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The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Lyle settled in behind his desk and picked up the photo of the dead woman. As when he'd learnt the identity of his daughter, there was no emotion accompanying this revelation. The chance of using her influence to strengthen his position were now as non-existent as she was, and his lips narrowed to a straight line as he dropped the photo onto the desk, leaning back in his chair.

Interesting that his 'sister' also received copies of the photos. No doubt Valentine had sent them to her so that, as with the Steinberg murder, she would be reminded of his power. His brow furrowing into a frown, Lyle was forced to consider that her success at returning Jarod to the Centre had increased her power. No doubt finding Yuri would do the same for him, but Lyle was unhappy with the amount of knowledge she had in her present position

In fact, he was forced to reflect ruefully, her knowledge had always been substantial. She was no doubt aware of the information on Kronos I, to which her own technician had directed him, a year earlier. If her knowledge was ever allowed to supercede his own then, son of the Chairman and member of the Tower or not, his future would be limited. If his biological mother hadn't been able to stay alive by siding with him, what hope did he, Lyle, have by trying to do the same thing?

His visits to Donoterase and other places had resulted in him being left somewhat out of the loop about the projects at the Centre itself and Lyle made a firm mental decision that, from now on, that would have to change. He had no chance of success if the major details were allowed to slip past him, only to be caught by those who waited close by for him to drop the ball. His first priority, as always, was himself, but now it was also time to pay a little more attention to everyone else too.

* * * * * * * * *

Newark, New York

Their discussion at the restaurant where they had dinner had been mundane, the same as they had generally discussed when following leads. But, at the same time, there was something different, both freedom and a sense of restraint. Neither mentioned it, but it hung between them, as did the other difficult topic of mode of address. Sticking with casual subjects was not simply a security measure in case they were being watched; it also seemed safer.

Sydney waited until they were again ensconced in the privacy of their hotel rooms before bringing up a subject that had been interesting him.

"What's between you and Peter Winston?"

Morgan tossed her head, turning away in an attempt to hide the knowing expression in her eyes and also to escape from the amusement in his. "I can't see that being any of your business. Nor on what you're basing your assumptions that there has to be anything between us."

"Oh, really?" The man arched an eyebrow. "Well, first, I've known you for years and I know what that look on your face means." His expression softened. "I saw it there for almost the whole time you and Thomas were together."

"Don't go there," she warned him quietly. "Please."

"And secondly," he continued with a nod of his head to acknowledge her plea. "I'm your father, so surely I'm allowed to have a paternal interest in what my daughter's up to, aren't I?"

She couldn't help smiling at that. A sequence of scenes flashed through her mind, the numerous times when her assumed father had uncaringly brushed her off and Sydney had been the person who had been there as a comfort. Although she hadn't ever intended to admit it to him, it meant a lot to her that somebody would bother asking how she was. His query now simply seemed like an extension of that and she was surprised at how natural it felt.

"Nothing serious," she admitted. "I knew him in Italy, so we've got something in common."

The psychiatrist raised an eyebrow. "And that's it?"

"Yes."

"So far," he added with a smile, his eyes dancing. "Are you going to see him again?'

"He's back in Berlin," Morgan reminded him. "It's a long way to go for a date."

"Distance is relative," he assured her. "The stronger your feelings for someone, the less far it seems."

"It's a 12-hour trip," she retorted, wrapping her hands around the mug of tea he had made for her. "That's a long time in anybody's language."

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

Jordan woke suddenly to feel the slight weight on his feet and sat up quickly, seeing Jacob's face turn to him, wide-eyed, obviously terrified of punishment. Slowly the weight lightened and Jordan realized that Jacob was gradually backing down the bed and off it towards the small bed standing in the corner. Scooting along the mattress, Jordan raised the child back up beside him, wrapping him in a corner of the blankets.

"What's the matter?" he asked gently. "Bad dream?"

Jacob's head slowly shook from side to side, his eyes still fearful, and Jordan lifted the child onto his lap.

"It's okay," he urged. "I'm not mad. Honest."

Jacob snuggled into his arms, obviously comforted by the reassurance. Jordan tightened his hold on the small body, remembering when he had wistfully seen Gabriel carried by his father and had wondered how it had felt. He didn't have to wonder now. Just as he had picked up on the child's pain when Jacob had been in Cox's cellar, so he now knew how Jacob felt in the arms that were currently wrapped around him.

