Michael T. Weiss as Jarod
Andrea Parker as Miss Parker
Patrick Bauchau as Sydney
Jon Gries as Broots
Paul Dillon as Angelo
Harve Presnell as Mr. Parker
Ryan Merriman as Jordan/Young Jarod
George Lazenby as Major Charles
Tyler Christopher as Ethan
Sam Ayres as Sam
Kelsey Mulrooney as Debbie
Jeff Bowser as Dannie Minor
Jim Haynie as Ben Miller
Richard Marcus as Dr. William Raines
Babara Babcock as Dr. Edna Raines
Alex Wexo as Young Sydney
Jake Lloyd as Young Angelo
Candace Bergen as Eve
Darren Kennedy as Nicholas
Leigh Taylor-Young as Michelle
Hugh Jackman as Sebastian
Oded Fehr as Namir
John Neville as Dr. Wolfram Leiden
Colin Firth as Mr. Delius
Emilia Fox as Maria
Justine Waddell as Julia
Masayo Kato as Tommy Tanaka
Bob Lem as Sammy Tanaka
Kate Beckinsale as Clare
Christopher Atkins as Michael
Paul Mercurio as Joseph
Russell Crowe as Alastair
Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Young Alastair
Namir heard the door of the room he had been given open and rolled over to face it. When Sebastian poked his head around it, the man sat up.
"Can I help you?"
"How're you feeling?" the Australian asked, strolling towards the bed.
"Better," the Israeli responded with a smile. "I was thinking that I might get up later."
"Good to hear." Sebastian gave him a beaming smile, which dimmed a little as he remembered his other reason for coming to see the man. Turning, he strolled over to the screen that showed the outside world, gazing down into the car park.
"Was there something else?" the healer asked curiously.
"Yes," his host admitted, running a hand through his hair. "I wanted to know, can you help with addiction?"
"In what way?"
"Can you cure the cravings, the desire?" Sebastian put his shoulders back, turning to face the other man. Relating the scene Ramona had described to him from several days earlier, he raised an eyebrow. "Is it possible for you to stop Jarod wanting Aurora?"
Namir thought for a moment before sadly shaking his head. "It is a I don't know the word, but the desire is in his mind, not in his body. His mind leads his body, making him want it more. I can't make his mind change itself. The mind is a force beyond my control, unless there is some physical damage to it." Sadly, the healer watched Sebastian nod his head in agreement. "I can heal tissue, Sebastian, but that is all. My gift doesn't extend beyond that."
"No, I figured that'd be the case," the other man agreed, disappointed. Walking to the door, he stopped and looked back over his shoulder, forcing a half-smile. "See you at lunch."
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney entered his office, immediately noticing a memo on his desk. With a grateful sigh, he put down the many folders he carried and took a seat, reaching out for the sheet of paper. Running his eyes over the brief memo, he stared at it blankly for a moment before rereading the few words it contained, an expression of disbelief appearing on his face as he lowered the page.
"Excuse me, Doctor?"
The psychiatrist looked up sharply. "Yes, Sam?"
"The Chairman asked if you had a moment."
"Thank you." As the sweeper turned away, the older man spoke again. "Sam, just a minute."
"Did you get this memo as well?" He held it up so the other man could see it, watching him nod.
"Yes, sir." Sam's normally stern features broke into a slight smile. "I've already told my wife about it. We haven't had a holiday in years."
"Do you know who else got one?"
"As far as I'm aware, only you, me, Mr. Broots and Miss Parker."
"Thank you, Sam." Sydney smiled. "Have a good weekend."
"You too, sir."
He watched the sweeper leave the office before looking once more at the memo and then getting to his feet, leaving the room abruptly.
* * * * * * * * *
Herr Delius, the director of the German triad, waved away the car before approaching the building as it stood gleaming in the winter sunlight, the first rays reflecting off the glass-covered walls and into his eyes. It was quite pleasant to be back from Blue Cove, he thought, as he walked through the large doors and nodded to the receptionist, receiving a smile and blush in return. Much as he had been looking forward to his first Triumvirate meeting as German Director, it had rapidly become tedious, particularly the long hours spent in the boardroom so many floors below ground. The lack of sunlight was what he disliked most, and, entering the lift, the man thought in satisfaction of the large boardroom on the top floor of the building he was now in, with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows that provided such a glorious panorama of the city.
As the elevator halted at the appropriate floor, he was the first one out, and, a spring in his step and a broad beam on his face, he approached the desk. His blond-haired secretary looked up at him with a smile that was almost a simper.
"Good morning, Herr Direktor," she commented politely. "And how was it in Delaware for your first Triumvirate Conference?"
"You know, Maria " He sat on the edge of the desk and leaned over, watching her start to breathe slightly faster. " it's a lovely place. The building's located right on the beach, and that makes such a nice change, not to find yourself in the middle of a big city like this one whenever you leave the office. Maybe," he winked subtly at her, "one day you and I should go there to get away from it all here."
"You know sir," the woman attempted to sound formal, "that I would be glad to go anywhere in the world to help you with your work."
"Ah, but who says I was talking about work?" He leaned slightly closer. "As our friends in America put it, all work and no play "
Winking once more, he stood up and straightened his jacket before reaching out for the mail that had gathered during his absence. Before he could enter his office, however, the woman spoke again, in slightly higher than normal tones.
"Excuse me, Herr Delius, but you have some people to see you."
"Indeed?" His tone had become brusque, unhappy with the change of form. "And who might they be?"
A dry chuckle came from the corner of the waiting area and a figure rose to his feet, hands in the pocket of the long coat that he was wearing. His Asian features were creased into a smile that barely escaped being a smirk as he surveyed the man in front of him.
"You once promised me that you would do anything to help," the newcomer commented in fluent English. "And I think it's time for you to keep that promise."
"Most certainly." A smile appeared on the face of the Herr Direktor, seeing a second figure rise to stand beside the first, the similarity of features suggesting a relationship between the two Japanese men. Delius forcibly concealed the emotions that rose in him at the sight of the pair. "And, as you may realize, it gives me great pleasure to do so."
"I would expect so," the first visitor commented, running a hand through his gray hair. "I'm certain you heard what happened to the last person who wasn't so happy to be of use."
The German nodded, turning abruptly to his secretary. "Maria, would you ask ?"
He stopped as the elevator doors opened and a woman stepped out, her dark hair in a loose knot atop her head and a trim dark red suit hugging her slender figure as her dark brown eyes traveled from one face to the other. Herr Delius looked back at his secretary.
"Never mind, Maria."
Without another word, he ushered the three people into his office and firmly closed the door.
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney paused in the doorway to see the other man frowning at the screen of a DSA player that lay open on the desk in front of him. For a moment, Sydney wondered what he was seeing, able to hear his own voice and that of a much younger Jarod, before tapping gently on the open door.
"Mr. Parker? You wanted to see me, sir?"
Looking up, Mr. Parker smiled. "Yes, Sydney. Come in."
The Chairman shut the DSA player and pushed it away to one side, gesturing at the chair on the other side of the desk. As the other man took a seat, Mr. Parker rose to his feet and walked over to the window, staring for a moment through the glass before he turned.
"I wanted your perspective on how things are going with Jarod. I'm aware," he went on quickly, as if expecting the psychiatrist to interrupt, "that you aren't in charge of the program, but I would like to hear your view."
"Well, sir," Sydney replied carefully, unobtrusively eyeing the other man. "I believe that things are going as well as can be expected."
"Good, good." The Chairman sat down with a relieved sigh. "You got my memo, I hope."
"Yes, Mr. Parker."
"I'm glad to hear it. I hope you enjoy your weekend off. You really deserve it with all the hard work you've been putting in."
"I wanted to ask you about that, sir. You don't have any " Sydney paused for a moment to select his next word prudently. "Concerns?"
"None at all." The man leaned back in his chair, linking both hands behind his head and laughing. "It's not as though Jarod could escape from that little room of his down on SL-22, is it?"
Sydney nodded slowly, his mind racing, but he managed to remain silent, and endeavored to keep his expression professionally void of the astonishment he was feeling. Mr. Parker filled the gap.
"I'm probably keeping you from wherever you were planning to spend your long weekend. Have a good vacation, Sydney."
"Thank you." The psychiatrist rose to his feet and turned. Halting at the door, he looked back and raised his left wrist. "Excuse me, Mr. Parker, but would you remind me of today's date? My watch appears to have stopped."
The man looked up with a smile. "Forgotten to wind your watch? You really do need this vacation, Sydney. You must have been working too hard." He glanced at the calendar on his desk. "Today is January 26th. And it's 1984, in case you'd forgotten."
"Thank you, Mr. Parker." Sydney gave the man one last long look before letting the door swing shut behind him and heading thoughtfully back to his office.
* * * * * * * * *
"I congratulate you, Tanaka, on your escape." Delius sat behind his desk, waving the newcomers to chairs opposite. "I hadn't expected to see you for some time to come."
"That isn't sarcasm, I hope," Sammy Tanaka chuckled before looking up at the woman who stood by her boss's right hand. "And who's this?"
"My translator, Julia."
