Disclaimer: Mutant X belongs to its respective creators and directors as do the characters that appear here or are mentioned. They are not mine and are only 'borrowed' for the purposes of the story. Written for the 2012 Multifandom Het Big Bang Challenge)
"A Piece of the Action" by karrenia
He had n ever been very open about his past, although he has been with these people long enough now to allow them into what he usually referred to as his "personal space."
Because they should have established a lot more in common with each other besides the commonality of sharing a genetic anomaly, after all. They've saved each others' lives and been saved than he can count; and for that matter : 'I've always been in the camp of friends who count, don't count , when it comes to things like that."
Besides, Adam had his track record first as a juvenile delinquent on file and later on as and thief,; the man was nothing if not thorough, not to mention a bit obsessed, but that was no skin off his Brennan Mulwray's nose,
No ,it was that his track record as a thief, or rather the unresolved loose ends of it that had an unfortunate habit of cropping up whenever he least expected it; and that was prior to when he had manifested his latent mutant ability to generate electricity spoke for itself.
And in the back of his mind, Brennan thought, 'Yeah, I know, it's not usually something that a mainstream ordinary would brag about, but then how many of us here at Sanctuary ever could claim we were main-stream.'
He'd been doing a lot of thinking about his past, most of it working on the fringes of legality, so when his cell phone rang and he answered it, the first surprise of the day, although it would not be the last, was the caller on the other end of the line was the woman who had given birth to him.
"Ma," he cautiously greeted her. Ma? Is that you?" he asked.
"Yeah, it's me." The voice on the other end of the line spoke in hushed tone, a bit raspy but still unmistakably that of his mother.
"What do you want?" Brennan demanded.
"Is that any way to talk to the woman who raised you?" she replied irascibly.
"No, but where do you think I got my sunny disposition from?" he griped.
"Okay, okay, I don't want to get into an argument with you, especially since I don't have time for it."
On the other end of the line Brennan could hear that her breathing was ragged and that she was pacing up and down and in the distance, he could hear the distinct sound of what he could make out was either a construction site or a lumber yard. She paused for a moment, before she continued. "It seems that I've gotten myself into a bit of a jam, and I can't see a way to squeeze my way out of it, without your help."
"A nd at the risk of drenching up a time-honored cliché, you don't call, you don't write, hell, you don't even e-mail and after almost ten years, I hear from you and ask for my help!" Brennan exclaimed.
"Don't be like that. I was there for the most important part of your life, and if it hadn't been for that corrupt district attorney who put me away in a women's penitentiary, I would have been there for you."
"Yeah, sure, Ma, blame the system, for why you got caught," he muttered.
"Look, we can argue about this all you want until we're both blue in the face," she said. "O, I can come straight to the point. I need your help."
"If it's money you want," he sighed and the added, "I'll wire it to you via Western Union, just give me your account information."
"Yeah, great, wonderful in fact, but at the moment, I need more than just money, I need, your, uh special abilities," she said in a hushed undertone and proceeded to fume in wordless silence for an extended time before she would say anything further.
"Chrissakes, Ma!" Brenan exclaimed.
"Okay, I'll wait until you calm down. Why don't we arrange to meet at the Lydall and Sons construction site tomorrow night around say, nine and I'll tell you more then that I can't say over the phone."
"Fine, but you'll understand if I have to mention this to my, ah, boss."
"Fine. Sure, whatever, but please show, because frankly, if you don't, I don't know what I'll do," she said. There was a brief moment of silence then a click when she hung up on her end of the conversation.
"Adam," Brennan said as he stood halfway inside of the door to the older man's office. "Got a minute?"
"Of course," Adam replied, gesturing with a free hand to the chair situated in front of his desk; the other hand was currently occupied in clicking and scrolling through the various pages of the document that he had displayed on his computer monitor.
Adam had always considered himself a good judge of character, being able to read an individual whether man or woman from a variety of audio and visual clues. I had served him well in his professional carreer, if not so much his personal life.
Brennan came all the way into the office and fidgeted for a moment or two before quickly crossing the distance to the desk and sitting down in the offered chair.
He did not get into to whatever he wished to discuss right away, and knowing Brennan Mulwray, that was unlike him. He was a good man, if in possession of a slightly disconcerting history of skirting with the law; typically outspoken, brash, and loyal. This hemming and hawing was unlike him.
"What's up?" Adam asked.
Brennan leaned forward in the chair, his height making it appear as if he might be in danger of either rocking too far forward or backward. He stopped and folded his arms over his chest. "You know that here at Sanctuary we've all agreed to the policy that someone's past is their own business, right?"
"Correct," Adam replied. So far benign concern had no yet turned to alarm and he, nevertheless, nodded encouragingly and said, "Go on."
"Also, that even before your recruited me, you knew about my, ah, criminal past, but you still took me on anyway..." Brennan said.
"What's going on?" Adam asked.
"It seems a part of my past has caught up with me."
"How do you mean?"
"I mean, my mother just called and she needs my help. The financial part I can handle just fine. That's not the reason I wanted to speak with you. It's the fact that she's hinted that she's landed in some sort of trouble, the kind of trouble that requires my, ah, 'more unorthodox abilities'."
"I see," Adam replied, which he did, but there was no reason at this point to rush into unwarranted conclusions or rash actions; he had always made it a policy to weigh every aspect of a situation and take things from there accordingly. Another unspoken rule was that a person's past was just that, his past unless it or some aspect of it adversely affected the team and its mission.
"She wants to meet with me, tomorrow night, alone."
"I don't think you should go alone."
