Disclaimer: Random, Nga, Leong, Arclight, Pipeline, Val Cooper and Rachel Summers belong to Marvel. Seizure belongs to me.

Author's Note: http://www.fortunecity.com/rivendell/zelda/98/dofppage.html has been updated, and a scratchy image of Executive Alpha has been added. Feel free to go and laugh. This is basically a chapter on the Executive--and, if you don't like reading about the "bad guys," rest assured that the next should be from Rahne's POV. Once again, thanks to Nute and Redhawk for helping with some of the minor quirks.

Empty Men 3/?
by Tapestry

"Still sure ya wanna wait up for him? It's already ten after one."

"He seemed very uncomfortable when he left. I just want to make sure he's all right."

"Whatever. Yer turn."

"Very well. Check mate."

Random scowled as his companion smiled smugly, knocking over his king with a flick of her index finger.

"Why do I even fucking bother?" he muttered as Nga Coy Manh began to reset the chess pieces.

"Because we cannot find the Scrabble?" she offered, smiling sweetly.

"I wanna go back to Battleship," Random hissed. "At least I had a *chance* at Battleship."

"Actually," Nga said, tilting her head, "I think I hear a car. That might be him now." Her silver exoskeleton gleamed in the lamplight as she moved to take a better look out the window. "Yes, that's the limousine. He looks very tired. He's limping."

"He always limps," Random pointed out. "He's a gimp."

Nga frowned. "You shouldn't use words like that. He is our leader."

"So? He's still a gimp."

"Well, *I* am going to help him," Nga said, standing up. "You may remain here and put away the chess pieces. Good night."

"Fuckin' women," Random snorted as Nga disappeared through the doorway. He stared at the chess set for a moment, then sighed and moved to follow her.

He could hear her fast, quick steps already echoing down the stairwell by the time he reached the hall. She really did care about the wimp.

As he took the steps two at a time, Random increased his mass. He disliked meeting Seizure in his normal state. There might be nothing he could do to safeguard his mind from the man, but damned if he was above a little physical intimidation. He was naturally a rather slim young man of medium height, but nothing could stop him from adding a few pounds of muscle if he felt like it.

He hit the bottom of the stair just as Seizure was entering. His dress-jacket was slung over one arm, the other firmly wrapped around his crutch. Nga had been right--he was limping more than usual, and the expression on his misshapen face was almost enough to draw sympathy even from Random. Seizure, never attractive in the first place, looked like an old man.

"Seizure?" Nga said, approaching him hesitantly. "Has something happened?"

He looked at her blankly for a moment, then shook his head. "No," he replied, "nothing like that. I've just had a difference of opinion, that's all." And, perhaps because he saw Random's expression from the shadows of the stairwell, he added, "I think our jobs might be threatened."

Random moved forwards. Those were the magic words, as far as he was concerned.

"What, they introduce some kinda new super-soldiers or somethin'?" he asked as Seizure painfully lowered himself into a nearby chair. The other man shook his head.

"No, it's not that, exactly, but it does have to do with mutants. They're... how do I explain it? I saw someone there. Do any of you remember the Summers girl?"

"What, from our first big gig? Yeah. Thought they stuck her in jeuvy or something."

"Well, it looks like they brainwashed her instead. They're going to use her, and mutants like her, for tracking."

"So?" Random snorted. "They got some new bloodhounds. What's that got to do with us?"

Seizure and Nga stared at him.

"Don't you see?" Nga said, "If they can program mutants to work for them, why would they need to pay us? We are little more than equipment to them. If we become outdated, they will be rid of us without a second thought."

"Oh," Random said. "I meant aside from that."

"What I don't understand is why I had to attend," Seizure continued. "It was as if they wanted me to see it."

"Probably thought it would be funny," Random replied as the idea settled in. "Hell, what could we do? We're all registered with the government, and it ain't like you and Nga can hide. I got my own problems. What're we gonna do, threaten to quit? They know we're fucked."

The three were silent for a moment. Nga, although beautiful in her own alien way, would never pass for human. Seizure might, but he would always be ridiculed and outcast for his deformities. Random could almost pass, but he needed the monthly genetic stabilization treatments the government provided. Merely quitting had some complications.

"They're still perfecting the process," Seizure said at last, "and it's going to be a PR nightmare for the Mutant Affairs Committee. We have some time, at least. I'll talk to Cooper. Maybe she knows what's going on."

Random snorted. "Cooper? Ya gotta be kiddin' me. She's even more clueless than we are."

"She's our liason. We have to go through the legal channels."

"Talking to her ain't gonna do jack. She's one of them whaddyacallits--figureheads. She doesn't even sign our paychecks."

"Well, what do you expect me to do?" Seizure snapped, his tired features suddenly animate with anger. "Not all of us have the option of beating the hell out of people we don't like! If you have a better idea than going through things the legal way, then by all means, go *right* ahead." He threw his jacket onto the floor, as if it were the cause of their problems. In many ways, it was.

"Stop it," Nga snapped as Random opened his mouth for a retort. "We accomplish nothing by fighting. We will try it Seizure's way. What other choice do we have?"

