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

Finished Canon/Conventional Couple Fics. These stories pick up from events in the show. All complete stories from the main Canon/CC board will eventually be moved here.

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Misha
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 9 - pg. 6 - 8 / 29

Postby Misha » Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:24 pm

Thanks for coming back to read!

keepsmiling7, oh, I would *love* to see House trying to solve a Roswell mystery :lol: I just don't have a good handle of him or that much medical background to spin a tale like that.

PML, thanks!

Timelord31, if it is of any help, the next part for The Offer is almost done :D




Chapter X
Allies



"Is he really healing himself?" McConnell asked Shore, the first words spoken in what felt like an eternity. Being told over and over that things were classified was getting on McConnell's nerves, so he was actually surprised when Shore answered this time.

"We don't know," he quietly said, as McConnell watched the steady rhythm of Max's breathing along with the faint glowing in his chest. It wasn't intense, not like when Max had been bathed in ice to lower his fever and had started to "warm" himself less than 24 hours ago. This was more subtle, and was definitely not taking all of Max's energy. His heartbeat was still a little bit on the fast track, and his blood pressure was barely holding above too low, but his temperature had returned to 98.6, and for once all the monitors’ alarms were silent.

Shore had been reading Max’s chart all this time, quietly nodding or frowning, and was now starting to take a blood sample. "We know his biochemistry changes when he's using his… powers," Shore said with a faint smile. Probably "powers" was not a technical term, but it certainly defined nicely what McConnell had seen Max do. "I have no proof if he's actually healing or if his body is naturally recovering, but I'm not taking any chances. He just needs time for his metabolism to sort things out. At least this way he manages to keep his energy working in his favor, instead of wasting it."

"His body stresses a lot when he's doing something with… his powers," McConnell said, not knowing why Shore was suddenly so chatty, but certainly not wanting him to stop. If nothing else, they needed each other's observations in order to save the man in front of them. "Why didn't you just tell him to rest? He wouldn’t be glowing right now if you had told him just that, right?"

Shore didn't answer right away. He waited for the blood sample to be completed and took the needle out, letting the IV flow again. Around it, a tiny half dozen other purple marks were still fresh, barely a couple of days old. How many times had Shore done this in the last 72 hours? How long had Max been under this man's "care" to begin with?

"Rest wouldn't have been enough..." Shore trailed off, looking at Max, the black circles under the doctor's eyes more pronounced now under the white light of the room. "The serum you just gave him over-stimulates key neurotransmitters while it shuts down others. The good news is that it stabilizes him, gives him a chance to recover. The bad news is that it makes him drowsy, leaves him highly susceptible to commands, and gives him a sudden rush of energy where his powers are concerned, like an adrenaline kick that has nothing to do and nowhere to go. We’re not sure what it exactly does, or why he has this increased energy around. At least by telling him to heal himself he has a guide to what to do with it, without killing himself in the process." Shore looked at McConnell, his eyes serious. “It's far from perfect, though. He'll get exhausted in about an hour, and he'll need to rest without disruption. His symptoms will come back, but hopefully we'll manage to keep him steady until he can stand another dose."

"What do you mean, 'stand another dose'? For how long are you going to keep him like this?" McConnell said barely above a whisper, fear clear in his voice and his eyes. What could he do to save Max? What were this man’s intentions?

Shore sighed, and for one second McConnell was sure he was going to say it all was classified. Which it probably was, anyway.

“He was overdosed with… a sedative, by accident,” he explained, standing up. “For the past four days we’ve been trying to get it out of his system, but things just got more and more complicated. The problem is, I’m the only doctor reviewing this data, and I can certainly use a pair of fresh eyes right now, that’s why I’m telling you this. The… copper serum I gave you seems to be working, giving Max’s body a chance to get rid of the other drugs in his system, but it also takes its toll. I believe if enough time passes, Max will be able to get well on his own, his own healing ability will help him to do that. But if I give him two doses too close together, I don’t know if his body will tolerate it.” Shore glanced at his hand, the blood vial securely there. “Now I need a lab to run some tests to see if my theory is correct. Otherwise we’ll have to start from scratch…” Shore moved from Max’s bed and tried to pass beside McConnell, but the older doctor didn’t let him.

“What are you going to do with him after that? And don’t tell me it’s classified if you expect any help from me.” In his long career as a doctor, he had seen a lot of messed up situations, had had to stand between kids and their drunk parents, between injured criminals and irate cops, between families and lovers, and now it looked like he was going to be between a very ill unknown being and the mad scientist who wanted his hands on it.

“Max is under federal protection,” Shore said without skipping a beat, maybe sensing McConnell’s breaking point getting closer. “Trust me, no one wants him to get better and stay healthy more than we do.”

“Let’s say I believe you… Why was Max running away from you?” McConnell asked, still between Shore and the door to the antechamber. He was gambling here. He didn’t know if Max was running away from him or not. He didn’t know if Max had been living happily somewhere with Shore and if all his scars and bruises had a perfectly reasonable explanation, no matter how much McConnell doubted that. But if Shore believed McConnell knew more than he did, interesting things could come up.

Shore hesitated this time. “It was a misunderstanding,” he finally said. So Max had been running away, McConnell knew beyond a doubt now. “And I can’t tell you more. But if Max wakes up enough to recognize me, he’ll tell you he trusts me. That’s the best I can do. Now, doctor, I need to run tests. Max doesn’t have much time if we have to start all over again.”

“He can’t be moved in his condition,” McConnell argued, knowing full well that once Shore was out of here, the first thing he would do was call in backups. He had to buy Max enough time to heal. At least enough time for Max to wake up and tell McConnell that it was really okay.

“No, he can’t,” Shore agreed, thinking for a moment. “So from this moment on, you, your staff, and this entire facility are under federal protection as well. We’ll make this a safe place for him as long as he needs it.” Stepping aside from McConnell, Shore reached the door and entered the small space, beginning to get rid of the scrubs.

“They have a crisis upstairs,” McConnell said, his heart sinking at the thought that he had made things worse.

“We’ll keep it between you and the other doctors that have been helping him,” Shore said, getting the last of the medical garments off. “Doctor McConnell, I really need your help to keep him alive, and we desperately want to keep him safe as well. We’re the good guys here. And Max is too. You’ve done everything right. Tell one of the others to help me out at the lab as soon as they can.”

And with that, Shore took off from the quarantine area, with a vial of Max’s blood in his hands, and a very conflicted McConnell at his back.


* * *


It was all one gigantic mess. And he was right in the middle of it.

Taking a deep, calming breath that did little to soothe his nerves, Lieutenant Colonel Anders kept staring at the information in front of him. It wasn’t a nice, organized pile of papers and archives, just as he would like. It was more like a dozen piles of black and white reports two feet tall, stacked in some sort of order that had lost its meaning some 28 hours ago when they still had had Max.

His task had been to find out the truth behind Max’s words. That meant that he also had around 96 hours of digital footage to go through along with the reports, of which two thirds were of watching his friend Peter Shore and the other two agents trying to keep Max stable enough so they could keep getting information out of him.

Max had been missing for 18 hours now, shifting everyone’s priority to finding him and the other hybrids if possible. Everyone’s except his. He had stayed back in his office/room since they had last interrogated Max some 36 hours ago. He had actually been sleeping when Max had escaped. By the time the alarms had gone off, it was already too late.

Anders had been present at all of Max’s interrogations since he and Peter had arrived, always watching from behind the glass that overlooked the sickbay. Always taking notes.

There were two kinds of information Max had given: The kind that could be traced here on Earth, and the kind that could only be validated by going to another planet. Obviously, that left Anders with only one avenue of action, and he was in the process of reviewing all his notes for additional scraps of information he could gather.

He needed to have everything straight before he started hauling in the closest available people to Max Evans, meaning his parents and Deputy Valenti, the former Sheriff Valenti. Out of all the parents, they were the ones Max had said had known the truth. Then there was the matter of locating Jesse Ramirez.

Then Anders needed to extend the net. The people at the Indian reservation were not going to be friendly, so he was hoping to get a good look at the cave inside and be happy with that in the short term. If they managed to get this River Dog person, it would take a lot of persuasion for the older man to give his secrets away.

Then there were the unlikely suspects. Brody Davis, who played an unwilling –and unknowing- part in Max’s story for starters, and anyone who had been involved in any alien activity, even if at the time -and even now- they remained unaware of it.

The Special Unit had a very clear idea of what the aliens wanted, invasion. But everything Max had told them was very far from it. As of right now, Special Ops Units were collecting data from an abandoned town in Arizona. The preliminary reports had said that there had been hidden underground structures housing unknown destroyed technology. Max’s story was starting to take shape, but where would it lead?

Anders had weeks ahead of investigating these kids. Teachers, friends, partners. Trips they had made. Places Max had mentioned. And then he had the Special Unit data, five decades of silver handprints and chasing alien killers supporting the idea that aliens were vicious murderers. The Pod Chamber Max had talked about was already declared destroyed, but special teams were combing the area and had already collected evidence of metals and alloys that didn’t exist on Earth.

The Lieutenant Colonel looked at the computer screen with a tired expression. If Max was dead by now, what kind of retaliation would there be? Anders was the first line in investigating the truth behind Max’s words, but if what the young hybrid had said was half true and now he was dead… God help us all.

Shaking his head a little, he returned to his intended task. Taking the mouse, he went to the first file in the digital storage folder. This was the only interrogation he had missed, the first one made when Max first arrived and was conscious. Or at least conscious enough to talk.

On the screen, Anders could see Captain Whitmore taking Max’s vitals. He had administered the LSDA drug for the first time some fifteen minutes before, and Max’s response to the interrogation drug was favorable. Anders could actually see Whitmore’s relief that something was going right. Of course, four days ago they didn’t know the hell that was awaiting them.

“He’s coming around,” Whitmore said on the screen, talking to no one in particular, knowing full well that Harrington was watching from the observation room.

Max half opened his eyes, slowly and unfocused. He had had a high temperature just twenty minutes ago, so Anders thought it reasonable that Max was disoriented. But knowing what he knew now, Max just wasn’t aware of what was happening. If no one had been around when he woke up, he would have probably just fallen back to sleep, and maybe he would have had a chance for a fast recovery.

Maybe not.

Harrington entered the sick bay a few minutes later, wearing scrubs over his military suit.

“Can he answer questions?” Harrington asked in a low tone. “Simple ones?” Whitmore turned to look at Max, who still didn’t seem to notice where he was or who was with him.

“You can try. But do keep them simple. He’s more out of it than most subjects when they’re given the LSDA.”

Harrington nodded. For all the reputation that preceded him, the Colonel was not a man that believed in violence for the sake of violence. He was probably used to working in morally gray areas all the time, but as he approached Max, it was curiosity that shone in his eyes. Taking a stool, he sat beside Max’s right, giving the young man a chance to notice him there.

“What’s your name?” Harrington asked in a clear, comfortable voice. Anders wondered if Harrington had had experience using the LSDA drug and if this was standard procedure, or if the Colonel was genuinely trying to be nice with Max. After all, it had been about a year since Harrington had taken over the Special Unit, hunting for Max and his group, and now he had the hybrid in his hands. He could approach this any way he wanted.

Max slowly blinked, as if finally registering the question. “Max.”

Harrington smiled in amusement.

“You have another name… an alien name… What is it?” Harrington prodded in a friendly manner.

Max frowned, as if he didn’t understand the question. Then slowly, his eyes focused on Harrington, still slightly glassy, but more alert, as if he were sharing an important secret with the Colonel.

“Zan,” Max said, but there was still a trace of uncertainty when he said it.

“Zan. It’s a strong name,” Harrington said, his gray eyes searching Max’s face, assessing his opponent’s weaknesses and strengths. “Why are you here? What is your plan?”

Almost half a minute went by before Max answered, “I’m waiting. I’m hiding.” Short answers. Keeping it simple meant that the interrogation could go on at a maddeningly slow pace. But Harrington looked like a very patient man.

“You’re waiting for others?” the Colonel asked, guiding the questions to what mattered to him, the invasion that was supposedly going to happen any time now. After all, it had been more than fifty years since the spaceship crashed, and nothing obvious was happening.

Max frowned deeper. “No. I’m waiting to go back. I have to go back… That’s the plan… I have to hide till I can go back…”

Harrington’s calm and comforting face turned a shade serious. What was Max talking about? Even now, four days later as Anders was watching this interrogation, he could feel that ice cold prickle at the base of his neck telling him things were about to change.

“Go back where?” Harrington asked, sitting very still.

“Antar. Home. I’m supposed to go home,” Max tiredly answered, unaware that this sentence alone contradicted fifty years of investigation.

“Zan… why— why did you leave… Antar in the first place?” Harrington carefully phrased his question, the name of the alien planet sounding unsure in his mouth.

“War,” Max said, the word echoing with a strange sense of foreboding. “Khivar killed me. He killed all of us.”

How strange it all must have sounded in that instant, when no one had a clue of what was going to come next from Max’s lips. Right at that point Max could have been a criminal, a rebel, a minority… someone who was killed for any number of reasons that would have no impact on Earth. And how could he have been killed when he was obviously very much alive right now?

“Why did he kill you?” Harrington asked, still calm, but his body was tense.

“Because I’m Zan,” Max answered, his eyes locked with Harrington’s, “leader of my planet. He killed us, the entire royal family to gain my throne. Our guards took us, the rebellion cloned us. The ship… the ship crashed…?” Max said more like a question, as if suddenly things weren’t making sense to Max either. “I don’t… I don’t remember… I’m supposed to remember…”

As Max trailed off, Whitmore whispered to Harrington that he needed to take it slow. Harrington instead stood up, turned around and went to a phone attached to the wall.

“Get me Washington,” he said, his voice still calm, but his posture tense as he waited for someone to answer on the other side. “I don’t care where on Earth Lieutenant Colonel Anders is. Get him on a plane heading this way right now. I’ll send the briefing as soon as I can.”

Anders paused the recording. Even that early in the game Harrington had known he was tumbling into a diplomatic mess. Rubbing his hand on his temple, Anders took yet another deep breath. What the hell did he know about alien politics? This was a society where one kill someone, just to have him back a few years later thanks to cloning. What were their laws against cloning to begin with? Inadvertently, he clicked play again, the recording continuing as Harrington hung up the phone and went back.

“So Zan… How did you become Max?” Anders paused it again, reaching for a notepad and a pencil. He wondered if Harrington had attempted to appeal to Max’s human side once he suspected Max’s alien side would not look kindly on humans. Zan was the goddamned king of an entire planet. Zan had power. Max was a twenty year old, who had graduated from high school in a small town in the middle of nowhere and was running for his life. Max had fear. From that moment on, Harrington never again called Max Zan. Certainly, there was a tactical thought behind this reasoning.

Anders stared at the frozen image. It was the fifth time he was re-watching this video. Max had answered all the questions they had come up with, but that didn’t mean he had told the whole truth. If there had been things they hadn’t thought about asking, then Max just wouldn’t have given them the information. He just wasn’t up to it. The subsequent interrogations had been harder, as Max’s condition had deteriorated.

Harrington had been careful to follow the technicians’ orders, and had later called in a specialist, Peter, because losing Max was simply not an option. Peter had started to corroborate information as he talked to Max in the following days, casual talk to keep Max engaged or calm as they ran test after test. The problem was that the LSDA drug that helped keep Max sort of stable, also interfered with his ability to think clearly and give a more detailed explanation of what he had been saying. Often, he would trail off in the middle of a sentence, or he would take past questions, relating them to events that were out of order or unimportant. But it was because of those precise insignificant details that Anders was watching the videos again. Any scrap of information mattered.

His cell phone rang.

A Washington private number illuminated his screen. His hopes that it was someone calling to tell him Max was in custody vanished in a heartbeat.

“Hello?” he answered after the second ring.

“Tell me you haven’t found him,” a female voice said at the other end of the line. A female voice Anders would recognize anywhere, despite sleep deprivation and a world of worry.

“Ma’am,” he said, refraining from calling her by her first name. Natasha Stefanova had been the youngest woman senator in history, and ten years in that position had not exactly mellowed her. She was sharp, acted decisively, and was the most straightforward person Anders knew, which was saying a lot. But most importantly, she was an ally. A good one.

“I’m afraid no, we haven’t found him yet,” Anders answered, puzzled at her eagerness to confirm that Max was still not under restraint. Practically everyone wanted Max back.

“There are a lot of sharks circling here, smelling his blood, William,” she said, cutting formalities. “If what I hear is true, then we do have a problem.”

Anders frowned. “I’m afraid I’m not following.”

“That’s why I’m calling. There are a lot of… talks going on around here. Most of us who are in the know agree that we need more information, whether he’s a friend or foe. He has to be alive if we want more answers, and if his claims of being a political refugee can be verified, then we need to take care of him as if he were the second coming.”

All this made perfect sense to Anders. That’s why Harrington had sent for him, to hunt down any leads to corroborate or deny Max’s answers.

“What hardly anyone knows is that there are still a few around here who believe the better way to deal with this is to execute our elusive prisoner. That will vanish all problems. They’ll be able to sweep it all under the rug. If he’s an invader, he won’t be able to talk back to his home. If he’s their leader, we haven’t been exactly kind to him in the past, so this would prevent retaliation.”

“That’s insane,” Anders whispered. “Even if he’s a hostile operative we still could find ways of getting information out of him.” Hell, even if he were to be subdued and placed in a comatose state, his biology alone was prize enough to keep him alive.

“William, I don’t think you appreciate the full scale of this. If these people decide to act on their own –and they very well could any minute now- it’s not Max Evans’s life that should matter to you. They’ll take him and every single loose end they can foresee. Bill,” she softly said, “they’ll target you.”


* * *


Awkward would have been an understatement.

Dr. Alec Holt nervously glanced beside him to the man who had finally come to claim Max. Not a man in black, and certainly not a little green alien either, but he was one step away from wearing a HAZMAT suit. He was a doctor, and though he had said something along the lines that he was indeed a civilian, there was no mistaking the military air that followed his every move.

Was Alec going to end up in some military prison?

Was Max?

For the past fifteen minutes, Dr. Shore had been on his cell phone. He hadn’t been able to use it down in the quarantine area, but here at the labs, he had no problem with it. Whatever he was discussing, he was taking it seriously. Speaking in hushed tones, Alec was just left wondering if his very future was being decided right at this moment.

In a way, it was.

When Holt had gone to relieve Dr. McConnell from taking care of Max, the young doctor had found a very conflicted neurologist. In a couple of minutes, Holt had been brought up to speed on what was going on, and he had actually needed to sink into a chair.

“How did they find him?” Holt had asked, staring into space. It wasn’t as if there was a law stating that if a non-human being was found it had to be reported, but all the same Holt was pretty sure he had been committing an illegal act.

“I don’t know, but we need to buy Max some time. Enough for him to recover and tell us what’s going on. Keep Shore busy at the lab, he’s expecting you to help him as soon as you can.”

Well, that was proving to be the easiest thing ever. Lab results were going to take at least a couple of hours. Through preliminary work was going to be ready any minute now, most extensive tests would call for specialized equipment that was still being use in critical cases for the train derailment victims. Shore would need to wait. Unless, of course, the civilian doctor suddenly started showing his FBI/NSA/MIB card around and then the Red Sea would have to part.

One thing they all agreed upon, though: Max shouldn’t be moved. At least not until they had definite proof that his condition was finally stable.

“Damn it, Bill! How can they be so blind?!” Shore finally exploded on the other side of the lab over his phone, making technicians raise their heads in alarm. Turning his back to all of them, Shore continued in his hushed voice once more, realizing shouting was not going to give him the privacy he was obviously trying to keep.

The machine in front of Alec beeped. Holt eagerly grabbed the paper with the test results, half expecting them to make absolutely no sense. They half didn’t, but for the little he did understand, he tentatively smiled. Maybe Shore did have the magic cure, because things were starting –barely starting- to look better for their wingless healer.


* * *


Things were moving faster than he had expected.

It wasn't a surprise, really, Colonel Harrington thought as he started to shave. He'd known, from the moment he had been offered to lead the Special Unit, that when he actually got the prize, a lot of wolves in Washington would come looking for his prey. He had been prepared for that, he had been planning for it.

What he had not planned for was Evans's sudden royal background.

He stopped for a moment and stared at himself in the mirror. Despite the seriousness of the situation, he let go a half smile. He had not seen that one coming, and at his age, with his experience, it was a rather intriguing feeling; a clear reminder that one couldn't let one’s guard down.

His face turned serious again, as he put pressure on the razor. It was already noon, but it wouldn't do to look like the victim of the mother of all hangovers next time he spoke to Washington via video conference. He hadn't slept much since Evans had been "rescued", even if Harrington himself was unsure if Evans was considered a prisoner or a potential refugee right this moment. Still, looking like hell for lack of sleep was not an option, so he had made a point of sleeping four hours and showering, and was now in the process of feeling alive once again.

Watching the red numbers on his alarm clock reflected in the mirror, he saw that he still had 23 minutes before his next call to Washington to brief them on what had been going on in the last 24 hours. A week ago, he only reported to the President, but since his invader had turned out to be a potential diplomatic mess, the number of people who wanted to have a word with him had escalated by the minute.

No one had ever said that chasing aliens was easy, but he’d gladly take that over playing politics with civilians. Military politics he barely tolerated, but that came with the territory.

All he had ever wanted to do was to protect his country. He had gained a reputation for doing the right thing at the right moment, even if those decisions would rarely see the light of day, and more and more he found himself working for covert operations that would be seen as an outrage in the public eye, but were necessary evils that someone had to do.

He had actually been intrigued when he had first been approached to lead the Special Unit. After more than 50 years of chasing aliens, the Unit had suddenly found itself unprepared to deal with the real threat. One blown up Air Force base and one sorely messed up attempt at neutralizing the subjects later, the Unit had faced a drastic change.

With the military involved, he had been offered to lead the chase, and there was nothing more gratifying for Harrington than the feeling of accomplishment that came from trapping the targets. One thing he had been very clear on from the beginning, though, was that he would go as far as possible to avoid killing the subjects. It just didn't make tactical sense. These were the only aliens they knew of, and they were the only source of information about a superior race that could easily take over the Earth. They needed every advantage, and killing sources of information was not an advantage.

Hence, he had started a very thorough investigation of all the available documentation. Which wasn't much when it came to his targets. Many files had disappeared after one of the last Unit Heads, one Agent Burns, had been killed, and most of what remained was some backup copies and whatever the surviving agents could recall. He had plenty on the '47 crash, but fifty years of manipulated information wasn't much to get to know the aliens he was chasing now.

The other back up intel he had at his disposal were the medical files from 2000, which had been very useful to treat Evans this time. Yet they also implied that aliens weren’t working on a full frontal attack, opting instead for other invasion strategies: If Evans was a hybrid, maybe the idea was to strike from within. How many hybrids were out there, looking human, just waiting for the right time?

To this precise question Harrington had been expecting an answer. Boy, had he been sorely disappointed. No matter how much the remaining agents from the past Unit had insisted on the invasion theory, Evans's interrogation had gone in a direction no one had predicted. The problem was, Harrington was far from convinced. Maybe Max believed this to be the truth, but it didn't mean someone else hadn't lied to him to begin with.

Finding the truth to this had become Anders's problem, though. Harrington's mission right now was to find Evans and the others as soon as possible, and to contain them until one theory or the other could be verified.

All this, of course, provided that Harrington's Special Unit was still standing.

He wasn't in this position for lack of contacts, and he had three sources telling him that there were whispered talks in Washington about shutting everything down and forgetting any alien hunters ever existed. Still, it looked like they just couldn't make a move until they knew for sure what Evans represented.

Harrington was too high in the food chain to feel real danger, but he wasn't going to turn his head away. He took seriously the responsibility of his men's lives, so he was not going to just close his eyes and let some paranoid senator or general pull the trigger on men and women who had done nothing but serve their country and their world.

