The Lost Son

[July 2001] <

Fandom: Dark Angel
Title: The Lost Son
PenName: Empress Vader
Character(s): Zack
Rating: PG
Summary: In Zack’s young life, there was a woman named Jane Doyle. She was the first to love him.
Notes: X5s officially in the series are X5 599 (Zack) – X5 656 (Tinga) – X5 452 (Max) & X5 I made up – X5 602 – X5 406 – X5 312 – X5 420
Disclaimer: This story is a fanwork based on characters featured on the TV series Dark Angel. A television series created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee.

I am Jane Doyle. I use to work in Manticore and because I’m fond of living, I now work in one of it’s branches in Washington. I have a son I lost to Manticore, his name then was X5 599. I’ve seen him once since the escape and I could hardly believe it was him, my little boy. I was not his surrogate mother, I was his growth and development monitor. But I was as much his mother as the uncaring woman who carried him. I loved him, I cared for him, I am partially responsible for the man he is today.

You may ask, What’s a growth and development monitor? Up until the time they are three or four years old, the Manticore children are on a type of Milestone program, where psychologist, such as myself, monitor there progress and aid in their development. We turn in daily reports on our one on one work with the children. At about two or three, depending on their progress,  they are introduced to group activities, but still have a lot of one on one development. It was decided, after some problems with the X3s, to bring in a psychological team to look into the childs rearing. There was an early development program tested on the X4s and perfected for the X5s. I was given X5 599 for this reason and I forgot the first rule, these ARE NOT your children, they are ours, but when you hold a baby boy in your hands for the first time and he grips your finger and gives your what appears to be a smile, can you help but fall in love?

I knew his surrogate. She was a street kid looking to make a buck, but that could have described one of a thousand girls sitting in the maternity ward of Manticore. They were feed and clothed for as long as they were pregnant and paid well to keep their mouths shut once they left. I hear a few forgot that last part and were “disappeared”.

I saw X5 599 the day he was born. A small baby, if you could believe it to look at him now. Three months later, when they put me in charge of him he lay in his crib studying his hands. I couldn’t help but smile at him as I watched him open and close his hands, bringing them close to himself than pulling them away.

I  had never had a child before, I had never raised a child before. I actually believed I didn’t want to be a mother. But something was awaken in me when I held the baby boy.

“Here,” a nurse said as she handed me a bottle.

I took it with a smile as I placed the bottle in his mouth. His little hand reached up to touch mine. Maybe it didn’t have anything to do with me, but the physical touch on his part made my day.

The next day, I had him one on one in a study room for the first time. I held the small bundel as if it would break. I just held him and stared at him for hours. There was a long list of activities on my list, but I just held him until noon, only taking breaks when he needed to be changed or feed. Then I was asked to take him for his check up.

X5 599  never flinched as his blood was taken. But he cried when the doctor got in his face, I started to run to him, but a hand dropped on my shoulder. It was my boss, Lydecker.

“Let him be,” he said.

“Colonel Lydecker, I didn’t see you there,” I told him.

“That’s because I didn’t want you too Miss Doyle,” Lydecker said with a smile. “You see that, he looks like some innocent little baby.”

“That’s what he is?”

“No, he’s a solider in training, .”

It was a warning and I knew it. A reminder not to get attached. But I was already attached and I had to watch my actions.

Within a few months, X5 599 was moving around a lot. He rolled over. He found all kinds of ways to turn and maneuver. His bald head gained whips of blond hair. He figured out a way to maneuver objects (Manticore didn’t call them toys) to himself using his blanket. When he crawled, I had to hold back my excitement. A black ball slipped away from him. He lifted up on his hands and knees and went after it. I screamed for joy and lifted him up telling him “good boy, that’s my boy. “He laughed.

At that moment the door opened. Lydecker walked in with a solider at each side. X5 599 was still on my hip.

“Is there a problem sir,” I asked as the little boy laid his head on my shoulder and yawned.

“Yes, You didn’t allow him to complete his objective, you broke his focus. He wanted the ball, you should have allowed him to persue and capture the ball.”

“I’m sorry sir, I was over excited.”

“Avoid it in the future. Do you remember the first rule?”

