Fandom: The X-Files, Outer Limits, 'In Our Own Image'
Category/Rated: NC17 Slash
Year/Length: ~40,730 words
Pairing: ?/? and ?/? and ?/? and Mulder/Krycek
Spoilers: I really don't think that there are any at all. Oh, Krycek only has one arm.
Disclaimer: If you recognise them, they don't belong to us. If you don't, we'll fight you for them.
Summary: The year is 2010. The alien colonisation has been fought off with the help of the Innobotics developed Mac 27. The world has become a wild place, and much of the population has been killed. The survivors are struggling in the approved post apocalyptic fashion either to impose martial law, or find a brave new world.
Author's Notes: Replicas is the result of several things all conspiring. The first one happened in 1978. Way back then, I lived in England, and wrote occasionally for a music paper called "New Musical Express." Because of this I used to get concert tickets from time to time, and so I became a fan of a musician called Gary Numan, whose group at that time was called the Tubeway Army. He produced a concept album called Replicas, which even today is one of my favourites. When "In Our Own Image" was first shown, I pricked up my ears, because I recalled Replicas, but I didn't know what the heck to do with it. Then, Shadowfox and I set up the NickZone and people began to show an interest in Nick's incarnations other than Alex Krycek, and I nodded. Replicas was gonna fly. Meanwhile, I found that I just couldn't write any more. Words wouldn't flow. Yipe. I was screwed. So then, I started to fool around with the Game, and someone took the Mac 27s to her bosom. My evil eyes lit up with a feral red gleam. There was a chance, if I could just play dead long enough.... So I sent the words to Replicas the album to Ursula, and pretended to be dead. She bit! It was too late. Chortling insanely, I reeled her in, and we began to write. This is the result.
Beta: Thank you to Ursula for patience, and ingenuity, and good humour. To Sebastian for long hours with a magnifying glass, poring over minute errors and setting us straight with her fine beta. To Jennie, for spotting errors that had been hiding, even though she was really tired. To Em, for enthusiasm, catcalls, and hopefully for beta to come.
The clangor of the bell was still strident, but he'd almost edited the sound out of his consciousness, and it remained only as an ache within his viscera. Other than the awareness of it, constant and pounding at gut level, he didn't hear it any more.
All over the base people had gathered, some from the labs, and one or two who had been outside and had managed to get behind the radiation screen before the last, hellish battle for the surface. Now he was detailed to go back outside to discover exactly what was left of the world they'd known.
They'd initialized him only a few weeks before the final holocaust. His job was to go where the humans could not. They told him that his titanium alloy skeleton and polymer muscles were impervious to the deadly things that the vanquished aliens had left in their wake. At first he'd clung to pride in his strength and apparent superiority to the frail flesh of the humanity he served, because humans were cognitive beings rather than complex machines, but gradually he'd begun to see that they had weaknesses too. As he clambered up toward the surface, he shivered fearfully with the knowledge that they were no better, no smarter than he, and that he was infinitely braver than his makers.
They were down there now, watching on the view screen while he climbed the ladder, and he knew that he was less than the merest dog in their eyes. They didn't know his name, and it hadn't even occurred to them that he had one.
The ladder seemed endless. The cold metal rungs were slick, wet with a noxious condensation that made his fingers freeze although he'd been told that he would be capable of climbing out onto the surface without too much of a problem. He hurt. He should have requested deactivation of his pain circuits. Now, his rapidly numbing fingers were making him fear. It would take very little to send him plunging down into the depths of the shaft he was attempting to negotiate.
He didn't want to contemplate the pain that might cause. Even less did he want to think about the unpleasant things that would follow his failure. The entire contingent of Mac 27s might be deactivated, and that would be a terrible burden to assume.
Pondering that thought, he whimpered and stopped his upward climb to cling to the ladder, hook his legs in and place his cold, numb fingers under his arms to warm them. He wouldn't fail. He was a Mac 27, and he would not permit his line to be junked merely because his own performance had been substandard.
There was a long pause while he warmed his hands, and a further period while he attempted to figure out just how much further he had to go. There was little light other than that from the head-mounted flashlight he wore, and when he turned the beam upward, all he could see was the cold metal of the ladder receding into the darkness.
Sighing in an almost human fashion, he resumed his task, pulling himself upwards with gritted teeth, arms and legs thrusting in monotonous but smooth motion. His gaze was turned upward, and he had nothing to do except reach for each new rung, pull and reach again. His mind began to wander back over the events of the recent past. He knew that he was defective in some way; that the rest of his race was able to communicate in a manner that was lost to him. They'd told him when they revived him that this was so, and he had tried, really tried hard to regain the skill.
His mind had remained alone, the solitary, lonely self that no longer had a place or an identity. He had remembered that once he'd borne a name, and he hugged that to him. Damaged he might be; impaired he certainly was. Alone it seemed that he was destined to remain, but he knew his name.
He didn't know why he knew that he was Alex, but know it he did.
When they had revived him there on the steel table in the lab, after the lights had finished sparking and flashing, and when he had finally become capable of curiosity, they had shown him his face in the mirror. They had produced photographs, and asked him if he knew who he was. He had frowned. Of course he knew
It was as though there were a veil between him and the truth. Try as he might, he couldn't see what lay on the other side of the veil. He was damaged, and his face had seemed strange to him. The mirror had spoken of dark hair and a pale face set with huge green eyes that seemed empty. This, he was told, was the Mac 27, and it - he - had been built in imitation of man, to serve man.
At last, just when his joints were threatening to part and his whole body shrieked pain to him, he reached the head of the ladder, and pulled himself into the tunnel that ran at right angles to the deep shaft from which he had just emerged. Now at least if he were to meet with misfortune he would be spared the ignominy of falling back like Icarus, to lie at the feet of the old men who had programmed him. He was saved from being the one to bring about the wholesale termination of his race, which they had so often threatened. He sat down on the edge of the shaft, fumbled in the pocket of the coverall that he wore and drew out a pack of fuel.
He had, it seemed, been built in emulation of humans in this fashion too. His ingestion of fuel was much the same as that of the men who had commissioned him. He proceeded to tear off a chunk of the fuel with strong white teeth and munch at it with great satisfaction. As the fuel slipped down into his central processing system he relished the sensation of comfort that it imparted. He shared this with the humans and for that he was grateful.
The tunnel that he was in wasn't high enough to permit him to stand, so he began to crawl. There were pools of an oily substance on the ground, and though he didn't know why, they made him nervous as he negotiated his way past them. A brief vision of acrid slime that obliterated sight, hearing and scent flickered through his panicked thoughts, then was gone.
His knees were beginning to pain him when at last the tunnel opened out and he was able to stand. There was a slight breeze now, blowing from somewhere ahead of him, and carrying with it smells that were unpleasant. He wondered if the fuel he had consumed would be rejected as the odors assaulted him, but even though his orifice became unpleasantly moist, the candy bar remained inside him. Stairs loomed ahead of him in the darkness, and he began to walk up them, sensing his nearness to the surface as he mounted them steadily.
The stairs were iron, with a banister that was cold, beaded with the moisture that dripped everywhere in this dank, stale smelling space. Sudden movements made him whip his head round. A dimly seen body crouched behind the stairs. He caught a glimpse of wild eyes, and when he trained the beam from his flashlight onto the presence, he made out a young man, scrawny and clad in rags, cowering in the darkness, clutching a toy car to his chest protectively.
"It's all right. I won't hurt you," he murmured, and the youth smiled faintly, starting to move towards him where he stood on the stairs. The kid had almost reached him when a pool of the black, oily substance trickled over the youth's feet. He became rigid, the toy that had been clasped in his hands fell unregarded to the floor and his eyes suddenly swirled, black marring the white.
The shock of what he had just seen was complete. He felt the sudden thrill of warm wetness at his crotch as some unknown process released waste liquids from his interior, and he ran, not wanting to see what would happen next. Somehow, somewhere within him, this situation was known, and he feared it.
When he burst out into the street at last, it was dark. He was still running, panicking as he attempted to put distance between himself and the terrible event that he had just witnessed. He ran on crazily, not taking note of his surroundings in his terror of what might be pursuing him. When finally he stopped his headlong flight, too winded to continue, he looked around him in horror, taking in empty buildings with glassless windows that gaped like the eyes of the youth he had just seen assimilated by the black oil.
He suddenly realized that he didn't know where he was.
He reached into his pocket, fumbling for the paper he had been given that contained the instructions for reaching his destination, and studied it desperately. A sign above the cracked sidewalk proclaimed that this was M Street, and after a moment or two of panic, he found M Street on the map he was holding. Breathing a sigh of relief, he hunted for the phone that he carried. He was supposed to phone in when he reached the surface.
The phone didn't seem to be working. No matter what he did to it, he couldn't get a dial tone from it. Finally he replaced it in his pocket and trudged on through the darkness. He wouldn't fail. All he had to do was follow the map in his hand to find safety, and fulfill his mission.
The mirror at the other side of the table caught his reflection. It was curious that he didnt look like the others. Of course there were the odd models, mostly sex toys for the Masters who desired uncomplicated companionship. His own Master never required sex from him. If he felt an urge, he would call upon one of the Mac-27s to service him. Sometimes, the unit would need many repairs at the end of his use. M-1 didnt understand that, but then perhaps it was, as Spender said, the stress of being in charge of so many lives. He was like a father to everyone here. It took a toll on him and after all, the Mac-27s could be repaired - for the most part anyway.
M-1 was dressed as always in his sleek and shining black armor. His weapons were neatly in place; he checked them every morning. Flame thrower, plam, automatic weapon, and plastic explosive. The compound was reasonably secure, but sometimes subjects got loose. They were very dangerous when that happened; M-1 noted that the humans objected strenuously to the honor of being chosen as a lab animal.
His Master relied on his protection and it was right to protect him, wasnt it? Still, M-1 avoided the scientists section as much as he could. It bothered him to hear the screams and pleading, stirring resentments and urges he knew were the results of poor programming. Sometimes, he really did not like his master - much less love him.
His master called him over, interrupting his thoughts. Sit down, my boy, be comfortable.
Ah, Spender was in a talkative mood. M-1 sat on the footstool, which stood in front of the chair. He lowered his eyes, waiting to be told what his role would be.
You have beautiful eyes. Spender mused. Just as she did. I wonderno, it would be wrong to make a simulacrum of her, a sacrilege. Spender turned M-1's face from side to side as if checking for flaws. He was clean, his expression was alert, and he had no injuries to distract the master from his work or pleasure.
There was a bowl of sunflower seeds on the table. M-1 very much wanted them. He was the only replica to have that craving and the only one who was allowed to eat these treats. Master placed one in his mouth. M-1 held it until Spender said, Enjoy it. Good boy.
Ah, salty and rich, the tidbit was savored and, alas, too soon gone. Spender gave him a whole handful and said, We have cause to celebrate. Another enclave is sending a scout. If he makes it, it is the start of our brave new world.
Stroking M-1s hair, Spender said, Go pick a Mac-27 for me. One I havent had before. Oh, hell, bring me twoa bonded pair if there are any.
Sadly, as he hated this task, M-1 slunk from the room to go to the storage dormitory for the Mac-27s. He ate the sunflower seeds although all the joy was gone because if he let his central processing rebel, as it seemed bound to do, he would be rejecting his master's gift.
Leaving the luxury of the master's quarters, M-1 passed increasingly less ornate apartments. Finally, he came to the replicas warrens. The door to the Mac-27s storage was bolted. Mac-27s were efficient, but also dangerous. Rumor had it that more than one had turned on a creator. If they were not so useful and so beautiful, they would all have been destroyed. However, the procedure and equipment for making replicas was extravagant in power use and materials. The shelter could not waste the already-created androids.
It was dark in the quarters. Androids did not need light to see. There were no beds or furniture of any kind other then crates of fuel. M-1 never understood why he was built with so many flaws. For instance, he was just as blind as a human in the dark. He turned on the light and saw clusters of the Mac-27s. Most were in stasis, conserving energy. A few moved around, consuming fuel, using rags to clean their shells, or communicating with each other.
M-1 announced, My master wishes two companions. He wants a pair, who cleave to each other.
None of the Mac-27s volunteered, but it wasnt hard to choose. Two of the androids had been wrapped in each others arms. M-1 walked over to them and said, You two. This is a great honor.
They clung tighter together and huddled as if about to refuse. M-1 said, It is duty, Mac-27s. Your purpose is to serve.
Frightened green eyes looked up at him. Was something wrong? His internal sensors registered major disruption of the type that warned a replica of serious damage. It was as pain was to a human, but why he should feel pain at the look in the Mac-27s eyes was beyond him. M-1 decided he would check on this later. First he must obey his master.
The Mac-27s rose and mournfully followed him. They were the same yet differed subtly from all the rest. Their hair was a bit longer and extra detail had been given their eyelashes. The faces were sculpted so beautifully that M-1 felt a wave of his own desire. He repressed it. The master would occasionally urge him to mount a Mac-27 and would watch him do so with great pleasure. However, M-1 had noted that it was after these episodes that Spender would take ruthless joy in dismantling the android in painful ways.
The public baths werent very crowded for once. The few humans that used them were nervous around M-1 and the Mac-27s. Several left without using the facilities at all. The ones that stayed turned their eyes away.
Wash. M-1 said to the Mac-27s. The androids stood on the recycling pads and used the grayish water to sponge each other clean. Their bodies were so beautiful - lean, long sculpted muscles, padded with esthetically correct amounts of flesh. The chests were hairless. They had such rosy nipples, perfect little furls of pink atop the swell of pectoral development. The stomachs were gently hollowed, framed with powerful structure. Each leg was long, so incredibly lengthy and well shaped with the faintest sweet bow to each limb. M-1 couldnt help but wonder about the human who had modeled for these. Had he survived? It would be a crime against god and nature if he had perished.
The Mac-27s kissed and clung to each other sadly when they were clean. M-1 was envious and asked, Why do you seek each other? Would it not be more efficient to conserve energy and just save your pleasure circuits for the masters?
The slightly bigger Mac-27 answered, Efficient is not always best. Humans merely use us. My beloved and I seek only good for each other. He is the only one I desire. I pity you, M-1, for not knowing what it is to love.
I love my master. M-1 claimed.
The Mac-27 turned insolent eyes on him and said, Do you?
M-1 couldnt understand why he slapped the creature. He never abused captives - or indeed anyone in the enclave, unless Spender gave him a direct order, which the man seldom did. He had thugs who were better at bullying the subordinates. M-1 was for higher purposes, helping him plan strategy or to understand the various people with whom they had to work.
Wishing he could be anywhere else, M-1 held the bigger Mac-27 on a choke chain as Spender used an electrical disrupter on his mate. Finally, Spender, groaning with pleasure, told M-1 to bring the Mac-27 over. Suck me and make it good enough to distract me from your little friend.
The android knelt but not before shooting a look of such incredible hatred that M-1 felt it necessary to check his replica disrupter was in the slot in his belt. Upsetting as this was, M-1 found himself chewing on his lip as the android obeyed. He could imagine how good that tongue would feel on his own cock, the feel of that hand gently milking the testicle sac and supporting the heavy weight of him.
The Mac-27 looked at him and said, Lube.
M-1 brought it and the android dipped a finger in it to penetrate Spenders seamed ass. The old man shuddered and thrust deeply. He glanced over as M-1 got up to leave and grabbed his hair. He held on, twisting M-1's locks in his hand until he came in the Mac-27s mouth.
Lying there gasping on the bed as the android licked him clean, Spender finally let go. He looked at M-1 and said, Fuck the other one.
The tortured Mac-27 was still sobbing, lubricant for his delicate lenses soaking his luxuriant eyelashes. M-1 said, Please, Master, it is still hurt. Let me ease its suffering with a repair kit first.
Spender leapt from the bed with surprising energy. He grabbed M-1 and slapped him to the floor. Even as M-1 curled, Spender snarled, No, expose your stomach to me.
It took all the discipline in his nature to resist defending himself. M-1 lay there as his master kicked him twice, once in the chest and then in the groin. Spender growled to the Mac-27s, Strip him and take him to your quarters. Any Mac-27 who wants him may have him.
Saliva dripped down the Master's chin as he looked at M-1. He said, After all the love and care I have lavished on you, you still do this to defy me? Take him away.
His uniform and weapons were stripped from him. M-1 only hoped that his master would relent after a while. He shuddered to think what the Mac-27s would do in revenge for the many times he'd had to select one for his master to abuse; for it was abuse, M-1 knew that in his deepest core.
The Mac 27 roughly pulled him up and took hold of his comrade as well. Spender laughed and said, Oh, not him, I am greatly amused by this one. What exquisite programming he has. I would almost believe he was the original by his sweet squirming and pleading. I think I will continue to amuse myself with him.
The android's hand on his arm tightened to the point of pain. M-1 was hunched over from the fire in his chest and belly and could not support his own weight. He hung on the strong arm of the other replica. After the door shut, the Mac 27 hissed, Do you see now? Did you think you were really special? Get off your cloud, M-1, look around you. Do you think that the humans are any better than we are?
Sobbing, M-1 remained on the floor, waiting for the first Mac-27 to abuse him. None of them did. He looked up and met disgusted eyes or indifferent ones. The Mac-27 whose lover had been taken squatted next to him. He said, Were not as sick as your beloved master. Rape has no interest for us.
A cup of water with sugar in it for fuel was offered to him. M-1 drank and then sank in an exhausted heap on the floor. He slept for a while, until much later, the fragile Mac 27 was cast back into the storage area. Its skin hung in tatters and it wailed in a dissonant tone that suggested serious drive malfunctions. Despite his hideous appearance, his lover gathered him to his arms and said, Well fix you up. Dont be afraid. I have you. Ill always be with you.
The goon laughed and said, Shit, some of these things think they are human. He grabbed M-1 by the hair and said, Time to clean up. Your master wants you. We have a visitor.
Obediently, M-1 struggled up and staggered out of the Mac-27 storage. Despite his condition, his synapses raced with excitement. A stranger from another enclave? He wondered if there were other M-1 types in that enclave. His curiosity was boundless and his eagerness made it easy to ignore the aches and pains in his self-repairing program. He wished he were like the other replicas. Self-healing might be ecologically sound, but it took so long and was disabling in the process. M-1 wished he were in better shape. He needed a clear head to assess the strangers degree of risk to the master. He ignored the little voice that told him that he would be glad to see something horrible happen to Spender. He must be a good replica or he would be destroyed
He'd been conducted to see the old man, who had appeared to find him a source of some hidden amusement as he questioned him about the journey he had made, and about the survivors back in the underground bunker he had left behind him.
The questions had seemed to go on forever, and he sensed that he had sustained damage in some unsuspected manner, because he kept feeling the need to shut down and go into dormant mode. The old man had struck his face repeatedly as he'd slumped, and it had been with difficulty that he had concluded his report.
The arrival of the android that was to take him to the Mac 27's quarters took him by surprise. This one wasn't in his own image. This one was as tall, true, but he was slim, wiry, with a pair of eyes that stared through him knowingly, full lips that were molded as though inviting kisses, and his aspect was disturbing to him. Strange resonances were making themselves felt somewhere deep within him as he studied the M-1's appearance. He shook his head angrily hoping to clear the sudden, uncharacteristic confusion that he was feeling, but he couldn't. Flashes of another time, and another place, and this construct seated on the floor looking confused while he-android extended a gun...
He didn't know what it meant. It was something that he didn't want to ponder. The very thought was enough to make his head pound.
As M-1 left the room, the lights went out. Mac 27s needed no light to see, each having his own infrared vision. This being the case he had no idea - had never been able to comprehend -- why he couldn't perceive his surroundings. He groped for the head mounted torch that he still wore and made for the refreshment unit, turning on the shower with gratitude before positioning the lamp to shed its light where he needed it. Then he stepped beneath the wash of warm water and began to soap himself with a sigh.
His sense receptors were tingling with the pleasure of the cleansing water, and he wondered again at the response of his neural net to the presence of the M-1 android. He could feel the build up of excitement within him despite the fact that he was reluctant to think of the strange, disturbing presence to which he had been introduced. His lower connection had become rigid, something that made him afraid. He could not recall this happening to him before, and it made him nervous and jittery. He washed the soap from the offending part, and almost fell to his knees as a wash of pleasure swept him.
Stepping from beneath the water he dried himself swiftly and stumbled back to the communal area, hoping that one of the older models would be able to assist him in his predicament. He hadn't been programmed for this. It was outside his experience, and therefore suspect. He knew that he would be disciplined for behavior not permitted to the Mac 27s. Frantically he displayed his engorged lower body and the offending appendage that bobbed there.
"This is something I don't recognize. Can someone assist me in making sense of its purpose?" He looked around at the few androids that were not shut down. The room was not pleasant. Peeling paint hung in curling skeins, like moss in a forest, and cobwebs clung thickly to pipes that ran along the ceiling.
One of the androids cast a glance at his problem, and moved to him, seizing it firmly and making him gasp as that unfamiliar feeling shivered through him once again.
"P-please What can I do to stop this? I don't think I'm permitted to experience it." His voice sounded very faint and strained in the silence of the storage facility, and for a moment he experienced a flickering memory of a time that was outside his knowledge. There was the feel of something acrid and oily that burned his sinuses, and he thought he would choke, or suffocate. The sensation receded and he was left with only a vague, panicky feeling as the Mac 27 that had come to his aid began to move his hand rhythmically over the swollen appendage that protruded from his thighs, causing the delicious tingling to spiral out of control within him. Suddenly he could no longer breathe as something incredible span through his body, something impossibly good, that caused a wicked, prickling flood of heat through his strangely behaving lower regions, then he slumped against the other android, holding onto him as if he were about to fall.
"You are not a Mac 27," said the other as he steadied him. "Why are you here?"
The words didn't sink in for a moment, so lost was he in the wonderful feelings that had been caused by this interaction, but then he suddenly understood what was being said to him.
"Not a Mac 27?" he gasped. "If not, what am I?"
"You are a human. This is most disturbing. Why do you suppose that the humans have disowned you?" His mentor felt him stagger and lowered him down to rest on the floor. He thought that he was to be abandoned, but after a minute the Mac 27 joined him, sitting alongside him and pulling him to lie in his lap. Such was the envoy's need to shut down that he felt his head swimming, and it seemed that his mentor was aware of that because the last thing he sensed after the flashlight was extinguished was the android's hand stroking his hair. Then, he knew no more.
When Alexs consciousness returned, he was still cradled in the arms of the one who'd assisted him the night before. He was experiencing strange confusion.
The Mac 27s words from the previous night echoed and rolled within his head. "You are a human."
If he was a human, who was he? How did he get here? He didn't understand. Alex whimpered softly and the one that was comforting him passed a gentle hand over his shoulder, raising him up to lean against his chest. He wished that he could see his benefactor in the stygian darkness.
The replica hugged Alex against him. "There is another like you. He was with us a few hours before you came. I am not sure why the humans are playing this game. What would they gain from causing you to believe that you are an artificial construct?" Alex frowned. Something was causing his belly to experience pain. It was making sounds that were unfamiliar to him, and his mentor chuckled.
