The Many Metaphorical Deaths of Agent Carrasco, Part 2
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rating: +24+x

The Many Metaphorical Deaths of Agent Carrasco

Part 2

December 24th, 2008


Containment Level

"Are we going to have another problem, D-5474?"

"No." Carracos sighed as he stepped forward into the test chamber. Before him was what looked like a very, very delicious turkey dinner with stuffing, a slice of ham, some green beans, and what looked like eggnog. He had no doubt that the best taste he would get out of it was chalk. It smelled good, too. "¿Qué chingados?"

"It's Christmas dinner. This nutjob of a doctor thought that if the meal was 'thematically resonant', it might taste better. Whatever that means. Sit down and eat."

Carracos sat at the table, picked up the plastic fork— and noticed Briggs in the far corner of the cell. He frowned, and looked between her and the glass. "What's she doing in here?"

"She's instructed to terminate you if you try to use your utensils as a weapon."

Carracos shook his head, cut the turkey with the plastic knife, stabbed it with a fork, and bit into it.

Instantly, he began to cry. He'd never had turkey before, as he didn't really observe Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for him consisted largely of pork, or, when he had it with Iñaki that one year, Bacalao a la Vizcaina. But if all turkey tasted like this, he'd never want anything else again.

It tasted like a warm fire on a cold night in England, like repenting for the past, like holly and warmth and the sheer feeling of being loved after a period of long bitterness. There was a melancholy to it, a sense of macabre, but that just added to the warm flavor, somehow.

"What did you put in this?" He laughed. "Holy shit."

"A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens." Briggs hid a grin behind her hand.

"Fuckin' no way, I'm eating a book?" Carracos laughed. "What the hell was in the nachoes?"

"Neuromancer, William Gibson."

The intercom squealed to life. "Agent, don't disclose sensitive information to the test subject. D-5474, sample the ham next."

Carracos did, and the sound of Boris Karlov's voice filled his mouth, along with the musical stylings of Thurl Ravenscroft. "Is this the fucking Grinch?"

"Audible effects do carry over, then?"

"Yeah they do! What's in the eggnog—"

Alarms blared before Carracos could experience the joys of drinking It's a Wonderful Life. The klaxon drove Carracos to the floor from its volume.

«This is an Alert to all Site-87 Staff.» A woman's voice came over the speakers, not pre-recorded. She was trying to keep a steady tone, but there was underlying panic in it. «We are experiencing a series of massive containment breaches on all levels. Avoid all Christmas-related clothing, foodstuffs, decorations, presents, and other paraphernalia and proceed to emergency shelters.»

Carracos stared in horror at the dinner, scrabbling away from it on the floor. The klaxon was replaced by an overly-loud rendition of "Jingle Bells" that only stopped when Briggs shot the speaker.

"Doctor," Briggs said, "What do we do?"

"You get out of the room. Leave the D-Class in there."

"What?" Briggs made her way to the door. "Hell no!"

"He's a convicted murderer, Natalie. He's disposable."

"No way. I don't know what kind of shit was in the water at 17, but we don't do that here."

"I'm being pragmatic. I'm opening the door, and I'm letting you out. You're to shoot him if—" There was a yelp of pain as the door opened, and a hissing, cracking sound that Carracos could best describe as 'boiling cold'.

Dr. Porter was nursing his hand, looking at it in disbelief. The fingertips and palm had blackened and started to rot. Carracos realized, quite abruptly, that he could see his breath. The cold overwhelmed him, but as he reeled back into the chamber, the unnatural chill was absent.

"P-pull him in," Carracos panted, teeth chattering. "H-he… t-the cold's not in here."

"O-okay." Briggs pulled Dr. Porter into the room, bundling him up in a labcoat. "Shit, his— Dr. Mulvaney, she's still out there, in the observation room."

"I g-got her." Carracos made his way towards the door. The cold was like a wall, and he knew that he couldn't stay out in it for more than a minute, at most. So, he made his way out the door and took a sharp left, towards where the window into the cell was.

Dr. Mulvaney was a blonde woman, pale, and looking as if she was having the most miserable time of her life. Actual icicles had formed on her skin, but in real life, the effect was far less comedic. Carracos had never seen frostbite in person, but he suspected it looked like the black patches appearing on her skin.

The cold was eating at him as well. He took off the woman's labcoat, watching ice shatter on the ground, and pressed the intercom button. "Briggs?" he asked.


"Get away from the window. Now."

Carracos lifted the microphone from the table, ripping it free from the inexplicable layer of frost. Then, he began slamming it against the window.

"You're not going to do anything!" Dr. Porter yelled from inside the chamber. "That glass can withstand a hit from a goddamn anti-tank rifle! You—"

Whether it was the cold, dumb luck, or even the fact that Dr. Porter doubted Carracos, the window shattered into pebbles of smooth glass. He pulled Dr. Mulvaney through the window and into the warmth.

"Okay," Carracos said, handing the woman back her labcoat. "I think… I have a right to ask… what the fuck is going on right now?"

