Jarod leaned over Yuri's shoulder as they studied the screen on which
Namir's latest MRI results were being displayed. The machine began spitting
out sheets of scans and Yuri saved the files as Jarod picked up the pages,
sliding them onto the screen on which the older results already hung.
"It's hard to tell," Jarod admitted, finally superimposing
one image onto another. "But I think there's a little growth."
Yuri sighed in obvious relief, opening the file on the computer beside
his MRI screen and entering the details. "And that's after two weeks,"
he mused, seeing the healer helped off the bed by one of the nurses, his
hair quickly growing back, a long, red line along the front of his head
showing the location of the surgical site being buried under the dark
curls. "If this keeps going, we could have all the results from everyone
at the end of four weeks."
"Preliminary results," Jarod reminded him. "I still think
it's going to take at least two more weeks with Namir until we know for
sure whether it's actually going to continue working."
There was a soft sound of agreement from Yuri before they both fell silent,
Jarod going over to the computer that stood beside the screen he commonly
used and opening the file on which the list of operations were written.
Thirty had already been completed, fifteen days of constant hard work,
and all but those operated on the day before were now up and moving around.
Ramona had had slight numbness in her left foot, which had been concerning,
but it had thankfully worn off by the following morning, so they continued
In another six days, once all the adults who were affected had undergone
the procedure, they would once more assess its progress in Namir, Ramona
and the others who had volunteered to undergo the procedure early, before
considering whether it was successful enough to use on the Seraphim.
"Jarod?" a voice asked, and he turned to find one of the nurses
looking in. "Sumi's just woken up and wants to talk to you."
"One sec," he responded, saving the file and closing it down,
before coming over to the door. A guard, who had been in the hallway,
now moved into the room to keep an eye on Yuri. Sebastian had insisted
that, apart from his own set of rooms, Yuri was never to be alone in any
room in the building.
Sumi lay half-reclining in bed, her eyes closed, fingers wrapped in those
of her husband, who sat beside her. The Australian looked up as he came
in, and Jarod could see the anxiety in his boss's eyes, picking up the
folder from the end of the bed and looking through the record of the woman's
vital signs, before looking up again to see that her eyes were open. He
smiled as he shut the thin booklet and moved closer to the bedside.
"You wanted to talk to me?"
The bandaged head nodded slightly on the pillow, and Jarod picked up
a cup of ice chips from the table, spooning several between her slightly
pale lips. After a moment, they moved again and managed to frame the words,
her voice deep with drowsiness.
shave all my hair off?"
Jarod grinned. "Only on the left side," he assured her. "You
can have the world's longest comb-over, once we take the bandages off,
if you want."
She smiled faintly, closing her eyes again. Sebastian, who had managed
a very faint smile at his wife's question, now rose from the seat as Jarod
moved towards the door.
"When is it my turn?"
Jarod drew him into the hallway. "We want to do Joseph and Elizabeth
first. We've been waiting to perfect the treatment, because their conditions
make them more risky, but once they're done, we'll be calling you, so
probably the day after tomorrow." He glanced at his watch, just as
a chime rang through the hall, signaling that the dining room was starting
to serve dinner. "We also want to make sure that Sumi's up, so she
and Keely can take care of Gideon while you're under the anesthetic."
Sebastian folded his arms over his chest, staring at the floor. "You
think he'll know?"
"I'm sure he will," Jarod responded firmly. "And we want
to distress him as little as possible. But," he glanced at his watch,
seeing that it was Monday, "you'll be up and around by Sunday, so
as long as Sumi and Keely can keep him occupied, hopefully, he won't notice
it too much."
The pyrokenetic raised an eyebrow. "That seems awfully fast."
"Not at all," Jarod assured him. "You'll have the procedure
on Thursday, and, provided nothing goes wrong, you'll be sitting up and
eating by Friday, with pain relief, of course, and out of bed by Saturday.
And then Sunday," he teased, "we'll have you running races."
Sebastian smiled in appreciation of the joke, and then headed back into
the room where his wife slept while Jarod headed for the elevator that
would take him up to the dining room.
* * * * * * * * *
Parishville, Upstate New York
There was a soft sigh as a breeze blew through the grass, and Kim drew
her coat more closely around her as she picked up the small bunch of flowers
from the passenger seat and then got out of the car, shutting the door.
The scene before her was so dramatically different from her last visit
to this place that, for a moment, she could only stand and stare at the
expanse of green. Moving forward, Kim pushed open the gate and stepped
into the enclosed space, closing it behind her.
The wind changed, blowing from behind her, seeming to gently push her
forward, and she moved over to the center of the area, putting up one
hand to keep her hair from blowing into her face.
"I hope you're happy now," she murmured aloud, approaching
the two graves, side by side.
Grass had already grown over the two mounds, and gravestones alerted
any curious visitor to the identities of those buried there. Louise Asher
and Hugh Woods. Lifting her eyes, Kim's gaze roamed around the area, noting
from the positions of the trees where the house had once stood, a house
that had resulted in so many deaths.
The trees bent in the wind, and she pushed her free hand deeper into
her pocket, wondering if anyone else would consent to be buried on this
formerly haunted ground, or whether the couple would have it to themselves
Kneeling in front of the graves, she placed the small bunch of roses
so that the petals lay on one mound and the paper around the stems touched
the other, giving the headstone a light touch as she rose to her feet.
Turning away, she headed back for her car, feeling that the wind had died
down, smiling as she got into the vehicle and drove away.
* * * * * * * * *
The blond man heard the door open and looked over his shoulder to see
Jarod quietly enter. He put the test tube he had been holding into a rack
that stood on the bench and turned to face him.
"How's it going?" the Pretender asked, wandering in his direction.
