Title: (Formally titled: Ben) The Lady- Part One - Part Two - Part Three
Warnings: Violence- Very/to Slightly-AU
Summary:: AU- What if Alec had met Ben before his twin was discovered and sentenced him to half a year in Psy-Ops? Because it is set before Max gave Alec his name, in this fiction they are referred (mostly) by their designations. Alec= 494. Ben= 493. (I know most know, but some may not. ;)
Disclaimer:All DA characters are copyrighted by their respective owners.
Other: Please do not repost without permission. And a thank you to jinkamoo.
Despite what he knew about the standard protocols for events such as these, he did have a vague suspicion at all times that no matter what the facts may seem to be, you could never really underestimate Manticore.
As long as you assumed they were really one step ahead of you instead of behind, you could be rest assured at the greater likely hood that you might actually be the one tentatively holding a few cards. It was a tricky methodology but it had served him well. More or less.
494 had listened all day for the telltale chop of helicopter blades or the much more subtle creep through the underbrush of Manticore soldiers, or the most elusive of all, the presence of other X5s sliding through the woods like ghosts.
But, surprisingly or not, there had been nothing. His brother had moved them so far and so fast that either Manticore was looking in all the wrong places or they hadn't started looking at all. He wondered why the thought didn't worry him or anger him. He knew he wasn't quite ready to go back. This wasn't over yet. And as unpleasant and bewildering as it was, he wanted to see it through to whatever end his brother had taken all this trouble and effort for.
There was no warmth from the unseen sun as it shined behind the cold rainfall only a few degrees from snow that dripped through the trees. The muscles of his arms and shoulders sang in pain from the efficiency of his binds. Even with his unnaturally high core temperature he shivered and trembled uncontrollably as his body fought and stayed hypothermia. Even with the lack of water or his daily regulated proteins, his makers had built him to withstand it all. Withstand and thrive. What would kill a man was something his kind could compare to discomfort. One of the finer benefits of being who he was, was being able to function throughout almost any unforeseeable situation or environment. He smiled to himself. Almost any unforeseeable situation.
He doubted any of the guys upstairs had counted on something like this.
494 had managed to doze as the sun slowly went down behind the dull white wash of the cloudy sky. His subconscious brain forcing him to conserve energy, a function that regulated his body better than he could have reasoned on his own. Strange flashes of dreams brought him in and out of the frigid damp of the forest in a dull lethargic daze. By the time he fully woke, he knew from the light that full dark was less than a quarter of an hour away.
Predictably, it was nightfall before they were on the move again. The stinging needles of pain that ran through his numb legs were welcome. His stiff joints warmed and ached as 493 pushed them to speeds that they had traveled the previous night. But unlike the night before, his brother had a destination in mind.
It was an old place, left over from way before the Pulse. He had heard at some point a long time ago that the land around here had been used for cattle and farming. Way before the military had taken it over it probably had been a real charming place. There were pieces of its former life left all over in the overgrown woods. Furrowed weed choked roads. Old sagging silos. Stone walls and toppled fence.
The smell of decay in the abandoned barn was so powerful he felt himself gag, its interior the true work of an X5. Neat, precise, a spic and span Hell. Not all madmen were messy. On the outside, 493 was a perfectly rational specimen. Just like the Nazis, he mused. He was lead carefully to a musty over stuffed chair bleeding its stuffing out one side, and shoved down into it. Despite the cloud of dust that rose around him it was actually pretty comfortable.
"Do you know what the great Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu said about the state of a man who lives within violence?"
494 honestly had no idea but he was sure it was going to be deep. Sitting awkwardly with his hands behind him, he compulsively tested the metal binds again knowing that with all the tricks Manticore had used to construct him, he still couldn't break carbon steel hinged handcuffs. His brother's mood felt different in here for some reason. So was his own. Out in the woods they had been alone but now he felt hidden, isolated and vulnerable. It made him more nervous and his brother more confident.
"He didn't use Western Greek terminology of course." 493 assured him. "The direct translation ruins it almost completely. Translations make mans' poetry into banal information."