Briggs started to speak, before Porter cut her off with a glower. Mulvaney, however, was in the opposite direction.

"W-we're p-part of a scientific re-re-re-re-res-research organization." Dr. Mulvaney's teeth chattered. "W-we study… and s-s-ssssometime create anomalous ph-phenomea. W-what you might call p-p-paranormal or super n-natural."

"Like the food that tastes like books?"


"Is… the blizzard outside—"

Mulvaney shook her head empathically. "I don't know what the fuck it is. It came out of nowhere. Is there something i-in biocont-containment?"

"I don't know!" Porter threw up his hands, hissing in pain. "The fucking bureaucracy of this organization. My grandmother could be working at Site-19 and I wouldn't even know about it, because I don't have the right clearance level!"

"This frostbite is bad." Briggs rose and made her way along the wall, finding a discreet panel at the corner she was standing in. "Every testing cell has the ability to act as a temporary emergency shelter. There's rations, sleeping bags, and—" She produced a first-aid kit from the wall. "Medical supplies. Ever treat frostbite?"


"Okay, there's a tin pot and a hot plate in there, along with a few bottles of water. I need you to heat it up…"

The cold stayed outside, snow turning into rivulets of water as it came past the threshold of the door and window. The Christmas feast, the sole source of warmth in this room, slowly cooled.

December 22nd, 2021

Holiday Inn

El Paso, Texas

Carracos was on his bed, head against his hand, his eyes wet. He had put his hands in gloves just to make sure that… that the cold wasn't there. It was eighty in the room already, and he… he still didn't feel warm enough after the dream.

There was a knock on the door. He rose to answer it, and let Blake in; the other agent looked as if he'd run halfway here out of worry. "Hey."

"…hi. I thought you were going on a walk?"

Blake held up his watch. "Shadowing you means I get access to your medical implants. Saw that something was up, so… figured I should come and see what was up."

Alejandro invited him in and shook his head, sitting on the bed. "It's stupid. It really is. I had a nightmare about 2008."

It took until Blake was sat at the desk in the room that he realized what he was talking about. "The breach? Christmas 2008?"

Alejandro nodded. "What do you know about it?"

"Not much. Ruby and I only joined the Foundation in 2013, and we didn't get to Site-87 until early 2015."

"I… I have nightmares about it, sometimes. Lot of people do. Bailey's girlfriend had to transfer to Vegas because of them."

"What? Dr. Hennesy's still at Site-87, I thought."

"Huh?" Alejandro blinked. "No, not the Director. His brother, Trevor. Captain Natalie Briggs?"

"Before my time." Blake chewed his lip. "You… you've known about the Foundation longer than most people on the task force, haven't you?"

"Ewell and February have me beat by a year. February got lucky and missed the breach— if you can call 'sliding on black ice and going to the hospital for a sprained hand' lucky."

There was a pause as their minds attempted to get back to the original topic. "So you had a nightmare?"

"Nodded off trying to watch some football. I… I think they were playing that one Hershey's Kisses commercial, you know, the one that plays—"

"Yeah, yeah. That triggered it?"

"Maybe? I remember being stuck in the test chamber, and…" He paused. "You were never told what happened, were you?"

"Classified, yeah."

"It was bad, man. It was bad." He slumped back onto the bed. "Didn't mean to like. Get you to come back here." Carracos looked up. "Where'd you go, anyway?"

Blake decided avoiding the subject was just going to lead to a bombshell down the road, so he might as well get it over with. "I visited your old neighborhood. Just… out of curiosity."

"…oh." Carracos sat up. "What did you think?"

"I think that, judging by the fact that there are still people leaving candles at a memorial to you, people miss you."

"Hard to believe some people still live here. I—" He paused. "Hold on, candles?" He shook his head violently. "Tell me you didn't see—"

"Ignacio? Yeah." He tilted his head. "How'd you know?"

"We…" Carracos rubbed his face. "After I… after I got sentenced and it looked like that there wasn't… going to be any chance of an appeal, I promised him something. If there was… if something existed beyond this, I'd find a way to tell him." He sighed. "We decided I should keep a candle lit for a whole day." He gave Blake a longing look. "Did he say anything else?"

"He told me that we've been pronouncing your surname wrong for years. 'Carrasco', is it?"

Alejandro blinked. "That hasn't been what it's said on… any piece of paperwork for the last sixty years. I…" He rubbed his face. "Yeah. My family goes by Carrasco."

"Why not file a request for data revision? God knows that the new archivist is looking for something to do."

"Are they really new if they've been here for five years?" Carrasco chuckled. "But… I dunno. Would be weird, having you all re-learn my name." He slumped a little more. "Hell, I forgot about it for a while."

Blake put his hand on the man's shoulder, sitting on the bed by him. "I'm sorry, man. It… I can't imagine what you go through." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I honestly feel a little guilty."

"Why's that?"