"You don't think I can handle myself!" Even as he uttered those words, Brenan knew that he should not speak that way in front of a man whom he both admired and owed a great deal for a second chance to be a part of something perhaps bigger and better than himself.
"That's not what I was thinking. I was just thinking that, while I realize that this is your mother we are talking about, I still think that because she requires your abilities, for whatever reason; and that worries me considerably, Brennan. I think you should take along back-up."
It was more or less understood between himself and Adam that he felt confident that he could handle a great many things solo.
And if a partner was required there was no one else he'd rather have watching his back than Shalimar.
It wasn't that he did not think that either of the remaining two choices could not handle themselves on a mission or in a fight, because he did, it was that there was something about Shalimar that made her his first choice.
"I was thinking Shalimar, but please brief her on the situation as we know it, before-hand."
"You really think that someone who knows about us, or just mutates in general might be threatening mom to get at me?" Brennan asked, grinding his teeth even as the thought crossed his mind.
"I sincerely hope not, but at this point, do not believe we can rule that out as a possibility," Adam said.
"I will. Thanks, Adam. I'll fill in Shalimar."
"Don't mention it. Make whatever preparations you need and good luck. "
After Brenna left the office Adam reached forward and leaned forward in his chair, his fingers laced into a cat-cradle. In his own mind, he was not entirely certain if he had improved the situation or simply made things worse, but it was done, and there was no turning back now.
In the silence of his own mind he wished. "May angels and ministers of grace watch over us." Aloud he said, "May they, indeed."
The construction site was crowded with equipment and supplies that had been covered over with yellow and blue tarp for the evening, and the cranes had been shut down for the evening as well.
When he arrived, the early spring wind mixing with a light shower made it seem colder than it actually was.
For her part, Shalimar had not argued or mad any of the considerations that Adam had, either because she figured that their leader would have already covered all the bases and it was best left to develop on its own, or because she figured that Brenan was going through enough at this moment and the last he thing he would want was for her to go digging deeper into the matter.
He did tell her enough to get her hackles up and set off any number of emotional red flags. They made a good team and she figured that whatever trouble was in the offing, they could handle it.
Brennan stole a significant glance in her direction and tapped her on the shoulder. "Let's go."
His mother came out from underneath the shadow of a looming crane, where she could not have been readily seen from the street-side approach or the tenement building complex that served as a backdrop to the construction site.
When she saw Brenan approach, she stepped forward and squared her shoulders, "I'm glad you came." She stopped and it appeared as if she would add something further when she caught sight of Shalimar as well
"I said come alone, how hard is it for you to follow a simple direction?" she exclaimed, her hands coiling into fists nervously clenching and unclenching.
"I know, don't blow a gasket, Ma. Look at it his way, now you're getting two for the price of one."
"Is she like you?" his mother asked in a much more hushed tone of voice.
"Yes, and no , but we're here now and you said you would explain what's going on."
"Okay, okay, fair enough," she replied.
Over the years Brennan had developed a sense of when to pick a fight with his mother and when to let the subject drop. Maybe that particular sense had dulled with distance and the passage of time, because she seemed to drop the argument with unaccustomed ease.
When he next glanced over in her direction, it was only to watch as his mother began to dig into the duffel bag that hung at an acute angle from her shoulder. When she took her hands out of the bag and looked up at them again, she came out with a series of rolled up blueprint and a disk in a clear plastic case. "Everything you need to know you'll find here."
"Why do you need us?" Shalimar demanded.
Ms. Mulwray glared at the woman with the startling hazel eyes but would not let that get in the way of what she had to do. "I get it, you're a package deal, but Brennan is my son, so if you steer him wrong, I will go medieval on you."
Shalimar smiled and growled low in her throat. "I'd like to see you try." she said in as pleasant but threatening tone of voice as she could possibly make it.
"Ladies! Please!" exclaimed Brennan. "Priorities, people."
Undr other circumstances he might have been rather amused by the fact that two or more women could come to blows over him, but not now, and not just because this was his mother and his best girl that were staring daggers at each other.
"Very well, we are just supposed to take your word about this?" Shalimar demanded.
"Yes. Look, this is white collar crime and if you knew anything about me, you would know that I have a record, so I can't exactly go to the authorities with what I know."
"You've been avoiding the question of what you need Brenan for," Shalimar remarked.
"To make a long story short," Mrs. Mulwray replied, with a shrug, "I managed to piss off the wrong sorts of people and until I, or rather you retrieve the components for that device that is on the CD, neither of us is safe."
"Us?" Brennan questioned.
"I assume," she shrugged, "and this is just a shot in the dark, but I am assuming that it would be in the best interests of you and your friends that the nature of your special abilities not get broadcasted to the general public. Am I right?"
"So, in short, if you don't deliver, they will go public with they know about you?" "
"If you needed the money that badly…" Brennan started, annoyed and not caring if it showed or not because he was tire and he simply felt rather ambivalent about agreeing to meet with her in the first place.
"Hell, hon! It's not always about the money! I am trying to do the right thing here, Brennan, believe it or not!"
"Ma," Brennan replied. "I am trying to believe you but let's face it, your track record does not exactly inspire a whole lotta confidence."
"If that's the case," Shalimar said, "then I would suggest that we cut short the family reunion. Is there someplace where you can lie low for a while, Mrs. Ah, Mulwray ?"
"You're going along with this?"
"Yeah, and who knows, it might just be fun," Shalimar replied with a confident grin plastered all over her face.
"You are both officially insane, do you know that?" remarked Brennan with a wry grin plastered on his face.