He had swept many things under the rug, he would be the first to admit, but this whole thing was just too big to fit under any kind of rug. If Max Evans turned out to be the leader of his planet, then Harrington needed to find out what exactly he was planning to do once his people came back for him. That good relationships could still be established was the sole reason he had asked for Lieutenant Colonel Anders to begin with. Anders was a good man, and Harrington would hate to see him dead just for the sake of shutting everything down.

Once finished with shaving, he started to dress himself. He had always felt a surge of power when he put on his uniform, a sense of accomplishment and direction, of knowing who he was and who he could command. That he exuded confidence was key to keeping his men focused and committed, especially when faced with the circumstances that came with chasing aliens.

For one minute, Harrington stopped buttoning his cuff and stared at nothing in particular, remembering all too clearly how he had been witness to another kind of power, one that was terrible and astonishing at the same time. The kind of power that came with the flick of a hand, that was triggered by a thought.

He was remembering the first time he had seen Max Evans, barely five days ago. Though at the time he was receiving live footage from the squad that was chasing both Max and Michael, things had looked pretty under control when the sniper had aimed at Evans from a roof and had started shooting, barely missing Guerin as the taller hybrid had launched himself at Max to cover him. It was what came next, that green shield that stood between the tranquilizers and their marks, which had given Harrington pause.

They hadn’t known about it.

But the chase was in full motion now, and if Harrington had thought the aliens dangerous before, he now knew he had a responsibility to bring them into custody no matter what. Before half an hour had passed, Evans was in an ambulance with a sedative overdose, and Guerin had vanished into thin air.

In the original plan, they already had a holding cell in a building close to the airport, just waiting for clearance to transport their prisoner. They weren’t intending to wake up Evans until they had moved him to another state.

Still, because something was bound to go wrong, Harrington had pinpointed several locations to take Evans to several possible scenarios. That he knew of this particular medical facility where he was standing right now was pure coincidence. He had never anticipated a medical crisis of this scale with the prisoner, and certainly the snowstorm that was threatening the entire state and the two neighboring ones wasn’t helping any.

He had been granted clearance immediately, and been assigned Captain Whitmore, the only technician stationed there who was skilled enough to handle their patient.

The next time Harrington saw Evans was through the glass overlooking the sick bay. Max had barely arrived at their improvised ICU, still strapped to the stretcher with handcuffs, and Captain Whitmore already in scrubs getting ready to transfer him to the more practical hospital bed. The portable monitors were beeping like crazy, two agents trying to help Whitmore any way they could. One was holding an IV, the other was looking for the keys to the handcuffs.

Harrington had narrowed his eyes. Could the hybrid be faking? And could his friends trace him, even if he was unconscious? His thoughts evaporated as he heard a loud "Clear!", both agents taking their hands off Evans as the Captain applied a defibrillator. Max's body jumped, and several things seemed to happen at the same time: The most obvious one was a green wave that briefly expanded as the electrical shock went through Max, like a ripple on a pond. It was very fast and dissolved almost immediately, and Harrington had been sure he had been the only one who had noticed it because he was looking at it from above.

The second thing happening a moment later was that green, spidery energy zip-zapped through Max’s chest and arms, an effect they would get to see more of in the hours and days to come. But right at that moment, it was alien enough to make them all stop and stare. And it was in that exact second that Max had opened his eyes and practically lurched himself upward. Harrington had been sure he had been faking.

The handcuffs rattled with the force of Max's violent movement, cutting deep into his wrists, effectively breaking the IV needle inside his arm. The agents and the captain reacted as one to overpower him, making Max collapse under their weight. Harrington had looked right into his prisoner's eyes, and had found them eerily vacant, while five dots on a V pattern shone briefly on his forehead. The struggle was over almost as fast as it had begun, the beeping slowing down at a frightening speed, making Whitmore reach for the crash cart as the other two agents stayed on top, securing Max to the stretcher just in case he would react again.

All this Colonel Harrington remembered with crystal clear memory. He had since then accepted that Max had not been faking his condition. In fact, Max had barely been holding on to his life.

Finishing buttoning his shirt, the Colonel hoped Max was still hanging on to his life. If Guerin had any say in the matter, he probably was. If Max had shown Harrington what their bodies were capable of sustaining, Guerin had shown him what control and focus could accomplish when applied to directing their power, even if Harrington had only witnessed that through security footage camera.

The red numbers reminded him his communication with Washington would start very soon, making him concentrate on the present. After almost 20 hours since Max’s escape, all Harrington had to show for his Unit's efforts was probable hidden places that were being searched right now, but not one single confirmed sighting by his agents. That Max could be dead was a possibility that grew by the minute, but without a body, no one was going to sit still. In a very unusual moment, Harrington actually wanted Max to still remain hidden -if he was alive- at least until people in Washington took a definite position.

Who knew? If it came to that, maybe Harrington himself would make Max stay hidden until he knew for sure where Washington was standing.

He just had to find him first.


* * *


Wherever he was, he didn't want to move.

It felt like half waking up on a rainy Sunday, knowing he didn't have school and the bed was just the perfect balance of comfort and warmth.

No, it actually felt better than that.

It was all hazy, and frankly, more than a little confusing, but in that state between awakening and falling into a deep sleep, Max just didn't care. He could go on like this forever.

"Max…" he heard a whisper within himself, a sweet woman's voice that made his stomach rumble, and that almost convinced him that out there was better than in here. "Max," the whisper insisted, almost nudging him, and he was so tempted… Yet darkness would not let him go, and he just didn’t have the strength to fight it.

"Max, we're coming for you," the whisper reassured him, and he took that as a sign that it was okay to let himself fall into sleep again.


* * *
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 10 - pg. 7 - 9 / 4

Postby Misha » Thu Sep 10, 2009 7:15 pm

Thanks for coming back to read!

Timelord31, thanks!

keepsmiling, they're almost there :shock:

ken_r, like I let you *not* be caught up :P

cjsl8ne, thanks! And thanks for reading The Offer too!

thetvgeneral, are you sure you like long chapters, girl? It's more work for you to beta! :lol:




Chapter XI
Powerless



If Harrington and Anders thought they had it bad with trying to find Max, it was only because they weren’t Michael Guerin.

Michael, who had woken up inside a freaking paper roll, had barely evaded a snowstorm, had dealt with three very hysterical women, and who had been able to find Max only to lose him again less than 24 hours ago, was way beyond himself.

He felt hopeless. Worse, he felt powerless to help his friend, searching once again frantically everywhere they could think of. His fear made him relive every second of the first time the Unit had taken Max, doubled up with the fear he had felt barely four days ago when they both had been escaping.

How could they have lost him?

And even if now they had a very good idea of where Max was, and were in fact getting ready to rescue him –again- the fear of these two memories crept to his chest, making it difficult for a second to breathe. He could not fail again.

Liz hadn’t seen it coming. They had known for a while now that her premonitions would randomly happen, most of the time to their advantage, but not all the time. She had been trying to understand how exactly her visions worked, how to will them if she could, but clearly, she had missed the Unit landing on them.

Max should have left him and run. Hadn’t it been enough to be in the hands of those monsters once? What the hell had he been thinking? They had been outnumbered, without a clue of where they were, but goddamned fearless leader Max had to do the right thing yet again. Michael hated him.

It should have been Michael. It should have been him the first time around with Pierce, and it goddamned should have been him now too. Michael was the strong one, the tough one. He could take on this kind of hell. Max would just bottle it up and… God, Michael couldn’t stand the idea of seeing Max going through that again.

He wanted to explode something. He was one huge bundle of barely contained energy, waiting for either Liz or Isabel on the backseat to give him the all-clear. They would alternately try to contact Max, either by dreamwalking or projecting, never knowing which one would work. Most of the time it seemed that Max was too out of it for them to contact him, but they kept trying. Hell, as if they could stop trying to find him...

They were parked one block away from Saint Paul’s hospital –the closest they could get with all the people trying to find their loved ones from the train derailment- and all his focus was on getting Max out of there and not leaving him alone for one second once he got him in his sight.

He shouldn’t have left him alone. That was how Pierce had gotten him and that was how Michael had lost him yesterday. The memories were so close to the surface that he couldn’t stop them from overwhelming him now, mere minutes before getting out of the car and getting Max out of that hospital . . .


. . . The snowstorm had trapped them for two and a half days in the motel room, but it would have made no difference to them. It wasn’t until that point that Liz had been able to establish a good enough connection for her to project and look around enough to lead them to Max.

The underground compound had been far more advanced than Eagle Rock had seemed to be, and a lot more agents –or rather soldiers- were guarding it.

Their biggest fear had been how much time had passed. Pierce had almost cut Max to pieces in less than 24 hours. Now almost 70 hours had passed, and it had been hard enough for both Isabel and Liz to get a hold of Max for anyone to be able to sleep. But once Liz had gotten Max, she had not lost time looking for a way to get him out.

She had lost him twice after that, but sure enough she had been able to see where he was, with enough clarity for them to form a plan. She had made a map with as much detail as she had been able to recall, pointing out where guards were stationed.

Their next biggest problem was the cameras and the security system. If this had happened a couple of months ago, they would have been screwed, but now they had a glimmer of hope as Kyle was growing into his powers, a very useful combination of short-circuiting and overloading electrical systems.

He wasn’t that good at it, and most of the time he just ended up frying things –which Kyle thought was cool anyway- but if he could get rid of the security cameras, even though the Unit would know they were under attack, at least they wouldn’t know where to look for them in the compound.

It was a very flimsy plan at best, to rely this much on Kyle’s ability to get them in there, but once inside, Michael would go for Max while Isabel created diversions. Without Isabel, Liz couldn’t project herself, so she was relegated to waiting with Maria in the car, four blocks away in an abandoned warehouse, waiting for them to come out. Kyle would need to stay close enough to the electric lines to disconnect the security system, and would call the girls once he saw that Michael, Isabel and Max were on their way out.

That was the plan.

Maybe none of them was that confident this was the best way to act, but they were desperate enough to understand that time was running out and no one would help them rescue Max this time around.

Surprisingly, their plan worked better than they had thought. Kyle had managed to freeze the security system, locking the cameras into an endless loop of the last frame they had taken, while Isabel and Michael had worked together at digging themselves an entrance to one of the underground halls, since the main gate was too heavily guarded and too obvious to be of any use. No one had noticed they were inside until Michael and Isabel had started knocking out guards. The intruder alarm had stayed silent, which encouraged them as they both took different paths.

Guard by guard, Michael had gained his entrance to the sick bay, the most appropriate name for a place if there had ever been one.

They knew Max had been drugged. Every time Isabel or Liz had been able to briefly connect with him they had said Max had felt “off”. Sick even, numb and slow. Once Liz had connected to Max longer, she hadn't been really around him, searching the compound instead to get him out, so she had only managed to say that their connection was so low she was scared she would just completely lose it. But when Michael finally saw him, he felt himself getting sick.

Underneath the blue blankets and the oxygen mask, Max’s skin looked too pale, and his body too still. Michael had actually stared at him to make sure he was still breathing. Max’s chest slowly rose as his eyes moved beneath his eyelids, different machines attached to his body, measuring God knew what. A constant beeping was the only sound that greeted Michael as he stood still, barely six feet from his friend.

Max’s eyes finally opened, and he slowly but surely searched for Michael. Or at least that’s how it looked to Michael, who snapped out of it.

“Max. Max, I’m getting you out of here,” Michael whispered as he rushed to Max’s side. Max didn’t say a thing, just looked at him, his eyes slightly glazed. Michael wanted to shake him, to see life flowing into him again. He took the mask and blankets off instead.

Max’s wrists and ankles were strapped with medical restraints, so Michael immediately started to unfasten them. Max was so cold Michael had to stop and look at him again. Max’s skin was starting to goosebump now that the blankets were off. He was wearing very thin hospital garments, and at that moment he shivered.

Whatever happened, Michael swore he would make them pay. But now was not the time to do it. He hastily placed the blankets back and then continued unfastening Max’s restraints. Once that was done, he was faced with endless IV lines and attached electrodes. The beeping which had been steady a minute ago was starting to sound out of sync to Michael’s ears.

He was fairly sure something was very wrong with Max, but he was not going to stop now. He took the IV out of Max’s left arm, and it started bleeding as soon as he got the needle out. Damn it! Michael thought, as he pressed his hand to the small incision, willing himself to calm down and close it. This kind of healing was easy enough for even Michael to manage. On and on he went, detaching everything he found, healing and moving on to the next thing, as fast as he could, anger, fear and anxiousness building up inside him as the task seemed to take forever.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” A man’s voice caught him by surprise after minutes of silence and beeping, yet by that point Michael was so furious and so worried, he didn’t even need to lift his hand. With his eyes alone, he threw and pinned the man who was entering the sickbay to the closest glass wall, and he actually felt a little amount of satisfaction at the thud that came from the agent in scrubs when he connected with the transparent wall.

“What did you do to him?” was Michael’s cold answer. He wanted to kill that man. He truly did, and he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t already done that. Max’s hand found its way to Michael’s arm before Michael could do anything else, the first sign that he was really aware of what was going on since Michael had found him.

“Michael…” he whispered, and it sounded so tired that for one terrible second Michael thought Max was dying, “He’s… a… friend…”

No, he’s not! Michael wanted to argue, but instead started to detach the EKG electrodes, making the machine go crazy as it no longer registered Max’s heartbeat.

“Michael,” the agent addressed him, slowly getting up but staying right by the glass wall. “Max is very, very sick right now.”

“No shit. I bet you didn’t have anything to do with that,” Michael said as he finished with the heartbeat monitor and continued with the EEG. He would take care of the goddamned doctor in thirty seconds, tops.

“If you get him out of here, his chances of survival are minimal. We’re trying to help him, I swear we are. Max knows that, too.”

Max’s eyes were closed again, but it wasn’t as if Max was in any condition to lucidly corroborate the man’s claims. Max shivered once again, even with the blankets on.

“I’ll kill you for this,” Michael said as he briefly lifted his eyes to look at the man most likely responsible for Max’s condition. “Max, can you hear me? Can you walk?”

Max’s eerie glazy eyes opened again. He slightly nodded, giving Michael hope that Max at least partly knew what he was supposed to do now.

“Listen, he needs medical attention. If you get him out of here, he’ll need more than someone looking over him. Michael, please," the agent said, taking a tentative step towards them. Michael pinned him with a feral stare, and he wasn't even using his powers.

"Take off your shoes," Michael said, logistics taking over emotions of justice and revenge. They had brought clothes for Max, but those were in the car. There were still at least a couple of blocks for his friend to go in the open air, and in the condition he was, Michael doubted it would be in Max's best interest to be out with flimsy clothing and nothing on his feet.

The agent froze.

"I know this looks like we're the bad guys, but you can see for yourself he's in no condition to leave—" the man started, lowering to take his tennis shoes off.

"Max would rather die than stay in this place," Michael said, believing that with full conviction, but feeling a pang in his chest. What if Max did die? Did Michael have any choice? Michael took off his black sweater as fast as he could. The doctor was taking his shoes off now, his eyes practically begging Michael to stop his rescue.

"Max, can you sit?" Michael asked, his eyes moving between Max and the agent, a sixth sense telling him that they were running out of luck. Max tried to sit, but Michael had to help him, while trying to clothe Max at the same time with his sweater. Max became slightly more alert, looking around as if for the first time. Michael gently took Max's face between his own hands to reassure his friend he was getting out of there, but instead received a flash from him. Max was cold, and was thinking that he had seen sweatpants stashed somewhere at Michael's back.

The flash images barely made sense, and Max's mind felt fragmented. He wasn't glad Michael was here, or thinking he was getting out. He was centered on the fact that he needed warmth, and his mind was trying to come up with ideas of how to achieve that. Michael just nodded, pushing his fear of what was happening to Max to the back of his mind. First things first: He needed to get him out, and if pants were nearby, then he'd get those for him.

As he turned, he extended a hand, making every single compartment open, medical equipment and medical materials flying out at the force of his energy. Syringes, gauzes, small bottles littered the floor, and sure enough, packed in transparent bags, gray sweatpants met his eyes in the closest drawer.

"He's going to get a really high fever soon," the agent said, still in his position on the floor, his shoes right in front of him. "You'll need to keep his temperature low with ice water—"

The alarms went off right at that moment. Grabbing the pants, he ripped the bag open as Max actually sat with his legs hanging, more recognition weaving in his eyes. That had to be a good thing, Michael hoped.

"Michael..." Max said, his voice still barely a whisper, the alarm not helping any with conversation. Max shivered as Michael helped him with the pants. Without so much as a second thought, Michael extended his hand to draw the shoes towards them, the agent looking at something above their heads. There was a room, an observation room, and its lights were flickering. Isabel, Michael thought, as he finished with the tennis shoes, a wave of his hand making them fit properly to Max's feet.

Michael was fully expecting Max's weight once he helped him to get off the hospital bed. To his surprise, Max was able to half support himself, but his eyes were still somewhat vacant, as if he were trying to shake himself awake and was not doing a very good job of it.

"Max, we have to run," Michael told him, focusing on the glass wall in front of them, shattering it in a million pieces two seconds later. He hadn't had the stomach to kill the guards, and now faced with the doctor in front, he couldn't kill him in cold blood either. The fact that the man looked more terrified for Max's health than his own life did not help make the decision any easier. But since he didn't stand up to stop them, Michael just went right through the shattered sickbay wall. It wouldn't take too long before more guards would show up to shoot at them.

He was right.

Tranquilizer darts and bullets alike seemed to fly around them. “Run! Run!” Michael kept shouting at Max, in case he got another one of those leader ideas of turn around and surrendering while letting Michael escape. They finally made it to the makeshift door he and Isabel had made not even half an hour ago. He had no idea if Isabel had made it out or not, but now his priority was Max.

Max’s eyes were still not really there. He was obviously tired, but kept running on his own, and for that Michael was thankful. It was easier to escape if he didn’t have to carry Max’s weight on his shoulders, even if he was entirely prepared to do just that. Cold air and darkness met them in the street, the place looking abandoned and forbidden. They weren't alone for too long, though.

Agents were coming out of the warehouse that served as disguise for that hell hole, and it would be a matter of seconds before they noticed where Michael and Max were getting out.

“Max!” Michael said, steadying Max for a second, “I’m going to make them follow me. You keep running that way, okay? Kyle is going to meet you at the end of the next block, and then Liz and Maria will pick you up. They’ll know where to find Isabel and me.”

Max looked at him, that feeling that he was trying really hard to wake up and failing still in his eyes. Maybe Michael was saying too much for Max to comprehend. “Keep running! We’ll meet in a few minutes.”

Max just turned to the pointed direction and kept running. Running in the opposite direction, Michael was able to divert attention to himself, shouts and shots behind him for the next four blocks. About fifteen minutes later he felt like a caged lion as he waited for Liz and Maria to show up for him at the gas station they had agreed on as a meeting point if they got separated.

But their luck had run out.

Kyle had actually fainted as he had over-used his own energy. Which meant that Max had kept running on in that direction until he had either been recaptured or had collapsed, neither option doing anything to calm anyone’s nerves.

They had searched, Isabel and Liz, both desperate to find him again. By the time they had all gathered and figured out what had gone wrong, almost two hours had gone by, and the city was paralyzed by the train derailment. If Max was still out there with the low temperatures, there was no way he would survive.

Now, almost a day had gone by, but bit by bit Isabel and Liz had finally pinpointed Max’s location, a goddamned hospital of all places, even if Michael had been secretly relieved to hear that. That agent’s words, the desperation in his voice that Max was very sick, had haunted him for hours. At least Max had gotten his medical attention, but at what price Michael didn’t dare to think about.

He was going to rescue his friend now, and he was going to stop feeling like a useless, helpless, powerless man, and God help the soul that came between Max and himself.


* * *


The results were taking too long, and Shore’s patience was wearing thin.

He had told Billy that he hadn’t found Max at the hospital, but that he had stayed around just to make sure none of the John Does at Saint Paul’s was him. The fact that Washington could very well decide against Max’s best interests had pointed his moral compass in a direction which made it easy to lie to his long-time friend.

But that had been an hour ago. Shore didn’t know what to do now, though. According to the last analysis he had run on Max before Michael had “rescued” him, some 24 hours ago, Max’s body had been starting to slowly but increasingly metabolize the drugs out of his systems. His kidneys and liver, which had been deteriorating at an alarming rate, had been holding their own.

He had now read the chart, the results from the tests McConnell’s team had run. For a while there, it had looked like what Shore had gained during those three days had been wiped out when Max had been admitted. They had given him a myriad of drugs trying to help him, not knowing the delicate balance of Max’s own biochemistry.

Shore had then talked to the younger doctor, to Holt, and had found out that Max had been using his own abilities, first consciously, and then just as a reaction to what was happening to him. Shore didn’t know what to make of that. For all intents and purposes, in less than four hours Max had escaped, landed himself in a hospital, and had decided to at least try to heal a little girl.

He had known that the ZEDIC serum -the one that neutralized Max's powers- had been out of Max’s system by the second day he had treated Max. He had seen his powers slowly coming back, so knowing that they were in full force now –or at least in a wider range- was not really a revelation. Without the LSDA drug though, it was a miracle Max had lasted this long. Maybe his body healed a hell of a lot faster than Shore had initially thought. That would explain a lot.

The few results that they had gotten back just now, the ones after Shore had given him another dose were actually better than what Shore had last seen, and that was reason to feel relieved. The idea that he would actually get to see Max make a full recovery just to see Harrington and his peers take him into some dark corner made him sick.

Truth be told, Shore just didn’t have the power to call the hounds off. Billy was trying –of course he was, what kind of diplomatic guru would he be if he weren’t trying- but the fact was that there were no guarantees as to Max’s future right now. Max had been running for a year and a half, and maybe running was his best option now as well.

He looked at his watch, trying to decide when the next dose had to be administered. He had brought only two full doses, but now he was afraid of going back to the compound to get a third just to end up giving himself away. Harrington was a man who would miss very few things. It was dangerous enough that Shore himself hadn’t come back to headquarters or called for any more information or backup to comb the place. But then again, who would have imagined he alone would find their alleged alien king?

That he had stumbled onto the conversation between two doctors talking about Max right in front of him had been a miracle. That Dr. Lake had claimed that Max had left had made sense with what the male nurse had concluded with Agent Walker hours before, except that it had been obvious to Shore that she had been lying to the other very thin and very tall Dr. Hayden. He still didn’t know what part those two played, except that Lake was in on the secret.

Shore knew Walker had searched the hospital as best he had been able to with the crisis going on, but in a flash of inspiration, Shore knew Walker wouldn’t even think about those other areas where not so common patients were treated. Like the burn unit, radiology, even maternity would be fair game to stash Max in since they were out of beds… And of course, the quarantine wing.

It had been a matter of being practical. Quarantine was at the bottom, and in his methodical mind, Shore decided to start there and work his way up.

Luck had been with him.

Not only was Max still alive and being treated, but there wasn’t a hive of doctors and nurses trying to figure out what Max was, so anonymity had somewhat been preserved. It had taken a second more for Shore to notice that Max wasn’t exactly on the recovering side of things. Shore had wanted to tear the glass wall off and just administer the LSDA serum right then and there, for an instant thinking he had found Max only to see him die in front of him.

It had taken a well thought strategy to get Dr. McConnell to cooperate, and Shore had certainly meant that they were the good guys and that Max was under federal protection, but all of that had flown out the window when Billy had called with news about Washington.

Now it seemed that it was Shore’s duty to protect Max, at least until he was able to run on his own.

Speaking of which, now that Shore was thinking about it, where was Michael Guerin? He had risked everything to get Max out of there, and suddenly, here was Shore at Saint Paul’s hospital, looking at the results of at least 18 hours of tests, and no one had seen any of the other kids. He had asked Holt, and all he had gotten was a blank stare. No one had come to claim Max, so either Michael had actually heard Shore and brought Max here seeking medical help or… Actually, that was the only thing that made sense.

So Michael must be around, waiting for Max to recover. Good. Michael could have the answers they were all looking for, both medical and political. Maybe Michael wouldn’t know what was wrong with Max, but his blood alone would be enough to give them a baseline, and work to get Max in the right direction. And Billy would just love to sit down and get some answers out of the whole Antar mess.

