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Change More Fierce


Story by Corbyinoz
Art by kjsvala

At certain revolutions all the damned
Are brought: and feel by turn the bitter change
Of fierce extremes, extremes by change made more fierce. - Milton

It took more than fifty hours before Ramón Clemente of the Seattle PD got home after chasing a group of escaping mutants into Terminal City. There had been riots to break up, and reports to write, and meetings, endless meetings, with city officials and heads of departments and newspaper reporters and concerned citizens more worried with their real estate than with the rights of the people now trapped inside those inner-city blocks. He’d grabbed five hours’ sleep the day before, stretched out on the couch in his office, with orders not to be disturbed on pain of instant death and/or suspension, whatever he could muster the energy for. Now, the weariness hung upon him like a cloud, and the glow of his home looked like a beacon for all that was sane and good and loving in the world.

His house was an old one, built in the 1920s by a prohibition gangster named Mickey Delaney. Clemente thought it wonderfully ironic that it had become the home of the Seattle chief of police, his husband, and their two kids. Mickey would be rolling in his grave - well, except for the fact that it was widely rumoured Mickey had been cemented under the basement of one of the older housing high rises in the city.

“It’s me,” he called, stepping into warmth and light. Carey peered round the door of the kitchen.

“Who is it? You don’t look familiar. You got any ID?”

“Yeah. Cute.” Ramón kissed him. “Where are the monsters?"

“In the den, watching TV.” Carey went back to the stove, took up a wooden spoon again and stirred something wonderful on the stovetop. “They finally let you out, huh?”

“Oh, you have no idea.”

“We saw you on the news. They were proud. Well, Donna was proud. Jacob thought you looked grouchy.”

“I was grouchy. I am grouchy. I have a lot to be grouchy about.”

Carey turned back to the stew, kept his voice deliberately light.

“Looked pretty tense there for a while, at the standoff.”

Clemente sighed, reached past him for the fridge and his first beer in three days.

“It was a godawful clusterfuck, is what it was. And almost a tragedy. As it is…”

Carey eased a hip against the side of the stove.

“You think it’s going to keep on getting worse, don’t you?”

Ramón leant back against the benchtop, sighed. “I got no clue who’s running what here, Care. All’s I know is, there are people doing deals and pulling strings and I don’t know how much I can do to keep those people safe.”

“Those people? The freaks in TC?”

“Yeah.” Ramón took a long drink, wiped his mouth. “Yeah. But Carey, they may be freaks, they may be mutants, aliens, I don’t know what. But they’re still citizens of Seattle, and they’re still under my protection. Besides, “ and he twisted his neck, worked a crick or two out, “they behaved a damned sight better than those government assholes did. I’d treat with them any day rather than Agent White and his band of psychos.”

“So you’re going to singlehandedly save the freaks and thwart the government, that it?”

“Something like that.”

“Mm-mm.” Carey leaned over, kissed him. “There are occasions, very rare occasions, when I honest to god love you.”

“Ha.” Ramón’s tone was morose, but there was a tired twinkle in his eyes. “Hold that thought for later, yeah?”

“Will do.” Carey bumped him with his hip. “You gonna see the kids?”

“Yeah. In a minute. Gotta unload first.”

Ramón eased past him and into the hallway. He could hear the TV at the end of the hall – something loud and exploding. He gave a half-smile full of affection, then turned towards the other end of the house, to where his den lay.

He didn’t bother to turn on the light – there was enough from the hall to see his way to his desk and beside that, his gun safe. He never wore his guns around his children. He was not a religious man, but that was as close to dogma as he got. Never bring your job home to your kids. Not his job – not with its violence, and corruption, and misery. Here he was Dad, not Chief of Police, and that’s how he wanted it, always.

Except that it was a lie, of course. He was, and always would be, a police officer, and a damned good one. So even as he loosened his shoulder holster, as he swung it free towards his desk, and even though there wasn’t a sound or a sight of anything he could name, he knew someone was in the room with him a half-second before he found himself in a chokehold so silently and expertly performed he would have admired it any other day.

Now? Now, it pissed him off.

“Stay quiet. No need to get anyone else in here.” The voice was soft, into his ear.

“What do you want?” Ramón kept his voice at a similar level. The thought of Carey or, God forbid, his children running in here sent ice through his body, steadied the nerves that had fired at the first hint of threat.

A quiet chuckle. “Probably not what you think.”

“Money? Murder?”

“Neither. You can keep guessing, but it’s gonna get old real quick.”

He shifted, so slightly, looking for an advantage, but his assailant was right there, almost before he’d finished the thought.

“So why don’t you tell me?”

“You know, I’d almost be insulted you don’t know me. We’ve met. But it was at a distance, and you were pointin’ guns and gettin’ all heroic and futile. And we didn’t have much of a chance to chew the fat.”

“And that’s what you want now?”

“Well, whaddya know? He got there.”

“You want to talk? Fine. Mind letting me go so we can do it in a civilized manner?”

“That depends on you. You goin’ to play it smart? I’m betting you will. Reason I’m here.”

“Amnesty while you tell me what you want? Works for me.”

Without comment, the arm that held him immobile released him and the other man dropped further back into the shadows of the room.

“That’s as civilized as we get, Clemente. I’m taking a big risk being here, and you do anything that looks like I’m going to have to get all up close and personal with you…”

Clemente inclined his head. “You have my word. I have no desire to put my family at risk.” He looked hard into the shadow. “Are they at risk?”

He expected denial. He expected assurances. What he got brought a sweat onto his forehead.

“Yeah. But not from me.”

He swallowed. “Then who? And do you think you could identify yourself? Before we take this conversation any further, I’d like to know who I’m dealing with.”

