Somewhere in Idaho
Jarod couldn't help continually glancing in the rearview mirror, but
it wasn't to check that they weren't being followed. The look on his sister's
face when Yuri had appeared in the room was the final proof Jarod needed
to show him that the other man had been sincere. Somehow she had pierced
the armor of non-emotion Yuri had built up in the Centre, and they would
have to make sure that no-one connected with that place ever found out
about the fact, or it could yet prove to be a fatal weakness for them.
Even as he thought this, however, his cell phone, lying on the passenger
seat of the car, rang, causing all three occupants to jump. Keeping an
eye on the road, Jarod activated the phone.
"Dad, it's me."
Jarod straightened in his seat. "Jordan! Where are you, son? Are
"I'm in Delaware," the boy on the other end admitted. "But
I'm nearly at the state line."
The tone of his voice gave the man a clue of the boy's activities over
the previous 24 hours, and Jarod couldn't help grinning. "You got
Echo, didn't you?"
"I couldn't leave him there," Jordan protested vehemently.
"I know," Jarod assured him. "So it's a boy?"
"Uh huh." Jordan swallowed hard. "Dad, it
Jarod suddenly pulled the car over to the side of the road, parking in
a convenient space and staring blankly at the steering wheel. Yuri looked
back over his shoulder, exclaiming in horror, before turning and begging
the driver to keep going. Ignoring this, Jarod kept his attention on the
"Jordan, are you sure?"
"Positive." The boy's voice trembled. "He looks just like
you did in the photos that Da has in his wallet, and in the DSAs you showed
me, so he has to look like me too." He paused for a second, swallowing
painfully. "Dad, what do I do now?"
The older man smiled half-heartedly. "Take him back to where Dad's
waiting, son. He's been worrying about you for hours. In fact, call him
first and tell him you're safe."
"Would you do it for me?"
Jarod raised an eyebrow, despite knowing it would go unseen by his young
counterpart. "You disobeyed a direct order, Jordan, and you've got
to take the punishment that comes about as a result of it. Go back to
Texas and we'll come down there as soon as we can. Okay?"
"Uh huh." Jordan's voice was hesitant.
"Oh, one more thing," Jarod put in quickly before the young
man could hang up. "What should we call the boy, other than 'Echo'?"
"Cox sometimes called him Jacob," Jordan admitted. At the sound
of a soft gasp on the other end of the line, he spoke again. "Dad,
"Nothing," Jarod told him, his voice tight. "We'll see
you in Texas."
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
The room was full of people, all gathered to try and come up with some
way of making up for the missing children. All those present had a personal
stake in the Seraphim, but, Cox thought, it could probably be said quite
fairly that his was the highest. Or, as he caught sight of the Chairman's
pale face and strained expression, one of the highest. He was, therefore,
thankful for the other projects he had, of which most people had no idea.
At this juncture, his cell phone vibrated silently in his pocket, and,
casting a wary look around the room, Cox slipped out of the door again,
connecting the call once he was in the hall.
"Mr. Cox, this is Mr. Johns from Farnham Security. There's been
an unusual activity regarding the security system at your house this morning
and I just wanted to check that everything was all right."
The man raised an eyebrow. "Can you tell me - what kind of 'unusual
"Not long after it was activated at your usual time, it was deactivated
again, and then, an hour or so later, turned back on. I'll assume you
forgot something," Mr. Johns laughed. "But you did say that
I should check any strange behaviour with you
"Yes, thank you," Cox interrupted. "I'll take it from
here. Everything should be back to normal in the morning."
"Of course, Mr. Cox." The man hung up and Cox returned the
cell phone to his pocket, turning at once to the elevator.
The doors slid open to reveal two men. Cox was about to brush past them
into the car when he saw the tense expression in their eyes and stopped.
"Jarod," Lyle growled, not condescending to explain any further,
as he headed for his father's office.
