Continued in Sequel: Traces
Author: Mink (& thank you Jink!)
Disclaimers: DA & characters are owned by their respective creators.
It was a spooky building.
The massive structure loomed right out of the thick pine forest, only its very upper floor visible from any kind of distance.
It was when they drew closer to it that Logan could really see the thing and its actual size. Sitting deep in a gorge, it was an entire six stories of concrete, broad slabs tinted brown with water stains. It was covered in tall and narrow slits for windows, like some abandoned fortress guarding nothing at all. The towering woods grew almost right up to its walls, miles and miles of frigid tangled wilderness providing a better fence than any chain links with barbed wire.
Considering the looks of the place they got in lot easier than Logan could have ever hoped. There was only one road that lead up anywhere near it, and they had gone by foot as soon as they got close to it on the hand drawn map. It cost them time but there was only so quickly Logan could go. He felt some guilt at his inability to travel as fast as Max could have on her own, but he did not want her to vanish in these woods like Alec had. Without an argument, she had begrudgingly slowed her pace to match the fastest of his. By night fall they had begun to skirt unnoticed around the facility’s perimeter. Max noted the lack of security wasn’t just due to its careful isolation. The facility wasn’t exactly right back up to speed yet.
That hack Alec and the other X-5 had done on their computer system had done a pretty good job at disabling the place. Only a few of the perimeter floodlights were on and the few cameras that Max carefully found and checked were dead. Logan didn’t say anything when he followed Max into the darkness of the ground floor of the vast and quiet gray cement structure.
According to what Max had been told, the upper floors were all supposed to be empty. They walked them like shadows, the dusty tile silent under their feet. Rows after rows of shut doors leading to who knew what, Logan just followed Max's cautious passage, confident she would find the way it took to get them downwards. Down to the subterranean levels.
The first flight of stairs they took, Logan started to feel the weight of the building start to crush down on top of his head. They had one flashlight between them and without even the meager light of the outside floods to shine faintly through a window it became utterly and absolutely black. However, they found signs of life the lower they went.
A supply room with a few lab coats and a few much better flashlights allowed them to continue through the intermittent nervous staff completely unnoticed. The second flight of stairs were longer, and steeper. Another floor down revealed blackened walls and the fried scent of electronics. Acrid with fire retardant foam and the lingering heavy smell of thick oily smoke. Max incredibly noticed a landmark that she’d been provided by the young X-6. A floor and cross section number that was almost half burned away on the wall in the beam of her flashlight gave her their exact location.
Logan shared a small smile with her in the dim light.
They might find Alec, but he wasn’t quite so sure anymore that they’d find him alive. Not in this bleak place that sat in the below the snow drifts. With its lights all out and its windows sitting quiet and dark somewhere above them. The bowels of the building were gutted and filled with worried flitting shadows of men intent on nothing but their own departure.
This place didn’t seem like it could hold anything much at all.
Alec didn't twitch at the first round of the alarm.
Dull red rotating lights came on around him. He could hear people all around the complex. Below him and above him. Voices were far off and muted. Somewhere. Everywhere. He smelled the strong smolder of smoke. Melted plastic molded to metal. Toxic fumes following the sluggish current of the over loaded ventilation system.
Alec didn’t remember being put here.
He'd come back from the red haze half encased. A foam padded box lined with a network of tubes feeding the IVs which ran from his arms. The foam was cut to the shape of his body, contoured perfectly to the curve of his spine and the width of his hips. A specialized package to deliver human cargo. Times sure had improved since the slave days. He was strapped in securely, no room for movement. Even as he weakly tested his limbs, bound in the customized lining of the box, he knew he would not be leaving. He would wait for the lid. Or maybe more smoke. Whichever got there first.
He heard voices but his eyes could only focus on the steady pulse of the red light that turned slowly above. Urgent voices. Close by, very close. Maybe even in the same room.
“Help me Logan!”
Someone was trying to pull his arm free of the stiff foam.
Alec blinked, still uncertain of what was happening around him. He could make out light and dark. Movement and stillness. His ears turned everything into strained echo. He felt his eyes water as he tried harder to focus.
