Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Epilogue - 8/20 *COMPLETE*

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Misha
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Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Epilogue - 8/20 *COMPLETE*

Postby Misha » Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:10 pm

Image

Title: Unknown
Author: Misha
Disclaimer: I wish they were mine, but really, they're not. Regardless, to make it official: The characters of "Roswell" belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, WB, and UPN. They are not mine and no infringement is intended.
Category: CC / Max centered – Post Graduation
Rating: YTEEN, for very occasional language

Summary:
They don't know who he is when he's first admitted. And in the course of finding out what's wrong with him, they'll stumble with the fact that they also don't know what he is either. Saint Paul's Hospital medical staff has just received the biggest mystery of their lives, but what's really worrying them is that, between this man's friends and foes, time is running out for their unknown patient.

Saint Paul's Hospital is about to get chaotic.


Author's Note: This story happened thanks to watching too much House M.D. and reading Kal-El's Journal by clairecheaux, specifically this featurette, Resurrection, Part 2. If you ever want to read very dark, very angsty Superman fanfiction, that one is calling to you ;) All medical details are fictional. Unknown wouldn't have happened without the extraordinary help of my betas, KathyW, Michelle in L.A. and thetvgeneral, and the attentive eye of both jainga and ken_r, my continuity betas, so eternal thanks go to the five of them!




_______

Unknown
_______




Prologue


It all had happened so fast.

It had started like any other day, really. In fact, it had pretty much been like any other day for the most part, and Dr. Susan Lake had spent almost the entire last hour happily humming to herself as she had been stuck with paperwork. There had been no doubt in her mind that it was going to be a long night, even if things had been quiet, and comfortable, and all around normal. That's why it was so inconceivable to be standing right now at the entrance of the ER, the temperature barely reaching 25ºF, as snow lightly fell on the street.

She was tense. Every single doctor and nurse at the ready, light conversation going around in scarce whispers here and there, all of them waiting for the ambulances to come.

One minute she was reviewing the last charts of the day, the next all available doctors were being paged. Two minutes later she had understood why: A train had derailed. Some had said terrorism, some had said human error, but most likely, it had been related to the severe storm they had had just the night before. It hadn’t helped matters that it had been snowing for the past three days straight either. Something on the rails had given up and the train had just plummeted to the earth. At rush hour, chances were hospitals were going to come short.

And Saint Paul's Hospital was the first in the line, so all critical patients were coming this way. All that they could manage, at least.

She could hear the sirens in the distance now. Somewhere, a radio or a TV was blaring with the news of the disaster. She cursed under her breath that it had to be tonight, for no other reason than the very terrible fact that at least 1/4 of the staff was sick with the flu at home. How many people were they going to be able to help? How many children had been on that train?

Susan had never been very fond of the ER, but here she was. All hands were needed, and she was more than ready to lend hers. Hadn't she become a doctor to help whenever she could? There was too much suffering in the world, and she had wanted to ease it just a bit. And children were the most cheated in that regard: They hadn't experienced life just yet.

Despite the fact that she had graduated second in her class, and her residency had been over three years ago, Susan had never found herself in a situation like this. Loosely controlled chaos was about to take up residence in the ER in just about two minutes, and she idly thought that she would kill for a cigarette.

She tried to think about other things. She was quitting the horrible vice, for crying out loud. She tried to focus, the reports from the crash site vague at best. She didn't think there were many kids in the train at this hour, and that somehow eased her fears. Children were her life, and she was regarded as one damned good pediatrician as well. The irony being that she had no children of her own, and frankly, she wasn't sure she wanted to be a mom either. Maybe she would just suck at it.

A screeching sound took her out of her thoughts about motherhood and her nicotine addiction. Ambulances were still on their way, the snow covered streets becoming a treacherous road, the rush hour traffic not helping any. The source of the sound was standing at her left, some 15 feet away; a taxi that had seen better days -way better days- had stopped, the driver hurriedly opening the door a second after.

"I need help!" the man yelled as he started to round the front part of his car, his moves admirably agile for someone who couldn't be more than 5’4”, and was overweight by more than 50 pounds. Gray sweater, black pants and black gloves, the man’s face was a total contrast to his monochromatic outfit as it flushed with worry, half skidding, half running to the other side of the car.

"Sir, you'll have to go to—" Dr. Alec Holt started to say as the man was reaching the passenger door. Susan understood Holt's words: They were waiting for critical patients, and every single bed was needed.

"Listen," the taxi driver said in a no-nonsense voice, "this guy practically collapsed in front of my car. I don't know what the hell is wrong with him, I don't know who the hell he is, but I'll be damned if I had left him in the snow to die a cold death. I had to re-route three times since the stupid snow hasn't been cleared, and the damned train derailment has paralyzed the goddamn city for the past twenty minutes. I don't think he can wait for the next hospital in the way, so either you take him in, or I'll just camp here until he dies inside my car."

He opened the door. Now the entire staff that was waiting outside was holding their collective breaths. Susan didn't know what to expect, really, but the taxi driver had made a pretty convincing act. Even if Holt was only a couple of years older than her, he looked like a kid that had been reprimanded by the principal about a very serious deed.

Holt almost imperceptibly snapped out of it, and with a move of his head, the nurses rushed with the stretcher as he came to aid the taxi driver. The first ambulance turned the corner, the reds and blues illuminating the snow on the sidewalks, the sound of the siren taking over her thoughts. Her and everyone's attention was diverted from the drama going on in the taxi to the one that was about to unfold in a couple of seconds.

Yet Susan still caught a glimpse of the young man that Dr. Alec Holt helped to get out of the passenger seat just as the ambulance parked. Of the short, dark hair, the slender -and most likely tall- figure, and the well-defined muscles of his naked chest. Gray, dirty pants and tennis shoes were all that protected him against the bitter cold. She could tell he was barely conscious, and just as she wondered why the taxi driver wouldn’t have given him something to cover him up, she heard Holt exclaimed, "Damn! He's burning up!"

The ambulance doors opened up and the first victim came out, a little girl not older than 6, and all thoughts about the mysterious dark-haired man were forgotten. In fact, she wouldn't think of him again for the next two hours. A second encounter would happen then that was bound to ensure she would never forget him again.

It was going to be a long night indeed.
Last edited by Misha on Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:16 pm, edited 31 times in total.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 1 - pg. 1 - 7 / 28

Postby Misha » Tue Jul 28, 2009 6:12 pm

Chapter 1
Unnoticed



The world had become a hazy place. Bright lights and loud sounds assaulted his senses a moment, just for all to get blurred and muted the next.

He was lying on something hard, but not so hard that it was bare metal. And he was moving, he thought, as lights would dash in and out over him. People were around him, that much he knew, but everything else was a blank right now. He was scared, but not overly so. He was too tired to care, really, but he couldn't give in to blessed oblivion for a reason that escaped him just about now.

He had to stay awake, and so he would.

"— you are?"

Sounds were sharpening again. A man's voice, worried, urgent, young. Others were talking, but he couldn't make out what they were saying. He heard things as if he were underwater, but nevertheless he tried to focus on the man's voice.

"Sir? Sir, what's your name?"

A question. He had to answer questions. He tried to tell the man his name, but found his mouth too dry. He was dimly aware that he was also too warm. He tried to move his hands to take off his shirt, not really remembering he had already taken it off almost half an hour ago. Other hands grabbed his, not letting him move, and that was the first time that he really started to be afraid. Something wasn't right.

"Do you know your name?"

He tried to wet his lips for all the good that did.

"M—Max—"

He took a breath so he could tell him his last name, just to hear the man's voice cursing and talking to others. Max forgot the question before the voice could ask him again. Sounds were wavering out once more, and he thought he had heard someone asking if he knew where he was, but by this point, he was forgetting that he had to stay awake as well.

Darkness enveloped him, and he gladly went with it.


* * *


"Dr. Holt! He's not worth it right now!" Howard's voice cut through Holt’s train of thought as sharp as a knife through butter. "He's a drug addict that is wasting his life on his free time. You've got six more people coming, honest people, and already a full ER with patients who really need your help. He's already stable!"

Holt half glared at the male short nurse beside him, while a woman was yelling for her daughter at the other side of the very full ER. The whole situation felt surreal for a second to him. It was loud, it was messy, and most certainly ugly, and he knew that it was not stopping any time soon. Time had seemed to stretch, but not even ten minutes had passed since the first ambulance had come; at least eight more had arrived in as many minutes, and the limits of the staff had already begun to show. Such was life in a hospital, and he was more than well-trained to deal with it.

Which was why he was glaring at sweaty, anxious Howard. His instinct —more than his training— was telling him that there was more to the young man lying in front of him than just a junkie who had gotten lucky by passing out in front of a taxi driver that actually cared.

The needle marks on his arms were there, sure, but they were too recent. All of them. An addict would have old scars to go with the new ones. He was too clean, and his body too well defined to be the typical street case. Maybe he was a rich guy who got wasted, he reasoned, but wasted on what? There was no alcohol breath. Then, there was the bruising around his chest and his left shoulder, which was also not old. Had he fallen while searching for shelter from the storm the previous days? Not to mention the fever that would have melted the snow outside had it been given the chance.

The man –Max, he had barely whispered- had tried to fight them a little as they were attaching the electrodes from the heart monitor to his chest, and Howard had held his hands so he wouldn't hurt himself or interfere. Holt would have thought Max was too wiped out to offer any resistance, but he had seen that it had taken the nurse a bit of strength to control their patient. Max had calmed down fairly fast, the monitor catching Alec Holt's attention.

His heartbeat was slightly erratic and not surprisingly elevated due to the fever, which wasn't as high now as Holt had first thought when he had placed his new patient on the stretcher, but 103 was nothing to sneeze at. His pupils were dilated. His blood pressure seemed to be undecided as to how high it wanted to stay, dancing between numbers which made absolutely no sense to the brown eye doctor. Max had lost the little consciousness he had had just as the woman had started to scream her lungs out for her missing daughter, so now Dr. Holt had a name but not a last name to go with his patient.

He took a vial of blood, and efficiently ordered a dose of metropolol to lower the heart rate and an antipyretic to keep the fever down as Howard and another nurse cut through the gray dirty pants and replaced them with a hospital gown. There were other things that Holt would have had dealt right there and then if Howard hadn't been right about one thing: Six more people were making their way through the doors, and before fifteen minutes, enough victims from the train derailment would come to effectively make management close the hospital to any more patients. They were at their limit, and painfully short staffed.

Giving the sample to Howard with instructions to search for drug abuse, Holt regarded Max. He was stable for now, and likely to remain so for the time being, his lab tests probably not going to return in hours as other patients would take priority, and so good doctor Alec Holt turned around to see who else he could help.

In the overflowing ER, Max was left beside a wall, a monitor keeping rhythm with his heartbeat, an IV steadily dripping vital fluids into his veins. Holt gave him one last glance. If anything changed, he would be the first to notice.

He was wrong.


* * *


Sirens.

It was the first sound Max could make out from all the noise that had slowly filtered into his consciousness. He felt heavy, and tired. Tired enough that it took a conscious effort to open his eyes. More sounds were making sense now, as he slowly made out the forms above him.

A ceiling. People were around, a lot of them. Crying, some shouting somewhere. More sirens in the distance, someone running past beside him. A steady beeping sound.

His eyes slowly turned to his right, to where all the people was coming and going. It was all a kaleidoscope of colors and forms, sounds coming and going randomly again. Max closed his eyes, trying to make the world stop spinning.

"Get me the damn OR! And where the hell is Williams?!"

More people running past him. More sounds of shouting and sirens. It actually was easier to identify sounds as long as he kept his eyes closed. Where was he? His eyes snapped open at one single thought: Michael.

He was supposed to meet Michael. He was supposed to keep running. He was supposed to stay awake. He was supposed to—

The beeping sound wasn't so steady anymore, and Max finally turned to his left to find the source of it. A heart monitor. His heart monitor.

A sense of déjà vu invaded him for a second, as he recalled a very similar situation five years earlier when he had woken up in a hospital bed after he had crashed his car in order to avoid a wild horse.

They don't know yet, his mind barely concluded as he closed his eyes again, the world not quite still under his eyes yet, dizziness overtaking him for a few seconds. He had to get out of there.

Minutes went by as Max fought unconsciousness trying to snatch him again. He was so tired, and so thirsty. He negotiated with his own mind the order of things he had to do to get out of the hospital, a feat that was getting harder and harder as he kept forgetting what the proper order of doing things was. He had to get up and detach the electrodes and the IV and… or was it… the other way around…? Detach and then… Was he forgetting… something? He had to… do… to first do… do…

The beeping was steady once again.

"Get Jennings on the line NOW!"

The shout snatched Max out of the comfortable darkness he was settling in as whoever was yelling kept doing so down the hall.

He had to get out. Right.

He wasn't sure exactly how, though. As he started to move, the bite of the needle with the IV gave him pause. He had to get rid of it first, and the monitor as well. Right. It took him an eternity to reach his left arm with his right hand, and an entire lifetime to concentrate enough to carefully get the IV out while healing the tiny incision.

He took a minute to collect his thoughts again. The monitor kept beeping, reminding him of what his next task was. He looked at it until the image stopped wavering, focusing his eyes on the off button, pushing it with his mind. The beeping stopped, but his heart didn't. Relieved, he closed his eyes to gather his strength.

Next thing he knew, he was standing. He didn't remember detaching the electrodes, or anything else for that matter, and he frowned at his missing time. His head hurt enough without his confusing thoughts, and so he closed his eyes again in an attempt to calm himself and think clearly how to get to the far doors of the very crowded hospital.

The smell made him nauseous. A combination of disinfectant and medicine, and sweat and blood, and urine and things he just couldn't place. In other words, all the smells of life, pain and the smells that stood for death. The noise and the almost chaotic movement made him uneasy, but he was vaguely aware that this exact chaos was his passport out of there.

No one knows yet, he repeated, bracing himself for his first step towards freedom. He never let go of the stretcher at his left, but four steps later he had to stop and take deep breaths. He was sweating, but he dimly thought that four steps weren't enough to make him sweat. His heart was beating fast, and taking deep breaths wasn't helping any.

Someone wearing a white lab coat shouted to someone else across the hall. Max winced. He preferred it when the sounds were nothing more than an indistinguishable murmur. His stomach protested the smells once again, and Max had to turn to face the stretcher and brace it with both hands, eyes shut tight.

He could do this. He would do this. He just needed a minute for things to settle down, and the floor to stop moving again.

Once he opened his eyes a couple of minutes later, he realized he hadn't been gripping his own stretcher. A little girl's half open eyes met his own. She was really pale, and cuts and bruises sprinkled her arms and her angelic face. She was eerily quiet. The IV was there, the heart monitor was there, but where was the doctor? Surely, they wouldn't leave a child untended?

He turned around and saw the sea of people behind him. The sounds came in full force now that he was really paying attention, nurses and doctors talking rapidly amongst each other, frenetic parents and relatives searching or comforting love ones. The chaos that was going to be his freedom was probably costing the girl her life.

He had been left aside, and he was doing reasonably okay, Max thought as he turned to look at the sleeping child. They were obviously busy and had thought that she was equally okay. Any minute they would check on her and... and...

He felt her life slipping away.

A bead of sweat ran from his forehead to his cheek, and he absently wiped it out. His heart was still beating too fast, and his mind was having trouble concentrating, but somehow, even without touching her, Max knew her life was slipping away.

He turned once more, this time in search of a doctor, a nurse, someone who would be able to help her. He tried to call the first person with a hospital lab coat that he could see, and found his throat too dry. He was so thirsty. His eyes went again to the door, the green neon word EXIT so clearly defined even to his slightly blurry vision.

He tore his eyes from the sign and went back to his original search: Help. A few feet from where he was, a nurse and a doctor sped up from a door with a stretcher in between, a patient being taken somewhere else. They passed him without a second glance, but Max's eyes stayed on the door. A room. An idea already springing to life in his mind.

Max returned his attention to the little girl, her eyes creepily vacant, her skin looking paler if that were possible. He could heal her just a little bit, just enough to give time for whomever was watching her to come back and check on her status. He could buy her that time.

He could.

Just enough time, he repeated to himself as he placed his right hand on her chest, while he gripped the stretcher with his left. The smells were still making him nauseous, and his legs didn't feel all that firm either.

It took him longer than ever before to make the connection. Even though he was expecting them, the flashes from the girl's life took him by surprise, making him almost slip over the stretcher, his vision getting clouded, his heartbeat loud in his ears as if he were running.

He should be running. Michael had told him so.

The thought went unnoticed as he finally felt what was wrong with the girl, his breath catching up with his lungs. Something had broken inside her... or more like torn inside her. Or both? His concentration lost focus for a second as someone was screaming at the top of her lungs. He shut his eyes to return to the damage and heal it. He had to stop whatever it was and then—

The screaming persisted as he felt his knees buckling up, the connection lost as he snapped his eyes open and grabbed the stretcher with both hands, losing his touch on her. He had healed the worst damage, but by doing so had lost the little strength he had gathered when he had first stopped to rest after taking his first steps.

Panting, his eyes went to the room he had seen before, barely five feet from the girl's stretcher. He couldn't make it to the exit, not yet, but he could make it to the room and rest for a couple of minutes. Then he would reach the EXIT sign and he would be free. Or at least, free of discovery.

Nodding to himself, he stood straight again, checking the girl as he did so. She looked better, though not overly so. Someone had to check on her soon, because he had no more energy to give. He would be running soon, he vaguely thought, and that made him set his mind on his next goal: Reaching the door to that room.

Determination settled in his features. A strange buzzing in his ears had joined his headache, and for this he was thankful since he didn't have to keep hearing people shouting and screaming. Though he could see the door to the room clearly, everything at the edge of his vision was blurry, all definition gone, colors merging into one another, making him feel as if he were looking through a tunnel.

His first step was tentative. His second steady. But by the time he was halfway through it, he had to stop and lean on the wall for support. He needed to rest, and for that he needed the room and the solace it would bring him. He would hide until he could keep going, so sure was he that in the chaos that was Saint Paul's Hospital's ER no one would miss him from his stretcher, much less go looking for him.

It took him six more minutes to reach the inside of the room, though he would have sworn it had been thrice that number, and as he slowly slid down the wall, not really caring what was in that room to begin with, he kept thinking that all he needed was to catch his breath.

Just... to catch... his breath...

Despite what he thought about how unnoticeable he had been, before he had crossed the threshold to the room at least two people had very much noticed him all right.

One was concerned about the girl. One was intrigued with Max himself. And both would remember this exact moment as the one that changed everything they had thought about life on Earth.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Unknown - Ch. 2 Healing

Postby Misha » Sat Aug 01, 2009 10:21 am

Hey guys!

Thanks for coming back!

xmag, I'm happy to be writing Max as well! As fun as writing The Offer is, it takes a lot to go around all six of them :lol: I don't think there's a worst place for Max than an ER, because he knows no matter what the injury -in theory- he should be able to save them all... or the first in line. I'm glad he was too out of it to realize that... There's a very good reason why he's so fixed on Michael right now -and not Liz, for example- but that will be explain later.

ken_r, I wouldn't have gotten the ER scene so well without your help! I've never been in one myself. And you have already feedbacked me a ton already over your beta dutties! I'm not going to nudge you here! :shock:

keepsmiling7, I love House too! I'm not sure I could pull off a fanfic with him, but he's sure fun to watch! Max's backstory will come soon, don't worry about it ;)

cjsl8ne, the funny thing is, I've been writing Unknown for almost a year now... This is what I write when The Offer is not coming along. This story is almost finished, so yay me! There shouldn't be much wait between chapters. And yes, you'll get to meet those "witnesses" right now 8)

nibbles2, thanks for stopping by! I love the banner too :D I found that picture searching for something else, but I just knew it had to be for this fanfic's banner!

thetvgeneral, hey girl! Don't worry about it! I won't be posting those chapters for some time still ;)







Chapter 2
Healing



Dr. Jay McConnell’s eyes narrowed as he took in the ER situation. He had spent the last two hours working at the crash site, hearing the news over the radio as he was heading home. He knew, beyond a doubt, that his hospital was understaffed, but also knew that he could do more helping victims who were being rescued than navigating the chaos that the ER was about to become.

He had hitched a ride to Saint Paul’s on the last ambulance that was heading this way. The most critical patients had been dispatched first, but as time had passed and the staff had had time to move patients around, some beds had opened. Saint Paul was the closest hospital, but the next two in line were already at their max capacity.

As he had stepped down from the ambulance, his patient had started to go into cardiac arrest. He had entered through those doors practically riding the stretcher, getting down once the barely free nurses had been able to help him stabilize him.

Now he was re-evaluating the situation, as not so critical patients were changing status to very critical patients. As head of the neurological department, he was more than trained to make such assertions, and with a clinical, professional eye, he started to re-arrange priorities among the victims.

Just as he was evaluating a man who was becoming short of breath, his eyes caught sight of Dr. Lake. He knew the pretty young doctor didn’t like the ER, especially when it came to children, but there she was, brown eyes concentrating on the young woman she had in front of her. He liked her. He had been pleasantly impressed when she had made her rounds in neurology as a resident. She was sweet with kids, but knew how to stand her ground when she thought she was right.

He wished more doctors were like her. Knowledgeable, confident of their skill, and with enough curiosity left to still try to do something new every day.

McConnell took his stethoscope out and listened intently to the man. From the corner of his eye, he saw Susan doing the same with the woman, except Susan’s eyes had fixed for a second on something else, her eyebrows slightly frowning with worry. He followed her gaze as he asked the patient if he had any history of asthma.

She was looking at a young man, not older than 25, standing in front of a stretcher at the other end of the ER. Did she know him? Did she think he was dangerous in some way? The stranger was lacking the bruises, cuts and burns that were characterizing the victims from the train derailment, but his decidedly sick complexion confirmed that the man was in need of medical attention.

He just would have to wait for his turn, Jay thought, his patient’s breathing starting to get worse. He returned his attention to the medical problem in front of him, instructing the nurses to get the man a nebulizer right now.

Dr. Lake’s attention hadn’t left the dark haired man, though. McConnell knew that for a fact as he turned his eyes to her again, and this time she was really staring at the guy, her patient practically forgotten. He turned to see why, and his heart almost skipped a beat as he saw the stranger bending over another stretcher, one Jay had hardly paid attention to before.

He racked his brain to remember who he had seen there, and it made perfect sense that a kid was on that bed, which would explain Susan’s intensive protectiveness.

He thought the man was passing out. He had seemed to be well enough to stand, but obviously not well enough to walk. She and he moved at the same time towards that direction, just to find themselves stuck with their respective patients as both started to go into shock.

He wouldn’t pay more attention to anything else outside stabilizing the 30 something man in his hands for the next few minutes. It was bad enough the guy had to be the victim of a train crash, he didn’t need a negligent doctor as well.

By the time he looked up, he saw that Susan’s stranger was making progress toward one of the small ER rooms, where cuts, scratches and minor injuries were treated on a daily basis. Probably someone had been treated there tonight as space had become a necessity, but from his vantage point, McConnell could see the room was now vacated.

What was he looking for? Drugs? Even from this distance, McConnell could tell the man was running a fever. It could definitely be a withdrawal symptom. The man could be delirious, yet he was determined to get into that room, that much was plain.

Dr. Lake was following the man’s progress while trying to establish if the woman under her care was stabilizing or not, but her desire to go running to the little kid on the stretcher was more than obvious to Jay.

Deciding his patient was in good hands with the nurses, at least for the minute it would take him to check on things, Dr. McConnell took a direct course towards the man in question. He had vanished into the smaller room a couple of minutes before, but Jay still checked on the girl who had been pronounced stable enough to wait her turn.

She was still stable, and nothing suspicious was jumping at his sight. She wasn’t looking so good though, and he made a point to call Susan after checking on the man, if she wasn’t there by the time he had finished.

Entering the small room, he was briefly disconcerted at not finding anyone either lying down on the examination table or searching for drugs on the cabinets. It only took him a second to find that the man had slid down the wall at his left, passing out and falling on his side. Jay squatted in front of him, intending on taking his pulse on his neck.

“Holly shit! You’re burning up!” McConnell swore out loud, having seldom found such high temperatures among his patients. He sat the man straight against the wall, as he took his pulse: Fast and erratic. A thin veil of sweat was already covering his face, chest and back.

“I need some help here!” he yelled to no one and everyone, as he opened the man’s eyelids. His pupils were dilated, and his breathing was becoming short and rapid, trying to compensate for the lack of volume.

Dr. Holt's dark blond hair appeared a second later through the open door. He immediately positioned himself beside McConnell, both of them seizing an arm and aiming for the vacant examination table.

“He said his name was Max,” Holt started to explain. “A taxi driver found him and brought him at the same time the first ambulance was coming. We suspected drug abuse. He was stable a couple of hours ago.”

"He’s sure as hell not stable right now," McConnell said disapprovingly as they laid the man on the table. "Go get a crash cart. And find a goddamned cooling blanket. We need to get his temperature down now!"

They were going to need a whole lot more than just that.


* * *


Sounds were muffled again, and his vision was not much better when it came to sharpness. Frenetic voices and frenetic movement was about all Max could make out.

God, he felt so warm, and so tired, and so thirsty. He tried to open his eyes and barely managed a slit. He had the feeling that whatever was happening around him had to do with himself, and the thought made him uneasy.