"Military brat, born and raised. Ruby and I actually got sniped from West Point by the Foundation once we showed we could do the… I think the clinical term is 'that creepy twin thing'."

Carrasco shook his head. "You were born lucky. I wasn't. Nothing to feel guilty about." He looked down at his lap. "I… I wish I could see Iñaki. Tell him that it's not his fault. Not really."

Blake tilted his head. "What… isn't his fault?"

"Long story. I'm hungry. Wanna just order a pizza?"

"Yeah, sure." Blake stood. "I gotta make a report to Bailey, first. Gimme a bit." He stood and made his way towards the exit. "Want anything on your half?"

"Ham. No pineapple, I'm not a monster."

Carracos looked back towards the television. That same damn Hershey's ad was playing, with the candies ringing out "We Wish You A Merry Christmas".

December 25th, 2008


Containment Level

"Got another one!" Carrasco yelled as he dragged in a woman from the cold. He was wearing the remains of a sleeping bag as a winter coat and had borrowed Agent Brigg's boots. They were half a size too small, but she was needed to tend to the wounded.

The testing cell remained warm and cozy despite the bitter cold that now occupied the hallways. They had found candles to light the room, and it almost made the Christmas dinner on the table look festive. There were now twelve people in the room with them, in various states of medical distress. The man he had just dragged in looked particularly bad, with the tip of his nose blackened, and the metal of his glasses having frozen to his flesh.

"I think we're at capacity." Improbably enough, a member of medical personnel had been on the container level when hell broke loose. She was at least part Chinese, with a comforting look in her eyes despite the dire situation, and name tag that simply red 'Liao'. "We have enough rations here for the next three days, not accounting for the memetic foodstuffs."

"Can we really use that word—" Porter began, raising a bandaged finger.

"It's not like the word means anything to him!" Liao snapped as Carrasco laid the man on the ground. "Okay… yeah, this is bad. I need warm water around the glasses."

"We're almost out." Briggs looked at the window. "5474, can you start collecting snow from out there? Just from the window."

"Good… good thinking." Carracos took up the metal pot and started shoveling snow into it through the window. When it was brought into the warm room, the snow melted into somewhat lukewarm water. "What's making it do that?"

"Maybe it's the Christmas spirit," Porter snorted, before he started to slump. "Not… not feeling the best."

Liao looked them over, looking in a bag by her side. "Okay, I have a sedative that I'm going to administer to some of you. It's going to help you sleep, and help you heal. We're going to have a watch on— 5474, you take first watch."

Carrasco sighed and nodded. He knew he'd never be addressed by his actual name again. As he hung his head in resignation, he heard the sound of bells chiming from outside. He looked out the door, and saw… something floating through the air.

It looked not unlike a reindeer, down to the fact that it had horns and four legs, and was wearing reins covered with bells. But beyond that, it looked… it wasn't made of ice, it was too clear to be ice. Something older and purer than what the human concept of 'ice' was. Its hooves were coated with red crystals, which Carrasco knew to be frozen blood. It looked at him, and a single concept ran through his body, a concept of cold which had never been known since the first ray of sunlight.

Carrasco fell back into the cell, frozen tears clinging to his face. Nobody but him had noticed it, and nobody gave any notice to the prisoner falling on his ass.

Whatever this thing, this Cold was, it was going to freeze them out eventually. Even the warmth of the dinner could only protect them for so long. They were going to die in the cold and the dark, and there would be no light left.

He adjusted his makeshift coat, kicked the frost off the boots, and picked up a flask that was stashed in the wall. Then, he poured the eggnog into it and carried it in one hand, a leg of turkey in the other.

"D-5474, where are you going?!" Dr. Porter demanded. "5474, stop this instant!"

"Hey!" There was a sound of a holster against a hip as Briggs stood behind him; Carrasco recognized it from his time on death row. "Don't make me do this, man. Come in and sit down. Okay?"

Carrasco shook his head. "You shoot me, I freeze to death… I die again either way."

Confusion reigned on the faces of the researchers and the agent as he walked into the interior blizzard. He took a swig of the eggnog, and followed after the frozen hart.

December 22nd, 2021

Holiday Inn

El Paso, Texas

On the other end of the line, Director Tristan Bailey was desperately wishing for a cup to be in his hand so it could be crushed. "You did what?"

Blake winced as he sat up straighter, adjusting his laptop on the bedspread. "He found me out, sir. I couldn't help it."

"I…" Bailey rubbed his temples. "You had one job, Williams. One job! Follow him and make sure he doesn't try to reconnect with his old life!"

"And he hasn't! We went to a museum, got something to eat, and we've just mainly been… mulling around the hotel since. I'm not letting him out of my sight."

"Except the one point where you demonstrably did let him out of your sight." Bailey sighed. "I want you both on a plane out of El Paso and back to Duluth by tomorrow morning. Then we'll debrief you."

Blake scowled. "Permission to speak freely, Director?"


"What kind of stick bug crawled up your ass? I know that…" Blake rubbed his forehead. "I know that, as a Director, you have duties you need to uphold. But you were my orientation officer when I arrived at 87. This isn't like you. You're not this…"


"Harsh. It's Christmas."