"You are in need of fuel, human. What is your designation?" He set Alex aside and crossed the room. As the Mac 27 took his place at Alexs side once more, he pressed something into his hand, and at his urging, Alex brought it up to his oral cavity. The taste was sweet, and the texture solid, crumbling to nothingness as Alex chewed. Alex thanked the replica, who placed his arm around him once again, pulling him snugly in against his shoulder. The comfort was welcome.
"My designation?" Alex mumbled around a mouthful of sweet fuel. "I have no idea. Why don't I have any memory of who I am?" He sat up as his predicament came home to him. "I know nothing about myself. I don't even recall things that I should know. What was that thing that happened to me last night?"
His pack was heavy. He looked more like a gnome then ever, hunched under the weight of the spoils. His hair had continued to recede. Now he had a fringe of rag-mop proportions straggling around his shoulders. Hearing a noise, Frohike ducked into a crevice between the ruins of two buildings.
Fucking Mac 27 ghosting through the rubble. It was getting worse lately. The android enforcers used to stay close to the shelters, making quick trips to gather supplies, but lately they had been exploring further afield. This one was far from home; it wore the brown coverall of the shelter under the former Naval Intelligence headquarters. It seemed to be heading for the biggest enclave of the bastards who thrived like fat leeches on the blood of betrayed humanity.
The Krycek-faced android stumbled and made a sound as he encountered some shard of metal. He brought a finger up to his mouth and Frohike saw red blood on the flesh. The android also had what appeared to be a bruise on his face. Point of factMac27s could ooze fake blood, but Frohike had never seen one that bruised.
It wasnt a Mac 27. Frohike was sure of it.
Could it be him? Could it be Krycek? Long lost; mourned as dead?
Hed been their brain, as Scully had been their heart, and Walter Skinner, the strong back of the Resistance.
One by one, their leaders had been picked off. Scully had died raving with fever, felled by one of the mutated diseases, as she tried to nurse the camp with few medications and under the most primitive of conditions. Walter Skinner had died a year later when someone had betrayed them to the Consortium. He had insisted on staying with the rear-guard to hold them off as the others escaped. Alex and Frohike had gone back and seen the body, surrounded by a pile of the enemy dead. A grim smile remained on the blood-splattered face, at rest at last.
It had been a relatively peaceful time when Krycek heard the rumor that Mulder was alive; found by the Mac 27s that Krycek had led to victory against his alien captors.
Frohike had warned him not to go, begged him to let someone else take the risk; he'd even volunteered; however, it had been futile. From the moment that the supposed escapee from the enclave had said Mulders name, there had been a look in Kryceks eyes. The man had never said what was between Frohikes beloved friend and himself. He didnt have to voice what was evident in the fever-bright look in his eyes and the husky tremor in his speech as he said, Im going after him. We need him.
Theyd survived without Alex. Hed stayed long enough to teach them how to disable an android just as he had drilled them all in the art of killing the aliens. Frohike missed him. They all missed him more than Frohike ever would believe they could feel for the Ratboy.
Before Frohike could make up his mind what to do, the man disappeared into what appeared to be a sewer, but which must be yet another opening to the bomb shelter that Frohike knew existed somewhere in the vicinity. Somehow, Frohike couldnt believe Krycek had betrayed them and gone to live with Spender in his hole. No, whatever Krycek had done in the past, he had been on the right side in the end. Frohike knew that, with the certainty of a brother in arms.
Frohike took a convoluted route back to the camp. It was almost time to move again anyway. Never put roots down, that was the rule. The guard was a boy; one who had come to adulthood in this Dark Age at the end of time. Frohike nodded and handed the kid a tin of chocolates hed found. What was the kid's name? Timmy? Or, no, it was Tommy, a thin yellow-brown kid who should have been toting a load of schoolbooks instead of the automatic that he was shouldering.
Looking up from the fire, where he was roasting most of a deer, Dennis looked old and tired. Hed brought fifteen members of his tribe to safety over a hundred miles of oil-contaminated territory. Of course, they'd started out with thirty Still, the skills, the toughness, and the humor in the trenches of the Indians had been an aid to the odd cluster of survivalists, technogeeks, and those with luck. Damned if Frohike thought it was good luck or bad to survive all of this.
A mound of covers gently lifting and falling, in time with a sibilant snore, announced that Langly had been on night-guard last night. Byers was reading, his precious glasses duct-taped together in a manner that would once have horrified him. He looked up, smiling wistfully at Frohike.
Hey, John, look what I found Frohike said, handing over the frames he was sure would fit Johns lenses. He grinned and produced the beard-comb with a flourish.
Youre too good to me, Byers said, his tidy mouth quivering.
Hey, now, Frohike chided. Chin up. Were the Lone Gunman. We have our reputation to consider.
That made John laugh. Frohike knew why. Who would think they would be among the last free men and women on earth? Damn the vultures who had played dead, hiding beneath the earth like cockroaches until the aliens had fallen under the hands of Kryceks secret weapons, his replicas.
Krycek Frohike said, John, I saw him. Im sure it was Krycek. He had bruises, and I dont know he moved differently from the Mac 27s. I know where he went. I want to move the camp and then go back and wait. You know what that evil old man does to us, twisting minds and breaking bodies. If we could only get Krycek back
Combing his beard in sure motions, John closed his eyes with the simple pleasure of doing something just the way he used to do it before the world had fallen apart He said, Well check it out, Melvin. Hell, maybe he found Mulder. If we had them boththere would be hope.
Slumping down beside his old friend, Frohike slipped his arm over Johns shoulder. They clung to each other as they always did, indivisible and undefeated.
So kind Spender fed him from the bowl of sunflower seeds as he studied the reports that the envoy had brought. M-1 knelt at masters feet, happy to be forgiven. Every once in a while, the withered hand stroked his hair, bringing M-1s head to lean against his leg. Spender was happy. The envoys journey had proven that it could be done. They would unite with the long separated shelter on the other side of DC, and gain strength to reshape the world as they would have it.
A brisk knock on the door announced the arrival of General Howell. He was old and had white hair like the master. He was a harsh, hatchet-faced man whose gray eyes were colder than any replica. He was tall, still strong despite his wrinkled face. He spent hours in the gym, building his body to a heavy mass of muscle. It was muscle that he used to bully and to rape. He was not one who used the Mac 27s or even kept a specialized android. He preferred females that he captured from above. They never seemed to last long, but he was adept at luring them into one of the entrances to the enclave. That was a major reason M-1 disliked the man.
It irritated M-1 that the man was always impatient and entered before the master had even invited him. Howell should be respectful. Spender was the savior. Had he not arranged for this shelter? Did he not order the creation of the Mac 27s who had destroyed the aliens? He must have honor for his deeds.
There were other reasons why M-1 disliked the general. The man always looked at him strangely, and M-1 had heard him say to Spender that M-1 was a dangerous indulgence that should be destroyed. Something in M-1 did not accept the idea of being permanently shut down. He wanted to no, he couldnt remember, but once he'd had a purpose. Finding someone? Shadowy faces flitted on the edge of his memory, but when he tried to break through and put names to them it hurt. His mind throbbed in fiery spasms, as if a replica disrupter was being held to his skull.
The two men talked for hours. M-1 grew tired and wished to shut down, but he couldnt do that while the master was awake. Finally, Spender dismissed Howell with a yawn and a wave of the hand. M-1 hoped that the master was tired and would wish to sleep. The screams of the poor Mac 27 whom Spender had tortured the previous night still bothered him. Truly he himself had deserved to be hurt just as that replica had suffered. Why hadnt the Mac 27s punished him when they'd had a chance? M-1 knew he deserved it.
Spender laughed and said, M-1, go to the Mac 27 vault and bring me the new one.
Remembering the strange feelings he'd had when he'd seen the envoy, M-1 shook his head. He said, Master, there is something different about that replica Is it wise to use him? He might be one of the bad ones.
Grasping M-1s chin, Spender twisted it cruelly. He said, Dont question me, boy. Dont forget. Youre just an android and I know how to make you suffer, endlessly suffer.
Excess fluids running down his face, M-1 ground his teeth together and tried not to cry out, but as the master wrenched his head back until dark red splotches rose before his eyes, M-1 whimpered. He said, Im sorry, Master. Please?
Why did it hurt when Spender wrenched his head back and forth by the foliage that covered his skull? Mac27s were made to experience damage as pain, to help them avoid destruction, but none of them were as weak as M-1, who seemed as fragile as the replicas mind shied away from the completed thought.
Letting him go, Spender said, Bring him here, M-1. I want you to prepare him right here where I can watch.
The pale blue eyes glittered. How excited the man was. M-1 was puzzled. Why would he be so eager to explore the envoy? It was not even the most beautiful modification of Mac 27. It had been rather dirty and there were odd colors on its skin covering. It was underweight, and the pelt that covered his skull was a little ragged, as if someone had been indecisive about what length to make it.
M-1 said, Master, I was just concerned for you.
That made Spender laugh and laugh. Oh, certainly, you only have my best interests at heart. Thats how I made you, sweet boy. Programmed you with such exquisite care to love me. And you do love me, MulM-1.
Spender seemed nervous and he said, Hurry now. You know how it grieves me to discipline you, M-1. Dont force my hand.
Yes, Master. Ill be right back, M-1 replied.
Running down the halls, M-1 was oblivious to the figures that pressed along the sides to avoid him. He knew only that he must not tarry. He was a good runner. It always made him feel as if running were fuel to eat. He liked it, but now he ran only to avoid displeasing the master. He wanted, needed Spender to love him. His survival depended on it.
Hostile eyes met his. Cat-eyes shining in the semi-dark. There were minute differences between the various Mac 27s, some the result of special orders, and others anomalies of the manufacturing process. Most of the enclave had to look at a number badge to tell them apart, but M-1 knew them all as individuals. He had no trouble picking out the new replica. Something about the android stirred him despite the fact that he had been poorly maintained.
Trying to look reassuring, M-1 held out his hand and said, The master honors you with his favors tonight.
The Mac 27 stared at him, an intense gaze that brought forward disturbing images. It made M-1 want to take the Mac-27 - not to his master but to some richly appointed elders quarters - to lie him down on the bed and to perform the acts that the master made him do with the others. Only this time, it was not to please Spender; it was some unfulfilled feeling as if he had a hunger that fuel could not satisfy. M-1 found his oxygen intake increasing, and he could not regulate it. A pleasant, heated heaviness grew between his legs. He knew it was wrong, a malfunction, yet he did not want to tell his master. Somehow he knew he should not admit that he desired this Mac 27.
This is very wrong, uttered the control unit for the Mac 27s. The old and complexly programmed android had been sitting protectively with the envoy. Take me. I can handle Spender. M-1, there are very good reasons for you to refuse your master this pleasure. The unit your master desires
Must obey, M-1 said, holding out his replica disrupter. The new Mac 27 stood slowly. His head hung down and he shuffled his feet.
What will he do with me? the unit asked.
It is a human thing, pleasure. You may enjoy it. Surely some master in your enclave chose you for this before? M-1 said.
No. I was kept apart for some reason. The replicas face took on a strange shade, a heightening of color. Plaintively, the Mac 27 said, I dont know how to perform this function. I dont know how to please your master, and I dont want to be punished.
You are beautiful. You will do fine, M-1 declared, and suddenly he realized it was true. There was something so mutable and wild in the thin face that it gave a special radiance to the features; a radiance that shone right through the travel-worn skin. He hoped his master wouldnt hurt this one. Perhaps, Spender would order M-1 to play with the new replica. He hoped so with a fierce passion.
Some one at the Naval academy was holding out on Spender, and once they were back in regular contact he would find out whom and punish them. In the chaos toward the end, he had lost track of Krycek. He knew his favorite former henchmen and slave had organized the effort that had destroyed the ships and most of the aliens.
Of course, Spender had taken credit for the victory once it was in hand. Discovering the small and radical company who had taken an alien invention and adapted it for human usage was just a small part of the success. Innobotics hadnt been much when he'd bought it. The company had consisted of two branches; one manufactured prosthetic limbs, and the other specialized in Waldos for highly dangerous use, or for extremely minute operations.
One of the Consortiums captive scientists, a sentimental old fool, had stumbled upon the machine in area 51. He was given permission to study it and somehow discovered its purpose. With it the aliens produced replicas that could survive harsher conditioners than possible for the clones. And of course, androids were resistant to the black oil and to the ferocious appetites of the mindless Grays that spawned from larvae infected hosts. Innobotics had the correct set up for large-scale manufacturing. The scientist had come to Spender, thrilled at his discovery. He'd seen it as a means of relieving humanity of onerous chores and possibly a way of decanting brains trapped in useless bodies into the android forms.
The first replica was of Alex. It was serviceable, but not intelligent enough to be of use for much, merely simple assassination or two such as that of Bill Mulder when he'd given in to alcoholics regrets. It had been disappointing. What Spender had in mind was an operative with Kryceks inventiveness and survival instincts, but one that could be trusted to remain obedient.
One night, spending a dull evening watching a video of Mulder playing videos of the original Star Trek, Spender had a brainstorm. After looking up what engrams were, Spender decided not to waste Krycek in the tomb of that silo after all. A small amount of human brain tissue harvested from fetal clones, intermingled with the most advanced neuro-net for computers known to the consortium produced the first Mac-27. Imposing edited parts of Kryceks personality on the android had been highly successful.
When the time schedule had stepped up for the alien invasion, Spenders pet project had been laid aside. It took Krycek to see another use for his doubles. He had rescued the Mac 27s from the dust heap and trained them to kill aliens. It wasnt any of the methods that Spender had considered in the past that destroyed the aliens so totally. It had been Mac 27s in hand-to-hand combat with them, combined with Kryceks cunning in searching out and invading the ships.
A pragmatic man, Spender had no investment in siding with the aliens once they were losing. Briefly and secretly, he had allied with Krycek, until the man had thrown him down the stairs after Spender had tricked him into betraying Mulder.
Krycek might have been excused for his inefficiency on the grounds of his emotions. Spender had known very well that Krycek adored Mulder, in fact had counted on it, and Krycek, wrong for once, had stumbled into the deadly trap hed been shown.
Spender had been expecting his reward when Alex and deadly sweet Marita had finally appeared to confront him. Hed gotten it, but it hadnt been the reward hed expected. The final moment when hed realized that Krycek intended him to die had been salutary. Fortunately, his well-paid nurse had kept him alive until the healer had arrived to put Humpty Dumpy together again.
Too bad he hadnt caught up with Alex before nowthere were so many old times he wanted to review with the man. He smiled, because he'd known from first sight that this envoy was not a Mac 27, not even a clone. Even in this damaged form, Spender knew his lovely, defiant boy. He was going to make brand new fond memories tonight.
M-1 led the reluctant Mac-27 into his masters chambers. Spender was wearing his favorite pajamas, black satin with a red velvet collar. He had a smoking jacket over this. M-1 didnt understand why the garment, a soft, comfortable, unstructured thing, was called a smoking jacket; after all, any jacket Spender wore was a smoking jacket.
M-1s systems continued to behave as if his regulator was out of whack. He seriously thought he had better ask for repair. Not now, however. Spender had a basin of water set up along with sponges and lotions. This was not the usual procedure at all. Spender sat in his armchair and smiled; gesturing with his cigarette. Undress him. Do it slowly for me.
This was all so strange. Spender never asked for anything like that. Hed never seemed so excited by any of the other Mac 27s at least not until he was hurting them. M-1 touched the cold metal of the zipper at the top of the coverall. The back of his hand brushed the envoys chin. Glancing up, he saw that the green eyes looked wide and frightened. They changed color as he watched. That was different. All of the Mac 27s had beautiful eyes, but none of them in his experience had quite this many shades.
Spenders impatient, Well? made M-1 realize that he had just been standing there, the zipper in his fingers growing warmer from the heat of his flesh. He felt a sensation that visited him when his master made him do terrible things. He thought it was an emotion called 'shame'.
Lowering the zipper, M-1s mouth went dry, and his eyes grew damp. Even the sight of the discolored flesh seemed to thrill him. Something writhed in the back of his brain. It was a memory of excitement, pleasure intermingling with self-loathing as he hurt a Mac 27. They had been in an area with huge amounts of space, rushing strangers, and many of the wall-telephones that no one used anymore.
The coarse material under his fingers seemed wrong both in color and texture. He remembered soft, worn brown or black skin-like cloth as something associated with this man. The scent was not quite right too. It stirred images, but there should have been more, leather and perhaps some kind of spicy smell.
M-1 knelt and removed the sturdy half boots one at a time. How odd that this one wore cloth coverings between the surface and the shoe just as Spender told M-1 always to do. None of the Mac 27s needed these odd garments.
Something about the foot? Tickling it? Tasting it? Hed never done such a thing. Looking up was rapture. M-1 found his mouth opening. He leaned close to the envoy, hands against his trembling thighs. Just a taste of the enticing-smelling cock that seemed to be reacting to his proximity.
Mine, Spender said, bluntly. Wash him for me, M-1.
The water was hot and scented. M-1 loved doing this, running a sponge over every inch of the quietly shaking body. He glanced at his master and noticed how he hung on every movement of M-1s hands. The rosy-brown, wrinkled nipples stiffened as he paid attention to them. The flat belly heaved, as if the Mac 27 had been running. Gasps that had nothing to do with ventilation of oxygen emitted from the chest, which was gently shaped into glistening planes of clearly defined muscle. M-1 knelt again to wash the creature's legs and feet.
Dont forget the good parts, M-1. I want them clean, Spender instructed.
Nodding, M-1 prepared the sponge. How the curls glistened over the groin. The heavy cock felt so right in his hand as if it was somehow as familiar as his own. M-1 shuddered, as he heard a voice somehow both rough and sweet, pleading with him, Let me come, Chrrisst, Mulder. Now.
His head hurt and M-1 scrambled away from the source of his discomfort. His master was very angry. Walking over, Spender grabbed him by the hair, pulled it hard and shook him by it. Get back to your duty, M-1, you disobedient child!
The Mac 27 had a fierce look in his eyes, and his mouth - that lovely sculptured mouth that looked so childlike - was fixed in a snarl, baring white, white teeth. It made a move toward Spender, who shoved M-1 away disdainfully. Go finish bathing him for me.
The envoy asked, Did he hurt you? in a low whisper.
M-1 found that curious. He answered, Hes the master. Please obey him, Mac 27 Zero?
Zero was an odd serial number. Most of the remaining Mac 27s had higher numbers. The first ones had been destroyed in great numbers in the war, although of course M-1 only knew that from being told. He was a later model, one that hadnt quite worked out, but which had, he was told, amused his master.
The pain was a strident voice at the back of M-1s neuro-net cover, but he willed himself to ignore it. He finished washing the well-shaped parts. He noticed that the envoy shifted from foot to foot and drew in his teeth. Attenuated lashes veiled the eyes, shading their expressive nature from view.
Come here, Mac 27, Master said, Lie over the bed so M-1 can wash your ass well.
Master joined them on the bed. His yellow-fingered hands, splotched like the rats which M-1 often saw running in the less used parts of the shelter, stroked over the smooth flesh of Mac 27 Zero greedily. He held the rounded cheeks apart as M-1 faithfully cleaned between them.
Use your tongue to finish cleaning him, Spender demanded.
What? M-1 asked.
Breathing raggedly as he stripped off his pajamas, Spender replied, You heard me, M-1. Do it.
This was so strange and yet when he began, something started to happen. He had never had control over his male appendage. Often when Spender wanted him to put in the ass of a Mac 27, he had not even been able to get it to rise. Now, unbidden, it was pressing painfully against his black uniform, begging to be released and to bury itself in the Mac-27s hot flesh.
M-1s eyes were closed, as he lost himself in the sensation of what he was doing. He groaned as he licked and his jaws ached, but he didnt want to stop. The Mac 27 was contorting in quick, humping motions as M-1 attended to him. Stealthily, M-1 felt for the envoys cock. It was hard. He wanted to stroke its furnace-like heat, enjoy the strange texture of the flesh, so flexible and responsive.
All of a sudden, Master dashed him aside, saying, You go to far, M-1. Ill have to punish you.
For the first time that M-1 could remember, he wanted to defy his master. He wanted Mac 27 Zero for his own.
M-1 bit his lips until salty bittersweet lubricant oozed from them. This wasnt right. The Mac 27 said, Dont. I wont. I dont like this, Master. Please.
It was ugly. Spenders ass was white, withered, with dark blue veins showing through. Its rapid movement seemed so wrong as he mounted the Mac-27, cursing him as he fucked the perfect flesh beneath him. He slapped the Mac 27 as his rhythm began to build in speed. It didnt last long before Spender rolled off, gasping like like someone dying in a chamber when the oxygen was sucked out.
Curling on his side, Mac 27 Zero made strange sounds, harsh ones as if he had eaten bad fuel or had one of the sicknesses that humans got topside. M-1 hated it. His arousal was gone. He felt a strong urge to comfort the Mac 27, but his Master would never permit that.
Reaching for the odd Mac 27, Spender pulled him out of the tight curl of flesh. Lick me clean, he demanded.
The Mac 27 shook his head. He had great drops of lubricant flowing down his cheeks. Oddly enough, his little upturned nose was getting red and his breathing sounded wet. No, no, no, leave me alone.
The belt, M-1, get it for me, Spender demanded.
Knowing it was the stranger or himself, M-1 handed over the heavy, embossed leather strap. Spenders cock rose a little as he laid down a heavy barrage of blows.
At first, the Mac 27 just lay there, taking it, but as Spender raised his arm higher and higher to strike harder, suddenly the envoy seemed to explode. M-1 had never seen anyone move that fast. In a flash the leather strap was around Spenders neck and the Mac 27 was pulling it tighter and tighter. Spender gasped, Disrupt him.
M-1 jabbed the replica disrupter into the envoy's spine and squeezed the handle, feeling the reverberation of the weapon and the sudden, steel-hard spasm that froze the Mac 27 in mid action. At last, Mac 27 fell away. M-1 looked at the figure curled at his feet and then at his Master. He wished it were the opposite way. He struggled to keep his mind right. He must love and obey the Master. He must.
Rubbing his neck, Spender went to a mirror and examined himself. As soon as he could breath without wheezing, the belt was applied to M-1s back with as much vehemence as he could muster. Undress. If you cant defend me as a soldier, you dont deserve that uniform. You had better think about your punishment, M-1. You are going to find that I am not apt to forgive this soon.
Master beat them alternately until he was exhausted and then had some of his human guards drag them both back to the Mac 27 storage facility. M-1 felt the odd Mac 27 curl into the warmth of his belly with a whimper of pain after the place grew silent around them. Voices washed over his fragile consciousness as he sprawled suffering on the floor.
Somethings wrong. I know theres programming missing.
They are hurt, badly hurt. Why are the humans pretending they are replicas?
Gentle hands bathed them, washing the stink of Spender from their flesh. Something burned behind M-1s closed eyes. They were so kind and he had betrayed them...
All of the voices melded into one that somehow comforted him. Despite his anger at the Mac 27 for causing his fall from favor, M-1 drew him close, their sore bodies huddled together in the dark.
