White leans down close, his face only inches away from Alec, their eyes lock, then the agent makes a narrow two-inch slice in Alec's right shoulder. Gritting his teeth against the pain, the young transgenic says nothing.
"I'm so pleased you're not cooperating, right away," White says. "You see, for all my strengths, I have one weakness... I do hate transgenics...."
He opens the slice another inch.
Alec strains harder against the cuffs, his gaze still on White, the blood warm as it seeps from the wound and runs off his arm, the pain only spurring him on.
"I'll ask again, 494. How can I get to 452?"
"Go to hell and take a left."
White walks around the bed, his eyes never leaving Alec's. "I certainly hope you're enjoying this as much as I am."
"How could I enjoy it as much as a sick sadistic shit like you?"
The razor carves into his other arm, below the bandage covering his bullet wound. White makes this cut about the same length as the first but a little deeper, the wound weeping tears of blood.
"There's a back way into Terminal City," White said. "I need to know what it is—you see, I want 452 in my own personal custody, before the Army swings through having their fun."
Alec has endured worse, but the stinging pain of the razor makes his lacrimal glands work.
White wants Max. Strangely enough, he seems to want her alive or, at least, alone, which triggers Alec's fight and flight reflexes enormously. He is up to something. This is bigger than a simple siege. This is bigger than the genocide he undoubtedly plans against their kind, the transgenics. Another reason to keep his mouth shut.
“Why?”, he asks, blinking away tears of pain, wondering.
“Maybe I want her head to put over my fireplace. What concern is that to a dead man? Now, why don’t you tell me the truth and I’ll speed this up for you.”
White lets the razor carve to the crook of his arm. Alec breathes shallow breaths, breathing techniques to dull the pain, to keep from screaming.
“They sure taught you to be quiet at Manticore. Way to spoil the fun.”
The razor drips crimson, as does the long wound on Alec's arm. The one already injured by a bullet at the Jam Pony hostage situation.
Alec let’s himself breathe. The strain on his cuffed wrists and feet lessens slightly, as he doesn’t clench them anymore. But only slightly. He hopes the adrenaline rush will allow him to break the railings of the hospital bed he has been cuffed to.
“I’m so sorry for being such a killjoy”, he spits through gritted teeth.
Ames Whites dead eyes bore into him.
“Believe me, you will be sorry.” The Familiar sets the edge of the razor on the sensitive skin of his neck, right above his collarbone. He presses down and Alec can’t hide a hiss.
“What kind of secret passage did you and the dog freak use, hm?” White is too close to his face again. Alec feels a constriction in his gut, something deeply uncomfortable as Whites breath grazes his cheek. White digs deeper and further, slowly. “The fence is under federal watch 24/7. I’m thinking tunnel. Does that ring a bell, 494?”
“Ugh bite me”, Alec groans. White outlines both of his collar bones with the blade. It’s not that he feels like crying, but the stinging pain causes his eyes to water.
“I’m kinda glad they make you so resilient. I’ve been holding a grudge, at you specifically, since you bailed on our little deal.”
“It wasn’t exactly a fair deal. Sorry to disappoint”, Alec snarls. He knows just how merciless Ames White can be. The man had, after all, planted a micro explosive in Alec's brainstem and given him 24 hours to kill 3 transgenics in order to deactivate it. This bastard knows no limits.
“That’s all you ever do, isn’t it?” A cut in the skin behind Alec's left ear nearly makes him squeal, but he manages to cover it with a grunt.
“You’re a disappointment, 494. And you’ll die one.”
Alec is disappointing Max right now. He isn’t sure if White is aware of the no-leaving-Terminal-City policy Max has arranged with Clemente, but knowing him, he probably is. He has no time to dwell on his mistakes right now. If he gets out of this alive, he will have enough off time to beat himself up over it later. Alec knows he fucked up. The least he can do is not giving White any advantage. And he prays Joshua rips this fuckers head off if he doesn’t make it.
“Then do yourself a favour and kill me already. You’re wasting your time.”
White nods. His dead eyes are boring into Alecs. The X5, panting, tugging at his cuffs, stares back. His eyebrows are drawn into a dangerous angle; an expression that some may consider hateful.
“Time is valuable. I’m glad you understand that, 494. You’re not a whole idiot after all.”
