Book One:Chapter Six: He kindly stopped for me
A/N: I would like to say that this is the last time the updates take so long, believe me I do. I just can’t seem to reason with my muse at all these days. That and RL rears its ugly heady occasionally and makes me sit down and actually some work, which sucks, but hey what are you gonna do. Bills have this nasty habit of wanting to be paid.
Anyway part of the reason why this took so long (and has anybody noticed that I got stuck in exactly the same place as before?), is that writing action scares me. It has something to with lack of experience I suppose. I don’t go around breaking into buildings and taking out the guards on a regular basis and I think imagination only takes you so far. I did a lot of staring at blank pages I can tell you. In the end I decided on a format that works for me. I hope it does the same for you.
If you have read the author’s not up to this point, and my pointless ramblings and fumbling for excuses, then kudos to you. I only have one last thing left to say. Any returning readers, and I fear I have alienated the lot of them with my infrequent once in a blue moon updates, are welcomed back with abandon and fanfares. New readers, well thank you for reading this. And maybe you can all leave a note on the way out. Thank you.
And I got the name from a good friend of mine. So thank you Shay, it is a really pretty name.
Disclaimer: All things DA belong to Cameron, I am just playing. The title is a line from Emily Dickinson, ‘Death’Chapter Six: He kindly stopped for me
Brianna was more than a little nervous. A little slip of a thing, she was smaller and physically weaker than almost every other transgenic in Terminal City. That frailty belied a fierce intellect and almost supernatural ability to make leaps of logic that defied rational explanation. She was the youngest of the four surviving members of the I.T. Concentrates. And she supposed the most unimportant. The best of them had been Brain, and she had worshipped him, hence fashioning her name in his memory. She didn’t consider herself particularly memorable, so it had come as a huge shock to her when X5-494, Alec she constantly reminded herself, had asked her to present the plan the 4 I.T’s has come up with. He had said that he remembered her from briefings back at Manticore and she had made sense then and was good with words.
Flustered, Brianna had blushed red and then acquiesced. Which meant that at that moment in time she was standing in front of a room full of X-5s, tension thrumming, preparing to send them into battle. A battle not all of them might survive. There was a chance of one in 68.45 that one of them would get hurt or die.
She had to take a deep breath, mentally ordering her hands to stop quivering. She had done this many times before after all, there was no reason to let her nerves get the better of her now. Centring herself, Brianna launched into her presentation and almost immediately felt her nerves fall away. She had faith in the work of her colleagues and herself. Now she had to show it.
“As you can see, Manticore chose this facility for its – at first glance – easily defensible position. It backs on to a more than 150 foot high sheer cliff with a marked overhang in many places. If you will take a look at the old construction plans in your briefing packs, you can see that in the beginning the facility was surrounded by a single electrified fence. Comparing that to the reconnaissance pictures brought back by X5-913, sorry Jake, and his team, you will notice that since then a second fence has been added. The corridor between the two is patrolled constantly by groups of at least five guards with a dog each.
“There are two reasons why we do not want to attack from the front. First there are six watchtowers in all that have a clear view of the main access road and the fences in their entirety. Secondly the only gate into the compound is fully fenced in, too and comes with two checkpoints. You can not approach the second before the first has cleared you and both are in constant contact with each other and the main building until you have arrived there. The entire time the watchtowers will have guns trained on you.”
“So, it’s impossible?” Brianna couldn’t see who had asked, but he seemed to be speaking for the whole room, as tension had risen since she had started speaking.
“Not really. If you throw enough of us at the facility, we have a 96 success rate, with a 45 casualty rate. The battle would last just under one hour with little guarantee of acquiring the objective. The staff there would have more than enough time to push the kill switch and terminate the site.
“No, we are going to have to be all sneaky and devious. We are going to come in through the back entrance as it were.”
Brianna shuffled her papers and watched as the entire room leaned forward hanging from her every word. It was a heady feeling.
