Continued in Sequel: Traces
Disclaimers: DA & characters are owned by their various creators.
"Get out of here."
"I said leave." He growled.
Ames White listened to his men file hesitantly from the room behind him. When the door finally shut he started to breathe again. Shaking out his clenched fist and scowling at the shaking that wouldn't seem to let up.
494 was still staring at him from the chair in the center of the room, arms and legs restrained in steel bands to keep his considerable power subdued. The specimen had run out that night in nothing but his bed gear. Half naked, no shoes, just like that. Like some barely civilized animal. That's all these X-5s were when they weren't being given orders. Expensive wrecking balls that had to be told when to sleep, eat and fuck.
White's gaze fell down on the definition of the transgenic's chest. The line of his throat, the strain of muscles in his arms. There was a soft slight of a smile on 494's face, his body shuddering in a slow steady pant. For the first time since White had entered the room, 494 spoke.
“Alone... at last.” The X-5 somehow managed to wink at him.
White felt a flash of cold through the warmth. That was impossible, he wasn't like this thing. He was real. He was better than real, he was perfect. He took three steps to reach him, the back of his hand sent 494's head flying backwards, the drops of sweat that glistened on his skin flew. The scent the X-5 left on his hand was so strong that he stumbled backwards, his own head swimming. He glanced down at his hand, suppressing the urge to wipe it clean on his jacket. This freak from a lab, this cheap copy of science was having some kind of effect on him. He stumbled out into the hallway, the hand that had made contact with the thing's flesh burned as if it was on fire.
All he could do was keep his distance.
All he could do was put X5-494 away.
Logan wasn’t sure why he had tried.
He should have just followed her out of the place in the silence that she wanted but he felt like he had to say something. Anything. Just a few words that could mean something other than what had been their collective failure to keep a transgenic life out of Ames White’s hands. It wasn’t so terrible to offer some kind of hope. Even if their last lead was gone.
But Max had cut him off before he could even finish his sentence.
Alec is in at least six different plastic bags by now Logan.
She had said it so assuredly that he had actually stopped in his tracks and watched her get onto her motorcycle. He didn’t move towards his car until well after she’d left. It had chilled him to the core to hear her say it. Mostly because it was something that was probably in all likelihood the truth. It was more than dangerous to keep the X5s around but it was also profitable. But a transgenic didn’t need to be a complete sum of their parts in order to be sold. In fact, it made sense to sell off the valuable creations piece by piece. There wasn’t much use or sense in keeping an X alive once you acquired one.
Or at least conventionally alive.
He noticed Max hadn’t mentioned that possibility instead. Alec could be still breathing somewhere but not necessarily all in one piece. Eyes wide open and preserved, strapped to a gurney in some unknown facility, frozen in stasis unable to anything but inhale and exhale in the dark. It was easier to believe he was just dead. He understood that well enough knowing what Max had seen her strange siblings go through. Logan couldn’t understand what that kind of pain that would be to withstand. But he did understand her feeling of having failed, even if he would never say anything like it to her out loud. Even if he wanted to assure her she hadn’t, he couldn’t quite do it because he felt the exact same way himself.
It was because of that that he decided not to shut off like Max had. He decided not to cast Alec off as another casualty of Manticore’s quiet secret war.
The days wore on until a week had gone by.
When they spoke it was brief and about things like traffic and weather. Logan saw her holding the question back behind all the mindless small talk, knowing that if he had heard something he would have told her by now, but looking for it anyway. When the next week started he saw she no longer was searching him silently for the hope she might have clung onto despite herself. Life went on more or less as usual. He kept silent when he overheard her on the telephone with a co-worker who had been looking for Alec. Without missing a beat she said that Alec had skipped town. Found a better gig somewhere else. East coast maybe.
Logan decided not to tell her he was keeping his feelers active. He knew it would just make her angry. Make her stay away from him and his daily notices that there was still no sign, trace or word about what may have happened.
If he couldn’t do anything else, he could at least take every one of those small sad defeats onto himself and suffer them for her.
Ames liked the air up in this part of the world.
It was far away from the crowded filth of the cities down south. It was still forest and mountain, lakes and almost unpolluted streams. The winding roads weren’t congested with traffic. The skies weren’t filled with roaring jets and the incessant chop of police helicopters. If he had to be here, he was pleased that his early morning runs and late night walks could be spent somewhere that he at least enjoyed. That didn’t happen even half as often as he wished. Especially when he had to set up a new shop for the powers that controlled him.
The facility he had chosen this time wasn’t a new one but their presence there relatively was. The place had seen its glory days of full active use back in the late 1990s. Some military R&D. Some officer intelligence training. Probably had a few ex ivy Prof Strategist holed up in here to direct combat on the opposite side of the planet at some point or another too. But, it was too expensive to keep running and staffed so it was shut down during the recession of the century close, sitting empty out here in the wilderness and unused until the Pulse hit.