"A Veil breach on Christmas is still a Veil breach. Duluth. Tomo—" Bailey's phone buzzed. "Pardon me."

There was silence as Bailey scrolled through a notification. "Well. As it happens, there's a document that needs to be hand-delivered from Urban Site-27 to Site-87. Pick that up tonight. Tomorrow, Duluth."

Blake gave a dejected look to the screen, and then at the door to his room. A somewhat reedy voice announced, "Domino's for a Williams?"

"One moment!" Blake yelled, before turning to the screen. "Permission to at least have dinner first, sir?"

"Very well."

The call disconnected. Blake collected the pizza and took it over to Alejandro's room.

December 25th, 2008


Containment Level

The frozen hart casually loped through hallways that had been changed from concrete into a forest of ice. The fluorescent lights overhead melted what they could, lighting the inside of this… complex, whatever it was, an eerie blue. Alejandro wasn't sure there was any other kind in winter.

He took another sip of eggnog, and heard a bell ring that had nothing to do with what was on the deer's body. "Attaboy, Clarence," he laughed in the voice of Jimmy Stewart. Somehow, proximity to the food was keeping him warm. He only hoped that it could do more than that against the deer.

Eventually, it loped into a… he wanted to describe it as a clearing, but based on the presence of a microwave, a small Christmas tree, and a cup of coffee literally frozen mid-fall, Carrasco could tell this was once a break room. The hart and himself face each other. "I have a feeling you can talk," Carrasco panted. "Don't ask me how I know. I just… what are you?"

The deer grinned, teeth of red ice filling its mouth. No.

He blinked. "What?"

You do not get to interrogate me, Jailor. I am not some common god that can be stuffed into a sixteen-by-ten cell and given appeasement in exchange for information. It trotted around the room. If I must be given a name, then… I suppose the Lord of Leaping Frost will suffice.

"Yeah, well, I don't care." Carrasco tried to step forward, only to find his legs frozen to the ground. "¡Mierda!"

Come now. They advertise themselves as 'Cold, not Cruel'. I am simply showing them what true cold does. My brothers and sisters are doing the same throughout this building.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Alejandro scowled, "And I don't care." He took another swig of eggnog, and found the frost around his legs thawing. "And I am not a Jailor. My name is—"

A wave of cold knocked Alejandro back against the wall. Hush, then, vermin. The scent of frost filling his lungs smelled like steel handcuffs. Let the cold embrace you. Let winter consume you, let yourself rot underneath the snow. You are tired. Rest.

Alejandro was cold and tired. He'd never seen snow before, and even if it was inside, away from sunlight? It was a novel experience. He had once read that people died two deaths; once when they physically die, again when they're forgotten. The second had happened already. Nobody knew his name.

Part of him knew this would happen; Cell 16 had someone in it not two weeks ago. He doubt they were released. And there was a smell of blood on this whole floor. He was expendable. A lab rat. Disposable. And he was dying for the sake of men and women who didn't even care enough to learn his name.

How quickly the warmth dies in Jailor and vermin alike. The lord pinned him against a wall with a hoof. Humanity returns to the cold, every time. It's comforting, isn't it?

Alejandro's fingers were numb. He dropped the flask of eggnog and the leg of turkey.

There, that's it. This is going to be so, so much… It stopped talking. Hm. This damnable place makes my kind far more talkative. I have other flames to snuff out.

As it began to trot away, tears froze on Alejandro's face. He had a flame in his life, at one point. Now that was gone. For a brief moment, Ignacio was a fire in his life, one which made him feel truly whole and unashamed. But it had been snuffed out before it could be stoked into a blaze of glory and love.

"Lo siento, Iñaki." He felt wetness through his clothing. For a moment, he thought that he had started bleeding, that the deer had gored him and he hadn't noticed. "Lo siento, Ignacio."

He felt the tears thaw off of his face, and found himself on the ground, shivering and soaked. He felt his chest burning, and put his hand over it, gasping in pain. All around him, ice was thawing into puddles of water. Confusion reigned as he walked forward, leaving puddles in his wake.

"Ignacio?" he repeated, the name of his… the name fresh on his lips. Ice melted from the light fixtures as he watched the Lord of Leaping Frost prance down the hallway. It was a name born of fire, and the memory of their years together kept him warm, even in a place as cold, cruel, and dark as this.

His only weapon was the turkey leg. He retrieved that, and ran at the deer, yelling. It turned in time to catch the edible instrument of war across an antler and recoiled as the ice shattered. How?!

Alejandro could see his breath, hot against the bitter winter the Lord had brought into this place. "El recuerdo de la llama de mi corazón evitará que me congele."

What? No, this cold… it should have frozen your lungs! How are you still alive, you utter verm—

Alejandro grabbed the other antler and squeezed it. "¡No soy alimaña!" he screamed, bringing his knee into its jaw. "¡No soy un carcelero! ¡Soy un prisionero! ¡Tengo un nombre!" He snapped the other antler off. “Soy Alejandro Carrasco, hijo de la chingada, recuérdalo!"

