A Shot in the Dark

 

home / season six / episode thirteen / act II

   

Dover Airport, Delaware

Miss Parker settled into the seat on the plane, her weekend bag stowed into the locker above her head, and cast a quick glance around at the other passengers before pulling the plush diary out of her jacket pocket. She hadn't read it for months, haunted by the image of Jarod's face and the expression in his eyes when he had told her about it. Now, however, with time to herself and no danger of being recalled to the Centre, she had made a conscious effort to overcome the feelings of anger and remorse and use the details contained in it to work further on her mother's plan.

The information she was gathering about the Centre was rapidly piling up, and there were times when she began to feel how overwhelming it all was. The worst factor, however, was the blank, expressionless eyes of the subjects she saw from time to time, which horrified her, particularly when she considered the way it would be for Gabriel and the other Seraphim to become similarly addicted and trapped.

Blinking away the tears that such an image brought to her mind, Morgan refocused her attention on the book in her hands, opening it on her lap and extracting the piece of ribbon that had been used as a page marker. Smoothing it tenderly with her fingers, she slipped it into the back of the book and then opened it at the end. She had read the entire diary, of course, but the subsequent readings of small sections revealed details that she had missed before. One of the things Morgan was most disappointed by was that the diary finished on the 13th of April. Of the six months that followed, her mother's seclusion inside Raines' forest house, there was nothing, and thus also no further details of the plan to which Catherine had given such vague hints to Jarod.

Looking down at the page, she began to reread the entry dated April 11, 1970.

There is only one person who might be willing to help me now -- one man who can bring my plan to the final stage and finally free the last of the children. There is so little time that it breaks my heart, when I think that I could be forced to leave some of those children to suffer through the worst that that place has to offer. I must rely on those people who seem as ready as I to do the right thing, at least as far as this place is concerned. 'A' seems ready to help. I can only hope that the offer to help is sincere.

Lifting her eyes from the entry, Morgan turned to stare blankly out of the window at the clouds that swirled around the aircraft. Who was the mysterious "A" and what part had he or she played in her mother's hopes? A memory nagged at her: a remembrance of one of the visits she, Sydney and Broots had made to SL-27. Storing the memory away, Morgan made the decision to look up the material -- and Mr. Fenigor -- when she arrived in Maine.

* * * * * * * * *

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

"Where, exactly, are we heading, Dad?"

"There's a cabin near here, where I thought we'd spend the night." Grinning, Jarod looked at the young man. "Are you coping, or do I have to carry you?"

"If I didn't think it wasn't a very smart move, I might jog."

"Hey, I brought a first-aid kit with us, not a hospital! I don't want to have to treat a broken leg when you trip and fall down a hill."

Jordan laughed and changed the subject. "So, if we're aiming for cabins and huts, why did we bring the tents?"

"In case we don't find one, or we get lost. I don't know how you feel about it, son, but dying of exposure doesn't rank all that highly on my wish list. I've come close once and that was enough." Jarod looked around. "It wasn't that far away from here, either."

"Will you show me?"

"If I can find it again, sure, but it'll be tomorrow. By the time we get to where I'd planned to spend the night, it'll be getting close to dark."

"And why did we bring climbing gear?"

"In case we do any climbing," the older man retorted smartly.

Jordan rolled his eyes. "Funnily enough, I guessed that one myself."

"If you already knew," Jarod inquired in amusement, "why ask?"

"I thought you might have planned to teach me rappelling or something."

"Not in this weather." The Pretender looked up at the clouds. "If it'd been fine I might have thought about it, but it wouldn't be safe, especially not with only two of us."

"Maybe next time?"

"We'll see. We might try something totally different next time."

"Like?"

"Hmm," Jarod thoughtfully eyed the ground they were covering. "I did some skydiving a few years back, and that was a lot of fun."

"Cool!" Jordan grinned. "I loved flying when Da taught me, but I think that sounds even better."

Jarod led the way into the cabin and swung the large backpack down onto the floor of the room before helping Jordan remove his. The boy looked around critically. "I thought we were roughing it."

"Hey, just because it's got four walls and a roof…"

"And a stove and a fireplace and," Jordan's face showed his disgust, "beds."