Someone was whispering in frustration, yanking one of his arms free of the confining mold he had been placed in, another hand under his neck, trying to pull his head forward.
“Can you hear me? Wake up!”
There was the sound of movement, of another person nearby. Hands were on his skin, checking his pulse, at his neck and his wrist. Alec felt his dulled forgotten anger simmer back to the surface. His unbound limbs met the icy cold air of the room, maybe as cold as the snow covered peaks that Alec had imagined may lay just outside. His freed hands traveled over himself, feeling nothing but his bare chest and some fabric at his waist that ended at his thigh. It wasn’t much to withstand the elements. But that was okay. After all, he had been built to withstand a lot of things.
Organic scents, maybe something like human scents. With all defenses stripped down and nothing defined, he relied on the most base and primal of instincts. Threat, like salt in sea air, was unmistakable. He did not need eyes to know it. Two different bodies, two scents. One like his, the other of entirely different make. He need not be concerned with that one. It was the ones like his he had to fear. But there was something like kin in the timbre of the voice, an echo he seemed to recognize. Soft long hair fell down and hid Alec’s face, blocking the light and bringing home the scent of the person. Strong. Female. He groaned when the quiet surge of the hormone surfaced again. He couldn’t push it back down and away. He was so tired. But he wasn’t finished.
If he had to fight one more time he would make sure he made it count.
He felt himself smile a little bit when his fist made contact with flesh, the sudden gasp, and the scent of her reeling away. He pulled himself upwards, feeling connections attached to him snap, feeling needles strapped into his flesh tear, he still couldn’t see but he could hear them. Smell them. The floor was suddenly cold under his face, his legs useless underneath him. They might have done something to his spine to temporarily disable his nervous system. For what? Memory clouded his thoughts. They were sending him somewhere. They were selling him to someone. For study. For experimentation. Maybe he was already there.
Alec could hear himself trying to speak. He could hear the sounds that were trying to form the words he was screaming in his head. No. No. No.
He swung out again when they came too near, catching her ankle and flooring her hard. He wasn’t going anywhere, they’d have to kill him, they’d have no choice. They’d have to slice him down into paper thin sheets and package him that way before they could do one more god damn thing—
“A-Alec! It’s going to be okay!”
He tried to roll onto his side and found he couldn’t. The voice and scents were confusing him now. They were everywhere, moving and talking.
“I’m sorry Alec.” A man’s voice said softly.
The burn of another needle in his arm and he felt what was left of his fight rapidly start to fade. The red light he could see through the bleary gauze of his vision quickly became less distinct.
“We have got to get out of here Max, now!”
The alarm was still sounding, steady and low, bringing the other voices closer, the sounds of confusion and uncertainty mixed up with the smell of the left over fires. His anger flared again as he felt hands lift him. The scent carrying threat would not have control again. He wanted silence. Stop the panic in his blood, stop the noise—
There was another sound that made him still his own breath.
He heard other footsteps. Far off down some empty corridor but coming closer. He twisted in the grip he was in, listening intently to a slow tread he knew. A steady fall that he had memorized. He felt the floor under his back again. His head rolled limply to the side, his muscles going completely slack, his motor control gone. The people near him were too loud, their talking, rushed voices overlapping with his breathing, the sound of his lungs filling and exhaling in a staggered rhythm.
The foot fall grew louder and louder.
Clothing was being slid over his head and onto his arms. Up over his numb legs. There was a distant sensation of warmth spreading over his skin that he hadn’t realized was almost numb with cold. The firm footsteps finally stopped. If Alec could turn his head he would see him.
Standing right there in the doorway. Everything stopped as the people handling him finally noticed they were no longer alone.
“452.” Agent Ames White said.
Alec could feel the air all around him change. The scent of the woman near by him suddenly went white hot, her aggression roiling off of her like a fire he was too close to. The other person that still hovering over him, the male, smelled like anger and dully keen with fear as the alarm still sounded on and off and on and off…
But Ames, he smelled the way he always did.
