Michael T. Weiss as Jarod
Andrea Parker as Miss Parker
Patrick Bauchau as Sydney
Jon Gries as Broots
Harve Presnell as Mr. Parker
Sam Ayers as Sam the Sweeper
Paul Dillon as Angelo
Jamie Denton as Lyle
Charles Esten as Charles
George Clooney as Valentine
Lenny von Dohlen as Cox
George Lazenby as Major Charles
Ryan Merriman as Jordan
Tyler Christopher as Ethan
Marisa Parker as Emily
David Boreanz as Yuri
Robert Duncan McNeill as Peter Winston
Hugh Jackman as Sebastian
Sigrid Thornton as Elizabeth
Denzel Washington as Trevor
John Daley as Cam
Iain Glen as Chris Walters
Reba McIntyre as Helen
Susan Gibney as Kim
David Gallagher as Alexander
The team was settled around the table for the tenth meeting in a week. Miss Parker finished giving her latest update on the progress of the newest security installations, supplemented by the information she had uncovered about the abduction of the children, and sat down as the Chairman stood.
"We're no closer to finding who took the children," the Chairman admitted grudgingly. "So we feel the need to increase our security. For this reason, the other two Directors and I have decided that the heads of the security teams in Germany and South Africa should meet here for a series of discussions tomorrow and the day after. We're hoping to create a blanket security system that will be more widely effective, using all of our combined resources."
Miss Parker looked up sharply, noticing that the man commonly recognized as her father was refusing to meet her eye. Morgan wasn't surprised. The meeting had been her idea, and hers alone, and the Chairman had been so pleased that he had vowed to acknowledge her when announcing it. It was yet another unkept promise, and lately she had been grinding his nose in them, metaphorically speaking, of course. His uncomfortable demeanor suggested that he was aware another such situation would soon be forthcoming.
Before Mr. Parker could continue to speak, however, the air of concentration in the room was disrupted by the sound of a loud siren. Morgan leapt to her feet. Without waiting for dismissal, she left the room and ran down the several flights of stairs to SIS, bursting in as Broots was leaving to find her.
"What's going on?"
"The motion detectors in the vents on SL-17 have picked up something, Miss Parker," one of the men hunched over a computer told her, his screen showing the movement as the figure scurried along the passageways, obviously disoriented by the lights that were illuminating the formerly dark tunnels. Miss Parker recognized the form instantly.
"Angelo," she muttered. Turning, she found Sam waiting at her elbow.
"Get him out of there," she ordered. "But there's no need to be rough about it. And," Morgan added to the room at large, "let's get these sirens turned off before they send us all around the bend."
The silence that followed this was almost stunning, and she turned to see Sydney standing in the doorway, just as she had been about to send Broots to look for him.
"Come to my office," she ordered. "We have to work this out."
* * * * * * * * *
"We can't keep Angelo away from there," Sydney explained. "I've been trying, but, as soon as he's unsupervised, it's the place he heads for." The psychiatrist surreptitiously eyed the man who sat opposite. "It's almost as if he had some connection to the children."
"How long has this been going on?" Mr. Parker growled, ignoring the last point, his hand tapping impatiently on the folder that contained the results of the interrupted meeting.
"As long as the children have been here," the woman responded succinctly. "There's footage on DSAs that show Angelo has been sneaking into the nursery at all hours since the children first came here."
"So what are we going to do about it?" the Chairman snapped. "That's the third alarm he's set off since we began sealing the vents."
"That is the place he feels most comfortable," Sydney replied, aware that the question had been directed at him. "I've been wondering if it's possible to set aside part of it, unmonitored, so that "
"It's not possible," Miss Parker interrupted. "That system was set up to cover the entire area. We can't shut it off without closing the whole network down for an hour or more, and that would expose us to the threat of losing more projects."
Mr. Parker nodded firmly. "That's a good point, Angel."
The woman glanced away, supposedly to look through a folder she held, while the Chairman turned back to the psychiatrist.
"Isn't there any other way to keep him to the rooms we assigned him?"
"Short of guarding him around the clock," Sydney proposed, "the only other option I came up with is for Angelo to be allowed access to those rooms while they're empty. His aim seems to be to get near them, and if he was inside, he might be less likely to find a way into the vents and set off the alarm."
Mr. Parker looked doubtful. Sydney paused for a moment before continuing.
"There's also the possibility that, if he spends time in the rooms where the children were and is allowed access to the toys and games they used, he may be able to empath enough of their senses to find out where they are."
The Chairman's expression of doubt faded to one of interest. "You think it's possible?"
"We've never fully understood Angelo's capabilities, Mr. Parker," Sydney told him firmly. "The time I've been working with him has convinced me that he has skills we haven't even started to consider. Who knows what he might be capable of, if he was allowed to do what he wanted rather than what somebody else wants?"
As the psychiatrist finished this rhetorical question, Miss Parker jumped in, forcing a note of eagerness into her voice. "If we did, that might be the closest we've come yet to finding my brother, Daddy! You can't deny us the chance to find out if it works! Please!"
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker closed the door behind the Chairman and turned to where Sydney had remained seated opposite her desk. The woman's eyes wandered over to where the empath lay, curled up in the corner of her office, gradually getting over his ordeal, and then traveled back to the psychiatrist.
"What was that all about?"
"Making Angelo happy," Sydney told her firmly.
She sat down behind her desk, eyeing him. "Do you really think he could work that out?"
The psychiatrist shrugged. "It's possible. What isn't likely, however, is that Angelo will be able to tell anyone he meets anything he might have empathed."
Miss Parker raised an eyebrow. "As long as you can stop him wandering all over the Centre, we'll be the only people he 'meets.'"
Sydney nodded slightly, his eyes twinkling. "I know."
Her lips slowly curled into a smile and Morgan was unable to suppress a chuckle. "Well, then, I suppose you'd better start acclimating Angelo to his new quarters."
The psychiatrist stood up immediately, taking firm hold of his cane. "At once, Miss Parker."
* * * * * * * * *
The man looked up as the sweeper appeared in the doorway. "What is it?"
"There was a reported sighting on the woman you asked me to keep an eye out for, sir."
"Good." Lyle took the folder and glanced through it before looking up again. "Would you ask Valentine to come here?"
"Of course, Mr. Lyle." Charles left the office as Lyle began reading the report that an office in Virginia had spotted the woman.
"You wanted something, Boss?" Valentine strolled into the office and sat down in a chair on the other side of the desk.
"Her." Lyle tossed the photo across the desk. "Did you read the report about the last time we got close?"
"And Jarod jumped in and saved her, again," Valentine grinned. "Of course."
"I want you to go down and take care of it."
"You know," the sweeper commented thoughtfully, "considering her heritage -- Jarod's sister and all -- I really don't understand why you just want to wipe her off the map. Why not get her in here? For all we know, she could have the same skills as her brothers."
"It wasn't my choice." Lyle shrugged. "Raines wanted her taken care of -- "
"Why?" Valentine interrupted.
"Somehow, she found out about Mirage," the other man responded. "And, after Dad found out about what had happened, he backed the order."
"So you tossed her out a window," Valentine finished with a grin. "Didn't seem to work, did it?"
"That's why I'm relying on you to get it right this time."
Valentine leaned on the desk, his eyes gleaming. "I have a better idea."
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod lifted the last case out of the plane and carried it over to a trolley that waited nearby, thankfully lowering it onto the flat surface. Straightening his back with an exaggerated groan, he then grinned as Ramona walked over, rolling her eyes and wrapping her arms more firmly around the folder of progress notes on the new venture Pele was setting up in that town.
"Wimp," the woman teased. "Maybe I should have done it instead."
"I could have been waiting all night," he joked. "But that's everything. If you could just get it taken up to my room, I'll sort it when I get back."
"That's tomorrow, right?" she asked.
"Yeah. I'm meeting my sister for dinner tonight," he told her. "We haven't seen each other for a while, so this'll be good."
"I'm sure it will." She nodded at the two bags that stood off to one side. "You taking those with you?"
"Uh huh." He picked up the DSA player and his duffel bag. "My essentials."
"Creature of habit," she remarked somewhat ironically. "Okay, we'll see you back in Dallas in the morning."
Jarod let her push the trolley towards the large plane that waited on the tarmac a relatively short distance away and walked towards the small building that constituted the airport. He was tired, having had to wait for a low-pressure system over Barrow to move so that he could go and collect the last few things that had been left after his father and son had come down to Texas. The weather had only cleared late the night before, so he had flown up immediately and, as a result, wanted to sleep before he met Emily for dinner. He knew that she worried about him, just as he was anxious about her, and didn't want to give her unnecessary cause for concern.
He hired a car and drove to a hotel that Ramona had suggested to him, booking a room for the night and making his way to it. Once there, he stretched out on the bed, hoping that his recent nights of more peaceful sleep would continue.
* * * * * * * * *
Cox stalked up the stairs from the basement and halted at the top, turning to glare down into the darkness.
"That had better be finished by the time I get home," he spat. "You've wasted an entire night and come up with nothing to show for it! If it isn't done, you won't get any food until it is."
He turned away, but looked back sharply at a soft, almost indistinguishable sound.
"And stop that damned crying," he growled softly, slamming the door so hard that the window shook, before firmly turning the key. Yanking it out of the lock, Cox hung it on a hook beside the door and checked that everything was secure.
Picking up a briefcase that lay on the kitchen table, he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and activated it as he left the house.
"Alex? It's me. Don't worry about coming around today. He doesn't deserve you to."
Obviously the man on the other end demurred, because Cox slammed the door of the house as loudly as he had shut the cellar door, punching a code into a box beside the door.
"No, he doesn't! I said no and I mean it!"
Disconnecting the call, he unlocked the car and opened the driving door. Throwing the case onto the passenger seat, he slid the cell phone into his pocket, straightened his tie and then got into the vehicle, starting it up and driving away.