"I think I've got it," he offered, and then explained the drug
he had made, which, it was hoped would encourage growth of the implanted
stem cells. He could see Jarod nod as he clarified the way he believed
that it worked.
"I spoke to Shane," Jarod told him. "CGB is ready to begin
mass-producing it as soon as you're happy with the formula."
Nodding, the blond man glanced at his notes again before looking at the
other man once more.
"I take it you
you haven't found anything," he offered
hesitantly, feeling something sink inside him as the other man shook his
head. Jarod spread his hands in a helpless gesture.
"I've looked everywhere I know," he explained quietly. "I
can't find anything - no birth certificates, no photos, nothing. I can
only assume that the Centre destroyed it all." He paused. "I'm
The bitterness of disappointment choked him. He had been hoping to find
anything, even a name, that would link him to the world before his work
at the Centre, but he had found nothing, so he had asked Jarod in the
hope that the Pretender would have more luck. Now that option, too, had
turned out to be hopeless. Exhaling slowly, he turned back to the bench
at which he was working.
"I could keep trying," Jarod suggested, after a long period
of silence, but the man slowly shook his head.
"There's probably no point," he murmured, before his head went
up, straightening his shoulders. "I guess it's time to move on, make
my own future, instead of hoping for a past that doesn't seem to exist."
"But you'll stay here?" Jarod prompted quickly. "You won't
leave, just like that, won't leave Keely when she's so attached to you?"
His voice lowered. "You saved my son and the others from exposure
to Aurora. I owe you something for that. Something big. I wanted to help
you when you asked, and I hate the fact that I couldn't. I didn't want
to fail, John. I wanted to give you something that would have helped you
as much as finding out about my family helped me." His dark eyes
glittered suspiciously. "Don't think that I, or any of the children,
or anyone else here, would forget you if you disappeared from our lives.
You're known here. We'll keep thinking about you." His lips twisted
into an almost bitter smile. "Maybe the Centre's training isn't as
good as you think it is."
John laughed humorlessly. "What good is a memory of me when I don't
even know who I am?"
"You could find out," Jarod suggested, leaning against a nearby
chair. "Start today. Make a new life. Keep the best bits of the old
one. Throw out the rest. Make believe it happened to someone else. Join
the family of people here at Sanctuary; know that you're as gifted as
any of the rest of us, and that you belong here. Make today your birthday
and the start of everything you want your life to be."
The man thought this over for a couple of minutes. Now that he knew there
was nothing that he could expect to find about his past, that idea was
tempting. It wouldn't be easy to break out of the long years of training
he had undergone, but it was possible. People needed him, and he would
be able to work towards helping them, taking benevolent orders for a change,
instead of those that were frequently the opposite. All the people here
had suffered to a greater or lesser extent, because of the same place
that had taken his life and his past; a place that was now gone. There
was no more need for loyalty to it, or to his past. It could go.
He nodded, meeting the older man's gaze, deciding. And then he smiled.
"I guess that makes it my birthday, then."
Jarod grinned. "You're doing awfully well for a newborn."
John laughed, feeling something lighten inside him at the teasing. He
turned back to the work on the bench in front of him, knowing that Jarod
was leaving, probably to tell Sebastian the result of their conversation,
but then his voice came, asking one final question.
"By the way, what should we call you?"
The blond man shrugged, looking back over his shoulder. "Why change
what works? I've been John Smith for a while now. Might as well leave
it. It's as good as any other. What's in a name, anyhow?"
Jarod smiled sympathetically, understanding, and then quietly left the
* * * * * * * * *
Lucian finished wrapping the sheet around the body of the woman on the
bed, reaching for his shirt and pulling it on to cover the scratches that
marred his skin, both new ones from this more recent murder and those
of the other four women who had fallen victim to him.
Gathering his things, he quietly left the room, piling them into his
hired car, which he would dump when he was far enough away, and leaving
the carpark beside the tall hotel.
That was the fifth murder.
He was sure that she would eventually get the message. He wanted to terrify
her a little first and shake her up, make her wonder when he was coming,
but the best part for Lucian was that he could decide exactly when that
It hadn't been easy to find a woman with blue eyes in this town, but
a backpacker had eventually succumbed to his charms and the offer of a
night in a proper hotel, at his expense. Not that it had cost him a lot.
In fact, these days, life wasn't costing him very much at all
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod squeezed the clear gel onto Elizabeth's visibly swollen belly and
picked up the transducer, using it to spread the gel around enough for
him to get clear pictures. It took several minutes, but finally he could
see the rapid movement that signified a heartbeat. This wasn't Elizabeth's
first ultrasound, and they had discovered the sex of the baby the previous
week, but he could feel her tension, using his free hand to unclench the
fingers that were wrapped around the edge of the bed on which she lay.
"It's all right," he assured her quietly. "She's still
hanging in there."
A tear slipped out of the woman's eye and down her temple as she stared
at the ceiling. Suddenly her gaze swung around to him. "Trevor dreamed
about her yesterday."
He arched an eyebrow. "He did?"
"Yes." The word was soft, and her hand lightly touched a part
of her stomach not covered by the clear gel. Another tear escaped from
her eye and began a slow trek down her temple, to vanish in her hair.
A small smile curled her lips. "He was dreaming about her life and
what she would do. I can't help wondering," she broke off to sniff
back more tears, "if it was a vision, not a dream. If she will survive
and go on to live that life
Jarod put down the transducer and wrapped his hands around her fingers.
"If it will help you," he urged quietly, "believe that.
Hang on to that belief, and the knowledge that you've got something to
live for now, even more than you did before. That she'll need you."
She smiled again, bitterly this time. "Faith said the same thing
to you," she told him. "You don't remember it consciously, but
you dream about it all the time."