"Last time we met, your Japanese was near to being perfect."
"I haven't had practice in a while," the man replied smoothly. "I find it useful to have somebody on hand, just in case."
"I congratulate you, young woman," Tanaka remarked mockingly, surreptitiously eyeing Delius at the same time, "on attaining such a position as many women would envy."
"Most do," the Director responded with a grin. "But Julia has an edge that gave her the job."
"And that is?"
In reply, the German turned to his translator. "How did Mr. Tanaka escape, Julia?"
For a moment, the woman gazed evenly at the visitor, before turning to her boss. "He intimidated one of the guards who cheated the Yakuza a few years ago, and the man helped him to get away in one of the laundry vans."
Herr Delius chuckled dryly. "How very undignified for a man in your position."
The Japanese stared at the woman, failing to conceal his astonishment, before turning a doubting eye on the man opposite. "Considering that the guard and I were the only two who knew, and if he valued his life "
"Oh, don't worry," Delius assured him calmly. "I imagine you left him in no fit state to tell anybody anything. No, Julia is mildly psychic."
The expression on the Japanese man's face altered from astonished to skeptical in the blink of an eye and he leaned back in his chair. "I can't say that I have ever had too much faith in that sort of thing."
"That's your choice." Delius shrugged. "We'll change the subject. What, exactly, were you wanting from me today? Apart from the possibility of an extra digit to add to your collection, of course."
Tanaka chuckled. "No, we don't go in for that sort of thing now. It's easier to remove another part -- thus ensuring that we don't have to hear any complaints about ill treatment."
Herr Delius smiled appreciatively. "I understand. So what, while I still have a chance to ask, were you wanting from me precisely?"
"For the moment, protection."
"Why not go to the Centre? You've had dealings with them in the past."
Tommy Tanaka lounged back in his chair and grinned lazily. "Are you deliberately trying to sound stupid, Delius, or have actually you lost brain cells since we last worked together?"
"Just wanting to make sure I understand completely," the man responded carefully, forcing down his anger at the insult.
"With the 'illustrious pin-head,' as he was politely described at our last visit, being so close to the Chairman, we thought it was better to come to you," Tommy explained calmly. "After the chairmanship of the Triumvirate returns to its proper home, we will be able to work together."
"That sounds very promising indeed." Mr. Delius stood up. "I'm sure that we'll be able to arrive at a suitable arrangement. In the meantime, I'll have someone direct you to the guest-quarters that we keep for special visitors like yourselves." The director eyed the tattered clothes that he could clearly see under the long coat. "And we'll also get you some new suits. You can't possibly be expected to walk around the offices in those."
"You are very kind, Herr Delius." The older Tanaka smiled, as a man in a plain gray suit with black hair and hard, gray eyes came into the room. "I know that we will work together well."
* * * * * * * * *
"Syd, what the hell is this?"
The psychiatrist looked up from putting some files into his briefcase to see Miss Parker standing in the doorway, holding out a sheet of paper that bore the same message as the one he had found on his desk that morning. Even as the man was about to respond, Broots appeared behind her, an identical piece of paper in his hand. Sydney waved the two people into his office.
"I just spoke to Mr. Parker about that."
"Is it genuine?"
Morgan eyed him narrowly. "And since when is the Chairman in the habit of just handing out free weekends?"
Sydney leaned against his desk and folded his arms. "Parker, do you remember when we found out about Fountain?"
Broots looked up sharply, his face losing color and voice becoming pained, revealing the depth of the man's feelings at the remembrance of the project. "Not that again?!"
"No." Sydney shook his head. "Not the project itself, but rather the effects of it. Dementia is one of the projected results of using that drug, and, although I couldn't make a definitive diagnosis, simply talking to Mr. Parker convinces me that he's well into the first stages of it. In fact, I have to confess that I'm surprised at not having seen signs before this."
"But that was only supposed to happen if the treatment continued," Miss Parker protested quietly, horrified despite herself and also despite the knowledge that the object of their discussion wasn't her real father, at the same time making a determined effort not to look at the chalk white face of the technician.
"That results in death, Miss Parker," the psychiatrist replied in similarly restrained tones. "But just using the drug causes the tissues of the brain to atrophy, and the result, if not actual dementia, is a condition strikingly similar to it. That, unless I'm very much mistaken, is what your father is now showing."
The woman's voice was tight. "And what gave you the idea?"
Sydney held up the sheet of paper. "As you said, since when is he in the habit of handing out free weekends?"
"And that was all?"
"There were two other points. Firstly, he seemed to believe that Jarod was still here at the Centre, in SL-22. He was moved from a room down there nearly fifteen years ago, when it was found that the newly built Sim Labs were too far from his room, and was never taken back."
Miss Parker leaned back in her chair, pursing her lips in thought, before she spoke again. "What's the other point?"
"I asked him the date. He got the day right, but said it was 1984."
Producing another sheet of paper, the psychiatrist turned the memo so that the others could read it and tapped the list of recipients.
"Who's not on this list?" Sydney met Miss Parker's gaze, keeping both face and voice professionally expressionless, in an attempt to prevent himself from adding to the feelings of both Broots and Miss Parker. "What name would you expect to be on here that isn't if he was handing out free weekends to the pursuit team, which is exactly what it seems to be? You're here, so is Broots and so is Sam "
"Lyle," the technician broke in, in surprised tones, as he looked up. "His name isn't on the list."
"Exactly. And Lyle, in 1984, was at Die Fakultät, not at the Centre."
"But why the 'pursuit team?'" Broots continued. "In 1984, Jarod still had years before his escape."
"In dementia," Sydney explained, "the brain will often make leaps which, to the sufferer, seem perfectly logical. No doubt Mr. Parker can't see anything wrong with us being the recipients of something like this, and even if it was explained to him, he would possibly still consider it to be self-explanatory."
There was long moment of silence following this, before the technician spoke again.
"So what do we do now?"
Broots looked from Miss Parker to Sydney as he asked the question, seeing a tiny smile appear on the woman's face as she glanced first at the door and then at the two men.
"Very simple, Broots." Miss Parker stood up. "We leave for our weekend off."
* * * * * * * * *
Making the descent, Jarod was thankful that the terrible weather of the last few days had cleared up enough for him to fly in rather than having to travel by sled. The time was short enough without having to reduce it further like that. The helipad had obviously been cleared of snow only an hour or two before, and a grin formed on the Pretender's face as he saw the figure dancing around the edge of the large circle. Making the landing, Jarod opened his door, allowing the cold air to blow into the machine, even as he made sure that everything was off. Seizing his jacket, the man only had time to realize that the other door had been opened, before the boy had flung himself into the co-pilot's seat, dropped his pack into the back and thrown his arms around the tall man.
Jarod returned the hug before pulling back slightly and looking down into the boy's face, giving him a careful visual examination.
"You look good, son."
"I'm looking forward to getting out of here for a bit," the boy affirmed with a grin, reaching for his seat belt, at which Jarod laughed.
"Hey, give me a chance to say hi to everybody else before we take off, okay?"
"I'm a little impatient."
"No, really?" Jarod gave him a look of mock-surprise. "I'd never have guessed!"
Jordan swung a punch in the older man's direction, laughing, as Jarod got out of the helicopter and strolled into the building with the boy following.
"Hi, Jarod." Major Charles came out of the room that held the large heater, wiping his oily hands on a rag. "Aren't you a little early?"
"Considering how impatient Jordan looked," he laughed, hugging his father, "I thought I was late."
Charles grinned at the boy, who was still shifting from one foot to the other. "Should I tell him how long you've been out there for?"
"Uh, no, that's okay." Jordan grinned sheepishly, turning away, as Jarod and his father continued to talk.
"Do you have everything?"
"Hmm," Jarod leaned against the wall, assuming a stance of mock-thought. "Tents, food, first aid kit, flashlights with extra batteries, cooking implements, books "
"Pack horses," Ethan joked as he walked out of his room.
"Climbing gear," Jarod continued as if he hadn't been interrupted, at the same time embracing his brother. "Sleeping bags, warm clothes, Pez "
"Good to know you put the most important things last," his father remarked with a laugh, noticing the grin on Jordan's face. "Can we contact you?"
"Dad, we'll be in the middle of the mountains," the Pretender laughingly protested.
"So if anything goes wrong "
"Relax." Jarod took a slip of paper out of the pocket of his plaid shirt, giving it to his father. "That's my cell phone number. You can call whenever you want."
"And when Jordan gets sick of your company," Ethan remarked, "then he can talk to sane people like us instead."
"It's so nice to have friends," his brother responded in mock-annoyance. "What's he going to do the next time he gets sick of your company?"
"I guess you should get going," Major Charles interrupted, glancing at his watch. "It gets dark pretty early this time of year, and you don't want to be stuck in the air, or looking for shelter."
"You're right," his older son agreed, shooting an amused look at Jordan who was still impatiently hovering at the door. "So, son, ready to go?"
* * * * * * * * *
"What is it, Julia?" Delius looked up from his paperwork in some irritation as the woman remained standing next to his desk. "Can't you see that I'm busy?"
The woman's voice was cautious in reply. "Please, Herr Direktor, would you take me along to the next Triumvirate meeting?"
