Mink (minkmix) wrote,
Mink
minkmix

Dark Angel Fic: Traces part 8 of 12

Title: Traces part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - part 4 - part 5 - part 6 - part 7 - part 8 - part 9 - part 10 - part 11 - part 12
Sequel to: Heat
Author: Mink
Rating: PG - Gen (Ratings subject to change)
Spoilers: General
Disclaimers: DA & characters are owned by their respective creators.



Alec folded the thin computer closed and listened to the almost imperceptible whir of its shut down.

Sitting at what had become his work desk, he looked out the broad window and knew that a noon day sun was shining somewhere over the churn of dark clouds. With the immune deficient X5 taking up the doctor’s attention, Alec found his assignments completed by the next day and no more immediately forthcoming.

Every time he had opened another one of the exams he thought about hurling the piece of machinery hard enough to possibly crack the shatter proof plastic that imitated glass in the panes. Each time he described his emotional reaction towards an ink blot or debated another ill-disguised barometer of morality, he swallowed back a surge of nausea. While total noncompliance was a nice thought, he had a few good reasons not to act on that instinct. The first was that no matter how randomly or nonsensically he filled out the forms, their long and unremitting nature would assemble patterns from his thought process regardless of his attempts. The second reason was what made Alec not only answer them truthfully, but quickly and efficiently in a speed she would expect. He didn’t want the doctor to get any idea that he might be unstable in any way.

He wanted to make sure that she knew he was psychologically intact.

She’d said she liked to surround herself with her failures. That she seemed at ease with her control over them was evident in their regard to her. But Alec hadn’t seen the entire proclaimed collection sitting at the dinner table. There had been two missing. Apparently there were some surviving mistakes that didn’t get the same privileges as the rest and Alec wasn’t eager to find out what that meant. Rain streamed down the windows as another storm cell drifted overhead. He was suddenly reminded of his own apartment, the air cutting the cold so close that he could see his breath and wished the untouched quiet could be smothered by the comforting babble of random television.

Alec had privately wondered a few times how great it would be to sit around in pajamas all the time, but he was starting to miss the feel of real clothes. He nervously rubbed his hands on the soft fabric of his cotton pants. At this point he’d settle for anything that wasn’t meant to be as comfy and pliable as possible. Every item in the closet was as fit to wear to bed as it was to walk around in. He pushed the computer away and gnawed at his lip. Just because he’d completed every test to the best of his ability didn’t guarantee his safety. What if he wasn’t as healthy as he thought he was? The truly deranged were usually firmly convinced of their own sanity.

“Psychologically intact.” Alec mumbled. “That’d be a neat trick—”

He shut up with a stifled groan of frustration.

It had been difficult to stop talking to himself. He had no idea how much it had become a normal function for him when he was alone until he’d tried to discontinue it. Ever since his services with Manticore had abruptly ended, he noticed the habit got a lot worse and it was usually when he was afraid. Glancing apprehensively at the dim corners and freshly painted crimson walls, he wondered if his words had been bookmarked by a system monitoring any significant sounds.

Alec reluctantly opened his closet.

There were shoes in there but only one pair that appeared suited for outdoor use. He’d seen ads for them on television but he’d never worn sneakers like them himself. From years in an institution where money was frequently no object, Manticore had typically supplied their soldiers with the adequately generic. He weighed their light polymer design and tried not to notice that they had been chosen in shades that went with most of his clothing. He appreciated how the soft treads of the soles made him as silent as if he’d been walking in bare feet. The temperature out in the corridor was much lower than his room. The lone narrow window at the hall’s end lent little light to the chilled humid air.

Alec stopped in front of Daniel’s door.

Even though they’d only shared a sandwich and an hour of conversation, he felt a reluctant sense of trust forming for the guy. He had quickly discovered the methods required for two way communication the night before when they had been alone in the kitchen. Hands on hands had allowed for a full hour of dialogue, each answer spelled out into Alec’s palms and gestured carefully in the dark. At the end of it all, Alec was left with a lot more questions than he'd had in the first place. At first he thought the other transgenic’s vague responses were purposefully slow and cryptic. He’d had no reason to believe this X5’s loyalties lay anywhere but with the woman that had incarcerated them both. However, it took him a while before he realized that Daniel wasn’t being willingly uncooperative or secretive.

