[Twenty-eight days to Impact…]
It’s after two in the AM when Max finds an opening in the Secret Service security net surrounding the White House.
She isn’t alone.
Ralph, a young X6 who like so many other transgenics sought refuge in Terminal City this past year, accompanies her. Ralph remembers Max as her savior, literally, one who saved her from White’s firing squad three years ago. Hell, Max is the one who gave Ralph the name Ralph. In recent months, she’s been stepping up and Max has grown to trust her.
Together, they sneak into President Tran’s bedroom where, thankfully, the man is sleeping alone. Explaining stuff to the First Lady at this hour may have been a tad more awkward.
“Jesus!” The leader of the new third world exclaims, and is quickly shushed by a feline black-gloved finger.
“Max?” He has the quick sense to whisper. “What are you doing here?”
“This is important, Mr. President,” is all she says while Ralph checks to make sure none of the agents outside have been alerted.
The thirty-something man sits up in bed, switches on a table lamp and dons his glasses, still frowning at the two transgenics suspiciously.
“I thought we weren’t going to be doing this anymore, Max. I signed the transgenics’ Freedom and Equality Bill back in ‘23. Hell, I updated the fifteenth amendment expressly for this purpose… so you’d stop breaking into my bedroom!”
Ralph nods at Max giving her the all-clear signal before the leader of the transgenics turns back to face him. “I’m here to save your life, Mr. President. And that of pretty much everyone in the homo-sapiens category this side of the solar system.”
“Wh-what do you mean?”
“The comet? Comet Kramer? It’s not as harmless as your Chief of National Security will have you believe.”
“What do you mean?”
“It is carrying with it a deadly neurotoxin called Taripoxin.”
“Taripoxin? Like in the venom found in the Chilean Taripan snake?”
Max hikes an eyebrow, “I forgot you were a geek back in your heyday. Yeah, that’s the one. And you know it’s lethal to humans.”
“And there’s no antivenom in existence,” the President mutters almost absent-mindedly.
Max bites her lip, “Yeah, we’ll get to that. Listen, this bitch of a comet will be passing right over your heads hemorrhaging this neurotoxin in exactly twenty seven days and…” she looks at her watch, “… nine minutes. The last time this bitch paid Earth a visit, the then dominant species on the planet, the dinosaurs, dropped dead where they stood. And it’s going to happen again.”
“And how exactly do you know this, Max?”
Naturally, the man is skeptical. Max huffs and looks at her watch again. Of course she knew it wasn’t going to be easy, convincing anyone let alone the President of the United States about this fantastical idea of an actual, honest-to-God extinction level event.
Like the Pulse wasn’t enough. Now this?
“Look we don’t have time for this. Check your private email, the one you shared with me… not now!” she smacks Tran’s hand that tries to reach for his laptop.
“After we leave, a Doctor Sandeman will have sent you all the details you and your people need to know about this. The cliff notes version is this – all transgenics are immune, and the dose isn’t large enough to affect most animals, plants and other organisms. But it is large enough to kill humans within twenty minutes of exposure.”
“Wh-what do we do? Can we stop it?”
“No, this is not a Hollywood movie, Mr. President. We cannot stop the freakin’ comet from coming.”
The man looks stricken beyond belief. At least she has his attention now. She sits back on the bed and gives him some breathing space. “But we can save everyone.”
He is silent for a second and then suddenly impatient to know what the hell she’s on about.
“This transgenic girl we know,” Max looks away for a second, “apparently she has like perfect DNA, no junk whatsoever. Back when they whipped her up in a test tube, every genetic marker was encoded with valuable information, and… jeez, long story short, in her DNA is the answer to our problem. And my scientist friend, Dr. Sandeman, I told you about him remember?”
“The man who started Manticore, yes…”
“Well, he’s synthesized an antidote that, if infused into everyone’s bloodstream a few days or even a few hours before the comet hits, they’ll be inoculated.”
“Okay, good, so there’s an antidote. But how, pray tell, do we infuse it into all of human population in twenty-eight days? Wait a minute… water? That’s it, isn’t it? You want my help to get it into America’s water supply!”
“Not just America, you have to get this in the hands of every country, everywhere that humans live. And there is no way I can do this alone.” At that, Max opens her bag and takes out a tray of vials with the said antidote, then hands it over to the President.