After several minutes, he looked down at the child again. "So what's wrong?"

Gulping slightly with nervousness, Jacob finally spoke in a whisper. "I… I'm hungry."

"Well, that's okay," the young man told him. "You're allowed to be hungry here. Let's go get you something to eat."

Straightening up, Jordan swung his legs off the bed, standing with Jacob in his arms, and carried him into the living room, remembering the discussion about Jacob's diet and knowing that several small meals a day would be the best way to counteract his malnourishment. Walking over to the kitchenette, he opened the little fridge that had been supplied for them.

"What would you like?" he asked. "Some apple? A piece of cheese? Maybe a slice of bread?"

"A midnight snack, huh?" remarked a laughing voice from behind them, and Jordan turned to find his father with Gabriel in his arms. The toddler beamed at the two boys before holding out a hand for the apple Jordan held.

"Hungwy, Daddy," he complained to Jarod. "Bwekfast now?"

"Not yet," the man remonstrated. "But maybe we could all have something to eat."

Placing the boy on the floor, he filled a small saucepan with milk and, with a wink at Jordan, got a jar of cocoa out of the cupboard. Grinning, his oldest son placed Jacob on the floor and began to core and slice the fruit as the two youngest played with a ball they found nearby.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Hearing a sound from the doorway, Fenigor looked up from the notes he was rereading as Cox strolled into his office.

"Don't you knock?" he snapped.

"For anybody else, yes," the doctor stated, his blue eyes gleaming with laughter. "For you, no."

"You'd better sit down," the older man stated inhospitably. "I was going to have to call you on this soon anyway. I need your input."

Pushing over the folder in which he had been taking careful notes, Fenigor swallowed the last of the cold coffee in his cup.

"Looks good, Alex," Cox remarked. "How long until we can get started?"

"A few weeks," the scientist told him, glancing at the calendar on his desk. "That's how long it will take to arrange for the surrogates, perform viability tests and all the other etceteras."

Cox placed the folder on the desk and leaned forward, placing his elbows on the flat surface in front of him and resting his chin on his linked fingers, his eyes gleaming with eagerness.

"And who will the lucky individual be?" he asked softly.

"That's pretty much up to you," the scientist retorted, leaning back in his chair. "We can either do another female -- that Evans girl was an outstanding success -- or we can try a male again to see if Echo was a genetic error or a biological one."

"Who do you have in stock?"

Pulling up a coded list, Fenigor turned the computer screen so that his companion could see it, also handing over a key so that the list could be understood.

"Well, haven't you been a busy boy?" Cox remarked dryly. Suddenly, his eye was caught by one name and he stared at the older man, whose eyes were twinkling. "How on earth did you get her ova?"

Fenigor shrugged. "Annie Raines was taken in for surgery not long before she disappeared. The surgeon was a friend of mine and was quite happy to oblige."

"Is it quite as good, though," Cox queried, "if Raines himself isn't here to find out about it?"

"Actually, it was only a personal thing that made me get it. But we can always use the ova for any males we want to clone." Fenigor nodded at the page. "Make up your mind, Cox. I've got things to do now, even if you don't."

The doctor eyed the list thoughtfully while the scientist watched, waiting for the reaction that he expected. When Cox reached the last few names, as Fenigor had predicted he would, the cold, blue eyes widened and he turned eagerly.

"Does it take any more work to do eight clones than one?"

"Well, you have to find suitable mothers, of course, preferably with no relatives to look for them when they disappear," Fenigor stated noncommittally. "The implantation process, the pregnancies -- they all take time. But, no, it's no real challenge to make the next generation of Superhumans. Not now that we know how to do it so well."

Cox smiled greedily. "And does Parker have to know?"

"He didn't know about Echo, did he? And in his deteriorating state," Fenigor broke off to chuckle, "I don't think he'd be capable of finding out."

Linking his fingers behind his head, Cox also leaned back in his chair. "It's a shame, in a way," he remarked, "that we can't use another wife. But we should have thought about that before we gave Valentine his orders."

Their restrained laughter rang out for several minutes, heard by nobody on the almost empty floor of the building, before they turned to the serious task at hand.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

Leaving the dining hall after breakfast, Jarod saw Elizabeth about to enter a room further along the hall and increased his speed to catch her up.

"I wanted to thank you," he began, "and to apologize for my skepticism the other night."

