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The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Miss Parker gathered her long black coat more closely around her as she exited the building and headed for the place where her car was parked. It was one of the few perks of her new position -- her space was conveniently located close to the door and, on a cold night like this, that was a definite bonus.

"It's me, buddy."

She froze at the muttered sentence that carried easily on the still air and slipped noiselessly into a shadow near her car, sliding the key silently into the lock and turning it, before looking around to find the speaker. A short distance away, Miss Parker could make out movement in the dark corner of the car park where the sweepers who didn't live in the Centre parked their cars.

"How're you doing?" the voice continued softly. "Okay?"

The shadow began pacing towards a nearby light and Morgan was able to make out the form as it was silhouetted in the light. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously as she thought she could recognize it, having had the impression that Sam was returning to his home near the Centre about an hour previously.

"I'm fine," Sam continued as he finally stopped near the light, staring at the ground. "No, they haven't sent any more. Just the one I got this morning."

Miss Parker continued to stand by her car, her mind going over the wording of the message she had read earlier that day and wondering who Sam trusted enough to reveal that his life had been threatened.

"No, I won't let you do it!"

The woman's eyebrows rose at the angry tone of his voice.

"Now listen to me. I'll work it out, if I have to ask my boss for help. You won't do it, d'you hear me? If you do, I'll hand myself in to them, and then where would you be?"

The woman watched as Sam disappeared into the shadows, in the direction that she knew he lived. For a moment, Morgan considered calling after him and offering him a lift, but she felt that she still didn't know enough about whatever it was that was clearly upsetting him. Making a mental note to ask Broots to check Sam's phone record the following day, she got in the car and drove out of the parking lot to prepare herself for her date.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

Jordan lay on his bed, both hands tucked behind his head, and glared at the ceiling. Although he could understand his grandfather's unwillingness for them to get involved in anything that could draw the Centre's attention on them, it didn't stop Jordan from feeling angry at the limitations that had been imposed on him. Impatiently, Jordan shifted his position so that he could glare at the floor and ease the stiffness of his neck from so long in one position.

Even as he sat up, however, the laptop that sat on his desk beeped and the boy jumped up and went over to it. Putting in his password, he opened the email, reading it first in silence and then, in a disgusted voice, out loud.

"Sorry, I'm held up here. We'll deal with Echo later. Something else has come up. Love, J."

"Wonderful!" he growled with a note of sarcasm.

Jordan rolled his eyes and threw his hands in the air as he sank back onto the bed, frowning at the floor. As he changed position, however, the printed pages about Echo caught the boy's eye and he picked them up again, staring thoughtfully at the address. Jordan moved over to sit in front of the computer and brought up a map of Blue Cove his father had shared with him. It only took him a few minutes to locate the house, and in that time he had reached a decision.

Opening another file on his computer, he hacked into Sanctuary's computer system, rapidly finding the document he wanted. Filling in the details of the order, he appended a false signature, copied from another document, and then printed out the page, folding it neatly and stuffing it into his pocket. Standing, he packed away his laptop and thrust a few clothes into his bag, making sure he had the cell phone that Jarod had given him at the same time as they had made up his driver's license.

Glancing at his watch, he knew that it was too soon to make his move. He would be stopped before he could leave the building. Sitting on the bed, he checked that he had everything and then picked up his book, trying to concentrate on it, while, in his head, he began planning his actions as soon as he arrived in Blue Cove.

* * * * * * * * *

Briar Road
Blue Cove, Delaware

Morgan pulled into the driveway, seized her belongings and almost ran into the house. With a backward kick, she heard the front door slam shut as she dropped the few items she had had to bring home onto the dining table, slipping off her shoes as she fled to the shower.

With the water running, she glanced at her nails, performing a quick manicure before slipping out of her work clothes and loosening her hair, finally stepping under the hot stream. Allowing the water to play over her back and soak her hair, she grabbed her favorite shampoo and let a generous amount fill her palm, finding herself humming along with a song that had been playing on her car stereo. Reaching up, she lathered her hair and then switched on the radio hanging on the tap. It was with a small pang that she looked at the square device as it began to play a song. That had been Tommy's. He'd enjoyed listening to music when he showered, and she had left it there because it was one of the many things that, at first, she couldn't bring herself to remove; later, because she had become used to seeing it there.

