Joshua's blood in him so he might last a little longer, but Sketchy and OC would need to be let out as soon as possible. That was her next priority after meeting with Sandeman. Geez, I'm a busy girl lately! All the X5s had gotten their barcodes removed on their way to Wyoming, it would make it easier for them to get through checkpoints.

Kay was sure they had everything covered, all they had to worry about was tonight and making sure C.J. didn't see where they were going. In fact, they'd have to start worrying about that in approximately one hour. Sitting in the motel room she shared with Brin, Kay got the irresistible urge to go visit Ben. It was almost an obsession, she couldn't get him out of her head. Why did she suddenly want to see him so badly? Sure, she loved him and missed him when they weren't together, but this was ridiculous, he was just in the next room. It's not like I can't go visit him some other time. She also had the crazy urge to go see Zack and tell him she was grateful for him being the one to first make her come out of her shell, and to contact Max and tell her that Ben was alive, Zack had his memory back, and Brin and Lydecker were alive too. She even wanted to talk to Logan and Alec for just being there. She wished she had paid Sketchy back the money that she owed him for the car, and even tell OC and Normal that she was glad to have met them just to see them argue. She was startled out of her thoughts when Brin came out of the bathroom, brushing her dripping wet hair.

"I made this really good friend after I escaped, a boy named Micah, but Zack made me leave him when I first started coming into heat. Now I wish I had gone back to him, or at least called him just to talk. I don't know why either, I haven't even thought about him in six years. I also really want to stop being uncomfortable around Zack."

Kay raised an eyebrow. "What brought all of this on?"

Brin shrugged. "I don't know. It just won't leave my mind."

Both girls jumped at the loud bang on the window. Kay had to mentally stop herself from letting her jaw drop when she saw that the Skeptic was next to their door, trying to get their attention. Kay walked over and swung the door open.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"You can't meet with Sandeman. He might turn you back in to his kind."

Kay stepped outside and shut the door behind her. "How did you know I was meeting with Sandeman?"

"I have your phone tapped."

Kay immediately smacked him in the face hard enough to make anyone's eyes roll in their head. He simply grimaced and rubbed his cheek.

"You asshole! What reason did you have for doing that?"

"I knew after you left our safe house that you'd want to find Sandeman. When I heard Max tell you about that lunatic Familiar, I knew you'd go get him just so you could contact Sandeman."

Kay's eyes turned to look down the sidewalk where she had seen C.J. try to back into the shadows out of the corner of her eye. Shit, now he knows I'm in contact with Max. She turned back to the very determined Red in front of her. "I want you to go now, and I want you to forget about my meeting with Sandeman. The old man will tell me what I need to know and then I'll go. I have no interest in having good old Daddy around, and you will keep your nose out of my damn business!" She kicked him hard in the chest, forcing him back hard so she could go inside and shut the door behind her without him being able to reach her to hold the door open. He pounded on it, but it was a thicker door than most were nowadays. Brin stood there, having overheard the whole conversation. Kay knew perfectly well that Zack and Ben had been standing at their door and listening, and maybe even Lydecker had been eavesdropping. Why hadn't he kept C.J. from overhearing? Suddenly, Kay's mind was in overdrive. The Donald Lydecker she knew wouldn't let the enemy overhear important information like that. Despite the fact that he wasn't up to par with his brother, C.J. was still stronger than the average person and could take out a normal human after a short struggle.

Kay was already out the door and in front of C.J.'s before the Skeptic had time to start up his car. He paused when he saw her, then got back out. He didn't interrupt her as she knocked on the door, and showed his obvious amusement when C.J. answered the door with nothing but a towel on, showing off his scrawny body. Kay noticed that he wasn't letting the door open very far, making sure she couldn't see inside. She didn't even take the time to ask, she simply shoved him out of the way and walked into the room. She saw him reach out and grab one of the guns for later on tonight and attempt to swing it at her head, but the Skeptic had already gotten his shot off with his gun. C.J.'s body slumped to the ground, but Kay didn't pay any attention. She had to find Lydecker and get out of here before that shot was investigated. She heard the door to Zack and Ben's room open as they rushed over, but she was headed for the bathroom. It was the only room that wasn't completely visible from where she was standing, and the smell of blood in her nostrils was leading her in that direction.