“Just like that? You don’t want anything in exchange?”
She smiles sadly. “I want seven billion lives to not be lost, Mr. President. That’s what I want. Start mass production immediately and start communicating with your fellow presidents and kings and stuff ASAP.”
The first Asian-American President of the United States rubs his brow worriedly. “In case you didn’t notice, America can no longer tell other countries what to do or not to do, Max. Convincing them will need hard evidence and talks may take weeks, if not months!”
“I have faith in you, oh, fearless leader. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. As for hard evidence, send the files I just emailed you to them. They’ll know what to do.”
“And what about testing this… antidote? They’re going to ask about things like side effects and success rates…”
“Look, do whatever tests you need to, just watch the clock. It’s possible some folks’ freakishly defensive immune systems might reject it. So to be doubly safe, people should use breathing masks, storm cellars, underground bunkers if they can for at least a half hour after the comet enters the Earth’s atmosphere. It’ll take that long for the toxin to disintegrate in our atmosphere and be rendered harmless. But direct exposure in those first few minutes will mean instant death.”
“What’s the chance this antidote might not work?”
Max sighs, suddenly looking very weary, “One in a million. But that’s still like seven thousand people. And there’s not enough time to find out who’s who.”
President Kevin Tran stands up then and starts to pace, “I’ll get NASA to issue a PSA right away. But we’ll have to keep the severity of this under wraps otherwise this could cause a global panic of monumental proportions!”
“Maybe. But I took a chance coming to you and you’re pretty cool about it. I’d say we give the people the same benefit of the doubt. Besides, panic isn’t why you need to keep this on the DL.”
President stops pacing and gawks at her. “What then?”
“Have you heard of the Familiars, Mr. President?”
The man’s eyes blow wide open. “Let me guess, not an urban legend?”
Ralph snorts but quickly looks away when both Max and the President glare at her.
“Afraid not, Mr. President,” Max continues. “They will try to stop us from inoculating the humans and basically undoing their whole reason for being for the past five thousand years. Guess I might be pissed if I were especially bred to be a psychotic narcissistic bitch too. From this moment on, do not trust anyone until we clear them for you. Fire your national security advisor immediately – he is one of them. We will tell you who to involve in this mission, nobody else should know. Not even your Chief of Staff, hell not even your wife!”
Tran puts his fists on his hips and sets his feet apart. Even dressed in pajamas that look like they belong in a fifties Eastman color movie, he looks like he means business. “You’re asking me to trust you over everyone else I know?”
Max squints as if she doesn’t understand the question. “Well, yeah.”
The man looks at her exasperatedly. “This better not be a joke of some kind, Guevara.”
Max sighs and rolls her eyes at Ralph, “And here I thought we were starting to bond.”
Three AM in the morning: Alec senses something amiss even in his sleep. His eyes shoot open only to find the other side of the bed empty and growing cold steadily. He sighs heavily and rises, relieved because he can sense the presence he seeks not far away from him.
Logan, his partner of six months, stands at a full-length glass window in the living room, staring off into the pitch dark night. Again.
He makes enough noise to make sure Logan knows he’s being approached, then cautiously puts a hand on the nearest shoulder and squeezes. He expects to be shrugged off again, or worse, for Logan to flinch violently and run out of the penthouse altogether, not to return until the next morning. Alec doesn’t think his heart could take that again, genetically engineered or not.
This needs to stop. Before either of them loses their head and says or does something they cannot take back again.
“Think it’s time we talked, buddy.”
Logan doesn’t turn to face him, doesn’t stop staring into the utter stillness of the night. His eyes are red from lack of sleep (which is because he’s been actively avoiding sleep to keep the nightmares at bay). There’s a deep chill in his bones that refuses to go away no matter how hard he hugs himself. His legs tremble, as if poised to collapse at any moment under the weight of his own scarecrow-like body.
He knows he could shirk Alec off again, and his poor boyfriend will back off without a word, even if his face will plainly reflect the agony Logan would be subjecting him to. He knows how unfair it’ll be to Alec, how it has been for the past several days.
No, Alec is right. Logan does need to get this off his chest, if there is to be any hope of having a semblance of normalcy back in his life.
Quietly he nods, Yes.
It is time they talked.
[Twenty-five days to impact…]
Logan walks out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist, fingers combing through his wet hair.