The deer was slowly chipped away by Carrasco's assault. He yelled "Soy Alejandro!" as if it were a mantra, and when he felt himself freeze, he whispered Ignacio's name as a reminder of warmth. The flesh gradually started to slough off the drumstick, until all that was left was the bone.

He didn't stop until the heat came back on. Blood was frozen to his skin by that point, and a manic look was on his face as he kicked at the puddle that used to be the hellish, frozen deer.

"Qué… Es…" He gasped, vomit filling his mouth from the sheer exertion. "Mi… ¿Nombre?"

"Alejan…" The puddle burbled. "Carrasco…"


With that, he collapsed. The last thing he heard, before losing consciousness, was the sound of boots against tile.

December 22nd, 2021

Urban Site-27

El Paso, Texas

For all intents and purposes, the public knew US-27 as Strauss Contract Policing Depot #27; this Foundation front acted as a private security firm, and it proudly proclaimed it was 'Working for Americans since 1968'. Technically, it was true— Strauss only operated in the USA and Canada, but the Foundation only ever worked for itself. The fact that it was private security meant few eyebrows would be raised regarding the amount of guards out front of the drab, grey stone building.

"How come 87 isn't called an Urban Site?" Carrasco asked as their clearances were checked.

"Urban Sites are more tactical outpost than anything else," Blake explained. "Like, if a reality bender started wrecking shit in Cleveland, we'd mobilize people from Site-99 to contain it, but they wouldn't keep any anomaly there for research."

"So, in other words, there's no nuke beneath Cleveland that we can detonate?"

"The O5s ask that question every other day, and they're always sad the answer is 'no'."

The two agents shared a laugh before they were brought in. "Any idea what we're picking up?"

"None. Just that Bailey wanted us to pick it up." Blake chewed his lip. "Bit of a coincidence."

"Sloth's Pit working its magic?"

Blake shrugged. "Bit far outside. Bailey did say this could stick to us."

The guard checking their credentials returned, handing back Carrasco's ID. "You're good to go in. You—" he pointed at Blake, "There's a discrepancy."

"What?" Blake frowned. "What kind?"

Carrasco shook his head. "Just… tell me who to get it from. I'll run in and grab it."

"Commander Williamson, Second Sublevel."

Carrasco ran past the gate, giving a wave of farewell as he vanished into the Site.

"What do you mean 'discrepancy'?" Blake frowned. "Director Bailey of Site-87 sent me here."

"Your file lists a middle name, your Foundation ID doesn't."

"For the love of—" Blake rolled his eyes, before presenting one for a retinal scan, muttering about asinine semantics and other such bureaucratic nonsense.

As the results of the scan were processing, a familiar voice came from behind. "Blake?"

The agent turned around to see the somewhat lithe form of Eric, Ignacio's boyfriend who he didn't catch the surname of. They stared at each other for a moment, then at the Site. Simultaneously, they said: "You're Foundation?!"

"Uh. You… didn't know?" Eric's eyes widened, and he scratched his head. "Uh, yeah, holy shit. I… I work as a researcher here. Cultural Studies. Dr. Eric Mariner." He extended his hand once again. "You?"

"Lieutenant. I work out of Wisconsin. Site-87." He shook Eric's hand. After pulling away, he brushed his hair back and tapped his earpiece, opening the channel to Alejandro, hoping he would get the message to stay out of sight.

"And you just… happen to be in town?" Eric ground the heel of his palm into his forehead. "Right. Yeah, no, I see what this is."

"Uh." Blake blinked. "What are you talking about?"

"How the hell did you beat me here?" Ignacio came up behind his boyfriend, and stumbled as he recognized the man. "What the— you were at Ale's memorial earlier."

"He's Foundation," Eric sighed. "Apparently he works out of Wisconsin. Told you this would happen."

Blake tried to keep the expression of his face one of 'neutral confusion'.

"After I… after college, after I joined a taskforce to contain anart, after I found out about the Foundation. About the D-Class program. I figured that…" Ignacio squeezed his hand into a fist. "I figured that my best friend maybe didn't die in prison. Maybe his body wasn't 'accidentally cremated' against his wishes. Maybe he got enrolled. And… I started looking." He glowered down at his fellow agent; it was only now that Blake truly realized the height discrepancy, as Ignacio was a full head taller than him. "And every now and again, I get visits from… 'higher ups'."

"I—" Blake backed away, looking pleadingly towards the security booth; the guard within had vanished to the back, apparently on the phone with another office. "Look, I'm not here to monitor you, threaten you, whatever."

"Then what the hell were you doing at Ale's memorial? ¿Crees que soy idiota? You think I don't notice the cameras that get put up there every few months? The Pretzel stand that appeared four blocks away?" He tapped on Blake's chest. "What the hell is wrong with you? Can't a man mourn? Can't a man ask for closure?"