Zack had to dash forward and grab her as she nearly toppled over when she jumped away from the door. Part of her had expected him to be dead, but not like this. There was blood all over the floor, indicating that he'd put up one hell of a fight, but it obviously hadn't been good enough. The knife C.J. had used was still on the floor, sitting in a puddle of blood. The colonel was half draped over the edge of the bathtub, his shirt barely there from all the slices C.J. had made at it. It looked as though a lot of the cuts had been made during the fight, but it looked as though there was a point where C.J. pinned him against the tub and started the real cutting. He hadn't even bothered to cut Lydecker's throat, he had gouged out the chest to get to his heart. The bloody mass of flesh that was now Lydecker's chest was only interrupted by the ribs that could be seen clearly.

Kay felt her stomach lurch at the sight, but in the next instant she was seeing red. She ran to C.J.'s body and ripped the bug off the back of his head. "You crazy fuckers!" she growled under her breath, knowing that whoever was at the other end listening to this would be the only person that could hear her, then she slammed the bug to the ground and stepped on it. She heard it crunch under her foot, then stepped back and Zack had to grab her again before she fell over. Ben finally stepped forward.

"What was in there?"

Zack's face was pale as he tried to steady Kay on her feet. "You don't want to see it, little brother, it's not that pretty. I want everyone to stay out of there. We haven't touched anything, so it's probably best if we clear out of here now. We can be early for meeting with Sandeman." He then carefully handed Kay off to Ben, but she pulled herself out of both their reach.

"I'm not a child, I can walk around on my own." At the hardness in her voice, Ben stepped to her side.

"Please don't be like that, I never thought you were a child. I was just concerned."

Kay stepped away from him angrily. "There's no reason to be, I don't need you to take care of me." Ben tried to go after her when she strode out of the room, but Brin grabbed his arm.

"She's in shock, she doesn't really mean what she's saying."

"Why would she be in shock?"

Zack's voice was a little strained. "You didn't see Lydecker's body. I'm in shock too, it was not something they set us up for in Manticore. Our kills are supposed to be clean and quick, but that looked like C.J. enjoyed himself while he was hacking Lydecker apart. It's also the fact that it was Lydecker. He may not be one of us, but frankly I thought the guy was never gonna die with the way he always seemed to hold on. If they could do something that gruesome to him, just think about what a full strength Familiar could do to us just for the hell of it."

Ben grew quiet at that, then headed after Kay. She was already hopping into the van they had used to drive down here with. She didn't look at any of them as they threw their stuff in and climbed in with her. The only person she spoke to was the Skeptic.

"If you're coming along, then you had better get your ass in here." He looked stunned, but Kay knew he would have followed them anyways, she may as well save him the trouble. The second he was in, Kay took off. She barely managed to control her speed, she kept going about twenty miles over the speed limit. Sitting next to her, Ben noticed it but didn't say anything. He had the feeling she might explode if provoked in the wrong way.

Manticore had never seemed so terrifying to most of them, but to Kay it didn't even make her flinch now that Lydecker wasn't here to make it so bad for her. The others didn't seem to quite know what to do when they climbed out of the van, but Kay headed straight for the building that held all her childhood nightmares. Ben and the Skeptic looked at each other nervously, then followed. They all had their guns for protection, so they weren't afraid of being attacked, but they were concerned about Kay going nuts on them. Ben still remembered when Kay and Brin had fought back in the barn where they'd first seen Lydecker again, the way Kay had lost control during the fight. He'd had the feeling she would have killed Brin if he hadn't stopped her. What would they do while she was in this daze? If she lost control, she was certainly strong enough to take them all on, he knew that for sure.

Zack grabbed Brin's arm before she could follow the others. "I'll need your help with these. I didn't want the others to know, I'm just coming prepared."

Brin's eyes widened when she saw what Zack pulled out of his bag. There were enough explosives to send the entire building to the moon!

"Why do you need all this stuff? We're meeting a feeble old man for Christ's sake!"

Zack rolled his eyes. "I'm not scared of the old man, I'm scared of the Familiars still finding out about where we are! I want these things set up in the basement and on the first floor, that way if these people show up I can blow the place sky-high."

Brin was forced to take an armload of explosives and followed along behind the other X5 as they headed for a different entrance. The others could think what they wanted to about their disappearance, they'd come up with a story while they set up the bombs.