“These are not your children,” I replied remembering the briefing. “They belong to the project. You are simply their first teachers. The first to install the building blocks that will lead to a good and obedient soldier. They do not love you, you do not love them, you respect each other.”

Lydecker turned to the little boy. “Come here,” he said putting his arms out.

X5 599 slipped from my arms to Lydecker’s.

“Hey soldier. Never let anything keep you from your mission.” He grabbed the ball. Put it in front of little X5 599′s face and rolled it across the floor. He put the baby down and the boy went after it. He grabbed the ball and began to chew on it.

“That’s my boy,” Lydecker said.

Lydecker left the room. I kneeled down in front of the boy.

“Your not his boy, your my boy aren’t you,” I said in a low voice.

X5 599 smiled and crawled to me. I sat down and pulled out some flash cards as he crawled into my lap. In moments of physical exchange it was best to appear to be at work, busy, in training. The flash cards were huge, his little hands touched them and my hand as I read them off. I said each word loudly as I showed the cards to him.



He pulled on my finger



His little hand fell over the back of mine.



He looked up at me and smiled.

Before I knew it, X5 599 was one year old, but he already had verbal skills far beyond his age. By the time he was 18 months, he could recite the alphabet. By two years old, he was reading small words. However he was still a playful baby in so many ways. Now he read the words on the cars as I displayed them.




His first words had been “Yes sir”




He had later learned “Yes ma’m”




“Discipline,” I corrected.

He was already starting to form the traits of a soilder. When officers steped into the room, he stopped whatever he was doing and stood still until he was given permission to continue.

“M’am,” X5 599 said.


“Go,” X5 599 said pointing to the window. “There.”

“No, you can’t.”

“You take me, please,” the little boy said.

“I can’t,” I told him. “I’m not authorized to take you anywhere outside of Manticore.”

He looked down like he understood. I pulled out a learning aid, a block puzzel. I put it in front of him on the tabel. He looked at it.

“Study the peices,” I said. “Remember where they are.”

I mixxed up the peices and he studied my hands. He began putting it back together. We did about three puzzles in a half an hour. I was amazed everytime at how quick his little mind saw where the peices went.

I held his hand as we made our daily trip to the bathroom. Toilet training had gone pretty easy. He’d had one accident in the early stages. But one was enough. He’d been yelled at by one of the soilders for that, told men don’t pee on themselves and that quickly he’d adjusted to the toilet. Some of the other children hadn’t been so lucky. One little boy got a spanking almost everyday. X5 599 seemed so upset to see it. He gripped my hand as he heard the cries again. He didn’t ask me why it happened. Yelling and punishment became the norm as they approached toddlerhood and began to demonstrate diverse personalities.

“Go to the bathroom,” I said as I helped him on the toilet. Then I went out in the halway where X5 602 was standing looking at the wall.

“Your doing an excellent job with X5 599.” Lydecker’s voice said shocking me.”He’s progressing nicely. Actually performing ahead of scedual, demonstrating excellent verbal skills.”

“Thank you Sir,” I replied.

“Unlike this boy here,” Lydecker said pointing to the boy on the wall.

“He’s progressing at a diappointingly adverage rate.”

“He’s a late bloomer I supoose.”

“Manticore has no time for late bloomers,” Lydecker replied.

I sighed as X5 599 flushed the toilet and came out the bathroom. He saluted Lydecker.

“Hello Sir,” he said in his baby voice.

“Excellent verbal skills,” Lydecker said. “Come with me X5 599, you too miss Doyle.”

X5 599 marched behind Lydecker. I followed behind him. We stopped at a study room. Inside another X5, a girl as far as I could tell, was sitting with her learning an devlopment monitor. Lydecker picked X5 599 up.

“You know who this is?” Lydecker asked

“No,” the baby boy answered.

“She’s X5 656. Right now she’s a little baby, she’s just like you, learning to be a soilder. And you’ve been such a good I want you to do something for me.”

“What sir?” the baby boy asked.

“Watch all her and all the little ones. Make sure she’s a good girl just like your a good boy. Do the same for all of them. Do you accept this assignment solider.”

“Yes sir,” he said with a smile.

He put the boy back on the floor.

“Go your study room. There’s a new lesson plan there. No need in holding X5 599 back.”