"Nobody says we have to use the beds," the man commented with a grin. "If you can cope with the floor, that's what we'll sleep on."

"In front of the fire?"

"Is there any other way to do it?" Jarod glanced over at the small bundle of wood in a box beside the fireplace. "But, if we're going to do that, we'll need to get some more wood. That isn't enough for even the time before we go to bed."

"Dad," the boy asked hesitatingly as they left the building and emerged into the dying daylight, "do you have anything else that you have to do for this week apart from being here?"

"No, son." Immediately understanding, Jarod curled an arm around Jordan's shoulders. "I gave myself a week or so away from everything, so I could spend the whole time with you. I didn't even bring my laptop. It's just us against the elements in one of the nicest parts of the country."

"Thanks." Jordan gratefully hugged the man before looking at the large tree lying on the ground in front of them. "How's this one?"

"It looks perfect." Raising the two small axes that he was carrying in his spare hand, Jarod gave one to Jordan with a grin. "Dad said you've been preparing yourself for this. Let's see how well."

* * * * * * * * *

Die Fakultat
Berlin, Germany

The woman entered the eight-digit code and waited until the light on the board at her right turned green. Cautiously she pulled open the door and walked inside. Both of the room's occupants sat with their backs to her as they leaned over the large computer on the desk in front of them. For a second, she smiled sadly, before forcing a wider smile on her face and stamping her foot twice.

"Julia!"

The man's hands moved quickly as he signed her name, before going over to give her a hug. "It's been ages!"

"I've been busy," she responded verbally. "Sorry."

"That's okay." He waved at the table. "Come and sit down."

"I can't stay long, Michael." She smiled at the woman opposite. "How are you today, Clare?"

The petite brunette smiled. "You sound like a doctor," she stated in monotonous tones, putting the emphasis on every first syllable. "Where have you been?"

"Delius was in America and I was working with Wolfram. He doesn't like me to spend a lot of time down here." Her hands moved quickly through the sentences. "The Boss isn't too happy about it either, but I don't think he'll stop me."

"You don't know?" It was phrased as a question, but the deaf woman's tones gave no indication that it was intended as such, although she raised both eyebrows. "How can you not know?"

Julia smiled. "He can change his mind."

"And you should know whenever he does," the man signed at her, trying not to laugh. "In fact, you should know before he does or before he even has plans to do so."

Laughing at his exaggeration, the woman leaned over the desk to look at the notes the deaf pair was in the process of making.

"How's it going?"

"Very well." Michael leaned back in his chair. "Have you heard from Trevor lately?"

"Heard from him?" Julia glanced at her watch and then shook her heard, smothering a grin. "No, not exactly, but he's showering very late today."

"Are you going to America, Julia?" There was a wistful look on the female Pretender's face as she looked at the woman opposite, watching her shake her head again.

"I want to. I even asked Delius, but he won't take me." She smiled. "Still, we can work everything here."

Michael glanced sharply at the camera and then back, watching as the woman at the table shook her head before rising from her seat. "It's not working right now."

"As soon as you leave…"

"It will be." Julia nodded. "Markus fixed it for me. Just keep working after I leave. If you do, neither of them can complain."

Clare nodded silently and then suddenly raised her head as if listening to something that only she could hear.

"What is it?" Julia put her hand on that of the other woman. "Clare, what's wrong? What have you picked up?"

"Hurt," the woman muttered.

"Who? Peter?"

"Peter." The deaf woman's voice was a moan as she nodded.

Julia jumped to her feet. "How long?"

"Be quick, Julia."

* * * * * * * * *

Springfield, Massachusetts

Sydney slipped papers into a bag and looked up as Michelle came into the room, a smile on her face and rolling her eyes.

"Some holiday."

"I'm taking advantage of the peace and quiet to catch up on some other work," he replied with a small, somewhat shamefaced, laugh.

"Will you be back this evening?"

"I certainly had every intention of it."

"I thought it might be nice if we went out for dinner," she suggested. "Just the two of us. Nicholas has coaching with two boys, whose family will give him dinner, and Broots told me he and Debbie were going out as well."