The man leaned back in his chair and stared at her. "What possible reason could I have for doing something like that? We already have people to act as translators and," he added patronizingly, "I prefer to know that you are safely back here."
"I feel that I can be of use," the woman responded carefully, her face expressionless.
"Do you?" he demanded mockingly. "In what way?"
"Sir, the people you take along currently do not have the same level of skill that I possess, and I am sure that would be valuable for you."
"Valuable, certainly," he agreed. "I'm not sure, however, whether it would be wise."
"Why, sir?" Julia's face took on an expression of innocence. "Are you suspecting me of trying to work against you?"
"You know very well that I would never do that." He eyed her narrowly. "You aren't that stupid."
"Thank you, sir," she murmured softly.
"However you're well aware that I'm going to refuse, just as I've refused on every other occasion you've asked me. I don't know why you waste your breath or my time."
"I had hoped, sir, that you might reconsider."
"I might reconsider keeping you in your current position if you ask again," Delius replied sharply, looking up at her, and Julia could sense the aggravation in his mind that was not revealed in his tones. Nodding wordlessly, she turned to the door. As she opened it, however, he spoke again.
"Oh, and Julia, I would like you to try and limit the number of visits you make to the Experimental Floor. I can't see what good you think you're doing, and apparently some subjects find it difficult to concentrate after you've been visiting them."
"Sir." She turned back and gazed at him calmly. "Those people are my friends."
"Then perhaps," he responded coldly, "it's time for you to make some new ones."
* * * * * * * * *
Peering through the small window as they rose into the air, Jordan watched the ground disappear below them and then looked at the man in the pilot's seat. "So we dump this somewhere and hike from there?"
"That's the plan." He eyed the boy, who still wore a puffy parka that was so necessary outside the building where he was keeping his family safe, but which would be too thick when hiking. "You brought a thinner jacket, right?"
"Uh huh." Jordan filled a Pez dispenser held it out. "Want some?"
"You think I'm going to refuse?" Jarod laughed, extracting a piece of candy with his teeth and giving it back. "You might want to keep some, though. It's hard to buy Pez in the middle of Yellowstone."
The boy ignored this, putting the dispenser back into his pocket. "So how long do we have?"
"I thought a week, but I've got nothing special planned so we can always extend it if we want to."
"You've been there before, right?"
The Pretender smiled faintly. "Yeah. I'm hoping not to crash-land this time, if I can possibly avoid it."
"You're no fun," Jordan sulked, hiding a grin. "All I wanted was a little excitement in my life."
"I can leave you dangling from a cliff face if you think it'd help," the Pretender offered helpfully. "Or else let you get eaten by wolves or bears or something."
"Cool!" The boy laughed. "Actually, just a couple of days trying to keep up with you will probably be enough. Try to remember that my legs are shorter than yours."
Jarod smiled at him. "I'll do my best, son."
* * * * * * * * *
"Do you have a minute, Dr. Leiden?"
The man looked up with a pleased smile on his face. "Of course. Please come in, Herr Direktor," he added in mocking tones, seeing Delius grin. "Sit down."
"Thank you." The man shut the door and sat in a chair. For several long minutes he stared at the floor before looking up. "Did you read the reports?"
"Of the Triumvirate meeting? Yes." Leiden eyed his former protégé. "Patience," he purred softly. "You have to be patient. These things take time."
"I frankly don't understand why Parker was given control in the first place."
"The Seraphim," the older man reminded him. "It was the existence of the children -- Gabriel, in particular."
"So we transfer them here."
The older man leaned back in his chair, laughing softly. "You'll be the one who arranges for eight two-year-olds to be flown halfway around the world? I've never seen you as the mothering kind."
"Aurora seemed to work well enough on "
"But not on a child of that age. It's too uncertain. That is why you must try and be patient. When the time is right, then "
"By then, they'll have somebody else ready."
"They only have two possible candidates," Leiden reminded him.
"Mr. Lyle and Mr. Cox."
"Exactly. And Mr. Lyle, poor thing, is in no fit state to be Chairman of anything."
Delius grinned. "I enjoyed developing Kronos I at the time. If I'd known of its final use, it would've been even more fun." Leaning forward, he became more serious. "But what about Cox? The man is developing quickly."
"But all he has is the Seraphim. His expertise extends no further." Wolfram Leiden gave a smug smile. "You can't get the top seat with such limited knowledge."
The Director shot him a glance. "Just out of pure curiosity, is that why you made me do so much work, all over ?"
Leiden smiled again, but remained silent. Delius nodded appreciatively before continuing.
"And what makes you think Mr. Parker won't continue?"
"This." The older man reached into a top drawer, pulling out a folder. "This is highly confidential, you know."
"And, since the tragic death of our dear friend Helena Berkstresser, I've become the director." The man gave a complacent smile as he seized the booklet. "Meaning that no information can possibly be too confidential for me not to see it."
The doctor leaned back in his chair in satisfaction. "I taught you well."
"Very well," the younger man smirked. "Very well indeed."
* * * * * * * * *
Having finally retrieved their bags from the luggage carousel, Sydney turned to where Broots stood next to him. "Well, let's get all this lot outside and find a cab." He felt a hand on his shoulder, turning with a smile. "Nicholas! I didn't know if you'd be coming home this weekend."
"Mom called when she knew you were coming and I was working nearby."
"I'm glad." Sydney quickly introduced Broots and Debbie to his son before succinctly explaining their sudden appearance. "We were all given a sudden vacation, and, when I called your mother, she invited them to your new house as well."
The younger man raised an eyebrow as the four people made their way out of the airport.
"Since when does that happen?"
"It's a rarity," the psychiatrist laughed. "That's why we were all gone within an hour of getting the memo." He greeted Michelle, who was waiting at the car, before introducing her to Debbie and Broots.
"So, what did you have planned?" the woman proposed, taking his hand.
"Not a lot," Sydney smiled. "A few days of R&R will be nice."
"Just what the doctor ordered, huh?"
The older man nodded firmly, laughing. "Well, this doctor certainly did."
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.
* * * * * * * * *
"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."
"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."
* * * * * * * * *
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.
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.
"Peter." The deaf woman's voice was a moan as she nodded.
Julia jumped to her feet. "How long?"
"Be quick, Julia."
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney slipped papers into a bag and looked up as Michelle came into the room, a smile on her face and rolling her eyes.
"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."
* * * * * * * * *
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.
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.
"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.
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 "
"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."
* * * * * * * * *
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."
"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."
* * * * * * * * *
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
"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 -- "
"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.
"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?"
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."
* * * * * * * * *
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.
"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?"
* * * * * * * * *
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.
"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.
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.
"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."
* * * * * * * * *
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."
"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 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.
The small alcove, set deep in the apple orchard behind Ben Miller's home, was the sort of serene and peaceful setting that Morgan Parker knew her mother must have loved. Ben had wandered a short distance away, supposedly checking on the bare trees, but the woman felt herself being watched, possibly compared, to the woman who had so often sat here. Whereas once this would have made her uncomfortable, now it merely saddened her.
Looking around, her eye was caught by a swing that hung on the branch of one of the trees. With a smile, she got up and strolled over to it, sitting down on the broad seat and looking up into the face of the man who had stepped over to stand beside her.
"I can see why my mother loved this place so much."
"She always dreamt of bringing you here," Ben reminisced. "She told me that, one day, she would manage to take her daughter with her when she came."
"Did you ever have children?"
The question was out before she could prevent it, but Morgan realized that she had been trying to find a way of phrasing it all morning that wouldn't sound too blunt. Before she could say anything else, however, Ben sadly shook his head.
"Not that I didn't want to," he admitted, "but I could never have any kids of my own."
* * * * * * * * *
Julia pulled the door of the room closed after signing a farewell to its occupants and turned to find Tommy Tanaka leaning against the wall, his arms folded, in the stance he had adopted when she entered it. His face wore a look of enquiry.
"But not by birth."
She looked at him out of the corner of her eye as they headed for the elevators, her face wearing a small smile. "Are you psychic too, Mr. Tanaka?"
He chuckled. "When the woman spoke, her tones suggested that she learnt speech as a child. A child with hearing."
"You're correct, sir. They lost their hearing during an experiment slightly less than three decades ago."
"No, Mr. Tanaka." She led the way out of the elevator and into the café, large glass walls of which looked out onto the street below. "Both of them, along with a number of others here, took part in a project at the Centre in the mid-1970s."
"Under whose direction?"
"That of Mr. Raines. He was a doctor at the time. In fact," she remarked as she sat at a table next to the window, Tommy holding the chair for her before taking a seat opposite, "it was that project which stripped him of the title."
Tanaka raised an interrogative eyebrow. "I thought, from everything I read, that Raines got rid of it by choice."
"That," she commented with a smile, "is what he would like people to believe, but the project that caused the deafness in Clare and Michael as well as enhancing Joseph's ability to heal was what resulted in him officially losing his right to practice."
"Will you tell me about it?"
Julia made no attempt to hide her amusement. "Is this just another attempt to hear my voice, sir?"
He grinned. "Something like that, yes."
