Part One


home / season five / episode twenty-two / act IV


The Centre
Sydney's office

“What are the Yellow Files?”

Sydney frowned into the telephone at his abrupt manner. “Jarod, it’s good to hear from you again. It’s been too long.”

“So does that mean you’re not going to answer my question? What are the Yellow Files, Sydney? Are they children?”

With a sigh, the psychiatrist knew he was going to have to be very careful about what he said. “Yes, they are.” Succinct was best. That way, he wouldn’t give away too many details, which could end up putting both of them in danger.

“Where are they? Are they in the Centre?”

“Jarod, I --“

“They weren’t doing any testing at NuGenesis,” the Pretender cut in. “I checked. At first I thought it might have been renewed interest in the Red Files project, under a different code name, but that doesn't seem likely now that Raines is out of the picture. What can you tell me about these children, Sydney?”

The Belgian fingered the folder on his desk, closing the cover as if his caller might somehow see the child’s photograph through the phone line. “They’re gifted. Exceptional. And I believe they’re quite young.”

For a moment there was only silence on the line, not even the sound of breathing.


“Is Cox in charge of the project?”

Sydney took a deep breath, and let it out in a weary, quite audible sigh that spoke volumes about how helpless he felt. “It appears so, yes. Jarod, I'm not sure you should be looking into this. It could be very dangerous for you.”

“Everything in the Centre is dangerous,” the Pretender shot back wryly. “Thanks, Sydney. I’ll be talking to you again soon.”

Before he could try to head off Jarod’s curiosity, the line went dead. Sydney hung up his phone, opened the folder and stared down into that little face again. The boy’s eyes were hauntingly sad, and he wondered if the child -- if any of these children -- had ever known love in his short, busy life.

* * * * * * * * *

Miss Parker's office

Miss Parker started the day tired, and her arm ached. She dug in her desk drawer for a bottle of acetaminophen tablets and took two, hoping they would work quickly. Leaning back into her chair, she closed her eyes to rest them and give the medication a chance to get into her bloodstream before starting to work. She sighed, opened her eyes, and noticed a DSA sitting on her desk, half hidden by the folder she had left there the previous night.

She drew it out and looked it over, suddenly remembering that she had discovered it in the same place the previous day, right before the explosion and fire that had claimed Raines' office.

Who could have left it for her? And why did they want her to have it?

She thought for a moment, then set her reader on the desk, and inserted the disk. She was about to push "play" when her door banged open and Broots skidded to a stop, panting and pale, in the middle of the room. “Miss Parker! You’ve got to come see this!” he blurted.

“What? Did Jarod send Cox a new toy?” She peered at him through slitted eyes, finger poised over the DSA reader. She had barely moved since the tech burst into her office, and she wasn’t in the mood for any hijinks.

Broots glanced nervously about himself, as if he had never been in that room before, and edged toward the door. “You have to come with me,” he insisted.

With a heavy sigh, she pulled the DSA out of the slot and stuck it in her pocket, then pushed herself to her feet and strode across the room, following him out into the corridor. “I don’t suppose this could wait?”

“No. It can’t.” He walked her into the elevator, strangely silent, and fidgeted with his hands and the hem of his shirttail until they were deposited on another floor. He hurried along the corridor, heading straight for the burned-out office that had once belonged to Mr. Raines.

She followed him inside, and he quickly shut what remained of the door behind them. “Miss Parker, I --“

But she wasn’t listening. She was glancing about the now-empty room, her nose crinkled up in protest against the smell. Turning angry eyes on the tech, she snapped, “I don’t see anything --“

“Miss Parker, I had to bring you here to talk to you,” he interrupted. “Franklin in Security told me that Mr. Parker had your office wired while you were gone last night. There are cameras everywhere. They’ve got listening devices at your house, too. What’s up with that? Why is your father spying on you?”

Shock chased away her ill-temper in a heartbeat. “He did what?”

“Your office and your house are bugged. Why would he want to do that? Does he think you’re in league with Jarod or something? Cause that’s about as ridiculous as it sounds.”

For a moment she just stared at him. If her father really did suspect her of trying to steal Gabriel, he would certainly have put her under surveillance to try to catch her in her next attempt. He would have people watching her everywhere inside the Centre. Broots had been smart to bring her to that room, where nothing of any import was likely to happen. It was the one safe place within these walls where she could speak freely.

“I… guess we’re going to have to watch what we say from now on, Broots,” she mumbled. Her head was spinning. Things were getting quickly out of hand, and she didn’t know what to do about it. All she could do for the moment was to pretend that she really was doing her job, that all of them were. No more side quests to find information on tips Jarod provided her. No more digging into her own past.

But there was one search she still needed performed. She pulled the DSA out of her pocket and handed it to Broots. "I don't know who left this on my desk, but I need to know what's on it. Since I'm being watched, it would be better if you checked the contents, then report back to me. Can you do that?"

