Peltier Island Maximum Security Prison
Friday, February 22
Jarod walked slowly down the corridor, looking into the cells one by
one as he passed them. "Damon," he murmured softly as he glanced
into the first room, then moved on to the next in the row. "Kyle
He paused outside Pauley Fishman's cell, looked for similarities to
his late brother, and found them. Subtleties in the way they both moved
came through loud and clear. Eclipse had left its mark on Kyle, but
his brother was dead now. Nothing could be done about what had happened
to him. Jarod moved on down the row, glancing at the last cell as he
stopped walking just before he reached it. "Lyle... and me."
He peered into the cell where an aging Kodiak Brown stared back at
him. He was still strong, obviously keeping in shape even with the limited
means his cage gave him, but his face was lined and his long, dark hair
was still worn in a ponytail, just now beginning to show some gray at
his temples. Those sharp blue eyes had not dulled in intensity from
the last time he had seen the man, even though Jarod had been unwilling
to look at him for more than the moment it took to identify who he was.
Now, though, he had come specifically to gaze into those eyes, to meet
that evil head-on.
"And what can I do for you?" Kodiak drawled, rising slowly
to his feet. "Come to figure out what makes me tick, like all the
Jarod resisted his first impulse to simply turn around and leave. He
had come here for a reason, one that had to be seen through, no matter
how difficult it was. He cocked his head and stared at the other man.
And felt himself looking back through the glass. It made his skin prickle
"This isn't a zoo," the inmate snapped. "State your
business, or move on."
Jarod straightened, clasping his hands loosely behind his back. This
man had haunted him, waking and sleeping, for decades. Coming back here
and confronting the source of his fear was the only way he knew to finally
be rid of the man's influence. "You don't know me, do you?"
he asked quietly.
Kodiak smiled. "Well, maybe I do, and maybe I don't. I know I've
seen you before. We don't get many visitors down here, besides shrinks.
Are you a shrink, son?"
"Not today," the Pretender said quietly. "But you can
call me 'Doc' if it makes you feel better."
He suddenly looked smug. "Well, Doc, you're standing pretty far
away from the cage. Are you afraid of me?"
Jarod swallowed hard. His hands were perspiring, and his stomach cramped,
being this close to the man. He was suddenly reminded of the interviews
he had conducted with Douglas Willard several years ago, in a similar
environment. He was desperate back then, enduring the taunts and the
nickname prodigy in the hopes of saving a young girl's life -- and finding
the body of Annie Raines.
But circumstances were different now. There was no one to save, no
one to find, except perhaps himself. "I'm no one you know,"
he assured the killer. "No one you ever knew. But I know you.
I have a map of your soul, Kodiak. I was a prisoner there for a long
time." He sighed. Kodiak was caged, put away from the rest of the
world forever. But part of him lived on in Jarod's soul, and always
Frowning, Kodiak strolled closer to the Plexiglas wall that separated
them. "You some kind of profiler or something? Is that what this
"No," Jarod whispered painfully. "Something far worse."
He felt his stomach roil. Backing up, he sat heavily on the plastic
bench against the far wall and turned his gaze to the smooth, polished
stone floor. He wanted to run, but fought back the urge with all his
strength. He needed to be here, needed to win
but looking into
those eyes had a price. The memories were coming now, merciless in their
A gleam of interest sparked in Kodiak's eyes. "You want to tell
me about it? Unburden yourself?" His voice was softer now, seductive.
He wanted to hear this tale of horror, wanted to enjoy it. It had been
a long time since he'd had that.
But Jarod understood where that path would take him. He'd already unburdened
himself, to Sydney and to Faith. He didn't need to relive it; what he
needed was to find the core of strength within himself, the strength
this alter-ego offered
but on his own terms.
Pit Kodiak Brown against Kodiak Jarod, and let the better man win.
He could see that conflict in his mind, watch the two match wits and
exchange blows in the arena of his consciousness. There was no contest.
As dark as this man was, Jarod's conviction in truth and goodness was
stronger. His cunning paled beside Pretender genius. And shadows disappear
in the light.