White wipes the razor clean on Alec's hospital gown, which is already stained from the trickling blood of his other wounds. He replaces the blade with a scalpel from his coat pocket. He must have swiped it.
“Not exactly my first choice, but you work with what you’re given.” The blade glistens in the light that comes through the window. White stares at it for a short moment.
“Tell me how you got out of Terminal City, and I will speed things up.”
“Kiss my ass.”
“Your loss, my gain.”
Ames White’s lifeless eyes lock with Alecs. He feels a tinge of fear in his gut. This man is a maniac. A cold blooded, bad tempered, hatred driven, religiously goaded madman. Alec happens to wake up in the eye of the storm that is Ames White’s anger. Just his luck.
Without another word, White begins to work.
When Sketchy picks them up at Joshua's old house in a battered and beaten van, because Alec requested a car, he nearly faints. Alec looks even worse than he sounds. There is a gaping wound on his cheek, barely covered by a plaster and bleeding through. A bandage around his neck indicates there to be wounds too, although they are white as snow. His bullet wound from the Jam Pony siege must have teared open, because there is blood running down his arm, but a closer look tells Sketchy, there are numerous other cuts that could be responsible for the red stains. Alec's right arm shows the same pattern. Sketchy is not a medical professional, but even he can see the swelling, red and puffy, on Alec's normally perfectly thin wrists. There are more plasters on his fingertips, crimson. Oh god, where are his fingernails? The X5’s stance is not as upright as it usually is, his perfect form now slouched. He, unsurprisingly, seems to be in pain.
“What the hell happened to you?”, Calvin Theodore asks, swallowing hard.
“Little run-in with the devil”, answers Alec, annoyed, wincing visibly as he turns. Joshua peeks out behind the door.
“Son of a bitch hurt Alec.”
That’s what Alec had called White when he burst into Joshua's hospital room, bloody, with White’s men on his ass and hauled him the keys to free himself from his own cuffs. Joshua knew they had hurt Alec. Not only by taking a look at him. He’d been awoken by screams from next door, but all efforts to free himself mended up to nothing.
“We gotta get you in a hospital, dude”, says Sketchy, as Alec winces hauling a duffel bag on his shoulder.
“That’s where we come from”, says the X5, “We need to go back to Terminal City.”
Joshua nods. “No more hospitals.”
Sketchy steps out of the way. Joshua and Alec move to the back of the van, so no one would see them.
Alec and Joshua then shortly explain what they found, why they were here, what led them to run into White. Bobby Kawasaki, an amorphous transgenic on the loose, having his own little reimagined version of Silence of the Lambs, skinning men in uniform to make them into a skinsuit, which he is probably going to top off with the face of Logan Cale, if they don’t hurry. Silence of the Chameleons, Sketchy thinks, fits more adequately. He steps on the gas, driving just as fast as he can without seeming suspicious.
The last time he has seen Original Cindy, she was with Bobby. He works at Jam Pony, even if he never really noticed him. He is worried something might have happened to her, even if she isn’t a man in uniform. The way Alec and Joshua describe it, Bobby, or Kelpy, as Joshua calls him, is not afraid to use the police stun rod he’s carrying around. The two of them had nearly been electrocuted.
“Alec need more ice?”, Joshua asks Alec when they are nearly there.
“When we’ve saved Logan’s ass. I’m sure he has some in his fridge. Thanks bud.”
Not caring about the wetness in his shoes, an expected side effect of cooling his burning feet, Alec nods to Joshua. Out of all the injuries, his feet are the worst. At one point White had lit up the scalpel with a lighter, then first singed his naked soles, and if that wasn’t enough, the fucker also cut into the burned flesh afterwards. Now he had bladders and open wounds. And open bladders. The jump into the hospital dumpster hadn’t really benefited that, nor the unsanitary pieces of cloth he had wrapped around his feet in an effort to not leave bloody footprints behind. It got so bad, Joshua piggybacked him the last half of the way to his old house. A humiliating sight Max would never let him hear the end of, if she had seen it. But it had been necessary, as Alec had been slowing them down. He had knocked White down pretty effectively. The dumpster dive had not been White’s objective, whereas Alec and Joshua calculated the jump. And Joshua had given the guy hell too. Still, with this freak feeling no pain, there had been no telling when he would be back on his feet, or how many more of his NSA minions were around.