“The cliff behind the facility has an overhang and is really high, that is true, but it is nothing you guys couldn’t handle in your sleep. It doesn’t look like they expect anybody to even try. The cliffs are so high that anybody attempting to base jump or glide down is in sight of the watchtowers on the roof of the facility. So that corner has been a bit neglected. Trees have been allowed to grow to a fairly respectable height allowing for cover. And it doesn’t look like the grass has been mowed in a while. Add to that the fact, that the teams patrolling the base of the cliff are much smaller, with only two dogs per team. Look at the map on page five. The route the guards follow, sticks to the cliff line, impeding line of sight between the teams.”
She pointed at one point where the cliff made a sharp dip away from the site before curving back to meet the edges of the fences.
“This is our access point. Think you are up to it?”
A roomful of shark-like smiles was her answer.
Sly was bored, so very bored. Sometimes he wondered why they even bothered with patrols, it wasn’t like anything ever happened. The site was fifty miles south of the middle of nowhere, with not a town in sight and under complete black-out orders as soon as night fell.
Why was he forced to stay up until all hours of the morning, just to protect the facility from any big bad bear or raccoon that might take it into its tiny brain to try and invade? Sly quite cheerfully ignored the little voice inside that was telling him that night duty was handed out as a punishment and maybe he shouldn’t have tried to grope the little scientist girl in the shower the other week. Listening to his conscience never got you very far, he had always believed. Although not listening to it had almost led to him being dishonourable discharged from the army, before a mysterious committee had gotten hold of him, finding his less than stellar qualities the exact thing they were looking for.
At least he only had two more hours to go and he could fall into bed and dream of what he would do to the little scientist slut should she ever be stupid enough to let him catch her alone. He would teach to go snitching on him.
His thoughts were interrupted when the dogs he had with him began to bark, yanking and straining at their leashes. Probably that damn lynx or something that had made them go mad every night for the last two weeks.
Sly tried in vain to bring them under control and eventually the two animals managed to slip from his grip and streak off into the darkness.
“Heel! Come back!” He huffed. “Stupid, ruddy animals should be drowned at birth. Barking at nothing.”
“You know, you could be a little bit nicer to the poor things. They were only trying to warn you after all.”
Sly froze, one hand scrabbling for his walkie-talkie, the other swinging his flashlight in a broad ark. A twig broke to his left and turned wildly, finally seeing who had spoken.
A young man slinked from behind a tree, almost a boy really. The feral grace of his movements halted Sly in his tracks, uncomfortably confronted with the feeling that he might just have met his match. The young man cocked his head to the side and for a split second his eyes reflected the torch light like a cat’s would. Two glowing orbs seemingly hovering in his face.
Sly was rooted to the spot, all thoughts of calling in forgotten, as fear crawled up his spine and pushed a button marked primal fear.
“What the fuck are you?”
Another head cock, this time to the other side, the man-boy’s lips moving soundlessly and then he got his answer, in his own voice.
“What the fuck are you? That’s just rude you know.”
Two more of his sort materialised out of the darkness, his traitorous dogs glued to their side, and the rest of Sly’s life was extremely short and full of excitement.
“I know that many of you can mimic any voice you hear, so each replacement group will have one mimic with them. That way, if you are contacted you will have one person on site who can answer in the appropriate voice. I know that these guys are scumbags, but at least let them say something before neutralising them so your mimics have something to work with.”
This last comment garnered Brianna more than a few laughs and even made Alec and Max crack a slight smile, despite the fear and worry they must be fighting back every minute they were forced to wait.
Simultaneously to replacing the cliff guards with our own people, the next stage comes into play. We want to take out the guard towers on the roof of the main building as soon as possible. One sits on the corner of the North Wing, the other on the corner of the South Wing. Between them they cover 98.67 of the area. The remaining 1.33 are all between the building and the cliff. Once we are that far, all you need to do is scale the building and take the guards out from behind. You will have to hit both towers at the same time, or one of them might trigger a premature alarm.”
