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I Bounce

by The Inimitable Pooh Bah

Thanks to: Northlight and Mystic for their impromptu beta work.

Date: March 24, April 6-8, 2001

Rating: PG

Summary: X-5s on the move. Post-ep for "The Kidz are Aiight."

Disclaimer: "Dark Angel" belongs to James Cameron, Charles Eglee, and/or FOX.

Feedback: poohbah@gray-eyed.com

Website: http://www.gray-eyed.com/

Archive: List archives and by submission. Do not archive or repost without permission.

Author's note: A jody is a song used in the military while marching or running to keep pace and fend off boredom. Traditional jodies often include jokes of a racial or sexual (or both!) nature--there's been a trend of making drill instructors clean up their jodies, which kinda takes the fun out of it. More on jodies may be found at http:/dept.kent.edu/AFROTC/cadets/jodies/MarchingJodies.html and http://www.specialoperations.com/Focus/Cadences/Rangers/Default.htm


"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Zack snaps at us.

Syl snickers. I flash a grin, but it doesn't have quite the same effect on Zack as it does on pretty girls in cheap bars--not that it works on pretty girls that often, either.

Zack stands in the unlighted doorway of the abandoned warehouse he's commandeered for his temporary command post. His arms are crossed, and it's no wonder: Syl and I are behaving irresponsibly, and it's about minus three degrees out here. I'd be pissed off too if I had to deal with us. Sometimes I'm glad I'm not him.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he repeats.

Syl smiles oh-so-sweetly. "Singing jodies at two thirty in the morning on our way to a top-secret rendezvous with our fellow escaped genetic experiments--what's it look like we're doing?"

Zack huffs in annoyance, which makes a nice big cloud. "Why?" he demands.

"Why what?" asks Syl.

"For starters, why did you think making so much noise on your way here was a good idea?"

"Who said we thought it was a good idea?" Syl returns.

"You two wouldn't have done it if you thought it was a bad idea," Zack reasons. He should know by now that Syl will either find some way to twist logic around, or just ignore it.

"Says who?" Syl argues. "Krit thought it was a bad idea. I thought it was a bad idea, too."

Zack shakes his head. "Why do I even try?"

"Double negatives," says Syl.

"Huh?" I puzzle, so Zack doesn't have to lose face to ask the same thing.

"Like in algebra," Syl explains. "Two negatives cancel. If we'd had Zane along and he thought it was a bad idea, that would've been three of us and we wouldn't have started singing jodies when we started walking. Then again, if we'd had Zane with us, we wouldn't have had to walk when the Jeep broke down . . . "

"That makes no sense," I say.

Syl punches my arm lightly. "You just don't remember, Krit. They talked about double negatives that last winter, and you kept sleeping through the classes like Zack did."

"You slept too," I point out. "Everybody with a hibernation instinct did. Van and Brin and Tad and--"

"Shut up, you two," Zack snaps. "Come inside before we all freeze."

"We don't freeze," Syl and I chorus.

"We have bear DNA," I add.

"Do we?" Syl asks. "We're too skinny. Now, Zack with bear DNA I could believe."

"No, he's more dog."

"Bears and dogs are a lot alike," says Syl. "And raccoons and pandas."

"He's a dog! He's a pit bull!"

"So what does that make us?"

"Penguins," Zack puts in. "You're both so short. Now just come inside, would you?"

"Penguins?" Syl asks, scrunching his nose. "What would be the point of that? They're fat, they're stupid, they're slow, they eat fish, and they're not even very cute. And they fall over if you fly a plane over them."

"Just come inside," Zack orders.

I pull Syl along and Zack rolls the door down behind us. You can almost hear him scowling, but Syl and I can't see well enough to check.

"Penguins are too cute," I tell Syl.

"They are not!"

"Are too!"

"Are not!"

"Are--"

"Shut up!"

"Hey, Tinga!" Syl calls across the room to the shadow sitting up and probably glaring daggers at us.

"I haven't seen you in ages," I say.

"And not a moment too long," Tinga says. "You two almost lost me my job last time I saw you."

Syl sniffs at the stale, dusty air as he turns toward Zack. "Swanky place you got, bro. Who all's here already?"

"Look and see," Zack suggests.

"C'mon," Syl whines, "all I see is dark lumps on the floor. You know bears don't have good eyesight."

"You're a penguin."

"Bear!"

"Penguin."

"Just tell me who's here?" Syl begs.

"Wouldn't you like to know."

"Well," Syl says, "I get some good hearing with the bat DNA, so I could always kick 'em all and get auditory confirmation when they cuss at me."

"Oh, don't even!" Tinga commands.

