Special Treatment

 

home / season six / episode fourteen / act III

   

Columbus, Ohio

"What do you have, Parker?" the psychiatrist queried as he entered the hotel room.

"Broots sent eight articles, all relating to the deaths of the children and also the impending court cases." She looked up at Sydney. "If one or more of these finds the hospital guilty, they stand to lose a lot, or possibly everything."

"Just out of interest," he sat down opposite her, "who's representing them?"

Miss Parker stared at him for a moment before the meaning of his words sank in. "You think that the Centre…?"

"They do a lot of things to protect their own interests." He looked at the screen in front of him, an expression of pain in his eyes as he was unable to help thinking of one in particular. "And this has the possibility of a lot of benefit for them."

"In what way?"

"If this all succeeded, and if the Centre was the first to unlock the methods of using stem cells, it'd be worth more than just about anything they've ever done. It isn't like some other projects they've worked on, which still need to be kept secret -- "

"Like?" Miss Parker looked at him quizzically.

"Considering the current situation, what do you think would happen if the Centre announced that, almost two decades ago, they successfully cloned human beings, and that they were now fit and healthy teenagers? The science world would be all over it, but I've no doubt that ethicists would quickly be all over the Centre, and probably go a large way towards discrediting it, perhaps even to the extent of shutting it down."

The woman sat back in her chair, examining the floor for a moment before raising her eyes. "Can you explain it all to me? What exactly is stem cell research? I mean, I know it was the subject of a Presidential address a while back, but I'm not sure I understand exactly what it is."

Sydney rose from his seat and walked over to the window, staring out to the street below, before he turned back to look at her.

"First, remember that I'm not an expert in this field. I don't know everything about it. But stem cell research is an attempt to help some of the worst diseases that attack mankind, like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, heart damage, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, cancer -- anything that attacks specific organs."

He waited until she nodded before continuing.

"Stem cells are what scientists call pluripotent cells, meaning that they can develop into cells that will grown into any organ in the body. After the fertilization of a human embryo, the cells around the outside of the egg begin developing into the placenta and other tissues vital for the survival of the embryo. The cells inside the egg become these pluripotent cells. Without the outer cells, the cells within have no chance of ever becoming an embryo. As long as the external cells are there, the embryo can go on to develop into a fetus and, hopefully, a baby. But stem cells don't just exist in an unborn baby. They continue to develop in areas like the blood after birth."

Sydney gazed thoughtfully at the floor for a moment before continuing.

"Using stem cells, scientists hope to 'shape' them into different organs like heart, lung, pancreatic or kidney tissue. These can then be 'grown' into full organs and implanted into a body whose own organ has failed. It's hoped that stem cells from the patients themselves could be used, drastically reducing or even eliminating the possibility of rejection."

Miss Parker looked over at him, curiosity on her face. "I'm not sure I understand the problem."

"The problem is that some scientists feel that only the embryonic stem cells can be 'shaped' into the required tissue, meaning that they need cells from embryos and, because that act necessarily stops the embryo from any further development, those who feel that a cluster of cells is a human being from the instant that sperm and ova fuse argue that scientists are murdering people."

She nodded slowly. "So the Centre has artificially inseminated those women and kept the ones who are still pregnant…"

"And will harvest the embryos for research." Sydney nodded slowly. "I expect so."

"And the women will be taken down to the…" Her thoughts raced ahead and she stopped herself from stating the logical conclusion to the scenario.

He looked at her for a moment before turning away. After a moment of silence, she spoke again.

"Is there any other way to get the same benefits?"

"Maybe. About two weeks before Bush made his speech, a company said that they had managed to revert adult stem cells to a similar stage to those of embryo stem cells. Other laboratories have said that they can get similar results with the adult cells themselves. Then there are the stem cells in blood and possibly other tissue as well, which may have the potential to be used."

"So is that what this hospital is providing to the Centre?"

"Very probably, yes."