All he needed now was to wait for Michael to come.

And to live long enough to explain all of this before Michael acted on his word and killed him.


* * *


Darkness was withdrawing, but the things that came to his mind didn’t make sense.

Fragmented images invaded his mind, some of little girls, some of chocolate brown eyes, some of three moons on the horizon. Sounds were coming, sometimes loud and clear, sometimes distorted and scratchy. They were whispers and laughs; they were questions or commands.

It sounded like an insistent beeping that was vaguely familiar and all around annoying. Light was fighting its way through his eyelids, and it hurt. Oh God, how much it hurt, enough to make him try to move his head, to escape the blinding whiteness.

His body responded, all his muscles aching like never before, a wave of tiredness running through his entire spine. His stomach tightened as nausea threatened him, but he actually managed to lie on his side, even if his entire body protested. He didn’t know what the hell was going on, but he sure didn’t like it. He kept his eyes shut tight and tried to find a sense of self.

He felt like crap.

His mind wasn’t getting much clearer, but a sense of urgency surged inside him. He had to run, and he had to run now. Fear of what would happen if he didn’t run gripped him and he snapped his eyes wide open.

A man was actually leaning in front of him, gently resting a hand on his shoulder, talking to him even if Max couldn’t make out a single word. He didn’t know where he was, what was going on, or why he felt so sick. He just knew he had to escape, to get to an EXIT sign and to keep running because the other option wasn’t something he even wanted to think about.

At the back of his mind he got the notion that the palace was being taken and he had to fight, but that barely made sense. Not that he was really trying to make sense of it. The moment they locked eyes, the older man stopped talking, almost sensing what was coming.

And what was coming was Max’s energy.

Max didn’t have to move. He could feel his energy around him, and he knew exactly how to use it. At least that much was clear. The first wave threw the man all the way to the glass wall, and almost knocked him out. The second wave obliterated everything he could feel inside him or attached to him that didn’t belong to him, and as his energy hit the machines around him, they seemed to fry in a shower of blue and red sparks.

The third wave was supposed to heal him, but he was out of energy by that point. He only managed a few superficial cuts. Healing, even to his own body, required too much energy and concentration, and Max was mentally spent. He still had the urgency to run, and seeing the man trying to get up fueled Max’s body with an adrenaline rush.

Max half sat, half threw himself out of the gurney in search of the door out of his cell, taking a few seconds to straighten and test the strength of his legs.

The fire alarm went off and water showered in as the smoke of the ruined machinery reached the detectors, and the sound was enough to drive him into action, shattering the glass wall in front of him as nothing else mattered but to get out. He felt dizzy as he did so, knowing he was pushing himself in the powers department. It didn’t stop him though.

“Max!” the man shouted his name, again and again as Max ran through the opening he had made, ignoring the debris scratching and cutting his skin beneath his bare feet and making it to the stairs as fast as he could, an EMERGENCY EXIT sign his only guide.

Once he was on the concrete stair, he took the steps three at a time. He was already sweating from the use of his energy, but he ignored it. He saw the door at the other end and thought for a second that Michael was going to be right outside of it, waiting for him.

He thought he had seen movement, something by the corner of his eye, but he ignored it. He had to get to the door, he had to keep running.

He opened it, imagining a deserted street and his friends and family ready to go. He was more than disoriented when he opened it to find a white hall full of people in white coats and people on stretchers. The fire alarm was going loud and clear but hardly anyone was moving out of the way. He didn’t care. This was not the exit and he couldn’t risk being seen by so many people. He closed the door and looked up. The exit had to be behind one of those doors.

He kept running up, taking two steps at a time now, and opened the door to the next floor. Another hall, another sea of people blocking his way to the exit. He closed it and went one more floor up. And when it turned out to be the same, he went another one. The dizziness came back, even if he wasn’t using his powers, and somewhere down there he heard his name being called again.

He panicked.

He opened the fourth door and launched himself out. He could no longer stay in the concrete emergency stairs. The fire alarm had been turned off by now. In this floor, there weren’t that many people in the halls, either doctors or patients, but all Max was looking for was an EXIT sign. He had no sense about on what floor he was, even if the numbers were very clear on each door he had opened. He just hadn’t been paying attention to that.

His mind backtracked when he realized he had no EXIT sign in sight, so he changed his strategy to hiding. The dizziness was becoming a problem now, and he was sweating more, feeling himself getting warm. The adrenaline rush that had led him here was wavering now, and his body didn’t feel like it wanted to keep up for much more. He was aching all over again and despair was threatening to take over.

No.

He set his mind on his whereabouts, trying to find a place to hide. He just needed to rest. His eyes fixed on a half open door some 20 feet away, a dark room looming inside. Dark was exactly what he was looking for.

He walked, slower now, slightly panting, and reached the room without anyone stopping or even giving him a second glance. He got inside, turned around and closed the door, concentrating one last time on melting the doorknob so no one would come in here and surprise him. They would have to knock that door down before getting to him.

Finally feeling somewhat secure, he just slid down the wall to the floor, and rested his head on his right knee. He was too dizzy right now to care about anything else but rest.

Unknowingly, he had left a bloody footprint trail to his new location.


* * *
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Misha
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 11 - pg. 7 - 9 / 10

Postby Misha » Sun Sep 20, 2009 9:05 pm

Thank you for coming back to read!

Thank you for the reviews guys! Things are about to get crowded in these next chapters as everyone collides in Saint Paul's :shock:




Chapter XII
Consent



Max Evans was not the only one who had been looking for a dark place.

Having pulled off a double shift himself, barely catching a flight from Phoenix, and pretty much running on adrenaline by the time he had reached Saint Paul’s only to find that his mystery healing guy had disappeared yet again, Dr. Hayden had been all but dead to the world once he had seen little Sarah Meyer.

A nurse had pointed him to the staff room for him to wait for Dr. Lake, in the hope of getting some more details about the whole handprint business. Of course, with the crisis going on, no doctor was there, and the room had been left alone in darkness, with two very large, very comfortable couches at his disposal.

Hayden had just crashed.

Now he vaguely registered someone entering and closing the door, and reflexively he braced himself for the light that was bound to be turned on. When that didn’t happen, he waited for the other doctor to crash on the couch in front of his. When no movement followed the door being closed, he just assumed he had missed something and that he should just keep sleeping.

Vaguely too, he got the sense that something wasn’t right. That he wasn’t alone.

He slightly stirred, and got more comfortable. For about two seconds.

Someone was breathing, panting really, and trying really hard to get it under control. His medical mind came up with a dozen scenarios for breathing to sound like that, and it was that train of thought that actually woke him up. Was he really hearing something?

Hayden opened his eyes and stayed very still. Darkness was all he could make out, as there was no source of light anywhere. The sound was coming from somewhere near the door, if he correctly remembered the room arrangement. It sounded like someone who had been running for too long. But it was also sounding… off.

He slowly sat up, and concentrated on the breathing pattern. It was definitely that of a man, and there was no doubt in his mind that this was a patient, or someone who should be a patient.

It had happened a couple of times that junkies had tried to steal from the hospital on Hayden’s watch, so that was high on his list when he was trying to decide what to do now. What was he dealing with here?

Nothing he could have imagined.

He slowly stood and silently patted his way toward the man, who was clearly sitting against the wall, by the sound of it. Hayden lowered himself down, his eyes barely making an outline of things thanks to the light coming from under the door. At his right, he saw there was a lamp on a coffee table. He reached for it with his right hand. The softer light of the lamp would be preferable to the harsh white light of the main bulbs on the ceiling.

He turned it on, the yellow glow easy on his eyes.

“Are you okay?” he whispered at the same time that the man reacted to the light. He snapped his head to look at Hayden in utter surprise, raising his hand almost as if he were expecting the doctor to hit him.

Two things happened in the next two seconds: First, Hayden was absolutely sure he knew this stranger’s face. He was in an awkward half-seated position on the floor, face to face with the man that was on that infamous Christmas video, with the hand that left silver handprints behind being extended right at him, almost as a final proof that this really was the healer Hayden had come looking for.

The second was that a very surreal green, electrical thing suddenly formed between them.

Hayden actually fell on his butt as the energy shield scared the hell out of him, his eyes going round as saucers as the impossibility of what he was seeing registered. What was he seeing to begin with?

He didn’t have time to analyze it though, as the shield collapsed as fast as it had come up. The breathing became more labored than before, and Hayden locked eyes with the man, both fearful of each other, both silently expecting the other to do something, and not exactly something nice.

The man’s eyes briefly closed, and he shook his head as if trying to shake off a dizzy spell. For all the healing he had been doing, he didn’t look healthy at all.

“Oh my God, you’re sick,” Hayden said, immediately standing up and reaching for him. Of course he was sick, Lake had said so. He had been admitted to the hospital, for crying out loud, how could he have forgotten that?

The man actually moved his hand higher as he saw Hayden coming again, and for the briefest moment, the shield was back, only to dissolve in thin air, green sparks dying in the space between them, so fast he wondered if he had seen them at all.

Hayden froze in place.

Part of him addressed the fact there was something dangerous going on here, the same part that registered the fear in the man’s eyes as he kept very still, sitting against the wall, all muscles tense. Hayden had to be very cautious about how to proceed, he realized, as the thought that he had just witnessed something completely unexplainable sank into his mind.

The other part of him just wanted to get next to this man and get him help.

“Okay, let’s take this easy…” he started, noticing the beads of sweat that were falling down the man’s face. He was wearing a hospital gown, so he must have been somewhere around the hospital. Lake had lied to him, Hayden knew, but now was not the time to get into that.

“I’m Dr. Chris Hayden. I’m the pediatrician who helped the kids in Phoenix you healed a couple of years ago,” Hayden explained, lowering again to the floor, trying to not look so intimidating. It felt as if he were talking to a terrorized kid who knew a painful test was waiting for him.

“Phoenix?” the man said, frowning, his voice sounding raspy, almost trembling.

“Yeah. What’s your name?”

“M-Max,” he whispered, uncertain.

“Well, Max, what if I get you to the couch right there,” Hayden said slightly moving his chin to his left without taking his eyes from Max. “I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable that way.”

He moved forward. Max tried to move back, though he already was against the wall. Max shook his head again, as if trying to clear his thoughts. Obviously, this approach was not going to work.

“Would you like some water?” Hayden asked as he saw Max trying to swallow. He was still panting, and looked feverish. He actually opened his eyes more at that, as if Hayden had just read his thoughts. Indecision showed in his eyes, and Hayden took that as a yes.

He stood up and rapidly walked towards the table in the corner where the coffee maker was stashed along with other beverages and a mini-fridge. He grabbed the first clean cup that he could find and filled it with cold water.

On his way back, he eyed the door as Max was doing the same. Any minute now, someone was going to come in and Hayden wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He wanted to know this Max, but clearly he didn’t want this man to be denied medical help. He had to call Dr. Lake and tell her he had their miracle maker here.

It took him less than a minute to get the cup to Max’s lips, and this time Max didn’t pull away. He was dehydrated, and obviously scared, and Hayden had to wonder where he had been and what had happened to him to put him in this state.

Max greedily drank, and coughed when he went too fast, and then tried to finish it all the same, completely ignoring Hayden’s advice about taking it slow. But he eventually finished it, and Hayden took that as his cue.

“Okay, now we’re going to get you to the couch, okay?” Hayden asked with a friendly smile. He doubted Max was in any condition to put up much of a fight, but by now he had pieced together that Max must have been hiding in this room. Hiding from whom? Dr. Lake and her colleagues?

Max reluctantly agreed with a nod, not quite looking Hayden in the eyes. They both stood up, Hayden helping the younger man, using the wall as support. He was definitely running a high fever. After no more than two steps, Max suddenly leaned heavily on Hayden.

“Dizzy?” Hayden asked, and Max barely nodded. “It’s okay, we’re almost there.”

They reached the couch and Max sat, looking apprehensively at Hayden, as if he were unsure what to do next. Hayden lightly pushed him down, guiding him to a lying position. “I’m going to get you more water, okay?” he said, standing up and not waiting for an answer.

“Where… where am I?” Max asked from his place on the couch, closing his eyes for a moment.

“You’re at Saint Paul’s Hospital. You don’t remember coming here?” Hayden asked, filling the cup again.

“Everything’s… vague… I’m trying… to remember…” Max trailed off, exhausted.

“Here,” Hayden offered the cup, grabbing a cushion to help Max sit up. “Don’t try too hard. You’re running a high fever right now. You need to lie down and let me get you some medicines, okay?”

Max was drinking slower now, his eyes not too focused on anything, but seemingly getting more comfortable in Hayden’s presence. Still, Max shook his head ‘no’ at the doctor’s instructions.

“It’s the medicine… that’s making me sick…” he declared, taking another sip. “Peter told me so… that they hadn’t known…”

Peter who? And who’s them? Hayden thought, but what he asked out loud was, “Which medicine?” thinking Max was probably allergic to whatever they had given him.

“I don’t feel very well,” Max finally managed, the cup threatening to fall from his hands. Hayden removed it, and was going to let Max lie down again when Max’s eyes became very alert and looked past Hayden, towards the door. “Liz…” he said, frowning.

Hayden turned to look back, expecting a woman coming into the room, but finding empty air instead. He noticed, though, that there was something odd with the doorknob, like it was misshapen or something… It was just… odd. He stared at it, realizing a second later that it was melted, just like the doorknob in the kids’ room back in Phoenix. And in the middle of his astonishment at that revelation, right before his eyes the doorknob turned red for a second.

“Wha—” he started to ask, when it just flew open, and a large man came barging in, sending very menacing vibes impossible to ignore. Hayden stood in a heartbeat, getting between this intruder and his new patient.

“Get the hell out of my way,” came the barely restrained voice.

Hayden swallowed, hard.

“Michael, wait…” Max feebly said behind Hayden. And then Hayden just knew. And his eyes went as round as when he had first realized who Max was.

“You’re the other one. You were there with Max. Oh my God, it was the two of you!” Hayden said, moving forward. Michael fully entered the room and pushed past him without a second glance. All the menacing vibes meant nothing as Hayden’s desire to get to know these two men came full force. “Those kids are alive today because of you!” he started to say, the speech he had been saying over and over in his head since Dr. Lake’s call yesterday practically bursting out of his mouth.

“Max, can you walk?” Michael asked, kneeling in front of his friend. Maybe they were brothers. There was so much Hayden wanted to ask.

Max shook his head ‘no’ again. “Too dizzy,” he answered.

“That’s okay. I’ll carry you if I have to,” Michael said, fully intending on doing just that as he started to pass his arms under Max.

For the third time in less than ten minutes, Hayden froze in place. His over eager features turned to an expression of concern.

“You can’t be thinking about taking him out?”

“The hell I’m not,” Michael said, turning to face Hayden, and then stopping on a spot on the floor, his eyes coming back to look at Max. “Shit, you’re still bleeding.” Hayden noticed the blood stains on the carpet then, and followed them to Max’s feet. He didn’t have time to say anything as another man appeared in the doorframe.

“Oh thank God, you’re still here,” the older man said, panting as Max had been, but relieved to be there. He was wearing a lab coat, an ID hanging on his neck. This man worked at Saint Paul’s and had obviously been searching for Max. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Max was not the only one in the room.

They all just froze in place.

“Michael…” Max said, breaking the silence, “I’m not… feeling… well…”

Michael turned to look at him, clearly trying to decide whether to lift him up and carry on with his original plan. “You’re so cold…” he said instead, bewildered. Hayden himself automatically frowned. Max had been having a fever, he had touched him barely five minutes ago.

“Max…” Michael whispered, now scared, and Hayden’s mouth slightly fell open without him really noticing. Max’s chest seemed to be glowing underneath the hospital gown.

“I can’t—can’t stop,” Max barely managed to say as he tried to hug himself. Michael turned to look at Hayden, so close to decide to ask for his help, and then looked at the other doctor, fear being replaced by anger.

“Oh hell, he’s getting cold again.” The man finally moved from the door and purposefully walked towards the two young men.

“Stay away from him,” Michael said, pronouncing every word like a threat.

"Nonsense. He needs help and we're not your enemy," came his answer without the least concern for his safety. Michael tried to say something, to do something, but it was evident he was torn between what he wanted to do and what was best for Max. “I’m Dr. McConnell, your friend’s doctor for the past 24 hours. I’m assuming you’re Michael?”

McConnell reached for something behind the couch, but Michael didn’t move from Max’s side. Hayden didn't dare to breathe. Either Michael was going to let them help Max, or he was going to grab his friend and flee.

Michael didn’t move.

“He needs to get warm so his body won’t keep the glowing going,” McConnell said as he stood up with a heavy comforter, probably left there for all the doctors who would invariably take the couch after long shifts.

Michael turned to look at Max as McConnell spread the comforter the length of the couch. Whatever Michael asked from Max in that silent communication, Max’s answer was a couple of quick nods as he started to curl. He was visibly trembling by now.

“Warmth?” Michael asked McConnell, still guarding Max as best as he could from the opposite side of the couch. McConnell nodded.

Michael placed his hands on Max’s shoulder, and Hayden’s mouth dropped an inch more. Michael’s hands started to glow. “It’s going to be okay, you hear me Max? We’re here now,” Michael said, his concern almost tangible in his voice.

“And you are?” Dr. McConnell turned to look at Hayden, expectant. It was rather apparent Hayden was not exactly on friendly terms with Michael or Max since he hadn’t moved since McConnell had arrived.

“I’m Dr. Chris Hayden, from Phoenix,” he said, sounding nervous to his own ears. “Dr. Lake called me yesterday about the silver handprint incident four Christmases ago in our pediatric wing. I’m not sure if you are aware of that? Five kids were healed? So I flew here in the hopes of finding out who had caused it, or to at least see little Sarah Meyer and compare notes…” He was babbling, he just couldn’t stop himself. He was a babbling person, his sister always told him so, and he babbled a whole lot more when he was nervous.

McConnell turned to look at Max and Michael halfway through Hayden’s speech. Hayden did the same, even if he couldn’t stop talking. Max had stopped shivering, but it was hard to tell who the glowing belonged to, Michael or Max.

"Can you heal him?" McConnell asked Michael, effectively shutting Hayden up, for which he was grateful. Michael was slightly sweating now, and letting go a tired sigh, he finally released his friend. It looked as if Max were sleeping now. Michael actually sat on the floor, almost as if he were catching his breath.

Taking this as his cue, McConnell walked around the couch and kneeled beside Max, taking out the ever present flashlight all doctors seem to carry with them from his lab coat pocket, and opening Max’s eyelids to take a look at his pupils. Michael didn’t stop him.

"I can only heal superficial wounds... Maybe a broken bone..." he barely whispered, still tense, still ready to bolt out of the room. "What is wrong with him?" he asked in a more stern voice. "What did you do to him?"

"Your friends at the FBI overdosed him with some sedative. He's not been responding well to any treatment they or we have been giving him, but we're getting there.” Placing his hand on Max’s forehead, McConnell nodded to himself, apparently satisfied with what he was finding. “Hayden, right?” he asked him, taking control of the situation once and for all. “Page Dr. Cramer here from the nurse’s station down the hall."

"No. You're not bringing anyone else here—" Michael started to protest, recovering whatever inside fire he had lost when he had been warming Max.

"He's going to need all the help he can get. And that means you letting us do our job," McConnell cut him off, leaving no room for argument, even if it looked like that was exactly what Michael was about to do.

Hayden didn't stay long enough to see what Michael was going to say, either way. He wanted to, but more pressing matters were at hand, mainly getting that help McConnell had just mentioned. As he reached the nurse’s station, he felt lightheaded. He had finally found the two people he had been wanting to meet for the past four years, but they were turning out to be very strange people…

Very strange people indeed.


* * *


The beeping of his pager took him by surprise.

Dr. Nikolas Cramer was barely getting out of surgery, his thoughts half with the patient he had just left in the OR and half with their very strange patient down in quarantine. It was the end of the 26th hour of this endless shift, but there was nothing he wanted more than to check on how things had progressed with Max since Cramer had been called to surgery a couple of hours before.

With such high fever, he was expecting all kinds of news, but he was fairly sure that if Max had died, someone would have told him by now. Could he come back to life, like E.T. in the movie after they had officially declared him dead? he idly wondered as he took his pager out.

Reading that he was expected at the staff room in the third floor was not, however, making any sense to him. Taking the elevator, he thought that maybe McConnell had finally decided to take a much needed break and was looking to crash in one of those very big, very comfortable couches. He could use some crashing himself, if he was going to be honest. They were both too tired to keep up for much longer, no matter how incredible the circumstances they were facing.

The door was closed, locked actually, as Cramer tried to enter the staff room a few minutes later. He frowned.

“Dr. McConnell, are you there?” he asked a bit loudly, not wanting the attention of the nurses and doctors that were nearby but having no other way of knowing who was in there.

Five silent, tense seconds went by before the door finally opened, a wiry, tall man behind it, his very bright, green eyes looking a little bit lost.

“Come in, hurry,” he said in a hushed whisper, immediately making Cramer tense. The only reason there would be a stranger letting him in into a room where McConnell had called him was Max. So, the next logical question that came to mind was: Is this man one of the friends or the foes?

He desperately hoped that the second stranger inside was in the friends side of the list.

Almost as tall as himself, the much younger man was standing behind the couch, looking like a caged lion that was one wrong word away of attacking. He locked eyes with him, the same clear brown color that Max’s eyes had.

“I hope you’re right,” the second stranger told McConnell, who was squatted at one end of the couch, where Cramer now realized Max was blanketed. McConnell was listening to Max’s heart with a stethoscope.

“I think it’s sounding better, but it’s your specialty,” the older man said, standing up, hanging over the stethoscope to him. “This is Dr. Hayden, from Phoenix. Dr. Lake called him yesterday because of the silver handprint incident in the pediatric ward some years back,” McConnell said as Cramer took his place beside Max.

“I remember that,” Cramer said, glancing at the slightly fidgety man, who half smiled. Of course he remembered, he had been the one to tell Lake about it in the first place.

“And this is Michael,” McConnell said, looking at his watch. “He’s here for Max.”

Cramer lowered the heavy blanket in search of Max’s chest, feeling Michael’s eyes practically burning his skin with every move.

“His temperature is down,” he noted out loud, turning to see McConnell, and then Michael. “Did you…?” he let the question trail, expectant.

Michael shook his head ‘no’ once. “That’s Max’s thing. What do you hear?”

Subtle… Cramer thought as he returned his attention to his patient. Michael was clearly wanting to hurry things up. Now, if no miracle healer had intervened, why had Max’s fever lowered? It wasn’t gone, it was probably around 100 F, but since it had been in 111 the last time he had been around, this was an abysmal change of things to the better.

“Why are we in the staff room?” he asked out loud as he concentrated on the sound of Max’s heart. It did sound better. What had McConnell been up to during his absence?

“He half destroyed the quarantine room about half an hour ago. We need to find him a bed. You think Cardiology might have one open by now?”

“Destroyed?” he asked bewildered.

“You’re not moving him out of here,” Michael said in a very serious voice. This time, all three of them turned to look at him.

“We cannot possibly treat him in the staff room,” McConnell said, “not only can anyone try to come in at any time, but he needs more than a blanket and warmth.”

“I know that, okay?” Michael said, looking like someone who was at the end of his patience limit and trying very hard to stay rational. “I can sense it from him. But it’s only a matter of time before they find him,” Michael said, his eyes going to Max’s unconscious form, “and I can’t allow them to get him back. I cannot risk exposing him in a hospital,” he almost whispered.

“They’re not here yet,” Cramer said, standing now as well, not really knowing who were they. “And we’ve done everything short of a miracle to keep him alive and under the radar. We’ll keep doing that as long as it’s safe,” he tried to reassure Max’s friend. Michael seemed to be undecided, for the first time looking really young, fear creeping into his eyes. “He seems to be doing better,” Cramer said in a more soothing tone, “but we need to make sure. He’ll be safe with us.”