"Or we could turn on a light," I suggest.

"No," snaps Zack. "We're trying not to attract attention. I just hope you didn't blow it already with the jodies."

"Don't be so snotty, Zack," I say. "Who's gonna see us?"

"I'm gonna find out who's here, one way or another," Syl insists. He goes over to the nearest lump and kicks it.

"That was a sleeping bag," says Zack.

"This one isn't," says Syl. "I hear it breathing."

"I wouldn't kick that one if I was you," Zack warns.

Syl kicks anyway.

There's a quiet shuffle of bedding, then the bump of a foot making contact with Syl's legs and sweeping them out from under him. Syl lands with a surprisingly heavy thud. Something snaps, probably part of Syl's anatomy because he yelps just after.

"I said not to kick Jondy," Zack reminds Syl, flicking on a flashlight to look at the scene of the tussle. Funny how security loses importance when Zack wants a better look at something.

"She broke my arm!" Syl whines, holding up his unaffected hand to shield his eyes.

Jondy scoffs and tosses her blonde hair. "Serves you right." She's still so tiny, smaller than even me and Syl, and it seems that she still surprises anybody who gives her cause to fight.

"I warned you," says Zack.

"Don't you ever listen?" Tinga comes across the room to inspect the injury, more out of a feeling of superiority than any sympathy for Syl.

"You never stood a chance," Zack says. "You should've left her alone."

"Lay off, will you?" Syl growls.

"Jondy always whupped you back at Manticore, too," I remark.

"C'mon, Krit," Syl groans, "not you too."

"Heh," Jondy snorts. "Maybe now you've learned not to sneak up on transgenic people."

Tinga turns toward the other side of the room and calls. "Hey, Zane, got anything we can use for a splint?"

The Zane-lump mumbles something in a sleepy voice and rolls over.

"You people are woefully unprepared," Zack sighs.

"Bite me," says Syl.

"Are you drunk?" Tinga asks sharply.

Jondy studies him a moment. "Nah," she decides. "He's just Syl."

"Tinga's got a newspaper," Zack says. "We'll roll some sheets up."

I go over to Zane, sleeping all by himself in one corner of the warehouse. I didn't know he was here before Jondy talked to him- -there's no dog smell from his Millie. There's no dog. There's no luggage either.

I shake his shoulder. "Zane, I need you, man. There's a car in distress a couple miles down the road."

He yawns, sits up, runs a hand through his messy hair. Most of us sleep lightly out of paranoia and training if not DNA, but Zane's been a sound sleeper ever since the escape. Zack would say it's carelessness, but it amazes me how well Zane adapts. I've never quite got normalcy down.

"Syl's Jeep broke down."

He stands up, and there's just enough light in here that I can make out a grin. "Got a tool box?"

"Don't you?"

"Left it in L.A."

"Damn."

"Zack!" he hollers across the room. "We got tools?" "I stole a contractor's truck this side of the border."

"Speaking of which," says Syl as Zane and I raise the door and slip under, "do you have any idea what a bitch it is getting out of Mexico, through the States, and into Canada? And add picking Krit up from New Orlea--"

"Shut up," Zack snaps. "Nobody asked you to live in Tamaulipas."

Zane and I go around to the back of the warehouse and he grabs the toolbox from the truck. He sets it down on the ground and opens it to take an inventory.

"Where's Millie?" I ask.

"I left her in L.A. like the tools."

"I'm sorry, bro."

He shakes his head. "You do what you gotta do. I wanted to call my buddy and ask him to feed her, but . . . " He sighs.

"You gonna be okay?"

"Yeah. I bounce." He tosses me a flashlight. "Here. You might want this."

"Nah, they wreck my night vision." What little of it I have. "The Jeep's right near a payphone--you could call L.A. from there."

Zane doesn't answer, just latches the toolbox and picks it up, ready to go.

"Right this way, Z-man," I say, and lead him back down the dark road.

For a long time, the only sound is our footsteps. We walk softly--it's in both our blood and the instincts they drilled into us.

"Krit?" It's barely more than a whisper, but Zane's voice seems so loud when I haven't been singing jodies back and forth with him for the last half mile.

"Yeah?"

"I don't know how you and Syl can keep everything you own in a duffel bag in the back of a Jeep. I don't think I could do that."

"I haven't done that since Zack broke us up in New Orleans. I got an apartment."

"Two-bedroom?" Zane asks.

"Studio. Real dump. Left half my stuff in my duffel all the time--didn't take much doing to pack up the rest and head for the swamps to wait for Syl."

"And you did that for three years." He says it like it's some world record he can't quite grasp. "Never even unpacked your duffel bag."