"You didn't win, Kodiak," Jarod said slowly. "Evil never
does, in the end."
Anger sparkled in those blue eyes, but the prisoner said nothing.
"The only power you have is what other people give you,"
Jarod went on, more sure of himself now. "And you can stand there
and pretend you have power over me, but you don't, because I
won't let you. Not anymore."
Kodiak narrowed his eyes, a sneer of disgust curling his lip. "I
don't know what the hell you're talking about, Doc, but it sounds pretty
screwed up to me."
He's right. I am screwed up, maybe beyond repair. But I've got something
he doesn't. I have a conscience. He eased himself gently to his
feet, straightened his suit, and made eye contact as he stepped right
up to the transparent wall. "Maybe I'm a little crazy. But unlike
you, I want to get better. I have people who want to help me. And one
day, I'll be free. I don't think you can say the same."
He took a step away, then stopped and glanced over his shoulder. "Have
a nice rest of your life, Kodiak. I might write you a letter now and
then, just to let you know how I'm doing, and how nice it is to be out
in the world."
The prisoner frowned. "I didn't get your name."
"That's right," Jarod assured him solemnly. "And you
never will." He offered a casual salute in parting and left the
facility, certain Kodiak Brown would be stewing over that visit for
some time to come. He, on the other hand, would do his best to put it
As he stepped aboard the ferry that would take him back to shore, his
cell phone rang and he pulled it out as he watched the prison fade from
view in the chilly mist sweeping up the river.
"How are things, old mate?"
"Well, hello, Sebastian. What can I do for you?" he said
into the mouthpiece. He listened for a moment, and checked his wristwatch
for the date. "Yes, I think I can meet you in Wilmington by then.
"I can't let the cat out of the bag, mate. I just need you to
be there," the Australian told him.
His brow wrinkled as he listened. "I'm not sure what that means,
but I'll bet the cat didn't like it. Can you be a little less cryptic?"
"Sorry, mate. I'll explain at the airport Monday morning. I hope
you like surprises."
He paused and watched the shore looming closer, eager now to get to
his car. "Okay, I'll trust you. And yes, I do like surprises. As
long as they're not from the Centre."
"You'll like this one, I promise. Four a.m. sharp, Eastern time.
I know that's ungodly early, but no tardies. It's important."
The Pretender could hear the smile loud and clear through the earpiece,
but it left him a little unsettled, knowing he'd be so close to the
Centre and placing his life in someone else's hands, someone he barely
knew, who had a history with the Centre. Sebastian had proven his dislike
of the place, yet he worked with them hand in hand via his businesses.
Jarod had been careful to check all that out when he first met the man.
The two didn't quite add up, leaving some blemishes on the man's character
that made Jarod wary of him.
He would run through a few simulations over the weekend and make sure
he had some planned avenues of escape before he made the rendezvous,
just in case.
Jarod rang off and put his phone away, taking a final glimpse of the
ghostly building behind him, all but invisible now in the fog. The air
was chilly and damp, but Jarod felt warm inside. He felt less lost now,
because he recognized the influence this spectre of the Centre had forced
on his psyche. He could hope now that one day his soul might take wing
and find the freedom he ached to own.
He would move on with his life, and watch for the darkness to rise.
He could be on guard against it now, and one day he hoped that the shadow
that had covered him since Eclipse might finally be banished into the
light. It would be a daily struggle, much like the one that Aurora had
left behind, but he was strong. He had people who cared about him, who
would support him if he needed it. Kodiak Brown could now be resigned
to the past. He had confronted the evil in person, and now it would
be easier to do it in his own mind. Once more he turned toward the approaching
shore, and knew that this time, he would never look back.
* * * * * * * * *
Monday, February 25
4 am EST
The blond man laid his left palm on the glass scanner, aware of how
his hand was perspiring inside the thin, nearly invisible latex glove
that had been made to look like real skin. He presented the fake IDs
that could not be distinguished from real ones, and forged the signature
he had perfected on the digital pad. Waiting patiently, he met the eyes
of the security guard waiting on the far side of the entry station and
nodded in silent greeting.