After the Pulse places like this suddenly turned into premium real estate.
Various military had used it off and on since then because of its ideal isolation and extensive subterranean levels that made any visiting elite feel secure. In fact, Ames White knew that it was still listed as one of the three back up command centers for which two world leaders of North America may default to in an active war scenario. Nuclear. Bio. Land. All three? Anything was possible these days. But for now, its halls were his.
The concrete and steel structure had six floors and three wings above ground. It sat like a gray capital T low and half hidden between two rocky rises of a gorge. It was capable of housing and maintaining a good deal of people and their staff, but Ames wasn’t interested in a large contingent here. He wanted something a little bit more discreet than what the facility already had to offer.
Leaving all three upper wings alone, he had set up his operation exclusively below. All completely underground with its own ventilation systems and water processors, White had decided instead to make use of the three subterranean levels. The very top was for his own personal staff, the second exclusively for his team of scientists and their offices. But most importantly was the lowest level, the very bottom, almost one hundred feet below the valley floor.
Those were the labs.
The operation in Seattle had been more successful than any of them had really expected. Three male X-5s and one female X-6. The female was a complete surprise that just happened to be with one of the males when captured. And even better, she had been on the outside long enough to gain enough body fat to start ovulating. But the true prize was better than maybe all four of those transgenics put together.
They had found X5-494.
Not only would Ames now finally solve the little issue of 452’s whereabouts, he had the satisfaction that the male X-5 that had alluded him on more than one occasion would never see the light of day again. Who said there was never enough time in the day for personal vendetta? But he had been avoiding them all.
Everytime he lingered too close to the lower levels he could smell them. Hear them in their agony and unfullifilled releases. It was like a heady fog that settled on the lowest part of the complex, blinding him whenever he drew too near. He fought the thoughts of being alone with one of them and allowing himself his excesses. He erased each image of grasping hands and bodies whose clothing clung to each and every expanse of flesh it covered with sweat.
A fist made contact with the wall causing a passing lab tech to nervously walk faster past him.
He would make sure this assignment went by quickly and he would be done with it.
As soon as possible.
When Alec opened his eyes again, it was to more darkness.
Deep darkness that even his retinas weren’t able to form any sense of his surroundings. His issued trousers were damp in the front, and he groaned as he pushed his hand down hard between his legs. His body was relieving itself without him. He was surprised someone in a lab coat wasn’t right there to collect what he’d done and put it on the market. It made no difference what his body did to attempt to alleviate itself, the induction hadn’t faded, and neither had the thrum that rang through every inch of his muscle and sinew. He inhaled deeply, the simple act telling him the parameters of his confinement.
It was small.
Manticore was not altruistic enough to dispose of their errors humanely. To euthanize and reprocess. Even dogs were entitled to better ends. They could have done it. Alec's hands wandered to the plastic lines embedded under his skin. In the black he could not read any of the codes on the plastic bags he smelled. They could just as easily have been toxin, not immediately lethal. More hormones? A chemical of questionable origin? Summoning the strength to focus, he reached out and felt the magnetic stripping on the bags edge identifying it as just a nutrient drip.
The soft whir of a ventilation system. The dull cadence of footsteps yards above. Alec's senses were awake. He wondered why.
Alec tested his limbs. They were keeping him in the dark, cool air pumped and recycled from somewhere above. A normal human might say the place was cold. His throat was dry and sore. The delicate mucous membranes of his nose and eyes were irritated and dried out. Wherever he was, he'd been there for quite some time. Like storage. Slowly, he sat up, testing his reawakened joints, ripping the layers of medical tape from his arms. The needles had been removed before his transfer though he had no memory of it.
He took an experimental breath and found his lungs clear. A quick appraisal of his arms, the skin of his chest and belly showed he hadn't been operated on. The shakes had eased up for now. Alec sighed and lay down on the floor, folding his hands behind his head. They had not even provided a pallet. This was not a cell. It was a black box. Just a room. Maybe a crawl space. Who cared? They didn't.
He wondered how much it would hurt when they put him in the blender and pressed the button.
When one of the walls turned into a square of light, Alec found his sensitive eyes working against him momentarily as they struggled to adjust to the rapid change in his environment.
"Thought we were done talking, Ames." Alec found his voice, not looking up at the black figure that stood in the doorway.
"Not yet." Ames did not enter but motioned instead to the guards waiting beside him. With guns and minimal force they picked Alec up and began to escort him outside.
Alec let them, his body limp, and their scents confounding him to do anything but comply. The transgenic blinked in the fluorescent lit hall and was met by several scents of other X-5s that were somewhere nearby.
"I have something to show you."
"Not interested." Alec tried to speak without rasping but failed. "Kill me or let me rot."
"Cute." Ames responded, his smile strained. "Now move along."
"We're nothing but meat to you, aren't we?" Alec met his eyes, liking the mix of revulsion and agitation reflected back at him. And something else that looked almost… hungry.