Alec tried to watch the swing of the red emergency strobe overhead but it was getting darker and darker. The blur of it smearing into one insubstantial wash of light. There was violence around him. He could hear the dull crashes, the sounds of muted pain and the movement of bodies in full motion. Flesh struck flesh. Bone against bone. The light above had crystallized into every individual particle it emitted. Staring up at it, he thought it was almost beautiful. It dimmed even further until only the heart of the filament itself shone through the tunnel of his faltering vision. Something shattered nearby. He could feel the fall of glass across his face, gentle like rain.
Soon he knew that he would see, hear and feel nothing at all.
When the doors opened and closed behind them, Logan felt as if he had just finished climbing a mountain.
Everything was dark as he had left it, his computer station buzzing and flickering to life as he stepped into its vicinity. The city was glittering dully outside the windows in a steady night of rainfall. The familiar feel of home was so welcome all he wanted to do was collapse in his biggest and softest chair and not move for a few hours. But he had a few things to do first.
Max had helped Alec in and laid him unceremoniously out on the floor beside the front door. She was looking down at him, still covered in canvas snow pants from the mountains, the heavy down jacket with hood they had managed for him almost completely obscuring his face. It was warm down here in the city. The rain chilly but nothing close to what they had felt up north. But Alec was pale and shivering, the heavy coat bundled up around him the only thing keeping him relatively calm.
That and the sedatives.
Logan hadn't wanted to give him anything else on top of who knew what had been already administered. However, they had a long trip with a lot of checkpoints and they had no idea what state Alec was in. The drugs Logan had given him were mild. Mild enough that he sometimes attempted to talk or fight them. Both were garbled and confused. Thankfully for the most of it he'd slept. Laid out in the back seat, cocooned in the winter jacket with the large hood that hid him away from the light and the forest that passed by them mile by mile in the car windows.
Logan keyed into his terminal and smiled when he almost immediately received a reply.
"There are a few things I need you to pick up at the hospital Max, I think we can—“
"I'm not leaving this apartment." Max said bluntly, her hands working on the loose hood of Alec's coat.
Logan looked at her carefully and then slowly nodded. "Okay, it's fine, we'll just get--"
"I'll call Cindy." Max said suddenly.
Logan's small smile faded as he looked down at the transgenic that lay shuddering on the floor.
"First things first."
Max nodded and hauled Alec up to his feet. There had only been so much they could do in their tense drive down out of the mountains and back over the border. They had kept him stable, they had kept him warm and almost mercifully comatose. There had been no time to stop and take stock of damage done. No time to gather their own thoughts and rest themselves.
Logan closed his eyes for a moment and imagined what the promise of sleep would feel like in the not so distant future. They just needed to put things in order first. They’d been through too much to mess this all up now. They had to first take care of Alec and make sure they could keep him here safely. Logan wasn’t going to go through what happened last time again. Alec wasn't leaving this apartment unless he stepped over Logan's very own dead body.
"You try getting some fluids in him. I'm going to try to find out what kind of cocktail they might have prepped him with for transport." Logan settled down in front of his computer. The key board under his hands felt like coming home a second time. “It’d also be nice to know if anyone traced us down here…”
Max sat Alec heavily into a large leather chair and watched him slump limply to the side before she moved to Logan's kitchen.
She paused, her hand on the refrigerator door.
"Use the bottled water." Logan said over his shoulder. “Just in case.”
He hadn't meant it to sound like the half joke it came out as. The grim look she returned him was nothing compared to what he thought she might say instead. The fridge door slammed with a noisy rattle of glass jars and bottles that lined its doors.
A window popped up on his monitor. It was old Intel but Logan thought that these men might not vary too much on their procedures on how they handled the shipment of transgenics to buyers. However, what he was most interested in was not the method but what was done medically beforehand. Especially because it meant just how long it would be before Ames White or his men sounded another alarm. In fact, if they were beyond lucky, the agent was still down deep under that concrete structure unconscious and dreaming right where they left him. Tightly under a lid and in Alec’s place.
