Continued in Sequel: Traces
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: DA & characters are owned by their respective creators.
Summary: Ames White finds a new method to flush out male X5s from hidiing.
Ames White tapped the container idly on the bare table of the warehouse and looked back up at the unlikely man that sat opposite him.
"Where did you get this?"
White had feelers running through the city that had so far picked up very few leads. However, when he heard some drifter pushing drugs down by the waterfront had dropped the word "Manticore" to too many people he had found him soon enough. He wasn't, unfortunately an X series, just some street crawler that thought he'd gotten lucky when he was offered a wad of money if he got into the SUV with tinted windows.
"Some stiff. Found him dead in a Motel 10 out by Sector 4 check point."
Ames White opened the container again. The stiff was undoubtedly one of the many Manticore scientists that had vanished like smoke after the shut down. Some had been retrieved, some hadn't and some ended up dead in motel rooms probably scrapping up cash by cooking up drugs in their bathroom sinks.
He looked back up at the worn tired face and the crumpled and filthy denim jacket. This waste of air had undoubtedly killed the former Manticore researcher and hawked everything he had found. Except this. White smiled to himself at how his work was sometimes neatly done for him.
"Do you know what this is?"
The man glanced down at the metal case with its neat row of vials nestled inside and shrugged. "Andy maybe? Probably some Trance too.” There was a look back over his shoulder at the door. He was getting impatient and uneasy. “All I know its good as gold and a guy like you, you can run a chem test easy."
The gun didn't make much of a sound. The silencer made a death into less than a nonevent. The body would be the only issue and it wasn't his.
Ames White turned and left the table to the small team of suited men that were waiting patiently. He tapped the metal case with a forefinger.
“Today is our lucky day gentlemen.”
“Use our contacts. Feed our new find into the downtown city center water main. I want complete saturation into the system, a vial sample every 12 hours. Embed it the deep detox filters, I want it to spread out even and wide.”
“But sir, won't the water system bio net pick it up--“
“It will never read, this stuff is harmless,” Ames White adjusted his tie. “It is genetically engineered to only affect a certain… type.”
“What is it?” Ames asked impatiently as turned to leave his men to his business.
“What do we report to base?”
White smiled. “Tell them to wait and watch.”
Winter in this town wasn’t like the winters he knew growing up. Growing up. He tried to smile but he just couldn’t. When you said it like that, it almost sounded charming. Rolling hills, sledding, a fireplace and Christmas morning…
He did laugh out loud to himself then and it sounded strained, desperate and horrible.
Winter here was a subtle shift in seasons that slid into one another like a pack of cards in a parlor trick. It got cold sure, but nothing like Wyoming. In a tribute he had never gotten his place heated even though he wasn’t even sure if he could if he wanted to. His domain was as frosty as the old barracks. And as quiet.
It was strange that the last time he felt like he did now, was back then. Maybe that is why it kept coming back to mind again and again. The clouds of his own breath as he tried to control his racing heart beat. The disorientation. The uncontrollable tremors. The hours in the semi darkness staring at those Manticore cinder block walls. The silent pleading hope that every moment that passed would bring him closer to the end of it all.
Alec sat under the frigid stream of water of the shower until he could stop shaking long enough to twist the rusted water tap off. It was dark by the time he gripped the sides of the cold bathtub and pulled himself up. He shivered as his muscles vibrated and cramped up and down his frame. It had taken almost a week of it before he realized he had to stop going to work. Slowly, every sound was becoming too loud, every color too bright, and every scent too powerful. He thought maybe if he just took it easy for a day it would subside like it always did. He'd felt it before, in shades and instances but nothing like this since the good old days. But even then, it had never gone on this long. It had never gotten this bad. He stumbled to his rarely used bedroom, fumbled for his sweat pants and laid down on the lumpy mattress.