With a smile, Sydney consulted his watch. "I'll be back around seven and we can go right away."

"I'm looking forward to it." She held out the keys of her car. "You might find this to be useful."

"I could have found it slightly difficult to get there otherwise," he admitted. "Thank you."

* * * * * * * * *

Die Fakultat
Berlin, Germany

The woman ran through the doorway, hearing it click shut after her, and then up several stairs to another room, the muffled howl of pain reaching her ears despite the metal door, as her fingers flew over the keypad. Pulling hard, Julia flung open the door to see a boy sitting on the floor, nursing his hand and rocking himself slightly. Looking over her shoulder, she met the eyes of the man in gray who had entered behind her.

"Get Joseph."

"Yes, ma'am."

The guard left the room immediately and the psychic went over to the small boy, sinking to her knees beside him as he stopped rocking and looked up at her.

"What happened, baby? What did you do?"

The child gazed up at the ceiling, and then back at the woman, before once more starting to rock silently. Julia saw the bar that was hanging down from the roof and the end that had snapped off. Instantly the psychic's mind presented her with the image of a man cutting through the metal with a sharp hacksaw, but her vision was broken off by the entrance of another man, who was escorted in to the room by the guard.

"What happened?"

"He fell," Julia responded shortly. "Can you fix it, Joseph?"

"That is my job," the man snapped and then knelt beside the boy, placing his hand on the injured wrist. "It's all right, Peter," he murmured quietly. "It's not broken. It's just a sprain."

His fingers tightened slightly around the small joint as the healer shut his eyes for a moment. Julia watched the lines of pain fade from the boy's small face. She put a hand on the child's shoulder and waited for Joseph to release his hold before pulling the boy into her arms. Nestling up against her, the young child closed his eyes, giving a sob before wrapping his arms around the woman.

"It was a nasty shock, wasn't it, honey?" Her voice was a soothing murmur. "But we'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

"Julia, what happened?"

The woman looked up to see Delius in the doorway, his face wearing a glare, and she rose to her feet, the child still in her arms. Glancing up at the ceiling, she knew that he was following her line of vision with his own.

"It was cut," she told him succinctly.

"By whom?"

The psychic caught the eye of the man standing at Delius' right shoulder, the director's personal sweeper, whose gray eyes now bore an expression of fear. The woman raised an eyebrow. "Will you tell him or should I?"

"You!" The director turned to glare at the man. "Why?"

"I…received orders…"

"From?!"

"T…" The man was almost speechless from terror. "The Chairman."

"Sir, not here," Julia interrupted quickly. "The children."

He nodded slowly, turning to the two men in gray, each of whom put one hand on the whimpering man's upper arms and dragged him away. Delius looked back at Julia with another glare. "Why is Mr. Parker trying to sabotage our projects?"

"The reasons are outlined in the folder you received from Herr Leiden during the meeting you had with him earlier today, Herr Delius," she responded calmly.

"And how did you know it happened?"

"The emotional bond Clare developed with Peter during his illness was not broken by separating them, Herr Direktor. It might be more useful to let them continue working together."

"And since when," he queried mockingly, leaning against the doorframe and folding his arms, "am I in the habit of taking orders from you?"

"It was not an order, sir," she quickly, but calmly, stated. "You know I would never do that."

"So what would you call it?"

"A recommendation, Herr Direktor." She looked at the little boy who was now sleeping against her shoulder. "You said to Herr Doktor Leiden, before leaving for Delaware, that results from the time Peter was working with the twins were better than at any other stage. I simply believed that a reminder might be helpful." She gave him a smile. "But of course it's not necessary for you to pay any attention to me. I'm unimportant. I know nothing of the problems and pressures that confront a person in your position."

He smiled slowly before chuckling. "If I didn't know it to be impossible, I may just have to consider the possibility that you're manipulating me, Julia."

"Oh, sir." Her face and voice took on wounded tones. "Herr Direktor, how could you possibly think such a thing? How could I possibly presume to do anything like that?"

"Ensure you don't," he told her in hard tones. "Or you'll meet the same fate as our saboteur. And," he added meaningfully. "You know precisely what I have planned for him."