It was amazing really how close the agent’s bio readings were to a transgenic’s. If no one opened the thing up they wouldn’t even know the difference until it was much too late. If it wasn’t too late already.
Logan had to admit, after Max had gone head to head with White, those readings had become fairly faint. It was the only reason Logan could convince her to flee while they still could. Her efforts to off the man had been severe and brutal but the agent had withstood her like he was made from something even as strong as she was. Max’s bruised face and battered body was all the proof he needed of that fact.
A small beep brought him back to the task at hand.
A neat compilation of chemicals began to stream down in a list on the monitor. The particularly volatile and noxious came up tagged in a bright red of warning. Logan frowned. If they were going to weather Alec’s reemergence into consciousness right here in these four walls, he wanted to know for damn sure just exactly they were in for. From what he could understand of the disquieting list, it wasn’t going to be very pleasant.
A soft broken noise distracted him. Raw and unused, the wounded transgenic tried twice before his throat would make the words he was attempting to form.
Logan turned to see Max holding the bottled water up to Alec’s mouth. He was speaking again. That meant the sedatives were now sliding down off their peak. Logan felt his jaw clench. That wasn’t any good. Fortunately, he had another transgenic here that was ready to handle it. He hoped. Alec’s hand came fast and from nowhere, whipping the bottle away and catching Max across her face. Max stayed his strong fist, and stared back evenly at him. Logan could see him staring at her in confusion. All of his movements uncertain, his muscles twitching, his hands in the thick gloves trembling.
“Where am- where am I?”
She caught the other hand that came at her, quickly and efficiently subduing him. He stared at her again but then slowly blinked, his eyes turning wet and bright as he searched her face.
“You’re home Alec.”
"Thank god you're here."
Logan didn’t know how else to say it. The welcome sight of Cindy standing in his doorway made him feel like the last week may have not even happened. She looked back up at him curiously, her arms filled with the task he had sent her on and her eyes filled with questions he knew he’d have to soon answer.
"Think I got it all." She said, handing him the supplies he'd requested from his contact. Apparently Cindy had looked through it all herself. "Four point restraints? Kinky." She gave a wry smile.
"Are they padded?" Logan asked seriously as he dug through the bag himself.
"Uh...yeah? Why, izzit yer anniversary or something?"
"Cute." Logan said, letting her in. "This way."
Cindy didn’t waste any time.
“So where the hell’ve you guys been anyway?”
"M-Max and I were just having a little bit of trouble…" Logan began heading back across the living room. “We’ve been up in Canada...for a few days.”
“Trouble?" Cindy frowned. "Trouble you couldn't work out with a l'il wine and dine?"
"No, no, nothing like that." Logan sighed, feeling more tired than he already was. "This has nothing to do with Max. Or me. It's about--"
Max was there suddenly, stopping them short in the hallway. Her hair was in her face and she was flushed and breathless. She smiled. Or at least she tried.
Cindy looked at her carefully. "And who is Ames White?"
"Kinda hard to explain." Max chewed her lip.
"Wait." Cindy held up a hand. “Try starting from the part that makes sense, like the beginning? And what happened to your face?”"
Max opened her mouth to reply when a sudden explosion of splintering wood forced them all to jump. A fist protruded from the bathroom door, knuckles raw and bleeding. Logan sighed and covered his face with his hand.
"Ohhhh Lord." Cindy blinked in startled confusion. "Uh....what is that?”
“Alec." Max said.
Logan knew what Cindy would see.
Somehow Max had managed to get him to the bathroom. Alec's limbs had not stopped trembling and he'd been overly tense, eyes darting everywhere as he took in his surroundings. In the living room seated on the leather chair, he'd been relatively sedate. In the hallway, he'd been sluggish. But when Max tried taking him into the bathroom for a wash, all hell had broken loose.
Alec’s entire demeanor had shifted. It was as if the warm dry wood floor changed to cold, sterile tile. The walls became stark white and mirrored. Logan had actually seen Alec's eyes harden on the neatly arranged shelves of prescribed medication. He had turned on Max in a blind panic when Logan had started to fill the bathtub. They could not understand why the suggestion of immersion had made him frantic. It was after that that all of Alec's tentative cooperation had evaporated.
