Author's Note: This is the sequel to "Outside", and I can guarantee that you'll be lost if you don't read that first. If you haven't, then you'd better get your butt over there to read it. :)
The Second Key
By Be Boring
Chapter 1: Out With The Old, In With The New
The atmosphere in Terminal City was highly tense. Many of the transgenics were feeling cooped up. After all, wasn't the point of this whole thing to keep them from being cooped up ever again? To a lot of them, especially Mole, Terminal City was no different than Manticore. They were still trapped by the government.
Max had been feeling more and more hopeless every day. She was constantly being pressured by the others to do something about their present situation, but truthfully, there really wasn't anything she could do. If a transgenic head so much as popped up into the view of the troops waiting outside, it would be fired at, so she couldn't exactly start up a conversation with the military. Nobody out there seemed to be thinking of peace, just of getting rid of what they thought to be the enemy. It was only some of the transgenics who knew who the true enemy was. That was what Max was wondering about. There seemed to be no activity from White in the four days she had been here. She had figured he would be taking advantage of the situation so he could get rid of them. Raising the flag yesterday hadn't soothed her mind, it had made her more nervous. It was like challenging the people outside to fight them, they were a tiny nation ready to do battle.
One of Max's other concerns were the regular people in Terminal City. Logan seemed to be doing okay, but that was because of Joshua's blood in him. Sketchy and Original Cindy however, weren't doing so well. They were starting to feel sick and didn't seem to have much strength anymore. They now pretty much spent their time laying down and trying to preserve what little health they had. Max had expected Kay to show up as soon as news of what was going on in Seattle got out, but she hadn't come. Surely the news must have reached her by now. Max had been counting on her help with getting Logan, OC, and Sketchy out of this place.
The other thing she wondered about was the other X5s. Max knew her name had been mentioned several times on the news, but where was her family? None of the '09 escapees had made an appearance here, was their family not as tight as she had thought it was? Where was everyone?
Zack threw the hamburgers he had picked up into the back seat. Sandeman sleepily pulled one out and started eating, but Brin just looked at it with disgust. Zack sighed and started up the van. He knew Brin wasn't going to eat anything for a few days, that was one of the things about her that annoyed him. Whenever something upset her, the first thing to go would be her appetite, despite the fact that she needed the food to keep her energy up. Why is she so immature about these things?
Sandeman had stayed quiet during the whole ride to Seattle. He knew perfectly well that these two X5s didn't like him. Kay and Ben were the two that would have been somewhat friendly, but they weren't here. In fact, from what he knew, only about one third of the group that had come to get him was still alive and they were with him now. They had already told him about the deaths of his son C.J. and Colonel Lydecker, both of which had rendered him speechless. Now Ben and the Skeptic were gone, not to mention Kay, which saddened him because Kay had been the one to work on finding him and who was humanity's best chance of survival. She had been one of the few he was the most proud of, the others in that group were Max, Joshua, and Isaac. They had been the ones he was closest to.
The old man privately wondered if he had lost both his children. C.J. was already gone, but what about Ames? Sandeman didn't care if Ames had been about to shoot him, he was still his son. Had he made it out of the explosion? Wondering about that was driving him crazy, just as wondering if there was a chance Kay was alive was driving Brin and Zack crazy.
Brin still felt somehow that Kay was alive. Maybe Kay jumped off on the other side of the building and they just didn't see her, but like Zack said, that still didn't explain why she hadn't come back to the van or why he couldn't find her when he searched. The only thing he mentioned finding were the bodies of some unknown Familiars. Now Brin wished she had gone and looked with him, she was sure she would have seen something of importance. She looked at the old man sitting in the back with all the hate that her eyes could show. If it wasn't for him, her life wouldn't have been ruined. She was a freak, Max was now the main focus of the Conclave's rampage against transgenics, his son had killed her best friend, and now Kay was gone just because she'd wanted to find him. This wasn't even including the heat cycles that were the source of her humiliation. If only Kay was here, she could always make things better in her strange little way.