“And premature anything just ain’t no fun at all, at all.” A female transgenic interjected, making a laugh ripple through the room. Brianna saw it for what it was, a way to relieve tension. These guys were just gagging to go and take out the compound. Her job was simply to make sure they had all the information they needed to make it all happen as swiftly and painlessly as possible. Well painless for them, she couldn’t care less about the people inside.
Axel watched as his partner in crime counted down und his breath. On Jake’s whispered “Now!”, they both blurred from their cover and took shelter in the shadows at the foot of the building they would break into that night. So far eluding the guard’s almost mechanical routines had been laughingly easy and he knew that back the way they had come, four groups of X5s were preparing to replace the guards patrolling the cliff base. The dogs were already on their side, by the sound of things. It just helped when you were alpha to pretty much every form of carnivore out there.
The moon came out from behind the cloud it had bee hiding in and a faint silvery light flooded the compound. It was only a quarter moon, so did little but highlight shadows, but for the transgenics, with their almost perfect night vision it might as well have been broad daylight.
Contrary to the usual all black cat burglar get up, Axel and Jake were kitted out in dark grey clothes. It matched the dark granite stones of the building better than black would have. The granite posed a problem though. Its smooth surface and joins provided no handholds to free climb the side.
“Just scale the building, she says. Easy-peasy she says.” Jake was complaining under his breath as he slapped the stone lightly, while Axel called back and told backup to get them some grapples already.
A few minutes later, and Axel listened in as one of the men in the tree line behind them kept an eye on the guards and then gave them the all clear to throw the lie. On each end of the building a grappling hook sailed up into the night and hooked over the decorative balcony adorning the building half way up.
Axel and Jake swarmed up the line as if they were being pulled. Another small wait as they waited for the look out to give them the sign and then Axel threw the hook the rest of the way up to the roof. He and Jake paused their climb just under the lip, out of sight of all but those that would walk up to the edge and stare straight down. A whispered command had them slithering over the edge and glide into the shadows at the base of their tower.
Their wait now would be slightly longer as all six guards in the two towers would have to be disabled at the same time, or momentum would be lost.
Above them the guards were chattering away, about plans for the coming days off, and which scientist they would like to bang until she begged. It made Axel’s skin crawl and he could tell that Jake was only just holding on to his composure. Then they heard something that had the both of them grinning broadly. They could hear as one guard from their tower contacted one in the other tower making plans for a smoke break.
That meant they would have to leave their pose, which would give the transgenics in wait a way inside.
After a quick check to make sure the other team had heard this development as well, Axel slipped from shadow to shadow until he was beside the access door to the tower. He made it just in time to hide behind the slowly opening door.
The guard, a shortish man with a mean cast to his features and a sneer on his lips, opened the door widely with not a care in the world, one hand already flicking a Zippo lighter open and closed.
While the guy’s eyes were still adjusting to the darkness outside, Axel ghosted out in front if him and shoved the palm of his hand hard against the man’s nose from below. The angle of attack and the force behind it pushed the broken slivers of bone into the man’s brain, killing him before he even hit the ground, gone without so much as a whimper. Jake caught the lighter that fell from lax hands and pocketed it. The guy had a fetish about souvenirs that was slightly scary.
A flash of light drew Axel’s attention to the far side of the building and his eyes zoomed in watching as Swoff dispatched of his guard with minimalist movements, catching the corpse and dragging it out of sight behind a skylight.
Taking out the remaining four guards was almost anticlimactic and woefully easy. The transgenics suffered no casualties and only one injury, a slight knife wound where one of the guards got in a lucky shot.
Ten minutes after beginning this stage of the operation was over. Axel and Jake threw more lines over the side and stood guard as three teams of four climbed up and joined them.
Brianna took a sip from the glass of water in front of her and changed the schemata on the wall behind her to a construction plan of the building.