He was just the quiet type.

When Alec really sat back and studied the open curiosity on his clone’s face he felt like he really was looking into a mirror. Not a mirror that shared the identical width and set of their eyes or the play of muscles that arranged their emotions, but a mirror of innocent compliance that had been vigilantly fostered in the shelter of a comfortable prison. Alec too had once found Manticore’s choke chain to be reassuring, its brutally restrictive nature incidental in the face of his allegiance. There was a numb calm to be found when all your choices were stripped away, leaving only the requirement of your obedience.

Daniel’s hands had told him that the doctor was only dangerous if you broke her rules. He told Alec that life here was a good one if you did as you were told and didn’t ask about things that didn’t concern you. It was surely a better deal than anything to be found amongst the rabid chaos that reigned on the outside. They were safely conserved behind Dr. Gaboriault’s modern day moats. Their kind were protected from every scientific ignoramus that would do nothing but mindlessly exploit priceless advances of biotechnology such as themselves.

Alec shook his head.

Just like a damn mirror.

It was a strange revelation to discover the nuances of personality in the midst of silence when Alec had greatly depended on language to gauge another’s intentions. He hadn’t learned much in their conversation that he hadn’t already figured out on his own. Daniel had lived with the doctor his entire life. She had educated him and the others herself and allowed them to pursue any interests they wanted. Daniel’s hands had gone still when Alec asked if he ever got to step past the estate’s borders. He had taken his hands away completely when Alec had asked about the house security system.

After that Daniel had withdrawn and vanished into his room for the night.

Alec had left him alone for about 12 hours and this wasn’t a party, but he needed to break some ice.

He’d hoped Daniel’s door would be wide open so he wouldn’t have to figure out the logistics of getting the X5’s attention. However, Alec had stopped asking permission to open closed doors a long time ago and he really couldn’t think of a better reason for not bothering to knock.

The pitch blackness gave him pause.

It made sense not to provide Daniel with any cosmetic lighting. The lampshades and varied wattages of Alec’s enclosure were installed to satisfy a basic need for pleasing ambiance. This room hadn’t been equipped with anything like that at all. Alec turned instinctively towards the scents and sounds his diverted senses detected in the dark. There was no window but vents had been installed for the flow of fresh air. The metallic smell of rainwater mixed with the acrid wood smoke of the small fire sputtering warmly in the corner. It reminded Alec of the room he’d first met Daniel in somewhere on the first floor of the house. It appeared the X5 enjoyed fires. Or at least the smell and feel of them. Alec’s eyes settled into the best image quality they would receive. His retinas gathered up all the ambient radiance available to provide the dim outlines of furniture, a bed and the transgenic himself seated opposite the room at a table. He was looking up in Alec’s direction, his expression lost in shadow but the scent of his presence as solid as a handshake.

Alec half smiled at the small glimpse into Daniel’s perspective.

The space was approximately identical to Alec’s other than his book shelves were completely filled with the thick bulky text of Braille. Alec recalled he had first seen the transgenic with one of the telephone book sized things when he’d met him by the fireplace. The gray fabrics that covered the bed and chairs were all elements of the same invoked sensation. Everything, along with the glow of the fire was calming and cool to the touch. Alec stood undecidedly behind a sofa and felt its material. Its color was a weird institutional shade of beige but it had been made from a soft fleece. All the furniture in the room appeared to have been upholstered with the same intention.

Touch.

He thought the mismatched palette suited the X5 perfectly whether he could see it or not. Shifting in place, Alec glanced up at the ceiling and imagined the floor that Gabriel had staked claim for his own territory. He would place a couple safe bets that there was nothing soothing or relaxed to be found up there. Gabriel did seem to be correct on this transgenic’s favorite past time however. Daniel was seated at his table with several books laid out across its surface.

Alec walked forward and knew his footsteps across the floor would be the equivalent of a greeting.

Any worry that his gait might be mistaken for another built exactly like him vanished when Daniel raised a hand to acknowledge Alec by name. Comfortable with the knowledge that Daniel was very aware of his presence, he pulled the X5’s hands onto his forearms so they could talk.

