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Chapter One



The rope Alec hung from creaked tenuously, and he pulled a face as he peered below them. He'd never been fond of heights. “Ya know, Maxie, I’ve heard of going out on a limb but this is ridiculous,” he said aloud.

Max didn't look at him, her attention riveted on the distant steps of the guards. “Alec, we don’t have time for this.”

Alec sighed theatrically. “Never said a truer word—“

A small hand clamped over his mouth, and Alec suddenly found himself nose to nose with his partner in crime, her dark eyes boring a hole into the back of his head. “I said, shut it,” she said flatly, two bright spots of pink flushing her cheeks as she smacked his arm.

Ducking his head, he pulled himself away from Max's grasp. Unfortunately, that had the side effect of swinging the rope he dangled from straight into the wall. "Ouch!"

"Serves you right," Max whispered smugly as Alec cradled his nose.

Alec glared silently at her, as he probed the cartilage for breakages. It wasn't broken, but it hurt like a bitch. He supposed it was too much to ask to come out of this evening without pain. At least I didn't get shot, he consoled himself, then mentally smacked himself as he remembered that the night was only starting. Way to borrow trouble.

Time was, a house would never have had this kind of security, but times had changed in Seattle. The transgenic presence in the city was now official - and so were the rise of security failures in the city banks, museums and vaults. The locals weren't stupid, and it's amazing how many places had beefed up their security. It almost worked….almost.

Not for the first time, Alec was wondering what he and Max were doing here. Sure, TC was in seriously in serious need of some hard currency; especially since the drug dealers in the area had gotten smart and stopped carrying cash around with them. So their choices were limited, it was either rob a bank or go back to their cat burgling ways.

Guess which one Max picked?

It was fun in a way, Alec admitted to himself, and a hell of a lot less stressful than the goings on back at TC, but that didn't change the fact that the last person who should be doing this was the so called leader of the freak nation. If they got caught, the press would have a field day.

But, as usual, Max had over ruled him. "I'm not going to let someone else take the risk, and besides, who better than me to pull this off?" Alec wasn't really sure when me became us, but here he was, all the same, dangling from the ceiling of one of the most notorious crime bosses in the city. What the hell had happened to his sense of self-preservation? He was so whipped.

A sharp tap across the head caused him to wince. "Earth to Alec, snap out of it, the guard will be back any moment."

"Easy on the bodily harm, Max," he muttered. "We don't want me all disorientated and falling now, do we?"

"Don't tempt me!"

Alec sighed; the bitch was back, and with a vengeance. He had nothing against Logan, but he wished the guy would get a clue, and stop pressing all her buttons. It tended to put a dampener on Alec's life, not to mention the bruises. "Maxie, Maxie, think of the money." He drawled. "You don't want to loose all that lovely green for the sake of seeing me land on my ass."

Max pursed her lips. "Oh, I don't know," she said, her voice sugary sweet. "I think it might be worth it."

Alec smirked. "Why Max, I never knew you felt that way…what would Logan think?"

Max's eyes narrowed, and Alec hastily blurred down the rope, stopping a few feet above the ground. Okay, so maybe Logan isn't the only one who pushes her buttons, but at least I do it on purpose, he thought, grinning as she scowled and followed him down.

"You know, every time I'm stupid enough to think there might be a real person lurking inside you, you always remind me what a jerk you are."

Alec's grin faltered. "Relax, Max, it was just a joke"

"A joke is something that's funny, Alec," Max shot back. "You know, when the other person laughs? Guess they didn't cover humour in Manticore."

"Yeah, well, all those years on the outside hasn't seemed to have done much for your sense of humour either, Maxie. Loosen up, will ya, you're beginning to sound like Normal."

"Don't call me Maxie."

"Bip, bip."

"Why you-"

Alex swung out of the way as Max aimed another punch. "Next time you try that, I'm gonna hit back," he warned.

"Why are you here again?"

"You tell me, this was your brilliant plan, remember?"

"Don't remind me, I should have brought Dix. At least he's good company."

Alec raised an eyebrow. "Dix? Yeah, that I'd like to see."

"Well at least he would have done a smoother job with the alarm system."

"Hey, it did the job, didn't it?"

"You poured superglue all over the circuit board!"

Alec shrugged. "Nobody said it had to be pretty…which reminds me," gently, he swung the rope and snagged the end of the desk. "Time to put the pressure pads out of action."