Kay's only thought was of getting to Sandeman. She wanted to block out what she had seen at the motel, she just wanted to focus on what she had come here to do. She was passing through the halls that she recognized perfectly, seeing every room as she went by, then continued upstairs. She saw the barracks where they had slept as kids, she saw the lab where they had tortured the kids, and she saw the lab and the room that symbolized her first heat cycle. She felt a chill as she passed them, but all that mattered now was getting to the top floor. That was were she had been that day when she was six that she had been kicked down the hall, and that was where Sandeman's office was.

Ben and the Skeptic just followed along behind, watching her. They could both feel the tension coming from her, and they both knew it meant her nerves could snap at any moment. They just hoped she would calm down while they talked with Sandeman, maybe that would ease her mind. No one noticed that they were missing two people from the group.

Zack and Brin were moving quickly in the basement. Brin was holding the bombs as Zack set them up, she had never been good with explosives. She'd be likely to blast them to pieces if he let her give it a shot. It slowed down their work, but they had plenty of time. The others would probably be with Sandeman for quite a while.

"Are we gonna be okay?"

"We'll all be fine."

"I'm not talking about all of us, I'm talking about you and me."

Zack paused in his work long enough to look up at her. "You mean about your heat cycle?"

Brin flushed a little, she hated it that her body's functions could screw things up so badly. "Yeah. Are we ever going to be able to feel comfortable in the same room together?"

Zack turned back to setting up the bomb so he could avoid eye contact. "I don't really know. I can't look at you without feeling that I've abused my power."

"What are you talking about?"

"I used to be the leader before Manticore turned me into a machine, and that made me closer to all of you. When you went into heat and started hurting yourself, Kay's first reaction was to bring you to me because you were closer to me and she knew you'd be safe. She wouldn't have done that if I hadn't been the leader before."

"That's crap and you know it. It's not like you knew when you first started watching over us that you'd end up in a situation like this. I'm the one who fucked my leader, I'm the one that screwed up."

Now Zack stood up to face her. "You had no control over yourself at the time. You couldn't possibly blame yourself for the fact that Manticore put feline DNA into you and turned you into a hormone machine. The fact is you would never have done that if you weren't in heat, and that's the difference in our situations."

Sandeman's office was strangely homey, it just made everyone relax a bit once they were in. Kay's eyes flicked to a picture on the wall. It showed a man she assumed to be Sandeman sitting next to a lovely woman with two boys in front of them. One of the boys was about fifteen with dark brown hair and brown eyes, the other had a frizz of dark hair and his brown eyes showed a rather wild eleven-year-old. Kay realized it must have been a family picture with Sandeman, his wife, and White and C.J. It struck Kay how different White looked. He actually appeared to be a nice kid.

Everyone's attention turned straight ahead as the large chair behind the desk turned around. In it was an old man that wasn't even close to resembling his picture on the wall. The brown hair he'd had back then had long since turned to gray, and the lines on his face showed that he had been through a lot since then. That didn't surprise Kay, running from the Conclave was not an easy thing to do. His eyes wandered over them, then landed on her. The smile that spread across his face made Kay a little nervous, it was like he had recognized her. When he spoke, it surprised everyone. His voice was strong and eerily reminiscent of White.

"Now despite the fact that you changed your natural hair color, I would know who you are anywhere."

Kay's face was still hard, she didn't trust him as far as he could throw her. "Well, then, tell me, who am I?"

The answer was not the one she was expecting. "You are my first protection against the Coming."

Everyone in the room was quiet, Kay didn't know quite what to say. "I thought that was Max."

He shook his head with that strange smile still on his face. "No, my dear, you are. Max is more of a back-up plan."

Ben finally stepped forward. "How could Kay possibly stop the Coming?"

Sandeman now leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk. "As I'm sure you've heard, the key is the most powerful Familiar we have. One of the rules of the Conclave is that we can only have one child enter the cult, our third child. More often than not, that rule is broken. I broke it with my children, and many others have done it as well. The family of the key is the only family that is forbidden to break this rule, but this time around it was broken. I know the family of the key very well, they are always the leader of the Phalanxes, our strongest fighting team. This generation's leader, Thula, always strictly follows the rules, but her mother didn't. Tamara, Thula's mother, had a fourth child, although she didn't give birth to her herself. You see, she was too scared of anyone finding out to keep the child, but she wanted her child to live. She came to me, seeing as how I'm a doctor of sorts, and asked me to move the egg from her body to a surrogate's. This was around the same time we were producing the X5s, so I found one of the extra surrogates there who would take the egg. I decided to do some of my own work on the child. Before putting the egg into the surrogate's body, we added X5 DNA. I wanted this because I knew the Coming would be within my lifetime, and I knew Thula would be the key used. The only way to surely prevent the Coming is to kill the key, but no one was strong enough to do it. I knew only another key could beat her, but I wanted to make sure the second key was stronger, so I turned her into an X5. That X5, my dear, is you."