* * * * * * * * *
Trevor poked his head into the room where Elizabeth was just getting out of bed.
"Good almost-afternoon, sleepyhead."
"Hey, I'm up early," she protested indignantly as she seized a gown to preserve her modesty. "And I could be just as insulting about the things you dreamt last night, but won't, because I'm so nice."
"I think that's questionable," the man teased as he strolled in.
"You know, polite people knock."
"I didn't want to wake you if you were still asleep."
"Well, I'm awake now, so shoo."
Trevor looked hurt as he sat on the end of the bed. "And I thought you liked me."
"We've gone into this debate several times, and I always come out of it badly," Elizabeth told him. "So I'm not even going to start."
"Don't you even want to know what I want?"
"Going by what I saw in your head last night, no, not really."
The man raised an eyebrow. "I think that's cheating."
"Oh, and you don't, poking into a poor, innocent Australian girl's mind as she walks past you on the street?"
"Okay, so maybe I do." Trevor suddenly remembered in painful clarity a dream he'd enjoyed the night before, and, hoping devoutly she hadn't been paying attention at the time, changed the subject. "Anyway, the reason I'm here "
"Apart from making my life a misery," she interrupted.
"Well, you look very un-miserable, but I'm sure it's deep inside somewhere." He grinned for a moment before becoming serious. "Did you know Faith's sick?"
"I knew she was heading for it," Elizabeth admitted. "She was pretty feverish last night, but wouldn't let me call anyone."
"Cam called one of the doctors to her this morning, but he won't let her get up to take care of Angelique, and we don't want the kids exposed to infections anyway, because we don't know how they would react to illness, so we were wondering "
"Would you get to the point?" she snapped, becoming exasperated as the air-conditioning kicked in and a draught blew into the room, making her shiver slightly.
"Sebastian wants you to look after her today," Trevor finished, somewhat startlingly as far as the woman was concerned.
The man's dark eyes twinkled. "Why not?"
"I don't take care of kids! Especially not those kids. I feel like someone from the Stone Age in comparison to their knowledge."
"Hey, nobody's asking you to teach them advanced physics. All you have to do is play with her."
"I haven't had anything to do with them."
"So this is a good time to start."
"Why can't you do it? Or Cam? He's good with the kids."
"She's always had a woman, and it's important that she have some continuity."
"What's wrong with Sumi or Ramona? And how about Nancy? That is her job, after all."
"Ramona has meetings for most of the day, and Sumi's helping to take care of Faith." Trevor shot her a disapproving look. "And you should know Nancy is off at that training course. She left last night, before Faith got sick."
Elizabeth hid under the covers. "I'm sorry," she wailed in a muffled voice. "Forgive me for that terrible lapse of memory, beloved master, even though you've just thrown the equivalent of a mental lump of cement at my brain!"
Grinning, he pulled back the blanket. "Funny. Not hilarious, but funny."
"Eh, I try," she shrugged, before remembering their former topic of conversation and looking up at him, pleading with her eyes. "And there's not a single other woman ?"
"None," Trevor interrupted firmly. "It won't kill you, for one day, and you might discover that you even like it."
"Pigs," she snorted, and the man looked startled.
"I beg your pardon."
"Pigs might fly," she told him. "But, as I don't appear to have a choice, would you kindly leave me in peace so that I can at least be decently dressed rather than appearing in my pajamas and dressing gown."
"You might want to try it." Trevor grinned and dimples appeared in his cheeks as he headed for the door. "It's kind of fetching."
* * * * * * * * *
The room was stuffy and hot, despite the cold air that blew through the cracks in the windows and caused him to shiver whenever it touched him. His work created sour smells that almost made him retch, but he swallowed the urge, squinting at the tiny writing with eyes that longed to close. It was incredibly tempting to rub them, to ease away the soreness, but he knew what punishment would follow, so he kept his hands by his sides.
The light streamed down onto the table, beakers and test tubes gathered in a pile on the flat surface with sheets of paper scattered around them. He reached out for the tube, tentatively removing it from the Bunsen burner where it was heating and about to pour it into another beaker when he felt a sharp slap to the back of his head.
"Idiot," a voice snarled. "Don't be stupid, Echo."
Tears stung his eyes, but he lowered his head and looked back at the writing as it danced on the page in front of him. Correcting his earlier mistake, he completed the process and then turned to look up into the dark shape that stood behind him.
"That's it, sir."
"I should hope so," the man snapped, reaching out to snatch the vial that the trembling hand offered. "We've wasted enough time as it is." A pale hand pointed through the darkness to the blackest corner of the room. "Now get back where you belong!"
* * * * * * * * *
"You've tried getting to Jarod before by killing the people he cares about," Valentine began, sitting back in his chair. "It didn't do a lot of good. It doesn't leave him anything to work for -- or for us to tempt him with."
"You're suggesting abduction," Lyle interrupted. "We've tried that one, too. It didn't work when we took Zoe either."
"But look at what you were working with," the sweeper stated patronizingly. "Four sweepers and the two of you, so Jarod's father could take you completely by surprise. This time we'll be ready."
"So what do we do when we get her?"
"We wait for Jarod's reaction," Valentine told him, his eyes sparkling with anticipation. "If we don't get the response we want, then we can do what we like with her."
Lyle quickly reread through the single page report that he had received, a smile beginning to curl the corners of his mouth as he considered the situation. After a silence of several minutes he looked up.
"All right. Let's do it."
* * * * * * * * *
Sebastian strolled over to Elizabeth as she appeared in the doorway, trying to hide his feeling of amusement at the nervous look on her face.
"I'm never going to forgive you for this," she growled softly.
"Promises, promises." He slid an arm around her shoulders. "Look, Elizabeth, it's only for one day. I hope. And if you show that sort of emotion to Angelique, she'll pick up on it right away."
"What emotion?" She shrugged. "I doubt she'll pick up on anything."
The man arched an eyebrow, watching her wander over to a table where several children sat painting, casting surreptitious glances at the little girl who sat on the floor nearby, cradling her doll. By degrees, Elizabeth moved over until she was sitting a short distance away.
"Where's Mommy?" Angelique asked plaintively.
"Your Mommy's not feeling very well," the woman explained gently. "She'll stay in bed today, and maybe she'll feel better tomorrow. And Nancy will be back this afternoon."
"Who are you?" she demanded after a moment.
"I'm Elizabeth," the woman smiled. "What would you like to do?" Picking up a book, she held it out to the child. "Shall we read this? You enjoy it, don't you?"
The girl's large, blue eyes examined her for a moment, a small cleft appearing on the girl's forehead as something clearly puzzled her. Elizabeth put the book down and turned candid eyes to the child.
"What is it, Angelique? What's wrong?"
"Lizbet is flat."
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "But I don't understand."
Angelique took a firmer hold of the doll, her eyes revealing her confusion. "People make noise. Jawid said so. But you hide."
"You mean that you can't feel my emotions," the woman clarified after a second of thought. "I guess that's true, although I hadn't though about it before."
The girl's head tilted to one side. "How come?"
Elizabeth had to laugh. This was the reason she hadn't wanted to work with these children: a definite difficulty in answering their questions. Still, she tried to come up with an explanation that would be both plausible and comprehensible. In resettling herself, the woman moved a little closer to the girl, but Angelique remained where she was. Encouraged, Elizabeth began to speak.
"You know at night, when you close your eyes, and your mind gives you pictures?"
The child nodded slowly.
"When I was a very little girl, I used to see pictures in other people's heads, called dreams. When I saw them, I knew what they'd feel when they dreamt them. So I learnt how to push away all of the bad dreams until they didn't feel those things and hurt people anymore."
The girl's eyes bore an expression of curiosity. "Dreams are real?"
"Not like you and me," Elizabeth admitted. "But they can hurt people, like feelings hurt you, so I lock them up inside me." She placed a hand on her chest. "But I don't want the feelings to hurt me either, so I push them down inside. They lie on top of what I feel and so my feelings don't come out."
"What you feel?"
The woman's eyes glowed with anticipation. "Do you want to see a bit?"
Angelique flinched away immediately, her eyes widening with fear, shaking her head.
"It won't hurt," the woman promised. "Maybe you'll even like it."
The child hugged her doll tightly, considering. There were faint whispers from this person and they didn't hurt. But Angelique was scared of what the whole person might be like. Slowly, as the girl pressed back against the wall, Elizabeth pushed aside the emotions that weighed her down during so much of the day.
Angelique felt the emotion brush against her, light as a feather, and sensed laughter, fun, the same emotions that the other Seraphim had radiated for the first few days at their new home and continued to do on occasion. Gradually, a smile formed on the child's face, curling the corners of her mouth as she felt the echoes of giggling, a merriment that the woman opposite her was sometimes unable to suppress. This feeling was nice. It didn't hurt, and Angelique's eyes pleaded with the woman to show more.
Elizabeth felt the weight crushing down on her again. That was the problem with living here, spending so much of her energy absorbing worse dreams than she had imagined could exist. It was a burden she carried around, and she had never found a way of getting rid of it, much as she often longed to. Feeling almost breathless, Elizabeth leaned back against the wall and briefly closed her eyes.
There was a small rustle and then Angelique was sitting in the woman's lap with the book in her hand. Elizabeth opened her eyes, instinctively wrapping her arms around the girl, and took the book, opening it at the first page and resting her chin gently on the small child's head as she began to read.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod slipped a disk into the DSA player and quickly scanned through it, glaring at the images that flashed before his eyes. With a frustrated shake of his head, he yanked the disc out and dropped it onto the bed, glancing at the silver circles that already decorated the bedspread before pulling another disk out of the rack and sliding it in. After several minutes of silence, the same act was repeated, but he held this DSA in his hand, glaring down at it, as the sharp edges pressed into his palm.
"Where are you?" he muttered. "When are you? What was I doing?"