Random scratched his chin. "I may know a couple'a people," he replied. "I'll see if I can work somethin' out. May take a while, though."

"Then we wait," Nga said. "Perhaps it will not even be an issue. Still, we should tell the others."

Random's lip curled a bit. "Do we have to?"

"They *are* our teammates," Seizure reminded him sourly.

As if the government would ever get rid of *them,* Random thought. The Executive was divided into two groups: Alpha and Omega. The Alpha team consisted of himself, Seizure, and Nga, while the Omega group was composed of Nga's twin brother Leong, the displaced Genoshan magistrate Pipeline (a "gift" from the Genoshan government), and the mutant-hunter Arclight, who had left a terrorist group called the Marauders for better pay and job security. While team Alpha was used for more public missions, Omega had always been involved in more questionable activities. Unlike their counterparts, Omega's members all appeared human--and thus could go where those in Alpha could not. Random disliked them on principle.

"Who is going to tell them?" Nga inquired. Seizure sighed.

"I will," he said. "Why not? Pipeline should still be awake and online."

"We'll wait for you."


Seizure hobbled off towards the Comms Room, and Random felt a pang of sympathy for the man. Whatever else could be said of him, Seizure never shirked his duties. It was almost enough to make Random respect the man.

"I'm glad I don't have *his* job," Random said aloud.

"As am I," Nga sighed, picking up their leader's crumpled jacket and smoothing it with slightly shaking hands. "But he did not want it, either. I can see why, now."

"What's he get outta this, anyway?" Random said, jerking a thumb towards the direction Seizure had gone. "He don't need stabilization treatments, and he wasn't coerced. He could leave anytime he wanted."

"To do what?" Nga asked, looking at him oddly. "Who would hire him? Who would take him in? At least you and I are of sound body--Seizure cannot even run."

"Nah, there's gotta be somethin' else," Random said, leaning against the wall. He fished around in his vest pocket and removed a cigar. "I mean, there's always a job with the X-Twerps if you're *really* desperate. I bet they've got something on him."

"If you say so." Nga wrinkled her nose as Random lit his cigar and took a drag, but continued. "But I do not think Seizure has anything to hide. He is not that kind of man."

"Yeah? Then what's his real name?"


"Got ya, didn't I?"

Nga snorted. "Perhaps he is just embarrassed by it, *Marshall.*"

"HEY! I told you that in confidence!"

"Just making a point."

"Fine," Random growled. "But how much do we know about the guy?"

"How much do you know about me?" Nga retorted, placing her hands on her hips. Random chewed his cigar thoughtfully.

"I know that ya like sausage and pineapple on yer pizza," he said, "and yer favorite color is purple. And that the only reason you're here is because you promised your sister."

Nga blinked. "How did you..?"

"Hey, I got ears, and you ain't exactly the mercenary type. What's the deal with that, anyway?"

Nga sighed. "Xi'an wanted Leong and I to be safe," she said, crossing her arms. "She thought that the best way to do this was to have us assist the government that threatened us. We cannot be persecuted if we are the enforcers."

"Well, looks like she was wrong there," Random said. And, at Nga's expression, he added hastily, "Not that she coulda known, o' course."

"We still do not know anything for certain," Nga sighed. "Until we get confirmation, we should continue to do our jobs. It costs us nothing."

"Except time." Random paused, and cleared his throat. "Uh, listen. If it turns out we are in trouble, and I can get in touch with these people an' arrange a clean getaway, you're welcome to come with me. And, uh, Seizure too, if he wants. I'll keep ya safe, so you won't be breakin' yer promise."

Nga's eyes widened. "Do you mean that?"

"Well, yeah. If I'm gonna split I might as well take you guys with me. Ain't no skin off my nose if you wanna tag along."

She smiled, and for a minute Random felt his heart give an unexpected lurch. Women didn't smile at him often. At least, not in the good way.

"Random, you--"


"What the fuck was that?" Random yelped as Nga nearly jumped out of her exoskeleton.

"It came from Comms," she said. She took off in that direction, calling, "Seizure? Are you all right?"

Thanks a lot, boss, Random thought sourly, but followed her. The hallways were dark, but the Communication Room's lights were on. Random's combat boots thudded dully against the tiles, while Nga's small feet beat a swift, sharp staccato.

"Seizure, are you all right?" Nga repeated as they entered the Comms Room. Then she gasped.

Seizure was kneeling on the floor, the vid-call monitor's screen in shards around him. His left hand was bloodied; he rested it on his knees, as if he didn't even notice it. He didn't seem to hear his teammates enter.

"Those bastards," he was growling to himself as Nga and Random picked their way around the broken glass. "Those bastards. They knew. They already knew, and they never told us!"

"Knew what?" Nga asked, kneeling down beside her. The glass rasped ineffectually against her shelled body.

"About the Hound program!" Seizure said, shaking his head. "Damn it! God DAMN it!" With one swift, angry sweep of his arm he slammed his crutch into a nearby chair, throwing it onto its side. Nga tried to calm him down.

"Perhaps they did not have clearance to share the information," she suggested, placing a restraining arm on his shoulder. He ignored it.

