Alec wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but a house blazing with lights and a lawn crawling with armed men hadn’t been anywhere near the top of his list. “This is not
good,” he said, under his breath, as he hunkered down on top of the wall.
Max’s grip tightened on his arm. “We’ve got to get in there.”
“Guess I shouldn’t have left my invisibility cloak back home, then,” Alec said dryly. “Reality check, Max, there’s no way we’re getting in there; not without being noticed.”
Max pouted, but nodded reluctantly. “Who are these guys?” she asked aloud. “They sound Russian.”
“Mercs, probably,” Alec said under his breath. “They’ve got the look.” His ears picked up a low hum coming from her jacket. “Max, your pocket is vibrating.”
She pulled out her cell and sighed. “It’s Logan,” she said, turning the phone off.
“You didn’t tell him about our little detour?”
“I had a lot on my mind, okay?”
“Whatever,” he muttered. “Well, we might as well—”
Max cut him off. “Alec, look.” Alec’s eyes zoomed in on what had caught her attention. Two of the Russians were walking along the perimeter of the lawn and nearing their position. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she asked lowly.
“I doubt it,” he muttered. “Max, this is crazy. The smart thing to do is to fall back until we figure out what the hell is going on here.”
“And what better way to get some intel than from the horse’s mouth,” she countered.
“You’re not expecting me to answer that, are you?”
“Don’t argue with me, Alec.”
Alec bit back the retort on the tip of his tongue and sighed as she tensed to leap. He felt a brief pang for the good old days, before he met Max Guevera. For one thing, he got shot a lot less.
The two mercs were now within ear shot, and Max signalled with her hands. You take the one on the left, I’ll take the right.
Alec rolled his eyes, but Max was too intent on their targets to notice. He glanced down on the two muscle bound men as they slowly strolled through the lawn, shining their flashlights into the hedgerow. Look up, you morons. Geeze, who trained these guys?
A walkie-talkie hissed, and their targets halted in their tracks as one started to talk into his mic. Alec’s eyes narrowed as he homed in on the conversation. His Russian was a bit rusty, but he could make out the gist of it.
“Perimeter three, anything to report?”
”No, sir, all clear.”
“Good, keep me posted.”
“Will do, sir.”
Alec let out a breath of relief, and tensed as their heads jerked up. They couldn’t have heard him, could they have? A flashlight suddenly glared in his face, and Alec blurred, leaping up on him before he had a chance to raise his gun. They rolled together on the grass, as Alec tried to get his arm on his throat and cut off his air supply.
It wasn’t working.
“Alec, they’re Reds.” He looked up to see Max warily circling the other target before glancing down at the man beneath him; he grinned back. Oh shit.
He barely had time to block the blow to his head, before the Red aimed another punch to his stomach. His breath lurched as the blow hit home. Quickly, Alec disengaged and sprung to his feet, pulling out his gun as the Red jumped to his feet, the grin still plastered on his face as he slowly raised his hands. He risked a glance at Max and winced as he saw her take a blow to the face. “Time to go, Max," he hissed, keeping the gun trained on his target.
“You are not going anywhere,” said the Red he had within his gun sights. “The boss wants to meet you. He knew it would be only a matter of time before you came sniffing along.”
Alec didn’t like the sound of that; it reeked too much like a trap. “Max.”
“I’m a little busy, Alec,” she huffed.
A shout came from the house, and Alec groaned as he heard the distant running of feet. “You’re going to be a lot busier if we don’t haul ass,” he warned.
” She swiped at her target’s feet, sending him to the ground just as the first bullet zinged through the air, barely missing his head. “Let’s go.”
He backed up, covering the two Reds as Max nimbly climbed the wall, then turned to grab her extended hand. A bullet grazed his leg, and he cursed under his breath.
“I swear, I’m going to start wearing a suit of armour around you,” he grumbled as they both tumbled to the other side and ran for their bikes. “You’re bad for my health.”
“Quit your yappin’,” Max said. “It ain’t that bad.”
“Where to?” he eventually asked, as they reached their bikes.
“Logan’s,” she said tersely. “You need to get cleaned up.”
“I thought you didn’t think it was that bad?”
“It isn’t, but we can’t have you bleeding all over the museum floor,” Max snapped as she started her engine.
“Busy, busy, busy,” Alec groaned. “The life of the trained super soldier is never over.”
“Suck it up, Alec,” were her departing words as she pulled onto the streets. Alec shook his head wearily as he pulled out after her, his leg beginning to sting as the adrenaline wore away. Luckily, she was right; it was a graze at most.
Still, it had been a near call. How the hell had a group of Reds managed to set up shop in Seattle without them knowing about it? He mulled the question over in his mind as the streets fled by. Mole and Dix had been keeping a sharp ear to ground for this kind of thing.
They’d suspected that, once the government calmed down and started thinking clearly, they might try to find a way to even the odds and give them room to ‘negotiate'. Reds had been the likeliest option. Super strength, super speed…pity the implants also happened to eventually kill the subject.