Blake looked to Eric for support, but the man's look was no less venonmous. "What does my file say about me this month? 'Engaging in unsanctioned deviant behavior'? Or maybe 'improper use of relationship disclosure forms'?"

«Blake, I'm coming out.» That was Carrasco on his earpiece. «Hold on.»

"No!" Blake yelled. "I— it's not like that at all! I was just in the area, shadowing—" He'd said too much.

"What, there's another Foundation agent that might deviate from duty that happens to be in the area, and they sent a spook to tail him? Do I look like I was born yesterday, gringo?"

Blake looked around, between the now-vacant security booth, the two men enclosing on him, and then at the night sky. "Look, do you really want to assault another Foundation agent? Even if I am coming here to harass you about Alejandro, I don't think that me needing dental surgery is the best way to confront this!"

The two of them looked at each other, and backed away. "Did…" Ignacio pinched the bridge of his nose. "Did you know that Calvert was anomalous? The man who Ale was sent to death row for?"

"…no. I didn't."

"He could… control his DNA. Not make it express itself differently in his body, but… he could change the way it looked in his cells so that nobody could recognize it. That's how he got away with killing thirty-one people."

Blake was about to say that Calvert had only killed thirty, but realized what the point was and stayed silent.

"The Foundation could have stopped him. But they didn't. And now…" He shook his head. "Now I'm chasing after the hope that a man I loved didn't die as soon as I thought he did. Even if he was D-Class, he… probably got eaten or melted or—" Ignacio looked up. "Or…"

Blake looked behind him. Alejandro wast standing there, envelope in hand. Said hand was rendered vacant as he stepped away from Ignacio, looking as if he was going to bolt back into the Site— for whatever good that would do.

"Who— who's this?" Ignacio asked. Recognition was lost on him. "Are you new to the Site? Are you with him?"

"Er, sorry." Eric put up his hands. "Didn't mean to rough up your partner, just… had a bit of a miscommunication. Emotions flared up, and—" Eric paused. "Are… is he crying?"

Alejandro couldn't say anything. He had been terrified of this exact event for over a decade now. Hand over his mouth, he scanned the rooftops, anticipating red dots appearing from all over them, aimed at Iñaki's chest. He could hear the tires of a windowless van screech up, and could imagine a black bag being thrown over the man's forehead. And his whole body shook with the same sobbing sound he had made on the last night he had been free, when they had been together.

"No…. no!" A look of horror came across Ignacio's face. "This—is this some kind of—¿Qué es esto? Cuál diablo te creó? Estoy volviéndome loco? Eres anomalía? Eres- Por qué te pareces al primer hombre que amé?"

"Because I am." Carracos finally spoke. "Iñaki… it's… it's a long story, but… Soy yo. Soy Ale."

Blake rubbed his eyes. He would later play it off as a developing headache from the amount of paperwork they would all have to sign. But the joy on the faces of the two agents when they finally embraced, after thirteen years, caused Blake's breath to hitch.

July 9th, 2007

El Paso, Texas

Maricón was a complex term, one that had been driving Alejandro mad for hours, ever since his sister had yelled the insult at him. In English, the most polite equivalent was 'queer', but maricón was worse, because it was, in a way, more intimate. 'Queer' just meant 'wrong'; maricón was an attack on the soul of a man like Alejandro.

"What if I am?" he asked, as Iñaki and he watched a rerun of The Addams Family.


"A maricón. I don't… I have a hard time thinking about girls. What does that mean?"

There was a pause as Iñaki thought this through. "Who do you think about?"

Alejandro pulled away, his breathing quickening at the question. He shifted to the other end of the couch, as far away from Iñaki as he was comfortable.

The response was all that Iñaki needed as an answer. He grabbed onto Alejandro's hand. "Why the hell not?" He smiled. "We… we can figure this out together, Ale."

"Y… you… I shouldn't. You're going to be a freak like m—"

The kiss was sudden and somewhat painful, as Iñaki's nose met Alejandro's eye. They both recoiled, rubbing their faces, with Alejandro letting out a startled laugh. "What the hell?!"

"If my best friend is gonna be a freak, I'm not exactly gonna let them wallow."

The next kiss was less painful, but more awkward. The two were so distracted by each other's company that they didn't hear the screams from the alley outside, and they couldn't have known that, within twelve hours, Alejandro would no longer be a free man.

December 22nd, 2021

Urban Site-27's Mess Hall

El Paso, Texas

Eric and Ignacio sat opposite Alejandro and Blake. The two friends, reunited after over a decade, continued to marvel at the presence of the other. Agents milled about in the mess around them, eyes glued to the televisions, watching news or reruns of adult cartoons or the latest sports match. Blake was left feeling like a third wheel, while Eric remained supportive of his boyfriend.

"I was right!" Ignacio had repeated the same question twenty times. "I… I' m sorry, but… I was right… you… you were a D-Class. I… I knew you couldn't have died in there."