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod continued to stare at the ceiling, hands linked above his head, his fingers twisting painfully as he tried to justify the unjustifiable.

"I couldn't do anything else."

And yet somebody else found another answer, the voice told him mockingly.

"But Ryan's still alive."

No thanks to you. You had to try to be a hero, rushing all over two countries to steal an organ from somebody. You punished a woman four and a half years ago for doing the exact same thing. Who's going to punish you now?

"Look on the bright side. At least I'm gonna tell you that I'm gonna harvest part of your body for someone else."

"Dr. Brandt."

The name came out as a harsh whisper from between clenched teeth and he was suddenly able to remember how it had felt to be standing over her with the skin parer in his hand, looking down into the woman's terrified eyes, the same way that it… that it had felt with his fingers wrapped around the scalpel in that dingy hotel room. Jarod jumped off the bed and ran into the bathroom, retching violently as he sank down in front of the ceramic bowl.

"Your dark side, Jarod. This is where it came from."

"That's not enough of an excuse," he stated sadly, staring at his distorted reflection in the twisted silver pipes behind the toilet.

Shaking his head, Jarod moved until his back was pressed up against the cold tiles of the wall that separated his room from that next door. The walls were thin and he was able to make out the murmur of voices next door, one male and one female. For a moment, he almost believed that he could recognize them and he straightened slightly as a thought slid into his head.

"They could take you back," Jarod murmured to himself, rubbing one hand along the length of his other arm. "Take you back to the Centre. Wipe it all away. But is it them?"

Even as he listened, though, the two voices fell silent and Jarod pulled himself slowly, in stages, to his feet. Taking a cloth from the basin, he moistened it and wiped his mouth in an attempt to rid himself of the acidic aftertaste of vomit, before going back into the other room where he sank down into the chair at the table.

"I should have known better," he muttered.

The voice in his head was silent.

"I did know better," he told the empty room.

Jarod stared into the mirror, at his white face and the lines on his forehead and new ones around his mouth. His hair stood on end and shadows had already begun to appear under his eyes. His hands, he saw as he looked down, were trembling slightly and Jarod suddenly felt again the way he had in the first days after coming off Aurora, instinctively reaching for the tin of tablets in his pocket and swallowing one. Placing the object onto the table, he returned to his previous position as if he had never left it.

Closing his eyes, he could remember once more how it felt to sit under the stars of the southern sky, watching from the top of Mount Worth as the sun sank to the western horizon. He could feel the leather of the reins between his fingers and hear the crickets as they chirped and flies started to buzz around his face.

Luther will never have a chance to do that.

The voice spoke in his mind again and his head snapped up as his eyes opened, gazing again at his reflection.

You know, another voice seemed to suggest, if you went back to the Centre now, they could wipe the memory of it all from your mind, everything you're so ashamed of, all the things that you did to hurt people over the last five years, all supposedly under the guise of "justice." It might be them in the next room -- Sydney and Miss Parker. They've found you before. They might have been able to do it again. It's a nice, easy way out for you. They take you back to the Centre, someone wipes the whole thing from your mind, and then you never have to think about it ever again. Luther can't haunt your dreams. Your actions won't hurt you anymore because you won't be able to remember them.

"No."

Jarod could hear the weakness of the protest. Despite the fact that he had pushed it aside when it had occurred to him earlier, it had been then, and was now, a tempting idea. It meant that he wouldn't ever have to face the past again, a past that was now haunting him with ferocity; so much so that it was wonderful to think it could all vanish.

And there was the other reward too -- Aurora.

But he shook his head, even as the desire began to swell in him.

"It's too easy," he mumbled unevenly.

Why shouldn't it be? You suffered, the voice seemed to suggest. Why not, for once, take the easy way out?

"Dad, Jordan, Emily," Jarod choked out, his eyes seeing not the room but images of needles and vials of amber fluid, shining in artificial light. "I can't leave them…"

Why would they want any more to do with you? the voice mocked. Do you really think they'll want to be around a murderer? When they know…

"Don't tell them what I became."