A pair of arms casually encircles him from behind. Given the nature of his job and the company he usually keeps, anyone else might react with alarm, maybe squawk a little. But Logan just laughs and sinks back into his boyfriend’s embrace.
“Good morning to you too sweetheart.”
“Mmm,” Alec buries his face in the crook of Logan’s neck. “You smell delicious.”
Logan turns and wraps his own arms around Alec’s neck before pulling him into a passionate kiss. When they pull apart for much needed breath, Logan looks down at Alec’s leather jacket and boots. “Leaving already?”
“Yeah, Max called. Have to escort the shipment to South America today. Gotta get an early start.”
Logan nods. They’ve already shared the formula with every country with the means to manufacture it, but there are others who can’t, not in the time they’ve got left. And then there are other world leaders who didn’t believe in what admittedly sounds like absolute cockamamie, and are basically doing nothing. So Max has taken it upon herself, with the help of US forces deployed in those parts of the world, to spread the antidote as far and wide as she possibly can.
They’re calling it Operation Deliverance.
“I do have about ten minutes to kill,” Alec wiggles an eyebrow, peeling Logan’s towel away and pulling every inch of his body flush against his own.
“Only ten? Sorry, that’s not nearly enough.” He starts to pull away from Alec, only to be pulled right back into the X5’s arms who doesn’t share his amusement as much.
“Wanna bet?” Alec’s voice is laced with unmasked want, and Logan snickers even as sharp tingles run down his spine in response.
“Well, stop talking then and take me already, McDowell…” Logan palms the growing bulge in his lover’s jeans as he speaks, glad to see Alec is indeed already ‘up’ for the job.
Alec growls and that should’ve been warning enough but Logan is still taken by surprise nonetheless when the X5 hoists him up and over his shoulder. Logan laughs as Alec walks over to the king-sized bed and dumps him on it diagonally. Logan expects Alec to climb on top of him right away but is surprised again when Alec walks to the bedside table instead.
“Seriously? Alec after last night, I don’t think we need it.”
“Shut your mouth,” Alec chides before fishing out what he’s looking for and coming over to lie besides Logan. “You know I’ve never taken you dry and I never ever intend to,” he says, rolling Logan over onto his stomach. If that’s your kink baby, you better take it someplace else.”
“No, not really! Smart-ass.”
Alec stuffs a couple of pillows under Logan’s stomach to prop him up and pulls his long legs apart. Then he straddles his lover, his own legs tangling with Logan’s to hold them in place.
Logan knows what’s coming next, what Alec wants, and can’t help but tremble with anticipation. “Alec…”
“Shh, you know I’m dying to,” Alec runs a finger down the exposed crack, tickling the little blinking orifice. “But only if you’re up for it?”
He’s asking for permission, as always, and Logan can’t help but smile. “Yes,” he whispers back, even as he buries his intensely blushing face in his pillow.
His hips jerk helplessly as an avid tongue licks his orifice repeatedly, gently, teasingly, like he has all the time in the world. This is so… so intimate, so dirty, so fucking hot. Logan feels so vulnerable yet incredibly turned on at the same time, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Alec works him open with hot, probing licks until Logan is moaning and desperately writhing and starting to drip pre-cum on the pillow underneath.
“Alec,” he begs, fingers twisting around the soft white sheets. “I can’t hold on any longer…”
“Then don’t Lo’, just let go…”
The human closes his eyes, unable to resist the lure but he has something better in mind. “No, I want to come with you inside me.”
“Okay, buddy. Hold on…”
Alec moves away and Logan feels the cool air of the penthouse glide against his lavishly moistened hole, making him tremble anew. He groans louder when a lubricated finger is inserted into his opening. “Come on, man…”
“Shh, a few seconds more…” Alec insists on stretching him very carefully, first with one then two digits, scissoring his insides while he kisses the sweat-soaked back and neck of his very insistent and incredibly turned on lover.
“I thought you only had ten minutes, you bastard…” Logan whines and Alec laughs, biting the side of his neck to leave a mark that’ll last the three days he’ll be away from home.
Logan lifts his hips to thrust back into the fingers even as he humps the pillow underneath him frantically. He moans his loudest when finally, finally he hears a zipper being pulled down, and Alec’s erection pokes against his eager orifice.