Alec signed. “You busy?”

To Alec's delight, the answer was the one he was looking for.

“Good.” Alec grinned. “I love taking walks. Too bad we don't have a beach.”

Alec had a powerful urge to breathe in clean crisp air that only nature could provide. From his room alone he’d counted at least fifty filtration towers that loomed along the perimeter like mutant trees. The purification machines did a small amount to keep the city’s cloud of pollution away from the private estate but they did a great job at cutting down the mixed reek of gasoline fumes and landfill. Nonetheless, the reality of the armory waiting for a target to vaporize was a heavy weight on his mind. Every fantasy of how to slip his chains always ended unsuccessfully in the sights of an automated machine gun.

“You sure we won’t set off any of the fireworks?”

Daniel shrugged off the concern with the promise of a quick pick up game of basketball and a hike that could apparently score you a view of the ocean. Alec wasn’t quite sure what the blind X5 did with views but he supposed he didn’t really know what to do with them either. Anyway, Alec wasn’t interested in the stone paths that lead through the flower beds and automated artillery. He was much more interested by the closest structure to the house that had a well used walkway and easy access to the main driveway.

He could see it perfectly from his room’s window.

All night long he’d looked up from his exams to study the frail glass panes that made its walls. The plants cultivated inside weren’t trimmed and groomed perfectly like everything else on the grounds. The vegetation in the green house’s interior was wild and rampant, grown up over its sides and roof as if it had been left unchecked for years. No gardeners were allowed across that threshold. No timely maintenance was performed to keep its appearance up like everything else around it. The very sign of its neglect was an indicator that the doctor frequented the building often.

All through the night Alec had watched electric lights glow softly through the cracks in the dense foliage. They had not clicked off with the dawn like anything else would when attached to a timer. That was another thing that kept him thinking as the sun slowly rose behind the clouds.

They were the only other working lights he’d seen since he’d arrived.

















It didn’t seem like much but Alec knew rebellion when he saw it.

A different staircase followed a brand new set of hallways and he knew he was being led to a forbidden place. If he had any doubts about the apparent clandestine movements of his clone, the appearance of a security touch pad got rid of those real quick. Alec watched the code be punched in and memorized the sequence. It wouldn’t do him any good but he burned it into his brain anyway. All decent defense systems had a rotating set of passwords but if he caught a few of them he might figure out the master pattern. If he got more than a few he might even eventually work out how to disarm a couple of the guns sitting outside.

Keeping close to Daniel, he only hung back when the scent of rubbing alcohol and antiseptic hit him. Alec knew that array of smells anywhere.

They were in the infirmary.

“Wait.” Alec caught Daniel by the arm. “What about Gaboriault?”

Not home.

Alec didn’t know what exactly that meant but before he could ask for elaboration Daniel was already continuing on his way.

The room hadn’t always served in a medical capacity. The tall windows along the wall reminded Alec of those paintings of turn of the century parlors. It should have been filled with pale pink satin chairs and polished tables for silver tea pots. With no use for the convenient space’s entertainment potential, it had been instead converted into a private and excellently equipped medical ward. From the lighting attached to the arched ceilings, the place could have been lit up brighter than a football stadium if need be. It was dim now however. Only a few halogen lights were on in an adjacent lab, separated by a glass wall. The wood floors had been replaced by hygienic tile and the sparse furniture that passed as the house’s décor was missing. The lamps were pure function and the baseboards replaced with sterile ceramic. The only thing that looked out of place was the old wallpaper and the crystal chandelier that had been left behind. The faded flowers on the walls were washed out and the peeling seams yellowed with aged paste. The antique paper appeared a tad surreal against the state of the art hospital beds outfitted to monitor the patient as proficiently as a full staff of nurses.

The X5 named Michael lay sleeping in one of them.

A large and comfortable leather chair was positioned near the bed. Alec noted a stitched quilt left unfolded across its seat. So that was where the doctor had spent the last few days. His gaze flickered over the lab with its clutter of papers, computer monitors, and random coffee mugs.

“Looks like your friend is alive.” Alec said. “Kind of.”