After the first day he didn't show at work, he knew he should have called in and gave some bullshit explanation. But everything got worse. He was having trouble holding a fork just to eat. So he stopped eating. Alec didn't have to go to a doctor to know his temperature was bizarrely high and fluctuating wildly. No doctor could help him anyway. There wasn't a single person in his new outside world that could help him. The top blanket and sheet of his bed was quickly soaked with his sweat as the cold water quickly evaporated on his bare skin.
Brilliant flashes of red, washes of crimson, forms of bodies, faceless phantoms promising him it would be over, over and over and over… His eyes flared open as he heard the far off front door open.
Twist of the knob, the bad cut of the frame made wood scrap across wood, the old floor boards creaked the same way every time you stepped on them. The whine of the hinge and her voice both at once announced herself. Even though he was a wall away he could smell her scent, swept in with the lingering acrid smell of the outside corridor. It never quite had gone away since some long ago fire that had gutted one of the upper floors of the building.
He listened to her footsteps traverse the small living room and the corner to his kitchen, knowing she'd pause and believe him not to be home. Why check the bedroom? She knew he slept about as much as she did...
She called out his name again, this time in a more subdued tone that one uses when they are disappointed. All this way for nothing and all that jazz. He didn't exactly live anywhere that she would just happen to be passing by. Alec had known that missing this many days from work might do this, draw her out here to look for him. He had thought about heading her off at the pass to keep her away. In the second night of his seclusion he had starting shaking too bad to even type an e-mail. On the third he had fought himself considering the thought of paging her. By the fourth he had ended up just staring at his phone. He couldn't think of what to say. By the time he found words before he forgot them he couldn't make sense of the glowing numbers in the darkness. Oh well. Too late now.
She was coming closer.
He tried to will his voice to work, form some words of warning as she finally started moving to his bedroom door. The door was slightly cracked, a sliver of light he had been staring at for days in the black of his world. The words wouldn't form in his dry mouth, his hands shook as he gripped the blankets waded in his fists.
The door swung open, her eyes adjusting instantaneously to the dim space and locking onto him immediately.
"What's a matter? “ She tried to make it a joke, but her voice was tense. “You got the flu?"
Her scent was strong before but now, with her in the room, it roiled and boiled like a bottle of perfume had been tossed and shattered on the floor. Why couldn't she mind her own fucking business? Oh god, why did she have to come here…
He couldn't catch his breath.
"Alec?" She stepped closer.
She wouldn't be like any of the Ordinaries. Every time Alec had used his body with a human being he had to keep himself in check. Every motion and act of his will was restrained when he realized how fragile their naked bodies were used by his own. He had caused pain by accident and mistake until he learned to reign back what he wanted to do. What he was capable of doing.
"Normal's been having a fit." She ventured when he still hadn't answered her. "He says he’s going to give your job to a blind kid if you don't come in tomorrow."
But he wouldn't have to stop himself with an X5. He could let himself go. He could behave like the machine he was and never cause the damage that it would on normal flesh. He could do what he wanted and maybe some of this pain would go away, maybe it would stop... Alec hadn't even been aware he had gotten up off his bed. Sweat cooling on his bare back, his face hot and his vision sharp. She was staring at him back, the cast of her annoyance clouded by something else.
Her long hair curled and locked around his fist, her neck bared. Her skin was hot and soft with sweat from having biked all the way to his sector. The plaster on the wall cracked from the force he backed her into it, the rip of her tank under his hands brought him closer to the flesh beneath, his mouth on her shoulder, even this close to the roaring of her perfume burn it wasn't enough, he couldn't get close enough-
He was on the floor, his arm twisted hard up between his shoulder blades, a heavy combat boot firmly placed on the small of his back.
"What the hell is a matter with you?!" She gasped in confusion.
His mind slid and tumbled through the last 5 seconds. He stared hard at the floor that was centimeters from his face. "I-I don't know…" Alec stopped fighting her and felt the humiliating hot wet flood of tears in his eyes.
She paused and then slowly leaned down close to him, carefully sniffing around his neck and face. There was a small sound of her surprise.
"Oh great." She breathed.
"M-Max?" Alec weakly struggled in her hold, swallowing back the sobs that wanted to start at the back of his throat. "I can't- I think I – I think s-something is wrong with me Max, I can’t--."