Jarod busied himself with the ultrasound equipment again, blinking to
clear his sight as his eyes misted.
"I just wanted you to know," she stated quietly, "in case
I don't pull through this. I took it away, so it wouldn't upset you, but
if I'm not here anymore, to do that for you, I want you to remember why
He cleaned the gel off her stomach without meeting her gaze, gently pulling
down her nightgown and assisting her into the wheelchair she was using
if she had to go anywhere, in an attempt to prevent her from falling again.
She grabbed his hand as he was about to steer the chair out of the room,
looking up at him, and, although her eyes still glistened with tears,
her expression was sympathetic.
"I -- I wouldn't have told you if
if I didn't think you ought
to know," she murmured.
Jarod bent down beside the chair, suddenly realizing that, although it
was painful for him to hear, she was only doing what she thought was necessary,
in case things went wrong. "Thank you," he stated softly, brushing
a tear from her cheek. "I appreciate that."
Elizabeth clutched at his hands as her eyes filled again. "I'm scared,
Jarod," she whispered.
"I know," he replied soothingly, sliding an arm around her
shoulders and squeezing gently. "But, even though there are risks
in your case that we haven't had to deal with before, we've done this
quite a bit. We're getting pretty good at it."
Nodding, she sniffed and gave a watery smile. Jarod straightened up and
pushed the chair along the hall to her room, seeing that Sumi was sitting
in the armchair beside the bed, wrapped in a blanket, waiting to talk
to her friend. Jarod went to tell Patrick the result of the ultrasound
so that they could make final preparations for the operation, the following
* * * * * * * * *
Sebastian was heading down the hall to his apartment to get something
his wife wanted when he heard sobs and gasps from the room he had just
passed. Going back, he paused for a moment before pushing the door open,
seeing Trevor pacing the length of his apartment's living room, his head
bowed and arms folded over his chest as tears streamed down his cheeks,
soaking through the shirt he wore. Sebastian hesitated for a moment before
closing the door behind himself.
"Trevor," he called quietly, questioningly. "What is it?"
The psychic turned, tear-tracks on his cheeks glistening in the overhead
lights, his eyes red. For a moment, he started blankly at his visitor,
before making an obvious effort to control himself.
"You saw something," the Australian stated knowingly. "What
Trevor sank onto the sofa, and Sebastian moved over to sit beside his
friend. "My daughter," he murmured, sinking his face into his
hands and beginning to weep again. "I saw my baby girl."
Sebastian brightened immediately. "So she'll survive! They both
"I don't know!" Trevor burst out. "That's just it. I can't
believe in myself anymore, not with the way things have happened!"
The pyrokenetic waited for a moment in silence, before asking a question.
Gasping for air, fighting to stop the tears, it took a moment before
Trevor was able to answer, but he finally got the words out. "I saw
Jarod die," he reminded his friend, "and he's still alive. I
never thought I'd see my father again
and he's here. They were such
big things, and I was so sure of them, but they were wrong. How can I
possibly trust something this big to be right?"
Sebastian had no answer to this question, and knew that there was none,
sliding his arm around his friend's shoulders and squeezing gently as
Trevor continued to weep.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Jordan parked his hired car near the entrance to the large building,
forced to suppress a shudder as he opened the door and got out, taking
the bag of files he had made with him. A sweeper who stood guard at the
front door opened it for him, and he ventured nervously into the dim interior,
somewhat hesitantly approaching the desk. The receptionist glanced at
him and then picked up an ID badge, which she was about to give him, before
she hesitated. A second passed, before her expression cleared.
"Oh, you're Mr. Charles' son," she exclaimed, hurriedly
putting the badge away. "I'm sorry, it took me a moment. Miss Ritter
asked me to call her when you arrived, so if you'll put this on,"
she gave him a different tag with his name on it, "and take a seat,
I'll let her know that you're here."
Jordan took the badge with a feeling of thankfulness, retreating to the
chairs that stood against the wall and sitting down on one, clutching
his bag to his chest and staring around at the marble room. Even the Prometheus
lobby wasn't on the scale of this building, and its size and silence awed
"Jordan," a familiar voice announced, and Morgan stepped out
of the elevator, passing through a metal detector and holding out her
hand, lightly kissing his cheek. "I'm glad you got here okay."
She guided him through the security procedures, stating that he would
have to go through them every time he entered the building, but he wouldn't
have to wait for someone to come down and get him every day. Now that
he had his pass, he could come and go as he pleased.
"Pleasant flight up? I heard there was a storm over Arkansas."
"Well, I'm glad I don't get airsick," he told her, relaxing
at her casual tone. "It was certainly a little bumpy."
"I bet." She smiled, before looking at what he carried. "You
brought clothes and things?"
"Of course," he agreed. "But I took them to the apartment
Dad uses when he comes up. He said I could use it."
"I was going to offer you a room at my house," Morgan volunteered.
"But it's up to you."
I think I'd prefer the apartment," he responded hesitantly.
"I'm sort of looking forward to living on my own, for the first time."
"A bachelor pad, huh?" she teased, as they got into the elevator
and she pressed the new button for the lowest floor. When he only nodded
in response, she became more serious. "I know you've got all the
information on Pedro that we've found, so you know what to expect. We
still haven't moved him from his room in SL-27, to keep him as calm as
possible until he gets more used to having people around again."
"That might take a while," Jordan stated thoughtfully, suddenly
realizing how much he sounded like his father. "I understand the
team haven't got far?"
"They seem to be a little short on ideas," Morgan agreed. "I'm
looking forward to seeing what you can come up with. I hate seeing that
poor baby down there, all alone"
They stepped out into a brightly lit corridor, which was full of people
working in various rooms and also, much to Jordan's amazement, scrubbing
the ceiling. He hesitated, watching them curiously, before hurrying after
Morgan, who hadn't stopped.
