"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
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
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
"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
"Look on the bright side. At least I'm gonna tell you that I'm
gonna harvest part of your body for someone else."
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
"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
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.
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
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."
* * * * * * * * *
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
"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
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
"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.
* * * * * * * * *
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
"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
"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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
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
Approaching the desk, the empath pointed at Fenigor's professional qualification
"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?"
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
"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."
* * * * * * * * *
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
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
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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
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
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."
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
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.