An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
Scene: The Alberta Colony
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I spend the better part of a week looking, wandering down little empty lanes through grassy hills before I finally find the place. Or before he finds me. I've stopped by the roadside to check myself against the map for the twentieth time when he appears practically out of nowhere, striding toward me over a rise.
"Are you lost?" he says, but he's the one who looks out of place in his slacks and his tweed sport coat. He has that kindly-old-guy look but I can tell he's up to something.
So I say no, just checking out the scenery. But I'm not very convincing and we stand there eyeing each other for a while.
Finally he says, "Would you like me to show you, Mr. Krycek? It's not safe for you to wander around here on your own."
It's the flashing numbers all over again. Somehow the old man's followed me, or one of his goons has gotten to Ché, because he's the only one who knew where I was headed. I expect to see the old man step out smirking from behind a bush, or at least to smell the stench of his Morleys, but nothing happens--no old man, no sudden bullet ripping into me. And then he says it again. Do I want him to show me?
By now my heart's running like a spooked rabbit. "Show me what?"
"What you came here to see."
"How the hell would you know what I came here for?"
He shrugs. "It's immaterial," he says. He's wearing this thin smile, too smug for my taste. "Do you want to see or don't you? You must be accompanied. Otherwise, you'll be vulnerable."
"To what? My guess is I'll be a lot more vulnerable on the guided tour."
"Others have tried it before--coming to this colony. Let me show you what happens to them." His hand comes out, an afterthought. "Jeremiah Smith."
I don't offer mine. Anyway, it's sweaty.
He turns and walks past a curve in the road and points to something behind a big rock. I swallow the crawling feeling in my gut and go over to where he is. Two bodies lie in the bushes, one not much more than a skeleton with flaps of dark skin hanging off it like old leather. The other's fresher; you can still see the guy's face and the welts on it.
"What happened to them?" I say.
"Bee stings," he says.
I laugh. "Yeah, right. I hear those killer bees have barely reached Arizona."
"They're not that kind of bee."
My worries about the old man are fading, but Smith is beginning to seriously piss me off with his Dalai Lama calm.
"I can show you," he repeats.
"Why would you want to? And how do you know who I am?"
"Who you are"--he shrugs--"I don't know much about. But I can read your thoughts. As a boy you were called Alyosha--short for Aleksei. You came here to see. Because you don't believe in it."
"Believe in what?"
"In what will come. You want to see it stopped."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
He turns away as if he's leaving and starts into the grass the way he came.
Make the leap or not? But my whole life's going nowhere right now. "Okay. What am I thinking?"
He pauses and finally turns to face me again. "You're considering whether I'm a trap or not. Someone wants to kill you. And behind that is concern about a friend, whether he may have been compromised. Farther still... is the thought of a woman. You're lying in bed together, holding each other. She's crying. You've killed someone." He shakes his head. "But she doesn't know that."
I swallow. Where the hell did he dredge up that bit about Patty? Nobody knew about Patty.
"We can walk," he says. "Or it would be faster in your car."
The Syndicate's got their thumb in this for sure. The welts on that body look like smallpox and I know that's what Charne-Sayre's research is about. I haven't come all this way to leave empty-handed, but I'm sure as hell not going to end up like those two bodies on the side of the road. Finally I motion toward the passenger door and we get in and go farther down the road, him telling me which way to turn whenever the road forks. Eventually we come down into a valley where black shade cloth canopies spread like huge black wings over maybe ten or twelve acres. They're growing something under it.
"What is it?"
"You're not growing it out here to market. What's it for?"
"The production of pollen," he says. He glances out at the fields and back at me. "But I don't believe the plants are what you'll find most intriguing here."
I say nothing. I'm losing patience, tired of playing 'guess what's in my hand, grasshopper'. I park the car at the end of a row of old wood frame houses, get out and follow him toward the covered fields. I know what the plant is. I've seen it before--ginseng. There are a couple of young boys working the rows, pulling weeds, a sight that takes me back a few years. I flash on a group of ragged kids working rows of cabbage or turnips in the mud. We never had it this nice, though, that's for sure. I don't notice anything particular until a girl in braids comes along, and then another girl. They're twins--no, another one pops up from behind a raised row of plants. Triplets. Weird.
