V
The Emergents

Prologue

"She's at it again, Mr. Bates."

Nathan Bates looked up, frowning at the man standing across the desk. The other man gestured at the wall behind his employer. Bates swiveled his chair around and looked at the monitor he was pointing to. On it, Bates could see the figure of a young girl, no more than eleven, kneeling beside a fireplace. Her dark brown mohawk swayed in a nonexistent breeze as she studied something Bates couldn't see.

Working some controls on his desk, he shifted the angle of the camera. Now he could see her eyes, glinting gold on the firelight. He could also see the object, or rather objects, she was concentrating on. They appeared to be figurines of a sort.

”What are they?" Bates asked, his curiosity peaked.

"Small figurines, sir. They appear to be of various people. Mike Donavon. Ham Tyler. Julie Parrish. Diana. . ." He paused. "There's even one of you, Mr. Bates."

Bates chuckled. "Why would she have a figurine of me? Or any of those other people?" A thought occurred to him that had an immediate sobering effect and he snapped out, "Where did she get the material for those figurines? I ordered they were to be totally isolated!"

The other man shifted uncomfortably. "They are isolated, sir. We have no idea how she got the material or even what the material is. They haven't asked for anything and. . .ah. . .they wouldn't let us get close enough to get a sample." He braced himself for a flurry of cold anger and he wasn't disappointed.

"They. . .wouldn't. . .allow. . .you!? A group of young children won't allow you to collect a sample!?"

"Yes, sir."


Completely oblivious to the argument raging on the other side of the camera, the young girl with the dark brown mohawk calmly arranged the figurines on the hearth. there were a number of them, far more then Bates realized. As she studied them intently, another girl, perhaps three years older, appeared behind her.

"Here's the last one, Cathy." The second girl said, offering her another figurine.

"Thanks, Tamara." Cathy took it and studied it, noting the strong, handsome features skillfully etched on the face, the delicate detail of the clothing. Everything was just as she envisioned. "Very good, Tamara. You're getting better."

Tamara shrugged modestly and moved back to rejoin the other three occupants of the small suite of rooms. With a rustle of fur, feathers and armor, they made room for her. Almost immediately, a flurry of whispering started.

"When do we leave?"

"'We' aren't. Just Cathy and Tawny."

"Why? If we can all leave. . ."

"Cathy says it isn't time yet." A pause. "She says we'll know when to leave."

"How?"

"Better yet, when?"

"All I know is that Cathy and I will be leaving before Diana's trial."

"Which is tomorrow. . ."

Cathy ignored the whispering behind her, though she heard every word. Diana's trial is tomorrow, but Diana will never make it to court, will she, Mr. Bates? she thought as she threw a look at the camera. Turning back to the figurines, she resumed her contemplation of them. There were all kinds: men, women, humans, aliens, others. Figurines of wolves, giants, catlings, resistance fighters, Visitors. And specific people too: Ham Tyler, Chris Farber, Mike Donavon, Juliet Parrish, Nathan Bates. People she knew, people she would know, people she would never know. All had a place on her game board.

Suddenly her eyes darkened, briefly becoming a deeper shade of gold. Looking down at the figurine she still held, the young girl stared at it sadly. It was of Martin, she realized suddenly. The Fifth Column leader who had helped the Resistance.

Too bad. He had been very useful. And he was sort of cute, too.

Cathy closed her hand over the figurine, snapping it in two before throwing it into the fire.

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