Sebastian sat down and opened up the files attached to an email that
Jarod had sent. There were six women with that name employed by the Centre,
but all were several generations older than the woman in the guestroom
several doors away. Somewhat comforted, but still not completely ready
to accept her, Sebastian got up, walking over to the screen showing the
outside world and gazing at it.
Everybody else had retired for the night, but, as was so often the case,
he didn't want to close his eyes. It had been a struggle to remain emotionally
stable today, his concern about the unknown woman bringing him close to
the edge, and Sebastian didn't want to run the risk of losing control
in his sleep. But he was so tired. Sighing wearily, he returned to the
chair. Briefly, he let his eyes close to ease the burning he felt in the
back of them. Exhaustion swept in on him like a wave and his head slowly
nodded forward as his sleep deepened.
* * * * * * * * *
Trevor opened his eyes and reached out to turn on the light as his alarm
clock jangled in his ear. Sitting up, he stretched, feeling more relaxed
than he had for some time and trying to understand what had caused it.
A slight movement caught his eye and he looked up sharply in time to see
the door shut with an almost soundless click. Leaping to his feet, he
bounded across the room in two large steps and tore it open, looking sharply
up and down the hallway, seeing the door of the next-door guest room silently
Flinging it open with such force that it almost shut in his face again,
Trevor met the eyes of the woman who stood beside the bed. Her face was
expressionless, but her eyes twinkled with a light that she couldn't suppress
as she met his gaze steadily.
"What were you doing in my room?" he demanded suspiciously.
"How did you sleep?" she asked, lips twitching as she put the
question. "Pleasant dreams?"
All of a sudden, Trevor realized what was different about this morning
from other days. During the past few weeks, he had been haunted by a nightmare
of the scenario that he had picked up from Jarod's mind during their discussion.
More and more of the event had been revealed to him until he had been
dreaming that he himself was the subject of the experiment. This had been
the first night for over month that he hadn't had that dream and awakened
in a cold sweat. Looking at the woman, he saw a knowing expression in
her eyes. His first instincts about Elizabeth returned to his mind and
he firmly closed the door, walking over to sit down deliberately in a
chair on the far side of the room and looking up at her, eyes demanding
"Tell me what you did."
* * * * * * * * *
"Are you sure you won't stay, Jarod?"
The man smiled. "Thanks for the offer, Dr. Goetz, but I've got to
deliver something for Dad and if I don't get going soon, the office will
Ethan looked uneasily out of the window as dark clouds began to gather
on the horizon. "Are you sure you should fly through that?"
"I'll be fine," the Pretender stated cheerfully. "I'll
call you when I land, okay?"
"Make sure you do." Ethan returned his brother's hug. "Want
me to call Dad for you?"
"You can call him after I call you, so he'll know the package got
there okay." He smiled. "And tell Jordan that I'll talk to him
in the next day or two, okay?"
Waving, Ethan watched his brother stroll over to a plane waiting on the
tarmac. The man waved back before getting into it and shutting the doors.
In the increasing gloom, as night fell, the white object stood out clearly
in the darkened airport, with only a strip of lights showing the runway.
The doctor slipped her arm through his with a gentle squeeze.
"He'll be fine," Dr. Goetz assured him. "Don't worry about
Jarod. Let's grab some dinner and you can tell me all you've been up to."
With a grateful smile, Ethan let her lead him through the airport building
as, over their heads, the plane took off into the evening sky.
* * * * * * * * *
She found her way up to the roof, softly opening the door to step out
onto the uneven surface, the neglect of which suggested that few people
had ever been out there before her. The night air was cool, and she shut
her eyes, letting it buffet her frame. Her thoughts drifted, touching
on first one and then another of the brilliant minds below her. It was
strange how her abilities only worked when the conscious mind was switched
off and the subconscious was allowed to play. Elizabeth had never tried
to work it out, and she didn't want to bother. Just doing what she did
every night was enough, and she was only grateful that she didn't have
to carry the emotional burden of the dreams she absorbed, filing them
away somewhere deep in the recesses of her mind, using them to give her
insights into people's characters.
A disturbance drew her mind back into depths of the building. Never had
one place held so many dreams for her to counteract, but she was enjoying
stretching her abilities and wondered just how far she could -- or would
have to -- go.