He nodded his head. “Sure, Miss Parker, I can do that." He paused. “You gonna tell me what this is all about?”

“I’m not sure. But I have a sinking feeling it’s about my brother.”

Horror crept into Broots’ eyes as he stared back at her. ”Lyle?”


Broots almost wilted with relief. “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” He turned away to leave.

Suddenly she felt how frightened he was. He had done things for her that were against his better judgment for years, placing himself in danger because she told him to do so. “Broots,” she called. He stopped and faced her again. She closed the distance between them and pulled him into a brief but firm embrace. “Thanks for helping me.”

The shock must have been too much for him. He stumbled backward and nearly lost his footing, catching himself just in time. Then he seemed to gather his wits. His heart was in his eyes. “I’d do anything for you, Miss Parker,” he told her gently.

She gave him a sad little smile. “I know. I treasure that.”

He just looked at her for a moment, but she turned her gaze to the burned-out shell of the room that had once been a bastion of secrets. “Any idea who’s responsible for this?”

“There’s an investigation, but all the security cameras in the zone were mysteriously turned off the day before the fire started. Nobody saw anyone going in or coming out, but all the records that were stored in here are gone. Projects are going to have to be re-started from scratch.”

She pondered that announcement. “Who would most benefit from what Raines had up his sleeve?”

“I dunno. Your father?”

She shook her head. “Not his style. Besides, he could just march in and take whatever he wanted, and no one would bat an eyelash." She sighed. “Find out what's on that disk, Broots. And hurry. Please.”

He turned and walked toward the door, moving faster until he was almost running from the room.

She stood there in the ashes, wondering how it was all going to end. She was treading dangerous ground, but she had no choice in the matter. Gabriel was everything now, and somehow she had to find a way to get him out of this place, while pretending to do her job for the cameras.

She strode purposefully back to her office and resumed her seat at her desk, aware of the eyes on her now, ignoring them as she went about the motions of her job. Daddy wanted her to find Jarod. So, that’s exactly what she was going to do.

* * * * * * * * *

Nursery Level

Cox counted heads -- not an easy thing to do in a room filled with toddlers. There were seven of them, not quite all of the Yellow Files. He studied them, as he often did when he came down here, trying to see if they had developed an awareness of the talents they possessed, and what advantages they might have in using them. This was a special day for the Seraphim, and he had taken great pains to arrange it. The Chairman was reluctant at first, but this was Cox’s project, after all.

Two little heads turned toward the door. Angelique and Raphael seemed to know something important was coming, and stood up, waiting for the door to open. Their attentiveness alerted the others, and soon they were all standing, facing the door just as it opened to admit another caregiver with a toddler in her arms.

Ms. Penfield made the introductions, telling Gabriel the names of the other children first, and then introducing him to them. The group seemed to recognize immediately that he was special, and when she set Gabriel on his feet, the other children clustered around him immediately, touching him, offering toys and words of welcome. Only one hung back, just watching, but then she never played with the others. Angelique preferred to be by herself, away from other people. It was a side effect of her gift, Cox knew.

Gabriel acclimated to the group right away, beginning a game of tag with Tempest. He ran in halting baby steps, giggling with unbridled joy as she caught up to him and tackled him to the floor. They rolled together, tickling each other, and ended up in a hug.

Cox watched them thoughtfully. Emotional attachments to outsiders were undesirable, but as they grew these children would need to function both individually and as a group. Most of them were accustomed to solitary play, but Gabriel's appearance changed that. Slowly, instinctively, he began working with two, then three children until he had them playing in groups. He mediated grievances and engineered cooperation as if he were born to the task. Cox smiled. This was very good, just the sort of thing he had hoped for.

One of the children remained alone. He gestured to her, offering her a toy with a smile, pleased when she toddled toward him. “Hello, Angelique,” he murmured softly, taking her into his lap. Her blonde curls and pink, cherubic face made her look every bit an angel, but this was no ordinary child. She was intelligent, yes, but her parents were extraordinary in their own right. The staff knew to keep this one happy, or else they would share her anger and frustrations. Likewise, caregivers had to be free of emotional turmoil, or their inner distress, no matter how well concealed on the surface, would be felt and magnified by the child to epic proportions.

Angelique smiled up at him. She was always pleased to see him, because she felt nothing in his presence. He was a blank, not only to her but to all the children, to all of the psychics and empaths he had ever encountered. One of them, a fortune teller he had met as a teenager, told him it was because he had no soul. He had laughed then, thinking the woman was crazy, but he had learned a great deal about the human mind and its incredible range of comprehension since that day. He considered his emptiness a useful tool, one that he had used to his advantage at every turn. And now, especially now in this room full of gifted children, it was the most important attribute he possessed.

He let the child play in his lap, knowing that his presence in the room was like a breath of fresh air to her. He was the one person who was not a burden to Angelique, who preferred to be alone rather than play with the others. Given a chance, he would be able to train her to do whatever he wanted, her only reward to be graced with his presence. She was drawn to him like a lodestone every time he entered the room, and she was always unhappy when he left.