Shalimar frowned and then asked. "What I would like to you is how someone would even know enough to link us with the rise in genetic anomalies or know who you were to link you to Brennan."
"Let's just say that I was not always as discreet as I could have been when I was younger as I should have been ," replied Brennan.
"Oh," Shalimar replied. She was curious and would have questioned him further on that subject, but she stifled the questions under the press of more urgent concerns.
Ms. Mulwray had a bemused look on her face at the statement but refrained from making any comments on it. She never really had bothered to look closely or ask too many questions how her son had come by his electrical-charged abilities in the first place.
At the time, it had never seemed necessary as long as he could control it. In a back corner of her mind, it did occur to her that her penchant for indulging in criminal behavior and lacking in both curiosity and perhaps even maternal instincts had much to do with their years of estrangement shortly after her son became a legal adult.
Now all of that was coming back to haunt her with a vengeance. In fact if she did have any maternal instincts then she might even be pretty damn proud of just how much of a good man her son had turned out to b, "No thanks to me," She muttered under her breath.
"Did you say something?" Shalimar asked.
"No, no, just thinking out loud, it's nothing."
"I think we should drop your mother off at a hotel close enough should we need to contact her at," Shalimar added.
Brennan nodded. "Call Adam, let him know what the new developments are, and we'll take it from there."
Adam had taken the news rather well, all things considered, but had insisted that they maintain radio silence unless it was absolutely necessary to check in.
Brennan had reviewed the information on the CD as thoroughly as he possibly could, but it still made little sense to him in the overall scheme of things.
From what he did understand, it looked harmless enough, but he'd been around long enough to know that oftentimes, things were not always as they appeared.
The information covered documents, payments and loans, and shipments between a high-tech industrial firm called Dynamex Industries Inc. who specialized in the production of components for construction and cutting-edge medical research and development.
That last, with the memories of their most recent run-in with Mason and his goons fresh in his mind, that was bound to raise any number of red flags.
Of course, with what they had, there was no proverbial smoking gun to connect the two, but it still looked highly suspicious. And Shalimar had agreed.
She had also figured that if anyone could dig deeper and it would be best to send it back to Sanctuary for Jesse to delve into.
He agreed and after spending some time to find a Wi-Fi network at a nearby café, sat down and sent the information over. That task complete, he then went back out and suggested that there should still be a car rental place open and they should set out for Dyanmex's corporate headquarters immediately.
Meanwhile, back at Sanctuary, Emma and Jesse were involved in a sparring session in the dojo section of the complex when Adam interrupted it at the precise moment that Emma thought she might actually be getting the hang of things.
She was the youngest, the newest and most inexperienced member of the team and as such, she did not want to feel like lack would ever mean that she would let them down, either during a training session or in the field.
"What's up?" Emma remarked playfully; as much as she wanted to prove herself and as much as she was into the session, she was already winded and any break came as a welcome respite.
For his part, Jesse, too, was curious about the sudden disruption but was more careful not to show it outwardly. She had learned not to read into her friends and teammates emotions with her power of tele-empathy, as much because she felt it would be an invasion of their privacy as it was the case that she was still learning about herself and her newfound powers.
"Come down to the computer lab, both of you," Adam said. "There's something you both need to see."
Grabbing a couple of clean towels from a nearby stand on his way out of the dojo and onto the main office complex and computer area, Jesse tossed one to Emma and wrapped the other around his neck and shoulders. He gave a conspiratorial wink and she blushed. In the back of her mind, Emma thought, she did not need her powers to figure out what 'that' meant.
While they'd been sparring, Jesse had been flirting. It was cute and sincere and awkward all at the same time and all delivered with Jesse Kilmartin's earnest innocence and passion.
She should have gotten all flustered and awkward as she was wont to do a men, but for some reason, she found herself actually a bit flattered at the attention and had the circumstances been better or different, she might very well have responded in kind.
As it was, she could definitely sense the tension and the worry coming off of Adam in waves.
"Something's going on and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that both Brennan and Shalimar missed their scheduled check-in."
"Jesse, have a seat, we'll need your computer expertise," Adam curtly instructed.
Jesse did as he was told and waited as Adam downloaded the information off of a flash drive that he had ready.
The flood of data took quite a while to come up on the screen but when it did, Jesse could not help letting out a low whistle.
"Then you concur?" Adam asked as if the answer was obvious.
"Yeah," Jesse swiveled around in his chair and looked Adam straight in the eye, holding the contact, before he demanded "This is where the others are, right?"
"Right, and now you two are going to go rescue them."
"I bet Brennan will love that," Emma remarked sarcastically.
"This, may I remind you, this is not a game, nor is it up for debate. The last communication I received was from Shalimar, she activated the locater beacon installed in her ring. I am assuming that she still has it and you can use it to home in on her location."
"Assuming that they have not been moved or separated," Jesse stated.
He usually played the role of the eternal optimist, sometimes to a fault as Shalimar or Brennan had pointed out, at the least opportunity, but then he'd rather take on that role than that of the alternative: the eternal pessimist.
But, after having analyzed the raw data and the information on the CD, he had a bad feeling about this mission and wondered if Emma had picked up on it, too.
"I've managed to pull some strings and procure a shipping van which makes scheduled deliveries to Dyanmex. The delivery for tonight will still go forward as planned; the only difference is it will just have two new members on his roster."
"Got it," Jesse replied. "Is there anything else we should know?"
"Ideally, we'd be able to rescue our people and procure the components intended for delivery to Genoemex, but I fear that simply isn't in the cards. My sources indicate that they've been relocated to another location. No, just get them out, hopefully with a minimal of fuss." Adam sighed and leaned forward, tapping an icon on the screen and making the information disappear.