X5 599 held my hand all the way back to the study room. I was actually afraid of what was awaiting me there. When we got to the room, X5 599 ran back to his table and began to take apart a puzzle. My eyes went to  folder on one of the tables. It had my child’s numbers on it. I picked it up and looked at it for a long time. I openned it while looking at the boy happily playing with the puzzle. When I looked down in my hand, I nearly dropped what I held. They were flash cards with pictures of guns on them and a set of instructions. I unfolded the instruction sheet. It said X5 599 should know be able to identify these weapons by the end of the week.

The bell rang. It was lunch time. I was glad I wouldn’t have to deal with those cards today.

“X5 599,” I said. “Time to eat.”


X5 599 had reached the age where he ate alone. He sat at the small metal table in the mess hall with a group of other children around his age and dug into his food. One of the things Manticore encouraged was independance. As soon as a child could grip a spoon, he stopped being fed. No matter how much of a mess it caused. Some of the toddlers verbal skills weren’t that advanced, but like multiple births, the X5s seemed to have made up there own words that made absolutly no sense to anyone else. Even though they spent the days with thier growth and deveopment monitors, there nights and exercise periods were spent with each other. I often wished I could have seen them interact with each other outside of the mess hall, but I never got the opportnity.

X5 599 mumbled something completly incoherent to me to the boy next to him. The boy seemed to understand. It was a language part english, part who knows. But like robots, when they bell sounded for the end of thier meal the toddlers got up, assembled in a line, and headed for the washroom.

“Beautiful isn’t it,” Lydecker said, again surprising me.

“What sir?”

“The children miss Doyle. You know how many parents would love to have thier children behave so well at such a young age?”

“Yes sir,” I replied.

“There’s nothing like structure and discipline. You put any of these children out in the world, they’d never fullfill thier potential.”

‘The potential to kill?’ I thought, but didn’t say.

“Did X5 599 get a chance to study his new lesson.”

“No sir, by the time I had arrived and examined your instructions it was time for lunch.”

“We will move forward Miss Doyle. He won’t be a baby forever.”

I watched each toddler file out of the bathroom and line up against the wall. It was time for physical activities. The kids marched behind a soldier and I followed them with my eyes. My little boy looked back at me and met my eyes. For a second I thought he would smile or wave, but he just followed the others.

I couldn’t help myself, I dropped by activities room 306. Most kids would have seen the room as a playgroud. It was a gym full of metal tunnels and Jungle gyms. Young kids needed physical activity. But the kids weren’t just allowed to play. It was a timed obstacle course. If a child made the mistake of giggling or beginning to play with one of their fellow soldiers, they would have a solider yelling at them within seconds. But if you looked at thier faces, you could tell they were enjoying it anyway.

I slipped away from them and went back to my office. I pulled out X5 599′s new “lesson plan”. I saw his innocent little baby face and his little hands. I imagined these weapons in his hands, the distructive powere they would come to have, and I cried. I cried for him, I cried for the world, and I cried for me. At two and a half years old he would know more about weapons than cartoons. Hell, he didn’t even know what a cartoon was.

The next day, I entered our study room nervously. I had spent all night preparing myself mentally to teach the boy about the weapons. He sat at a table playing with two chess peices, making them talk and interact. I tried to stare at his barcode and remmeber the boy had a purpose, he was designed to do a job, and I was just here to help him along. But then he looked at me and smiled. And I saw a little boy, a sweet little boy, my little boy. A boy I had held and loved. A boy I had watched sit up and crawl and walk.

I choked on my tears as I made each slow step toward him. He immediatly put the chess peices aside and sat there waiting for me to give him today’s lesson.

“What you got there?” I asked pointing to the chess peice.

“A horsey and a pointy head,” he said showing me the peices.

“A pointy head,” I smiled taking the chess peice.

“You like these?”

“Yeah,” he replied shaking his head.

“You want to learn how to use them?”

“Yeah,” X5 599 replied.

I pulled out a chess board and set up the peices. I told X5 599 the rules, demonstrated how each peice moved. Explained how the game worked. And honestly, forgot about the lesson plan. X5 599 lost to me twice. He was only two and a half, so I would have been surprised if he won. But it was almost like he lost on purpose, to understand the game.