The thought of Tommy made her consider what she was doing. It had been years since she had had anything that could remotely be called a date, unless it was meeting at a gas station, or the time up in Alaska.

Barrow.

Jarod's face swam into her mind as she began to rinse the suds from her hair, and Morgan let her eyes close as she leaned against the tiles. She didn't want to think of him right now, didn't want to remember the pain of their separation, most of all didn't want to remember that she'd been the instigator of it. Although she was still firm in her resolution that there could never be anything but friendship between them -- no matter what their situation -- she couldn't deny the strength of her feelings for him. It simply wasn't enough for Morgan to believe that they belonged together, and the lack of trust she still had in him, as proven by her reaction when the children had been taken from the Centre, only exacerbated that feeling.

Turning off the shower, Morgan stepped out of it, watching the steam curl around her as she reached for her towel. Cursorily drying herself off, she wrapped it around her body, reaching out for the other to create a turban around her wet hair. A corner caught on her wrist as she prepared to fling it back over her head, and she smiled as she untangled it, remembering the last few moments that Peter Winston had been in her office.

She stood as he did, strolling around the desk as they finished their discussion about a minor security point, to give grounds for their meeting. Morgan reached out to open the door, but he had gently placed a hand on her wrist, stopping the motion and gently turning her so that she was forced to look directly into his eyes.

Morgan could still remember what Laura Trioli had said about the man.

"He's a babe, Parker! Blond hair and blue eyes… mmm!"

The words had seemed to echo in her ears as he leaned forward and brushed her cheek with his lips, a farewell in European style, of the sort that only friends shared. Her heart had begun to race uncontrollably as he straightened and winked.

"Until tonight."

Morgan leaned against the doorjamb of the bathroom as the steam escaped through the half-open door and wafted into the bedroom. A smile curled her lips as the scene replayed itself in her mind, continuing to do so as she finished drying herself and wrapped her terry-towel robe around her body. It only vanished when she turned to the wardrobe and began the difficult task of deciding what to wear.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

"Parker?"

Sydney tapped on the door of the woman's office, but there was no sound from within and so he turned back to the elevator, catching up with the technician as the man got in.

"Going home, Broots?"

"Yeah." The man tiredly rubbed his balding pate. "This'll be the first night I've gotten home before midnight for almost a week."

"How's Debbie?"

"Fine." Broots grinned. "She went to the movies with a friend of hers tonight. A male friend."

"She's growing up fast," Sydney commented with a knowing smile.

"Yeah, she is," the technician agreed, smiling sadly. "Are you going home too, Syd?"

"Not yet." The man's hand tightened around the folder he held. "I've still got one or two things to do. And besides," he laughed, "I don't have to rush back whenever there's an emergency that has to be dealt with."

Broots joined in the laugh as the car stopped and Sydney stepped off with a farewell smile. In his office, the psychiatrist pulled out a drawer of his filing cabinet, pushed aside the files and lifted the false bottom. Setting the file into place, he gave it a fond pat and then replaced the sheet of metal, sliding back the files, shutting the drawer and switching off the lights before he left the office.

* * * * * * * * *

Briar Road
Blue Cove, Delaware

Peter straightened his tie in the rearview mirror before smoothing his hair and then picking up the flowers from the passenger seat. Walking up the path with affected nonchalance, he rang the bell, hearing silence for a moment before footsteps approached the door.

Morgan straightened the dark blue dress with nervous fingers before opening the door. She could feel the man visually examining her from top to toe, and her eyes fell under the intentness of his gaze. Her hair hung mostly loose, apart from a few curls she had caught up on top of her head. Nail varnish matching her dress adorned both her toe- and fingernails, and a slender gold chain was loosely done up around her neck, identical to the bangle on her wrist and the anklet on her right leg.

"Wunderbar!" Peter Winston breathed.

"Well, it seems your time with Die Fakultät has taught you German, if nothing else," Morgan teased, trying to ease her feelings of nervousness.

He grinned, offering her a small but delicately arranged corsage, and bent forward to attach it to her dress after reading the offer in her eyes. Taking a long black cape out of her hands, he held it out and, thankful to be able to turn her face away, Morgan permitted him to drape it around her shoulders.

"Shall we go?" he suggested with a smile. "I've made a reservation for 8:30."

"Don't I get any say in tonight?" she complained in offended-sounding tones.