He had woken from his nap almost an hour earlier with his heart pounding, his breath coming raggedly, but the dream had left him with only indistinct visions of a dark room and a long table. Knowing that the images were too vague to call Sydney and get an answer, Jarod got off the bed, beginning to pace the length of the room. Despite knowing the futility of such an act, the man was still tempted to ring his mentor, just to try and work out the source of his current nightmare.
Even as he was reaching for the cell phone that was in the pocket of his coat, however, Jarod heard it ring and hurriedly yanked it out.
Jarod smiled, sinking back onto the bed with care for the DSAs. "Hi, son. Everything okay?"
"I have to talk to you."
"Sure. Go ahead."
Tucking the phone under his chin, Jarod began to gather the discs together, sorting them into order and slotting them into the racks, as Jordan started to speak.
"I had this really weird dream last night. I was going to wait 'till you came back to tell you, 'cause I'd forgotten you were staying overnight there, but I really want to talk about it now."
"I'm sorry, Jordan," Jarod apologized. "If I'd known you were going to need me, I would've come back."
"It doesn't matter, I guess," the young man returned uncertainly. "But can I tell you anyway?"
"Of course you can."
"Okay." Jordan let out a long, slow breath before beginning to speak. "You know I've been having trouble sleeping for the last few weeks, and you've been telling me to get more, but I was finding it really hard. Well, last night after you left for Barrow, I decided I'd really try, so I went to bed early and all, but I had this really weird dream, about being at Donoterase, or the Centre, or somewhere. I can't say where it is, exactly. All I know is, it's dark. I'm sitting at a table and there's a sim laid out in front of me -- a whole lot of scientific equipment. There's someone overseeing it. I can hear footsteps behind me, but when I turn to look at whoever it is, I get the back of my head slapped."
By this time, Jarod had stopped packing the discs away and was now staring blankly down at the floor, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open. When Jordan paused, he choked out two words.
"The room smells weird too -- kind of damp, like it doesn't get much sun and isn't aired often. When I finally finish the sim, the person leaves and shuts the door. I can hear it being locked and I know that my only bed is a blanket on the floor." Jordan stopped suddenly. "Dad, I don't know what this is. It isn't me -- I'm sure of it. I don't remember doing that."
"Nor do I," Jarod whispered faintly.
There was silence on the other end, before Jordan exploded. "But you have to, Dad! If this isn't me then it has to be you!"
Jarod forced himself to calm down, hearing the panic in his younger counterpart's voice, and straightened his shoulders, taking a deep breath before he spoke, breaking into the questions that were frantically being fired at him from the other end of the line.
"Jordan, listen to me. Whatever this is, we'll figure it out, okay? I promise we'll work out what it is. Do you hear me?"
"Uh huh." On the other end, the boy took another audible breath.
"Good." Jarod crossed his legs on the bed and changed the phone to his other ear, pulling his laptop out of its satchel and switching it on. "First, I want you to tell me whatever else you can remember about the dream. A name, a strange word, anything."
"But " Jordan's voice revealed his confusion. "You've been having them too, Dad. Why don't you know? How come you're asking me?"
Taking another deep breath, Jarod stared hard at the floor. "They don't seem quite the same, son. I saw the basics you did -- the room and the equipment -- but I don't remember there being anyone else there, nor the smells or the bed that you mentioned."
Jarod half-smiled at the boy's curiosity. "I'm afraid I don't know that yet, Jordan. Maybe, when we know what this is about, we'll be able to figure out the answer to that question."
Cam waited for Elizabeth to enter her bedroom before sauntering in after her. Strolling over, he sat down on her bed and looked up at her.
"So, what was that?"
She shot him a look of exasperation. "What was what, Cam? I don't have time for one of your games right now. I want to get some sleep before tonight."
"I'm talking about earlier, when you were playing with Angelique," he continued, ignoring this. "I know how everybody in this place feels. I can pick them after only a few seconds. But I've never felt the things I did today in that playroom. Was that you?"
"If you didn't think it was, would you be asking me?" she snapped. "What do you really want?"
"I want to know why I haven't picked up on it before," he responded, crossing his legs, Indian-style, and watching her closely. "You've been here for weeks. Why now?"
Yielding with a sigh, Elizabeth sat down on a chair opposite him, giving him a quick outline of her conversation with Angelique. "But I can't push away the emotions I pick up from other people's dreams for long," she finished, wearily pushing back a stray curl from her face. "It's like trying to hold up a house."
He nodded understandingly. "Is it worse here?"
"With the nightmares that the Centre causes? I think that's an understatement." She sent him a sympathetic smile. "Even you dream about it, and you weren't there!"
Cam propped his chin on his fist as he considered this. "I guess I must take on a little of other people's emotions when I know what they feel, if it's in my dreams."
"I don't know how you could avoid it," Elizabeth suggested. "Not with what must be coming at you all day, every day."
He grinned suddenly. "We're a pair, aren't we?"
She chuckled softly in acknowledgement. "Yeah, I guess we are. But I hope you never feel as weighed-down as I do."
Cam tilted his head slightly to one side, eyeing her candidly. "Maybe together we can find a way to get rid of it."
Elizabeth looked somewhat skeptical. "We can try, anyway. But let's try later, like tomorrow."
He stood up, laughing. "Well, I can take a hint."
"Good," she told him. "Now, if I can just train Trevor to do the same thing "
"Oh, I don't think you want to do that," he interrupted, standing in the doorway. "If you only knew some of the stuff that goes on in his head when he looks at you "
She turned sharply from the wardrobe where she had been putting away her sweater, but the door was already closing behind him and she could hear his footsteps running down the hall a second later. Half-smiling, Elizabeth shook her head as she got changed and slipped between the sheets, trying to dismiss his remarks from her mind.
* * * * * * * * *
Broots picked up the sheet of paper that contained an intercepted message and read through it, watching the same message flash on his computer screen. His latest scan of the system, to ensure that the morning's disruption had only been caused by Angelo and no other source, had uncovered this message, which the technician found disturbing. Usually he would have taken it straight to Miss Parker, but she'd said that she wanted as much information as he could find about problems he encountered before she was involved.
"Where are you coming from?" he muttered to himself, beginning the long and very laborious process of backtracking the message. It was well concealed and took him several hours, but he finally managed to find it, and his eyes widened as he realized the truth about what he had uncovered. Hiding the intercept in a safe area he had set aside for just such occurrences, he picked up the piece of paper and stuffed it into his pocket, walking immediately into his boss's office.
She looked up as he appeared in the doorway, and, noting the expression on his face, waved him inside.
"What is it, Broots?"
"I intercepted this." He handed her the sheet of paper and sank down in the chair opposite her as she read it. "Well?"
"Not 'well' at all," she retorted sharply. "Sam's being threatened?"
"He seems to be," the technician agreed. "I backtracked the message."
"Somewhere in Europe," he told her succinctly.
"Seems so," Broots agreed. "But I couldn't get an identity. There was a wall that kept me from working out exactly who sent it, but it's somebody pretty high-up."
She eyed him. "What did you do about it?"
"Nothing yet. I've got the message stored away. I didn't want to send it along until you knew about it."
"Good." She nodded slightly before eyeing the page again thoughtfully. "It doesn't seem like this is a one-time thing. The wording suggests that Sam's been getting these for a while."
The man eyed her. "So what do you want to do?"
"Put it through to him," she told the technician. "We'll both keep an eye on him. I don't want to confront him with nothing. This isn't enough -- it could be a mistake or a joke. Meantime I also want to know what you can find out about any connection Sam might have with anyone in Berlin." Her eyes narrowed suddenly. "And see if you can find out which computer Sam uses. Go through it to see if copies of the information about the Seraphim Kim saw him looking at is there. He must have done something with it."
"Sure thing." Broots stood up before glancing at his watch. "Uh, you did say "
The woman's eyes twinkled as she looked up at him. "Okay, Broots, we'll hold off on the next training session -- for today anyway."
With an audible sigh of relief, the man turned and opened the door. Miss Parker couldn't help laughing as he shut the door behind him.
* * * * * * * * *
Ethan arrived back in his apartment, tossing a bag of library books he had just borrowed onto his bed. Sitting down at the table in front of the laptop he had purchased after leaving Barrow, he composed an email to Dr. Goetz, as he did each week, before checking his own mail. One message sat in his box, but the sender was unknown to him. Picking up a pencil lying on his desk, Ethan thoughtfully tapped the flat surface with it as he leaned back in the chair, gazing at the screen.
When the cell phone that Jarod had given him for Christmas rang, the young man jumped. Picking it up, Ethan activated it eagerly, expecting it to be one of his family.
"Is that Ethan?"
The voice was unknown to him, soft and barely audible.
"Who is this?" he demanded, feeling a shiver of fear run up his spine at the thought that this could be a person associated with the Centre.
"Ethan, I have to talk to you. Did you get my message?"
The woman's tones were hurried and the man leaned forward slightly, lowering his own voice as if frightened of being overheard in the empty room.
"The email, Ethan. I sent you one. I'm sure you got it. It's very important for you to find out as much as you can about the boy."
"What boy?" he asked impatiently. His hand reached out for the mouse to open the message, but he caught it back. "Who is this? What do you want?"
"That boy is your son," the woman persisted softly. "Yours and mine. He needs you, Ethan."
"Look, I don't At least tell me your name!" he finally forced out.
There was a sudden noise at the other end, like a door being violently thrown open, and then a loud thud, as if the receiver had been dropped on the floor. The woman's voice on the other end was now a loud, almost hysterical scream, barely recognizable.
"Nein! Herr Direktor, bitte! Nein!"
Another thud followed, but this was softer, as if something soft had been flung onto the floor, and Ethan pulled the phone away from his ear, staring down at it as if he could see what had happened. Seconds later, there was a soft click, followed by the sound of the dial tone.