Nodding acquiescence, she smiled. "Very well, Mr. Tanaka. I will tell you."
* * * * * * * * *
"What can I do for you, Dr. Raines?"
"I need antibiotics," Edna responded. "And I need them as quickly as you can get them, Eve."
The younger woman eyed the two rows of full beds. "What is it?"
"All of them?" The woman's skepticism showed on her face. "Without any contact with each other, they all manage to get it simultaneously?"
"No," Edna stated firmly. "It was artificially induced in an attempt to make a vaccine."
"Obviously, it didn't work."
"Considering there was a mere half hour between administering the vaccine and the disease, it was hardly going to, was it?"
Eve narrowed her eyes. "And does the Triumvirate know about this?"
"Eve," the doctor reminded her. "We don't have time for this. The antibiotics."
"Yes, doctor," the woman murmured, leaving the room abruptly.
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney read through his notes, sitting in Michelle's car, in the parking lot of Green Acres. He had hoped Dannie would never recall that particular experiment and it had certainly appeared, before that day, as if that would be the case. Now, the psychiatrist thought ruefully to himself, it would be necessary to find the DSA on the mainframe and return the next day to show it to him, a result of Dannie's plea to know what really happened, and which Sydney felt was a good way to get rid of the nightmares. Starting the car and heading off to Springfield, Sydney's mind traveled back to his return from Europe so many years earlier, when he had been informed of the experiment that had been performed in his absence.
Entering the room, Sydney's eyes traveled over the empty but neatly made bed, unable to figure out where the room's usual occupant was. Even as he turned, a sweeper appeared behind him.
"Excuse me, Doctor?"
"Mr. Parker asked to see you as soon as possible, sir."
"Thank you." He stopped the sweeper before the man could leave. "Do you know where I might find Jarod?"
"I believe that's what he wants to talk to you about, sir."
"Good." Sydney let the door shut behind him before heading for the elevators that would take him up from SL-22 to Mr. Parker's office in the Tower. A weary-looking Edna Raines got on several levels before he arrived at his destination and Sydney eyed her in concern. "Is something wrong, Edna?"
"It's been a long few days, Sydney." She looked over at him sharply. "Haven't you heard about what happened yet?"
"I've only just got back from a conference. I'm slightly out of the loop."
"Should I fill you in?"
"I've got to go up and see Mr. Parker now and I'm assuming he'll tell me."
"Well, when you're done, Jarod's in one of a series of rooms we had to set up on SL-11."
"Why?" The question came out like a shot, but she shook her head.
"I'm not going to do Mr. Parker's job. Let him tell you."
As the elevator stopped, he let her get out first, following her off it and then turning in the opposite direction, arriving outside Mr. Parker's office. Letting out a slow breath, he knocked once and then entered.
"You wanted to see me, Mr. Parker?"
"Yes, Sydney, come in." He waved towards an empty chair. "I have to inform you of a -- " the man paused. "A development that occurred while you were in Europe."
"Does it have to do with Jarod?"
"Among others, yes." He turned the DSA player around and inserted a disk, letting Sydney watch several minutes of Raines being subjected to a T-Board, before Parker stopped the footage and gave him a folder. "These are the notes he made of the project, or at least copies of them. You'll need to see them so you'll know approximately how long it will be before Jarod is able to resume his work."
* * * * * * * * *
"How many kids were sick?"
"In total, thirty, but I only ever got to know six or seven of them."
"And how many died?"
"All but ten." Jarod shook his head sadly before looking over at the boy who had curled up on his sleeping bag. "They created three different vaccines and gave one to each group."
"No control group?"
"To control what?" The man shrugged. "They weren't comparing anything; they were attempting to create something new. It's hard to control that. And anyway, they knew how normal meningitis progressed. "
"So what happened?"
"We were divided randomly into three groups and cared for on different sublevels during the time of the trial."
"Trial?" Jordan raised an eyebrow. "What kind of a stupid term is that?"
"It's Raines' term," the older man responded, grinning faintly. "And I had that exact same thought. But to continue, by the time I knew enough to be aware of my surroundings only six beds in the room were being used. All the others had recovered enough to be taken to other parts of the Centre."
"I developed a high fever, which they later found was a reaction to a vaccine component. A report I read stated that they didn't think I'd live for a few days." Jarod gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling. "They discovered my other allergy at that time too."
"Trust you to go to extremes," the boy grinned.
"Actually, I was pretty meek and mild -- "
"There's a first time for everything," Jordan interrupted.
"Can I continue?" Jarod glared at him in exasperation. "Or would you prefer I did to wake you up every night for the next week?"
* * * * * * * * *
Edna moved along the room, turning out the dim lights over each bed and placing a hand on each of the sick children's foreheads to check their temperatures. The twins at the far end lay on their sides, facing each other, and it was with a feeling of mild amusement that she noticed they were lying in identical positions, the expressions on their faces strikingly similar. Looking at the charts hanging on the end of each bed, Edna noticed that their temperatures were also the same at any given point in the day.
Only one of the patients was still awake -- the eldest, who stared blankly at the ceiling, his lips moving soundlessly, and barely blinking.
Edna leaned over him, one hand on his forehead and startled at its warmth. As she bent closer, she could hear as he began to whisper the words that he had been mouthing for some time.
"Cree craw toad's foot "
Walking over to the table, above which hung the only remaining illuminated light in the room, and on which lay an assortment of syringes, she picked one up. Even as she filled it, the door opened and a group of men walked into the room.
She turned. "Mr. Parker, I'm not sure it's a good idea for anybody to be coming in at this point. All of the children are quite contagious."
"We need to review them." He stepped closer. "What do you know of your husband's plans about this project?"
"All I know, sir, is that I received word of a number of children being brought down here to recover from meningitis. That's what has happened since yesterday morning."
"And," he nodded at the syringe in her hand, "who's that for?"
"Jarod, sir. He hasn't slept since being brought down here, and unless he does, he's not going to be able to recover."
"Very well." The man stepped back slightly. "Give it to him, and then we'll need to hear everything you have to tell us."
Nodding, the woman walked over to the bed and quickly administered the shot, a hand resting on the boy's arm until she saw his eyelids finally close and felt his formerly tense muscles relax.
* * * * * * * * *
"I understand that you have concerns, Dr. Raines."
"Sir, it appears to me that a number of the children are reacting to components of the vaccine with which they were treated prior to being exposed to the meningitis itself. Until now, I'd been unable to account for it, but with what you just told me, it seems to be the most likely cause."
"Cause of what?" Mr. Parker looked at her sharply.
"Some of the children have begun suffering from violent mood swings."
"Dr. Raines, surely in illness "
"Not to this extent, sir." She held out one arm and let him see the place where the skin had been rubbed raw. "One of them did that earlier this morning."
"Dannie?" The man stared at her, his mouth partly open in astonishment. "Are you sure? He's usually one of the most gentle, peaceable "
"He wasn't this morning, sir. It was as if he were possessed. If a sweeper hadn't been passing to give me a hand, I'm not sure we would have kept him down on the bed." She glanced over at the bed where the child lay, under heavy sedation.
"And the others?"
"Several of them seem to feel that they should be working rather than lying here and recovering. If it continues, I'm concerned that one or more of them could do damage to themselves "
"Or to you," Mr. Parker mused. "Or each other. Very well," he stated abruptly. "We'll have at least one sweeper in here at all times to prevent things like that." He eyed the mark on her arm again. "And we will conduct tests on the components of the vaccine to find out what can be done to help the children."
Edna nodded, hiding her sigh of relief as he walked to the door. "Thank you, sir."
* * * * * * * * *
Wiping the last thermometer with the alcohol swab, she returned it to the holder by the bed before looking at the boy lying there. He's only a child, she thought sadly. Admittedly, a child who showed great powers to heal, but still only a child. What had a child done to deserve a life like this? Edna thought back to the conversations she had had with Catherine Parker about rescuing the children and now understood what drove the woman until her murder, at the hands of the man she, Edna, was forced to call "husband." Walking past the last bed, Edna saw the boy's eyelids flutter several times before they opened and she went over to him.
"Jarod? Can you hear me?"
The boy struggled to focus on her face, faintly able to note the curly red hair, as he licked his dry lips. "M Mom?"
"No, Jarod." She shook her head, smiling. "I'm not your mother."
"Who are you?"
The woman recalled the directive from the night before given to her by Mr. Parker, that she not tell the children her surname in case it upset any of them, and replied softly. "My name's Edna."
"Are you a doctor?" the boy mumbled as she placed the back of her hand against his forehead.
"That's right." This, she thought, must be the child William had talked about sometimes.
"How did I get sick?" He looked up at her in drowsy astonishment. "I never leave here, and I don't see anybody who's sick."
"You were given something that made you sick, Jarod," she told him quietly. "Don't worry about it now. I'm going to help you get better."
"Will Sydney help me too?"
"Sydney's not here at the moment, Jarod. I'm not sure when he'll be back."
"I won't get better unless he's here." Hot tears filled the boy's eyes, spilling down his cheeks as, much to Edna's alarm, he struggled to sit up. "I won't be able to. I'll die "
"No, Jarod." She put a firm hand on his shoulder, pushing him back against his pillow. "No, I won't let that happen. But you have to lie still and try to sleep."