She laughed, surreptitiously eyeing him, the nurse in her pleased at the healthy brightness of his eyes and the color in the rest of his face. "Is it helping, Jarod?"

"So much." He shook his head in amazement before his expression became thoughtful. "I don't suppose you'd consider coming along with me whenever I leave?"

Elizabeth leaned against the doorjamb and folded her arms as she shook her head. "I can't," she stated firmly. "For you, the dreams are an unpleasant side-effect of the life you had at the Centre. But for Sebastian, what I do is life or death. For Gideon, too. Surely you can understand that."

He half-smiled, nodding. "I think 'unpleasant' is a little kind, but I get what you mean."

"And can you imagine the problems if I did come?" she grinned. "Every time the sweepers turned up, you'd have to drag me out of bed, and I warn you, I get very grumpy if I'm disturbed." Her eyes danced. "That's a benefit of being here. In that sense, it really is a sanctuary. Nobody's silly enough to risk me biting their head off. Almost," she added thoughtfully.

Jarod grinned. "I'll remember not to wake you, then. And I do see your point." He pulled her into a hug. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." She returned the hug and smiled before disappearing into her room as Jarod continued down the hall to the elevator.

Sebastian stepped out of the inset doorway where he had watched the scene, about to follow the Pretender to the elevator, when Trevor brushed past him in the other direction. From the glare on the psychic's face, Sebastian knew that something was seriously wrong, but it wasn't until Trevor shot a sharp glance back his shoulder at Jarod, his glare darkening further, that the pyrokinetic picked up on his friend's jealousy. Smothering the urge to chuckle, he waited until Trevor entered the dining room before strolling to the stairwell and jogging up to the two flights to the room where Gideon was waiting for him.

* * * * * * * * *

Harriet Tashman's farm
Newark, New York

The car pulled up outside the large farmhouse and the two occupants got out, seeing the curtain twitch on the front of the house.

"Looks like somebody's home," Morgan remarked dryly. "Not the most welcoming of people."

Sydney smiled somewhat mysteriously. "I think that depends on the visitor."

Even as he finished the sentence, the door opened and Harriet stepped out onto the veranda with a wary expression, which dissolved into a smile at her visitors.

"Dr. Ritter."

"Ms. Tashman." The psychiatrist bowed his head slightly before placing a hand on Morgan's arm. "I believe you've already met my," he swallowed a lump in his throat, "my daughter."

The woman's eyes cleared of the last of her former wariness and there was greater warmth in her smile as she turned, offering her hand to the younger woman.

"Yes, I have," she agreed. "Morgan, I'm glad you came. Jarod called to tell us you would be here this morning."

After casting a somewhat confused glance at her father, to which he replied with a knowing smile, Morgan turned back to Harriet, nodding in agreement. "Is Merritt around?'

The girl appeared in the doorway of the house at that moment, smiling at the sight of the woman on the doorstep, but her reaction was almost the complete opposite of Harriet's. When she saw the man, the smile faded and she froze to the spot.

"It's okay," Harriet urged her. "This is a friend of mine, and Morgan's father. Dr. Ritter."

"Sydney," the man added, offering his hand, which the girl shook.

"Why don't you two go and talk?" Harriet urged. "Sydney and I have plenty to discuss."

The psychiatrist stepped away as Merritt came down the stairs of the house, and Morgan waited for the girl to join her on the path before they strolled off in the direction of the barn. Once the two young women were gone, Harriet held the door of the house open.

"Come in, Sydney."

"Thank you." He smiled, following her into the house, looking around the hallway. "Not much has changed."

"You're right," she agreed. "Like to have a look around when I put the kettle on?"

"If it's not too much trouble."

The man waited for her sign and then walked down the hall, stopping at the doorway of a room and looking in, his eyes traveling over the old furniture and even the same pictures on the walls. He ran a hand along the top of the dressing table, still as meticulously free of dust as it had been the day, more than forty years ago, when he and Catherine had come here for a weekend.

"Sydney?"

The voice made him jump as he turned to find Harriet once more behind him, offering a sealed envelope with his name in Catherine's familiar writing. His throat closed as he reached out for it, swallowing a lump in his throat as he accepted it.

"This was the last one," she told him softly. "And when I sent it to you, it was returned, so I kept it in case you ever decided to get in touch."

"I'm sorry I didn't," he told her somewhat gruffly. "But after it was over, it was painful to remember what had happened, particularly after Catherine's death."