"Understood," Jesse and Emma replied at almost the same time.
"Be careful," Adam replied, "Come to my office tonight and I'll have everything you need ready to go by eight tonight." With that, he turned and returned to his office.
"That was intense," Emma whispered.
"Yeah, you're telling me," Jesse replied.
Later that same day their rental car pulled up in front of an office complex that was large and sprawling.
While it was obvious the complex had been carefully designed by an architect, the architect had done so with more emphasis on functionality than aesthetics."
The overall effect gave the viewer a first impression of dull gray bleakness , but then again they were not here for sight-seeing. The esplanade that fronted on the main building had been laid out in an over-lapping circular geometric grid. As the wheels of their rental car rolled over the asphalt surface of the road, Brennan realized that they had been more fortunate than perhaps they since they had access to the blueprints.
"I'm surprised there is not more in the way of tighter security around this place, if the device is as valuable as you say it is," Shalimar remarked.
"I think it's a case were the developers are relying more on their own state-of-the-art security rather than on the regular security guards," Mrs. Mulwray replied. "They're quite funny in that way.
Dynamex Industries does have a reputation to maintain, after all, and as a leader in manufacturing components for high-tech industries, they've come more and more to the mind-set that technology can replace the need for human workers."
"Sounds like a delightful group," Brennan griped.
"Let's get a move on, then," Shalimar replied, gesturing towards a side door that she remembered from a thorough study of the blue-prints and the information on the CD.
In the back of her mind, she had to wonder if perhaps they were making a big mistake.
The honey-gold hairs on the back of her neck were prickling, but she told herself that she was just being overly sensitive and ignored it as a case of her feral instincts acting at odds with what her more mundane senses were telling her.
She sniffed, cocking her head to one side as if thinking something over before she realized that while she could not see them there was an obvious tang of ozone in the air of the main foyer that should not be there. She signaled for the others to hold up and reached for a button on Brennan's' shirt for lack of anything else to throw into the space between the front entryway and the lobby seating area.
The shirt did not suffer much under her rough handling except that it tore a bit, revealing his chiseled physique and a bit of his bristly black chest hair.
Shalimar might have been tempted to make some sort of snarky comment at that point, because she did have a taste for the tall, dark and handsome type and being on the slightly, but not too hirsute side was a definite bonus; however she did not feel it was appropriate at this time.
"Laser-grid." She said aloud. "Let me handle this." Even as the button made contact with the air that she could smell was most highly concentrated with ozone, a pattern of inter-connecting red lights appeared.
She squared her shoulders and without another word, began to navigate her way through the laser security grid by a series of supple and athletic moves.
Brennan could not help but grin; but simply could not help himself . He could admit it to himself, Shalimar was very, very good at what she did, and let's face she was damn hot, too.
His mother, watching them, both on the car ride over and now as they got closer to their objective came to a realization just then; she'd been wrong about one thing, at least.
She did not have to worry about the girl being a bad influence on her son, as much as she might have to worry about her son being a bad influence on the girl.
It made for a very a weird way to feel and she forced the meandering thought to a back corner of her mind. It wasn't like she was here to play matchmaker , and that her son really did not need or want her assistance in that department.
She realized that she was tapping her feet against the deep pile of the expensive carpet in the lobby and forced herself to stop. There was simply too much at stake right now to go messing around with emotional tangles.
Even as they moved from to room and then detoured by making a short hop in a lift that led to the seventh floor, and from there to a covered walkway that spanned the gap between the main building and its neighbor, Brennan felt that something was just off about this entire caper.
The obstacles that they had encountered thus far, such as electronic sensors and cameras, and the laser grid, while a little on the side of over-kill had been pretty easy once deactivated or rendered into melted into slag after he'd shocked them within an inch of their electronic lives.
And it was not like he'd wanted to borrow trouble but every instinct and hard-won lessons he had manage d to garner in his career as a thief were screaming at him that they were walking into a trap.
At one point, they came to an area that was still under construction and the tools and equipment of the absent workmen had been stacked up against the one wall, and covered with a tarp.
According the map of the interior, the vault that contained the components for the mysterious device that Genomex had custom-ordered was to be found. The only real obstacles were that the connecting walkway had yet to be built and the gaping hole was wide enough that they would need to take a running start in order to cross the distance and over to the other side.
Shalimar nodded. "I can make it. So I'll go first and you follow after me."
Not waiting for him to make a reply to that or think up an argument of why she should not suit action to words, Shalimar crouched down in a runner's beginning pose and launched herself into the air, bridging the distance with a fluid ease, weaving in and out of the deadly rays of light with a series of flips and arches and in a matter of seconds she stood on the opposite side of the barrier.
She then turned around to regard the two of them with a nod and gave them the 'all clear' signal.
Brenan nodded and leapt, However, he misjudged the distance just by a hair which resulted in his torso slammed into the space underneath the side of where the walkway would be and the floor above.
The impact didn't cause him to lose consciousness, but it was severe enough.
In his preoccupied stat, he was dimly aware of Shalimar's strong but slender hands grab bing onto his shoulders and yanking him to safety.
Once he had recovered, he watched his mother make the jump and she made it. T he take-off may have been better than his, the landing was an entirely different matter. She came to a landing on all fours, scrapping the skin off her palms and knocking her face into the linoleum tiles of the hallway just beyond.
She staggered to her feet with a hand to her nose and with her titled back to help the blood clot, and glared at them both . "Don't even start with me."
