The Early Years -
- The Early Years - Baltimore
- by Unruhe & Lywendre
- Category: Angst, UST, RSV, and a dash of humor.
- No-romo safe: Scaly isn't even in the FBI yet!
- Rating: a mild NC-17 for some violence, language, and adult situations
- Summary: More about those early days of the Lone Gunmen.
- Set post-Unusual Suspects.
- Disclaimer: We own Byers, Langly, Frohike, a large tin of extra-virgin
- olive oil and some furry handcuffs. Unfortunately, there's this pesky
- little guy named Chris Carter who keeps getting in the way of our fun.
- He's always babbling something about 'copyright infringement' and
- 'profit'. Geez Chris, we say, what kind of girls do you think we are?
- We only do this for fun. Goddess knows, we aren't making any money
- It was inevitable, I guess. From the time we saw how she looked at
- with those helpless doe eyes, we should have known that woman would
- nothing but trouble. Now, don't get me wrong. I was as in awe of her
- as any of us, at first. I mean, I'm not dead, for God's sake. Who
- wouldn't be a little struck by a woman of mystery with legs up to her
- chin and an IQ to match?
- It was like that for Byers, only times ten. I could see it in his
- expression, the way his body language changed when she was around.
- Everything was pointed toward magnetic north, and that direction
- happened to be a woman named Susanne.
- The first time I recognized that look in his blue eyes, I couldn't
- myself from wincing. I mean, I've been there. Seeing that expression
- brought it all back for me, and I'll admit it was a little painful.
- don't hang around for as long as I have without getting a few battle
- scars. A few gaping wounds.
- In Byers' feelings, I saw a trashed heart in progress, and for some
- reason it was the last thing I wanted to happen. At the time, I
- couldn't figure out quite why I cared, and it bugged me. What the hell
- did it matter if this hopelessly idealistic government man got his
- stomped on by one of Susanne's black suede pumps? It's part of the
- human experience, right? Life. Besides, this was the same man that
- almost got me killed. More than once in a fairly short period of time,
- I might add.
- But somehow, it mattered to me. I cared way too much, and the fact
- bothered me. I didn't like feeling that way, about anyone, much less
- some weedy man in an ugly bureaucratic uniform with overly stiff and
- under thought-out philosophies.
- So why did I, you ask? And how did I get myself roped into becoming
- friend and sometime guardian to this child-man? I suppose I should
- that I don't know. It's none of your business, really. I need to tell
- someone, though. I don't think I can deal with it, otherwise.
- I admired him, okay?
- Before you get the wrong idea, let me clarify things a little. I had
- admiration for Byers' simplistic acceptance of the values handed him
- the establishment. I'd been there once, right before I was handed a
- and a uniform. Before Uncle Sam stuck me in a whispering, sticky hell
- in the middle of nowhere. No. That's not what I admired.
- It was his passion. Until I saw it in his eyes, staring back at
- Susanne, I had forgotten how it had slipped away from me. I let life
- hammer it away, said good-bye with little awareness and fewer regrets.
- Byers, though, he wasn't about to go that route. He was going to fight,
- you could see it in his eyes.
- And fight he did.
- It was kind of comical, really. He was so new to the whole idea of
- accepting absolutely everything the almighty US government said, that
- had absolutely no idea how to go against his 26 years of conforming
- Big Brother's rules. But now that Susanne had opened up that first
- hole in the dike holding back the flood, all the little Dutch boys
- the world wouldn't be able to prevent the chaos coming to wash away
- safe, comfortable life he'd always known.
- Thank God he was smart enough to know his own limitations and start
- small, or he'd have probably never survived the process. Or that final,
- bloody blow that severed him completely from his sheltered life. But
- I'm getting ahead of myself here.
- I think Susanne was the Eve to Byers' Adam. She brought the apple from
- the tree of knowledge of good and evil and her story was so good, so
- compelling, that Byers willingly took that first bite. In spite of
- everything that has happened since, I really don't think he ever regrets
- that first act of rebellion.