* * * * * * * * *
Yuri shut the door of the apartment house where he was currently living, and, thrusting both hands into the deep pockets of his jacket to keep out the cold, pursed his lips into a whistle as he began strolling down the street. Glancing in a shop window as he passed, his eye was caught by a clock hanging on the wall and the man's jaw drooped slightly.
Pulling his left hand out of his pocket, Yuri consulted his watch, holding it to his ear to confirm that the battery was dead and that he was late. He cast a glance at a nearby church clock, just to double-check.
"She's going to have my neck," he muttered to himself as he broke into a run. "Punctuality is her big sticking point."
Rounding a corner, Yuri stopped just in front of the restaurant where he had arranged to meet Emily for lunch, strolling with casual nonchalance in through the door and looking around. His brow furrowed when he saw that she wasn't there. Casting a suspicious look at a clock on the wall, he checked that he hadn't misread the time before pulling his cell phone from his pocket to make sure that she hadn't called.
"Can I help you, sir?"
Yuri looked up to find that a waiter was standing in front of him. "I was hoping to meet a friend of mine here. We made a reservation in the name of Jennings."
"Oh, you just missed her," the waiter tutted. "Emily, wasn't it?"
Yuri's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "How did you know?"
"The man said it, several times. He came in with a group of four or five others. They went right for the table, like they knew who she was. Soon after they came, she left with them."
"Did she leave a message for me?"
"No, I'm afraid not," the waiter apologized. "I think they were in a hurry. Only the one guy said anything. They barely gave even her time to grab her coat, and it's like Siberia out today."
Rocking back on his heels, Yuri examined the man's face, trying to work out if he was telling the truth. After a moment of contemplation, a question occurred to him.
"Can you give me a description of any of these men?"
"They were all pretty unremarkable -- black suits and ties, white shirts, all the same, like they were part of a group."
Yuri felt a shudder go through him. That made it pretty clear.
"Oh, yeah," the waiter interrupted, "and the guy who did the talking was missing a thumb."
* * * * * * * * *
Ethan pressed the button to cut the connection, staring at the phone for a second longer, and finally dropped it on the table. Sitting back in his chair, frowning deeply, the man stared at the screen, his eyes running over the sender of the email. MD. All other information would have to wait until he opened the message.
And what had she meant by 'the boy'? A son? Ethan knew that he could have no son, at least not by traditional methods. He had never felt strongly enough about any of the women he had met to want to start a family. But there were other methods and he himself was proof of that. There would have been no difficulty in the Centre getting hold of his sperm for whatever nefarious purpose they chose. Without even knowing anything about the boy, he could immediately feel a flame of protectiveness flare up in him, as well as rage at the way he had been exploited by the Centre again.
Standing, he began to pace the room, trying to remember when they could have had access to his genetic material. He placed a hand on his side, remembering when he had suffered from pain and Raines had suggested that he have his appendix removed, not long after his 18th birthday. As that was the only operation that he could recall having occurred during his life, he decided that that must have been it. Ethan raged at this invasion of his privacy, but it was done and there was nothing he could do about it now as he sank back into the chair with a feeling of hopelessness.
Instinctively, he reached out to open the message. The email address told him nothing so he scrolled down the message, breath catching in his throat at the sight. A small boy gazed at him as a picture was gradually revealed, line by line. Large, blue eyes stared unblinkingly out of the scanned photo, underneath a shock of messy brown hair. A small smile showed on the child's face, revealing shadows that could be dimples.
Scrolling further down the message, Ethan saw several more images of the same boy playing with other children, one that he recognized instantly, drawing in his breath sharply. The photo of his nephew had been one of the first things Jarod had sent Ethan upon his return from his trip to Australia. Now Ethan saw a photo that showed the cousins -- if the woman had told him the truth -- playing with a small, dark-haired girl.
Under the pictures was a name, Uriel. Nothing else. Only the four images and that name. Pulling out a portable printer, Ethan attached it to the laptop and set the machine to print out the four pictures as he began packing a small bag, grabbing the cell phone from the tabletop as he passed it. He had no idea where Jarod was at present, but Ethan didn't simply want to call anybody for information about this. He had to see the expression in the eyes of the person he was talking to, so that left him with only one option. His sister, the one at the Centre. She must know something of the child, his son. At least she could verify if what the woman had told him was true or not. Snatching up the colored sheets of paper as soon as the printer spat them out, Ethan cut out the four pictures and slid them into a side pocket of the bag he carried before closing the machine and packing it away.
Putting on a jacket and dropping a cap onto his head to protect himself from the rain pouring down outside, he opened the door of his apartment, letting it fall shut behind him and locking it before pocketing the key and heading down the stairs.
* * * * * * * * *
The boy was playing with a small train, his favorite of all the new toys at this house, building a bridge for it out of large wooden blocks, when he saw the face in the part of his mind where the pictures came. Sitting down in the corner, he stared at the floor, trying to understand who it was.
The word was a whisper, but Uriel had always heard this Voice and it didn't scare him. He concentrated hard on the man, watching him walk through the streets with a hat pulled down over his face to keep off the rain. Uriel wanted a daddy. He knew how much fun Gabriel had with his daddy and how Angelique felt about her Angel. Uriel hoped fervently that the Voice was right and that this man would play with him and love him like other daddies did.
Gabriel looked up from the book he was reading as Michaela ran across the room towards Uriel. In his role as intended head of the group, Gabriel had both naturally developed and been taught to have an awareness of the moods of the Seraphim, and knew that Uriel was seeing one of his 'pictures.' He intercepted the little girl, luring her over to the corner where toys were scattered. Two other children immediately ran up to be included in the game.
As quickly as it had come, the image vanished from Uriel's mind. His eyes cleared and he sat up straighter, knowing that he wouldn't see anything else, no matter how hard he tried. A shriek of laughter from the group gathered in the other corner drew his attention to them and he got up to join them.
* * * * * * * * *
Collecting her papers, Miss Parker stood and walked around her desk. As she had directed, in order to keep an eye on him, Sam was waiting just outside the office. When she appeared, he straightened up and walked with her down the hall.
"Have we arranged for translators, just in case?" she demanded.
"Yes, Miss Parker," the man responded. "But I don't think it'll be necessary."
"Still, we can't take the risk of complications due to language difficulties," she retorted. "We don't have a lot of time for this, and there's plenty to be discussed."
As the elevator doors closed after them, the sweeper looked up at her. "Do you want me to be there for the whole time?"
"No, Sam," she affirmed, eyeing him cautiously. "When we start, I want you to go and find out how Sydney's doing with Angelo in SL-17."
"Of course," he agreed at once, casting a surreptitious glance at his watch as the door silently slid open and his boss walked out ahead of him. By doing so, Sam missed the sharp glance Miss Parker shot him over her shoulder as she put her hand on the door of the boardroom.
The five people around the table looked around as Miss Parker entered the room. Taking the place at the head of the table, which had been left vacant for her, the woman laid down her folder and then eyed each of the men. Her eyes immediately met those of one of the men seated to her left, noticing that he was now clear-eyed and alert, obviously having recovered from the exhaustion that had been apparent when she'd appeared on his doorstep in Berlin.
They had only seen each other once after those few quick minutes. He had still been asleep when she had left for Die Fakultät to begin her investigations, and when she had returned, he had gone to work, leaving her a note telling her that dinner was in the microwave. Their other meeting had been during his T-Board, but she had left Delius to do the questioning and had simply taken note of his responses. He had been professional and curt, the ideal picture of a man unjustly accused of lying. Even Delius had had no qualms, declaring to her that his head of security would have been utterly incapable of masterminding something as complicated as the abduction of the children.
But there was a knowing sparkle in the blue eyes that were watching her closely as she took out her agenda for the meeting, handing a copy to each man and giving another to one of the sweepers who lined the walls to be placed at the far end of the table for the Chairman. It was an effort for Morgan not to smile, but she managed, keeping her face expressionless and seeing him nod ever so slightly. Before she could speak, however, the Chairman walked in the door.
"Good, good, I see we're all here." He took his seat at the foot of the table. "I think, after this latest fiasco, we all know each other, so let's begin."
* * * * * * * * *
It was a mere twenty minutes after returning to her office that Miss Parker heard the knock on her door that she had been half-expecting. She caught herself smoothing her hair and firmly put both hands on the desk in front of her before calling out.
The man's blond head peeped around the door, his blue eyes twinkling. "Should I?"
"Of course, Mr. Winston," she replied, endeavoring to sound formal. The man grinned, sitting down opposite without an invitation.
"Come on, Parker. We aren't going to be all polite and stiff now, are we? It was bad enough when I was sweating blood at the T-Board." Dimples quirked in his cheeks. "Be nice to me."
"Well, what did you come here for?" she asked, trying to hide a smile. "To discuss security for our two corporations or other reasons?"
His lips twisted into a contagious grin. "That depends. Do you only do work in the office?"
"I try to."
"Then I came to discuss security. Maybe I'll be able to bring up other reasons at other times -- like over dinner tonight."
Miss Parker raised an eyebrow. "Is that an invitation?"
"Well, as I'd be in all sorts of trouble if I gave the daughter of the Chairman an order, I guess it'll have to be, yes."
Leaning back in her chair, the woman folded her arms over her chest. "How do you know that I'm available?"
He laughed. "I took the liberty of booking myself in to your schedule yesterday. I was positive you wouldn't mind."
Glancing sharply at an electronic calendar in a corner of her computer screen, Morgan saw the notation that indicated a high-level meeting and an initial. PW. The woman redirected her gaze over the desk at the man.
"Impressive that you managed to get through my -- "
"Security, yes I know." Peter smiled complacently and there was a knowing gleam in his blue eyes. "We have our own technical experts in Berlin, you know. Perhaps not as good as yours here. We don't seem so capable when intercepting messages as you here in Blue Cove. Still, we're not bad."
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod looked down at the face of his clone on the computer screen. They were both reading a file that, after a lot of effort, they had managed to find in Donoterase's mainframe.