Ames White walked back out of the bathroom of the old, rundown hotel he was staying in, trying to clean the open wound in his stomach. He was aware he had lost a lot of blood, but it didn't have much of an effect on him other than slowing him down a little. He had already thrown out the bloodied shirt he'd been wearing and was walking around shirtless, not the least bit embarrassed about it seeing as how his guest was unconscious. He looked down at the redheaded girl he had tied to one of the twin beds, finding it hard to believe that she was a freak. He hadn't even recognized her when he'd seen her at Manticore, he was used to her long, blonde hair, not the curly, shoulder-length red hair she had now. It was one of the things he hated about her, her ability to blend in and pretend to be normal. The people that had sold her the dye probably hadn't known they were dealing with something that wasn't even human.
X5-358 had always been a problem for him, just like X5-452. In the beginning, he hadn't given them any human traits in his mind because of the numbers, those helped him remember that he was working with abominations to his people. It wasn't until he had met them face to face that he started thinking of them as something more. These two X5s were the only two he had met that had such blatant personalities, showing them off despite the danger they were in. 452 had taken his son, while 358 had hid his wife. It disgusted him when he thought of the possibility of his wife being friends with her, but he knew it was true. He could still hear 358's words clearly in his head from the rooftop. "You might think it's okay to kill your partner, but don't go off killing someone else's!" Somehow she had known that he'd killed Wendy. He wasn't sure how, but she knew.
Ames stepped back into the bathroom and looked back in the mirror so he could clean his wound easier. It was still bleeding strongly, but not as bad as before. There was only one way for him to get his body to start healing, he'd have to get the bullet out. It hadn't gone all the way through him, so it was somewhere still in his body. He tried to get his own fingers in to get it out, but they were too large. He hated the thought of going to a hospital and leaving the X5 here on her own, but he had taken measures to make sure she couldn't get away. He took his coat and threw it on over his shirtless top, making sure to check how secure 358's arms were before he left.
Kay vaguely heard the door slam. She had felt someone moving around her arms, but she wasn't yet awake enough to open her eyes. She felt as though she could sleep forever, but a certain pain in her back made her suddenly feel otherwise. God, her back felt awful. She tried to think back to what had happened, but it was all a blur to her. She remembered going to Manticore to meet Sandeman, and she remembered talking to him, but she didn't remember anything beyond that. It would probably come back to her though. She finally forced her eyelids open, only to see a room she didn't recognize in the least. It took her a few moments to realize she was laying on a bed, and it took a few more for her to notice that she was strapped to it. It was only by her arms though.
How simple.Kay tried to pull her arms free, but suddenly it felt like those handcuffs on her wrists were made of solid rock. She couldn't pull free or break the chain no matter how hard she tried. Have I become that weak? What the hell happened? She let thoughts of her conversation with Sandeman run through her head, hoping it would just continue like a movie and go on from there. She heard him telling her that she was part Familiar, Thula's little sister. There was also something about Max being the second part of the cure, but she couldn't remember it all that clearly, then something about the family of the anti-key. Why couldn't she remember the rest? Did he go on to explain about the family, or did the conversation just stop at that point? She doubted he would have left it there, but seeing as how she couldn't think past that moment, there was no other explanation until she remembered more.
Kay looked down at her body. She distinctly smelled smoke on herself, but she didn't appear to be hurt. It wasn't until she rolled a little in her spot that the pain shot down her back again. Was my back burned? She looked up at her arms again, trying to pull them free of the handcuffs, when she noticed something different. Where's my bracelet? She remembered being so happy when she got that little friendship bracelet, how could she have lost it?