"Welcome to Delaware, Mr. Voorhees," said the receptionist,
once the visitor's identity had been verified. "Guest quarters
have been prepared for you in the Tower. George, here, will take you
there so you can rest before the senior staff arrives tomorrow."
The woman smiled and handed back his ID cards.
The blond man tucked the cards into his jacket pocket and followed
the guard across the elegant marble foyer and into an elevator. "So
it begins," said the visitor, and pushed the button for SL-17.
As the car slowed to a stop, he turned to George and handed over a small,
flat sealed package. "This patch will get you through the next
eight hours. Be sure you're at the rendezvous point at the proper time."
"Yes, sir," said George. The guard remained on the elevator
after the visitor stepped into the corridor, punched another button
and the doors slid closed again.
The blond strode directly to the first room, placed his left thumb
on the scanner and punched in the code. The door opened, and Penfield
remained in her seat on the side of the bed. Her expression was blank,
her eyes hollow. In her arms, she held the tiny body of a toddler.
The boy roused slightly, eyes heavy lidded, and studied the man. "Go
see Jawid?" asked Gabriel.
The man smiled and came close. He squatted down and gently stroked
the boy's hair. "Yes, little one. You're going to see Jarod very
soon. Won't that be wonderful?"
"Jawid." Gabriel's eyes rolled slightly, and closed at last.
"The medication should have taken effect by now," the man
observed quietly. He glanced at Penfield, but did not stop stroking
the little boy's hair.
"He's been fighting the sedation," the nurse explained. "He's
very excited. All the children are."
"That's understandable, but the clock is ticking," he returned
quietly. "Have you got the laundry carts ready?"
"Yes, sir." Penfield rose and carried Gabriel over to a cart
nearly filled with bedding and play clothes. She laid the boy gently
into it, took an additional blanket from her bed, and laid it over the
sleeping child so that no part of him could be seen. Then, she pushed
the cart out into the corridor and toward the elevator. Two other carts
were already on their way, and the false Mr. Voorhees rounded up the
others, heading them in that direction as well.
He paid no attention to the video cameras watching the corridor. He
didn't have to worry about that at all.
* * * * * * * * *
Boer City, South Africa
Monday, 9:00 am
"I can't believe they'd hide something like this from us,"
the Chairman growled. He glared at the woman beside him. "I thought
you had a handle on all the projects?"
"Daddy, do you know how many projects I've scanned through so
far?" she snapped. "Thousands. Thousands! And you can
damn well bet there are thousands more that Die Fakultät and The
Pretoriat don't have on the books officially. My guess is, this is one
Parker harrumphed. "Still, this is excellent news. I'm glad Voorhees
Morgan sighed and offered her ID packet at the reception desk. Verification
took a few minutes, but as she looked around, she noted similarities
between the South African building and the one in Delaware. This had
been the first one built, she knew from conversations with the Chairman,
followed by the American one, and then returning to the roots of the
progenitors in Germany. That had tickled her curiosity, knowing as she
did that some of the primary scientists heading up the original members
of the Triumvirate had been Nazi doctors. But things had changed since
the beginning days of the Centre. Projects became benevolent, geared
toward the advancement of humanity, before the current regime returned
it to its evil roots.
Voorhees himself greeted them in the lobby. He looked tired, but Morgan
supposed that was due to the extra time he'd spent on the Nebula series.
She hadn't been pleased to hear about this development, but couldn't
let that show, especially not since the Chairman was so interested in
She followed Voorhees directly to the labs below ground, hanging back
as he explained how close they were to development of a patch system
for all the drugs in the series. Other developments included a refining
of the Nova protocol, and the potential uses of people under the influence
made her stomach turn. Another drug in the series had been created,
which showed promise in use as a brainwashing tool, allowing complete
reprogramming of a subject's mind and memories.