And then the boys get up and file past us. The clothes are different but the kids inside them look identical. Something cold grabs my gut.
"What is this?" I say.
He raises his eyebrows. "A perceptive question. They're workers, nothing more. Servants of the greater purpose."
I put in my time as a kid doing that, serving the 'greater cause'. The state, the institution I grew up in, Mother Russia; whatever they want to call it, it's all the same. I find my hands balled into fists and make them loosen. "Yeah, whatever. So they're producing pollen to feed bees. Is that it?"
He shrugs. "Many will be needed."
"So what are you doing here? You don't want it to succeed, either."
"It is my duty, my function, to assist with the preparation. I--"
The party line. He stops, his mouth still open, but now I notice something, one of the girls fallen between the rows. I go through an opening between two benches to look. She's pale, blood pooling on the ground below a deep cut in her palm. A pair of garden shears lies beside her and her lips move but no sound comes out. I turn back to Smith. Do they just let them go here?
"You going to do something about this?" I say, my eyes still on the pale, barely moving lips. "Or are they expendable? She's bleeding. Looks like she cut her hand."
The news doesn't shake him. He comes to where we are and bends down beside her, covering her hand with his own. I look around at the other kids. They go on about their business, not as if they're trying to block it out but as if what just happened hasn't even registered. When I look back, he's helping the girl to sit up. Her color's better and her hand... There's nothing--no blood, no cut. She gets to her feet, picks up the shears and moves down the row to her work. If it weren't for the dark stain on the ground, I'd figure I hallucinated the whole thing. Something in my gut turns hard.
"It's getting late," Smith says, and he turns and points to where the sun's sinking toward the horizon. "Come."
So we turn and leave the ginseng fields and go back toward the row of buildings.
"You're welcome to stay the night," he says now. "It's quite a distance to the nearest town and all too easy to lose your way in the dark on these winding roads."
I grunt in reply.
The whole complex seems to be the fields, and then a row of small houses along the strip of road. There don't seem to be any other buildings, or any other activity going on.
"Dinner will be served soon," he says.
On the dirt road, two boys carry a big cooking pot between them and take it into one of the houses. A girl takes down laundry from a line in a yard and puts it in a basket. Several boys have stopped to drink from a fountain on their way in from the fields. Behind them, two girls follow, buckets in hand. They don't whisper or giggle the way girls do. All the kids are the same--one style of girl, one kind of boy. Not a sign of another adult anywhere.
"You're welcome to look around," Smith says to me now. "Perhaps you can satisfy your curiosity that way. Dinner will be served in that house over there"--he points to one with green trim--"in fifteen minutes. Do you have a watch?"
"Yeah," I say, and I start back toward where I've parked the car. It's just a white Corolla, not too old, nothing fancy--something that runs and doesn't attract much attention, which is why I took it and not the black Mustang parked next to it. The keys were in it, too; that was another factor. But I'm far enough away that nobody's likely to be looking for it around here. Seems solid enough to get me all the way to Vancouver, which is where I'm headed next. Vancouver, make a few connections and then skip the country, hide out in Hong Kong or Singapore or Bangkok; the old man doesn't have a lot of connections in the East.
I turn at the car. A couple of outbuildings, one a barn, the other a kind of combination tool shed and workshop, are visible now behind the houses. The first one has no lights on inside. I go up and look. Through the window I can see stacks of supplies: sacks of flour, potatoes, canned goods, toilet paper, boxes of laundry soap. I turn around and spot a weedy passage between two buildings. He said to look around. I follow the path and come out into tall grasses.
Hills rise close behind and a path shows in the grass, beaten down from being walked on. I follow it along the near hillside and around a corner. A slice has been cut from the hillside in front of me, a section maybe twenty feet wide that's been completely removed. The exposed edges have been fitted with cement walls, a detail that wouldn't show up from the air if anyone were looking with planes or satellites. Each wall holds a set of metal doors. I go closer, put my hand on a door and listen. A slight humming comes from inside but there's no sound of human movement or footfalls.