"Has it really been that long?" I wonder.

"Yeah."

"I've never stayed anywhere for three years before." Life's full of surprises, isn't it?

"It grows on you," says Zane. "It's nice knowing you got a home to go to."

"Yeah. I guess."

We walk some more.

"It's funny," says Zane. "There you were, with your apartment and your duffel bags, and you've still got everything you started with. And there I was, with my friends and my job and my life, and I couldn't take anything with me. Not even the dog. All I got is the stupid souped-up Mustang I drove away in."

"You could've stopped and packed a few things."

He sighs. "I guess I thought it would be worse if they caught me than if I had to leave and never look back."

"There's benefits," I say, "to living on the run instead of settling down."

"But I hate the idea that running is all I can ever do, just because of something that happened to me before I was even born. That's just wrong, somehow."

"It's like you said, you do what you gotta do."

"I had a girl there, Krit."

"I know. You introduced us." I shrug. "There's girls in every corner of the earth."

"There's whores everywhere," he corrects. "There's a difference between a one-night stand and a girl you take out for dinner and snap photos of and write letters to and call over your lunch hour."

"But do you need that kind of girl?"

"You do if you've ever had one."

"You'll find another girl, Zane," I say.

"But I'll miss Colleen."

We're coming up on the payphone and the Jeep now, and I stop. "Go call her, Zane. She's gotta be worried about you."

He goes over to the phone, fishes change out of his pocket, and dials. I eavesdrop, though it's hard with such a staticy connection.

"Hello?" a girl's voice asks.

"'Leen, it's me."

"Zane?" She dissolves into angry, terrified tears before she can even finish saying his name. "Where the hell are you, you bastard?"

"I can't te--"

"What is going on here?" she squeaks. "What is with all these guys looking for you? What have you not been telling me?"

I can hear Zane's heart racing as he slams the receiver down. "Damn it," he whispers, and pounds a fist on the side of the telephone booth. It dents like a tin can under normal human strength. "DAMN IT!"

"It's okay," I tell him. "They didn't have enough time to trace- -"

"Do you think they hurt her?" he asks desperately.

"Zane, she doesn't know anything. She's a total ditz, and I know you've never dropped any hint big enough for even someone as smart as us to figure out."

"I'll go back there and kill every one of them if they hurt her," he states bluntly.

"She's okay, Zane. She's just scared. She doesn't have a clue what's going on. It probably took Lydecker under three seconds to figure out that she's got nothing but air between her ears. And he knows he trained you better than to go back for her."

"But . . . but . . . " He paces around in a tight circle, fingers buried in his hair as he holds his head, shuddering a few times in a prelude to a seizure. "Lydecker doesn't take 'I don't know' for an answer. They . . . they hurt her, they tortured her. They tortured my girl."

"You don't know that. And even if they did, there's nothing to do about it. You're lucky to be alive and free right now."

He shudders harder, leans against the phone booth. "That's not worth letting Colleen get hurt."

"What are you talking about? Don't you see how much worse they'd hurt you? You wouldn't be Zane any more. You would have nothing left of yourself. You wouldn't own a dog, you wouldn't take things apart to see how they work, you wouldn't laugh at Syl's stupid jokes, you wouldn't read sci-fi novels, you wouldn't even remember Colleen. They would wipe your mind clean and start all over again, and then you'd be exactly what you were designed to be. And losing you isn't worth all the Colleens in the world."

Zane glares at me stubbornly as he slides down the side of the phone booth to sit on the ground and tuck his chin up against his knees.

I watch him for a few minutes, shaking and sweating and looking downright miserable. "Zane, d'you want me to go back and rustle up some tryptophan?"

"What good's that gonna do?" he manages to snap. "It's too late once a seizure's started."

I turn away to allow him some privacy. That's the rule--first hint your input isn't welcome, you act like a seizure renders your brother or sister invisible. I can hear the shabby phone booth rattling with the force of Zane's shaking. And I think I hear a few stifled sobs as well.


The process of fixing the car and the drive back to the warehouse are close to silent. Zane doesn't want to talk about Colleen or Millie or anything, and there's really nothing else to say.

Syl's waiting outside the warehouse when we drive up. "I am so outta here," he says. "Gimme the keys, Krit."

I pull them from the ignition and drop them in his upturned palm before hopping out of the driver's seat.

Syl scrambles in, a little awkward for the duct-tape-and- newspaper splint on his arm. "Out, Zane," he orders as he pops the parking brake and turns the engine back over. "Unless you wanna visit Guadalajara with me. Know any Spanish?"

"What's your problem?" I ask, hurrying to grab my duffel bag from the back before Syl leaves me standing in a cloud of dust.

