An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
On the outside chance that he may be able--or willing--to help him, Krycek goes looking for Jeremiah Smith.
"There." The pilot points and sure enough,
there's the familiar pattern laid out on the ground ahead: acres of tarp-covered
rows, a couple of long, pre-fab buildings for equipment and personnel, a half
dozen vehicles: trucks, a couple of vans, a forklift and a backhoe. No
nostalgic country-lane feel to this installation.
I feel the drop in altitude slip through me as the chopper lowers and settles into a patch of dry, late summer grasses. "I'll call you," I shout to the pilot as I crawl out, though I went over my instructions with him before we took off. I crouch down, make my way past the rotor wash and stand watching until the bird and the noise it generates have disappeared over the nearest hill.Quiet settles around me. I turn and start to pick out the clone kids, all of them looking exactly the same as they did two years before, every one busy at their tasks, as if a stranger hadn't just appeared in the middle of their surreal little world.
After stopping to stash my traveling bag inside the nearest outbuilding, I venture out to take a look around, hopeful but nervous; I don't have a lot of practice at walking up to someone, asking for favors and hoping for goodwill in return. Asking from behind the barrel of a gun is a different matter, but I have a feeling no gun is going to do much damage to Jeremiah Smith. It sure as hell isn't going to make him want to help me.
Which turns out not to be a problem since I make it through the whole damn complex without coming across anyone but drones. Not a single adult, and no sign of Smith. Guess he's not the kindly old caretaker he made himself out to be the last time we crossed paths. Should have figured, though: how many people are who they say they are? And this particular guy's not even human.
Speaking of non-human, the drones are enough to give you the creeps. They just go on their way, doing whatever's been programmed into them to do. They walk around you in hallways but don't seem to see you, their faces expressionless--not the studied kind of blank look you get from people who are fighting to keep the world at bay, but a weird emptiness that tells you there was never anything there in the first place.
I go back over the entire compound methodically: the fields, the barn, the dorm with its sleeping rooms, laundry, kitchen, dining hall, offices and one small lab. No Smith. And the receipts for fertilizer and other supplies I find in the office are weeks old. Probably faked, too, set out for looks in case anybody stumbles across this place. When I finish, I switch tactics, searching for trap doors, then attic access, but I don't find anything up there, just dust and mats of insulation. I stop to plant a fist in a piece of framing before I climb back downstairs; until now I hadn't realized just how much I was counting on making this connection.
There doesn't seem to be any obvious point in hanging around, but something in me isn't ready to let the possibility go, so I decide to spend the night in the hopes Smith--or at least someone who may be able to tell me how to contact him--might show up in the morning. At this point it's nearly 7:30 and my stomach's growling, hungry for something to fill it. I purposely kept myself out of the dining hall when the drones were at dinner; even though I've shared a meal with them before and there shouldn't be any problem, there's this vision in the back of my head of the whole group of them suddenly surrounding me, like something out of a zombie movie. Or maybe like a group of one-armed men in a Siberian forest. Weird paranoia or not, I plan on playing it safe.
Eventually my stomach gets the better of me. I slip into the kitchen and pick at the leftovers, the three drones--two boys and a girl--who are cleaning up completely ignoring me. When I've had my fill I take another walk around the complex, scare up a cot in a storeroom, which I set up in the office, and give my pilot a call to let him know that, barring any unforeseens, I won't be needing him until the morning.
Eventually I head outside and sit against the wall of the building in the last of the late summer sun, taking in the fresh, sweet air and watching the sun gradually touch the southern hills and start to slip behind them. Takes a while before I realize I'm not alone. Down at the far end of the building, one of the clone girls sits like I do, her back against the dorm's wall, watching the sun go down, her pale skin tinted an orange-gold by the light of the sinking fireball. Every once in a while I catch her staring in my direction. Once she sees me looking, though, she slips back into that blank look and then turns away.