When the bell rang for lunch, we put the game away. I found Lydecker standing outside my door. He stared at me and I knew he knew I had avoided the lesson he’d given me. He took X5 599 by the hand, walked him over to x5 656′s learning a development monitor. And told her to take X5 599 to the Mess Hall with her. Then he walked back to me and silently usered me down the hall to his office. When we arrived, I stood silently in front of his desk and awaited my repremand.

“What was today’s lesson suppose to be?”

“Weapons sir,” I replied.

“And what did you teach the X5 today?”

“Chess, sir,” I replied.


“He seemed intrested in it.”

“Chess is a good game. It encourages logical thinking and stratigical planning, but it was not today’s assignment.”

“I’m sorry sir, I was excited about teaching the game and forgot.”

“Forgot? You forgot a prority assignment.” Lydecker asked. “If the teachers have no discipline, how can we expect it of the students.”

“I’m sorry sir,” I replied.

“Would you like to be replaced Miss Doyle?”

“NO!” I shouted before I even proccessed the question. “I mean, X5 599 is progressing well and I’d hate to upset that.”

“Good, I expect to see some progress in this after you evening session.”

“Yes sir,” I replied.

When X5 599 was returned to me after his physical activity period, I had the cards sitting on the table. He ran to the shelf and pulled out the chess board.

“We gonna play?” he asked.

“No, we can’t.”

“Please ma’m,” he said in that sweet little baby voice.

“No, put it away,” I told him.

He sadly returned the game to the shelf with the learning aids and came to sit in front of me. He looked down at the cards and smiled.

“Deck has one,” he said pointing to the gun at the top of the stack.

“How do you know?”

“He showed me in his office.”

“When were you in his office?”

“Today. He showed me how to hold it. He said in a pridy soon I  ‘earn how to shoot.”

I sighed, the battle was lost. “Well,” I attempted to smile. “Today we learn about guns.”

I displayed the first card and read the word at the bottom.

“Revolva,” he said with a smile.



“Mashe Gun.”

I didn’t bother to correct his pronunciation, I could barely stand to hear him mention the weapons names.

He was three years old now. I peaked out the window and watched the toddler X5s, about 12 or so, marched behind a soilder. X5 602, like I said, had been a late bloomer. He now marched with the best of them, spoke well, stood at attention. He was born only a couple of months behind X5 599, but he had never been as advanced. I watched X5 599 help X5 602 along. Once, he’d heard a soilder approaching grabbed the boy and stood him up. X5 599 was always doing little things like that for the others. He’d taken Lydecker’s words to heart, though he was but a baby at the time.

They marched throught the door and up the stairs in perfect rows. Then they were deployed to thier learning  and development monitor. X5 599 had stopped smiling at some point. I hated it. We walked in silence to the classroom. I had some maps there. He sat down, hands flat on the table in front of him and waited. I unrolled the map.

“Subject A is here, Subject B is here, you are here,” I pointed to various  locations on the map as I spoke. “What’s the quickest way out?”

“Are Subjess A and B my enemies?” X5 599 asked.

“Why do you ask?”

“If they are, I can simply take them out. Deck says anyone who gets in the way of a missin is your enemy.”

“But you’re outnumbered,” I pointed out.

“But I’ll be stronger and faster than them. And it’s easier to go through subject B than go around him.”

“X5 599, I think it’s easier to avoid killing people.”

“Why?” he asked. “It’s faster than taking the alternative route through here.” He pointed on the map, showing the an alternate exit.

I struggled to think of a good reason. “Because if bodies start piling up, people get nosey,” I told him.

“But it’s only one guy, there’s no need to kill the other one.”

Manticore had a different moral structure than the outside world and it was so hard to deal with sometimes. I continued the lesson.

They took pictures of the kids every year for record keeping reasons. X5 452, X5 312, and X5 420 were barely old enough to sit up. As I watched X5 599 walk in the room and line up wth the older X5s I couldn’t help but be a little sad. X5 452 actually smiled as Hannah Sukova sat her down in front of the Camera. The smile would fade, it had faded in my little boy. I began to feel distant from him, a little over a year ago, his world didn’t go that far beyond me, now he lived by “Lydecker said.”

Lydecker had taken a particular intrest in the boy. Just yesterday he’d had him and three others in the firing range, showing them the proper way to hold a gun. Most of them would be using them in a year or two. I watched X5 599 stand in front of the camera, without a smile. He posed for his mug shot in the expected way. You would have thought he was an experienced criminal.