Everyone's eyes widened in shock at the news. Kay's whole body seemed to freeze, but she forced herself to get her next words out. "I'm a Familiar?"

He nodded, meeting her gaze the entire time. "A genetically enhanced key, which would make you far stronger than any other transgenic or Familiar. You are the only person that could successfully kill Thula."

"But what about Max? What did you make her for?"

"Max is designed to be a warning for mankind, and a cure. She is not the complete cure of the disease, but she finishes it up."


Now the Skeptic started talking, as if it had all just made sense to him. "The cult has a family that is the anti-key, but on their own they cannot destroy the disease. Something needs to be done with their blood to make it a complete cure. Are you saying Max has what they need to make it complete?"

Sandeman nodded, then added something else. "I also know who the family of the anti-key is."

The loud crash that filled the room made everyone jump, then the man who had just swung down through the window lunged at Sandeman. Kay couldn't move for a moment, then shot forward and reached Sandeman first. She grabbed the old phone off the desk, slamming it against the man's face. He hit the wall, already unconscious. Ben ran to the window and looked out.

"There's more coming!"

He had no sooner said that than he was sent flying backwards by the next person who came in. This time the Skeptic pulled out his gun and fired. "Get downstairs! I'll keep them busy up here!"

Sandeman managed to get out of his chair much faster than Kay thought he was capable of going. She stayed walking right ahead of him, with Ben directly behind. He was very important and they couldn't let him be killed just yet.

Brin could only stare at Zack in shock. "Are you saying that you would have slept with me regardless of whether I was in heat or not?"

Zack blushed a little and stepped back, no longer looking at her. "Well, I always felt strongly about you. Not so much before you were recaptured by Manticore, but afterwards at the farm. That's not the most leader-like thing to say, now is it?"

"I don't suppose so. I thought Max was the only person you looked at as more than your sister?"

"It was all the aspects of her personality that made me feel that way. She was the only person who wouldn't take any bossing around from me. You became more like that after we got you back. You refused to listen to me and you laughed every time I even walked into the kitchen."

Now Brin had to smile. "Are you saying you're attracted to every woman that doesn't think you can cook? That's probably most of the women on the planet."

Zack smiled back. "See? You never would have said that to me a few years ago. I don't know why I like that, maybe it's the challenge."

Brin gestured to the bomb he had just finished setting up. "We'd better get this stuff up to the first floor and finish our work."

They worked on the first floor in silence. Brin was trying to keep the smile off her face. He was attracted to her. If anyone but him had told her that, she would have thought they were nuts. In fact, she was wondering if he hadn't been knocked too senseless by seeing Lydecker's body earlier, but then he probably would be pushing her away. They were nearly done with the explosives when they heard the crash upstairs.

"I think our company is here," Brin said grimly. Zack started working faster, set and determined to finish his work here before going after them. All they would have to do was get their people out of the building and let the bombs do their work. As soon as he finished setting up the last one, he pulled out the tiny box with the detonator.

"As soon as everyone's out of the building, we are blowing this place up. I wish we had done it on our last time here."

"If you had done that, I wouldn't be here."

Zack didn't say anything to that, he just headed upstairs. Brin stayed close behind him, ready at any time for one of the Familiars to jump out of one of the rooms at them.

Kay could still hear the Skeptic shooting in Sandeman's office. She knew he would eventually run out of ammo, then he'd be as good as dead. It sort of surprised her that he was that kind of person. Maybe the Reds weren't all that bad after all. They were down to the third floor when Zack and Brin ran into them. Kay hadn't even noticed they'd been gone.

"Where were you two?"

"Doing something important. They're here, aren't they?" Zack avoided her question easily. Kay nodded, knowing she didn't need to tell him. It was then that the shooting in Sandeman's office stopped.

"Move!" Kay snapped quickly. Everyone ran as fast as they could towards the stairs, but Kay and Ben had to move slower because of Sandeman. He was actually moving pretty fast for his age but not nearly as fast as the X5s. Kay knew they'd need a different way of getting him out.