He tried to think straight, starting by trying to figure out where he was. Seconds went by without an answer, but that didn't stop him. He knew where he wasn't, for starters. He wasn't running through dark, wet, cold streets. He wasn't inside a dark, dry, musky car. And he wasn't in a bright lit room... except, he was.

All his senses became razor sharp as adrenaline fueled his body. He snapped his eyes open and took a deep breath as if he were coming from underwater. Someone at his left was holding an oxygen mask over his face, and he realized that almost at the same time as he realized the beeping had come back, and it was beeping pretty fast too.

A hand stopped him from getting up.

“Easy, Max. It’s okay.”

No, it wasn’t. This voice wasn’t the same as the one that had talked to him earlier. This man had an older, stronger voice. A voice used to command and being respected. It was soothing as well, caring, but all Max could think was that they had –or were about to- discover him. He had to get out of there.

"Temperature keeps rising," another male voice said beside him, at his right. This time, it was the same younger voice as before, though Max couldn't really make out specific features from either man.

He tried to focus. First on the man who was holding him down, with not much luck, so he turned his eyes to the other man in the room. All sounds became muted as his eyes fixed on the younger man's hands. A needle was being prepared to go into his veins. In that moment, Max didn't care –didn't think- about anything as all he knew was that he couldn't allow that needle into himself.

Maybe he wasn’t at the hospital anymore. Maybe they had caught him again. He had been supposed to keep running.

The needle never made it into his arm. He was pushing with all he had, all the strength his mind could muster, to keep them away from him.

"I can't hold— I can't—" the older man said as he kept struggling against Max's own mental strength, clearly not knowing what was going on. He finally took his hand off Max's chest and the oxygen mask from his face, allowing Max to sit up.

The room swayed as he did so, his eyes surveying his surroundings, in search of a way out.

“You’re going to hurt yourself!” It was the young man’s voice, and Max’s attention returned to the needle. He was vaguely aware that he was panting, but as his eyes kept fixed on that hand, he started to detach whatever sensors he could blindly find.

“Dr. Holt, take that needle out of his sight,” stern and clear came the older man’s voice, but Max didn’t turn to look at him. Slowly, the needle found its way to a table beside the wall. All the time the beeping was going too fast, Max’s own hand having stopped the detaching process to steady himself. God, he would kill for a glass of water right now.

“Son,” the man at his left kept saying, “it’s okay. You’re at Saint Paul’s Hospital. You’re running a very high fever. We’re trying to help you.”

Was the man lying? It didn’t matter. Wherever he was, he was not safe. Max closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. What was he supposed to do?

“You need to lie down, and let us help you,” the voice continued, slowly approaching him. Max shook his head. He just needed to rest. He just needed to go to the EXIT sign, and get out of there, and then he would indeed lie down and rest.

All he needed was rest.

He tried to tell him, but he couldn’t find his own voice. He needed to get out of here now because his strength was wavering at best, and he couldn’t keep both men at arms length for much longer.

He started to move his legs so he could get down from the table, remembering he had to get rid of the IV first. The buzzing inside his head was back in full force, and even the beeping sound was hard to make out.

He had to finish detaching the electrodes, right. Things felt in slow motion, as if he were underwater with a very heavy suit on. Though he knew what he had to do, he remained frozen in place, his arms carrying all his weight. If the two men were talking, he didn’t hear them. What he did hear though—

“WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO THAT GIRL?!”

—was the ear shattering shout of a woman coming from the door he was so desperately trying to reach. His arms gave out, and Max felt himself falling on his back, just to feel a strong arm interrupting his fall.

Max was laid down and the oxygen mask was back in place as well. He tried to shake it off, to sit again, but the little fight he put up was met with definite authority, as the same hand that had held him down before encountered no resistance.

“What did you do to her?!”

The woman was coming towards him, and the man who was holding him down had to let him go so he could prevent the woman from reaching him, the oxygen mask left aside.

“What did you do?!” she kept asking him, with the same passion that reminded him of Maria. The older man was trying to take her out, but as their eyes locked, Max knew he had to give her an answer.

“I—I— healed— her.”


* * *


No sooner had Dr. Holt been able to reach Max, he had taken the needle from the table and had searched for the IV. He knew better than to go for the arm again, effectively entering his patient’s peripheral vision –as Max was looking at Dr. Lake and no longer at him- and freaking him out once again. It wasn’t the first time that Alec had seen patients who were terrified of hospitals, doctors or needles to the point Max had shown, but it had been the first time he had been unable to reach someone because invisible hands had held him off.

What the hell was happening here?

It was a small victory to see that the light sedative he had just injected into the clear fluid was doing the job it was supposed to do. The world was still working properly, even around whatever strange circumstances were surrounding the now unconscious man lying in front of him. He took another oxygen mask, putting it on Max’s face, expertly attaching it to his head.

“Calm down, Dr. Lake,” Dr. McConnell was still trying to restrain the pretty pediatrician from reaching Max. The fact that all three of them had clearly heard the almost whispered reassurance from their mystery patient that he had healed “her”, whoever “her” was, did nothing to stop the frenetic movements of both doctors: one stopping, the other struggling.

“He did something to that child, and it had nothing to do with healing her!” Dr. Lake kept repeating. “What is he wearing on his hands? What did he put on her?”

Dr. McConnell turned to look at Holt, searching the man’s face for an answer.

"He has nothing on his hands," Alec told them both as he was re-attaching the few electrodes that Max had detached, turning Max's palms up so Dr. Lake could see for herself.

“That girl has a silver handprint on her chest. I need to know what the hell it is, because we have no clue. She’s on her way to the OR as we speak, so we don’t have much time.”

Not that Max was awake to answer her, Alec thought as he watched the monitors, the temperature not giving an inch. “He must have worn gloves,” Alec absently said as he moved for the crash cart in search of something to help bring down the dangerous fever. The funny thing was Max had been wearing nothing more than the hospital gown when he had left him two hours ago.

“She didn’t have any prints when I checked on her,” Dr. McConnell said as he finally let her go, both of them approaching the unconscious man.

“I’m not imagining that, and you saw him bending over that stretcher out there. He did something.

That Alec was more than willing to believe, but his doctor’s mind had taken over, any unexplainable phenomena left for a moment when his patient was stable. He had left him beside the wall before, he was not going to do that again.

“Well, whatever he did, he’s not doing it right now. You’ll have to wait for him to wake up,” McConnell said. Dr. Lake was about to protest, Alec knew without needing to look at her. His attention was pinned on seeing if the drugs he had just administered would do the trick of slowing the heartbeat and lowering the fever. “I’m telling you, Susan,” McConnell continued, “he didn’t do anything to her. She was as stable as one could reasonably hope when I checked her.”

Silence. Then, “Page me the minute he opens his eyes,” Dr. Lake coldly said as she checked for herself that Max’s right hand was bare and spotless. She stalked away without another word, probably to check outside if she could find what the mystery silver paint was.

"Where the hell is that cooling blanket?" Alec said out loud as he saw his efforts were met with indifference from the monitors. Nothing was changing with his patient's condition.

“Forget the blanket, we need to get him an ice bath.”

Now that they were alone, they silently asked each other for an explanation to the invisible force that had briefly kept them away from Max. Alec met Jay's eyes, and both knew that whatever had happened just before Dr. Lake had entered had been real. They had both experienced it. And as one, they both turned to look at Max.

“I’ll get a gurney,” McConnell said, “You keep an eye on those vitals.”


* * *


The lab results were nowhere to be found, especially since Max “Doe” had been labeled as low priority when he had been admitted in the first place. Twenty-three patients had been labeled first priority, and at least another 12 had been waiting after those twenty-three. The hospital had over-passed its limit an hour ago, McConnell knew, and it only made him feel more helpless in this situation.

Something very strange was going on here, and the invisible force that had thrown him away was only part of it.

Usually, male nurses would do the ice bathing with a doctor nearby in case any complication would rise. One was now helping him, since nurses where in short supply, but Dr. McConnell wanted to do this bath himself for one specific reason: He wanted to examine Max, and if that temperature kept rising he might not get another chance of doing that while Max was still alive.

Max’s fever had reached the 105.2 ºF, and they still had no idea what was causing it. Dr. Holt had taken one more blood vial, collected a urine sample, and headed to the lab to do the tests himself. Common drugs were not working on lowering his fever.

The nurse was the quiet type, which suited McConnell just fine. He had a lot to think about.

There were the needle scars, the primary reason why Max had been dismissed as a drug addict. The dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat and fever had all fit the diagnosis. All they needed now was his blood to confirm it.

And maybe, just maybe, he would indulge himself into thinking that whatever drug was running through Max’s system, was also running through his. That was a nice, simple explanation as to what had caused his momentary paralysis –or whatever had kept him from reaching Max— while first attending to this man.

McConnell didn’t like nice and simple.

With clinical eyes he observed that Max's wrists were now sporting slight cuts and bruises. Restraint bruises. As McConnell dipped his hand into the icy water to better position Max's unconscious body, he paid more attention to the bruising on his left shoulder. It couldn't be more than three or four days old, and chances were that the bruises on his chest were related as well to the event that had caused them. Wrists, chest, and left shoulder. It was more than likely that they were all related, and maybe one of them was hiding the cause of this fever.

They took him out and placed him on a table ready with towels. The nurse started drying him as Jay took his temperature: 104.1 ºF. He let go a tentative sigh. At least it was coming down. His heartbeat was still accelerated, but his blood pressure was closer to the numbers it should be.

His eyes locked on Max’s torso. There were small scars that caught his attention, prompting him to bend down to look at them better. They were too strategically placed, and too clinically done to be any accident. It looked as if someone had been doing biopsies not too long ago.

Where were you before? McConnell thought as he kept examining the recent scars. Depending on what the lab tests would show, McConnell could very well envision himself doing those same biopsies. In the twenty years he had in the field, he had done more than his share of those.

Maybe whatever condition Max had wasn’t new, and someone else had been trying to figure it out. He had been found in the streets, collapsed in front of a taxi driver. Maybe Max had escaped from one of the other hospitals. A couple of calls would confirm that.

But as he helped the nurse to dress Max again, he saw that his ankles were also sporting bruises. Jay narrowed his eyes. If Max had thrashed around somewhere else due to his fear of hospitals, it would explain the bruises.

Nice and simple.

He didn’t like it.

“Doctor, he’s regaining consciousness,” the nurse said as he was re-attaching the portable monitors. They would be taking Max to the ICU as soon as there was an opening.

Consciousness might have been a little bit of a stretch though. Max was trying to open his eyes with little success.

“I’ll take it from here,” McConnell said to the nurse, “but page me if there’s an opening.”

If the nurse thought it weird, he didn’t say anything about it. He finished attaching the last electrode and went to see where else he was needed, which was probably the second and first floors. The train derailment crisis was far from over.

"Max, can you hear me?" McConnell addressed his patient. He still needed to know if Dr. Lake's claim about Max having anything to do with a print of some sort was valid or not. But more than that, he needed to understand what had happened to this man.

It took him a couple of seconds, but Max finally answered, “M- Michael?”

“No. I’m Dr. Jay McConnell. Do you know where you are?”

“C-Cold,” Max said as he shivered, the reaction due more to the fever than the ice bath he had just endured.

“I know,” McConnell said as he inspected his patient’s pupils. Still dilated. He didn’t like that. Whatever was causing this was still going strong. “I need you to tell me what happened to you.”

“C-Cold,” Max repeated, this time trying to lie on his side so he could get more warmth out of a fetal position. McConnell reached for a dry towel to wrap him in, when he noticed the most peculiar thing: something was glowing on Max’s chest, beneath the hospital gown.

Placing the towel up to Max’s lower torso, McConnell bent down to move the gown and see for himself what he already knew was impossible: Max’s skin was the source of the glowing.

“What the—”

The doctor’s eyes unglued from the glowing area to search Max’s face, to search for an answer to what he was seeing. But Max kept his eyes closed, his body starting to shiver more violently now. The glowing strengthened for a second, the heart monitor spiking once again.

Whatever Max was doing, it was taxing him.

“Max, you have to stop,” McConnell said with a firm voice, as if he had any idea what he was asking this man to end. He touched the glowing skin, slowly and a bit fearfully if he was going to be honest, and found Max’s chest warming up.

Max was running a high fever, Jay reminded himself, but he suspected this warmth came from the glowing skin, an effort from Max’s body to keep his temperature stable as it believed the temperature was too low. The human body did it all the time when it had a fever; the effort, that was, not the glowing.

It didn’t matter. The glowing started to falter, and the monitor beside the stretcher started to show the distress Max’s glowing act was causing his heart. McConnell was momentarily at a loss for what to do. An erratic heart he could work with; a glowing chest causing a cardiac arrest hadn’t been covered in his medical practice though.

Logic told him that if Max’s body wanted warmth, he could do that for it. He took the rest of the dry towels and wrapped the young man in them, deciding that if no result came from that, he would treat his very special –and very weird- patient as any other. He eyed the crash cart for the drugs he would need, already knowing what doses he would apply.

The glowing finally stopped a minute later, the beeping sound finally slowing down to a 120 beats per minute. Dr. McConnell noted that he would have to treat that heart as any other soon, since that rhythm had to be brought down. He just needed the lab tests.

As if on cue, the door opened, and a very pale Dr. Holt entered the room. He looked as if he had seen a ghost, and he kept looking like that as he stared at Max. McConnell turned to look at Max as well, not knowing if he was conscious or not.

"You've got the results?" McConnell asked Holt, now facing him, his voice a little bit impatient. Alec nodded, his eyes still glued to the towel-wrapped and glowless Max. For some reason, McConnell was not concerned about explaining the glowing reflex just yet.

“And?”

In a second, he would have other things to be concerned about.

“He’s not… he’s not human.”
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Unknown - Ch. 3 Green

Postby Misha » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:28 am

Thanks for coming back to read!

keepsmiling7, how is he going to explain himself, indeed... does he even have the energy to explain himself? He's just too out of it now to even know what's really going on...

cwm_ , here's more :D

ken_r, as fun and fast as writing Unknown is, I'm so not forgetting The Offer!They'll kill me first...

cjsl8ne, where are the others won't be known for some time still... They are out there, not knowing where Max is at this point, though. Where was he and who had him will be soon revealed... ;) I just love to tell a story from the middle :lol:

Timelord, so nice to have you here too!





Chapter 3
Green



He had checked the blood test three times before searching for the original vial in the pile that was still waiting to be examined by the lab technicians. For all the good that did. It only confirmed what he had already seen.

The problem was, what he had already seen didn't make sense. The red little round blood cells he was expecting to see were nowhere to be found. Instead, the red hexagonal-like blood cells that met his eye in the microscope could not be interpreted as sick cells. These just weren't human cells.

He told as much to Dr. McConnell as the older doctor looked at him as if he were nuts. Exactly the same reason why Dr. Alec Holt had kept his mouth shut at the lab, and all the way to this room: Everyone would think he was nuts. He needed a senior doctor to check his data before going "public", or at least before informing the rest of the medical staff.

"You read too much science fiction," Dr. McConnell told him, though he didn't sound too convinced about that. He extended a hand so Alec could give him the lab results. "What did you find, besides alien blood cells?"

"I'm not making this up," Dr. Holt said with indignation.

"I'm not saying you are," McConnell said as he started to scan the lab sheets. "But something is making him sick..." he trailed off as he turned the pages. “He tested negative for drugs." The older doctor frowned, and turned his eyes to Max. "Where were you, kid?"

"What are we going to do?" Alec said as his eyes diverted to Max's form.

"We're going to keep doing tests until we find what's wrong with him," McConnell said, his eyes back on the lab sheets.

"You know what I mean. He could be dangerous. Who knows what he did to that girl? And you were there, when that... that... invisible force... Was he attacking us?" It did sound like a science fiction novel, Alec would give that to McConnell, but this thing was serious, and he suddenly felt light-headed at the thought that the man who was lying on that stretcher was not really a man.

"Calm down, Alec. Don't freak out on me." McConnell's stern voice cut through Holt's fear clear and sharp. "Take a minute and think this through. He could very well have thought we were attacking him in the ER, so he was defending himself. And it was a very feeble defense as well. If we're going to find out what he did to that child, we need to get him well enough—"

"... her."

They almost didn't hear the whispered sentence. Alec had assumed Max had been unconscious all the time, and as his own heart double its beating, McConnell turned to him and said, "Get him some water". He didn't have to be told twice. All he wanted was to get out of that room.

What were they going to do?


* * *


He had changed locations. That was about all he knew as he was trying to regain consciousness. His eyelids felt so heavy, and the thin fabric over his chest did nothing to warm him up. He was getting cold faster than he had ever experienced in his life.

Someone was talking, but he could hardly make sounds, let alone words. The voice was addressing him now. It sounded worried. It sounded like... "M- Michael?" His throat was still dry, but a little hope surged in his heart at the thought that Michael had finally found him.

"No. I'm Dr. Jay McConnell. Do you know where you are?"

Max felt his spirit sink. He wasn't safe yet... he wasn't anywhere he knew either. What if something had happened to Michael? What if— A shiver ran through his back halting all thought. He was so cold now. For the next few minutes all he could think about was that. He had to warm up, somehow, because he was so cold it tore at the very center of his being.

No sound penetrated the warmth cocoon he found himself in some time later. Minutes, hours? Murmurs started to drift his way, the voices vaguely familiar. The old one, and the young one. They sounded as if they were arguing about something. About... him.

Max focused all his attention on listening. He felt drained, exhausted really, and it was getting harder to remain awake.

"... He could be dangerous..." Snatches of conversation made it to his mind. He tried to shake his head "no". How many times did he have to say it? Why wouldn't they believe him? Why were they...

"...If we're going... what he did to that child..."

What child? He couldn't remember. He honestly didn't know... A memory passed through his mind of a little girl jumping through hoops. Of a pink bunny that could use a bath, as the same girl dragged it everywhere. And that same laughing and carefree face looked at him from half closed eyelids, life running out of her.

"I healed her..." Max managed to say, willing them to believe him, because he had no more strength to keep fighting them.

The voices stopped talking. A door was opened and closed in the distance, while someone bent over him.

"Don't try to speak just yet."

The old voice. He liked that voice. "I'm Dr. Jay McConnell. You're at Saint Paul's Hospital. You're safe here. We're not going to hurt you." Max felt a hand on his forehead, and tried to open his eyes. Something cold sneaked to his chest, making Max withdraw a little.

"I'm just listening to your heart..."

That makes two of us, Max absently thought as he could hear his heartbeat loud and clear in his ears. It was going fast. He should be running.

The door opened again and a second later water met his thirsty mouth. God, it felt so good. He was allowed two drinks, and then the paper cup was taken from his lips. He needed so much more.

"Easy... easy there... it's not going anywhere," the doctor said. A doctor... it couldn't be a good thing. It suddenly occurred to him that he was trying to tell them he had used his powers to heal a girl without knowing if they already knew. The cup returned, and Max tried to drink again as much as he could.

"You're going too fast..." off again, but this time Max had to rest his head for a second.

"What were you trying to do?" The young voice this time. It sounded uneasy, and a bit forceful. "Did you leave a handprint on her?"

Max slowly nodded, hoping to get some water before explaining himself. He did, but this time he swallowed slowly, a hand helping his head so he could drink more comfortable.

"You said you healed her," the older doctor said, "why the handprint?"

Max saw that pretty face again, the blond curly hair, the carefree laugh and the pink bunny. He remembered something else too. "I didn't... I didn't finish..." it was easier to talk now that his throat wasn't so dry, but concentrating was still a tricky act. "I started to... just enough for someone to... to notice. I can't help the handprint... It's always there..."

"Is she going to be okay?" Urgency colored the younger doctor's voice. Max didn't know. He hadn't finished. He had never really started it to finish it.

"Just enough time..." he whispered, finally opening his eyes to put a face to those voices. The light blinded him, and his eyes hurt. He closed them again.

"I want you to think hard, Max. Do you know what's making you sick?"

Blinding light illuminated Max's memories. The monitor's beeping went sky rocketing to match his own heartbeat. As the flight or fight instinct took over, Max's only thought was that he had to get out of there, the memory the old voice had stirred too powerful for Max to distinguish it from reality.

He felt a surge of pure adrenaline run through his veins, finally being able to fully open his eyes, sitting on the stretcher with all the intention to flee. Strong hands took hold of his arms, preventing him from moving anywhere.

"Let me go!" Max desperately said, not really knowing where he was, or who was with him. His hazel eyes met the older man's blue ones. Max's right hand lurched forward, shoving his assailant as far as he could with his mind. It wasn't much, and Max caught sight of the other man in the room. He was trapped, and they were coming for him.

His only other defense came from his green shield, and he used it without hesitation. In a way, it was easier to hold than telekinesis ever was, but it was only defensive. He had no offense working on his behalf, so he knew he would have to keep it up until he reached the door and, once out, melt the doorknob so he wouldn’t be followed. It could work.

A drop of sweat ran down his left cheek. The beeping of the heart monitor was all the sound there was, and Max looked down at himself to start detaching the electrodes from his chest. Hadn't he done this already?

His feet found the cold floor as the monitor's line went flat, the last electrode hanging from the bed. He attempted his first step just to find his legs weren't all too firm. His left hand gripped the stretcher, as his right hand kept the shield up.

"Max, you're not well," the older man's face was distorted through the green electric shield. Max knew he wasn't well. He felt it in the weakness of his body, and the nausea that had risen as he had stood up. "We're not your enemy," the man insisted, as Max shook his head to think clearly. The shield was draining his strength, every ounce of it. He could turn it off and make for the door.

His mind assaulted him with a memory of a similar scenario. He hadn't reached the door then.

Max was panting, and the room was swaying once more. He had to get to the door; he had to get out of there. He had to keep running until he met Michael. That was the plan.

That was the plan.

His shield finally collapsed as Max started to run for the door. He hadn't reached 3 feet before he felt the stabbing sensation of a needle on his back. His vision had been blurring already, but whatever was in the needle accelerated the process of turning his world black.


* * *


Dr. Holt was barely able to hold Max before he hit the floor. McConnell was right behind him, as they both had run after their fugitive alien. He had seen the younger doctor grabbing a syringe from the crash cart as Max had practically jumped from the stretcher. If Jay was ever going to run a 104 fever, he hoped he would be just as energetic.

An alien. Uh. Well, maybe not. They knew he wasn’t human. They didn’t know what he really was. Whatever the case, it was easier to picture this man as an illegal immigrant than someone not belonging to the human race. The problem was, no human being would have a glowing chest, or a glowing, green… thing, but those facts only intrigued Jay McConnell more than anything in his entire medical career. If this being was, indeed, from another planet, the implications would crash on him later on. Right now his mind was dealing with the problem at hand: How to keep him alive.

"We should keep him sedated," Alec said, breathing heavily. Holt was scared, there was no denying it, but fear rarely served for good judgment, something both doctors knew. McConnell nodded in agreement. Another stunt like that was bound to get Max hurt. At least for the time being, they better keep their very frightened patient out of the loop.

Putting the mess they now found themselves in aside, they started to work, keeping things simple. Or at least trying to. They both lifted Max's body to the stretcher, McConnell trying to sort out what had happened. His mind came up blank.

What had happened, anyway?

"Shit, what the hell was that green thing?" Dr. Holt said as he re-attached the electrodes, the monitor coming to life once again. Max's heart was determined to set a new world speed record, it would seem.

"You gave him metropolol in the ER, right?" Holt nodded as he went for the IV, finding a good vein in seconds. "We'll keep that. If he doesn't improve, let's switch to Bretylium once we get him to the ICU." Let's hope we find the right drug to get that heart under control.

"He'll need a cardiologist," Holt absently said as he prepared the metropolol dose, almost as if reading McConnell's thoughts. As long as they were both busy with their patient, it was harder to sit down and digest the fact that he wasn't really human.

"Well, he's already got a neurologist and a traumatologist. The kid is in good hands," McConnell humorlessly joked as he once again checked Max's pupils.

"What the hell was that green thing?" Dr. Holt repeated while injecting the drug into one of Max's veins, both men watching the cardiac monitor for signs of it slowing down. It was.

"I don't know," the older doctor sincerely said, "but whatever is making him sick is already doing a number on his kidneys and liver. This green thing has just stressed his heart to kingdom come."

Holt stopped watching the vital signs and turned to look at the senior neurologist. "You can't take the data from those tests seriously. His biochemistry is not human. We don't know what we're dealing with here!"

Dr. McConnell took a minute to answer as he took Max's temperature again: 103.1 ºF. "We must be doing something right," he quietly said. Sighing, he turned to look at Dr. Holt.

"That's why we're sticking to the metropolol. We already know it works as it should." Holt's face was still skeptical. "Listen, we already know the basics are the same: One heart, two lungs, a central nervous system that shuts down with sedatives. A cold response to a high fever. He’s not that different."

"We have no idea why his blood pressure is so unstable," Holt answered back.

"We have no idea what is causing this fever to begin with. He's not high on cocaine or suffering from withdrawal syndrome as you first thought. Whatever it is, once we figure it out it will explain the symptoms and will show us the way. Just like any other patient."

"We might end up killing him," Holt argued, looking more agitated now than before. "We can't just go 'trial and error' and hope we get lucky. He can't possibly react as human beings in all ways."

"Which means we're short on time," McConnell said with a small smile, going to the crash cart for another vial. "Keep doing the tests. Start by looking for uncommon psychotropic substances."