At that precise moment, whatever witty remark that Brennan might have made in response to that last was lost in the sound of an unseen panel in the wall sliding apart on almost unheard pneumatic and metallic hinges.
The leader was flanked by a dozen men armed with laser rifles which contrasted oddly with their business clothes. He stood at the back of the tightly-packed bunch.
"Edith Mulwray, how charming to see you again, and you brought your son," he said, deliberately drawing out that last part for dramatic effect . "It's almost like a family reunion."
"Don't even go there, you piece of scum," Mrs. Mulwray snarled.
"Now, now, is that any way to treat someone who was good to you when the chips were down?"
"As far as I'm concerned, that was then, this is now and I don't owe you anything at all," she replied.
Shalimar cocked her head to one side and asked as coyly as only she possibly could. "I'll take the half dozen on the left, you take the half-dozen on the right."
Brennan grinned wolfishly and remarked: "I love your idea of the division of labor, sweetheart."
He clenched his hands into fists and allowed the electric blue energy that was his power to manifest, causing an eerie electric blue glow to emanate around the room
For her part, a lot of Shalimar's fighting style was as much instinct as it was due to training, and she went into action almost immediately, kicking, punching, and wending her way among the armed men almost as if they were not there at all.
Mrs. Mulwray figured that she could handle herself in a fight, but really she would just be in the way and she certainly was not about to let Breckenridge or any of his goons be given the opportunity to use her as leverage or a target.
With both stealth and precision, like it was a bank vault or something like that, she wended her way toward Breckenridge with the intent of slamming her fist into his face and wiping that obnoxious smirk off of his face.
She got close enough to get in a few good shots when she was conked on the head with the butt end of a laser rifle, and she blacked out.
Even as the fight wore on, Brennan realized that perhaps he had been over-confident when he taken on this little caper but even so, there was still time to salvage something good out of this.
He aimed an arcing bolt of coruscating electricity in the direction of the guns carried about the goons rather than at the men themselves.
In the back of his mind, he kept thinking. 'I am so in the Zone. '
A gasp, a snarl followed by a thud of a body slipping to the floor broke him out of his meandering thoughts caused Brennan to turn around on his heel just in time to see Breckenridge sneak up behind Shalimar wrap a cloth that had appeared to have been soaked in some kind of drug and watched as her eyes fluttered and she slumped to the floor, unconscious.
"I would suggest that I now hold all the cards, Mr. Mulwray," Breckenridge remarked causally , as if they were old acquaintances who had not seen each other in quite a while.
"Damn it!" Brennan exclaimed. He realized that at this precise point, he was rapidly running out of options, but that did not mean that they'd lost, not yet.
Inside the steel and concrete room which was devoid of anything except the three of them, it would be tempting to start in with playing the blame game, but Brennan did not want to go there.
Ever since that incident earlier where he'd been forced to choose between protecting Shalimar or protecting his mother who had been at the mercy of several goons who had had her at point-blank range, he'd chosen his mother. He'd been practicing angling his electrical surges to fire at multiple targets at any given time, but he still had not been able to penetrate through it. .
Shortly before she had been taken down by a sneak attack, Shalimar had broken their radio silence and contacted Adam at Sanctuary with a brief message.
Her constitution was so feral that it took her a much shorter length of time to recover from the effects of the drug than an ordinary human being, but even so, when she finally came to, she was understandably a bit groggy and disoriented.
Seated as far away from them both as she possibly could , Mrs. Mulwray sat with her back to the wall and stared into space, her face schooled into an unreadable mask.
Brennan thought he could understand what might be going through her mind, although he did not much like it.
"Out with it, Ma," he demanded. "Who was it back there? And I don't need to be a mind-reader to know that he recognized you."
"Dwight Breckenridge," she replied.
"I assume that you've got a history?" Brennan demanded. With his arms folded his arms over his chest, not entirely capable of keeping the sarcasm from coming out in either his tone of voice or in the expression on his face.
"You assume, correctly," she replied.
Shalimar, by this time, had finally shaken off the effects of the drug and joined in the conversation.
"Mind filling in the rest of the class?" she demanded.
"Sure, that's a great idea," Mrs. Mulwray exclaimed. "Why don't I go first? W e can all kill time by playing a game of twenty questions."
"There's no reason to bite my head off," Shalimar replied with a delicate snort.
"Look, I'm sorry, but Brennan's right about one thing, Dwight and I go back a ways; back when I still was legit, He and I worked on a series of start-up companies, and when we had a falling out, he was the type that simply could not let go. He did simply did not understand that we were over, both professionally and personally."
"Okay, so, what's that got to do with anything?" Brennan demanded.
"Not much. Other than the fact, that through me, he learned about those people with special abilities and the start-up of what would come to be Mason Eckhart's organization and its less than savory extracurricular activities'."
"Don't you take that tone of voice with me, young man!" Mrs. Mulwary scolded. "It's not what you think; and before you start acting all 'holier-than-thou' with me, Shalimar, as he may have mentioned, he was never that discrete in the use of his powers, and he's always been the type that wanted to be the center of attention. Isn't that right, dear?"
"Okay, okay," Brennan growled. "Point taken."
"The components that we're looking for are a key piece in the building of the containment units used to hold people in stasis. I've never seen the actual chambers myself, because I hear that Mason has a reputation for paranoia that rivals the most die-hard conspiracy theorists, but I can tell you that they're no joke."
"Not much we can do about it, sitting locked up in here, is there?" Brenan replied.
"No, but I did call Adam, and help is on the way," Shalimar said.