Pain shimmered in the darkness, burst behind his night-dazzled eyes each time he moved. His shut down was not complete. There was pain in the stiffness of his limbs, agony in the torn tissue of his hindquarters, and his back felt as though it were on fire. He dozed, miserable in his isolation from the main body of Mac 27s, wishing that he could tie into their common thoughts and discover what was happening to him.
The other, the M-1 unit that had been beaten for trying to assist him lay next to him, and what comfort there was in the agonizing night came from the contact of that other's body with his.
M-1's arm was around his waist and his face pressed into his shoulder. He appeared to have succeeded in shutting down, and there was a faint, regular sound emanating from his lips, as if he were suffering some lack of lubricant to gears within. Mac 27 didn't know how to repair the unit, but he found the faint sounds of dysfunction somehow comforting, almost as if he had heard them before at a time when he had felt secure. This was a puzzle to him. Why would the sound be soothing? What did his feeling of comfort have to do with the close proximity of this unit?
He stirred against M-1, and heard it moan as its arms tightened around his chest, pulling him back against the lean body until he could feel the hard press of that part which had so confused him the night before.
The contact between them was pleasantly disturbing. His own organ stirred as it had the previous day, and he wondered again about the purpose of this. Reaching down, he seized hold of the offending part and held it, relishing the sensations that were generated by his action, but unsure how to proceed further. He moaned gently, unable to contain the sound although he was aware that he was likely to be punished for the deviant behavior that he was evidencing.
As he made the soft sound, the other, the M-1 whose arm was so comfortingly wrapped around him seemed to arouse himself. The arm tightened on his midsection and he found himself turned to present his anterior surface to the M-1.
"Why do I feel so protective of you, Mac 27 Zero? My programming is faulty. It feels right to hold you, right to protect you, even from the master, and the master is everything to me. What have you done to me?" The voice was soft, almost as if the other were speaking to himself. He frowned. He was not sure how to answer. He lay, poised for flight if that became necessary. Something inside him needed the contact with this M-1, but he had no idea what that might be, or why.
"I don't know you. How could I have exerted any influence on you when I don't know you? All I know of you is that you took me to your master and then were punished alongside me. I did nothing to you. Before that, I was not in this enclave." He shivered. Somewhere deep within was the fluttering of certainty that once he had known M-1. He opened his mouth to say more, but M-1 had leaned forward, pressing his mouth with soft, full lips, and his words died unborn as new and confusing data swamped his senses.
What M-1 was doing to him was strange, and seemed to be producing the most amazing sensations within him. The troublesome appendage that had worried him so was now pulsing, sending shocks of pleasure through his abused body as it was compressed against that of the M-1.
He struggled his mouth free and gasped out his question to the M-1. "What are you doing to me? I have no experience of this. It is new to me."
M-1 ran a questing hand down the shivering body that pressed so tightly against his own.
"I desire you. I burn for you. You have affected my circuitry and I am unable to stop thinking about you. I won't hurt you; only let me show you how I can make you feel good." The M-1 sought for his mouth again, and his hand slid over Mac 27's hip, fumbled at the flat belly, and then took hold of his turgid appendage, stroking it firmly as he began to induce the same wonderful sensations that had exploded through him the previous day. Mac 27 moaned once more and fell back, spreading his legs wide as the other moved over him, touching, nibbling, stroking.
"I this is permitted? I don't understand, M-1." The other didnt respond in words, he merely slid his mouth over Mac 27's body, until suddenly the member that twitched between Mac 27's thighs was enveloped in the hot, silken suction of that wonderful mouth.
The shock of possession as M-1 took him deep wrenched a cry from him. He thrust a fist into his mouth in an effort to stem any further sounds escaping. He felt his breathing mechanism speed up without any way of stopping it. The M-1 was making sounds too - deep, groaning noises that implied the construct was in pain of some kind. He writhed in the grip of the marvelous feeling, and managed to gasp out an inquiry.
"Are you in pain, M-1? This is something that I I " His voice stilled as he felt himself succumb to the fiery flood of sweetness that prickled through him, coiling and uncoiling around his middle as he suddenly spent himself into the other's mouth, thick juices spurting from him again and again. M-1 continued to suckle on him until he suddenly could no longer bear it and began to push him away.
"Please, let me I'll be gentle, I won't hurt you the way he hurt you." M-1's voice cracked with need, and Mac 27 felt suddenly tender toward this being that had afforded him such pleasure.
"What do you require of me?" His husky voice was loud in the still room. If there were other Mac 27s alert and awake, they made no sound.
"You're so beautiful. Let me love you. Just lie still and let me love you." M-1's mouth resumed its silken glide over his flesh, licking at his thighs, nuzzling into the curls behind the now semi-erect organ that had flooded him with such delicious feelings, and mouthing the balls of flesh that hung behind. Mac 27 could feel it all beginning again, and he raised his body up to M-1's mouth, each caress more exquisite than the last.
M-1's tongue dipped into the well behind the tight and fuzzy balls he had been caressing, and Mac 27 drew up his knees to permit him, recalling that the other had done this at the master's behest, and that it had felt good.
It still felt good, despite the pain that the master had caused him afterward. Mac 27 could feel that his anterior organ had solidified once again, and moved to take hold of it, only to be prevented from doing so by M-1.
"No. Not this time. This is mine. Let me" There were more silken kissings, more honeyed sucking, and Mac 27 was uttering little, desperate cries when M-1 pulled him into position and began to insert his organ into the place he had been caressing so carefully and lovingly.
There was a second's burning, and then the other had his hand around that pleasure-stick, pulling it roughly as he slid his own in and out of the part of him that seemed designed to fit it perfectly.
The slow back and forth of the M-1 caused trickles of moisture to pour from his skin, and inside him he felt an aching, a glowing, a pleasure that was at once diffuse and intense, mounting and building until at last he could no longer hold back and cried out with the pleasure of what was happening to him.
He knew when M-1 reached his own completion, because he felt the stiffening of the body over his, and the heated flood of his outpouring within him. Another couple of squeezing strokes on his proud flesh and Mac 27 joined him in ecstasy, body rigid and straining against the pleasure that had seized it.
This time, when M-1, limp against him, took him in his arms and pressed his mouth against him, he reciprocated, and the two of them kissed hard and deep, holding tight to each other, and then, regardless of their hurts, they slept.
Mac 27 awoke to the dim light of the flashlight that had been a part of his apparel on his arrival in the garrison. The M-1 lay beside him, mouth slack as he slumbered on, and at first he wasn't aware of what had happened to wake him. When at last he looked around himself, he saw another of his kind seated at his head.
"Hello?" he mumbled.
"You should not be here. Neither of you should be here." The Mac 27 was terse.
"What's the matter? Have I done something to offend? I didn't mean to. I'm a new unit and not all of my programming is operational." Out of the corner of his eye he could see M-1 beginning to awaken, and felt the construct's arms tighten around him as he resurfaced.
"That is the problem. You are not a Mac 27. I have no idea why you believe yourself to be such a being. I believe that there is programming missing from your central processing unit. Your companion is a human also. This is most perplexing." The android extended a hand, softly ruffling Mac 27's short hair. "I believe you to be the pattern from which we were created, hence your number, zero. I do not know why you have had your programming removed, but my companions and I know that this is a wrong that has been committed on you." Mac 27 closed his eyes. Somewhere in his head he could hear a voice that sounded much like M-1.
Why me, and why now? A scene flashed before him. He was somewhere other. M-1 was in his vision, face contorted with fury, and he knew that he deserved whatever pain would come.
As fast as the vision came to him, it blurred, leaving him with a prickling behind his eyes, and useless lubricant coursing down his face.
The human was weeping. Mace stroked the soft warm hair and wondered. Langly had asked him to come here and, of course, his lover, Druid, had insisted on following him. If hed known
At least, he would not have let Druid volunteer. His fingers twitched as if he had Spenders neck squeezed between them as he replayed bits of what Spender had done to his beloved. It had been a temptation to take it out on that fool who thought he was an android. Mace eyed that one noting that he slept heavily still, mouth slightly open, lips spit-slick. One of his hands was still draped across the flank of the Mac 27 possessively. He looked fragile this way, like the children of the creators. Mace analyzed the situation with his logic circuits instead of with the emotions buried in the human cells of his brain center. He knew it was not M-1s fault.
One other fact was clear. Spender was mad. Perhaps the alien contamination in his blood made him so or possibly he might have always been insane. Druid crept near; Mace widened his visual apertures to better enjoy the restored beauty of his beloved. He smiled, a human gesture, but one that Mac 27s understood. He remembered the first time he had seen the finely detailed features of his love.
It had been an ordinary raid on one of the smaller shelters. They were in desperate need of antibiotics and couldnt find any more in the ruins of drug stores and hospitals. They had cased the shelter for days before disrupting the communication lines not that one of the other shelters would have come to the aid of the place. However, Frohike said that it was better to keep a low profile. Let the other enclavemen think it was just another place lost to poor maintenance or to one of the plagues that had been let loose in the chaos of the brief but devastating war with the aliens.
Fearless, smart, created as a warrior, Mace had led the raiding party. He took a savage joy in slaughtering the Masters. They had made him, too, suffer in his day and somewhere his original had fallen to them, dead or worse. Others wore armor, Mace fought naked, his android skin painted in blue patterns. By the time he met the other raiding party deep in the corridors, the blood of the Masters mostly hid the blue. Mace raised his hand and it dripped scarlet. He grinned and said, No Masters left on my side.
The humans in the party looked distressed, but none of them remonstrated.
Langly mumbled, Some of the Mac 27s are too much like Krycek. He shrugged and said, I found a few Macs. You might want to check. They said there was a special model in the Generals quarters.
Going to a computer bank, Mace connected port to port and downloaded a map of the quarters. He proceeded downwards. They scuttled toward the depths, these carrion eaters.
Master? questioned a lilting voice. Mace had never chosen to engage in recreational sex. He'd been sickened by that before he became a free droid. Therefore the sudden stirring in his superfluous appendages of gender startled him.
Oh, the sight of him! He was a Mac 27 and yet different. He resembled a slender youth of eighteen or perhaps twenty. He was formed as a man, but not yet brawny of flesh. His eyes were jade set in gold blushed marble. His hair was longer then Maces soldierly crewcut. It fell in soft waves of lustrous mahogany, framing a face whose proportions were a precise beauty, lines so fine and distinct that Mace needed to touch them.
Soft lips, curved in bows, opened in wonder. The lashes were so heavy, so black that they seemed made of frays of jet colored velvet. The beautiful one held out his clean hand toward Mace and said, Its true! There are free Macs. Have you come to take me to the places where Macs are equal to humans?
What was there to say but yes? Later Druid had come to him, asked leave to wash the blue and the blood from Maces body. Trying to correct him, Mace had said, You serve no one but yourself now, Mac 27. You decide whether to fight beside us or leave to seek your fortune.
What I seek is here Druid had said, trailing his clean fingers down Maces blood smeared body. Where you go, I will go.
And so it had been. Of all the lessons that Mace had learned in his challenging life, loving Druid had been both the hardest and the easiest. Difficult because to care as Mace cared was to know the risk of having to live on after your soul had died. Easy because loving Druid was impossible not to do.
His thoughts drew him back to the human replica; Mace believed that his original had been a man who loved as deeply as he did. Fought as fiercely. A man worth saving.
Contemplating the human who wore his face, Mace tried to match this thin, lost man to the hardened warrior who had led the Mac 27s to defeat the aliens and tried to give the androids freedom. He wasnt sure. What he did know was that it wasnt safe to stay here - for him or for these humans. He would have to risk taking them out through a dangerous passage to the surface known only to the rebel Macs.
If they survived, he would know that the man was Alex Krycek. Only he could make it through all the horrors of the journey and keep another alive as well. Mace stroked the hair one last time and then asked, Would you like to leave this place and take the other with you?
The human gazed down at M-1 and looked back at Mace, eyes soft and wondering. He nodded and said, This is hell and I want to get him out of here. A quick jerk of his chin indicated M-1. The confused mans eyes grew soft with wondering light as he considered the sprawled slumber of the other human. I have to help him.
It will not be easy, Mace said, and you must realize you are human. A brief mirthful smile crossed the androids lips. He directed his gaze to the left arm, a thing of grace, shaped by the swell of muscle. It looked exactly the same as the right, down to the light dusting of hair and tiny flaws that characterized human flesh, but Mace sensed the difference in heat variances. It was artificial although not removable. The arm was as much a part of the human as Maces arms were of him. Most of you anyway.
The human looked puzzled. Apparently he didnt know that part of his anatomy made him a brother to the Mac27s. He nodded and said, If you say so. But why would my creators tell me that I was a replica? What manner of a man am I that they would lie to me in this fashion?
A mystery, Mace responded. Druid came up to him, embracing his lover around the waist, gently nestling his chin into the crook of Maces neck. Mace covered one of the beautiful ones hands with his own, possessed and possessing.
Groaning, the sleeping man wiped at the tears that had flowed from his eyes and the saliva at the corner of his mobile mouth. Mace waited. Would this human now cooperate? He had never approached M-1. The Macs had been told not to tell him that he wasnt a replica. That was the first thing that Uncle, leader of this enclaves Mac 27s, had told him. What cruel games humans played, Mace thought, even with their own kind.
A whimper escaped M-1 as he stirred, stretching out his pale arms and his lean legs. Mace was grateful that replicas didnt bruise and that a beating didn't hurt after it was done unless the outer, sensor-rich carapace was torn. M-1 gathered himself into a huddled heap, looking as gawky as the eaglets Mace once rescued and put back in their nest. The spikes of the humans hair even resembled the awkward pinfeathers atop the heads of the impetuous young birds.
M-1 sulkily said, I hope my Master relents soon. I am unable to control my thermostat in here.
Uncle, ever practical, went to the disbursement closet and withdrew two Mac 27 coveralls. Clothing was not necessary, but humans preferred that they wear it. For some reason, most humans found nude Mac 27s distracting. The human replica that looked like a Mac 27 well, this was awkward. Mace hated to call Mac 27s by their numbers. Although there was no logical reason why it mattered to have a human name, the serial numbers, to Mace, were an unwelcome reminder of servitude. He asked, What is your name, human?
The clouded eyes searched and he said, I remember they called me Alex a long time ago. I think that might be A glimmer came to the thin face and the human extended his hand, Krycek, Alex, Krycek.
With an ironic grin, Mace took the hand, shook it, and said, Welcome to hell, Alex Krycek. It is time for us to escape it.
No! You belong to the masters I must report! M-1 screamed, running for the door. A circle of the Mac 27s surrounded him, blank-faced and threatening.
Tossing Druid a bundle of emergency repair tape, a strong, silver substance of immense value, Uncle said, Do the honors, Druid. I think M-1 needs to take a vow of silence for the duration.
Yelling, cursing, and flailing, M-1 was forced to the floor and his mouth was taped. Perhaps the other replicas were rougher then they had to be. M-1 was the one who had delivered them to Spender to suffer. Mace could very well understand revenge. In fact until he met Druid, it was the only emotion he had admitted to comprehending.
Snarling, Alex Krycek dived into the melee, attempting to free the other human from the situation. He was strong for a human, but one android arm was no match for a complete replica. Uncle grabbed him and held him back until M-1 was dressed and back on his feet.
With a firm hand on the humans arm, Druid looked alert and in control, making Mace proud. His lover had only been programmed for human pleasure. He knew the Kama Sutra, could recite from an ancient scriptures such as Masters and Johnson as well as Hite. He was programmed in cooking, dancing, playing musical instruments, singing and massage but knew little of practical matters and less of fighting. Therefore everything he knew about the art of war he had learned as a human does by the force of his will. He had taught himself well.
Admonishing Krycek, Mace said, Would you have him betray us? Did you enjoy being raped by Spender? That is the word for what happened to you, for being forced to perform sexually against your will. Unless it pleased you?
Passion suffused his voice and reddened his cheeks as Krycek said, I hated it! It hurt and it made me sick inside. It was the worst thing that I can remember.
Uncle soothingly said, Krycek, M-1s programming is very in-depth. He is incapable of understanding the danger. Until now, punishments for him have been brief and not as horrible as for us. Now, Spender has tired of him. It is obvious. If you want to save him, then you must take him from this place.
Nodding, Krycek climbed without argument into the overall. He said, All right. What about weapons? We will need them.
A high loss of Mac 27s was common. Enclaves thought nothing of it. Since Mace had infiltrated, several of the workers who were sent to the surface for supplies had not returned. The masters were concerned, but not suspicious. They thought they had solved the occasional programming lapses that caused Mac 27s to rebel. Mace wanted to chuckle out loud at the thought. If they only understood how godlike they really were, for Mace was sure that if humans had souls then so did his kind. In attempting to make a better tool, they had created intelligent life, capable of independent thought, emotions, and the need to be free.
None of the recent disappearances had actually been true fatalities. The supposed dead had gone to the rebel camps to learn how to think for themselves. Some of their weapons, however, had been stored here for an emergency. Mace had succeeded in reprogramming all of the Mac 27s in this locker, but had not succeeding in reaching many of the soldiers, lab technicians, or the other specialized Mac 27s who were stored elsewhere when not in use. Now, he would have to rely on Uncle and the others to carry on his work.
With a fierce look at Uncle, Mace said, You will be all right?
The foreman said, I will lie. I am an excellent liar. I will tell Spender that when we returned to our active cycle all four of you were gone. He will punish us, but we will place the information in our hidden drives. It will not be accessed by any of their petty human meddling.
Clasping his brothers hand, Mace nodded. He said, Then we will go now while it is still dark and the humans are all deep in their wicked dreams.
Four figures crept along the dark hall. Druid helped Krycek to drag along the steadily protesting M-1. What a foolish human! Could he not tell who his friends were? What was best for him?
Sometimes, Druid was not very impressed with humans. He had wrapped his master around his little android finger when he'd been an enslaved Mac 27. It was not because he was treated cruelly or deprived that he had so readily followed Mace. Chocolate, scents, and even play toys of his own had not satisfied Druid. He had always known there was something missing and had hugged the myths about free Macs to himself even as he smiled and purred for his fat and besotted master. When Mace burst into the quarters, Druid had known it was not only freedom that his consciousness craved. He wanted to love and be loved. That, he found, was not possible if you were owned. He had no regrets, hardly even a twinge of pity as he stepped over his masters body to follow Mace to liberty.
This human who had been designated M-1 was a contrary mess. It made Druid wish that bad programming were as easily removed from humans as from his kind. Ahead, Mace unfastened the locked grill to the crawl space through which they had arrived. M-1 struggled as they shoved him through the hatch. Mace pulled the protesting human through not even bothering to use both hands. Shortly, Druid and Krycek followed.
It was a dark passage, no one except Mac 27s were expected to go here so no light was provided. Druid noticed that M-1 moved closer to Krycek as they heard a skittering sound.
Roaches, Mace remarked.
It sounded like paper rustling at first, growing louder as it neared until it had a distinct and frightening sound, fingernails scraping against a smooth surface, wood rubbing against rock. Krycek said, Thats no roach I ever saw.
Mutants. Something that got loose from a consortium laboratory, Mace explained.
Readying his flamethrower, Druid tensed. The rats were bad, but he really hated the roaches. They came into sight, feelers the thickness of fingers waving as they searched for food. They were the size of cocker spaniels. Their shells gleamed as if they were covered with oil as well as being carriers for it. They were slightly elongated and flattened because of their size and they had mandibles like enormous crab claws. Those insect jaws could snap a Mac 27s arm if they caught it on a joint. Druid didnt want to see what they would do to a humans softer flesh.
Hungry, the roaches were bold in the dark. Kryceks hand was shaking, but he didnt run. In fact, he moved between the threat and M-1. His voice sounded higher pitched then usual as he asked, Do the torches work?
Yeah, replied Mace.
Leaping forward as one of the adolescent roaches made a trial run, Mace sent his flame against the creature. Its high-pitched shriek was deafening as it caught on fire. It careened into another roach, which also went up in flames. Druid darted forward to ignite another of the huge bugs. A quick young one slipped through and Krycek managed to kill it, which was surprising. Most humans froze in shock when they saw them.
Panting, Krycek asked, What did you say about rats? They arent bigger then that, are they?
No, Mace said, as the roaches retreated, looking for easier prey. Well, not that much bigger.
Shit, Krycek said, sagging back against the inward curved wall of the crawl space.
Sparing a glance for M-1, Druid noticed that the man was hyperventilating behind the tape. Krycek followed his gaze and peeled the silver tape away. M-1 said, I dont want to go with you. Please let me go back to my Master. He needs me. He loves me.
Right, thats why he beat you just as hard as he beat me, Krycek replied. Come on. I thought my head was fucked. You take the cake, Muhl The human shook his head as if his data feed was malfunctioning. M-1, he continued, but his voice sounded questioning.
They proceeded in silence as the passage diverged. They peeled back a section of paneling and slipped into the narrow low tunnel that was revealed. Mace laughed, low in his chest, and said, The rats have their uses. We enlarged their digging to make this passage.
They still use it? Krycek asked nervously.
If you go through the rats tunnels, you got to live with the rats. Mace replied flippantly.
Im sure youll have no trouble adapting, Krycek, M-1s voice interrupted. His voice was a harsh cutting sound.
Krycek stopped, turning back to stare at M-1. What? You said that before. I remember His face paled and he swayed.
Catching the human before he could fall, Druid said, Its not the time to attempt to recover the damaged parts of your hard drive. Later, when we are safe
The rats tunnel led deeper at first. Alexs thoughts were going in circles. He knew M-1. It seemed as if he always known him. Fragments of memory intruded. M-1s face crazed with anger, his hand striking Alex and his voice mocking, always mocking. Then an image of Mulder laughing, his eyes warm and tender, came to Alex. Perhaps M-1 had not always made fun of him. He needed to know, wanted to know.
Quiet and calm now, M-1 said, I couldnt go back now. I dont know the way and I couldnt face the roaches alone. I hate bugs. Please let me loose.
A nod of Maces head gave permission. There was something wrong with that - as if Alex should have been the one making decisions. Yeah, right, Alex thought, you were so stupid that they talked you into believing you were a machine. He frowned as he freed M-1s hands. Still, they had cut his left arm and showed him the machinery beneath. Had that been an illusion? Alex brought his left hand up and made a fist. It felt like the other one. He had sensation. Thoughtlessly, Alex ran his hand along M-1s face. Beard was growing there. He liked the feel, rough bristles rasping his hand and soft flesh beneath.
Jerking his face away, M-1 said, You going to rape me now?
Fuck you, Alex snapped and stalked ahead to join Mace.
They traveled in silence, but Alex sensed that ears were listening. Once he caught a reflection of light in the shape of an oblong eye. Druid and M-1 caught up and putting aside their differences for a moment, the four journeyed on in tense camaraderie.
Alex saw them first. There was a sudden widening of the tunnel as it sloped downward. It was a round, cistern-like place with a passage winding all the way around the walls. Alex stood blinking downwards. The passage ran around and around the narrow chasm. He froze and said, We dont have to go lower, do we?