There was a sudden sense of understanding now, as Kyle's words sprang, fresh and crisp, to the forefront of his mind. In an instant he was in the van, listening as the police approached down the sides of the embankment, and seeing the blood on his brother's leg. For a moment, he could feel the touch of Kyle's hand on his, and then the bright flash…

"No!"

The word exploded out of him as Jarod leaned forward, closing his eyes and resting his forehead on the tips of his outstretched fingers.

"This was always your fear, Kyle."

The words were whispered from between clenched teeth.

"You were terrified they wouldn't want anything to do with you. Just like they won't want anything to do with me…"

Jarod's head sank to rest on the arms that he folded on the table, his eyes fixed on the floor, and tears ran down his cheeks, dropping on his knees and the floor as he began to sob inconsolably.

Go ahead. The voice was speaking again, breaking through the emotion. See if they're there. It can't hurt if you look. The hotel's register is on computer. It would take only a few seconds…

Slowly his head lifted as if pulled by an unseen force. His eyes focused on the computer that sat at his right hand and, gradually, he turned towards it, pulling it closer. Logging into the system, as the voice in his head had stated, took only a moment, and he ran his eye down the list of names, stopping first at his own and then at the name allocated to the rooms next door to his, and of that in the room beyond it.

"Refuge," he whispered brokenly. "Please. Be there."

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

Elizabeth felt the eyes that burned into her back, carefully maintaining control over Sebastian's sleeping mind as she slowly turned. The dreams were familiar to her, even after only one night. He dreamt the same things, over and over, so it was easy for her to predict what was going to come. Because of this, she had begun to relax some of her control, discovering that she was able to catch the dreams before Sebastian dreamt them while still acting almost normally. Elizabeth was sure that, with only a little more practice, she would eventually not even need to sit in the room with him, but for now, she felt that it was preferable for her to remain at the bedside, where the dreams were strongest.

Sebastian's wife stood silently in the doorway. Her eyes revealed her concern as she viewed the scene, and Elizabeth immediately rose from her chair, walking over to the woman, gesturing at the bed with her hand as she spoke.

"You could join him."

"No." Sumi recoiled instantly. "No, that's not…"

"It wasn't possible," Elizabeth agreed softly. "But we can only try, and we have backup."

She waved at Craig who stood in the corner, almost invisible in the darkness.

"I'm not going to kill you, Sumi," she urged gently. "If I didn't think it was safe -- if they didn't -- I wouldn't suggest it."

The woman's eyes were still fearful as they turned to her. "How can you be sure that you won't miss one? What would happen if you fell asleep?"

"Think of me like Argos," Elizabeth suggested. "A hundred eyes -- never all closed at once."

"Even Argos had a weakness," Sumi retorted with a faint smile.

"There's one big difference," the other woman grinned.

"You're not from Greek mythology?"

"That too," Elizabeth agreed, laughing softly. "But Argos had one major weakness, which I'll never fall victim to." She dimpled at the woman as she guided her to the bed. "I'm not male."

Sumi's movements were hesitant, fearful, as she lay down beside her husband, taking a moment to get comfortable on the bed. Her head rested on the sleeping man's chest, her hand lying close to her face, and, through her fear of the situation, the telepath felt the other's woman's hand come to rest gently on her hair before the urge to sleep became too strong.

* * * * * * * * *

Columbus, Ohio

The woman wearily passed a hand through her hair, glancing out briefly at the night sky before looking back at the computer. "So what have we found out?"

"The same doctor was overseeing all of the children, according to information that Broots sent," Sydney told her. "All, however, had their operations performed by a different person working in the same medical field at the hospital."

Miss Parker looked up again, a frown on her face. "Doesn't that seem just slightly strange?"