Valentine gave the doctor a brief overview of what had occurred, and
Cox, as he got into the elevator, was at least relieved to know that,
no matter what had happened at his house, the Pretender wasn't directly
* * * * * * * * *
Glancing into the back seat of the car as he pulled up at a red light,
Jordan saw that the boy was still asleep. A gleaming sign ahead gave him
a hint of what was coming, and he heard his stomach growling as if in
reply. Pulling into the parking lot, he followed the signs around to the
drive-thru, eyeing the menu warily for a moment.
The last thing he wanted to do to Jacob was make him sick, and although
the boy's thin body made him want to feed him with everything that Jordan
could lay his hands on, the young man knew that this would be unwise.
The order he placed, therefore, was restrained, and he saw the child move
uncomfortably at the sound of his voice.
"It's okay, Jacob," he soothed, seeing the child fidget nervously
as he saw the high walls of the drive-thru. "I'm getting something
to eat. Are you hungry?"
I only get to eat after I work," the boy replied in
a trembling voice.
"That was there," Jordan stated as he pulled up at the window.
"Now, it's different."
Several minutes later, he accepted the warm bags and placed them on the
passenger seat of the car, driving a short distance down the road and
then turning into a quiet side street. With a wary glance around, he got
out of the car and climbed into the back.
Jacob peered curiously at the item Jordan removed from the wrapper. "What
"It's a hamburger. They're very good," the older boy told him,
breaking a piece off it and handing it over. "Try it."
The prompt order brought an equally prompt response as the boy immediately
put the piece into his mouth, eyes widening at the new flavor. As Jordan
ate the rest of the burger in large bites, he smiled at the child's eager
face. He offered the fries with a warning.
"Just a few."
After several fries, he stopped Jacob, finishing the small bag himself,
before turning eagerly to the dessert he hadn't been able to resist buying.
"Close your eyes," he directed with a grin, "and open
Jacob eyed him warily for a second before doing as he was told. Jordan
took the plastic cup out of the bag, removed the lid and scooped up a
large serve of the ice cream, spooning it into Jacob's mouth. The child
instinctively closed his mouth, clamping down on the plastic spoon, and
stared at the older boy for a moment before giggling.
"It's cold," he gurgled, removing the spoon from his mouth
as Jordan produced a second one from the bag.
"But it's good, isn't it?" Jordan suggested, helping himself
to a generous serve.
The boy eagerly eyed the container, giggling again as he received a second
mouthful, which had begun to melt and dripped onto his top. Like flicking
a switch, the laughter vanished from his face and he began to tremble,
looking around nervously.
"It's okay, Jacob," Jordan soothed, producing a napkin to wipe
away the drip. "See? All gone."
He scooped some of the ice cream into the lid, offering it to the child.
"You can have this one, but hold it like this," Jordan demonstrated
with the cup under his chin, "and it won't drip, okay?"
The boy nodded silently, anxiously accepting the lid, but the amusement
never returned to his face and he ate the rest of the ice cream as if
expecting to be punished at every mouthful.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker's Office, The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
"I worked for Die Fakultät until 1993," Sam began, sitting
down in a seat to which Miss Parker had directed him. "That was the
year I came to the Centre. But I didn't have to go through the normal
interview processes. My employment was organized by my boss at the time."
"Yes." Sam nodded slowly. "His intention was that I should
secure a position where I would be able to gain easy access to anything
classified and hand it on. As you might remember, 1993 was the year that
I began working with you, Miss Parker."
The woman gave a short, confirmatory nod, waiting for him to continue.
"Leiden got me that position 'cause he thought it was a way for
me to get close to Mr. Parker. Leiden always thought your father would
become Director of the Centre one day. He thought it was possible he might
even be Chairman of the Triumvirate. He figured that if I worked with
you, I'd be able to get access to whatever information he wanted."
Sam hesitated, uncertain of whether he should continue, but the expression
in his boss's eyes convinced him to do so.