Yes, there was much he could do with these children. Some of them had already started in training programs that would help them develop to their full potential. And with the advent of the individual success of Aurora, they would achieve his dreams and far outstrip the plans the Centre had for them. There was only one thing left that they needed, and only one person who could supply it.

Cox watched the toddlers play, relishing this time he got to spend with them and study their development. With a sigh, he put Angelique back onto her feet and stood to leave. She caught at his trouser legs, her face revealing her fear that he was leaving. Cox felt it, the stark terror weighted down with devastating sadness. For a moment he stood frozen, warring with himself. It became more and more difficult to leave her every time he came for a visit, and he began to wonder if the time would come when she would be in control of him, and not himself.

“I’ll be back, Angelique. I promise,” he told her, offering a hug and kiss to placate her. That seemed to calm her somewhat, and she picked up a toy and started to play with it. He took that moment of distraction and left quickly, hoping to get out of range before she discovered his absence.

It would not do to become a slave to a toddler, he reminded himself. But until the babies were old enough to be put on the drug therapy that would control them without doing them permanent physical harm, everyone who dealt with them was at risk. He would have to be more careful about his visits until she was on the program.

With a sigh of relief, he stepped into the elevator at the end of the nursery corridor and pushed the button for his floor.

Gabriel’s introduction had gone well. He was showing himself to be a natural leader, exactly what they had hoped, what he had been engineered to be. Though there were others in the group with the potential for more exotic powers than Gabriel, the boy had all the necessary tools for leadership: superior intelligence, emotional stability, tolerance, a deep sense of responsibility, and adaptability.

Miss Parker never truly understood the value of this child, or what was going on with him behind the scenes. Where she believed Gabriel to be locked away in the nursery, he was actually getting plenty of stimulation, tutoring from some of the best minds in early childhood education and psychology, and guided play that would one day become active simulations. He had begun his training almost from birth, and the others were about to begin their education.

Gabriel was the pinnacle, the end result of everything the Centre had been working toward for the last half-century. He was Cox’s crowning glory, and even though Cox couldn’t claim credit for everything -- genetics, for instance -- the child’s remarkable progress had been achieved under his direction. When the rest of the Seraphim showed what they could do, there would be nothing out of his reach within the Centre. Even Mr. Parker would not be expecting what he had in mind.

But then, people always underestimated him. Cox counted on that.

* * * * * * * * *

Crystal blue eyes peered through the grate, watching the man step into the elevator and the doors slide closed to take him away. Angelo pushed his body back from the opening and stretched out in the air duct, resting his cheek on the cool metal surface. He closed his eyes and relaxed.

He could feel them, every one of those powerful beings in that room down the hall. Like candles in a dark room, they glowed in his mind, moving about as indistinct shapes, beautiful and innocent. He had never seen them in person, choosing to stay away from the vents that led into their rooms. That would have been too painful for him, and for them… especially for the One. He could hear her inside himself, anywhere in the Centre. He knew who she was. He knew her name, though no one had ever told him. He knew because she was connected, part of him, as though someone had taken a piece of his soul and Faith’s and mixed them together.

He didn’t understand how that could happen, but it had. There were others who could explain it to him, but it wasn’t time yet for them to know about her. Faith had told him that Jarod needed to reclaim what he lost in Eclipse before the rest of the secrets could come out. Now that that had happened, Angelo could start giving them away. Not all at once, Faith had told him. That wouldn’t help anyone. It would be too much.

So one at a time, a little here, a little there, he would put things where they would do the most good, into the hands of those who needed to know. The morning of the fire, he had to take back the first piece of the puzzle, but had replaced it the next day. That was the best piece to start with, he decided.

Angelo rose onto hands and knees and scuttled down the shaft, back the way he had come. Cool air brushed against his body as he navigated the passages, deep into the interior of the building. Back to his Secret Hiding Place he went, and sat in the half-light, contemplating the boxes of papers and DSAs he had taken from all over the Centre. He knew these things were important. They were duplicates of all the things that had burned up in Mr. Raines’ office, and of all the things Lyle had taken from it before he set the fire.

Lyle had seen him in the ducts that night. They had looked at each other for a moment, and then Angelo had gotten out of his way. He hadn’t needed to touch the other man to sense what he was about to do.

Angelo picked up one of the silver discs and let the images play through his mind. He had no need of a player to know what was on it -- he could feel the thoughts and emotions of the person who had recorded the information on it, and it told him enough. This was about Angelique. The one beside it was Raphael. Another in the box was Gideon… Tempest… Uriel… Michaela… Dominique… and Gabriel.

He smiled, touching each of the discs in turn, feeling the beautiful little ones dancing in his soul. They were all part of him, in some way. That made him feel good.

He dropped the disc back into the box and wandered off, ready to take a nap in a comfortable place, the stash forgotten once again.

To be continued....

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