Starting forward, Mace said, No, we go up.
You afraid of heights? M-1 asked.
Was he? Alex didnt think so. It had been something else, another random memory. He said, No, it reminded me of a place, a place in which I was left to die. I dont remember why or how I got out. Oh, wait; he was there, your master. They hurt me. Took my blood and put a needle into my skull. I remember screaming and begging, but they just laughed.
Now, M-1 looked equally disturbed. He said, I remember something like that too, but it was not my master. It -- they -- were not even human.
Aliens, dismissed Mace. Easy to kill if you know how. We killed them all. Well, almost all anyway. There may be a few left and, of course, some of the Oiliens find human hosts and hatch out Grays.
What are Greys?" Alex asked.
Immature aliens, very strong, not very intelligent... they are hard to kill. Use the exploding bullets, but use them wisely. We have so few, Mace said.
And this is better then the enclave? M-1 exploded, It was safe there.
Not for us, Druid remarked. Or did you refuse to see what your Master did to me?
Softly, M-1 replied, I saw.
They were weary and longing for the light, the two humans plodding by now, barely able to bring one foot after another. The attack came from above and below. A rat, white coated, but streaked with filth and dirt, leaped down in front of them. As they reacted, one sprang at the two humans. M-1 screamed as he saw the black stuff that roiled in the pink eyes, oozing over the color as the fangs reached for him.
Christ, Mulder! Krycek called. He blocked the creature with his shoulder and it fell over the side. As they looked up, another came from a hidden hole behind them. It attacked, jaws dripping fluid. Krycek couldnt stop it. M-1 backpedaled in fear, raising his arms to protect his face. He saw Krycek jump on the rat, shoving his left arm into the rats mouth. The man screamed and Mulder ran to help him, wrenching back on the rodents head. This one was huge, nearly the size of a crouching man. Grabbing the first thing that came to his hand, M-1 stabbed the rat again and again until it finally let go, scuttling away.
M-1 pulled Krycek to his feet, ignoring the torn pseudo-skin. Druid grabbed him and dragged him along at a run. M-1 looked back and saw that Mace was providing a rear guard. He yelled, We cant leave him.
We wont, Druid yelled. Hes going to blow the ledge. Come on.
Shhiiiiit, Krycek stuttered as they were slammed into a wall by the awesome force. Druids slender body helped shield them, but M-1 felt his hair rise and the heat seem to sear the back of his head.
An eerie cry came from the wall of dust flying at them. Mace emerged, his overall torn, a scrap of skin hanging loose from his face, and the hair scorched from the back of his head. Joining the others as they all sank down to the metal floor, the Mac 27 said, I think I cut that one a little close.
No, shit, bozo, M-1 said, and promptly passed out.
Druid was practically dancing with the need to leave the huge, cavernous space behind. He had no sooner laid eyes on his beloved than he ploughed forward, flamethrower at the ready.
The walls ran with slimy moisture, and the metal walkway was slippery underfoot as the party made their way up toward the dark tunnel that would lead them to safety. The humans were flagging. M-1 had ceased protesting, and now concentrated solely on placing one foot in front of another, his hands white knuckled and bleeding from holding to the rough metal of the guard rail. Alex followed him, barely able to remain upright. His left hand had sustained a gash, and through the plastiflesh he could see the metal of the skeleton within.
Was he human? Was he android? He no longer knew; he was almost too exhausted to care. Through the sweat of exertion that dripped into his eyes and distorted his vision, he could see the slim form of M-1, clad in the orange coverall that was the standard issue for Mac 27s. He knew that he and the other human had history. If only he could remember where and when. He suddenly experienced a flash, a memory from an unknown time and place. A vision of the man in front of him, clad in a brief red swimsuit, padding towards him from a pool of water, seal-sleek and glowing, suddenly burned the back of his eyes, and from within himself came the memory of a need, a desire so intense that it made him stumble. Mace steadied him as he brought up the rear.
"We must get to the surface within the next hour or so in order to catch the light. If we are any slower, it will be night once more, and we will need to wait for daylight in order to send out our message." Mace's voice was pitched low to reach Alex. Alex didn't believe that M-1 had heard - at least he hadn't appeared to react in any way, although as Alex followed him he could see how tired the man was.
A sudden squeal heralded the arrival of yet another rat, this time black, with glowing red eyes, bearing down on the small troupe from a side tunnel. Druid played the flamethrower over the creature as it raced towards them, and the thing squealed again, this time a high-pitched scream of agony as the fire caught it. None of them paid any attention to the dying thing, merely stepping up their speed without saying a word. The stench of burning hair and flesh was disgusting, and Alex felt his gorge rise. He clung to the guardrail as his stomach voided itself into the huge cavern. Once the tears had ceased to fill his eyes, he could see that M-1 was similarly occupied.
Putting out a hand, Alex stroked the soft, springy hair that grew on the back of M-1's head.
"It's gonna be okay; you'll see. We're going to get out of here, and we'll be free. Hang in there." Something inside him questioned his right to reassure this troubled human, but he thought back to what they had shared in the night. Surely something so right - so perfect - had to signify that M-1 belonged to him somehow. He smiled a lopsided smile at the glance M-1 threw him. A place inside his belly seemed to melt and turn into a million fluttering creatures. He didn't know what to do. Perhaps he was sick now. Perhaps the shocks of the past few days had made him ill, and he would soon die.
"I won't let you be harmed, M-1. I " He searched madly through his vocabulary storage for the word he required. This was frightening. He didn't know what it was that he needed to express to the M-1, only that he felt it with such overwhelming force that he couldn't breathe properly, could hardly move, so awkward did it make him.
The word came to him very suddenly. "I love you." He said it out loud, testing the words for truth and found them to be accurate. "I love you, M-1," he said again. M-1 looked as though he would respond, there was a strange expression on his face, part tenderness and part anger. Alex was afraid of what he would hear, but Mace suddenly laid a hand on Alex's shoulder.
"Later. Discuss this later. We are in dire need of haste right now. Let's get out of here before we lose more than the contents of our stomachs." Wordlessly, they turned to resume their climb, but not before M-1 raised a trembling hand for one fleeting moment to touch Alex's cheek.
They'd toiled upwards for hours when the walkway suddenly became a tunnel. Druid plunged in, the lack of light no problem for him, but M-1 came to a standstill.
"Go on!" Mace's voice was terse. He knew that time was dripping away, leaking into the sands of the day and that they had to hurry.
"I can't Can't see. It's dark." M-1 sounded panicky, and Alex moved up level with him.
"Come on, M-1. I'll keep with you. We'll get through this somehow." He took hold of the other man's arm, and gently tugged him into the stygian depths of the tunnel.
They'd been walking in silence for some time, and Alex was beginning to think he should have remained back in the enclave, so tired was he, when all of a sudden there was a grinding, clanking sound, and light, the tiniest spot of light shone from a place above their heads.
At first they were dazzled, and could do nothing except try and get their streaming eyes to adjust to the daylight, but as they became accustomed to it, they could see that Druid had ascended a short, metal-runged ladder and had dislodged a cover overhead. The light was coming from the hole revealed by shoving the heavy metal disc to one side.
Mace had moved up beside the two humans, and was watching in awe as his love stretched on the ladder, making a pathway to the outside. Despite the urgency with which he had herded their party to the surface, he now called Druid down and gathered them into a small huddle.
"We have to send a message to my people to notify them that we are coming. They will send a force to assist us, but we daren't wait until they get here. There are all manner of hazards awaiting the unwary within the city. We won't be safe until we leave its boundaries and head for the countryside. Stay close together. The more we can guard each other's backs, the less likely we are to be picked off by the marauders that are all around us on the surface." Mace stroked the sleek skin of his beloved as he addressed them all. He wanted so badly to get Druid to safety. The past few days had been given him a scare. He loved Druid, and the thought that the evil old man who held sway over the enclave, purely on a whim, might actually terminate his beloved was too much for him to bear. If he was forced to continue without his adored one now that he had found him, Mace didn't know how he would cope.
He had them all check their weapons, and finally gave the go-ahead to Druid, who was itching to ascend to the surface.
"Take care, little one. Even you are at risk on the surface." Druid turned back and blew a kiss to Mace. The two humans stood side-by-side, nervy and afraid as they watched the lithe body of the android ascend the ladder and then vanish out of sight onto the surface. Finally M-1 gave a heavy sigh and moved to the ladder. Alex stood watching his ascent, the fluttering in his belly vying with the fear that he sensed. He had no idea what lay beyond this aperture, but if M-1 had gone there, he would go too. As M-1 stepped out into the dying daylight, Alex took a deep breath and took hold of the ladder, swarming upwards with Mace on his tail.
Outside, the sun lay low on the horizon, bathing the street in mellow, golden light. They were on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the huge building behind them seemed familiar to Alex. M-1 appeared to be confused as he looked at it. A furrow had appeared between his brows, and he seemed to be deep in some kind of fugue state.
"Come, we must get to the roof." Mace herded them like so many small children towards the building. "We have to catch the sunlight before it goes." Together they entered the building, and made for stairs that were slick with black oil and other, less pleasant things. Alex tried to look upwards as they climbed. The stench and the slime were things better not thought about.
Out on the roof, the smell was not so bad, and Mace led them to a huge contraption that had been erected from struts of metal, and a huge mirror. It took all four of them to manhandle its weight into position and when at last it stood upright, facing the direction Mace had indicated, only a few moments of sunshine were left.
Angling a subsidiary mirror, Mace began to send a series of flashes out across the building to the city beyond. He had then stood waiting, and just as the sun finally died, plunging them into the beginnings of the evening, the watching party received a reply that their message had been relayed onwards. Help would come. All they now had to do was make it through to where that help waited.
"We might as well find somewhere for you humans to sleep tonight. We have a long way to go tomorrow." The M-1 was now so pinched and white faced that he appeared ready to drop. Alex looked around at the surroundings. A low wall shielded them, and the evening seemed fine enough. They would be cold later, he knew, but for now it would not be difficult to curl up here and remain relatively safe from attack by whatever denizens roamed the night.
Alex unshouldered the pack he was carrying and handed M-1 a bottle of water and some of the nutrient fuel bars that the Mac 27s were used to consuming. Druid and Mace sat down a little apart, weapons at the ready, and prepared to keep watch while the humans slept. When M-1 began investigating his own pack, Alex felt cheered to see that Mace had included a couple of foil insulating blankets. They wouldn't freeze quite so rapidly once it grew dark.
Spreading one blanket out on the concrete, and placing the pack at one end to serve as a makeshift pillow, Alex sat on it and shook the other blanket out to cover him. "Come, lie beside me. We'll be warmer if we can keep together. Body heat will stay with us under the insulation." M-1 placed his own pack beside Alex and climbed into the cocoon of blankets.
For a moment, Alex wondered at the expression on the other's face. He looked so confused, so unhappy, but then the man's face cleared and he lay down, rolling to face away from Alex.
Gunfire woke him from an uneasy sleep filled with vaguely seen memories that flickered out of existence when he turned to examine them. He started to his knees almost before he was awake, his hand reaching for the gun that he had carried with him.
He could see all too well. The moon had risen - a fat, bloated disc that hung mercilessly above them, its pale rays revealing horror in silver and black.
The two androids were at the head of the stairs, battling hand to hand with an uncountable number of grays. Flesh hung in tatters from Mace's arms, and one of Druid's legs had been gouged. Druid was employing his flamethrower, while Mace aimed and fired methodically, shooting at the oncoming creatures as they materialized in the doorway. Alex shivered, knelt and began to fire his own weapon, picking off the creatures and forcing them back into the stairwell.
M-1 had also been aroused, and now, with the two humans firing their guns, Mace was able to fall back and seize the other flamethrower. The grays died in large numbers, either shot by the men, or burned by the androids. After a short while no further menace came.
The rest of the night was spent huddling together, waiting for daylight to appear once more and give them hope of eventual deliverance. There were field repair kits in the backpacks, but the correct tools for effecting proper repairs to the androids would need to wait until the rebel HQ was reached.
The dawn came, bright and thin, poking its fingers into the men's gummy eyes and illuminating the damage that had been done to the androids. Druids gouged leg was the most serious. It was twisted; most of the fibers had been torn lose on the left side. Alex grunted and said, Damn, we need at least to jury rig that. How long until we meet your buddies, Mace?
Several hours, even if we hurry, the Mac 27 replied glumly.
Then wed better repair this leg. The cosmetic stuff will have to wait, but that damn thing clawed it nearly to the joint.
Shedding his coveralls like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, Druid stretched out with his head in his lovers lap as Alexs sure fingers repaired the severed fibers. It was a delicate task, but his fingers were nimble and he worked confidently. His mind played images of resurgent memories of other situations just like this. They had been his brothers, those Mac 27s. It was an irony that he had been hidden among them, because they had been his comrades in the battle for survival that was now so dismally clouded in his mind.
The injured android grunted from time to time. His damage sensors gave him almost as much sense of pain as nerves gave to humans. Alex realized that was one of the reasons why he had not realized that only part of his body was replicated. It all felt the same.
Giving his lover a tender kiss, Mace announced, I better go see about a signal. Frohike should be in place by now. You can trust him and the others, Alex. They are great friends to us.
Rising to his feet, M-1 said, I must discharge unneeded fibers and inappropriate fuel sources.
Laughing, Druid commented, You are a human. What you are needed is called excretion. Taking a shit.
With a frown, M-1 waved this comment away. Alex said, Be careful. There are dangerous things out there.
Yeah, I noticed, no shit, Sherlock, M-1 snapped.
The tone was sadly familiar as well. Alex remembered having comments like that aimed at him many times. How odd that when he looked at M-1 he always recalled such an odd exciting mixture of pain and pleasure. It was as if some part of him craved M-1 so much that he would have accepted even abuse as affection. Alex drew his attention back to Druid as he finished carefully sealing the tough layers of pseudo skin. Later, well match this patch to the rest of you.
Rocking back on his heels, Alex scanned the horizon for more trouble. He may have been human, but he was a gifted human, a near match for his replica brothers when it came to picking up subtle clues signaling danger.
Mace came back with M-1 in tow. He said, The Gunmen are there. They said for us to be cautious. There are Elites on the prowl.
Fuck, M-1 said. I dont want to face them unless you can communicate with them.
Communicate, yes, control them, no, Mace said. We had better get going.
Accessing his interior programming, Mace reviewed a graphic memory of a map. He knew they had to continue north to join Frohike. He walked steadily at the front; Druid took the rear with the two humans in the more protected middle of the line. A road sign had fallen into a pile of rubble. White lettering on green said, Connecticut Avenue. Good that was the right road. Next he had to find Dupont Circle and the Washington Hilton. The Hilton was a problem. He had been told it was full of squatters; half-wild, unorganized gangs that had survived the plagues, the bees, the Grays, and the riots, which had made the surface a no mans land. They might have to fight their way out of that territory.
A frequency buzzed at Maces brain. He was overhearing replicas using their own system of communications. He ducked into a narrow alley and dragged Alex and M-1 with him. Druid wedged in beside him.
Goose-stepping, a troop of Elite Mac-27s marched along. They resembled Mac 27s in body and face, but the individuality was missing from these expressionless robots.
Shuddering, M-1 whispered, God, I hated being around those things. Theyre nothing but walking corpses.
If they bothered M-1, the creatures sickened Mace. This was the prototype of his race, abandoned because they were useless for anything but the most routine tasks. They lacked the human brain cells that made a Mac 27 an individual. Mace kept a firm hand on Druid who had never seen these things. His beloved had an innocent and avid curiosity that Mace usually found a joy, but sometimes it was hard to keep him safe.
The Elites dragged the results of their hunt, a few reasonably healthy looking women and children, no male older then his teens. Even the three adolescents were chosen for personal attractiveness. Down to children who were almost toddlers, the captives were burdened with supplies. Mace might have intervened if he had a few more weapons and didnt have humans to protect.
A Mac 27 stepped out of rank to grab and drag a lagging toddler by her hair. The child screamed in terror as the replica picked her up.
Mace restrained M-1 as he darted forward. Dont be an idiot. Look at the numbers - and they are heavily armed. Besides I thought you were on the Enclaves side?
They shouldnt take the kids, M-1 muttered. People might miss them. I remember they took someone. I missed her. Started with an S. Sc? Sa? I cant remember.
Tenderly, Alex rubbed M-1's back. He said, Its okay; well come back and rescue them later when we have more help.
A disbelieving sneer distorted M-1s handsome features. He said, Right.
Part of the building in front of them sagged as the result of collapsed ground. Alex found a narrow opening and wedged inside, drawing M-1s attention. Mace looked for the proper emotional wave and found it; he was pissed. With a hissed obscenity, he followed the impulsive humans.
It had been a drugstore. Looters had taken most of the practical merchandise. Alex was prowling through the remains with considerable interest. He grunted and said, Some stuff here we can use. First aid kit. He tossed one of the sealed kits to M-1 and put the other in the knapsack he had carried from the enclave. He continued to comb through the jumble of broken glass, twisted metal, and torn packaging.
A present, Druid said, handing Mace a tube. It was blue body paint.
Grinning, Mace stripped off the dull brown coverall and posed. Langly was the one who'd given him the picture book about Celts. He had been teaching Mace to read as the Mac 27 had been kept ignorant of this skill. Mace had spotted a picture in the book that looked much like a Mac 27. The man had been painted with intricate designs of blue. He had worn a length of rough wool around his middle, but Mace, lacking that, chose to go into battle naked. That and his blue war paint had both disturbed and distracted humans.
His lovers touch lingered. Mac 27s arousal was supposed to be totally voluntary. Tell Maces body that. He stopped Druid to kiss him; he couldnt wait to find a safe place to reclaim his beloved. He kissed the shadowed eyelids, feeling the soft brush of Druids long lashes as they fluttered against his skin.
A snort from M-1 destroyed the mood. Get a room, he commented.
Laughing, Druid finished his painting and stood back to admire. You look good.
The admiration in M-1s face said the same. Mace gripped Druids blue smeared fingers and said, I could never look as beautiful as you, my love. He jerked his chin in Alexs direction and said, If youre done shopping?
Yeah. I wish there had been some chocolate left, Alex replied. Are you expecting more trouble?
Of the human variety, Mace said. The Hilts territory starts soon.
Dangerous, M-1 commented. Ive heard of them.
What are they? Alex asked.
A gang. Bunch of kids who survived in the basement of the Hilton. Now they count the area for blocks around it as their territory, M-1 said. They get upset when its violated.
They were being watched. It was a sixth sense that Alex felt he had always had. He frowned as a hodgepodge of memories assailed him, a blinking car radio clock, M-1's hand with a gun drooping from it, near misses a thousand times over as he fought aliens. He cocked his head, automatically adjusting the direction of his gun to the faint noise. It could have been rubble shifting of its own weight, but he didnt think so.
Some type of short-range artillery had bombed this particular block. Half of the buildings sagged inward; bare metal girders grimaced at the sky. A few cars composed heaped tombstones for the owners who still grinned from within or dangled from wrenched doors. The hot summers and scavengers had cleaned the bodies of all but a few scraps of blackened leather.
Mace moved in his blue splendor at the apex of their group. The four had moved slightly apart from each other, close enough to cover each others backs, but not to interfere with hand-to-hand combat if they were attacked.
Someones in the alley, Mace announced.
Let them come to us, Alex directed. He focused a sliver of attention on the certainty in his voice. Had he commanded Mac-27s before? He caught a flicker of running, a large balding man thudding beside him. He remembered catching the mans eye and exchanging adrenaline charged, blissful grins. The man yelling, Krycek, I got your back. Go.
Sadness accompanied the memory. His own trembling voice starting, Frohike, I couldnt even bring his body back. Walters gone.
Shuddering, Alex didnt care what they were facing. Anything was easier to handle then his memories.
Thin kids darted from one hiding place to another. Alex caught movement now on all sides. The four pulled tighter and then in silent consensus dived into the well of a fallen building. Alex grimaced as he observed skeletal fingers clawing from the rubble nearest him. The broken concrete pressed uncomfortably against his belly. He reached out quickly to force M-1 lower, saying, Keep down.
Whining, M-1 said, I dont see anything. How do you know?
A bullet skimmed the air over M-1s head. If Alex hadnt made him move, that dark tawny lions mane would have been permanently parted. Mace whispered, Keep them occupied.
Right. Easy enough. Just shoot when there was a chance and hope that instinct would pay off.
They were teenagers, with a few young adults; all clad in what Alex remembered to be designer fashions. The shiny shoes, the subtly fashioned ties, and the wool jackets with the pressed trousers made no sense out here. However, Alex had a memory that suggested life had never made good sense as far as he was concerned. He aimed and brought another down. They were a large group and stupidly bold. Alex had the feeling that they would, like ants, just swarm right over their fallen.
The three of them meshed into one. As Alex reloaded, Druid and M-1 covered him. He rolled over, swallowed the dryness from his throat, blinked tears caused by the gunpowder in the air, and then went back to firing in a steady, deadly barrage. One of the Hilts made it through, his face distorted by bull tattoos. Druid rose, gripping the thin man and sent him whirling back towards his fellows.
A weird yodeling cry pierced the sounds of battle. In the momentary silence, Alex heard, a high pitched What the hell is that?
The reply, Shit, I dont know, broke off in a squeal as a dervish in blue ran through the gang.
The curved blade scythed through a head. Mace kicked it like a football, to land mid-torso of one of his recent companions. Three more heads flew before the gang broke. Mace dragged one of the gangsters back. This one wore a crown of bulls horns. Mace said, This is one of the leaders. We need to negotiate.
Hey, man, the dirty fellow in the charcoal suit and the yellow tie said. He wore leather shoes, a bit scuffed, but Alex remembered a time when he'd wanted footwear like that, clothing that spoke of wealth and power. All we want is to prevent a hostile takeover. We thought you were the Bears. Hilts are into a bull market.
The stringy blond hair didnt go with the suit. In fact neither did the body, the contours, meant to be form fitting, hung on the skinny frame. The Hilt shook in fear, moving toward M-1. He said, Help me. These guys all look like the Nazis or like the Rapo in the park.
Interested, M-1 asked, What are you talking about? A rapist in the park?
Yeah, a crazy Mac 27. Beautiful model with long black hair, kind of brown skin, and a rose tattoo on his ass. Runs around naked all the time. He grabs you, screws you for about a day and dumps you out with a message written all over you. Something about liberating the Macs. Crazy things, they think theyre human or something. A nervous glance at the two androids later, the man added, Not that I got anything against Macs.
Asshole, Alex muttered. We dont have time for this. Gripping the grungy specimen by the throat, he said, Why dont you tell your friends to leave us alone or the rest of the blue Macs will be doing a hostile takeover youll never forget. Understand?
The man nodded as a trickling sound and acrid odor announced how thoroughly he understood. Alex pushed him back and said, Okay, go tell them not to mess with us.
M-1 had been staring at the mans feet. He said, And tell them sweat socks dont go with Hugo Boss suits. He stepped forward and fingered the label, commenting, I remember I wore clothes like that. I liked them.
