Patient zero… the first victim of Blacklight, the victims of Doctor Alexander J Mercer during his last moment of living. Alex was trying to clean up the last of his virus still out there. Unlike the super soldier's virus, patient zero holds his untyped virus. It'll be dormant since the bodies failed to be what the virus was working on. Alex hopes Blackwatch didn't recover them. That would be annoying if it is. He headed towards Harlem, north of Manhattan where the military base AE-One is. That worried him since he knew all the infecteds are now located to the south where the dead zones are. Harlem though was once an infected area, so it'll be deserted thanks to safety procedure.

No one wants to get infected by some leftover virus still hanging around. It's likely the marines would be there along with scientists to disinfect the area. They'll comply with wearing safety suit. That means numbers entering a once-infected area will be restricted to the number of equipments, which—Alex knew—there's not many and that made progress slow. Alex also knew there are only two patient zero bodies still existing.

Randall, paranoid back then what with McMullen probably babbling about getting his hand on anything that has Blacklight's virus and doing more suspicious research on it, ordered destruction on the bodies. McMullen managed to save two, sending it to Ragland only to be recovered when Randall found out. Alex hopes those bodies are left untouched since it would be much easier to bring them into him when their host are whole. Getting them back while they're all over the place in chunks of flesh is not easy, and if the building they're in is destroyed, they'll be squashed between rubbles and in crooked tight spaces.

Granted that Alex is strong and doesn't find anything impossibly difficult, but when it comes to mental effort especially the part where he would need to coax the virus back into him and locating them against annoying noisy presences in his head, that's like trying to tug a piece of paper beneath a stubborn boulder. Not to mention the bodies are dead, meaning dead cells. There's nothing the virus could work with, so it will stay happily inactive…unless some poor living organism decides to take up as its new host. In the meantime, it'll be impossible to make them active, which would make things easy in the first place.

He meandered over Manhattan's rooftop, laying low when helicopters past over or avoiding them. He passed by Central Park and stopped for a moment at the sight of it. Instead of greenery that gave a break to the grey urban background, it was covered with a thick haze of misty red. I'll check that out later when I get back, he promised and moved on. Alex saw his destination as he glide by releasing pressurize gas-version of his biomass. When nearing the base, he immediately dived like a bulleting hawk and landed onto the deserted road with a heavy crack. The military base was clear of any sign of infection. There weren't any red stains or red sticky webs growing on the roads or on the building like some infected moss. A good sign. The virus is receding.

He marched towards the abandoned military base, relieved that it was still whole. Striding into the desolate gaping hole of the garage's doorway, he entered the room that would be used as a parking lot. A place, he recalled through memories, meant for making equipments transfer to transport vehicle easier. Going toward the lab area on the other end, he noted with a crinkle of his nose, the bodies left out were way past rotting. The mesh security glass that observed the lab were broken through, making the fumes hit straight into his nose.

Alex looked around critically, climbing over the opening with his shoes crunching on the littering glass shards. He eyed the tables where the corpses are. They looked like they were in their last stage of decomposing… almost a pile of dirt if it weren't for the bones sticking out to say otherwise. Blacklight could be bothering the parasites growing in the bodies. It could be mutating it into working faster so that the bodies decompose into dirt quicker. Alex shook his head from the notion. The next thing the world needs is parasites that decompose bodies within second, and that means if it got out, living people on the street are turning into dirt right before everyone's eyes.

But just to make sure… Alex switched his vision and grimaced. Blacklight was active with the way the pile of dirt was smeared and glowed white. Well he's not going to let any of the mutated parasites exists. He'll do the same thing as he'd done to the super soldiers. He commanded Blacklight to activate a chemical reaction within its host cells, a reaction he knew it would kill its host but only made his black tendrils flicker over his arm. Alex watched as the white glow begins to recede into nothing. Blacklight virus was either destroying the parasite's DNA or mutating so much that the parasites began to eat each other and ended up breaking apart.

Alex drummed his fingers on the metal observation table in waiting. The thought of consuming came up but Alex brushed that thought aside. Consuming parasites was to him like licking dirt clean, and he's not going to have his tendrils mopping over the rot remains of a corpse—but it gets things thoroughly clean, disinfected-ly clean. He made a face at that thought then noticed the membranous liquid wetting the pile of dirt. He watched in surprise as the thin liquid membrane gathered up to be a black-red mass that was dribbling towards him. Of all the billions of micro-small parasites, barely a drop of biomass was produced. Really?

Alex just rolled his eyes and let the new bit of him join the club. He turned around and stopped to see two thread of black liquid sliding across the floor, coming from the other two rotting bodies and towards his black shoes. He almost overlooked it as a black crack in the tiles if it weren't for how straight its trail was… or moving on that matter. He sighed and let it joined up… sure, a few genetic materials and bacteria cells of some parasites are what he needs right now.