"Where's your phone." Max sighed shortly. "I have to make a call."
Logan didn't get to this side of town very often. After he parked his car in the most likely place that he'd think it might still be there when he got back, he paid an armed street walker double what she charged for her usual services to watch it for him anyway.
As he negotiated his chair up onto the cluttered and filthy sidewalk he smiled to himself. If she didn't jack it herself. As usual it was difficult finding a building when addresses had turned difficult to confirm much anymore. He wondered how the Jam Pony workers managed to find anything half the time. Giving up on the nonexistent building numbers he used the landmark Max had mentioned on the phone instead. A graffiti covered stone fountain.
It was dry of course, the mute craved figures proffered baskets that ran with weeds instead of water. Shaking his head to a few half bored dope pushers he took the left and a right and there it was. Max's bike was chained up just inside the door where a doorman, or the closest one came to in these squatter co-ops, was snoring in front of a fuzzy television Japanese baseball game. There was a moment of worry when he spotted the taped off double doors of the elevator shaft but he quickly spotted the service lift by the stairs. As he let the metal grate slam shut behind him he silently marveled at how much the city citizen's had managed on their own with little to no help from the outside.
The lift laboriously creaked up to the 6th floor. A doorman. A working elevator. This place might even have hot water running. Considering what sector this was this was practically a luxury high rise. He laughed a little to himself.
He held the metal grate open for an exhausted looking mother of three and wheeled down the bumpy threadbare hall carpet to a door, Max assured him, that would have the number 4 on it. She hadn't lied, although the faded outline of a 3 that was beside it made him wonder once more how these bike messengers got their packages to anyone at all.
The door opened just as he raised his fist to knock.
"Do you have it? Did you get it?" Max asked impatiently.
"It's nice to see you too." He told her with a smile. And it was the truth too. He hadn't seen much of Max for over a month and this mysterious errand in the middle of nowhere was just precisely how he figured he'd see her again anyway.
She gestured him in hurriedly, glancing up and down the hallway cautiously before shutting the door behind him. Her mood was as urgent as it had been on the telephone.
"So where is it?"
"It's right here." He said slowly, taking out the package he had zipped up in his bag.
Max nearly grabbed it from him and poured out the contents of amber plastic bottles filled with pills. "Are they 200 MG? Was that the highest dose you could get?" She was studying the labels intently.
"Sure, just one of those will knock out a horse-"
"Perfect." She took a deep breath, and moved to the small drab kitchen to grab her bike water bottle that was sitting on the counter.
"Hey, do you want to tell me what exactly is going on?" Logan inquired, studying her haste in confusion. "Are you okay?"
"What? Yeah, I'm fine." she said, brushing back past him and heading for a closed door that sat towards the back of the apartment.
Logan looked around at the shabby mismatched furniture and strangely large and expensive television that sat by the window. There was a sound system set up around it that he also knew cost more than the one he had in his penthouse.
"Where are we anyway?"
Max's voice was soft and tense as she opened the closed door.
"Alec? I've got it."
Logan looked around again in renewed interest. This was Alec's place? For some reason he never really thought Alec actually had a home. The idea was of course ridiculous, but he hadn't ever considered where it was or what it might be like. He most especially never thought he'd actually be sitting in it. The room Max had vanished into was quiet.
Logan felt his brow furrow.
He rolled across the wooden floor and paused at the threshold, uncertain and concerned. The lights were off, and in the dim of the hall Logan could barely make out what lay in shadow. It wasn't a large room, like most of these converted buildings, none of them were really ever made to be logical living spaces. Storage closets became living rooms, a boiler room turned into your kitchen. There wasn't much room in there for much besides a bed. And there he was, the apparent owner of the apartment, laying on it while Max was tipping the bottle of pills Logan had brought into her hand.
"Max?" Logan ventured.
"Swallow these." Max urged as she held a hand full of the large capsules in her palm, pressing them up against Alec's mouth.