He told me to look.
I open the door just a fraction of an inch and the sound swells. Suddenly I realize what it is: bees. I remember the two bodies on the roadside and shut the door fast, then I turn away, my heart suddenly doing double-time, and head back toward the row of houses. I don't know what to make of this place. They're raising bees as a delivery system. The kids are like bees, too, busy and expressionless, but hey, they were designed to do a job, like machines. They probably don't even feel anything, so what difference should it make? Except I guess the old guy expects me to put all the pieces together. If they need workers now, they'll need them later, too, to do their dirty work: raising food, building things, cleaning up. A lot of us are going to die and the 'chosen' ones who don't will live on in some kind of multiple hell, carrying buckets and watching their cloned selves do the same.
Something bites at the back of my neck. I swat at it without thinking and then realize what it probably is, what I've done. Maybe it's the fear that sets my heart racing, but next thing I know the ground is rushing up at me, smashing into my cheek, and my body feels thick, shot through with pain. My heartbeat stands out above everything, grinding and pulling like a tractor stuck in mud. I'm going to die here. All this--all these years--for nothing, to die from a bee sting out in the middle of nowhere. I can't breathe. I struggle for air and the scene around me goes black. All I can see is the 'quiet room' back in the orphanage and the little blond kid Sergei, dead in a threadbare white crib, his eyes big and vacant, staring.
Eventually there's a blur hanging over me that resolves itself into Smith. Sweat covers my face and neck but the rest of me... feels okay. I reach without thinking for the spot on my neck but there's no pain anywhere. Even the side of my face that hit the ground doesn't feel bruised.
"Come," he says, and offers me a hand up.
I blink hard, shove his hand away and pull up to a sitting position. "You knew that'd happen--"
He frowns. "Mr. Krycek, I--"
"You didn't have to get rid of me. Just let me wander around here and I'd do it myself."
"If I'd meant to get rid of you," he says calmly, "I would have left you here. I wouldn't have--"
I look at the ground and then up at the horizon where the last of the sun is slipping down, a thin curve of neon yellow. I'm shaking and I know it's not the bee sting.
"Supper, Mr. Krycek," he says with that signature calm. "The others are waiting."
He turns and I get up and we start back toward the houses. He's like Spock without the pointy ears. I watch my boots, one slipping past the other, steady rhythm. Sergei stares at me with those big dead eyes and inside the pocket of my jacket, my left hand is clenched tight.
I look ahead and pick up my pace. Who am I to keep a roomful of kids waiting for their dinner? Even if they are mindless clones.
We have beans for dinner, white ones with a little ham tossed in. There's bread, and vegetables, and an apple set at each place. Some of the kids eat theirs and others take them along as they go back to their houses. There are two long row tables. I sit at the end of one and Smith sits across from me. None of the kids pays any real attention to us. Or to each other, for that matter. Like they're all of them off in their separate little dream worlds, except that they probably don't have much in the way of minds to dream with. Instincts are enough to get them by, or whatever programming's been bred into them. My stomach's a little queasy. I tell myself it's from my little episode outside but the truth is, being here reminds me of the time the old man took me to Tunguska when I was eleven, the nightmare covered with its thin coat of normality. Still, the spoon keeps finding its way into my mouth.
I guess I must be eating slowly because when I think to look up, nearly half the kids are gone. They go out two by two, a boy and a girl. Beyond the window I can see them heading off into the houses.
"This it?" I say. "This is everybody here?"
Smith's cutting carrot chunks into smaller pieces. He shrugs. "No one else is needed."
"And you play camp nurse."
"I coordinate." He pokes two or three little carrot rounds onto the tines of his fork and puts them in his mouth. When they've been chewed and swallowed he wipes his mouth with a napkin. All this time he hasn't taken his eyes off me. "This is not the only facility of its kind," he says, and then a minute later, "Are you staying with us tonight?"