The realization of his virus capable at infecting parasites also made him wondered what else the Blacklight could do, or couldn't? Perhaps infects trees into becoming an embodiment of Mother Nature's wrath. Oh yeah, that's exactly what New York needs, a fucking man-eating trees. How's that for a change in nature? Alex snorted at that thought and begin his venture back to south of Manhattan. Yes, he's a virus. Yes, he's a product of nature that's perfected by man. No, he's not going to help Mother Earth win the war against the idiotic humans polluting the world.

Global warming to him was simply a change in climate that will go away in time. What nature does are not without reason, even if it means killing off the source of its trouble. Besides, nature always wins. How else is he here then? And that troubled him. If he's here, couldn't something like him be produced again? Not by man of course, perhaps by nature. PARIAH wasn't exactly of man or nature on that matter. The boy's existence is catalyzed by both.

Alex knew he was a different case. His existence was brought by the virus nature, a nature that has already existed, just nudged up in the evolution scale by mankind. The sentient virus knows man cannot create nor destroy. Rule of nature, absolute law of physics. They can make and they can tear things apart 'til it's just particles, but it always comes back one way or another. It just takes time to gather up just as nature needs time to evolve. He frowned deeply. He knew whatever virus Redlight came from must have come from nature in the first place, and it must be lethal enough that it made those who watched acted.

Is that why they experiment on the virus in the first place? They saw how nature works, they saw it killed them in ways they couldn't and they wanted to find out what made it tic? Looking at it in a grand scale, Alex knew mankind is one of nature's worker-bees in terms of speeding up evolution, but in doing so, it screwed up natural selection. Tipping the scales way too much will drag everything down, the scales itself.

He mentally shook himself of these thoughts as he sprinted across the rooftops. Now is not the time to ponder. But it does point out something important. Were there any other Runners out there besides Elizabeth Greene, before Greene? Alex winced when memories flashed to greet that question. He immediately stopped in his sprinting, not wanting to crash on some building's side or stumbling over the edges at the top.

"Sir… is it true he caught the last runner on his own?" He—Blackwatch asked Randall.

Randall kept his eyes on the monitor when he answered with this, "Not caught. Killed."

The image of Captain Cross flashed. The captain standing there over the female form. The Runner, dead, at his feet.

As if the devil itself had shown up, the captain's voice echoed into his mind. "It's likely the target is a Runner. The last we encountered dragged ass across the Southwest United States for weeks, infecting as she went."

Alex blinked as the memories past within seconds. They weren't talking about Greene definitely, since Cross killed the Runner, and Idaho was in the northwest of United State, so if any of the infected survived the wipe-out at Hope, it couldn't have gone that far what with Blackwatch already there. He knew Greene was in Blackwatch's custody ever since Hope's outbreak, which happened in the year 1969 so no other Runners of Redlight besides her. She's a runner with nowhere to run. She was locked up all the way but she was transferred around a lot. Maybe some had escaped from her—no, not escaped. Greene was literally spreading virus like it was seed and the world was her garden. And seeds incubate through time.

"…It represents the most intriguing human carrier ever discovered to date. Its body produces hundreds of unique strains on a daily basis. Most of harmless, a few are deadly… It's like its evolving at a rapid pace. It's war-dialing at a genetic level. It's becoming something else..."

"…It seems like she's… waiting for something..."

If that were the case, she would've plant at whatever opportunity she could get and these Runners sprouts out in answer. Perhaps when Greene was in custody they took some of the viruses Redlight produced. Is that where others come from? From some other experiment that went out of control? How many experiments were there besides Carnival I and II, before Blacklight? Is that why Blackwatch existed in the first place, to clean up messes if ever one of these 'experiments' messed up? Alex scowled at the thought. What with Blackwatch existing before Hope, Alex can't help but wonder, how many times history was repeated. Or perhaps its nature itself producing these Runners of other virus.

That would also make sense… Blackwatch existing in the first place due to biological warfare existing, but any standard military should be able to dealt that… on some level. So Blackwatch must have established from some breakthrough in biological warfare, something like a Runner existing in the first place. That would mean the first Runner could be of nature. Redlight's predecessor though must absolutely come from nature. It had to. It made sense. A natural virus that produced other viruses, especially the raw Redlight strain…most are harmless, a few deadly… but Blackwatch perfected it, thinking they found the key to fighting every biological war they can get. …This…source. It's the key to genetics—but it's also a machine, churning out the worst viruses ever seen… A race then, to beat it all. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

That last quote doesn't make sense. A single hit from a missile he can survive, but it weakens him a bit, not make him stronger. Unless it was talking about how one learns from mistake, how one adapts. Alex shook his head. Enough with this questioning and thinking. Pay attention to the sky. The last thing he needs is some Apache or a Blackhawk picking him out, so he moved, remembering his next things-to-do in his priority list.