Logan squinted in the dark, suddenly realizing that she was feeding them to him because Alec's hands were lashed with what looked like electrical cord to the radiator piping that ran up the wall behind him.
"Max... what's going on-"
"In a sec Logan. Just-Just give me a sec okay?" She was pushing the pills into Alec's mouth while he was twisting away, the water from the bottle running down his chin as she tried to force him to drink after each one.
Logan, if he had learned much at all about this transgenic, knew when to wait.
"Wait, you mean, like when you, um..."
"Yes, exactly like that." Max murmured.
Logan felt his eyebrows rise as he nodded. The living room was dark with the hour but neither one of them had made to light the candles to help the dim lamp that sat in the corner.
"Okay, well, then after 24 hours it'll all be over and, he'll be back to normal? Is all of this.." Logan gestured to the pills that sat on the table. "..really necessary?"
"Yes it is." Max looked at him hard, the faint blush to her cheeks showing her discomfort on the subject. "Somebody did this to him. They did it on purpose because they knew what would happen."
Logan sighed. "That may be the case Max but why on earth would they do… that."
"Because the males are- the males are just different." She replied in a strange voice. "In how they are when they- when it... If it comes on too strong, they can lose it Logan."
“What do you mean how?” Max rubbed at her eyes. “This isn’t a frat boy at last call. It’s Manticore. It’s just different.”
Different. Everything that came out of those labs was different. He looked down at his folded hands in a slow understanding. Primal aspects of human nature engineered to be beyond the human scope and with animal splicing thrown into the mix. What does an animal in the wild do for a mate?
"So you're saying he's dangerous."
"Someone knew it would make him go out and hurt someone or... or worse."
Max didn't say it but Logan was beginning to see the larger picture. Someone thought they could drive out a male X5 into the sector cops scopes and hopefully the news. The method was odd, but he had to admit, it had a warped kind of genius.
"And it isn't some normal cycle this time," Max continued. "Alec has been out of work for a week. He's been holed up in here because he knew if he left, he'd...he’d…” She stood up and grabbed her backpack. “Those cords aren't going to last forever."
"Wait... Where are you going?"
"I don't have a couple pairs of stainless steel handcuffs on me, do you?"
"Me?" Logan blinked.
"Yes." She told him curtly. “I’ll be right back.”
Logan rolled towards her as she undid the door lock. “What exactly am I supposed to do?”
The door slammed behind her.
Logan sat in his chair and listened to the creak and thud of whomever lived upstairs move around. When Max got back he’d suggest that they try to move Alec to his place. He needed to be at his own interface and he needed to start some research of his own. It didn’t make any sense. Whoever did this must not know where Alec was or why bother with all of this? And if they didn’t know where Alec was, how did they reach him to induce one of these cycles? He resisted the urge to turn the television on to see if anything about this situation had spread to any other male X5s that may be in the city. The thought of the jarring noise of media seemed wrong to him at the moment. Like a hospital room, quiet and tense.
He glanced down the hall to the bedroom door that Max had closed behind her. Although, judging from how many pills Max had given him, Alec probably wouldn't wake even if the television was next to his head on full volume. Maybe. The transgenics chemistry did strange things with medicine.
It was also a little strange, once again he thought, that he was here at all. He felt uninvited and like an intruder. The place was much neater than he, if he ever had, imagined. But that might have just been a X5 trait. Even in Max's equally as dilapidated home, she kept what there was to have in order, painfully so.
He looked at the assorted bottles of Pre Pulse booze that sat in the kitchen and wondered at it. Alec did somehow always manage to do pretty well by himself with what little there was to have these days. Curious, he moved towards a bookcase filled with of all things, books…
A scent wafted over him so strongly that he thought someone had opened a window or door. It was heavy like the last wisp of smoke from a wax candle but under it lay something burning, but vaguely pleasant, like hot crushed sugar. Wondering at it, he turned to see if Max had left something on-
Alec was standing very still in the dim hallway. Knotted electric cords trailed from his wrists. He was clad only in a pair of black sweat pants. His skin was flushed, his face slightly glazed with sweat. So much for a nice calm comatose state.