"We've set up an office beside Pedro's room, expanding the observation
room so that you'll be able to see him from your desk." She glanced
apologetically over her shoulder. "If you'd prefer an office on one
of the higher levels
"I'd rather be as close to him as possible," Jordan interrupted.
"I don't care so much about how far down I am. I'm used to being
"Of course you are," Morgan agreed. "I'd forgotten about
the set-up in Sanctuary."
He nodded as she opened a door, which, Jordan saw, bore a plate with
his name on it. Going into the office, he saw a desk and several shelves
of books against the far wall, the wall closest to him bearing an observation
window into the next room. Looking into the boy's room, he saw Pedro lying
on a pile of blankets, staring at the ceiling. His fingers fiddled with
a tattered edge of the top-most rug, his expression thoughtful.
"Jordan?" Morgan got his attention and drew him over to the
desk. "You'll have your own phone number within an hour -- that's
what they're working on in the hallway -- and here's the key," she
placed the keyring in his hand. "You can send emails and internal
memos from your computer, and access the mainframe and Internet. The cafeteria
is on SL-11 and food is served all day," she winked, "or, if
you're anything like your father, you'll probably prefer to use one of
the vending machines on the same level."
Jordan grinned, as Morgan laughed, aware that he was probably blushing.
Comparisons with the man from whom he had been created no longer bothered
him; in fact, he was now proud to be likened to someone for whom other
people had so much respect and affection. When Jordan thought back to
the time before his feelings had changed, he could only wonder at his
naïveté and foolish pride.
"You can arrange for something to take back to your apartment for
dinner, if you want," Morgan continued. "Just let the staff
know that when you're ordering." She smiled. "Any questions?"
"I think that's everything," he replied. "I'll let you
"You do that." Her hand rested lightly on his arm before she
left the room, and he could hear her footsteps for several seconds before
they were swallowed up by the other barely audible noises.
Stepping over to the observation window, Jordan turned on the speaker
and then shoved his hands deep into the pockets of the black pants he
wore, rocking back slightly on his heels as his eyes roamed around the
His father had been right; this case was very different from Jacob. The
room wasn't completely bare. Raines had had timber beams put into the
walls for Pedro to climb, a couple of months after he had been put into
that room, and several showed signs of teeth marks, evidence of the boy's
boredom. One of the sweepers had confessed that, until Lucian had injected
him with Supernova, several weeks before the boy was found, he had taken
food down regularly. After he had been given the drug's antidote, he had
resumed feeding Pedro, afraid to confess the child's situation to anyone
but equally unwilling to let him starve. The boy had only been without
food for five days in total, and now he was eating every day.
Jordan had seen much of the DSA footage and read all the information
about Pedro. His hands resting on the window ledge, he closed his eyes
and put himself in this child's position, feeling his fear at the sight
of another person. All memory of his mother would most likely have faded
by now, and even if it hadn't, all the evidence showed that she had been
killed so reintroducing them would be impossible. They only person who
had known about this project, other than Raines, had been Lucian, and,
heartily approving of it, he would have made sure to take care of any
Jordan's eyes opening, he looked at the child with sympathy as Pedro
got off his bed, scrambling up the beams, swinging off the top one like
a monkey. In fact, many of his movements were more animal than human,
and Jordan knew that that would only add to his difficulties. Sighing,
he went to his desk and sat down, starting up the computer.
* * * * * * * * *
Before Elizabeth had fully regained consciousness, Jarod had her moved
to the room where the ultrasound was set up, to check on the condition
of her baby. Her blood pressure had remained relatively constant during
the procedure, and although its success couldn't yet be measured, she
had at least survived. He sent Yuri to tell Trevor that his wife had come
through, unsurprised to hear familiar footsteps as he began the ultrasound.
"Come in," he encouraged, without even looking around as the
door opened. Trevor moved to the bedside and took his wife's hand, the
anxiety evident in his eyes and the strained expression on his face. Although
concentrating on the screen, Jarod saw Elizabeth's eyes open drowsily
and she smiled at her husband from beneath the oxygen mask that covered
her nose and mouth. The psychic's eyes filled, but he blinked the tears
away to smile back, gently stroking her cheek. Patrick was also lingering
in the doorway, waiting for the ultrasound result, his expression one
Jarod held his breath as he moved the transducer over her belly, only
allowing himself to breathe again when he saw the quick, regular rhythm,
slower than it had been on the earlier scan, but that was to be expected
as a result of the anesthetic the fetus would have unavoidably absorbed.
Standing, he bent over the bed.
"Elizabeth," he urged, gently shaking her shoulder until she
opened sleepy brown eyes. "Sorry to wake you, but I wanted to tell
you that your baby's just fine."
She smiled again, struggling to speak, her voice groggy. "I thought
The words were a faint murmur, barely audible, and her heavy eyelids
slid down immediately as she relaxed into the pillow. Jarod smiled at
Trevor, seeing the tension slowly begin to drain from the psychic's eyes,
before waving at the men who stood in the doorway, waiting to transfer
the bed into Elizabeth's room, Patrick having already disappeared into
one of the other rooms.
He let one of the nurses take over the cleaning of the ultrasound equipment
and, his eyes burning with exhaustion, caught up with the surgeon as he
came out of the room in which Joseph lay, sedated after his procedure
earlier that day. Julia, now well enough to be out of the infirmary and
sleeping in the bedroom she had been given upon arriving at Sanctuary,
could be seen through the small pane of unbreakable glass in the door,
sitting beside the bed, feeding her baby.
"Go to bed, Jarod," Patrick ordered firmly, after eyeing him
for a moment, "before you pass out on me."