"What? Why? Why not infections? You think he's immune to viral or bacterial diseases?" One never knew, McConnell guessed at Holt's question, Max's very red and very human-looking blood finishing filling the vial.

"His white cell count wasn't that high," Dr. McConnell answered as he gave the dark blond man the blood. Dr. Holt didn't move to take it.

"Why are we doing this?" the younger doctor asked, concerned. McConnell frowned.

"Why shouldn't we?"

The parade of expressions that crossed Dr. Alec Holt's face would have been highly comical in any other circumstance but this one. He was stuck between being upset, scared, surprised and worried. "Why?" he finally was able to say, "Because we don't know what we’re dealing with, that’s why! Because we have no idea what he's able to do! Next time, it might be... it might be..."

"Laser beams?" McConnell supplied. Holt glared.

"You know what I mean, and don't tell me this thing isn't freaking you out as well."

A tense silence followed for a couple of seconds, the monitor providing Max’s heartbeat as background music. "What is freaking me out is not knowing what was done to him. I don't understand what's going on anymore than you do, but instead of thinking what he is, I’m more concerned with who he is.”

Lowering his voice, he continued, "I believe he did try to heal that child, and that it cost him dearly. Don’t be blind, Alec. Right before your taxi driver showed up, this walking enigma of ours was running from someone. Someone with enough medical knowledge to cause those needle scars on his arms, and those bruises in his ankles and wrists.”

Alec’s eyes went down in search of those, his frown deep, clearly conflicting with what McConnell had concluded and his own fear. “He could still be dangerous. Especially for other patients.”

“That’s why I asked for an isolated ICU room. Listen Holt, I’m not stupid, but I think this man deserves the chance to at least explain himself. He wouldn’t have stopped to aid that girl if he didn’t care.”

Both men stared at each other, the older willing the younger to believe him, or at least to give a chance to the sick man in between them. “Whoever had him is probably looking for him. And in the state Max got to your hands, how much longer do you think he would have lasted?”

Dr. Holt’s face hardened. He had left Max beside the wall, and now his low priority patient had turned out to be a whole lot more.

A whole lot more indeed.

“Not to forget the mystery surgeon who did the biopsies as well.”

“What?”

“There are fine scars on his abdomen." All the pieces fitted, but it was still circumstantial, McConnell knew. They could be dealing with a very dangerous being, but so far Max hadn’t tried to hurt them, just to escape. He just hoped it was making as much sense to Dr. Holt as it was making to him.

The traumatologist didn't lose time as he went in search of those scars. McConnell's pager beeped.

"What the hell is that green thing?" Holt suddenly exclaimed as he took a step backwards. McConnell looked up from his pager, half expecting to see a reprise of the green shield. He almost wished that had been the case.

Green electrical lines were intermittently running through Max's arms. Dr. McConnell turned to look at Max's face, and then to the heartbeat monitor. The man was decidedly out like a light. He was not doing this on purpose. "Did it hurt you?" he asked Alec, both men fixed on the snake-like phenomenon.

"No. Not at all." Curiosity winning over, the young doctor finally placed his hand over their patient's arm, the electricity going up and down in seemingly erratic paths, but never touching Holt. "I don't feel anything."

"Did you find that cooling blanket?" McConnell asked, his eyes back at his pager.

"No, I ran to do the lab tests as you went ahead with the ice bath. Why? I thought his temperature was actually coming down?"

"It is. But we're going to have to hide those arms of his. We've just gotten our ICU room."


* * *


"That's one lucky girl," the cardiovascular surgeon said as he emerged from the OR. "Had you taken ten more minutes, that artery wouldn't have held."

Dr. Susan Lake uneasily smiled. "There were no complications?"

"It was easier than routine surgeries, that's for sure." They kept walking down the hall. "Any more kids like her?"

Three kids had been admitted to Saint Paul's Hospital ER. The first girl was already at the ICU after surgery. The second boy had been declared dead after ten minutes of resuscitation efforts. And the third girl, Sarah Meyer, had just made it out of open heart surgery. Out of the three children -out of all the victims- only Sarah had had the mysterious handprint.

Now, Nicholas Cramer, the surgeon, was looking at her intently. Though she had told the OR staff she had no idea what -or who- had left the handprint -and in a very technical way, she really didn't know either answer- Nick's baby blue eyes bored into hers, almost coaxing her to tell him the whole story about a stranger that had barely been admitted into the ER, and two hours later had almost collapsed over Sarah's stretcher.

Susan shook her head no. "She's the only one with it."

"Are you sure no one else has that handprint?" he openly asked now. The insistence was a bit unsettling. Susan Lake had never been a good liar.

"I've been working in the ER for six hours, and just came here when I heard you were finished. Sarah was the only victim with that freaky print on her chest four hours ago, and no one else has shown it since then either."

Unlike Dr. Alec Holt who had seen hexagonal blood cells and felt invisible forces, Dr. Lake didn't have anything concrete but a young man who in delirium believed he had somehow healed the girl; who had almost passed out in the ER room, and had gripped the girl's stretcher in an effort to not hit the floor. She had seen the stranger's hands: Clean. She had looked for gloves, for paint, for any indication that would point to what had caused it. And just like Alec Holt, she would wait. At least until she had solid proof before opening her mouth.

One thing was for sure, though: She was not going to take her eyes off that man. Once she could find where Dr. McConnell had placed him, that is.

A nurse passed them in the hall. Nick looked at her uneasily, and followed the woman's progress with impatient eyes. Once she was out of earshot, he turned to look at the pediatrician.

"Listen. There was something... similar about four or five years ago, in Houston, I think. Five patients with cancer, all kids. One Christmas morning, BANG! All healed. It was labeled a ‘Christmas Miracle’ because angels healed those children."

"Angels?" Susan asked, not sure where this was going, "Because it was Christmas?"

"Because they all had a silver handprint on their chests. The thing is, out of the five, only three were Christians, one was Jewish, and the other's family didn't follow any religion."

"It was a hoax," Dr. Lake said as a matter of fact, though her heart was racing now, her mind back to the man, bending on the stretcher over the small body of Sarah Meyer.

"That's what everyone thought. A hoax, or a diversion. The kids were undergoing experimental treatment, after all. I didn't hear much about it afterwards, probably the hospital not wanting to mess with their 'miracle', but I remember the part about the handprint. And the last thing we need is people thinking there are angels wandering around, healing the wounded, or what have you. We already have a crisis here."

"What... what do you mean? That the fewer people who know..."

"The better. Exactly. I've already warned my staff. We are going to run tests on it, figure out what the hell that silver handprint is. But quietly, and I suggest you do the same. If you find someone else, some other related incident—”

“You think it’s dangerous?” Dr. Lake interrupted the veteran surgeon. “The handprint?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t like it. It’s not paint, at least nothing commonly known. It just doesn’t seem to be doing anything. No inflammation, no burnt tissue. It’s just there.” Dr. Cramer sighed in frustration, while Susan’s thoughts raced through all the negative implications. The surgeon looked down at his watch. “I better keep going and start those tests. The sooner we know, the safer these people will be.”

There was something about that statement, something about the fact that it could be more than just one little girl, that made Susan’s heart skip a beat. Dr. Nicholas Cramer hadn’t walked more than four steps when she called him.

“Dr. Cramer. It might be nothing, but there’s something you should know. About an ER incident…”
Last edited by Misha on Wed Aug 05, 2009 1:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unknown - Ch. 4 Patterns

Postby Misha » Sat Aug 08, 2009 6:29 pm

Hey guys!

Ti88, looooong time no see! I'm glad you are enjoying the story so far, as secretive as it is :lol: I can tell it will only get more confusing for a while...

ken_r, thanks! I hope it ends well too :D

nibbles2, you know, I have been searching for a story just like this for AGES! I finally gave up and started plotting, even if I was terrified to deal with medical terminology :shock: I ended up with three or four different plots, but this was the easiest, shortest one to write sidelong with The Offer, so... here it is :wink:

keepsmiling7, it does seem, indeed, that Max was expecting to find Michael at some point. It is a mystery where he was, and what happened to him, but it will be explained, don't worry :)

Timelord31, thanks!

cwm_, as long as I can keep posting, I'll try to come as soon as I can :)

cjsl8ne, I think Cramer was more concerned with people suddenly believing there was a miracle maker around and making this crisis more chaotic than thinking the handprint was indicative of some contagious illness... either way, until they know for sure, they just can't risk it. And yes, treating Max requires some courage, especially when Max doesn't know it's for his benefit. :shock:




Chapter 4
Patterns



Wherever he was, it was a warm place. Maybe a little too warm, but he couldn’t really focus on it. He felt heavy. His entire body felt as if it were under 30 blankets, making it impossible for him to move.

Someone was with him, that much he knew. He could feel the presence dimly through the darkness that surrounded him, but he did not feel threatened by it.

A voice called him. Not from where he felt the presence, and not from anywhere around him, but from within himself. Though it was already pitch black, he closed his eyes, and tried to listen.

“… Max…” the whisper came again, urgent, worried.

Familiar.

“Isabel?”


* * *


Jay McConnell could watch those EEG patterns for hours.

Dr. Holt had been right about one thing concerning their very unique patient: He didn't react as human beings in all ways. The brain waves that were being registered by the EEG were proof of that. The neurologist in him was fascinated with what these patterns could reveal, so similar to humans, yet different. The doctor in him was afraid that all he could do was to see if the pattern was stable or not, and hope nothing was wrong. Without a proper MRI, McConnell couldn't know how things were going in the deepest areas of his patient's brain.

Though in the past three and a half hours he had been on and off the ICU to help the victims from the train at the ER, he had made sure to periodically check on his patient. The green light in his arms had disappeared rather fast once McConnell and Holt had settled him in, and none of the nurses had done as much as to give the neurologist a side glance every time he came. The hospital was still a madhouse, but the ICU nurses did their work well, which meant everything looked normal to them.

Max did look normal, indeed. X-rays had come back remarkably human, for once, which had trashed the idea that he was from another species altogether. That his body worked like any other human body on so many levels was just stunning.

Of course, on close inspection, things did change. A lot. Things like blood cells. Like brain waves. Like glowing chests and green energy shields. Things like McConnell's ability to read the results from the few tests they had managed so far. How many more surprises were in store? How much time did they have before Max's stable condition took a turn for the worse? How could they help him?

Dr. McConnell sighed, his eyes searching Max's face. If McConnell was reading the patterns right, Max was still in a deep sleep, dangerously close to a coma. What concerned him the most was that, by the sedative dose he had received, he should have woken up an hour ago. Alien biochemistry was proving to be interesting, assuming, of course, it was alien.

There were other things that were worrying him, besides his patient's wellbeing. Max had said that he couldn't help leaving a handprint. It's always there... he had insisted, which obviously implied Max had done this before.

Max had also said that he had healed her, clearly referring to Sarah Meyer, but then he had thought better of it and said he had giving her enough time for someone to notice.

"You were already too weak…" Dr. McConnell whispered, trying to piece together this young man's previous hours in the ER. "What did you see in Sarah that made you stop?" Max's heart was still beating faster than it should –at least by human standards- and his fever had stubbornly remained at 103. The senior doctor wanted to run a million tests, but as it was, he had had to waitlist Max for the MRI.

"You picked one hell of a night to fall into our hands," Jay smiled sadly. It was probably the best thing that could have happened to Max, because the fewer people who knew, the better chance Max had to recover.

It had taken Jay a 15 minute argument with Dr. Holt to make him see why it was so important to keep Max a secret for the time being. Granted, McConnell didn't know if this man, if this being wasn't dangerous, or if he hadn't escaped from the good guys, but McConnell couldn't forget Max, hardly being able to walk, bending over little Sarah's body.

He had already checked with cardiology and had learned that Sarah had just been out of the OR. Complications had been minimal, especially for such a complex surgery. Maybe it was a coincidence, McConnell thought, but he was sure that Max had somehow helped that kid.

He needed to understand Max, and to know without a shadow of a doubt if he was a good guy or not. To do so, he couldn't have the entire world watching his every move. Or attract unwanted attention from whomever had held Max the past few days. Alec had relented for the time being, making McConnell promise that the minute things got dangerous, they would call the show off. If things would be done Alec's way, Max would remain sedated until Judgment Day.

He was playing with things he didn't understand, Alec had said, and Jay had reluctantly accepted that he didn't. But what was the point of calling themselves doctors, men of science, if they were going to let their fear of the unknown win? Besides, Max certainly needed their help.

"Am I making the right decision?" he finally wondered out loud, thinking who would he call if Max turned out to be more than they could handle. NASA? SETI? He passed a hand over his already graying hair, making himself forget the long hours he had already worked. This was no time to feel tired and to lose focus.

Something suddenly changed in the brain patterns, making McConnell frown, his hand frozen in place for a moment. It didn't look like Max was waking up, but something was going on in his mind. There was no REM, so he wasn't dreaming. Where on normal patients McConnell would expect to see delta waves, Max's were resembling alpha, and at the moment, they had just changed into beta waves, which more likely than not meant that some high process of thinking was going on.

Seconds went by as McConnell waited for something else to happen. Besides the wave pattern, everything else remained the same.

Max's left hand twitched.

A subtle movement of his eyes beneath his eyelids followed a few seconds later. Was it REM movement? REM wasn't supposed to happen with beta waves. But then again, sleep wasn't supposed to happen either.

Max's lips moved. Though he still remained unconscious, he was starting to talk in his sleep. Dr. McConnell got closer, trying to make out what his patient was saying. The heart monitor indicated that his heartbeat was increasing. For all he knew, Max was having a nightmare.

"—can't…"

It was difficult to understand Max's murmurs, probably because half of them weren't really words at all. His head was starting to move, as if denying something he was hearing or seeing.

"... they'll see you..."

McConnell frowned at the monitors, moving from Max's side to search for a light sedative. He had to calm him down. His heart was stressed enough as it was, and the few drugs they had already tried had stopped doing their work a few hours before. Without further tests, McConnell didn't want to risk experimenting with any other. The problem was, he also didn't want to keep Max sedated any longer, since the long term effects of sedation were equally unknown.

"...stay... stay away..."

Finding what he was looking for, McConnell glanced at the monitors to back up his decision. Nodding once to himself, he turned around in search of the IV, the needle with the sedative in hand.

Max opened his eyes, and his whole body jolted for a second, as if Max had thought he was falling. His breathing was short and rapid, his eyes unfocused, as Dr. McConnell stood still, unsure for a split second of letting Max stay awake or not. By now, the doctor had had time to think of Alec's words, and the young doctor’s fears had found a place at the back of his mind. Was Max dangerous?

"Just stay away... please stay away..." Max pleaded, his eyes moving but not seeing anything. Taking advantage of Max's disorientation, McConnell brought the needle to the IV, but didn't inject the clear liquid. He held it there, just in case he decided Max shouldn't rejoin the waking world.

"...stay away..." Max kept repeating, his heart still accelerated.

"Max. No one is coming for you," the older man said, stilling his nerves, resolved to take charge of the situation.

For a moment, Max's eyes remained moving without staying anywhere, and then he stopped, finally focusing on the doctor.

"They’re using me as bait," Max explained, still agitated, "she can't know where I am... she can't know... they'll trap her... they'll trap them... they'll... I'm their bait... I can't let... her... I..." The adrenaline rush that had woken him up was dwindling by now, McConnell knew, as Max's eyes were starting to shut heavily. It didn't look like the sedative was going to be used anytime soon.

Max shook himself awake again, his breathing still fast, but not as agitated as before. He seemed more attuned to reality as well. His eyes focused on some point on the bed. "I can't fall asleep," he said more to himself in a barely audible whisper.

"It was just a dream, and you're in a safe place," McConnell tried to reassure Max. It didn't seem like Max had heard him though, as he kept trying to not shut his eyes.

"It's not a dream," he finally said, his eyes closing despite his efforts. His heartbeat was finally returning to its previous 120 beats. "She'll find me," Max said with conviction. "If I fall asleep, she'll find me."

“Who?” McConnell asked, thinking maybe he would get an answer to one of the million questions he had concerning Max’s recent whereabouts. But Max didn’t answer, though by the tension in his arms, the doctor could tell he was not falling asleep either. “Max, who is after you? Who’s using you as bait?”

Max finally opened his eyes, staring right ahead of him. “They are,” he whispered, and then blinking, he turned to look at Jay. Recognition escaped him, and McConnell felt rather foolish about standing there, holding the syringe that was inserted in the IV ready to inject the sedative.

“I’m Dr. McConnell,” he repeated for the third time that day to his patient, “you are at Saint Paul’s Hospital.”

Max’s attention was lost as he started fighting sleep again. “I have to stay awake,” he half said, half mumbled.

“Max, it’s okay to rest. You need to rest.” This time, the doctor moved to Max’s side again. Taking a small flash light out of one of his pockets, he examined Max’s pupils once more. Max flinched at the sudden ray of light. His pupils were slow in reaction, but at least weren’t fully dilated as before.

Max turned his face to the other side, and after a second, started to move as well, as if trying to get out of the bed.

“Wait, wait, wait. You’re in no position to go anywhere, son,” McConnell said with concern, reaching for Max’s shoulders and steadying him down. He eyed the needle that he had left in the IV, still within his reach.

“I have to keep… running,” Max said, as if that explained everything.

“No one is chasing you here,” the neurologist soothingly said.

“They are…” Max whispered, his eyes locking with the doctor’s.

“They don’t know you’re here,” McConnell insisted. Though Max was offering no resistance, the older man knew that Max would flee the place as soon as he could. He had to reassure him this was the safest place he could be, so he would stay.

“I have to stay awake,” Max whispered again, as if he were confiding a secret. “I can’t let her… find me… or they’ll… they’ll take her too,” he said with apprehension, now fighting really hard to stay awake. What had this woman done? Was Max actually protecting her, or was he afraid of her? And why was he connecting her to his dreams?

“Who is she, Max? Is she family? A friend?” McConnell’s eyes diverted for a second to Max’s left hand, the telltale sign of a wedding ring imprinted on his skin. A ring that hadn’t come with him when Max had been admitted, Alec had confirmed that.

But the question came too late. Max lost his battle against unconsciousness, the beta waves going back to the alpha-like waves. He was falling into a deep sleep again. McConnell checked the monitors, and raised his eyebrows when he saw that not only was Max's temperature finally breaking, being now at 101°F, but that Max’s heartbeat was finally slowing down as well. 112. 104. 96.

Someone tapped on the glass wall.

Still in surgery garments, Dr. Nicholas Cramer was impatiently looking at him. With a movement of his head, the chief of cardiology indicated to the chief of neurology to have a word outside. Dr. McConnell let go a frustrated sigh. He had been giving consults and helping patients for the past six hours. It was just as well that Max had passed out right now. It would be better if he could remain unconscious until Jay could stay around for longer periods.

The cardiac monitor read 82 by the time he stepped out of the isolated ICU room.

“What can I do for you?” Dr. McConnell said in a good manner. Under stressful days, he always tried to sound cheerful. It helped tons with the staff.

“Dr. Lake told me to speak with you. About a John Doe you treated at the ER. Someone who wasn’t from the train derailment.”

“Sure. What do you need to know?” His cheerfulness diminished just a bit; Jay didn’t like where this was going.

“This might sound strange,” the surgeon said, “but we’ve just treated a little girl, Sarah Meyer. She had this… glowing… handprint…” As Dr. Cramer’s words started to trail off, Dr. McConnell noticed that his eyes had also got lost behind him on the glass wall. Staring right into Max’s room.

“Dr. McConnell,” Nicholas said as Jay turned to look behind, “your patient is… glowing.”

Indeed he was.


* * *


They both rushed inside the room without a second thought.

It was funny how Dr. Cramer didn't stop to think about the absurdity of someone having a glowing chest, but he instantly assumed it had to do with Sarah Meyer's own handprint. The girl's medical condition hadn't been different from any other children under the circumstances, the handprint having no effect whatsoever on her body. His mistake was thinking that the same was happening to Dr. McConnell's patient, that the glowing would somehow dissipate into a handprint, and that the neurologist would be at a loss for what to think or do. So when he heard McConnell's words…

"God, not again…"

… Cramer stopped in his mental tracks. This wasn't new for the senior doctor.

They had by now reached the bed. Both doctors had turned their eyes to the monitors, and just when the cardiologist was going to ask for the patient's history, McConnell opened his mouth first. It was obvious this wasn't shocking to him in the same way it was shocking to Cramer.

"We need to warm him up," the neurologist said a second later, shaking Cramer's thoughts.

"You know what's happening to him?" he asked as he went for the thermal blankets in one of the cabinets. The glowing was starting to falter, flickering like a light bulb just about to go off. The man's skin was really pale, and his lips were starting to turn slightly blue.

"I know he did this when he was having a cold reaction against a high fever about four hours ago. But now his body temperature has just dropped to 92." McConnell turned in search of something else while Cramer returned with the blankets.

Nicholas paused and turned to look at the temperature indicator. It was impossible someone's temperature would drop just like that, especially in a controlled environment like the ICU. Something was obviously wrong with the equipment, he concluded in the space of a heartbeat, but his eyes got stuck on the closest monitor. "I hope you're looking for the epi," he said as his eyes caught the heart monitor, "because his pulse is also dropping."

The neurologist stopped for a second, turning to look for himself. In a fluid movement, he grabbed the syringe with the clear drug and went searching for the closest vein. He found one just as the monitor marked 48. If it kept getting slower, or even remained that slow, not enough oxygen would reach the brain.

"What's wrong with him?" Cramer asked as he started wrapping Max's body in the thermal blankets, both doctors looking at the monitors. With the burst of epinephrine, his rhythm accelerated almost immediately, and the glowing intensified, covering Max's chest and abdomen.

"I wish I knew," McConnell answered, his eyes still glued to the monitors. "You know how you were saying I might find your little girl's glowing handprint strange? Well, it might be low in the strange scale right now."

"This is… this is that man. That man Dr. Lake was talking about," the cardiologist said surprised, for the first time really aware he had absolutely no idea what was he dealing with. The man's heartbeat surpassed 100 beats per minute, making Jay curse. As if in automatic mode, Nicholas reached for Dr. McConnell's stethoscope hanging from his neck. If there was something Dr. Cramer knew, it was about hearts.

"I think the glowing is stressing out his heart," Dr. McConnell said as Dr. Cramer hesitated for a moment right over Max's cardiac muscle, the glowing still going strong. He put the cold metal end of the stethoscope on Max's chest, expecting to feel something strange as he did so. The only thing he felt was warmth.

"Anything else I should know besides the glowing?" Cramer asked looking directly at McConnell, though his attention was really on listening to this stranger's heart.

"There might be some green energy involved," the older man said as he returned to keep watch on the monitors, Cramer's eyes trailing to the glowing skin.

"Right…" the cardiologist absently said, assuming it was a joke. He was more concerned with what he was hearing through the stethoscope. "How long has this been going on?" he asked, his eyes going back to the heartbeat monitor. "What the hell?"

Max's temperature was reaching 96 degrees. If it was impossible for someone's temperature to suddenly drop to a mild hypothermia, it was equally absurd for the body to regain its almost normal temperature in the space of minutes.

The glowing started to dissipate. The man's color was returning, though it was far from looking colorful.

"Dr. Holt thought he was having an extremely high fever when he was admitted in the ER, but by the time he measured it, it wasn't that high, around 103. I bet something similar happened then as it did just now." McConnell's words came rather calm and full of acceptance. This really wasn't shocking for him at all. "His blood pressure has been a roller coaster the whole time though. We haven't been able to slow down his heart rate below 120."

As if on cue, the heart monitor reached 120 beats per minute and remained there. The temperature indicator settled in at 100.2. Hanging the stethoscope around his neck more out of reflex than anything else, Dr. Cramer went for the patient's chart. He frowned at how little it had on it, especially for an ICU patient.

"The labs are swamped," McConnell said as if reading his thoughts. "And half of the information we've managed to get from the few tests we've done just doesn't make sense. So don't think those are mistakes on the chart."

Indeed, half of what he was reading seemed to contradict itself. Not even a first year resident would make such errors.

"What the hell is going on here?" Cramer said, exasperated, as his eyes went for the cardiac information. He hadn't liked what he had heard from that heart, but what he was reading was just, well... absurd.

Dr. McConnell sighed in resignation as the vital signs seemed to stabilize at something less than encouraging. Not taking his eyes from the patient's EEG monitor, he started to answer his question.

"It all started about six hours ago..."


* * *


The ER was a somehow calmer place, but the hospital was still closed to new emergencies. Entire families tried to make it to the wall where the list of identified victims was, searching for their loved ones. At least four hospitals were at full capacity. For those who didn't find the name they were looking for here, there were still places to search, temporary shelters for those with minor injuries. They would look everywhere until there was nowhere left but the morgue.

Until there was no sign of life.

And that was exactly what the tall man in the black coat thought as his expert eyes went from one face to another. The Unit would keep looking until there was no trace to follow. His target was six and a half hours ahead of them, but they still had a good chance since he was too weak to move too fast.

Checking the hospitals was a long shot, and Agent Walker was aware that if Max Evans was going to walk into a hospital, chances were something would have reached the official channels by now. One didn't have a human-alien hybrid under the microscope and not notice. Still, all probable locations were being checked, including hospitals. The train derailment accident wasn't helping any, since hundreds of people were inundating every available space in the hospitals and shelters, dozens of men fitting Evans' description everywhere.