Logan watched Max wearily approach the bathroom door.
“Alec?” She knocked firmly as she turned the knob. “We’re coming in!”
Logan watched Cindy’s gaze linger on the cracked mirror, a lattice network of breakage running down its center. Faint reddish smears of blood stood out on the walls where Alec had punched them. Pills were scattered in a colorful array all over the floor. Alec was standing against the sink, fists raised and tensed. He was breathing too hard and fast, chest hitching. He looked worn, dark circles under his bloodshot eyes.
"Alec. Look who's here?" Max said, moving aside a little to give him a better view.
Logan could see Cindy recoil slightly.
"What's up with him?" She hissed.
"He's kinda outta it right now."
Cindy had a strange look on her face that made her look brave. Cautiously, she stepped past Max. Her smile was forced.
"Hey?" She began hesitantly. Alec stared, seeming to tolerate her. She moved a little closer. "Uh, l-long time no--"
Alec charged. The motion so quick and so lethal that Logan had to grab Cindy and throw her out into the hall as Max intercepted him.
"Woah, easy there." Max said, her grip around his waist as he lunged again, heaving and frantic. "This ain't exactly...a one man job!" She grunted.
“…or two woman.” Cindy blew out her breath, feeling the back of her head where it had knocked against the wall.
"Was thinkin--" Max groaned as she had to force Alec down to the floor on his knees. "--maybe I could--" A boot was planted firmly down on his shoulder blades and pressed hard. "—sit on him while you scrub?"
Cindy looked down at Alec, struggling and panting below Max. She lifted a doubtful eyebrow.
"You crazy, boo."
Max motioned to Logan. With a resigned sigh, he tossed her the pair of handcuffs that Cindy had picked up along with an assortment of other things from his contact at the hospital.
“NO!" Alec shouted and surged upwards. Max slammed her boot down on his back, straddling him and yanking one arm behind his back. "S-STOP! IT'S NOT ME!!!"
"Shhhhh!" Max did her best soothing tone, forcing his wrists into the cuffs and snapping them shut. Alec would not be calmed, his shoulders heaving with renewed struggles. “Alec, you're ok, you're safe now--"
"I-I didn't tell them where you are Max!" He moaned. "I didn't tell them anything, I didn't tell them--" He pressed his face wretchedly against the cold floor tile.
"I know. It's ok, everything’s fine." Max murmured to him as she reached over to twist on the shower. "Come on Alec? Please? We'll getcha cleaned up."
Logan resisted getting any closer to pat him on the shoulder and instead looked to Cindy.
Max was looking at her too. “We could really use your help?”
"You askin’ way too much of Original Cindy, girl." Cindy held up her hands. “What am I supposed to do?”
"I don’t know?" Max said, her frayed edges reaching her voice. "I just—I didn’t know who else to call, I just—“
“Ok, Ok, just take a deep breath.” Cindy said. “I mean, it’s still just Alec in there, right?”
Cindy approached Alec apprehensively from the threshold. Slowly, she knelt carefully down next to his trembling shoulder. She glanced at the shower then back at Alec. The transgenic flinched when her fingers gently and briefly touched his neck.
"Damn, his heart's going crazy. What they do to him?"
"It's those drugs they prepped him with for transport.” There was rage behind Max's forced calm. "And all that other shit they've been pumping into him, god, I just..." She slumped down the tile wall and hid her face in arms.
"Alec?" Cindy covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh honey, you that smell?"
"What smell?" Logan asked.
"He smells like smoke and um, and..." Her mouth trembled a little.
Logan knew. He had gotten so used to it that he hadn't even noticed. The many wounds that covered Alec's body and the unmistakable scent of blood. It was as if his instinct to be alarmed at the heavy metallic scent had been dulled or masked. All Cindy could smell was Alec. The smoke, the blood, the sweat. She did not smell the stuff coursing through his system, could not detect the deep burnt sugar scent of his altered chemistry. She, like all other non-transgenics, was immune.
Logan began to see the full logic of Max’s insistence on Cindy’s presence.