Alex landed with a heavy thump on the building's top and immediately went to the corner viewing Central Park. His sight focused into the distant, noticing the whole park was emanating a foreboding red mist. Perimeters surrounded the place and every soldier, every personnel was wearing a gas mask and a biohazard suit. What's going on here? He frowned, not liking these questions. More and more just keeps popping up! He sniffed the air noting the sweet-smelling scents that plants, trees, even fresh dirt gives off when wet. It's definitely not BloodTox since it was ass-smelling. What's really notable about it is that it was coming from the park.

Alex leaped, glided over the perimeters and immediately into the thick mist. A tree emerged suddenly right below him. Alex quickly air dashed then dropped himself into a clearing. All over his body, he could feel tingles running through him. And the air… it was damp, wet…humid. His shoes made squelching noise when he stepped on something. Alex looked down to what he was standing on and notice red roots—no, red tentacles draping the grounds. From this much tentacles, Alex knew, he was standing on some kind of hive. All the known hives he's seen are always on buildings, and Central Park has no building. He looked around, trying to see through the thick red mist but heard radios crackling. Alex shoots off into the area where the trees were thickest, covered by the growing slimy membranous roots. He waited there, out of sight from being spotted.

"Fascinating. Redlight must have had produced a strain that could infect the microbes in the ground." A voice, muffled behind some device—gasmask, Alex recalled.

"Yeah… so what does it mean?" A dull bland voice, probably a soldier escorting the guy.

"Microbes are known to be in the ground. It's what makes the earth rich. Redlight is just using it as its hosts. All these red mist are actually microbes finally at work, rising from the ground into the air. They gather on the trees to make it easy to grow spores. The microbes then eat the trees to produce more infected microbes."

"So can we burn them?"

"No. That's just makes it worse. Fire heats air, and air rise, that would spread the infected microbes even further."

"Then what do we do?"

"Just make sure you don't get caught in the roots—not the trees', the infection's. The trees are just supports and materials, they're not infected."

Alex just blinked when hearing this. He was almost distracted by the sight of the moving cocoon that grew slimy red on the trees.

"So as long it doesn't get the food it needs, like some civ, it doesn't grow?"


"Okay, I'll take note on that. Don't feed the wolf," the voice said drily.

So Redlight is still evolving. Alex grounded his teeth together. From earlier intel he saw, infected activities were seen all over the southeast of Manhattan… all towards Brooklyn. These movements it was taking, they're all… it feels like it was directed. Alex's ears perked up when hearing helicopters from above. There was a sound of heavy material flapping. He looked up and squinted then noticed the glimmers of white fabric poking through the mist, and judging from the distant, way high above. A distant noise of machine whirred, a fan, maybe and more noise of heavy flapping could be heard. He watched the red sky above darkened as if night had suddenly approached.

Wait. Alex blinked in realization. They're setting this place up like some containment tent! That would trap the microbes from escaping… with him. Natural-instincts in him bucked. Shit, I need to get out of here! He thought crossly and burst into speed. He immediately went to the nearest exit that was nothing but a white glowing line in the distant… and it was disappearing as something slowly descends over it. Alex ducked under the tarp settling down, running out in blurring speed, almost bowling past some scientists that were ready to rig it to the ground.

"Infected! Shoot it! Shoot it!"

Well the good thing they didn't recognize him, but… Apache and Blackhawks were suddenly swarming the air. Oh great, just great! I need to put one of my disguises! Alex thought desperately as he shoot into some alleyway nearby, breaking the line of sight—he hoped. His body begins to shift. Tendrils swarming and flickering his form as they reweave themselves into a new shape, into a marine. By then, Alex was walking out of the building in his green uniform and was progressing his way to a more crowded area.

"Hey. Hey Dana. Hey!"

Dana blinked, having got distracted by a black beady eye in the bushes. She looked up to her brother who was standing tall on some boulder with the heavy backpack she recalled carrying the stuff for two of them.

"Canada's nice, eh?" Alex grinned at her when he did the Canadian thing. "Not sulking over your brother getting scholarship, hmm?"

Dana shook her head, having long gone over the sulky stage. Sure her brother was fifteen, which meant he still had three years of high school left—and that means he stays in town with her, but he blew those off by getting high marks in his grades and scholarships. Now he's going to move out to some big city to attend university. She'd asked: why not college? Her brother face darkened at the mention of it as he'd answered with: I don't like people, then his lips widened into a grin, college is for average and I'm no average joe. She'd grinned at the cheesy voiceover.

So lots and lots of scholarship mean going away. Was it three he got and a recommendation? She couldn't remember and couldn't understand how one could be so smart. Her brother had replied to her wryly with this: probably I got hit in the head on the sweet spots. She didn't find that funny. It had been a year after that last 'incident'.