I think of the clone girl who bunked above me the first time I visited, the way she tossed and moaned in her sleep... and the way she's stuck in my head all this time, as if there's some reason I should keep remembering her. I glance toward the end of the building; this time she's sitting forward, as if the last light of the sun is like a magnet drawing her toward it. I wonder what--if anything--is in her head. It's enough to give you the willies, thinking about an existence like that. Talk about being a prisoner for life.
Once the sun goes down and the prairie chill takes over, I head inside and settle myself on the cot, hoping for a night of clear sleep with no unwelcome interruptions, though I leave the arm on; no point in being caught at a disadvantage if something unexpected happens. I only make it a couple of hours before my luck breaks and I wake up with the worst phantom pain I've had since I lost the arm.
So pretty soon I'm pacing back and forth, cramped with pain in a part of me that's probably only pieces of bone scattered in the Tunguska forest somewhere, gasping, wondering how long this bout is going to last and where I put the damned sheet of Farabloc Che gave me to control the pain.
Then there's a noise in the hallway outside and a face slips past the little window in the office door. Dark face, short black hair. Shorter guy than me.
Adrenaline nails me and I scramble to snatch my gun from beside the sweatshirt I'm using as a pillow. I remind myself to keep it together; this would be a stupid place to make a mistake and end up dead, larger picture considered.
A few seconds' wait and the door comes open, light spilling into the room's darkness and...
It's Smith. My trigger finger, ever the skeptic, tenses anyway.
"Mr. Krycek?" That calming voice. "We're safe here, Mr. Krycek." Just the way I remember it.
"Who was that in the hallway just now?" A new jolt of pain shoots through my missing hand, as if some invisible torturer has just cranked the screws a little tighter. I clamp my jaw tight. Sweat wanders down my right temple and I can feel myself shaking.
"He's a botanist; he's doing research on the ginseng. We just returned from Lethbridge with supplies."
"And some time at the local watering hole?" Smith doesn't strike me as the drinking type, but it's too damn late for just a trip to the local warehouse store.
Lethbridge--it hits me now--was where that Mounty was taking me when I left him tied to a tree just off the roadside two years ago, after a little detour gone bad on my way to Vancouver and the Far East.
"Actually, we had a flat tire. It took a while to change it in the dark. We were already on a dirt road." He pauses, and his tone softens. He's right in front of me now, hand out, and after a pause I click the safety on and stuff the gun in my belt. Now what I notice is that I'm sweating like a pig, and the pain's like a scream begging to burst out of me.
"... the towels are right inside the door, Mr. Krycek." A pause. "Go ahead. We can talk afterward."
Everything around me is static, like I've been tossed into the fuzz on a TV screen. No, it's peaked somehow... it's starting to fade. The room filters in: desk, file cabinet, Smith. Everything in clean outline by the light of a small desk lamp. Smith takes his hand off the stump. I shiver as the sweat that covers me starts to cool. Shower. Seems like a good idea.
I cross the hall and go through the swinging doors marked 'boys'. Track lighting points down at the showers, leaving the rest of the room in subtle, almost peaceful shadow. I grab a towel, turn on the water, peel off my shirt. Damned harness is soaked. Take off the arm and set it aside, strip down. I'm bushed suddenly; all I want is to get these sweaty clothes off and get clean. For the first minute or two I sag against the shower wall, but eventually I realize I'm studying the grout, then the honey color of the wood framing overhead. The sharp sweetness of late summer grasses drifts in through an open window high up.
Which is when it hits me: the pain's gone. It's been gone since Smith came into the office; he was... He touched my arm--held it for a few seconds. Not hard, the way a cop would grab you, but a light touch, like someone guiding you toward the right bus or train. Hadn't noticed at the time, and I only see it now like the faded rerun of a dream. Sometimes the pain fades faster than other times, but this, it's almost unbelievable. It's--
Focus, Aleksei. You're here to get Smith's help in tracking the old man, to--hopefully--ensure that the old fucker doesn't trade the human race for a single-seat alien lifeboat; he'd try it if he gets to a point where there's no other way to save his sorry ass. And to find out what Smith knows about these Kazakhstan abductions that don't fit the pattern. There's a red flag there and it's flying high and bright.