"Parker, this is connected to the Centre. It's supposed to be strange." Sydney pulled at the sheets of paper and they slid over the table towards him. "All deliveries to the Centre have taken place in the past two and a half years…"

"That's the date of the first operation." Miss Parker scribbled a date on a piece of paper on which she had begun making notes, pushing it over to the man. "It probably gives us the approximate date at which the projects will have actively begun within the Centre too."

"Take a closer look at that date, Parker." The expression in Sydney's eyes became grave as he gave it back. "Do you notice anything familiar about it?"

"Oh my God." Her eyes widened slightly. "That's the day…"

"That Brigitte gave birth to Gabriel."

She sat back in the chair, turning slightly pale. "Could there be a connection?"

"It's possible. I'd suggest that it wasn't only Brigitte who was pregnant at the time, just to ensure a greater chance of success."

Miss Parker pressed a fist up to her mouth, turning to the window and blinking away the tears that had begun to amass in her eyes. When she turned back, her voice was slightly rough. "Who do you think ordered this?"

"I wouldn't want to say for sure." Sydney returned the pages to the table. "But Mr. Parker was trying to regain the Chairmanship at that point."

Nodding slightly, as if he had confirmed a suspicion rather than presented a new idea, she rose from her seat and began pacing the room. "So what do we do?"

"We tread carefully," the psychiatrist responded. "If the Chairman's overseeing this then we have to tread very carefully indeed. And that goes for Broots as well."

"I know." She stopped with her back to the door, and gazed out of the window behind his head. At the sound of a knock at the door, she jumped slightly before exchanging puzzled glances with the man in the chair, finally walking over and pulling it open.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Broots put his coffee down on the desk, sighing as he glanced at the clock. He couldn't leave the Centre, in case they called, and he didn't even want to think about sleep anyway. He knew what, or rather who, would be waiting for him the moment that he closed his eyes. Debbie was now old enough to be left at home on her own, and he had called to tell her that he wouldn't be coming home that night. Rubbing a hand over his head, he sipped the lukewarm drink and then noticed the folder, which was once more lying on top of the desk, having obviously been taken out of the drawer while he was gone.

Looking sharply at the door to make sure that it was still shut, he opened the beige cover with the Centre's logo on the front, glancing at the first page of information. His eyes were drawn to a list of details that seemed familiar for some reason, and as he sat back in the chair, Broots tried to remember where he had seen them before.

"Jacob."

Jumping at the voice before turning in the direction it had come from, Broots saw Angelo sidle out of the corner where he had been sitting, unseen.

"I'm sorry, Angelo, but I don't get it. What does this have to do with Jacob?"

Approaching the desk, the empath pointed at Fenigor's professional qualification details. "Jacob."

"You mean that these are Jacob's details?"

The empath vigorously shook his head even as realization struck the technician.

"These are the same as Jacob's? Jacob and Fenigor studied together?"

"Friends."

Broots' eyebrows shot up. "You're sure?"

Angelo lifted the first pages, showing Broots the duplicate of a letter, which the man quickly read through before turning his attention back to the other man. "So Mr. Fenigor was the person who convinced Mr. Parker to recruit Sydney and Jacob?"

Nodding, the empath wandered back into the corner of the room, picking up a book and flipping aimlessly through it. Broots stared at him briefly before turning back to the folder. Reading through some more of the information, the technician looked up again sharply.

"Angelo, what's Project Genesis?" He waited for a response, which was not forthcoming, before trying to get the other man's attention once more. "Angelo? Angelo!"

The empath was already lost, sitting in the corner and quietly rocking as he stared at the picture of the soaring eagle that he had found in the book. For several minutes, the technician watched him silently before picking up the phone.

As he was dialing the number, however, a small black object lying next to his desk caught his eye and, as the call was connected, the cell phone on the floor began to ring, skittering quickly across the parquet. After dropping the receiver back into the cradle, Broots bent down, picking up Miss Parker's phone and looking at it with frustration evident in his eyes, before turning to log on to the internet directory for Columbus, Ohio and, with a sigh, beginning to make his inquiries.