"Zack's impossible."

"I knew that."

"And Tinga and Jondy hate me too," Syl complains.

"So I gathered."

"And then Van showed up while you two were gone."

"Oh God," I laugh.

"This bus pulls up and she steps off, and I barely turn around before she's trying to break my other arm."

"What'd you do now?"

He gives me a look of utter bafflement. "All I said was, 'Hey, chica, long time no see.' And I just don't see why that would make her so mad at me."

"Well," I say, "in light of what happened last time you saw her . . . "

"I don't remember that."

"You were drunk," I remind him.

"Oh." It's a blank kind of 'oh,' though.

"It's where you broke your nose and got that scar on your thigh."

"Oh," says Syl again, this time more knowingly. "That. Damn, I must really be a pain in the ass sometimes. I'm surprised none of you guys have killed me by now."

"I'm surprised, too."

Syl turns to Zane. "I'm counting to ten, bro, and then I'm getting the hell out of Dodge. That means I'm leaving this quaint little town and our sibs and your Mustang behind. One, two, three . . . "

Zane kicks into gear and steps out. Syl's gone in a squeal of tires. He never even got to five.

"Is he gone yet?" Zack asks, sticking his head out the doorway.

"Yeah, he's gone."

"Good. Come inside. You should sleep now, while you've got a chance--you have to leave before dawn."

"So soon?" I ask.

Zack nods, and we follow him in. He's completely forgotten about not wanting lights on, now that Syl's not wanting to see who's around.

"But we just got here. We haven't seen each other in years. And what about everybody who hasn't arrived yet?"

"I'm splitting you up," Zack announces to the five of us.

"Joy," says Van dryly. "Just don't pair me up with Krit."

"Van goes with Jondy," Zack says. A good pair--hibernator with insomniac, strategy and planning with reflexive action, brute strength with speed. But it's probably more an issue of bus taker with car owner. "Drop Van in Santa Fe, then keep going to Las Vegas."

The two of them nod, satisfied with the arrangement.

On to the rest of us. Zack pauses to consider. "You could both go with Zane," he says to me and Tinga.

Tinga gives a little frown in my direction. I stick my tongue out at her.

Zack huffs. "Jesus, sometimes you guys can be such babies."

"Takes one to know one," Tinga mutters.

"Tinga to Milwaukee, Krit to Des Moines, Zane to Denver," Zack assigns.

"There's a bus leaving town for Ottawa tomorrow morning," Tinga says hopefully.

Zack shakes his head in frustration. "Take that then. Whatever. I'm going to sleep."

I snatch an hour-long nap on the cold cement floor, and Zane and Jondy are the only ones awake when I get up again. Z-man and I say goodbye to her and I thumb my nose at our snoring brother Zack on my way out the door and across the back lot to Zane's Mustang.

The Mustang is rustier and more dented than I remember. Then again, Zane never was very careful about keeping up the car's body--it's all about engines to him, and as soon as we're out on the road I can feel that it's running smoother than ever. Some highway driving lets me know he's got the engine going faster, too.

"So," I say from the ripped-up, dog hair-covered passenger seat. "To Des Moines."

Zane smiles and guns the engine. "How boring is that?"

I grin. "Not as boring as Denver, I bet. Feeling better now?"

"Yeah. Like I said, I bounce."

We drive in silence for awhile, heading into the sunrise. I guess I should be inspired by that, so I wrack my brain for a minute. Jondy comes to mind--she's gotten so pretty, with permed blonde hair and big hazel eyes.

"Hey, let's go do Vegas. We can stay with Jondy 'till you get your feet on the ground with car repair and I win big at poker."

"You can't win big at poker," Zane says. "Nobody ever could."

"Nobody was ever a chimera with amazing psychic powers, either," I return.

"You're not psychic."

I shrug. "Nah, just pretty good at reading people. In card games, at least."

"I think maybe we should just go to Des Moines and Denver like we're supposed to."

"Yeah," I sigh.

"Though Zack never said when we had to be there," Zane points out.

I smile. "I like your thinking, Z-man."

"We'll stop off when we get back into the U.S. Gotta put some distance in before we blow Zack off."

"Right on, bro."


"Cute," I whisper to Zane across the table as the waitress goes back to the kitchen after taking our order. My order, rather-- Zane's gone back to being contemplative and quiet. I just said 'make that two,' in case he snaps out of it when the food arrives. It's the only all-night diner in town, but there's still next to nobody there at four in the morning.

Zane looks up from his coffee cup with a baffled expression. "Huh?"