“Ah, God, you’re still so snug, so good, so hot…” Alec gasps, getting closer himself, telling Logan how well he’s doing, how great he feels around his cock, how much he loves to be inside Logan.
Logan spreads his legs as far as they can go and lifts up to take in more and more of Alec until his lover is buried to the hilt within him.
“Move, Alec, please oh please…”
Alec drags his thick cock out of Logan then swiftly drives back in, brushing up against his sweet spot until Logan is arching his back and begging for more. The rhythm is erratic to begin with then Alec hits his stride, thrusting in and out with frightening precision that makes Logan throw his head back and moan incessantly. Before he knows it, Alec is pulling him up by the hips so Logan is on his knees and his lover is pounding into him with all the passion of a genetically engineered wild feral.
“Alec, ah… I’m gonna… oh wow…”
Alec wraps one hand around Logan’s cock, urging him on with a couple of strokes and that is all it takes to unravel Logan completely. “Come for me, Lo’. Come now.”
Logan closes his eyes and bucks hard against Alec behind him, fingers ripping through the bed sheet as his climax explodes out of him. He whites out for a bit, body wrecked and trembling, ready to collapse into a messy heap. Alec takes another two minutes, working his own eager cock in and out until he comes with a loud guttural moan, spilling his seed inside Logan in generous spurts. He collapses right on top of his lover until Logan whines about being crushed under his ginormous frame. With effort he drags himself to lie beside Logan, who immediately curls up into his chest.
“What time is it?”
Logan glances at a digital clock behind Alec, “Ten after seven.”
Alec groans again. “I have to go.”
“Okay,” Logan can’t help the forlornly tone in his voice.
Alec looks down at his boyfriend. “Hey,” he says, tapping Logan on his chin. “Three days at most, buddy. I’ll be back before you know it.”
They kiss each other then, and when they pull apart, it seems like there is something Alec wants to say to Logan, but apparently decides against it. Logan wants to chuckle because he knows exactly what his boyfriend had started to say. And he doesn’t mind that they’re taking it slow, that Alec is probably just waiting for the right moment.
He watches Alec rise to go to the bathroom and return with a warmed washcloth that he uses to gently clean Logan. He throws the pillow stained with Logan’s cum into a laundry basket twelve feet away; then turns to fix his own clothes and hair. Logan starts to rise from the bed too but Alec pushes him back down.
“Hey, how about you go back to sleep, you’ve been working way too hard this week.”
“I’m fine. Let me at least see you to the door…”
“Shh,” Alec pulls the covers up over Logan, and lowers his face to kiss him. “Go to sleep, buddy. Be back before you know it.”
“Good luck,” Logan whispers, then closes his eyes and lets the exhaustion take over at last. He doesn’t hear Alec leave, and doesn’t know how long he’s been asleep before a soft thudding sound stirs him awake.
He opens his eyes groggily, wondering what the time is. He hears muted movement behind him again. Maybe it’s Alec.
“Did you forget something?” he calls out.
In hindsight, it’s the most gullible he’s ever been. Before he can process what’s happening, men in black gear suddenly descend on him, holding him down on the bed while one of them injects something into him. Struggling is futile. Whatever they give him acts fast and paralyzes his limbs immediately. His senses start to wither away next, plunging him into pitch black within seconds.
Sedative, he thinks vaguely as he starts to drift away. He can feel his body being jostled by his attackers, rolled and wrapped in a blanket, then lifted onto a gurney with perfect efficiency.
There’s nothing he can do. He doesn’t know who these people are and why they’re doing this to him – but if they’re sedating him instead of putting a bullet in his head, there’s a good chance he’d be alive, at least for a while, and hopefully long enough for Alec and Max to come find him.
And that’s his last thought just before blacking out completely. He hopes and prays (even though he doesn’t actually believe in any God) that his lover managed to get away safely.
He wakes up tied to a chair in the dark.
His head hurts as he tries to shrug off the effects of the sedative – which reminds him of how he was drugged and kidnapped out of his penthouse this morning.
Was it this morning? He couldn’t be sure. He looks down and is relieved to see at least they clothed him after they found him naked in bed. But then he frowns. He seems to be wearing grey t-shirt and grey camouflage pants, the exact kind Max was wearing when she escaped from Manticore three years ago.
“Not possible…” he whispers, almost surprised to hear his own voice echo back to him.