Michael opened and closed his mouth two times in rapid succession, one hand in midair as if he were trying to make a point but not really sure which. He finally closed his eyes for an instant and took a deep breath.

“Okay, but you won’t take him out of my sight,” Michael said, his fierce look back. Cramer nodded in response.

“I’ll get the room,” he said, turning to McConnell and advancing towards the door.

“I’ll get the baseline,” McConnell said back, moving towards Max. Cramer nodded as well, and then stopped for a second. The only baseline useful here was in Michael’s blood, the only samples that would help them determinate what was wrong with Max compare to a healthy subject. Getting it was going to be… interesting.

He continued to the door without saying a word, but wishing all the luck in the world to his colleague.


* * *

He had to remain calm. Anything else and Michael would flee, taking Max with him.

Dr. McConnell took a mental deep breath and returned to his patient. He had dealt with difficult parents and spouses, but he got the distinct feeling earning Michael's trust and approval was going to be on a whole other level.

"Hayden, there should be a free stretcher in the hall to your right," McConnell instructed, figuring that Cramer was going to take some time to get the bed in Cardiology and return. Hayden barely nodded and went outside. "Now, Michael. I need you to tell me everything you know that may help me help your friend."

Michael stared at him for two seconds, not saying anything. Was this going to be another "it's classified" round? He didn't think he could stomach that after Shore's vague answers a couple of hours before. Not with Max finally making progress.

"We don't really know that much about us," Michael finally said, passing his hand through his hair in a gesture that was half impatience, half anxiety. "We hardly ever get sick."

"What does happen when you're sick, then? Have you gotten any fevers? Hallucinations?” McConnell asked, placing a hand on Max’s forehead. At the rate this kid’s body temperature went up and down, a few minutes could mean a real big difference. He was the same as before.

“We can tolerate high fevers. Around 113, I think,” Michael said, frowning, and then froze in place, as if some fearful memory had just hit him hard. “Have his eyes turned white?” McConnell frowned back, not really understanding what Michael was asking. “As if he had cataracts, his eyes would turn white,” Michael elaborated.

“No, not at all. They have been dilated, probably due to the fever, but not white. Why?”

Michael looked relieved. He sighed and closed his eyes. “Nothing. It means… nothing.”

“He’s gotten some sort of spidery, green energy running through his arms, does that tell you anything?” McConnell said, not liking the fact that Michael had withdrawn information. Michael snapped his eyes open.

“I got that when I got drunk. All my senses were so heightened everything hurt, but I wasn’t running any fevers, I don’t think,” Michael frowned, looking at Max’s sleeping form. “He didn’t get any of that when he got drunk.”

Kids indeed, McConnell fleetingly thought at this unexpected bit of information. “Might have been some sort of allergic reaction,” he said out loud. If Max’s body was fighting the drugs like Michael’s body might have been fighting the alcohol…

“What about the glowing?” McConnell asked, trying to get more symptoms down. Clearly, both Michael and Max had survived high fevers and spidery, green electricity.

“I’d never seen that,” Michael whispered, worried, “he was so cold... We’ve never been so cold… He just couldn’t stop it, could he?” Both men locked eyes, Max between them.

“I don’t think he could, no. We’ve been warming him up or cooling him down since he came here, but we think he’s getting better. We need to be sure, though. Michael, I need to take a—”

“I’ve got the stretcher!” Hayden entered the staff room, effectively interrupting McConnell when he was just about to ask Michael for a blood sample. Still, there was no way around it, and the sooner he got it, the sooner he would get the tests back.

“You won’t get him out of my sight,” Michael reminded him as he circled the couch to lift Max onto the stretcher out in the hall. McConnell stepped aside to give him room. Michael squatted, getting ready. The doctor put his hand on Michael’s shoulder.

“I need to take a blood sample…” Michael turned to look at him, probably to argue against more needles in Max, “from both of you,” McConnell said in his most calming and convincing voice. The one he used when he had to talk to parents about a very difficult surgery for their child.

“What?! No!” Michael immediately answered, his eyes getting a darker shade of brown.

“It’s called ‘baseline’,” Hayden said, startling both Michael and McConnell. “They need to know what’s normal according to your readings so they can get Max to those readings too. They’re flying blind without it. You’ll be making it harder on Max if you don’t allow it.” Michael turned to look at McConnell, who nodded, and then back to Hayden, who also nodded.

“I’ve got the bed,” Cramer entered, his sense of urgency contrasting with the tension building in the room, “it’s an isolated room that was just vacated a few… What?” the cardiologist stopped at seeing that no one was moving to get Max into the room that he had just gotten.

“He won’t be out of your sight, I promise,” McConnell said, as Michael turned once more to look at Max, probably wishing he didn’t have to make this decision alone.

McConnell looked at his watch as his other problem came to mind: Shore was somewhere in this building, waiting for the last tests he had run on Max, probably minutes away from finding that his federal protected patient was no longer in the quarantine room. If he told Michael that the FBI had already found Max then all hell would break loose. Not something McConnell wanted to be responsible for.

He had already been on the receiving end of Max’s energy not even half an hour ago, but McConnell understood Max had acted out of sheer fear and desperation. Michael would be in possession of all his senses and in control of his energy, and he seemed very capable of fighting his way out of here if he felt threatened.

It did intrigue him, however, that Michael and Max seemed to be different in the things they could do and how they were affected by alcohol. And why would they not know much about themselves? What were they, really?

“Okay…” Michael quietly said, lifting Max up. Whatever he had told himself, he didn’t look particularly happy with what he had decided. More like resigned. All 3 doctors watched Michael leave the staff room, and followed him as he placed Max on the stretcher. They hurried their way towards Cardiology, right in the opposite direction of the labs. Yet another question occurred to McConnell as he left the staff room behind: For how long could he keep Shore from finding out about Michael?

And what would Shore do once he knew?
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Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 12 - pg. 8 - 9 / 20

Postby Misha » Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:33 am

Hey all!

Thank you for coming back to read! And thank you to my betas for their fabulous work! :D

Just to make clear, there's a flashback in the first part. As usual, it begins with a double space: ". . . and italics."


Chapter XIII
Waiting



“What is he?”

Holt’s direct question took Shore by surprise. They had been quietly waiting for the last test result to come. Though he was itchy for news about Max, he knew McConnell would call him if things weren’t going according to plan, and frankly, he was glad things were going in the right direction for the first time since he had been brought into the alien chaos.

He was also worried about Bill’s call earlier and the fact that he still didn’t know how to get another dose of the LSDA serum for Max. Worst of all, things could very well come to the point where he would have to take Max back in order to save him. And all of this he could not share with anyone, much less with anyone around him right now.

He looked at Holt, trying to decide how to politely tell him he couldn’t tell him what Max was.

“I mean, you’re with the FBI or something, right? Is he dangerous?” Holt asked, eyes full of concern with an edge of fear. But at least Shore was off the hook for explaining the details of hybrid biology.

“I don’t think he is, no,” he sincerely said.

“Is he in danger, then?”

Yes! He wanted to scream, him and you and us all. Still, part of him was unsure about this. There were too many reasons to keep Max alive, so his logical mind had to argue the reasoning behind Bill’s contacts.

“Right now our only concern should be getting him healthy, okay?” he answered, his own thoughts centering on the here and now, because no future plans could be made until Max could walk out of this place on his own.

“He was brought out of nowhere with that fever,” Holt said, his eyes getting a lost look for a second, and then staring at Shore as if asking for some sort of absolution. “And the whole train derailment had just happened… I wish I had seen things more clearly, helped him sooner the way he needed help. But I just left him by the wall for two hours…” Holt practically babbled in hurried whispers.

“Dr. Holt, you did the right thing,” he reassured him, “no one would have expected anything different under the circumstances.”

Holt nodded, but it was obvious he was still in distress. A whole minute passed in silence between them, a minute Shore spent thinking how to get Max out of there.

“What… What’s going to happen… once this is over?” Holt’s tentative question brought a whole new wave of dread to Shore. If Bill was right, these people could have helped their last patient.

“You’ll probably be asked to keep this quiet,” Shore said, trying to take a less fatalistic approach, if only for his sanity’s sake. It’s only a handful who want this, he reminded himself, Bill’s words over the phone telling him exactly that. The great majority in Washington still wanted Max back alive.

“I figured as much…” Holt muttered, nodding more to himself than to Shore. At least it didn’t seem like the young doctor wanted to argue against reason.

“You’ll be debriefed, probably a few times. Records will be taken from the hospital…”

“As if this had never happened, I get it,” Holt quietly said. “You won’t get any trouble from us, you know.” At this, Shore arched his eyebrows. “We’ve discussed it, while waiting for Max to get better. We knew someone, at some point, would show up asking for him. The best we could hope for was for Max to wake up and tell us what was going on, but with things getting worse with him, chances were that someone else was going to come... You know, we actually never thought that no one would come at all… Does he have family?”

Yes, a very gifted sister and a very young wife, though we’re not ruling out that the very angry friend might actually be his brother, thought Shore, the information from the past five days coming foremost to his mind. He opened his mouth in that awkward way he had when he was not sure how to say things, when his cell phone chirped. He’d gotten a message, and sighing inwardly, he took it out and read it, effectively avoiding Holt’s question.

Washington is making a decision. Will keep you informed.


His heart accelerated, and his stomach felt like a ton of bricks. This could be either good news, or very bad news. A part of him argued that, whatever the outcome of this meeting, it wouldn’t really matter. All it took was someone with enough rank or enough political power to do as he pleased.

In a more practical sense, he needed someone with rank and power on Max’s side. Someone who could give him protection. Harrington’s steely gray eyes flashed in his mind. The only reason he wasn’t calling him was because Harrington was following orders, a predetermined mission to hunt down aliens and assess the threat. Harrington would be a wonderful guardian, but only if he was told to be one.

On the other hand, would Harrington not follow orders if he saw reason? This Shore had already thought about, no more than four days ago, though at the time it wasn’t exactly something he wanted from the Colonel. He had said as much to Bill, while moving Max from the sickbay to the MRI room that first morning after Max had arrived to the underground facility . . .


. . . “We cannot risk Max’s safety by moving him once the storm is over,” Shore was saying with an exasperated voice to his friend. Max was barely stable, and there was no way he would bet his condition would remain so once the snow stopped falling.

“We cannot risk the others finding him like last time,” Bill argued back, trailing behind him some five feet, as if somehow afraid Max would wake up and shoot fire through his eyes. Shore wasn’t exactly sure what Bill’s take on all of this was, other than it was one hell of a mess. “Washington expects him to be moved into a secure area as soon as the storm passes,” he continued, his words coming out in a rush.

“Harrington isn’t pushing for it,” Shore answered with a darker undertone in his voice. The Coronel had asked for an initial evaluation a couple of hours after Shore had first examined Max, and had concluded they would wait. But it had been the last words Harrington had said that had stayed with Shore: It took his friends less than 24 hours the last time. Let’s see how long it’ll take them this time around.

A very heavy pause followed the last words, and then Bill spoke, this time in a hushed whisper, “What are you implying? That he won’t follow Washington’s orders?”

“Bill, I don’t think Harrington would mind him staying a little longer if only to use Max as bait,” he said as he arrived at the room. Captain Whitmore would arrive any minute now to help him with the test.

“But that’s what we’re trying to avoid, for them to find him,” Bill said, confusion coloring his voice. Shore took one of Max’s wrists and stared at the red skin surrounding the cuts the cuffs had made. Even unconscious and sick, Max was healing faster than a human would. At least his skin was. If only the rest of his body would follow suit.

“Maybe Washington, but I’m not so sure about Harrington,” Shore said, his analytical mind going over why Harrington would say such thing. Even knowing that a rescue mission could potentially place Max in undesirable danger, what were the advantages of using Max as bait? “What Max revealed… Contacting the others might be the only way to save him, for one, and if we do lose him, we might never get a chance to find them again. It makes more sense to have them come to us than chase them blindly.”

“The last thing I need,” came Harrington’s voice, very clear and strong behind them, “is for him to be a beacon to his alien friends.” They both turned to look at him, Bill with a questioning look, Shore with a skeptical one. “He’s the perfect bait,” he continued, “but only if we’re in control. This place was designed to remain hidden, not to hold prisoners. Or unwilling patients.”

It was clear by that statement that Max’s status was somehow blurry. Was he a prisoner or a patient? It didn’t really matter. No matter what he was, he was confined to this place, to this Unit, for a very long time.

“It makes tactical sense,” Shore said, not exactly challenging Harrington, but wanting to have a clear picture of what was going on. “To use him as bait, even here, but I’m afraid of what can happen to him if you are hoping the others would get close enough.”

“I won’t risk him, doctor, trust me on that. We’ll move him when you say he can be moved. He’s too valuable. I do believe, though, that no matter what you or I think, he’ll still lead the others to him. Maybe not consciously, but they found him once in a place that was designed to hold aliens, and I don’t like being in the dark waiting to be attacked. I do want him moved as soon as he can, even if I’m preparing to receive his friends here as best as I can.” He paused, those serious gray eyes looking directly at Shore to make his point, “How is he?”

Shore placed Max’s hand back on the stretcher and focused on the portable heart monitor.

“He stabilized for a little while, but his blood pressure is skyrocketing again, and his temperature is starting to rise too. Captain Whitmore thinks we should give him another LSDA dose. I’m going to run some tests, but I think he might be ri—”

Max’s heart sped up and his breathing increased too. His whole body had tensed at Shore’s words, probably reacting to the idea of tests. For how long had Max been conscious, listening to them?

“Hey…” he said, trying to sooth Max, “you’re safe here. I won’t hurt you…” Max tried to remain still anyway, even if it was no use to pretend he was unconscious any more. Beside him, the thermometer indicated his temperature was rising. Maybe anxiety was playing a role here.

“I won’t… I won’t…” Max whispered, finally trying to move away from Shore, “I won’t let them come…”

You try to do that, Shore thought as he tried to calm Max down, because if they do, I don’t think we’ll let them go.


* * *


“Goddamn it, Max! Stop shutting me out!”

Liz’s frustration was so intense she thought the windows of the car would crack.

She didn’t care.

She was at the end of her patience, and at the end of being rational. Max was barely a block away, scared out of his mind, and here she was, waiting for Michael to bring him back. Except something had happened that had convinced Michael to go along with a party of doctors and Max had just shut her out for the nth time.

Green, spidery energy briefly crossed her hands as she closed her eyes to calm herself down. They hadn’t come this far to lose him again, and her sparking and destroying their car was not going to help one bit.

She hated this. She hated the waiting, the uncertainty and the fear. She hated her own powers, her visions that were so unpredictable and uncontrollable that at some point they just left her feeling useless. And her projection, that wouldn’t let her hear or be heard, just seen by Max, for all the good it was doing now when Max was not awake, or letting her in.

Shutting her eyes more tightly, she was determined to not cry. She had not cried in four days, and was not going to do that now. Crying would mean she was giving up, that she was resigning herself to the idea that Max would never come back. Crying would make her feel hopeless, and she could do without that just now.

Max was going to be okay. He had escaped them once, and he would escape them now.

He had been smiling. The last time she had seen him, he had been teasing Michael about something she couldn’t even remember. But she remembered Max’s smile at her as he was leaving. I’ll be right back, he had said as he had taken his jacket, and then had leaned to kiss her. Michael had looked annoyed at the time Max was taking to say his good-byes.

A barely audible gasp consumed her from within, and she put her fist on her mouth to stop herself from sobbing. He had not been saying good-bye. He was going to come back, or she was going to make him come back, so she refused to believe that had been the last time she had seen Max.

Everything after that was just a nightmare.

She had felt it. She had felt the raw intensity of Max’s fear as he had realized the Special Unit was closing in on Michael and himself. She had stopped breathing as her connection vibrated with such a strength she could swear she had heard Max’s heart beating as he was running for his life.

She had looked at Maria then, who had abruptly stopped talking as she, too, had felt Michael’s fear. No, Maria had whispered, no, no, no, no! while Liz willed herself to go to Max, a feat impossible to do without Isabel’s help.

After minutes, hours, an eternity, she had felt Max’s fear take a backseat as his rational self took over. I can’t feel Michael, Maria had whispered, her eyes a mirror of Liz’s own fear, except now there was the anguish of someone who is losing hope with every passing second. Liz had just hugged her as she had clung to Max’s connection to reassure herself he was all right. She had wanted to say that Max would never leave Michael behind, but nothing could make it past the knot in her throat.

And then Max had vanished too.

No, she had said, her heart freezing, her mind shutting down, all her senses becoming mute as all she cared about was finding that connection again. Even Maria’s crying had been obliterated as Liz searched and searched within herself for some trail for Max’s essence.

Stay, she had whispered, thinking that Max could not be gone. He wouldn’t leave her. He wouldn’t let himself get… killed.

She would have crumbled right there if Isabel hadn’t entered their room right that moment. Something has happened! she’d started to say, and by looking at them she had assumed the worst. We’re going to find them, Liz had said, making herself a stone, the one who was going to keep it together and be the voice of reason. This didn’t feel like when Max had died, and therefore, he was not dead.

It would be hours before she could feel a feeble spark. Days before she could project far enough, and long enough, to get to see Max.

He had felt so numb.

At first she had expected the worst — that they would be doing terrible things to him — the brief flashes she had gotten long ago from that terrible white hell still vivid in her mind

But she hadn’t found that. Instead, she had found a group of three men, where the tall, older one was obviously the leader, looking concerned. He was talking to Max, and Max would either nod or shake his head as he was answering yes or no, his eyes looking tired. But once he had looked at her, he had become agitated, the monitors showing Liz this as she had silently tried to comfort her husband.

And then, she was out.

She had lost count of how many times she had tried to reach Max. A few times she had managed to snatch moments of what was going on. She had seen them drawing blood, wrapping him up in either blankets or ice packs, discussing amongst themselves. It was obvious to her that Max was sick, and they were trying to figure out what to do.

As hours had gone by, she had started to feel Max’s nausea, and thirst, and weakness. This scared her the most, because she wasn’t sure how to help Max once they got him out, but all these fears she locked at the back of her mind. Leaving him there was not an option.

Never an option.

She had started to look for an escape route soon after. Less and less she would spend time at the sickbay, her own stomach feeling sick for a moment, just to be overcome by tiredness that half the time made her lose the connection with her soul-mate.

Besides, if Max became aware that she was there, he would invariably cut her off. Every single time.

Liz put her head on the headrest and opened her eyes, attempting to swallow the despair that had taken over her. Max shutting her out always left her with a sense of dread.

She truly hated this.

Beside her, Isabel’s closed eyelids began to move. She had made a connection with Max’s sleeping mind, but it didn’t mean Max wouldn’t shut her out if he could. It took him more effort to shove his sister out, so Isabel had a better chance at finding out what was happening to him, at least from his subconscious point of view.

What are you doing? Liz wondered for the millionth time why Max wasn't letting them in. Maybe it was the drugs, maybe he was confused, maybe he was afraid they would get to see what was happening to him. Maybe all of the above.

She hadn’t had more than a couple of hours of sleep each night, but her entire body felt tense, ready to snap. Her eyes hurt –maybe from the effort of not crying, she didn’t know— and her stomach felt empty, yet she was not hungry. She just couldn’t eat, the idea of food making her nauseous.

Ever since they had tracked Max down to Saint Paul’s Hospital, Liz had been in a state of despair mixed with fear and… well, hope.

Every single time she had managed to project, she had found that these doctors were also worried about her husband. She hadn’t known where Max was, or who these people were, and for a moment she had panicked thinking that the Unit had caught him again and taken him somewhere else. Yet part of her felt relieved that Max was being helped.

Isabel had figured out that Max was in a hospital after one of her dreamwalks. Liz had found which one a few hours later. She had practically run to the door, car keys in hand, and Michael had slammed it shut before she could so much as open it an inch.

She could not go alone, for one, and chances were they could very well be walking into a trap if they were not careful.

And so they had planned. Liz had gone back to see the layout and point out escape routes. One of the last times she had projected, Max had been in an entirely different room. Had the Unit found him before them? She had frantically searched the room for signs this was still the hospital. Max had barely been awake, but for once he hadn’t shut her out. He had lost consciousness before he had been able to.

But she had been relieved to find the hospital’s logo, and recognized some of the doctors’ faces. Once they had found a feasible place to hide Max after getting him out of the hospital –the train derailment having paralyzed the city, making traffic a mess— she had projected one last time to see where Max was and give Michael the right direction.

She had wanted to come, but if this was some sort of trap, she would be the only link to Max. Isabel had been left behind too, as she would be the only link to both of them. Kyle was still deeply sleeping after exhausting his powers, so he and Maria were now waiting for them in their meeting place.

When she had projected, Max was already running up the emergency stairs.

She had shouted his name so loud in her own mind, had tried to physically put herself in front of him and point him in the right direction with such conviction, that her head had hurt with the effort. But if Max had even registered she was there, he hadn’t slowed down one bit. She had cut the connection herself, and urged Michael to get Max the hell out of there, NOW! It had taken her more than fifteen minutes to regain the link, finding Max on a couch in some unknown room, with an unknown man.

Max had seen her then, had even called her name, she had been able tell by the movement of his lips. And then Michael had entered the room, distracting Max’s mind, sending her back to the car. And now here she was, waiting for Michael to get him out. But from what Isabel had seen, that was not happening.

Could she risk getting out of the car and going there herself? No, it wasn’t what they had agreed on. It would be stupid too. It was risky enough for Michael to go alone, but at least he could defend himself.

She felt her hands tingling, a clear sign they were sparkling green, but she didn’t even attempt to make them stop. If she didn’t have Max safe in her arms soon—

The vision hit her so strong she almost felt like she was projecting without Isabel’s help, like her mind had been knocked out of her body, sending her to some undetermined point in the future.

Max was standing, still wearing hospital clothes, and he was looking at someone on a bed, the room dimly lit. Liz couldn’t see who, Max’s back obscuring her view. And then a shadow of a man cut the light from the hallway that was spilling into the room, the form of a handgun barrel entering Liz’s vision.

And then Max turned, his face tired but determined, his movement finally allowing Liz to see a little girl in the bed.

The shot made no sound, and as Max was falling backward, Liz lost the vision.

She gasped for air as if she had been the one shot, her eyes unable to blink. For two seconds she wasn’t sure if she was back in the present or still lost in some other vision.

“Oh my God, they’re going to find him,” she said more to herself than to Isabel. Before she knew what she was doing, Liz found herself running through the street, running through the people, running through the ER doors, consequences be damned.

If Max stayed there, someone was going to shoot him.
Last edited by Misha on Sun Nov 01, 2009 5:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 13 - pg. 10 - 11 / 1

Postby Misha » Thu Dec 17, 2009 8:52 pm

Thanks for coming back to read!! Sorry for the delay!

At least all the players are starting to converge in one place... aaahhh the wonders of getting closer to the end line :lol:

keepsmiling, what to do, indeed... The possibilities are endless!

Timelord31, thanks for reading!

cjsl8ne, well... you know... there are some things that need to happen before we get to Liz, so...

thetvgeneral, I knew the vision was coming, I just didn't know exactly what was on it! :wink:

ken_r, thank you! And Max is in the middle of a hurricane right now... too many forces struggling to get a hand on him.

nibbles2, how else would I get you back? With pink, fluffy rabbits? :shock:

wistful dreamer, what next? More trouble, of course! :mrgreen:

squishypunk, what are they going to do is the question, isn't it?

cwm_, thanks for the bump! Sometimes that's what it gets to guilt trip you into hurrying... :D





Chapter 14
Guarding



Michael stared at the needle, his blood rapidly filling the vial.

“I can’t feel it,” he said in astonishment. The last time he’d gotten blood drawn had been when Isabel had been shot some two years ago, and Jesse’s doctor friend had made no attempt to make the experience pleasant. He reflexively tensed at seeing the needle inside his own flesh, a move he immediately regretted as he finally felt the sting. “Ou…”

“It only works if you remain still,” the lanky doctor said in a warning tone, his eyes glued to the procedure. He reminded him of Alex, and maybe that’s why he felt naturally inclined to trust him. At least to trust him as far as letting him stick a needle in his arm in the hopes of finding out what was wrong with Max.