"Son, are you sure it was 'Echo' that the man said?"
Jordan's face was flushed as his eyes met those of his double. "Positive."
"Okay, well, we don't have much," Jarod commented. "It's a pretty big secret, whatever it is."
"Looks like they've been working on it for about six years," Jordan added as he picked out the date on which the project had been activated. "Who's in charge?"
"Cox," Jarod told him glumly, having found this piece of information first. "The thing I don't get is how he's got a project that the Centre doesn't know about."
"Most people didn't know about me," Jordan reminded the older man, and Jarod couldn't help smiling slightly.
"The most powerful ones did. And now," he added with a grin, "the most important ones do as well."
Jordan responded to the humor with a smile that slowly faded as he once more looked at the information in front of him. "But this isn't at Donoterase."
Jarod raised an eyebrow. "How do you know?"
"Once Da and I got somewhere safe from that airstrip in North Carolina, I went looking for my own file and found the code name they use for Donoterase. That wasn't it." He nodded at the name on the file. "Anyway, the address for that place -- whatever it is -- is in Blue Cove. We both know that Donoterase isn't there."
"Yes, that's true," Jarod agreed. He eyed the address thoughtfully. "You know, I'm wondering if Cox has this project at his own home. He'd know that the Chairman would visit Donoterase regularly. If he kept this project at his house, there wouldn't be any danger of it being found."
Jordan's brow furrowed. "So why does Cox have to keep in contact with someone at the Centre? Why isn't he doing everything at home?"
"He had to get access to the material so that he could create Project Echo -- whatever it is -- in the first place," Jarod reminded him. "It would also be almost impossible for him to do everything he had to -- create the project, either get rid of or pay off anyone who knew about it, arrange for a transfer for it with him from Africa -- without help of some kind."
The boy nodded in agreement. "When are we going to get it?"
"You aren't," another voice put in and Major Charles walked into the video shot, deliberately sitting in a chair beside Jordan. "No matter what this project is, there's nothing to be gained by trying to bring it here. You don't know anything about it. It's too dangerous."
"No, Jordan," Charles told him firmly. "And I mean it. I won't take that risk."
Knowing that he did mean it, the boy shot a glare in the man's direction, grabbed the sheets he had printed out and bolted from the room. There was a long moment of silence after he had vanished, before Jarod spoke.
"You know, Dad, if we hadn't taken a risk three years ago, we wouldn't have Jordan now."
"I know," Major Charles admitted. "But I would have had you."
"No," his son contradicted immediately. "Our situations would be no different. We'd still be on opposite sides of the continent. The main difference is that we'd both be alone."
"Or I wouldn't have you at all," the older man stated softly.
"Possibly," Jarod agreed, quickly changing the subject. "Look, why don't we work on it when I get back there? We can weigh up the risks and do what we can."
His father raised an eyebrow. "You're determined to dig into this project too?"
"Yes," the Pretender stated determinedly. "I want to know about all their dirty little secrets, especially the ones they try to keep from each other."
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney limped slowly into the dimly lit former storeroom in time to see Angelo push something into one of the cubbyholes that the room boasted. When a corner of the white box caught on a hook, the psychiatrist stepped over, but Angelo forced himself between the carton and the man, a warning glare on his face. Immediately, Sydney took a step back, using the cane to maintain his still somewhat unsteady balance.
"All right, Angelo," he stated calmly. "You do it. I was only trying to help."
Expecting no response, Sydney was rather surprised to see the shy grin that the empath shot in his direction. Nodding in response, the older man turned away, seeing out of the corner of his eye as the other man scrambled out of the corner and hurriedly left the room. Sydney was going to follow him out, but his eye was caught by a familiar name written on a folder that was lying on a nearby bench.
"Kendra Evans," he murmured, picking up the folder and looking through it quickly. Seizing a photo that was taped to the back cover, he tore it out, holding it up so that light from one of the brighter lights in the hallway fell on it. His eyes softened as he took in the features, but it was when he took a look at one of the last pages in the folder that he gasped, slapping the booklet shut. Shooting a sharp glance around the room to make sure that Angelo was gone, Sydney slid the folder into a pile of others he was carrying before leaving.
When Angelo reentered several minutes later, the room was free of occupation. Looking at the shelf, the empath smiled to himself and reached into another pile of papers that he had pushed into a dark corner, producing a color photograph and holding it up to his face, gently stroking the female figure's cheek on the flat photographic paper.
"Momma," he mewled, gazing at it for another few seconds before letting the picture fall to the floor, where it was immediately hidden in the darkness, and ambling off in another direction.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod glanced at his watch as he disconnected the call and immediately began gathering his belongings, knowing that his sister wouldn't be happy it if he was late. Packing everything into his carryall and printing out the Echo files, his mind was still exercised by the project. Slipping the pages into a pocket of his laptop satchel, he was about to turn off the machine when he heard a sharp knock on his door.
Remembering other occasions, when Faith and Rebecca had turned up with information about his work, Jarod found himself hoping that this would be a similar situation and eagerly moved over to the door, throwing it open. The Pretender stared in silence for a moment at the man who stood there before finally finding his voice.
The man smiled weakly. "Hello Jarod."
"What are you doing here?"
"I need your help." The man paused. "It's Emily."
The older man stiffened immediately, his eyes becoming hard, glinting dangerously. "What do you know about my sister?"
"It's I'm I think she's been abducted. By the Centre."
The hard beginning over, the younger man waited. It had taken Yuri quite some time to arrive at the decision that he would be unable to solve this situation on his own. Aware that his best chance of success would be the man who had eluded the Centre for so long, and knowing his sister was going to meet him, although Yuri had carefully excused himself from that meal, the Pretender had guessed that Jarod would be in the area. It had taken a few hours, but he had tracked Jarod down, trying to get there before the older man left to meet Emily, exceeding the speed limit all the way and now arrived on his doorstep. Before Yuri could explain this, however, the other man seized the lapels of his coat and dragged him into the room, throwing him up against the wall with such force that Yuri's breath was momentarily knocked out of him.
"What did you do to her?" Jarod snarled, his hands dangerously close to Yuri's throat. "What have you done to my sister?"
"Nothing, I swear," the younger man gasped, regaining his breath but stopping himself from striking out at the other Pretender, understanding his reaction. "It's not me at all. It's Lyle."
Jarod's eyes widened momentarily, but he didn't change his position, except to gain a firmer footing. "And why would you care? What do you care about anybody except yourself?"
"I do, Jarod," Yuri pleaded, trying to remain calm. "I care about Emily a lot. We met a couple of months ago and I guess you could say we're seeing each other."
Only his eyes revealed his astonishment, the rest of Jarod's face still wearing a furious glare. "I don't believe you," he sneered. "This is another one of your games. It's not funny."
"It's not, Jarod, I swear to you. When I first met Emily, I was trying to find you, and I'll admit that I was sort of using her at the time for that. But I felt sorry for her too. I know what she's gone through, with her family, with you. It was fun for me at first. She had no idea who I was, or that I had any connection to that place, and she treated me like a friend. I didn't want to feel things for her but, I don't know, it just kind of happened." He could feel his eyes widening, revealing the panic he felt. "Please, Jarod, you and I both know what Lyle might do to her. I couldn't bear for that to happen. Please. Help me and I'll help you. Working together, I know we can save her."
Jarod began to feel that the man was telling the truth. He loosened his hold and backed away a step, maintaining eye contact. "What do you know?"
"We were supposed to meet for lunch at this Thai restaurant we both like, in Caldwell. When I got there -- and I was running a little late -- she wasn't there, but one of the waiters told me a group of men wearing black suits had come in, talked to her, and she left with them. Now, you know as well as I do that they won't abduct someone in the middle of a busy restaurant, but, if they threatened her, she might not feel like she had any choice but to go with them."
Nodding slightly, Jarod's eyes narrowed. "How do you know Lyle was one of them?"
"One guy was missing a thumb," Yuri stated flatly. "Who else could it be?"
"And why come to me?"
"I don't know Lyle, " Yuri admitted. "I never had much to do with him. Raines mentioned him once or twice, but I never met him. Everything I know, I've read in the mainframe while I was making sure I could stay ahead of them. I never expected to have to confront them. But," he continued before Jarod could speak, "I know you do know him. It won't be as easy as it was last time, when Cox and Lyle took Zoe. They'll be expecting you or your dad to try to rescue her. But maybe, working together, we can come up with some way to beat them."
"You really did your research," Jarod commented sneeringly. "But, if you'd read a little better, you would have found out that they called me last time to tell me they had Zoe."
"They only took her four hours ago," Yuri retorted, glancing at the bedside clock. "Last time, they waited more than five before calling you."
Jarod allowed his surprise to show on his face, beginning to think that this was both true and serious. However, he was still reluctant to get involved in any situation where he might have to rely on a man whom he doubted he could really trust. Yuri seemed to read the expression in his eyes and stood up straighter.
"Please, Jarod. I'm not asking you to do this for me. Do it for Emily. Your sister."
This last point decided the older man, who nodded slightly, his voice still a deep growl. "Okay, Yuri. But if you plan to double-cross us, it'll be the last move you ever make."
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
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.
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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."
"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.
* * * * * * * * *
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."
* * * * * * * * *
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.
"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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
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."
"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.
* * * * * * * * *
"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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
* * * * * * * * *
"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."
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."
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.
Elizabeth completed the book she had been reading and wandered out of her room. Although she enjoyed using her skills, it did get a bit boring sometimes, when she was the only person awake. The three weeks since she had come to live in the building had provided her with so much practice that she could now perform her nightly tasks with little effort, being able to read or listen to music, even hold a conversation at the same time.
Strolling down the hallway, she peeped into Sebastian's room, smiling at the psychic who sat in one corner, reading a book. Although there were times when Elizabeth felt it unnecessary, having the extra level of protection was as much a comfort for her as it was for Sumi and her husband.