"Bullshit," Random snorted, picking up the fallen chair and sitting in it backwards. "They knew exactly what they were doin'." I wouldn't put it past the twerps to hold out on us just 'cause they wanted to see us squirm when the time came, either. Well, I ain't givin' them the satisfaction.

"Random's right, Nga," Seizure said, shaking his head. "This is the sort of thing that could jeopardize our jobs, but Pipeline has just informed me that he's known about it for a year. A year! Almost as long as the Executive's existed!"

"But they could not have thought it was important, or Leong would have told me," Nga insisted, standing up. "He is my brother. He would not do anything he thought might harm me."

"Maybe," Random said doubtfully. These days Leong was running with Arclight, the Omega's team leader. He'd changed from the boy Random had met when the Executive had formed, and not in a good way. Too opportunistic, that one. Too opportunistic by far. And, from the look in Seizure's eyes, he wasn't the only one who thought so.

"I do not believe you two," Nga said, disgusted. "You're seeing enemies where there are none. My brother is not evil."

"We're just preparin' for the worst," Random assured her, although even he could feel the lie in his voice. "I don't wanna be caught with my pants down. How 'bout you?"

"Trust me, Random, no one wants that," Seizure said, with heavy irony. He picked himself off the ground slowly, and winced when he tried to move his left hand.

"Maybe I did get carried away," he confessed, shuffling over to a wall for support, "but I still think it's a threat worth investigating. Nga, please ask Leong what possessed him to keep this from you. Random, you... look into your contacts, I don't care. I need some sleep."

"Hold on," Nga said, holding up a hand, "I will fetch the first aid kit and dress your wound."

"All right." Seizure sighed as she disappeared into the darkness of the hallway. His face looked thin in the dim light of the Comms room, and as he attempted to take a seat at the table in the middle of the room Random could see the pain and fatigue etched on his face.

"How much sleep you been gettin' lately?" Random asked, turning his chair to face his leader. Seizure snorted.

"Honestly?" he replied. "I don't know. Four, five hours a night what with all the paperwork and bureaucratic crap I have to deal with. And tomorrow I have to get up early for the m... never mind. It's not important."

"Yeah, it is. You're gettin' twitchy." Random removed his cigar from his mouth and blew a ring of smoke into the air. "Bein' a suspicious bastard's fine, but you're gettin' downright paranoid."

"But you agreed with me."

"That's because *I'm* downright paranoid. An' that's fine for me, because I ain't leadin' this outfit. But you *are,* an I don't want my boss popping amphetamines when he's supposed to be makin' an important decision."

Seizure blinked. "How did you..?"

Random rolled his eyes. "Why do you people keep sayin' that every time I state the friggin' obvious? What do you guys think I am, braindead?"

"No, it's not that, I thought I just..."

"What, kept it a secret? Seizure, you can't even dry-swallow the damn things. You gotta carry a fuckin' water bottle around with you during missions. By the way, are *you* braindead? In case you ain't been payin' attention, you're not in that great a shape anyway."

"Why do you care?" Seizure retorted, massaging his damaged hand. "You don't nag well, Random."

"Because if you fuck up during a mission, we're the ones that're gonna end up payin'," Random growled, leaning forward.

Seizure slammed his hand against the tabletop. "Do you think I do it for fun? I do it to stay awake!"

"So get a friggin' aide de camp or whatever the hell they call those little bitchboys that do all the grunt work. Voi-friggin'-la. Spare time."

"It's not that simple--"

"Are you two fighting *again?*"

Nga stood in the doorway, the first aid kit under one arm. She looked less than amused.

"Just havin' a nice civil conversation with the boss," Random said, sliding back in his seat. She gave him a dubious look, but seemed to take him at his word.

"Let's see your hand," Nga said, sitting down beside Seizure. Mutely, their leader extended the wounded appendage for her inspection. He endured her chiding as she applied the iodine and gauze in silence, and after a few minutes Random thought he had actually fallen asleep.

"Done," Nga said as she finished applying the tape. "It doesn't look as if you've punctured anything vital, but try not to move it much until it heals."

"I will," Seizure replied, opening his eyes. "And now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to my room. Thank you, Nga. I'll see you tomorrow."

The two mutants watched their leader limp out in silence. Random growled and stubbed his cigar out on the tabletop.

"He's really pissing me off," Random said, pushing himself out of his chair. Nga sighed.

"I am worried about him," she replied. "He seems very irritable lately."

Random wanted to say "Probably because he's on speed half the time," but held his tongue. Despite his frequent battles with the man, he had to respect Seizure for trying to do his best for the team. Of course, his best had been pretty pathetic so far, but at least he cared.

"It's probably stress," he said instead. "He needs to get outta this rat-race."

"As do we all." Nga gathered up the spare dressings and threw them away. She stretched her arms over her head, yawning. "I think it is time to call it a night. You?"

"Ah, I got some calls to make," Random said. He reached out and rubbed her silvery carapace. "Get some sleep, kid."

She smiled faintly. "You too, Marshall."

"Don't *call* me that."

But Nga was already on her way out, laughing softly as she went. Random shook his head, lips slightly quirked, and started to pick up the broken glass.

Continue To Chapter Four

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