This year had been good. It was quiet. It was peaceful. There wasn't any yelling or beatings… just blissful happiness. Alex was less disgruntled too, but that was soon replace with the disgruntles of having to study for many things. So she couldn't bother him a lot but it seems he was growing distant with all the studies he does. Alex had notice the blue state his sister was in and decided to ask a favor from his biology teacher who's also his tutor. Getting flying marks and recommendation made him able to squeeze favors from his teachers, such as making field trips for with his sister. His teacher understood where this was going just went with it.

Dana knew why her brother was doing this, and that made her sad yet happy. Going to Canada was going somewhere new. It also felt like a farewell from her brother, her child-like mind though, brushed this off quickly. It's not like Alex is going to stop her from seeing him, or calling him or talking to him. She knew some kids don't go well with their siblings, and she was not one of those kids. But she had to wonder, why in the world did her brother chose tramping in some national park.

Most of her brother's choices and habits are peculiar; his extreme habit of studying, his avoidance on people and his cold behavior. She'd seen that side of him when they were briefly moved to some orphanage. When a kid cries, her brother just ignored it while others would gather. When the matron chided him, her brother would have anger on his face. When other children bothered him, he almost seemed to snarl at them. Dana just thought he was being dramatic at having his studies disturbed.

She did notice those odd things that made him an 'odd' one out, as the grown-ups say. While children grossed out or yell 'cool' at the sight of dissecting frogs, Alex was quiet and had a deep intense concentration, maybe fascination. But it wasn't only that. When the orphanage kids found some run-over possum outside. The girls were either making a fuss with their 'eek'-ing, or crying over it like some pet animal that died suddenly. The boys were just poking with dead sticks or daring each other to do atrocities on it.

But Alex, her quiet brother, said nothing, showed nothing, and didn't feel anything for it. He did not behave like the others. He wasn't in the crowd. Dana had seen this from the orphanage's window and she couldn't help but notice his… distance to others. Of course, that made her brother a target. But whenever a 'weirdo!' or 'freak!' came out, they were quickly silenced after one day.

Dana had noticed, the kids that tried to taunt him had awful scarring and bruising the next day, and the look of fear in their eyes, especially at her brother. Was it because they're intimidated by the sight of him kick-boxing? She had to admit, her brother was a pro on that… but he wasn't really into it. It was more of a side hobby he does when he's grumpy. She couldn't understand why any of these bother others. It's not like its wrong to be odd, right.

"C'mon, Dana." Alex called out up ahead. "You want to see the waterfall or not?"

"Uh, yeah!" Dana called back. "I think I just saw a deer!"

"You'll see more deer if you hurry up! Can't make my bio teacher pissed at waiting for us, y'know!"

Dana stared at the memory, feeling the blissful childhood memory immersed her. She turned to another, one she was ten and her brother nineteen. It was also the last true memory she had with Alex, the rest was sad waiting at the phone and disappointment at the lack of emails.

"Uh oh," Dana muttered when the computer blue-screened on her. "Alex is going to be pissed," she whispered to herself while wide-eye. As if knowing the crime she'd done, the door of his dorm slammed open. Dana jumped from the worn seat and immediately scampered but skidded to a stop when hearing glass shattering. She winced at the sound, reminding of dark memories of her childhood.

"FUUUUCK!" a man's voice yelled.

Woah, someone's mad! Dana hesitatingly crept out of the corner and saw Alex standing over mirror shards, his right fist bleeding. She glanced at the wall beside him. The mirror hanged there, ruined with how most of its bits now on the carpeted floor.

"Alex," Dana's voice was quiet.

Her brother fumed, breathing heavy and loudly in the tensed air. He seemed not to hear her as he stared angrily at the shards near his feet. It was as if their existence had insulted him or something and he'd decided to punch it.

"Alex," Dana called louder.

Alex blinked, breaking his stupor. He looked up and saw his sister, confused, as if he didn't know she was here to visit him.

"What's wrong?" Dana asked, inching closer to her now calming brother.

Immediately her brother's face scowled. "Just some professor who'd disagreed with me," he snarled. Dana winced at the tone. She stood there awkwardly before remembering her brother's bleeding hand. Without word, she grasped a handful of tissues from the tissue box nearby then took her brother's hand. Alex immediately snatched his hand from her hold. He turned his back on her and walked off only to stop. Dana didn't know what to say really, only that her brother was being an ass, yeah. So she chose to do something and begin picking the mirror shards off the floor.

"Was it the research paper?" she said quietly as she gathered the big shards together.

Her brother grunted in answer then there was a heavy sigh. "Go to the kitchen. Ask the staff for dishtowel and newspapers. I'll pick up the shards." Alex told her briskly. "Besides, it's my mess," he said and crouched down by her to pick up the shards.

"Should I ask for bandages?" Dana asked and stood up, eyeing his bleeding hand. Doesn't it hurt?


"Okay." Dana left only to hear angry muttering behind her, something along the lines…fucking professor…shit…it's clearly…knows nothing…! The rest was incoherent keywords Dana would have trouble spelling.