That was the one that had so intrigued the Chairman, and Morgan knew
who he had in mind to use it on, as soon as she brought Jarod back.
Voorhees demonstrated with several subjects, showing them DSA footage
of before and after the treatments. There were side effects still to
be addressed, which included a host of physical problems that would
endanger the lives of subjects, but they were close to solving those
puzzles. Another six months, he promised, and those problems would be
Mr. Parker was pleased. He wanted the research moved to Delaware.
Voorhees looked oddly relieved.
Morgan wondered why, and decided to look into the project a little
more deeply while she was there.
* * * * * * * * *
Monday, 4:27 a.m. EST
He watched the last child go into a well-padded cardboard box, oxygen
mask covering the little nose and mouth. The box was taped closed and
lifted gently onto a cart. Then he turned to the waiting caregivers,
and instructed them to get into the larger boxes, also marked FRAGILE
- HANDLE WITH CARE. The adults were cramped inside the heavy-duty
containers, but they made no protest when he handed them patch packets
as comfort for the ride. He sealed the boxes up personally, and made
the call to Shipping to retrieve the containers and get them to the
George stood by, watching the boxes being loaded up one by one onto
pallets, and escorted them to the freight elevator. Everything was being
done now according to Centre protocols, and before the clock struck
five, the boxes were loaded into a half full truck for transport to
a Centre facility in Boston. Once the doors were closed and locked,
George climbed into the cab with the driver, as designated security
agent assigned to accompany the shipment of sensitive materials to their
The blond man watched the truck depart, smiled and prepared to vanish
before anyone was the wiser. Cox would be checking on the Seraphim in
an hour, and by then they would all be long gone. Returning to the guest
quarters previously assigned to him, he changed into a waiting security
guard's uniform and headed for the elevator to dispose of the evidence
of his crime and make his own escape.
The document incinerator was on SL-26. Shifts were getting ready to
change, so there would be no one there, but as soon as he stepped off
the elevator, he had the sneaking suspicion that he was not alone. Carefully
he made his way to the pit, opened the door and tossed the latex appliances
and false ID documents into the fire, closing the cast iron door and
locking it down.
"Want to tell me what that was?" asked a deep voice from
the shadows behind a massive boiler to his right.
The blond put his hand on his gun, released the safety strap and started
to lift it out of the holster on his hip. "Who's there?" he
A figure stepped slowly out from behind the boiler, hands in plain
sight, and obviously empty. The dim lighting didn't help with recognition,
but the man glanced up at the low-wattage bulb, giving a clearer view
of his face. He smiled.
"Valentine, old mate," said the blond. "It's been a
long time. I thought you were dead."
The sweeper chuckled. "I am. What's with the British accent? Last
I heard, you were from Jersey."
The lower-class British accent abruptly vanished in favor of an East
Coast one. "Women like it. I'm thinkin' of changin' it to French
next week. Don't like living in one skin too long, y'know."
Valentine nodded. "What brings you back to this place?"
"Yeah. Me, too." He stepped aside and gestured toward the
elevator. "I'll catch up with you later. Have fun, whatever the
"Don't I always?" The blond didn't waste time with more pointless
small talk. He took the opportunity given and ignored the reason that
might have brought Valentine down to that level, into that part of the
complex. He knew that the only thing of any importance to someone like
Valentine in that area was the hatch that led to a place that wasn't
supposed to exist. The maintenance crews believed that hatch led into
a waste holding tank, and so never opened it. Few other people inside
the building knew it existed. SL-27 was a well-kept secret, the burned-out
shell of an old nightmare. Whatever Valentine was doing down there was
his business, and the visitor left that subject alone.
He stepped into the elevator and went up to the ground floor, preparing
to leave at the shift change. This was exactly the kind of thing he
was good at, what he had been trained by the Centre to do. But he wasn't
the only one, and that made him uneasy as he remembered Valentine's
* * * * * * * * *
5:15 am EST
The man in the suit sat in stony silence as the driver beside him yawned,
complaining about the early morning hour.