"Hmm, then we might want to revisit that twenty questions idea," Mrs. Mulwray stated to no one in particular, then darted significant appraising glances at first her son and then at Shalimar.
"Not really the time for that," Brennan said.
"Oh, now, don't make me take get out the big guns," she said, smirking, "I still have recall to the embarrassing photos of you that I carry in my wallet."
"Photos?" Shalimar said with a wide and mischievous grin plastered all over her face. "Just how embarrassing are we talking about here?"
Mrs. Mulwray replied to the question with a smirk that would not have been out of place on the Cheshire Cat and nodded. "I've got ones that will make him bless. Hey, I may not have been much of a mother in the traditional sense of the word, but I still reserve the right to embarrass my son, no matter how old he gets."
"Why do I get the distinct impression that this is one argument that I cannot win?" Brennan said with a heavy resigned sigh.
"You got that right," his mother replied.
With that Mrs. Mulwray reached into her pockets and removed a photo album and opened it . Inside were various photos of much younger Brennan, his unruly mane of black hair as disheveled as ever.
There were ones of him sitting naked in a bath tub, playing with a toy submarine. Others where he stood atop the highest tier of a plastic castle in the park wearing nothing but his pull-up diapers and a red sheet as a cape; his arms spread as if prepared to launch himself into the air, as if he thought he could fly.
Shalimar glanced up from perusing the photos and shot a glance in his general direction and tried not to burst out laughing .
His expression was one mingled frustration and embarrassment, and it appeared that he simply could not make up his mind which of the two would be the winner. The struggle was obvious, and she felt for him.
She began to laugh, but stopped almost immediately when the stormy expression on his face suddenly transferred to a tiny bolt of electricity darting from his clenched fists.
"Okay, I'm sorry, but I don't think it's that big a deal. I mean, we all have embarrassing photos, and these are not that bad."
"I agree. How soon do you think your, uh, back-up will be here? Otherwise, we might want to start thinking about a way to escape from here."
"I've tried, but while you two were busy, I've cased our prison and it seems to be proofed against electricity, and there does not seem any obvious way in or out," Brennan muttered, swearing under his breath and pointedly ignoring the reproving glare that his mother darted in his direction.
"That means we're stuck here," Shalimar replied.
"Looks that way," he agreed.
It was more than likely a good thing that the uniforms they wore were such a drab shade of olive green because they were less likely to be checked for identification when they reported to the address that they'd been given by Adam. The addition of two new faces hardly met with more than a few raised eyebrows and an indifferent shrug. In fact, according to the driver of the lead delivery van, Dyanmex changed up the night shift every other week.
The ride from the storage facility to the main complex was uneventful, not that they were out looking for trouble this early, but Emma sensed that either these men and women had no idea of the nature of the items they were transporting or they had been paid enough not to show that they were aware of that fact.
She was tense but carefully schooled both her facial expressions and her body language, trying to anticipate what they might be likely to encounter once they arrived.
Whomever was in charge over at Dyanmex had done enough research into the things that Genoemex did to know enough to anticipate what their teammates Brennan and Shalimar were capable of and had been prepared for them; as if all the clues had been an elaborate set-up.
She did not want to go down the path that linked Mrs. Mulwray with Brennan and Shalimar's attempt to infiltrate the complex, however, unfortunately, her thoughts kept leading in that direction.
Jesse had argued, that more than likely, the woman had simply been another victim, and that they needed to get her out at the same time they rescued their teammates. Jesse, ever the optimist and the one who looked for the proverbial silver lining in every situation, was so emphatic and confident that this was the case, which made it difficult to Emma to argue the opposite. She hoped that he was correct, but she had a bad feeling about the situation.
The trio of delivery vans finally came to a halt near the loading dock door of a large industrial complex, and everyone piled out, gathering around as the lead driver walked around to the back and used his electronic key card in order to open the rear door.
Splitting up into teams of three, each person took a crate and were then instructed to take them into the building, which they did with alacrity.
Emma, who figured that they should do likewise until the time came to split off and zero in on Shalimar's homing single, found the entire thing both extremely efficient and to her mind, somewhat eerily robotic.
It could just be attributed to the fact that there were operating on security grounds and transporting sensitive and mysterious cargo, or the fact that their demeanor reminded Emma of the security goons who had worked at Genoemex, but the similarities were far too many for Emma to feel entirely sanguine about the whole thing.
Jesse evinced a similar dislike to the procedure but refrained from making any comment on the matter, figuring that they had to remain within the character of their chosen undercover identity; not that he much liked it at the moment.
It took about forty-five minutes to unload and transport all of the four dozen crates from the van to a storage room, and shortly after half an hour into the process, one of the tall, gangly, awkward young men accidentally dropped his end of an especially cumbersome crate and it nearly crushed his foot.
As it was, it merely grazed the top of his work boots, then the metal handle on the top of the crate cut the palm of his hand.
The supervisor broke formation and came over to the obviously distraught young man who was nursing his bleeding hand and swinging his injured foot from one side to the other, with his teeth clenched and face a picture of agony.
He began to cry…
"I'm sorry, I'm sooo sorry! Don't dock me!"
The supervisor, a short, swallow and stocky man with a bushy black mustache, regarded the injured young man for a moment and then said.
"Greg, you clumsy ox! How many times do I have to tell you that precision is key? You never, ever drop the crates. Look, stop your sniveling and head back to the vans for the first aid kit, and I won't mention this minor infraction on the reports that I deliver to the big boss."
Greg, thus reprieved, ducked his head and stammered a murmured thank you before he left the storage room and returned to the vans for the promised first-aid kit.