He came back to me and we walked back to the study room. He pulled out the clock, the chess board, and the peices. He set up the game and then sat down. It was a game we played every evening – Lydecker allowed it. I had never been the best chess player, but I was still surprised when he beat me the first time. I watched his eyes study the board, considering my moves and his.

“Check,” he said with a rare smile.

I examined the board. I couldn’t figure out how he had done it.

“Why do I even try?” I said.

“Because you like playing with me,” X5 599 replied.

“I do,” I smiled.

The evening bell rang.

“Time to eat,” he said standing up. He saluted me, turned and marched out into the hall. Lydecker was waiting for him with a group of other children. He escorted them down the hall.

I heard the sound of little feet marching insync down the hall. The noise disturbed me.

I picked up a chess peice and held it in my hand. I had given him this little bit of fun, I had taught this game to him. He loved the game, so it had to mean he loved me. I lived to see him smile everyonce in awhile, show some sign of still being a little boy. But it was there so rarely now.

That night I went to the file room and retrived X5 599′s file. As his learning and development Monitor, no one questioned it. I sat at my desk, thumbing through his pictures, wishing I could take them home, or take him home, away from Manticore. Maybe I could, I could find a way to smuggle him out, give him a name, move overseas. But that would mean taking him away from the others, and there was no way I could do that. But I had to be honest with myself, there was little chance I could outsmart Manticore security anyway. I was a psycologist, not a professional spy. I didn’t even know why I was considering it.

“Hey,” a little voice said from beside me.

I turned toward the door and saw X5 599 standing there in a little institutional nightgown, the same kind all the Manticore kids wore.

:”X5 599, what are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see you?” He replied.

“How’d you find me?”

“I saw you walk to your office before. I had to duck out three soilders, but I found you.”

I smiled. “Come here boy.”

He walked into into the office and came up to me. He stood silently beside me like he was taught to, like a soilder at attention.

“You want to get in my lap?” I asked. He looked unsure. “Come on,” I said.

I picked him up, placed him in my lap and held him close. And he was my little baby again. He laid against my chest and we were silent. I hummed, he played with my fingers like he had when he was a baby.

“X5 599,” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“Why did you want to see me?”

“I don’t know,” he replied.

I smiled, he just wanted me. Just a three year old looking for his mommy, or the closest thing he had to it. I held him close for a few hours and he fell asleep in my arms and I fell asleep holding him. But when I woke up at my desk, he was gone.

It became habit for him to appear at my door at night. I didn’t leave the office because I knew after hours he would come to me. We’d sit and talk or play chess. He’d smile more than he would during the day, he talked freely. One day he saw the picture on my desk of my father, and my brother. He kept staring at it for a couple days before he said anything.

“Who’s that?” he asked.

“My father and my brother.”

“Father?” X5 599 asked. He knew more than most children his age, but it never occured to me that he had no idea what a parent was.

“That’s a man who takes care of you, raises you.”

He sat and thought a momment.

“Lydecker my father?” he asked.

“No, not quite,” I replied.

“X5 406 my brother?” he asked.

“In a way, I guess so,” I replied.

“X5 656 my brother?” he asked.

“Well, no she’s a girl. Girls are sisters.”

“X5 656 my sister?” he asked.

“Sure, if you want her to be,” I smiled.

“Does your father have a name?” X5 599 asked.

“Zackary,” I replied. “I always felt secure with him. He protected us from the dangers of the world. He’s dead now and my brother he’s in the–” I stoped and sighed.

“Where is he?” X5 599 asked.

“He’s in the armed forces,” I told him. “He’s a soldier.”

“Like me,” he smiled, looking so much the innocent little boy.

“Bailey, my brother, when  he was your age, he wasn’t a soilder. So, no, not much like you.”

“Gotta go,” X5 599 said. He walked to the door.  “Ma’m,” he said turning back.


“You said father is a man who takes care of you.”

“Yes,” I replied.

“What’s a woman who takes care of you called?”

“A mother,” I replied.

And he didn’t say another word, he just left.


I had a jar of candy sitting on my desk the next time he came. He looked at it several times as we played chess. Finally he pointed and asked.