"I mean, it's not like this stuff couldn't wait till eight or
nine to ship out. And it's not like there's that much traffic on the
roads to or from here. I don't know why they like sending cargo out
at these hours. Jeez, what's the difference, you know?" He stuck
out his hand. "By the way, I'm Jake Cleary. It's a long ride to
Boston, so we might as well get to know each other."
The other guy obviously wasn't much on conversation, so Jake turned
back to the road, committing himself to a long, boring trip. He reached
down to turn on the radio, and glanced at the suit when he turned it
off immediately afterward. Jake turned his attention back to his job
with a sigh.
It was going to be a long trip.
Up ahead, he noticed a road sign indicating an approaching curve. The
sign was marked with a stripe of red paint, barely visible in the glare
of the headlights. The man beside him moved, and Jake glanced over to
see the sweeper reach for his pistol, then turn and aim it at him. "Pull
over right here," he instructed flatly.
Cleary was shocked. "What the
" Glancing at the muzzle
of the gun, he was quick to obey. "Look, pal, I don't know what
you think you're doing here, but you won't get away with it. Nobody
steals from The Centre and lives. They're worse than the mob."
He parked the truck on the shoulder of the road and put his hands in
"Give me your cell phone," the sweeper ordered. When he had
the device in hand, he added, "Get out and start walking."
The guard took the keys out of the ignition and pocketed them.
Jake did as he was told. Just as he had gotten to the back of the truck,
he heard a noise that made him look up. Two helicopters flew over them,
settling on the road with rotors beating as the sweeper opened up the
back doors on the trailer. Cleary watched as the guy sliced open the
big computer boxes. Jake's jaw dropped open as he saw people start getting
out, some dressed in security uniforms, but most were women dressed
in white nurse's uniforms. Hardly able to believe what he was seeing,
he watched in stunned fascination as the women opened several smaller
boxes and took little kids out of them.
"Oh, my God," Jake whispered to himself. He turned away and
ran down the road toward The Centre, knowing he was in deep trouble,
but eager to let his bosses know he was a victim rather than a willing
participant. Before he got a hundred feet down the road, the helicopters
lifted off again, leaving the truck empty and wide open. Jake dashed
back to the truck, knowing he could make it back to The Centre faster
in that vehicle than he could on foot.
But the sweeper had taken the keys, and minutes later he was jogging
back toward the building, terrified that he was going to be held responsible
for this kidnapping, and wondering if he might be better off just disappearing
* * * * * * * * *
Prometheus Corporate Jet
Wilmington-New Castle airport
5:57 am EST
Jarod paced down the aisle, barely controlling his fury. "How
could you do this?" he demanded of his host. "You put them
all in danger. They could have been killed, Sebastian! There were other
"Like what?" the Aussie demanded impatiently. "You've
known about these children for months, and they were still in that place.
When were you planning to move? When they turned ten? Sorry, but I don't
have your patience, mate. I know what happens in the Centre. We had
a plan, and it worked. They're free, and they're on the way here. All
of them, including your son."
The Pretender held his head in his hands briefly, anxiety welling up
inside him. He reached into his pocket for another dose of his medication,
and swallowed a pill. It would take about a half hour to have its calming
effect on his jangled nerves, but it would help him handle the growing
need for Aurora that went along with his disturbed emotional state.
"How much longer?" he demanded.
"Minutes," Sebastian assured him. "Minutes that feel
like hours. God, I can't wait to see them."
Trevor bounded into the aircraft with a big grin. "They're here.
I'm going to start prepping the plane for takeoff." He hurried
to the cockpit and closed the door behind himself.
Sebastian rose quickly from his seat and stood, nervously wiping his
hands on his thighs. "Stay calm. Stay calm
" He took
several slow, deep breaths, and closed his eyes.
Jarod dashed toward the door and stuck his head outside, glancing around
for some sign of the arriving passengers. Not far away on the tarmac,
a helicopter finished setting down, and people began to spill out of
it. Some wore the familiar uniforms of Centre security, others white
nurses' outfits, and one young woman was dressed in the black uniform
of the unfortunate research subjects. He knew instantly who she was,
though her face was obscured by her fair hair, blown wildly about by
the rotor wash from the helicopter.