Meanwhile, Jesse and Emma took advantage of the altercation to split off without being noticed.
The map of the building's interior was as precise as computer imaging and hacked data files could possibly make it but every so often, as they took the stairs to the third level for the ground level storage and parking ramp, they would run into blank walls or passages that apparently led to nowhere in particular, forcing them to take one step back for each three steps forward. Both were nearing the tipping point for frustratio n; however, neither was willing to give up.
At one point, Emma felt that they were getting nearer to their objective than ever before, was so intense that she actually stopped dead in her tracks and forced herself to concentrate.
She stood that way, as rigid as a flagpole with her brow furrowed and her eyes squeezed shut.
She was not seeing the blank unadorned blank wall in front of her, but she was seeing what was on the other side of it. She could sense the distinct presence of at least one person or more behind that wall, like an electro-magnetic curtain, an optical art grid of interlocking red, blue, and green swirls.
Jesse had gone down the corridor and was about to suggest that they explore another area when he realized that she was no longer with him. He turned and worked his way back the down the corridor to where she stood locked in concentration. He tapped her on the shoulder, wondering whether or not he should do anything to break that intensity, but, in the end, chose not to do so.
Within a matter of minutes, after Jesse had rejoined her, Emma let out the softest sigh that sounded like silk being torn and then pivoted on her heel and grabbed Jesse's forearm. "I think I've found them! I don't how to explain exactly why I'm so sure, just that I am! The only question is how to get them out of there."
"How certain are you?" he asked.
"As certain as I can be," she replied.
Within that enclosed room and behind the obstacle of that blank wall, Shalimar sat bolt upright as she instinctively felt something as light as butterfly wings alight upon the surface of her mind.
"What gives?" Brennan asked, noticing the intent expression on her face.
"I can't say for certain, but for just the briefest of seconds I could have sworn that I heard Emma calling my name," Shalimar stated.
"That's absurd, and who's Emma?" Mrs. Mulwray said.
She had not been entirely reassured upon first meeting Shalimar and now it appeared that her ever opportunistic son apparently had another girl on the side. A part of her was worried that these women were no good for him, another part of her worried that he was no good for them; the two worries pushed against her mind with varying frequency and she tried to force the meandering thoughts into a back corner of her mind with less than successful results.
"Emma, are you out there?" Shalimar replied as she ignored Brennan's mother and scooted past her to the edge of the chamber.
"Look, Shal!"exclaimed Brennan , "sometimes, under these kinds of conditions, our minds play tricks on us, making us hear and see things that we want to see; but they're not real. I know that you managed to transmit a homing signal right before they knocked you unconsciousness, but…"
Shalimar hissed at him, and then turned and regarded him for a bit, but then replied . "I know what you're trying to tell me, but I swore it was Emma, and if it is, then Jesse's here, too."
"Okay, okay, for the sake of argument, let's say that you're right, what can we do about it?" he said.
"I don't know," she replied. "I guess the next move is up to them."
On the other side, Emma walked over to the wall and placed her hand against the concrete surface. "Yes, I hear you! We're both here, and we'll get you out!"
"How?" Shalimar replied. "Whoever rigged this thing was clever enough to proof it against our abilities. How we can be certain that they didn't rig it to be proofed against yours as well?"
"I don't think they knew about us," Emma replied. "At least, I'm banking on that."
"I think I can phase through the concrete," Jesse said as he, too, came up against the wall.
"If nothing else, I figure that whatever device or energy that they're using will be rendered inoperable long enough to get everyone out. The only problem I can foresee is that I've never tried to phase more than one person at a time."
"One crisis at time, Jesse, that's my motto," Emma remarked with a cheerful and confident smile.
"Good motto," he replied and began to concentrate on phasing the molecules of his body in order to dissolute enough to pass through solid objects.
The transition into the containment chamber came off better than he had expected and he came through on the other side without much of a hitch other than resolidifying directly in Brennan's arms.
"Oops, sorry," Jesse muttered, flushing a bright scarlet.
For his part, Brennan did not particular mind other than finding having an armful of an embarrassed Jesse Kilmartin rather amusing.
And in the back of his mind, Brennan thought. 'Hmm, I wonder if we could recreate this scenario some time'
Aloud he only said, "No time like the present, because I get the distinct impression that no time is exactly what we have to work with here. Ladies, first."
"Huh, I don't get a vote," Brennan's mother muttered.
"No, Ma, you don't."
"Ma?" Jesse questioned.
"Yeah, it's complicated," Brennan replied. "And there's no time to go into it just now. Here's how it will play out. You get Ma out first, then Shalimar and then me."
"Grab my hand, Mrs. Uh, well, and hang on, it might feel a little bit uncomfortably tingly at first, but it will pass," Jesse told her.
In the back of his mind , he was hoping with every fiber of his being that this stunt would work and he would not end up killing rather than saving the person either through sheer bad luck or a tragic miscalculation.
He had been practicing the technique over and over during simulations and on inanimate objects, but never before with a living human being before, other than himself. Additionally, Adam had reassured him that it would work in practice as well, but Adam's assurance and his own assurance were two entirely different things.
At the that moment, he simply did not have much time to weigh the pros and cons of the situation, situation he had to be confident that it would work because he simply did not have much choice in the matter.
"Uh, okay," she said as she did as she was told, and then in the blink of an eye, she was standing on one side of the wall, and in the next, she was out and free of the containment chamber.
Within a matter of moments, Mrs. Mulwray let go of Jesse's hand and was glancing around, before she turned back and glanced at the young man. "That was some trick. Got any more in your bag?"