He squints against the bright strobe light focused right on him in an otherwise dark room. His vision is extremely weak without his glasses, which the bastards probably decided to forget on purpose, and the darkness isn’t helping either. His hands are tied behind the chair he’s seated in, and his ankles are also roped against the legs of the chair.
He tries to stay calm, obviously. No point losing it right away.
He leans back in the chair, resting his aching back. Alec is going to find him; all he has to do is wait these bastards out. Then another thought occurs to him – what if this really is a Manticore thing? What if he’s been kidnapped as a way to get to the transgenics?
Immediately the calm vanishes. He doesn’t want Alec to come for him after all.
Drops of sweat trickle down the back of his neck and into his t-shirt. Suddenly the lights come back on and his worst fears are realized. If his memory serves him well, this place looks eerily similar to some old photographs he once found of the facility in the Wisconsin mountains.
But Manticore was dismantled? Wasn’t it?
“Manticore really is dead, Mr. Cale,” a female voice echoes through the high ceilinged room, startling him. “You and your troublemaker lady friend, Max, saw to that.”
A door opens to the left of him, revealing the silhouette of a woman in a form-fitting mid-length dress, and six-inch stilettos. The heels click ominously as she strides in, emerging from the shadows into the light where Logan can see her.
To say that he is stunned would be a gross understatement. “Ralph?”
She walks in slowly, her hands crossed behind her back. Logan blinks against the strobe light repeatedly just to make sure his weak eyes aren’t deceiving him. The astonishment must be evident on his face because Ralph stops a few feet away from him and crosses her arms in front of her instead.
“This isn’t Manticore anymore, Logan. We are what was left behind in the ashes of Manticore after Max burned it all down. Think. Think hard, Logan. You know us, you’ve heard about us.”
Flashbacks, photographic images, memories of an encrypted transmission he intercepted many, many months ago bubble to the surface. A renegade bunch of Manticore scientists who couldn’t find employment anywhere else because the DoD blacklisted them. Not only that, they were being systematically hunted down by the NSA, along with the transgenics of course. The last two X series to come down the assembly line were designed to be particularly co-dependent on the mothership, so to speak. They simply could not adjust to life outside Manticore.
“We just want things to go back to the way they were. We just want our home back.” Ralph provided the last clue, completing the picture in Logan’s mind. “Is that too much to ask?”
He exhales, partly in relief that comes with knowing, partly in disgust. “Phoenix.”
“We saved your life,” he reminds her softly, feeling a strong sting of betrayal on behalf of both Max and himself, because he was the one who got Ralph and her friends safely across the border into Canada. This is how she returns the favor?
“Which would explain why you and Max aren’t dead yet, wouldn’t it.” She actually says it like she expects him to be thankful.
“So all this time, living in Terminal City… you were spying on us? Why? What do you want from us?”
Ralph moves closer until she is towering over him. “It’s so sweet, you counting yourself in the transgenic collective.” She smirks, which makes Logan want to bitch slap her.
“If you’re worried about your peeps back in TC, please don’t. It is you we wanted, and now we have you.”
“What do you want from me?”
She walks around him until she’s no longer in his line of sight, which makes Logan nervous. “Before you rush to judge, remember what you told me six months ago? Necessity is the mother of enterprise?”
“What did you do, Ralph?”
She comes back around to face him. “We made a teensy little deal with the Conclave to share power in the post-apocalyptic world, that’s all. After the comet comes and kills off all, or at least most of the Ordinaries, we get to rule the world alongside the Familiars.”
“WHAT?” Logan cannot believe what he’s just heard. For one he can’t believe the Familiars actually partnered with transgenics against humans. And two, Ralph seems to be making the assumption that Operation Deliverance will fail. “You really think they will ever see you transgenics as equals?”
She bristles visibly. “That’s not your problem, Logan. Right now, your only problem is whether you get to live another day. All you have to do is give us the antidote to the antidote.”
“The what now?”
“The thing that renders Max’s antidote useless! We know you know about it, Logan. Where is it?”
Logan tries to laugh, but it comes out a strangled gasp more than anything. “I don’t know who’s fed you with these fabrications, Ralph. But there is…”
A feminine hand suddenly shoots out and grabs his jugular with such brute strength he immediately starts to choke. “Trust me, Logan, you do not have the time for these games. We know it exists. I heard you talk about it with my own ears!”