"None," he smiled, offering her his arm after she had locked the door. "And I hope there's no money in that purse."

"Considering what happened when we were in Rome," Morgan began, "and you men ran out of money, leaving Laura and me to pay for everything…"

"Hey, stop!" he protested, grinning. "I won't hear a word about that debacle."

"So what did you have planned?" she queried when she was seated in the car and he turned on the engine.

"Taillevent," he told her with a sly wink. "Legendre -- that's the chef in Paris -- sent one of his best-trained apprentices over here, just to provide us with a meal for this evening."

She smiled, raising an eyebrow. "Isn't that said to be the best restaurant in France?"

"Not just 'said to be,'" he agreed. "It is."

"Have you been there often?"

"Once before," he admitted. "Delius isn't too keen on his head of security vanishing over the border. He's a little concerned I might not come back."

Morgan laughed. "And would you?"

His blue eyes twinkled as he looked at her sideways. "That would depend on the temptation I had to do so."

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Sydney stepped out of the elevator, making his way along to the room in which the Pretender lay. Alexander had again injured himself in a fit of rage during a simulation, damaging the arm that had only just begun to heal, and Sydney had once more questioned the wisdom of such an unstable temperament participating in active work instead of research, but presenting this argument to the Chairman had resulted in the usual answer -- that Alexander should continue in the same work and that it was Sydney's responsibility to try to prevent his injuries.

At the doorway of the room, he halted. The boy half-reclined in bed, a notepad resting on his knees, scribbling frantically at what looked to Sydney like a chemical formula.

"It's a little late to be working," he suggested, entering with a smile.

Alexander put the notepad aside immediately. "I wanted to get it down before I forgot it," the young man told him with a shy smile. "I was hoping that, maybe, I might get a chance to work on it in one of the labs."

"Perhaps, after you get to the next stage in the virtual program, I'll see what I can arrange for you," the psychiatrist replied, pleased at the grateful smile Alexander sent in his direction.

"When can I start properly working again?"

Sydney sighed silently. This was the problem with Alexander. He was highly motivated, very focused, but he didn't have the ability to work through problems without getting upset about them. The Chairman had hinted at Aurora as a possible solution, but Sydney had resisted the suggestion and mentally noted to himself that he would have to find a way of solving the problems without bringing the boy to Mr. Parker's attention any further. As long as that didn't happen, Sydney knew the Chairman's increasingly fragile mental health was likely to make him forget all about it.

"Sydney?"

"Sorry, Alexander," he apologized. "I was thinking. I want to give you a few more days before we evaluate that arm with the aim of getting you back to work. But if you're getting bored, I'll bring the paperwork down in the morning and perhaps you might discover a design flaw that needs to be straightened out."

"Okay." Nodding, the boy picked up the notepad and closed it, offering it to the man. "Do you want to see what I was doing?"

"I'll wait until you've finished it," Sydney told him. "Make sure you get some rest, though. You are here to rest, you know. But in the meantime, you can play around with those formulae to see what you come up with."

Nodding, the young man placed the notepad on the bedside table, dropping the pen on top of it and nestling down slightly in the bed. Rising to his feet, Sydney gave Alexander a pat on his uninjured arm and then seized his cane and left the room, heading for the elevator, the lobby and the sweeper who had been assigned to drive him home.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

The door opened silently, a faint beam of light illuminating the room briefly before it vanished and the intruder flicked on the dim flashlight he held as he made his way to the bedside, gently shaking the occupant to wake him.

"Cam!"

As the name was hissed in his ear, the young man opened his eyes, struggling to make out anything in the dim light. As he reached out for the bedside lamp, however, a hand grabbed his wrist.

"It's me," the voice whispered. "Don't turn on the light."

Cam glanced at his luminescent watch-face in disbelief. "Jordan, it's almost midnight. What on earth do you want?"

"I need to borrow a couple of things," the intruder urged. "Some money and your car."

"You're running away?" Cam's eyes were wide as he made this leap of logic. "Why?"

"I'm not," Jordan explained, casting a wary glance over his shoulder. "Not really. I'll be back. But there's something I have to do. Please, Cam, just trust me."

His eyes having adjusted, Cam could see the pleading look on Jordan's eyes and sat up with a sigh.