On a normal night, it would have been pretty easy to call the hospitals for any John Doe. But this was no normal night, and they were chasing no normal target. Besides, Dr. Shore had warned them they were in a hurry. Their hybrid didn't have much time.

"Can I help you?" a man politely asked Agent Walker. He turned with a grieving face.

"I'm sorry doctor, I'm sure you must have heard this all night, but," Walker said, deliberately mistaking the male nurse for a doctor to make him feel more important. The Agent took a picture of Max out of his left pocket. "Have you seen this man?" The light shone on the nurse's name plate, as Walker mentally filed it.

Howard.
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Unknown - Ch. 5 Wingless

Postby Misha » Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:04 pm

Thank you for coming back to read!

ken_r, it really is hard to hide you are something other than human when you can't stop doing weird stuff... At least Max didn't sparkle in front of the entire ER...

keepsmiling7, treating Max won't be easy if they cannot understand Max to begin with. But they're trying...

Timelord31, thanks!

nibbles2, I love I can post so often too! You may have to wait for the last three-four chapters though, but let's all enjoy it while it lasts :lol:

PML, rescuing Max is going to be one hell of a challenge if he doesn't get better sometime soon, that's for sure.

cjsl8ne, well, we know the FBI had him before, and that they know Max is running out of time. Oh, and the results are already giving the doctors headaches :P

squishypunk, thanks for stopping by!

tequathisy, I do wonder, if Max hadn't been admitted in the middle of a crisis, how many doctors would be puzzling over him? hhhhmmmm...



Chapter 5
Wingless



"In a dramatic turn that can only be described as a miracle, five children with terminal cancer awoke on Christmas morning to find themselves healed, a handprint on their chest. Authorities at the Phoenix Hospital declined further comment other than that the children had been undergoing an experimental treatment, but urged people to remain cautious as..."

Dr. Holt stopped in his reading to suppress a yawn. It was close to 2:00 a.m. but the hospital was showing no sign of slowing down. Granted, the crisis was under control now, but there were too many patients and too many people looking for those patients for the hospital to resume normal hours. And yet here he was, reading news articles from four years ago while waiting for the results of the tests he had begun a couple of hours before.

Between assisting the ER, his own previous patients and the new ones, Holt had made time to do a quick search about glowing hands, which had lead to useless magic tricks websites and the sort. He added hospitals, which lead to TV shows. He added unexplained. He added sickness. Blood cells. Symptoms. It wasn't until he added children and miracles that things started to go in the direction he wanted.

A Phoenix hospital one Christmas morning. Five children had been completely healed, only handprints left behind.

A Christmas Miracle.

He had read eleven articles so far out of the twenty three he had printed, but not a single one of those was a medical bulletin or science journal. Heck, not even the hospital itself had released an official statement about their findings later on. Christmas had come and gone, and the news had gotten old.

The children had insisted it had been an angel. Well, two of them at least had said so. The others had been too out of it to notice if a giant troll had come and gone through their beds. The thing was, they all had been completely healed, while little Sarah Meyer had barely made it into the OR.

Well, if the early tests results were any indication, their miracle maker wasn't doing so good. Max had said he had healed the girl enough to buy her time, Alec remembered, but still...

The young doctor had had more than enough time to try to come up with an explanation to what he had been seeing under the microscope for the past four hours. These articles were just feeding a fire that was already out of control.

What if he was an angel? What if the kids had been right? What if… What if angels could actually die?

He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. Granted, it was late, and it had been a crazy night, but he could do better than this.

First of all, there was no guarantee whomever had healed those children in Phoenix was the same man that was lying on an ICU room on the floor below. Secondly, who said he was the only one capable of this? And thirdly, for all he knew, angels couldn't get sick. And if they didn't find an answer soon about what was happening to him, Max's future didn't look too bright.

So, okay, the guy wasn't a wingless angel that had been brought by a taxi driver and had bumped into Sarah Meyer's stretcher. But, he wasn't an alien either. The x-rays had proved as much. The DNA test would take longer to get, but one thing was for sure: He was, at least, partly human.

It was as Dr. McConnell had said: The man had two lungs, one heart and a central nervous system. But more than that, he had the telltales of life on Earth such as old scars and tan marks; and remarkable antibodies. Alec whistled inwardly. Maybe he wasn't human, but he had been living on Earth for quite some time if his body had manufactured so many little white cells.

Alec had tested for infections despite the white cell count being reasonably normal, and as he had gotten more specific, the more this angel's immune system had astonished him. He was definitely not fighting a virus or bacterium. The poor bastards didn't have a chance against Max's body.

So, what was happening to him? Some sort of autoimmune disease? A rare genetic syndrome? An allergic reaction? They barely knew anything about their patient's biochemistry to rule those out, even if the symptoms were more than a little unusual. And speaking of which, he was now waiting for the results Dr. McConnell had asked him for earlier: He was looking for unusual psychotropic drugs.

The problem was, without a reference, anything could look like an unusual psychotropic drug. Even the sedatives they had knowingly applied showed up in the tests a bit distorted. Where did that leave them then? They could be staring at the most common drug used ever, and the test sheets would just show something completely out of this world, no pun intended.

Alec felt he was running uphill, and that the hill was getting steeper by the second.

He glanced at the articles, all pretty much variations of one another, but all saying the same thing: Five kids at death's door had been healed. Whoever had healed them could only have good intentions, right? And Max… Max had been so out of it, so sick, yet he had stopped to help that child in the only way he knew how. Bad guys wouldn’t do that.

Right?

Alec felt responsible. He was the one who had admitted Max in the first place. Whatever the outcome, everyone involved in this thing was somehow his responsibility. But who was Max? Who was this helpless stranger who always left handprints behind?

So, okay. He had accepted his patient was at least part human. What was the other part then? Trying to not get over himself, he tried to calmly rationalize this whole thing. Another human-like species? An evolutionary jump? Some sort of mutant? A time traveler? An alien? A government experiment? Someone's experiment?

And what about if he had been right all along? Did angels have hexagonal blood cells? Invisible force fields? Green energy shields? Green electric… stuff? He stopped in his tracks after displaying all that in his mind. No one could blame him from thinking alien here. Seriously.

The machine next to him beeped, startling him a little. The results for the latest tests were up, and he eagerly got the sheet out.

As his eyes scanned the numbers, he found himself hoping his young healer was really a wingless angel. Because angels couldn't get sick, and if Max was anything else, then these results didn't bring good news to him.


* * *


Dr. Susan Lake had way too many things on her mind.

Just like Alec Holt had made time to do a little research by himself, Dr. Lake had done some research of her own between attending patients and searching for Dr. McConnell. The few minutes she had been able to talk with Dr. Cramer had left her uneasy, which she hadn't liked one bit. Truth to be told, she had taken it as a personal matter to get to the bottom of this handprint business, so she had done a little more than Alec had been able to.

After the first few articles on the Christmas Miracle had popped up, Lake had taken the phone and had called her colleague at the Phoenix Hospital, one Dr. Hayden, to get the real inside story, not the incomplete, vague, and divine stories she had been finding for the last two hours.

The pediatrician hadn't been too open about giving the information, probably thinking she was yet another reporter or something. Only when she admitted that they were seeing the same phenomenon had things picked up speed. And boy, did he love to talk.

"There wasn't anything to find," Hayden was saying about the handprints test results, "they just vanished. About four days after the incident, they began to fade. By the fifth day, they were gone. No traces left."

"But none of the kids were harmed?" she asked with apprehension.

"Harmed? You couldn't even find a knee scratch!" came the amused voice of the older pediatrician. "You know how the press centered on the fact their cancer was gone? What no one got to know was that every single thing that was wrong with those kids was just… fine afterwards. Healed. We didn't say anything out there. Not even their parents wanted so much to be out once the nutcases started coming to the hospital to see the 'miracle children'. Those kids had gone through enough in their short lives to suddenly become religious icons."

"So the parents forbade any information to come out?" Susan asked, frowning. One mother in particular had sounded all around thrilled that her son was cured. But after the first couple of days, the parents' quotes had dropped to zero.

"They were reluctant," Hayden said at the other side of the phone. "And frankly, so were we. But the truth is, once the handprints were gone, there was nothing to keep going on the strange side. To this day, they still come for check-ups every month."

"And?"

"And nothing extraordinary or even a little unusual comes out. They're kids. They've gotten sick just with everything you would expect a kid to get sick of. But the cancer never came back. Officially, they are in remission. Off the record, you couldn't find traces of cancer anywhere in their system. It's as if they never had it." A pause. "Tell me about your girl."

Lake hesitated for a fraction of a second. She didn't have that much to go on, but it was fair enough that she would tell this man what she knew after he had had the same courtesy with her. "You've been watching the news? Big train derailment?"

"Mhm…"

"Kid got a front seat view. She was brought in about an hour after the accident. She was stable, so she was labeled low priority. Next thing you know, I'm rushing her to the OR with a silver handprint on her chest, which doesn't seem to be doing anything."

"She wasn't healed." It wasn't a question, it was a statement.

"Not exactly…" Susan reluctantly admitted. "The surgeon said the procedure had had few complications, which was unusual. Ten minutes more, though, she would have been gone." They both contemplated the facts for a second.

"This is the first time I heard of anyone with a silver handprint story outside this hospital. Maybe it just didn't work this time," Hayden said.

"Maybe it doesn't work on injuries, just cancer," Lake elaborated.

"Or maybe it needs to be Christmas," Dr. Hayden humorlessly laughed at his own joke. "But the only way we'll ever know for sure is if we caught the hand that leaves those handprints." The heavy silence that followed was more than a little giveaway, and Susan realized that too late. Hayden knew what it meant as if a brick wall had hit him, "You caught him." She couldn't even deny it.

They both hold their breaths. Complete strangers at each side of the phone, contemplating the ramifications of such statement. Susan recovered first.

"How do you know it's a him?"

"My God…" Dr. Hayden slowly breathed out. "What is he saying?" She didn't answer. It had been bad enough she had sort of framed a man when she talked to Dr. Cramer, no matter how good her reasons had been, but she was not about to go all paranoid on a man in another state. Not until she knew more about this whole thing.

Dr. Hayden seemed to sense he was not going to get any answers if he didn't give one first. "By the size of the handprint we knew we were dealing with at least a young male adult. Maybe even a little younger. The kids referred to him as a male angel, though the details were blurry." That telltale pause that he knew something but wasn't sure if he should go on made itself present. Susan didn't say a word.

"We think we got them on a video security camera, from the hall."

"Them?" Susan asked, her eyes going round.

"The one that stood guard, and the one who went in. Both male. Both wingless."

"So much for the angel story," she said under her breath. "You never found them? Identified them?"

"We tried. They just vanished. What were we supposed to do? Call a press conference a week later, showing the video around? The implications alone that the hospital had had such a severe breach of security were enough for that video to never see the light of day. The police crossed reference it with their data base. Nothing came out. We didn't think it would. Once it was obvious the kids were more than okay, we just dropped the matter altogether. The parents weren't going to sue for their kids being healthy."

"Could you send me a copy? A picture? I’ll settle for a description," Dr. Lake said. If she had sounded needy, she didn't care.

Dr. Hayden chuckled. "First things first, Dr. Lake. What has been happening on your end of things. Who is he?"

That, my friend, Dr. Susan Lake thought as she took a deep breath before starting to describe the little she had seen, is the million dollar question.


* * *


Dr. McConnell stared at the lab sheets in front of his eyes. He stared and stared, as if by doing so they would make sense. But they didn’t, and McConnell’s mind was running out of ideas. Thankfully, his mind wasn’t the only one involved.

Beside him, Dr. Holt was staring through the window. It was close to 3:00 a.m. and Max had finally managed a spot on the MRI. His condition had been stable, though it hadn't improved one bit. Still, the one good thing about Max being unconscious was that he wouldn't go through the stress of the MRI scan. Hardly any patient ever felt comfortable inside the machine, and he somehow doubted Max would stay still for the 45 minutes or so the test lasted.

He wearily sighed. McConnell just hoped that whatever was going to come up on that screen was going to be something he would understand.

Dr. Cramer chose that moment to enter the control room. Holt and McConnell let go a breath they hadn’t realized they had been holding since they had first heard the door opening.

“I came as fast as I could,” the broader man said, his eyes going to the monitor.

How McConnell had pretty much kept Max a secret to 95% of the staff was a mystery. It really was, but he thanked the stars for that luxury. He would love to consult dozens of specialists, but he would have to do with the knowledge that the three of them possessed at that moment.

“We’re just starting,” Holt said above a whisper, almost afraid someone else was going to hear him.

Holt was interesting to watch, McConnell thought. He had gone from being scared out of his skin, to being a co-conspirator in this matter. What had the young traumatologist thought in the couple of hours he had been away doing the tests and attending other patients?

“Make sure to have a good look at his heart,” Cramer said, his eyes never leaving the monitor. “We might find out what’s making it beat so fast.”

“What do you expect to find?” McConnell asked, interested in hearing any theory other than the sinister one he was so fixated on.

“It could be a couple of things, but if we find protuberances or small masses around his heart, it would account for his rapid heartbeat and unstable blood pressure.”

“It won’t explain all the scars he has,” Holt said as he started the MRI.

“It does if you look at it backwards,” Cramer explained, getting their attention. “As you explained it, Jay, you think someone caused this. Held him against his will, he escaped, and here he is, with the consequences of what was done to him, right?”

“In a nutshell, yeah.”

“But what if he was first sick, and then everything that was done was to save him. It would explain the needle marks, the biopsies… and in some twisted way, I guess even the restraint marks. You said he was terrified of needles in the ER.”

“It doesn’t explain the bruises on his chest and shoulder,” Holt interrupted. “That’s not medical induced, not even related.”

“I’m not saying my theory is flawless, just that we should keep looking for other causes that will explain his symptoms,” Cramer said a bit defensively.

“You’re right,” McConnell said, knowing that the last thing they needed was to start arguing over a moot point. No one knew what had happened to Max. “And it’s a good theory. I sure like it better than mine.”

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. If the cardiologist was right, about Max’s heart or about any physical condition causing this, and in the end the only possible way to save their patient was in an OR, then they were screwed. Starting with Max’s blood “type” and ending with the entire OR staff knowing everything there was to know…

The images started to come, McConnell’s dark thoughts dissolving as his curiosity took over. All three kept silent as they watched with rapt attention every inch of Max’s body, literally from the inside out.

“He’s so remarkably human,” Cramer whispered, expert eyes taking special notice of Max’s heart. Nothing was out of the ordinary besides the fact that it was still going too fast.

“Until the DNA test comes back, we can’t rule that out,” Holt equally whispered.

Cramer chuckled for no apparent reason as they passed the chest. “Well, the press wasn’t right either. At least we can rule out invisible wings here. They would have showed up by now.”

No wingless angel for the three doctors, McConnell mused for a second. Holt had met with both Cramer and McConnell just as the neurologist had been finishing briefing the other doctor, a dozen or so articles in his hand. It was rather intriguing what the articles were saying; not about the angel angle, but about the five kids healed.

Had it really been Max? Someone like Max? Or were the two incidents completely unrelated? For a second, McConnell hoped that it had been someone similar to Max, maybe even the girl from Max’s dreams, because it would mean that someone on this planet knew what was happening to him.

As they finally went for the brain, McConnell wasn’t sure what to expect, really, but Cramer’s theory that Max had been sick first and trapped later did make sense. So he was more alert to finding physical abnormalities than before.

He didn’t exactly find that. What he found was electrical activity in places that puzzled him. In some way, maybe this would explain why the EEG results had been strange as well. The brain structure was the same, but it was being used in a different way.

“It kind of makes you hope he would start glowing,” Cramer said with a bit of humor. McConnell absently smiled, as he started to see a change in the patterns. He moved his eyes to the monitor that showed Max’s face. His eyes were moving beneath his eyelids.

“I think he’s dreaming,” McConnell said, following the patterns changing in the MRI: Memory centers were flaring alive. A second thought occurred to him then, “or just remembering…”

And God, what wouldn’t Jay McConnell give to know what Max was remembering right now.


* * *
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Unknown - Ch. 6 Run!

Postby Misha » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:36 pm

Hey back!

keepsmiling7, things would have turned a lot different if Max had ignored that girl, I guess... She's actually the only thing on Max's favor right now...

ken_r, yep, this story has to be read fast because the pacing pretty much demands it... Hopefully, by the time you guys catch up with me I'll be "this much" away from the ending :roll:

tequathisy, you'll get to know part of it right now.

Timelord31, the rest of the gang is... coming. Just give them a few hours to figure out where Max is to begin with... ;)

squishypunk, what does the FBI want is pretty much answered in this upcoming chapter. The real roller coaster is about to begin :D




Chapter VI
Run!



He remembered the sound. The loud, pounding-like sound of the machine, going on and on at equal intervals, and the almost claustrophobic effect it had on him.

He didn't feel safe in this place, despite the voice that kept reassuring him he was doing great. A voice that was echoing in his memories and had nothing to do with the reality surrounding him, where his new doctors were whispering amongst themselves, instead of being beside him, asking him questions he had already answered.

He hadn't minded the questions then. They had been easy to understand and easy to respond to. It was the sound he hadn't liked, that had made him nervous.

And now that he was inside one of those machines again, memories were coming back to him, clearer now than before he had found himself in that terrible ER. It was no longer 3:00 a.m. in Saint Paul's Hospital; it was four days before, running down an alley right before nightfall, breathless . . .


. . . "I think we lost them," Max's words came rushed as he was trying to catch his breath. Michael was barely able to nod at him. Though it was getting colder by the second, they both had just run for fifteen minutes straight, so they were anything but cold.

"How the hell did they find us?" Michael asked, exasperated, still bent over trying to get his breath again, his words forming white puffs in the air. A storm was coming soon, the sky above them a dark gray. Max shook his head as if saying that he didn't know. It took him a few more seconds until he could breathe normally again.

"I wish I knew. At least it was just the two of us," Max said, looking back the way they had come, searching for any pursuers.

"You seriously think they don't know where Maria and the others are?" Michael's voice came harsh, in typical Michael fashion, but concern and hope were equally mixed on his face. They were standing on a deserted street in some industrial sector of the city, three store buildings and warehouses on every block. God, had they run.

"I think the man that spotted us just got lucky. As long as they stay at the motel, we all should be fine." Max was quiet for a second, almost as if he had heard something. "Liz is really worried about us," he said after a moment, his connection coming strong now that he was calming down.

"No kidding. Maria is going to crawl the walls any second now," Michael said, as he placed his hands on his hips and looked up at the sky, finally getting his breathing under control. Max smiled at Michael’s words. It amused him to think what feeling Michael or Maria would be like if he could do it at the same level he could Liz. He had the distinct notion it would be like having an electric shock every single time.

Michael’s body tensed.

It only took a fraction of a second, but Max didn’t have to turn to look at what Michael was staring at to know they had not lost their pursuers. Next thing he knew, Michael had pretty much crashed on him in order to get him out of a shooter’s aim, effectively throwing both of them behind high trash cans and discarded boxes.

Max impacted against the wall behind him, his left shoulder making a loud thud sound, making him see stars for a second, as Michael almost knocked the air out of him. But besides the initial hit, he didn’t register pain, adrenaline running through his body at light speed once more. The shots kept coming, though their sound was low as the shooters were using tranquilizers, not bullets. One dart hit barely inches from his foot.

“There’s a sniper on the rooftop!” Michael said, as he gracelessly helped Max to his feet to run in the opposite direction. They were not going to make it, Max knew, if they kept running unprotected.

His green energy shield was more than a dead giveaway of their position, but Max would keep it up as long as he could until they reached the corner and could keep running out from the sniper’s aim. It was difficult to concentrate and run, but Max found that multi-tasking wasn’t that hard when he was running for his life.

The corner seemed impossibly far, and darts started bouncing off Max’s shield. He could hear them, even if he wasn’t turning around to look at them. He couldn’t. He just couldn’t let himself see them and think what they would mean if one hit him… they would trap him again, they would take him again, they would—

He turned the corner behind Michael, and let go an inner sigh of relief as his shield collapsed into itself. They kept running, of course, but at least now he had a sense that they would make it this time. They would disappear in this maze of buildings and warehouses, and be with his wife and the others before the storm hit.

Too late he saw the other agent coming from the other corner they had almost reached. Michael saw him first, being some six feet ahead of Max, and sent him flying with one movement of his hand as he bent over almost at the same time with a barely audible groan. It took Michael less than a second to pull the dart off his thigh and let it drop to the floor, the small object hardly making a sound as it hit the pavement. Michael had been hit, and the whole world stopped for Max.

He vaguely registered that the agent had been thrown away pretty far and that he wasn’t getting up in pursuit. He moved towards his best friend, feeling as if everything were going in slow motion. Michael turned to look at him, their eyes locking, fear flashing in his eyes for a second, replacing it with determination as Max finally reached him to steady him.

“Run,” Michael simply said, as if already giving in to his fate, his legs starting to give up on him.

“No,” Max said as his brain raced trying to come up with an escape route. He couldn’t lift Michael, put his shield up, and run. No, he had to think fast how to put an obstacle between them and the Unit, if not space. He took Michael’s arm to support him, and faced the wall, finally coming up with a plan. He had no idea what was inside that building, or how much time he had to open a hole in that wall, but he was sure they had to disappear now. There had been two agents shooting at them, and chances were they weren’t alone.

“Maxwell! Get the hell out of here!” Michael said, anger filling his voice, by now his entire weight on Max. Max’s left shoulder began to ache with the effort of keeping Michael up, the hit it had received only minutes before beginning to bruise. By tomorrow morning, his entire chest would display the force with which Michael had pushed him to the wall in the form of slightly purple marks.

“Like hell I am,” Max said as he lifted his right hand, willing the molecules apart. Sweat broke in his forehead barely ten seconds after he had started, his muscles tensed and his attention divided between hearing if anyone else was coming and making the hole big enough for them to get through. The instant Michael finally collapsed, almost taking them both down, Max stopped opening the hole. It would do, Max briefly thought, his heart in his ears.

He half carried, half dragged Michael through the opening, the other side being a paper storage warehouse from what Max could see. They would search for them in here, Max knew, but maybe they still had time. He needed to hide Michael, and then to divert their attention from this place. As long as Michael was sedated, all Max could do was take them away from him and wait for his friend to wake up.

How long would that take? He didn’t know, but he hoped it would be fast. He left Michael sitting against the wall, and started closing the hole they had come through just seconds before. God, he was feeling tired by now; between the shield and the hole and the 15 minute run… He pushed the thought aside. He had enough energy to get them both out of there, and that was all he would think about.

Wiping the sweat off his forehead with his long sleeve, Max finally nodded at the closed wall, confident that no one would notice that they had gone through the wall in this spot. He hadn’t heard anything from the other side, and no one seemed to be in this place, it being a Sunday night with a snow storm closing in.

That worried Max. If they didn’t hurry, they would be stuck in here until the weather would let them go. He knelt down beside Michael, wondering if he could wear out the sedative effects, helping Michael wake up faster.

The instant Max put his hand on Michael’s shoulder, he knew something was wrong. He was barely breathing and his heart was going crazy.

“No!” Max said almost above a whisper, his connection intensifying as he started to mend things. What had they given Michael? Were they trying to kill them now? Why wouldn’t they be using bullets then? It felt as if Michael’s lungs were paralyzed, unable to inhale and exhale. As Max took a deep breath, he willed Michael’s lungs to do the same, imagining he was breathing for both of them.

He kept doing that for minutes, though he wouldn’t have been able to tell exactly for how long. He had to stop when he heard a door being opened somewhere at the other side of the warehouse. He fell on his back, panting, but relieved to see that Michael was breathing on his own. Now his only hope was to hide Michael and make them follow him. But where?

The answer came in the form of a huge roll of paper barely three feet from where he was. Although he was really tired at this precise moment, he knew he had to try out the idea that was taking form in his head. He stood up with some difficultly, but keeping quiet so he could hear any possible sound. If someone had indeed entered, he –or they- was being really quiet now.

Getting to the roll, Max placed both hands in front of him, almost touching the paper. Molecules moved away, opening a gap through the sheets of rolled paper, the process much easier here than with the wall, which was thicker. The idea was to hide Michael inside the roll, nestling him as best as he could, and closing the gap again. Once Michael woke up, he would be able to get himself out of there. Maybe the paper wouldn’t survive Michael’s energy, Max thought with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes, but at least his friend would have a chance.

Compared to opening gaps through paper, dragging Michael inside was anything but easy. By now, Max was certain at least two people were inside the building, muffled sounds echoing in the warehouse. He started to think about what he was going to do as he made more room inside the roll to set Michael as comfortably as possible. He thought about staying here with Michael, but he knew the agents wouldn’t give up until they found a trail.

And a trail Max would give them. They couldn’t possibly know where Max had taken Michael –maybe they didn’t even know Michael had been hit- so there were at least six places in this block where they could have vanished into. Good.

He stepped aside and started mending the paper back together, the process much slower now than before, but Max didn’t let that stop him. So what if he was tired, he still could manage a trick or two. By now his shirt was clammy with sweat on his back, and once he finished closing the roll, he had to wipe the sweat off his forehead again.