In front of him, separated by a glass wall, the other two doctors were attaching electrodes and inserting needles into his friend. Michael felt helpless, a void in his stomach making him vaguely ill. Why had this happened to his friend? Hadn’t he suffered enough already? Wasn’t one time at the hands of the FBI more than enough?

He’d wanted to have his blood drawn right next to Max, promising himself he was not going to let Max out of his sight again. Ever. But in the end it was just plain impractical. The room wasn’t big enough for them draw his blood and help Max at the same time. Especially when he could still have a clear view of his fearless leader right from this side of the hall.

The needle was out, but the doctor didn’t let his arm go. “I’ll take another one,” he said, all serious now. He’d seemed like the nervous, fearful type when Michael had first encountered him fifteen minutes ago, alone with Max. It had taken all the self control Michael possessed to not blast him. Now this man held his arm with a strong, confident grip as he studied the vein he wanted to pierce.

This time, Michael looked away.

His eyes kept searching the faces of the people around, looking for an enemy. He was expecting the FBI any second now, and part of him was ready to bolt out of this place. But Max had been so cold… Something was happening to him that Michael didn’t understand, yet he knew that without the proper care Max was not going to be able to pull through.

“Keep your arm like this,” the doctor said as he removed the tourniquet from his arm, placing a dry cotton ball and bending his arm. This time he hadn’t felt a thing. “Told you it works better if you remain still,” he knowingly said as he picked up the two vials of blood.

Michael stood up, extending his arm. “I’ll heal in a second,” he absently said as the guy was about to protest. Taking the cotton ball between his fingers, he dissolved it into nothingness without even realizing it. It was just a cheap way of getting rid of a tiny portion of his nervous energy. He went right back into the room.

“His temperature is starting to get low again…” the big, muscular doctor was saying, obviously worried, as the heart monitor was beeping too fast.

“I’ll keep him warm,” Michael said as he reached Max’s bed. “You make sure to find out what’s wrong with him,” he said to McConnell, unconsciously arching one of his eyebrows as a warning. Even if Michael understood the need to keep Max in the hospital for the time being, it didn’t mean he was not considering the closest exit at any sign of trouble.

McConnell nodded in his direction, and then turned to look at the cardiologist. “Cramer, can you cover for a while? I’ll send Holt back from the labs in about fifteen minutes or so.”

“I’ll page you if an emergency comes up,” Cramer nodded in approval. Behind Michael, the other doctor handled both vials to McConnell.

“He’s going to be fine,” McConnell said, locking eyes with Michael, and though his very cynical side knew there was no way McConnell could know that, he believed him. And it felt so great to believe him. Now Michael only had to make sure Max was really going to be fine.

“You better be right,” he said, slightly feeling his fingertips tingle with unused energy. McConnell nodded, and hurried through the door.

Taking McConnell’s place by Max’s side, Michael placed his hands on Max’s shoulders. He tried to ignore the connection that instantly formed, the one that felt more like a void than a bond, as Max’s energy felt too weak, too out of sync with Michael’s own. If he hadn’t known better, Michael would have thought Max was out of balance. But his eyes were clear, and since they only had one healing stone left, it was actually a relief not to have to deal with that kind of problem.

Max’s eyes started to slightly flutter as Michael managed to warm him up, the annoying beeping slowing down as well. Although he wasn’t healing Max, he instinctively knew something was off. Max could put that something off into something right, that’s how he healed. But except for superficial wounds, Michael just didn’t know how to do the trick. He could warm up Max, but that was attacking a symptom, not the root of the problem.

“I thought… I thought you were going to help me with getting the thermal blankets…” Cramer said from the other side of the bed, standing very still. He hadn’t been around when Michael had warmed up Max in the staff room, and there had been no time to fill him in, apparently.

“That’s actually enough,” the other doctor said, his eyes wide and his expression still star struck, as if Michael were some kind of childhood idol. Michael looked at the monitors, and found the temperature indicator. It read 98.4.

He stopped then, and let go the air he had been holding. No wonder Max got so tired after healing. Just doing this little warming trick twice in less than half an hour had actually left Michael vaguely lightheaded and sweating.

“Can you cool him down?” Cramer asked, interest practically sparkling from his eyes. “You know, in case his temperature goes up? It hardly stays where it should for more than a couple of minutes…”

Passing his right hand on his hair, Michael watched as Max settled into a deep sleep again, his eyes becoming still.

“No…” he simply said, that sense of helplessness sinking even further. He’d tried with Isabel countless times when she’d been shot, and her fever had remained as high as ever. She’d reached 113ºF right in front of him, and there had been nothing Michael could do. Now it was his turn to watch Max going through the same.

“Okay… Don’t worry about it. We’ve been dealing with that, we know what to do,” Cramer said, probably sensing Michael’s distress and wanting to give some comfort. Michael didn’t care. “He’s more stable now than at any time I’ve seen him before, that’s for sure. We’re going in the right direction.”

Michael met Cramer’s eyes, trying to discern the truth there. He’d never liked doctors in general for obvious reasons, but at least this man knew what they were and wasn’t trying to put them on a metal table and dissect them. Still, the idea of needles and tests and all around feeling vulnerable was not doing wonders in the trust department. Maybe Cramer was right, but it didn’t stop the feeling that the walls were closing in.

“When will you know if he’s okay?” Michael asked, suddenly feeling the need to get away.

“Like when would we discharge him?” Cramer asked, frowning.

“Yeah…” Michael said, eager for an answer.

“Well, it depends on several factors, but Michael… where would you take him once he’s out? Do you have a place to rest? Will you be able to provide good care, appropriate diet? Because otherwise, the longer he stays, the better it’ll be for him.”

“We don’t heal like humans,” Michael stated, fully intending on cutting Max’s stay to the minimum.

“And you don’t get sick like humans either,” Cramer cut him off. “I take it this is not an everyday occurrence. This is serious, Michael.”

“Keeping him from the FBI is serious,” Michael said in a deadly tone. “You don’t know the hell he’s just escaped from. Don’t tell me how to survive, doctor, because we’ve been hunted for a very long time.”

And to think it all had begun with Max’s damned healing ability. If Max didn’t have that special “gift” of his, he wouldn’t have healed Liz and their lives would be very different by now. It wasn’t that Michael regretted it, because too many good things had come from that, but he couldn’t help but wonder if it was all worth the price Max was paying right now.

When he’d found him on that couch, and McConnell had entered and started asking all kinds of questions about their health, somewhere in the middle of that chaos Michael had silently asked Max what he wanted to do. And Max had nodded that he trusted them, just as he had once said out loud that he trusted Valenti when they were rescuing him out of Pierce’s hands and his white hell.

“Then you should stay as long as you can…” the other doctor said, his name finally coming back to Michael’s mind: Hayden. He’d been quietly watching the exchange between Cramer and Michael. The star struck look had passed, leaving behind a more serious, thoughtful face. “I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through,” he quietly said, “but I think you’ll be safe here for a while.”

Doctor Cramer, you’re required at the nurses’ station.
Doctor Cramer, you’re required at the nurses’ station.


Both Hayden and Michael turned to look at Cramer. Cramer turned to look at Max.

“If anything happens,” he said, turning to look at the other doctor, “I’ll be right down that corridor. I’ll only take a couple of minutes. Whatever it is, I’ll come here and tell you.”

Cramer left the room in a hurry. For all Michael had been craving for everyone to leave Max alone, now that only Hayden and he were here, he felt uneasy. What if something did start happening to Max?

“You were the one who stood guard…” Hayden quietly said as he moved to get a couple of chairs, offering one to Michael while Hayden settled his own at the other side of Max’s bed. Michael curtly took his, and sat down by Max’s right side.

“Stood guard where?” he asked, resigned to the fact that these people would start to ask questions and questions the more time he remained here. He wanted to stand, he wanted to run, to blast something, to do something other than sit here, waiting for Max to get well. He hated waiting, but most of all, he hated answering questions.

“In Phoenix, four Christmases ago…” Hayden said, sitting forward, obviously eager for his answer. Phoenix. Right. Hayden had said this to McConnell while Michael had been warming up Max.

“Yeah… I did…” Michael reluctantly answered. This was a somewhat sore point between Michael and Max. Even if Michael had come to terms with Max needing to do this and couldn’t deny how good it was for kids to be healthy, it still had been a reckless act by Max. One kid, okay, but five? What if they had been discovered? What if… Max had been ill...? Watching Max falling unconscious to the floor had been one of the scariest moments of Michael’s life. Ironically, his fear came from not knowing how to help his friend, and that was exactly the same position he was in right now, except that they had already been caught by the doctors this time around.

“I want to thank you for the lives of those children,” Hayden sincerely said, and Michael turned to look at him, frowning. “I know the media and some of the parents thought it was an act of God, or some scam to bring attention to the hospital, but the truth is, we always knew something extraordinary had happened, and there was no way we could properly thank whoever had been responsible. Until now.”

“Max did it. I can’t heal like that,” Michael said in low tone, turning to look at his friend. What would he give to be able to heal Max as he had healed those children. Besides, Michael had been against it –there was no reason why anyone had to thank him. It felt even worse knowing Max was not getting his thanks even if he was right there with them in the room.

Hayden smiled at him. “Yet you stood guard. It was risky, for both of you, and you still went. I get to see those kids every month, you know? They are around ten years old now, very energetic, very chatty kids. They know they’re special. And all that is possible because you helped your friend, even if you were not doing the healing.”

This was making Michael feel uncomfortable. It was one thing to be praised by Maria and the others, but this attention from this stranger… “I’m sure Max will be happy to hear it…” he awkwardly said. On a more practical level, Michael guessed that if those children had started sparking around as Max had feared since discovering Liz had powers, now would be the time for Hayden to bring it up. Getting an answer to this question was probably the only good thing that was coming out of this chaos.

By this point, Hayden had seen him warming up Max twice, and had seen him healing the cuts on Max’s feet before Cramer had arrived at the staff room. His powers were not a secret, nor was the extent of his healing capability, so there was no reason for Michael to be shy about the subject. Not that Michael knew how to be shy, really...

“So the kids are okay?” he asked, unsure of how to approach this. “Nothing… remotely weird happened to them?” When he saw Hayden frown in confusion, he hurriedly added, “Max was never sure if he actually completely healed the last kids…”

Hayden turned to look at Max, with a fond smile. “He did a wonderful job… And knowing what I know now about his condition, I’m so surprised he tried to heal Sarah…”

“Who?” Michael asked, not following Hayden’s meaning. Max had healed all five kids in that room, including both girls.

“Sarah Meyer… the little girl who’s actually in a room down the hall.”

Michael blinked. “What?” he asked, this time turning to look at Max. ‘The room down the hall’ could only mean Max’s recent heroic act had been done less than 24 hours ago. He could almost, almost start arguing with his unconscious friend. How could he be so careless with himself? Hayden’s next words were not a surprise to him.

“Max tried to heal a girl when he was first admitted in the ER. He left a silver handprint behind. That’s why Dr. Lake called me in the first place, following the trail of handprints from Phoenix. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

Michael placed his head in both his hands, and let go a long, frustrated sigh. “Of course he would heal a little girl even if that could cost him his life…” he whispered. Lifting his face, he glared at Max. Such a Max thing to do, he silently thought, half proud of his friend, half wanting to kill him.

“We might have a problem,” Dr. Cramer quietly said as he entered the room once again. Michael immediately tensed. “Sarah Meyer’s parents are here… and I’m not sure for how long we can keep the handprint a secret.”


* * *


If Dr. Jay McConnell had had more time to think this through, he might not have been so blunt. But by the time he had reached the labs, all that was in the neurologist’s mind was getting the two vials to Shore and to find what was wrong with Max.

Michael would leave at the slightest provocation, so they were not only fighting Max’s drug intolerance, but Michael’s need to protect –and flee with— his friend.

“Michael is upstairs,” McConnell said in a low voice as he approached both Shore and Holt, wondering if the FBI guy would know who he was talking about. Shore’s eyes widened.

“Where?” he said, ready to bolt. Obviously, he knew indeed.

“Slow down,” McConnell admonished. “He’s an inch away from getting the hell out of here, even if that means getting Max out of medical care as well. He let us take these samples, so I need you to help us figure out what’s wrong with Max. You’re more experienced with Max’s biology.”

He’d sounded coherent to his own ears, but clearly Shore didn’t think it that way. He frowned and narrowed his eyes for an instant.

“Dr. McConnell, with all due respect, you have no idea how valuable Michael Guerin is right now to the safety of this nation. I need to speak with him now. Where is he?”

It was McConnell’s turned to frown and narrow his eyes. “What?”

“Never mind, I’ll find him myself,” Shore said without explaining any further, walking to the door.

“Start on the labs,” McConnell instructed to a stunned Holt who hadn’t managed to say a thing. Only hours later would it occur to McConnell that Holt didn’t even know who Michael was. He walked out of the labs and followed Shore.

“If Michael suspects you are with the FBI—”

“He already knows,” Shore cut in, going to the elevator. McConnell felt himself going white.

“We can’t risk Michael taking Max away. Not in this condition,” McConnell said, taking a great effort in not shouting those words. The doors opened as they reached the elevator, making them both face a couple of people there. Neither of them said anything more as they went inside, Shore pressing the sub-level 2 button, the quarantine area. Even if McConnell knew Max was in the exact opposite direction, he didn’t say a thing. The more he could stall Shore, the better.

They were alone in the elevator by the time they reached their floor, their arguing resumed. “Whatever you need to talk with Michael, it can wait till the lab results are out. At least if he decides to leave, Max would be in a better shape.”

“We need Michael’s side of the story in all of this. All we have is Max’s, and he wasn’t very coherent about it to begin with. At least Michael is in a better position to answer questions, convince Washington to give us more time…”

Shore trailed off. They had arrived to the quarantine area, which was pretty much half destroyed.

“Where’s Max?” he asked, slowly and with a generous dose of fear.

“He’s safe,” McConnell assured him. “He woke up and panicked. Threw me to one side, broke the glass and ran for the emergency exit…” Even as he was saying this, his right arm ached and he had to move his weight to his left foot. It had been one hell of a fall, and it was only now that McConnell was finally catching up to the bruises of his body. He even had had to turn the fire alarm off, calling maintenance before more prying eyes would descend on the quarantine area, after Max had vanished through the emergency exit.

Where is he?” Shore urgently asked, anxiousness practically radiating from his body.

“Safe,” McConnell repeated. “He was found by Michael. Max wasn’t doing so well, but Michael helped him. And then let us take the samples.”

Shore’s eyes examined the destruction left. “He’s better then…” he said, nodding to himself. “That’s good… Michael willing to help is even better…” Shore almost whispered, building another plan in his head.

“Listen,” McConnell said, sure now he could manage some sort of deal among all parties, “Michael has agreed to give us time to help Max as long as he doesn’t feel threatened. Seeing you will just sent him over the edge. Give us time to do the tests. Give Max more time to get better. Then talk to Michael.”

Indecision flashed through Shore’s eyes. “I need to speak with him,” Shore said out loud, “you have no idea how much…”

McConnell slowly shook his head no. “If he sees you, it’s over. Is there any other way you can get those answers? Any other person, maybe?”

Shore went eerily still, fixing his eyes on him. “It might work…” he slowly said, narrowing his eyes in a rather predatory way. “You can get me those answers… and Michael will never know a thing.”

McConnell swallowed at the idea. Not telling Michael about Shore was one thing. Getting answers from his much guarded expression and ready-to-snap body language on the other hand… was possibly beyond his abilities.
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Unknown Ch. 15 - Closer

Postby Misha » Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:24 pm

Hey guys! Thanks for coming back to read!



Chapter XV
Closer



Liz didn’t make it further than the ER, but not for lack of trying.

She’d been blinded by the need to find Max, so the only thing that had been clear in her mind was the route from the car to her husband’s room in the third floor. She started looking for the emergency stairs as soon as she went past the emergency entrance, people in the crowd barely looking at her as they all assumed she was one more relative in search of a victim from the train derailment.

The nurse’s station was already surrounded by people: those waiting for news, those waiting for confirmation, those waiting for more people. Thinking it would look too suspicious if she just sped up the hall, all Liz could do was slow down to a fast walk, and try to look like someone who knew this hospital and exactly where she was headed. No assistance needed.

She wasn’t the only one who was doing that. A man noticed her when he turned the opposite corner, someone she didn’t even acknowledge in that moment but who didn’t belong there, just as she didn’t.

She saw the emergency exit sign above a door, and her heart skipped a beat. She hurried, terrified of finding Max too late, terrified of never seeing him again. Most of all, she just wanted to see him for real, not through her projected consciousness, where she could not help him, touch him, or even speak to him in comfort.

People were in stretchers, nurses and doctors were rushing past her, no one paying any attention. In their minds, if she wasn’t injured, she was low priority. In Liz’s mind, all she needed to do was get to those stairs. She was sure she would be able to find the staff room where Max had been, and from that point on she would trust her connection to guide her to him, no matter how faint that link to Max was feeling right now.

She never saw the man coming, much less his intentions.

Just as she was about to reach the door, the doctor who was coming in front of her silently grabbed her by the shoulder and pushed her to the room right beside the stairs. In one fluid movement, not only did he close the door and clap a hand on her mouth, he also managed to turn the light on as he pressed her back against the door.

It was a janitor’s closet, way smaller than the eraser room back at Roswell High, and the smells of all the disinfectant and cleaning supplies assaulted Liz’s nose, along with the smell of leather from the hand that was stopping her from screaming. Even if the man wasn’t wearing gloves, he probably had been a few minutes before. He was dressed as a surgeon, just as if he were coming out of the OR.

Gray eyes met her brown ones. He was taller than Michael, broader too, but he looked at her as if trying to make sure she was who he thought she was. Liz wasn’t putting up a fight yet. At her sides, her fingers started to tingle. Soon she would have enough energy to blast him into the next room, but meanwhile she just looked at him, her back pressed to the closed door, the light bulb hanging from the ceiling making everything look harsh, including the man’s partly shadowed face.

“He’s here…” he simply said in relief in a rushed whisper, briefly closing his eyes as if thanking his lucky stars. “If you’re here, he’s here,” he said, more to himself than to Liz, though the meaning was clear: He was looking for Max, and she had just confirmed to him Max was close by. He looked at her then, this time with a more intense look. “I’m Colonel Harrington, head of the Special Unit, and as of half an hour ago, I’m responsible for your husband’s safety.”

Liz stared back at him, this time raising her eyebrow. What? she thought, nothing making any sense, except the part that this man was with the Special Unit. She closed her hands into fists, her energy barely contained now.

“Washington has granted political refuge to Max. Things are still sketchy, but if Max was telling the truth, you have nothing to fear,” Harrington said as he took his hand off Liz’s mouth, expectant.

She didn’t say a word.

In fact, she had no intention of saying anything at all. This had to be the man who was going to shoot Max. If she could just blast him into oblivion, the threat would be removed.

He slightly narrowed his eyes, a shadow of suspicion in his eyes as he took a step back. “There are people, Mrs. Evans, who did not want to give your husband the benefit of the doubt. If I could find him, so will they. I need to make sure Max is protected at all times. Now, if you’re here, it means Max must be in need of medical care or you wouldn’t have risked bringing him otherwise.”

Liz frowned at that. It took her a second to realize the Special Unit had had no way of knowing they had lost Max as soon as they had helped him escape, so the Unit had assumed they had brought Max here. Her hesitation was not lost to the man in front of her, who narrowed his eyes further, probably sensing there was something off.

“Listen, Liz,” he said in a no-nonsense tone, dropping the formal approach, “I have orders to protect Max, so I have to secure the area before anything else can be done,” he said to summarize. He took her by the shoulder again, this time opening the door and leading them both out of the closet as fast as he had led them in. “Keep him safe,” he emphasized the last three words, looking directly into her eyes without even blinking.

And then he was gone.

She should have blasted him. The thought came as an after-thought, but all Liz was really thinking were those three words: Keep him safe. That was the last thing she would expect an agent to tell her. He should have threatened her. He should have taken her hostage. Taken her prisoner. Even shot her. Except she was now standing in the open hall, watching his retreating back going down the hall, with no idea of what to make of his words, or of what to do now. Even the tingle in her hands had disappeared as her anger had been turned into confusion.

What was she supposed to do?

Go to Max and possibly direct this man to him? Stay here and wait? Go back and direct them to Isabel? The vision of Max getting shot played in her memory then, as vividly as if she were having it again. Was she responsible for it happening? Was her coming here what had led Max’s assassin to his room to begin with?

Keep him safe. The words haunted her one more time before she shook herself out of her stillness. The vision was clear: Max would get shot in the hospital. All she had to do was to get him the hell out of here.

And so, she opened the emergency stairs door, and ran towards Max once again.


* * *


For the first time in five days, Isabel was finding a clear path into Max's dreams, a path she desperately clung to with all her being. For once too, he wasn't fighting her or closing her off. When Liz had left the car, Isabel hadn't felt a thing.

Max's mind was calm. Still drowsy, slow, but also aware. His dream had lost that distorted, dizzy quality it had had since he'd been taken. He was lying on his bed in his old room at their parents' house, staring at the ceiling, the Counting Crows playing somewhere in the back.

“Max?” Isabel said, afraid of losing him.

Max looked at her, frowning, as if he were trying to make sense of why she was suddenly there. Then he frowned deeper, looking at a random point at his left.

“Something’s happening…” he said barely above a whisper, not quiet afraid but rather confused.

All the dreams Isabel had encountered before had been about Max in that place where they had taken him. They always were a version of what he was going through, something that had shattered Isabel’s heart again and again but that she’d had to overcome in order to help her brother. That Max was not dreaming about the hospital now was too unusual for her liking.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” she asked, worrying what was happening to Max’s mind. Was he withdrawing from reality now? Seeking a past sanctuary, as his room had once been?

Max looked at her for a second, and then moved his eyes to the floor again. “Someone told me to rest… So I just… came here…” he said, the frown returning to his face. Then, slowly, he raised his eyes to her, his mouth slightly opening as some sort of realization hit him. “This isn’t real…” he said, his eyes rounding as he said this out loud.

“I’m real,” Isabel said as she sat next to him. Max sat too, the music dying as they both looked at each other.

“You’re dreamwalking me…” it wasn’t a question, yet Isabel nodded to him. She wasn’t sure how to handle this. How to tell Max what reality entailed right this moment for him was not exactly what she wanted to do. Still, her brother was trying to remember now, and she waited in silence until he either remembered on his own or asked her to help.

“He’s been telling me to rest… for days now…” Max said, trying to follow backward his last memory of a voice that had lured him into the safety of his room. And although he had been resting here, some part of Max must have known something was amiss. He only listened to the Counting Crows when he was upset.

A tall, thin, 40-something man materialized in the corner of the room, wearing a white lab coat of all things. He stood there, looking concerned rather than menacing. Max looked at him, trying to place him.

“He’s worried about me…” Max whispered, as if he wasn’t sure his memories could be trusted. Isabel certainly wasn’t. This was a man who she was sure had been torturing him. “I think…” Max said turning to look at her, “I think I’m sick…”

The room changed then, suddenly and drastically, morphing into the sickbay where she’d seen him from the observation room the day before. Max gasped as more memories rushed in. “I told him he was making me sick, but he said he was just trying to help me…” His casual clothing also changed to hospital garments. “I was so cold…” he said, standing. “And then so warm…”

The dream quality started to shift, too. Isabel felt as if the air in the room had gained weight, oppressing her. She started to sweat, feeling hot now. She shook her head. This was Max’s dream, it shouldn’t affect her this way, yet she couldn’t help it. She looked at him to tell him to stop it, but Max was looking at the other man who had remained silent and still all this time.

