Not With a Bang,
But a Whimper

 

home / season six / episode one / act IV

   

Dallas, Texas

“Welcome home, love,” he said warmly.

Mimi shrank down in her chair, uncertain what to think. There was music playing in the background, but the sound was unlike anything she had ever heard before, as if a dreamer was lost in the jungle in the midst of a sexy nightmare. The volume was soft enough for casual conversation to be heard over it, but the soundtrack it provided was so alien it unnerved her.

“Haven’t seen you in a while, pal,” said a tall man clad in a black turtleneck and silk suit. His brown hair was longish, but swept back from his face, long bangs all but covering his hazel eyes. “Why did you decide to come back?”

The blonde smiled and glanced at his new girlfriend. “For Mimi. She’ll be staying a while. As my special guest.”

Sebastian nodded, eyeing Mimi. “Trevor told us you were coming. We have quarters already set up for you. The tenth floor's a little bare, still, but it'll be home.” With a half smile, he shifted his eyes back to the blonde. “So, have you finally decided you’re one of us, or are you just visiting?”

A little girl came into the room. She had a misshapen face and milky eyes, felt her way toward them with her hands, obviously blind. Two more children came in just after her, noisy and full of mischief, their eyes gleaming when they spied the newcomers. Mimi curled up in her chair as the children put out their hands to touch her, stroke her hair, fondle her jewelry. She cringed, and tried to squirm away so they couldn’t reach her.

“It’s all right,” he whispered. “You’ll get used to them.”

“Don’t touch me!” she shouted, unable to tolerate contact any longer. “All of you, just leave me alone!”

Sebastian’s gaze rolled to his old friend, waiting for explanation.

He only shrugged. “She’s got some problems. I intend to work on them while I’m here.” Turning back to Mimi, upset by her tears, his voice softened as he addressed her. “It’s all right, love. Come with me, this way, and I’ll find you a place to rest.”

Sebastian led the way into the elevator and up to the tenth floor. He stood aside and gestured them into the cavernous, all but empty room. Gathered not far from the lift was a small grouping of furniture, including a double bed at the back of the arrangement, half hidden by a folding screen. “Sorry. It was the best we could do on short notice. Cafeteria's on the fourth floor, labs are on the sixth. Bathroom's in the corner over there.” He pointed toward a small door that appeared to be a nice jog from the furnished area.

Mimi edged past him and darted inside, the blonde man following and waving their host off. Sebastian gave him a lingering look, and then stepped back into the elevator, and was gone. She turned toward her boyfriend then, clutching her arms as if she was cold. He took off his leather jacket and offered it to her.

“I don’t like those kids,” she snarled. “Little monsters, I can tell. And how did they know we were coming? I know you didn’t call anybody. It’s just creepy.”

“Don’t be rude, pet,” he chided her gently. Pointing to the bed that had been arranged for them, he suggested she take a nap and rest from their journey. He was tired himself, but there was far too much to do yet for him to rest. She would adjust in time, he was certain.

Mimi obeyed without protest, flopping down on the covers with her back to him. He picked up the bedspread as it dangled off the side of the mattress and laid it over her. With a sigh, she closed her eyes, and in minutes she was fast asleep.

He strolled back into the elevator, heading for the conference room where he knew the others would still be waiting. As he entered the room, he glanced down the long table for faces he had recognized. To Sebastian's right was North, quietly listening for him to return, sunglasses in place on his nose, white cane folded on the table before him. Trevor smoothed a fold in his dapper suit, and raven-haired Ramona rested her chin in her hand.

He took his seat at the far end of the table, setting the backpack he had brought with him on the floor beside his chair.

“What did you find at CGB?” Sebastian asked. “Anything worthwhile?”

The visitor nodded. “Aside from my new girlfriend, I nicked these.” He tossed a thick manila file folder onto the table, set a small glass vial on top of it, and slid it toward the other man. Somewhere along the way, Ramona gave it an unseen push and the items came to a stop right in front of Sebastian.

He picked up the vial, carefully avoiding contact with the paper label, and read it aloud. “Aurora. Is this the big hush-hush dope they were trying to keep a secret from us?” He flipped open the folder without using his hands and passed the vial on to Trevor. Scanning over the text, he frowned. “You didn’t get any samples of the others in the Nebula series?”

Four more bottles slid toward him in rapid succession.

Sebastian eyed each of the bottles, watching as they moved in a slow circle, seemingly by themselves, and then came to a stop in a line down the center of the table. “We can do a lot with these. You’ll have to thank the boys at the think tank next time you’re by there.”