“What’s that?”

“It’s candy,”I smiled.

“Candy? Candy’s not good for you.”

“Who told you that?”

“Lydecker,” he replied.

“But it taste really good.”

“Food is for fuel not fun,” he told me.

“Well sometimes, don’t you want to have fun.”

He stared at the jar. I knew he wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t want it.

“I better not,” he said. “The others don’t have any.”

“Come on, take a taste,” I said removing a peice of candy from the jar and handing it to him. He reached for it, then pulled his hand away.

“Why would you want me to do something bad?” he asked.

I was almost hurt. “Because maybe I don’t think it’s bad,” I told him.

“How can you and Lydecker believe two different things?” the boy asked. “I thought you wanted the same thing.”

I stared at him. He was almost four years old now, in some ways so far away from the baby boy I had carried out of the nursery. No longer a little baby, his mind was starting to truly rationalize the world around him. Struggling to understand things, put them in order.

“Sometimes people want the same thing, but they disagree on how to get there.”

I opened my hand. He stared at the candy, but he wouldn’t take it. I didn’t ask him what Lydecker had told him about it. I just laid the candy on the desk and we continued our game. He grabbed the candy before he left.

The next day, I dropped by the shooting range. Lydecker had X5 599 and some other X5s going through thier first target practice.  X5 599 had shot his first weapon three days ago. It disturbed me that he was so excited about it. But I wasn’t sure if he was excited about the weapon or impressing Lydecker. He spent less time with me these days, more time with the older X5s.

Hannah Sukova, Andrew Sharp, Jon Davis, and Chris Dolvin all had X5s in training that were still two years old or younger. I envied them. As much as I loved X5 599, I knew he would soon go away. Even with all the bad that came with Manticore, I enjoyed being with him, interacting. I didn’t hate the fact that he was growing up, I hated the fact that all too soon, he would leave me. I thought of him as my son.

I went to our study room and waited for his usual arrival, but a soilder came in instead, with a note. It said Lydecker had my boy and that today’s class was canceled. I panicked, asked for more info. But as soilder boys do, he gave me the usual song and dance about clearences and such. He left. I sat there tapping my foot for a momment, then I got up and left the room.

I went to Lydecker’s office, but I didn’t enter. I heard an unfamiliar voice inside. So I crouched by the door.

“I thought I was going to be seeing something besides a baby,” the man said.

“This ‘baby’ is quite deadly Johnson, I assure you,” Lydecker told them. “Perhaps he can’t destroy a squad of your men yet, but he could successfully kill you before you had a chance to blink.”

I then heard a a heavy case of some sort hit the table.

“Assemble the weapon,” Lydecker said.

He was using my boy for a show peice, I sudden realized. I heard the clicking of the peices, quickly coming together.

“So instead of Legos, he plays at assembling guns. I’m not impressed,” said the man named Johnson.

There was a sudden silence. Then a gun shot. I fell.

“I assure you,” Lydecker began. “He missed because he wanted to.”

I got up and ran down the hall crying. I heard a few voices ask, “Miss are you okay?” But I didn’t answer them.

That night, he came to my office as usual. He saw me crying and looked a little perplexed. He walked over and patted me on the shoulder.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“You’re just growing up so fast,” I said smiling at him.

“This makes you sad?” he asked confused.

“Yes,” I said.

“Why? I’m getting stronger and smarter and faster every day.”

“Because we’re going to have to say good-bye soon. Good-bye forever.”

He was taken aback by this. Suddenly silent, I could see he was trying to make sense of this in his mind. “Why?” he asked with what looked like a tear falling down his face.

“Because that’s what Manticore does.” I told him. “Thier soilders don’t have mommies.”

“But they can’t take you away from me.”

“They will,” I said reaching for him. I pulled him into my arms and hugged him. “Would you ever want to leave Manticore?” I said pulling him in my lap.

“I don’t know. What’s out there?”

“The world. It’s not perfect, but you wouldn’t have to leave me for a really long time.”

The door suddenly openned. I barely heard it. Lydecker was just suddenly there with numerous soilders. X5 599 was out of my lap and at attention before I knew what was going on.

“Lydecker Sir,” I said standing up.

“This X5 is not authorized to be here at this time.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” I replied.