The Pretender started to protest, but Patrick had already turned in to
one of the other rooms. With a shrug, as he smothered a yawn, Jarod thought
that the surgeon wouldn't have suggested if it he couldn't manage on his
own and decided to do as he had been told. Yawning again, he got into
the elevator and a moment later was deposited on the residence level.
In his room, he found that his bed had already been turned back and his
pajamas lay on his pillow with a hot water bottle between the top and
pants, keeping them warm. His bedside lamp burned dimly, and he hastily
got changed, snuggling in under the covers with the hot bottle in the
small of his back, hoping, as his eyes quickly drifted closed, that he
would be too tired to be disturbed by nightmares.
* * * * * * * * *
The thought registered vaguely in his sleep-fogged mind, and Jarod's
eyes opened, coming to rest on a steaming bowl that stood on his bedside
table. Crackers lay on a plate next to it and, as he slowly pulled himself
into a sitting position, he could see croutons floating in the thick red
soup. Yawning, he stretched and then reached for the pillows on the floor,
piling them behind his back. Drawing the tray onto his knees, he had eaten
first cracker and tasted the soup before it occurred to him to wonder
who had put it there, and who had put out his pajamas. Glancing at the
clock, he saw that it was almost nine, realizing that he had only been
asleep for two hours, but that it had dramatically improved the way he
"Em," he called knowingly. "I know you can hear me. Where
The door to his bedroom was pushed open as if by magic and his sister
stepped into the room, Gabriel asleep in her arms. "Is the soup warm
enough?" she asked, grinning. "Dad said tomato was always your
favorite flavor when you were little."
He chuckled, before swallowing another spoonful. "It's fine. Just
what I need."
"Well, when I realized you were going to sleep through dinner, I
figured you'd need something to eat when you woke up." She sat down
on the bed. "I talked to Yuri. Apparently Elizabeth hasn't had any
problems since the surgery."
"Good," Jarod sighed in relief. "She was definitely one
of the people we were most worried about. And if she's come through then
I guess we shouldn't be too concerned about the children."
Emily's arms tightened instinctively around her nephew. "I guess
not. I hope not, anyway."
He smiled sympathetically. "They're easy to love, aren't they?"
"Definitely." The woman looked down at the boy in her arms.
"Actually, Gabriel was asking for you before, but he fell asleep
while waiting for you to wake up."
"Like father, like son," the man responded, grinning, after
eating the last cracker and swallowing the last of the soup. Before he
could say anything else, the phone on the table beside his bed rang. He
answered it quickly, before it could wake his son
"Jarod, are you up?" the voice on the other end demanded.
"Do you mean that in the literal sense," the Pretender responded,
"or in the sense of having my eyes open and being able to respond
relatively coherently to questions?"
Patrick chuckled. "Either will do. We'd like to have a meeting in
about half an hour to discuss the children's operations. Can you be down
in the office for that?"
"Sure," Jarod agreed, moving the tray back onto the bedside
table. "And I'll even do my best to be awake for it."
"Very kind of you, I'm sure," the surgeon responded condescendingly.
"Oh, and we've managed to cut back the amount of painkiller Elizabeth
was receiving. She's been asleep for about an hour now, and the baby seemed
to have settled when we did another ultrasound, 10 minutes ago."
"Great," Jarod replied eagerly. "I'll see you in 30 minutes."
Emily eased Gabriel into Jarod's arms, after he had hung up the phone,
and carried the tray out into the living room. Wrapping the blanket more
tightly around the sleeping child, Jarod smoothed his son's hair, lightly
sliding the side of his index finger down the baby's round cheek, thankful
he wouldn't have to see his son lying on the operating table, a brace
holding his head still. It would be bad enough with the other children,
but he honestly admitted to himself that, much as he loved them all, his
son was the most special to him.
As if realizing the direction of his father's thoughts, Gabriel stirred,
opening dark eyes to gaze up at the man for a moment, before snuggling
closer, his fingers wrapping around Jarod's thumb.
"Daddy," he murmured sleepily, his eyes closing again.
Jarod wondered that he had so quickly adopted the new moniker, instead
of continuing to call him by his name. Gabriel still more frequently called
Morgan 'Mine' than 'Mommy' and the only reason Jarod could find for the
anomaly was that he had spent more time face-to-face with his mother than
his father before being removed from the Centre.
Lifting the boy slightly, he gently kissed the top of his head, stroking
his soft hair and skin, wishing that he had had a chance to see his son
grow up from the day he was born, instead of coming into his life at what
seemed like such a late stage. He had missed the most important parts
of his development, and that was something he would never get back. There
were DSAs, of course, which Morgan had found in the old Chairman's office,
and she had had copies made for him. He had spent his time in bed at the
Centre watching them all, hours of footage, and had made a new section
for them in his DSA case, finally bringing himself to destroy some of
those he felt that he no longer needed. But it wasn't the same as being
there to celebrate each milestone in person.
The bed bent and he looked up to find his sister sitting next to his
feet, watching him. "I don't want to rush you," she remarked,
"but you did say you'd be down there in 30 minutes, and almost 20
of that has gone."
Jarod gave his son one final cuddle and then handed him to her, getting
out of bed as she left the room and heading into the bathroom for a quick
* * * * * * * * *
"Is there any reason not to go ahead?"
Jarod looked up from the notes he had made after each operation. "Not
that I can see."
"And we do seem to be having the desired effect," Yuri put
in. "At least, the scans seem to show that. If we toss up doing it
He trailed off into silence, staring at the table, and Patrick looked
at him for a long moment before turning to Jarod. "Five children
to do. One per day or should we squeeze them into three days?"
"My own personal feeling would be one each day," the older
Pretender responded thoughtfully.