Suddenly, memory flashes nearly took her over, hitting her hard and fast. She could see the Skeptic shooting, trying to hold off the Familiars coming in through the window. Then she was going down the hall with Sandeman and Ben behind her. She remembered running into Zack and Brin in the hall, then Zack jumping out a window, ready to catch Sandeman. When she heard the gunshot behind her, she felt the shock all over again as she looked back and saw Ben on the ground with a gunshot wound. The flashes started becoming more picturesque as she handed her weapons to Ben. She would just see a quick flash of something, but it wasn't in motion. As the pictures started coming faster, it was like watching a horrible slide show. Ben dying, Kay running after White, fighting him on the roof, hearing Zack shout "You've only got three minutes!", fighting again, then trying to jump off and having the building explode. It was there that the memories stopped.
Kay had fresh tears on her face, the only tears she'd cried since Ben's death. She turned her face to dry it off on her sleeve, then looked over at the other bed. It was empty, but there were some weapons sitting there. She saw the gun, a couple knives, and other things that could easily be hid against the body and in clothing. She was completely confused now, who was here? She twisted her body so it was facing the bed, then took a better look. There was nothing that really gave her a clue, just a bunch of weapons. One of the knives was hers, she had had it in her pocket while in Manticore. Everything else was strange to her. She rolled back onto her back, wincing in pain as the burns on her back screamed out in protest. Her mind became pleasantly blank as she curled back up and went to sleep, unable to keep her eyes open any longer. Just the force of the memories and trying to see what was on the other bed had worn her already tired body out.
Alec was bored out of his mind. He'd basically had the job today of babysitting Sketchy and OC while they were sick. This job was passed off between different people, but today was his day. This was one of their worse days too, he'd never seen them look like this. Logan was with Max, but even he was starting to show signs of sickness. Alec was pretty sure he'd need a wheelchair again fairly soon, just because he'd be that weak.
There was no action outside, so little that it was depressing. People had stopped even coming near Terminal City, and the troops weren't doing anything other than watching quietly. Alec had easily picked out every soldier within his sight distance, they weren't that good at hiding no matter what their training might be. His eyes were scanning the surrounding buildings again when he noticed someone new. There was a young woman on top of one of the buildings, watching him intently. If he hadn't been so surprised, he probably would have appreciated her looks. She certainly was a beauty, around Max's height with long, dark blonde hair and strangely large blue eyes. It was the eyes that caught him, they seemed to completely take him over. He had no idea who she was, but he suddenly wanted to know. It wasn't just that though, he had the feeling she was a transgenic.
Deciding Sketchy and OC would be fine on their own for a few minutes, Alec headed downstairs to the second floor of this old apartment building. It bugged him to have to come over here today just to watch a couple of sick people, but he didn't have anything else to do. Max would never let him get away with not working. She had been ticking him off more and more lately. First she had used him to separate herself from Logan, putting him smack dab in the middle of all of her relationship problems, then she never let him relax. In the four days they had been held in Terminal City, she'd never eased off. There was always something she'd wanted him to do. I don't see her doing anything big right now! Ever since Logan had been trapped with the transgenics and he'd been wearing the gloves, he seemed to forget about Max telling him she was seeing Alec. Alec knew she hadn't told him the truth, but for all the good the lie was doing she may as well.
Max was suddenly even more weary when she looked up and saw Alec in the doorway. "What do you want?"
Alec rolled his eyes at her tone of voice, still slightly relieved that Logan was nowhere in sight. "Sorry, my queen, but there's a newcomer hanging around the castle moat."
Max could have hit him for cracking jokes about something as serious as someone new. "Who is it?"
"How should I know? That's why I came to you."
Max walked over to the window that she tended to avoid, seeing as how it was so bleak outside, and looked around for the new person. It didn't take long to spot her.
"Let's go help her in. I want to know who she is."
"You mean you don't know?"
"She looks somewhat familiar, but I can't place her."
Alec smartly kept his mouth shut as he followed her to the roof of the building. They made sure to stay low, keeping out of the sight of the soldiers. Max peered across the electric fence the army had set up to the building the other woman was on.
"Ok, I figure she can jump across, but she's not going to make it to where we are. She'll have to hit it lower. We'll need someone inside to get her through a window before those assholes can start shooting."