“He was dragged in here in the middle of the night…” Max said, looking tired now. Whatever awareness he had been having when she had arrived in his dream, it was slipping now. “I kept getting flashes of him. They’re all afraid I’ll die…” he stopped looking at the other man, and turned to look at her, frowning. “But I’m no longer here…”

“No,” Isabel answered, puzzled as to the flashes Max had gotten, but wanting to get Max ready to escape with Michael. “You’re in a hospital room. Michael is with you in case you need to get out. Do you understand that?” Isabel added, as Max grabbed the wall for balance. He was getting dizzy again.

“I didn’t want you to come,” he absently said as the room changed again. Some sort of living room. Two long couches, magazines, a small fridge. This was the last memory Max had of his whereabouts, and it matched Liz’s description of her last projection. He turned to look at her again, his eyes sad now. “I didn’t want them to use me as bait.”

Whatever they had done to him, she would make them pay. She went to Max and fiercely hugged him. “Do you think we would leave you there?” she whispered. Since the moment she’d felt Michael’s connection disappear five days ago, Isabel had felt as if her heart had been ripped in two. When she’d lost Max’s as well, she thought she would collapse from the pain.

It had been worse than thinking Michael was dying of that Indian fever, or thinking Max had died in that fire at MetaChem. It had been worse because this time they had both vanished, at almost exactly the same time, leaving her with an abysmal hole where her heart had once been. They were gone. Just gone. Only Liz’s assurance that she had not felt Max die had kept Isabel sane.

Learning a few hours later that Michael was safe had been a relief beyond measure, but knowing without a doubt that Max was back in that hell… She hugged him tighter now. She was never going to let him go. Ever.

He hugged her back, though not as tight. “I think Michael is already here…” he whispered back, the room getting dimmer as if someone was slowly turning the lights off. She nodded, but didn’t let him go.

“He was going to get you but…” Isabel wasn’t sure but what. The last time she’d been able to glimpse Max’s mind, she’d seen Michael was there, warming him up. It had been a dizzy, blurry distortion of reality, but good enough to let her know Michael was already there. And for some reason still staying there.

“It’s okay,” Max reassured her, his hand soothing her back. “I told him it was okay…” Max seemed distracted again, the room almost submerged in shadows now. “I think I’m still sick,” he finally said out loud, confused. Then, “should I be running?”

Yes! Isabel wanted to say. Run out of that place, out of their hands, and be here with me for real. Except reality included a whole set of fears with that thought: If Max was really sick, how could they heal him? How did one heal a healer? And how would they keep losing the Special Unit with Max unable to keep running?

“Not now, Max,” Isabel answered him, finally letting him go and guiding him to the couch. “But I’ll be here until Michael wakes you up and it’s time for you to run.”

And when that happens, Isabel privately thought, I’ll be running to you, too. There’s no way I’m losing you again, little brother. No way in hell I’m letting them catch you again.


* * *


Colonel Harrington’s day was starting to look brighter, though he wasn’t holding his breath for it to stay that way.

It had been a very tense debriefing regarding how Max Evans had escaped the underground medical facility and what was being done to get him back. Washington was still undecided on what to believe about Max’s claims, but it was pretty obvious the majority wanted him alive.

By the time the meeting had been over, Harrington had been dismissed with orders of getting Max back no matter what. They were still discussing whether or not to grant political refuge, but he had no time to waste listening to them go over the same things again and again. All he was sure about was that he had to get them all. Whatever Max was, friend, foe, or king, his status would certainly extend to his sister and friend, not to mention his wife. The hunt was on again, and Harrington's determination was doubled.

His first action had been to review what had been happening during his absence, and among all the false reports and fruitless searching, it was just odd that the only civilian aboard his Unit had spent the better part of three hours inside Saint Paul’s hospital grounds.

Tracking Shore had been easy. He was carrying the cell phone he had been given when he’d decided to go out in search of his patient. Two tips had separately come confirming Max’s presence at that hospital, and both had been looked into and proven false.

For one second, Harrington had wondered if maybe Shore had stayed at the hospital to help the train victims, but it seemed unlikely when Shore’s time could be spent looking for Max. For all the three days Max had been under his care, Shore had certainly developed an attachment for his otherworldly patient. Shore also knew what was hanging in the balance, which would make finding Max his top priority.

With clear grey eyes, the Colonel swept the map of all the places that had been searched: motels, abandoned warehouses, shelters. And hospitals. Anywhere where Max could rest and regain his strength. Anywhere they could hide their dying friend.

There had been some promising leads. Some calls from the fliers they had stuck to walls all over the place, a risky move but well worth it. A couple of agents had spotted some guy who had a strong resemblance to their fugitive hybrid. But nothing was substantial. Nothing led anywhere.

So looking at the records of where Shore had spent his time, Harrington’s analytical mind traced possible scenarios as to why Shore was not reporting back.

As Harrington had shuffled through the reports, he had spotted evidence that Shore actually had reported back. The head of the Special Unit slowly read the transcript of Shore’s and Lieutenant Colonel Anders’s latest phone call, and was not surprised at learning that Anders knew about the power struggle going on in higher places. What did surprise him was that Anders knew it was possible that someone was going after Max no matter what Washington would decide in the end, and shared that with Shore.

So, there’s motive, Harrington thought to himself. Shore had claimed he hadn’t found Max at the hospital, but that he was staying around to make sure. Well, three hours was way more time than he needed to make sure. If Shore thought Max was in danger from the US government, would he have the guts to keep Max’s whereabouts a secret?

Yes.

With no other leads, and a very solid feeling he was going in the right direction, Harrington changed his military uniform into casual clothes, and took Captain Whitmore’s motorcycle to the hospital. It was cold, and snow was starting to fall again, but Harrington’s mind was too concentrated on what to do once he found Max to care.

Two blocks before he reached Saint Paul's parking lot, the call had come: Washington had finally granted Max a safe haven and Harrington would do anything in his power to ensure the king's well-being. From Harrington's perspective, it didn't change his objective: Get Max alive. Others would deal with the diplomatic approach. Still, he tried to call Shore to give him the “good news”, maybe get a positive ID on Max's whereabouts. If Shore was not helping Max in Saint Paul, then this was wasted time and energy.

Except Shore didn't answer. Frustrated, Harrington called Anders, who sighed in relief, not hiding the fact that he'd been aware of those talks all these time. Still, Anders told Harrington he'd also been trying to contact Shore with no luck. Maybe Shore had lost signal.

Maybe he was already dead.

It was a practical thought. Anders had admitted he'd talked to Shore not more than an hour before, but that was enough time for Michael to decide Shore was an enemy, for Max to unwittingly unleash his powers on his doctor, or for a hitman who had found them all and dispatched them under orders from someone in Washington who wasn't too happy about giving amnesty to an alleged king.

The crowd in front of the hospital was both an advantage and an obstacle. It was easier to get in undetected, but if there was a scene while trying to get to Max, there would be little he could do about crowd control.

Checking one last time with headquarters that Shore was still in the hospital, the tall man had entered Saint Paul’s ER and stolen the first scrubs he had found. He had to be invisible around the halls, eyes and ears alert to any whisper of an unusual patient. As it turned out, luck had been just around the corner.

He had been unable to believe his eyes: Liz Parker was walking right into his –figurative- open arms. He didn’t even blink.

He just took her into the closet and looked at her harder than he had looked at anyone since he’d been promoted to Colonel and rank alone ensured respect. But it was she, the same girl he had seen only in pictures and a few videos. Older, clearly exhausted, and as startled to see a stranger taking her into a closet as he was to find her so unexpectedly.

Relief had flooded him for a moment. Oh, how relieved he had been for that glorious moment. And maybe it was for the best, too, that Liz had been the one he had met first. Of all of them, she was the one who would be more objective about what Washington had to offer.

But something was off. He saw it in Liz’s eyes, heard it in Liz’s silence, and perceived it in her stilled body. He couldn’t pinpoint what was off, only that it wasn’t good. For the briefest of seconds he thought Max was dead. Yet... Liz wasn't angry or in despair. She was anxious and scared. His mind came up with more questions about all his previous theories: Where was Michael? Or Isabel? Why would they leave Liz unguarded? And why was Liz just now rushing into the hospital, instead of having been with her husband all this time?

As he left her standing in the hall where he had first grabbed her, all these critical questions started jumping at his mind. Well aware that he was not prepared for any kind of confrontation involving alien powers, he intended to retreat - only briefly. Now that he had a positive location, he had to assemble his Unit. Then he had to find Shore. Then he had to find Max. There were too many things to set in motion, including convincing the merry alien group of his sudden change of orders. Now that they were all converging in here, there was a higher possibility things could explode.

For a moment, Harrington found very ironic that the closer he got to Max, the more Max seemed to be slipping through his fingers. Especially since regardless of what Max wanted, he was coming into federal protection one way or another.
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 15 - pg. 12 - 2 / 16

Postby Misha » Mon May 10, 2010 10:16 pm

Thank you for coming back to read! The gods know I take way too long to still have readers at this point... :shock:

A big thank you to Michelle in L.A. for the fast beta!!

keepsmiling7, trouble is always brewing where these kids go :wink:

cjsl8ne, oh Harrington has a very hard time coming in order to convince them, that's for sure...

Timelord, Where would I be without your nudges? In chapter 8, probably... :roll:

squishypunk, the plot is about to thicken a bit more :shock:

ken_r, I've missed you sooooo much! And man, am I honored you want to read it again!



All the parts of this chapter happen either simultaneously, or very close to each other in time.

Chapter 16
Echoes



“I found Max’s location,” Colonel Harrington’s voice came clear through the cell phone, bringing all thoughts to a halt in Lieutenant Colonel Anders’ mind.

“How is he?” he asked after a second, a lead weight lifted from his shoulders. There was still hope as long as Max was alive.

“I don’t know, I only saw Liz,” the Colonel said, making Anders frown. What was that supposed to mean? “The Unit is mobilizing to secure Saint Paul’s Hospital as we speak. Have you managed to contact Dr. Shore?”

“No, I keep getting voicemail. What did Liz say?”

“Nothing. There’s something going on, but I need to secure this place first. If Liz is here though, Max cannot be that far. If you can’t find Shore, I’ll talk to Captain Whitmore then. We need someone with medical background to take charge.”

Harrington hung up. Anders was running down the hall toward the closest exit before the phone screen had shut off.


* * *


“Sarah Meyer’s parents are here…,” Dr. Cramer’s words seemed to echo as he entered Max’s room, “and I’m not sure for how long we can keep the handprint a secret.”

Michael and Hayden froze. Time itself seemed to freeze. Between them, Max didn’t even stir on the bed. “It doesn’t mean I cannot buy you time,” Cramer amended, “just that you should know more people might start suspecting something is going on.”

This is bad, Hayden thought, knowing Michael was one wrong word away from bolting the hell out of there. “You don’t have to tell them,” Hayden said, feeling himself panic. Michael hadn’t moved, but it was obvious he was not taken this lightly. “I mean, the handprint will vanish, right? In four or five days?”

“We won’t be here for four or five days,” Michael forcibly said, looking at Max, maybe hoping to get an answer from his friend.

Hayden felt helpless. Part of him knew he was being selfish: He wanted to ask so many questions, know so many things, and now it seemed this quest was coming to an end leaving him with nothing else but more questions. And one outstanding tale. But the doctor in him knew Max needed to stay here. He had to convince Michael one way or another.

“Okay, that’s understandable,” he cautiously said to the young man, “let’s see what the lab results are. That would give us a better idea…”

Michael passed his hands through his hair, obviously frustrated at the whole situation. “And what if they say he has to stay four or five days? What the hell do you even know about alien biology to even understand what they say?” Michael argued back in a furious whisper.

Whatever Hayden was about to say, it died in his throat. A what? He knew they weren’t average humans, that they may even consider themselves something different, but he was sure, certain that he had heard that wrong. Or maybe there was some other meaning to the word alien that was escaping him now.

The lights flickered for a few seconds as Michael turned to look at Max again and, closing his eyes, took a deep breath. Hayden turned to look at Cramer, who didn’t look shocked, just concerned. What the heck am I missing? he thought, feeling uneasy all of the sudden. He’d seen those kids being healthy in Phoenix; he’d seen Max glowing and Michael cooling him down. He’d even seen some sort of fleeting green shield when he had first encountered Max. He had more than proof that these two weren’t exactly regular men, but that was light years from being from another planet. There’s no such thing as aliens, his mind stubbornly concluded. Is there?

“Where the hell have you been?!” a very agitated Dr. Susan Lake said from the hall, looking worried and relieved at the same time. Her ponytail was loose and deep circles were under her eyes. It had been about four hours since Hayden had last seen her, but everything seemed sharper now, including her fatigue. His mind was in overload, trying to process Michael’s last words, and Hayden had a strange feeling that time had somehow permanently slowed down. “I’ve been looking for all of you! I’ve just heard from the nurses that Sarah Meyer’s parents are here and—”

Dr. Susan Lake stopped dead in her tracks as she entered the room. Her eyes went wide as she looked at Michael, and then audibly gasped as recognition all but hit her. “You were one… you were… on the images… the memories… I saw you,” she tried to explain, yet Hayden didn’t understand a word. The world had suddenly stopped making sense.

Michael looked back at her, frowning, then turned to look at Hayden, who just turned to look at Lake again. “What the hell are you talking about?” Michael asked, rather rudely, though Hayden suspected it was more likely Michael was scared.

Aliens? the word continued to play in his mind. He was stuck in that thought, and was processing everything else on the side of his mind.

“I touched Max…” Susan tried to explain, “I touched him and… and I got…” she trailed off.

“You got flashes,” Michael finished for her, surprised. “What did he show you?”

Susan lost some of her shock at the question, but as she glanced at Cramer, a slightly guilty look formed on her face. “I wanted to know about Phoenix,” she explained to Michael, “and it just happened. I was holding him and I just got the images of Phoenix… fast, a-and distorted. But I saw you. I-I don’t even really know what else I saw…”

Michael closed his eyes tight for the second time in as many minutes, and Hayden would bet he was cursing inwardly. “Who else knows about Max?” he asked now to the three doctors, moving forward, almost as if trying to shield Max from them.

Good God, aliens?

“Just Dr. Shore. He was the one who actually admitted him yesterday,” Dr. Lake said, turning to look at Cramer, who only nodded. “And now Sarah’s parents are here—”

“How long will the test results take?” Michael asked Cramer, cutting Dr. Lake in midsentence.

“A few hours, but we’ll need to re-do most of them later to see if Max is improving,” Cramer answered, moving forward too, getting closer to Michael. “If you take Max out of here now, his chances of recovery are almost none. I don’t need to know that much about your biology to be sure of that.”

“We’ll take our chances, thank you,” Michael menacingly said, barely above a whisper. “I’ll wait for those results. Then we’re leaving.”

Michael stared at them, daring them to say another word, and Cramer wanted to argue, it was obvious in his face. Exasperated, Cramer gave in with a frustrated sigh.

“I’ll talk to her parents, and try to keep the handprint secret in the process,” he stated, maybe reminding Michael they were really doing everything they could to keep Max safe from prying eyes. Looking at Dr. Lake, he added, “Call McConnell to keep him on the loop. He should be with Holt doing the lab tests right now.”

And with that, both doctors left, each taking a different direction in the hall, presumably intending on returning soon or at least on getting McConnell back into the room. After all, McConnell seemed to have the magic touch when it came to Michael, and that was probably the reason why Cramer had given up so soon. Or maybe Cramer only wanted to tell McConnell to take all the time in the world with the test results so Michael would stay longer.

Whatever the reason had been, Dr. Chris E. Hayden, pediatrician and proud geek, suddenly found himself alone with two certified aliens in the room. And with no idea of what the hell to do.


* * *


It was a never ending nightmare. That was the only thought Liz had as she stared at nothing but space, desperate to get a sense of direction to find Max. She couldn’t sense anything.

She’d reached the third floor, following the bloody droplets left by Max, something that had almost broken her heart and made her nauseous. Max was somewhere in there, suffering and scared, and she couldn’t get a hold of him.

Oh, she could feel his fear and his confusion, but she couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. It was from the third floor, she was sure of that, but going left or right, ahead or back, it all just felt the same. Their connection was just too low.

She wanted to tear down every door and every single wall, and see every face until she found him, and then get him the hell out of there. She was being irrational, a part of her mind whispered, and she felt tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. The hospital staff had pretty much ignored her because she’d been out of their way, but someone was bound to notice if she was snooping around, aiming with no direction. There was a message posted at the nurse’s station clearly indicating there were no John Does from the train derailment here, so either she knew someone here, or she was on the wrong floor.

She’d gone down the hallways anyway, looking into every open room, but most of them were closed. She’d started opening them, finding three families in mourning, two with what looked like tears of joy, and twice now she’d been asked who she was looking for by nurses.

By this point, she’d been sitting in the waiting area for what felt like an eternity, even if the clock on the wall was telling her only 17 minutes had passed. She needed a plan. She needed to systematically go through the entire floor with a plausible story. Deep inside, she was also hoping she would get a sense of where Max was if she just waited long enough.

Hi. I’m looking for Max Evans. Tall, dark hair, in his early twenties. I know for a fact he’s here because we have this… this connection, you know? I just need to look in every room until I find him.

She closed her eyes. She was so tired by now, so stressed out by five days of anxiety and knowing her husband was sick and in the hands of the Unit, that part of her wanted to shut down and wake up from this goddamned reality. This wasn’t happening.

Taking a deep breath, she reminded herself that Max was not alone. Michael had found him, and he should be with him now. She only had to find her husband’s second in command in order to find Max. But Michael was as elusive as her dark haired soulmate, and her vision of Max getting shot was replaying itself over and over in an infernal loop that would not stop.

Eighteen minutes.

With each passing minute Liz could feel as if the walls were closing in. Eighteen minutes could mean that eighteen agents were already coming up the emergency stairs, the same stairs her husband had climbed hoping he could escape.

She stood up, ready to start looking again, door by door. God helped the poor souls who try to stop her, the tingling sensations at her fingertips signaling she was at the end of her rope.

Where are you?! She desperately thought at the abyss of her mind as she turned to look to the hall, first to her right, then to her left, trying to pick a direction to start all over again. She froze as she spotted a man. He wasn’t Max, or Michael, but she saw the next best thing: With graying hair, looking tired, worried and walking too fast to even notice her, one of the doctors who had been with Max was coming right into her path, the oldest one of the group. He would know where Max was. He had to know where Max was.

“Where is he?” she determinedly asked as she blocked his path, her eyes dead serious. The doctor stopped, surprised, obviously trying to place her face and failing miserably. She barely had time to glance at his name tag: McConnell.

“I’m sorry, I—”

“Where’s Max?” she cut him off, practically hearing the clock behind her, seconds wastefully ticking away. Recognition filled the man’s eyes, if not at her face, certainly at her words. He started to open his mouth and then shut it closed, taking a step back. “If you don’t tell me where my husband is right now, I swear you’ll regret it,” her voice came harsh and menacing, and Liz couldn’t care one bit.

“He’s safe,” the doctor finally said, now looking sideways and then back, as if fearing someone was following him, or eavesdropping on them. He led her closer to the wall, trying to avoid crowding the hall. He looked at her, stared at her really, his tall frame causing her to look up. “He needs to stay here,” he said, urgently now, “we’re running tests as we speak, but he has to stay here.”

“No,” Liz said, slightly moving her head side to side, the tingling in her hands getting uncomfortable. She hugged her ribs trying to hide it, looking down as she tried to calm herself. “We need to leave now,” she said through clenched teeth, finding the strength to look at the doctor again while subduing her own energy. “He’s not safe here. This is the worst place he could be right now. Trust me, I know.”

Max was getting shot in her mind again, the clock impossibly loud in her ears at her back. She hugged herself harder.

Something must have passed through her face, because finally, finally, the doctor heavily sighed and gave up. “This way, please.”


* * *


Somewhere, Liz was scared.

There was not much that Max’s mind could fully comprehend, but this thought came loud and clear. He was still in his dream, lying on the couch, Isabel’s hand stroking his hair from his forehead as he tried to piece together what was happening out there, in the real world.

“Liz,” he said, his eyes widening as his own heart picked up speed.

“Shh, Max. She’s fine. She’s right beside me in the car,” Isabel soothed him, not letting him sit up.

“No,” Max said with certainty, his eyes fixing on some point in the ceiling, concentrating. “She’s near. And she’s… desperate,” Max finished in a whisper, fear growing in his own heart.

“Max, she’s okay. She’s here with me,” Isabel insisted, but these words Max barely registered. He closed his eyes and willed himself to wake up. He had no more time to think and understand what had happened to him. Somewhere, his wife was so anxious it tore his soul apart. Yet waking was proving as difficult as recalling what had been going on with his life for the past five days. Echoes intruded his mind again, distorted images accompanying fragmented phrases…

You need to rest…

Keep running!

Where are you from?

What did you do in Phoenix?

Where are you?!

Liz! he thought at that last memory, Liz’s voice calling to him strong enough to clear the fog of his mind. The echoes seemed to stop, being replaced by other sounds. A beeping. Voices far away. In the darkness of his mind, he became aware that his body felt incredibly heavy and numb.

He tried to open his eyes and speak, but his muscles were unresponsive, as if he had been still for far too long and had forgotten how to move at all. Fighting his way through his tired body, his mind also searched for Liz’s presence. Isabel had insisted she was safe and sitting beside her, but Max knew that wasn’t the case. Liz’s panic was too close for him to believe otherwise.

Light tried to sip through his eyelids, and the sound of the beeping became sharper, closer. There were no longer voices around, though, but Max could sense he was not alone. At his right, there was a strong presence. It was familiar, and fierce. And at this very moment, it was also scared.

Michael.

Max’s right index finger moved at his will, finally breaking the immobilizing spell Max had been under. Slowly but surely, he was able to open his eyes, just to close them again as the harsh light of the room blinded him.

“Liz…” he mumbled as he moved his head to the left, trying to avoid the brightness around him. He throat felt dry, and his voice was hoarse.

“Max!” came Michael’s anxious voice, getting closer to him.

“Liz…” Max repeated, clearer this time, his eyes hurting at the brightness as they slowly adjusted to the light. “Find… Liz,” he said as Michael came into focus.

“She’s okay, she’s with Isabel,” Michael answered with the same conviction Isabel had assured him the same thing. Max shook his head no.

“She’s here… Find her,” Max insisted, all his determination in those four words. For once in his life, Max did wish he could command Michael at will, so his best friend wouldn’t question him at all about finding his wife. “Please…”

“What is he saying?” another voice said. An unfamiliar man stood at his left, looking nervous and out of place. Maybe not unfamiliar exactly, Max’s mind corrected, but someone from his recent past. He just couldn’t place the man’s face, one that eerily reminded him of Alex.

“He wants me to find his wife. He’s certain she’s here…” Michael said, sounding confused himself. “Max, Liz isn’t here. She wouldn’t—”

Max didn’t let Michael finish his sentence. With strength no one would have believed he possessed, Max grabbed Michael’s wrist and made an instant connection. He hadn’t been so focused on anything for a long time, but with Liz’s fear so strong, Max had no other thought in his mind. He let Michael feel Liz’s own panic, let him feel how close Max was sensing her, and above all how frightened he was for her.

“Find her,” Max pleaded as he let go, feeling drained but more alert than he had all week long. A second thought occurred to him then: This was absurd. He should just get up and find her himself.

Michael just stared at him for a second, unblinking, until Max tried to sit up, which snapped him out of it immediately.

“There’s no way in hell you’re going anywhere right now,” Michael said, restraining Max with a hand on his chest, pushing him down. “The only reason Liz would be so close by is if she saw something. I’ll find her,” he said with a slight nod of his head, and then turned to the other man, “You better guard him with your life.”

Michael left without another word. Max let out the air he hadn’t realized he had been holding, turning to look at the ceiling, still not completely sure he shouldn’t go find Liz on his own. He frowned for a second at the sudden relief he felt coming from Liz then. Michael couldn’t have found her that fast, could he?

Something cold touched his chest, startling him. The man who had been left behind to guard him was listening to his heart through a stethoscope, smiling faintly at him.