The sick transgenic was in a partitioned bed in a row of three. A steady audio bleep was dutifully registering the stream of vitals. They were all on the low side but the guy seemed to exist permanently on the line as it was.

Daniel found the bed and began touching the body under the blanket. Alec realized he was checking the other X5’s pulse.

“You don’t get any visiting hours huh?” Alec guessed. “Should have told me where we were headed. Could have brought flowers.”

He suddenly realized he was talking to himself again but this time with Daniel as company. He kind of liked the excuse for speaking even if the other party had no idea he was doing it. Besides, Daniel picked up on his efforts of communication in one way or another even if he wasn’t gathering the precise meaning. The sleeping transgenic wasn’t roused by Daniel’s touch or Alec’s voice. The disturbing gray cast to his skin and the peeling wallpaper made Alec want to leave.

Alec glanced at the monitor and considered the fact that Daniel couldn’t read it.

“Here. Come here.” Alec took Daniel’s hands off Michael’s motionless face and started signing numbers. Diastolic and systolic pressure. Heart rate and temperature. “See? He’s fine. Can we go now?”

Daniel seemed satisfied with the information and even gave Alec a small smile.

Alec’s attention was caught by a pair of double doors that led out onto the building’s back veranda. Perfectly enough, the oblong rectangular structure of the green house was sitting right there behind a small grove of trees. The distance between the building and the infirmary was less than a walk of a dozen yards. Its proximity to an area in which the doctor assuredly spent a lot of her time doubled his growing conviction that that was where he needed to go.

“While we’re breakin’ the rules and everything.”

Daniel cocked his head as if he could sense there was something on his clone’s mind. Alec took a deep breath and picked up Daniel’s hands again.

“So, how about giving me the full tour?” He wasn’t sure if you could sign in a casual tone but he tried his hardest. From Daniel’s drawn expression Alec figured his anxious scent alone pretty much gave away anything he had hoped to conceal. “What is that outside?”

Daniel paused, his inflection wary and hesitant.

Conservatory.

“We allowed in there?”

No.

That big negative came pretty quick and without any deliberation at all.

“I bet you know how to get in there tho.” Alec muttered as he watched the green house lights glitter through the lazy thrash of the trees in the rain.

It’s off limits.

“Not if you turn off the cameras.” Alec turned the X5 towards him, pulling him close so every sign could be plainly read. “Can you do it? Can you turn them off?”

We’ll get in troub—

“Can’t get caught if you don’t get caught?” Alec put both of Daniel’s hands on his face so he could feel him smiling. He was fairly certain the sight of it evoked confidence but it had never occurred to him what his best reassuring smile felt like. “What do ya say?”

Daniel’s brow furrowed in consideration. Alec could feel the clone’s heart beating fast as his hands kneaded Alec’s sleeves in indecision. He recognized all of Daniel’s well engrained dread from his own years spent in confinement. The child like fear of punishment and the faithful obedience to every law until a head was turned. Alec could see that this guy broke plenty of rules around this place when he knew he could get away with it. He’d probably been doing it for a real long time too. Alec looked on anxiously as the other transgenic weighed the possibilities.

We have to be fast.

“Sure!” Alec clapped him hard on the shoulder. “I can do fast.”

A touch pad Alec hadn’t been aware of slid out from hiding on the side of a light switch. It glowed purple and blue in the dark and Daniel keyed in the password that would grant them access to the prohibited area outside.

The frigid air washed over him and sent an inadvertent shiver down his spine. The sopping wet plants that hung heavy over the path soaked his pant legs and the drizzle quickly drenched his shirt. He wondered for a second if Daniel knew enough about the length of the doctor’s absence to allow them to take care of the physical evidence of their activities. The aroma of churned earth and damp fertilizer flooded his senses as soon as they got closer. The rain splattered nosily on the glass panels, the rusty metal frame work sorely needing a fresh coat of white paint.

“When I first met you I have to admit, I didn’t think you would ever be able to cut it out in the real world.” Alec wasn’t sure why he was thinking his thoughts out loud. It felt better to talk out here on the cold stone terrace while the auto-artillery hummed and circled in their direction. “But now I think if you got out of here you would be just fine. Not great but you know, fine?”

The outer door was difficult to shove open but it wasn’t locked.