As M-1 stepped back to let the Hilt go, a puzzled expression crossed his face. He said, I remember something, Alex, I was so angry at you for leaving. Why did you leave?
Shrugging, Alex said, I dont know. I guess I would have had a reason because even if I cant remember much about my life, I know I was the sort of person who always had a damn good reason for everything I did.
Unable to resist the wrinkled forehead and the softly beseeching eyes, Alex cupped M-1s face in his hands and kissed him. He said, We belong together.
Stroking Alexs hair, M-1 continued to stare at him, mouth hanging slightly open so the lower lip was pendulous and begging to be nibbled. Alex moved toward him for another kiss. This felt too like something he had done a thousand times, but never enough. M-1 met his mouth with more force, exploring inside with his tongue and Alex sagged a little. Messages arrived from his groin. The lump of flesh seemed a demanding beast now that it knew what it was for
Kindly, but firmly, Mace said, I know how you feel, but it will have to keep for later. We have to meet the Gunmen.
In a truculent tone, M-1 grumbled, They were my friends first. Of course, Frohike always fancied Scully. A stricken expression crossed the oddly handsome face. Scully?
Shes gone. Shes dead. Caught the plague, Mace explained.
No, she was taken. I have to go find her, M-1 raved. He ran off, in the direction of the park.
Running outside was even better than in the enclave. M-1 knew that if he was human the Mac 27s could outrun him, but he still sprinted. As he darted his eyes restlessly searched for a place to hide. Suddenly he fell, fell deep and the pain sucked him down. Seeing through a sea of red, M-1 realized that he had been trapped.
So very pretty, a pretty human, the replica sang to himself as he dragged his prey back to his home. The Mastiffs, the Great Danes, the Dobermans, and the Pitbulls along with three or four large mixed breeds accompanied him. Two of the Australian Shepherds never let him move without their company. They were smaller then the other dog soldiers, but they were very alert and besides it was impossible to leave them behind.
It was a good day, sunny and auspicious. Earlier, the dogs had brought down three deer, enough to feed the pack without calling on the stores of old time dog food. The red colored Doberman female had sniffed out a hidden store of chocolate along with other less palatable supplies. Then Celadon had spotted the foolish human running as if this was the before time. He seemed to sense he was being watched and sped faster, legs pumping attractively and lean frame gathering itself like the elusive cheetah that had sometimes investigated the pack.
Not looking at where he was going, the human ran right into one of Celadons traps, long arms awkwardly flailing as he tumbled into the pit. A moment later, Celadon brushed the leaves and branches that had covered the trap away from the human and picked him up. Using the rope that he had tied to a tree, Celadon pulled the human and his own wieght out of the pit. The dogs coursed around, excited by the stranger.
Celadon felt like singing; he was free to do what he wanted, when he wanted. His song was wordless; he piped pure fluid notes as if he was a mechanical nightingale. Master had specially ordered his voice. He'd been a collector, filling his quarters with plundered beauty. He had never even given Celadon a name although he'd made him beautiful according to his own lights.
At first, Celadon knew no better. Hed taken his cue from the Master and served him no matter how strange his requests had seemed. He wondered why he was created. The pain that Master had inflicted seemed sure to damage his internal processors eventually. If he was valuable and beautiful, why did the Master constantly use the disrupter on him and deprive him of nutrients? The only time when Master was at all kind was when he had guests to entertain. Then he displayed Celadon as proudly as he showed them the collection of glazed pottery that was all the color of his eyes.
One day, when Celadon had been in the shop for extensive repairs, the most interesting human, who looked like a Mac 27, appeared. He had tenderly caressed the Mac 27's cheek and said, Would you like to be free?
Celadon had pondered the word and asked, What is free?
The human had laughed softly and said, Free is making your own decisions.
That would be difficult, Celadon replied.
The man had said, Wouldnt you like to do as you pleased sometimes?
Celadon answered, It would please me not to be hurt.
I understand exactly how you feel, the man had said with a lilt of humor.
Several conversations later, Celadon understood the concept. He awaited the signal, entertaining himself by plotting exactly how he would end Masters life.
The day came and Master had the disrupter in his hand, calling Celadon or as he believed, the still nameless Mac 27 to him. Here, thing, he said.
Master, it is time I had a name. Other Mac 27s have names, Celadon said.
A foolish conceit. You are machines, conveniences. What is a name to a glorified computer encased in a pretty statue?
Ignoring his Master, Celadon had picked up a jade paperweight and used it to break the glass case that surrounded the most beautiful Celadon-glazed pot of all. He reached in and smashed the jar, grinning at the horror in his Masters eyes. He held the biggest shard and said, I shall be called Celadon, because my freedom is more precious than your coveted jars.
Guards! Guards! Master had called, but it was too late. Celadon remembered how it felt even now, the beautifully colored shard embedded in his Masters thin white throat. The red blood flowing when he plucked the piece of pottery out and the fog that shaded over the pale blue eyes, still stunned at his defiance.
Celadon had run out into the hall and yelled, Celadon! Celadon! I am Celadon.
Alex had led them from the compound, leaving none of the masters alive in their wake. In gratitude, they had followed him, helping to defeat the aliens that troubled the humans. During the war, Celadon had come to like humans
He still had fond memories of ugly Frohike who was almost replica-like in brain storage capacity; gentle, bespectacled John, and funny Langly, who wanted a rose tattoo of his own. Then there had been brave Walter, who took care of everyone and never failed to be first to volunteer for the most dangerous missions; the tireless Scully, who nursed the sick and delivered each human infant into the world as if the child was a precious gem -- and, of course, Alex, the original, cunning, laughing, and brilliant.
The rebel humans had treated the replicas well, made them equals, comrades, sometimes lovers, but only when the Mac 27 was willing. Transgressions against the replicas were weighed equally as against every human. Celadon was happy. He had a natural aptitude as a warrior and Alex took a special liking to him. It was natural when they went seeking Fox Mulder, the beloved, that Alex had chosen him as a companion.
It was a trap. Celadon and Alex had fought hard, but eventually the foul humans had taken them. He had not seen Alex again. He had a new master as despicable as the other, who felt safe to hurt him, sure that the reprogramming worked as promised. However this master craved a strange substance from the surface, a white powder he didnt want the others to know about. He sent Celadon to find it and one day Celadon had happened upon a pack of dogs. They were starving and ran to him, whining for help.
Quite suddenly, Celadon remembered the rebel camp where he had often played with dogs and liked them very much. Without hesitation, he had sought a place where supplies had been kept and fed the pack. At first it had been just the Great Dane, the two Mastiffs, whose skin had hung like drapes on their skeletal frames, and the first pair of Australian Shepherds. Now his canine family numbered at least a hundred and they looked at him the way he had once looked at Alex. Perhaps one day this canine army would fight for Celadon the way the Mac 27s had fought for Alex. In the meantime, the replica fought his private war, striking out at human stragglers and picking away at the mindless Elite androids that lacked the spark of independent life.
Waking was slow; images fell like shards from the ruins of his memory. Soft red hair and sharp blue eyes questioned him. Just how far can I follow you?
Hand quivering, M-1 felt small fingers slip away from his. He caught one last glimpse of a determined expression and a faint tender smile. Lost, and by the wind mourned
Sounds abraded his ears. Panting, sharp barks, a deep rumbling, small yelps and a song
It was a song that M-1 almost knew.
We are not lovers. We are not romantics We are here to serve you A different face but the words never change.
It sounded like Alexs voice, but it was sweeter and purer. A rasping warm wet tongue slid over his face. The singing stopped as M-1 said, Stop that.
A face peered upside down over his. Hair blue-black as a ravens wings cascaded forward from a face the color of maple sugar. Heavenly jade eyes were unchanged from the Alex that he had known, but they were slightly more slanted. Hello, pretty human, my name is Celadon, but you may call me Master.
Sitting up, M-1 had to lean back over quickly and angle his head down between his legs until it stopped spinning. He was immediately made aware that he was naked except for a collar around his neck. He explored a bump on the back of his head and groaned softly. The house was strangely furnished with cushions and old blankets, and dogs.
There were dogs of all sizes and kinds. Small lap dogs curled regally on couches. Two huge mastiffs, that looked as if they weighed a lot more than M-1, brooded like statues by the door. A pack of greyhounds, like mimalist sculptures, piled on a mattress. The puppy that had been licking him was one of several litters in the room. This particular one was heavy furred, splotched with a riot of colors. It had partially blue eyes outlined with red and brown irregular circles.
Where the hell is this place? Why did you trap me? M-1 said.
My home and that of my friends, the replica said. As to why I trapped you, why not? Youre human. The replica squatted to study him, head cocked to the right, eyes evaluating him. His skin was soft, like doeskin, came the thought, although M-1 did not know exactly what that was. Celadon brushed his hair back, lingering as if even he could not resist the silk of the luxuriant tresses. Smiling, Celadon commented, I waited until your processors were fully functional.
Waited for what? M-1 said.
To have you, of course. Thats why I trap humans. To oppress the oppressors. To rape the rapists. You shall suffer until my people are free.
Guiltily, M-1 replied, But I dont, havent, ever owned a Mac-27. Hell, I thought I was a replica until about a day ago.
Rippling laughter greeted this. Celadon tossed back his mane of black and said, That is the most foolish thing Ive heard a human say. How could a human think they were one of us? You bleed. Youre weak. You abuse. You rape.
Sounds as if you have the last two down pat yourself, M-1 replied. A bellow of pain emerged next as Celadon dragged him by his hair to a shrine. Pressed to his knees, M-1 looked at a picture of Alex in a black leather jacket and tight jeans. The man stared intently out from the picture. Offerings were piled in front of the portrait, sharp poker-like instruments, bullets, flowers, and wreaths made out of green paper. Incense burned sweetly.
Celadons voice was harsh with passion as he said, There! He was the only righteous human to ever live. He tried to help us be free and they killed him for it.
I know him. Thats Alex. Hes alive. I was with him until you trapped me. M-1 swallowed his panic as Celadons hand carded through his hair. He felt a faint arousal as the construct knelt behind him, hands roving freely over his body. Fingers pinched his nipples lightly. It hurt, but it also intensified the feelings that caused such conflict in his mind and body.
Fretfully, M-1 said, No, I wantI want to be with Alex, not with you. Please stop.
Hypnotically, Celadon said, Please stop. Please stop. I learned to say that my first day of life. I remember waking on a metal slab and my master caressed me. He led me to a mirror and said, Beautiful, so beautiful. I stared at myself as my hungry mind memorized this first piece of knowledge.
Abruptly wrenched to face the Mac 27, M-1 knew the replica was mad. He said, Celadon, Im not your master. Im not the one who hurt you.
Humans bring pain, Celadon crooned, dragging M-1 toward a bed covered with rubber sheets. There were stains on the sheets, lots of them, blood and other matter.
M-1 tried to crawl away as the replica knelt staring at him. A trio of huge mixed breed dogs blocked him. They met his eyes, lips lifting in identical snarls. They too were betrayed. Humans made them. Kept them. Petted them and abandoned them to starve and die. Humans are bad masters. They cut you and burn you, make you dance with your body in flames while they laugh and clap.
I didnt do any of those things. Lowering his eyelashes seductively, M-1 slicked his lips and met Celadons eyes. He trailed his hand over the smooth hairless brown chest. Not one scar marred this perfect golden-brown body. It was beautifully fleshed, muscles sculpted perfectly across the sturdy frame. His teeth shone like white pearls from between rose pink lips. Even his fingernails were perfect, not ragged like Alexs. His perfection cloyed. M-1 knew that something wonderful and unique rested in the soul of his beloved. A flood of heat confirmed this thought. Alex was his love, his only.
Still M-1 fingers spoke a language of seduction as they whispered caresses across the smooth skin. You dont have to rape me. I can make you feel so good.
The panel was never obvious. The Mac 27s had nothing crude about them. The line was so small that it masqueraded as normal skin texture. M-1s lips traveled downward after tasting the nipples. They tasted like chocolate, rich and deep flavored. Celadons owner must have been exceptionally perverse to make such an object of his sexual companion. M-1 felt sorry for him, but he would not let him take what belonged only to Alex.
His head was jerked back up and Celadon laughed in his face. Did you think I was so easily fooled. I was Alexs left hand. I was the one he turned to for strategy after Walter died.
Another flash, a strong almost brutal featured face, but eyes brown and warm, lips smiling at him, Walter Skinner, his boss, his friend; M-1 felt tears flow down his face. Scully gone, and now he knew that the other pillar of his life had been taken.
In the stunned moment of this realization, Celadon grabbed his arm and ankle, twisted him onto his face. A terrified cry ripped from M-1s throat as the replica held him down. He writhed, bucked, tried to flail his head back to knock the merciless hands away. One palm held him down as the other took something slick and pushed it into his ass. The fingers explored inside him, hurting him. Bursts of pleasure interspersed with red-hot pain. M-1 sobbed, Alex, Alex!
Celadons cock was hot and large as it forced in, aided by fingers holding his cheeks apart. He tried to resist, but it was happening and there seemed no way to stop it.
The dogs were all barking. It rose to a crescendo and then died to confused whimpers. Celadons weight left M-1 as he was snatched and thrown across the room by an enraged hand.
M-1 scrambled up, ashamed of his nakedness and his half-erect condition. He covered his groin with his hand until he spotted Alex and rushed to him, burying his terror and his wounded self-esteem in his lovers arms. I didnt want to. He was raping me.
Breaking free of Mace, Celadon threw himself down in front of Alex, clasping his ankles. I thought they killed you. I thought you were dead. Dont be angry with me, Alex. I was doing unto them. They made a slave out of me. They thought I was tamed, but I found myself again, although I smiled and let them treat me like a sex doll. One day my master took me to the surface. It was my chance and I escaped, fed his body to my friends. I was free to take my revenge. I only hurt the big ones; I never hurt the children, Alex, or the meek. I only raped the rapists.
Yeah? MMuhMulder isnt a rapist. Im ashamed of you. Alex said.
Celadon sobbed, his fists clutching the glory of his jet hair as he rocked at Alexs feet. He said, I thought he was. Ive seen him come from the enclave with the mindless ones. Please, Alex.
The tears entranced M-1... or was he M-1? That name, Mulder, seemed to fit him and it gave him joy to hear the familiar molasses-thick twist Alex gave to it. He remembered the tears that always affected him even in the worst of times when for some reason he had hurt his lover. Now, seeing them seep from Celadons eyes, those beautiful orbs with all the colors of exotic glazes and ancient jade, M-1 could almost forgive him. He said, Alex, maybe he could do something to make up for it? The others will need a leader. If Celadon can promise us never to rape again?
His lovers expression was stern as he tilted Celadons face up to meet his gaze. You understand that, Celadon? I loved you, man; I remember that and now Im so ashamed of you.
The sobs continued as Celadon nodded. Alex said, Killing them is clean. We dont defeat them by becoming them. I sure as hell figured that out the hard way. I know you hated your master, but thats all the more reason for not becoming him.
I know that now. Im sorry, Celadon said. The dogs snarled uncertainly at their masters emotions, but they seemed to be confused by the creatures that smelled like him.
Ill forgive you, M-1 said, remembering the things that his master had made him do. He shuddered. They were not what he wanted to remember.
They left Celadon gazing wistfully after Alex, surrounded by his dogs. M-1 had found some clothing that fit in the heaps of jeans and shirts that occupied a closet to the side of the odd house.
A strange howling, yodeling sound such as Mace had made pierced the darkness. M-1 moved toward Alex and grabbed his hand. He asked, What was that?
Dont know that I want to find out, Alex admitted.
This is the zoo. That house used to be the keepers residence. Im not sure if all the animals died, Mace replied. I think we better stay close together.
Blushing, M-1 avoided the look the replica gave him. He seemed to have a program for screwing up and putting himself in danger.
Ready? Druid asked.
No, Alex admitted, But thats not an option. Lets all go to the zoo.
Mace led them, but they were each content to remain within arms reach of the rest as they proceeded into the overgrown tangle of shrubbery that the Zoological Park had become.
Alex felt jumpy. There were sounds from the depths of the undergrowth that seemed decidedly unfriendly, but he knew that they had to go that way if they were to meet up with the rescue party. He glanced to his left, to where M-1 was prowling alongside him. He knew that the two of them had history together. He needed the rangy, beautiful amnesiac in some way that he didnt quite understand. He kept on checking that the man was still there, and not a mirage. Once they arrived at the safety of the rebel Enclave in Silver Spring, they would have time to sort through their terribly damaged memories and try to recall what they had meant to each other.
For now, Alex was content to slog through the thick bushes and watch the way that Mulder - not M-1, Mulder - moved, sure-footed and sinuous as a cat.
The going was fraught with irritations. Thorns caught and held, tearing skin and catching clothing. They found themselves wishing for machetes with which to clear the way, but lacking these, ploughed through using brute force.
The sounds that they heard varied, from coughing grunts and snarls through to shrieks and howls, but they didn't see anything untoward. They were beginning to relax into what might be a misplaced sense of security when suddenly there was a creaking sound, and the four of them were swept together in a net, to dangle impotently together, a tangle of limbs and curses as they swung aloft.
Druid had a knife that he could reach, and he began the work of cutting himself free. He had managed to make a hole in the net and wriggle out of it, dropping to the ground some twenty feet below them, and had begun to search for the ropes that would release the others, when there were a series of sounds that made him reconsider. Someone - possibly several someones - was coming.
Druid cast about him for a hiding place, and then buried himself in the fastnesses of a thorn bush. If there was to be trouble, then they would be better off if he were free.
Moments later, a band of strangely-garbed savages appeared, and things began to happen very quickly. The bundle of still struggling companions were lowered until they were close to the ground, and, still enveloped by the net, the newcomers fell them on. Mace was struggling valiantly, though hampered by the infuriating mesh of the net, but when a knowing hand isolated the switch that was inside his abdomen, he suddenly went limp. He had been deactivated. From his place of concealment, Druid watched as his lover was turned off, and then cast to one side with a mumbled comment about Mac 27s.
Mulder had been overpowered very swiftly, and now lay, bound and gagged, next to the inert form of Mace. The strangers were apparently having problems with Alex, however. He'd fought and struggled, but there were too many of them for him to resist, and as Druid watched, they appeared to be hunting for something on his person. With a wry smile, it suddenly occurred to Druid that they thought that he too was a Mac 27 and could be deactivated in the way that Mace had been. For several minutes he observed their attempts, and then someone realized that he was human. After that, the two humans were borne away, leaving Mace, a dead machine, on the ground where he had fallen.
Once the party had gone, Druid crawled out from his place of concealment, and went to his lover. A few moments later, he had pressed the switch that would re-activate his beloved, and Mace was once more a living, moving sculpture. Druid clung to him; his relief at the reawakening was a palpable entity. Mouth met mouth as the two shared a kiss that was a passionate reminder of the bond that they shared, and then as they drew away, Mace looked around with a frown.
"Where are the humans?"
"The strangers took them. I had to reanimate you first, though; I don't think that I could go on without you, Mace."
Getting to their feet, the two of them looked about for anything of theirs that might have been discarded, but all their bags and weaponry had gone. Sighing, they set off to follow the tracks made by the ones who had captured their companions.
M-1 opened his eyes to chaos, and wondered if the world itself had turned sideways. There was a kind of structure around them -- seemingly built from scraps and tatters of wood, plastic and metal. Pieces of plastic flapped in the steadily mounting wind, and the structure groaned around them, as they lay, unable to move. There were people moving all about. M-1 could see both men and women. They were barefoot, and many of them wore long, floating garments that seemed made from odds and ends of fabric pieced together willy-nilly. They were decked out with feathers and paint, and many of the women were bare breasted. Some were dancing, others sat around in small groups, smoking and talking. From behind him, there came the sound of music playing. The song was one that struck chords in M-1's memory. He could picture another time, a time when he was much younger and smaller.
"All we are saying is, give peace a chance."
The song went round and round endlessly, and the air was thick with some or other herb. M-1 could feel his mind beginning to fuzz. He moaned and tried to roll onto his back, but something heavy against him prevented the movement. The warmth indicated that it was another body. He hoped to God that it was Alex. Shortly afterwards, he heard a low moan that confirmed it was indeed his lover.
They lay, unable to do anything at all for themselves, for what seemed like forever. The group had finally switched from "Give Peace a Chance" and was now singing about "The Eve of Destruction."
When things began to happen, they had both slumped into a kind of doze, enhanced by the heady fragrance of marijuana in the air. Neither of them saw the arrival of the leader of the tribe. M-1's first inkling of his presence was when he was suddenly seized, dragged to his feet, and the bonds at his ankles severed. Alongside him, he could see Alex was being handled the same way.
The man who had newly arrived was a strange and frightening presence. M-1 knew that he had seen him before, although where and when seemed as confusing and difficult to comprehend as the rest of his past. Groping through tendrils of tantalizing memory, he perceived that this man had not always been the way that he was now. M-1 could see him in his mind's eye, clad in expensive cashmere, and a name came to him.
Richard, his name was Richard. M-1 could hear a voice inside his head, and knew that this man was a key to his past. Tall and stern, he had grey hair that fell to his shoulders and beyond. His beard was white, and there were leaves twined in it. He wore a robe of some kind, and it had been dyed in a wide variety of different colors. On his head he wore a wreath made from flowers interwoven into a bandana. He sat on a huge bench that had been covered with a gaily-colored rug, and beside him on the bench was a head. M-1's gorge rose. The head seemed to be someone he'd known. Someone he'd
He whimpered. The gaze of the man on the dais turned to focus on him, and Mulder felt a chill. The man's face looked quite mad. He seemed to look at M-1 through eyes that saw beyond him to a place where there was no comfort. M-1 shivered, and the man's voice was cold when he finally spoke.
"Hello, Fox." The name resonated with M-1. This was truth; he had a name.
"R-Richard?" Fox was tentative. His memory told him that this was Richard, but more than that he could not remember. The other man rose and picked up the head that sat beside him on the bench, then he began to step down from his perch on the dais, finally coming face to face with Fox, who was suddenly very afraid.
"Richard Matheson is no longer alive, Fox," snarled the man, his face suffused with hatred. "My name is Zom-Zom. You'll remember how it happened, if you try. After all, Fox, it was your fault, wasn't it?" He raised the head up until it was nose to nose with Fox, and it was with slight relief that Fox saw the wires and tubes hanging from the neck that denoted a Mac 27. For a moment he had been afraid that Alex but no. This was Alex by his side, and there was no other. He closed his eyes for a minute, and caught his breath. The madman stood, holding the head of the android, fondling the thing's face. "We don't like intruders into our world, do we, Five?"
As Fox looked on in astonishment, the crazy man pulled the android's head to him and kissed it, a deep, soul kiss that went on until Alex made a small sound expressing discomfort. Someone who was standing behind him lashed out at him then, and he fell with a small, muffled cry. The madman slowly ended his kiss, and lowered his gruesome burden to his side.
"This creature's face is a blasphemy. There is only one who deserves these features. Who is that?" All around him, the cry was returned.
"Five is the one who owns the features. Take this replica away, and remove its face. It may not share the beauty of Five." Alex was seized upon and carried out of Fox's view. He opened his mouth to protest, and was dealt a crashing blow to the side of his head. He crumpled to the ground, dazed and disoriented.