Making her way to the stairs at the end of the hallway, she descended a flight of them, going aimlessly along the darkened hallway on the lower level and into the playroom. She saw as well at night as she did during the daytime hours, although she hadn't realized this fact until she had moved here. Until Trevor had pointed out that she seemed to successfully navigate dark, cluttered rooms and passageways, Elizabeth had always believed that everyone else saw the darkness in the same way she did -- with a slight tinge of green that allowed her to see objects clearly. An examination of her eyes had shown no abnormality, and it was assumed to simply be another facet of her skill.
Startled, the woman turned to see the little boy, dragging a teddy bear behind him, watching her from a nearby doorway.
"Gabriel, what are you doing up?" she exclaimed in hushed tones, picking up the child. "You should be asleep, like everybody else."
"Daddy 'wake," he told her, resting his head against her shoulder.
Nodding without really understanding, she carried him into the nursery to find that the woman Sebastian had placed in charge of the children's quarters and their carergivers had just discovered the empty bed.
"You've got an escapee," Elizabeth joked. "Miss him?"
"Always," Helen replied with a grin, holding out her hands. "Come on, Gabriel. Back to bed, sweetie."
"No." He turned, burying his face in Elizabeth's shoulder and clinging tightly to her shirt. "No bed."
"I'll take him out for a short stroll and bring him back when he's ready to sleep," the younger woman suggested, and Helen nodded.
"Then I'll go back to bed myself." She yawned. "I don't know how you do it, staying awake all night."
"Well, Trevor calls me an owl," Elizabeth remarked, laughing. "Maybe that isn't too far off."
After watching the older woman leave the room, Elizabeth turned to the little boy. "So what do you want to do?"
"Go out." Gabriel pointed up, and the woman raised an eyebrow.
"Uh huh." He gave her a sly grin. " Uriel say you go up dere at night."
"He's right," the woman admitted with a smile, "I do."
Taking the small white bathrobe, complete with flying pigs on the pocket, and a tiny pair of bunny slippers out of the child's wardrobe, Elizabeth dressed Gabriel in them and carried him along to the elevator, riding it up to the roof. When the doors opened, she put him down and then stepped out into the cool night air on the observation deck. The boy clutched her hand as they walked slowly along the concrete, stopping at a cage in which Namir kept a collection of injured animals.
Elizabeth had at first been puzzled by the conflicting emotions revealed in the healer's dreams, but as she had spent more time with him, it had become clearer. He was a warrior who liked to use the fighting skills he had been taught, but at the same time couldn't turn away from the helpless and injured, be it human or animal, particularly if the injuries had been caused by human beings. Whenever Namir left Sanctuary, to escape from those around whom he still felt less than comfortable, he almost never returned without an injured animal.
"Bunny," Gabriel stated, pointing at a rabbit whose back leg was healing rapidly after being hit by a car several days earlier.
"That's right," she agreed, lifting the small, furry animal out of the cage and, as he sat on the ground with a bump, placing it gently in Gabriel's arms. A memory assailed Elizabeth and she smiled. "You call Faith 'Bunny' too, don't you?"
He gave her as hard a look as a two-year-old could. "How you know dat?"
Elizabeth sat down on the ground beside him. "When you're asleep at night, I know what you dream about. Then I make sure you don't have the bad ones."
"For Daddy too?"
"No." Elizabeth shook her head. "Your Daddy's too far away. I can only do it for the people in this building. But when your Daddy comes to visit next time, we'll make sure he doesn't have any bad dreams."
"What you dweam about?"
"I don't know," she admitted, laughing. "I never remember my dreams." The woman gently lifted the rabbit out of Gabriel's arms. "We'll let the bunny sleep now, okay?"
"Does Bunny dweam too?"
"You mean Faith or the real bunny?"
"Weal bunny," he replied shortly as she placed the animal into the cage and secured it.
"Of course," she told him. "But Bunny's dreams are boring. Just about grass and carrots and lady bunnies. Only people have interesting dreams."
Gabriel raised his arms and Elizabeth picked him up, strolling along to the balustrade that ran along the length of the deck, gazing out over the city of Dallas.
"Pwetty," the child stated.
"It sure is," she concurred, lifting her head to gaze at the stars.
"Do you ever miss the Australian ones?" a male voice from behind suggested, and Elizabeth nodded as she turned to see the man, a white bathrobe over the pajama pants and t-shirt he now wore to bed.
"Often," she confessed. "You too?"
"I don't really remember them," Sebastian admitted. "I was pretty young when Da moved here to increase his fortune, and to see what the Centre could do for me."
The woman walked over to a chair and sat down, the boy in her lap. Sebastian stretched out on a sun-lounge nearby, tucking his hands behind his head and staring up into the sky.
"When did you find out you could do -- that?" the man queried, becoming stuck when he tried to give 'that' a name.
"Consciously, I was nine." She smiled, watching Gabriel play with his teddy bear. "Like a lot of kids, I had an extra sense when I was young. I always knew that my parents had bad dreams and I can remember waking up in tears because of a nightmare they were about to have."
"About to?" Sebastian raised an eyebrow, turning his head to watch her. "So you'd cry, wake them up and they'd never have it?"
"Exactly." Elizabeth laughed. "My parents were huge skeptics of anything paranormal and, as yours did with you, they dragged me from doctor to doctor, trying to work out what it was and how to stop it. Of course, having a skill that only works when the person testing you is asleep, and which can't be picked up on tests anyway, it rapidly becomes an exercise of 'move along folks, nothing to see here.'"
"When did you start dipping into the subconscious?"
"I was fourteen." She sighed regretfully, stroking the hair of the small boy, who was nodding sleepily in her arms. "My parents sent me off to boarding school and the school nurse was a healer, although most people didn't know it. She kept the gift hidden as much as she could, and only used it when the patient wouldn't know. Her dreams were full of the guilt she felt, but I could never work out exactly what she could do and why she felt guilty, so one day I faked an illness and caught her in the act. Then I talked to her about it."
"How did that help?"
"We talked about enhancing and practicing our skills. I started off by waking up my roommate as soon as I picked up on an 'impending disaster,' as she called it when she found out what I was capable of." Elizabeth smiled. "One day she picked up a book on the paranormal and got an idea for using imagery to enhance the skills. That's when I began imagining a blanket of the dreams people had, with the bad ones like puckers in the fabric. It took a lot of practice, but I finally taught myself to control my ability until I could do it at will."
"Is it a good or a bad thing?" the man prompted.
The woman's expression became thoughtful, carefully lifting the now sleeping Gabriel so that his head rested on her shoulder, gently rubbing his back with her other hand. "I never asked myself that. It's just always been there. I never considered what life would be like without it."
"Lucky you," Sebastian muttered.
"I smell smoke," Elizabeth joked. "Cool it, Sparky, or I'll break out the fire extinguishers."
He grinned somewhat feebly. "You wouldn't dare."
"Wanna bet?" She laughed. "Water pistols at twenty paces if I'm right."
"Okay, but I get the SuperSoaker."
"Hey, no fair!" Elizabeth protested, narrowing her eyes. "How come?"
Shrugging, but unable to hide a grin, Sebastian got to his feet, slipping his arm around her shoulders as they started to stroll towards the exit. "Simple, my little Owl. It's my building."
* * * * * * * * *
Jordan counted out the money he had borrowed from Cam, knowing it wouldn't be enough to pay for the room, and then pulled out his laptop. Logging into the motel's records again, he typed in the details of one of Jarod's credit cards and waited until it had been cleared before disconnecting the machine and quickly packing it into the bag. He carried his things out to the car and stored them in the trunk. Getting into the driver's seat, he started the engine and, with a cautious look around, drove away, heading for Blue Cove.
* * * * * * * * *
"What time is it?"
Yuri glanced at his watch. "Almost three. We've only got a few more hours before sunrise."
Nodding, Jarod checked he had everything before doing up his bag. "It'll take us all our time to get there an hour before the time I'm meant to meet Lyle."
"The sweepers should be gone by the time we get there."
"I like your use of the word 'should,'" the other man retorted sharply. "They have to be gone or we can't manage this. Two of us couldn't possibly win against the dozen or more sweepers that were in that building."
Even as Yuri tried to grin, Jarod's cell phone rang. Picking it up, Jarod's brow furrowed as he answered it.
"Jarod, it's me. We've got a problem."
"Dad? What's wrong?"
"It's Jordan. He's gone. I went in to see him, feeling kind of guilty about how firm I was with him before, and he wasn't there. He's sent a message saying he's safe, but he didn't tell me where he was going."
Jarod sank down onto the bed, staring at the floor, before suddenly looking up as realization dawned. "Echo!"
"Oh, God, no," his father protested immediately. "Don't tell me "
"Probably." A half-smile quirked the corners of Jarod's mouth. "It's what I'd do."
"When can you get up here?"
"Dad -- I can't! Something came up. I can't possibly make it there."
"What's more important than family?" Major Charles snapped. "Fine, if you won't go after him, then I will!"
"No, Dad," Jarod protested immediately. "Not up there. It's too close to the Centre, and "
"Jordan flew up there," the older man cut in.
"That's not what I meant. I was going to say that you can't go up there and interrupt him doing what he wants to. If you did, it might draw their attention to you. He's got a better chance if he can do it and get away." Jarod forced a reassuring note into his voice. "Jordan's a sensible kid, Dad. He's not going let himself get caught if he can avoid it. I trust his judgment. Maybe Sebastian or someone could locate the plane for you, and if it's not too close to Delaware, you could fly up there and wait for him, in case he needs a hand."
"And you're sure you can't make it?"
"No, Dad." Jarod's eyes traveled to the screen, where the image of his sister remained. "No, it isn't possible. I'm sorry."
Disconnecting the call, he slid the phone into his pocket and returned his gaze to the floor.