It was only after they had passed through a curtain of ivy that the structure’s true purpose become apparent. Right there on the dirt covered planks was a shiny chrome bank of an elevator and a small panel next to it. Alec was hoping for any kind of means to contact the outside world. One of those old fashioned crappy land line telephones would work for him. Maybe get a message to Logan or Max. If they hadn’t already sold his things and threw a party for his final and hopefully permanent disappearance anyway. He grit his teeth and decided he had other contacts to reach out to for help if need be. He had money left over and he was good for a lot more.

Where ever that elevator went, it would bring him closer to a technological means to fire a proverbial flare for help. He only hoped there was anyone out there actually looking for it.

Daniel immediately busied himself with the hundred odd buttons that ran unmarked on the console. Alec watched him for a moment before he understood it was going to take a minute or three to get the job done.

He cleared his throat.

“Like I was saying, I think you should really give the real world a shot.” Alec leaned against the wall and watched the overhead cameras go dead one by one. “But truth be told pal, not many of us guys are doing so hot out there even with what we got. I almost got run over by a taxi the other day and I don’t even need glasses and I think guys like you don’t get enough credit because I’m always hearing that the city sewer works department is looking for people to work nights and hey! Have you ever ridden a bike—”

What?

Alec was suddenly sheepishly aware that Daniel had been becoming slightly exasperated with the continuously unshared monologuing.

“You on the outside.” Alec repeated with his hands. “You’d just need some sunglasses and a stick.”

A stick?

“Yeah.” Alec shrugged. “You have to look a little helpless or you’ll just freak everyone the hell out.”

When the door heavily disengaged like an air lock, the gush of stale recycled air from below smelled like everything he kept expecting this place to be. Heavily oxygenated, sharp with industrial cleansers and barely covering the linger of chemicals beneath. Down at the bottom of that elevator shaft was where Alec would discover everything he’d found the Gaboriault Manor lacking. The stark white cinderblock walls. The stainless steel tables with restraints. The centrifuges of blood being slowly sorted and frozen for analysis. He had a feeling he wouldn’t find many discrepancies between the doctor's setup and the government laboratories of his formative years.

It would be like catching a nostalgic glimpse of home sweet home.

“So?” Alec braced himself. “W-What’s she got going on down there?”

Daniel simply held up two sets of numbers.

490
491

“Right.” Alec said as the doors ground open. “Them.”

The doctor might have been a total head case but there was no denying that she was a very intelligent woman. If she was keeping a couple of her angels down in a meticulously locked basement she probably had a pretty good reason. Alec watched the doors seal closed behind them.

Daniel had suggested they be fast.

If Alec had a middle name, that'd be it.

















It was ultimately decided that Max would not be attending the charity function.

At least not at Logan’s side.

After a few hours of sleep had allowed time for more conscientious thought, the idea of bringing another known X5 rogue within sight of a woman who knew of their existence looked more and more like a horrible plan. Max wanted to argue but the there wasn’t much of a case over the plain and simple fact that in certain circles her face and DNA were legend. Logan insisted on her presence regardless however, and quickly found a way for her to attend in a much less visible capacity. He had no idea how authentically Max could serve wine to waiting tables but he trusted her to blend in as well as she could. The simple black and white uniform was a lot less complicated than the beaded gown and severe high heels that matched.

Her relief at her edited role had been palpable.

The event was a well publicized auction that attracted the most affluent people from all over the world. The guise was private donations towards the advance of communicable disease on the continent but the real draw was all the items that ended up on the auction block. Ever since the Pulse, money had become a fleeting commodity to various well off families that had never been without it. The personal assortment of art and sculpture tended to be the first things to go when times got tight. Entire collections that hadn’t been out of private ownership for decades usually showed up here with an outrageous price tag. The street in front of the host hotel was jammed with honking stretch limousines and yelling sector cops. Logan might have paid like everyone else but he wasn’t who the reporters were here to see. Getting inside had taken an hour of waiting on line and an arduous delay at the metal detectors.