* * * * * * * * *

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Jordan looked up from his book to where the flames danced in the fireplace, gazing at them for a moment before glancing at Jarod. The Pretender was lying with one arm flung over his eyes and the other across his chest, the sleeping bag zipped up almost to his waist, but turned back so that the boy could see where the plaid shirt stopped and the jeans began.

"Are you awake, Dad?"

"No," Jarod murmured, and Jordan grinned.

"Well, can you talk in your sleep lucidly enough for us to have a discussion?"

"I'll do my best," the man promised laughingly, rolling onto his side and blinking several times until his eyes adjusted, before looking up. "What is it?"

"Do you think the Centre could find us here?"

Jarod raised an eyebrow. "What on earth made you think of them?"

"I don't really know." The boy shrugged. "I just did."

"I doubt it, Jordan." The older man spoke firmly. "Yellowstone's pretty big, so even if they did know we were here, it'd still be difficult to pinpoint our exact location."

"Sure?"

"As sure as I can be." Jarod gave Jordan a reassuring smile. "And if it's going to worry you, I can give you plenty of other things to think about over the next week or two."

* * * * * * * * *

Lake Catherine, Maine

Morgan settled back on the bed in her mother's old room, musing on the effect that Catherine had had on the men who had been part of her life. Mr. Sun, Ben Miller, even Sydney had confessed to feeling a strong sense of admiration for Morgan Parker's mother. But there were the other men, of course, who felt differently -- Mr. Raines, and Catherine's own husband.

So where did Mr. Fenigor fit into these groups?

Was he, as she had phrased it to Jarod several years earlier, Catherine's ally or betrayer?

Four years on, she still couldn't answer that question. She and Broots had performed numerous searches for information about the man after seeing him for the last time in the hallway of the Infirmary, but there had been no indication that he had ever existed, much less that he was still alive. There was no way of knowing where he was now, or what he could remember of her mother.

"You're still awake?"

Startled, Morgan looked up to find Ben in the doorway and smiled. "Thinking."

"Somehow, I'm not surprised." He stepped into the room and closed the door. "Catherine used to do that a lot, as well, when she came here."

Nodding, Morgan let this pass without comment.

"You know," Ben continued quietly, "you're not the same, this visit."

"In what way?"

"I'm not sure, exactly." He sat on a chair near the door. "But it's almost… more like your mother."

The woman smiled in satisfaction. "That's probably the best way I could be, isn't it?"

"Some people wouldn't want to be seen as just a copy of somebody else," Ben suggested.

I'm not my mother.

The words came back with stunning clarity to Miss Parker's mind, recalling the many times she had used them, and the circumstances in which they had seemed to be necessary. Another face crept to the edge of her consciousness, a face that was a younger version of herself, and, after a discussion she had had with Jarod about what had passed at Barrow after her departure, Morgan made a mental note to try to arrange some time with the girl to talk.

"You know, there's a place your mother loved a lot."

Ben's voice broke through her reverie, and Morgan looked up sharply, smiling. "It was here."

"But somewhere special 'here,'" Ben corrected, turning to gaze out the window. "I'll show it to you in the morning." His eye was caught by a photograph on the window ledge and the man walked over to pick it up, handing it to the woman. "This was Catherine's last visit."

"In 1969," Morgan added, gazing at the image of her mother, Ben standing behind her, his arms around her waist. The posture seemed suggestive and the woman eyed Ben peripherally, seeing him sigh deeply and shake his head slightly. Had she found her real father at last?

Before she could speak, however, Ben stood up. "Well, I'm going to call it a night. Have you got everything you need?"

"Yes, thank you. Good night." She smiled as he left the room, turning her gaze back to the picture in her hand and taking in every small detail. Holding the frame momentarily against her chest, her eye was caught by the notes she had begun to make about Fenigor. Suddenly, Parker put down the frame and pushed the lot into her bag. For once, she would do what she imagined her mother did at this place -- put the Centre out of her mind and concentrate on herself.

* * * * * * * * *

Green Acres Psychiatric Institute
Hartford, Connecticut

Sydney looked up as the door opened and a man came in, his face breaking into a wide smile as he saw the man in the chair.