"I can imagine." She walked with him along the hallway as he carefully and lovingly slid the letter into his shirt pocket. "I was sorry to hear about the accident, with Jacob."

"Thank you." Sydney sat down at the kitchen table. "My brother died several years ago. He went peacefully, at home with me."

The woman placed a mug of coffee in front of him and took a seat opposite. She watched as he looked around the room, picking out small details that he could remember from his earlier visit. Then the man's brown eyes swung back to her, full of curiosity.

"How did you meet Merritt?"

Harriet smiled, remembering the scene. "I was in Pennsylvania, doing some work for a church in the area, and we met at a bazaar that the church was holding. She looked so like Catherine that I couldn't help going over to talk to her. We ended up working on the same stall for the afternoon, and when it was quiet, we would just chat about things."

"If she's anything like Catherine, that wouldn't have been hard," Sydney remarked quietly, and Harriet nodded in agreement. Slowly the conversation turned from Merritt to the years that had passed since the two people had seen each other last and the memories of their mutual friend, Catherine Parker.

* * * * * * * * *

"Did you come to find out more about yourself through me?" Merritt asked the question without looking up as she sat on a straw bale in the barn and swung her legs.

"Not this time." Morgan sat opposite her. "This time, I came to tell you more about yourself."

The girl's blue eyes swung around to examine her curiously. "I already know who I am," Merritt responded flatly. "I'm you."

Morgan remained silent for a second, absorbing the calmness with which this had been said and hating to have to contradict it when the fact seemed to cause the young woman no distress. But Morgan had been lied to for most of her life and knew how bad it was. She couldn't inflict that on somebody else.

"Actually, that's not strictly true," the woman corrected. Reaching into her pocket, she produced a photo of herself and her mother, when Morgan had been about nine years old. Handing it over, she watched the girl study it intently.

"That's you and your mom?"

"Yes," Morgan agreed. "As you can see, I look now the way she did then."

Merritt suddenly looked up sharply. "Are you saying that I'm cloned from her and not you?"

Slowly nodding, Morgan saw the surprise in Merritt's eyes fade quickly, replaced by curiosity. She supposed that, having already accepted that she was cloned from one person, the revelation that it was someone else wouldn't be hard to accept.

"You told me last time we saw each other that Gabriel was your brother, but Jarod told me he was your son and why you didn't tell the truth." Merritt handed back the photo before seizing a piece of straw and beginning to tear it to pieces. "If I'm cloned from your mother, I guess that's why he called me Gamma yesterday."

Morgan's eyes filled, making her look hastily at the ground, as it hit her that her son had instantly made the connection between her mother and this girl, in the same way as he understood the connection between himself and his parents.

"Does your father know yet?" the young woman prompted, her eyes shifting warily towards the door. "You said you didn't trust him, so I guess you wouldn't want him to know that you know."

"That was the man I believed was my father, the one I described to you," Morgan replied, finding it strangely natural to tell the girl these very personal things. "The man Harriet just told you was my father is someone I trust intimately. He knows about Gabriel, yes."

"Gabriel's very cute," Merritt grinned. "He looks like Jor… Jarod." The girl shot a sideways glance at the woman to see if she had heard, but Morgan's expression remained thoughtful. Instead, the girl continued with an idea that had occurred to her. "He's lucky," she remarked wistfully. "He has a mom and a dad. I don't have anybody."

Morgan glanced sharply at her, detecting the regret in the girl's tones. "You want me to be your mom, don't you?" she asked softly.

The girl's shoulders hunched nervously. "Yeah." Merritt looked up candidly, her eyes glistening. "I miss it, having someone I can depend on and ask for advice, like I used to."

Morgan moved over to sit on the bale next to the girl, feeling a thrill go through her as she put her arm around the young woman, Merritt's head coming to rest on her shoulder and an arm slipping around her waist.

"I won't be able to see you often. At least, not for a while," Morgan warned. "It's still dangerous because of the Centre, but I know you understand that threat."

"Uh huh." Merritt lifted a hand to wipe away the tears from her eyes. "I know. Jarod told me." She suddenly giggled. "I guess this kind of makes me Gabriel's sister, doesn't it?"

"Yes, it does," Morgan agreed. "Not genetically, of course, but I think it would be good for both of you to try and make that sort of connection."

They sat in silence for a moment, both deep in thought, before Merritt spoke again.

"Momma?"