I give a non-committal shrug. It's dark now and it'd be pretty easy to lose my way trying to get back to civilization. Civilization's also where someone's going to be looking for the car I'm driving. "Yeah," I say. "I guess."
He gestures toward one of the boys clearing tables and the kid sets his dishes down and comes to us. Must be some kind of mindspeak he's using, because after a glance at the kid he turns to me and tells me the boy will get me towels and show me where the showers are and where I'm supposed to sleep. He gestures for me to follow the kid so I do, out through what used to be the living room of this old house and into a back room where linens are stacked on shelves that line the walls. I'm given a towel and a wash cloth and then the kid leads me outside and two houses down to another building where the showers are--one side for girls, one for boys. We go in the entrance on the left and he points out the facilities. Three boys stand under a line of showerheads; they glance at us but not with any interest and then he touches my sleeve and heads out again. The last of the light is nearly gone and it's cold. The contrast with the bath house is enough to make me shiver.
We pass three more buildings and go through a wooden gate and up to a house. I've seen lights going out in houses as we pass. This one's already dark. We go through a tiny living room and then into a larger room at the back. Two sets of bunk beds are set against a broad window that overlooks the ginseng fields; a girl's already gone to bed in an upper bunk. The kid gestures to the lower bunk on the other bed so I guess that's where I'm supposed to sleep. I nod okay--there doesn't seem to be any point in talking--and he turns and goes out again. I look at the bed by the glow of a night light on the wall, sit down on the mattress and then get up again and stare out into the dark. I don't want to be here. I don't want to sit and think, or lie on a bunk and think. I grab the towel and washcloth and go back outside and to the bath house. It's the beginning of October but no rains have come yet. The grasses are dying and they fill the air with a sweet, dry smell that would make me want to lie outside looking up at the stars if it were warmer. And if this weren't the Stepford compound and I hadn't nearly died an hour ago.
Two boys come down the path as I go to the bath house, their hair wet. Two more are inside. They basically ignore me, busy lathering up. I feel a little weird, but judging from what I've seen of the kids' curiosity levels, I'm not going to be as stand-out as I feel, so I strip and get into the water. The spray's only warm and the room's not heated all that well so I hurry up and clean off and get out again. Both kids eye me a little, but probably only because it must be weird seeing someone who doesn't look like them. Their bodies are smooth and unscarred, but I guess Smith sees that they stay that way. I still have no idea what he did to that girl, or to me, but it scares the shit out of me just thinking about it. The old man trying to send me off in a flaming car I understand. The power of blackmail and deception I understand, and the language of bullets and grenades and mines. The black oil creeping into a bony old man, or the picture in my head of Ivanova's parents being torn to shreds by an alien hatchling--I can grasp that, too. But this, a power beyond reason and imagining, gives me the shakes.
Back in my bunk I lie in the overpowering quiet, hoping for sleep that I know isn't going to come. I see the girl lying in the ginseng rows again, how pale she is, how helpless without a voice, and I think of Lena. They said she was bleeding, too, only not from the hand. I try to keep the picture out of my head. Smith doesn't say much; he just figures you'll put the pieces together. Not the only facility like this, he said, and I've got to admit it's a nightmare picture. They won't kill everybody off. Some salvation. At its nightmare best, the future could look like this, quiet and calm on the outside, empty and pointless inside. Even these kids--this is no life they're living.
I lie there fingering the coarse cotton blanket that serves as a bedspread, staring up at the slats holding up the bunk above me. The moon's coming up; it slips a shaft of light into the room, making the far wall glow. Soon the boy comes in, the one who brought me here. He takes off his jeans and climbs into the bunk below the girl. A few minutes later I can hear his breathing, shallow and regular. He's fallen asleep.
The room shrinks, pressing in on me. What are the odds we won't just get crushed like ants? Or that somebody will actually stumble across a formula for a vaccine that works even if I do manage to make it back inside the shelter of one of the groups? What if I pick the wrong one? All my life I've told myself I can't afford the indulgences other people have--possessions, attachments, wants--because I've got to do this, help make this plan happen so I can save myself. I'd always figured somehow I'd succeed. Maybe I had to think that way. But if it's all been in vain? What've I got to show for twenty-seven years on this rock?