"I have to get up." He weakly fought against her for a moment. "I have to work."
"Jarod, listen to me." She spoke sharply, seeing the sweeper in the corner rise to his feet, but the doctor's shake of the head kept him away from the bed. "Jarod, you have to stay here. Do you understand? If you don't, then you'll only get worse."
She saw him give a nod and felt him relax back against the arm she slipped behind his shoulders, the beads of sweat glistening on his forehead as his lips parted to try and draw in breaths that his blocked nasal passages were preventing. His lips began to move once more, muttering the same words she had heard the night before, and after lowering him back down to the pillow, she leaned over so that he could see her face.
"Who taught you that, Jarod?"
"My mom," he answered with a tiny smile, his tone suddenly childish. "She taught it to me before I came here."
As the file completed its conversion, Angelo attached it to the email he had prepared and typed in the address. Sending it off, he waited until the voice told him that it had been successful before closing down the machine and putting another disc in the DSA player, starting it up and staring at the screen.
The room contained five empty beds and five with occupants, three boys and two girls. As Edna was about to rise from her seat and go around to the beds, the door opened and a group of men walked into the room.
"Can I help you?"
"We've come to collect the children."
Edna stared at the man in astonishment. "Excuse me?"
"We have orders to transfer these five children to Die Fakultät."
"I'm sorry but none of these five are fit to travel."
"And that's your professional opinion?" the man sneered.
"Certainly. If you want them to survive the trip," she replied quickly, "then you'll have to wait for at least another week."
"You have four days."
"Sir," she rose from her seat. "These children have been seriously ill. No matter how good your medical team on the way or on your arrival might be, if you take them before they are medically fit to be moved, you will, without doubt, cause permanent problems of some sort, if you don't kill all five outright."
After returning from the restaurant, Sydney opened his laptop on the table in the living room and was about to begin trying to locate the file when Broots came in, raising an eyebrow when he saw the man's attention fixed on the screen.
"I thought this was time for R&R."
"If that stands for 'recollection' and 'regret,'" Sydney replied bitterly, "then you're right."
"What is it, Syd?" Broots pulled out a chair and sat opposite him.
"Something you wouldn't know about," the man responded solemnly. "I want you to see if you can find "
The announcement by the laptop's voice of an incoming email cut him off, and he stared down at the screen for a moment before looking up again, a tiny smile on his face.
"Never mind. I've got it."
"But what is it?"
Sydney sighed deeply as the smile vanished. "A project that all of the children in the Centre were involved in during the mid-1970s."
"Around the time of Eclipse?"
"A few months before it, yes."
"Who was involved?"
"Among those that you'd know: Jarod, Angelo and Dannie. I imagine that Faith was possibly also included."
"Dannie?" Broots frowned for a minute. "You mean that guy who thought he was Einnad and tried to kill Raines and Willie?"
"Precisely." Sydney's expression became serious. "It seems Raines' experiment might have been the cause of the second personality branching off initially."
"There's something ironic in that." The technician grinned half-heartedly. "Did you want me to find the DSA footage of the experiment or something?"
"I did." Sydney activated the attachment and stared down at the screen as the footage started to play. "But I seem to have just received it."
* * * * * * * * *
Morgan stared out of the window to the star-dotted sky outside. The sun was still several hours from rising, but she hadn't slept. Her mother's diary lay open on the bed beside her at the entry in which she had detailed her last visit to this place. Strips of paper marked other important entries, and Parker picked up the diary, glancing through them again. With a sigh she replaced the book, linked her hands behind her head and stared at the ceiling.
"Who is it, Momma?" she breathed. "Why couldn't you tell me? No hints, nothing."
She had entertained a secret hope that, by coming to this place, she would find out who her real father was. It was true that she had eliminated one suspect, and one who had looked increasingly likely since she had first received Jarod's hints about him. Yes, Ben had been a man around who her mother had felt safe. Her regular visits to Maine had proved that. But, her daughter knew, she hadn't been having an affair with this man. Ben Miller had loved Catherine, as Mr. Sun had. But Catherine hadn't given herself to either of them. Morgan's father was someone else. Her instincts once more rose to the surface -- her mother had loved one man, and one man only. Morgan was sure of that. And, when she found that man, she would be looking into the eyes of her father.
Rolling onto her stomach, Morgan Parker propped her hands on her chin and stared blankly at the floor. Was it possible that her twin brother somehow knew who their father might be? And, if he did, would he actually be able to tell her? His communication skills were still limited, at best, and it seemed unlikely that he would be able to shape the words.
With a frustrated sigh, she closed the diary and put it onto the bedside table. Getting into bed, she curled up between the sheets and switched off the light. The moon shone in through the window, casting a pale light over everything in the room, and the woman's eyes traveled across the various objects it contained before they closed.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod looked over at where Jordan had fallen asleep on his sleeping bag and, a tender smile on his lips, the man gently covered the boy with his coat, and then spread his own sleeping bag over the still form. Rising to his feet, he tossed another log on the fire, watching it ignite before walking over to the window. Outside, the sky was beginning to lighten in the east, and Jarod felt a sudden longing to be in the open air. Taking a notepad out of his shirt pocket, he wrote a short message and left it where Jordan would see it before picking his jacket up from the chair where it lay and pulling it on.
One hand still absent-mindedly rubbed the back of his neck as Jarod closed the door of the cabin and took a step away from the building. His other hand in the pocket of his jacket, Jarod began to walk down the hill in the direction of the rising sun. When his cell-phone rang, he quickly got it out of his pocket and activated it, surprised at receiving a call so early and hoping nothing was wrong at Barrow.
"Thought about me lately?"
The Pretender stopped short and his jaw dropped. "No way "
"Nice to hear your voice again, Jarod. It's been a while, hasn't it?"
Jarod's tone was incredulous. "Alastair?!"
"They don't call you a genius for nothing, do they?"
"What are how are you when ?"
"Hey, one question at a time!" There was a laughing protest. "I only have one mouth, you know."
"And two ears," Jarod responded quickly. "And unless you've changed a lot since 1975, a darned good brain too, so you should have absolutely no problem in remembering them all."
The man laughed. "Well, we'll see. I might have changed."
Jarod's voice was eager. "Where are you?"
"Yellowstone." The man's amusement was evident. "About half a day's hike away from you. Wake up that other half of you - oh, don't bother. He just woke up on his own - and we'll meet at your crash site."
Jarod turned on his heel and hurried back to the cabin as the man on the other end disconnected the call. He could see the boy in the doorway and ran for the last few hundred feet.
* * * * * * * * *
"So who's Alastair?" Jordan demanded as they began to walk.
"One of the other people who was also given the same vaccine as me."
"Is he a pretender too?"
"No, he's a psychic, or that's what they said about him in the files. According to those I read, he was taken to the German branch as soon as he was well enough to travel, and, as far as I knew, he'd been there ever since."
"Well, unless he learned to fly as well as becoming a psychic," Jordan joked, "I'd guess he got out at some point a while ago."
"Smarty," Jarod teased, ruffling the boy's hair as they walked side by side. "Considering how little sleep you've had, that brain of yours is still ticking over pretty well, isn't it, son?"
"Look who's talking," the boy protested indignantly. "That from a guy who's doing well if his head's on the pillow for more than three hours at a stretch."
Jarod raised an eyebrow. "Who told you that?"
"Lauren Taylor called Da from Down Under last week to see how you were."
"Oh, so she's still telling on me," he laughed. "I'll have to think up some nice form of revenge."
"Maybe invite her here for a visit and then you can be the pilot of the plane that crashes this time," Jordan suggested helpfully. "I'm sure she'd like the lack of responsibility."
"Thanks," Jarod commented sarcastically. "Wonderful."
"I aim to please." The boy grinned. "So how did you and Alastair meet, considering how sick you both must have been?"
The boy opened his eyes, staring blankly at the ceiling for a minute, before trying to pull himself up in bed.
"Bad idea," a voice to his right stated, and Jarod slowly swiveled his head to see a boy in the next bed watching him. "Edna's not here right now, but she won't be too pleased to see you sitting up when she comes back in, considering how sick you've been."
Jarod's voice was weak in reply. "Who ?"
"Edna's the doctor." He looked at the door. "She's about to walk in."
The door opened and the woman softly entered the room, looking up in time to see the boy slide down in bed, and walked over with a half-smile. "Alastair, do we have to have this discussion yet again?"
"Sorry, ma'am." The boy closed his eyes.
"You're not sorry," she scolded, with a degree of severity. "If you were really sorry, you'd use that ability of yours to already be lying down when I came back into the room each time."
"Maybe I like talking to you," he stated in a small voice, opening his eyes to smile at her, a look of innocence on his face.
"You're a regular attention-seeker," she commented, suppressing the urge to smile back at the cheeky boy. "But if you promise to try and sleep now, I'll read you a story later, okay?"
"Uh huh." The boy nodded eagerly, closed his eyes again and rolling onto his side. Smiling, Edna resettled the blankets around him, smoothing his hair, before the doctor turned and saw Jarod watching her.