“Just making sure…” he explained, his eyes avoiding looking at Max’s face directly. Making sure of what? Max wondered, slowly realizing where he was. His heart skipped a beat as he remembered fragmented memories of doctors and needles and hallways. His concentration lost his link to Liz, leaving him only with a sense that she was nearby but nothing else. His mind focused on his here and now: This was a hospital, right, but somehow that wasn’t a bad thing… It couldn’t be if Michael had told him to stay and had been watching over him before that.

“You sound so normal,” the man absently said while taking his pulse. Max’s muscles tensed, adrenaline kicking in as everything around him became intense. He could not stop feeling like a prisoner or, even worse, like a lab subject. His eyes moved to the hand that was holding his wrist, and without meaning to, a flash crossed his mind.

Kids, smiling.

“Phoenix?” Max said in surprise, not entirely sure how he’d gotten that conclusion, but somehow knowing he was right. At this, the man actually looked at Max’s eyes.

“Yes. I mean, yes, I work in Phoenix. I actually work with the kids you saved?” the man answered, a bit uncertain if Max would remember, yet his face actually looking relieved and excited.

Max’s muscles loosed as his mind ran with the probabilities of finding this man here. Why would a pediatrician from Phoenix be in his room? A pink bunny jumped in Max’s mind. A little girl running, dragging the pink bunny in the grass, laughter following her.

“I came as fast as I could when Dr. Lake called to ask about the handprints. You have no idea how long we’ve been trying to figure out how you healed those children, so when I heard about Sarah…” he trailed off, arching one eyebrow as if his meaning were clear.

“Who’s Sarah?” Max asked, an uneasy feeling growing in his chest.

The doctor’s face changed once again, to uncertainty now. “Sarah’s the girl you healed… yesterday,” he explained.

The pink bunny returned to Max’s mind, golden locks floating in the air, suddenly morphing into a pale face and closed eyes. He’d seen a dying girl, he could recall now, but he couldn’t remember actually healing her. Everything was just so confusing right now.

“Don’t worry if you don’t remember. You’ve been sick yourself. You should rest,” the man said, looking at the door as if expecting someone to come in.

Max returned his focus to Liz. He could no longer feel the panic coming from her, but why wasn’t Michael bringing her back, then? He would know if something was happening to her now, he told himself, feeling tired yet too anxious to even consider resting. The doctor stood up and went to fill a glass of water, Max’s eyes following his every move. Max had healed a girl yesterday, the reason why this man was here right now, and he had no recollection of that, a voice whispered at the back of his mind. What else was he forgetting?

What if something was still very wrong with him, and there were things he was still missing? Or maybe it wasn’t only his memories, but things like his powers, and his connection to Liz?

The monitors started beeping frenetically as he started to detach all the wires he could find. He had to find Liz and make sure everyone was okay.

“Oh no, no, no, wait right there!” the man came rushing back, “You’re in no condition to go anywhere. You have to rest!”

Max ignored him, and concentrating he wiped out everything on his body. He felt tired and drained, but the idea of Liz needing help filled him with an urgent need to move. The cold floor helped him clear his thoughts a bit as he stood barefoot, trying to pick a direction to find Liz.

“And your friend will kill me if something happens to you,” the doctor finished, pleading now, with a glass of water in one hand and the other in front of him, trying to guard Max off.

Max stopped, leaning on the bed for a second as a dizzy spell seized him for a moment. “I’m going to find my wife. I’ll rest all you want after that.” For a second, Max thought he would have to fight him in order to get out of the room, and it certainly looked like the man in front of him was seriously considering it as well, yet one second later, he lowered his hand and looked at him sternly.

“We’ll find her, and then you’re coming back. To rest,” he emphasized. Then, “You can’t go out to the hall wearing that,” he added, turning to the closet in search of non-hospital clothes and probably some footwear too.

“Watch me,” was all Max said as he went out of the room.
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 16 - pg. 13 - 5 / 10

Postby Misha » Wed Jul 07, 2010 3:26 pm

Hey guys! Thank you for coming back to read! I'll answer feedback in a bit :)


Chapter 17
Convergence



The instructions had been very clear: Find Max Evans and execute him.

The assassin had been monitoring the Special Unit’s movements since he had gotten into the city and, after seeing there was no real lead, he had started to get impatient. Still he had waited, and when the Head of the Special Unit himself had gotten onto a bike, he knew there was finally somewhere to look.

He didn’t know what Max Evans was wanted for, or why he had to be executed. All he knew was that his target was dangerous and that he needed to proceed with extreme caution. When he entered the hospital’s main entrance, his thoughts divided into three things: Blend in, find the target, plan your escape route.

The controlled chaos that was Saint Paul’s Hospital would aid him with the first and the third. Finding his target was going to be a more elusive problem to solve.

By the time the Special Unit was setting up their perimeter, the man with the mission to unknowingly kill Antar’s king had already finished sweeping the first floor.


* * *


“Strange,” Dr. Shore said as he took his eyes from the microscope, while Dr. Holt tried to not look so anxious as if he were hanging on his every word. Shore had returned to the lab to help Holt cross-check the test results from Max and Michael samples since Michael had finally consented to let McConnell test him.

“Stranger, you mean,” Holt said, half joking, half serious. Shore straightened up on the stool.

“I’ll have to run more tests, but I think their biochemistry substantially changes when they are using their abilities. It may explain why Max got such a bad reaction from the sedative the Unit was using, or why we can’t seem to get the same effect with the same drugs after continuous use. You would have to factor in if he is doing something or not.”

“How long have you been studying them?” Holt asked, a dangerous question for Shore to answer. He had trusted Dr. McConnell with a great deal of sensitive information –at least as much as one could tell in 20 minutes- but if he wanted Holt’s help to be of any use, some truth had to be disclosed.

“For about three days, before Max landed in your ER. He was already sick when they called me in. They’d been trying to stabilize him with a cocktail of drugs that was doing nothing but leaving his temperature too low, and his mind too numb to answer much. This is the first time I’m looking at Michael’s sample. I wish we had had it when I arrived five days ago… Would have been easier to treat Max.”

“What are they telling you now? The samples?” Holt asked, his eyes reviewing for the fourth time the few results they already had.

“That hopefully we are on the right path,” Shore said with a heavy sigh. “Though I gotta admit… I doubt it’s anything we’re doing…”

Holt frowned at that, staring at Shore, waiting for a clearer answer.

“We compromised Max’s own self-healing abilities with a serum that suppresses specific neurotransmitters after his body reacted so poorly to the sedatives. It all went downhill for him from that point on. We might have helped him to hold on while he metabolized all the drugs, but ultimately, I think his own body is healing itself. It’s the only reason I can find for him being able to run out of your quarantine room so soon after being so sick.”

Not that Shore knew the details about it. Last time he had seen Max, he had been burning up a 111 ºF fever, a thought that made Shore shiver. How much could Max really withstand, after all he had gone through? Shore now knew that Max had somehow demolished the quarantine area, had run, and then had ended up somewhere else. With a half frustrated sigh, Shore had to trust that McConnell knew what he was doing by keeping Max’s whereabouts secret.

“So what happens to him? I mean, if he heals, will you take him back? Will he be… you know… okay?”

What a loaded question, and by the way Holt had asked it, it seemed it was pretty obvious to the younger doctor that Max would not be okay. A shrill ringtone interrupted them before Shore had time to think what to answer. His cell phone was lighting up as a “private number” showed up on the little screen.

“Shore here,” he answered after the second ring.

“Thank God you answered!” Bill’s voice came through, sounding breathless. “Where the hell are you? And why the hell weren’t you answering? And for God’s sake, don’t disappear on me like that again!”

Shore actually stared at the phone for a couple of seconds, bewildered. Never had his friend talked to him like that.

“I guess I didn’t have any signal where I was before. This is the first time I heard the phone. What’s going on, anyway? Did Washington vote?”

“Hell, it voted, all right. Max’s been granted political asylum, and everyone is just going around like headless chickens trying to figure out what the hell they are going to do once Max is healthy, and hopefully cooperative. Where the hell are you, Pete?”

This was definitely the weirdest conversation he had had with his friend ever. How many times could Bill say “hell” in three sentences? Bill was one of the calmest and most rational guys he had ever met, so whatever he was thinking, it was very upsetting.

“Pete?” the voice on the other end prompted.

“Sorry, I’m just surprised. I wasn’t sure if Washington was going to do the right thing,” Shore responded.

“I thought you were dead,” Bill said barely above a whisper. “You weren’t answering, you weren’t reporting anything, and you had already spent so much time at that hospital…”

Shore’s heart skipped a beat. How did Bill know that? The phone, of course, came the answer a second later. He had a Special Unit phone, an instant GPS.

“Are you still there?” Bill interrogated, now sounding more in control.

“Yes,” he finally admitted, no point in denying where his phone was when he was talking through it.

“Harrington is there. He’s seen Liz, and is now in the process of closing the perimeter around Saint Paul’s. Peter… did you actually find Max?”

Silence met these words, as Shore debated how exactly to convince Bill that Max’s exact whereabouts needed to remain secret, at least until Washington was certain no one wanted Max dead.

“Harrington shouldn’t be here… Michael is guarding Max. It won’t be pretty if anyone gets close to him.” It wasn’t a flat out yes, I found him, but it certainly left no question about it.

“Is he okay? Peter, tell me he’s okay,” Bill practically begged him.

Shore turned to look at Holt, who was watching him like a hawk. “He’s getting there. We think he’s getting better.”

There was a relieved sigh at the other end of the phone. “Wait, ‘we’?” The concern was back, and Shore knew this conversation was inevitable.

“There are four doctors here who know that Max is not completely human. They are the reason that Max is alive right now.”

“This complicates things… but I guess it’s not completely unexpected…” his friend said in a more resigned tone. “I’m on my way, be there in about twenty minutes with this traffic. Can you meet me somewhere there?”

That was a dangerous proposition. Shore didn’t want to risk being seen by Michael, at least not until McConnell had had a chance to talk to him… “Page Dr. Holt when you arrive here, he’ll bring you to where I am,” he simply said.

“Okay, sounds like a plan. You’ll fill me in on Max’s condition, and we’ll see how best to present our peace offering to His Majesty. I just love my job…” the Lieutenant Colonel humorlessly said. He hung up without further questions, leaving Shore with one nagging feeling growing at the back of his mind: Now that Harrington was here, what was he planning to do?



* * *


Dr. McConnell’s mind was one intricate, frantic mess. He was walking in front of Liz, taking the longest possible way to Max’s room, trying to understand how he had ended up between the FBI and an alien-human hybrid alleged king in the last 24 four hours. Though technically speaking, it had only been about 17 hours.

“You do realize he’ll die if you move him,” he said, turning back to look at Liz, who was trailing right behind him, following him while looking at every single person they crossed, obviously nervous and afraid.

“I know he’ll die if I don’t move him,” she answered, not looking at him directly, but at a male nurse coming from the other end of the hall. She was wary of everyone, but especially men.

“We are keeping him secret from the FBI, too,” McConnell said, desperately trying to find some way to convince the short woman to give Max a chance to recover. At his words, she actually looked surprised. Then she shook her head, and made him walk faster.

“You don’t understand,” she said, her eyes getting slightly lost, “they’ll find him, and they’ll shoot him.”

“They are actually trying to save him,” the words came stumbling out of his mouth, as he played his last card into this. Liz actually stopped, stunned.

“You’re working with them…” she whispered, her eyes going round, panic giving way to betrayal in her face as the information sank in.

“He doesn’t know where Max is, but he’s been helping us in the lab. I swear he doesn’t know,” McConnell insisted as he felt Liz ready to bolt –so like Michael- and took her by the shoulders. “Max is really sick, and Shore is the only one who understands what’s going on. He doesn’t want Max getting hurt, or shot at. He… he’s the reason Max is alive right now.”

She wasn’t buying it, and McConnell was running out of ideas.

“They’re the reason why he’s here in the first place,” she angrily retorted, a counterargument McConnell couldn’t deny.

“True, but they didn’t know then what they know now…” he said, lowering his voice. He wasn’t sure how exactly to go about asking what Shore had told him, but he guessed now was his last chance to find out. Liz just looked at him in quiet fury and slight confusion. “Liz, why exactly is Max here? Not here, in the hospital, but here on Earth?”

“It’s… a rather long story,” Liz said, a bit of the anger dissipating, her eyes looking as tired as his felt. “Max is a great man,” she continued, “and he would be the last person in this world to hurt anyone. He’s not dangerous. Whatever the Unit told you, it’s not true.”

Funny that, because he had half a mind to not believe them either. Liz was about to say something, when she stopped, mouth slightly open, her eyes losing focus for a moment. “What exactly did they tell you?” she asked, frowning, trying to decipher some mystery by the look on her face.

“A rather long story,” McConnell echoed her early answer, and this time, he got Liz’s attention. “Apparently, Max told them something… and they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

“Harrington said they had granted him political refuge…” she whispered, “but it doesn’t make sense.”

Who? McConnell fleetingly wondered, though all he cared about was the ray of hope he saw in Liz’s words. “I don’t know about him, but Dr. Shore has been here for about four hours, and his only focus has been keeping Max alive. Michael showed up half an hour ago, and he let us take blood samples to help Max.”

“He did?” Liz said, her eyes widening in surprised disbelief. “God, Max must be really sick if Michael let you do that…”

“Yes, but he’s been doing better… Let us help him…”

“You don’t understand…” Liz’s voice almost cracked as she repeated herself, “I—”

She never finished. Coming from the other side, Michael was approaching them faster than a hunting lion, exuding exactly the same lethal type of energy.

“What did you see?” he said as soon as he was close enough not to yell it.

“Someone’s going to shoot him,” Liz said as certain as if she were saying the sky is blue.

“Where?” Michael asked, fear joining his tense features.

“In a hospital room… There’s a girl, on a bed… Max walks in, and then someone shoots him.”

“He’s not strong enough to walk, we have time,” Michael said, looking over McConnell’s shoulder and then to the hall he had just come from, his eyes searching in the same manner Liz had a few minutes before. He was looking for suspects.

“The Head of the Unit is here,” Liz filled Michael in, at which the younger man cursed. “Someone named Harrington. He approached me on the first floor. He claims they are giving Max political refuge. Did Max say anything to you?”

“What? No, he hasn’t been able to say much of anything. He woke up about ten minutes ago and sent me to find you. Which wasn’t easy…” he added, looking at McConnell for a second, and then back to the hall. Saint Paul was a big hospital, indeed. “He’s not in great shape, Liz, but he’s holding on. If the Unit is here, we have to move him now.”

“Hold it right there,” McConnell said as Michael was turning to retrace his path leading to Max. “What are you talking about? Who’s going to shoot Max?” he asked, standing in the middle of the pair, nothing making any sense. Again. They both turned to look at him, both opening their mouths and then closing them.

“I won’t presume to understand what exactly you kids have gone through, or what the FBI has done in the past. But right now, the life of your husband and friend is on the line. Unless you have the means to heal him or move him to another hospital, whatever risk you perceive is coming, cannot be greater than the risk Max is already in.”

Silence met his words. In that moment, both Michael and Liz looked really young, trapped in making a life-or-death decision no one ever wanted to make. Worse so sure were they that no one would help them that they couldn’t even attempt asking for advice.

“Let me help you…” McConnell said above a whisper, urgency coloring his voice. For a moment, he actually thought he had finally won them over.

Liz slightly shook her head. “He’s going to get shot,” she said with chilling conviction, and turning to go to the hall where Michael had come, she told her friend, “We have to get him out, now.”

McConnell felt disheartened, but followed them. If he could not make them see reason, there were plenty of tricks he could think of to delay them. The more time Max spent here, the better for him. And in the meantime, McConnell still had a couple of questions for Shore he needed answers to.


* * *


The Special Unit headcount had been small by definition, but it had been downright undersized thanks to the snowstorm that had prevented the rest of the agents from getting to their makeshift headquarters five days before. Now that the storm had passed more than 24 hours ago, the newly arrived agents were taking their posts, securing the hospital.

Colonel Harrington had been very explicit about the no-kill order, and that the targets should be only pointed out when found. It was up to the Colonel, Dr. Shore or Lieutenant Colonel Anders to actually make contact.

The no-kill order didn’t mean it was a no-shoot scenario, though, something Agent Osler contemplated as he surveyed the hospital parking lot from a nearby roof. The tranquilizer rifle was not as easy to maneuver as his regular rifle, but it would have to do. The other sniper, Agent Meader, was already positioned a block away, covering the main entrance.

Picking a spot, he methodically prepared his weapon and made one last general overview of the grounds before lowering to the floor. Settling in, Osler got used to the weight and length of his new rifle, and promptly started to single out targets through the crosshairs. He had the sideways with the ER entrance right in front. Tons of people were milling through the entire block, news crews and policemen all around. If he were to shoot any target from right here, it would be hard to explain, especially with cameras rolling. His orders were not to shoot if he saw them going in, just if he saw them coming out.

Slowly, he imagined exactly that, his target walking out of the building. He traced all the possible routes a target could take from the ER entrance, moving the crosshairs first to his right, and then to his left, following both streets that intersected right beneath the corner where he was hidden. He might not be able to shoot the targets right at the entrance, but he sure as hell could shoot them away from prying eyes.

He reached the end of the block, and froze. His imagination was good, but not this good.

Coming from a red, battered Toyota, Isabel Evans was frantically looking from one side to the other, obviously looking for someone. Her hair was blond and long, like she used to wear it in her high school days, which had actually made the agent doubt it was her. The last known pictures of her were with short, red hair. Regardless, Agent Osler watched her turning to look in the direction of the hospital, obviously trying to decide if she should go in or not.

Her face changed from worried, to indecisive, to furious. And it was with the same furious expression that Agent Osler followed her throughout the street, and saw her disappear through the ER entrance.

Colonel Harrington was getting a full house, and Agent Osler lost no time in reporting that to him.
Last edited by Misha on Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 17 - pg. 15 - 7/7

Postby Misha » Sat Oct 02, 2010 1:03 am

Hi all!

First, a big thank you to Sundae for taking on beta duties as fast as she did! And wow! You are a wonderful editor, girl! Any leftover mistakes are solely mine.

Second, if you are reading The Offer, yes, I have the next part... and tons of pages on the editing floor that hopefully will speed up what's to come.

Lastly, thank you all for sticking to my stories, even if sometimes it takes ages between parts... you're the bestest!




Chapter 18
Choices



Max managed to get as far as the next door before he had to stop. He felt awful enough to need to lean onto the wall for a few seconds, but not long enough to stop searching for his wife. Somewhere, nearby, Liz was still vulnerable, looking for him.

Please, at least let me help you,” the man Max had left behind in the room said breathlessly as he held one bathrobe in one hand and in the other the same glass of water he’d tried to offer just a few minutes before. He looked scared out of his mind, and right at the verge of hyperventilating, even if Max himself was in no condition to judge anyone. He wasn’t looking all that well either.

“I just want to find my wife…” Max said while briefly closing his eyes, his legs starting to feel firmer, and his heart not sounding so loud in his ears.

“I just want you back in that room,” the man said, “but… yeah…” he finished with a half hearted smile. He offered the water a second later, and again Max declined.

“Nauseous…” he whispered, slightly turning to get a better view of the hall. A better sense if Liz was that way or not.

“Drink it slowly,” the doctor insisted, “you are dehydrated…”

…And your body needs all the help it can get right now… the echo of a voice flashed through Max’s mind without warning, a memory of his missing time. There had been another doctor who’d said the same thing; he’d offered him some slightly sweet water too.

“Maybe you should get back—”

“No, I’m fine,” Max replied, taking the glass and barely sipping a drink, trying to both follow that elusive memory and convince this man he was better than he looked. The glass almost slipped from his grip, Max’s reaction to hold it tightly coming a few moments too slow, but he still managed to not drop it. Reluctantly, he admitted in his mind he could definitely use a bed right now, and then dismissed the idea. He shook his head once as the green eyed doctor leaned next to him on the wall, handing him the robe.

Giving back the glass, Max took the offered cloth, suddenly feeling exposed.

“What does she look like?” The man asked as he waited on Max to put on the mint colored robe before gently coaching him to take another sip of the water.

An image of Liz flashed through is mind, laughing about some silly inside joke between them, her hair cascading down her shoulders. Left or right? Max couldn’t decide…there was no direct feeling, no anchor, nothing. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to get a hold of her. She was anxious again, that was all he knew. Picking right, Max proceed down the hall.

“She has long, straight, dark-brown hair… she’s about this height,” Max answered as he signaled to his shoulder. “She’s twenty and…”

…and she’s done nothing wrong… The echo of the memory continued in his mind. He’d said that to someone, someone who’d been asking about who Liz was.

“And she’s worried about you, right?” the doctor questioned, taking Max’s left elbow to lend him support. “It’s true, isn’t it? You really can sense her?”

“Not too well right now,” Max answered, stopping again in the middle of the hall. “I can’t tell where she is… just that she’s near…”

“Well, that’s more than I can sense… from anything…” the doctor said with a slightly nervous laugh. Max started walking again, a little slower than before, trying to get a hold of anything that would tell him if he was going in the right direction. “What— what else can you do?”

Max thought for a second, his mind going from telekinesis to connecting, from igniting fires to his shield. “Not much,” he simply answered instead. There was no sense on making things more complicated, or exhausting himself trying to anyway.

“Why are you so sick?” the doctor suddenly asked, looking straight ahead, “I mean, you healed all those kids in Phoenix, and then Sarah yesterday, despite the fact that you were already sick from what I understood from Susan, so it doesn’t really make sense, you know? If you can heal outside bodies, you should be able to heal inside your own body, right? What else would healing abilities be good for, otherwise? But then, how do you heal, I mean, if—”

“It made me sick,” Max cut him off before he could become dizzier by the rain of questions. “They gave me some drug that made me sick… I think…” he added, unsure. The light from the hall started to irritate his eyes, so he closed them, finding some relief.

“The government?”

“The FBI Special Unit,” Max clarified, nodding. “They think we’re dangerous…” Max stopped again, this time trying to recall something. “They were asking odd things…” He remembered thinking that, odd things they wanted to know, but now he could not remember what they were.

“Are… you…?” the older man asked, stopping with Max as well, still not looking at him but at the end of the hall.

“No…” Max answered, a bit distracted, “But they don’t want to believe that…”

“You healed children…” the doctor whispered, something in his mind not making sense to him, “Why?” he asked as he finally turned to look at Max. But Max was no longer really looking at him. The light from the hall had triggered his memories, and like a broken dam, the rush of images threatened to draw him. He blindly reached for the support of the wall to his right as his breathing rapidly increased.

"Max?" he heard the doctor calling to him.

"Max?!" he heard Liz in his mind, anxiously reaching for him.

Max... the voice of the other doctor, Shore, broke into his mind as his memory replaced reality, the walls dissolving, everything changing in an instant into what his mind was recalling . . .
.
.
. . . "Max..." Shore was gently coaxing him to wake up. Shapes and colors fusing and then taking proper form as Max's eyelids slowly opened to soft, blue light. Everything was quiet, still. He was warmly wrapped in blue, heavy covers, though his muscles ached enough to make him feel uncomfortable. He was thirsty, and vaguely dizzy, and frankly, he had all the intention in the world to just shut his eyes and let sleep take him again, but there seemed to be a nagging feeling in his mind that there was something important he should be aware of.

He slowly blinked, the dark ceiling looking too high. He couldn’t recall how he knew the man beside him was something-or-other Shore, but not knowing the specifics didn’t bother him either.

"How are you feeling?" Shore softly asked, not raising his voice as if something would break if he did so. He was sitting on a chair, a discarded notebook and pencil on his lap.

There was an odd need to answer him, almost like a compulsion, that Max tried to shake off. Everything felt slow, his mind too heavy with sleep to process everything at the right speed, though he found it weird he was aware of that. He knew, beyond a doubt, that if he were to speak, his words would sound slurred, maybe even a bit incoherent.