"One of the last ones at Site-87!" Alejandro said with some pride in his voice.

"To… being a decorated agent." He ran his fingers through his hair. "I… if I had known then… I would have tried to… find you, maybe say hello, or…" Spanish expletives marked the next half minute. "¡Maldita burocracia!"

Blake just gave a smile, looking between the two of them. While they conversed, with Ignacio talking about operations he'd gone alongside the likes of Daniel Navarro, Eric and Blake scooted down somewhat. "How did you two meet?"

"We were looking into this Canaanite tablet that got looted by a cult. Supposedly, when damaged, it let out a gas that—"

"Unleashed your innermost desires and destroyed your inhibitions?"

Eric blinked. "How do you know?"

"If it's the thing I'm thinking of, we had a researcher at our site that escaped from this cult. Family Church, yeah?"

"Offshoot of it!" Eric threw up one of his hands. "What are the damn odds?"

"Honestly? I'm surprised something like this didn't happen sooner. Anyway, the tablet?"

"Oh. We got hit by it, and… well, I'd kind of had a crush on him before, and I kissed him when we got exposed to the gas. I didn't think he'd go for me. Seemed too… y'know."

"Too straight?" Blake smirked.

"Yeah! Kinda like Alejandro." He smiled as the old friends rested their hands on the table, on top of one another.

"Aren't you concerned? They're… y'know."

Eric shook his head. "As cold as this might sound… Iggy's moved on. Buried his dead. Part of him hoped that something like this had happened, but… it was always a pipe dream. And we're happy together." He looked at Blake. "I think you two would be happy, too."

He looked between Alejandro, Ignacio, and himself. "I… I mean, I barely know the guy. I've been considering it for the last day or so, but…"

"Get to know him! Can't have a relationship unless you actually… y'know, relate to each other." Eric chuckled. "You gotta catch a plane back in the morning, yeah? Get seats together and get to talkin'."

Down the table from them, an exchange was occurring in somewhat hushed voices.

"I can't believe you're so open about it," Alejandro shook his head. "You… when we kissed, and everything after… I was sure that it would make you stop being… I don't know."

"Can't make me stop being Basque, so you couldn't stop this." Iñaki shrugged. "Did you ever tell anyone?"

"That I was innocent? Constantly."

Iñaki shook his head. "About us."


"Not even…" He tilted his head meaningfully in Blake's direction.

"I… I didn't want to put you through that."

"It could have saved your life. If you'd just told them what we were doing when that girl was…"

Alejandro laughed. "Even if I did out us both, they'd put it down to some kind of 'gay psychosis' or something. It's Texas. We might as well be in the 1920s when it comes to people like us, here."

A smile crossed Iñaki's face, and he held onto Alejandro's hand. "I would have waited, if I knew."

"I'm glad you found someone." He looked over at Eric. "He seems nice. Pretty cute, too." He chewed his lip. "I kind of ran into you at the Rib Hut the other night."

"That was you who ran out?" He laughed. "Esme apprecaited the tip. Why bring it up?"

"Well… when I saw you together for the first time…"


"…my first thought, after I got out of there, was 'who's the twink?'"

This led to an explosive bout of laughter from Iñaki that made the entire cafeteria look at them. When Blake asked what he had said, he couldn't help but join in with the laughter.

December 31st, 2008



The first thing that Alejandro noticed when he woke up was that he was out of the jumpsuit. The second was that he was, in fact, awake, and therefore alive. He felt like he was going to scream at this revelation, but all that came out was a dry rasp.

A nurse came in— the same one that had been in the test room with him, Liao— and quickly departed. A few minutes later, she returned with another woman. She was maybe fifty years old, with braided auburn hair just starting to go grey, a leather jacket above a blouse. She took a seat by his bed, and looked at him. "Mr. Carracos?"

He was about to correct her, but Alejandro realized that this was the first time he hadn't been addressed by a number in almost a month. "Uh. Yes?"

"On behalf of the Foundation, I must…" She shook her head. "No, fuck that. I'm not going to give you a form letter. The justice system screwed you over and you got handed to us. You should never have stepped through the doors of this Site."

"What are you talking about?"

The woman picked up a remote attached to his bed and used it to turn on a television across the room. It was playing a report from what seemed to be CNN.

"…coming at you with continuing coverage of the bombshell confession by Arnold Calvert, a traveling salesman from Utah who has confessed to a staggering thirty murders. The FBI has confirmed DNA linking Calvert to over a dozen unsolved crimes, including the horrific murder of Kelly Green in El Paso, Texas last year…"

Alejandro's mouth dropped open. He looked between the woman and the news reporter. "I… what?"

"The man who actually killed her confessed. You've been exonerated."

"That—" He nearly fell out of the bed, tears of disbelief in his eyes. "Does that mean I—"

The woman simply stared at the television. Alejandro's attention was drawn back to it.