I looked at X5 599. He could tell as well as I could that we were both in trouble.

“It’s my fault sir,” X5 599 said.

“No it’s not,” I entered. “Don’t blame the child.”

“As of today,” Lydecker said. “You will have no further contact with the child.”

He took my little boy by the hand, handed him over to the soldier at his side and I watched him walk away from me. I thought he would cry for a momment, but he just turned and left with the soilder.

“Do you know how many rules you’ve violated?” he asked me.

“Yes sir,” I answered.

“What was your goal in bringing the X5 here?”

“Chess sir,” I replied.

“Nothing else?” he questioned.

“No Sir,” I replied.

“Than what is this?” He said displaying a candy wrapper.

I couldn’t speak, my voice left my body.

“I want an answer.”

“It’s candy paper sir.” I finally answered. “Candy I gave to X5 599.”

I admitted it through tears. He knew anyway, X5 599 was gone, he was no longer mine, he was thiers forever. And though I knew the day was coming, I never thought he would be snatched away so quickly. They questioned me for hours and hours. I barely found the strenght to answer them.

The next day I was reassigned, but still in the Manticore building. I was watched closely and throughly investigated for almost six months. X5 599 didn’t attempt to return and I didn’t see him. I saw other X5s in passing. I didn’t have access to classified files or the X5s training areas. Each day the ache in me grew more and more.

A year later, I saw him again. He was almost five years old by then, but he already had this serious look on his face that looked so much unlike a child. If I hadn’t paused at the window, I would have missed him. He and the older children stood shoulder to shoulder. Fate must have been giving me a sign, because that night, while filling some test in the lab, he snuck up on me.

“Miss Doyle,” he said softly.

“X5 599,” I said turning around.

“Yeah,” he said. “I need to say good-bye.”

“Good-bye,” I asked him. “We don’t have to say good-bye. We can run away like we were talking about.”

“I can’t,” he told me.


“The others,” he told me.

“I can’t save them all, but I can save you,” I told him.

“I’m okay,” he told me. “I’m a soilder. I don’t need a mother.”

“Let me guess,” I said. “Lydecker told you that.”

“Yes,” he replied. “I have to go now.” He turned to leave.

“X5 599,” I called.

“Yes Miss Doyle,” he replied turning around.

“We should give you a name?”

“I have a name,” he said. “X5 599.”

I sighed, defeated, as he started toward the door. Suddenly he stopped and turned around. “But sometimes, I let the others call me Zack.”

I smiled. There was still a bit of me in him. He’d named himself after my father.

And that was the last I saw of him, at least alone. I saw him in passing every few months. I saw the others grow and develope and join the group. Sometimes I heard them use thier names and when Lydecker recognized they had named each other, he began keeping a record of them. Had I sparked this? Or had they done it on thier own? Had Zack been the first to name himself and the others followed or had it been someone else who decided upon individualizing themselves with names and Zack had simply choose someone connected to me. Did he remmeber me sometimes, think of me at all? Or was everything about the group now, being a soilder, Lydecker. Was I being selfish, I wondered. He was never mine, not truly. But in my heart, he was my baby boy. I was heart broken when I was transfereed out of Manticore’s central base and into one of it’s branches. Months later I was transferred to Washington. I wanted to leave Manticore, but I was afraid. I had heard what happened to some who dared to leave Manticore employment behind.
I was awaken that cold morning into 2009 by a phone call. It was Hannah Sukova. I could tell by her double talk she had an X5, I just didn’t know which one. I wanted to ask so bad, but I couldn’t. The X5 got away from her after she was brought in for questioning. She later told me it was the girl X4 452 that she had rescued from the road. And she told me it was my little boy who had led the escape, but he failed to escape himself. I cried for him. And then I was called in by Lydecker. Zack had gotten away and he wanted to know what I knew, what I had shared with him. And I was elated that I knew nothing.
It was five years after the escape. I was still in Washington. I sat at a table drinking coffee and reading my morning paper. A sixteen year old boy sat in front of me. He said nothing at first, he stared at me for awhile.

“Do I know you?” I finally asked.


“Zack,” I said in a whisper.

“Yeah,” he said. “I need help.”

“Sure, whatever you need.”

I did my best not to smile, not to jump up out of my seat and dance for joy.