“Well, some would say what rather than who, but you know, that’s just racist, right?”

He was disappointed in himself that it had taken this long to figure it out.

“Did Max send you?”

“Max? Hell, no. She’d freakin’ kill me if she knew I was here.”

Clemente frowned.

“I thought she was your leader. I have a good deal of respect for that woman. If you’re trying to negotiate something behind her back – “

A quick gesture in the near-darkness.

“No, no, nothing like that. Max is – look, I don’t want to talk about her. But right now she’s busy trying to keep a whole pile of freaks in the land of the living, and there was a chance she wouldn’t stop to think about all this before she bit my head off for even suggesting it.”

Clemente surprised himself by giving a short chuckle.

“Yes. I can imagine she’s a handful.”

“A nightmare. But she’s our nightmare. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Ramón nodded, an acknowledgement. “So what brought you here? And what should I call you?”

“Alec. I’m an X5. Pass you on the street and you wouldn’t notice me. Well, no, that’s not true.” Ramón could hear the swagger in the tone. “You’d notice me, if you get my meaning. But you’d just think I was damned fine.”

Ramón thought back to the standoff, to the group of people who stepped or stumbled out of the vans. His sharp eyes had noticed everything.

“You the one who only put one of his hands up?”

“See?” The young man sounded pleased. “I knew you’d notice me.”

“I noticed you,” Ramón said, “because only one hand going up meant you could have been doing something else with the other.”

“Oh.” The disappointment was comical.

“But then I remembered the footage, and that you were shot, weren’t you?”

A sigh. “Yeah. It’s been a bitch, too. I should be resting it, but noooo, Max needs medical supplies humped from one end of TC to another, she needs trucks stole- um, requisitioned.”

“My heart bleeds.”

“So does my arm.” Aggrieved, the young man called Alec gingerly rotated his shoulder. “But you wouldn’t know it, the amount of sympathy I haven’t got.”

Ramón kept his eyes carefully on him, always aware of where his gun sat on the desk, still in its holster. “So why are you here, Alec?”

“Ames White.”

“We’ve met.”

“Huh.” It was a snort. “I know he took over at the siege. And he was the one stirring things up by shooting at us. He’s the one who killed – who killed Cece.”

“Yes.” Ramón nodded, gravely. “I had no part in that.”

“Yeah, we know. But what Max hasn’t stopped to think about is what happened next.”

“What do you mean?”

“You came after us. Straight away. We walked past you – which was kinda cool, come on, you gotta give us that – you went upstairs at Jam Pony, you found White and his familiars.”

“The soldiers he had with him? Is that what they’re called?”

“Yeah. Freakin’ fighting machines. Bred to withstand pain. Almost as good as us.”

Ramón frowned again. “They’re not ordinary agents? They’re – modified? Like you?”

“Yep.”

“But – who would do that? Who would have the means? And what is the purpose?”

All humour had left Alec’s voice.

“Their purpose is to kill us, wipe us off the map. Then the breeding cult can take over, once humans have been killed off by some plague – look, it doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t believe me. Hell, I don’t believe me. What you need to know is that Ames White is a psycho who collects grudges like some people collect trading cards, and he will not stop until he’s paid those grudges off.”

Ramón tried to find some kind of footing in the conversation.

“I’m sure Agent White was – less than happy about what happened.”

“You didn’t untie him, did you?” Ramón didn’t answer, and Alec kept going. “You were too fast. No one else back in TC has thought about this, but I bet he pissed you off so much that when you found him and his buncha buddies all neatly parceled up, you left him there so you could come after us without White interfering. Am I right?”

“Very good. You know, I could have made a detective of you.”

A chuckle, tired and strained. “Me and a badge? Not a great fit. I’d have to keep arresting myself.”

“Alright. You’ve re-created the events pretty well. I did leave White there. And I may even have … enjoyed myself a little.”

Alec groaned. “Please tell me you didn’t mouth off to him?”

“I may have misinterpreted what he was trying to say through the gag.”

“Yeah. Well, White’s such an obnoxious jerk even a little old lady’d reach for a shotgun after five minutes. But that’s not good, Chief. White won’t forget, and he’ll come after you.”

“Well, he can try.” The level of anxiety in his gut decreased a little. “I’m sure he can pull strings. Hell, maybe he’ll try to get me fired. I’ll take early retirement. I appreciate the warning, Alec, but – “

“No! You really don’t get it.” Alec began to pace, and again, the silence of it startled Ramón. The thought, barely formed, flashed across his mind; this young man was formidable in ways he couldn’t even begin to imagine. “White won’t let this go. You humiliated him, in front of his familiars. He’ll be gettin’ flak from his higher-ups. He will hate you. And people he hates, hell, people who get in his way, his own family – he just gets rid of them. However he wants.”

“Are you seriously saying that Agent White will – what, try to kill me?”

“No.” Alec stopped. “No, I’m saying he will kill you, and your family. He will destroy you.”

Ramón protested. “You can’t honestly expect me to believe –“

“Annie Fisher.”

“What? Annie Fisher? The blind girl that was murdered by that dog-man in the sewers?”

“His name is Joshua, and no, he tried like hell to save her. He left her there, thinking she’d be safe. He loved her.”

Ramón was an open-minded man. Being a police chief meant accepting the many ways human beings found to get by in the world, or closing down in the face of them and becoming a bigot. He’d chosen acceptance. But this was too much for him.

“He loved her? Alec, I’m sorry, but he kidnapped her, he dragged her down there – “

“He was terrified! He got caught above ground, and – look, forget it. Guess you can deal with us human looking freaks, but anything else is too much for you, huh?” There was bitterness in Alec’s voice, and hurt, and Ramón found himself regretting that.