"Aw, baby..." Cindy ran her fingers through Alec's damp hair, the hiss and steam of the shower swirling behind her. "....you a mess."
She straightened and pushed her hair out of her face.
"Alright, let's do this." Cindy stood up. "Come on sweet thing, pick 'im up! I'll make sure he's all washed off ok? Y-You just sit right there and get my back if he goes all assassin on me."
Logan could feel Max's relief as she carefully heaved Alec off the ground, letting him lean against her. His shakes were back. Taking one look at the water, Cindy shrugged, rolled up her sleeves and lost her shoes.
“Ok honey, in we go. It’s all right, I’m going right in there with you see?”
Alec hung back in Max’s grip. He was watching the water and shaking his head.
“It’s nice and hot, look…” Cindy reached out and touched his arms with her wet hands. “Almost too hot, see? It'll feel real good?”
He didn’t resist when Max nudged him forward again.
“That's it, just sit down right here.” Cindy looked sideways at Max who had turned away, dragging her forearm across her eyes. “We can um take off your clothes ... I guess...?”
Cindy carefully peeled the quickly soaked T-shirt off of Alec, pulling it sopping wet over his head and leaving it wadded at his wrists. Logan shared her shock at the sight of his flesh underneath. Logan swallowed nervously as he saw the unhealed bruises and wounds on the transgenic's body. His skin color was an unnatural shade of white that was off even for some of the Manticore exotics. Cindy ran her hand delicately over the strange clear plastic that was fastened over freshly sutured wounds. Gunshot wounds.
“Should I, um—“
“It’s ok,” Max murmured “That’s military grade bio plastic. Waterproof.”
Cindy looked around and found some shampoo that she squirted into her palm. “They sure had a time with you Alec honey.”
Alec let her move the soap through his hair. “I--I didn't tell them where you were.”
Shrugging, Cindy just nodded. “That’s good, you did good.”
Cindy’s brisk hands moved down under his arms and down his back. Alec’s body tensed, his trapped hands making fists behind his back. His voice was lower, huskier, filled with restraint.
“D-Dont-dont touch me…”
Cindy took her hands away and looked up uncertainly at Logan.
“It’s a hormone.” Logan cleared his throat. “There's still enough of it in him to-- Look, we don't know long it will take to get out of his system, maybe a week? Maybe more…”
Logan stopped talking as Cindy soaped carefully around Alec’s bruises. He tried not to watch Max fold a little bit more into herself and bring her hands to tightly hold on her head.
“It’s almost over Alec,” Cindy said as she worked, speaking in a low and droning kind of voice. “Try to think about something else, something nice.”
Alec shuddered, his shoulders shaking with the quiet sobs he somehow decided he couldn’t keep in anymore.
“Something a little better than that. Hey? What about the time you beat out that pool tournament at Crash?” Cindy smiled a little. “You beat every one of em, remember that?”
Alec didn’t answer her.
Max drew up her knees to her chest and watched them with an exhausted caution.
Logan wished he could take Max’s place on the floor. Take the vigil from her and let her sit one moment of this out. He quietly shut the door behind him, the need to give Alec some semblance of privacy suddenly important to him. Rubbing his eyes under his glasses, he walked slowly out into his apartment. Logan turned when he heard his computer.
It had brought back a return on his enquiry. Along side the medical information he had been extremely interested in military movement everywhere and anywhere on the northwest coast of the continent. With a small smile of disbelief he sat down heavily in his chair. There was nothing going on. Nothing but the same routine activities he had almost memorized in his daily inventory of the active government networks in his part of the country. Chances were they hadn’t been tracked outside of the northern sector check points.
Chances were that they had actually gotten away with it.
Sitting back, he turned his chair so he could watch the rain stream down his windows. He listened to Cindy’s far off voice, drifting in a steady litany of comfort down the hall. The sound was muffled, but her calm tone carried.
Logan hoped that some of got to Alec.
And if there was any left, he hoped that maybe some would reach Max too.
to be completed, Heat: Epilogue...
part 8 & Epilogue