"More precisely, abominations." Ames looked away, his gaze flickering in disgust. "Meat comes from animals. Animals belong here."
"Well, you've got an abomination in pain on your hands now." Alec grunted when one of the guards pushed him forward roughly by the bicep as they made a turn into a large seemingly empty room.
“Would you like to see a nice example of just exactly it is that you are?”
Alec felt himself shrug. How many more examples could he precisely experience and live through anyway? Ames went on as he walked towards a lone computer bank that sat along one wall.
“As soon as I found you, I arranged for a small experiment.”
White ignored him.
“I had one of our previous transgenic finds be given the hormone that you had seemed to absorb with no problem.”
No problem. Alec shivered and felt himself trying to laugh.
“We subjected another male X-5 to only 50% of what it was estimated that you withstood.” White explained. “I believe your absorption period was approximately 14 days. For our test, we did it all at once.”
Alec imagined just exactly what that must have felt like and felt a lump in his throat that he couldn’t swallow.
“The subject rapidly went into cardiac arrest and died.”
“Lucky guy.” Alec heard himself say it and mean it.
“So we tried again.” White continued. “But a little more slowly this time, administering the hormone over the course of 48 hours.”
Alec looked up at him warily.
“And we got this.” The agent punched in a few keys on the terminal panel.
The metal door came up like some sterile industrial peep show.
It was another male X-5 on the other side. From the look of him he was in as deep as Alec was. Respiratory distress. Skin flushed. Tremors. Alec remembered him. Or some version of him. White blonde hair. Rims of ice blue Manticore eyes outside the deep black of his overly diluted pupils. Just because he had a face Alec had seen didn’t mean it had belonged to just one person.
“Open the vents.” White ordered. “Let’s introduce our boys.”
There was a far off noise deep in the walls and then a mechanical whir. A brush of warmer air met his face. Its gentle touch hit Alec like a wave, making him stagger backwards into the guards arms. He saw his vision slowly soak red, his muscles tensing and contracting into the stance his body took when about to engage in severe and heavy combat.
The X-5 on the other side had already hit the barred window coming at him, his impact actually making the group of armed men around Alec step back as the cage door groaned against the violence.
“Fascinating.” Agent White murmured.
The scent of the other induced male drove Alec back to the edge of all his limits. Instead of lust and yearning, it was raw hatred and a desperate need for supremacy.
“Looks like you two don’t seem to like each other very much.”
Alec blinked back the flood of his rage. It felt like it was pulled from him like a knife from his gut, ignited in his belly and clouding his brain with the hard buzz of insane static.
“We have a female you know. You’ll like her. She’s very pretty.” White said. “I wonder what would happen if we put both you boys in one room with her?”
Alec trembled with his checked power.
“With the moods you’re both in, “ Ames considered the X-5 on the other side of the window that was now being subdued with lance tasers back onto the floor. “I think you might literally rip each other apart.”
“Maybe even her too.”
Alec thought White might be absolutely correct.
It was late.
Way past his bedtime as it were. Logan yawned and entered yet another pilfered code in hopes of hacking the swiftly updated military site that he had been monitoring for days. A small soft beep announced he had new messages. Sipping his fourth cup of caffeine he wearily clicked over to his other monitor to check it.
Logan felt his coffee slosh over the rim, the burning fluid on his hand ignored, as he maximized the e-mail. One of his contacts had come through from the Chinese Embassy. It looked like some organic materials were set on the black market and snapped up by some of several military agents including China for astronomical sums. There was only one reason his contact would relay this information to him.
Shoving his mug aside, Logan keyed into the attachment for any more details. His stomach churned as photos began to pop up in a queue at the bottom of the screen. The first dozen images that opened told him nothing. Bags of frozen plasma made Max’s words came back to him, echoing repeatedly in his head. Blood samples. Spinal fluid. Micro muscle samples so thin they were only a few cells thick. Even a clip of hair. There was a side notation that all the samples were super saturated with an unknown synthetic chemical that resembled a human hormone.
Logan paused. The samples all had DNA but without the R&D files on the genetic mapping it was all about as useful as bio waste. There was only one reason anyone would pay for things like this. It was from a transgenic. From the look of the organ cross samples, a very deceased transgenic.
With a pained sigh, Logan sat back and rubbed his face with his hands. The timing was just right that he may be looking at what he had been hoping he’d never find. If anything he might be able to find out just who put the samples out on the black market and— Logan blinked and sat back forward in his chair. He leaned closer to his monitor and looked carefully through the scattered photos. He stopped when he found the one that showed nothing but a clip of hair. He smiled a humorless smile.
The hair was black.
White pulled Alec out of hiding, why not other transgenics? Logan felt his heart beat faster as he fumbled for his telephone. Max’s voice was fuzzy and impatient on the line.
Logan swallowed once and took a deep breath before he spoke.
“I think I might have something.”
to be continued...