Part Two


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The Centre
Sub-Level Five

Miss Parker was halfway to Broots' office when he met up with her in the hallway. She'd called to say she was on her way down, and since they now knew her office was bugged, he had a good idea what she wanted. It was the same drill he'd known for a long time. Talk softly so no one else can hear, and look as though you're going somewhere.

"Did you get a look at the DSA I gave you?" she asked, her voice deceptively calm.

"Yeah, I did, but it wasn't what you'd think," he replied. She raised an eyebrow. "See, mostly the archive is used for video recordings. But sometimes they put other things on them, too. It's actually a pretty efficient way of storing documents. You can get hundreds, sometimes thousands, on one disk."

She looked around covertly, making sure no one was giving them undue attention, then turned back to him. "And did you find any… documents… of interest on this one?"

"Well, it took a while to get through them all," he admitted with a sigh. "Whoever gave you that disk has an interesting sense of humor, 'cause I had to go through practically the whole DSA, and it was pretty boring --"

"Time's wasting, Broots," she cut in, "and we're getting close to your office, so speed it up a little."

"Oh, yeah. Sorry." He cleared his throat, and continued. "Like I said, most of them were pretty mundane, but I found this one memo that must have accidentally gotten mixed in with the others." The tech pulled a single sheet of paper out of the file he'd been holding, and gave it to her. "It concerns Aurora."

"Aurora? Isn't that part of…"

"…yeah, the Nebula series. I recognized it too." He drew her attention to the memo. "It says here that they -- who, I'm not sure -- found a 'breakout' use for the drug, apart from the rest of the series."

Miss Parker frowned, thinking. "That's the one that makes people compliant, open to suggestion."

"Right. I'm not sure how they're planning to use it. The memo doesn't say… just mentions something called the Yellow Files, says it's safe for them."

They had reached the door to his office, and Broots waited while Parker gave the memo another glance. "Well, whoever left this for me obviously thought it was important. See what else you can dig up on Aurora, and the Yellow Files."

"Aurora's pretty well tapped out, but I'll give it my best shot."

"You do that. I'll be in my office if you find anything." She leveled another look at him. "We both understand what that means now."

* * * * * * * * *

Sydney's Office

“It’s time,” said Angelo, more to himself than anyone else. He walked haltingly up to the desk and laid a DSA down on top of the paper the older man had before him.

“Angelo, what’s this?” Sydney asked, picking up the disk. But when his gaze shifted back to where the empath stood, Angelo stared back, his blue eyes focused and alert.

Sydney knew when he had been given something important. Angelo, strange as he was, had moments of such clear thinking that it was frightening to watch, and the certainty with which he had delivered his pronouncement left no doubt in Sydney’s mind. He put aside the schedules he had been working on for the Yellow Files caregivers, hauled out his DSA player and put the disk in immediately.

Mr. Parker and Cox leaned over a computer terminal. They discussed aloud which traits they wanted, and Cox programmed them into a single profile. A number of candidates were selected and the project given a name and color coding.

Seraphim, the Yellow Files.

“Dominique,” said Angelo, and pointed to the DNA coding on Cox’s computer screen. “Mason and Sun-Chai.”

Sydney tore his eyes away from the screen to fix on Angelo. There was a softness to the empath’s expression, a tenderness that indicated genuine affection for the child. Sydney was certain that Angelo didn’t realize the full implications of what he had just said. He kept all emotion out of his voice when he asked, “So Parker and Cox used specific DNA profiles to create designer babies? Is that what this is all about, Angelo?”

The empath ignored that question, reached past Sydney and skimmed his fingers skillfully over the trackball. The scene changed to moments after a birth, when Cox held a mewling infant in his arms, tightly wrapped in a soft white blanket.

“Is the baby all right?” panted the mother, strapped down to a birthing table, her arms and legs shackled to prevent her escape.

“She’s beautiful,” Cox assured her. “Perfect. You’ve done your job well, and you have our gratitude.”

“Screw the gratitude,” the woman snapped. “When do I get paid? I want out of this hell hole.”