"Dr. Ritter!"

"Hello, Dannie. How are you today?"

"Good." The younger man took a seat opposite the psychiatrist, who glanced at a report in front of him before looking up again.

"Apparently you haven't had any episodes for nearly three months."

"Nope." The man smiled proudly. "That new medication is really helping."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"I have had a weird dream recently though."

"Oh?" Sydney raised an eyebrow. "Tell me."

The younger man resettled himself in the armchair, looking around his room for a moment, before focusing on the doctor once more. "I'm at the Centre again and I'm younger, I guess about fifteen. He comes in -- "

"He? Raines?"

"Uh huh." Dannie shifted slightly in his chair. "He injects me with something, and then a little later he does it again. For a while, it doesn't make any difference, but a couple of hours later my neck starts to get really sore, and it's like the lights in the room get brighter. I've been reading a book, but it seems too hard and I put it away. Then…"

"Yes?" Sydney inquired after a moment of silence. "Then what?"

"Then I'm somewhere else, in another room, and there's woman with me. She's got red, curly hair and she's being really nice to me, helping me sit up and giving me a drink. Then a nurse gives me an injection and it makes me feel a lot better." Dannie stopped and looked over at the psychiatrist. "I thought it was only a dream, but it seems too real to be that."

"Was that all?"

"Until last night, yes. Every other night it stopped when I started to feel better, but last night it kept going. I was taken back to my room -- and then he came out." The young man's fingers tightened around the arm of the chair, his knuckles whitening, but otherwise only his eyes revealed the fear he felt.

"He? Einnad?"

"Yes." The man nodded soberly. "During the dream, I felt like something inside me was breaking off, like part of me was separating from the rest, especially when I was really hot and felt the most sick. It was as if the fever brought it out in me."

"Perhaps it did," Sydney remarked quietly. "We don't know what causes this, and it's conceivable that it might have happened that way, or at least contributed to it."

The younger man looked up again sharply. "So you think it was real?"

"It's possible that this is a suppressed memory emerging through dreams and not just a figment of your imagination," Sydney replied carefully, sitting back in his chair. "Do you remember anybody else being there, except for the woman and the nurse?"

"No." Dannie paused thoughtfully. "But I remember hearing other people, another child, a boy. At least, it was a young voice."

"Were you in a room of your own?"

"I don't think so." The young man got out of his chair and walked over to the window, staring out to the garden below as he continued to speak. "It wasn't walls around the bed but curtains, like it was a hospital."

"What else do you remember feeling?"

"Sick."

Dannie glanced over with a faint grin and Sydney smiled in response. "Could you be a little more specific? You mentioned a sore neck and discomfort in bright light. Did you have a headache or nausea? Were you vomiting?"

"All that." He nodded slowly. "And my skin had spots on it, like somebody had pricked me all over with pins. In the dream, Raines came in, saw the rash and then almost pushed me out the door. That's all there was, until I was waking up in that room."

* * * * * * * * *

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Jordan awoke to hear a faint moaning beside him, looking over to see Jarod tossing and turning within the confines of his sleeping bag. The man had a hand pressed to the nape of his neck and the other seemed to be clasping his chest or stomach. Reaching out one hand, Jordan shook the Pretender, gently at first and then more firmly.

"Dad? Dad, wake up!"

With another strong shake, the man's eyes flew open as he gasped, sitting up and briefly closing his eyes again before staring at the sleeping bag, beads of sweat starting to slide down the sides of his face.

"Are you okay?"

Mutely, the man nodded, reaching for a flask of water sitting beside his flat camping mattress and gulping some of it down. Reaching up, Jarod gently rubbed the back of his neck again, before glancing at his clone.

"Sorry."

"What was it?"

"Nothing," the older man mumbled awkwardly, turning away as if to escape from the memory that was haunting him.

"Yeah, right," Jordan remarked skeptically. "'Nothing' is when you sleep for a whole night without having to be woken up. That wasn't 'nothing.'" He rolled onto his stomach, visually examining the Pretender. "'Nothing' is also not looking like death warmed up."