* * * * * * * * *

Columbus, Ohio

Jarod raised both hands as the door was opened, his wrists pressed together so that she could clip on the handcuffs, looking only at her feet, unable as much as unwilling to meet her eyes.

"Take me back."

She stared at him blankly for a second as if disbelieving that he was there, but even while Morgan hesitated, Sydney jumped up from his seat.

"Jarod?"

"Take me back, Sydney. I don't deserve to be out here." Jarod lifted his red-rimmed eyes to those of the older man, his voice dull and face expressionless. "Take me back and make me forget that I was ever anywhere except the Centre."

Reaching past the woman, who remained frozen in the doorway, the psychiatrist placed one hand on the Pretender's arm, gently steering him into the room. "Sit down," he ordered, endeavoring to speak calmly as he directed the man to a chair. "Sit down and tell me what's wrong."

"I killed somebody." A solitary tear began to trickle down Jarod's cheek as he slowly sank into the seat Sydney indicated. The psychiatrist took one opposite, his eyes full of concern as he visually examined the younger man, who continued to speak numbly. "With my own two hands I took a man's life. I murdered another human being." As he said the word, Jarod lifted both hands briefly before letting them drop back into his lap, staring helplessly at the floor of the room.

"Tell me what happened."

"I can't." Jarod's voice was a harsh whisper. "I already hate myself enough for what I did. You'll only hate me too, when you know."

"I can't help you unless you tell me, Jarod." Sydney placed his hand on that of the younger man. "You know your actions won't change my opinion of you. What you did, no matter how terrible it was, isn't who you are. Please. Tell me."

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Fenigor walked down the deserted corridor of the infirmary as the air conditioning made the curtains billow around him. The lateness of the hour had left only a skeleton staff on duty, and they weren't going to venture out of their comfortable staff room unless an emergency made it necessary. For the only patient in these rows of beds wouldn't be able to call them, even if one did occur.

The man halted at the bed, brushing aside the flimsy curtains and stepping into the cubicle. His eyes were drawn to the figure that lay on the bed, blank eyes staring towards the ceiling, and the visitor smirked.

"Hello, Raines. Bet you didn't think I'd be around again, not after what you tried to do to me."

Pulling a chair up beside the bed, Fenigor took a seat, his eyes glowing with anticipation as he continued to speak, at the same time pulling on a pair of latex gloves.

"I don't know whether you can hear me and I don't really care. The satisfaction is that I can say the words and do the deed, not that you'll hear or know." Putting one hand in his pocket, the man extracted a small syringe. "There is, of course, a small benefit in the fact that I have a nice friend who, being very capable with technology, managed to shut off the cameras for me, so nobody's going to help you, not this time."

He held the syringe up to the light, flicking it once or twice and slightly depressing the plunger to force out the last air bubbles.

"You know, Raines, I've thought about this almost every day for the past three and a half years. I've even dreamed about it. As I've sat at my desk at Donoterase, a supposedly hard-working scientist, I've really been thinking about all the ways that could bring me to this situation. Now, of course, it's here. And I'm so looking forward to it. You just lie there and let me take care of it. Oh, but I forgot. You aren't able to do anything else, are you?"

Chuckling softly, the doctor inserted the syringe into the IV tube that provided sustenance to the man in the bed. Gently, slowly, he depressed the plunger and emptied the contents. Leaning over the bed, he lowered his mouth down close to the man's ear.

"Even in your state, you should still feel this pain. Not right now, of course. I wouldn't be found in a dead man's room, even one in your condition. But, in a few hours, it'll begin burning inside you, an agony that will tweak every pain sensor you possess. And you know what happens during periods of prolonged pain, I'm sure, William. The heart starts having to work a little quicker, then faster still, until it's double or even triple the normal, healthy rate."