"Leiden also knew about you and the position you'd hold as the head
of SIS. He knew about Project Artemis too," the sweeper continued
before Miss Parker could speak and the question she had been about to
ask died on her tongue at the name of that project. "He told me that
he and Mr. Parker talked about it often and he gave me a basic outline.
One of his directives was that I was to push you in that direction if
the opportunity ever arose."
Sighing heavily, Sam stared down at his hands for a moment while the
woman sat in stunned silence, before the man continued.
"I was told to make sure that nobody suspected what I was doing,
and that I had to send him whatever information I could. The more I sent,
and the more useful it was, the better things would be."
"So what did you do, that they're threatening to have you taken
care of?" Miss Parker queried, in a tone that was only just not a
sneer. "Miss one of their deadlines?"
"Not exactly." A faint smile played around the edges of Sam's
mouth. "For a while now, things have been different."
* * * * * * * * *
Broots' Office, SIS
Broots was listening, wide-eyed, to the conversation in Miss Parker's
office, when the door to the office where he sat opened. Sydney looked
surprised as he saw the recording equipment.
"What's going on?"
"Sam's been passing on top-secret information and Miss Parker's
collared him, trying to find out why, and to whom," Broots told him
Sydney lifted an eyebrow but otherwise didn't comment, settling himself
comfortably in a chair on the other side of the desk, his walking stick
hanging on the back of the seat. "And what are you doing, besides
listening in, of course?"
The technician held up an alarm button. "If there's any problems,
Miss Parker told me to press it and there ought to be sweepers in there
to control Sam within seconds. But it doesn't sound like it's going to
be necessary." He flicked a switch and immediately the conversation
sounded clearly in the room. "Just listen for yourself."
After a few minutes, Broots looked up. "What did you want Miss Parker
for? She said that, if anything really important came up, I could interrupt."
Sydney considered for a moment, the folder held firmly in his arms, but
finally shook his head. "No, this isn't that vital. It's not a breach
of security or anything else that would cause me to interrupt something
like this. It's personal."
The younger man's eyes were full of curiosity as he looked up. "Like
The psychiatrist shook his head. "As I said, Broots, this is personal.
If Miss Parker wants you to know, after I tell her, then she can tell
Placing the folder on his lap, Sydney focused his attention on the voices
that were audible in the next room and, after a moment, the technician
did the same.
* * * * * * * * *
Bringing the plane to a stop, Jordan looked out through the windshield,
able the recognize the two men who stood next to the hangar, and a lump
formed in the young man's throat, which he hurriedly swallowed. This was
the part he hadn't considered -- the consequences of his actions. It was
obvious from his grandfather's expression that there would be trouble
for going off in the way he had, but Sebastian's face was also sterner
that Jordan had ever seen it before, and it took all his courage to turn
to Jacob and help him off with his seatbelt without revealing his feelings.
As soon as he was out of the seat, Jacob clutched at Jordan's hand, peering
around at the other planes through the windshield, his face even whiter
than usual with fear. After wiping his other hand along the leg of his
pants to remove the nervous perspiration, Jordan picked up the bag and
stepped out of the aircraft.
Sebastian remained where he was as Major Charles approached them.
"Jordan, for God's sake, where have you been?!"
He held the boy at arm's length for a second before briefly drawing him
into his arms and then holding him away again.
I'm sorry," the young man muttered. "I just
I couldn't leave him there."
Reminded of the reason for Jordan's disappearance, the Major peered at
the boy, who was now hiding behind Jordan's legs, huddled in a violently
trembling ball on the ground with his arm over his head, almost beside
himself with terror at this new face, with the stern voice that reminded
him of the man who had scared him for every moment of his short life.
The Major couldn't help raising an eyebrow.
"What on earth
"He doesn't seem to like other people," Jordan admitted. "I
think Cox might have trained him in that. It took a long time before he'd
trust me, but
Turning, Jordan bent down so that he was almost on eye level with the
boy, slipping an arm around him and squeezing gently.