Alec nodded. "I can do that. Which window should I go wait at?"
Max held her hands up just high enough so she knew the other woman could see them, then signaled that she wanted her to jump to this side. The other woman signaled back that she would, then she indicated where she would be going. Alec looked down, saw the right room, and headed downstairs. As soon as he was in, he headed for the window and prepared himself to open it. He would have to work fast. The woman nodded to him, then counted off with her fingers: one...two...three. She pushed off the other building and barely made it to Alec's side, he opened the window as fast as he could just before she reached it, then grabbed her hand, pulled her through, and slammed the windows shut. The soldiers were pulling out their guns, but it was already over. Alec had to work hard to keep the smirk off his face.
That didn't become too hard when he got a good look at her up close. She was positively stunning, and he was a person with high standards. She didn't appear all that interested in him though. She was already headed for the door.
Alec was stunned out of his little trance. "How did you know her name?"
"I just do. Where is she?"
"Right here," Max said as she entered through the door the other woman had nearly reached. Her eyes were now moving over the newcomer, trying desperately to place her. The woman looked hurt by this.
"Don't you recognize me?"
Max met her eyes, her confusion perfectly clear. "No, should I?"
"It's me, Maxie! Jondy!"
Max nearly fell over, and at this Alec did allow himself to smirk. It was like telling a little kid that he was gonna get to live with Santa Clause. Max jumped forward and threw her arms around her sister.
"Where have you been? I've been wanting to see you for ages!" Max was close to tears with excitement. Everything had been going so wrong lately, but now she finally had good news.
"Oh, all over the place. Zack used to keep me moving almost constantly, I was always getting into trouble. Speaking of Zack, where has he been? I've called the contact number several times but he never responds to my messages."
Alec glanced out the window just as Max bit her lip nervously and was about to answer. "Before you say anything, I think you'll want to take a look at this."
Max walked over to him, then gasped when Alec opened the window and Zack crawled inside. The first thing that hit her was that he'd been shot in the arm while hanging outside the window. He was already removing his jacket for a better look at it, and Max pulled her water bottle off her belt. The water in Terminal City wasn't that great, so she had snatched a couple from the ambulance the day they first got locked inside. She kept it with her all the time.
While Zack cleaned his arm, Max started questioning him. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to talk to you."
"How long have you had your memory back?"
"A few months."
This was where Zack felt a pang inside. It would kill Max to know she was dead, but at least he could tell her Brin was alive. How would she react to finding out about what had been going on without her? As he was struggling to find the right words, Jondy interrupted.
"Kay? As in, the Kay we knew back at Manticore? X5-358?" Jondy looked completely shocked at this, she still pictured Kay as their enemy even though she knew better about the Nomlies now. Max nodded, smiling at the look on her sister's face.
"Yeah, I've been real tight with her lately. She's been a good friend. I've been waiting to see her though, I don't know where she is. Hey Zack, do you think she could get her butt up here to see me?" Max asked teasingly.
"No. She can't come see you, not now, not ever again."
Max put her hands on her hips. "If you're going to start the same crap you did a year ago, it won't do you any good. The world already knows about X5s, and her name would be in there even though they think she's dead."
"She is dead, Max."
"Oh please, you know better than that. I know for a fact she came back to the farm after she supposedly died."
"That's true, she did. It's not what I'm talking about." Zack hesitated, unsure of how to keep going with this. He wanted to keep Sandeman a secret for now. Still, no matter how he did it, it was going to kill Max. "I suppose I should tell you that Brin is alive."
Max's eyes widened. "Brin? She's okay? She's herself?"
He nodded, still trying to work out how to go on. "Yeah, she's fine. Kay and Ben came across her and Lydecker a while back."