Logan stays silent, his jaw clenched tight with both anger and trepidation.
Ralph smiles, and lets his throat go. “I’ve always liked you, Logan. You’ve been nice to me. But the next few days are not going to be easy if you don’t cooperate.”
Logan still doesn’t respond. Ralph walks away then and the lights go out with her, casting the room back into pitch darkness; darkness that he’s glad for, for a change… because they hide the genuine fear that is starting to show on his face.
He tells himself it’s going to be okay. He just needs to hold on for a few days, until Alec and Max come back from San Diego and find him missing. He can hang on until then. He can do it. He’ll be fine.
He is wrong.
Logan scratches at his wrists absently, again.
“Please stop,” Alec says, startling Logan out of his thoughts.
At first he doesn’t understand what Alec is asking him to ‘stop’. Slowly, Alec gets up from his chair and joins Logan on the couch. “It’s just the healing process. You keep scratching you’ll open your wounds again.”
He picks an ointment of soothing gel from the coffee table and then gently takes Logan’s wrists in his hands. Logan watches blankly as his boyfriend applies the healing gel to the skin circling his wrists, massaging it in gently until the irritation goes away.
“How’re your feet?” Alec asks him, and Logan can only meekly nod.
Alec kneels before him on the carpeted floor and repeats the process with his ankles where there are more shackle burns that’d bled and gotten infected during his time in… captivity.
“I’m sorry, Logan. We shouldn’t have let our guards down around Ralph as quickly as we did,” Alec whispers ruefully, “I should have seen it. She was so eager to get into the command center from the beginning. I-I thought she had a crush on you or something, I mean she was just a kid! So I… I let her stay…”
Logan smiles sadly, still not looking at Alec. He never does look at Alec anymore, which pains the transgenic to no end. “It’s not your fault. I didn’t see it either. None of us did.”
Logan thinks back to the day Alec and Max were forcing him to try the antidote beta test again. How Logan had sighed in exasperation.
“Come on! You know Sandeman said it won’t work on me. ‘Antidote to the antidote’ and all that, remember?”
Alec remembers that day vividly. “Ralph was right there hanging in the background, wasn’t she?”
“So Phoenix knew you had what they wanted in… in you.”
Logan nods again.
Alec loses himself in thought for a moment, then turns back to Logan frowning. “And you’re sure the antidote didn’t work for you?”
A whole twelve seconds of silence later, Alec can’t help but ask. “Then how did you survive, Logan?”
Logan looks at Alec at last, briefly, before looking away again.
“We’ll get to that.”
[Twenty-four days to impact…]
Because of the time-bound urgency of the issue, Phoenix doesn’t waste any time getting right down to business. The first thing they do is come in and take a couple vials of Logan’s blood.
Tied to the chair as he is, he’s unable to fight and it makes Logan extremely nervous – not knowing what his blood is about to give away. He still can’t believe how quickly things have gotten out of hand, hell he’s still processing it all. He’s just a regular guy for God’s sake, and all he ever wanted to do was help. He can’t be the reason Max fails to save all of freaking mankind, he just can’t.
The first two days, they leave Logan alone, waiting for their scientists to do their magic or whatever. Except, Logan Cale’s blood panel is like a Jackson Pollock (or a Joshua number fifty four) on steroids – it is an unrecognizable mishmash of hundreds of antigens and antibodies from multiple transfusions he’s had from different classes of transgenics over the last four years. It is such a mess that it would take their doctors months to identify the specific element they’re looking for.
Unless someone gives them a hint about where to start, or exactly what to look for. That’s when they return to his holding cell.
For the next two days, Ralph tries her best to reason with him. She talks to him, at him, about a world cleansed of all human crimes and anarchies and petty vices, a new world order in which he would have immense power. After all, he’s practically family with all that transgenic blood running in his veins anyway, right?
Logan hears her out patiently, hell, even encourages the completely batshit arguments spewing out of her traitorous mouth that try to rationalize the genocide of seven billion people on the planet.
“Six billion, actually,” Ralph corrects him. “There are nearly a billion Familiars and mutants across the planet.”
Logan rolls his eyes angrily. “How can you expect me to accept the killing of even one person, Ralph, even one?”
He tries to patiently explain to her how ridiculous and asinine all of Ralph’s arguments are too. For one, if you suddenly remove six billion people off the face of the planet, the world economy will completely collapse, so it will be utter anarchy anyway.