"It's okay, Jacob," Jordan soothed. "I'm here. It's all
With a muffled wail, Jacob threw himself into Jordan's arms, sobbing
The man could barely restrain a gasp as he eyed the child's features,
feeling a tugging at his heart as he examined the boy's face, forcibly
reminded of his eldest son in the way that he least liked to remember
him, from those last days before the abduction.
Sebastian stepped forward as the small boy's sobs became louder, verging
on hysteria. His eyes widened slightly at the sight of the boy's face,
shocked by both his obvious similarity to Jordan and Jarod, and also his
"Let's get back to Sanctuary," he directed. "We can take
care of everything there."
Nodding, Jordan straightened up, feeling his grandfather's hand come
to rest on his shoulder in an instinctively protective motion. In that
instant, he was able to understand the depth of the man's feelings. The
Major had been terrified at the thought that he had yet again lost his
son, albeit in a different form. As they got into the company sedan, Jordan
let Jacob slide into the corner of the seat, tucking the worn blanket
from Cox's house around him, and watched as his grandfather sat beside
him, Sebastian getting in beside the driver.
"I really am sorry," he stated softly. "When I went off,
I didn't think about how you'd feel."
"I know you didn't," Major Charles responded evenly. "I've
got just one thing to say about this whole affair, Jordan. Although I
understand why you went, and I can't say that I wouldn't have done the
same thing if I'd felt as strongly about it as you did, putting yourself
in direct danger like that is a very different thing from what Jarod or
"Jarod went back to the Centre to get Kyle," Jordan reminded
"Much as I hate to have to say this, Jarod can fight his way out
of a situation, should the need arise," the man explained. "You
can't; at least not yet. That's why it's more dangerous for you to put
yourself in that sort of situation. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Jordan met Charles' gaze steadily, appreciating the
fact that he was being treated like an adult and not as a disobedient
child. "And maybe I should have told you why I felt that way about
it. If I had, you even might have been willing to come and help me."
"That's certainly possible," the man agreed. Suddenly he smiled.
"You know, I figured you'd be coming back."
Jordan raised an eyebrow as he removed his jacket, wrapping it around
the boy's emaciated body as Jacob began to shiver, both from cold and
emotion. "How come?"
Pulling a PEZ dispenser from his pocket, Charles held it out. "You
left this behind."
Laughing, Jordan accepted the dispenser as it was offered. "Incredible.
I never missed it."
The Major nodded, his eyes becoming serious. "I know Sebastian has
a few things to say to you as well, but they can wait. Jarod's on his
way here, and we need to take care of this child first."
Jordan looked down at Jacob, who was curled up almost under his arm,
his thin body still shaking with sobs. Lifting the boy onto his lap, Jordan
wrapped his arms around Jacob, feeling the child burrow as close to him
as he could, his face buried in Jordan's stomach and hot tears soaking
the young man's black t-shirt.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod and Yuri supported Emily between them as they entered the large
building, her muscles still cramping painfully from the long hours sitting
in one position. Jarod saw his father's eyes widen with panic as he hurried
over, nudging Yuri aside as he put his arm around Emily's shoulders, exchanging
concerned glances with his son. After helping her to a nearby chair, the
older man then turned to the stranger, who tentatively offered his hand.
"Major, my name is
"Paul Jennings," Jarod interrupted smoothly. "He's a friend
of Emily's, and, to a lesser extent, one of mine."
The older Pretender couldn't help seeing the relief that flashed in Yuri's
eyes, hiding a smile as he turned to his sister.
"Em, you okay?"
She nodded slowly, closing her eyes briefly as she leaned against her
father, who stroked her hair, his eyes demanding an answer from his son,
but Jarod shook his head and mouthed the word 'later.' After a few minutes,
she began to struggle to her feet, and Jarod slipped his arm around her
back for support. Her father gave her a concerned look, exchanging glances
with his son, as he moved to the woman's other side, leaving Yuri to follow
behind. Major Charles suggested they go up to Jarod's room, where, he
said, Jordan was waiting.
