Categories > TV > Dark Angel > Early Days0 Reviews
X5-494 is given new orders, orders he has no intention of following.
It was close to lights-out when they came for him: two X5s looming in the doorway once the cell door was unlocked.
"X5-494," the dark-haired one on the left said. 494 thought it was 698; he hadn't had much time to familiarize himself with his new unit mates. "You're to come with us."
494 hopped up from his bunk. Any diversion that kept him from studying spidery cracks in the ceiling for entertainment was welcome. "Where we going?"
The other X5, a blond specimen with cheekbones that bespoke a Slavic genome in his cocktail, answered. "We've been ordered to report to the briefing room in D-block."
494 masked his surprise with a shrug. "In the middle of the night? Curious."
The other two stared at him.
They would not be giving him an assignment so soon, would they? Might it be a trap? Though they had released him from Psy Ops, put him back on a regular training schedule with the rest of the Xs, they still considered him untrustworthy. He was kept a prisoner, locked in a cell after hours, no recreation allowed, and he was growing bored of his own company.
Tread with care, 494, he reminded himself.
He followed the other soldiers down the hallway and across the quad, marching in step, their boots echoing in the still night. A dozen or so X5s stood already at rigid attention before chairs lined-up in the briefing room. All male, 494 noted. His natural curiosity picked up a notch.
Director Renfro paced before the troops, dressed in a dark blue suit that made her blond hair appear to glow in sharp relief. 494 suppressed a shiver. She was a dangerous woman. Far more dangerous than ol' Lydecker, who had at least been predictable in a cruel let's-see-how-much-you-can-take way.
He followed the others' example and saluted. "X5-494 reporting."
A guard-- an ordinary soldier-- closed the door while Renfro looked over the assembled X5s. She gave a curt nod of approval that did nothing to relieve 494's apprehension.
"As you may know," she began without preamble, "our main base of operations was attacked earlier this year. Invaluable data accumulated over many years of genetic research was destroyed. Data that was used to create you."
Despite his misgivings, 494 found himself listening with fascination. He had heard rumors-- Psy Ops wasn't as cut off from the rest of the compound as they liked to think-- and here he found confirmation. It wasn't clear, however, what it had to do with them. Stolen data could be recovered using an X5's special skills, but once it was destroyed? Not so much.
"That means," Renfro continued, "that we can no longer grow X-series in test tubes. At least not for long years to come. And only at the tremendous cost of having to start all over again."
Why was she giving them all these details? Nobody ever explained the reason. They gave orders, X5s were expected to follow them, period. Never had the old soldiers' adage held more true than at Manticore: theirs was not to reason why, but to do or die.
Though nobody moved, X5-494 sensed the other soldiers echo his thoughts. They vibrated with tension if you knew what to look for: someone breathing just a bit harder than necessary, the twitch of a jaw muscle caught from the corner of his eye. They were as much in the dark as he was, and as wary. Strangely, that made him feel better.
"So," Renfro finished, a slow smile that held no humor curving her lips, "we have to enlarge your numbers the old-fashioned way." She paused, as if she had explained it all.
Confusion rolled off from the gathered soldiers in almost visible waves. "Ma'am?" one brave soul asked. 494 mentally commended the soldier for daring to speak and voice the question on all their minds.
Renfro's grin merely widened. "Breeding, soldier," she said. "You were taken off your birth control shots a few weeks ago and we conducted some tests. You've all been ascertained fertile and each of you has been assigned a breeding partner."
494 barely managed to suppress a snort. She was going to breed them like livestock-- well, to Renfro they probably were nothing but cattle. How else could she stand there and order them to rape their fellow soldiers, the female X5s? What the hell was the woman thinking? He wondered if the girls had received similar instructions, or if they would come as an unpleasant surprise; he wouldn't put it past the director to believe that once she gave the males their orders, everyone else would fall in line, no objections raised.
"Ma'am?" someone ventured, a tall, broad-shouldered X5 on 494's right. "How-- " He faltered. "It's not-- "
A few snickers rose; 494 bit his lip to keep in a chuckle of his own. Someone had not paid attention in class. Then again, he couldn't really blame the soldier. He looked like an infantry class X5, and they didn't get out much in the real world. And with Manticore's rules against fraternization so ruthlessly enforced...not much action to be had on base. On the other hand, he himself had been designed for solo missions. He had successfully finished several, and felt no compunction to enjoy the perks that came with being free of Manticore's strict control to the fullest, if only for a few days.
Unbidden, images flickered before his mind's eye: a pair of trusting brown eyes, a pearly white smile, dimpled cheeks. Far off, he thought he heard piano music. He blinked, and shook his head. Where the hell had that come from?
Before he could further examine the flash of unconnected memory, recall who the girl was, Renfro drew his attention. She did not appear amused.
"That's why we have put together an instructional video," she said coldly. "To refresh your memories, for those who need it. Sit down, soldiers."
494 did as ordered and settled on the hard-backed briefing room chair. This ought to be good.
An hour later, close to midnight, the overhead lights blinked back on and the video screen grew dark. The X5s, their night vision suddenly assaulted with bright fluorescents, blinked owlishly for an instant. 494 stretched to soothe stiffened muscles, bored out of his skull with the technical explanations of how tab A fitted into slot B. At least the hardcore porn-- probably an attempt to get them 'in the mood'-- that followed had been mildly entertaining, if somewhat unrealistic.
Renfro took her place before the gathered soldiers again. "Doctor Schwartz here will inform you of your designated breeding partner. I expect to hear your reports tomorrow morning at roll call. Do not disappoint me."
"No, ma'am," the X5s barked as one.
The doctor Renfro had indicated made his way slowly along the lines of soldiers, checking each designation against his clipboard before identifying their assigned partner.
"Ah, yes." Schwartz looked him up and down before glancing at his clipboard. "You have been assigned to X5-452."
"What?" He could not help the startled question. Dammit. He'd known there would be a catch. "Sir, X5-452's been living outside for years. God knows what bugs she picked up. And she's a-- "
"-- a rogue and a traitor," Renfro finished. "We are well aware of that, soldier. She's also of excellent breeding stock that we determined is fully compatible with your DNA. And you know as well as I do that both of you are immune to any regular sexually transmitted diseases so don't give me that nonsense. Any other objections you wanted to voice, soldier?"
"No, ma'am. But-- "
"She'll likely resist," Renfro continued as if he hadn't spoken. "I would think that'll suit your own contrary nature. I expect results from you shortly, 494." She turned to the waiting guard. "Take him to her."
Swallowing a sigh, 494 followed.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Despite what Renfro thought, he really did not want to force 452 to have sex with him. Or any woman, for that matter, but that was beside the point right now. And he doubted he'd be able to convince her they'd best follow orders. He'd seen her around the quad a few times, at roll call, during training; she'd never toe the mark, no matter what torment Renfro subjected her to.
He still had no idea how to avoid the situation when they reached her cell-- like him, they did not allow her to wander around unescorted. He had no choice but to play it by ear. Fortunately, that's what he did best.
He waited until the door was unlocked, then stepped over the threshold.
She looked up, wearing an expression of annoyance. He would have expected Manticore to have cured her of displaying her thoughts so clearly. It lasted only a moment, though, then her eyes-- brown, large-- widened further in shock and she paled visibly. Still, the first word out of her mouth was not what he expected.