It goes on and on between the two of them, until they start to lose patience. And by ‘they’, Ralph probably means the Familiars. The Phoenix is merely a contractor for hire working towards a deadline. Twenty four days to be exact.
One fine morning, Ralph gets it. “You’re stalling.”
Logan looks up at her, his face a blank slate, utterly serene in its unspoken mockery of her and her misguided organization.
She stands up to leave, “I cannot protect you anymore, Logan.”
And then she’s gone. Five minutes later, she comes back in with someone Logan is sure he does not want to know any better. “This is General Barton. He once made a living torturing your government’s prisoners of war in a little place called Guantanamo Bay.”
The man is six feet six and looks about just as wide. He wears a plain black suit with black dress shoes that shine almost as bright as his golden bald head. He looks down at Logan and there is a menacing look in his eyes even when the rest of his face is calm as a stone sculpture. Logan trembles and braces himself for what is to come.
Day five, Barton starts with breaking Logan’s fingers.
“Where is it?”
He moves on to carving Logan’s chest and back with a scalpel.
“What is it? This antidote to the antidote?”
Then he presses burning cigarette ends into Logan’s thighs.
“How did you get it? Who gave it to you? Answer me, damn you. For your own sake, talk to me!”
The torture continues for two days, from daybreak to dusk or until Logan loses consciousness, whichever comes first.
Day six: They try waterboarding him. Apparently Barton was the resident expert back at Gitmo in this particular technique, and he’s delighted to be able to practice his skills once again. The fact that it doesn’t work doesn’t deter him from continuing to try it for a couple of days. Until one session that goes bit too far and they have to resuscitate Logan back to life. Ralph is the one that steps in and pulls rank, reminding Barton they still need Logan alive, not dead.
So they try sleep deprivation and starving instead. For four days and four nights, they keep him locked up inside his holding cell. No food or water, six white strobe lights trained on him day and night, and what sounds like a thousand sirens blaring into the cell every time he so much as blinks.
“You think this will be over once the comet comes and goes, don’t you, big guy? Well, let me tell you – you’re wrong,” he hears Barton whispering in his ear, or at least, he thinks he hears it. It could just be another hallucination.
In the next instant, the voice changes from that of Barton to Ralph’s. “Or maybe you’re hoping your big strong X5 lover will come for you, huh? Newsflash, sweetheart: No one’s coming for you, because no one’s looking for you. No one wants you back. They’re glad to be rid of you.”
Logan fights against the hallucinations, or not, with all his might. He screams, curses, swats the empty air around him, but the words echo inside his head and there is no getting rid of them without maybe scratching his brains out.
With every passing hour, Logan is acutely conscious of his sanity slipping bit by bit. He squirms under the constant heat of the lights and swallows repeatedly to soothe his parched throat, to no avail. And when at the end of day twelve, they finally do let him rest… even asleep his mind remembers it to be the most terrifying six hours of his life, because he is scared to death of what he might have let slip to have earned this award.
When he wakes up, to his great relief (and their great frustration), they’re still asking him the same questions.
“Take pity on yourself, Mr. Cale,” Barton hisses before pulling him out of his makeshift bed, basically a mattress on the floor in the corner of his holding cell, and shoving his weak, unresisting body back into the interrogation chair.
The grey t-shirt and camouflage pants they dressed him in twelve days ago, are now reduced to rags, bloodied and soiled in his own bodily fluids, not to mention sliced up and burnt in places. They hang loosely off his listless frame, indicative that Logan has lost a bunch of weight as well.
And yet something feels different today. Last night, he couldn’t even drag himself to the first cup of water he’d been given in more than ninety-six hours. And yet this morning, he finds he can flex his hands and shins, might even be able to walk if he was allowed to.
Logan looks down at his chest and thighs – at the spots where the skin was charred until just yesterday, or what he remembers to be yesterday. Two fingers in each hand are still in splints, and the others are stiff but mostly healed. With the exception of his wrists and ankles where the rope and/or shackle burns seem to have become nearly permanent, the rest of his body is… healing. And he’s not sure why or how.
“They’re called nanomites.” Ralph startles him, responding to his unvoiced query as if reading his mind. “Manticore developed it, to accelerate the healing process.”
“I’d say thanks but something tells me this wasn’t done for my benefit.”