Passing a partly open door, she heard footsteps from within it, as if
a person was slowly pacing, and made a mental note to return. Gliding
noiselessly down the staircase to the next level, she slipped into a bedroom,
standing near the door. Here, the images flew at her more quickly, and,
as she stepped towards the bed, the intensity increased. Reaching out,
she held her hand a short distance above the sleeping man's face. This
wasn't necessary in every case, but some dreams resisted her more than
others, and this one fought briefly before allowing her to ease it out
of the man's mind. His facial features relaxed immediately as the young
man rolled onto his side. She placed a gentle hand on Cam's arm as she
mentally searched for any other disturbances in his usually controlled
mind. When nothing showed itself, she silently retreated, closing the
door and heading back up the stairs.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod let himself into the room of the tumbledown hotel, his eyes burning
from exhaustion and his legs barely able to move. Having flown through
the beginnings of the storm that was attacking the northeastern states,
he was ready for nothing but sleep, regardless of what dreams might arise.
Dropping his bags in the corner, Jarod shrugged out of his leather jacket,
slinging it over the back of a chair and stretching out on the bed without
even bothering to take off his shoes. Pulling up a blanket that was folded
at his feet, he curled up under it and closed his eyes.
* * * * * * * * *
"You know," an Australian accent suggested from the doorway,
making Sebastian jump, "normal people sleep at night."
He glanced over his shoulder to see the slim brunette standing just inside
the room and grimaced at the sight.
"I'm not normal," he growled.
"Neither am I," she responded, laughing. "I don't know
whether you've noticed, but I'm not exactly out for the count either."
He couldn't help smiling at the familiar accent and teasing tone of her
voice. Turning, he waved a hand at the armchair opposite his bed, sitting
on the floor opposite her. "Trevor still hasn't told me what's special
about you," he admitted, studying her intently with his eyes. "He
said I'd discover it for myself."
She grinned. "What are you suspecting, Sebastian?"
"No idea." He shrugged. "I wouldn't want to start guessing.
I'm probably way out."
"Beyond the black stump," she agreed, watching him grin at
the familiar expression. "And further."
"So what are you?" he demanded, eyes curious.
"I don't know what you'd call it," she confessed. "A human
He raised an eyebrow. "Say what?"
Elizabeth resettled herself in the chair, crossing her legs, Indian-style.
"When people are asleep, I can see what they're about to dream."
Sebastian eyed her skeptically. "And then what?"
"I can take them out," she admitted. "I can guess at the
way a dream might make a person feel, the same way as a mother would see
how a toy with a sharp corner could injure a child. Just as the mother
would take the toy away before the child could play with it, I can take
away the dream before a person actually dreams it."
His eyes were suddenly hopeful. "Could you do it for me?"
"I've never found anybody I couldn't help," she stated. "If
you dream -- and everybody does -- I can remove the bad ones." Elizabeth
eyed the man, her tones soft. "Trevor told me some of what you go
through, Sebastian. If you slept better at nights, that would have to
make the days easier. Don't you agree?"
He nodded slowly, turning his gaze to the floor, considering the full
implication of what the woman was saying. Sebastian tried to recall a
time when the people who watched over him hadn't had to wake him, stopping
him before he could subconsciously lose control. He wasn't able to remember
a single night. Pain filled him, hot tears sliding out of his eyes, as
he recalled the many hours when he had watched others, even his wife,
sleep, afraid to shut his own eyes.
When Sebastian raised his head, Elizabeth had risen to her feet and now
stood beside him. She silently offered him a hand, helping him to his
feet and sitting beside him on the bed of sand that filled a corner of
the room. His eye was caught by the long-sleeved shirt he wore and, as
the door of the room opened and the man who usually watched over him at
night silently entered, sitting in a chair in the far corner, almost hidden
in the half-light cast by a small lamp on the other side of the room,
Sebastian cast a concerned and somewhat embarrassed look in Elizabeth's
direction, the import of which clearly went over her head.
"What is it?"
He cast another glance at his shirt, trying to find a way to explain,
when understanding flashed in Elizabeth's eyes and she nodded slowly.
"Why don't we try it this way?" The woman cast a glance at
the psychic, who was watching this in silence, but whose concern was obvious.
"Give it an hour, perhaps? Maybe two?"
Sebastian looked at the psychic, who nodded in agreement, before he turned
back to her, anxiety making him feel almost ill. The woman's brown eyes
glowed with a confidence that he found encouraging and he slowly lay back
against the sand. She gently placed her hands on either side of his head
as he gazed up at her, his concern now changing to the thought of what
she might be going to do.
"Close your eyes, Sebastian," she directed quietly. "Let
me do it."
He found it difficult, even knowing how much faith Trevor seemingly had
in this woman, to put his full trust in her abilities, but he felt his
body slowly relaxing as a tingle of some power, like a gentle electric
current, seemed to travel from her hands into his mind. His eyelids closed
almost against his will, and the man found his thoughts fogging, as if
someone had administered a mild sedative. Sebastian had a vague feeling
that he could successfully fight against what she was doing but, as sleep
swept in on him, he realized that he didn't want to resist.