Where's the payoff?
I roll to one side and then the other. Stuffing the pillow farther under my head doesn't help. The moon creeps slowly up the wall and when I close my eyes, I see the numbers flashing on the car's dash. A jolt of adrenaline hits me, and the heat from the explosion, and then I hear waves; I'm sitting on the beach at night. When my eyes open again, the moonlight's a streak high in the corner of the room.
Something hot and strange fills me--dream residue--and I make myself get up. Outside the window, moonlight shines silver on the covering above the ginseng rows. It's strange here after D.C., the hollow quiet broken only by the sound of crickets, the occasional coyote howl and the breathing of the two kids in the next bunk. The girl rolls from her stomach onto her side, close to the edge of the bed, and her hair spills down over the side of the mattress. I go closer. She's taken out the braids; her hair is thick and wavy. My hand reaches out. I almost touch it but I catch myself. Patty had brown hair, but not thick like this, and the color was lighter. She was sitting next to me on the beach in that dream--no, more a memory. We'd been there once.
My fifteen minutes of normal life: I remind myself I can't afford to think about them now. If we'd argued or it had ended badly I could've blocked it all out with no problem and been glad not to ever think about her again. But it wasn't like that.
I pace the room a couple of times, then go out to the living room, stare at the road and end up back in the bedroom. I want to be out of here, on the highway headed toward Vancouver and then the Far East. Moving: it's a cheap substitute for actual accomplishment but right now it's all I've got. Out to the living room again. The road's a strip of brightness between the darkened houses. I picture myself walking down it, getting into the car, starting the engine but still I'm standing in front of that window, cold, and now I hear a noise in the back room, one of the kids. I go to look. It's the girl, restless in her bed, grunting or moaning quietly. She rolls toward me, her noises louder. When I turn back again, Smith's standing behind us.
"She seems disturbed or something," I say, taking a step back.
Maybe it looks weird, me standing here. He reaches out to still her and I retreat to the living room and count the little panes that make up the front window.
"Sometimes they become a little restless," Smith says, coming into the room a minute later.
"What, you mean you can't program it out of them?" I turn back to watch him in the shadows.
"Your concerns are rather curious given your occupation and motivations," he says, stepping forward into a spot of light. "It's one of the things that makes your kind interesting."
"Don't patronize us. We're not insects." Maybe we are to them. "What do they want anyway, your... kind?"
"They want what you want--to be able to live, to express themselves. Not to be confined."
"So they do it at the expense of some other species?"
"Isn't that what you do? Remove those who are in the way of your convenience, your survival?"
"Shut up, old man."
Air in here's too thin. I go back to the bedroom, sit down on the bunk and put my shoes on. It's nearly four-thirty. In another hour or so it'll be light. I can get a head start on Vancouver, maybe make it in before the night's over. I figure I've got at least a dozen hours of driving, but every hour on the road is an hour farther away from here, and that suits me fine.
When I look up, Smith's standing in the doorway, watching me.
"You don't want this to happen, either," I say. "Otherwise you never would have showed me what you've got here. What are you doing to stop it?"
"I myself am incapable of stopping it. I can only give you the pieces. What you make of them is up to you."
What else could I have expected from this guy?
I stand up, pick my jacket off the end of the bed and brush past him. On the way to the car I close my mind and concentrate on my boots hitting the dusty road, on where they're taking me, but it plays in my head again like an overlay to what's in front of me: last night, the sudden pain and the way my heart was grinding, the burning in my lungs and then watching everything go black, thinking I'd never see the light again.
I don't turn back.
"I can't wage your campaign for you. You must show yourself capable of using the information. It's the only way."
I unlock the car, get in, start it and flip on the headlights. Smith's not following me but I don't wait for the engine to warm up. I just gun it and get the hell out of there.
A hundred miles down the road I'm still picturing the clone girl. I can't get her out of my mind.
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