“Alright. Annie. Why did you bring her up?”

For a moment he thought Alec wouldn’t answer, but then he heard a sigh and Alec dropped back against the wall.

“White killed her. Snapped her neck. Knew no one would question him. Knew Joshua would be blamed. The freaks.” His voice grew softer. “I keep thinking what it would have been like for her, waiting there, thinking the people coming towards her were going to rescue her…”

He sincerely believed what he was saying, Ramón could tell. But as much as he loathed Ames White, the cold-blooded nature of it was beyond him. A government agent, deliberately killing a defenseless blind girl, alone in the sewers? It was monstrous.

Then he remembered White’s eyes, the look in them as he set about sabotaging the siege negotiations, the murderous rage as Ramón knelt by him and taunted him for his failure. The shark-like depths to those eyes, cold, brutal.

He’d met many killers through his career, and he knew, suddenly and without doubt, that Ames White was just such a man.

“And you think he will come for me? And my family?”

“Yeah.” In the shadows, Alec half-rotated his shoulder again.

“And you came here to warn me?”

“No one else was gonna do it. Joshua’s painting a flag, Max is running the world. I thought – you tried to do the right thing by us. You needed to know. You’re a sitting target here. He’ll eliminate you, because you saw him fail and you’re willing to stand up to him. And he’ll wipe out your family because then there’ll be no one to push too hard for reasons why. And because he’s just that big of an asshole.”

“Well.” It was an overwhelming thought, and deeply frightening, but Ramón Clemente had been battling for his people all his life. This was just one more battle. “Alright then. This weekend I’ll send the children with Carey to my relatives in San Francisco. They’ll be safe there, and in the meantime I’ll –“

“No, you don’t get it.” Alec’s voice was agitated again, and he was pacing once more, back and forth, a tiger in a cage. “He won’t wait for you to make those kinds of plans. You need to get out tonight.”

“Tonight?”

“Why do you think I went to all the trouble of coming here, huh? I left it any longer and it’d be too late. You gotta understand, Chief, everything’s changed. You won’t have a safe place here. These people, White’s people? They’ve got money, and power, and they don’t stop.”

There was so much weariness in those words, so much sadness, that Ramón instinctively moved towards him.

“Nobody’s infallible. Nobody’s untouchable. I’ll take this to my superiors.”

“With what proof? The word of a freak?”

And that was true, too. He didn’t have enough to start any kind of investigation. The orders White had showed him came from beyond any influence Ramón had in the upper echelons of government. A terrible, growing sense of real and immediate danger crept upon him.

“I can’t just ask my family to go tonight –“

“You won’t. You’ll take them. Look, Chief, ask yourself this – why would I come here? What do I have to gain? All I got’s a whole heap of risk and no pay-off. Which, admittedly, makes me some kind of sucker.”

“So why did you? Why would you come here to warn me?”

“Like I said. You did your best to do right by us. Maybe I’m gettin’ tired of seeing so much collateral damage.”

Ramón stood silently, head bent, thinking it through. So many images; of the siege, of White, of Max and her people, ghost-lit by headlights and flares. And thoughts, too, of the many times in his career when he followed his instincts. They had led him to become Chief of police in Seattle, had led him to solve hundreds of cases, save hundreds of people. Now, perhaps, they were needed to save three more. And never had he needed to be right more than tonight.

“If I believe you, I will be abandoning my job. The city is on the brink of chaos. I can’t just go.” It was a test.

Alec thought that over.

“Okay. I hear you. Your call. But I bet you’ll do your job better if your family is safe. Send them away tonight, and make sure you take extra precautions from now on.”

And Alec passed it. It had occurred to Ramón that this might be some sort of ploy to get rid of him, impede the work of the Seattle PD while Max’s people raided for further supplies. He was all too aware that the kind of thefts occurring all across the city were the kinds of raids people in an extremity of survival made. Medical supplies. Food stuffs. Fuel. And in quantities the average householder would never think to try for. When the politics of his job hadn’t claimed him, he’d been busy organizing systematic sweeps of the warehouse district, and had managed to thwart several attempts on supplies by the docks. He was making himself a pain in the ass to Max’s people. Perhaps this was a deliberate ruse to get him out of the way without murdering him – a course of action that would only bring more firepower down on their heads.

But Alec had accepted his reasoning to stay. Something shifted in Ramón, the last resistance, and the man of action he was at his core took over.

“Alright. Give me a minute or two. I’ll go and tell Carey, tell the kids. We can –“

“Shh!”

Alec’s hand was up. In the universal sign for wait, stop. Listen.

Ramón was a smart enough man to know that when an operative such as Alec undoubtedly was gave that signal, it was time for silence. He strained his own ears, but heard nothing.

Until there was a muted, almost unnoticeable thump overhead. In the normal hurly burly of his household, it would have gone completely unnoticed. Slowly, carefully, he reached for his gun.

“Two storeys and an attic.” Alec was behind him again – and how the hell had he managed that? “Dormer windows – that’s their access.”

Ramón nodded, acknowledging the reasoning. Even as he did so, he heard another sound, from outside his den. He held up his fingers – two? Alec nodded, mouthed ‘At least.’

“You got any other ways out of here?” he murmured into Ramón’s ear.

“Passageway. From the cellar.” At Alec’s barely-there double-take, he explained. “Smugglers, during Prohibition. Used to bring booze into the house, take men out.”

“You get your kids,” Alec said, softly. Ramón began to argue, but Alec cut him off.

“We need them out of here. They won’t follow me. You have to do it, Chief.”