Ducking under the blades, the people came toward the plane on the run.
Jarod sprinted out to them, picking Penfield out of the women in white.
He had eyes only for the sleeping child in her arms, and held his hands
out to her.
"Give him to me," he ordered. Penfield glared at him briefly,
and then meekly complied. He paused, holding the toddler close against
his body, eyes closed, thankful that his son was safe at last
or at least, for the moment. "Gabriel," he whispered, choking
on the beloved name. "My son. My baby. You're free now, free to
be whoever you want to be."
When he opened his eyes he saw that the others were boarding the plane,
and hurried after them. Once they were all inside, Ramona had the stairs
moved and the door sealed, and then she directed everyone into their
seats. The toddlers were carefully placed in child safety seats, ready
and waiting for them on the plane, and the adults strapped themselves
in for the ride.
Jarod couldn't stop looking at his son. Sebastian had done a wonderful
thing for him, something he hadn't been able to do for himself. And
as the plane pulled into place on the runway to prepare for takeoff,
he leaned forward to offer his thanks to his host, who sat in front
of him. The seat in the middle was filled with a safety seat that Jarod
knew held Gideon, and in the window seat was the young woman dressed
"Where are we going?" she asked aloud. "Who are these
"We're going home, Keely," Sebastian answered, his voice
husky with emotion. "You're free, all of you. And I'm
His voice cracked, and he started to weep. "I'm your brother, Sebastian."
He reached out to touch the child between them. And this is
son, Gideon. We're your family, and we're taking you home."
"Okay," she said passively, her moment of curiosity gone.
She turned to look out the window, ignoring her brother and the boy.
Jarod watched them. He knew how Sebastian felt, how crushed and broken
his heart was at that moment. The man had intentionally spared his sister
the knowledge that the Centre had made her a mother, using her own brother
as the sperm donor. Once they rescued her from Aurora and she had her
life back on her own terms, he might tell her the truth, but Jarod suspected
that secret might never be revealed to her. It wasn't necessary that
she know, and would only cause her further pain if she did.
He didn't know where they were going, and didn't care. Sebastian knew
what the Centre was capable of, and would be prepared with a safe haven
for them all, where they could be protected, yet still have freedoms
the Centre would not have allowed them. Jarod would be able to take
Gabriel places, let him experience the world he himself had only known
for a few years. Gabriel would have a life, albeit sheltered for a while,
until the Centre was no longer a threat to his children or anyone else.
It was time for things to start changing.
But just then, as the seatbelt light went off, all he wanted was to
hold his son. He pulled the sleeping child out of the seat and into
his lap, waiting for the sedation to wear off and those beloved little
brown eyes to open and see him. And when Gabriel wakened, Jarod would
teach him a new word.
* * * * * * * * *
3 Kennedy Avenue
5:54 am EST
The telephone rang, and Cox glanced at the clock, instantly and unhappily
awake. "This better be good," he groaned, falling back against
his pillow. A moment later, he sat bolt upright and flung off the covers.
"Impossible. They can't all be gone! Search for them. Search every
He slammed the phone back into the cradle and leaped out of bed. The
cool air in the room made gooseflesh rise on his bare skin, and he pulled
random clothes out of his closet, stepping into them without benefit
of a shower. He didn't care how he looked this time, didn't even reach
for his comb on his way out the bedroom door. But as he laid his hand
on the keypad to disengage the security system, he had a thought and
made a stop in the basement first. Five minutes later, his right hand
smarting from the workout he'd given his fists, he left for the drive
in to work.
Everyone he passed was wide-eyed and nervous, from the front doors
all the way into the bowels of the building. He headed straight for
SIS, and found the night shift supervisor up to his eyeballs in security
personnel all trying to report to him at once. Cox bellowed for a status
report, and people stepped back, making the way to the supervisor clear.