Jarod grinned faintly. "It's not something you need to worry about."

"If I have to watch you dreaming about it every night for the next week, then I think it's definitely something I need to worry about." He propped his chin on one hand, watching the man staring blankly at the dying fire. "Why won't you tell me?"

"You don't need to know more about what he did."

"Not even if I want to?"

"You shouldn't want to," responded Jarod in harsh tones. "You have enough nightmares of your own to overcome without having to learn about mine."

"But if you tell me then it might go away."

A look of amusement appeared in the boy's eyes as he continued, ignoring both the man's tones and the expression of frustration on his face.

"You know I'm going to keep asking about it, because that's exactly what you'd do in the same circumstances, so what say you just tell me, instead of us having to go through the whole argument, huh?"

* * * * * * * * *

Die Fakultat
Berlin, Germany

Julia gently put the sleeping boy down on his bed, pulling a blanket up over him, and she reached down to gently stroke his hair, watching the child curl up before he relaxed. Smiling tenderly, she turned to where Joseph still stood beside her.

"Good work."

"Thanks." He grinned. "I like what you said to the boss."

"Well, as long as he believes it…" She looked at him sadly. "I don't want to have to send you back to your room."

"You don't have a choice. I don't want you to be stuck down here as well." He put out a hand and gently took hers. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine." With a gentle squeeze, Joseph released her fingers and turned away, walking down the hallway with a gray-suited man escorting him. Julia watched him enter one of the rooms off to the right, seeing a red light illuminate as the door was closed.

"Julia?"

The voice from behind her made her turn to see one of the men from earlier that morning beside her and Julia bowed her head slightly.

"Mr. Tanaka."

"Tommy." He smiled at her warmly. "Surely you're not going to stand on ceremony with a visitor."

"As a visitor of my boss," she commented quietly in her fluent Japanese, "I think that it's advisable for me to 'stand on ceremony,' don't you?"

He laughed softly. "You know your situation well."

"Sir, I've lived here for more than twenty-five years. In that time…"

"So now you reveal your age to me too." He eyed her up and down. "If you hadn't told me, I would never have guessed. You look a lot younger than twenty-five."

"When a person is rarely outside, the skin does not age as quickly."

"So you have lived all your life here?"

"Mr. Tanaka, if you wish to learn more about me, there are reports you can read."

"But then I won't get to hear the sound of your voice," he told her smoothly. "And I would consider that to be a great loss."

"I now understand, sir," Julia commented with amusement, "why you and the Herr Direktor get on so well. You are both superb flatterers."

"Thank you." He gave a mocking bow. "Might there be a more comfortable place somewhere than this draughty underground passage for me to practice my flattery?"

"If you will allow me to briefly go and see two people, sir," she replied, her amusement increasing, "I will afterwards take you up to the café and there you may be as flattering as you wish."

* * * * * * * * *

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Jarod stared into the mug of hot chocolate that he'd just made for both of them and then glanced over at where Jordan was watching him.

"When I was about your age," he began softly, "Sydney was sent away to a conference. A woman came to my room when I was about to start work the next morning and said that they wanted to do a few tests on me."

"A woman?"

"Yeah." Jarod shrugged. "When I started dreaming about this a few days ago, I did research into it and found out that Raines was in charge. He sent the nurses around to give the shots and planned to come and check on them all himself. It got out of hand before he could." He glanced at the boy. "I nearly called off our trip because I didn't want you to go through this, but I was hoping to keep it under control."

"Too late." Jordan half-grinned before becoming more serious. "So what sort of experiment was it?"

"They were trying to develop a vaccine against meningitis. The Centre would get a lot of money if they succeeded and, as it's a disease that's mainly prevalent in children, they used us."

"They gave you meningitis?" The boy's tone was incredulous. "That's stupid! It's a potentially fatal disease and surely, if you'd all been dead as a result, even the money they'd earn for the vaccine couldn't have made up for the money they'd lose as a result of all the other projects you couldn't complete."

"What book did you read that in?" Jarod's voice contained a note of humor, but his expression was serious. "I agree with everything you just said, but," his tone became snide, "they had great results with the mice."