At last they pulled up outside Joshua’s. Except it wasn’t Joshua’s anymore, it was Logan’s place. Alec eased himself off the bike, wincing slightly. Suddenly, Max was hovering at his arm, glowering at him with that worried yet impatient look she had perfected so well.
“How bad is it?” she asked abruptly.
“Just a scratch, remember?” his voice coming out more sharply than he intended.
“Wuss,” she muttered, letting him lean on her shoulder as they climbed the steps nonetheless.
The door opened, and Alec stiffened as he saw the carefully blank expression on Logan’s. Typical, he probably though he interrupted a lovers embrace. “Hey, Logan, old buddy,” he drawled. “Guess what? Got shot again.”
“Again?” Logan echoed, and Alec caught the glance he threw at Max to confirm his words.
“Reds,” Max said as they gained the door. “We need to get him patched up.”
“Yeah, we still have a Museum to clean out,” Alec pitched in, grinning at the disapproving look on Logan’s face.
still have a Museum to clean out,” Max told him firmly. “You’re
going to go back to TC and figure out where those Reds came from.”
Alec wasn’t fooled for a moment. “It’s just a scratch, Max. I’ll be fine once I get it bandaged and swallow a few painkillers.”
“You can barely walk, Alec.”
“Yeah, well, I’m a wuss, remember?” he said. “Besides, there’s no way in hell I’m going to let you break into that museum without backup. What if you’re rumbled? We’re both going in, and that’s final.”
“Final?” Max said, her voice rising dangerously. “Since when do you tell me what to do?”
“Since you were stupid enough to make me your second in command!”
Logan coughed loudly and Alec glared at him. “What?” he demanded. “You going to tell me she should go in there alone too?”
“Actually,” Logan said mildly. “I was going to suggest we continue this ‘conversation’ inside.”
“Oh,” Alec stopped, then looked at the street. Several lights had blinked on. “Sorry, man,” he offered as he hobbled through the doorway.
“No problem,” Logan said dryly before turning to Max. “Hey you,” he said softly.
“Hey you,” she returned, smiling widely as she closed the door behind her. Alec resisted the urge to gag and hurried into the living room.
“Hi Alec, long time no see.”
Alec stopped in his tracks, and smiled stiffly at the blonde leaning back in the couch. “Hey Asha, how’s tricks?” he asked as he stumbled to the armchair.
“You’re injured,” she said, a smile hovering on her lips as she got to her feet. “Why am I not surprised? Let me get the first aid kit.” Alec watched as she unerringly went to a small cupboard in the corner and pulled it out. So Asha was a regular here, was she? He wondered if Max knew.
“Asha.”Speak of the devil.
He leaned back in the armchair and prepared to enjoy the show.
“Hey Max,” Asha said lightly as she pulled a roll of bandages out of the kit. “I see you ran into a bit of trouble.”
“Yeah, the life of an outlaw transgenic is never dull,” she said as she plucked the bandages out of her hands. “Got a scissors in there?”
Silently, Asha handed her the scissors, and Alec instinctively leaned back into the chair as she rounded on him and scowled. “Leg up,” She ordered.
Alec promptly obeyed and lifted the leg onto the coffee table, a smile quirking his lips as she bent over the injured leg. The urge to make a smart comment was almost overwhelming but he figured there was a strong chance he’d end up with a pair of scissors in his chest if he tried it.
Quickly, she sliced through the denim and examined the wound. “It’s not that deep,” she eventually pronounced.
“Gee, Max, I already told you that.”
“Shut up,” she said absently as she rooted around in the first aid box and produced a bottle of antiseptic and some cotton wool.
“Careful with that,” he said, eying the offending bottle.
The word left her lips the same time it did his, and she smiled reluctantly. "Smart Alec,” she murmured as she dabbed at the wound. Alec winced as the antiseptic stung, it was good thing Max never entered any of the caring professions.
“So what was that you were saying about Reds?” Logan enquired, hovering in the middle of the room.
“Whole bunch of them on Freeman’s property,” Max said briefly.
Logan frowned. “What were you doing there?”
Alec decided to take up the slack. “Trying to get a bead on some free ranged X5s” he said, flinching as Max dabbed at the wound a little harder than she strictly need to. “Guess we’re not the only ones looking for them.”
Logan blinked. “I think you need to fill in a few blanks for me,” he eventually said.
Quickly, Alec told him what they’d discovered, and Logan slowly sat down on the other easy chair. “So what you’re telling me is that Freeman had his own private stash of X5s, that he raised and trained personally,” he said flatly.
“They’re kids, Logan,” Max said sharply. “They’re hardly what I’d call ‘raised’”
Alec’s mind flashed back to when he was that age, and silently agreed with him. These kids weren’t going to be innocents. He glanced at Max’s bent head, and watched as she swiftly rolled the bandage around his leg. Her face was stony, her eyes blank. Whatever she may say aloud, he knew she secretly agreed with Logan as well. “Max,” he said gently. “Maybe you should show him the new tattoos.”
He saw the tension in her shoulder’s relax with the change of subject. “Good idea,” she murmured as she taped the bandages off. “Time for show and tell.”
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