He saw it, of course he did, but the instinct to take charge of the threat to his family was strong.

“I’ll be back.” Alec pressed his shoulder, a farewell and good luck, then slipped past him into the light of the hallway.

And Ramón Clemente saw him clearly for the first time. Ramón Clemente, renowned through the force for his attention to detail, his brilliant analytical ability, and the boast that he never forgot a face. The footage of the CCTV camera had been grainy, and the scene underneath Terminal City poorly lit and distant, but here, in the light of his own home, Ramón knew he was looking right at a murderer for hire.

“Beresford!”

He knew he wouldn’t have gotten a bigger reaction if he’d punched the young man before him in the gut.
Huge eyes turned to him.

“What?” It was shaky and completely unconvincing as an attempt at ignorance.

“Rachel Berrisford. Car explosion. She was in a coma for years, died only a few months ago.”

Ramón saw Alec swallow, try to arrange his face into neutrality.

“I – I don’t –“

“Roger Berrisford never made a statement, but his bodyguard did. The one you threw down the stairs. We did an identikit with him, gave us a damn near perfect portrait. You’re the one who set a bomb and put an innocent girl to death.”

Ramón found himself nearly shaking with anger.

“You almost had me convinced to send my children away to face God knows what!”

Carey must have heard him; his husband came into the hallway, puzzled, wary.

“Ramón? What’s going on?”

As Alec whirled to face this new player in their game, Ramón dropped back and grabbed his gun, brought it up to train on Alec’s head.

“Stop. Put your hands behind your head.”

Alec froze. “You’re kiddin’ me.”

Carey was looking down the other end of the hall, to where the children were watching television, oblivious.

“Ramón?”

“It’s alright, Carey. Get back in the kitchen. Alec here is going to get down on his knees, with his hands behind his head. Aren’t you, Alec.”

Slowly, Alec shook his head, his hands wide as he pivoted to face Ramón again.

“Chief, we don’t have time. Yes, the Berrisford case, I – it was me. I’m to blame. All of it. It’s my fault – “ and was that a hitch in his voice? “she’s dead. But everything’s changed, Clemente, including who I am and what I do. And we just don’t have time for this right now. What I was once upon a time doesn’t change what’s about to happen now.”

“How can I possibly believe you?”

Alec shrugged. A less observant man would have thought it a careless motion.

“An assassin who’s risking his own life to come and warn you. A government agent who’s gonna come and get his payback, outta your hide or your family’s. None of it makes sense, huh, Chief?”

Ramón ground his teeth at the dark fury growing inside him. He was a man who preferred peaceful solutions to conflict, any day; but when cornered, he knew himself to be as bloody as any of the predators he hunted.

“I could disarm you, you know.” Alec’s voice was clearly, deliberately calm. “But you’re gonna have to make a choice, because I hate wastin’ my time, and I’m betting on you having enough sense to know what’s at stake here.”

The gun was still aimed straight for Alec’s face. Ramón’s hands didn’t shake, not in a face-off like this. He had his own kind of calm working for him.

“Do you think I’d –“ And then there was a shadow, and Ramón’s instincts made the choice for him. A movement, a centimeter that made all the difference, and the gun was firing.

A huge woman’s body tumbled down the stairs to the landing at the end of the hallway, even as Alec straightened from his flinch.

“Hey, warn a pal next time, why don’t you?”

“You’re not my pal,” Ramón said, and pushed past him to run to the woman on the stairs.

“Don’t get near her, Chief, she’s probably just – “

Even as he heard the words, Ramón saw the woman’s eyes flash open and watched as she jack-knifed herself upright again, her face a mask of indifference. There was blood on her neck, where the bullet had nicked her.

Then he was being bundled aside as something blurred past him and launched itself at her.

She gave a primal shriek and met the blur with fists and kicks so hard and fast that Ramón found himself gasping as he watched, helpless.

“Ramón!” Carey was there, grabbing his arm. “What’s going on?”

“Carey, get the children, take them out through the cellar. Carey!” There was no time for gentleness, so Ramón was brutal as he wrenched the man he loved more than life itself around to face him. “There’re packs in the passageway. Money, clothes, food. Take it, go to Emilio’s. Carey!” as he saw him open his mouth to speak, “there’s no time. Go. Take them.”

“Daddy?” Jacob’s voice, from the living room, high and scared but trying not to show it, and his stomach swooped with a fear so visceral he nearly doubled over to it.

Carey was a man of many qualities. Courage was one of them. He looked deep into Ramón’s eyes, two seconds to last a lifetime, then nodded and ran for the living room, skirting the battle on the stairs.

“Stay there, Jake! I’m coming!”

The smash of glass behind him made Ramón whirl to see a flaming bottle crash off the desk top and onto the floor, spreading gas and choking smoke in its trail.

“Dammit! Dammit!” An arm up and across his mouth and nose, he aimed through the smoke at a dark figure following the flames into his home. He fired twice, three times, and was relieved to see it fold down and then fall to the floor. He reached in, grabbed the door handle and pulled the door to, twisting the key in the lock.

Behind him he could hear grunts and curses, and he turned back to see Alec and the familiar woman disentangle themselves before eyeing each other, crouched in combat readiness, he several steps below her. She made a move first, kicking at his head. He read it easily, ducked and grabbed her foot, twisting her in midair so that she came down hard on the stairs. He jumped back a step before her retaliation found him and she growled at him, a fearsome sound. Beside their fight he saw Carey and their son and daughter, faces terrified but keeping silent and close, leave the living room and hurry for the kitchen.

“Daddy?”