"What's going on?" Yuri demanded after several moments of silence, turning off the TV and disconnecting Jarod's laptop, packing it away.
The older man looked up. "Jordan -- the boy they cloned from me -- has gone to Blue Cove to retrieve a project we found out about."
"And you're trying to decide which one's more important," Yuri finished. "Jarod, your sister is in immediate danger. Jordan isn't."
For another second, Jarod considered, before looking up. "You're right. Let's get out of here."
"You know what else?" Yuri suggested as they went down the stairs.
"Considering his genes, Jordan shouldn't really have a problem saving someone, should he?"
Sending a half-harassed, half-amused glance in the other man's direction, Jarod got into the car and put the key in the ignition.
* * * * * * * * *
The car stopped at a red light, and Morgan turned her head from a subtle examination she had been performing of Peter as he began one of her. Another car pulled up beside them, the driver of which immediately bent over something on the passenger seat. Morgan couldn't help finding something about the young man familiar. She looked closely at the youth as he cast glances at the red light before checking his watch. But it was when he raised his head to get a proper look at a street sign that she had to bite her bottom lip to keep from making any noise.
Jordan, as Jarod said they had named him.
What on earth was he doing in Blue Cove? Did he realize how dangerous it was for him to be seen in this area? If someone from the Centre should happen to
A sudden thought made her glad that habitual cautiousness had kept her silent. Despite their friendly flow of conversation during the meal and his comment when she had appeared in his apartment in Berlin, Morgan still couldn't fully make up her mind as to which side of the battle Winston would end up on, if and when it came to that. If Peter was a supporter of Delius and of the Chairman, and if he happened to know what Jordan looked like, particularly with his natural and rapidly increasing resemblance to the man from whom he had been cloned, then even just a glimpse of the boy might be enough for him to insist on calling out the cavalry, and that was something that Morgan couldn't bear to have happen. In desperation, she turned, engaging him in discussion about their time in Italy as the lights turned green and they went one way, Jordan going in the other.
* * * * * * * * *
"Thank you for a lovely night," she told him somewhat primly, hoping that he wouldn't put her in a situation where she would feel obliged to invite him in.
"The pleasure was all mine," he responded with a warm smile. "I'm glad you had such a good time." Peter gently squeezed her arm before letting go. "Although I hate to say it, I've got an early meeting with the other German members in the morning, so I'm afraid I really should be going."
"Well, any time you're in town, don't forget to hack into my calendar," Morgan teased, smiling down at him from the step of the veranda.
"I will," he responded honestly, reaching up to gently brush her cheek with his lips. "I'll see you tomorrow for our meeting, Miss Parker."
"I'll look forward to it, Mr. Winston," she responded with a smile, inserting the key into the lock and turning it. He waited until she entered the house before stuffing his hands in the pockets of his pants and, unable to wipe the smile off his face, headed back to his car.
Morgan shut the door, removing the cape from around her shoulders and draping it over one arm as she emptied the contents of her purse onto the hall table in the moonlight streaming in through the stained glass windows. The sight of a shadow moving on the other side of the room caught her attention, and she turned her head sharply, suddenly wishing that she had invited Peter in, as a host of possible threats waltzed through her mind.
"It's only me," a soft and familiar voice stated. Reaching out, Morgan turned on a light to find her half-brother standing in a corner of the room, hands in his pockets, looking at her a little sheepishly.
"Ethan!" she exclaimed, crossing the room in paces as large as her somewhat restrictive dress would allow. "What on earth are you doing here? It's wonderful to see you."
"You look beautiful," he told her as he gently returned her embrace.
"Thanks," she smiled. "It's just " A sudden movement her brother made in the light revealed a look of pain in his eyes, and she broke off, forcing him to look at her. "What is it, Ethan?"
For a moment, his mouth moved, but no words came out. Finally, he reached into the bag he carried and pulled out the photos, putting them into her hands.
"Do you know who that is?"
Morgan eyed him sharply before turning her attention to the first of the pictures, immediately recognizing the child's features.
"Uriel," she replied slowly, before looking up at her brother. "How did you get this, Ethan?"
"They were sent to me," he admitted, sitting down as she waved him to a chair. "I got them in an email today, and then a woman called me." Ethan rested his elbows on his knees, linked his fingers together and rested his chin on them, staring at the floor. "She told me that he was my son, hers and mine." Ethan suddenly looked up at his sister. "Is it possible? Could he be?"
"Possibly," Morgan admitted carefully, sitting down in a chair facing him and eyeing the child, forced to recognize her brother's facial features in those of the little boy who stared at her out of the paper.
"Where is he?" Ethan demanded abruptly. "In the Centre?"
"He was," his sister confessed slowly. "He's not there now. He was one of a group of children called the Seraphim, who were being trained by the Centre to exploit their skills."
"What is he?" Ethan persisted. "Does he hear the voices too?"
"Not according to the notes, but it's impossible to say for sure," the woman stated. "His skills are limited to mild psychic abilities at this stage, at least as far as I've found."
The young man nodded slowly. "Where is he now?"
"Ask your brother," Morgan responded cautiously. "He's more likely to know for sure."
Nodding, Ethan got to his feet, beginning to pace the room in front of the fireplace. "What do I do now?" he demanded suddenly. "I mean, I don't even know who this woman was. How can I be sure she's telling the truth? And, even if she is, how can I contact her?"
Settling back in the chair, Morgan reflected that she was going to have little or no sleep at all that night as she began to consider the problem.
"Was there anything you noticed that might give us a hint?" she demanded. "Anything at all?"
After a moment, Ethan turned and gave her a quick run-down of the end of the call. After a long moment of silence, he added something.
"The name of the sender was MD, if that helps."
"Delius," she mused aloud after a few seconds of thought. "That suggests it's someone at Die Fakultät."
Not really understanding, Ethan briefly considered asking what she meant but decided not to get bogged down in unnecessary detail. Reaching into his pocket, Ethan produced a slip of paper.
"That's my cell phone number," he told her. "Could you maybe get somebody to run a check of the phone records? That might help."
"Can I call you on it, too?" she asked softly, accepting the paper and standing up to meet his eye. "I've hardly seen you, Ethan, and I don't really feel like I know you at all. I'd really like the chance to learn more about you."
"I'd like that, too," he conceded with a shy smile. "I know Emily now, but I'd like to get to know my other sister that well too."
"I'll find out whatever I can and call you, or you can come back here this time tomorrow," she promised, handing him the photos. "And if you call your brother, I'm sure he'll tell you where Uriel is."
"I hope so." He hugged her, before heading for the door. Once there, he stopped and glanced over his shoulder at her, smiling in a way that forcibly reminded her of Jarod, but more so of Uriel. "She's glad you had such a good night. So am I."
Opening the door, he disappeared into the night, and, as Morgan went over to lock it behind him, in spite of the seriousness of the situation that her brother was facing, she found herself laughing.
* * * * * * * * *
Emily sat with her eyes closed, her head bent slightly forward. The position wasn't particularly comfortable, but with her hands tied so tightly behind her back, nothing was, and so she had begun meditating in an effort to ease it. At odd moments, she wondered how long it would be before Jarod could get there to rescue her. Other times, she ruminated on the moment when she had first seen the group of sweepers enter the restaurant.
Just the sight of the uniform had caused her to look immediately for another exit, but the eight men had entered by the only available door and she knew she had no hope of getting around them. They had quietly approached her table and the one man Emily knew, whose face she could clearly remember from the day that he had pushed her out of her office window in Philadelphia, had slid onto the bench beside her. The next instant, a hard, blunt object was poking into her ribs, and she knew without looking that it was a gun.
"Emily, my dear," he had exclaimed in tones that suggested a long acquaintance. "It's such a pleasure to see you again. Why don't you come and have lunch with my friends and I?"
With such an obvious threat, she'd had no choice, immediately picking up her bag and jacket as she, the man with the gun and four sweepers accompanied her to the door, where the other three waited and, at the same unhurried pace, escorted her to one of the black cars that were parked along the curb.
Lyle gave her a long, searching look and then turned Valentine.
"How much longer?"
"An hour until we arranged for the meeting." The sweeper sat calmly in his chair, playing with an elastic band that he had found on the floor. "I'll leave with the other sweepers in a minute and you and the others can take her to the Centre as soon as we've got Jarod. If he doesn't show up, we'll have to bloody the floor a little."
"Fine." Lyle began to pace the room. The sweeper shot an amused glance of comprehension at the other man, but he was prevented from speaking when Lyle's cell phone rang.
"This is Lyle."
"There's been a sighting of Yuri in Georgia," stated the familiar voice of the Chairman.
The man cast a hunted look around the room. "Dad, not now. I'm in the middle of something. I can't "
"Oh, I don't want you," Mr. Parker assured him. "No, I want the sweepers you took with you to Idaho. They need to get to Carson City, Nevada, within the next two hours, so Yuri doesn't get away, and that's an order."
"But, Dad "
"Don't disobey me, Lyle," the man growled, "or any failure to recapture Yuri will be on your head, and the Triumvirate will hear all about it."
The dial tone cut short any further protestations and he angrily cut the connection. Glaring around the building, as Valentine watched out of the corner of his eye, Lyle snapped out his orders and the sweepers began to leave the room.
The aggressive tones cut through Emily's meditation and she heard the order with a feeling of triumph. She had had no doubt that Jarod would have tried to arrange a plan to rescue her and suspected that the call about Yuri was just a distraction. Obviously, Emily thought, Yuri was important to the Centre, if they were sending almost two-dozen sweepers to catch him. Opening her eyes a fraction, she watched the numerous men leave the building and was able to hear several cars start up outside.
She had considered escaping before this, but knew she wouldn't have been able to get away from all the men who stood guard over her. Several had watched her closely, presumably for any movement that might have indicated she was trying to cut through the ropes that tied her to the chair, so she had refrained from doing so. Now, however, with the strength of the guard reduced so dramatically, she eased a small blade out of the band of her watch, a precaution she had taken years earlier, in case of a situation like this, and slowly began to saw through the many strands of the ropes.