"I said the waitress is cute. Nice legs. Nice butt. Nice chest. Blue eyes. Red hair. Don't tell me you didn't notice, Z-man."

"You're a chauvinist pig, Krit."

I shrug. "I just like pretty girls. Every guy does, right?"

"She got me thinking about Colleen, actually . . . "

Oh, boy. Not more of that depressive stuff. And I thought Zane bounced.

But he laughs--that's good. "I remember a couple months back, before she got caught, Brin visited me. She was sick. Seizures, fever, no strength at all. She said it helped some if she was somewhere cold . . . So I emptied out my freezer and put her in it."

"How'd it work?"

Zane shrugs. "I never found out. Colleen dropped by my place an hour later, before the freezer had time to do any good, and she went looking for some ice, and she found Brin curled up in there."

"Screamed?" I guess.

He smiles. "Screamed so loud Mike heard her three blocks down in the garage. My ears were ringing for a week."

He sips his coffee some more, looks out the diner window at the cars driving by on the dark street. Probably analyzing the condition of their brakes and engines with the revved-up hearing he's given a mechanic's training to.

"'Leen called an ambulance before I could explain anything to her," Zane says. "I followed it to the hospital to try and get Brin back out and somewhere cold. Lydecker heard there was a girl with a barcode and a guy that fit the description my genetics would produce, so he and some troops came down to check it out. I don't know how Brin found the energy to run, but she got out of the hospital right before they stormed it. They went through the place, checking out everybody who looked at all like me. Slammed me against the wall and ripped my new shirt when they yanked down the collar."

"Bad," I mutter.

"They didn't find anything, 'cause I had my barcode removed earlier that week. But it took everything I had not to turn around and flip those two thugs onto the floor. . . . And you know, it didn't do any of us a bit of good. Brin still got caught in the end, and now I'm running too."

Zane stares into his coffee, and I look at a chip in the tabletop, and neither of us says anything.

The waitress comes back with the food--hamburgers, fries, salads. We eat, then order more. All of us X-5s have ungodly appetites, especially if we haven't had anything at all in the last twenty- four hours.

"So what are you gonna do with yourself now, Z-man?" I ask.

Zane thinks for a moment, before he spots a newspaper vending machine across the room. "Buy a paper."


Pretty soon, we're in a motel room. We both need to get some sleep, but I'm the only one trying for that. Zane's sitting on the floor, poring over the classified section. He's still doing it as I drift off to sleep.


"Good morning, Sleeping Beauty," Zane remarks when I sit up groggily at half past ten the next morning.

I run a hand over my hair even though it won't do a bit of good, and look over to Zane.

"There was an ad in the paper for free puppies, and I called a couple hours ago to have them hold one for me. Wanna come with me and get it?"

"You know Zack's not gonna like you having a dog, Z-man. He's scared of them."

"Nah," says Zane. "He freaked out when he met Millie back in L.A., but he came back the next morning and had this long stare- down with her. Guess he decided to lose the cynophobia."

"I think he just didn't want to lose face in front of you," I say. "It's like how he's quit telling Syl where to live, just so Syl's not always disobeying."

Zane shrugs. "Point is, he got over it. He even likes Millie now." "Mind over matter, huh?"

"You know he can do anything he's determined to. I'm gonna get that puppy now, if you're coming."

"Yeah, I'll go."


Zane didn't need to have a puppy reserved--there's still a half- dozen left when we arrive, and the owner gives Zane his pick. So Zane's down on the lawn, little mutt puppies climbing all over him and licking his face and hands and yapping at him excitedly. He's on cloud nine and he'd probably take every one of them if he could.

He finally decides on one, a little female who looks the closest to a German shepherd of any of them--which isn't all that close. "Does she have a name?" he asks.

The owner, a middle-aged woman standing beside me in a worn trench coat, shakes her head. "Do you have one in mind?"

"Millie," Zane decides, without a moment's hesitation.

"Millie?" I ask him when we're back in the car and the puppy's standing on my lap to stick her nose out the window.

"Yeah," says Zane. "It's a good name, don't you think?"

"Sure, but I thought you were moving on."

"Moving on isn't about forgetting everything, 'cause you can't do that. Everything that's ever happened to you helped make you into who you are."

"Not you, Zane. Maybe Zack with his paranoia, maybe Syl with his tent in the woods, maybe Jondy with breaking people's arms. But not you, Z-man. You're nothing like your life should've made you."

He shrugs. "You can't let your past haunt you, either. That's just as bad as trying to deny it."

"So, you're not exactly putting it behind you, and you're not exactly letting it influence you. So what are you doing?"

He grins at his dog, at his Mustang, at the road before us. "Bouncing."


[ END ]


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