* * * * * * * * *
Craig watched from his seat in the corner of the room, occasionally glancing
at his watch. It had been more than five hours since Sebastian had fallen
asleep, and Elizabeth hadn't moved from her seat on the side of the bed.
The psychic had seen flashes of the nightmares that the woman had been
removing from the pyrokinetic's sleeping mind, and Craig had quickly recognized
them as ones that Sebastian had regularly, mostly vague and hazy, always
full of fire and smoke, with an underlying fear of causing injury to some
innocent person if he were unable to control himself at a critical time.
The previous night, he had woken Sebastian only a short time after the
man had fallen asleep in the boardroom, concerned at the way sleeping
in a chair might have affected his mood. Now, he had to wonder what might
have happened if he had left the man to sleep. Craig guessed, from watching
the woman, that the contents of the dreams were unsurprising to her, suggesting
that she recognized them from the night before. The tension in Elizabeth's
face, however, suggested that, despite being unsurprised at their content,
she was being mentally bombarded by their sheer numbers and strength.
He looked around sharply as the door opened and Trevor silently entered.
He nodded and smiled in Craig's direction and then stepped towards the
bed. His words were murmured but still audible to the man in the corner.
"How's it going?"
time is it
?" she asked slowly, and Craig
could see what an effort it was for her to utter the words. She had earlier
explained to him that she was using all her strength to ensure that she
caught every dream, thus making her other responses slow.
"A little after seven," Trevor replied after consulting his
watch. "Sebastian has a meeting at eight."
" she offered.
Craig saw Trevor nod thoughtfully before his attention was caught by
the peaceful expression on Sebastian's face, his surprise only increasing
when he saw that the man was also fully dressed. A smile crossed Craig's
face, which only broadened as Sebastian began to rouse. Sleepily rolling
onto his side, Sebastian yawned, slowly opening his eyes to gaze blankly
at the wall above their heads, before sitting bolt upright and staring
at the woman who sat on the edge of the bed, her eyes dancing.
"Sleep well?" Elizabeth inquired demurely, and Craig tried
to suppress his laughter as he stood up and headed for the door, thankful
that Trevor's attention had been drawn to the unremarkable-looking woman
walking along the Dallas street.
* * * * * * * * *
The room was dark when he opened his eyes, bile rising in his throat,
but he forced it down as he tried to raise his head, looking around and
struggling to make out objects in the pale light. He was in pain. They
had done something that gave him a terrible feeling of pain in his stomach.
He tried to reach out, to touch it, but his hands were fastened somehow
at the head of the bed
Jarod opened his eyes with a gasp, staring up at the ceiling of the hotel
room as he instinctively put one hand on his side where the pain had been.
When nothing hurt, he pulled himself into an upright position, forced
his breathing to slow down, and then slowly got to his feet. Dragging
his feet, he slowly crossed the room, seizing his bag and lifting it up
onto the table with arms that felt like ton-weights. Producing a bottle
of water, he gulped down half of it, sinking into a chair at the table,
sipping the cool liquid as he gazed blankly at the storm raging outside
the window, making the early morning sky almost as dark as night.
Clenching his hands into fists, he glared at the thin carpet of the floor,
eyes fixing on a point that was worn through and showed the floorboards
beneath. His expression became one of confusion as he tried to remember
exactly what had occurred, the dream already indistinct and becoming hazier
the more he tried to concentrate on it. All he knew was that the Centre
would have had to have been involved somehow.
His eye was caught by the DSA case on the floor nearby, but he baulked
at the idea of trying to find the incident on one of the many discs in
that case. Instead, he finished the water and threw the bottle into the
trash, collecting his bags and leaving the room. He had no destination
in mind; he just hoped that moving might allow him to leave the dream
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
The man drove through the town, looking to either side as he halted the
car at a traffic light. It was good to be back. It was a long time since
his sudden departure from the place and he now looked forward to getting
back into the hub of the action again. Certainly Donoterase had provided
some scope, but the Centre was a more productive working environment,
and possibilities for his future projects became virtually endless in
a place where nobody got in the way of real research.
With an eye on the light he took out an envelope, extracting a letter.