- Or at least, not for long.
- Because the one thing John Fitzgerald Byers is incapable of is
- self-deception. If he'd never met Susanne, Byers would never have
- discovered the real world behind the facade Big Brother had put up.
- have lived his happy little middle-management bureaucratic existence,
- content with life as he knew it. But they had met. And that honest
- core in him will never let him ignore the injustices Susanne had
- In another age, a previous life, I think Byers would have been a Knight
- of the Round Table. Being pure of heart, a quest for the Holy Grail
- would have been right up his alley. In this life, his quest now is
- seek the truth behind the lies. To me, that truth looks more elusive
- than the Holy Grail ever was. But that doesn't seem to discourage Byers
- - he's definitely in it for the long haul.
- It might not have turned out that way if Byers had never heard from
- Susanne again after those 24 hours in Baltimore. But he did. About
- months after that convention, she turned up on his doorstep. Literally.
- Cold and shivering, a little thinner, a little paler, her hair a little
- less glossy, Susanne Modeski knocked on Byers' front door the day after
- Christmas. I guess he thought his Christmas wish had been granted after
- all. He was so happy to see her, I doubt he even noticed the changes
- her. But I did.
- I knew she could only mean heartache and trouble, but Byers is a softy
- and couldn't just turn her away. And I guess I'm at least as bad,
- because I couldn't look into those big blue eyes and say "No"
- Langly and I left Byers' apartment shortly after Susanne arrived. We'd
- been making plans for a hack into a corporation's system. The said
- company had a government contract that we suspected might be for
- research into the same type of nastiness that we had originally
- uncovered thanks to Susanne.
- Anyway, discussions of that company as a back door to get into the
- project files had to wait with her arrival. Seeing her, the first thing
- I guess both Langly and I thought after the shock of her being even
- alive wore off was that she might be able to help us. Selfish, I know.
- Byers, though, immediately fell into mother hen mode. He ushered
- Susanne into his small living room and got her coffee.
- "We're amazed to see you alive," I told her.
- She smiled. The small, sad smile she had the last time we'd seen her
- had been replaced by something a little wider, a little harder. Seeing
- her expression, it was as if she'd finished mourning for the life that
- the shadowy government forces had taken away and instead learned how
- be angry.
- "I'm surprised to be here, too." When she said that, the
first worm of
- anxiety burrowed into the pit of my stomach. They'd taken her. What
- they'd turned her, and she was here to get information about us? I
- tried to still my suspicion by telling myself that if the government
- wanted to find us, it would be an easy matter. In their eyes, we were
- trivial, and I was happy to keep it that way.
- Still, the thought persisted. What if.
- It was like Susanne, slumped into the wooden
- rocker Byers had gotten from his mother, could read my mind. "Relax.
- was released. I have no idea why they didn't kill me, but it wasn't
- because I decided to spy for them." Further probing was cut off
- Byers' return. He gave her a steaming mug and sat down next to her,
- perching on his chair like he was frightened he might have to get up
- suddenly. I suppose he was afraid she might leave again, be taken like
- she was last time.
- Susanne smiled at Byers and blinked into the living room, clearly trying
- to keep her eyes open. I recognized our cue to leave.
- "I think I'd better get home. Langly, you still going to show
- new hardware you keep bragging about?" He was always going off
- device or other. Langly was a bright boy; he didn't question which
- particular one I was referring to. I think he recognized our cue to
- leave as well as I did, because he only nodded.
- Byers hardly seemed to notice our exit.
- We gave them some time. The next day was spent minus Byers. Langly
- I did research on the business that we were interested in getting
- information from. After about two hours at the library looking into
- government contract and board of directors, I checked into a hotel
- room. Once in the room, I stripped off my jacket, jerked off the tie,
- rolled up my sleeves. Langly took the scenic route to follow me.