“I’m tellin’ you man, I don’t think it’s smart to go after a serial killer in your condition.” Sketchy sees Alec's wounded face in his rear view mirror. The transgenic turns the left half of his face in Sketchy’s general direction.
“What? Sorry Sketch, you gotta speak up!”
X5’s usually hear everything. At least Max always seemed to. Alec did too, until about an hour and a half ago. One of the most sensitive areas on the human body are the ears. Alec knows that and, unfortunately, so does White. The last thing he had been able to do was to pick around in Alec's right ear with a needle, before the nurse had come in, alerted by his screams, which he, at this point, hadn’t been able to hold in anymore. Her scream of alertness and horror, and Whites attempts to silence her, had given him the opening he needed to escape. Needless to say, his right eardrum is damaged. He knows it will grow back, —a hurray to transgenic stem cells— and it doesn’t hurt much anymore. It is rather numb. Still, the hearing part is an inconvenience. Alec is just lucky he got away, before White could move on to his eyes.
“I’m just sayin’, you look beat. You gotta treat those wounds.”
Alec shakes his head. Sketchy just now notices the dried blood on the X5‘s ear canal, just underlining his worries. But he keeps driving. What else is he supposed to do, anyway?
The showdown with Bobby—or Kelpy, or Logan 2.0, whoever Chameleon Boy wants to be—at Logan’s place is a lot harder than Alec imagined. That is not only due to his current shape. Bobby is fast and not dumb. Just as Alec wants to use the stun rod on him —he may or may not be wanting some payback for landing them in that hospital— suddenly, Bobby has Logan.
Alec tries it the Max way. He tries to talk to him, tries the whole ‘family’ thing that she is always going on about. Something Alec has not quite the same passion for, but he is getting there. He tries to make Bobby loosen up on Logan just a little, before he kicks his ass.
“Can’t we talk about this, Bobby? We should all be friends—you’re our brother...”
But Bobby backs into the tunnel, the secret route to Terminal City, holding Logan close.
Luckily for Alec, he might have lost some of his hearing for the next few weeks, but he can still see fine. Even in the dark, in the depths of the tunnels.
Sketchy takes a photo, the flashbulbs stunning Bobby, he and Logan close to fall, tumbling back, directly onto Max. Alec grabs Logan with his right, still intact arm and hauls him up. And thus, they have won.
Alec doesn’t do much during the negotiations and proceedings of the current situation. He lets Dix analyse what turns out to be their most important evidence —the walk to Terminal City is torture to his feet—, makes an ice bath for the dying Chameleon and swipes a bucket full of ice for himself. Then, he just sits back, the roughness of the day seeping into his bones. He’s aching all over. But, it was worth it. They ruined White, that sadistic bastard. And after today, the feeling of satisfaction is even greater.
“Alec, son of a bitch is out the window!” Joshua jowls excitedly and Alec raises an ice water to that.
“For now, anyway”, he says. His eyes center on the screen where Ames White is currently being exposed to the whole nation, via Eyes Only hack. There is something dark in his expression. ”If I ever see him again, I swear I’ll kill him.”
Joshua nods, slowly but steadily. “He will pay.”
His voice is a little darker than usual. The gentle giant has already lost two friends to the hands of White. One, Kelpy, manipulated to kill, the other, Annie, for no reason at all. Today, he almost lost another. He looks at Alec, battered, bloody, cooling his feet in an ice bucket, half deaf on one ear, and feels an instinctual rage at the pit of his stomach. He is part predator, after all, and his friends are most precious to him.
“I wanted to beat the reason why you disobeyed my orders and almost risked the siege out of you two, but I’d much rather have you patched up.”
Max looks strict and concerned at the same time, in the way only she can.
“That’s probably a good idea”, groans Alec and eases his feet out of the bucket. Between the ice cubicles seeps red blood.
“What happened?”, she asks.
“White”, says Joshua, a roughness in his voice, as if the name tastes bad. It probably does.
“He swung by my hospital room. ‘Thought he could get the secret passage out of me. He didn’t, don’t worry.”
Max believes it. She had just hoped for them to be safe there, after she heard of the attack.
Clemente joins the conversation. He is the one that had gotten Alec and Joshua into a hospital, after the late Bobby fried them almost too hard. “I’m sorry. I thought I had given you enough protection, but that bastard got through.”