"Can you make it from here to the ground?"

Sandeman's look showed his amusement at the question. "Of course, but I can't guarantee I'll be alive after I hit the ground."

"Don't be a smartass. Would you be able to made it from the second floor?"


"Zack! Get down on the ground outside Manticore and we'll throw him down to you."

Zack nodded and promptly ran into the closest room and jumped out the window. Kay knew he reached the ground on his feet, so she just focused on getting Sandeman down to the second floor. They had just reached the stairway when they heard a shot fired behind them. Kay heard someone hit the ground behind her.

"Keep going!" Ben said urgently. Kay turned her head to look at him. She certainly wasn't expecting him to be on the ground. On closer inspection she saw the bullet wound in his side.

"Ben, I'm not going anywhere if you're hurt!"

"Just get going! I'll hold them off, then I'll get out! I can still make the jump to the ground, so you don't have to worry about me."

Kay shoved her gun and all her ammunition into his hands. "Here, you can hold them off longer with this. I don't need it, I have Brin with me." She leaned down and kissed him roughly, then followed Brin and Sandeman down the hall. She hated leaving him there like that, but she knew he could make it down.

Sandeman turned around just as she reached him when he heard Ben start firing almost right away at the Familiars coming down the steps. The color drained completely from his face as he stared back at the scene.


Kay immediately turned her head. Sure enough, White was standing on the staircase with his gun in his hand. The only person he was looking at was Sandeman, everyone else seemed to disappear for him. It wasn't until he raised his gun to fire and Ben shot him in the stomach that he noticed others were there. He turned and aimed his gun at Ben's head so quickly that nobody had time to react. As soon as the gun went off Kay shot back up the stairs. Brin started after her.

"Kay, don't!"

Kay ignored her as she headed for Ben. Some part of her already told her it was too late, but she needed to get to him. I should have visited him earlier. Why didn't I listen to my head?

Zack pulled himself back up into a window on the second floor. He had heard all the gunshots, something had to be wrong. His face turned dead white when he saw the scene on the stairs. Kay was running up to Ben's body, which was definitely all it was, while Brin started to follow her. Zack shouted out to her before she could get too far.

"I already pressed the detonator! This place is gonna go in five minutes!"

Brin stopped and turned to look at him when she heard him, then shouted up after Kay. "Get out of here now!"

Kay didn't show any sign that she had heard the warning, but Brin knew she had. Zack had now grabbed Sandeman's arm and was dragging him the rest of the way down the stairs. The old man was still looking back at his son, who Zack was willing to bet wasn't going to be alive much longer. Brin finally turned and went after them, but couldn't stop herself from constantly looking back at the stairs.

When White saw Kay approach, he obviously didn't recognize her, but he could see he was in some serious trouble. He turned and ran, still moving fast in spite of the opening in his stomach. Kay stopped for a moment when she reached Ben. She couldn't bring herself to look down at him, she had seen the damage the shot had made when it hit. She grabbed the friendship bracelet that she had received from Jason, Mark, and Katie so many months ago and dropped it onto his chest, then took off again after White. He wasn't getting away this time.

When they reached the top floor, Kay saw him head for the last stairwell that led to the roof. She'd be able to get him up there. She turned abruptly and darted into one of the rooms, broke the window, positioned herself perfectly on the windowsill, and jumped up onto the roof. She could see the door he'd be coming out of, it would be all too easy to kill him when he reached it. She didn't notice Zack jump back out onto the ground and catch a still dazed Sandeman as he jumped out to him, then move aside so Brin could land. The only thing she did notice was when Zack cupped his hands and shouted up to her "You only have three minutes!" That was fine, three minutes would be more than enough.

Kay reached the door just as it was flung open. White didn't even see her fist coming, and was more than lucky to fall sideways and hit the wall rather than go flying back down the stairs. Kay reached in and grabbed his throat, pushing him up against the wall until his feet were no longer on the ground. He was in shock for a couple seconds, then got a much better look at her face. She saw his eyes bulge when he recognized her, but that also could just have been how hard she was squeezing his throat.

White finally managed to slam his knee into her gut, catching her off guard and forcing her to drop him. He punched her as hard as he could, more to stun her than to do actual damage; from what he'd heard the other X5 say, she'd be killed when this place went up.