“You’re going to be all right,” Max whispered, more for his own benefit than Michael’s. Giving the roll one last glance as he turned to his right, Max started searching for an escape route. Though the place was a maze of paper walls, the “emergency exit” signs were very clear to find. How ironic he couldn’t follow them. All he wanted to do was to reach the wall at his right and make an exit through it, hoping to cross the street and make it into the next building unnoticed. Maybe the storm would become his ally, he thought, being that the agents wouldn’t be able to follow him for much longer.

It was an unexpected relief when he saw a door in the wall in front of him, the sign reading “CARGO” in big red letters impossible to miss even from 25 feet away. It would mean he wouldn’t have to make yet another hole in the wall, saving his energy. But it would also mean that someone might be waiting for him to come out. He would have to gamble on this one. He was too tired right now to fully use his powers, and opening the wall would mean he wouldn’t be able to put up his shield in defense if he needed to.

Something embedded itself in a roll of paper Max had at his left. Something small. It took him less than a second to recognize the dart. At 15 feet from the door, Max spun around with his shield up to face the agent that was shooting at him.

The agent took aim, wide eyed, but didn’t shoot. As Max walked backwards as fast as he could, the agent kept walking towards him, both silent, both looking at each other as if they were locked in that position.

Okay. It didn’t matter. He would reach the door, open it, drop the shield and seal the doorknob once on the other side. The agent would call for reinforcements, of course, but at least Max would be out, running for the next building, and just waiting for the storm. By the time the agents would be able to hunt him down again, he would be rested. And God, he needed the rest.

He was probably less than 3 feet from the doorknob when he felt it. The intense, sharp pain on his left shoulder numbed him in an instant, his shield dropping at the sheer shock of having been shot from the side. He lost his balance backwards, not even able to turn to look at the agent who had shot him coming at him from the hallway at his left, his eyes still looking at the man he had in front.

His right hand landed on the doorknob as Max was trying to find purchase and stop his fall, but all he remembered from that moment was the agent’s eyes narrowing at him, finally firing the shot he had been holding from the moment Max had put up his shield.

Max didn’t really feel the impact of the second dart as his legs gave out and he fell on his back against the door.

Run! Max thought, as if Michael could hear him right now, the agent in front of him walking carefully towards him, the gun still aimed at his body. Run Michael! When you wake up, don’t let them catch you… don’t let them… just… run...


* * *


The call came at 3:33 a.m.

Dr. Peter Shore noticed because it was an odd number, and everything and anything odd had always held his interest. He should be sleepy, he thought, since he hadn’t been sleeping well for the past three days, but he couldn’t have been more alert.

It had been more then seven hours since Max had escaped, and Shore’s mind was going on and on about the things he should’ve done, or said, or shown, or whatever else he could think of. He should’ve convinced Michael when he had the chance, but gosh, he had never seen such feral eyes before.

Now he was on the phone with the latest report. At least four potential leads had come out of their search, all of them related to the train derailment hospitals or shelters. Too many people were out there, too much ground to cover. It wasn’t hard to imagine Max easily being mistaken for a victim or something, lying in some hospital bed.

But would they risk it? That was the main question here. Michael knew –or at least had been told- that Max needed medical attention, but that didn’t mean that the group was going to agree. Or that they didn’t have means of their own to heal Max properly. God, he hoped so.

Reports were vague at best about what these kids could or couldn’t do with their “special” abilities. Those reports were conflicting at best, and ever since the Army had taken the project under its wing after the “graduation fiasco”, the little information the remaining agents from the FBI Special Unit had given seemed more biased than anything else.

It was hard to believe that four days ago he had been so blissfully ignorant of the moronic ways his taxes were being spent, but now that he was deep into this mission/project/unit/whatever, he just couldn’t let it go.

He hung up the phone, the agent on the other side promising to update him as soon as they got any positive identification. Half of him wanted to warn the agent that not all the gods in history would help him if he approached Max while Michael was guarding him, but he guessed the agent already knew.

Oh, what a mess he was in. It seemed like a lifetime ago that he still had had a rather simple life. It wasn’t hard at all to relive in his mind what had happened a little over 72 hours ago, the room he was in vanishing from his mind’s eye, his own room back home taking its place. . .


. . . “Hello?” a sleepy Peter Shore answered the phone. It was close to midnight, and he had had one of those days that had made him crawl into bed way before 7 p.m., wishing the world away. The storm that had been threatening the city still menaced the sky, not one single snowflake having fallen.

“Lieutenant Colonel Shore?” an expressionless voice asked. For one second, Shore had thought he was dreaming. He had been retired from the Army for four years now, and he had no plans on going back. Besides, it was the middle of the night, so it had to be a dream.

“Retired,” he automatically answered, not really knowing why. He was barely shaking the sleep off when the same voice said, “Just a minute, sir.”

Sir. Oh yeah, that darned little word that had been stuck in his mind for twenty years, like a reflex that he couldn’t shake off. But he had shaken it off, he had finished his military career and had pursued other interests. It only took a couple of seconds for someone to be back on the line.

“Pete, you better be awake and dressed in two minutes.”

“Bill?”

Well, actually, it was Lieutenant Colonel William Anders, but for at least 15 years of those 20, they had been close friends, had served together on more missions than either wanted to count. Yet somewhere in those long years, they had gone their separate ways, even if they still kept in touch. Bill had had a way with words, and had ended up being a diplomat of some sort. When things got rough, Bill would be there to smooth things over without shooting one single bullet. He was an odd soldier, really; a peacemaker with a gun.

Peter, instead, had joined the medical corps. He was actually pretty fond of the Red Cross band that used to hang on his arm, always alert to that dreaded call of Medic! in the middle of the battlefield.

“I mean it, Pete. We’re two miles from your place, I need you ASAP.” Bill hung up. Peter blinked. Still holding the phone to his ear, still shaking off the cobwebs of sleep, Peter Shore looked at nothing, trying to decide if he was really dreaming or not.

When his doorbell rang two minutes and twenty-three seconds later, Shore was more than relieved to know he had guessed right –he had been awake and not dreaming, and was now dressed and ready to go- but half of him was dreading what this midnight call could mean. What on Earth could Bill want with him?

The young soldier saluted when he opened the door, and out of habit, he did the same, both walking quickly to the car waiting outside. Obviously, these people meant business, and fast.

“I’m sure I’m going to regret this,” Shore said as he sat beside a troubled looking Bill, who smiled at him.

“I’m sure you won’t,” he enigmatically said, as they shook hands. It had been more than a couple of years since they had seen each other in the flesh, and no amount of e-mailing could ever make up for the lack of personal contact.

The car was already moving and half a mile away from Shore's house by the time Bill opened the manila folder he had in his lap. "I'm sure the midnight nature of our meeting pretty much spells 'Sensitive Information' to you, so let's skip formalities," Bill began, making it obvious whatever Peter was going to see was not meant for anyone else's eyes.

"In 1947, an alien space craft did crash in Roswell, New Mexico," Bill continued, by now passing Shore the first of many pictures, this one of a debris field.

What came next was a slide show of almost sixty years of cover-ups, chases, shapeshifters, silver handprints and corpses. When the Army had lost its second prisoner in 1950, everyone thought things would go quiet. Except 10 years later the FBI formed its "Special Unit", chasing at least one known alien across the country.

"They claimed the aliens were invaders, colonizers, and the little green men did leave a trail behind them," Anders said, showing Shore a black and white picture of a corpse with a handprint on its chest.

They had been driving for almost half an hour now, yet Peter had no idea why Bill was telling him this, especially since he was now a civilian, or how he was going to help. Or better yet, where the hell were they going?

"They thought they finally got one of them in 2000," Bill said, searching for the right picture to give.

"They thought?" Shore asked, finally taking his eyes off the corpse picture, wondering how these beings could generate the energy to pretty much cook a person alive, hardly leaving any trace behind.

Anders gave him another black and white picture. The young man that stared back at him had a small smile that didn't quite show his teeth, bangs of hair over his forehead, clear but somehow guarded eyes.

"This was a school picture from about four years ago," Bill was saying, still shuffling pictures on his lap.

"This being of yours disguised itself as a student?" Shore asked, amused. If he had been living for fifty years in enemy territory, and had the ability to disguise as anyone, would a teenage form throw his pursuers off?

Bill humorlessly chuckled. "It would have made my life easier, knowing what I know now," he mused, without giving any further explanation. Taking another picture, this one being a surveillance shot, it showed the same young man coming out of a building. Peter had to do a double take when he saw the billboard proudly displaying "UFO Center". Now that was a good disguise.

"No, the kid you see in these pictures is not 'that being of mine'. His name is Max Evans, he was an honor student at Roswell High, employee of the UFO Center, beloved son and... husband," Bill said, taking one more picture out, this time of Evans with a pretty girl, as they were coming out of a movie theater.

"An awfully young husband," Peter quietly remarked. "So, why is he interesting?" Shore asked, the car speeding down the freeway as he absently scanned the night outside. That snow storm was due any second now, so he hoped they were really close to their destination.

"Because Mr. Max Evans is also a ‘47 survivor. You see, he's not exactly an alien, he just has enough of both sides to make him a hybrid."

Suddenly, his remark about an “awfully young husband” didn’t seem so accurate. His interest was immediately 100% there.

It actually took them another half an hour before they started to slow down, the car going through the city now, tall buildings looking imposing. By then Dr. Peter Shore had a short recount of events, starting with Max saving his future wife, continuing with his detention and interrogation, his escape, the Special Unit's disbandment and subsequent reunion. Their suspicions that Evans wasn’t alone wouldn’t have any substantial ground for a couple of years.

Though the Army had kept the spaceship, it wasn't until another UFO crashed two years before, and its survivor fled, that the Army had turned its sights towards finding an alien being again.

Funny how the alien being actually found them first... and blew up a base. Things got really heated after that, especially with the careless retaliation the base's Commander had taken. Now the Army had taken over the Special Unit, and had been re-evaluating its data for the past year and a half. The chase was still on; the six kids in the last picture Shore had seen being wanted for more than just questioning.

"Bill, my friend, you've been keeping a lot of stuff in your basement," Peter said, trying to process all this information while he still had absolutely no idea why he had been told all this, big pieces of this puzzle still missing. He looked again at one of the black and white pictures of the young man, this time accompanied by his sister and friend. How did Bill know Max Evans was a ‘47 survivor? Any of them? If he wasn't a shapeshifter, then he looked awfully young, indeed, for a 50-something guy.

Bill stopped shuffling pictures –apparently, there were still some to show-, and seriously turned to look at him. "I was debriefed a couple of hours ago while I was boarding a plane in Washington. I'm actually waiting for someone to come out of the shadows and laugh at both of us for having swallowed such a story."

“Wait, you were coming from the airport when you picked me up?”

Anders smiled. “You were always the sharpest of us all, Pete. I can hardly believe I’m here myself.”

“Why are you in this mess? And why am I in this mess, too?”

"Because as of six hours ago, this tale got messier than anyone could have imagined," Bill said in a rather ominous voice. The little hairs at the back of Peter's neck stood up, and somehow, he knew he wasn't going to like where this was going. Not one bit.

Bill pulled one last picture out of the manila folder. This time, it was a standard surveillance camera photo, from a store at a mall, it seemed. Max and… Michael? Yeah, Michael, they were both in the picture. The date and hour printed at the bottom clearly showed that it had been taken less than ten hours ago.

They both had changed from the first pictures Peter had seen. They had grown up, it was clear, and not exactly on the easy side of life. But even if they now looked like young adults, there was still an easy pose. They were quietly laughing at something they were looking at out of the camera’s reach.

“You know where they are,” Shore stated.

“I know where one of them is,” Anders corrected. “There’s where we’re going right now.”

“Why do they want a diplomat and an internist to go meet him?” Peter looked down at the picture again, almost sure that the one they were going to meet was Max. Bill had way too much information on him for this whole thing to be centered on Michael.

“Surveillance picked up this photograph, and a group in the area was dispatched. Half an hour later, they ambushed them in the industrial sector, though Michael seemed to vanish into thin air. Agents Walker and Cooper caught up with Max, and both fired at him – tranquilizer darts.”

Like a wild animal, Shore reflected for a second, as a more urgent thought came, “They both hit him?” Anders nodded.

“The doses were fairly low; the idea was to slow them down,” Bill said, as he opened a folder that had been waiting by his other side. “It didn’t really work that way.”

The folder contained two lonely faxed pages of rapidly scrawled handwriting, medical terms here and there. Whoever had written this, he –or she- had been in a big hurry. Shore’s eyes read through it all with the expertise all doctors seemed to develop to understand the handwriting of their fellow colleagues.

A respiratory arrest and 8 different drugs later, they had managed to stabilize and wake Evans two hours after his capture. His current stats were at the bottom. And that was all there was in those pages. No blood work information, no pending test results that were being done at the moment the pages had been sent, nothing.

“They don’t seem to be having any more trouble,” Peter dryly said, knowing full well half of the important information was being left out. Maybe someone was paranoid these pages would fall into the wrong hands. “So, I still don’t get what they want with us.”

“The first time Max Evans was detained, he was rescued by his friends less than 24 hours later. Up until this minute, we don’t know how he was found. We suspect that the serum that was administered to block his special abilities is not completely effective, and that some sort of telepathy remains. This time around, we don’t want to run any risks.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning it is priority one to move the prisoner out of the state. Or, rather, it was priority one. When they woke him up, Max was not stable enough to be moved, but awake enough for interrogatory procedures to begin. Just your basic questioning. Boy, were they in for a surprise.”

Bill paused, looking out of the window at the snow finally falling. “They told me it could all be a lie, but Max was barely conscious enough to think straight, let alone spin a tale so complicated.” Bill’s eyes turned to Peter’s. “Our honor student, beloved husband and son, is actually a political refugee from far, far away.” Shore stared at him, Bill slightly chuckled, “He’s the freaking king of an entire planet, and it turns out that fifty years ago two of his bodyguards died and two were held by us, while he and the royal family had been hidden in a pod somewhere. That part is still unclear.”

Now it was becoming very obvious why they both were here.

“He’s still not stable, is he?” Shore asked, while Bill muttered something about needing a drink.

“We wish. The United States government is now responsible for the well being of Antar’s once and future king. There’s a civil war, and the tale comes complete with a usurper, and four other planets in the mix. If Max Evans dies under our care, and next week or next century someone from there comes looking for him, what do you think we’re going to look like? My God, these people can travel through space, create hybrids and shapeshift. What chance would we have?”

“So they called you to mediate between us and…”

“And Max. Once he’s well. By the time I got out of the plane he wasn’t improving one bit. That’s where you come in. You were close, you have the expertise, and from the moment you stepped in the car, you had the clearance. You already know how the game is played. It was out of the question to bring a civilian into this whole mess.” They stared at each other for a whole minute, almost as if confirming that the other was accepting this was the truth.

“I think I need a drink, too,” Peter quietly said, the whole reality of it hitting him as the car finally stopped. They had arrived at their destination, and suddenly all he could think about was Run! Run away from this whole thing while you can. Away from the Army, away from the government, and away from their alien conspiracies.

Oh, what a mess he was in.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Unknown - ch. 7 ICU

Postby Misha » Tue Aug 18, 2009 4:00 pm

Thanks for coming back to read!

It's so weird to realize last chapter actually had a twist :lol: I've been living with this story for a little more than a year and a half, so it's pretty obvious and normal for me now :wink: Thank you all for your reviews!

Edited to add: Just like in last chapter, there's a flashback/memory scene here. In case it's confusing to anyone, these scenes are always separated by . . . and start in italics.


Chapter VII
ICU



Movement.

Somewhere.

Around. A shadow at the edge of his consciousness. He wasn’t sure if it was real. He wasn’t sure of anything, really. Max was trying to hold on to something that would anchor him to reality, but this shadow was making him nervous. It made him feel observed.

He shivered. It was unintentional, but it was the anchor he was looking for. He was waking up, the last four or five days being a blurry composition of fear and barely remembered words. He had no idea where he was or what was going on. He felt heavy, and cold, and exhausted.

And still observed.

The feeling wouldn’t go away, and so he half opened his eyes, his aching body making him take things easy. Slowly. In fact, he wasn’t moving at all; it would have required too much of an effort. The room was dim, and everything was diffuse around him. It was an unfamiliar room, but he was used to waking up in motel rooms by now. Yet he felt uneasy, almost… trapped.

A shadow moved at his left, but trying to focus on it didn’t do much. Nothing was sharpening in his sight, no matter how hard he tried. Another shiver went down his back, making him close his eyes.

Even if he wasn’t looking at it, he knew the shadow was getting closer.

“Do you remember Phoenix?”

It was just a whisper, a woman’s voice that he didn’t recognize. Her voice was eager, even if a little fearful. It was back to questions again, he thought, trying to remember why he was there and why he should be careful about Phoenix. Nothing made sense. Nothing was coming into focus.

What’s your name? the question echoed in his mind, but somehow, he knew it was from before. Another room, another time… another shadow.

“Were you there?” the whispered voice asked again, focusing Max’s thoughts in finding that single answer about Phoenix. They had been in so many places by now, he couldn’t even tell where he was anymore. But something about Phoenix sounded important. Like some sort of highlight he shouldn’t forget. Something had happened in Phoenix, hadn’t it?

You have another name… an alien name… What is it? the echoes continued. Max ignored them. He had already answered them. Phoenix. Had he been in Phoenix?

“Yes…” Max finally said, his answer still incomplete in his own head. He had gone to Phoenix, some cold night. He had gone because… because…

“Did you heal them?”

Images exploded in his mind. Two girls, three boys, all lying on their beds looking asleep, but not really sleeping… All sick, Max remembered now, all sick, and he couldn’t leave them like that.

“They were… sick… they were… kids…” Max answered, his voice a bit raspy, his throat dry again. He tried to half open his eyes once more, tried to make sense of the shadow that was now by his left side. It was a slender, not so petite woman, her hair knotted in a pony tail, her hands in her doctor’s white coat pockets. She smelled nice, Max noticed, and she seemed frightened about something. Like she didn’t want to be there, or was afraid someone would catch her in the room.

Why are you here? What is your plan? he tried to shut the voice out. It was hard enough to concentrate on the new questions as it was.

“You really healed them?” she insisted, her voice still a whisper, but this time there was an urgency to it, a need for him to answer. Just like them, Max absently thought, half remembering the other voices that had been questioning him not so long ago. All urgent, all needing his answers.

He nodded twice and then stopped as he shivered again. He was getting cold once more, and he wondered where his mom had left the other comforter. But he wasn’t at home, was he?

“Why?” she asked with the same urgency as before, pushing away Max’s thoughts about home. He concentrated on Phoenix. Had he been cold in Phoenix? It had been a cold night, yes, it had been raining. He remembered the smell of the wet road and the feeling of the humid air.

He remembered a cold night at the palace, Antar’s three moons shining brightly, the whole world so full of possibility and—

“I need to know why,” she said, shattering his memory, getting even closer to him, her hands still in her pockets. He couldn’t see her very clearly in the dim light, but he thought she looked worried.

“How could… I not?” he answered, thinking about Liz in her room, getting ready for midnight service, looking so beautiful. “They were… sick. I could… heal them…” It was difficult to speak, and it was getting difficult to breathe too. He shivered yet again and he closed his eyes. He needed to get warm.

“But how? How do you heal them?” the voice chased him into the darkness, one of those questions that he couldn’t really answer. It was just natural to him, like walking or writing. He just knew how to do it.

How?” she asked one last time, this time her hand grabbing his arm, maybe to focus him on her demand, maybe just to let him know she was really there. Whatever the case, the instant she touched him he couldn’t stop the connection from forming.

It was seeping his energy just as fast as the cold was taking over his body. He wasn’t getting anything from her, and he couldn’t let go since she was the one grabbing him and not the other way around.

He couldn’t move.

He panicked.

He shivered one last time as an intense beeping started somewhere at his left. She had let go of his arm, and for that, he was relieved. The last thing he vaguely saw was that other people were coming into the room, and the last thing he heard was the woman’s voice, anything but a whisper now, practically shouting to them, Don’t touch him!

And then all was dark.


* * *


Dr. Susan Lake's night was stretching for far too long. At 4:00 a.m., the sun couldn't come any sooner to end it, maybe then taking all this nonsense away as well. The idea that some bizarre Twilight Zone had taken over the hospital for the past eight hours had never felt more real than now, when she was standing here, in front of the mystery man with the glowing handprints, and for one instant the young pediatrician really considered that this whole thing was just one gigantic weird dream.

But of course, she was awake. And he wasn't.

Dr. Hayden had sent her the picture from Phoenix via e-mail less than an hour ago, and she had had little doubt that one of the two young men in it was the same guy she had seen Dr. Holt admitting into the ER right when the first ambulance had arrived. Not to mention that two hours after that, she had practically yelled her lungs out right in his face when she had thought he had harmed a little girl.

It had taken her no small amount of detective work, and overhearing dozens of nurse conversations to finally find the John Doe Dr. McConnell had attended at the ER. There were so many unidentified patients in the hospital right now, that being in this room was nothing short of a miracle. But she knew that finding it had been the right decision.

She wasn't sure what exactly she wanted to accomplish. She knew she wanted to know if little Sarah Meyer was going to be okay. She also wanted to know if the five kids in Phoenix had been truly healed. She needed to know how someone could -seemingly- heal with a touch. But most of all, she was dying to know why had this stranger healed -or attempted to heal- all these children. Why had he risked so much... or rather, what exactly was he risking to begin with?

And could he heal more kids?

She had actually found where he was twenty minutes ago, right when he was being returned to his room in the ICU from an MRI. She had been surprised to see Dr. Cramer there, since she had told the cardiologist about what she had seen barely two hours ago. She actually felt a little hurt and betrayed. Something was going on, and it was no coincidence that Nikolas Cramer was quietly talking with McConnell and Holt as they settled in their patient.

Didn't nurses have to do that? And why hadn't he told her he had found her mystery man?

Oh yeah, her three male colleagues were hiding something, and something big. By the time they had left the room, undoubtedly on some emergency call from one of the dozens of victims, Susan hadn't known how exactly to proceed.

What was she expecting to find, anyway? And what exactly was she going to say? It wasn't as if the guy hadn't done a truly remarkable thing… A Christmas miracle indeed. That was, of course, assuming that all was pure and white intentions. But what if he had had far less altruistic motives? What if what he did was dangerous like Cramer had first said? And the three doctors must have had their doubts as well, if they were all pretty much hiding the man in that room.

So she had entered with silent steps, and had remained in the shadows of the room, biting her lower lip, trying to decide what to do. It wasn't difficult, actually, since the man was unconscious, so all she was doing was staring at him. What was wrong with him?

Deciding to check for herself -and in the process making a plausible alibi as to why she was here, "just checking on a patient"- Susan had left her shadowy corner and fully entered the room. She hadn't taken two steps before he started to stir. She doubted he would stay awake, and it took her a split second to decide that, if he was up to it, she was at least going to get some answers.

His answers didn’t make much sense. She knew he was trying, he just needed to try harder. She barely got a handful of words out of him when she felt he was slipping away into unconsciousness again. She grabbed his arm to get his attention back, and that was the instant that her whole world was turned upside down.

Images flashed in her mind, bright, loud, fast and very much unstoppable, none making sense individually, but completing a very grand scheme as a whole. She had asked him how he healed, and he was showing her. She was there, with him, healing those children at Phoenix. Shouts and knocks at the door mixed up with far away sounds, boys' and girls' faces merged with those of teens, and the ever present fear of discovery twirled with the fear of failure. He was going to heal those children, even if something inside him knew that it would cost him dearly to spend so much energy at once.

He was risking his life, and those of his friends, the teens she had seen. Those who were like him, but not exactly like him, making him the only one with the ability to heal. And it drained him. Oh, how much it drained him to place his hand on their little bodies, pouring out his whole essence, instinctively searching and mending what was wrong. He was sweating, and dizzy, and warm, but all he could think about was that he had to reach the next kid before it was too late.

Other images circled around Susan's mind. Images about running through streets, and hiding someone. About a bright place and endless questions. About voices that urged him to run, and others to stay calm. And through it all, she felt his confusion and disorientation. Who was she? Where was he? And at last, as she saw him fainting after healing the last kid, she felt his panic. She was taking away his energy just as surely as healing did, but he had no control over it. He didn't understand what was happening, but she did. She was holding his arm. She was making something he thought of as a "connection", except he wasn't seeing anything, and didn't know that she was.

She let him go. She couldn't have been grabbing his arm for more than ten seconds, but it had felt as if she had seen in real time everything he had done in Phoenix, right with snatches of the last few days, or maybe few months. She didn't have time to contemplate it as the monitors' alarms went off. In her haste to get answers, she had failed to check the chart. As long as he had been stable, she hadn't cared to find out what was wrong with him.

Now that was the central thought of her entire being, as his heart rate reached 192 beats per minute. He was going to have a heart attack any second now, and all because she had touched him. She froze for a second, not knowing what she should do, random bits of information about what she had just seen going through her mind. She knew he wasn't human, but she didn't know what he really was either. Most importantly of all, she knew she couldn't risk touching him.

As footsteps sounded behind her, she twirled around to say exactly that.

"Don't touch him!"

It was Dr. Cramer, practically skidding into the room, his big baby blue eyes going round at seeing her there. She thought he looked as if he had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

"Are you all right?" he asked, now slowly walking to his patient and her. "Did he hurt you?"