“If you look at this point here, you can see that it where the computer and power lines come together. We believe that in one of the rooms surrounding the point in the main guard station. That is our next objective after the securing the cliff and roof positions. The guard station is on the third floor, below the living quarters. We will sweep the building from the top down. Weakest to strongest. Take out the guards and disable the scientists. Whatever you do, please only kill the latter if there is no other option. We want to pump them for information. With one exception, a young female doctor who as transferred out last week, all the scientists working there are from our old facility. They will be able to tell us more than we could ever find out ourselves about our physiology.”
The assembled people had begun to grumble almost as soon as Brianna had begun to talk, clearly not looking forward to letting their tormentors live. And Brianna could emphasise, having had more than one run-in with some of them that had been less than pleasurable.
She also knew, that self-control had been drilled into all of them before they had been old enough to talk, so while there might be a unfortunate loss of a doctor or two, much lamented of course, there would be more than enough left to enjoy their tender mercies once the operation was done.
Silent as a dream, the transgenics drifted through the corridors and rooms and the compound, clearing all the rooms one by one. Sleeping guards were neutralised, most never even waking before slipping into the arms of death. A small minority of the invasion party had protested the plan of simply killing all the guards, but Dix had managed to hack into the personnel files and there was not a single soul working at the facility that would be missed. Liars, cheats and thieves, most of them had either been dishonourably discharged or nearly so in their military careers. Allegations of sexual harassment and worse abounded. Nobody would miss this scum.
Sleeping scientist however were bound and gagged, and left where they were, although one had met an unfortunate end. The female transgenic in question, Aria, claimed his death had been self-defence on her part, but the rest of the females knew better. That particular scientist had liked to visit the female X5s in heat, before a suppressant had been found.
Brianna was slowly coming to the end of her presentation. Clicking to the last image, she continued.
“The entire compound was originally build as a private sanatorium, so it is possible for us to pin-point the hospital wing rather accurately. This part here houses a small operating theatre. Seeing as Manticore has not moved beyond using a female host to carry babies to term, they will have to perform a Caesarean section. Time is of the essence. In his data dumps Dix has found out that the operation is scheduled for the day after tomorrow, in the very early hours of the morning. This entire operation will be timed, so that we can whisk in and take over before they have the opportunity to take the baby. We are not entirely sure why they want Alec and Max’s baby so desperately, so better safe than sorry. Alec and Max will be in the team retrieving the baby, along with our medics.
That will be all. Departure will be in eight hours, so I suggest you get as much rest as you can before then. Any questions?” She looked over the room, and only saw determined faces.
The operating theatre was in a tizzy. Doctors and nurses ran to and fro, trying to get everything ready for the impromptu surgery they would have to perform. Just before midnight, the sensors in the host’s room had gone off in a riot of bells and bleeps, all saying that labour had started. And that was something they really, really didn’t need.
And so, the head doctors were roused from sleep and rushed down to the hospital wing, prepping and washing up, to perform the emergency C-section.
Subject Talitha was wheeled in and transferred to the operating bed. Slight ripples crossed the taught skin of her extended belly, indicating that labour was well in progress. The baby had not entered the birth canal at that point yet, though, so time was on their side for the moment.
Dr Mendelson entered the room at that point, secure in the knowledge the others would make way for him. Taking one look at the machinery surrounding the bed, he snarled.
“Will you get all this junk out of the way. How am I supposed to work when there are tubes and shit all over the place.”
His immediate subordinate, a Doctor Fathen, quailed beneath his wrath, but felt compelled to answer.
“But, sir, the subject needs those to remain alive.”
“She is brain-dead you moron. There is no alive. And we only need the package anyway. So unhook the feeder tubes, will you.”
His orders were followed with alacrity, and Dr. Mendelson suited up and picked up his scalpel.
“Now, let’s do this nice and easy. Don’t want to damage our precious girl, do we?” A few snickers filled the room, mainly from those who knew what the little girl would be used for once she was born.