When the door opened, Jacob whimpered, cringing back against Jordan,
who was sitting on the floor in the corner and reading to him. The older
boy put his arms around him, unable to hide his relief at the sight of
his genetic double entering the room. Jarod nodded to him, surreptitiously
eyeing the child, but his primary concern was his sister and he helped
her to a chair. As he began an examination, however, Emily shot him a
sharp glance and moved out from under his hands.
"I'm okay," she insisted firmly. "I would have told you
if there was anything wrong."
Jarod raised an eyebrow. "Sure?"
"Positive." She leaned in towards him, lowering her voice.
"Not in front of Dad and Jordan."
"Okay, okay." Her brother got to his feet. "Maybe later."
"If I'll let you," she told him with a grin. "You'll have
to catch me first."
Jarod responded with a grin of his own, giving her a nod, before turning
his attention to where Jordan sat. His eyes traveled quickly over the
boy, taking in the pale skin and sunken cheeks. The child was watching
him, wide-eyed, his face almost hidden in Jordan's shoulder, peeping over
the older boy's jacket collar. He whimpered again as Jarod came over to
where the boys were sitting.
"How did it go?" Jarod queried, sitting down beside the boys
and turning his gaze away from the terrified eyes of the child to a point
in front of himself.
"Fine," Jordan responded, rubbing an encouraging hand on Jacob's
back, staring forward also. "Did you think anything bad would happen?"
"I had no idea," the older man replied honestly, watching out
of the corner of his eye as Yuri sat down beside Emily and she rested
her head on his shoulder. "But, considering where you were and also
how close you were to the Centre, it seemed like a reasonable question."
Jarod watched surreptitiously as Jacob began to relax his hold around
Jordan's neck. Casting a quick glance at Jordan, the older man knew that
they were thinking along similar lines, and he changed the subject to
work Jordan had been doing since arriving at Sanctuary.
Jacob, his arms still around the one single person he felt he could trust,
eyed the older man curiously. His faith in Jordan didn't just come from
the older boy's sympathetic tone. His only good dreams contained the faces
of the two people close to him. In his dreams, he had once seen them playing
together in cold, white stuff that he had also seen out of the window
of his room, before the man who always made him call him 'sir' had boarded
it up. A feeling inside had told him that the man who had appeared in
his room wouldn't hurt him, the way Sir did. Now this same feeling was
extended to the new person who was sitting beside him. Jacob had no idea
where the feeling came from, only that he trusted it.
Again peering over Jordan's coat collar, he found the dark eyes of the
older man fixed on him. The child cringed back, but remained silent, watching
warily as Jarod leaned forward.
"It's okay, Jacob," stated the older man softly, trying to
overcome the emotions that that name caused in him. "I'm not going
to hurt you." Jarod pushed the dirty, tangled hair out of the boy's
eyes. "Do you believe me?"
The boy nodded very slightly, the terrified look slowly fading from his
face. Suddenly shivering with cold and emotion, Jacob felt himself lifted
out of Jordan's arms. Tensing momentarily, the child found his head pillowed
by a leather-covered shoulder, closing his eyes as Jarod gently stroked
his hair. Jordan got to his feet, exaggeratedly rubbing his legs and rolling
his eyes, as Jarod tried not to laugh.
"Is your room tidy enough to get another bed put in it?" Jarod
"Uh, I left sort of early yesterday morning," Jordan explained
sheepishly, rubbing the toe of his shoe into the floor. "I didn't
really get time
"Then what say you go and do it," Major Charles put in at this
point from the small kitchenette, in which he was preparing something
for the new arrivals to eat from food that Ramona had left there for that
"And make up one for Emily," Yuri put in, having watched the
scene silently up to now. "I think she should have a rest too."
"Emily, considering what kind of a day you've had
She put a hand over his mouth and glared at him. "Not now,"
Emily hissed between clenched teeth, casting a quick glance at her father.