Going out the cold corridors that connected to her brother's dorm room, passing by loud music and screaming bunch of students in some dorm, she went down some stairs and into the warmly lit dining hall. Going up to the shiny swinging door at the other end, she pushed past it and entered a steamy stainless steel room with the sound of tap water gushing. Most of the staffs were busy preparing dinner for the Christmas buffet, so they were all over the place. Dana muster her confidence and immediately tap the back of one of the workers. The worker turned, face soured with how the scruffy eyebrows scrunched up. Jeez, ain't anyone happy for Christmas, Dana thought as she mentally cringed at that look the dude was giving.

"Can I have a dry dish towel, and newspapers?" she spoke loudly over the hiss of cooking and clanging of pots, plates. "Also do you have a med-kit?!"

The dude just rolled his eyes and stuck his hands out of sink. He shook his hands to dry, flickering drops of water everywhere, pelting on Dana. She scrunched her face crossly in answer. Don't they have drying towel nearby? She thought critically as she followed the worker while dodging others rushing back and forth. She stopped in some area that looked like a laundry room tucked out of corner. Dishtowel shoved into her view suddenly. Dana blinked and quickly grabbed it. Dry paper crackled with the sound of cupboard sliding open greeted her ears. She waited patiently, slightly leaning from one foot to the other. Newspaper tossed into her load with a roll of bandage dropped into her arm.

"Here you go," the worker grumble and begin pushing her towards the exit before she could say anything.

Shoved out with the sound of swinging doors shutting off the noises, Dana crinkled her nose. A famous Mercer move when things annoyed them.

"What an asshole," the ten years old miffed but quickly chided herself. Christmas was the time holidays, and that means people are busy…annoyingly busy, she thought sourly, remembering the last year Christmas she couldn't come to visit Alex since he'd been so 'busy'. She sighed. At least she's here.

Dana hurried to her brother's dorm room. Entering it with a kick pushing the door shut behind, she went over to her brother.

"Here." She handed the bandage then crouched down. Placing the newspaper flatly on the floor, she used to the dishtowel to brush the shards onto it, just like how her brother had done when she was six. Cleaning up the house early in the morning, making sure there are no glass shards from beer bottles. She blinked herself back to the present, and looked up. Noticing Alex hunched over the computer.

"Alex," she said quietly. "You still mad?" She wondered if her brother found out she'd blue-screened his computer.

"Nah, I can't be bothered," her brother brushed off. "Want to go out?" he turned to look over his shoulder.

"In the snow?" Inside she'd brightened up.

"Yeah. There's ice-skating."

"Don't you have studies?"

"Yeah, but the professors can fuck themselves," Alex replied nonchalantly. "Want to skate or not? Central Park has a nice one I heard."

"Sure!" Dana grinned.

"You miss him."

Dana winced, hearing that voice. She had long gotten use to her stalker and frankly running away is not going to solve problem. Honestly, whatever corner of her dream/memories/mind-thing, she was always there watching from somewhere close by. She could feel her, and she didn't like the intimacy that tries to caress and lull her. Dana couldn't understand how she felt this when there's nothing yet something, but then dreams are always known to be weird. This Greene girl was probably part of her imagination, so she decided to indulge it.

"Well, yeah. I'm his sister," Dana replied drily to the voice. "Sisters should watch out for their brothers, especially when they become jackass later on in life." She rolled her eyes at this.

"It must be sad…" the thousand of soft wailings weaved into the words.

Dana cringed and tried to put distance between her and it. She only ended up moving herself into memories that gave her sad reminders.

"What do you mean I can't come?" Dana frowned displeasingly as she leaned against the wall, hogging the phone. A group of sophomore clique girls sneered at her, especially at her punkish clothes. Dana just flipped the bird at their back. So what she's not wearing latest fashion of branded clothes. Besides, she knows how the clothes were made and the cost for making it. She's not going to wear a brand of clothes that reaps on slaving poor homeless kids in third world country.

"Look, I'm busy. I've got papers to complete and I need to get on with my research work," her brother's voice answered gruffly.

"But it's the holidays jerk, I thought we agreed to spend together," she said crossly. "You promised," her voice wobbled.

"That trick doesn't work on me anymore. For one thing, I'm immune to it, for another, you're getting old. Your voice ruins it."

Dana rolled her eyes. Okay, if I can't come, at least tell me how's it going up there, she thought. "Got a girlfriend, Alex?" she teased.

Her brother was quiet.

"Oh my fucking god." Dana's eyes widened. "Alex has finally got a girlfriend. Rah~! The crowds goes wild!" She burst out, laughing in the corridor and getting an odd glance from those who heard her.

"I don't have a girlfriend." Alex's voice had a grimaced tone in it.

"Then…" Dana waited.

"She's way out of my league with her prestigious background, Dana. So bye—" the phone clicked with a flat tone ringing dully back to her ear.