I finish scrubbing, turn off the water, pick up a towel. Find myself staring at the stump, my fingers shaky as they run along the edges of it, barely making contact. It feels completely neutral--just arm. Like there's never been any pain there. I swallow.
Better get a move on.
Five minutes later I emerge into the hallway, travel bag in hand. Smith waves to me from the far end, at the door to the kitchen. When I get there I find a teapot and two cups set out on a small table.
"I need a way to track a man," I say, not waiting. Maybe it'll keep me from blurting out 'Will this last? Is the stump just asleep or did you do something that's going to make a difference tomorrow, or ten minutes from now?' Or ten months. I clear my throat. "A man who wants this future to come. Who'd try to make it happen even against the will of the group."
He looks surprised; his lips pressed together. He sits down and motions for me to do the same. I take a seat.
"You speak of Spender?" he says, pouring hot liquid into our cups.
"How do you--?" Should have figured. I lean back into the chair. "You know him." So he's a lot higher up in this than I figured.
"Yes, I do know him." He raises his cup to his mouth. "I took an assignment in Washington several years back, a cover job in the Social Security administration, inputting data for the Project.
"Abductees." Mr. Matter-of-Fact in his slacks and his herringbone jacket.
"So you could keep track of what was going on. And what, the old man got you the job?"
Smith hesitates for a split second before nodding. "Spender is a determined man, a clever strategist." He pauses. "Unfortunately, he lacks any appreciation for the strengths of your species. You're right to consider him dangerous." He takes a sip of his tea.
I didn't say that—dangerous. I'm pretty damn sure I didn't. My fingers tighten around the table leg beside me and my pulse quickens. I can see my plan for this trip circling the drain.
"So, you wish me to serve as the proverbial fly on the wall?"
It sounds pathetic when he says it. I swallow, nod, stare at the calendar on the wall beside him. The 18th is circled in pen. My face feels like it's on fire. "I just-- I figured... He doesn't trust anybody. He's too smart for that. Bugs are out, wire taps. The only guy I could trust to try to tail him electronically--" I shake my head. He wouldn't get it. It's just too risky. Che's not replaceable.
"Unfortunately," Smith starts, "I undertook an action that drew attention to myself about eight months ago. They sent an Enforcer--a bounty hunter--to kill me. They believe I'm dead."
So he'd be no use at all in D.C. Washout. Total washout. What made me think this was going to work?
"Contrary to what you might think, it isn't my aim to invade your privacy, Mr. Krycek. Some things are simply more obvious than others. As to your agenda, whatever it is, I don't want to know the details. As they say, I can't tell what I don't know."
I swirl a spoon in my tea, watching a vortex form, then look up. "If they think you're dead, then what are you doing here?"
"I came"—he shrugs, as if it's obvious—"because you were looking for me." He pauses to let me try to digest that. "As I said, I ran afoul of the group. I don't work here anymore."
Not sure I even want to know how he knew I was looking for him. I gather my courage and press ahead. "There's something else I need to know. There have been abductions recently--ones that don't fit the pattern. They take people, but they don't bring 'em back. I've seen it in Kazakhstan, but somebody's been feeding us intel about incidents in other places: Australia, the--
"The outback," he muses, almost absently. "Ecuador. Finland. Northern Mexico."
My mouth sits slightly open. I close it.
"What is your interest here, Mr. Krycek? Why are you following this?"
"Because I'm trying to figure out a goddamn way to keep this future from happening," I say, half-rising from my seat. "The old men aren't going to do it; they don't give a damn about this planet, or the people on it."
I notice that I'm standing and sit down, brushing a hand past my forehead. Fuck, that was me?