"Mine, too," Patrick agreed. "All right, any particular
"Alphabetical by first name, for want of anything else." Jarod
wrote the days and the names on his notepad. "Angelique, Gideon,
Michaela, Raphael and Tempest. Monday through Friday of next week. That
will give us the weekend to make sure everything's ready."
Patrick looked at the younger man opposite. "Yuri, you get that
"Alexander's volunteered to do the anesthetic," Jarod put in,
before Yuri could respond. "And I'll assist with the procedure."
"Good." Patrick could see the pained expression on Yuri's face,
and softened. "You can take over their records, if you want. I'm
sure you already know what to do."
This meant, as Yuri did already know, spending some hours with the person
who had undergone the surgery on the previous day, charting their progress.
Nodding silently, Yuri studied his hands, as Patrick looked back at Jarod.
"You want any days off?"
"I don't think so." He eyed the list. "We have parents
for all of them, and Elizabeth will be up then, so she can sit with Angelique
until it's time, along with Angelo. Angelique's the one I've got the most
concern about." Patrick saw that Jarod was avoiding looking at Yuri,
and noticed that he didn't say anything about Michaela. Sebastian would
be on his feet again by then after his own surgery, allowing him to spend
time with the children who still called him 'Daddy' before they were anesthetized.
"Good." Patrick glanced at his watch. "We'll start Sebastian's
surgery at ten tomorrow morning, as he's the last, instead of seven."
"Sleeping in," Jarod grinned, as he also rose to his feet.
"What a concept."
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Jordan stood at the observation window, watching Pedro interact with
the new toy bear that had been introduced to his room several days earlier,
while he was asleep. At first he had been wary, but as time went on he
began to interact more and more with the toy, and now he spent more time
with it than he had on the bars, making a serious of strange noises that
Jordan and the other psychiatrists guessed was his way of attempting to
It was late evening, Jordan knew, and soon he would leave for his apartment,
but first he wanted to try something.
He had simulated this child so often that he had lost count and was beginning
to believe that he could finally understand the way he thought and acted.
It was very primitive, a simple mode of life that harkened back to caveman
days, surviving against attack, eating, drinking and sleeping. Should
they ever reveal the truth about this child to the outside world, it would
provide strong evidence of what some scientists believed -- that only
education separates modern man from his ancestors.
Making up his mind, Jordan put his hand on the handle of the door that
led into the boy's room, checking that he had a key so he could let himself
out again. Slowly, he pushed it open, seeing Pedro retreat to his bed
at the first sign of movement, cringing into the corner, his dark eyes
watching the intruder's every move. The young man saw that Pedro kept
the toy bear behind him, as if trying to protect him from this new threat.
Jordan stopped just inside the door, not moving, readying himself to
remain motionless for some time. This was the only way he could think
of to adjust Pedro to the idea of there being others in the world, with
whom he would eventually have to learn to interact. He would never be
'normal,' of course, but anything was an improvement on his current condition.
He stayed motionless for what he calculated was about five minutes, retreating
out of the room at the end of that time and securing the door. Pedro still
cringed on his bed, but Jordan knew that he would eventually come out
and return to his play, as any wild animal did. Going over to the diary
on his desk, he made a note of what he had done and another that reminded
himself to watch the evening's DSA footage and find out exactly how long
it was before Pedro came out.
This was the first step, he knew. There would be a lot of backward steps,
but as long as he was consistent, Jordan was sure that he could eventually
make this half-animal into a human being.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod glanced over the notes on the folder in his hand before pushing
open the door of the room in which Angelique lay, sedated after surgery
that had ended only a few hours earlier, jumping at the sight of the dark-haired
man standing beside the bed.
"Namir, what are you doing?"
The Israeli's expression was guilty as he looked up, removing his hands
from the girl's bandaged head. <"I doubt you would believe
me if I said 'nothing,'"> he responded in his native language.
"You're darned right I won't," Jarod snapped. "We talked
about this, using your skill until we knew whether your operation was
successful. You agreed
"I won't let the children suffer," the man responded heatedly.
"I have done as you ordered for the last four weeks, but I will not
watch children lying like this when I can help. It has been hard not to,
with people who have become my friends, but you cannot expect me to hold
back when I can make a difference to children. You would not."
Jarod felt his anger start to ebb away, knowing that the younger man
only wanted to help. "You're a terrible patient," he complained,
placing the folder on the table beside the bed.
"And you are so much better," Namir mocked, his angry expression
dissolving and a broad grin streaking across his face. "You were
out of bed two full days before the doctors said you should be, and came
down to Sanctuary before you were allowed, also."
The Pretender fought to keep an answering grin away from his face, knowing
that the healer was right. He leaned over the raised bedrails and slid
a finger under the thick cap of bandages that hid the girl's shaved head
to feel the temperature of the skin and check that it wasn't too warm,
the first sign of an infection.
"It is healing well," the other man stated. "The doctor,
Patrick, is very
he has much skill."
"Yes, he does," Jarod agreed, running a gentle finger down
the motionless girl's cheek.
It had been painful to see Angelique lying on the operating table, her
head held tight in the frame while stem cells were inserted into her brain.
He would have to do it four more times, and knew that they would be hard
for him, particularly when he would have to actually help with Michaela's
procedure. Jarod was thankful he had decided not to perform the actual
operations. Doing what he did was difficult enough. That much responsibility
would be a terrible weight to bear.
"Did it hurt?" he asked the healer curiously. "Did it
hurt you to start her healing?"
"Not as before," the man responded as they left the room, heading
in unspoken agreement for the elevator to go up to the roof. "Before
I would feel the pain that the injured person was suffering. It could
be that, because she feels nothing, I feel nothing. But also, where I
would feel so tired after I had helped someone, now I do not feel that
Jarod nodded slowly, wondering how much it must have hurt Namir to have
healed him after Lyle had shot him. "So you feel no pain?"