"Alec." Logan said clearing his throat, startled and unsure of what state this actually put the X5 in terms of conversation. "How uh, how are you feeling?"
Alec, disturbingly enough, was silent.
Logan had another wave of vague guilt even though he wasn't sure why. "Max asked me to come. She asked for something from the hospital-"
“She’s not here.” Alec interrupted softly.
“No,” Logan agreed. “She went, um, somewhere.”
Alec walked slowly to the drab yellow sofa and sat down heavily into it. He was sluggish and obviously dazed, his hands intermittently clenched and unclenched seemingly against his will. How many of those pills had Max given him anyway? He was probably massively dehydrated.
“Wait, right there.” Logan glanced wearily at the snapped cords that still wrapped his wrists and made for the small refrigerator. He opened it to find it empty. “No water?”
“Ran out of bottles. I’m using the tap.”
“Is that safe?” Logan didn’t mean to sound like he did but the city water was notorious for being almost as toxic as nuclear runoff.
Alec smiled a little bit, his usual self for a moment before it faded. “I don’t get sick.”
“Right.” Logan grinned weakly back. He found a glass and filled it at the sink half expecting the water to flow to turn brown and rusty. It looked okay for all that mattered, he knew well enough that clarity didn't mean much. Placing the glass carefully between his legs he turned to-
Alec was standing right behind him.
“What-“ Logan couldn’t finish his question.
Hands clasped down hard on his where they rested on his wheels. Alec’s face was in his, eyes burning with an intensity that told Logan that Max had been in every way completely and utterly correct. He swallowed nervously, unsure of what to do or how to proceed. Logan was about to attempt to reason with Alec when something stopped him.
It was that scent again, stronger now and surrounding him, hanging in the air like incense. Blinking in confusion, he realized that scent wasn't from something in the building, it was coming from Alec.
It reminded him of Max when she dropped in off the street on one of those rare hot summer days, or the smell of her coming off her black camo clothes after shed been exerting herself. But it was a different brand of it, it was heavier and deeper, it was like a steam that he could almost see evaporating off Alec’s skin. Logan was inhaling the transgenic like some heady smoke off a fire.
Logan felt his eyes flutter closed as it overwhelmed him for a moment. Alec was moving slowly now, despite the surge of violence he had displayed moments before. Curiously animal like, his lips grazed Logan’s throat from his collar bone to behind his ear. Chest heaving, Logan jerked his wheels back but Alec kept him right where he was. The X5 followed the path he had made with his mouth with a long lick.
“Alec…” Logan heard his own voice waver.
Alec suddenly knocked him backwards, his chair tipped, his head painfully cracking on the floor as the glass shattered beside him. Stunned, he automatically tried to back away from his chair so he could right himself. Pulling the chair away, Alec crouched down low over him.
Logan hadn't considered truly panicking until he felt Alec’s hands slip up under his shirt and swiftly with one hand undo the button of his black jeans. The scent of the transgenic was clouding his mind like drink, confusing him with its lull and unexplainable pull.
It was like trying to push back against a concrete wall.
Alec froze over him and drew back.
Logan panted, searching the wide green eyes of the X5 for any sign of sanity.
Alec blinked and almost whimpered. “I’m-I’m sorry-I-“
Logan began to stammer in cautious relief. “It’s-It’s okay Alec, we'll figure it out, we'll figure out what’s going on.“
Alec stood up and looked around as if he wasn't sure where he was. Logan had a sinking feeling that instead of helping, the pills had done nothing but plunge Alec further away from whatever was left of himself. With a shaking hand and one strong yank he flipped his wheelchair back upright and began to pull himself up into it.
“Maybe-you should, maybe you should just lay down until- until Max gets back…“ Logan situated himself back into his chair and breathlessly looked around.
The front door was sitting open.
Alec was gone.
Cross posted to soldierfetish
Cross posted to darkangelfic
Cross posted to x5_darkangel_x5