"Just the one, but I don't see how it applies just now," he replied. "Emma, take care of her, I'll go get the others."
"Are you okay, Jesse? You look a little pale," Emma remarked.
"I'm okay." Shortly after that he made two more trips through the wall, first with Shalimar and last with Brennan. "I'd generally make the formal introductions at this point, but I think we should get out of here while the getting's good. Agreed?"
"Wholeheartedly," Brennan replied.
"Then let's go," Emma said.
Back at the Sanctuary
All things considered, things could have gone much worse, and under the circumstances, Adam termed the mission a qualified success, although many of the primary team members might have argued differently, Adam did not give them the chance.
Instead, there had been a flurry of activity, most of it involving each of them having to take turns being checked out in the infirmary by Adam and then rechecked when Adam was not nearly satisfied with the results garnered by the monitors and the computers.
Each of them endured the stifled questions and tests with varying degrees of patience, Brennan less so then the others; but, then that was to be expected, and in fact, on the ride back home, it was even agreed that he be the designated one to gripe and complain about the expected medical exams.
It was also agreed that Mrs. Mulwray accompany them that far blindfolded for the last leg of the trip per their own security protocols.
Emma had been forced to cover her own ears for that last due to the streak of invective Brennan's mother let out, and wondered exactly had passed between them and wondered if she dared to question Brennan later on the subject. However, common sense outweighed curiosity this time, but she had to admit she was damned curious.
Brennan turned in his seat on the lowest rung of the stairs that led up to the main living and sleeping quarters when he caught her looking over in his direction and winked. He felt that he did not have to have the ability to read other people's thoughts, or Emma's case, pick up on emotional states to know what she was thinking.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey, right back at you. Penny for your thoughts." She smiled and came over from where she stood staring at the wall décor, lost in her own thoughts.
He winked at her and patted the rung of the seat on which he sat. "Join me?"
Emma sat down and then reached over to put a reassuring arm across his shoulders.
"It took a lot of out of Jesse to phase more than one person at a time," she remarked.
"I know, but he knew what the consequences were when he did it. The guy's a trooper and don't worry, he'll be just fine," Brennan said and sighed, reaching up to scratch at the side of his head, mostly because he required an outlet for the churning emotions within him.
For a while, they simply sat in companionable silence, but it was not long before Brennan felt he needed to simply get out at least one thing that would help him deal with what had happened.
"I, Damn it, this emotional stuff is harder than it looks! How do you deal with it and…"he trailed off and waved his hands in the air.
"Deal with it, and not go crazy?" Emma finished. "It takes time and a lot of practice and concentration, but whatever's eating at you, you know I'll be here and I'll do whatever I can to help, if you'll let me. We all will. All you have to do is let us in."
"We're your friends, Brennan Mulwray," Emma replied, and then added. "The sooner you start realizing that we're friends first and a team second , I think the better off we'll be."
"I guess, I'm sorry, a lot of this mess was kinda my fault," Brennan muttered under his breath.
"This isn't about placing blame, so you can just stop beating yourself up about it," Emma remarked.
"Yeah, I know, I know, but then I just can't help feeling that way, if you know what I mean."
"I understand, and you're not the only one who has ever felt that way," she replied.
At that moment, Jesse came down the steps, a bit pale but apparently none the worse for wear after his ordeal.
"Good news, we've all been given a clean bill of health, although Adam has been more careful u than usual as far as field missions go. However, he has green-lighted us for more sparring sessions in the dojo."
Emma untangled her arm from around Brennan's shoulders and took the steps two rungs at a time to catch Jesse midway between the top and bottom floor and flinging herself at him and kissed him full on the lips.
His eyes widened in mingled surprise and anticipation, but he soon recovered, and he kissed her in return.
"You were worried about me?" Jesse asked when they broke off the kiss.
"Yeah, you idiot, don't you go scaring me like that ever again," she scolded him with mock severity.
"I promise," Jesse replied.
"Good, because I'll be holding you that promise," she replied, twining her arm in his and they took the remaining stairs down to where Brennan, sitting on the rung directly above him.
"That goes for you, as well, Mr. Mulwray," Jesse added with a mock shove at Brennan's shoulders.
Brennan nodded slowly, as if at the inevitable and offered up a tentative smile. "Yeah, okay, at this rate, we might as well make it official and get Shalimar's promise in the bargain."
"She's sleeping, but you can wake her up ," Jesse added.
"Nah, let her sleep," Brennan replied. "In fact, I could do with some shut-eye myself."
"Did your mother go home already?" Emma asked.
"Yeah, and I'm sorry that I didn't mention any of that to you guys beforehand. That's kinda my mea culpa, but then, under the circumstance, there simply wasn't time to go into it and yeah, well, it's complicated."
"If you don't want to talk about it," Jesse said, "we'll understand."
"I don't," Brennan replied tersely , aware that his tone might be taken offensively or as insensitive of his friends and teammates feelings, and in order to soften the blow , he grinned one of his trade-mark off-center devil-may-care grins.
After a minute or two, he added. "Don't misunderstand me, it's not because I don't appreciate the offer or what you are trying to do, it's just that I'm still processing everything and a lot the complication with my mother stems from long before I met any of you, or had any idea of what could be accomplished here at the Sanctuary."
Jesse nodded, "I understand, I think, and I think it's true, just speaking for myself, that when Adam offered me a chance to join Sanctuary, I chose to more because that, on some level, I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, something better. Does that make any sense?"
"It does, Jesse," Brennan replied. "And thanks for, for being there, for understanding, for the save, well, just thank you."