"Okay, but I don't know what you're going to do with a car and some cash." He reached out for his wallet and extracted several notes, placing them in Jordan's outstretched hand and putting the key on top.

"I'm only driving to the airport," Jordan told him curtly. "I'll fly from there."

"Where?"

"Never you mind," Jordan retorted, shoving the money into the pocket of his jeans. "You just go back to sleep now, like a good boy."

"You'll never do it," Cam affirmed. "They'll never let you take one of the planes."

"When I've got an order signed by Sebastian, they'll have no reason to stop me," Jordan stated, a determined light making his eyes glow and the firm set of his jaw also revealing his resolve. "Just promise you won't tell anyone."

"For how long? All hell will break loose tomorrow when they discover you're missing."

"I wrote a note," Jordan told him. "And Dad will guess where I've gone, even if Da doesn't."

"You're insane," Cam asserted. "If you think you can do this…"

"Just don't tell anyone," Jordan ordered as he walked to the door. "I'll see you in a few days."

For several minutes after he was gone, Cam contemplated going to Sebastian or Trevor and telling them what was going on, but eventually decided against it, believing Jordan wouldn't get far anyway. Lying down again, Cam comforted himself with the thought that at least, when Jordan was brought back, he wouldn't have been responsible for the failure of the other young man's mission, whatever it was.

* * * * * * * * *

25 Washington Avenue
Blue Cove, Delaware

"When can you start driving again?"

"I'm not sure," Sydney admitted. "Hopefully a few weeks." He smiled at his niece. "You really didn't have to do this, you know. Sam could have taken me."

"You need somebody to keep an eye on you," she retorted with a grin, glancing at her watch. "After all, just look at the time."

"Yes, it's far too early," he joked. "I really should have stayed for another hour or two."

She laughed, pulling up into the driveway. "What time do you want me to pick you up?'

"Seven," her uncle responded as he got out of the car. "Do you want to come in, Kim?"

"I'd love to, but I can't, I'm afraid. I'm starting a shift in an hour."

Sydney placed his hand on hers, squeezing gently. "Don't work too hard, or I'll have to start keeping an eye on you, too."

"I'm terrified," she told him, laughing. "See you in the morning, Uncle Sydney."

"Good night, Kim." He kissed her cheek before getting out of the car and waving as she drove off, entering the house.

A small pile of envelopes lay on the mat just inside the door and he carefully picked them up, carrying them through to the kitchen and dropping them on the table. After beginning to heat some water, he sat down at the table and opened his briefcase, extracting a folder containing a photocopy of the material from the Kendra Evans file. Sydney's eyes widened as he read the report from NuGenesis, rereading it to ensure that he had understood the full implications of what it said.

The kettle startled him as it began to boil, and he stood up to make himself a drink. His eyes traveled to the dark world outside as he leaned against the bench, and Sydney could almost feel the woman's arms around him again as his fingers tightened around the mug waiting to be filled. Closing his eyes, he bowed his head, forcing back the emotion he felt. He couldn't start that again. It was too late, and things had moved beyond his control a long time before their final separation. She had made the decision and, although he knew it was the right one, that didn't make it hurt less, even now.

* * * * * * * * *

Dallas, Texas

Jordan strapped himself into the small plane. There had been a few raised eyebrows when he had presented the order for the plane, but he had talked the security people around and, as he took off into the dark night sky, Jordan felt himself both relax at the first hurdle having been surmounted and tense at the thought of what was still to come.

His flight plan had said that he was aiming for Maryland, and that was his intention. He felt it safer to hire a car and drive from there than fly directly to Delaware. He had used the Internet to hire a vehicle, changing the details on his fake driver's license to make sure it was cleared, and knew that he wouldn't have to see anyone when he picked up the key through the automated system. The drive would add to his journey, but he couldn't rescue the project in the middle of the night anyway. He would have to wait until Cox had left for the Centre before he could go into the house. That meant he could take a couple of hours for a nap at a motel somewhere between his landing strip and Blue Cove.