The blonde nodded. “I’m going to take a look at the protocols, do some testing for my girlfriend to see if any of them will help her. Till then, I want to make sure she’s made welcome and kept safe. Mostly from herself.”

“I already gave them the heads-up,” Trevor stated. He picked up one of the bottles and studied it, his dark eyes filled with anticipation. “But I’m not sure we can help her. Chemistry’s whacked.”

“I know. That’s why I’m here, to help her any way I can. If that means locking her up in a benevolent prison, so be it.” He sighed. “Any luck with those other sightings?”

North lifted his chin, but did not turn his blind eyes toward the voice to reply. His deep voice rumbled softly, “There’s one in the city now, not far away. We’ve been discussing whether we should roll out the red carpet or get outta Dodge. She’s got someone on her tail. An albino.”

The visitor started. Could it be? But that was none of his concern at the moment. He shrugged. “Right now, I just want a hot bath, a stiff drink, and some sack time with the lovely Mimi. I’m sure you can make that decision without me.” He rose and offered a salute of farewell and disappeared into the elevator, bound for his new digs.

* * * * * * * * *

Sebastian closed the folder.

“Looks like the Centre has provided us with some new toys,” he announced. “I’m not sure we can use all of them, but Aurora and Starlight have definite possibilities. We just need to decide which of our enemies is most deserving.”

“How do we go about mass production, if we decide to go ahead with using them?” Trevor reached for the folder and scanned through it. He sat back in his chair, startled. “Jesus, did you see this? Did you see the test data on Nova? We could create an army of serial killers with that.”

Sebastian nodded. “We’ll have to study each of them for merits and potential uses. In the meantime, I’ll be meeting with the board by videophone. We’ve got a lot to do, people, and I trust you all to make decisions that will benefit us as a whole. There’s no room for selfishness in Sanctuary. If we’re to be safe from the world, we have to be ready to fight to protect ourselves. Freedom and safety at any cost. Right?”

A chorus of verbal assents rose up around the table.

“What about our visitor?” Ramona asked softly, nodding toward the private quarters. “Can we trust him?”

“He’s always been out for Number One, until now,” Sebastian assured her. “I think he understands what it feels to be needed, now that he’s fallen for that girl. We can trust him.” He glanced at Trevor for assurance, and found it.

“Then we’re adjourned. Everybody clear out, and Ramona will set up the video conference. I’ve got a business to run, so we can all enjoy these expensive pleasures.” He raised a hand to indicate the tower where they made their home.

Everyone smiled and nodded, and in a few moments the room was empty.

Sebastian’s good humor evaporated, and he eyed his assistant. “We do what we have to, Ramona,” he assured her. “Survival of the fittest.”

He took his seat at the head of the table while she set up the video camera and the computer that would broadcast him to the board of directors of Pele Enterprises, parent organization of Prometheus Pictures.

* * * * * * * * *

Miss Parker’s office, SIS

She was smiling when Broots walked into the room, the crystal stopper on the bottle waving in a graceful arc before her to scent the air with perfume.

“Good morning, Broots,” she purred. “You wouldn’t happen to know who left this, would you? My staff is oblivious, as usual.” She sighed. “No wonder we have so many security leaks in this place.”

“V-Valentine left that for you,” the tech confessed. “I saw him snooping around in here last night.”

Her eyes flashed with anger, accusing him of slacking by not confronting the man. But it melted into a smile as she inhaled the earthy, musky, sexy scent. “I forgive you for not tossing him out on his ass, Broots. But I wonder why he left me this? What’s his agenda?”

Broots felt his knees wobbling, and hurried to a chair so he could sit down without falling into a heap. “Maybe he’s trying to impress you,” he suggested. “Though I’m not sure you want to be impressed by… someone like him.”

She grinned. “He is handsome. Maybe I ought to take him for a spin. That would certainly shake up Lyle.”

“You don’t want to do that,” Broots assured her. He could feel the blood draining from his face as he pictured Valentine and Parker together, knowing what could happen to her. Parker was tough, certainly. She could usually hold her own against men. But with this guy…

“Why not, Broots? Playing nice with Valentine could get me the inside track on what Lyle’s up to.”

He swallowed hard, remembering what he had discovered in the wee hours of morning. “Boot up your computer, Miss Parker. I forwarded you some files I think you ought to see.”

She sat down at her desk, switched on the slim laptop and waited.