He chuckled, placing his hands onto Raines' chest and gently drumming, slowly at first, then with increasing speed, enjoying the hollow sound, before he continued to speak in a whisper.

"Of course, in someone like you, with a body weakened by years of ill health, even in spite of the donated lung, it won't be able to hold out for very long. With nobody knowing precisely what's wrong, in a couple of hours, your heart will give out. Then, as we should have been a very long time ago, we'll finally be able to bury you six feet underground. And nobody will be happier at your funeral than me -- and that's saying a lot."

His latex-gloved hands delicately replaced the cover on syringe before returning it to his pocket. For a moment, he stood silently beside the bed, watching the man with a sparkle of malice in his eyes. Raines' body continued to take in and expel air, the chest rising and falling, but the skin of his arm, where the IV fed the liquid into his body, was slowly turning red, and the reddened patch was gradually working its way along his arm. Fenigor smiled to himself, nodded once and then brushed the curtains aside, walking down the corridor towards the elevator.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

Sebastian woke slowly, taking a few seconds to orient himself, before he felt the slight weight on his chest and shoulder. His eyes flew open and he turned his head, breathing in sharply at the sight of Sumi lying against him. Before he could speak, however, a movement drew his eyes to a corner of the room, seeing Elizabeth rest a finger against her lips with a smile.

"Are you insane?" he hissed between clenched teeth.

"I can't help you when you're awake," she stated softly. "Calm down, Sebastian. You don't want to hurt her."

Recognizing the sense of her statement, he took several deep breaths, glaring at the woman until he felt that his rage was sufficiently under control for him to speak.

"What, in the name of all that's good, holy or St. Kilda, were you thinking?!"

Elizabeth cocked an eyebrow at Sebastian. "I was thinking that, when the danger is reduced to almost nothing, there's no reason why Sumi shouldn't be able to spend more time with the man she loves. Nor why you shouldn't be able to spend time with her." Suddenly she twisted her face into a revolted expression. "Although anybody who has so little taste that they actually barrack for St. Kilda…"

He tried not to grin at the disgusted look on her face, allowing himself to be steered away from the potentially dangerous subject. "Okay, then, which Aussie Rules football team do you barrack for?"

She shrugged. "The only decent one. Essendon."

He shook his head in disappointment as he slowly pulled himself into a sitting position, with care for the woman who remained asleep.

"I might have to reconsider having you here, with such terrible taste." He ran a hand through his hair, glimpsing his attire, before catching her eye again and then gazing at his wife. "Or maybe not," he murmured softly, reaching out to touch Sumi's hair.

"This is a gift I can give you," Elizabeth told him softy. "Those who usually watch over you every night are still keeping their internal eyes open to prevent any disasters. It's another level of your security."

Sebastian eyed her curiously. "What, exactly, do you know? How much of what we might get up to in here…"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" She raised both hands in protest. "I know exactly where you're going with that, Sebastian, and you're wrong."

"Sure?"

Nodding, Elizabeth settled herself on the edge of the bed as she began to explain. "Think of your waking consciousness like a blanket. When you're awake, that blanket covers your subconscious mind. It's still active -- frantically so -- but I can't see into it. While you sleep, the blanket is raised and then I can see into your dreams."

She dimpled at the man. "Whatever you and your wife got up to in the sanctuary of your bedroom, I wouldn't know. Of course," she smiled. "If your subconscious decided to relive it again, after you fell asleep…"

He smiled broadly before looking around. His eyes were serious by the time they met hers again. "What about a normal room?"

"Not yet." She gently reached out to touch his arm. "Give it time, Sebastian. Give me time. I'm not used to the work involved with you. When I'm more practiced, then we'll move on to other things." The woman smiled again. "Pajamas, a normal mattress, silk sheets…"

Exhaling slowly, he heard the breath hissing between his teeth. "Don't tempt me," he muttered as he looked down in time to see his wife's eyes open, looking up at him with a loving smile.

On to Act IV

 
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