Moving slowly and carefully he made a shallow incision on the underside of the comatose woman’s belly, slitting open layers of skin, fat and muscles, until he reached the uterus. Another smooth stroke and a flood of viscous red-tinged liquid gushed forth. After extending the opening slightly, the Doctor reached inside with both hands and gently felt for the infant’s head. Cradling the little head carefully, he pulled her free, first the head, then the shoulders and in a slippery rush, the rest of her little body.
Turning he deposited the infant in the arms of a nurse standing at the ready with a warmed towel. The body of the woman who had carried the baby to term was almost immediately forgotten and literally pushed aside, bed and all, into a corner. There was no further use to her.
The paediatrician on call placed the baby in a warming bassinette and quickly and efficiently cleaned her of the mucus adorning her slightly tanned limbs and body. A small suction tube was inserted into the little girl’s mouth to clear it of any obstructions and almost immediately afterwards a lusty wail filled the room.
The attendant group waited in anticipation as the standard tests were performed.
The paediatrician turned with a broad grin. “Ten out of ten on the Apgar test. One perfectly healthy little girl, with ten toes and ten fingers.”
A cheer went through the room and Doctor Mendelson, in the meantime divested of his bloody surgical smock, moved forward and picked the little girl up, towel and all, ignoring the protesting wail she emitted at being removed from the warmth of her bassinet.
“Well, what are we waiting for, let’s adjourn to the harvesting room, so we can start the next phase of the project.”
Almost simultaneously a door slammed open behind him and the eyes of his staff went wide with fear. Turning slowly, Dr. Mendelson almost went cross-eyed as he stared down the barrel of the gun suddenly aimed at his forehead.
At the other end of the gun stood a tall man, hazel eyes narrowed in homicidal rage. Behind him, looking no calmer, was a smaller dark-haired woman, glaring at him from brown eyes. And they weren’t alone. More and more men and woman entered the room, spreading out and keeping everybody covered with alarmingly large guns.
“Mommy and Daddy I presume?” Dr. Mendelson knew exactly who these two were, after all he had looked at their files often enough and aided Renfro in removing the fertilised egg from the woman.
“We’ll take it from here, Doc.”
The doctor knew when he was beaten, so handed over the infant into X5-452’s arms without a protest. He watched with detached interest as she cradled the baby with incandescent delight on her face, just like any other new mother he had ever seen in his career.
“You have no idea what you have done by stopping us, 494.”
Hazel eyes, that had been glued at his little daughter snapped up and glared at him. “To be perfectly honest, I don’t give a shit what you think we have ruined by stopping you.”
Before the doctor had time to react, he saw the gun whip at his head and darkness claimed him along with the sure knowledge that he had failed his fellow humans.
The early morning sunlight shone through the open window, a slight wind ruffling the curtains.
“Do you think we should close the window, Max? It might be too cold for her.”
Alec felt along his daughter’s arms in alarm, only slightly reassured when he realised they were toasty warm.
Max only smiled at him, knowing that after so many months of pain, Alec couldn’t quite believe that their daughter was finally in their arms. They lay side-by-side on the bed in the room they had commandeered at the compound, their baby cradled between them.
She watched in delight, as a tiny wrinkle marred her baby’s forehead, her nose scrunching up as she yawned, toothless pink gums glistening in the early morning light.
Eyelids blinked open slightly, and Max fancied that she could see Alec’s eyes gazing back at her.
“She is so pretty.”
Alec smiled in agreement. “Just like her Mom. I’m going to have to beat the boys off with a stick when she is older.”
“We need a name.”
Alec tensed slightly, thinking about some of the names Max had handed out in the early days after the fall of Manticore.
“Listen, sweetheart, maybe we should wait some, before deciding.”
“Hope. I want to call her Hope.”
Alec was pleasantly surprised. “Nice name. Can I ask why?”
“She came back to us. I thought she was dead, but she came back to us. And she makes me believe that maybe we can have that normal life, the one we all want.” Max wiped at her tears.
Alec smiled once more and laid one hand protectively on his little girl’s belly.
“Hope is a beautiful name.”