“Later, Donna.” Carey gripped her hand harder, pulling her along. He spared Ramón one glance then pushed them into the kitchen, out of his sight. He felt his heart tear, ragged and right through.

But there was no time for that. He brought his gun back up, aiming for the struggling mess that was Alec and the woman. Even amongst the chaos of limbs, Ramón could see that Alec was dipping slightly to his left, favoring his arm. It was hampering him enough that the woman could press forward, down the stairs, unerringly targeting the weakness again and again with whip-fast blows. It was enough that Alec lost his footing on the last step, and she swung her own leg around with vicious accuracy. A crack, like the snapping of celery, and Alec cried out, his leg bent backwards, his balance gone as he fell. For the first time, Ramón saw him make an awkward move.

Alec hit the floor hard, choking back a scream.

Ramón ignored him. Alec’s fall left the woman in the clear. He lifted his gun and aimed as if he were at the rifle range. Smooth, unhurried, easy. Two bullets to her face, a third through her neck, just above the collarbone. She dropped. The malice, the strength. The threat. All gone.

For a moment, Ramón stood there, feeling only his blood pounding in his body. Then Alec gasped, and he shook himself free of the shock of violent death and ran to kneel beside him.

“You had her where you wanted her, right?” he said. Alec gave a smothered kind of laugh, then groaned.

“My fucking leg. I can’t – sonofabitch! Clemente, I can’t make it home.”

His face was white with pain.

“Ramón.”

“What?” The word was panted out. Alec’s fingers were crooked against the carpet, digging in as if to anchor himself to consciousness through their grip.

“I think you have well and truly earned the right to call me Ramón.”

“Great. Awesome. I’m touched. Ramón, I can’t make it home.”

Ramón checked his clip, readied another bullet in the chamber, then slid the gun into his belt. Smoke was leaking under the den door, collecting like an ominous black cloud in the periphery of his vision.

“Will White send more?”

Alec bit his lip, fighting the agony, trying to stay with him.

“When these two… have failed? Yeah, he’ll send more.”

“Alright then. Do you think you can help me if I lift you up?”

Alec face froze in mid-grimace.

“What do you have in mind?”

“Getting you home.”

“How?” Alec gestured to where his leg twisted sideways at a sickening angle. “That bitch… really ruined the mood, ya know?”

“I have my car. I can take you to Terminal City.”

Alec dropped his head forward to swallow a moan, then lifted it again to face Ramón.

“Why the hell would you… do that?”

Ramón laughed. He wouldn’t have thought it possible – his home invaded, his husband and children on the run, the house probably burning down around his ears. But something about Alec’s question struck him as ridiculously funny.

“You saved my life, my family, and you think I wouldn’t take you back to your people?”

Alec closed his eyes.

“Berrisford.”

“Ohh. Oh yes. You think I’m such a stand up police officer that I would take you in anyway?” Alec’s silence was his answer. “Alec, let me explain something to you. I am a human first, a father and husband first. If we meet again, then yes, we will have a conversation about Rachel Berrisford. It is my duty, and if I abandon that, even for you, I’m afraid how far I might fall. Do you understand that?”
Alec opened his eyes, blinking, hurting."But right now, you’re a friend in pain, and I am indebted to you in ways I will never be able to repay. So I am going to take you home, or to the hospital, whichever one you want.”

“Home.” He barely got it out. Ramón nodded.

“Alright. Hold on – this will hurt.” Carefully, he slid his arm behind Alec and lifted him upright, then up onto his one good foot. He heard Alec suck in his breath, but that was all the young man offered to the god of broken bones.

“Down here. We can get into the garage from the kitchen.”

“White – White will probably be outside. He loves - loves to watch his kills go down.”

“Are you telling me I’ll be disappointing Agent White a second time? You’re breaking my heart.”

“Ha. Guess you will.” Alec clutched tighter at Ramón’s shoulder as the pain flared, and Ramón took it, simply eased them through the kitchen and to the side door where he paused, listening. Behind him, something burst with the heat in the den. Slowly, he opened the door, to peer into the darkened garage. It was empty, save for Ramón’s large and rather expensive car, courtesy of the Seattle PD.

“You know, this reminds me of my younger days, when I used to go rally driving with my cousins, out Winatchee way.”

“Oh… real thrill seeker, huh?”

“Indeed. Nothing I liked better than driving very fast in very narrow places. I think,“ and he deposited Alec against the side of the car as he opened the passenger side door, “that Agent White is going to have to do very well to keep up with us.”

Alec folded his lips together, holding in whatever complaint he had against the agony of a leg cracked like a twig, and Ramón found himself wondering again at what manner of people these freaks were. It was chilling to think of such people as his adversaries.

But as he raised the garage door, as quietly as he could, he found himself wondering - what if they were allies?

A quick glance outside showed a car parked half a block away with two figures inside it. He grimaced. He put aside the thought of freak/police alliances for practicalities, keying the lock and reaching for his radio.

“This is Chief of Police Ramón Clemente. I am silent running down 6th Avenue in ten. I will be driving a dark blue Ford sedan with police decals. No units are to approach. Repeat: I need a clear run down 6th, so no units are to approach. Any other vehicles speeding on 6th are to be intercepted.”

“That’ll do it?” Alec had lowered himself into the passenger seat, his crooked leg awkwardly maneuvered under the dashboard.

“I can’t exactly ask for a police escort, given who I’m taking and where I’m going, but this means we can travel as fast as we need without getting pulled over by one of my more zealous traffic cops.”

Ramón started the engine, and before Alec could even brace himself he threw the car into first and roared it away from his home for the last time. A slight fishtail as they hit the bitumen, and they were racing past the parked car.