"How are you feeling, honey?" Gently she touched the back of her hand to his forehead. "Better?"
"I think so." The boy's forehead puckered slightly in confusion. "I don't really remember "
The doctor's voice was soothing in reply. "That's okay, Jarod. It doesn't matter."
"Have I been sick?"
"Why do you ask that?"
"Well," Jarod glanced over at the boy in the other bed, who winked quickly before closing his eyes again. "He said that you were a doctor, so I guess "
"He's right." Edna put an arm around the boy's shoulders and raised him to turn the pillow, before putting him back against the cool material. "You have been sick, but it won't last much longer. In a couple of days, you'll be well enough to get up."
Jarod glanced around at the other beds. "Is this a hospital?"
"No, honey, it's still the Centre."
He nodded before looking up at her. "How come Sydney's not here?"
She smiled sympathetically. "He's away, Jarod. He'll be back here in a few days though, and then he'll come to see you."
The boy was about to ask another question when Edna stood up. "That's enough talking for now, Jarod. You need to get some rest." She gently pulled the blanket up, covering him with it. "Later, when I'm reading to Alastair, you can listen, but, like him," she shot a sharp look at the other bed, "you have to sleep for it to happen."
Nodding, Jarod yawned, gazing up at her drowsily for a few seconds before closing his eyes. He vaguely felt her hand touch his forehead again and then the boy was asleep.
Julia looked at the cup that was put in front of her and then at the man who still sat opposite her, a small smile on her face. "If we do this very often, I could find myself broke at the end of the week."
"You get paid?"
"I receive a small salary, yes. It's more of a gesture than a proper pay packet."
"Herr Delius trying to convince himself that he's using a paid employee for his work rather than a science project?"
The woman shrugged. "You don't expect me to answer that, do you, Mr. Tanaka? He is my boss."
"Very true, and your loyalty is admirable," the man simpered. "But I would be very happy for us to do this more often."
"As you said, Mr. Tanaka, I'm a science project. Considering the level of your other 'conquests,' I can't really imagine why you would lower yourself to this." She raised both her hands in a gesture of demonstration. "Miss Parker, for instance, would have to be considered very preferable "
"I would rather," the Japanese man stated coldly, "hear you continue telling me of the project than discuss that."
Having successfully and intentionally drawn his attention away from herself, Julia hid a smile and sipped her drink before continuing.
The brakes on the bed were released and it was wheeled out of the room, turning right when it was through the doorway on the way to the elevator and down to the room that the child usually lived in. Edna scribbled her signature on the bottom of the form and then handed it to the waiting man, who looked it over and then turned to glance around the room.
"One down, nine to go."
"I think Dannie's probably close to being able to be taken back to his room, considering how well he's been responding to treatment."
"What about Jarod?" Mr. Parker glanced over at the boy before looking back at Edna, who shook her head slowly.
"I'm concerned that he doesn't seem to be responding well. It might be worth running a few more tests to see if there's anything else we could give him. We know about his allergy to the vaccine component but there may be something of potentially more effect than what he's receiving now." She glanced over as Jarod began muttering in his sleep, tossing on the bed.
"You're the doctor," the man stated evenly. "You may order any tests you believe necessary." He glanced around the room. "And the others?"
"It seems a somewhat strange request, Mr. Parker, but I'd like to order hearing tests for two of the children."
"Oh, really?" He shot a sharp look in her direction. "Which two?"
"The twins." She led the way over to the beds. "Since their fevers began to go down, I've become suspicious that something happened their hearing."
"Very well." The man looked as the paper he held. "I'd appreciate copies of the results myself."
"Of course, Mr. Parker." She watched him walk to the door and then he halted, turning to her once more.
"I forgot to tell you before, Edna, but we organized for my secretary to stay with Annie during the hours that she's been at home. She's been fine."
The doctor smiled. "Thank you, sir. I really appreciate that."
"You're doing fine work, Edna." The man nodded to the beds. "Just keep it up."
* * * * * * * * *
The veranda was dark, stars shining brightly in the night sky and clearly visible to the two people who sat on the steps. She leaned back against him, feeling his arms around her, her head resting against his chest. Apart from the occasional hoot of an owl, the world was silent.
"Are you sure this is such a good idea?"
His voice was soft and questioning, but rasped slightly, revealing the emotional strain that he had been under and was still burdened by. In response, she pressed herself slightly against him.
The word was only a whisper and almost seemed to be carried away on the slight breeze, but he heard it, lowering his head to press his lips to her hair.
"But when you go "
Turning, she looked up into his face, her eyes piercing, despite the darkness. He smiled slightly, reading the expression in her eyes as he reached out to gently stroke her cheek. She closed the distance between them and he took her in his arms, leaning against the veranda railing, his back pressed against the white timber, gazing into her eyes.
The birds calling outside the window woke Morgan with a start, and it was with a sense of shock that she stared into the blue sky. She had had that dream before, but never in such clarity as this time. Getting out of bed, she gathered her clothes and walked over to the window. Clutching the bundle to her, she gazed out over the setting in front of her, eyes fixed on the man sitting on the white timber veranda at the front of his home. Ben Miller was staring up at the sky, and she could see the sadness in his eyes.
Morgan Parker's gaze traveled to the chest in which she had first found the information about the children her mother had rescued from the Centre. All over the room, signs of her mother lingered, pictures or objects that had been special to Catherine, and also to the man who had loved her. But there was nothing more here for her daughter, except perhaps a chance to escape the pressures of her normal life. And the sadness that her presence caused to the man who lived here far outweighed that escape. That alone was more than enough reason for her current decision. She wouldn't come back to Lake Catherine. Not until she had the answers to her questions and could return with a clear mind and a clear conscience. And maybe not even then.
* * * * * * * * *
"So you last saw Alastair when?"
"The morning I was taken out of the room. As each kid got better, they were taken back to either their own rooms or else others nearby. I went to a room next to the Sim Lab."
Jarod shot Jordan a sideways look of mixed amusement and annoyance. "Just how long did you think it took me to get better?"
The boy shrugged. "I had no idea. You might have tried for something really spectacular, such as a heart problem, for instance."
"That would've made running kind of interesting over the past five years, wouldn't it?" the man laughed. "No, I was taken to my room. Alastair and the other four were left behind. According to the official reports," his tone became angry, "all five of them died of septicemia within three days. But another report I found said they were sent to Die Fakultät when Edna thought they were well enough to travel. The escorts all disappeared as soon as they arrived, and Edna was put into an insane asylum by her husband within a few months, though I'm not sure if there was a connection to the meningitis or her daughter being abducted a few months later." Jarod's hands balled into fists. "In fact, everything possible was done to make sure that nobody ever knew they were still alive."
Jordan looked up. "But you said Mr. Parker had been there a few times. How come he didn't know they didn't die?"
"He was the main person they were trying to hide it from," the older man responded immediately. "You have to remember that all the reports in both Blue Cove and the Pretoriat say that they're all dead. Only Berlin's records indicate that they're still alive. They were difficult to find, and I don't know why anyone from the Centre would go looking."
"So you never saw or heard from any of them again until this morning?"
"And did you think about them?"
"Occasionally. Work for the first few weeks after that was fairly light, at least compared to the amount I'd been doing before that, so I had time to wonder what had happened to them. As time went on and the workload increased, I thought about them less and less. Recently, I've hardly thought about them at all, as I'm sure Alastair won't fail to remind me." Jarod laughed. "But we had a lot of fun for the few days until I got moved away."
The voice was a whisper and the boy opened his eyes, rolling over to look at the boy in the other bed, his own tones lowered to an equally cautious murmur.
"Can you walk yet?"
"Good. We're being inspected by the members of the Tower in the morning."
Jarod looked at Alastair as if the boy had lost his mind. "Dumb question but 'so?'"
"'So,'" he put emphasis on the word, "let's make life difficult for them."
"In what way?"
"Well, it'd be nasty if the charts were all mixed up, wouldn't it?"
Silently pulling himself up in bed, Jarod had to choke down laughter at the thought of the look on Mr. Parker's face when he found himself displaying incorrect charts to the people he was trying to impress. With a quick glance over his shoulder at Edna, he slipped out of bed and softly padded across the floor, mixing up the charts from the ends of the eight beds that were occupied. Jarod got confused looks from the twins and, in rapid gestures, tried to explain what was going on. They both grinned at him and gave thumbs-up signs, which confused him, but he imagined that it must be something positive. Slipping back into bed, he grinned at Alastair and received a similar look in return, before Jarod rolled over and tried to sleep. Muffled giggles from the bed beside him suggested that he wasn't the only person imagining the possible consequences on the following day.
* * * * * * * * *
"And this is the condition of young Clare."
Mr. Parker handed the chart over to the first of the men, who glanced at it before sending a look of astonishment in the direction of the man.
"Are you sure, Mr. Parker? This appears to be Alastair's chart."
The man impatiently took it back and glared at the information, forced, albeit grudgingly, to admit his error.
"You might be right."
Stepping over to the bed where the boy was lying with his eyes closed, Mr. Parker put out a hand and was about to pick up the chart from the end of the bed when the doctor stopped him, taking the top folder from a pile in her hands and giving it to him.