Cox nodded, and one of the obstetrical nurses retrieved a syringe from a nearby table.

“Hey, what the --“ the birth mother cried.

But the powerful drugs took effect quickly, and she slumped back against the table.

“Dispose of the body in the usual way,” Cox instructed the nurse. She nodded, and his attention returned to the newborn in his arms. “We’ll call you Dominique,” he told her. “For you will dominate the world one day. You’re the first of the Seraphim, little one. You eight will be future wonders of the world.”

The camera focused in on the tiny face. Her Asian heritage was obvious, whereas the woman who had just delivered her was blonde and purely Caucasian. Sun-Chai had a daughter.

Sydney stared at the screen. “Do Sun-Chai and Mason know they have a child?”

Angelo didn’t answer. Instead, he guided the trackball back to the beginning of the DSA.

Sun-Chai had been injured in a training exercise, and was being wheeled into the Centre infirmary for emergency surgery. She was already sedated, and the medical team was in place. From the gallery above, a voice filtered into the scene.

“Don’t forget to harvest her eggs. That was the reason for this whole accident to have taken place.”

“Raines,” breathed Sydney gruffly.

Another scene, in a darkened bedroom. Mason lay sleeping soundly, but a cloud of some kind of gas drifted down from the vents above the bed. Some time later, a team of two women came into the room, one of them bearing a specimen cup and a pair of latex gloves.

“Oh, my God,” Sydney whispered, too horrified to watch the rest of that exercise. He turned to Angelo, his belly clenching. “Who else, Angelo? Who else did they harvest for this breeding program?”

“Everyone.” Angelo guided the trackball to the very end of the DSA, freezing the picture on a single tiny face. “Red and Blue.”

Sydney recognized that face, even though he had only seen the child a few times, and always at a distance. He had no reason to visit Gabriel, and had passed his nursery room in transit from one area to another, glancing in out of respect for Miss Parker, to help assure her that he was being well treated while she couldn’t see him. But Gabriel’s face on this DSA could mean only one thing.

He was one of the Seraphim, one of the Yellow Files. Mr. Parker had considered this one important enough to carry his own name, having this embryo implanted into his own wife. So whatever genetic programming they had used to create Gabriel could only mean that the baby was going to be the most important, possibly the most powerful of them all.

“Dear God,” Sydney breathed. “ How am I going to tell Miss Parker?”

But Angelo had already wandered off, into the shadows of the nearby work area where a Lego Empire State Building sat gathering dust. He walked around it mimicking an ape, and reached for it as if he meant to climb it. The empath was back in his own world again, lost to whatever anyone might ask him now.

Sydney sighed, reminded by the sight of the brightly colored building. “And what will Jarod do when he learns that he was right?” the psychiatrist whispered aloud, to no one in particular.

* * * * * * * * *

Lyle's Office

His trip to Donoterase was profitable, and he was now guiding another new project exploring other aspects of Kronos I that might prove to be of great benefit to him in the future. There were other research sites that he needed to check out, but that would take a little more planning. They were more remote than Donoterase, and he would need to have some kind of cover in place for visiting the facilities. Many of them looked quite interesting, and he was getting ideas for new areas of exploration from reading the reports.

Without ceremony, his office doors opened. Lily had been instructed not to let anyone in without buzzing him first, so he could sweep the files into a drawer and out of sight. But this visitor was welcome without announcement. Lyle left the reports where they were and rose to greet Valentine as he strode up to the desk and seated himself in a chair.

“Bad news, boss. Those syringes weren’t filled with vitamins for your depleted system, like you thought they were.”

“No kidding, Sherlock,” Lyle growled, and re-seated himself. “So what was in them?”

Valentine pulled a single sheet of paper out of his jacket pocket and laid it on the desk. “They all contained residue from a very specific and complex drug. I haven’t been able to match it up to any known compound yet, but I’m still looking. Figured I’d take a look at some of the more esoteric items in production here first.”