Max sniffed but didn't say anything as he tapped at the console on the desk. Colin Freeman, Seattle's not-so-respectable businessman, wasn't an idiot, and he had several different security precautions built into his house; the floor sensors being one of them. "Are you done yet?" she eventually asked.

"Hold on, don't get your panties in a twist," he muttered. "There, got it."

Max raised an eyebrow and produced a penny, tossing it into the air. It landed on the floor with a tinkle, and spun on the hard marble floor, Alec let out a long breath when the alarms stayed silent. "Guess you did get it," Max said, smirking as she snapped the release on her harness and dropped to the floor.

"Oh ye of little faith," Alec said, mirroring her actions. At least they didn't have to worry about cameras. Freeman was a little too paranoid to allow the goings on in his house to be taped, even by his own security team. Quickly, they blurred out of the room and down the hallway, coming to a stop when they got to their next target. The blueprints Dix had acquired indicated that Freeman's vault was situated in the basement and that it was sealed off from the rest of the building; no windows, no stairs, just an elevator which could only be accessed from Freeman's study.

"This better be worth it," Alec said as he eyed the laser eyes embedded in the study's doorway.

"Quit complaining and give me a hand here," Max murmured distractedly as she slipped the small mirrors from her pocket, and pulled the infrared goggles over her eyes.

Alec hunched down beside her and waited for her to angle the lasers out of the way. "Are you done yet?" he teased.

"If you don't stop that, you won't need to worry about my panties. They'll be twisted around your neck."

"Promises, promises…"

Max sighed. "Stop yapping, Alec, and get the damned door open."

"Whatever the lady says. " He nudged his lock pick them into the lock, feeling around for the telltale give. The pick slipped into place, and Alec turned it, grinning as he heard the snick. Soundlessly, he twisted the handle, letting the door fall inward as he slipped inside. "Piece of cake."

"Show off," Max murmured, a hint of a smile hovering on her lips.

Alec breathed a silent sigh of relief as he noticed her mellowing mood. She'd been simmering on a low boil ever since they'd left TC. It was possible that there was someone out by Mexico who hadn't heard her argument with Logan, but he doubted it.

Well, okay, maybe he wasn't being totally fair. It was hard to have a private argument when everyone within ten square blocks had transgenic hearing, but they could have at least tried to keep it down, his ears were still burning.

Not my fault, he told himself firmly. I ain't the one who lied to lover boy, so I don't see why I should take the heat. Unfortunately, telling that to Max would only get him a thwack about the ear, so he kept it to himself.

"Alec, you're drifting again," Max said, and Alec looked at her guiltily. The girl was beginning to know him too well. Time will come when he won't be able to keep a single thought to himself. "Dreaming about what you will do with your cut?"

Okay, so maybe his mind was safe for a little while yet. "How ever did you guess, Maxie?"

Max rolled her eyes. "Whatever," she said, pulling the laptop out of her backpack. "Let's get this show on the road."

Alec watched as she attached the laptop to the elevator's keypad and ran the code breaker program. Just another of Dix's little touches. Maybe Max was right; Dix would be one scary thief if he put his mind to it.

The laptop blipped, and Max grinned as the doors began to slide open. "You see, this was the-"

Alec followed Max's eyes and groaned as he spotted the body slumped inside the elevator. "Aw shit, that's all we need."

"Its Freeman," Max said, feeling for a pulse. "He's dead."

"This is getting heavy, Max," Alec said worriedly. "Let's get out of here."

"We need the money, Alec."

"We also need our heads still attached," Alec said, scratching his head. "And this situation stinks. We can't be caught here, Max; he's the biggest mobster in the city. If anyone connects us to this, our lives will become even more hellish. Even our gun suppliers will dry up."

Max nodded reluctantly as she stood up. "Okay let's blow."

Silently, they made their way back through the house and onto the roof, not stopping until they were safely off the grounds. "So what do we do now?" Max asked, frustrated. "We're running out of food and medical supplies."

"I think that's the least of worries right now," Alec muttered, his ears perking up as he heard the distant shrill of sirens. "Let's split."

Max swung a leg over her bike and frowned as she looked back at the house. "You don't think it's a coincidence, do you," she said, revving the engine.

"No, I don't," Alec admitted. "In fact, I'm pretty damned sure someone tried to set us up."

"I'm getting a bad feeling about this, Alec."

"You aren't the only one," he said grimly, sliding his visor down as he pulled his bike onto the road. Whoever had done this had some serious connections, and Alec found himself hoping it was the work of Familiars. The last thing they needed were more enemies.



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