The doctor listened with ice in his veins as he heard the preliminary
report. All eight children were missing, along with their nurses and
four of the security people who should have been watching them. Vanished,
without a trace.
"Call Miss Parker," he hissed. "Call the Chairman. Tell
them what happened, but find those children now. Cover every
airport, every bus station, every street corner if you have to. But
you find those children."
The man was sweating and trembling. He knew what was likely to happen
to him because of this fiasco, and Cox would make sure he didn't leave
the building. The doctor issued orders and retreated to the Nursery
floor to do an examination of his own.
Security people were everywhere. Cox prowled among them for an hour,
watching them work, but felt no closer to any answers. This sort of
mystery wasn't his forte. But whoever was responsible for this theft
of his project would pay. He'd make sure of that all the way down the
line, no matter how far up the chain of command he had to go.
* * * * * * * * *
6:31 am EST
Sydney walked into SIS, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, leaning heavily
on his cane. The call had come from Broots half an hour earlier, shortly
after Miss Parker called and ordered her second in command to take over
SIS until her return. Because Sydney was involved with the Seraphim,
Broots had called him in for additional support, along with his personal
bodyguard, who still did his driving for him.
Sydney felt confident Broots was doing everything necessary to amass
the information needed to put the investigation into full swing. Though
that sort of thing was out of Sydney's range of expertise, he knew that
the security team Miss Parker had assembled were good at their jobs,
and would be able to help him do what was necessary until she arrived.
That included himself, and his small part of the process.
He went directly to her office in SIS and listened as Broots met with
the departmental managers, who had all spoken to their boss by phone
and had their orders. The tech gave commands effortlessly, keeping people
organized and staying on top of every piece of information that came
to him. Sydney intended to report to Miss Parker just how capably things
were run in her absence, and planned to commend Broots personally, once
things settled down.
During a lull in the action, he went down to the Nursery level to see
for himself what had happened. He moved slowly still, and took frequent
rest breaks, but he was improving steadily. This would be a taxing day
for him, but he promised himself a nap as soon as there was time. He
knew not to push himself so soon after such a devastating event in his
health, and knew that he wouldn't be chastised for it.
Forensic technicians were dusting the rooms for fingerprints, collecting
evidence and taking photographs as if a murder had taken place there.
Nothing seemed out of place, and Sydney had no idea how the kidnapping
had been accomplished, or by whom. That was disturbing enough, but he
was stopped cold by the sight of Angelo sitting in the back corner of
one nursery room, rocking back and forth as he clutched a floor pillow
to his chest.
Sydney eased closer, waving back the sweepers who had been about to
evict the empath from the scene. "I'll handle this," he assured
the two men gently. He came close and sat down on a nearby chair, leaning
heavily on his cane, observing Angelo to try to get an idea of what
had brought the man to that room. To Sydney's knowledge, Angelo knew
nothing about the Seraphim, and had never even been seen on that floor.
Tears rolled slowly down the empath's face. He was whispering softly
to himself, obviously upset. Sydney leaned closer, trying to hear what
the other man was saying.
"Baby's gone. Baby's gone. Baby's gone
Sydney knew whose room this was. He also had guessed that Angelique
was Angelo's child. But the fact that Angelo seemed aware of his connection
with this particular child was both startling and frightening. It could
put Angelo in a difficult position, one that could get him locked up
"Do you know who took the children, Angelo?" Sydney asked
softly. He put his arm around the other man's shoulders, offering what
comfort he could.
"Aurora," the empath whispered brokenly. "Aurora took
Sydney frowned. The only Aurora he knew was the drug the Centre had
created. Inanimate objects couldn't kidnap children
under the influence could. "Are you saying that the caregivers
were on Aurora?"
Angelo nodded. He buried his face against Sydney's chest and began
to sob. Sydney held the younger man, knowing that any further questioning
would have to wait. Angelo couldn't help him any more at the moment.
He would have to wait for other means of discovering how the kidnapping
had been accomplished, right under the noses of their new, improved