Standing, she slowly walked over to where Jarod was sitting on the floor,
Jacob curled up in his arms. As she approached, the boy instantly raised
his head, the fear flowering in his eyes once more.
"It's okay, Jacob," Jarod stated softly, feeling him tense.
"This is a friend, I promise."
Sliding to the floor, Jacob curled up under Jarod's arm, peeping over
it at the woman who sat down on the sofa. Putting an arm around his shoulders,
Jarod tried to draw the boy closer, but Jacob resisted the man's touch,
warily watching the woman. When she bent down to him, the boy shrank back
against the wall, but, after Emily had spoken soothingly for several moments,
Jacob was at least willing to return to his seat on Jarod's lap. Any further
than this, however, he refused to go and Jarod didn't force him, aware
that it would take time to undo six years of Cox's brutal training.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
I have a brother," Sam admitted slowly, hoping he
was doing the right thing. "He was one of the Pretoriat's subjects,
then he was here in The Centre for a while, and after that he was taken
Miss Parker raised an eyebrow. "Why were all three branches so
interested in him?"
"My brother's a psychic. I'm not," he added, preempting her
question. "Otherwise they'd never have sent me over here. I went
directly from South Africa to Germany. Then they sent me here when they
thought I could be useful."
"So what are you?" she demanded impatiently. "What use
did Die Fakultät find for you?"
"I'm pretty ordinary," the sweeper admitted with a half-shrug.
"I'm better than the average man at martial arts, but that's about
it. My position in Berlin was similar to what it is here -- a sweeper,
although that's not what they call them."
Sighing deeply, Sam was about to continue when Miss Parker jumped in.
"They -- specifically Leiden -- threatened your brother unless you
sent them information, didn't he?"
"Yes," the man admitted, his voice strained. "He was all
the family I had until my marriage, and he's still one of the most important
people to me. Our parents were killed when we were taken from them. Nothing
matters to me except that he's okay. If he was in danger, I'd do anything
to protect him." Sam's large hands balled into fists, his voice trembling
with anger. "I had to send them information for five years, from
1993 onwards. There was nothing else I could do. I know what Leiden's
capable of. The thought of what he might have done to my brother terrified
"Why only five years?" the woman demanded. "What was different
"After that," he admitted, "things changed."
As Sam paused, Miss Parker eyed him curiously. "What changed?"
The sweeper's lips curled into a half-smile. "In 1998, my brother
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Cox's fingers flew over the security pad and he pulled the door open,
hurrying straight to the basement door. Flicking a light switch, he illuminated
the underground room as he unlocked the door and pulled it open. From
the top of the stairs, he glared down into the vacant room, seeing at
once that it was free of occupation. Marching down the stairs, he seized
the empty folder from the shelf and opened it, blankly staring at the
tiny paper scraps which were all that remained of the careful notes he
had taken. Dropping the cover back onto the shelf, he turned on his heel
and stalked up the stairs.
In the living room, Cox glared around the spacious area, his eyes lighting
on the rearranged animals that now decorated his home. His brow folded
into a glare. The source of his change in decorations wasn't hard to find,
remembering other changes that had occurred after the Pretender had been
in his office or his house. But, when he thought more carefully, one thing
flatly contradicted it.
There was nothing he could do now. No matter who had invaded his home,
stolen his project, there was no way to change it. By now they would be
long gone, and, because only one other person knew about Echo, Cox couldn't
call in sweepers to make a search. All he could do now was to make sure
that the boy wouldn't last long. If, as he suspected, one of the people
associated with Jarod -- be it his father or someone else -- had come
and taken the boy, they would soon discover his secret and try to work
out some way to solve the dilemma that would be facing them.
Going back to the kitchen, Cox opened the refrigerator, extracting a
box from which he took a number of medicine bottles and several vials.
Pulling his cell phone from his pocket, Cox dialed a number before tucking
the object between his shoulder and chin and, while waiting for his call
to be answered, emptying the first bottle down the sink.