Dana raised her eyebrow at this. "Well sorry," she snorted and put the phone back. Damn. She should have pushed her brother on letting her visit. It's been like what three-four years now since her last one. Plus the phone calls were getting reduced weeks by weeks, months by months. She barely heard from her brother and this was like his third call after five months. It's not like she's getting email, which she was sure her brother's email address was changed, or abandoned, and he forgot to tell her about it.

Dana knew that was like the last ever call she would get from her brother. He would ringed her again three years later just to tell the news of his diploma and prize giving night event. By then she would be way beyond pissed, having find out about his research assistant status for some shady company. Gentek. Those high prestigious paranoid companies are always up to no good, and Gentek was mostly on top of the list. They don't really promote themselves since they're cooped up so tightly behind their wall, figuratively and virtually. Trying to crack the security walls on its databases would be asking for jail with a long life sentence. A humanitarian girl by heart but a snarky quick-witted writer in mind made her daring to make her own opportunity. Dana and her hacker friends had narrowly escaped the cost of their endeavor when Gentek was picked as one of their victims.

She was eighteen then, and she'd been up to no good. Snooping around, getting inside information for publishing articles under another alias but she'd settle down, wanting a stable life and not one of getting in jail often. She'd also gone softer in her spunk… and more tolerant on people. Journalism does that. It also made her wanted to reconnect with her brother, thinking if she could reduce the physical distance between them, it would make her brother's life easier, made it easier for him to connect.

That's why she came to New York, but holy crap, she didn't expected her brother stumbling back into her life, mumbling about conspiracy, back-stabbers and shadowy military. It was also the time he'd visited her often—not to know how she was going, but how much she had progress on getting information. Paranoia was high in her brother's life… and then he went missing for almost a fortnight.

"Then our son came," Greene's voice whisper softly, disturbing Dana's thought on Alex's recent behaviors.

Dana frowned. What is it with this son? Plus it was really creepy she can hear her thoughts, which makes sense since Greene was in her mind/dream—whatever. If this was a dream, then she must be sleeping. She couldn't remember what exactly made her sleep so she focused on other question. How long has she been asleep? Does the time pass in dreams is the same outside? She wondered. What was Alex doing? Is he worried? Will he be there when she wakes up? That question didn't fit the Alex she knew.

The Alex that turned into a jackass would've probably go on with his life—she doesn't know, her brother's sudden appearance on her doorstep shaken that opinion. If he was the Alex from far back then, he would try. But the amnesiac Alex she knows would. That was a definite. She'd remembered how he'd stepped into the room when Blackwatch was trying to force her, how he'd straightly went and punched…through the soldier. Alex had that intense look that was unlike the calm aloof brother she'd known. Even when her brother got into a fight, he'd always kept the cold look.

This Alex… the one that just burst through after a week of being missing, was different. When he'd asked her questions after they've escaped her apartment, his voice was soft, not demanding nor had the tone of irritant, like something had pissed him off, which—knowing her brother—happens a lot. When she'd found out about his amnesia, it explain much of his strange manner… and the look he'd usually give to her. During the times they were laying low while getting to her friend's apartment, he'd been quiet but not in the same sense that oozes stiffness… but awkwardness, like he didn't know what to say or do. Mostly he'd be scanning the crowds or glancing behind his shoulder, fidgeting. The fidgeting was so unlike the Alex she knew. That man had been stiff and cold, so still… like a rock.

Dana noted these small changes, like the look he puts on when they arrived at her friend's apartment, when his guard was down enough. The look he gives were the look of a guy who's lost... well not exactly lost. More like a guy who was trying to absorb the answer right in front of him. When he'd glanced at her, he put on a look of curiosity and sometime of wondering, as if he was having a question fest in there every time he sees her. Dana could understand the last part. If she had amnesia, she would be questioning herself about anything. But the biggest difference between the Alex back then and the amnesiac Alex could be seen when they're pissed.

When jackass Alex gets mad, he would be fuming and snarly, glaring at everything as if they had offended him. Mostly he would be refusing to talk, but when he does, his snappish voice would make others feel like they were his bitch, like they've done something wrong and he was simply snapping at them for it. The amnesiac Alex was different. His voice turned growly and low, his eyes would narrow with his face hardened into a steely… determined look. He looked like a guy ready to punch the insulter right in the face. But the amazing fact is that he was acting like how…anyone would with the way he was struggling to reel in his anger.

"He can be any of them," Greene whispered meaninglessly as she gazed emptily.

Dana sighed. What a great imagination she had—a grating one, she noted, quite disturbed as she heard the wailings in the background and shuddered in revulsion.

"He was an ideal son. Strong, keen in the mind, but he was not born with our voice in him. We rejected him at first. We thought he was one of them. Turned against us," the voices continued murmuring. "But he was more like us than not. We learned too late. Too late to heal what should have never been done," Greene whispered sadly before turning her gaze on Dana. "So we took her," Greene said and smiled contently.