He also knew he was missing something important here. Shore stood, placing the notebook and the pencil on the chair, and then reached for Max. His shadow covered Max’s face from the lights above, leaving the man’s features almost obscured to Max’s eyes for a few moments.

"Your fever broke a couple of hours ago," Shore said, still quietly, soothing. "You must be thirsty," he added as he reached for something by Max's side. Water, by the sound of it. The bed started to slowly rise, leaving Max slightly inclined. His stomach protested the motion, as minimum as it was, making Max more aware of what his body was feeling, but still not knowing why. He didn’t get sick, he was sure. Yet apparently, he did.

“Drink it slowly,” the doctor insisted. “You're dehydrated and your body needs all the help it can get right now…" A foamy cup met Max’s lips. He tried to reach for it but found his wrists restrained under the covers, the contact with his skin letting him know that they were large padded straps. He didn’t really register the importance of this at first, as Shore slowly raised the bottom of the cup so the water would flow into Max’s mouth.

“Okay… How are you feeling?” the doctor asked again, allowing Max only a few more sips, his blue eyes expectantly looking at him.

“Tired…” Max answered truthfully, a dozen words coming to his mind right after that. He was thirsty, sore, exhausted, and the few sips of water weren’t settling down so great in his stomach. He also had the feeling that reality was just out of his reach, and for a moment he looked directly at the doctor wondering if maybe it was all a dream.

“Headaches?” the man inquired, his hand going to Max’s forehead. Max shook his head, but the movement only made his dizziness increase. He stopped, closing his eyes. The touch of the hand brought a fleeting flash that Max couldn’t decipher beyond images of charts, formulas and numbers, all meaningless to him but clearly important to Shore.

Seconds passed, Max’s awareness improving, if not by much, at least enough to start piecing together where he was and how he’d gotten there. Images came, about a mall, running through streets, the cold air painfully filling his lungs. Rolls of paper, a warehouse. Michael! He remembered then, if not all, enough to realize that he’d been captured.

He opened his eyes suddenly, his mind terrified about Michael and his whereabouts, about the others, about himself. His first reaction was to reach for Liz, to assure his raising heart that she was okay, that only he was the one in hell. An unconnected memory flashed through his mind then, the voice talking in whispers, but the message all the same clear: I don't think Harrington would mind him staying a little longer if only to use Max as bait.

Everything stopped. In Max’s mind, time instantly froze as he realized that he could not ask for help, could not risk the others following him here. This time, there was no way out if not by himself.

The hand on his forehead retreated as soon as he opened his eyes, causing Max to look at his captor, feeling torn between wanting to convince this man he was not the enemy or just remaining silent, thereby not giving him anything to use. Regardless, Max instinctively moved back, something futile as he was strapped to the bed, and kept fearful, vulnerable eyes on those of the older man.

“It’s okay, Max. It’s okay…”

A million things crossed Max’s mind at that moment, starting with no, it’s not okay, but nothing came out of his mouth. He was too scared, and too aware that whatever he would say wouldn’t matter anyways. The fact that it still felt as though time had somehow slowed down didn’t help any either.

Shore firmly placed both hands on Max’s shoulders, effectively getting his attention. “Max. It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.” Shore held him still, waiting for some sort of cue from Max, he guessed, but damn if he knew what. “Try to relax…” Shore explained, in a softer manner. “Your heart hasn’t had a great time the past hours.”

Max’s eyes locked with Shore’s, not knowing what to do, his breath coming too fast to try to calm himself.

“Slooowly,” Shore instructed, slightly dragging the word to emphasize the meaning, his grip almost nonexistent on Max’s shoulders now. “One breath at a time. You cannot control your heart, but you can control your breathing,” he whispered, his features still partially obscure by the light above his head.

His perception of time still askew, Max focused on the man’s slow words, trying to match his breathing to the one of his captor. It took a couple of minutes, but finally, he wasn’t hyperventilating. He was far from relaxed, but he would take small victories at given chance. His thoughts were somewhat clearer now that panic was not gripping his every thought, but Max knew reality was still coming distorted to his senses.

“That’s good,” Shore praised him with a small smile.

“I’m not—not dangerous,” Max whispered, sensing that maybe this man was different from Pierce; different from every single monster that had lurked the shadows of his nightmares.

“I believe you,” Shore assured him, briefly looking up. “Let’s concentrate on getting you better, okay?”

Max didn’t move. He hardly even blinked. They were making him sick, why would this man care to make him feel better, then?

“You must feel a bit drowsy. You’ll get sleepier in a few minutes,” Shore said with a small smile, “So let’s check a few things before that, okay?” The doctor nodded at his own words, and Max reluctantly nodded once.

“I’m going to ask you some simple questions. Just say yes or no,” Shore paused, expectantly looking at Max. It took a couple of seconds, but it finally dawned on him that Shore was waiting to see if he’d understood. “Okay,” he whispered, still afraid.

“It’s your name Max Evans?”

“Yes.” It wasn’t so much that he wanted to answer; it was more like he needed to answer. It felt weird, weirder that he was actually aware of this feeling, but the next question came, and then the next… and then the next.

They blurred in his memory now, but the uneasy sensation that he’d been made to answer remained. As if he’d had no choice. As if he’d never have a choice with them.


* * *


A man was staring at her.

Isabel was used to being stared at. Since she was little and all throughout middle school and high school, Isabel Evans was a beauty that surpassed all her peers, and she knew it. In fact, she knew it so well that she’d learned from an early age how to take advantage of it, how to get away with things most kids her age wouldn’t. For most of her life, her looks had proven to be a valuable asset. But still, some stares were not welcomed.

Lustful teenage boys she could deal and ignore, but it was grown up men looking at her like a piece of meat that made her skin crawled. She was confident enough in her powers to aid her in any circumstance, but the idea of those eyes following her every move was just… disgusting.

The man who was staring at her but trying not to look like he was doing so, was mercifully not of that kind. She couldn’t feel the hideous vibes coming from him, yet his eyes on her were undeniable. She didn’t even try to politely smile with a sidelong glance, her usual method to discourage the staring act. Frankly, she didn’t have time to deal with it either, as she impatiently waited for the elevator to open.

Not even ten minutes ago she’d woken up from her only real good dream connection with her brother just to find that Liz was gone. Poof! Nowhere to be seen. That Liz had taken off to the hospital was uneasy as hell, but that she’d gone without waking her up to alert her of whatever danger Liz had perceived was downright infuriating.

Granted, none of them had slept more than five hours in the last five days, and they were all at the end of their ropes right now, but their main goal was to get Max out, and running blindly alone into the hospital was just plain stupid.

If Liz had gotten out of the car it could only mean one thing: She’d seen something. But why had she taken off without telling her? Had Liz seen her in danger, therefore wanting to leave her behind on purpose? Was her link to Max so important that it had to remain unperturbed? Worse, if Liz and Michael were getting Max out of here this very moment, she might just miss them. They would arrive to an empty car.

The doors opened and Isabel went in, followed by the man in his late forties, dark brown eyes trying to look straight, yet still following her every move. Luckily, Isabel was going to the third floor, the last information they’d collected, so the awkward moment in the elevator would be short. Not that she would be thinking about it, anyway.

Maybe she was the one who was supposed to stay behind and actually follow the plan. Maybe coming here in their search was not the brightest idea either. Maybe—

“You have to help us out,” the voice came so unexpectedly that Isabel’s instant reaction was to turn to look at the man, not really understanding what he was talking about. His palms went to his sides as he moved backwards, almost as if giving her space, trying to not look threatening. In an instant, it all became so clear to her.

“Oh my God, you’re one of them,” she said, equally moving backwards, but her hand went up, not sure of what she was going to do, not sure if she could kill an agent in cold blood. Her heart slammed in her chest, and all thoughts about this being a mistake flew out the window. All she cared right this moment was to get out of the elevator alive and not a prisoner.

The man’s eyes went round, maybe expecting to get blasted. He blinked then, looking at Isabel in a pleading manner. “It’s all been a misunderstanding. Please Ms. Evans. Please.”

I saw my brother from your observation room. There’s no misunderstanding what you were doing to him. The thought passed through her mind before the agent could even finish. Rage ran through her veins, and it didn’t seem so hard to kill one of the men responsible for Max’s current state. It almost felt… fair.

The elevator stopped, but neither one took their eyes from each other.

“Let me prove it to you. Let me help you,” the doors opened as he finished, a couple of nurses and a doctor waiting to get inside. Instantly, Isabel lowered her hand and tried to smile, not sure exactly why. It was the third floor, and she didn’t know what to do. Get down and possibly lead these people to Max? Or stay and fight if it came to that?

Filled with strangers now, they all hit the buttons to their destinations, effectively closing the doors and leaving Isabel and the agent at opposite sides of the elevator car. It started to move up, indifferent to Isabel’s sickening feeling that she might actually never get out of it.


* * *


Max finally stopped panting as he slid down the wall. It was now clear to Dr. Hayden that he never should have allowed this man to get out of the bed, let alone out of the room.

Max had seemed to have some sort of episode, his mind going somewhere that his body found anything but comfortable. It’d only lasted a couple of minutes, but it was long enough to cause Hayden to start looking up and down the hall to see if any nurse or doctor would help him in getting Max to his room.

Inwardly, Hayden thought he sucked at this cloak and dagger thing…

Light-brown eyes finally refocused again as Max regained his bearings in reality, suddenly recoiling at Hayden’s supporting hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, hey… it’s okay,” Hayden soothingly responded, years of talking to frightened kids coming in handy now. He was kneeling in front of Max, locking his sparkly, green eyes with Max’s, trying to calm the younger man.

Alien.

Whatever.

It was weird how Hayden had gone from denial, to fear, to acceptance, to curiosity in the space of half an hour. He was still afraid, but an overwhelming part of him was just plain curious. He’d always been wanting answers since the night he’d seen those silver handprints on the kids’ chests, and a little thing like learning alien life had something to do with it was not going to stop him now. It didn’t matter if Max was an alien, a wizard or an elf. If what he did could be replicated, millions of future lives could be saved. Thousands of kids this very moment could have a quality of life that was otherwise robbed to them by an unforgiving cancer. And who knew how many other illnesses could be stopped?

“Are you okay?” he asked as he watched Max blink several times, his breathing returning to normal. It wasn’t like Hayden wanted to dissect Max and see how he worked, but he couldn’t deny that he definitely had a deep hunger for understanding how Max could do what he did. In a cold, practical way, he needed Max to stay alive. In a more humane look, whoever thought kids deserved a chance at life deserved way more than ending up half dead on an ER because of what he was.

Max tried to stand up, and Hayden gave him a hand. “We need to get you back. You’re in no condition to be walking around. I’m sure your wife will agree with me.”

“I’m okay…” Max halfheartedly protested as he got his balance back.

“Yeah, okay to go back. Your friend Michael would kill me if he saw you right now,” Hayden seriously said, truly believing it as well.

Max leaned on the wall, staying very still for a second. The door on the hall that was beside him was ajar, and after staring at it for a moment, Max slowly opened it.

“Max…” Hayden said with a warning tone, not sure if it was because Max might disturb someone in that room, or because he wanted Max out of the hall before Michael caught sight of them. But the door kept opening a bit more, enough to reveal someone on a bed. Someone very small. A child.

“I… I think I know her…” Max whispered, frowning as he obviously couldn’t recall who was sleeping in the bed. But Hayden knew, beyond a doubt, that on the bracelet of the little girl’s wrist the words Sarah Meyer were written in blue ink. He turned to look at Max with no idea of what to say, or what to do.


* * *


The elevator doors opened on the third floor, and after taking a second to consider his options, the assassin took a left.


* * *
Last edited by Misha on Sat Oct 02, 2010 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unknown (CC/Max, YTEEN) Ch. 18 - pg. 16 - 10/2 AN 12/31

Postby Misha » Sat Jan 15, 2011 3:15 pm

Hey guys!

Thank you for all your patience! And to think when I started to write Unknown I thought there were only going to be 15 chapters top... I'm guessing there are still three to come, maybe four... :roll:




Chapter 19
Hunting



There were times that Colonel Harrington’s job got difficult, but hunting down aliens came with its own definition of difficult.

His relief at discovering Liz Parker-Evans on the hospital’s hall had been short-lived as he began to face the logistics of covering the hospital and approaching these kids had started. It wasn’t that he didn’t know how to place his men in position, or how to talk to people, no; it was the knowledge that he wasn’t even sure what exactly these human-alien hybrids could do that set him on edge.

He’d ordered the dosage on the tranquilizers to be half of what it used to be, in the hopes a lower dose would slow them down if it came to that, without risking their lives. Captain Whitmore had said Max’s reaction had been too severe because he’d been shot twice, but in truth, no one knew how much was too much for their hybrid biology.

Still, he’d ordered his agents to shoot at them as a last resort, hoping things would calm down once he found Max. He was also counting on the fact that Max would be too weak to be much of a threat, but then, he would have to find Max alone. And with Liz here, that was unlikely.

If Liz was around, everyone was around.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Harrington spotted Isabel Evans waiting for the elevator at the other end of the hall. He’d been told she was entering the hospital, after all, and he’d had purposely searched the first floor in order to find her, but what surprised him was who was beside her: Anders.

Their mediator extraordinaire seemed to be as baffled at finding himself right beside their alien princess as Harrington had felt when he had spotted Liz in the hall less than 20 minutes before. The General barely got a chance to see them entering the elevator before he had any time to react, but as his eyes glued themselves to the elevator’s glowing numbers on the top, he reached for his cell phone and called the Lieutenant Colonel hoping his cell phone would have some signal inside the metal doors.

Not even two rings had passed unanswered by Anders when the older man hung up, watchful eyes registering that the elevator had stopped on the third floor. Out to the emergency stairs he went, taking two and three steps at a time, fleetingly registering the recent blood drops on the floor. He would never guess they were Max’s.

Taking a deep breath, Harrington opened the emergency exit door looking composed. If Isabel was talking with Anders, then there was still hope. He had to talk to them, any of them, and present his… request, he guessed, for them to… consider, even if he was not exactly giving them options.

No one came from Anders and Isabel’s elevator, and barely exhaling an exasperated short sigh, Harrington looked up to the ever changing numbers going up. On the other elevator, the doors opened letting out a couple of nurses and a doctor. He barely noticed out of the corner of his eye, but something prickled at the back of his neck. Something about the doctor, actually. About the way he’d walked, the way he’d subtly glanced sideways, as if he were unfamiliar with the place.

His instincts on high alert, Harrington let go of his vigil to find out where the elevator stopped next, and slowly and deliberately lowered his eyes and trained them on the back of the retreating white coat. No nurse waved to him, and he made no bee line to the nurse’s station.

The elevator doors opened again, making Harrington turn to look at the newcomers, more people coming out, none of them Anders or Isabel. By the time his attention was back on the slightly-out-of-place doctor, the man had vanished. Harrington’s eyes narrowed a fraction of an inch, a decision being made.

The elevator forgotten, Harrington went off to hunt his new prey.


* * *


They were finally alone.

The last person had left the elevator, and the doors hung open into what looked suspiciously like the Pediatric Wing, as rainbows and butterflies and wall to wall happy faces met them on the other side. The nurse who had been traveling with them got out without sparing them a glance, and ever since then, the seconds had stretched to an impossible eternity.

Anders looked at Isabel, who looked as if she were about to cry in desperation. Just as the elevator doors started to close, she darted out so quickly it took Anders a second to register he had to get out there, too.

She didn’t run, but nervously looked left and right, searching for something, or maybe for someone who would… what? Bear witness to whatever he was about to do to her? Take hostage so she could escape?

The doors ominously closed behind him, a swish sound being the only thing he could hear besides his racing heart. The nurse whot had come with them turned a corner, leaving the hall effectively deserted, a fact neither of them missed.

“I know this looks bad,” Anders started, making Isabel look at him, breathing too fast yet steeling her eyes against him. She was about to do something harsh, and he had to stop it. “We didn’t know, Isabel,” he whispered, calling her by her first name in order to establish some sort of bond, “We honestly did not know. Fifty years of history had told us you were the enemy, but we know better now. We are offering amnesty, protection.”

She was not listening to him, he could see it in her eyes. She probably thought he was buying time for some sinister purpose. “Tell me what you want, whatever you need, and I’ll do my best to prove to you I’m telling you the truth. Isn’t there something… a-a way for you to read my mind? Max said something about it… a connection, I think?” he was grasping at straws here, and he knew it, but if Isabel wanted to kill him, there was nothing to protect him. His mind was running through everything he had heard Max say, anything to prove to her he was telling the truth.

“It doesn’t work that way,” she said, her breathing calmer, though her eyes were no softer. At least she had engaged in conversation, and that was an enormous step forward. If she was willing to talk, then there was still hope.

“We thought Max was a threat, all of you. But when we got Max, he got sick. That’s what you saw. We were trying to help him, and he started to tell us what was really going on.”

She shook her head, unwilling to believe him. “I saw him. I saw him four years ago when you first got him, and I saw him yesterday when he was dying in your hands. You’re monsters.”

The way she said the last word made Anders certain she was going to kill him there.

The elevator dinged, startling both of them. It opened, another nurse standing inside, moving out as the doors finished opening. Isabel and him stood still, rooted in place. It was absurd, really, how they were in the middle of life and death decisions, yet a random person walking by made them pause. The nurse looked at them curiously, and then continued on her way.

“Neither of us wants this, Isabel,” he whispered as they both eyed the retreating woman. “You’re not a cold-blooded murderer or you would have killed me by now. I’m not a cold-blooded agent, either. I found about you and your brother and Michael barely five days ago. I was brought in to be a mediator between you and the US government. I’ve been reading file after file from the Special Unit, and hearing what your brother has been telling us, and the truth is, I believe Max. I have little to go on but my instincts, and they tell me I have to trust you.”

She slightly narrowed her eyes, hopefully changing her mind about him. He had not been exactly honest because he believed in facts, and there was little on either side of this problem. He knew people had been killed by silver handprints, but he also knew Max had saved children in Phoenix. Max was also not entirely alien, which exonerated him as the killer from forty years back. It didn’t matter, anyway. Right now he would say anything to get her to trust him.

“I know what I saw,” she stubbornly said, standing still. Voices were coming from the corner, their privacy about to be interrupted once more.

“We made Max sick unintentionally. For the past four days we’ve been trying to make him well again. Please, Isabel, please,” he begged, as a couple and a child on a wheelchair came into view.

“If you’re telling the truth,” she said barely above a whisper as the three of them called the elevator, “you won’t be following me now.”

The doors opened, and in went the family, and with them Isabel. He was supposed to talk to her, he desperately thought, but he needed to gain her trust first, which meant staying in place. The doors closed with finality five seconds later. Reaching for his cell phone, he dialed Harrington without delay. He hoped Isabel took his word now that he had not followed her. He just had no idea what she would do once the other members of the Unit found her.


* * *


Cells lazily moved under the microscope as Holt took carefully detailed notes. An hour ago, he had realized that once Max left the hospital –by his own will, or the will of others- everything related to him would be taken away as well. It was just a matter of time before the biggest discovery of humanity, the existence of life outside the Earth, would be wiped out of this hospital.

With McConnell, Lake, and Cramer doing God knew what in the hospital, he was the only remaining doctor who had treated Max, who also had access to the tests being done. Shore, the FBI doctor who had been working with Max, was just as absorbed collecting data from what he was seeing under the microscope on the other side of the table, as Holt appeared to be.

There was not much progress to go on while waiting for the longer tests to be ready, or without a second sample from Max, so Holt had turned his mind to document this outstanding event. Maybe he would not be able to talk about this now, or in ten years, or in thirty, but at some point in his life, he would need proof that what he was saying had indeed happened. He had little hope he could retain any real samples, but he would get whatever he could. Even if it was only a detailed sketch and tons of notes.

In front of him, Dr. Shore seemed to have a somewhat similar idea. He was also taking page after page of copious notes, maybe writing down his memories of the last week. What had that man seen?

“Why did he have so many marks?” Holt suddenly asked, his curiosity beating his cautiousness.

“Marks?

“Needle marks, and wrist marks… We thought he had been…” tortured, the word died in Holt’s mind. “Maybe it’s none of my business,” he hastily withdrawn the question. This was an FBI guy who had been remarkably vague in details about Max, why he had been ordered sedated, and what was going to happen to him next. Silence seemed like a better option right now.

Shore looked slightly surprised, and then thoughtful.

“He got his… powers back, I guess. He was given two different drugs, one to suppress his abilities, and then another to stabilize him. After about six hours he got them back.”

“I thought he had been mostly unconscious,” Holt answered, trying to fit the medical pieces in place.

Mostly is the key word here. Sometimes he would wake up for a few seconds, and would push the IVs and electrodes off with just a thought. He was barely conscious enough to do much else, thankfully. Of course, we had to start over with the IVs. The marks were unavoidable, unfortunately.”

Holt simply nodded. He was unsure if he believed Shore, even if the pieces fit, and simply turned his eyes to his notes again.

Shore sighed heavily.

“If I can’t convince you, I don’t know how we are going to convince the others. Max seemed to know we were trying to help him, but chances are his memory is fuzzy at best. We need to gain those kids’ trust for everyone’s sake.”

There was just no answer to that, Holt briefly thought, before a cell phone ring interrupted their conversation. Shore answered a second later.

“Bill! You’re finally—” Shore’s eyes went from relieved to slack to unbelieving. “Isabel is what?” He stood up, papers flying to the floor, making Holt jump as well. “No, they don’t know either what’s going on with Max. He’s been alone all this time. They were searching for him just as we are—”

Whatever the rest of the conversation was, Holt never knew. Shore went out of the lab faster than a speeding bullet, leaving notes, samples, tests, all behind. Things were moving too rapid for Holt’s taste… maybe it was time for him to hunt down his own colleagues and get to know what was really going on.

Two minutes later, he was at the nurse station, asking if anyone knew where McConnell, Lake or Cramer were. Soon after, he took a new direction.


* * *


The assassin had efficiently eliminated every obvious place he could find his target, and so he had started to look in the less likely places. The third floor, Cardiology, seemed as good as any other wing to investigate now. He had been told Max Evans was in the hospital, and would look drugged. That, at least, ruled out the several train derailment victims that were occupying every single free room this hospital had had available twenty four hours ago.

As the elevator doors opened and he stepped out, he took a second to get a feel of the place. On he went, following the hospital signs until he found the patient rooms. He had no chance of entering an intensive care unit without being noticed, so he was saving those for last. Besides, if his target was in the ICU, he surely was not going anywhere.

He didn’t pretend anything. He simply opened each door with the confidence of someone who knew where he was going, and left just as swiftly, patients and nurses and relatives left to their own thoughts regarding the doctor who had entered and left without a word.

He was looking for a young man’s face that had been sent to his cell phone about an hour ago. He looked for someone who was not obviously injured, just ill. Into room after room he went, until there were no more rooms in the hall. He turned the corner and started all over again. These patients were not supposed to have visitors, which meant fewer people to look at, and more nurses alert.

He didn’t care. All he needed was six seconds alone with his target, and then he would be off.

He never wondered who his targets were, why had they been ordered killed, or if they had deserved second chances. That was not his job. His job was to follow orders which would help his country. He didn’t have any particular feelings against these people. They were just targets, with unknown lives, pasts, and families. The only things that matter were their faces, and sometimes their names.

He fleetingly wondered what he would do if his target actually had a twin.

The rooms here were spacious, and required him to step further inside to check the patient. They were also single, and the third one to his left was empty. The bed was unmade, and the monitors were strangely on, silently marking flat lines.

He narrowed his eyes, and turned to look to the hall. Maybe his target had just fled, having a sixth sense for danger. They sometimes did.

He went to the next door at his right, which was slightly open. Tightening his grip on his gun, he entered the room, sure he had finally found him. He too had a sixth sense for these things.

He was right.


* * *


Four rooms down the hall, Harrington watched with alarm as the man he had been following for the past ten minutes reached for his gun. Damn Washington! was all he thought before he ran to save his charge. Even if he already knew it was too far to get there in time.
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"


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