For the first few minutes Ramón concentrated on driving, travelling well over the speed limit through one of the nicer suburbs in Seattle. Behind him, after a gap provided by their head start, headlights kept pace, pressing close. Ramón spun them around corners, found alleys, crossed a park. Each attempt at evasion brought them fifty feet from their pursuers; each time that distance was eaten up in a handful of blocks.

“You’re really crazy… you know that, Ramón?”

He spared his passenger a glance, and realized he was unsurprised to find that even though he was sweating, and gripping tightly to the door, Alec was wearing a grin of unadulterated approval.

“I think I just broke fifteen traffic rules.”

“I’ll make a citizen’s arrest… when we get there.”

“You do that.” Ramón threw the wheel suddenly to the right and they barreled down an empty street, hearing the car behind squeal its tires in a futile attempt to make the same turn. “While we’re on the subject, where exactly are we going?”

They hit a speed bump and Alec made a muffled sound as his leg jounced up into the dash.

“North end. By the old tenements on Brinker.” A soft groan died in the back of his throat as he swallowed against it. “Fuck. Take it easy.”

“Let me get you a pillow and some slippers.”

“Ha.” Alec grinned again, then frowned. “You realize… I’m gonna lose… my place in the… street hockey team?”

Ramón swung them onto 6th Avenue, and the traffic increased significantly, causing him to swerve between one lane and another. It was the only thoroughfare left in the city worth the name, and at this time of night it was packed with the wealthier citizens of new Seattle making their way home from the city centre. It was a gamble to take it, but the speed gained on the wider street meant Ramón considered it worth the extra traffic.

Alec gradually pulled himself up a little straighter.

“Next block,” he said, and his voice was suddenly crisp with command. Ramón heard it, noted the difference, and immediately understood what it meant. This man beside him, little more than a teenager, was no foot soldier. Alec was, despite his style and swagger and slouch, undoubtedly part of the leadership group at TC. The loss of him on this errand, this mission of mercy, would be significant to the people struggling to survive in TC. The realization brought him a surge of humility.

“When you get to that… large building halfway down,” and Alec paused to take a shuddering breath, “go straight through the underground car park. There’s – ah!” Ramón stood on the brakes as a sedan in front changed lanes without looking, and Alec was robbed of speech for several seconds as the jolt echoed through his bones.

“Got it,” said Ramón tersely, and he threw the car sideways, straightened and flew down into the poorly-lit car-park.

“There,” gasped Alec, and Ramón followed where he pointed, a zig-zagging path through the building and out the other side into a small, deserted alleyway.

“Stop here.”

Ramón did it, without hesitation. I’m following orders like a cadet, he thought wryly, and found he didn’t begrudge it.

Alec leant forward to peer up through the windscreen.

“Okay, well… this is my stop. Thanks for the ride.”

“Wait – what?” Ramón frowned, adrenalin from the drive still pounding in his body and causing him to jump out of the car even before Alec had pulled himself clear. “Where do you think you’re going?’
Alec jerked his chin. “This building is close to the wire on the other side.”

“Yes, I know, we’re right next to Terminal City here. But what is the point of access?”

Alec dragged himself along, using the hood of the sedan until he reached its end, then pushing himself clear to stand on one foot.

“You don’t need to know. I can get home… from here.”

“Alec, you need help. Let me help you.”

Alec shook his head, smiling crookedly through the sweat, his face ghostly in the muted street light creeping from the end of the alley.

“Nope. You’ve done enough. We’re square.”

Ramón blinked. “You don’t trust me.”

Alec frowned. “No, I do. I mean, I guess I do.” The thought obviously surprised him, and for a second, as Ramón watched, he saw a new expression on Alec’s face. It was something impossibly unguarded, and sweet, and young, cruelly young; and Ramón felt his breath catch, his heart twist in his chest.

Because Ramón Clemente was a man of experience, who looked at reality without blinking, and all of his years and knowledge and instinct showed him no other ending but that youth, that sweetness, dead on the street. The bitterness of the thought could make him weep.

Alec gave an experimental shuffle-hop, and managed a step without falling over. “It’s just – this isn’t my secret to share... And Max is going to kill me already.”

“I see.” Ramón could barely speak, and Alec’s head shot up to stare at him, innocence gone, shrewd commander back.

“What is it?”

It was hopeless, and Ramón wondered at himself for even trying. But he knew he had to.

“Alec – you know you can’t win.”

A soft snort. “Depends on what you think… we’re trying for here?” Ramón opened his hands, a helpless gesture, and Alec shrugged. “We only want survival. That’s it. The right to live.”

The inevitability of death – brutal, squalid, essentially evil – closed Ramón’s eyes in pain.

“What – you think we don’t know the odds? Hell, Chief, our own creators tried to kill us. How’s that for odds?” Alec mirrored Ramón’s gesture, then wobbled alarmingly and reached for the hood of the car again.

“So what are you going to do?”

“Fight. What we’re doing. Long term?” Alec sighed. “I got no clue. I guess that depends on people like you.”

Ramón gave a distressed little laugh. “Changing the world, one police chief at a time?”

“Something like that.” Alec tried his shuffle again, got a few feet, his face set. “But Chief? Whatever you decide, and whatever the good people of the US decide, it’s gotta be for all of us.” He grinned again, blindingly. “Not just the pretty ones like me.”

Ramón said nothing. He had nothing left to give this young man, so beautiful, and brave, and doomed. Alec nodded, and struggled to the nearby building – the back half of the main street shop fronts. He fell to grab the window sill nearest them and stayed there, stretched out, his leg horrible in its wrongness, for several seconds. Then he raised his head to look back at Ramón and give him a cheerful wave – before bending the window sill in its frame and pulling it open, then dragging himself up and through it to disappear into darkness.