Dana was still confused, not getting this son and plural term business.

"We wanted to know why he goes to her and not us," Greene murmured softly in wonder. "We thought she was his family. But we were wrong. She was clean. Unmarked." There was amazement in her voices. "So we gave her our touch unlike any we have ever given to our children. To know what she holds in her that made him stay by her side. To make her us. To make you his."

Dana eyes widen at this revelation. "His? Son… Alex? W-wh-what?," she whispered, confused and immediately backed away only to realize the wailings were all around her, too close for comfort. She scanned desperately around and craned away when she felt the gentle lulling touch. Dana flinched back to what she thought was a red tentacle. Looking up to the red swirling dreamscape all around her, noticing finally the swirls were red tendrils in ever-shifting motion. The woman in front of her stood centre amidst its motion. She stared at Elizabeth Greene with revulsion and desperation.

"What do you want?!" she yelled at her. "What do you fucking want with me?!"

Greene pressed forward in answer. Dana tried to inch back but to her horror, she was trapped between hells, stuck there in the some sticky webbing of red slimy tendrils. She couldn't move at all. She was not in control. "We want you to see the reason." Hand reached out and covered her sight into darkness before the alien visions shined. The reason... wailings sang, covering the scream from ringing out the hive-mind.

Alex was blinded by the sudden onslaught of wailings. Distracted, he slammed into a building's side unprepared, crashing through a window. Alex quickly tucked his body into a ball so that he rolled on the landing. Cursing when he got up, he clasped his head. The wailings rose and sank rhythmically but like a stormy sea crashing against the wall. It flooded his mind that he couldn't think.

"SHUT UP!" he yelled loudly, immediately shoving his internal hive-mind over Redlight's.

Whispers cut off the wailings, muffling them. Alex sighed and began brushing off the glass shards caught in his clothes. He rather deals with the web of intrigues and memories of others than that. Why the hell did the hive-mind act up? He frowned. It was too much like the time when Greene was infiltrating the military. Consuming the infected carriers made him able to tune in her subtle whisperings that was subconsciously controlling the carrier. When consuming an infected, it was different. Greene wasn't exactly controlling the infected, but she was influencing them through the virus nature, and they didn't really have a full conscious.

When it comes to controlling a semi-infected, the infected carriers, he was sure their conscious mind require more… direct and delicate handling… which was why Alex focused on the infected carrier in order to tune in Greene's whispering… since Greene was at the heart, the mind, and that meant she knew where Dana was. But Greene was gone. Alex had made sure of that when he consumed her using his virus to rip hers and her body. So why?

The infected's behavior, Redlight's evolution, Dana's medical anomaly status, their stubbornness in existing… they all felt directed, as if their mother haven't left them, as if she was right behind them, keeping them from a total wipe-out. But she's gone! He reminded himself stubbornly, and that was pointing towards the heart where all the questions led. PARIAH. His silvery blue eyes squinted at that thought.

Alex strode through the white lit corridors. His mind swirling with questions and facts, going through them over and over again that he didn't see the person in front of him. The person cried aloud when bumped roughly. The sound immediately pulled him out of his mind with his immediate thought thinking an infected had walked in and someone had noticed it. Sounds of papers crashing on the floor with a quiet curse changed that thought. Alex sharply turned his gaze on the flustered form wearing a lab coat. She was crouched down beside his feet, picking up the dropped paper reports. Huffing his resignation, he crouched down beside her and began gathering files into easy pile.

"Thank you," the scientist said once she was eased up and handed her files back. The woman said nothing when she looked up too see it was a hooded man that helped her. "Uh, have I seen you before?" she asked and swept her loose hair behind her ear nervously.

Alex just stared. "No," he answered bluntly.

"Oh, well then… who are you?" the scientist gave him the 'look' that told him she was one of those 'must introduce'.

Not wanting to look more out of place, he answered with, "Alex."

"Karen," the scientist smiled politely and offered her hand but quickly pulls it back when the files reports begin slipping. Alex's eyes were twitching at the name mentioned. "I would have shaken your hand but as you see here," the woman heaved the files pressed against her chest as a gesture, "I'm a bit busy," she smiled apologetically, not noticing the dark look on Alex's face.

"Karen…" he waited, knowing he needed something more to separate this entity with that other one.

"Karen Archer," she finished. Her surname even rhymes… "I work on the research project that's to do with investigating animal's immune system," she elaborated then looked down to her wristwatch. "Uh, damn. I need to go, sorry!" The scientist's white lab coat fluttered after her.

Alex didn't watch her leave, but went off immediately to where Dana's room was. He marched up to the door. Careful not to bend the metal of the door's lever, he walked in, eyes immediately zone onto his sister before focusing on the familiar form at the corner. Ragland was there, more focused at the new charts and readings.

"Ragland," he called out.