"Yeah, I hate that." He agreed while he took in the exits and what he could see of the barn's layout. "I can't even read a takeout menu unless it’s in the original Mandarin--"
His brother crouched down in front of him, making him pause wearily.
"One, Way, two, Heaven, three, Ground, four, General, five, Law.
The Way is what causes the people to have the same thinking as their superiors;
they may be given death, or they may be given life..."
494 listened to the words flow memorized and slow from his twin's mouth.
"Heaven is dark and light, cold and hot, and the seasonal constraints. Ground is high and low, far and near, obstructed and easy, wide and narrow, and dangerous and safe. General is wisdom, credibility, benevolence, courage, and discipline." *
He grew quiet after the last word. Discipline.
494 tensed as his T-shirt was lifted. His twins finger tip examined the neat crisscross of scarring that had been left after surgery had removed shrapnel from most of the right side of his body almost exactly two years ago. Maybe if he had been un engineered they wouldn't have faded and settled on him like they had. The surgery was finely done and precise but not necessarily cosmetic.
"You have been dangerous." His brother murmured.
494 wasn't sure if he should respond to that so he didn't, deciding to be silent under the curious light touch. He glanced down at the handiwork across his skin that his brother was so intently studying. The doctors in the labs sure knew how to patch up their machines to get them back and up and running again. Some soldier’s out in the world added decoration to their war machines. Paint and words, promises and art of half naked women and flames. Nicknames on a helmet, lucky ace of spades on a flack jacket.
494 sometimes liked to think of his scars like that. Like those rows of cartoon like tanks he had seen painted on the noses of sleek deadly fighter jets. Each one marking a confirmed kill. Each one a badge and credit of accomplishment.
"The great Sun Tzu said, upon seeing a warrior that had lived his life in battle, the signs of honor could be read like a book by the marks of the sword across his flesh."
494 half smiled at the idea that they had both been thinking along a similar vein. Honor. Awkward word to use for an assassin but he took it and saved it away for his own anyway. Surely after courage and discipline there was some honor in what he was allotted in his given life. It was a nice thought at least.
"When you are like us," 493 explained. "You have the perspective of a surgeon."
"Yes, when I see a wound I know exactly what it must have taken to cause it. I can see the savage nature of the act just as clearly as what is left behind long after the blood has been washed away, the wounds healed, the fear faded. Without that... without our gift, another man's pain is antiseptic and meaningless."
"Hm." 494 thought about that. "What about compassion? That's good too right--?"
”Yes.” His twin's hand stopped and he looked up at 494 hard. The set of his eyes were intense in satisfaction. "Yes, compassion is good."
494 blinked unsure why that particular word had such an effect on his brother.
"The Lady gives it to us." He nodded. "She's like a surgeon too. She knows the depth and effort to achieve true suffering."
The lady again. 494 had wondered if he had possibly meant Doctor Renfro but that was becoming less and less likely in his mind. When her name left 493's lips, there was ecstasy on his breath, a dazed sort of reverence heard only from believers or the insane.
It suddenly struck 494 as odd, the parallels between the two. Beliefs all carried the potential of pushing the borders of reality. When that happened, reality always pushed back.
He gave up and asked. "So who is she?"
"She protects us. Gives us what we need to survive. I serve Her. I'm the only one left." 493 said.
"Rock on." 494 gritted his teeth as his brother uncovered a thin brown leather case wrapped in dirty rags. He undid the rags and opened it, revealing an array of worrisome instruments.
"I wanted to give Her something. Something special. It'll be Christmas soon."
494 let himself chuckle at that. "You're crazy."
A fist exploded suddenly and violently into the stone wall next to his head, sending a shower of dust and grit over him. 494 coughed, eyes watering. From above, his brother spoke calmly and terribly.
"I can't give Her myself and continue my work." 493's face had darkened. The hard line of his anger for the first time, crystal clear.