The invitation was more than acceptable; it was definitely welcome. Picking
up the security card, he fingered the thin plastic, a distinct improvement
on the item with which he'd been identified when he last worked there,
more than thirty years ago, before he had been ignominiously thrown out
after Catherine Parker's faked death. With a slight shake of his head
and an amused smile, Fenigor dropped the objects back on the seat and,
as the light turned to green, turned the corner onto the road that led
up to the large building now visible on the skyline.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
His eyes still fixed on the computer screen as the phone rang, the man
picked up the receiver and tucked it under his chin as his hands remained
on the keyboard.
"Aren't you forgetting something, Broots?"
His eyes traveling to the clock, the technician let out a gasp of horror,
to be answered by a dry chuckle on the other end.
"She's waiting and the storm clouds are gathering. You'd better
Dropping the receiver back in the cradle, the technician jumped to his
feet, casting a final glance at the computer before running from the room.
Skidding to a stop at the elevator, he frantically pushed the button,
watching the board above the doors as the car descended. Finally, the
doors slid open to reveal that the elevator was full of women attired
in medical scrubs. The researcher who stood in the front gave him an apologetic
"Sorry, hun, but you'll have to get the next one."
Nodding dazedly, he watched as the doors closed again, staring at the
pale blue material until the metal hid it from his sight. Turning, he
found Cox beside him, hand outstretched to press the call button, and
Broots moved quickly away, struggling not to cast a glare in the man's
direction as he hurried to Sydney's office, forgetting his original destination.
"What's going on?"
Sydney looked up sharply. "With what?"
"All the women." Broots started to pace the office. "Are
they planning to start Fountain again?"
"Slow down," the psychiatrist protested. "All what women?"
"The ones I just saw in the elevator," the technician explained,
his words tumbling out rapidly as he halted momentarily in front of the
desk. "The ones in scrubs. Is it Fountain? Is that what's going on?"
"You know that's not possible," Sydney reminded him quietly.
"After Carol Sherer died, all of her information was gone too. If
they ever did manage to start it up again, it would be years away, if
"Well, something's happening."
"You've noticed it too," a quiet voice from the doorway commented.
"I hoped you wouldn't."
"How could I not, Miss Parker? It's hard to hide large groups of
subjects, even in a place like this." He continued to pace, his hands
balled into fists at his sides. "If it's starting up again
"Broots, I told you
" the psychiatrist began patiently.
"Well, what is it then?" He turned, an unfamiliar glare on
his face. "There's some project -- either still going on, or starting
up -- that needs a lot of women for it, and I'll bet it isn't something
"At least keep your voice down," Miss Parker urged from her
seat near the door. "You won't be able to do anything if you're dead."
"What can we do?" He turned to her, a look of helplessness
in his eyes.
"We can find out what's going on." Morgan went over and held
open the door, with a gesture that invited him to lead the way out of
* * * * * * * * *
Entering the hotel room he had just booked, Jarod dropped his bag onto
the floor and then pulled out his laptop, plugging into the phone line
before accessing the Internet to see what else he could find out about
an article that had caught his attention. It had been months since his
last real Pretend, and although he enjoyed the fact that not doing them
left him time to spend with his family, there were times when Jarod wanted
to expand his knowledge and put it to a practical use.
He hadn't heard anything more of Yuri for a while, and the trail of "Executioner"
murders seemed to have ceased, temporarily anyway. Jarod wasn't stupid
enough to believe that the other man would stop altogether. It was clear
that he had enjoyed what he was doing and saw no reason to stop it, just
because Jarod had told him to. Still, there had been no sign for several
weeks, and Jarod knew that Yuri wouldn't be found until he wanted to be.
He would have to wait until there was some clue, and until then he could
concentrate on other things. Like this.
Opening the paper on the desk, he picked up a pair of scissors from his
bag and cut it out, taking a red notebook and opening it to place the
article inside. Morgan had asked him to continue with the pattern that
had been established at the very beginning of the pursuit, because such
actions would prove that nothing had changed. He was determined to show
them that, despite the signs, nothing had. This would be a good start.
His computer beeped, alerting him to the fact that several relevant hits
had been found. Pulling up the first, Jarod ran his eyes over it before
bookmarking it and moving on to the next. Within only a few minutes, he
not only had a series of relevant articles, he had enough background information
to begin setting up a detailed curriculum vitae to be presented
at his new place of work.
* * * * * * * * *
SL-17, The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
"Excuse me, Mr. Parker?"
The man looked up from watching Gabriel solving a complicated mathematical
puzzle to see a sweeper in the doorway.
"What is it?"
"There's a person to see you, sir. He said that he has an appointment."
"Good." Mr. Parker glanced around. "You may as well show
him in here."
"Yes, sir." The sweeper disappeared for a moment, returning
with a man who he showed into the room. Mr. Parker stared at the man blankly
until the sweeper spoke again. "Mr. Fenigor, sir."