"I feel some," the man responded, "where the cells were
put into me. Like I am working them, like using a muscle that is not warmed
up properly. Not real pain, just a pull. Do you understand what I mean?"
"I think so." Jarod stretched out on the sun lounge under the
glass ceiling, trying to simulate what it must have felt like. "So
you think it's helped?"
"I believe so, yes," Namir agreed, smiling as Ramona came out
onto the sundeck, strolling over to sit on the outdoor sofa beside him.
"You will do more tests, though, to find out?"
"We plan to," Jarod replied, closing his eyes as the sun warmed
his face. "After the children have all been operated on. Then we'll
know for sure."
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod wiped his face on the towel that was slung around his shoulders,
still panting slightly from the workout he had had with Namir, following
their discussion on the rooftop. As his sweats were soaked, he planned
to have a cool shower before going down to play with his son.
But he stopped in the doorway of Morgan's room, seeing her sitting at
the workstation, staring at a framed photo. As he stepped silently into
the room, he could see that the frame contained an image of herself and
Peter Winston back in their college days, and Jarod felt his heart ache
at the amount of loss this woman had had to suffer in her life.
He hesitated, debating with himself whether to go in or if she preferred
to be alone, not wanting to intrude on a private grieving session, but
she spoke before he could decide.
"You can come in if you want to, Jarod."
Closing the door behind himself, he silently pulled up a chair beside
hers, seeing that, although her expression was pained, her eyes were dry.
For a moment, she continued to stare at the photo, before turning to him.
He gently stroked the tips of his fingers down her cheek. Morgan reached
up and took his hand, holding it in her lap.
"It's not fair," she murmured.
"I know," he agreed softly, sliding his free arm around her
Her head came to rest against his shoulder and he lightly kissed her
hair. For a moment, they sat there in silence, before she suddenly looked
"What do you think would have happened if
Tommy hadn't been
Jarod smiled faintly, his heart aching at the memory of his friend and
how much he had loved this woman. "I think you would have been very
"Like you and Faith," she murmured, studying his face with
He nodded steadily. "I think the feelings were about as strong in
After a moment of silence, she spoke again. "Can you imagine our
lives if the Centre hadn't ever existed?"
"No, I can't," he replied honestly. "It's affected every
part of everything we've ever felt or done. I can't imagine what either
of us would have been like without it."
"You've never even tried to simulate it?" she teased. "What
kind of a pretender are you?"
He smiled again. "A realistic one," he replied honestly. "I
only sim within the boundaries of what already exists. Like Barrow,"
he added, after a moment of thought. "I agree with what you said
then -- that if the Centre had never existed, we might never have met.
And that isn't something I ever wanted to try to imagine -- my life without
you in it."
"For Pete's sake, Jarod," she exclaimed in astonishment. "I've
made your life hell for the past six or more years!"
"New opportunities," he responded readily. "That's what
you gave me the chance to experience."
"Determined optimist, aren't you?" she teased, and he could
see that the pain had started to fade from her eyes.
"You can thank your father for that," Jarod told her softly.
"He's the person who taught me how to be that way, with help from
my parents for the first four years of my life."
"It almost makes us brother and sister," Morgan suggested.
"That makes what we did in Barrow even more wrong," Jarod remarked,
his lips twitching.
"Who said it was wrong in the first place?" she demanded, and
he raised an eyebrow.
"Let me see if I can remember who broke it off
" he mused.
"Never mind," she interrupted hurriedly.
He leaned forward and lightly kissed her cheek. "Why don't we go
down and have a swim?"
"Who says I brought a swimsuit with me?" Morgan asked.
"Who says you need one?" he replied, his eyes dancing.
"Actually, I did bring one, just in case," she told him.
"Darn it." Jarod snapped his fingers, standing up, his expression
rueful. Morgan stood up also and eased into his arms, smiling at him.
"You've certainly learned a lot since you got out."
"You have no idea," he assured her sincerely, but something
prevented him from the kiss that would have started it all. Jarod's eyes
slid over to Peter Winston's photo on the workstation and he understood
his reluctance, lightly kissing Morgan's cheek before letting her go.
"I'll meet you down in the pool in 10 minutes, okay?"
She nodded, moving towards the bag that stood next to her bed, and he
left the room, heading for his own.
* * * * * * * * *
Yuri entered the room, hearing his heart pounding in his ears, as it
always did when he was in the same room as his daughter. Pain swelled
in his chest as he looked down at her, lying on the bed, a sheet covering
her, wires and tubes running out from under it to various pieces of equipment
that lined the walls. Long brown lashes lay on her cheeks, and her face
was void of expression, the sedative that flowed into her arm keeping
her still, to prevent her from dislodging the bandage wrapped around her
head, hiding the fact that her dark hair had been shaved off.
Picking up the folder from the end of the bed, he flipped it open on
the wheeled table and pulled a pen from his pocket, writing down the details
of pulse and respiration as they were shown on the screens. Running his
eye down the notations, he saw the gradual improvement and stabilization
of his daughter's vital signs over the past twelve hours. The only thing
they were yet to test was whether the implanted cells would do what they
were meant to: unite with existing cells and begin to grow. That would
be at least two weeks away.
Returning the pen to his pocket, he closed the folder and replaced it
in the small basket that hung on the end of the bed, turning to leave
the room. A drowsy little voice stopped him.
Yuri froze, recognizing the voice from the security footage he had seen
and heard, slowly turning to meet his daughter's gaze. A tiny, somewhat
bitter smile twitched the corners of Yuri's mouth, as he swallowed the
urge to cry.
"I'm nobody," he told her softly. "Nobody important."
"Evveybody's somebody, silly," she scolded sleepily, and raised
her hand off the blanket, holding it out to him. "What's you's name?"