In his mind, as he also kept an eye on the plane's instruments, Jordan ran a simulation of his intended actions in Delaware in his mind. He had done as much research as he could into Cox's home and was confident of his success, just as long as nothing went wrong.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Cox carried the box out to his car and put it into the trunk, shutting the lid before going around to the driver's door. Looking around carefully, as he always did, he got into the car and drove out of the parking lot. At the first red light, he opened a file on the passenger seat, reminding himself of all the work that had been done the previous night. When the traffic light changed, he shut the folder and put the car into gear. A clink of glass from the trunk made him relax the pressure that he was applying to the accelerator. If the equipment broke then he would have to hold off on a number of the important projects that were in progress, and, with the results being urgently wanted, that wasn't a thing Cox was willing to do.

* * * * * * * * *

Boise, Idaho

"What do you have?"

"Nothing." Jarod sighed in frustration. "The sweeper teams haven't checked in. They could be anywhere by now."

Yuri glanced at his watch. "They should have called hours ago, if last time was anything to go by."

"How reliable is this friend of yours in Carson City?" the older man demanded.

"I trust him."

"Impressive that you trust anybody," Jarod muttered to himself, looking down at the pages on his monitor and thus missing the small half-grin Yuri sent in his direction.

Both men shot a glance at the laptop on the desk as the alarm on the bedside clock began to ring. Yuri had set it as a guide to the amount of time they had to plan their proposed rescue, working on the assumption that the same pattern would be followed as the previous time, but he had had to reset it when the anticipated deadline had passed. All of the background work was now done and they were awaiting the expected call.

"What is he waiting for?" Yuri growled as he stood up to turn off the buzzing. "Dawn?"

"Possibly," Jarod responded, trying to suppress his own feeling of concern. "Maybe he thinks we won't try to rescue her if it's daylight."

"But…"

The signal to indicate an incoming message on Jarod's laptop sounded loudly and the older Pretender got up, walking over to the machine, as Yuri moved out of sight of the camera lens. Typing in the password, Jarod forced himself to react in astonishment to the image of the man appearing on the screen.

"Why, Lyle! What a surprise! Nice to speak. What…"

"Save it, genius," the other man snapped. "We've got more important things to discuss than your attempts at humor."

"Oh, really?" Jarod raised an eyebrow. "Are you standing on my doorstep or something, that I should be so concerned?"

"Not quite," another voice interrupted smoothly and Valentine stepped into shot. "But you'll be on ours quite soon, I'd imagine."

"We've got a proposal for you," Lyle put in before Jarod could respond. "You come back to the Centre and we will let baby sister go."

Jarod snorted. "Oh, please!" He rolled his eyes in scorn. "That idea was old last time you tried it! You can't really expect me to fall for that again, can you? Give me a little credit, Lyle!"

Yuri fought not to laugh as Jarod baited their nemeses in an attempt to get more information out of them, sitting down out of sight as his computer began tracing the call.

"Oh, we aren't kidding you," Valentine told him smoothly. "Take a look for yourself."

Lyle stepped aside to reveal the woman tied to a chair in the middle of the room, a number of sweepers around her. Her head up, Emily looked directly into the camera and gave a small smile. Jarod heard a sharp intake of breath from Yuri as the same image was shown on a TV screen that they had hooked up to the computer and, out of sight, waved a hand to keep him quiet.

"What do you want?" he demanded in a tight voice, no longer needing to fake his rage. "Let her go!"

"I don't think so," Lyle chuckled. "Not yet, anyway. We'll send you a time and a specific place to be in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, and you'll give yourself up to us. When you do that, we'll let little sis free."

"When?" Jarod snarled as Lyle stopped.

"Soon," the sweeper promised. "You turn up, we'll be there."

The screen went black and Jarod immediately looked at Yuri. The other man nodded as a red dot flashed on the screen of the call-tracing program on his computer.

"We got 'em."

* * * * * * * * *

Middletown, Delaware

Yawning wearily, Jordan pulled into the car park of a motel, avoiding the reception. As soon as the car stopped, he pulled out his laptop and logged into the motel's registry. Finding a room with no occupants, he added one with a fictional name and address, and then grabbed his bags. Taking a case out of his pocket, the young man climbed out of the car and stumbled over to the door. Extracting a smooth tool from the case, he slid it into the lock and carefully turned it. The door swung silently open and, after pausing on the threshold to be sure that the room was empty, Jordan walked in, shut the door and dropped the bags on the floor. Turning back the blankets, he shrugged out of his black jacket and slid his feet out of his shoes. Lying down, he pulled the covers up over himself and rolled onto his side with an exhausted sigh, closing his eyes.

On to Act IV

 
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