The alarms were still going, and Susan found it surreal that they were both standing there, not really hurrying in helping the man in the bed. Funny, she had seen into his darkest fears, yet she still didn't know his name. "No!" she exclaimed, turning once again to look at the monitors, "I hurt him. If you touch him, you'll hurt him too."

It sounded crazy. In fact, it was crazy, and she knew he was thinking the same thing when she saw him frowning, moving past her to get a better look at the monitors. "We've been touching him all night long, it didn't seem to hurt him one bit." And then, he cursed.

A nurse was entering the room in response to the alarms. Cramer turned around without losing another second, "Bring Dr. McConnell here, now!" Then, turning to look at Susan, he said, "Get me the cooling blankets."

She did as she was told, glancing as Cramer went to the crash cart. She returned with the blankets and the ice packs as he was inserting the needle he had taken out of the cart into the IV. He hadn't touched the man so far, and for that she was relieved. Her main concern now was his temperature, and she turned to look at the thermometer: 103.1. Cooling blankets might be a little bit too much, she thought, but right before her eyes she saw the numbers changing: 103.7. 104.1. 104.4.

“What the hell—” Susan said, cooling blankets frozen in midair. She had never seen a piece of equipment malfunctioning so badly, and with such ill timing.

“It gets down as fast,” Cramer said as he practically snatched the blankets out of her inert hands, “if we manage to get it down, that is…” he corrected himself.

It was insane. Fragments of the things she’d seen and felt were still swirling in her mind right now, but she hadn’t been able to process any of it. For one moment, she thought she knew, that she understood what Cramer was saying; that it was somehow expected that their patient’s temperature would rise so fast. And then she lost that idea, and thought that it was crazy. Completely and utterly crazy.

Even the certainty that this man wasn’t really a man didn’t make things right. A body’s temperature couldn’t go up and down like that, the fact that touching someone shouldn’t make connections either conveniently forgotten for the moment.

“What are you talking about?” Susan said, rooted to the place, seeing how Nikolas was breaking the ice packets, cold water splashing over their patient’s chest. The cardiac alarm was slowing down thanks to whatever drug Cramer had chosen to give this man, but his temperature was not giving an inch.

“Your mystery man has more than just one mystery going on,” Nikolas humorlessly said, “Give me a hand, will you?” he said, indicating with a movement of his head that she should help him with the blankets.

“I don’t want to touch him,” she practically whined, afraid that she would take more energy out of him.

“What’s going on?” It was McConnell’s voice this time, approaching the bed. He hadn’t skidded like Cramer, but he hadn’t been far from it.

“Nothing you’d like,” Cramer answered, not even turning around, all his concentration on placing the blankets. “BP 160/100, T104.7, HT 120—” His eyes widened as he stopped in midsentence. Their non-human patient was trying to wake up. His eyelids were fighting to open.

McConnell went past her to him, and she was sure the older doctor would touch the young man.

“Wait!” she said as she finally moved from her spot, making Cramer turn to look at her as he too understood what she was trying to say.

“Don’t touch him!” they both said at the same time, McConnell literally –and rather comically- freezing in midair.

“You’ll hurt him,” Susan started to explain, but she never got past that. Her “mystery man” finally opened his eyes and all but lurched forward as if he were trying to jump out of the bed and start running towards the door.

It didn’t matter if they were going to hurt him. He was going to hurt himself if they didn’t stop him. And it took them less than a fraction of a second to realize that. Both Cramer and McConnell tackled the man back into the bed as all three men struggled with each other.

“They’re taking the palace!” the man yelled, fighting with a strength Susan would have believed impossible just a minute before. She ran to the crash cart in search of an Ativan dose to sedate him.

“Max! Max! It’s okay! No one is taking anything!” McConnell practically yelled back, and it occurred to Susan that his name had always been right there, at the tip of her tongue. Max. She found the Ativan and went for the IV. 2mg would be enough.

“They’re coming for me,” Max said in a rather menacing low voice, his eyes set on the door as if the two men holding him down were not really there. His right hand was outstretched over McConnell’s shoulder. All this Susan noticed by the corner of her eye, and as she injected the clear drug, she heard a low thud from behind her.

She turned for a second, and had to do a double take. Dr. Holt was pinned against the wall some six feet from the bed, papers floating to the floor. He had been entering the room just two seconds before. Now he was struggling against the invisible force that held him in place, his face turning red as it became obvious to Susan that he wasn’t breathing.

And she knew exactly why.

She turned to look at Max, and she too stopped breathing. His outstretched hand was sending the energy that was pinning Holt to the wall, alright, but on his forehead there were five shining blue dots, forming a V. His elaborate breathing started to dwindle as the drug began to take effect.

“Jesus, he’s strong…” Cramer muttered beside her, both he and McConnell practically throwing their weight at Max to keep him on the bed, oblivious to their colleague right behind them.

Max finally lost the grip on Holt, who promptly slid to the floor and started coughing. Susan ran to him, her mind conflicted with what was happening. Max had been using telekinesis like some sort of Jedi using the Force, and though she knew this to be true, she also knew it couldn’t be.

“It’s okay Max, it’s okay…” she heard McConnell say as she went to her knees in front of Holt, who was getting his air back. “No one is going to hurt you.”

No, Susan thought, but who’s to say he won’t hurt us?

And suddenly, being in that room didn’t seem like the right decision anymore.


* * *


Lieutenant Colonel William Anders was not having a good day. In fact, he hadn't had a good day all week long, and things were just getting worse.

His old friend and mighty doctor, Peter Shore, had humorlessly said that alien biology was one huge gigantic headache. Anders had answered that alien politics were way beyond that. You'll lose a patient. I might lose the entire nation.

Anders took a deep breath. His nerves were tense, but things weren't lost yet. Granted, they had lost Max, but their fugitive king was not dead. God, he truly hoped he was not dead.

Funny how that thought had been with him for the past four days. Please don't die. It was a shameless plea to a being that couldn't listen to him and that had nothing to do with Anders' concern for Max's wellbeing, and everything to do with gaining information.

It was all that mattered to Anders right now. What had always mattered to him. The entire diplomatic world revolved around what one knew about when, where, what, and who. Right now he had one version of events, and Washington was still recalling the remaining Special Unit Agents that had actually been at the Eagle Rock Base when Max had been captured the first time around.

There was so much conflicting information from all parties that all the Tylenols in the world were not going to help him with his headache. And by the looks of Shore beside him, he was thinking exactly the same thing.

They were both submerged in piles of files, information from the past four days as from the past fifty years becoming one messy blur. They were still collecting data on everything they could put their hands on about the crash, its survivors and the kids of present day, a not so easy endeavor when it meant collecting information from the Army, the Air Force and the FBI.

He could still see it in his head so clearly: Shore's eyes as they had arrived at their destination, clearly thinking, What the hell am I doing here? And then turning to look at him, his gazed had changed to What are you dragging me into?

Anders' mind got lost in that moment, the fatigue of the last four days threatening to take over, as both men were waiting for news that Max had been found. How could it be that someone that Anders hadn't known about less than a week ago had become so important now? The whole thing was surreal: Aliens, royalty, civil war… a crash, survivors, hybrids… Now he was in the middle of a secret facility trying to find the truth beneath mountains of paper, as if he were somehow going to find it highlighted in yellow in some lucky report.

Besides, this place gave him the creeps. Which was appropriate, Anders reflected, because just as Max, it didn't look like what it truly was. And just as he had recalled in perfect detail Shore's expression when they had arrived, he could now recall those first hours when they had actually entered their so deceptive headquarters four days ago . . .


. . . The car had stopped outside where Max was being held without making a sound, neither of the two men knowing how events would unfold in the next 96 hours.

The warehouse had seen better days. At one point, it had been light gray, but now big chunks of paint were falling off, giving it a kaleidoscopic mix of blacks, grays, blues, and even some reds. The coppery glimmer of oxidation was everywhere, and letters that had once formed coherent words were now half erased by time and too obscured by night for either Anders or Shore to distinguish them. Not even the flickering yellow lights that were scattered around could make the place look inviting.

It was in the middle of a wide parking lot, the next building being half a mile away, also looking very abandoned. In fact, most of the places around looked –and actually were- abandoned. It somehow seemed that not even rats would venture near it. That nothing was alive in there. The stillness of the entire scene, even with the snow falling, gave it a forbidden look.

It was a damned good disguise.

The two soldiers that had silently ridden with them stepped outside first and opened the car doors, saluting as both men came outside. If Shore found it annoying, he didn't show it.

He couldn't really fault Shore for not noticing. Anders had just dropped one hell of a bombshell on his friend. One that Anders had had barely hours to digest himself. The chill wind slapped their faces as if to wake them up. It was with a strange hesitation that Anders made the fist move towards the place. Yes, there had been an alien space craft that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. Yes, one of its survivors was inside that place. And yes, whatever happened, it would have grave consequences for the future of the planet.

Talk about pressure.

"There doesn't seem to be much security," Shore stated. He always had had an eye for tactical plans: How to enter and how to exit a place. It looked like the soldier in him was very much alive and kicking.

"We're lucky we could actually get this place," Anders explained. "The mission was to take the prisoner out of the state, remember?" Shore nodded once as they both kept moving forward, one soldier in front, one taking the rear, "When it became obvious he couldn't be moved, we needed a medical facility with enough clearance to keep this a quiet operation."

"So, the middle of nowhere became important. Do they even have first aid kits in that place?" The wind blew rather harshly, making both men hide their hands in their pockets.

"They are fully equipped, actually. In fact, this place is just as secret as the patient inside it, and as isolated as we needed it. And, most importantly, the timing couldn't be better. The project that was taking place there cleared out last week, though minimum personnel were left behind. They were going to start cleaning out by the end of this month when the next project would have taken over."

"Hence, the low security," Shore remarked, the group of four men now a few feet from the main entrance.

"With Max out cold and the storm coming, Washington felt we could manage. We'll move him as soon as we can. The Pentagon is waiting for our briefings to decide where."

The soldier walking in front reached the door and slid a white card. Maybe the place didn't have much manpower but, as they would discover a few minutes later, entering it was no piece of cake.

At first sight, it was, indeed, an abandoned warehouse. Nothing inside but ruined walls, bare concrete columns and a dirty floor. Dirty, but not dusty, Anders noticed. No footprints or any trace that about six hours before their most valuable prisoner had been rushed into this place.

The dim yellow light from outside gave form to strange shadows as they kept walking. The real entrance was in the middle. Anders wouldn't have known it was the entrance had the two soldiers that were pretty much sandwiching them had not stopped at attention at a seemingly random point. The floor moved downwards. A nine by nine foot section, to be specific, taking all four men to an underworld of halls, labs, offices and rooms. And one alien king.

They descended about two floors. They went from almost absolute darkness to stark whiteness as the lateral wall moved sideways. More soldiers met them, four of them, along with Colonel Harrington, the Head of the Special Unit for the last year.

Jurisdiction was a tricky thing that the Army was trying to sidestep by "joining" forces with the FBI. Agents were still in the field, not soldiers, but it certainly was not an FBI Agent who was running the show. If any information was gained from the operations of the Unit, Anders doubted that the FBI would get its hands on much of it, or its uses.

"Lieutenant Colonel. Doctor." Harrington acknowledged each with a nod, as Anders and the privates who were accompanying them saluted. He saluted in response. "This way."

If there was any saving grace in this whole mess, it was Harrington. Anders had not worked with the man himself, but had heard very high praise from colleagues and others in the trade, good things to have in mind. Still, to have good references was half the game. It was now the Lieutenant Colonel's turn to judge.

If references were accurate though, Colonel Harrington was the quiet, practical kind. With almost six feet, broad shoulders and an intense gray stare, the man was quite frankly an intimidating sight. He liked well achieved results, was realistic about obstacles, and had a cool mind when things were literally exploding around him. With no family of his own, he had dedicated his entire life to his country, climbing the ropes of the Army to the high point where he was now. He believed in order and the chain of command, and because of that sole fact, Anders knew Harrington was not exactly happy to have a civilian walking in his –provisional- headquarters. Even if that civilian had been a Lieutenant Colonel not so long ago himself. Maybe that was the only reason the Colonel had accepted Shore in the first place.

"How's he doing?" Shore asked as soon as they started walking.

"My technicians tell me he's been stable for the last hour, but they're nervous about the effects of his next shot."

"I'm assuming it's not of the bullet kind," Shore dryly said, the group of nine men walking at a fast yet almost coordinated pace.

"He's been given a serum, an inhibitor that was developed to stop his… special abilities. The doses are supposed to be administrated every six hours."

"But after the cocktail of drugs you've already given him, it doesn't seem like the wise thing to do," Shore summarized for him.

"You'll tell me. You're about to become the expert," Harrington said without missing a step, the well lit corridors clean to the sterile point, white walls marked with colored lines that at each turned indicated where they headed: Labs, quarters and testing. No doubt each section would have its sub-division; maybe more colors would join the yellow, blue and red lines.

"Has he said anything else, sir?" Anders cut in as they crossed another corridor, now only the labs and testing lines marked on the wall.

"No, and we haven't pushed for it either. We were waiting for your arrival to decide a course of action."

The corridor divided in two again, this time double doors halting their progression in both directions. Labs and Testing marked on each set, the four soldiers that had accompanied Harrington staying a couple of steps behind. Harrington moved to the bio scanner and placed his hand for verification. A green light lit, accompanied by a loud beep. Calmly taking his own handgun, he pointed it at Anders' chest.

"We need to verify your identities," he said in a neutral tone, the soldiers behind them taking aim as well. It took him a second to realize that there was a real possibility that they could be shapeshifters in disguise. Michael had passed the security scan in Eagle Rock, their records had shown, so chances were, anyone coming from the outside could be an alien as well.

He moved first. The sooner they finished the security procedures, the faster they could get into the heart of things. His hand checked positive for bone structure, and his fingerprint and dark brown iris matched with those of the computer's file. He was, indeed, who he said he was.

Shore went through the same procedure, and so did the two soldiers who had escorted them. The whole thing lasted about ten minutes, no one saying anything, the weapons carefully trained on them. Anders wondered if tranquilizer darts would come out of those guns should the security system prove them non-human. He suspected as much.

All of them cleared, the soldiers lowered their weapons and stood their positions, as Harrington, Shore and himself went through the "Testing" wing. No apologies were given, no questions asked about what had just happened. It was only procedure.

A man in light blue scrubs met them at the end of the corridor.

"Agent Cooper, this is Dr. Shore," Colonel Harrington introduced both men, "Doctor, he'll get you to your patient. Lieutenant Colonel, we still have some debriefing to do. We'll watch them through the observation room." The Agent and Shore started to go to the right, and just as Anders was going to go to the left, Harrington called them back, "Doctor, if you have any questions or need anything, don't hesitate to ask. We haven't come so far to fail."

Shore nodded once, and instantly turned to the Agent to get the information that had so obviously been left out of the two pages that had been faxed to Washington about Max's health, and had landed less than thirty minutes ago in Peter Shore's hands.

Harrington guided Anders through the corridor in the opposite direction.

"Shore seems like a capable man," Harrington said, gray eyes betraying no emotion.

"He really was our best choice, sir," Anders assured his superior as they reached the other corner where a flight of stairs was guarded by one more soldier. The Afro-American private saluted and let them pass.

"How many men are stationed here, sir?" Anders wondered out loud, Shore's remark about security coming to mind.

"Not nearly enough. Six agents, eight privates and two technicians. But we can't afford leaks, and the place is a small fortress in itself. We're counting on the fact that Evans was sedated when he came here, so he has no way of knowing –or telling anyone- where he is."

"Do you believe him, sir? About Antar?" Anders asked as they reached the observation room, one floor overlooking the sick bay, turned off monitors that would show vital information on both side walls silent since neither man in here would know how to interpret them.

"Oh, I believe he believes it," was all his answer as the Lieutenant Colonel took his first look at Max Evans.

The room below was well lit and spacious. It was certainly not meant for one man only, but then again, Anders didn't know what this place was usually meant for. Right in the middle, on a narrow hospital bed, lay the man that had the capital of the United States wide awake and worried at 2:00 a.m.

He was wrapped in several dark blue blankets, colorless IV bags dripping fluids through equally colorless plastic lines that invariably ended in a vein somewhere below those blankets. An oxygen mask was attached to his face, while silent lights turned on and off on machines both by his side and at the far wall of the room. Cordless monitors, Anders guessed, his breath caught in his throat at the thought that this man could very well die in their care without them having a definite answer to their diplomatic problem.

"They've been having trouble keeping him warm," Harrington quietly said, as he too contemplated Max, both men aware of the political dangers that had drawn Lieutenant Colonel William Anders to this observation room.

"I thought you'd said he was stable," Anders said, movement catching his eyes below at his right. Peter Shore was cleaning himself up and getting ready to enter the room.

"He is," Harrington said, "as long as you don't take him out of those blankets, the warm IV and the warm oxygen."

"Wait… as if he were hypothermic?"

"He is hypothermic," Harrington corrected. "He doesn't seem to retain any warmth of his own. The problem started about three hours ago. Once his temperature reached a normal level and the technicians started to take the blankets off, it dropped like a stone. Our head technician, Captain Whitmore over there," the Colonel signaled the man that was with Shore in the antechamber to the improvised ICU, "thought the serum might have damaged, or at least inhibited vital functions from the hypothalamus."

Anders' eyes narrowed to get a better look at Whitmore, obviously debriefing Shore as the newly added doctor was putting on the same light blue scrubs Agent Cooper had been wearing before.

"That's when you called in a qualified internist. You realized you had a bigger problem on your hands than you could handle."

"I was hoping Whitmore was just partially right," Harrington said, not arguing the fact that Anders was right. "That it was a side effect that would resolve on its own. Except the time for the next dose has come and gone, and he's not improving one bit."

Jesus, Anders thought, his eyes returning to Max, so pale and still and… lifeless. And for the first time –but certainly not for the last by a long shot- he actually whispered, Please don't die.
Last edited by Misha on Wed Aug 19, 2009 9:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unknown - Ch. 8 Visitors

Postby Misha » Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:02 am

Thanks for coming back to read!

Okay guys, I'm almost out of written chapters so I'm going to slow down a bit on the posting now... In case you missed the last author's note, I'm reposting it here: in case anyone missed it, like in chapter 6, there are going to be flashback/memory scenes in the future. These scenes are always separated by ". . ." and start in italics. The story has a tendency to go back and forth between what happened to Max before the hospital, and what is happening in "present time" now that he is in the hospital.

PML, it's the Special Unit who is looking for him, but the Special Unit is now a mix of the army and the FBI. It really wasn't very clear at the end of Graduation how it ended up being, what with the Airforce base being blown up and the ex-Agents returning... :roll:

keepsmiling7, it is a very intense story, indeed, that goes away so fast. By the end of this chapter, you'd have read 67 pages already...

cjsl8ne, the army sure wasn't expecting to find themselves in such a mess. It never made much sense that Pierce's ultimate goal was to kill Max, at least not so soon, but back then Max didn't know about Antar. Would Pierce have believed him if he had? And thanks for the review at fanfiction.net!!

ken_r, thanks! Connections gotta be confusing at first, that's for sure.

Timelord31, I swear I'm finding my way with The Offer :oops:




Chapter VIII
Visitors



"He should be dead."

Dr. Lake's voice sounded a bit dull, probably still in the aftermath of the shock that came from knowing that her mysterious healer was not quite human. Holt had been there not less than six hours ago. Heck, he was still a bit shocked at the fact he had been held against the wall by nothing more than thin air.

Still, the fact remained that Max should be dead. By 6:00 a.m. their patient's fever had reached 109 ºF, a temperature that according to everything he knew should be incompatible with life. By 6:00 a.m. too, they had had to keep helping at the ER, still dozens of people on stretchers and a couple of hundred in the parking lot waiting for news or to identify the victims. The hospital was a controlled entity once again, but it was at its limits, and four doctors -including the head of Neurology and the head of Cardiology- missing were bound to raise eyebrows, so they had decided on rotating themselves in order to figure out their latest puzzle.

They had moved Max to the quarantine wing, a sub-level isolated area in the hospital, after the incident at the ICU. Officially, they had no idea what was making their John Doe so sick, and so they had been granted the quarantine crystal room in case it was contagious. Unofficially, this limited the number of people likely to cross Max's path.

If it weren't for the fact that they were short-staffed and still in the middle of a crisis, it wouldn't have been long before other specialists would have been called in to diagnose Max. It wouldn't take too long before the crisis passed though, so Holt knew they were running out of time, and he had absolutely no idea what would happen once this whole thing blew up in their faces.

As it was, he didn't even want to think about almost dying because his wingless angel couldn't tell friend from foe. For all intents and purposes, Max was a very dangerous man.

"He just... should be dead..." Lake repeated as they both walked through the hall towards the ER. "109... God, he's just burning up..."

"Let McConnell and Cramer deal with it now," Holt tried to sooth her, the memory of the first time he had touched Max to get him out of the taxi cab clear in his mind. Max had been so damned warm. Burning indeed. "We don't know what kind of resistance he has. Maybe it’s not as bad as we think."

She suddenly stopped. "We have to find those people," she said, eyes unfocused, lost in some vague point.

"What people? The ones you said you saw when you touched him? You don't even know what you really saw. Maybe he was just projecting a dream or a delusion," Dr. Holt reasoned, resuming his walking as Dr. Lake glared at him. She had told them what she had experienced with that "connection" and why she was so sure they shouldn't touch him. But the truth was they had touched Max before and after Susan had, and none of them had seen anything.

"Someone must know what is wrong with him or how to help him," she whispered as they entered the ER area, the sea of humanity that had been there twelve hours ago now down by half. Reporters loomed outside in the parking lot, along with policemen and all kinds of people that were waiting for the new list of patients identified to be posted. The ambulances were nowhere to be seen, taking away the awfully loud sound of their sirens that had been non-stop the night before. The hospital still remained closed to any new patients.

"Well, what do you suggest?" Holt asked her before starting with the first patient, "That we go around pasting his face on every wall in hopes someone has seen him?"

She opened her mouth to answer, and then stopped. Her eyes went round as they focused on something behind him.

"I think someone just beat us to it," she said, as Holt turned to see what she was talking about.

HAVE YOU SEEN MAX EVANS?


The letter sized sheet read with a picture of a younger Max in black and white. The victims' families were just starting to resort to this kind of posters if they couldn't find their loved ones at either hospitals or the morgue. Please call us at 555-3171 was the only other information that was given. At least now they had a complete name.

By his side, Dr. Lake took out her cell phone and started to dial.

"What the hell are you doing?" Holt said as he practically grabbed it away from her, lifting it high as if she were going to jump for it.

"What the hell am I doing? What the hell are you doing? Someone is obviously looking for him! And he needs all the help he can get!" she argued in hushed tones, nurses and doctors walking behind her.

"We don't know who we're calling here! Remember McConnell's suspicions? Someone out there doesn't have the best intentions for him. We need a plan. We need to run this by Cramer and McConnell first."

"What?! Why?"

"Because whoever is at the other side of that number is going to come get him... and he or they or whatever might well come looking for us too. Don't you get it Susan? We're all part of this— this conspiracy now. We have to decide as a group." Holt said as he ripped the black and white poster and turned around.

"I'll be back in a minute," he half muttered as he went past her, giving her the cell phone back. "Don't make any calls to these people."

Susan was angry. Holt didn't care. This was bigger than the two of them, way bigger, and he would be damned if he at least didn't consult with the other two people involved. Besides, McConnell seemed to have a better idea of what they should be doing, and the young doctor trusted the wisdom of the senior neurologist more than his own.

He went through the same corridors he had just walked two minutes before, retracing his way back to the quarantine room, all the way thinking about men in black, little green and gray aliens, and doctors in hazmat suits, all colliding at the front of Saint Paul's Hospital ER in search of Max Evans.

God, the very idea of who or what could be waiting for that call made him shiver as he entered the elevator and pressed sub-level 2. Trying to calm himself down, he guessed that the most realistic option would be the men in hazmat suits. Not because they would be afraid of Max contaminating them, but of them contaminating Max. No one really knew what was making him so sick, though at 109 ºF, Holt doubted any virus or bacteria would survive. Whatever it was that was trashing his systems, it wasn't natural.

"I swear I would inject ice in his veins if I didn't think the shock alone would kill him," Dr. Cramer was saying as Holt arrived with the sheet of paper in his hands. The quarantine room was large enough to contain four beds inside, all four walls transparent, and as well equipped as any ICU. It also had a small room attached for doctors and nurses to decontaminate every time they entered or exited the room, a procedure that invariably felt like it was taking an eternity.

Holt had seldom been down here. Not many patients were sent here, where diagnosis was still pending but a viral or bacterial cause was more likely than not causing the illness. Nurses were still indispensable in the upper levels, so Dr. Cramer and Dr. McConnell were alone, and would be for some time as well.

They were both inside the glass walls doing exactly the same thing Holt and Susan had left them doing: trying to get Max's fever down.

“We’ve got a problem,” Holt said, standing as close to the glass wall as he could.

“Yes, his temperature has just reached 111,” Dr. Cramer said without turning to look at him, breaking ice packages all around the light blue cooling blankets. By now the bed was soaked in ice water as both men kept applying cold compresses to their patient. They were afraid a direct ice bath would collapse Max’s system, the shock too intense.