Logan patted his wheels. They were a great method of getting in contraband through professional security. No one wanted to frisk a guy in a wheelchair. They certainly didn’t want to take him out of it so they could dismantle it either. He touched the small device hidden in his ear, and listened to the party noise echoing off the vaulted golden ballroom ceilings. He hadn’t heard anything from Max besides a few short curt replies to her boss when her voice activated the microphone. From the sound of it, she wasn’t enjoying her brief new career in catering.

Everyone turned as a waiter with a tray filled with a thousand dollars worth of champagne loudly dropped it and himself all over the floor.

For a bowtie affair the atmosphere reminded Logan vaguely of Crash during the hectic hours before last call. Several types of music were playing on opposite sides of the room, broken bass lulls of jazz crossing over the low pitched waver of an opera star by a piano. All the famous faces flitting through the noise belonged to the political, the Hollywood and the platinum record sales. Regardless if public life required a voting majority or lucrative fan worship, all the figureheads had in common were an equal hunger to have some reckless fun on their considerable dime. Logan glanced up at the gigantic rotating video image of the charity and all its sponsored company logos. Several of the symposium walls had been replaced with massive plasma screens that fizzled in and out with auction items and the rapidly shifting auction boards. The crowd erupted with applause to the flashing big names and mock sirens blaring in warning as the bidders went to war percentile by colossal percentile.

“Drink up, honey, “ Cindy handed him a fluted crystal glass. “It’s the good stuff.”

Max’s replacement on the other hand was making a much better date than Logan had ever anticipated.

“Logan Cale!”

A well known judge with his smiling wife emerged from the throng.

“Nice to see you out!” The man looked uncomfortably at Logan’s wheelchair. “You sure are looking real well.”

Logan didn’t miss the man’s gaze flicker and linger on Cindy. It wasn’t a simple task to ignore how the woman filled out a dress, even a borrowed one, and the way she wore it convinced even Logan that she stood around sipping Cristal at $10,000 a plate dinners every night of the week.

The small talk continued as one roaming couple after another found Logan in the crowd. Those that had trouble remembering him, invariably remembered his chair. The ones that didn’t remember his chair tried to avoid his gaze when they accidentally caught it. The forced smiles and questions hovered over their discomfort with his injury. It was a little funny that he barely even thought about it until he was face to face with a lot of belt buckles and sequined elbow purses.

“There’s our girl.” Cindy murmured into her drink.

Logan thought she had spotted Max in the crowd of wait staff bustling through the party trying to keep the alcohol flowing. Logan’s inspection of the ballroom stopped on one harried waitress after another but he didn’t see the transgenic. It was when the crowd briefly parted that he saw who Cindy was referring to. Logan had shown her the only photograph to be found in the national database. It was from an employee ID card when the doctor had been working with the Stanford University’s research labs. The picture had been old but Cindy had caught her anyway.

Logan resisted the urge to touch the mic at his ear.

“Main ballroom.” He knew Max would hear him loud and clear. “By the east, south wall corner, black dress.”

Logan studied the woman nervously.

“Cindy, can you—”

“I’ll go pretend I’m interested in buyin’ that Rodin.” Cindy suggested. “I’ll even ask her if she thinks it’ll match my eyes.”

He watched Cindy melt into the crowd and head to the other side of the room.

The doctor didn’t look very different from the snapshot besides having a small fortune in jewelry and a shimmering black gown on. She was ascetically pleasing, her face and portions attractive and photogenic. In fact she looked like every other wealthy woman that was walking around in this room with the impatient anticipation of laying down a slice of a ridiculously hefty hedge fund in the name of a charitable trust.

Logan anxiously checked the people surrounding her. He spoke loud enough to activate the mic again.

“She’s alone.”

As soon as Logan said it, he saw he was wrong.

“M-Max?”

I’m headed that way Logan.

“I see him.”

Say again?

Logan watched the recognizable form of a male transgenic move easily to the doctor’s side. After a cursory scan around their immediate area, the X5 handed Elaine Gaboriault a glass of red wine. Logan blinked as they both turned to admire the renowned statues on display. Logan watched the vigilant scan of the crowd happen again. He knew what the maneuver was because he saw Max do it all the time. It was a function of an alert and ready body guard.

“Alec.” Logan said numbly. “H-He’s here.”