* * * * * * * * *
"Well, why didn't you stop him?" Sebastian barked into the phone. "Where is he now?"
"But he had orders from you, sir," the man on the other end explained. "The plane landed in Maryland several hours ago. As far as we can tell, it hasn't been touched since."
"As soon as he gets back to it, call me immediately," Sebastian ordered before turning off the speaker and casting an almost apologetic glance at the man seated opposite.
"I'm going up there," Major Charles told him, but Trevor immediately put a hand on his arm as the man rose to his feet.
"Don't," the psychic told him firmly. "He's up there now -- probably already in Blue Cove. You can't do anything from here, and by the time you got up there, as long as everything went according to his plan, he'd probably already be on his way back."
"And if it doesn't?" the Major demanded. "What then?"
"I have people within the Centre," Sebastian admitted. "We'll know if he's caught and we can arrange things then."
"We've been through this once," the older man growled, shaking himself loose and walking over to the door. "I never thought it would happen twice."
The two men watched the door slam shut before Trevor turned to Sebastian. "What now?"
"I called Sun an hour ago," his boss responded thoughtfully. "He promised to let me know as soon as Cox turned up for work. He said Cox was very consistent in his movements. If he shows on time, the likelihood is that he doesn't know Jordan's there."
"And if he doesn't turn up?"
Sebastian sighed heavily. "Then I guess we'll need to work out some way to get him back."
* * * * * * * * *
Upon his arrival at the Centre, Sydney's first task was to check that the file was still where he had hidden it the night before. When it proved to be untouched, he left his office and walked to the elevator, riding it down to SL-17. Stepping out, he turned to the man who was seated to one side.
"How's he been?"
"Quite happy," the sweeper responded. "He's wandered around the rooms but didn't seem to have any concerns about not being able to get into the vents."
"I'm glad to hear it." He nodded at the man. "Thanks."
With an answering nod, the sweeper got into the elevator as Sydney made his way along the deserted corridor.
When there was no response, he began looking through the various rooms, finally finding the empath lying on the bed where Angelique had slept. At Sydney's appearance in the doorway, Angelo jumped to his feet and scampered from the room. Following him out into the hallway, the psychiatrist watched him disappear into the room where, the day before, he had begun to store his stash. Entering, Sydney found him curled up in the corner. Approaching the empath, concerned about his apparent flightiness, the older man bent down in front of him.
"Angelo, is something wrong?"
Turning his head away, the empath curled even tighter into a ball, at which point Sydney felt it would be best if he strategically retreated. The corner contained a table and chair. Taking the seat, Sydney allowed his eyes to rove around the room, taking note of the small changes that possibly indicated some hidden treasure or other.
Angelo watched the psychiatrist warily for several minutes before pulling himself into a sitting position. His eyes traveled quickly from the man to a box almost under his feet, detecting the curiosity with which Sydney was visually examining his quarters. A tiny smile curled the empath's lips as he eyed the set-up he had arranged.
The doorway was open and, on all fours, Angelo scampered through it. Sydney watched him go, but made no move to follow, feeling that pursuing the man would do no good at all. Even as he turned to look around again, however, a corner of a flat rectangular box under his chair caught on the back of his trousers and Sydney looked down sharply.
Pulling out the box, Sydney wiped a layer of dust off the top and cleared the label, which read 'Psychogenic Project #23.' Sydney inhaled sharply at the familiarity of the project name before removing the lid. Although most of the box was filled with papers, a small cloth object lay on top and Sydney carefully picked it up. Turning it around in his hands, Sydney was able to recognize it as being similar to the mask he had seen in SL-27, and which had presumably used in Jarod's abduction. Even as he thought this, however, the empath returned, snatching the object from him. Sydney waited for Angelo to grab the box too, but the man only gave him another half-grin and scampered back to the corner. Clutching the material tightly to his chest, the empath began muttering softly as he rocked gently to and fro. Moving closer, the psychiatrist could make out the word 'Angel.'
* * * * * * * * *
The sun was showing on the horizon, but the street was deserted as Jordan parked the car and strolled casually away from it. His heart pounded in his ears and his throat was painfully dry as he checked that he had all he needed in the pockets of his black pants. Glancing at his reflection in the window of the house he was passing, Jordan couldn't keep back the thought that he looked more like Jarod than ever, dressed in the black attire he usually tried to avoid for that very reason.
A glance at his watch showed that he probably had an hour to find somewhere to hide. A look at the Centre's computerized sign-in pages had shown Jordan that Cox usually arrived at the Centre at around 7:30 in the morning, which meant that he had to leave his house at about ten past seven. It was now almost six as he approached the single-story building, checking an old record of the property he had found in a real estate agent's computer records from the time when the house had been sold to Cox, several years earlier, to get an idea of the block's layout.
His dream suggested that the room in which the work had been completed had no windows, so he was unlikely to be seen if Cox was working with the project, and Jordan knew that there was no dog registered for the property. The security system, also, was active only within the house and not the grounds. This made it easier. He slid into a shadow near the front gate and forced the lock, silently shutting it after himself. The grounds were large but appeared to be open, so there were no fences for him to climb. He carefully stepped up to the front door, fishing in his pocket for a white device, which he affixed to the underside of the white security panel. Once he was sure that it would stick to the smooth plastic, he stepped away into the large shadow thrown by an elm that stood on the fenceline.
Finding a position that give him a sufficient view of the house but also kept him hidden unless someone came right up to the garden, Jordan silently lowered himself until he lay underneath a bush. From his pocket, Jordan extracted the first of several buns he had purchased from a bakery and began to eat it to silence the growls of hunger from his stomach. The sun lit the garden as it rose, but his estimate had been right and the general brightness only increased the gloom around him. Producing a small bottle of 7-Up, he took a swig before settling down to wait.
* * * * * * * * *
"You didn't do too badly," Cox grudgingly admitted from the top of the stairs. "Although I have no doubt you could do better. When I come back tonight, I want to see you ready to work on another project I have planned."
There was a sound of faint sniffing that made Cox's brow darken as he swung the cellar door shut and secured it. Snatching his briefcase from the kitchen table, the man exited the house, locked the front door and activated the security system. Getting into the car, Cox reversed it down the drive and, without a backward glance, headed for the Centre.
Jordan waited until the car was gone and the remote-controlled gates were closed before he got slowly to his feet. With barely a rustle, he slipped from his hiding place and, keeping to the shadows cast by the house and garden, approached the front door. Removing the small, white device, he produced a larger box and slipped the chip into it, reading the code that the machine provided. Typing in the six digits, he waited for a second, until the light on the front of the security box went green, before extracting a case from his pocket and producing a tool that would jimmy the lock.
Only seconds later, Jordan was inside the house and silently closing the door behind himself. Turning, he was confronted by dozens of pairs of eyes and momentarily froze in his tracks before realizing that the walls contained numerous stuffed and mounted animals. Sliding the case into his pocket, Jordan began wandering around the living room and hallway, staring in fascinated horror at the variety of objects that decorated the walls.
Recalling an earlier conversation he had had with Jarod about Cox's hobby, Jordan went over to a fox that stared blankly back at him from under a glass cover and removed the highly-polished dome. Suppressing a shudder, Jordan gingerly picked up a long rattlesnake that decorated a bookshelf and draped it over the back of the fox. Replacing the cover, he was unable to help grinning at the absurdity of the situation. Ten minutes later, similar parings had disturbed the formerly regular layout of the room and the young man somewhat breathlessly stepped back to admire his handiwork.
The chiming of an antique grandfather clock in the corner brought Jordan's attention back to the reason for his intrusion in the house. Looking around, he knew that his dreams had had nothing to do with this section of the house, but he peeped into various rooms, just to make sure. Finally he arrived at the door that led down to the basement. Silently taking the key off the hook on which it hung, Jordan also picked up a flashlight that sat on a nearby shelf. After testing that the light worked, he inserted the key into the lock and noiselessly turned it. Slowly he eased open the door, pulling it inch by inch to ensure that it wouldn't creak and alert who- or whatever might be in the cellar. His fears were unjustified. It swung noiselessly open, on well-oiled hinges.
Removing the key from the lock, Jordan slid it into his pocket. Stepping onto the top stair and cautiously testing it before putting his full weight on it, he pulled the door almost shut, placing his lock-picking case on the floor to make sure it didn't close completely. Turning, the young man waited for his eyes to adjust to the gloom, using the light coming around the partly open door to carefully and silently walk down the dozen wooden steps until he was standing on a cold, hard, concrete floor.
Looking warily around in the gloom, Jordan was forcibly reminded of his dreams. The smell was the same, a musty scent strong enough to be unpleasant. The faint light trickling into the dark room showed a table that the boy recognized, but as he was about to step towards it, a noise stopped him in his tracks.
A muttered sound brought Jordan's attention to the corner of the room where he instinctively knew the blanket would be. In spite of the dim light, his eyes made out a form hunched under the covers, its back to the room and one arm curled around its head. There was another brief moment of silence, and then the sound of muffled breathing, almost soft snores, before the muttering began again, the figure curling itself more tightly into a ball.
Cautiously switching on the flashlight, Jordan swung the edge of the beam onto the sleeping body, taking care not to startle it. The gray blanket, tattered around the edges, was wrapped tightly around a small form, only one arm revealed, and that was clad in ripped black material. For a few seconds that seemed to go on for hours, Jordan hesitated, until it appeared that the child hadn't woken. Reaching out with his other hand, Jordan seized the blanket and carefully pulled it away, shining the edge of the flashlight beam onto it. In the shock of the moment, the young man nearly dropped the torch, but he instinctively managed to clutch it to his chest, his eyes widening as he stared down at the person in front of him.