- "Well?" That's one thing I like about Langly. That was all
I had to
- say. Maybe it's just because we have overlapping area of expertise,
- few words are generally required when we're working together. We may
- years apart in age and life experience, and I may want to throttle
- when he plays that abrasive, electronic music he loves, but where
- computers are concerned, we fit like hand in glove.
- He drew the blinds, cutting us off from the sun and prying eyes. "I've
- found a box. The guy on the repair line must be new, he believed me
- right away. It's in a pretty secluded part of the neighborhood, so
- we'll have plenty of warning if something goes wrong. Three exits to
- the division, lower middle class so they won't notice a strange car
- hanging around." He grinned with satisfaction.
- "Good. If this is what we think, we'll need the time. You ready
- eyeball their system?"
- "Sure." He set up his laptop. Since all we wanted to do was
- general idea of what kind of systems they had in place, we only needed
- to bounce ourselves around a few times. In and out.
- "Frohike?" Langly stared at the small screen, not making
- with me.
- "Byers has it bad, doesn't he?" The glare from the screen
- glasses hid his expression. For the first time in our two-odd year
- association, I realized how little I actually knew about this man's
- personal life.
- "Yeah," I said, "I think he does." I changed the
subject. "Are you
- almost done?"
- "No sooner said. This doesn't look too bad, but I didn't go too
- in." Langly started disentangling himself from the intricate path
- computer servers he'd used to hide our location.
- "Okay. We'll see tomorrow, I suppose. Can you think of anything
- missed?" For some reason, this job was making me more nervous
- "Nah. Let's go get Byers. He's had enough R and R." Langly
- pushed up his glasses. I couldn't help but smile in return in spite
- my apprehension.
- When we got back to Byers' place, they weren't there. Or they just
- weren't answering the door. I got *really* nervous - I still didn't
- know Byers all that well, but he didn't strike me as the kind of guy
- who'd be doing the wild thing with a hot babe in the middle of the
- afternoon when he knew his friends would be coming back. And besides,
- if they'd wanted to do that, I figured they'd have done it last night
- Byers was, after all, pretty conventional.
- Rather than make a fuss pounding on the door, I looked up and down
- hall: nobody but Langly and me. I fished my lock pick out of my jacket
- pocket. Langly's eyes got really big, but he didn't say a word as I
- quickly and quietly unlocked the door. All the hairs on the back of
- neck were telling me to be careful, so I entered the dim apartment
- cautiously, wishing I still carried a gun. Langly nervously checked
- and down the hall one more time before he slipped in behind me and
- locked the door.
- Although the curtains were drawn, nothing seemed out of place in the
- living room. It was just as neat and tidy as always; even the
- bookshelves were arranged alphabetically. Without saying a word, I
- gestured that Langly should check the kitchen. Taking a deep breath,
- headed for the dark hallway leading to the bedroom.
- Using the stealth training I'd put to good use in 'Nam, I slowly pushed
- the door open as far as it would go. Here, too, the drapes were drawn
- and the room was dark, so I switched on the light. Byers even kept
- bedroom neat as a pin; the bed was made and nothing was out of place.
- Likewise for the bathroom. I'd never before met a guy living alone
- had a place that would easily win the Good Housekeeping Seal of
- Approval. Weird.
- Breathing a little easier, I met Langly back in the living room. He
- shook his head to show his search had been negative as well. I was
- stumped. No sign of a struggle, or even of a good time, but neither
- Byers nor Susanne were here and he hadn't called to tell us what was
- going on.
- Just then, we heard voices out in the hall. There was no place to hide
- in the living room, so we both headed for the kitchen. We heard keys
- being dropped and laughter. Then the door was unlocked and opened.
- ducked all the way back around the corner as two shapes were silhouetted
- against the light in the hallway before they entered and shut the door
- behind them.
- As someone turned on a light in the living room, I heard Byers say,