“No, I’m talking about this,” Holt said as he held the poster in both hands at chest level, so they could see. McConnell finally looked up when Holt’s explanation didn’t come.

“What is that?” he asked, his attention now divided between helping Cramer and trying to read what Holt was holding.

“It’s a poster. With his face. And a number. Someone’s looking for him, leaving posters for people to identify him.”

“How many are out there?” Cramer said, now looking at the poster as well.

“Don’t know. We just found this one with Susan in the ER. She wanted to call, I told her to wait. What do you think we should do?”

Dr. Cramer actually left Max’s side and went to the glass to get a proper look at the poster. Dr. McConnell was about to follow, when Holt noticed him tensing. Holt’s eyes went to Max, and saw that his eyes were open, though he was far from being alert.

“She’s beautiful…” he barely said above a whisper, his voice sounding raspy.

“Who is?” McConnell gently asked, as both Holt and Cramer held their breaths. Max Evans should be dead by all accounts, as Susan had said, but the fact that he was conscious at 111°F was way more than any of them would have expected.

“She is,” Max said, his eyes clearly seeing things that weren’t there. He was delusional, something that was expected with high fevers. Maybe Max was reaching his breaking point.

McConnell pressed for more. “Is she the same girl who was in your dreams?” he asked, his eyes traveling to the monitors, his attention staying with the EEG patterns. The neurologist was clearly seeing something interesting in Max’s brain waves.

“No… she’s not… my sister,” Max slowly answered, and then he feebly frowned. “Do I… have a sister?” he asked more to himself than anyone else. Holt doubted Max knew how many people were near him to begin with.

“What does she look like? This beautiful girl?” McConnell asked him again. Holt wondered if McConnell was thinking about matching this girl to anyone in Susan’s flashes.

“I think… she’s worried,” Max said, his eyelids starting to get heavy. Max frowned again, as if something were happening that he couldn’t understand. Then, “I should be running,” he stated as he slightly moved his head forward, with all the intention of getting up.

“No, you should be resting,” McConnell patiently said as he lightly pushed Max’s head back into the wet pillow. They were going to have to change that entire bed soon, Holt knew. “Is she still here?” the eldest doctor asked.

It took longer for Max to answer, his eyes moving from one side of the room to the other and back, as if he were following someone pacing. “I think… she’s looking for… something.”

“Do you know her name? How we can call her? Tell her we’re trying to help you?” McConnell said, turning around as if he could see the girl Max was talking about. Nothing but air, machines, glass walls and concrete walls beyond those met his eyes.

It took even longer this time, as Max’s consciousness was starting to fade. “She’s beautiful,” he repeated, and Holt wondered if Max actually knew her or not. They got no more response than that, and McConnell quietly cursed as Max slipped into unconsciousness again.

Both Cramer and Holt sighed in frustration with him.

“I swear he’s going to spontaneously combust right in front of our eyes,” Cramer sort of whispered to Holt as only the glass wall was between them now, the cardiologist’s eyes returning to the poster that Holt was still holding in both hands. “Who posted it?”

“Damned if I know,” the younger doctor said, watching as McConnell was still checking the monitors beside Max’s bed. “You think we should call?” Holt anxiously asked.

“And say what? E.T. can’t come to the phone right now?” Cramer retorted a bit testy. Truth be told, they were all pulling a double shift right now, and that situation was not helping any. Sooner or later, they had to sleep.

By Max’s side, McConnell re-arranged the doses on the IV lines. “We have to ask ourselves who would want to post it, and then we’ll take it from there.”

“Friends? Family?” Holt ventured.

“Whoever had him before? They must know Max is not exactly in good shape.” Cramer added. “They would know to look for him in hospitals.”

“They would have expected us to report Max by now,” McConnell considered in a serious, quiet tone. “But I don’t think his friends would run the risks of being openly looking for him either.”

“But you’re assuming they know Max’s secret,” Cramer pointed out.

"No, I'm assuming whoever posted it knows he needs a hospital, and is using the train derailment to cover their search," McConnell clarified. Both Holt and Cramer looked at him expectantly. McConnell stared at Max, as if their patient could tell them the answer. "It doesn't make sense," he finally said. "It's like whoever posted it doesn't mean ill to him, but doesn't want to attract attention either."

Or maybe we're too tired to properly see this, Holt thought as he watched McConnell's worn-out expression. "So, you think we should call?" he tentatively asked, feeling slightly guilty for having chastised Susan earlier so easily.

"I think..." McConnell said as his eyes returned to the monitors, "that if this fever doesn't come down soon, there's not going to be any risk in calling anyone anymore."


* * *


The second call came at 11:11 a.m.

It was only appropriate, Peter Shore thought, since the first one had come at 3:33 a.m. He had fallen into a deep, dreamless sleep somewhere around 4:30 a.m., papers sprawled all over him and the table in front, a dull ache in his neck courtesy of the unnatural way he had fallen asleep on the hardly comfortable chair. Billy -or rather Lieutenant Colonel Anders- was nowhere in sight.

His cell phone rang once more. He opened it without a glance to the caller ID. It had to be either the field Agents or the people stationed here, so it was bound to be a Max related call.

"Shore here," he said, still felling a bit sluggish after four days of hardly any sleep.

"We have a confirmation," Agent Cooper's voice came clear, a surge of adrenaline making Shore sit up straight in his chair, papers flying everywhere.

"Where?"

"A taxi driver recognized Evans from one of the posters we placed in a shelter. He called saying he had driven him yesterday around 8 p.m. to Saint Paul's Hospital ER. He remembers because Max practically collapsed in front of him; said he was running one hell of a fever."

"Saint Paul's Hospital? I thought Agent Walker had already checked it," Shore said as he started to look for a blue report stashed somewhere on that table. Snatching it from under the medical reports he had reviewed the night before, he scanned the lines to refresh his memory. "There were four probable places at 3:30 this morning. A nurse said he had recognized him, but then they couldn't find Max there. The nurse said he might have mistaken him."

"I'm aware, sir," came Cooper's apologetic voice, "but this confirms that Evans was there last night. We can start a search from that point outward. If he's still sick, he couldn't have gone far."

No, he couldn't, Shore thought closing his eyes. Without medical attention, he wasn’t sure how much longer Max’s own system would last. Shore needed to find Max. And Cooper was right, what were the chances that both the nurse and the taxi driver had pointed to Saint Paul's Hospital? "Contact Colonel Harrington, I'm going there."


* * *


Doctor Lake, you're required at the front desk.
Doctor Lake, you're required at the front desk.


No, I'm required to the world of sanity, Susan thought, the last 24 hours starting to get blurry in her head, with certain details like a five dotted V shining on a man's head really clear. Maybe once she collapsed on her bed and then awakened, she would realize that things were just a big, big, big misunderstanding.

The nursing station looked like a bee’s nest, nurses and doctors and residents and patients and people swarming around it, trying to do this or that, sometimes talking, sometimes shouting, but all the time in movement. The most experienced nurses were getting things under control by now, as more victims had already been identified.

By the time Susan Lake arrived, there were a handful of people asking the whereabouts of patients, so Susan waited till she could talk to the head nurse and see why she had been called. She would meet with Holt in about twenty minutes, so Dr. McConnell and Dr. Cramer could finally go to sleep. Max's fever hadn't broken by now, and for all they could tell, he was slowly but inexorably slipping into a coma.

"Doctor Lake?" a man asked behind her.

Tall, pale, wiry and with the darkest black hair Susan had ever seen, the man looked at her intently with sparkling green eyes.

"Yeah?" she tentatively said, trying to place his face in some context and failing miserably. He grinned all the same.

"I'm so glad I found you. I took the first plane heading this way, knowing it was crazy, and I know it is crazy, but I just couldn't let this opportunity pass and…" he kept talking –babbling really- and it was that tone, that slightly southern accent, and that never ending tongue that finally gave Susan the final clue.

"You're Dr. Hayden!" she exclaimed, as he finally shut up, bewildered. "You flew all the way from Phoenix?"

It couldn't be. Oh God, it just couldn't be.

She had called this man last night so he would give her information about the children at the Phoenix Hospital and the report of their Christmas Miracle, but she had pretty much forgotten all about him once she had hung up. She had told him the little she had known about Max at the time, but she had pretty much disclosed that the man responsible for those silver handprints had been admitted early that night.

And now here he was, a bundle of barely contained energy.

"Where is he?" he finally asked, all serious now.

“He… he’s not… here,” she said, feeling the blood rushing to her cheeks. God, why was she such a bad liar? She felt so stupid, yet at the same time very protective of Max.

“What do you mean he’s not here? You said yesterday he was being treated at the ER and that he looked very sick…” Hayden trailed off, looking at her intensely. Staring, really.

Yes, she had said that. An unknown man that had stopped by Sarah Meyer’s bed, who then had collapsed in an ER room… Right.

“I don’t know what to tell you…” Susan said, tensing. She couldn’t admit he was being treated here, Hayden wouldn’t understand why they were being so secretive about this whole thing. “I guess he just left…”

“You didn’t follow his case?” Hayden said, taken aback. “The man left a silver handprint on one of your patients, and you just forgot all about him?” he all but shouted.

Well, no. She had done quite a lot of research, including calling Hayden himself, not to mention eavesdropping on every nurse’s conversation regarding McConnell’s patients she could find, until she had finally tracked down where Max had been placed… and she knew that Hayden knew that she hadn’t just let it go. But he was pushing her just a little too far on her nerves now. God, she needed a cigarette now. “Dr. Hayden, we do have a crisis on our hands here. I was needed in four different places at the same time last night,” she angrily said, “and please, keep your voice down,” she said in a threatening voice.

Hayden closed his eyes. “I’m sorry, I… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that,” he sincerely apologized. “It’s just that I haven’t gotten out of my head the fact that I might get to know this man. He healed those children, Dr. Lake, he really did. I even brought with me the clips and pictures and even the charts from the children, from before and after,” he said, lifting a black suitcase for her to see, “though I have no idea what to expect… Does he even know about these medical facts? Does he even care?”

Now it was her turn to feel guilty. Poor Dr. Hayden looked like a lost puppy on a rainy night. But what was she supposed to say? This way, please and guide him to the quarantine wing? She couldn’t let him in on this secret. Holt had been really clear about all four of them being stuck with this “conspiracy”. They hadn’t even felt comfortable enough to make the call, not knowing who they would be calling in the first place.

“Can I see Sarah?” Hayden asked, his far away look retuning to the present.

Little Sarah Meyer was still in the ICU, recovering from her surgery the night before, the silver handprint on her chest softly glowing under the bandages. Both her parents were still missing, and so far, no one had come to claim her. The only reason they knew she was Sarah Meyer was because her name had been sewn in her jacket and blouse.

“Sure, this way,” Susan said, slightly relieved that Hayden was not pressing on Max’s whereabouts. She would be late catching up with Holt and taking her place so both McConnell and Cramer could go to rest, but this was the least she could do for the guy who had flown from Phoenix in search of his miracle maker.

Behind her, a man had been avidly listening to their conversation. A man who knew everything there was to know about Phoenix, silver handprints and healed children. A man who knew Max was running out of time.


* * *


He was losing it. Or more accurately, he was losing him.

Dr. McConnell stared at the monitors, feeling helpless, his mind crowded with charts that didn't make sense, tests that didn't help, and a myriad of drugs he should be using but was afraid to try. They had already gambled a lot in the scarce 17 hours Max had been under their care, but with a 111 degree fever, there just didn't seem to be anything that would help at all.

Maybe their drugs were doing this to him. Maybe his racing heart was right in beating so fast, and his body needed to be this warm and all he needed was to rest…

Maybe McConnell was reaching a breaking point. He wasn't afraid to admit it, that much he knew. He was only afraid of watching this man die without ever really knowing why.

Dr. Cramer had left about an hour ago on an emergency in Cardiology. God knew McConnell himself should be up there doing his rounds. Holt had come by about three hours ago so he had had a chance to make an appearance, but all his thoughts had been concentrated on their most challenging patient. A patient who by all means should already be dead.

But Max was clinging to his life, and McConnell would be damned if he didn't try as hard to save it. The problem was he didn't know how. He didn't know what to try, what to do, what to not do. They had bought Max a few hours of privacy down here, of anonymity, but was all of that worth it if it meant Max would die? Shouldn't he be searching for every specialist available, working with a larger team on discovering what was wrong with Max and how to help him?

With every passing heartbeat, Jay McConnell was more and more certain that was the way to go. What was he waiting for, anyway? That Max's fever would reach 112? Max's permission? Maybe just Max's reassurance that he knew they needed to let the world know... He was an amazing being with a wonderful gift, after all, an extraordinary set of abilities that were mind numbing. He could heal with a touch; he could keep people at bay with his mind. He could do that bizarre, green, sort-of-electric shield. Even that strange connection that had allowed Dr. Lake to see images, thoughts, from Max's mind. And the more McConnell thought about it, the more convinced he was that Max had been talking to someone in his sleep.

Those EEG readings he had been seeing at the time had had a very peculiar pattern. It didn't seem as if Max was waking up from a very vivid dream, but that more elaborate thought processes had been involved. And they had taken on an almost identical pattern when Max had woken up around 6:00 a.m. and had started talking about a beautiful girl that looked worried. Max had seen her, McConnell was positive about it. He was so sure, in fact, that he had tried to say out loud to the mystery girl that they were trying to help Max.

Who were these women, anyway? Max's sister and her beautiful companion, who spoke to Max during his sleep and —maybe— delirium. Could she be his wife? The mark on Max’s left ring finger could mean different things, he guessed, but it would seem appropriate that Max would think his own wife beautiful and that she would look worried about him.

And there was another name, Michael. He had mentioned him once before, and it had seemed like a familiar, safe name. Not someone he was afraid of. A friend. Maybe a brother?

But if these people were communicating with Max, why hadn't they shown up? Where were they? And could they help? Could they bring Max's heartbeat to a healthy pace, and Max's fever to a nice 98.6 degrees?

And what would McConnell tell them if they finally showed up, but were already too late?

He adjusted Max's cooling blankets as he stared at his pale features. "If you can really hear me," McConnell said a little self-consciously, yet hoping that someone at the other side of Max's mind was listening, "I can really use some help here…"

A sound of something connecting with the glass wall at his left snapped McConnell out of his intended message. A tall man was standing there, worried and serious and hopeful all at once. He was around his same age, and he hadn't been sleeping on a nice comfortable bed for some days now, McConnell could tell. They were probably even having matching dark circles under their eyes. The stranger was looking at him with the most piercing stare, maybe just judging him on a first impression basis. He was pressing something against the wall, and it took the neurologist a second to register what it was: A syringe.

"He needs this now," he said, not questioning anything about Max's condition, or even who McConnell was. The urgency of his voice was barely disguised in his face, his eyes now on Max's form.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this man not only knew Max, but was very aware of what was going on with him. McConnell would bet that this was the man who had all the answers. Who knew who and what Max was and what had happened to him before Max had been delivered to the ER. Hell, he could very well be responsible for what was happening to Max right now.

"Who are you?" McConnell asked, seemingly frozen in place, his voice hard.

"I'm Dr. Peter Shore," he said, pressing his hand harder to the glass wall as if he could physically move the syringe closer to Max. "I'm this kid's last hope," he urgently said, both men staring at each, unsure if they could trust each other.

In retrospect, McConnell would admit –but only to himself- that it was the "kid" reference that had made him act. Still, in that moment all he could see was the heartbeat monitor not slowing down, Max's high blood pressure getting higher, and cooling blankets that weren't cooling.

He was out of choices.

He rushed to the glass wall to where a small window-like panel was placed so things could be passed back and forth. Right now he had nothing else to help Max with.

"Give him the entire dose," Shore said as he placed the syringe full with a copperish liquid on the panel. "He'll react immediately, so focus him on healing himself."

"What?" McConnell said as he retrieved the needle, pausing to stare at the man. What was he talking about? Max barely had enough energy to keep breathing.

"Just do it!" the other doctor snapped, already moving towards the small changing room, clearly intending to enter the quarantine area as soon as he was decontaminated. Shore's momentary loss of control made all of McConnell's instincts go on high alert. He was torn between wanting to help Max by believing this man, and to protect Max by keeping this proclaimed doctor away. He looked at the fluid inside, nodding once to himself as he moved back to Max's side, hunting the IV line.

The choice had been as simple as this: If this man wanted Max dead all he would need was to stand aside and watch it happen. And, even if McConnell refused, he had no doubt that his mystery doctor would make sure Max got it all the same. At least for now McConnell could be around.

"Once he wakes up, tell him to concentrate on healing himself," Shore said. "He'll understand."

Waking up? Was this some sort of adrenaline rush? McConnell stopped just as he introduced the needle, not pushing whatever drug was in it forward.

"Are you sure he can take this? He's already running a 111 fever—"

"And his heart rate is through the roof, I know," the man said already half wearing the scrubs. "He reached 113 two days ago, and was in worse shape. He can take it."

So Shore had been there, at least two days ago, his mind concluded without effort, wondering why had Max ended up collapsing in the street if this man had been doing a good job. It didn’t matter. He was still out of choices, and Max was getting dangerously out of time. Closing his eyes as he pushed the fluid inside, he prayed he was really making the right choice.

There was no time for regrets. He watched the drug made its clear path to Max's vein, and unconsciously held his breath. Max's heart was still going over 162 beats and it suddenly started to go even faster. For one horrible second McConnell really thought he had made a terrible mistake.

Max's eyes snapped open, taking a mouthful of air as if he were coming from deep water. McConnell froze as he stared at him, Max's eyes half aware, half clouded with drugs, completely out of focus, as if Max were waiting to hear something and then go back to sleep. He didn't seem to notice that McConnell was standing right beside him, or that he was running an absurdly high fever. He didn't move, didn't even blink.

The constant fast beeping of the monitor started to slow down, making McConnell turn practical -if hopeful- eyes to see what else was changing. As he did so, he crossed eyes with Shore, who had stopped adjusting the scrubs and was watching him intently. Of course, he was supposed to tell Max to heal himself.

Sensing his doubt, Shore nodded his head urging him to tell Max exactly that, now hurrying again in getting ready to enter the quarantine room, probably thinking he would have to do the job himself. The thing was, every single time Max had seemed to do something weird, it had taxed him considerably. How could he ask him this now?

Max shivered, and watching him McConnell had a flashback of Max saying that he was cold. If that goddamn glowing started again, his attempt to warm himself, McConnell seriously doubted he would survive it.

“Max. Max,” the neurologist said, trying to get Max’s attention. Max blinked slowly, his eyes trying to find McConnell’s face. “You have to focus, okay? Focus all your energy on healing your own body. Don’t think about the cold, I’ll worry about it. Just do whatever it is you do, and slow your heartbeat, and lower your temperature, and—”

Shore put his hand on McConnell’s shoulder, now fully dressed in scrubs and decontaminated, shaking his head from side to side, effectively silencing him.

“Heal yourself, Max,” Shore said in a clear voice, his eyes looking directly at Max’s. “And rest.”

A few seconds went by, but they felt like an eternity to McConnell. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but when Max closed his eyes and his chest started to lightly glow, all his hope sunk deeper than never before. Max was doing it again, and it would cost him his life.

“Wait,” Shore whispered, maybe reading the desperation in the other doctor’s eyes. McConnell looked at him, already half hating him and himself, just to follow the path of his eyes directly to the heart monitor: 124. 118. 112.

It went steadily down until it reached 64 and stayed there. McConnell hadn’t even blinked. Every time Max had done the glowing-warming trick his heart had skyrocketed in barely seconds, yet now it was –finally- stable at a reasonable resting pace.

“What did you do to him?” McConnell whispered back, and they both knew that he wasn’t talking about the copperish, miraculous serum he had just injected into their not human patient, but about what had happened four days before.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Unknown - Ch. 9 Classified

Postby Misha » Sat Aug 29, 2009 10:15 pm

Thanks for coming back to read!

Timelord31, Thanks!

keepsmiling7, here are some more facts for you to chew on :wink:

cjsl8ne, we will see the gang in future chapters, don't worry about that. Strangely enough, it's Michael who we'll see first :lol: But they've been busy, that's for sure. Isabel's been dreamwalking at the very least...




Chapter IX
Classified




No, it wasn't a joke, but God, it certainly felt like one.

"Classified?" Dr. McConnell said with a twinge of disbelief, as if what Peter Shore was saying was not only laughable but also insulting. It probably was.

Dr. Shore looked into the blue eyes of the man who had kept secret one of the most valuable and covert missions in the history of the United States, sitting on something that was as mind blowing as alien life, and had done a good job of it, too. Max Evans was still alive.

So it did feel like a ridiculously cruel joke that now that this doctor could have some answers, all Shore could say was, "It's classified".

"We'll take him to a secure place," Shore said, as if McConnell hadn't said a thing, "once it's safe to move him. Right now I need to know who else knows about what's been going on here, and I need all the information that’s in his chart."

As Shore reached for the chart at the foot of the bed, McConnell moved with him at the opposite side of the bed, as if he were going to reach for the chart as well. Instead, McConnell reached for Shore's hand, making him stop.

"What did you do to him?" he asked again with a clear and firm voice, his stare hard and piercing. The urge to tell him the automatic answer –it's classified- burnt in Shore's throat as he swallowed it back, trying to decide the best way to answer without sounding disrespectful. Just enough to calm the man who had saved Evans' life, but vague enough for the Unit to still be clandestine.

Right below their somewhat linked hands, Max shivered.

McConnell let Shore's hand go and turned to check on their patient. "It's a common side effect," Shore reassured McConnell, following his intended trajectory and grabbing the chart. "It'll pass in a few minutes."

"He hasn’t been doing so well for the past twelve hours," McConnell said, looking at Max instead of Shore. "Every time he does… something, he just gets worse," the older man stated, generally pointing to Max's faintly glowing chest. He started to take the cooling blankets off as Max's temperature continued to drop. At 103, Max didn't need the cold in contact with his skin. In fact, getting his temperature to drop so fast wasn't in Max's best interest, either.

Funny how the first time Shore had met Max, their priority had been exactly the opposite: Warming up Max, not cooling him down. So much still remained a mystery, like how Max's biochemistry and metabolism dealt with the drugs in his system, but at least Shore was reasonably confident that the serum that had just been given to him would stabilize him enough for his healing system to kick in. They had been betting on that specific talent of his for the past four days.

In fact, they had been betting on a lot of things for the past four –almost five- days, Shore reminded himself. Not for the first time, the thought of all that had happened left him thinking that this was surreal. That he would wake up at home, laugh about it, and keep on with his normal life. But he knew better, and having Max still fighting for his life after four days was a harsh reminder of what reality was at this very moment. He didn't look better than the first time he had approached him, he realized, as his mind took him back to that underground facility, just minutes after he and Billy –or rather Lieutenant Colonel Anders- had passed the bio-scanner that first night and both friends had gone down separate corridors . . .


. . . "Agent Cooper, right?" Shore's voice was low and urgent, as both men walked rapidly to the antechamber of the sickbay. The agent beside him nodded once. "As in the same Agent Cooper who shot Max along with Agent Walker?"

Agent Cooper visibly cringed. "I didn't know Walker had shot him already," he explained with a worried look. "I wouldn't have shot him knowing a dose was already in his system."

"So, what happened? Walker shot at his back and you at his chest?" Shore asked, aiming at getting all the facts right about what drugs and how much of those had made it into Max's body, and in what context. Being an internist –and a doctor in general- meant he had a big puzzle in front of him, and every single detail mattered, especially when his puzzle was a half-alien, half-human hybrid who came with no description or warning on his box.

His question actually came out sounding more like a reprimand. Cooper stopped in his tracks.

"Of course not! The subject was raising that… that thing, that shield, I guess. A green wall made of energy or something crazy like that. I hadn't known he could do that. Christ, I was so scared, I thought he was… he was… going to wrap me with it, or something… We know those creatures can kill by burning internally, leaving a silver handprint behind… or just combusting the body, leaving barely burnt tissue and ashes. So I thought, 'this is it'. Except Evans' eyes were just as scared as mine, and I knew he didn't have it in him to kill me."

"A green energy shield?" Shore asked, clearly thinking that was the relevant point of the conversation.

"Or something," Cooper said, now both men walking again, "So I pointed at him, knowing Walker was on his way, waiting for Evans to make a mistake… All the time thinking, 'how the hell am I going to survive this?' What kind of training prepares you for such things?"

"So Walker shot him…?" Shore said by way of inviting Cooper to continue in the right direction, away from his personal feelings.

"I didn't notice. Walker came by a hall in my right, effectively shooting Evans on the left shoulder. I didn't see it. The green shield was distorting everything on the other side. All I saw was Evans walking backwards, that green thing dissolving, him reaching for the door, and I just reacted. I shot him on the spot. I aimed for the legs, but he just collapsed, and the dart ended up on his shoulder. For one second I thought I had shot him directly in the heart."

But of course he hadn't, or they wouldn't be walking this hall right now. It would have paralyzed Max's heart, and chances of bringing him back would have been next to zero.

"So then you realized he had been shot twice," Shore said before Cooper could go on another rant about his thoughts. On any other occasion, Shore would have listened gladly, but right now he was eager for the medically relevant information. The feeling that time was running out was strong in the air.

"He was unconscious less than a minute after I shot him. I thought he might have been faking it, so I told Walker to keep his gun trained on Evans while I checked him out."