“There are no messages, Broots,” she assured him.

His stomach dropped into his shoes. “Oh, crap! He’s onto me! He’s gonna kill me, Miss Parker. He knows I know.”

“He knows you know what?” Her impatience was beginning to show. She fixed him with a cool glare, and waited.

Broots explained. He told her in sickening detail about the newspaper articles he had uncovered, scans buried in the Centre mainframe. Though he couldn’t read the languages the documents had been written in, translator programs gave him enough information to know that Valentine was not what he seemed. And as he spoke, he could see the color leaching out of his boss’s face, and the horror in her eyes.

He leaned forward over her desk for the last part. “I think he may have been the guy who killed Mutumbo, too. He was the big guy’s bodyguard, and the way Mutumbo died? There was this reference in Valentine’s training record that made me think Lyle’s new buddy could have done it. Only he got off scott free. So who’s he working for that could protect him like that?”

For a moment she was silent. Her gaze slid to the perfume bottle on her desk, her lip curling up in distaste now as the full impact of the gift settled into her consciousness. This was a first move, and more would come afterward. The game had begun.

“Looks like Valentine is the left hand of the devil,” she mused aloud. “And Lyle could be the right. We’ve got to find out who’s pulling his strings and what’s up his sleeve. My father could be the next target, if Lyle’s angling for the Chairmanship again, and I certainly wouldn’t put it past him.”

She rose. Skirting the desk, she began to pace the conversation area between the sofas, head down, thinking. Then she stopped. Her eyes met his, and they were cool, calculating, and sure. “Come on, Broots. We’ve got some getting ready to do.”

He jumped up out of his chair, encouraged by her positive attitude. She was going to do something, and he was going to help her. Whatever it was, he had every confidence it would be the right thing, the necessary countermove in the dangerous game Valentine and Lyle were playing.

“Yes, ma’am,” he shot back, and followed her out of her office like an eager puppy.

They went straight to the gym. She pointed him toward the men’s locker room. “You should be able to find some sweats or a uniform in there. Change and meet me on the mats in five.”

“Uniform? What kind of uniform?” He glanced down at the penny loafers on his feet. “I didn’t wear my running shoes. What-“

”The white ones. Come barefoot,” she growled impatiently. Snapping her fingers in his face, she started off toward the women’s locker room. “Get moving, Broots.”

Confused and a little uncertain, he did as she ordered. Rummaging through the stacks of Centre workout clothing, he pulled out a bundle of neatly folded white cloth from a bin marked ‘large’ and carried it to a bench. Stripping off his flannel overshirt and Centre recycling T-shirt, he took the top garment and unfolded it.

It was a karate gi.

“What the…?”

He put it on, stowed his clothes and shoes in an empty locker and left his valuables with the locker room manager. Self-consciously, he looked in the mirror just by the door into the gym, and saw himself in the gi. He looked good. He straightened up, smiling at himself. He looked like a karate guy.

But what the heck did Miss Parker have in mind?

His step out into the gym was sure, almost cocky, bolstered by the mental image of himself as Karate Man. He was early, and went to the mats with a glance around the huge room, taking note of a small group of fencers at one end of the room, some sweepers at the weight lifting area, and half a dozen runners jogging around the indoor track around the perimeter of the room. No one was looking his way.

He struck a pose, one he had seen often enough in Bruce Lee movies, one hand forward, one up in the air, fingers curled menacingly. He hissed a warning to his invisible opponent, and glared with imagined rage. It felt good, and he grinned to himself as he released the pose and tried another, one he had seen recently in a Jackie Chan movie. That led to another, and another, and each move made him feel better, stronger, faster.

“This is cool!” he said aloud.

“Good. Now here’s your first lesson,” Miss Parker snapped as she came up behind him, and promptly dumped him flat of his back on the mats.

Stunned, he just lay there, trying to catch his breath. She kicked him lightly with her painted toes, and ordered him to get up. He obeyed, struggling to his feet, all humor now gone.

“What are we doing, Miss Parker?” he moaned.

“I’m going to teach you how to fight and how to handle a gun, Broots,” she told him. “I need someone to watch my back. You’re all I have to work with.”

“What about Sam?”

She struck a pose, indicating he was to mimic her. “Sam’s loyalties are to the Centre, not necessarily to me. I don’t know how far I can trust him. You, on the other hand…”

She tossed him on his back again, grinning happily as he climbed unsteadily to his feet.

“I trust you, Broots.”