“I can get you the name and specs on what it was supposed to be, Valentine,” Lyle shot back. “I want to know if you found anything else.”

Valentine cocked his head, scrutinizing his new boss with a shadow of a smile on his lips. “Okay. About a dozen of them contained ATX-17, an unbinding agent that basically nullified the effects of the medication. Someone didn’t want you to have your meds, and tampered with them on purpose. I checked the production lab where your dosages are prepared, and there’s no ATX-17 on the entire floor. That’s kept in the agricultural facility on the other end of the grounds. Looks like someone’s trying to kill you.”

Lyle pursed his lips. “Does that surprise you?” He glanced up from the paper to his henchman’s face.

“Knowing you? No. The question is, how many people want you dead?” He chuckled.

“Not many people would have the cojones to try to take me out,” Lyle assured him. “That narrows the field down considerably. As to who it might be… I think I might have an idea. The same person who has his fingers into more and more things these days. Perhaps it’s time I introduced you to him, and everyone else.”

“Ready when you are, boss. In fact, there are a few of the ladies I’d particularly like to meet.”

“You can have anyone except my sister and my secretary, Valentine. I know you like to play hard, and they’re off limits.”

Valentine’s eyes twinkled darkly, and he watched Lyle lock up the files and take him out into the Centre to establish his place among them.

* * * * * * * * *

Hybrid Biotract #57

Miss Parker rarely got outside anymore, and on this day the weather was just about perfect. She sniffed the fragrance of nearby flowers on the breeze, letting the pleasant sensation distract her from her heavy burdens for a moment. In the back of her mind, though, she knew they couldn't stay long without someone becoming suspicious. "All right, Sydney -- why did you bring me way out here?"

The psychiatrist looked troubled. He stared at the ground, the trees, the sky, anything to avoid meeting her eyes. "If your father finds out that I've talked to you about this, there will be hell to pay," he murmured.

He needn't have worried. Parker no longer felt any particular loyalty to the man she called her father. "Then he won't find out," she answered simply. "Now, what's going on?"

“The Centre is up to something.”

“When are they not?”

“This is, unfortunately, nastier than usual, Miss Parker,” he went on, ignoring her sarcastic tone. “And it concerns your family. Gabriel, in particular."

The name caught her attention, and made her look up, straight into his eyes. "What about Gabriel?"

"Mr. Parker reassigned me to something called the Seraphim Project," he explained. "It has to do with a group of children called the Yellow Files."

She frowned thoughtfully. "Yellow Files. Those were mentioned in a memo Broots found. They're children?"

Sydney nodded. "Yes. But not just any children. Angelo brought me a DSA which confirms that Seraphim is a eugenics project." He stopped walking, forcing her to stop with him. "These children weren't stolen from their parents, as Jarod was; they were created with genetic material taken from other Centre subjects. They are literally designer babies."

Parker's stomach turned over. It was a horrifying thought, though certainly not beyond what the Centre would do. She clearly remembered the birthing table with shackles they had found down in SL-27. And, of course, they had already managed to clone herself and Jarod. "Not exactly a first for us," she growled. "But what does it have to do with Gabriel?"

Sydney drew a deep breath, and plunged forward. "Gabriel is one of the Yellow Files, Miss Parker. One of the Seraphim. The chances are good that he's not your brother, at least genetically."

And chances were excellent that he would become another cog in the wheel, another Centre lab rat, just as she had feared. Parker shook her head, partly to clear it and partly in denial of what her inner sense instantly recognized as truth. "How can we be sure? You said Angelo gave you a DSA?"

"Yes, and I suspect he may have more. But those answers will only come when Angelo is ready to tell us. In the meantime, I… felt you deserved to know."

She nodded, her mind still trying to process what she'd just heard. "Thank you, Sydney. Let me know if you hear anything else."

She began to walk away, when he reached out to touch her shoulder. "Just be careful. I believe your mother was on the trail of Centre secrets shortly before she faked her death. That's one piece of history neither of us wants to see duplicated."

Parker glanced back at him, nodded silently, and headed back to her office.

On to Act III

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