It was several minutes before Ramón noticed the traffic sounds again, and let his breath out to ease the pressure in his chest.

Changing the world. It was quixotic. White had tentacles in government, the good citizens in the streets were neither good nor embracing any concept of citizenry that allowed for diversity, acceptance, humanity. The transgenics in TC had bodies made strong by breeding, and vulnerable by differences that would see them hunted down.

And what could he, Ramón Clemente, do?

The only answer that ever mattered came to him then, in his mother’s voice; everything you can, Ramón.

A sound from the rooftop, of metal shifting against brick. Ramón peered upwards, and saw Alec standing close to the edge of the next building over. He watched, uncomprehending, as Alec turned to face Terminal City, twenty feet away across fencing and a sea of tangled barbwire laid out to deny access at ground level. For a moment the light from rancid oil barrels, flaming on the corner, surrounded him; a halo from a hell below, one that denied him existence even as it sought to punish him for its fact. Then, so suddenly that Ramón could only gasp, Alec flung his arms backwards, then forwards, generating momentum before propelling himself straight off the roof.

“No!” The cry came from him unconsciously as he started forward, compelled to stop the death he had so recently foretold. He watched helplessly as the young man’s body flew across the distance, losing height but traveling three times as far as it had any right to, until it hit high at the top of the fence. And Ramón heard clearly, over the startled cries of the handful of watchers below, a shout:

“Fuck! Fuck! Fucking shitting fuck!”

“Alec!” A grotesque little creature – no ears, slit nose, white skin, suddenly rushed from the shadows, his arms reaching up as if to grab Alec where he hung, high above him. Ramón hurried forward to clear the side of the alley and gain a full view of them both.

“Hey!” One of the men on the ground outside the barbed wire pushed to his feet. “Hey! There’s freaks! Freaks here!”

Another man beside the first stood more slowly, and Ramón’s stomach tightened as he saw what he held in his hand, as he watched the man raise his rifle to his shoulder and take aim. His companion crowed at the sight.

“Hey freak! You’re gonna get it now, asshole!”

And he felt not so much as a second’s hesitation.

“Ramón Clemente, Seattle PD. Put that weapon down or I will shoot!”

His voice boomed across the empty ground between him and the men, and it was almost comical to watch how they jumped. Less funny the way the man with the rifle didn’t drop it from his shoulder.

“I will not ask you a second time. Put your weapon down or I will shoot you.”

For a long twenty seconds the man stared at him, rifle poised. Ramón stared back, unwavering, even as he heard the little creature – human, transgenic human he corrected himself – say, “Oh, boy, Alec, you gotta get down.”

“’M trying,” and the fence sang with the weight of Alec’s body as he heaved himself up and over its wicked top, as the transgenic below kept muttering, “Oh boy, oh boy.”

“Lippy, you gotta catch me.”

“Sure, Alec, sure, I’ll catch you.”

The man with the rifle lowered it slightly; Ramón kept his gun pointed straight at him.

“What is your problem? They’re fucking monsters, man.”

Ramón advanced on him, weapon still, eyes locked on his prey.

“They’re citizens of Seattle, and it is my sworn duty to defend all citizens of this city.” He reached the man and snatched the rifle, glowering over his own gun as he did. “If I see any one of you firing a weapon at the citizens of Terminal City – any weapon – I will arrest you for attempted murder. Do I make myself clear?”

A strangled scream came from the other side of the fence, and Ramón took a moment to glance over. Alec and Lippy were sprawled together on the ground, where Alec’s drop from the fence had obviously brought them. Alec was swearing with the kind of fluency that Ramón, a long time connoisseur, could only admire, as Lippy sat up and stared in horror at Alec’s broken leg.

“Oh boy, did I do that? Alec? Did I drop you?”

“No, Lippy… no. Just ... let’s get out of here, huh?”

“Sure, Alec, I’ll help you, come on,” and as Ramón watched, and winced in sympathy, Alec clawed his way upright until he was leaning on his friend’s shoulder. Another transgenic appeared, and another; and to Ramón’s relief, Alec was finally lifted off his feet and swept away into the shadows that made his home.

But just before he disappeared, Ramón could have sworn he saw Alec half turn his head, and give a tiny wave.

“Hey, you’re not goin’ to take my gun, are ya?”

“Oh, shut up, before I arrest you,” said Ramón, distracted. The wannabe gunman bristled.

“On what charge?"

“Criminal stupidity.” Ramón broke the rifle, emptied the chamber, and tucked it against his hip. “Come to the Seattle PD HQ tomorrow morning, and if you ask nicely, you can get this back.”

“Hey, how will I defend myself? I got rights, you know.”

Ramón turned and walked back towards his car.

“Threaten to talk to them. They’re sentient creatures. They’ll run.”

He headed back into the alley, and towards his car. So many thoughts crowded his mind; Carey, saying goodbye with his eyes, not knowing if it was for the last time; Jacob, trying to be brave, little Donna, confused and frightened but holding tight to Carey’s hand. The mindless hatred of the men at the fence, the terrifying savagery of the woman now dead in his house. Agent White – as close to evil as Ramón knew in this world.

And Alec. What could he make of him – an assassin, a troublemaker, a hero. Perhaps, just perhaps, he could make of him a friend.

It would take time to change his department’s attitudes, and from there, the beliefs of the world at large. But as Ramón stopped by his car and stared back to where Alec had stood, poised high above the wire and the bullets, knowing pain awaited his landing but that another chance at life waited, too, he knew he’d found his course.

All he had to do was take a leap into the dark.