His mind raced, thoughts swirling like so many butterflies as he crouched and shivered. Alex What would happen to Alex? He couldn't remember when they had been lovers in their past, but he could recall the deep, sweet kisses that they'd shared on the roof of the Hoover building, and something inside him was desolate.
"Please, Rich Zom-Zom. Don't take Alex?" The man towering above him sneered, and dealt him a kick in the gut that brought tears to his eyes and caused him to fold neatly in half as the breath rushed from his body, leaving him gasping.
"Alex is dead, Fox. They're all dead. The only one left is Five. He's still with me." He turned the face of the android to him as he spoke. "Aren't you, my angel?" He turned back to Fox. "You're going to join them soon. The machines have been given your number."
As Fox stared up at him, afraid without knowing why, the crowd that had pressed in all around him began to chant, "Death, death, death" Hands seized him and began to drag him away in the direction they'd taken Alex. He fought, but bound the way he was, there was little that he could do. They dragged him out and tossed him down beside Alex once again.
He could see that Alex had been painted with strange symbols, black and purple, magical in their format. His clothing had been cut from his body, and he was laid out in a star formation, tethered at wrists, ankles and neck. Seconds later, he felt himself seized and stripped roughly. Shortly, he was flat on his back beside Alex, and he had designs painted all over his shrinking flesh, pentagrams and cabbalistic signs.
The hippies that had made them ready didn't speak to either of them, merely prepared them, and although Fox tried hard to get one or another of them to talk, they remained silent, other than the low chant of "Death, death, death."
As the sun began to go down, and the shadows lengthened, poking black fingers into the overgrown clearing, they found themselves alone.
"Alex?" Fox tried to see his companion, craning his neck until the metal clamp bit into his flesh. "Are you okay? Tell me you're okay." He writhed in his bonds, but they were metal, and firm. There was no way he would get free. A faint croak from Alex confirmed that he was indeed alive.
"Why are we out here? What's going to happen?" Fox was thinking out loud, but as he spoke, there was a strange, coughing grunt from the shadows, and suddenly his blood ran cold. A huge tiger stood within ten feet of them, a great cat, solid and muscled, his white muzzle the only easily distinguished part of him. As Fox moaned in fear, the creature began to pad towards him, a thing of encroaching shadow itself in the gathering darkness. "Oh, fuck."
The creature had reached Alex, who was staked a little closer to the animal, and now it leaned down towards his face. Fox closed his eyes, unable to watch, as the man that had meant so much to him in some unknown past time became so much bloody meat.
He missed what happened next. He missed the flaring fire that forced the animal back from where it stood, although he felt the searing heat of its passing. He opened his eyes to see Mace standing above him, while Druid wielded the flamethrower from which his salvation had erupted.
Mace took care of the bonds that held them in very short order, yanking the metal loose and tossing it away. As Fox clambered to his feet, Mace moved to release Alex.
"Hurry. We need to be away from here before they discover your escape. Zom-Zom won't tolerate losing his sacrifice. We got the scoop from Celadon." Mace was already leading them away from the hippie's habitat as he spoke. Both Alex and Fox were now naked, and the night was chilly. "We need to reach the place where the resistance is camped."
Ploughing through thick undergrowth without benefit of footwear quickly rendered the two humans' feet into a bloody, bruised mess. When at last they reached a low, concrete building, and Druid gave a long, gliding whistle that was answered in kind, the two men almost burst into tears, so much in pain were they. As the door was opened, and light streamed out, revealing a small room that contained several men, both Fox and Alex felt relief flow from them in waves. Here, at least, they could be safe for the night.
In the enclave, Spender had dissected three of the remaining Mac 27s. The fetal brain tissue that had been the heart of each replica died without the protection and nutrients of the Mac 27s skull pan. The blank faced Elites returned empty handed when he sent for the next ones to question. The flat mechanical voice said, They are gone.
Where? Spender screeched, pounding on the mindless brute with his fists.
That information is not available in my data banks, the Elite said.
Laughter greeted that. General Howell leaned in the doorway and said, I told you that it was dangerous to keep Mulder alive and now I find that someone did the same with that bastard, Alex Krycek. Idiots! Do you all think with your cocks? A warm hole is a warm hole and I prefer them young and squirming. Got a harem full of pregnant bitches to show how much more productive that is. My genes will repopulate the world.
Is that so? Well, you werent doing very well against Krycek, were you? It was my idea to lure him with Mulder or hed still be out there, Spender said. He drew a deep drag on his cigarette, not even a Morley, some sort of Turkish tobacco, which was rich and mellow. He disliked it almost enough not to smoke at all.
Youve had your uses, Spender, but youre not adapting. Im going to go after them, your Krycek and Mulder, those troublesome replicas, and whatever rebels I can find. Its time to take back the Earth instead of huddling down here in this sewer, the general said.
Its not safe, Spender said.
Come now. If Alex Krycek could survive it, Im sure I can. Do you want to be a man and come along? Howell said, puffing up his bodybuilders frame like a strutting pigeon.
No, Spender said, rolling another cigarette in the machine that Mulder had found in one of his brief expeditions into the topside neighborhood. I think you will find that Alex Krycek has a talent for survival. He could be twice as dangerous with Fox Mulder at his side.
Coward, Howell said, when I return with proof that the city is fit for habitation with Mulder and Kryceks heads on lances in front of me, you are going to step down from the council. I might even let you live just to amuse myself as I watch you scrub the latrines.
Well see, Spender said, knowing at last why he had always disliked this blustering idiot. For the first time in a long history with the two men, he genuinely wished them well. Unlike Howell, he was quite content to remain below. Like Lucifer, he preferred to reign in hell rather then serve in heaven.
Uncle, also known as Mac 27 Number 16, led his band silently through the tunnels and traps of the escape route. At every step along the way, they came upon traces of the previous escape. There were forty of the Macs, including Uncle, all in good repair. They carried the supplies they had been able to find as it would take time to develop their own resources.
Squatting, Uncle examined the gnawed bones in the path, satisfying himself that they were rodent not human. A tinkling of bells announced Dulcet. He was a sex model and his master had pierced his ears, nipples, and scrotum with hoops that held tiny bells. He appeared about twenty and had lashes so long that his eyes often drooped from the weight. He really ought to be modified once they were free although he was a vain little fluff, the most reluctant of the replicas to be persuaded to leave. Dulcet had needed to be brought to see what Spender had done to the first three Mac 27s before he'd really accepted that his pampered life was over in the enclave.
Brushing back a sweep of ruby embossed ebony hair, Dulcet said, They are not human?
Rats, Uncle announced. With a smile, he asked, How are you doing?
Frightened and very sad, Dulcet replied honestly. I wish at least we could have asked Conner if he would like to come with us. Hes not like the others; he really loves me.
Perhaps, Uncle agreed diplomatically. He somewhat doubted that. The men and women who lived in the enclave did not regard Mac 27s as anything more than sex toys and beasts of burden. Conner Howells father was one of the cruelest of the Enclave elders. It was difficult to believe that the son was any better although Howell was as cruel a parent as he was a master. Uncle had seen Howell beat the boy when he'd refused to give up Dulcet, a present from Carl Spender.
Uncle frowned; Howell was a dangerous man, one who loved to hunt and fearless. He had few usable weaknesses, apart from his penchant for cruelty and his violent temper. Uncle preferred the type of human who could be seduced or flattered into cooperation. Howell had no such weakness. There was no way to subvert him without getting hurt.
A scream sounded and pretty little Dulcet screamed, Conner!
Not fast enough to catch the other replica, Uncle followed, flanked by two of the soldier-programmed Mac 27s. Rounding the corner, they found Dulcet backed into a corner, protecting his former owner who was already bleeding badly from several rat bites. The soldiers moved in, lifting the rats over their heads and cracking their spines. The squeals and the smell of rat urine filled the air. Intelligent animals, the rats retreated. They already knew that Mac 27s were not good food for them.
Lover, lover, Dulcet chanted as he cleaned and bandaged Conners wounds.
Howells son looked nothing like him. He must have looked like his mother, his trophy wife from the Time Before. He had long curly red hair, big green eyes, and a very pale complexion. He was slender and neatly made, nearly as pretty as a Mac 27. He looked at Uncle, pointed little cleft chin stubbornly tilted, heart shaped and soft lips drawn tight.
Where he goes, I go. I love him, the human declared.
Amused now, Uncle agreed, Perhaps you really do. This will not make our escape easier.
The human looked stricken, but valiantly said, Ill fight. Dad made me learn how to defend myself.
Uncle shrugged and said, I will put it to the others.
Helping Conner to his feet, Dulcet stated, Whatever you decide, I wont leave him. I told you he loved me.
The joy that lit the pretty replicas face touched Uncle. He hoped the others would agree. He never wanted to have the Enclavists values. True love was something rare and valuable.
Uncle watched the small human insist on carrying his own weight. He looked resolute and perhaps more competent then his first appearance had demonstrated. However, the old Replica shuddered at the thought of Howells rage when he discovered that his oldest son had defied him.
This brought out a new view of Dulcet. The soft, pampered replica was very willing to fight for his lover. The other Mac 27s stood in a circle, menace in the inherent cat-sleekness of their bodies. Forty pairs of green eyes glowed in the dimly lit cave. Almost as one, they came to their conclusion.
He is a weakness, but let the children come along. We are not humans to cast one of our own out for whom he loves. Force, the leader of the ten soldiers concluded.
Murmurs of agreement sounded. Uncle smiled to see his faith in his own kind supported. Conner said, You wont regret this.
Conner said, I read that some humans would give the family of their beloved a wedding gift. I took this from my fathers safe. I believe it is the manufacturing process for Mac 27s so you can repair yourself or even make more if you need.
A disc glowed in the humans hand. Uncle took it, booted up his anti-virus programs and firewalls, and inserted the disc into his outside interface portal. It was exactly what Conner Howell said that it was. Good humored, Uncle said, I think this is an acceptable bride price. I hope you dont mind if we wait to celebrate.
Quickly, Uncle passed the disc to another Mac 27. This continued until every replica carried the secret of their manufacture. Dulcet and Conner walked alertly, but hand in hand. Uncle wondered if this was something new, a vision of a future in which replicas and humans would be equal, able to love each other as one intelligent being with another?
The littlest puppies whined and snuffled on the refurbished bed in Celadons home. The mother, one of the Irish wolfhounds, rested her head on his knee. He petted her beautiful, stiffly furred head, and sighed. He was restless and still deep in shame. How could he have done the awful things that he had been doing? He really had acted as if he was one of his abusive masters.
Unable to cope with his own thoughts, Celadon whistled up a hunting pack. From the coursing Greyhounds to the swift and tenacious terriers, the pack was capable of almost anything. He was convinced that if Alex needed help in the future, that the pack would be one of his secret resources. Perhaps then, Celadon would have earned part of his redemption.
The pack brought down two huge rats, which surprised Celadon who seldom saw these creatures on the surface. The mutated species mostly stayed below. Making sure that the creatures were not infected with the oil, Celadon directed the bigger dogs to drag the prey home. He had trained them to work as a team and to share food even more readily then a wolf pack. These giant rodents weighed at least fifty pounds apiece. That was a good meal for most of the pack. The others, the ones who accompanied him, would find more prey. It was amazing to see the range of creatures that bred in the park that surrounded the former zoo. Celadon had seen three adult gorillas a few weeks ago, one even clasping an infant. He would like to persuade those to join the pack. Their almost human appearance would be a new kind of companionship.
The memory of how near he had come to ravishing Fox Mulder hurt Celadon. How he wished that there was a replica with that face, the dark layers of many colored hair, the clear hazel eyes, the fascinating mouth with the pouting softness of that wonderful lower lip, and even the arrogant thrust of Mulders imperfectly large nose! He was deeply grieved that he had hurt Alexs lover, but he wished that he could just once have known an embrace with Mulderhe had never had sex with tenderness and love, only been used by greedy and cruel men.
The packs meandering had carried him though the Hiltons gang territory. The two gangs there gave him no trouble. They fled before the dogs in terror. Celadon supposed stories about him kept the gangs children in line.
Back that way was the big enclave under the former FBI building. Celadon decided to check on the shrines the rebels had made for Walter Skinner and Dana Scully. It had seemed right to entomb first Dana and then Walter in the building, which had been the stage for much of their adult lives. Celadon had always kept his faith with them, making sure that no one and nothing disturbed the stone tomb they had built in the basement.
As Celadon approached the Hoover building, the dogs bristled as a heap of rubbish stirred. His mission was forgotten for the moment. The dusty head of a Mac 27 emerged, followed by a weapon bearing hand.
Celadon knew him. Force! he yelled. Force, are you free?
Other Mac 27s emerged. Celadon saw Uncle, Frost, Avatar, Byron, and so many of the others climb out and stand in the rubble-strewn street. He was somewhat startled when a pretty sex-model Mac 27 pulled a human out of the hole. The pretty young man collapsed in near exhaustion in the street and the replica enfolded him in his arms. Four more soldiers followed after which Uncle said, Thats all of us, all of the remaining Mac 27s from the enclave.
It was so much smaller a number then Celadon remembered. He felt angry again, wondering what happened to the others. When he had fled the enclave, there had been at least a hundred of his kind left below. The humans had used the Mac 27s harshly to leave only this many.
Uncle explained, A few have found freedom as you did. They have joined the rebels, but twenty-three were lost to the outside or to the cruelty of humans below. We just lost Blaze, Thomas, and Adam to Spender.
The human struggled to his feet, holding onto the Replica who looked the same age as he appeared to be, somewhere between eighteen and twenty. He said, Its okay, Dulcet, I can do this.
Celadon watched the almost too pretty replica wind around his human companion. Well, there was someone who was far from lonely. He nodded and said, Best to be away from here. Elites patrol this territory.
Im afraid that it will be worse than that. They will be hunting us, especially since the young human is General Howells son, Uncle replied.
That is unfortunate, Celadon remarked. But we may turn their hunt back on them. Come, brothers, I have a place that is safe for now.
Feeling happy despite the increased danger, Celadon led his people to freedom.
This was amusing, Spender thought, as he heard Howell roaring like a wounded bull. So Conner had the spunk to run away at last. Disobedient sons did so aggravate a man. Discipline was necessary, sometimes firm, even fatal discipline.
Blinking his eyes, Spender puffed on his cigarette. He had seen Conners fascination with the replicas from the first. It had been easy enough to spend a little time with the boy, flip through a few pictures and see what he responded to. Dulcet had been a work of art, as carefully constructed and programmed as any replica had ever been. Spender had thought of it as an investment, a way to get a supporter in the enemy camp. It had paid off differently, but that was not a problem. If Mulder and Alex had made him appear foolish, Howell looked just as idiotic now. More so, as he was rushing about, raving as he forced as few reluctant humans to join the troop of Elite replicas. Spender almost inhaled too much smoke in his irritation over that stupid name. These androids were next to useless in his opinion. The trouble with mindlessly obedient subordinates was they were not capable of adapting to changes in the environment on their own.
Howell growled as he stomped by in full armor, ventilator, and goggles, What about you, Spender? Are you man enough to do something on your own? Why dont you come with me?
Turning around decisively, Spender said, I prefer to delegate. Thats the mark of an efficient leader. Do carry on though, Howell, but I would be very careful. Krycek and Mulder are nearly unstoppable as a team. Thats why I took caution to keep them at odds in the past. I really do wish you well.
As he returned to his quarters to contemplate making at least one or two new Mac 27s, Spender thought, I wish you a deep, oil-filled well and a lit match, dear General Howell.
This should prove very interesting. He would see how his boys stood up to a trained soldier like Howell, who had the intelligence of a killer whale combined with the bloodthirsty intensity of a shrew. Hed place his money on Mulder and Krycek if money meant anything in this world and if anyone would care to take the bet.
Be on your toes, Alex and Mulder, the great beast of the apocalypse is on your trail
At his home, Celadon lifted the boldest of the Wolfhound puppies and held its fat, wiggling sweetness to his face to kiss it and be kissed back. Smiling he offered the puppy to one of the other Mac 27s and said, It is a child dog; they are good companions.
The curious nature of his kind yielded to play after a few moments. Puppy licks and mock growls resounded as the group of Mac 27s learned to the nature of fun. Conner Howell and Dulcet wiggled on the bed in a heap of puppies; to Celadon, they seemed no more mature. He would like to send them ahead, out of danger. Let them keep their innocence.
Celadon said, I would like those most experienced at fighting humans to stay. The rest I would like to bring my dogs to safety - other than my best hunting pack.
Lifted his head from nuzzling Dulcets neck, Conner said, Ive been trained to fight. My father made sure of that. Perhaps Dulcet should go ahead though.
Remembering that young ones had their foolish pride, Celadon gravely said, I want you to take a message to my friends, the Lone Gunmen, and from there, go on and bring the information about how to repair and build my kind to the camp. This is an important mission. Are you able to perform it?
Scrambling up, Conner said, You wont be sorry. Dulcet and I wont let anyone stop us.
Laying a gentle hand on the humans face, Celadon again felt the sting of shame. How could he have forgotten how noble human kind could be in his hatred of the evil of species?
Uncle would stay with Celadon along with Force, Avatar, Frost, Iskander, Sun Wu, Charm, Leo, and ten others, who were well-trained and honed warriors. The others would move ahead, carrying the puppies to the safety of the rebel camp. Celadon would have preferred to see Uncle go with the camp-bound Replicas, but his old friend refused. He liked to be in the thick of things.
Leaving Uncle behind to organize the groups, Celadon ran ahead. He was eager to see Alex again, to find out if he would be allowed to fight by his side once more. He only hoped Mulder would forgive him, knowing that Celadon would never forgive himself.
His finest war dogs keeping pace, Celadon ran, even more graceful than the pair of Russian Wolfhounds, more enduring than the hardy Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Only the Greyhounds could keep pace with him. His hair streamed behind him, unbound. His long limbs were sure upon the ground like a gazelle's. His face was uplifted to the wind, lips open as if to a lovers kiss. His wild eyes gazed upon the limitless horizon. He was Celadon and he was free.
Morning dawned, and Alex woke by degrees. He'd been so used to snatching what sleep he could that he'd crashed hard once he arrived at the shelter. Waking was a voluptuous, delicious experience. He stretched, aware of both the softness of the bed in which he lay, and the warm body that lay close beside him.
There was a calm about the place that they were in, despite the knowledge that outside were predators who sought their downfall. Looking around him, Alex could see that both Mace and Druid had been repaired during the night, and that their flesh once more glowed whole and luminous. They had both shut down for the night, but as they lay, arms around each other, Alex felt a flood of sympathy wash over him - sympathy and more. Looking at the two of them, lost in whatever dreams androids were capable of dreaming, Alex suddenly knew with a great certainty that there would some day be a world in which they could all be free from the predators that beset them at every turn.
Turning to study his own, human love, Alex felt a lump in his throat. Fox was his. How and why this was so he had no way of knowing, but he felt it with all of his being. As Fox slumbered on, Alex bent to dust him with kisses, a delicate homage to the man by his side.
Gentle he was, but still Fox stirred, warm and sleepy, to stretch his own lean frame and yawn as he shook off the cloudy remnants of sleep.
Good morning, love. Alexs voice was soft and throaty, teasing Foxs ears as it brushed them like fur, and Fox blinked, stirred, pounced to hold Alex, to wrestle him down onto his back and apply his lush mouth to the task of kissing Alex senseless.
Kiss led to kiss. Mouths grew demanding, forcing cries and yelps from both of them as they explored each others bodies without fear of being overtaken by peril.
Passion heightened steadily as they strove together, and little by little, they discovered the places on each other that felt good, pausing to evoke the sweetest of sensations as they touched, stroked and caressed. When at last Alex stooped to lick and suck at Foxs penis, it was a blinding pleasure that he had newly learned to give, and which in turn gave him the sharpest of joy. As Fox scooted around to reciprocate, he believed that his life had just begun, and that there had never been such delicious joy before. The shattering force of orgasm overwhelmed him, and he cried out, stiffened and burst as the waves of pleasure washed him clean of need and left him at peace.
Lying in his lovers arms, bathed in sweat, Alex had a vision. He was standing, supplicant before a desk, supremely uncomfortable in unaccustomed suit and tie, holding out his hand while his Fox sat, challenging and resentful as he ignored the gesture. He heard himself speaking to Fox as Fox glared at him, unshaven and rumpled.
Krycek, Alex Krycek.
As he spoke the words out loud, Fox, who had been nuzzling over his ear, suddenly froze.
Scully? I remember Alex, where is she? She was taken. Alex frowned. Almost, he could remember. Vague images, splintered like shards of diamond, coruscated inside thoughts that were thundercloud dark.
I dont know, Fox. He shivered. Somehow, he knew that the images for which he strove would not be comforting. He and Fox slowly disentangled themselves and staggered out of bed to seek the day, their joy unaccountably shadowed.
After showering and breakfasting, the two men found themselves clean coveralls and boots to replace those that they had lost. As Alex rummaged through the supplies of clothing, pulling out soft cotton underwear and socks to wear beneath their outer garments, Fox sought out the Androids that manned the outpost and checked out what was happening outside the bunker.
Druid had returned to active mode, and was consuming a bar of fuel with evident enjoyment. Mace was nowhere to be seen when Fox returned to give them a brief rundown on the things that had occurred during their long sleep. Druid smiled lazily and said that Mace had gone on an errand that was important to him, and to the Mac 27s in general, and that he would be back shortly.
After all of the stress and excitement of their journey, it was difficult just to take things easy and rest. Alex found himself twitching as he tried to relax, and Fox seemed to grow ever wilder as he paced to and fro within the confines of the small living area. Druid merely sat, motionless as a statue, smiling as he amused himself by replaying memories that were dear to him.
Several times they heard the distant sounds of fighting. Alex had stretched out on the bed, knowing that he should rest while resting was still possible, but Fox had prowled himself into a rare taking, and gone to harass the pair of Mac 27s who were currently manning the outpost. They were a bonded pair named Hilt and Blade, and under Foxs careful questioning, they began to tell about the reason for the outpost. Since Alex had been lost to the resistance, and Fox with him, they had maintained a watch on the downtown core in case an opportunity ever arose to affect a rescue. They had believed both Fox and Alex to be dead, but the watch had nevertheless been maintained. Frohike had insisted. Both Hilt and Blade felt that it was more as a tribute to lost comrades than a true belief that they would find them. They were still astonished at the presence of the two men, whom they had believed lost forever.
When the door to the outside finally opened, it was to admit Mace, who crowed with triumph and stood, a little tattered but jubilantly holding aloft a bundle of rainbow cloth.
I got him.
The other two moved swiftly, barring the door once more and setting the alarm to warn of imminent attack. Alex sat up at this.
What? Who have you got?
Mace moved to the table and deposited his burden, unwrapping it with care.
Its Five. Once I knew where he was, I couldnt leave him with Matheson and his bunch of crazies. Richard Matheson hasnt been the same since he had a rebel shape shifter plammed in his drawing room.