The doctor looked up with a grimace on his face. "Uh, Alex. I need to inform you about something," Ragland said in his annoyingly calm voice.

Alex waited, knowing it must be important.

"The virus is spreading. So far replicating only." Ragland said.

He turned around towards the door, hiding the look of panic from the doctor before he steeled back to his neutral expression. He blinked, switching into infected vision in trade of his fine hearing. Looking back, he saw the laid body on the bed brightly lit with small spots of… yellow. The glow though was still dim. He switched back into normal vision and turned back to the doctor.

"You still can do something about it, right?" Alex stared at the doctor.

"That… I can't be so sure but I can give more time, which I need," Ragland answered. "I've already set her up with antiviral drugs."

Time… time… he can work with time…

"How long?" Alex demanded.

"Two or three weeks. Redlight is not truly aggressive in her." Ragland answered shortly.

He can work with that, and by the time he's done, he was sure the virus would turn back dormant indefinitely. "I need to go doctor," he finally got the words out… not liking one bit.

Ragland gazed at him calmly before turning towards Dana. "Pariah." It wasn't a question. It was a statement.

"All the answers go to that codename."

"You hope too much it does, Alex," the doctor noted grimly.

"Yes, but the boy is the only thing left in the puzzle," Alex growled, "and I intend to solve it." then smash it.

"You'll be leaving her when she needs you the most."

"I know that!" Alex snapped then begins pacing back and forth before he stopped by his sister's side. He stared down at Dana, looking at her pale smooth face and yet so still. A sign she was soundly in deep slumber. "And I'm sorry for it," he said this quietly to her.

Ragland sighed behind him and saw this as the moment to take his leave. Alex heard the door behind clicked shut, thankful at the doctor's absence. He took the chair by the wall and brought it to bedside. Sitting down, the chair groaned. Maybe I am such a fat ass, he noted wryly on the fact of his critical mass state, his biomass density at its highest limits. He gazed at his sister's face, noticing in pain the feeding tube rigged in her nose. She had so many wires attached to her and it wasn't a pleasant sight. Alex wouldn't know what she would say to this if she finds herself in this situation. From the small moments he had with her, and the words and tone that came out of her mouth, he guess she would be grimacing then making some dry critical remarks on herself.

He didn't know why he has the urge to at least… care(?) when he was with her. Probably because she was the only thing stable…safe during the time of his confusion, and later, something trustworthy. She was the epitome of his sanity when all he knew was destruction, death, and being the hunted and the hunter. Like many things that always force him to ask himself, Dana had been the only one that made him asked, why? Why accept me? Why do I try to at least give a damn about you? Dana always put him in circle with himself, but he got use to it or started not to bother himself with silly questions like that. If he was feeling this way about her, he didn't need a why or an answer. Still it was more than just that. He just doesn't know how to put it exactly.

At first, it had been because 'she's my sister' but later, it'd changed. During and after learning the revelation about himself, he'd questioned himself many times as to why he should still care, should still give a damn about the world… about her. She's one of the many reasons and the most important as to why he didn't fuck the world whenever humanity decided to show its ugly side—like how her brother did, Alex furrowed his brow at the reminder. She's the tough net that stopped himself from falling to his viral nature, from being reduce into a creature of design. Every time those dark ugly thoughts came into his mind, she ended up knocking those over. Her face would always appear with… the horror in her eyes. It had stick hard into his mind when he'd told her what he did, what he does, what was his nature.

Before that moment, he'd been happily killing anyone and destroying everything, everything. He'd told himself repeatedly before that he was supposed to do these things, the killings, the destroying, all in the name of hunting…the answers and the guilty, and that it's right... I can feel it. He realized later it's because of his viral nature that made him feel this way. But the feeling was nothing compared to that moment when she had acceptance in her eyes, and the words… Look, no matter what, you're still my brother. If she could accept a brother who kills, who holds voices in him, who… consumes, maybe… just maybe she could accept that he's a sentient virus who cares for her… and not that monster of a brother. But who was he kidding. That was like another hard phone to digest—wait. That was wrong. That was like another hard pill to digest, and it wasn't just one big one. Learning that her brother fucked the world in his last moment, that he'd done something that low, and that a virus had taken his identity, his body, the baggage of his life? That's a lot of pills to swallow there.

You should distant yourself from her. She wouldn't want to be near you if she learns the truth. Take this leave as a way to start cutting your ties. Besides, you're not her brother anyway. The thought niggled. But… he didn't want to. He didn't want to leave her. He didn't want her to leave him in any way possible, through truth or death. He just… didn't want to. But I have to. Pariah, remember. With that in thought, he gently took his sister's hand, careful on his strength when he covered hers with his. He turned to gaze at her face. Memories of farewell from the marines to their family crept into his thought.

"I'll be leaving for a while," he said hesitantly to her, looking down at her hand in his hold then back at her. "But I'll be coming back. Soon, I promise."