Smith looks me over, probably taking some kind of internal inventory I can't stop him from. Maybe trying to figure out if I meant what I just said. Hell, I don't know where it came from, either.
Finally I pick up my tea cup and take a sip. It's not much more than warm now. I glance around the room: big commercial stove, wall ovens, pots hanging overhead.
"Why did you come, anyway?" I say now, setting my cup down. Why would he bother? And why has he been feeding the Brit these abduction reports?
He takes another drink of his tea, looks at me while he tips the cup gently back and forth and finally sets it down. "There are facts that need to be known, Mr. Krycek, by someone capable of acting on them. Misconceptions that will prove fatal if not corrected." He leans back a little in his chair. "I brought Fox Mulder here once," he starts. "To the old location, the one you visited."
I pull up a little straighter. "Why?"
"I was hoping that--" He raises his eyebrows in a gesture I can't read. "He was willing to believe. To accept. I hoped he might be the one who could do something with my information, who could fight this invasion. Who would have the interests of your species at heart." He sighs.
Interest at heart: Mulder's a sucker for anybody in need... unless it happens to be a certain ex-partner he once worked with. He'd love to save the world. He'd get off on being a savior. "But?"
"The clones proved a distraction he couldn't see past. Helpless children--he wanted to save them. Later he offered the Enforcer his life in exchange for his mother's." He shrugged. "Admirable, on an individual level--"
"But you're never going to live long enough to save the world that way." A smirk plays over my face. “He's dangerous like that." Mulder and his precious idealism. "He has no idea what it would really take to fight this."
"Unfortunately." He picks up his cup again, brings it halfway to his mouth and sets it down. "The information I have is critical, but it's also imperative that it not be disclosed until someone is in a position to act on it."
More of his inscrutable shit, the stuff that drove me crazy the first time I visited the colony. And how do I fit into this? Why is he telling me about this at all unless he figures he might offer me his secrets? But it doesn't look like I'm likely to be the lucky recipient of his other-worldly wisdom, so why is he even testing me?
"Things are changing, Mr. Krycek. Keep track of the abductions. But don't concern yourself about Spender. He does present the kind of danger you state, but I have certain connections. I'll monitor him." A pause. "I do appreciate your mentioning him."
I stifle a yawn, pick up my cup and drink down what's left in it. It's not like Marita and I aren't busting our butts trying to get the vaccine ready to distribute. Which is a damn sight more than the old men are doing, sitting around smoking their cigars and waiting for alien fire to fall from the sky. But there's no point in arguing with the guy. Only he knows what he's got, and when and how he'll decide to dole it out.
And he did show up.
"Thanks for the tea," I say, taking my cue from his move to stand. "And this." The words slip out of me and I nod toward the arm, heat in my face. "It's been..." Nothing comes; what could I possibly say? Awkward seconds pass. I shake my head.
"You're tired," he says in that soothing voice, conveniently saving me from any more awkwardness. He points casually at the clock; it's heading toward 2 a.m. "It would be a good idea for you to get some sleep. There's a bed in a small office at the end of the building; I'll show you. You'll be safe there, but you should leave first thing in the morning. You have transportation, don't you?"
"Yeah," I say. "And you?"
"I have to go now."
There's this look in his eyes, a momentary flash of something--worry or indecision or maybe something else--that I don't think he wants me to see. I mull it over as I lie in the dark a few minutes later, waiting for the mattress underneath me to warm up.
In the morning there's no sign of Smith. Also no new tire tracks since yesterday, and no other sign of any other way he might have come here. Makes me wonder what I've gotten myself into, dealing with this alien and having no idea what the implications--or complications--might be.
At any rate, Smith made it clear enough that I shouldn't stick around. I call my pilot and arrange for a pickup at the edge of the ginseng rows. As we're lifting off, I glance down to see all the girl clones looking skyward. Then their faces go blank. A moment later they've returned to their weeding and their tin pails.
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