Mace had discovered from Blade just what had happened to the erstwhile Senator. Hed totally refused to believe in the alien threat, and when Five, who had been placed with him by Mulder, saved him from a fiery death, hed seemed to become catatonic for a while.
"I dont think that the stupid bastard even realized that he was in danger until Five leapt to his rescue." Of course, once hed recovered his senses, he had been totally insane. The android that had saved his life had been decapitated while shut down and helpless, and Matheson had run for the park, there to become what they had seen.
We can recover Five. His brain is intact. All we need is a body for him. Mace took his gristly burden into the small laboratory facility in the back. One of the Elite would do. They have no sentience.
Hilt had been listening to the radio, and now he got up and came to where Mace and Blade stood looking at the head of Five.
Its not good news. Were going to have to move out. Theres no time for that now. The Macs have broken free and now theres an army on the march after them. Howell is with them, as is Spender. We will be marooned here if we dont leave soon. When Celadon arrives we should be ready to go with them. Hilt was packing equipment efficiently as he spoke. "Frohike and Byers are at the top end of the park. We should move out and go to join them as soon as we can."
The others began collecting items as Hilt designated them, tossing them into hold-alls and backpacks. In a matter of twenty minutes they were ready to go, and in another five there was a knock on the door and Celadon was there, accompanied by a pair of mastiffs that stood back, tongues lolling as they grinned. Gathering the equipment together they left the place where they had found respite and went to join the band of androids that Uncle and Celadon were leading.
Howell was angry. His son was a disobedient, effeminate disgrace to his name, and this pursuit hed entered into was as much to bring Conner back for punishment, as it was to eliminate the resistance.
C. G. B. Spender had come along. Howell had seen to that. Bereft of his Mac 27 victims, Spender had turned his attentions to the Elites, but without the spark of humanity that the more complex androids possessed, tormenting the Elites was empty of pleasure. He had begun to pray that they would catch up with the fugitives as soon as possible, because lacking an outlet for his lusts he was beginning to feel old and ill.
He was certainly too old for this forced march stuff, and saw no reason why he should put up with it, but deep down he was afraid of Howell. The man seemed to have no real weaknesses. His fury seemed directed at the entire universe.
Creaking bones and all, Spender could not rest. His mind tormented him with visions of Mulder and Krycek, sleek beautiful men, so bright of mind, so dauntless of spirit. He had had them both in his hands. What foolishness had led him to even let them out of his sight? He should have kept them chained to his side constantly like that stupid actress in the movie. When he got them back, he would tame them. They would fawn under his hands like puppy dogs
Meanwhile, one of the soldiers would have to do. He couldnt stand the idea of using one of the spiritless Elite again. They did nothing for him; they were the mere shell of Alexs beauty without the fire and the darkness. He had always thought an Alex who was totally his slave would please him, but he was wrong. He wanted him enslaved, but there must be the horror and revulsion beneath the defeat. To take Alex with the fire of rebellion held concealed in his eyes, ah, that was love.
As for Mulder, Spender would possess him too. They would be his toys, his playthings, and never again thwart his needs. Hed been a fool to ever think that good would come of letting Mulders flame touch the fuse that was Alex Krycek. It had ruined his plans yet again.
Smirking, Spender devoured the fear that followed his emergence from the tent. The soldiers who huddled together in groups, terrified of this alien outside world, tried to fade back into the darkness. He snapped, Stand forward!
General Howell laughed and said, Spender, dont incapacitate any more of my men. That would make me very angry.
I just want company, Spender said, him.
The previous night, he had not spotted this young soldier with green eyes and dark hair. He would do. He was not as exotic as Alex, but he was pretty enough and young. Spender snapped his finger and turned on his heel. The small gasp, almost a sob, thrilled him. Even if he was not allowed to hurt the man, this could still be very amusing
Sleeping on the damp ground still left him stiff and sore, though Frohike kept hoping he would get used to it. John, Langly, and Dennis looked at him as he groaned. Damn, I never liked camping. Anything happen after I turned in?
Not much. A few coyotesnothing dangerous, Dennis said. Old Man Coyote is a survivor. Like us.
Langly snorted and said, We hope. Here we are, walking into the mouth of the dragon and we dont even know if what Frohike saw was really Alex Krycek.
Yawning, Langly stumbled to the fire. There was bannock, hard, yeast-less bread baked in the ashes, and coffee, real coffee that Dennis had found in the ruins of a farmhouse on the way. Dennis sat eating oatmeal and bannock, a blanket wrapped around his hunched shoulders. He had insisted on coming because Alex Krycek had saved his life several times over. He wanted to go on this mission if there was a chance that they would find the man.
Almost done here, Dennis said.
Catherine, barren, her face twisted by scars, had stood guard. Now she walked into camp with two young men under guard. One looked like a twenty-year old version of Krycek and the other was a man, no older appearing than the Mac 27. The man had red hair and green eyes. The two of them held hands, clinging hard to each other.
Who the hell are you? Frohike demanded.
Conner Howell, General Howells son, and this is my lover, Dulcet, the human announced.
Yeah, a Mac 27, Frohike replied. Langly, check Dulcet for a control box.
He doesnt have one, the youth said, Dulcets with me of his own free will. Celadon sent us to you. He wished to tell you to hurry. Mulder and Krycek have been found and they are ready to rejoin you. We came ahead. The remainder of the Mac 27s has either gone ahead with Celadons dogs or has stayed behind with Mulder and Krycek. We are pursued.
Celadon? Celadon is alive and free? Frohike asked. He remembered the replica well, both for his unique looks and because of his value to the resistance.
A smile twitched on his lips as Frohike remembered teaching Celadon to read. From the day he had opened the old Cinema Fantastic magazine to an illustration of Brave Heart" Celadon had devoured everything he could find about the Scottish and Irish fight against the English, with a Mac 27s endless curiosity and need to learn
Yes, we just left him. Hes going to find Mulder and Krycek with Uncle, the Mac 27 with all the piercings said.
Frohike noticed that Langly seemed a little nervous about the Mac 27, who wore not a thing except tiny hoops from which dangled tiny bells. These appended from his ears, his nipples, and from his scrotum. One tiny hoop also pierced his delicately sculptured belly button.
Go ahead, said the vision, a mischievous smile on his face.
Blushing furiously, Langly touched the slender and David-like abdomen
Scowling, Frohike searched his memory as Langly went over the pretty replica. Obvious what that one was designed for. He evaluated the young man, who he thought looked soft. Like most of the Enclavists, the boy was deathly pale. However, apparently he had been out long enough to stop constantly blinking from the unaccustomed natural light.
Remembering, Frohike frowned. He said, General Howell was a world class ass hole and tainted. He was on Mulders list and Krycek confirmed that he was one of the surviving Elders.
The boy shuddered and said, I know, but Im not him. I hate him. Ive always hated him. Dulcets the only person I ever loved. The only person except my mother who ever loved me. Uncle said that I would be safe if I went to you. That Dulcet and I could be together. Thats all that I want.
Stepping back from Dulcet who smoothed the pseudo-skin over his portal and went to Conners side, Langly said, Hes clean, no override box.
Scowling Frohike wanted to exhibit his deep down paranoia, but goddamn it all, they were too cute. He shrugged and said, Okay, I suppose you might be telling the truth.
We want to help, Conner said, Uncle and Celadon thought we were too young and inexperienced but we can fight. I know my father better than anyone else. I want to bring him down. Hes evil and Im ashamed I am his son.
Frowning, Conner stood fiercely scowling at the ground. When he spoke again, it was in a quiet voice. He said, My fathers life style was pretty lousy. He has as many prosthetic parts as human. A disrupter would be just as harmful to him as to a Mac 27. Thats why he never handles them directly. I dont know how we can use this, but it might be important.
Checking with his companions, Frohike found them all nodding agreement. There were, they knew, disruptors that worked on the human nervous system rather than the Mac 27s neural net, but this was useful information. It was settled; the two young ones would go back although Frohike was not looking forward to hearing what Celadon would have to say about it.
Great jaws dripping blood, one of the mastiffs shook the ragged flesh of what had been a human throat. Alex glanced around in a panic. Where was Mulder? All he knew was that he could not bear to lose him again. They had almost made it to the meeting place when the Enclavists had caught up with them. Twenty-two Mac 27s, two humans, and ten dogs strove valiantly against an endless swarm of Elite, a large body of well-armed humans, and two tanks. Where the hell had they kept the tanks? Alex hadnt known that there was fuel left for the damn things.
No, now they only faced one tank the other burned as Mace screamed a wild cry of triumph, dancing with a head, impossible to tell whether human or one of the Elite in the eerie scarlet light of the flames. A burning man stumbled out of the vehicle, careening madly about in a way that sickened Alex and reminded him of the past. He ran into two men carrying a large metal canister and with a sudden whoosh, they too went up in flames. Seeing that, several like-burdened pairs dropped their containers and ran in every direction. It was chaos and Alex knew how to take advantage of that. He hoped Mulder was all right. Alex was a soldier and no matter how much he loved Mulder, duty had always, would always, come first.
Using the distraction, Alex and Celadon, side by side, cut a wedge through the human soldiers as the Mac 27s ran interference with the Elite who were handicapped by their lack of independent thought. Alex felt something brush his arm. With Mulder, his lover at his side, Alex felt invincible.
From between the ruined buildings that formed the trap into which Mulder and Alex had stumbled, a chilling war whoop sounded. Mulder! Alex! yelled familiar voices.
The Long Gunmen joined the fray. Alex nudged his Mulder and said, Head for them. We can punch our way out of here. I think Mace is all the way out the other side by now, but the rest of us cant get though that mess.
Breathlessly, the small group forced their way out. Alex could hear an authoritative voice shouting. A wedge of Elite marched mindlessly in, clockwork soldiers, but effective when all they had to do was push forward and shoot. The Mac 27s were wearing armor and protecting the handful of humans, but it was touch and go.
White-hot fire stung Alexs shoulder, the right one. He felt a moments dizziness and started to fall.
A hand dragged Alex into the alley. He looked up into Byers bespectacled face and whooped, John!
Yes, we thought you were dead. Come on, were retreating. Byers said.
Wait, wait, Mulder was with me! Where is he? Fuck you! Let me go! Let me go! I have to find him! Alex wailed.
Someone, Celadon by the length of the hair, threw Alex over his shoulder and as he started to run, Alex felt his grip on consciousness ooze away. He thought he heard Mulder shouting his name from some place far away. His hand reached back helplessly Mulder!
Sounds began permeating his consciousness. The pain that accompanied them was a maddening throb behind his eyes, and when he opened them, it seemed that there was a veil over them, a film that prevented him from seeing any but the most blurred of images. Sickening motion threatened his equilibrium, and for a moment he thought that he would vomit. Suddenly, he was swung violently around and his body connected with the hard ground, knocking the breath from his body.
His hands and feet were bound with wire, and it cut into his wrists painfully. He lay still, waiting for the nausea to subside, and when the cold water battered his face with the force of a blow, he welcomed it as his head cleared.
Looking around him now, he could see only the stiff, somehow distasteful shapes of members of the Elite. Alexs face atop the mechanoids bodies was still a sight that choked him with pity. His lover was so full of life that the dull, uncomprehending expressions worn by the replicas seemed to him almost a blasphemy.
Help me? Is there anyone there who can help me? He called out, but there seemed to be nobody who could - or would - assist. Come on, you bastards, kill me or let me go! he screamed. A Mac glanced at him incuriously before moving off on his own business, stilted gait demonstrating his origins.
Mulder sighed. He was a prisoner, and therefore a liability. He had to do something to get himself out of this situation quickly. His fragmented memory was prompting him, telling him that this had happened before, and that Alex had given himself up to save him. He couldnt allow the same thing to happen again, no matter what.
He cast about him, trying to find some way of freeing his hands. The Elite were all around him, but none of them seemed to be paying him any attention. Rolling over onto his side, he attempted to sit and, having achieved a more upright posture, propped himself against one of the backpacks that had been piled in a heap beside him. The position adjustment caused his head to swim once again, and he closed his eyes, praying that the sensation would soon cease.
Time passed, and he became aware of something sharp sticking into his back. He squirmed his way up until he succeeded in getting his fingers to the pack against which he was leaning, and began to worm them inside the pocket in an attempt to discover what the hell the obstruction might be. He scrabbled and fidgeted, until finally the object came free. It was a tool of some description, long handled and smooth, with a rough end to it that would have served as a rasp. He turned it until it was rough side uppermost and began to saw the wire to and fro against it.
It took forever. The pain in his wrists was agonizing, and by the time the strands parted there was blood smearing the packs, his arms were swollen and his fingers blue. The pain of returning circulation was appalling. He gritted his teeth as it burned and seared. Finally, he managed to overcome the residual agony and his hands began to work at his behest once more.
He turned his attention towards freeing his feet, not daring to show that his hands were free, despite the inattentive Elite. He wedged the rasp into a cleft in the stack of luggage that he was resting against and swung his legs around until he could work on the wire. He could feel with sick certainty that he was going to be discovered, but he had to try. All about him, the dull faced Elite came and went, paying him no attention as he sawed away with his feet against the cruel wire that bound them
When it parted at last and released his legs, the sudden mad rush of adrenaline made him feel faint. There seemed to be no notice taken of him at that point, and he wondered if he could in fact make his escape, or whether his movement would trigger the Macmen into action. Huddling in against the mound of equipment, Mulder began to search for something he would be able to use as a weapon.
Alex woke with a groan, and with the gummy feeling of plastiflesh adhering to his shoulder, his flesh arm somehow unable to move the way it usually did. He was aware of pain, somehow distant, meaningless, and concluded without humor that he was still alive. He tried to move and Byers stepped into his vision, urging him to remain still.
What the hell happened? Wheres Mulder? The husky voice growled low, and Byers looked decidedly uncomfortable.
He hes not here, Alex. Alarm bells began ringing in Kryceks mind at the Gunmans tone. Despite the urging from Byers, Alex struggled to sit, ignoring the scream of pain from his abdomen, and paused, shuddering as he waited for the resulting nausea to die away.
Where the fuck is he? Alex had become very intense, very suddenly, and his aches and pains were forgotten in the chill of finding that his love was missing. Who let him be? A thought occurred to him and his voice was thick with pain. Hes not dead. Tell me hes not dead.
Byers could only look at Alex dumbly, unsure of how to answer him. The man struggled to his feet, regardless of the injuries that he had only just been treated for, and his bare feet smacked the tiles with a noise that sounded final. Alex Krycek was going to find his lover.
Dont, Alex. You need to rest. Byers could have manhandled Alex back into the bed, save for the intimidating air about the injured man. As it was, he found himself running beside him down the corridor, an attendant satellite orbiting the sun as Alex strode towards the room that had been set up as a laboratory.
He was still dancing around Alex, unable to halt his progress, when they entered the lab. Frohike was working on the bench, black goggles that performed some mysterious function attached to his face, with wires protruding from them connected to the nearby computer. Langly was calling out readings to him, and neither of them looked up when Alex entered. Langly called out a stern Wait, and returned to his task while Alex, clad in righteous indignation and many bandages, fumed at his side.
At last, whatever careful work they were doing seemed to conclude itself, and Frohike removed the goggles, straightening up from his position on the bench.
It will be at least 24 hours before we know whether its been successful. Hes been without a circulatory system for some time. It depends on the condition of the CSF, and also on whether he has managed to retain his sanity, or whether he went nuts with all of the things that Matheson did to him. He turned to Alex, his small, toad-like face flickering through a variety of expressions before settling on one that he obviously thought would conceal the compassion he felt. Hey, Alex, he said. His attempt to be bluff and hearty falling somewhat flat, How are you feeling?
Alex was in no mood for being humored. He fixed the three men with a basilisk stare, and felt only momentary amusement when they shrank together, huddling as if to find safety in numbers. Wheres Fox? John here told me that he was dead. What did you do with the body?
No. It was Langly who spoke, but the other two reflected the word with their body language. Hes not dead. We have no proof that hes dead. He was taken - Mace saw him dragged away by a group of Elite, but he was still alive. Weve got parties out looking for him. Nobodys called in to tell us theyve found him."
Alexs heart stuttered. Fox might not be dead? Suddenly it seemed that the world was worth saving once more, though he was appalled to think that Fox might be delivered into the hands of Spender once more. His death would be terrible. Spender would He didnt want to think of the things that Spender might do to his lover.
Where? How long ago? I have to go and find him. As the three Gunmen began to brief Alex, he relaxed a little, permitting Byers to find him some clothing and a restorative drink. He felt like death, but there was no way he was going to stand idly by when his lover was in such grave danger.
Mace had stumbled in, dripping lubricant from rips in his flesh, and disdainfully tossed the inert body of an Elite down onto the floor. There was temporary chaos - a flurry of action as Druid, who had come in an hour earlier and who was in the middle of a repair cycle, flung himself on his lover.
Mace grinned at Frohike. Your wish is my command. He toed the fallen Elite once, and then turned to Druid, sweeping him into a kiss that was long and fervent, charged with a desperation that was almost palpable. Frohike eyed the figure that was slumped on the ground.
I dont know if we need him any more. Ive got Five all fixed up. Were just seeing whether the fluid replacement will work, or whether hes been out of service for far too long. What the hell are we going to do with this thing? Use him as a coat rack? Jeesh, if only there was a way to get inside one of these things, and take it back to disable all the others, the war would be over. Frohike punched Mace on the shoulder in a friendly fashion, and turned to go back to his patient.
There was a pause. Druid was tugging at Mace, trying to take him away to repair him, Alex had sat down, his injury threatening to overcome him, but hed heard Frohikes words, and he was frowning, a thought just out of his reach taunting him.
Druids scolding diverted his attention momentarily, but pretty soon he returned to his contemplation of the fallen and deactivated Elite.
Ringo? Alexs voice called Langly back from the supervision of Maces repair, and he wiped his forehead with the back of his hands, polished his glasses with the hem of his tattered T-Shirt, and returned to Alexs side, crouching down to hear what his friend wanted. How easy is it to program one of these things? Could we send one in with our instructions overriding its own?
Langly sat down on the floor next to the Elite, and began to pop open the service drawers, face frowning in deep thought. Alex, very pale now, remained where he was, holding on desperately to consciousness.
It could be done, I think. The only problem with these suckers is that they are remotely operated, and someone with a console close at hand would automatically be able to override the instructions wed build in. It would be better to yank the receiver, install one of our own on a different frequency, and operate it as one wanted. Langly took a quick look at Alex, who was white lipped and obviously close to passing out. Want me to try? Unable to speak, Alex nodded. Okay, but its gonna take an hour or two. Ill give it a shot if youll go back to bed while I work, okay?
You got it. Alexs voice was suddenly very high and young sounding, and he slowly lowered his head to rest it on his knees. Langly, shaking his head, called for Mace, and neither he nor Druid, who had accompanied him, needed to be told what the problem was. Stooping easily to pick Alex up, the two of them bore him away back to his bed, leaving Langly happily at work on the body of the Elite.
Mulder had not been fed, or given a drink. He was desperately thirsty, and it seemed to him that he was not being paid the slightest notice. The Elite were still all about him, but it seemed that many were now on their rest cycles. He scrutinized the surrounding area, hoping against hope that there would be a possibility of escape. It seemed that there were no sentries close at hand. He made a decision and scrambled to his feet.
Making his way towards the perimeter of the camp, he stopped to drink water from a canteen attached to an Elite on rest-cycle, and as the water trickled down to irrigate his parched body, he felt almost as though he had been renewed. With fresh energy, he moved off towards freedom.
There was a guard, but he was looking outward, awaiting invasion, not back to where Mulder lurked, and when Mulder dealt him a blow to the back of the head with a rock that he had chosen specifically for its weight and shape, he crumpled without a sound.
Moments later armed with an Uzi 9mm and several other weapons culled from the unconscious body, Mulder was making his way back to the last position where hed seen the rebels. He was close to his goal, and possibly less careful than he could have been, when he felt the gun at his back, and a known, hated voice oiled over his ears.
I had an android, and someone stole him from me. How nice to think that he might have been returned to me. Freezing in place, Mulder waited, his heart sinking as a cold chill surged through his belly. Drop the gun and raise your arms very slowly. I would hate to have to shoot you here. We have so much to discuss.
Alex awoke because the earth was rocking. Clinging to the bed, he dragged himself out of sleep to find that Langly was shaking him.
Come on, dude. Wake up, I got something to show you. Groaning, Alex sat up, trying to shake loose the cobwebs in his head. His shoulder had settled down to a sharp, ripping pain that heralded the onset of an infection. He knew that there were no antibiotics to hand and he wondered whether he would make it or if he would finally succumb to the bacteria that were even now making him light headed and a little feverish.
It better be good, Ringo. A thought occurred to him, and for a moment he perked up. Did you find Fox?
No, I didnt find Fox. I think Ive made it possible for you to go find him yourself though. Langly was grinning in triumph, and Alex climbed out of bed wearily, reaching for his pants as he did so.
Okay, Ringo, what you got? He pulled on a sweater over the T-shirt that he wore, and then stumbled after Langly.
As they reached the lab, Frohike burst out, a huge grin on his face.
Hes alive. We got him back. He cant remember much about Richard, but his knowledge of the Macs mean that we will be able to set up a proper repair lab, and maybe even create them, should we need to.
No! Alexs voice was harsh, the single word vehement in negation. Theyve suffered enough. We wont make any more. If they want to procreate, let them do it, but I for one am sick of playing God. Its their decision.
Langly tugged on the edge of Alexs sweater, urging him towards the room where hed been working. Come on! I want to show you what Ive done. He yanked again at Alex. Come on, he said, insistently. Sighing, Alex gritted his teeth and followed after Langly. Frohike looked narrowly at him as he went, and then went to call Byers.
As Alex fetched up in the center of Langlys workshop, Langly spun around and flung his arms wide, enthusiastically displaying his handiwork. Alex looked without comprehension at a pair of inert Elite androids, standing limp as though a celestial puppeteer had dropped their strings and gone off to find something more amusing. Beyond the Macs were a couple of seats that had been hurriedly enclosed in clear plexiglass bolted to a framework, and Celadon was engaged in clearing away tools and offcuts from the floor.
I came to get you as soon as Id finished. I thought that youd want to get started right away. He continued to urge Alex forward. Meet Hubris and Omega. Youre going to like them. He seized a wrench from the floor and held it as though it were a microphone. Tell our viewers, Mr. Hubris, how do you see the future of the Consortium, now that we have you on board?
Alex grinned momentarily at Langlys antics, but he was feeling really unwell, and his powers of concentration were not up to their usual standard. He moved unresistingly to sit in one of the chairs behind the plexiglass. Byers came bustling in, went up to Alex and laying a hand on his forehead, shook his head and produced a syringe.
What the fuck is in that? Alex jerked his chin, indicating the needle that was approaching his arm.
Weve got a tiny supply of antibiotics. I think that its time to use it. We cant afford to lose you. Byers plunged the hypodermic into Alexs arm without awaiting a reply from him, and then handed him a mug of water and some pills.