“I need your silence,”he whispered. He slid a paper to me. “Meet me there at ten tonight.”

“Okay,” I told him, trying to hide my joy at seeing him.

He already looked like a man. But in those eyes I still remembered the baby I had once held in my arms. I remebered the little boy I use to play chess with. I remembered being a mom. I wanted to be his mother again. 6 months, 6 years, or 16 years old, he was still my baby boy.

I found him in an old abandonned apartment building in a dangerouse part of town. But genetically engineered children don’t tend to worry about local thugs that they could have take out without blinking an eye. A girl was waiting for me. She led me to Zack. He was sitting with his back to me.

“X5 599?” I questioned. There was no response. “Zack,” I said softly.

He turned to me cradeling a small baby.

“Oh my god,” I gasped. “Is it yours?”

“No, he is not,” he said. “He’s yours.”

He slipped the baby into my arms. I was elated as I had been when I first held Zack, a nameless blue eyed baby boy looking up at me. This boy had brown eyes. He was barely a few days old.

“His mother died in childbirth. I had to deliver him.”

“Where’s his father?”

“I don’t know. She was a street kid, I tried not to get attached. But I kept her from getting raped and she wouldn’t go away. She asked me to take care of him.”

“You want me to help you.”

“No, I want you to take him. I can’t do it. A baby will slow me down.”

“I’ll take care of you and him,” I said reaching for him.

“No,” he yelled pushing my hand away. “I told you a long time ago, I’m a soilder, I don’t need a mother. But he does and if he stays with me, I’ll just get him and myself killed. I can’t afford a family. I can’t stop running.”

“But your out, you’ve been out for years.”

“And if I want to stay that way, if I want to make sure the others stay that way, I have to stay alone.”

The others, I had been hearing ‘the others’ put before me for a long time. I admired him for it and I hatd him for it. “That’s no kind of life Zack,” I told him.

“I cried for you,” Zack said. “One of the few times in my life I ever cried. I loved you and where did it get me? It made me weak and vunerable. I’m not stupid enough to do that again. Getting sentinmental is not going to keep me out of Manticore.”

I sighed, defeated. I couldn’t snatch him away from his Manticore brain washing when he was five, I certainly couldn’t do it now. But God, I still loved him. He was taller than me now, but I still wanted to gather him in my arms like some little baby and hold him. But instead I held the baby closer. “Have you named him?” I asked.

“I call him Jack,” Zack said looking down at the baby. “But you don’t have to call him that.”

“Why do you call him Jack?”

“Jack was one of my brothers,” Zack said. “He’s dead now.”

There was a noticeable smile on my face. He looked up at me.

“Don’t,” Zack said reading my eyes. “It’s just a name.”

“No it’s not. Just like Zack isn’t just a name. It’s my dad’s name.”

“It was just a name I heard, I didn’t even remember it was your father’s.”

“Don’t lie to me, I know you.”

“You haven’t known me for a long time,” Zack replied. “Leave. Take him and leave.”

“I can’t,” I told him. “You know how long I’ve waited to see you again, to hold you again.”

“I’m not your little boy anymore,” he told me. “I’m a man with responsibilities. But he can be your son. I have a friend who can hook you up with some adoption papers, so everything can look legal.”

“Zack,” I said simply. I touched his cheek and he looked up at me with those same eyes that had looked at me the day I pulled him into my lap. He stepped away.

“Everything’s in the bag,” Zack told me. “Take care of Jack.”

I did keep Jack. Jack wasn’t an exceptional boy. He couldn’t solve complex puzzles at two, he wasn’t playing chess at three, but he called me the one word I had never heard, ‘Mommy’. I didn’t love Jack more, I didn’t love Jack less, I just loved Jack differently. I gave him all the things I couldn’t give Zack when he was a baby. It didn’t make me forget him, but it made losing him easier. I always thought, if I could just get him out of Manticore, he would be mine. But I lost him to Manticore the day they walked him out of my office. Yet, there was still a piece of him that remembered me, it was the reason he came and told me his name, it was the reason he bought Jack to me. And it had to be enough.


July 2, 2001

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Welcome to Dawn is a writer, theatre artist, and film maker. She loves to create and be a part of the creative. This is my webspace playground, for blogging, displaying my work, and general all-around fan fun.
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