It was then that his gaze fell on the chipped plaster statue that had been set in the corner. Arranged neatly in shadow, it was precisely placed on a wooden crate and surrounded by smaller identical figures like it. Hundreds of versions of the same iconic woman of Catholic mythology. The Blue Lady. It all suddenly made some sort of sickening sense.
"So I will give Her the closest thing I can."
494 fidgeted in his chair. "Uh oh."
494 sighed. "Yeah, I think we're finally on the same page pal."
There were several oil lamps lit that cast the barn into a hundred shadows. After the revelation on whom exactly the Blue Lady was, his brother had fallen silent once more. 494 watched him move around the space, building a small fire in an old wood burning stove and seat himself in front of it to stare into the flames. It was well into the night before he moved again. Unfortunately, he walked directly to the worn leather case he had left open earlier.
494 saw the look in his brother's eyes and readied himself.
493 slid a sleek syringe from his collection pushed it into a vial of clear fluid from an unmarked bottle. “Don’t fight me, it will only make it worse.”
“How can it be worse?” 494 genuinely wondered aloud as he watched his twin approach with the needle. Now what? After all he had seen of his brother's intentions, he doubted he was going out quickly and painlessly into the great good night like a sick pet. Nonetheless, he wasn't real interested in seeing how far and deep this sacrament was going to go.
493 slipped the syringe between his teeth as he knelt down, quickly and efficiently blocking the hard upwards kick 494 delivered straight at his jaw, and then twisting his fingers into a pressure point under 494's other knee to stop any more of the same.
“Ah!...” The electric sizzle of nerve pain flooded up his spine, hard enough to stun him for several seconds. More than long enough for his twin to kneel down between his knees and flick the needle twice before plunging it down hard into 494’s thigh.
He hissed, a wave of sickness flooded over him, deep and nauseating. His thoughts flashed on possible known poisons, or chloride compound that would stop his heart. He felt his head bob to his chest when it rushed up and clouded his eyes. “What was… what was that?”
His brother’s hands gripped his arms, tipping him forward until he slumped over, his cheek resting clumsily on 493’s shoulder. 494 fought to control his senses, his face pressed against the black nylon jacket. Hands reached around to his wrists, undoing the cuffs and letting his hands fall free.
494 willed back another wave of nausea that rolled in his belly. His arms and wrists were unfettered, he could act now, he could sum up everything he had and—
He couldn’t move.
A hand on his chest pushed him gently back into the chair.
“Don’t try to talk.” His brother suggested kindly. “The Trance makes it difficult.”
Trance. It was a drug that was relatively recent addition to the street scene. 494 had been briefed about it along with all other current societal trends in his training. It was originally a derivative of a powerful sedative meant to dull surgery patient’s motor skills during post-op recovery. Some enterprising drug users had discovered that if you laced the stuff with some methylenedioxyamphetamine you had yourself one hell of a party. 494 was naturally tolerant to most narcotics but his brother had just dosed him with enough to get an entire club doped up for an all nighter. 494 shuddered as he tried to fight it, focusing on raising one fist. His hand trembled but didn't move, he wheezed, his breathing becoming more labored as the drug worked through his system.
"I'm so glad you're here." 493 confessed. "I never did tell you my name."
494 tried to move his tongue and mouth to respond but he felt detached, far way, floating just above the center of himself. The muscles in his arms and legs twitched from the chemical saturation.
"My name is Ben."
Ben? Where did he get a name from? Did he pick it out of a telephone directory? 494 felt his eyes flutter closed. His senses were dulled but his skin had become sensitive to every breath of air and slightest touch. The sensation of hands on him and the sounds of his movements flowed over him in each slow wave of his heart beat.
Slowly and carefully, each of his arms were raised and tugged out of his T-shirt. The fabric slid across the skin of his face, its soft texture running across his lips as it was pulled off over his head. Fingertips were soon working unhurried at the tight laces of his boots, pulling each string free before tugging them off his feet. He faded in and out, struggling to stay awake, struggling not to fall off the fuzzy edge he was teetering on in his mind.