Kay certainly was stunned, but not enough for him to make a decent getaway. She lunged at him and hit him in the back, causing them both to go down. As soon as they hit the stone, Kay got on her knees and flipped him over to face her.

"You might think it's okay to kill your partner, but don't go off killing someone else's!" She started hitting him, trying to get every square inch of his face. For some reason, there were already healing wounds there, but she split them all wide open again. It wasn't until she heard and felt the rumble of the first bomb going off that she jumped off him and headed for the edge of the roof. She had just looked over the side and was wondering if she could make that distance alright when her hair was grabbed from behind. White slammed her head down onto the stone, nearly rendering her unconscious, but she threw an elbow into his leg. His legs nearly came out from under him, and Kay took the time to jump back to her feet. They were about to start seriously fighting when the bombs started going off faster. Kay decided to forget about him and just started to jump off, then the entire building blew up right under her feet.

Brin looked up at where the roof had just been. "Zack, I never saw her get off! Did she make it?"

Zack was looking up at the same spot, feeling strangely numb. "She had to have made it. This is Kay we're talking about!"

"I hope she did, she's the world's best chance against the Coming." Both X5s turned to look at Sandeman with disgust.

"To hell with the Coming! The best thing she could have done for the world was to kill your wonderful son up there!" Brin growled, wishing that she could tear him apart for saying something like that. Sandeman grew silent at that, knowing perfectly well that Kay was more than capable of killing Ames and that she was in the state of mind to do it.

Zack started to walk towards the burning remains of Manticore. "Maybe she got off on the other side, I have to go see."

Brin shoved Sandeman into the van and waited for Zack to return. She had already lost her best friend, now was her closest sister going to be taken away from her too? Not to mention the brother she had lost inside. She hoped that Zack would come back with Kay, who would tell her she killed White and that Ben wasn't really dead. Wouldn't that be perfect?

The time wore on and Brin started to seriously wonder where Zack was. Why hadn't he come back yet? He must have found Kay by now. It wasn't until a half hour after he had left that Zack came back, looking oddly defeated. Brin jumped out of the van.

"Did you find her? Where is she? She isn't..." Brin couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence. He shook his head.

"I honestly don't know. I didn't see any sign of her. I saw the bodies of some Familiars, but I didn't see Kay anywhere."

"She could have gotten away, right? She could have made it?"

Zack kept staring at the ground. "Maybe, but I don't think so. My bet is that she's inside the rubble somewhere."

Brin couldn't find the words to say. She could still remember talking with Kay, joking with her about cooking, laughing at her when she didn't know who Emeril was, riding horses with her, and basically always feeling in awe of her because of her strength, both physical and emotional.

Zack climbed into the driver's seat, struggling to keep his mind blank. That was the only way he had ever been able to deal with his emotions, forget about them. He tried to ignore the fact that Kay had been sitting here not even an hour before, he tried to ignore that he'd had to support her not too long ago when she'd seen Lydecker's body, and he tried to ignore that just a few days ago she'd been there to talk some sense into him about Brin. Even more so than Lydecker, she was a person whose strength caused him to believe that nothing could ever destroy her, but he had the feeling that she was somehow already destroyed when Ben was killed. While trying to force the thoughts from his mind, he reached down and turned on the radio. There was dead silence from the people in the van as the music played. They had to learn to say goodbye.

Once upon a year gone by
She saw herself give in
Every time she closed her eyes
she saw what could have been
Well nothing hurts and nothing bleeds
when covers tucked in tight
funny when the bottom drops
How she forgets to fight...to fight

And it's one more day in paradise
One more day in paradise

As darkness quickly steals the light
That shined within her eyes
She slowly swallows all her fear
And soothes her mind with lies
Well all she wants and all she needs
Are reasons to survive
A day in which the sun will take
Her artificial light...her light

And it's one more day in paradise
One more day in paradise
It's one more day in paradise
One last chance to feel alright...alright

Don't pretend to hold it in just let it out
Don't pretend to hold it in just push it out
Don't you try to hold it in just let it out and
Don't you try to hold it in you hold it in

And it's one more day in paradise
One more day in paradise
It's one more day in paradise
One last chance to feel alright

Once upon a year gone by
She saw herself give in
Every time she closed her eyes
She saw what could have been

Author's Note: Just in case anyone's wondering, the song at the end is "Paradise" by Vanessa Carlton. I heard it and thought it fit the story pretty good. Be sure to go look at "The Second Key", which is the sequel to "Outside".