"Yuri," he said quietly, remaining in the doorway, unwilling
to respond to her innocent, wordless plea in the way she wanted him to.
A step from behind him made the Pretender turn to find Sebastian in the
doorway, and he moved aside to allow the Australian in, guessing that
the security teams had overheard the conversation and alerted him. Stepping
over to the bedside, Sebastian took the small hand that Michaela was still
holding out and bent over her.
Out of the corner of his eye, Yuri saw the girl smile drowsily up at
the tall man, and knew before she opened her mouth what the next word
would be, trying to hurry out of the room, but not going fast enough to
Something seemed to tear inside his chest, and Yuri ran frantically to
the stairs and up them to the suite of rooms that had been set aside for
him, throwing himself face-down onto the sofa and weeping passionately
"Nobody," he whispered aloud, from between gritted teeth. "Less
Seizing one of the cushions, he pressed his face into it, muffling the
sound of his sobs. He didn't know how much more of this he could take.
The operations were almost over now, and surely he could go back up to
the Centre, where he could try to forget about her, or at least not have
to see and hear about her every day. Only one operation left, he thought.
Maybe after it was over
But he couldn't bear to leave until he knew she was all right, back on
her feet again, and that the treatment had had the desired effect. It
would be at least two weeks until they could perform the first scan to
look for change. Fourteen days, he told himself. As soon as that was over,
he'd be able to go back to his room at the Centre, and, he vowed, as he
wiped his eyes and went into the bathroom to splash his face with water,
once back there, he'd never leave again.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod entered the room where the small boy was sitting in Merritt's lap,
playing with the kangaroo she had brought back from Australia for him,
Morgan sitting on a chair against the wall. All three looked up as Jarod
walked in, and he smiled a greeting, holding out his hand to the boy.
"Come on, Raffi. Your turn."
All of the children had been shown the room in which they would receive
the first of the drugs that would keep them unconscious for the whole
procedure, and which was not the large, cold, sterile operating theatre
but a smaller room nearby.
"Can I come?" Merritt asked, as the boy tightened his hold
on her sleeve, and Jarod nodded with another smile.
He waited until Morgan had kissed her baby brother and watched Merritt
get to her feet, Raphael in her arms. The child's hand was already coated
with the anesthetic cream so that he wouldn't feel the needle being inserted,
and, after getting up onto the high trolley with Raphael beside her, Merritt
distracted him with one of the toys in the corner for that purpose. Jarod
gently wiped away the cream and then slid the needle into the boys' vein,
gently depressing the plunger, seeing him flinch slightly at the pressure.
After a few seconds, the child fell silent, his eyes wide and staring,
the pupils dilated, and his arm drooping into his lap as his head sank
back against Merritt's chest. Laying the unconscious child down on the
trolley, Jarod gently closed the boy's eyes and covered him with a blanket
that lay on the end of the bed, lifting the child-sized mask off the oxygen
machine nearby and placing it over Raphael's mouth and nose, before looking
up to see the girl's anxiety-filled blue eyes.
"It's okay," he assured her gently, as one of the nurses entered
and turned on the equipment. The man took a step away from the bed and
put an arm around her shoulders with a gentle squeeze. "It's meant
to happen like that."
just stopped," she protested faintly,
waving a feeble hand in demonstration.
"I know," he told her quietly. "But it's okay. Honest.
That's exactly what's supposed to happen."
She nodded slowly as he and the nurse pushed the bed out of the room
into the hallway, where two other nurses waited to move it into the operating
theatre, in which Alexander would administer the actual anesthetic before
assisting Jarod during the procedure. Jarod walked Merritt to the room
where Morgan waited, having already explained the procedure to the woman,
so that she would understand Merritt's concerns. Seeing the knowing look
in her eyes as Morgan stood and came over to where Merritt waited, he
flashed her a brief smile before heading down the hall to the room where
he would scrub up.
* * * * * * * * *
"There's another one," David announced, handing the paper to
his boss as he entered the office and taking a seat on the other side
of the desk without waiting for an invitation. "In Italy this time."
"That's close to Die Fakultät," Jock Voorhees mused thoughtfully,
as he picked up the paper and unfolded it.
"And it's the tenth victim," the other man remarked. "This
is getting serious."
"It was always serious," Jock reminded him. "Murders usually
are." He opened to the pages that were relevant to the case, seeing
that a translation of the headline had been provided. "Is The
"Well, is he?" David demanded. "Has Yuri escaped? Gone
on another killing spree?"
"According to a conversation I had with Sebastian and Jarod this
morning, he's in Texas, helping with a problem there. It sounds like the
issue is affecting him personally, so he wouldn't be likely to be escaping
in order to commit more murders. Beside, all of these women were prostitutes,
homeless women, backpackers or working in shops. There's no connection
to the Centre."
"In one way," David mused, "there is." He cocked
his head slightly to one side. "Do you have any of the other articles
Wondering what his underling meant, Voorhees extracted the file from
a pile that lay on his desk and handed it over, watching David take out
the photos of the nine other victims that had been cut out of the paper
articles and lay them flat on the desk, putting that of the most recently
killed woman beside them. Jock gazed at the photos for a moment, before
realizing what David meant.
"Brown hair," he mused, "blue eyes, all about 5 foot 10
inches or a little taller, slender build
"In other words," David finished for him curtly, "they
all resemble Morgan Ritter." He sank back in his chair. "So
it's probably a message, most likely from Lucian. He'll be coming for
her eventually, and he wants her to know it."
Jock sank his head into his hands, his elbows resting on the desk. "Should
we tell her?"
"I don't think we have a choice," David advised sagely. "Lucian
wants her to get the message and if she doesn't get it from us, he might
deliver it personally."