"Ah, of course. The Maker of Men." Mr. Parker rose from his
seat. "Alex, it's good to see you."
The two men shook hands and then Mr. Parker waved at another chair. "Sit
down, Alex. How was the trip?"
"And how was everything at Donoterase when you left?"
"Busy, as always." Fenigor laughed softly. "The next level
of the project will take a bit of work, but they'll get there."
"They just lost their best person," Mr. Parker remarked. "If
I didn't think you'd be more useful here, I'd have suggested you stay
Mr. Fenigor eyed the small boy, who was watching them surreptitiously,
before his gaze traveled back to the other man. "So where, in all
these twenty-seven sub-levels, were you intending to put me?"
"For the time being," the older man replied, leaning back in
the chair, "I want you to be helping the children's caregivers to
resolve any of the concerns or problems they might be feeling. Sydney
was in that position, but his time is being increasingly taken up with
the hunt for Jarod."
"To be honest," Fenigor told him, "I was hoping to work
with the children themselves."
"They require a specialized team," the Chairman reminded him.
Fenigor spread out his hands in a gesture of demonstration. "Parker,
you know my training. How much more specialized do you need?"
The older man laughed. "Okay, Alex, I'll get Cox to introduce you
to the Seraphim at some point today."
* * * * * * * * *
"So what is it?" Sydney queried.
"I don't know." Broots stared at the screen. "But a group
of women were sent to Donoterase from a hospital in Ohio and then referred
here. They're all between two and four months along in their pregnancy.
The same hospital that referred them here has recently been sending packages
to the Centre."
"Do we know what the packages contain?" Miss Parker leaned
over the technician's shoulder, reading the material that he had found.
"Bodily organs." He brought up another file. "It's one
of the hospitals that organs from Mr. Fenigor were supposedly sent to."
Broots picked up a page he had printed out and pointed to a series of
numbers. "These are time and date details of a delivery here in Blue
"Do you know what this is, Syd?" Morgan carried the printout
over to the psychiatrist, who looked over the details.
"It's information about what was transferred: the amounts and weights."
The psychiatrist eyed the numbers, raising an eyebrow. "For bodily
organs, they're pretty light. I'd guess it's tissue samples rather than
"What can we find out about the hospital?" she demanded, turning
back to the technician.
Broots pulled up another file. "It's been in the news quite a lot
recently. Several patients have died and most of them were children. Autopsies
showed that many of those who died had had organs taken from them during
"Illegally?" The query was sharp as Sydney looked up.
"Well, it's doesn't say, but I guess so." Broots sat back in
his chair. "I don't get it. What would they be doing with the sorts
of tissue they were taking? And why is the hospital sending them here
to the Centre? Surely they'd have facilities to test the organs there,
or they wouldn't take them in the first place."
"Perhaps the Centre uses them for something the hospital couldn't
do there, in case the ethicists found out," the psychiatrist suggested
as a thought struck him, putting together various rumors he had heard.
"It would also provide a reason for the abundance of pregnant women
in the Centre. This is also something for which they often use embryonic
Miss Parker looked at him sharply. "What, exactly, are you talking
Sydney's voice was quiet. "Stem cell research."
* * * * * * * * *
All Saints Hospital
"Dr. Jarod Baltimore."
"Dr. Luther Miniter. Pleased to meet you."
Jarod shook hands with the doctor to whom he was being introduced and
followed him into the man's office.
"So what brought you here, Dr. Baltimore?"
"Please, call me Jarod." The Pretender sat in the seat and
looked at the man opposite him. "I've started to do some investigation
into stem-cell research, and, as you've been putting out some wonderful
papers on it, I thought this would be a good place to start."
"Oh, really?" Miniter raised an eyebrow. "So what field
were you in before?"
"I've been interested in cloning for a couple of years," Jarod
responded carefully, and the doctor laughed.
"You and the rest of the scientific community, not to mention the
world." The researcher leaned back in his seat, pressing his fingertips
together. "You have to understand that we can't afford to hire people
who'll run off to our competitors with every single one of our findings.
There's a great deal of money to be had in this field by the people who
make the breakthroughs, and we don't want to share."
"And then," the Pretender suggested thoughtfully, "there's
all the possible medical benefits to the wider public as well."
"Of course, of course," the man agreed quickly. "But if
people want it, they'll pay for it, no matter what price we put on it.
Anything to get an advantage."
"Quite," Jarod commented softly.
"Still, Jarod, you've got good credentials, and I doubt you'll find
a better center for your research than here." He stood up. "Let
me show you around."