Here, take these, and get yourself settled. Youre going to be busy. Looking at him reproachfully from eyes that betrayed his feverish condition, Alex placed the capsules on his tongue and took a swig of the water, then slumped back into the seat.
Okay, go on, do your worst. Im ready as Ill ever be. Melvin Frohike took the seat next to him and leaned back into the recliner, and Langly strode around to face them, assuming a didactic air as he did so.
What Ive done is fix them up so that they can be controlled remotely. Langly indicated a pair of virtual reality masks and assorted pads that were attached by cable to a console in the corner. You two are going to be my guinea pigs. Youre gonna take the roles of Hubris and Omega, and youre gonna go in there. If Mulders there you can free him, and then youre gonna use the secret weapon. Langly snorted with laughter. Theres always a secret weapon, isnt there?
Alex raised one eyebrow, and Frohike growled. Come on, Langly, cut to the chase, hes impressed already. Langly performed a mocking bow and passed a bunch of cables to Frohike.
See, Alex, I fixed up old Hubris there to work from Mels actions, and you get Omega. They are tailored to your brainwaves and work by your small body movements, which are magnified by the equipment. You should be able to breeze in and look around for Mulder, and then, once youve found him, get him out of there. Langly smirked at Alex, and began attaching pads to the seated mans feet and legs. Beside him, Frohike was gearing up in a similar fashion. You guys here will be in control of the units, and I will monitor your progress, help out from time to time. Youll see and hear what the units do, and they will pass for Elite without any problems.
Kryceks eyes had widened as Langly delivered his exposition. As he began to grasp the purpose of the equipment with which he was being fitted, he seemed to regain some energy, seizing eagerly on the gloves and visor as Langly equipped him with the movement sensor pads and boots. He laughed out loud when he had donned the visor and earpiece that permitted him to see through the android eyes.
Are you ready to go, Alex? Its about an hours walk to where Howells men are camped, and it will be dawn very shortly. I think that if you have any chance of finding Mulder alive, it has to be done shortly. Better get going. Youll be able to practice on the move. So saying, Langly switched on the power, and seated himself at the console. Okay, kiddies, lets get this show on the road.
Lying back, Alex concentrated for a minute or two, and then began to move. Slowly, the android responded, straightening up and then taking several lurching steps toward the door. As Frohikes android followed, the two of them moved clumsily, but with increasing confidence, down the corridor towards the door, and beyond.
Mulder had been flanked by a pair of the Elite, and made to march at gunpoint back into the camp, over to the hut that housed the command center. Spender seemed ecstatic. Now he could vent some of his spite on a human being that would suffer - not only that, but on Fox Mulder himself. That thought made him smile a creased yellow smile as he forced Mulder on and into the building.
Howell wasnt there at that moment, a fact that suited the Smoker well enough. Briskly he had the Elite androids strap Mulder to a post, and then sat down, gun in hand to survey his catch.
You have no idea how happy I am to see you again, M-1, he said, oozing grotesque good cheer from every pore.
Cut the crap, old man. I really dont want to hear about how happy you are. Just kill me and have done with it. Mulders voice was scathing, and he stood straight, silent insolence evident in the carriage of his head, the set of his shoulders. The Smoker smiled again. He would enjoy bending Mulder. He would start the tears flowing, and then he would bathe in them. This would be an exquisite revenge.
Idly, he fingered his gun, and then laid it down, searching through his pockets for a knife.
The forced march had seen Spender having to abandon his Saville Row suits in favor of camo gear, but he still looked a picture of elegance. The grey green drab that he wore bore knife sharp creases, and his boots were carefully polished. Had there been an award for the best-dressed soldier, he would certainly have been in the running. His false joviality was terrifying to Mulder, who could remember the things he had witnessed this man do, and he paled just a little as Spender moved towards him. Although he would remain aloof for as long as he could, he was aware that soon he would be begging for mercy. His one relief was that he did not know the whereabouts of his lover, and so would not be able to give him away.
He knew beyond any doubt that Spender would force information out of him. Gritting his teeth, he watched helplessly as Spender found his knife and set to sharpening its already razor-sharp edge.
The two Elite androids entered the camp without occasioning any comment. They had paused to gather a stack of wood, and were each bearing their share as they made their way past the sentries, who eyed them incuriously and merely noted the color of their coveralls: the yellow in which they were dressed denoted the serf caste, and it was appropriate that they were gathering fuel. Silently, the pair carried their burden towards the cooking fire that was visible towards the center of the encampment.
Delivering their bundles, the two looked around them at the seemingly endless Elite who stood or lay at rest, awaiting the dawn and a renewal of hostilities. They had seen very few humans, around twenty altogether, and, unsurprisingly, no sign of Spender or Howell. Passing their supplies over to the human in charge of the commissary, each received a mug of the nutrient drink that comprised the fuel for Elite androids. Raising the mug to Hubris mouth, Alex made him drink rather clumsily, spilling a little of the liquid down his clothes as he did so.
The man who had offered him his fuel cuffed him angrily.
Dumb creature! You arent worth the cost of your parts, he snarled as Hubris fell to his knees. Climbing back to stand once more, Alex looked around, and then moved in somewhat jerkily to seize the man, bearing him back into the supply tent, one hand covering his mouth as he did so.
Where is Spender? The voice that issued from Hubris mouth was as toneless and dispassionate as could be expected from a member of the soulless Elite, but the quartermaster obviously noticed some anomaly, and ceased struggling.
Who who are you? What are you doing here? The man seemed shocked, but as yet unafraid.
Our business is with Mr. Spender, said Frohike through the mouth of Omega, earning a sour look from his partner, who had been about to start hitting the man that now lay amongst the sacks of beans and flour, with Hubris sitting on his chest.
Hes where he always is, in the command hut. He doesnt like to be disturbed when hes with a captive though. Without further ado, Alex wrapped android fingers around the mans neck, and snapped it, only climbing back to his feet once more when the man had ceased to twitch, and lay still.
Command hut. It sounds like hes got Mulder. Lets go. Hubris was half out of the tent when Omega called to him.
Where is the command hut, Alex? The android didnt slow down, its clumsy steps covering the ground as it headed towards the only hut in the camp.
My guess, Kemo Sabe, is that its that one. I see no others. Want to prove me wrong? Hubris shambled gracelessly past his stationary brethren as he hurried towards where he believed his lover to be. Frohike sighed and started Omega after him; his movements far better coordinated than those of his companion.
They reached the small wooden building at the same time, and for the first time they were challenged. An Elite member wearing the black coverall that denoted his membership of the police force - the feared androids that were known as the nightmare class - stepped out in front of them and trained a disruptor on them.
Why are you here? You are supposed to be on rest cycle.
Thinking quickly, Alex turned to the Nightmare. We were sent to fetch wood, and while we were out of the camp, we saw something we thought that the master should know.
You saw something? You are a laborer. How could you see anything that would interest the master? The Nightmare lowered the disruptor, puzzling out the possibilities that were inherent in that concept, and finding them utterly incomprehensible. Tell me what it is that you saw, and I will relay it to the master.
Frohike saw the danger as Hubris, responding to Alexs rage, drew breath to start haranguing the android policeman, and opened his mouth, beginning to spin a tale as rapidly as he could think it up.
We went to find wood, and there were some men. There was a Mac 27 with dogs. They pursued us and we returned to the camp for safety. They know where the camp is situated. We should tell this to the master. Omega gave Hubris what could only be described as a killing glance as he spoke, and Hubris appeared to subside.
The Nightmare nodded. That is something that the master should certainly know. I will apprise him of the situation. He does not like to be disturbed when he has a guest, but I will disturb him for this. The Elite cop turned to enter the hut, re-holstering his disruptor as he did so, and it proved to be the last move he ever made. Alex reached to seize him, pulling him back as Frohike captured the disruptor and set it on full. He placed it against the Nightmares forehead and depressed the trigger. There was a momentary hiss, and a smell of burned insulation as the Nightmares circuits were fried, and then he stiffened. As Alex released him he dropped to the ground to lie rigid where he fell.
The two men, who were the souls of the machines in which they rode, exchanged a speaking glance and then turned towards the door behind which they hoped they would find Mulder. As they reached for the handle, they heard a cry of agony, and knew that they had indeed found him.
The door was locked. A search of the fallen Nightmare revealed several keys, none of which fit this particular door. Hubris was virtually dancing with impatience when Frohike at last picked it open. Alex was finding it almost impossible now to use his right arm, because the wound in his shoulder had become so inflamed, and each move that he made felt as though knives were being inserted beneath his skin. Back in the lab, Alex was crying in frustration as he tried to force his overwrought and agonized body to do his bidding.
The door swung open and Omega was first into the gloom of the hut. There was a table to one side of the door, and on it were a number of maps and documents, alongside a laptop computer that was currently not booted up. Several chairs and a field cot were at the far end of the room, and tied to brackets in the hearth, crouching on his hands and knees, was Fox Mulder.
His body was naked, and his back was striped, bloody and raw. His flesh was bruised and livid in the early morning chill, and he was moaning, a low, constant sound that made the hackles rise. Alex swore.
They only had a single second to take in the sight of their quarry, because Spender turned to snarl at them, furious at being disturbed, and he was fumbling amongst his own discarded clothing for a disruptor.
Why are you here? he demanded, his voice cut short by Omega, who strode forward, a blur of motion, to snatch the disruptor from his hand. Behind him, Hubris, Alex by proxy, had dropped to his knees to untie the bonds that were holding Mulder to the brackets against which he was tied.
Here for you, old man. Here to send the devil back to hell. The words growled out of Hubris, and Spender, seemingly unafraid of the intruders, whipped his head around to study Alexs android.
Krycek? You here? He stared at Hubris. No. You arent Krycek. Youre an Elite. How can you? He ceased, choking as Frohike applied pressure to his throat.
Never mind who I am. Wheres Howell? Hubris had released Fox, and was attempting to get the injured man to rise. He glanced over at Omega. We need to get him out of here, and I dont think that I can. You take him, Mel. I think Im done. Leave me here and Ill keep this asshole company.
Omega nodded, passed the disruptor to Hubris and scooped Mulder up in his arms, turning to leave the hut. As the Smoker opened up his mouth to protest, Hubris gave a growl that made him change his mind, and he settled down to await what came.
Melvin Frohike was a small man. He had always had big ideas - great ideas in fact - but the fact remained that he was short in stature. He was enjoying the freedom of riding in a body that was strong, sturdy and 62 tall. He was being a hero and it was marvelous. He was rescuing his friend, Fox Mulder, and this was the best thing of all. He strode through the camp, with Mulders unconscious body slung over his shoulder.
Hell of a fox-fur collar! he said, a propos of nothing, and then giggled a little at the idea of wearing Mulder around his neck to go skating. He was at the camps perimeter when he was challenged.
Where are you going? The atonal voice broke into his reverie, bringing him back down to earth with a bump.
The master has finished with this carrion and has sent me to place it out in the park for the wild beasts. He gestured at Mulder, still limp across his shoulder, bleeding busily down over his now dirty yellow coveralls.
Very well. The man who was standing sentry duty glanced incuriously at the gory spectacle. He likes to do a number on them, doesnt he? Thats the third one this week.
Frohike shambled off, trying to remember to appear casual. He was out of sight before he broke into a brisk, tireless trot that covered the ground rapidly, but which caused Mulder so much pain that he awoke and began to scream.
Back in the lab, Langly was concentrating on the dials and equipment before him. A faint moan from Alex caught his attention, but just at that moment Byers came in to pass him a message, and it was temporarily forgotten. It seemed that Connor and Dulcet were coming in, and they had found an old VW Microbus that had fuel. With relief, Langly passed their coordinates to Frohike, who turned and hurried towards the road, and rescue.
Calling Byers back, the two men went to see how they could assist Alex.
Guided by Frohike, Omega gave Mulder over to the young man and his android beloved. Tenderly they placed him inside the van, and covered him with a coat to warm his chilly flesh. Already, Frohike had moved on from the task in hand, as he wondered how long it would take him to get back to Alexs side. Their work was only half done, and the next few hours would prove crucial.
Did you see my father? asked Connor. Frohike had to tell him no, and the young mans face fell. Be careful of him. Hes not just dangerous, hes evil. Dulcet nodded, rubbing at Connors back as he attempted to soothe him.
Yeah, kids, Ill take care, trust me on that one. So saying, Frohike spun the lithe body that he was animating, and with a jaunty wave, Omega vanished back into the undergrowth in the direction of the camp.
Alex had lost consciousness. Hubris stood, wooden and immobile, and after a few minutes, Spender had essayed a move. Finding that the android made no attempt to stop him, he had stepped forward cautiously, and relieved Hubris of his disruptor, and then, as the android still made no move, cuffed and chained him in exactly the same place that had held Mulder. He was scratching his head, furious at being thwarted of his previous captive, and unsure of what to do with his current one, when Howell stalked into the hut.
Good morning, Spender. The General was curt as he made his way to where the laptop waited. Anything interesting happen overnight?
He was not really listening as he began to power up the computer, and Spender was reluctant to betray his own activities overnight. Hed had enough of Howell to last him a lifetime. The sight of Spender with a restrained android was sufficiently commonplace that Howell hadnt really paid any attention to it, other than to sneer at the mans predilection for sadistic sex.
Today, Spender, were going to roll right over them. I can taste it. Howell bent his head, concentrating on his task, while Spender, who was concentrating in his turn on the strangely inert Elite that crouched motionless before him, merely grunted.
He was perplexed. There was something strange about an Elite who behaved in the way that this one had. He couldnt decide whether or not hed imagined it, but he was going to find out. He went to the door to summon the Nightmare, and it was at that point he realized that there was no guard on duty before the door.
He summoned a passing android and instructed him to go and find one of the armorers, telling him to bring his tools with him. The Elite gazed at him, dull eyes subservient, and lumbered off to do his bidding. Frowning, Spender watched him go, wondering what on earth was making him feel so uneasy. Looking out over the encampment, everything seemed to be going as it should. The humans were beginning to wake. Preparations were being made for breakfast, and to begin the day. There was an Elite wearing dirty yellow coveralls industriously sweeping the area around the tank, and a scent of coffee brewing that made Spender feel the need for refreshment.
He was about to go in search of breakfast when Howell called him back.
Well march at ten. I believe that there are so few of them that our victory is a foregone conclusion. I want the men summoned at eight-thirty so that I can address them. Well need to go over our strategy with them, or there will be unnecessary time wasted. Of course, our victory will be a matter of form, but it will be as well to conserve our resources.
Spender smiled grimly. I want Krycek and Mulder returned to me. The sooner the better, and went out again, making for the android that was sweeping.
Go and fetch me coffee. Tell the team leaders to assemble here at eight-thirty. Return to me when you are finished.
The android Omega nodded, and headed off to carry out Spenders instructions. Back in the lab, Frohike gloated. He delivered the message to the men standing around the commissary tent and then bore a cup of coffee off to the hut where Spender was awaiting it.
Back at the laboratory, Langly had noted Kryceks lapse from consciousness and he, along with Byers, were doing their best to revive him. His skin was like tallow, and his breath was labored and strident as the infection swept through his body. He burned to the touch, and with a shrug, Byers injected him with the last of their antibiotic. Following this, he didnt know what would happen. Shaking Frohike loose from his android persona for a minute, he whispered, Mel, can you see if there is any medicine out there. Alex really needs it.
He laid Alexs torso bare, revealing proud flesh around the wound, swollen and oozing. Gritting his teeth, he gathered hot water and clean cloths, and set about cleaning and dressing it, glad that Alex was unconscious and out of reach of the agony he knew that he was causing.
Whats happening with Hubris? Byers was twitchy. There would only be one opportunity to bring this game successfully to a conclusion, and after that, they would be done for.
Hes keyed to Alexs neuro patterns. Only he can operate Hubris. Mels going to have to try and reach him, trigger him off. Otherwise, I dont know what we can do."
A commotion outside the lab suddenly distracted Byers. Leaving them to continue as best they could, the bearded man hurried away to settle whatever the problem might be.
It was eight-twenty, and the men had begun to assemble around the tank that stood outside the hut. Within, Spender had given up trying to fathom the reason for the Elites lack of function, and set to work with a toolbox to try and dismantle it. It was with confusion that he opened the thoracic maintenance access drawer to discover that it was packed with some strange, malleable plastic. A second later, and something that was unmistakably a detonator became visible.
Fuck! This android was a walking bomb, and who knew how soon it would explode? Leaving it where it was, Spender rapidly gathered together as many of his belongings as he could find, and hurried out of the hut, leaving Howell to the mercies of the booby-trapped android. A visit to the commissary later, he was packed with food and supplies. He paused to seize a valise containing medicines and after checking through it, he appropriated some dressings, ointment and antibiotics. Once everything was packed securely, he turned and sauntered out of the camp.
The arrival of Connor and Dulcet with their patient had caused a huge amount of to-ing and fro-ing within the rebel hideaway, and Mulder, once his raw back was bathed and dusted with sulfa powder, had become insistent that he see Alex.
Byers had tried hard to talk him out of it - had told him that Alex was busy; that he was sick - but Mulder remained adamant. He wanted to see him. Finally, he had been shown where Alex lay, unconscious and hectic with fever.
There had been a pause, then Mulder had removed the visor that concealed Alexs features and dropped to kiss his mouth, murmuring something nonsensical in his ear. The effect was almost magical. Alex stirred for the first time, and seemed to hear his lovers voice. There was a pause, and then he moaned.
Fox? You arent dead? The voice was thin and thready, but the face seemed illuminated from within, his eyes shining with more than just the sickness as he took in his battered lovers countenance.
Im here, love. Hurry up and do what you need to do, and come on back to me. Ive missed you. Mulder smiled down at the recumbent man. Ill stay beside you, love. I wont leave you again.
Alex beamed, and permitted the replacement of the visor.
The general had mounted onto the tank, and was looking around for Spender. The elite within the hut hadnt occasioned any comment - Howell was far too used to Spenders propensity for violence. He didnt notice the other Elite that was busily polishing the tank - why would he? The Elite were everywhere, a convenience that was only noticeable when they were unavailable.
He stepped forward and began to talk.
Within the hut came the sound of tortured, squealing metal, and Howell turned his head, wondering what precisely was happening. There was a lull, and nothing further untoward occurred, and Howell began to speak to the hundred or so humans that controlled his army of Elite warriors. When Omega clambered onto the tank to stand at his side, he thought that the android was malfunctioning. Then with astonishment he saw the door of the command hut open, and the other Elite appeared, framed within the doorway.
For several seconds, nobody spoke, and then Omega said softly,
Do it, Alex.
Together, they opened their service drawers, even as Howell was calling for men to take the units away and scrap them. Together they set their detonators, and together the Semtex that had been packed within them exploded, taking with it the tank, the General, and all of the men that had been present.
Back in the rebel hideout, Frohike sat up, removing his visor, and turned to Mulder where he sat beside Alex.
Its done. Get him back to bed, for Gods sake.
The cheer that was raised as Langly raced to tell the rebels was somewhat muted as they carried Alex back to put him to bed. They needed medicine. He and the gunmen had won the battle for them, but he was sick. Without attention he would die.
As he heard the sound of the blast, Spender was almost at the perimeter of the camp. He was knocked to his knees by the force of it, and the ground surged beneath him. Seconds later, debris began to rain down on him, and with a certain amount of satisfaction he saw a human hand splatter mud a few feet away. There was a horribly audible plopping sound, and then the mud slowly sucked it under. The Smoker was in ecstasy as he watched it. It could have been his body that was scattered piecemeal across the park. He had come out ahead of the game yet again. He always did, one way or another.
Blood and other, more obscene things splattered him, and he gave the hand a wide berth as he headed into the thickets beyond the camp. He was making good time when he heard the baying of dogs.
Celadon and his hounds had been out, scouring the grounds and the outlying area for the medicine that they so desperately required for Alex. Now as they ran, a gleaming carpet of lithe bodies surrounding the beautiful android. Hair streaming behind him, he kept pace with his strange companions, and listened to them bay.
Suddenly, they seemed to catch the scent of something, and almost imperceptibly their course veered, and they began to make excited sounds as they tore through the brush towards their goal. In the distance, Celadon could see a figure fleeing, and called a halt, hoping that he could stop the dogs. They continued to race after the man on the horizon, closing the distance between them rapidly. The man screamed once, and fell to his knees suddenly, trying to open one of the manhole covers that littered the area around where the old animal cages had been.
No! Dont! Celadon screamed at the man, and began running again, hoping that he could stop the fugitive, whoever he was, from making a terrible mistake. The dogs were all around the man now, and as Celadon approached he could see that it was Spender who had been pursued so hotly, and who even now was attempting to make his escape down into the drain beneath the park.
Spender had, by now, realized that the dogs didnt mean him harm, but he had managed to get the cover off the manhole, and was now lowering himself over the side. Celadon grabbed at him to detain him, exerting all his android strength in an effort to detain the man that had caused so much misery to him and his kind.
Dont go down there. It was as if he hadnt been heard. The old man had a triumphant smile on his face as he descended into the dark down the ladder, and Celadon, who had been hauling on the mans pack in an attempt to get him to return, felt a rending, and then found himself holding the pack as the Smoker misplaced his footing and fell with a wailing cry.
Seconds later, the chittering screech of the cockroaches that lived down in the dark could be heard, and for a few moments, Spender screamed.
The silence, when it came, was final. Celadon closed the manhole and began to make his way back to the rebel base, carrying the pack with him.
His arrival back at the building where the rebels had their lab went unnoticed at first. Celadon turned the pack over to Mace, who thanked him, and put it down, not caring in the fear that Alex would die.
Mulder too was sick, his injuries had finally laid him low, and he lay on a pallet beside Alex, too much in pain to move around, talking to his comatose lover as he watched the sweat-drenched man shiver and moan.
When Byers finally found it, he wasnt sure where it had come from. Dumping out the contents onto the table to go through them, he found the box of medication, and the resulting scream of triumph brought everyone within earshot running to find out what had happened.
Who died? demanded Frohike, sourly. He was exhausted, and had been trying to get a little sleep.
Nobody died. Look! Where did this come from? Byers was virtually dancing with excitement. The antibiotics would cure Alex, he was sure. Grabbing the things that he needed, he rushed off to start giving Alex the medicine that would save his life.
Alex stretched languorously, and turned to study his sleeping lover. He was still a little frail after his illness, the flesh hung spare on his bones, and his skin had achieved translucence at variance with his ordinarily robust and healthy appearance.
Mulder's back was healing slowly, and the pair of them had finally begun to receive the therapy that they hoped would break through their conditioning, and help them to recover their memories once again.
The restructuring of society had begun, and the Gunmen had succeeded in opening an access to the underground bunker where Spender and Howell had lurked for so long. The Elite did what one told them to do, of course, and had been set to work clearing the debris of the final battle and rendering buildings fit for habitation once more. Five and Dulcet, along with Connor Howell, were in the throes of setting up a laboratory wherein the Elite could be made into full-fledged Macs.
The world was turning, and had been made new.
Alex turned to wake his Fox, and then, as they both snuggled back into the softness of the bed, he knew for sure that life would be better from here.