Max now finally sat down, that last piece of information hitting her harder than anything else. Alec had a tiny smile on his face, knowing how it would make her happy to find out about Ben. He could still clearly remember her pain when she told him that she'd killed her brother. Zack could see the look on Alec's face, knowing it would come as a shock to him too that Ben was gone. He hadn't really meant to say his name, it just came out. Now he would have no choice but to tell her.
"Ben's alive? And Lydecker?"
"No, they're not."
"But you just said..."
"I know what I just said, so I'm going to have to explain myself a little better. Now, I don't want you to interrupt me until the end, you got that?" He waited for her nod before continuing with the story. "Kay found Ben a while back. Manticore somehow used a machine to keep his blood pumping until it fixed his nerve damage. He had a hard time getting used to Kay, he at first wanted to kill her. She won him over when she got him away from White, then they ran into Brin and Lydecker. Brin wasn't herself at first, she was still the soldier that Manticore turned her into. Brin and Wendy became close, so you can imagine how it killed her when she died. I know you may not like the idea, but Kay and Ben became romantically involved. You actually saw him at the hospital when Kay had that fever. The reason she took off so suddenly was because Ben overheard her tell you about her first heat cycle, and she knew Ben would kill Lydecker for it."
Now he had to start the lies. "When we heard about what was going on here, we decided it was time to come up and let you know everything. We were staying in a motel when we were discovered by White and some other Familiars. Brin and I made it out fine, but Kay, Ben, and Lydecker didn't make it. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but at least there's one piece of good news. I'm not sure, but I think Kay managed to kill White before she died. He was the one who shot Ben, so she pretty much lost it."
Max sat there in shock. Jondy was listening to this, not understanding most of it but still horrified at the idea of it all. Alec turned and walked out of the room before he could say anything he'd regret. He wanted to punch Zack, perhaps kill him for not protecting them. Wasn't he supposed to be that great protector? Wasn't he responsible for the others? True, he hadn't cared much for either Ben or Lydecker, but Kay? She had been a good person, one of the few female friends he had because of the fact that she showed no interest in him.
Max was still too stunned to speak, she simply stared at the wall, struggling not to cry. She had done far too much of that lately and was sick of it. She wanted to be strong, not turn into an emotional wreck.
Jondy saw that Alec had left and went after him. "Who are you anyways?"
Alec, not liking the interruption, turned on her fiercely. "None of your damn business. I don't even know you."
"That's not fair, if you're in a bad mood you shouldn't take it out on someone who's just concerned!"
"Did I ask for your concern? I don't specifically remember asking. Why don't you go in and comfort Max, she needs someone who will tolerate her being a baby, other than Zack and Logan of course."
Jondy's mouth dropped open, no one had ever insulted her family like that to her face. She clenched her fists, doing her best not to punch him, then turned and went back into the room with Max and Zack.
Alec couldn't have cared less that she was angry. He didn't know her, so it wasn't like it was his responsibility to keep her happy. He finally stormed back upstairs to go back to babysitting Sketchy and Original Cindy.
Gingerly touching the bandage covering his stomach, Ames White managed to squeeze through the small opening that stood as the back way in to a pharmacy. The priestess had told him that what he needed would be here, he just hoped she was right. From the outside, this place looked perfectly normal. He moved forward through what he thought was an empty room, then just barely managed to hide the tiny jump he made when he heard the voice cut through the silence.
He turned his head toward the voice. "Fen'os tol. Do you have it?"
A woman in her late thirties walked out of the blackness, looking every bit the Familiar she was. Her body was thicker than most women's due to her muscle, and her eyes held the same cold look that always lurked in the back of a Familiar's eyes. She reached into the purse at her side and pulled out a tiny case, took a peek inside it, then held it out to him. Ames took it, trying not to let the pain show on his face when he did so. The muscles around his stomach had started screaming at the slightest bit of use. He opened the case, his eyes lighting up at the ten full syringes that were before his eyes.
"Was it what you wanted?"
Ames smiled and took one of the syringes out to examine it. "Yes, this is exactly what I wanted, however, I doubt 358 will share my feelings."