"It seems," Edna told him calmly, "that there might have been some confusion during the time that the rooms were being cleaned this morning."
"Thank you, Dr. Raines."
The man tried to suppress his anger, borne of embarrassment, and continued to discuss the condition of the eight children.
* * * * * * * * *
Nearly half an hour later, when the group had gone, Edna went over to the beds where both boys lay with their eyes closed and stood between them, her arms folded and one foot firmly tapping the linoleum floor until the two finally opened their eyes and looked at her.
"Were you wanting me to get into trouble?"
"Oh, no," Jarod assured her quickly. "It just seemed like a good idea at the time."
"And we did get the response we hoped for," Alastair reminded him. "If it had gone on for much longer, Mr. Parker's blood pressure probably would've been off the chart. And his face!"
"Just like a tomato," Jarod agreed, as both boys dissolved into giggles that left them breathless.
"I'm starting to think that the two of you are well enough to be moved back into your own rooms," the doctor interrupted, trying to suppress her own amusement. Despite maintaining a professional demeanor, she had appreciated the joke.
"Please, Edna," Jarod grabbed her hand as she began to walk over to the phone mounted on the wall. "We might never see each other again after we leave here. Couldn't you give us a few more days? Please?"
She stood by the bed for a moment, seeing an expression of a lonely child in his eyes, before she nodded slowly. "All right. I think you'll find that little excursion of yours last night is going to leave you pretty wrung out tonight, so I'd say that will do as punishment."
Jarod stared up at her from his position against the pillow, his eyes wide in sheer astonishment at this revelation. "Were you watching?"
"I'm a mother, Jarod," Edna retorted with a smile. "I have an extra sense where children are concerned."
"You are?" His expression changed to one of longing. "Is it nice, being a mom?"
"It's very nice." She sat down on the bed beside him. "It's one of the nicest things in my life."
"What would you do if your child ever disappeared?"
"I'm not sure I understand what you mean, Jarod."
"Well, would you keep looking for them, even after more than ten years?"
"Yes, Jarod, I would. I'd keep looking until I found her."
"Do you think other moms feel like that, too?"
"I think any other mother would feel that way." She reached out a hand and started to stroke his hair. "They'd always keep looking."
It was with a mixture of astonishment and concern that she saw him roll over and bury his face in his pillow, starting to sob softly. Standing, Edna pulled across the curtain that separated Jarod's bed from Alastair's and then sat down beside him again, gently stroking the hair on the back of his head, her voice soft.
"What is it, honey? What's wrong?"
"I I want my mom." He looked up at her, tears streaming down his face. "But I'm never going to be able to see her ever again."
"How come, Jarod?"
"She's dead, and my dad too." Jarod rolled over, once more muffling his sobs in his pillow. "They were coming to see me and they died."
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney examined the face of the young man sitting opposite him as the footage finished and the psychiatrist closed down the machine.
"So it was true?"
"Yes, Dannie." The man paused. "Although I don't think there's any way for us to know for sure if that was the cause of the Einnad persona emerging, it has to be considered a possibility. For the next seven years, he must have continued to develop to the stage he was when you were taken to the warehouse in 1982."
Tears glittered in the younger man's eyes. "I never meant to hurt her."
"You didn't," Sydney assured him soothingly. "We've been through this. You are not to blame for what he did when he was in control."
After a moment of silence, the younger man looked up. "How much did you know?"
"When I came back from Europe, I was shown a DSA of the project and also notes that Raines made about it. In addition, I was shown a recording of the final results."
"That wasn't what I meant, but yes, they did."
"All but those in the room overseen by Edna."
"What happened to her? Is she still at the Centre?"
"No, Dannie." Sydney shook his head sadly. "Later that year, everybody at the Centre was told that, from the distress caused by the disappearance of her daughter, Edna killed herself. In reality, her husband seems to have put her into an insane asylum and left her there for 25 years."
The younger man looked at Sydney in astonishment. "They were married?"
"Why didn't she ever say?"
"Mr. Parker instructed her not to, in case it upset any of you."
* * * * * * * * *
"So where is he?"
"If I know Alastair," Jarod replied with a laugh, "he's probably hiding somewhere to be deliberately obnoxious."
With an emphasis on the last word, raising his voice to make sure it would be heard, Jarod looked around narrowly.
"You know," he stated, trying not to laugh, "considering there's no breeze today, doesn't it seem a little strange to you that the bushes over there are moving, son?"
The boy looked over and then, grinning, nodded. "Now that you mention it, that is a bit weird. Still, you did promise I could be eaten by a bear, so maybe it's just one trying to be obliging."
"A bear?" Jarod tried to sound scared and pulled out the gun he was wearing in a holster around his waist, the click loud in the still early-morning air as he cocked it. "If it's a bear, I'll have to kill it before it can kill us."
"Oh, let it have its fun," Jordan protested, his eyes twinkling with laughter. "Let it maul us a little first."
"Last time, it was a wolf and this time it's a bear. I'm beginning to believe I should never come to Yellowstone again." Jarod rolled his eyes. "I'm sorry, Jordan, but I'm not letting a bear maul us, even if you think it might be fun."
"For the bear," the boy put in. "I never said it would be fun for us."
"Well, I'm certainly not going to oblige bears." Jarod eyed the bushes again. "You know, if it is a bear then it's a very little one."
"Maybe it's just a baby." Jordan turned a pleading face to the older man. "Can I take it home with me? Please Dad? Oh, please! I've always wanted a pet. It can have my seat in the helicopter and I'll sit in the back!"
Jarod looked down with a grin. "What would your grandfather say?"
"It'd be good protection, as well as all the responsibility stuff. Can you imagine the Centre trying to abduct us if a great big bear was in the way?"
"Well, let's ask the bear what it wants to do." Securing the gun, Jarod returned it to his holster and took off the belt, handing it to the boy. "I'm sure, if it has plans, it'll obligingly tell us about them."
He slipped off his backpack and also gave that to Jordan before cautiously approaching the bush, seeing the laughing blue eyes fixed on him as he approached. With a yell, Jarod launched himself over the greenery, landing on top of the man who was crouched there, and the two rolled into the river.
"Hey, I had a bath this morning," the stranger protested as, dripping wet, he stood and shook the water out of his hair.
"I hadn't," Jarod responded, laughing. "I thought it was time I did."
"Some people never change."
"Well, you certainly haven't," the Pretender told him, pulling the man into a firm hug before turning to the boy. "Jordan, this is Alastair. Alastair, this is my son, Jordan."
"Well, you're definitely better looking than your old man was at that age," Alastair remarked, with a wink which suggested to Jordan that he knew about the relationship and was simply sparing his feelings. Shaking the boy's hand, Alastair ducked as Jarod swung a mock-punch in his direction. Straightening and peeling off his shirt, the man wrung it out with exaggerated gestures and a look of disgust on his face.
"If you hadn't wanted to go for a swim, all you had to do was get out of the way," Jarod laughed, removing his own shirt. "After all, you knew what I was going to do."
"What, and ruin your fun? Never!"
"Most of the time, you were responsible for my fun." Jarod raised an eyebrow. "After all, I wasn't the one who came up with the idea of switching the charts, knotting the curtains, drawing on the sheets "
"And I still don't know where you got hold of the charcoal for that," the other man retorted.
"How can you not know?" Jordan lifted an eyebrow likewise and Alastair glanced from the boy to the man before breaking into loud laughter.
"I never bothered to think about it, Jordan," the psychic choked out breathlessly, between peals of laughter.
"If you're going into hysterics," Jarod warned him sternly, "you'll get another bath."
"Watch me." The Pretender took a step closer.
"Okay, okay." Alastair restrained himself. "I'm calm."
* * * * * * * * *
"And that, Mr. Tanaka," Julia remarked to the man opposite her, "was the cause of the people you saw being deaf."
"It seems an unusual reaction."
"It was caused by an allergy to the vaccine they were given," Julia replied. "It was found later that Raines had failed to test the contents of the vaccines on any of the children in the project and so many of them had severe reactions, most dying as a result of either that or the meningitis itself."
"So Raines was called up before the Triumvirate -- "
"Not exactly, sir. At the time it was located here in Germany. The American branch was provided with the necessary powers "
The eyes of the Director revealed his anger, glinting in the light that illuminated the board of men who faced the individual standing in the middle of the room. His tone, too, revealed the tension that had engulfed the entire Centre and its partners over the past few days. The atmosphere was electric, apart from an aura of smugness that emanated from the doctor, which added to the feelings of the American Triumvirate members.
"God only knows what you were thinking," the Director spat. "You've not only compromised the entire organization; you've delayed -- and in some cases resulted in the forced termination of -- some of our most important projects, thereby losing us millions in potential earnings."
Raines accepted the criticism without comment, rejoicing, at the same time, in the success of his project. It had been irritating that the Triumvirate had been informed before his results had been achieved, but he suspected that he knew who to blame for that, and she would suffer, as he was clearly going to have to. With a resigned expression, he waited to hear what punishment they had elected to impose on him.
