Before the Dawn




For Pam and Barb—

two dark angels…

… even the blonde one

“It's my life

It's now or never.”


“It's my life

and I'll do what I want.”



My frequent collaborator Matthew V. Clemens— who also assists me on the CSI novels and with whom I've written numerous published short stories— helped me here immeasurably. A knowledgeable Dark Angel fan, Matt co-plotted this tale and created a detailed story treatment from which I could develop Before the Dawn.

My editor Steve Saffel sought me out for this assignment, and then provided consistently strong support, which included not just rounding up materials, but adding his own creative input. Steve helped solve several problems of the sort a writer faces when creating a story that must exist within a world of existing stories.

I would like to thank the creators of Dark Angel, James Cameron and Charles Eglee, who are also the executive producers of the show; Debbie Olshan of 20th Century Fox; and Wendy Chesebrough of Lightstorm. I'd also like to acknowledge the producers of Dark Angel, Rene Echevarria and Rae Sanchini; and, at Ballantine Books, Gillian Berman, Colette Russen, and Colleen Lindsay. The support these, and others, provided was, frankly, remarkable, including prompt and helpful responses from Jim Cameron himself.

Matt, Steve, and I hope that Dark Angel fans will appreciate this exploration into the beginnings of this exceptional anti-heroine.

Sometimes, when she looked back on it, Max might have been recalling a particularly vivid dream; other times, the memories had a strangely detached quality, as if these events were the stuff of a story she'd heard, things reported to her that had happened to someone else, or maybe one of those TV shows she'd seen when she'd lived with the Barretts.

But in moments of clarity, she knew the “story” was none of those things.

No matter how some inner censor tried to distance her from the pain, Max knew she had experienced what she remembered. Even though she saw herself from the outside looking in, the young woman still recognized that all of this had happened to her, really happened, the entire experience a part of her as much as the barcode on the back of her neck.

Normal people weren't marked that way, as if they were a box of frozen peas or one of the packages she delivered, in the job she'd taken, in the normal life inside of which she was hiding.

There were those who considered Max a cold one; but behind her unreadable gaze, Max still felt emotions, a flood of feelings that she wasn't supposed to possess, the humanity Manticore had tried to prune from her personality, from all of their personalities.

Closing her eyes, Max— for the millionth time, it seemed— allowed the movie to run again on the inside of her eyelids…

Chapter One




Her bare feet pounding, breaking the crust of ice on the snow-packed ground, her thin blue hospital-style smock hiked high over pumping legs, nine-year-old X5-unit 332960073452 barely noticed the February cold. Neither did she have any knowledge that in other parts of the United States, Valentine's Day was less than forty-eight hours away; that was part of a mundane, ordinary life as unknown to her as her controlled existence had been to the outside world.

Though she had learned much at Manticore, all the girl knew, at this moment, was that she was running for her life.

The deafening whir of choppers circling overhead did not cause her to look up, and she avoided the wide white beams of searchlights that probed, slashed the remote Manticore facility, turning the gloomy woods into a haunted house of light, dark, and shadow.

Brunette locks shaved down to a severe concentration-camp buzz cut, she was small, but not skinny— lean, lithe, wiry… and, though unmistakably a child, already battle-hard. Her dark olive complexion gave her a tiny advantage over some of the others, the ones so white they practically glowed when the searchlights neared them, ghosts in the haunted house. Her eyes were large and dark, and she might have been referred to as doe-eyed if there hadn't been something lethal glinting in there, something almost predatory in the way those orbs took in whole scenes and missed no detail.

Sprinting through the woods, she didn't breathe hard, didn't even sweat, as— machinelike— she pumped her arms and pistoned her knees up and down. Her hypersensitive hearing picked up— behind her, farther in the distance with each stride— the ragged breathing of her pursuers, grown-ups who, for all their own training, could only vainly fight to keep up with a genetically enhanced soldier-in-the-making.

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