She smirks. “You’d be right.”
Logan tries not to let the tremors racking his spine show. There’s only one reason he can think of… so they can keep working him over again and again.
But Logan has no idea how much worse things are about to get.
Day thirteen: They bring in the snake.
“Our friends at the Conclave sent us this lovely gift today,” Ralph says, holding a flat hand-woven basket made from bamboo, with the hissing reptile inside.
“Apparently they call this one, ‘Treeda’. Don’t worry. Compared to the Chilean Taripan, the one they use for their Initiations… this one’s just a mild-mannered cousin. I guess after learning how beautifully you reacted to the sleep deprivation, they thought you’d enjoy this baby even more.”
Logan has never been a fan of creepy crawlies. His instinct is to clamber back and away from the snake as far as he can go, except he’s tied to the damn chair again. A muted whimper escapes his throat, but that’s the closest he allows himself to come to showing weakness. That and well, the fact that he chooses to close his eyes tight, instead.
The snake bite itself isn’t painful. But the venom that enters his bloodstream burns. It’s like someone poured acid into his veins and then set them on fire. And this time Logan doesn’t even try to stop himself from screaming.
Worse, the venom acts like a painful hallucinogen, and Logan struggles against it all night. Blabbering away, knowing he is blabbering but unable to stop and once again extremely terrified of what he might give away.
But on the morning of day fourteen when he finally regains consciousness – nothing has changed. Nothing at all.
Logan is disappointed. At the very least, he was hoping to be dead, and for all of this to be over.
He’s given up hope that Max and Alec will ever find him. If they could, they would have by now.
They’re not coming because they’re not looking for you, Logan.
Logan tosses and turns in his bed, or at least he tries to with his hands and feet shackled to the floor. Thoughts of suicide surface with vehemence, but something… maybe the idea of disappointing his lover and friends… is enough to keep them at bay. Guess he hasn’t given up hope after all.
Even if they’re not looking for you…
Logan looks up at the tiny hole in the ceiling which serves as the only window in this prison of his, and tries to decipher the time of day. Looks like twilight, probably a little after seven PM.
He is lying on his flimsy floor mattress in one corner of his cell. The dreaded interrogation chair and table, with another pair of shackles lie not too far away, with a small toilet bowl in the far corner. No privacy, not for prisoners of war.
And this is indeed war.
The door opens, and Logan squints against the bright yellow light streaming in to try and identify who’s coming in next to torture him.
“Darn, it’s you. I was hoping it’d be Barton.” He drawls, when Ralph pulls a chair to sit down next to him. She crosses her legs and leans forward, studying him intently.
“I’m impressed, didn’t think you’d last the night.”
“Yeah,” he sighs, biting back the ‘me neither’ riding the tip of his tongue. “Obviously your snake’s a mudblood.”
Ralph throws him a confused look and Logan can’t help but smirk. Harry Potter wasn’t part of the prescribed reading list at Manticore, clearly.
“Your transgenic blood addiction over the years has made you resilient,” she speculates, ignoring the joke she doesn’t get.
Logan smiles, very aware that she’s pointing out a problem, something her scientists of questionable competence continue to be baffled by, not something they are impressed by.
“Let me guess, your guys still don’t know what’s going on with my blood, do they?”
Ralph clenches her jaw. “You’re right. They’ve been studying your blood now for thirteen days, but are nowhere close to identifying, let alone extracting the antidote to the antidote. They have absolutely no idea what to look for. If they did, I wouldn’t be putting you through so much pain now, would I.”
And that confession makes Logan smirk even more. Ralph stands up all of a sudden. “For the record, I did not want to do this Logan, but you have left me no choice.”
Logan blinks, no longer feeling as secure as he did a second ago, no matter how fleeting a feeling it may have been. “Do what?”
“Hurt my own kind,” Ralph answers oh so self-righteously.
Logan wants to snort; he imagines using the quoty fingers to recount this conversation to Max someday, if he ever gets the chance to, that is.
“Bring him in!” Ralph calls out into her comm-link.
Moments later, two men drag a third one into the room, and drop him to the floor right in front of Logan. Logan sits up on his bed, and tries to decipher the blurry shape hunched over himself (or is it herself?) with his weakened eyes. It takes him a while but once he does, his eyes go wide with absolute dismay and abject horror.