"You have medical training?" Shore asked, for the first time wondering why Cooper was wearing scrubs if he was a field agent, and what kind of assistance he would have been able to provide.

"I served as a paramedic before joining the force," Cooper said, and continued without taking a breath, "I knew the risks about sedating a person, and of course we were debriefed about what to do once we had them. When I saw both darts, especially so close to his heart, I had little doubt that he wasn't faking anything. I reached for the counter-sedative to stabilize him. His breathing was already compromised, and he was soaked through in sweat, his pulse already going wild—"

"Wait, what?" Shore interrupted him. "Soaked in sweat? It took him less than a minute to get soaked in sweat?" By now they were about to reach the double glass doors, another bio-scanner in place. Shore didn't lose time waiting for the answer as he bent for the retinal scan.

"Well… I guess he had been running. I just thought it was odd that his shirt was damp. But by that point, it didn't matter; the sedative was already paralyzing his lungs, so Walker helped me straighten him to administer the counter-sedative. I was already reporting through the radio about our location, waiting for him to regain a normal breathing pattern, but it just wasn't happening. I was sure he was going into shock." Cooper bent for his retinal scan, giving Shore time to look through the double glass doors at the lonely gurney in the middle of the sickbay, another man in scrubs walking to meet them in the antechamber. Hopefully someone more skillful in the medical profession than "Paramedic Cooper" here.

"When did you administer the serum?" Shore asked, anxious to get in there and see the real charts for himself. Something about Max's sweating bothered him, but he wasn't sure why. So many things about this bothered him, really, that it wasn't funny.

"It was administered along with the counter-sedative, of course. That's procedure. If he had regained consciousness right there and then, he would have been able to kill us.

Great. So Max's system had been bombarded with a deadly overdose of an unknown sedative, following an ineffective counter-sedative and a very powerful neurotransmiter inhibitor just a few seconds after. And these guys were wondering what they had done wrong?

The glass doors slid open and both men entered the antechamber. Once the doors locked behind them, a white fog decontaminated them for what felt like an eternity, but it must have been about a minute. Shore started to take his clothes off to put on the scrubs, when the man inside the sickbay entered the antechamber from his side.

"Dr. Shore, this is Captain Whitmore," Agent Cooper introduced them, and Shore noticed with relief that Whitmore was holding the chart.

"BP90/60; T97.2; Ht56/reg; R15," Whitmore said without waiting for an engraved invitation. Shore already liked him. "Blood tests are one hell of a roller coaster that we've been trying to decipher since he arrived," the Captain explained as he handled the chart and pointed with his hand to the first sheet.

It didn't make sense.

Shore passed through all eleven pages in that chart and hardly anything made sense. He got to the last one, glanced once at his new patient on the gurney inside the sickbay, and took a deep breath.

He was so used to things making sense that this had just taken him by surprise. He had had many medical mysteries on his hands before, things that didn't add up, but none of them hadn't make sense on first impression.

Obviously, Whitmore had done something right because Max was still breathing and reasonably stable, so it was plausible that the young man in front of him had figured some things out by now.

"What's happened?" Shore asked, now giving context to the hardly average test results.

"He arrived around 6 p.m. breathing already rapidly and shallowly," Whitmore said, now telling his side of the story. So Cooper had been able to stabilize Max enough until they had gotten him here, about half an hour after he had been shot –both with tranquilizers and too many drugs- so maybe he should cut the agent some slack. As Whitmore kept going on about low blood pressure and tachycardia, Shore finished putting his scrubs on and was ready to enter and be face to face with his medical enigma. All he needed now was to have all the facts straight first. His gaze returned to the chart. On second thought, he actually sat down. It was going to take a while to untangle this whole mess.

"Afib?" Shore asked, starting with atrial fibrillation as the first cause for the rapid heartbeat. He started to review the first sheet, this time determined to find some logic in that chart. They had just started their differential, and so the most obvious or probable causes for Max's condition were the first to be ruled out. Symptoms needed to have a cause, and it was their job to find it.

"V-tach. But it isn't his heart," Whitmore said with a serious tone. "Something else was messing it up."

Shore stopped in his tracks.

"He went into cardiac arrest?" he said, ventricular tachycardia usually leading to a heart attack. Defibrillation was the most common way of treating it in an ER situation.

"Almost. When we defibrillated, things just got weird," Whitmore said, his eyes now focused on Max, still on the other side of the glass doors. "It was as if we had given him an epi overdose. He regained consciousness immediately with an alarming strength. The cuffs that had been placed to strap him to the gurney? They cut deep into his skin as he tried to get up, and he didn't even flinch. It took three men to settle him down, and even then you could tell he wasn't really aware of any of us. He was just staring into space. He was ice cold, his blood pressure plummeting yet again, and just as suddenly as he had awakened, he lost consciousness," Whitmore returned his eyes to Shore's, "So we did give him the epi then, and started all over again."

They had stabilized Max with no little effort, Shore knew, as the chart in front of him still remained mostly a mystery. The faxed pages Anders had given him had stated that Max had gone into a respiratory arrest, not a cardiac one. He decided right then and there that for all intents and purposes, he had never read those pages to begin with. They were worthless. He noted, regardless, that someone was going to great lengths to try and cover up what was going on here.

"His blood pressure was barely keeping at 90/60 for the next two hours, and then out of the blue, it shot to the sky, his temperature rising along with it; so we tried a different approach," Whitmore started to explain, pausing as if gathering his thoughts. "This is classified information, Dr. Shore, so I'm not allowed to go into details… the US government has been using a highly successful drug for the past four years for interrogation purposes, the LSDA. It's also a great drug when it comes to stabilizing blood pressure and temperature, and generally setting the body into a calm state."

"What exactly did it do to him?" Shore asked, trying to get around the fact that he had to deal with alien biochemistry interacting with an unknown drug. At least unknown to him.

"Exactly that. He got stable. As in a 120/80, 98.6 stable. He actually woke up on his own about twenty minutes later. Since he was under the drug's effects and remained stable, Colonel Harrington asked if he could be interrogated. Just simple questions. I didn't see a problem."

"Drug effects?" Shore asked, more and more anxious to understand the charts in front of him. Even under normal circumstances –that is, with a human patient- these test results were bound to be anything but average.

"It basically places the subject into a highly suggestible state. In a way, it makes it hard to concentrate, so it's rather difficult to lie under it. It makes the brain work more straightforwardly, so telling the truth is the path of least resistance to it. Evans started answering his questions right away, though he was slow about it; about two hours into it, we suspected verbal areas had been compromised when he started to speak incoherently. Then he started to get lethargic. The EEG showed he was having trouble concentrating, more than usual subjects do by this point. His temperature started to drop again."

"Two hours straight?" Shore asked, almost expecting Whitmore to correct himself.

"He had five minute breaks every fifteen minutes," Whitmore said with an apologetic tone. "We knew we were pushing him, but the information he was giving was too important. As long as he kept stable, the Colonel wanted to continue."

"Except before you knew it, he was hypothermic," Shore summarized for him, recognizing the heavy blue blankets that were covering Max. They were used to bring victims of hypothermia to a normal temperature.

"That was three hours ago," Whitmore said, crossing his arms in front of him, looking lost. "He just can't generate warmth. We got him to 98, started taking the blankets away, and wham! A freezer would have taken more time to get frozen. But as long as we keep treating him for hypothermia, he remains stable. So we're just waiting for it all to wear off."

No wonder they had called him.

"So out of the cocktail of drugs you've subjected him to, which one is the most likely candidate to have screwed with his entire nervous system, and how do we flush it out?" Shore asked, his differential being an ugly puzzle right now.

"I don't know," Whitmore admitted, obviously having giving this a lot of thought. "Every drug accounts for something, but then he reacts in unexpected ways that contradict what should be happening to him. I suspected the nervous system as well, but all the tests have come out so distorted they don't make sense."

Of course not. They needed a baseline, a point of reference. They needed to know what was normal for Max without being drugged.

"What about his medical history. At least when the Unit had him back in 2000 he wasn't drowning in chemicals, right?" Shore couldn't be sure, though. He knew Max had been given the serum that stopped him from using his mental abilities, but that was as much as Bill had said that was medically relevant at the time. Max had been interrogated, but by what means, Shore had no idea.

"I've only read the file," Whitmore said, making Shore assume the good Captain was new to the Unit. Maybe Harrington had recruited him. "The ZEDIC serum targeted specific neurotransmitters to block his abilities. The most noticeable side effect to it was weakness in the motor system. He had difficulty standing or grabbing things. The problem is, they also used temazepam for the interrogation, effectively reducing his alertness and speech capabilities. He couldn't tell them a thing. He probably couldn't understand a thing they were asking him to begin with."

"They overdosed him," Shore stated, knowing where this was going. Too much temazepam would render the subject lethargic with myriad symptoms varying from dizziness, to lack of attention, to numb emotions. Commonly, it was used to treat insomnia. Shore guessed it had made sense at the time to use that drug, so it was less likely it would react to the serum that was already inhibiting specific neurotransmitters in their subject's brain. But those technicians wouldn't be stupid enough to overdose Max, which led to the next obvious result:

"He seems to have a very high multiple-drug intolerance," Whitmore concluded out loud at the same time Shore did in his mind, though it seemed that the Captain had discovered this hours ago. "So the problem might be metabolic. Or at least it's one of the things that I've been trying to find down in the lab for the past three hours. It's as if he has a condition of his own."

The term idiopathic glowed in big, red letters in Shore's mind, which was exactly what Whitmore had just said: a condition with an unknown cause. It was one of those words he didn't like because it made him feel like an ignorant fool. In his mind, the word morphed into idiot.

"So, we don't know anything for sure," he said, the chart slowly making some small amount of sense in front of his eyes. He hoped it wasn't wishful thinking. "Maybe it was the temazepam causing all the side effects, or maybe all the effects Max exhibited were a delayed reaction from the ZEDIC serum. We know we didn't give him temazepam now, but the serum didn't mess with his inner thermometer and freeze him from the inside out back in 2000." At this point, he was talking more to himself than to Whitmore. It occurred to him that he didn't know what kind of specialist Whitmore was.

"I need a complete drug composition of the sedative, the LSDA drug and the ZEDIC serum, and anything you have on the 2000 file, classified or otherwise," Shore said turning his eyes up to meet the Captain's. "Maybe then something will make sense."

Inside, Max started to move, the monitors starting to beep more animatedly as he was regaining consciousness.

"Maybe he'll just heal himself," Agent Cooper quietly –yet hopefully- said. Shore had almost forgotten he had been there the whole time.

Heal himself? Shore thought, Bill's story about how Max had healed his wife coming to mind, Wouldn't it be handy?

As he finally entered the sickbay to meet his new patient, the thought stuck in his mind. Wouldn't it be handy, indeed?


* * *


He wasn't thinking about aliens. Or Angels.

As Dr. Hayden gently lifted little Sarah Meyer' bandages to have a closer look to the glowing silver handprint on her chest, he was thinking more in the realm of the possibilities of human evolution.

He was sure a human was behind this. Granted, not a common human, but definitely someone from this world, who abided by the same laws of physics and biology. There just was no question about it.

He sure was on the geeky spectrum of stereotypes, but as one of his t-shirts colorfully announced back in Phoenix, he was a geek and proud of it. Though he loved science fiction in general -and fantasy to some extent- he was never going to take the supernatural as his first option -no angels or Christmas miracles for him- and the idea of aliens leaving a very human handprint behind was just... well... ridiculous. Why would aliens disguise themselves as humans, go through all the trouble of bypassing nurses, doctors and security, to zero in a room of five children with different cancers? So, no room for little green men either.

Besides, whoever had left that handprint seemed to be very caught in human affairs. Or at least, in human emotions. He had concluded that after seeing the security tapes of the two young men—teenagers, probably—a million times and hearing the nurse's and the children's accounts.

The men in the videos looked tense, even a little edgy and were radiating nervousness by the ton. That last bit had been confirmed by the nurse, who had talked to the one that had remained outside. He was too eager for her to be gone, and for no one to enter that room. If he hadn't had 50 pounds on her, she would have inserted herself between him and the door, and then she would have made her way through said door to her wards. But of course, she was petite and not one inch stupid, so thinking there was something dangerous going on, she had gone to call Calvin, the security guard.

The kids' testimony was actually confusing. Well, the two girls' testimony, to be exact, because the three boys had been out of it until no one but them had been in the room. It was an angel! one of them kept saying, and he told me to go back to sleep! Like Santa would have if I had caught him coming down the chimney! The other girl, Sydney, had been more subdued about it. She wasn't so sure it had been an angel, she had confided to him about two weeks after the event, when all the Christmas decorations were being taken down.

He said he was just a dream, she had whispered, her eyes on her brand new, super-size teddy bear. From what they had gathered, Sydney had been the first to be healed. He said I should go back to sleep... After a slight pause, she had also told him that angels were supposed to have wings, and have long, blond hair, and clear blue eyes, and smell like cookies and wear white dresses. She had said all of this in one breathless sentence, and Hayden had wondered why should angels smell like cookies. So Sydney was deeply disappointed that her angel hadn't fit the picture, and therefore she was doubting that he had been an angel at all.

Especially when he had fallen.

For the longest minute that last sentence hadn't made sense. In fact, it wasn't until he had asked Calvin, who had entered the room with the nurse, what he made of Sydney's words, that the security guard had told him that yes, it had looked as if someone had fallen, taking one of the curtains with him.

If the window had been the obvious way out, the door had proven to be a little less than obvious to provide the reason why it had been locked. The doorknob had been melted. Fused. Mixed up in some twisted recipe of metal and wood. It didn't make sense. When had these guys had the time to melt the doorknob? Wouldn't there have been an easier and faster way to block the entrance? And if one of them had fallen, had it been because he had tripped? He must have been in a hurry, after all. Or maybe Sydney was mistaken, maybe he had purposely searched for something on the floor...

Maybe he had fainted.

He hadn't really thought about that much until last night. Dr. Lake's call had implied that their healer had been admitted to Saint Paul's Hospital with a high fever, so he was obviously sick. He had started healing Sarah Meyer and then he had faltered. He was just not up to the task, Hayden concluded, and his medical mind wandered through theories about healing taking too much energy in sci-fi popular culture. But if it was true... if healing sucked his energy out, maybe healing five children could be one too many...

In sci-fi popular culture too, the whole thing could mean that it would take him one hour or one year to get his "powers" back, or maybe it was some secret ritual, or maybe he had returned to his home-dimension. Science fiction was so convenient in that regard. Too many plausible explanations. And Dr. Lake's insistence that Mr. Healer was no longer in Saint Paul's was one more convenient obstacle between Dr. Hayden and his answers.

He didn't believe her, but there was nothing he could do about it.

So his mind returned to the realm of the here and now. All this sci-fi stuff had been already thought and discarded by the young pediatrician months –if not years- ago. Instead, in his mind he had concluded some solid facts about the Phoenix incident: First, whoever had done it had wanted to remain anonymous, for reasons unknown. Second, it had been fast, and it had been contained to one room only, so whoever this person was hadn't had time to go more places or hadn't cared. Third, the children were healed. No question about it. And fourth, whoever had done it had left physical evidence behind.

Physical evidence that Hayden was seeing just about now. Glowing harmlessly on the girl's chest, the silver handprint was exactly as the doctor remembered it. Not only had he seen all five handprints for as long as they had remained on the Phoenix kids' chests, he had seen the pictures dozens of times for weeks after they had vanished... and then some more on his trip to Saint Paul early this morning. He didn't even need to take the pictures out of his briefcase to know they were a perfect match.

He didn't know why, but he was also certain that Dr. Lake knew that the Phoenix Healer and the Saint Paul Healer were the same. That certainty probably came from the fact that Dr. Lake had been too evasive about it. Susan had said that the picture he had sent had been a bit blurry, and she hadn't gotten a good look at the man the night before, what with the oxygen mask on his face and all the commotion going on...

As he took the sleeping child's vitals, he was sure that his pretty colleague was protecting -maybe even hiding- the man who had left those handprints behind. He tried to feel hurt, but he couldn't manage it. Hayden was a stranger to this hospital's staff, and he had come on the heels of an enormous disaster, asking questions about a... well, a sort of paranormal event. He didn't know why she was covering for this man, but he knew he hadn't earned her trust either. After all, one phone call sharing "classified" information wasn't much to go on. He had to admit he had been a little bit impulsive when he had decided to take the first plane heading to this place, but by God, he just couldn't help himself. He needed to know, and she was his passport to that knowledge.

Well, he would have to work his way through, then. He was going to stick around as long as he could, and he was going to convince her that he was worthy of being in the know. Maybe the healer was gone, but his records weren't. Sure, Susan could say all she wanted about misplacing the chart or it being buried beneath the dozens of charts of the victims from the train derailment, but sooner or later the chaos would disappear and order would prevail.

It was just a matter of patience.


* * *


It was hard to tell what was happening.

It was harder to tell why he was supposed to care about what was happening, but something inside Max was very anxious about being alert and knowing where he was. A very small part inside of him, he vaguely noted, as he was effortlessly falling back into oblivion. He was just too tired to care, and paying attention required too much of his energy. Energy that he was already spending doing... something he wasn't too clear about, but that somehow felt right. He had known a second before, but now he couldn't remember.

That made him uneasy, not knowing for sure. He was barely regaining consciousness, and it was taking all he had to cling to it. A more urgent question jumped in his mind: What was happening to him?

Two voices were whispering somewhere at his right, sounding vaguely familiar, but Max's eyes remained shut, his mind in a mantle of darkness. He tried to place them both, and the only thing he managed was to get even more anxious. Whoever those voices belonged to, they evoked images of white walls, needles, and dizziness, along with an overwhelming feeling of being vulnerable. He didn't want to be around them.

He tried to move and found that he couldn't. His body was just absurdly heavy, making it impossible for him to even lift a finger. He faintly registered the bite of needles in his arms, and he stopped himself dead in his tracks. He didn't want to feel them. He didn't want to think what it meant that there were needles pouring God knew what into him. He remembered that he was supposed to be running, but he was petrified. If he tried again, the needles would feel more real.

Something touched his chest. Something small and cold, and even if he was surrounded in darkness, he had a very clear flash in his mind of something metal, light reflecting off it. He retreated into the blackness that was rapidly becoming his sanctuary, but the image followed him, morphing into a memory that had happened not so long ago, though for all he knew it had happened days or months before. He had no sense of time anymore . . .


. . . He was waking up to a world that was not entirely defined and with strange beeping sounds. He was dimly aware that he was wrapped in some warm fabric but he didn't know why. He couldn't quite open his eyes –and the blinding light above was no motivation at all- and he felt exhausted; his body was aching all over as he was regaining consciousness. His chest felt as if someone had sat on him for far too long, making it hard to breathe. His head had a buzzing ring going on, and he knew that if he looked too closely into it, he would find himself nursing a headache. He had something pressing on his face too, but he couldn't identify what. He moved his fingers experimentally, and something stung in his wrists. Like a paper cut. But the feeling was numb. All of him felt numb.

He closed his eyes to try again to get his bearings from the beginning. He moved his tongue inside his mouth in a reflex to swallow, and not only did he find it dry, but he also tasted a combination of pharmaceutical flavors that made him nauseous to the point that he knew he was going to be sick. He thought that he had to roll over and find the edge of the bed so he could throw up.

Nothing happened.

He couldn't move –his body felt too unresponsive for that- but he wasn't throwing up either. Cold ran through his spine as his mind was getting closer to deciphering what was going on. His heart accelerated, and a beeping accelerated with it. His body obviously knew something his mind didn't.

"Easy Max, easy…" a man said near him in a soothing voice. Max turned to it, slightly opening his eyes, and he saw a small, round, metallic object coming his way. It wasn't until it made contact with his chest that he understood it was a stethoscope. And when that notion hit him, it was as if a train hit him too: He was back in a white room. He was back with the Special Unit. He was back with Pierce and his questions and his endless torture, except this time Max knew who he was and why he was here and he was sure Pierce wouldn't believe him anyway.

He was back in hell.

He desperately tried to move in the opposite direction, but to no avail. He was strapped to the bed, but even if he hadn't been, he just couldn't make his body move more than half an inch without a great effort.

A strong hand pinned his chest to the stretcher –and some part of him registered that it wasn't metal, though he didn't know why it would matter- and lightly held him there. It didn’t really need that much strength; Max was barely putting up a fight right now, and he knew it. It was more a gesture for him to quit trying to get up than to restrain him more.

"The lights," the voice simply said, and Max was afraid to tell him he had no idea what lights this man was asking him about. He had not much idea of anything, actually, except that he was getting nauseous again and that his left shoulder was starting to hurt like hell.

The lights, as it turned out, dimmed down, cutting the sharpness of the room where he was. He was afraid to look, though, but at least now he could see that what was on his face was an oxygen mask. At least he hoped it was oxygen that his lungs were receiving.

"Try to calm down, okay?" the man asked him, taking the stethoscope off, just to return two seconds later with a flashlight. Max closed his eyes to the light. It hurt him, and he was scared, and he wanted to move, and he was really, really getting sick again. As it was, he was finding it mighty difficult to move his head to the left, opposite to where the man –agent?- was, away from the bright light.

"Still dilated," the man said, more to himself than to Max. His hands went unexpectedly to Max's left shoulder, and efficiently but gently he started to press the tender flesh. Max winced. His body had tensed as much as it could since Max had realized where he was, but as his shoulder was probed his hands became fists as well. The paper-cut sting in his wrists intensified with this movement, and now his ankles joined in it too, along with the awareness that there were needles inserted in his arms and the backs of his hands.

He needed air. He knew he had an oxygen mask on but he still needed air.

The man lifted the covers enough to run his fingers along Max's right arm, all the way to his wrist. Max kept his eyes shut, wishing this was all a goddamn nightmare.

"I'm Peter Shore," he said as he was trailing down, Max's skin chilling now that the blanket was no longer over his arm. "You are at a medical facility," he said with a calm voice, one that was used to dealing with people who were afraid, Max guessed, his breathing increasing as his need to take in as much air as he could became his central goal.

He was hyperventilating, he just didn't care.

As one of the man's hands reached his fist, the other was placed on his forehead. Involuntarily, his heart answered his unspoken fear, and the heart monitor was there to beep it for the whole world to hear. His heart was racing as if he were running for his life. In a way, it was.

"I know you're scared," the man -Peter something?- kept saying, gently opening Max's hand from it's loose fist, "but I'm here to help you." He placed his hand on Max's, just as if he was a long lost friend who was lending strength through that simple act.

Max didn't move. Didn’t even acknowledge the man was talking to him.

“BP’s getting higher,” another voice warned from somewhere at Max’s left, “Ht is reaching 180… maybe we should give him something...”

He contracted his hand involuntarily at that. He didn’t want anyone giving him anything. He had no idea where he was, but he knew it was some place where the light was never going to shine through a window. Peter’s hand responded to Max’s reaction by gripping it in what was supposed to be a friendly response. The only friends Max needed right now were safer away from this place than by his side.

God, he hoped Michael was okay.

What if they had found him? What if Michael was somewhere in here? What could Max possibly tell them that would make them believe him? Would it even matter? Wouldn’t they want to know how he “worked”? Wouldn’t they make him some classified experiment subject? He gripped Peter’s hand out of fear, almost begging him to believe him. His honey-like eyes found the blue ones of his captor. He was starting to gain mobility, and his left hand strained to free itself from the medical restraints, the effort costing him dearly on his wounded left shoulder. He wanted to take the mask off and tell this man that he had never meant to harm anyone, that he just wanted to lead a normal life. That he had no plans of conquest, or invasion or whatever the hell the Special Unit had made itself believe Max wanted. Hell, if it came to that, he didn’t even want to return to Antar and claim his rightful place as King.

“I’m getting him Lidocaine,” the disembodied voice said somewhere at Max’s left. Some other Agent, some other man with needles at his disposition.

“Wait,” Peter’s voice said in a steely voice to whoever was trying to drug him, his eyes never moving from Max’s. “Your heart can’t take this much longer, Max,” he said, his voice changing to a soothing one. “Just take deep, even breaths, okay? Everything is going to be okay.”

He could hear Michael’s sarcastic voice saying No, it won’t, but at this particular moment in life he needed to believe it was true. Still, he slightly moved his head from side to side, telling this man he wasn’t completely sure he could do what was being asked. He couldn’t slow his heart beat anymore than he could tell in which direction his home planet was.

“You’re doing it already,” he said with a small smile, “just deep, even breaths, okay?” his smile broadened, showing perfect white teeth. Seconds went by as Max was trying to regain some control of his breathing, no one moving around him, not saying a word. Peter patiently watched him, nodding encouragement.

“That’s it… Just deep breaths…” His voice was almost hypnotizing, comforting him. He wanted Max to get well, Max suddenly knew from the slight flash he got through their linked hands.

He felt lightheaded. The buzzing in his ears had grown exponentially all this time and the tips of his fingers felt funny. He relaxed his grip on the other man’s hand as he started to feel darkness enveloping him.

“Max…?” Peter asked him, uncertainty coloring his voice.

Max’s eyes started to close of their own accord, and as he tried to remain focused, he was finding it increasingly difficult to keep track of things.

“…He’s going to crash…” Max heard the voice he didn’t like very far away. Before he lost consciousness, he thought that maybe he was getting out of here somehow… Maybe it all was a goddamned nightmare after all.


* * *
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"


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