The worn ancient cushion of the chair was dry and itchy on his bare legs as his twin slid his camo trousers off and began to neatly fold them in standard regulation form. Even down the side seam, over three times, and smoothed flat. They were set with the rest of his clothing in a neat pile. Just like Manticore had taught them.
He fell forward as his brother pulled him up again, bare knees hitting the gritty floor in a vague echo that should have been pain. He should have collapsed forward on to his face but 493 was there. Ben was holding him as he stood them both up. 494 felt a horrible defenselessness with the feel of his exposed skin against the warmth of his brother's clothes. The alien emotion quickly shifted to his only innate defense--rage.
"L-Let me go." 494 managed to make himself heard.
The embrace was strangely gentle and unexpected. The smooth nylon of his jacket smelled of the faint brush of pine sap, deep with the scent of damp soil and the metallic edge of winter. But here, resting again on his brother’s shoulder, mouth laying against the warmth of flesh between his twin's jaw and neck, under it lay the scent that 494 knew like his own bedding, or his own sweat. So familiar. So much the same.
The drugs dizzying fog shifted, his reality easing back into place. 494 tried to speak, once again struggling to move from his brother's arms. Ben let him fall away slightly so their hazel eyes could meet.
The word home had never had much meaning for him. But why hadn't he even been allowed to have at least this, this kinship of blood. It was cruel to have the knowledge that all it took was one skid on the genome, one misplaced digit on the equation to make him into more than a monster than he already was.
"I have to make you ready for Her." Ben whispered to him softly. "It has to be perfect."
On the first day he knew Her, he knew pain.
494 had thought he had been made acutely aware of his body's limitations in the past. How much exposure, how much torture he could realistically endure. He had been wrong.
The first thing he felt seared his bare skin. Boiled water splashed over his torso from a rusted aluminum kettle. Instantly his body recoiled, movements limited and strained. Figured. He gritted his teeth against it, tasted blood when the scalding moved down his thighs, ankles and feet. Through a cloud of steam he saw his face.
The pain was so great the first time he did not even question where he was.
Softly, he heard his brother speak.
"People have lost the art of ceremony. Nothing is done with grace anymore. It's all ugly, base and wrong. But you will be perfect."
He rubbed ointment over his skin, soothing the slow burn, dried him with a cloth. Carefully. The heat was harmful but it would not end him, weakened though he was.
"We're the Apollos of our time. Has God ever been offered a God? Wonder what She'll say?"
"Stop." Was all 494 could say before his eyes closed again.
On the third day he knew delirium. Sounds and sights not to be trusted. Water was given which he rejected. He was cleansed again. Dragons rose from the steam, wispy and dark, scaled bodies hovering over his. He saw them behind closed eyes. Felt scalding breath on his skin.
On the fourth he thought he heard a woman singing softly out beyond the barn doors, a voice rising and falling from somewhere in the nearby forest. From where he lay shuddering on the floor, he watched the silent fall of snow as it floated past the dusty windows.
On the fifth day he saw Her face.
A pock-marked gypsum smile, worn by the elements. Tarnished with human oil. Her features whispered of finer detail, an empty stare slashed by frantic felt tip marker strokes blackening Her line of vision.
494 lay in Her cold arms, in Her neglected garden. An abandoned landscape of tilted head stones, broken glass and the rusted bones of machines that had been left to rot in the weeds. The barn wasn’t far off, its tattered roof visible just over the rise of the pines. Was this why his brother had chosen this place? Somehow his brother had found a cracked effigy of his Lady, a monument here in the wilderness. He made to reach up to touch the alabaster face of the statue that gazed down mutely at him, but his limbs had been bound once again.
"Two more days." Ben assured him.
494 closed his eyes as a snow flake drifted down from the white sky and landed on his pale cheek.
Seven days until the day of rest.
He hoped he could make it that long.
to be continued…
* excerpt from Sun-Tzu: The Principles of Warfare "The Art of War"
Cross posted to x5_darkangel_x5
Cross posted to darkangelfic