The Director picked up a folder and looked through it, eyeing each of the names of those who had taken part and their current status -- dead or alive. Flipping the booklet shut, he pushed it aside and picked up another, which Raines could see was his own personnel file. Finally he looked up and met the accused man's gaze.
"Dr. Raines, considering the degree to which you have endangered the future of the Centre, the Triumvirate and everyone associated with it, you should consider yourself lucky that you are even permitted to continue working here."
The lips of the man at the other end of the table curled into a sneer, but he remained silent. The Director, after a moment, continued.
"After serious deliberation, we have decided not to remove you from the Centre altogether."
The man fixed a steely gaze on the doctor, to ensure that he understood the unspoken threat.
"Instead, we consider that the best method of ensuring our safety is for your name to be removed from the list of those who have sworn loyalty to the sacred oath of Hippocrates of Cos. If," the Director continued, ignoring the change that occurred on the face of the man in front of him "you can later prove yourself worthy of the chances we offer you, we won't strip the other projects from your direction. As it is, you are now required to present all future ideas to the Board for clearance before even beginning any of them. Is that understood?"
Swallowing his rage at this announcement, Raines forced himself to assume a devil-may-care expression. "For how long?"
The tones contained a hint of bravado that made the Director lift an eyebrow. "For as long as we consider necessary." The man leaned back. "Very well, you're free to go."
"You are all kindness." The former doctor made a small, mocking bow and rapidly left the room.
"How do you know so much about it?"
Julia raised an amused eyebrow, replying with a question of her own. "You mean apart from the fact that I'm psychic, sir?"
"You speak with too much warmth for just an ordinary outsider," Tommy admonished with a smile curling his lips. "Even for one with as much knowledge as you have, thanks to your gift."
"That time, sir," she remarked quietly, "was when I developed my 'gift.' I was one of the children in the room overseen by Edna Raines."
"What were you before then?"
"My blood contains the same genetic factor that made other children special, but I'd never shown much talent. After I recovered from the meningitis, I began to 'see' things. It made me useful."
"And why were you in America? Your voice doesn't contain an American accent."
"It's South African, Mr. Tanaka. I was 'created' at the facility in the Pretoriat and transferred to the Centre so that I could be included in the Prodigy program. When the then-Dr. Raines was looking for children, I was an ideal candidate. It would have been of no importance if I hadn't survived the tests. It was just by chance that I was put into the group of those that managed to live."
Tommy Tanaka leaned back in his chair. "If that project had never gone ahead "
"The Centre would be a much more powerful place than it is now. Among those children who died were ones who had wonderful gifts." A smile curled her lips. "Had the Centre, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say Raines, not been in such a hurry, they might have found others of equal, or perhaps even greater, use to them, but they will never be able to control them now." Julia rose to her feet.
The Japanese man raised an eyebrow. "Where are you going?"
"I'm sorry, sir, but the Herr Direktor wants me."
Julia fell silent so that they were able to hear the translator being paged over the loudspeaker that was mounted high on the wall in the corner of the café. She looked at the man who had remained in his seat, a light of amusement in her eyes.
"You see, Mr. Tanaka, the experiment really did make me useful."
* * * * * * * * *
"It was a little cold for the bath," Alastair commented, glaring at Jarod across the fire. "What would Sydney say if you came down with pneumonia?"
"You're assuming I'd tell him," the Pretender responded with a grin after swallowing a mouthful of scalding coffee. "I may not want the lecture."
"You'd get one from your dad," Jordan put in. "Even if you didn't tell him, I would."
"Thanks, son." Jarod rolled his eyes. "It's great to get such good support."
"Anytime." The boy shrugged, yawning as he lay back against Jarod's legs. After a moment, he closed his eyes and relaxed.
"He's a good kid," Alastair stated softly.
"He's a great kid," the older man affirmed quietly.
"No." Jarod shook his head. "Not completely. Some parts are similar, but there's a lot of ways we differ."
Alastair nodded, visually scanning the sleeping face. "You have no idea how weird it is to see him like this."
"Oh, I do," the Pretender assured him, beginning to gently stroke the boy's hair. "I remember how weird it was seeing him the very first time."
After a moment of silence, Jarod looked over at his friend. "Were you planning to hang around for a while?"
"I wouldn't want to interrupt the bonding session for too long," the man laughed. "But I might stick around for today."
"Why now, Alastair?" Jarod looked at him curiously. "Why did you wait this long?"
"Would you have remembered who I was until this past week?"
"I hope so."
The younger man shrugged. "I doubt it."
* * * * * * * * *
The man's facial expression was stern. "I pay you to work, Julia, not socialize in the café with my visitors."
"I'm sorry, Herr Direktor, but he offered and I thought it would be impolite if I were to refuse."
He raised an eyebrow. "So what were the two of you discussing?"
Julia's face was void of expression. "The reason you find me so valuable, sir."
Delius smirked, leaning back in his chair. "I hope you're not considering switching allegiances."
"I was under the impression, sir, that they were supposed to work with you, not against you."
"You tell me, Julia."
She nodded. "Very well, Herr Direktor. They will work with you until the situation is no longer of any benefit to them, and then they will work against you."
"As I thought." He bowed his head briefly in thought before looking up. "But that's not the reason I called you here."
"Your son has refused to settle ever since he fell from the bars in the gymnasium. I want you to go down there and calm him so that he can continue working well in the morning."
The woman fought to suppress her concern. "At once, sir."
"Oh, and Julia?"
She turned back from the door. "Herr Direktor?"
"I considered your recommendation," he spoke the last word sneeringly. "I think you may be right. Peter will recommence simulations with Clare and Michael tomorrow."
The psychic had to fight hard to keep the relieved look from her face. "Thank you, Herr Direktor."
* * * * * * * * *
She ran down the last few stairs, stopping outside the child's room and unlocking the door before pulling it open.
"Mommy," the boy whispered as she sat down beside him on the bed.
"You know you can't call me that here, baby." Gently she picked Peter up, stroking his hair. "I told you that."
"I know." He nodded, nestling closer to her. "But one day will I be allowed to?"
"Maybe one day, my darling. Maybe once all of this is gone, you and I can go to a new place and start a new life."
Julia thought of the healer in his room down the hall and smiled faintly. "I hope he'd come with us too, Peter."
"And will I meet Alastair one day?"
She looked down at him with a wider smile. "Have you been inside my head again?"
"Uh huh." He grinned at her slyly. "How come you were thinking about him?"
"He was thinking about me, Peter." She kissed him softly. "I have something nice to tell you now, baby. In the morning, you get to work with Clare and Michael again."
"Goody." He smiled before looking up at her, his expression suddenly sad. "When do I get to work with you?"
"My work's different, sweetie. You can't help me with that."
"I want to." He put both arms around her neck, his eyes heavy. "I want to see you more often."
"I'll try to come and see you whenever I can, honey," Julia murmured, blinking the tears out of her eyes. Feeling him nod drowsily against her shoulder, the psychic rocked the boy in her arms for a few moments before slowly rising to her feet.
Placing him down on the bed, she gently covered him with blankets, including the handmade quilt that Delius had, amid much mockery, allowed her to make for her son during her pregnancy, now almost five years earlier. Julia's face revealed her pain as she pulled up the brightly colored cover and spread it over him, bending down to kiss the face that she loved best in the world and quietly murmuring in his ear.
"Sweet dreams, mein' liebst'."
Going to the door, she looked back at the boy once before closing the door and, as with all of her other visits, feeling her heart sink as she heard the lock activate. Her room was only a few doors away, so she went there, sinking down on to the bed to stare blankly at the floor.
It was nearly five years to the day since Delius had informed her that she would be taking part in the project to create her son, to try to regain for Germany the chairmanship of the Triumvirate. Not that his reasons were of any importance to her. He enjoyed believing that she never actually understood his motives and never knew when he lied to her, knowing, at the same time, that her abilities meant she understood him totally.
And of course, Herr Delius knew what a hold he had over her, knew how much she stood to lose, if she ever left. That was the reason that she had refused to go when Alastair had offered to take her with him during his escape, because it would have meant leaving the most valuable parts of her life behind. Standing, she looked at herself in the small mirror on her wall, smoothing her hair and neatening her suit, before leaving the room to answer her boss's as-yet-unspoken summons.
* * * * * * * * *
"Where the hell have the three of you been?"
Sydney hid a smile, looking up to see Lyle glaring at him from the doorway of his office, and the psychiatrist exchanged amused looks with the woman seated in the corner. "We had a weekend vacation."
"You'd better hope that news of that doesn't get back to my father -- "
"Actually, Lyle, it was the Chairman who gave us the time off." Sydney offered the other man his copy of the memo, watching as the man snatched it and read the few lines.
"My father's losing his mind," the man sneered.
"That's quite possible," Sydney replied with a small smile. "But maybe you could take the matter up with him, rather than disrupting this meeting?"
"Oh, but before you go," Miss Parker interrupted sweetly. "Were there any new leads while we were off, relaxing?"
Growling something inaudible in reply, the man left the room, and let the door
close behind him, trying not to howl in pain as his remaining thumb was trapped
between the door and the wall.