"Unfortunately, some of these revelations come too late. Three people were sentenced to death for Calvert's crimes, among them twenty-year-old Alexander Carracos, who committed suicide on death row last month…"

The relief and disbelief turned to confusion. "Wait, why… why are they saying I'm dead?" He coughed. "What's going on?"

The woman stood, and motioned with two fingers. The television turned off, and all the lights in the room dimmed down to near darkness. "Mr. Carracos, you were… abducted and press-ganged into an organization that Secures anomalous phenomena, Contains them, and Protects the world." She put her hands on her lap. "It was not believed that this sort of development would occur, and eyebrows are raised when death row inmates go missing." She sighed. "I… I'm sorry. This is above my paygrade, far above it."

"You faked my death?" The horror in the man's voice caused the woman's heart to twinge. "Oh dios … Mamá, Inez, no … puedo sentirlos llorar … oh dios, ¿por qué hiciste esto?"

She sighed, before turning to face him. The lights in the room steadily grew brighter. "I'm giving you a choice, Mr. Carracos. First choice: we can give you and your family a new life, anywhere in the country. You'll be well cared for, never wanting for anything. You could get into any college you wanted, accomplish anything you would want in life… but it would mean a new identity for everyone involved. Including memory erasure."

This took a moment to sink in. The lights continued to brighten.

"What's the other choice?"

"I…" The woman toyed with a chain around her neck. "You showed remarkable selflessness and bravery, risking your life for men and women who, by all accounts, you should despise. Over a dozen people owe you their lives, and Trevor Bailey, the Head of the Department of Multi-Universal Affairs, is willing to personally vouch for you, due to you saving Agent Briggs."

"Vouch for me? For what?"

"I'm offering you a job."

This drew a laugh from Alejandro that was so long and so intense that, even after it devolved into coughing halfway through, he continued to laugh. "You have to be fucking kidding me, lady! You abduct me, fake my death, force me to eat food that tastes like actual shit and then tell me that there's more stuff like that fucking deer out in the world, and you expect me to be okay with that?!"

She sighed. "I understand it's a hard sell. But this option would allow you to disclose your status to up to your immediate family, and up to three individuals outside of it, without the need for memory erasure."

This gave Alejandro pause. He coughed back the last several laughs, and thought on this for a moment. "I… can I think about this?"

"Of course."

The lights in his room were now garishly bright, but they had been adjusted in such a way that Alejandro's eyes had gotten used to them. "Hey, what's this for?"

The woman made another motion with her hand, and a pair of nurses came in, helping Alejandro into a wheelchair. Then, Alejandro was pushed through several corridors, into an elevator, and through the front door of a building, into the December sunlight.

He was overlooking a city. It wasn't large, probably not even 30,000 people living in it. It looked old, for American standards, but there wasn't a single building taller than four stories. Downtown was compact and didn't span more than three or four blocks; beyond that, it was all houses, and beyond the houses, forest thick enough that Alejandro couldn't see the horizon through it. It was all covered in fresh snow, and the noon sun overhead made the whole thing look like a photograph made with printer's ink.

"This is what we work to protect," she explained. "The whole duty of Site-87 is to research this city, and everything that happens in it. I'm the Director."

Alejandro tried to stand from the chair. He jumped back, finding his feet in fresh snow, before he placed his toes into it. "I… lo siento, but I didn't catch your name."

"Director Nina Weiss."

He turned to face her. "I'm… going to think about it for a day or two, Director."

"Of course. But first… come back inside? Let's get some actual clothing on you."

December 23rd, 2021

Airspace over Duluth, Minnesota

"Why didn't you just let him know then?" Blake asked. "I don't get it. He would have… he seems well-off now, but…"

"It was hard enough to explain it to my Mamá and Inez. One fainted, the other started screaming at me, and I'm not telling who did what."

Blake looked out the window. It was around 1:00 PM as they began their descent. "…Eric and Ignacio seemed to think that we'd…" He frowned. "Should we? Like… try it out?"

"I still need to know more about you," Alejandro admitted. "But… I don't know. It might, on one condition."


"You never eat ribs like that ever again."

Blake laughed. "That's all it takes?"

"Abandon your gringo ways and embrace the feeling of sticky fingers!" Carrasco laughed. "Any idea what was in that message?"

"No. No clue why it had to be hand-delivered, either." He paused, and opened his carry-on beneath his seat, taking a look at it. "Wait, this isn't addressed to Bailey."

"What?" Alejandro blinked. "Then… who?"


Blake cracked open the envelope. Inside was a set of relationship declaration forms, already signed in advance by Director Bailey, alongside a Christmas card with a sombrero-wearing reindeer saying "Feliz Navidad!"

"God dammit," Blake laughed. "Well, at least we know he approves."

"…should we?" Alejandro asked. "Give it a try, I mean. These can be rescinded if we file for it within 90 days."

"120 now, actually. They had to account for work from—" Blake sighed. "It… honestly doesn't matter. But yeah, I think we should give it a try."

The pair of them smiled at each other. For the first time in thirteen years, Alejandro Carrasco shared a kiss.

« Part 1

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