“I’m alive”, says Alec, declining, “That's more than I could hope for. Just my luck he had so much fun, he forgot the time.”
Logan joins them at the table. “You’re still losing blood.”
Alec turns his good ear to the Cyber Journalist.
“You’re still losing blood”, Logan points out again, nodding in the vague direction of Alec's shoulder. Oh right. That. White had jammed the scalpel right into the still healing bullet wound on Alec's arm. It hurts just thinking about it.
“Dalton is going to be disappointed I ruined his first perfect bandaging job.”
“He’ll live”, says Max, “He needs practise anyway.”
Slipping into his shoes with agonising grunts Alec replies: “True that.” Then he straightens his back and smirks a small smirk, one that doesn’t tear his cheek anew. “Now he’s got plenty to practise.”
“Alec need help?” Joshua hovers around Alec, as the X5 sways dangerously to the side.
“Yeah Joshua, I think he could use some help. Why don’t you two get going now?”, proposes Logan.
“Get Alec patched up”, says Joshua.
Logan nods and pats the dog man on the shoulder. “That’s right.”
“Just so you know, once I’m done and lay down, I’m not gettin’ up for a week.”
Alec makes it sound like a joke but he is actually not sure when he can operate as usual again. He winces at every movement.
Max doesn’t say anything. Neither does Logan. But Original Cindy does.
“Let’s get your little white ass inside. I’m not watching you stand there like a sip of water for another minute. Come on.”
She needs the distraction. Bobby’s skinsuit will haunt her for a while, if not forever. What she has gone through today, from the kidnapping, to the probable concussion, will not be looked back on fondly. However, they ruined Ames White, that sunovabitch, and that gives her some kind of contentment.
“Yes mom”, says Alec, exaggeratingly.
“Original Cindy ain’t nobody's momma, but she can beat yo’ ass like one. Get movin’!”
She puts her hand between his shoulder blades a little harder than necessary and he winces. She pushes him into the direction of the tunnel, as gently as she can.
“Hey boo“, says Max. Original Cindy turns, with a raised eyebrow. “We’re sending a doc your way. Let yourself get checked out too.”
Logan is in the midst of calling Sam Carr on Alec's case. They will need a little more expertise than the field med classes Manticore made them take. And OC has taken quite a beating from Bobby. Max is worried for her best girl.
Original Cindy nods. “You got it.”
Joshua's tall frame is the last to vanish in the tunnel. But Alec is the last to be heard. His grunts tingle in transgenic, as well as human ears through the acoustics of the tunnel, when he is long out of sight. He is too hurt to lighten his steps, stumbles often. Original Cindy promises not to tell how, halfway through, Joshua has enough and scoops Alec into his arms and carries him the rest of the way. She is not sure if she can keep that promise. Max’s gotta know, she don’t make the rules.
Not today though. Alec has been through enough in the last 24 hours. They all have. The boy deserves a break. For now. And she does too. She needs a hot bath and the warmth of a woman’s embrace, although she is unlikely to get either of those this evening. But thanks to today, there is chance of a tomorrow. And the day after that.
Alec can stand on his own feet again a week later. Mole grunts he “shouldn’t be such a wuss”, Luke pampers him like a judgemental, rough mother hen. Dix is pretty indifferent, asks him about tips on commerce. Now that they are momentarily free of an immediate existential threat, Terminal City tries to establish itself in Seattle’s post apocalyptic economy.
Max goes easy on him. Surprisingly. He thinks he would have gotten on her bad side after manipulating Joshua into chasing an amorphous serial killer in the middle of a breeching siege. It doesn’t matter if everything worked out in the end. Maybe she thinks he atones for it with the constant pain he is in, the fact that he won’t be able to hear on his right side for another month, that a good part of his fingernails are gone will take time to grow again, or the humiliation of Joshua spreading the story of the piggyback ride. That, or she is thankful for him saving Logan. Either way, he is thankful she keeps her claws in.
“So what’s the dealio?”
Max saves him from any further bandaging adjustments from Luke.
“That friend of yours got us a connection with the New World Weekly“, says Dix from his monitors.
“Right. And that lazy sack-o’-bones and his rag can actually help”, puffs Mole.
“It’s a start”, says Max, shrugging. She looks tired, but hopeful. Faithful. It’s pathetic. But obnoxiously contagious.
Alecs smiles. “Right. It’s a start.”