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

The room and hallway were dark as the shadow appeared, sidling silently along to the vent cover and scrambling into one of the few ducts that were still unsealed. Making his way to an opening, Angelo scampered over to the wall of the vent and retrieved a box that had been camouflaged in the metal. Pulling open the lid, Angelo took out the shining silver disk and carried it over to where a machine stood on the table. Opening the lid, he inserted the DSA and, after connecting another machine, his hand rubbing the back of his neck as he shifted agitatedly from one foot to the other, the empath began to view the footage as it was converted to a different format that could be watched without the need of a DSA player.

The doctor leaned over the boy who lay on the table, his eyes closed. Looking up as the door was opened, the woman watched as another child was carried in and placed on the other examination table in the room.

"William, what on earth…?"

"Don't ask questions, Edna," the man growled. "Your job is to treat it, not find out what caused it."

"What happens if Annie gets this?" the female doctor asked, her tones revealing her fear.

"She won't," he snapped. "She won't, because you won't be leaving until they've all recovered. I'll take care of it." Turning on his heel, he left the room. As he left, Edna Raines shook her head and moved over to the second child, a young boy who opened his eyes as she approached and eyed her feverishly but at the same time warily. She bent over him with a smile.

"Hi, sweetie. Can you tell me your name?"

"Michael," the boy whispered. "Where's my sister?"

"They'll bring her soon." Edna swept the hair out of his eyes. "In the meantime, I'll put you to bed, okay?"

"Uh huh." He nodded drowsily and closed his eyes. Lifting him off the table and feeling as his too-warm arms linked weakly around her neck, the boy nestling sleepily against her, the doctor pulled back a curtain to reveal a room containing two rows of five beds, all of which were separated by curtains. Walking to the furthest bed, she placed the child on it and covered him with the blankets. Returning to the examination table, she shook the boy on it until he opened his eyes.

"Angelo, I need you to help me. You're too big for me to lift on my own. You need to try and walk for me. Can you do that?"

The boy stared up at her for a moment before using her arm to pull himself up to a sitting position. As she slipped an arm around his waist, he slid forward on the tall, hard table until he was able to stand and she supported him to the closest bed, letting him sink down against the pillow.

Stepping back after covering him, Edna looked up in time to see two sweepers carry in an almost unconscious figure.

"Where should we…?"'

"The examination table." Edna tapped the flat surface, watching them lift the boy onto it, her eyes sad. "How many more?"

The first sweeper looked around the room. "Well, you'll fill the beds. We've got orders to bring in just about every child here."

Seeing the expression in his eyes, Edna spoke quickly. "Do you have children?"

"Yes, ma'am." He smiled proudly. "Three."

"Well, if you value their health, make sure you have a long, hot shower when it's time to go home, and change your clothes. If you feel even the least bit sick, then make sure to consult your doctor immediately."

"Thank you, ma'am." The man quickly backed out of the door, his features expressionless, but his eyes revealing his fear. "I will."

Sighing, the doctor turned back to the boy on the examination trolley, taking another thermometer from a box, unwrapping the paper covering and putting it under his tongue. Lifting his top, Edna let out a sigh of relief as she eyed his clear skin, looking up quickly as a moan escaped his lips. Removing the glass tube before the boy bit it, she watched as his eyes lazily opened and, with an effort, he focused on her.

"Can you tell me your name, honey?"

"Jarod," the boy whispered, closing his eyes again.

"Good, Jarod. Can you try to stay awake for a few minutes so that I can get you to bed?" Slipping an arm around his back, Edna lifted him to a sitting position, watching as he reacted by struggling against the drowsiness. "All you have to do is walk a few steps. I'll help you. Come on." With a bit of encouragement, she got him over to the bed opposite that in which Angelo lay, assisting him to sit down before he looked up at her, swallowing with difficulty.

"What's…wrong with…?"

"It's nothing serious, Jarod," she assured him gently. "In a couple of days, you'll start feeling much better, I promise. Just lie down, honey, and then you can rest."

Nodding slightly, the young man let her lay him against the pillows and raise his legs so he was on his side before she covered him with the blankets.

On to Act III

 
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