The End

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
twasadark
May. 9th, 2013 05:14 pm (UTC)
Yay!!!! Most excellent story, my dear! Ramon is an awesome character - I love how you brought him to life here. A unique perspective that I thoroughly enjoyed! I especially liked the dialogue - I could really hear the banter between Ramon and his partner and Alec's characterization came out skillfully as well.

I'm bummed I wasn't able to write for this challenge myself, but so happy that you did!
corbyinoz
May. 9th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you, very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. It turned out to be a fun day of writing, because I did like Ramon and I adored the way he pretended to 'hear' Ames White tell him to go after the transgencis. It's a pity you couldn't make it to the challenge - I would have loved that.
cathexys
May. 10th, 2013 03:32 am (UTC)
That was lovely! I liked the outsider point of view and the way Ramon became a fully rounded character, and the way it seamlessly fit into the ending of the show was great. Thank you!!!
corbyinoz
May. 13th, 2013 09:13 pm (UTC)
Well, thank you very much, I really appreciate the comment. There were some things I regretted about the cancellation of the show, and one of them was the fact that what I saw as respect and integrity in the character of Ramon was not given the opportunity to be brought to a relationship with the transgenics. He made a rather nice contrast to all the White stuff! And I always loved his brush off of White at the end - it showed tremendous humour and no small amount of brass.
So thnak you again, I am very glad you enjoyed it, and grateful for you taking the time to comment.
arabia764
May. 10th, 2013 10:55 am (UTC)
Excellent stuff!

It's so nice to have Alec back, if only for a short visit. They're showing Dark Angel on one of the minor cable channels here and every time I catch an episode I can't help but wonder all over again what happened top them. I always thought Ramon was on their side, even if he wasn't obvious about it. I like what you wrote, it fits so well with the end. You took things just as I wanted.

Thank you.
corbyinoz
May. 13th, 2013 09:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, thnak you, gorgeous woman! Yes, I rekcon had the show continued, Ramon would have been an ally - but there would have been ramifications for him following his delicious brush off of White at the end, I'm sure.

I adore Alec. I didn't 'adore' DA, but there were many aspects that were terrific (the production design amongst them), and the Freak Nation idea was one that could have been very interesting. After all the camp of the breeding cult stuff, there was a concept that could have developed into something strong. Alas, for lovers of political comment and Alec's cheekbones, it was not to be.

Thank you for reading and saying lovely things. You have brightened my day.
arabia764
May. 14th, 2013 07:27 am (UTC)
I like brightening your day but I also like Alec. I wish there'd been some decent slash with him but i guess the problem was who to pair him with.

I did like this!
corbyinoz
May. 14th, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
Oh yes - Alec/Logan does *not* work. So unless you write an OC, there's no other choice (Alec/Sketchy?? Alec/Ames?? Alec/Normal!!??)

The thing about young Jensen, in particular, is that he would slash so well. There's a feminine aspect to his beauty, the way he moves, but his persona is thoroughly male. It makes for all kinds of wonderful ambiguities. As Robert Hughes says, the really interesting things happen at the borders. Alec is pressed right up against that male/female border at times...
arabia764
May. 15th, 2013 09:07 pm (UTC)
I read some Alec/Ames White and some Alec/Joshua. Bother were... odd.

Really interesting things happen at the boarder from boy to man as well. Someone (I can't remember who) said he was right at that tipping point in the first series of DA and I have to agree. So very, very beautiful.
corbyinoz
May. 16th, 2013 10:42 am (UTC)
Alec/Joshua? ~shudder~

You're right about the boy/man thing. Most of the time, I can't see Alec in Jensen/Dean, at all. As a fully grown adult, Jensen/Dean has a more squared jaw, stronger face generally. But sometimes - sometimes, I catch sight of Alec in there, and it's one of those beautiful moments.

He really was a ridiculously beautiful boy/man as Alec. He's - sort of okay as a proper bloke, I guess...
arabia764
May. 17th, 2013 09:22 pm (UTC)
Jensen has certainly grown up. It's only when you see Alec or see him with someone young that you realise just how much he's grown up. I like it. I like it VERY much. But, oh the beauty of boy/man Jensen. Just jaw-droppingly beautiful.
livejournal
May. 14th, 2013 05:51 am (UTC)
Dark Angel Recs!
User twasadark referenced to your post from Dark Angel Recs! saying: [...] on! Here are a couple of Dark Angel recs that I read/listened to lately: (Fic) Change More Fierce [...]
corbyinoz
May. 14th, 2013 09:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Dark Angel Recs!
Thank you for the rec, lovely woman! And I clicked through and read the other one too - very, very good, so thnak you for that, too.
antrazi
May. 15th, 2013 10:55 am (UTC)
Really great. i enjoy that you made a complete character out of somebody we only had a small glimps of.
corbyinoz
May. 15th, 2013 10:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the kind feedback! I would have loved to have seen more of Clemente (not least because that would have meant we had Season 3...) but I really liked what we did see. I'm glad that this has worked for you regarding his character. And thank you for letting me know.
nong_pradu
Oct. 16th, 2013 12:42 am (UTC)
This was freaking amazing!!! I loved Clemente on the show, so I'm really glad you decided to do this from his POV.

Brilliant. And yay! Hurt!Alec!
corbyinoz
Oct. 16th, 2013 11:59 pm (UTC)
LOL! Thank you! Yes, one of my regrets about the lack of S3 was not seeing where Clemente could be taken. I always imagined him as an ongoing ally, eventually. Hurt Alec - well, what's there to say? Hurt Alec is *always* a Good Thing.

Thanks for the feedback, hon, I really do appreciate it. It's always so nice to hear from you.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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