That admission was small comfort in light of the bruises to come. “Why couldn’t you pick Sydney instead of me?” he groaned.

“I wouldn’t want to break Sydney.”

“But it’s okay to smash me into little tiny pieces, right?” He sighed. Broots got into the stance she showed him, and this time she went slowly through the techniques she had used on him before, showing him the mechanics of the movement. They practiced it several times, and then she let him try it on her. She went down like a sack of cement.

“This is so cool!” he declared, extending a hand to her to help her up off the mat.

She grinned, reached for his hand, and then swept his legs out from under him, landing him flat of his back with another new technique.

“Or maybe not,” he wheezed.

It was going to be a very long day, indeed.

* * * * * * * * *

Sixth Floor
Prometheus Building, Dallas

George Johnson glanced up from his laboratory equipment as the door buzzer sounded. He didn't often get visitors, and this was no ordinary trespasser on his turf. Ramona waited patiently for him to emerge from the clean room and doff his helmet before she offered him a smile.

"Hello, George. Still working on that genetics project for Sebastian?"

Johnson nodded. "It's complicated. I just don't see of any way to undo genetic programming. It's impossible."

"Nothing's impossible," she shot back. "You should know that by now."

He shrugged. "I know. It takes perseverance and fresh ideas. But I'm out of both at the moment. Am I ever going to get to meet the big guy? I mean, we work in the same building and all. He is my boss."


“That’s not what you were told, is it?” she shot back.

“Well, no, but I thought-“

She looked impatient, and fixed him with a cool, dark glare. “Did anybody actually say you were going to meet Sebastian, or did they say you’d be working in his labs?”

George wilted. “I was hoping…”

Ramona smiled softly. “Sebastian likes his privacy, George. And you have your projects to work on. But for the moment, Sebastian wants to know what would be involved in the production of small batches of these medications.”

He took the folder and the samples from her, still frowning, obviously crushed. “Yeah. Okay.”

Tucking the folder under his arm, he carried the items to the laboratory workstation and set them down. He glanced briefly at her legs, and then he smiled.

"So, what do you like to do when you're not working?"

“Nosy little thing, aren’t you?” she said softly.

He fidgeted with his tie beneath his lab coat. “How about dinner later?”

She leaned close. “How about if I set you on fire and toss you down the elevator shaft?”

George shrank away from her, and decided to keep quiet. The day was not going as planned, and seemed to be traveling rapidly downhill. “I think I’ll just go back to work now,” he offered.

Ramona smiled and nodded.

He couldn’t think why he should be so afraid of such a petite woman, but there was something about her that raised goosebumps when she threatened him. She was obviously accustomed to power, and knew how to wield it. That both turned him on and pushed him back, but for the moment, he deemed it wiser to let her be than to push his luck.

Without further attempts at conversation, he began to struggle out of the environmental suit and place it in the rack to be sanitized, planning to spend the rest of the day working on his newest project while he dreamed about Ramona, and wondered about his enigmatic employer.

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod's Apartment

The chemistry was interesting. It affected the pleasure-center of the brain more than anything else, which was why it was so addictive. That was also why he felt so damn good now.

That fact alone should have terrified him. But the other effects of the drug impaired the brain in the same way alcohol did, inhibiting the moral judgement center. It truly was an astonishing accomplishment. Offer this to the masses, and any leader could have a nation of willing slaves.

Jarod had thought his return to the Centre would have created more of an impact, like his previous return under Lyle. There was action then, something to fight, someone to struggle against. But this time his homecoming had the ring of an anticlimax. They had him now, and he knew it. He had made a grand, noble gesture to save the children, and now that might never happen. He was supposed to be working for Miss Parker, coming up with a solution to implement her mother’s plan.

He had honestly tried to work on it, but the directives Eve gave him seemed to consume all his waking moments. The lure of Aurora kept him focused on other things, and his research was progressing. There were promising methods that could be used, not only to deliver small doses to children, but also to save his own veins, which would eventually collapse as any junkie’s does when too many needles have punctured them. It was almost exciting, and the faint glimmers of resistance that reminded him who he really was seemed to be fading away.

It was good to be working, to conquer insurmountable odds. It was exciting to discover new things. He concentrated on that every day, and on the gift of Aurora. What a relief it was to be free of conscience and guilt. He was becoming a new man, and soon enough, he would be complete.

But he was also pleased that there were no mirrors in the room. He didn’t want to look the man he had become in the eye. Not anymore.

End of Episode
Not with a Bang, But a Whimper

 
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