Stand by, your signal is breaking…

Alec went suddenly out of his line of sight. Frantic, Logan repositioned himself searching for the X5’s profile out of the countless identical black suits and white shirts. He could see Cindy now in place and met her eyes through the crowd. By her brief shrug he knew she hadn’t seen him. Cursing the fact that they had only been only able to smuggle in radios for himself and Max, his breath caught in his throat when Alec remerged from the masses. Not even ten feet away, he turned sharply down a hallway sitting half hidden between two large flower arrangements.

“He’s moving.”

Logan! Wait for me!

Logan pushed through the people congregated around him and ignored the sharp complaints of his wheels on the unwary with open toed shoes. He searched the entrance to the small corridor that lead away from the music and the dull roar of conversation. As soon as he left polished stone for carpet the lamp light grew warm and gold. A few men brushed past him back towards the party and he abruptly realized he was in the entry foyer of a small recessed bar. Besides the rattle of martinis being made and the thick pungent scent of Cuban cigars, there was nothing else back there. Seeing no one he knew at the bar stools, Logan felt a rush of relief when he spotted a continuation of the hallway beyond the leather sofas and polished standing ashtrays. Hurriedly turning past the arch of potted ferns, he froze in place.

The red carpet floors became a checkerboard of white and burgundy tiles. With a dazed blink he realized he’d followed Alec into the men’s restroom. Besides the transgenic, he was the only other person in there. The long row of stalls were neatly shut by an unseen attendant, and the granite counter of sink tops was sparkling clean. The echoing trickle of the running sink snapped off when Alec removed his hands from under its motion sensor.

The transgenic returned his stare.

Logan frowned uncertainly.

There was pale shiny scar tissue slashed across Alec’s cheekbones where there shouldn't have been any. Although the tuxedo had a high white starched collar, Logan could see the pink edge of another scar that ended under his chin. The careless hang of Alec’s hair had been cut short, the length making it a few shades darker than Logan was used to seeing. The body’s fluid movements were the same but subtly different. There was a hitch in the flow, a stiff awkwardness Logan had never seen in Alec’s self-assured physicality. However, despite all that, it was the unhinged look in his eyes that made Logan slowly back away until his wheels bumped into the wall.

There was a frenzied hysteria lying right behind the calm set of the bright liquid green pupils that Logan had never seen before. Not even in the pained delirium during the weeks after they’d taken him away from Ames White.

“Alec?” Logan cautiously asked.

The sound of the name stilled the transgenic. There was a strange moment before the open hostility on the familiar features suddenly evaporated. The dark expression was sinuously replaced with an easy smile Logan knew extremely well. Glancing back over his shoulder towards the meager safety of the occupied bar, he knew the recognizably affable gesture was still more menacing than he would have liked.

“Now this is interesting.” Alec sighed as he leaned back against the sinks and thoughtfully crossed his arms. “One might even say a mighty strange coincidence.”

The voice traveled through the muscles that housed his vocal cords but another man’s intonations and modulation were being produced. All the expected sarcasm that fell from the his lips had been delicately shifted away from its normal harmless sting and cut down deep into something else entirely.

“It doesn’t look good does it?” The transgenic asked. “The odds of a random stranger following me into this very room and then calling me by that particular name? I wouldn’t play those odds. Not in one million years.”

Logan’s skin flashed with a sickening wash of cold sweat.

He had made a mistake.

An extremely stupid and terrible mistake. He hoped to god that his reduced and stuttering voice was loud enough for Max to pick up on her radio.

“W-Who are you?”

With a blur, the man at the sink was suddenly over his chair. His hands gripped the wheels hard, making the scars into neat X marks over each of his white knuckles. Logan didn’t move when his glasses were tugged off. The transgenic examined them before dropping them to clatter on the tiles as he crouched down and leaned in close. Logan swallowed when he saw the neat even slices of scar tissue decorating the soft flesh of the X5’s eyelids.

“I’m not Alec,” he guaranteed him softly. “But I have an even better question.”

Logan watched the lunacy in the burning gaze seep down into the wide unfriendly grin. The transgenic’s voice lowered as gentle fingers painfully tipped up Logan’s chin.

“Who the hell are you?”


tbc

part 9





Cross posted to jam_pony_fic
Tags: traces
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