The word brought Morgan to the brink of tears, but she forced them back, beginning to stroke the girl's long, brown hair.

"Yes, Merritt?"

"Can I call you sometimes?"

"Sometimes, yes, but it's better to wait until pretty late. I'm usually home from the Centre then, so they won't know. You have my cell phone number."

Nodding, Merritt's arm tightened around Morgan's waist. The woman's eye was caught by the girl's hair as it slipped through her fingers and it reminded her of the other reason for their visit. As she pulled away slightly, her daughter lifted her head, meeting her gaze steadily.

"Merritt," the woman began, gathering the girl's hands in both of hers. "I need to ask you a favor."

* * * * * * * * *

"Did you get what you wanted?" Sydney asked as they drove out of the town, heading for Blue Cove.

"Yes." Morgan nodded, thinking of the hair and cheek-cell swab in the airtight bags in her case.

"And did Merritt get what she wanted?" the psychiatrist continued, smiling at the startled look that Morgan shot at him.

"How did you know that she wanted anything?"

"I recognized the lost look in her eyes," he told her. "I've seen it in an identical pair for a long time. In fact, it's only recently that it's disappeared." He placed his hand over hers as it rested on the gear lever. "I hope it's for good."

"So do I," she murmured, blinking rapidly to clear her vision. Suddenly a thought occurred to her and she shot him another sharp look. "And how about you clear up the mystery of how you and Harriet know each other?"

He couldn't help chuckling. "I wondered when we'd get to that."

"Was it something to do with Momma?"

"Yes," he admitted softly. Resettling himself in the chair, he placed a hand on his shirt pocket to ensure that the letter was still there before continuing. "The Chairman sent your mother away to the office in New York to check on their security, at the very beginning of April, only a few days before she left for Maine. With Jacob's help, I was able to come up here and join her for that time while still apparently turning up to work on Friday and Saturday. We spent the weekend together at Harriet's farm so nobody from the Centre would realize what we were doing."

"And they never did?"

"I don't think so." Sydney stared through the windshield. "If they did, nobody ever said anything to me."

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

"So, if we arrange a meeting for eleven tomorrow morning, that will give us time…"

Sebastian trailed off as he looked up from the computerized diary he had been scanning to find Trevor staring blankly at the opposite wall.

"Hey!"

The Australian banged on the table to get his friend's attention, whistling sharply and seeing the other man blink before he focused his attention on the plan shown on the computer screen.

"Sorry," he apologized immediately. "CGB at twelve."

"That was three meetings ago," Sebastian commented somewhat acidly. "If you can't keep your mind on this, Trevor, I'll ask Ramona to do it."

"No, it… it's fine."

"Could have fooled me." Leaning back in the chair, Sebastian arched an eyebrow. "Well, what is it?" He smiled at the hesitation in his friend's eyes. "Come on, confide in your ol' Uncle Sebastian. Tell him all your dirty little secrets."

"And I thought my family was weird before." Trevor rolled his eyes, throwing the computer pencil onto the table. "Just… don't worry about it. I'll take a run later to clear my head. Maybe I'm getting a cold or something."

"I don't think the disease you've got is found in any medical dictionary, and I'm sure it's one Namir couldn't cure." He eyed the man, raising an eyebrow in amusement. "And you've got it bad, mate. Really bad."

Trevor shot Sebastian an exasperated look. "I know I'm going to regret asking this, but what are you talking about?"

His boss shook his head in mock-disappointment, suppressing a grin with difficulty. "A hair out of place and a wrinkle in your suit, Trev. Honestly!"

Realizing that he was being made fun of, Trevor ignored the exaggerated way in which Sebastian was rolling his eyes and looked down at the diary again. "This meeting's in Washington State. Do you want me to go up there?"

"She'll still be here when you get back," the other man reminded him, tapping the computer pencil impatiently against the top of the desk, causing various incomprehensible scribbles to appear on the screen. "I just wish you'd get it over with."

"Get what over with?" his friend demanded. "What are you talking about?"

"Cam isn't the only one whose heart flutters whenever he goes down that end of the hallway," the Aussie replied cryptically. "Yours is audible every time the elevator passes the residence floor. And as far as after breakfast this morning went, if looks could kill, we'd currently be digging a six-foot something long grave to lay Jarod out in."

Trevor folded his arms, glaring at the other man. "I have no idea what you're talk…"

"I've been there, mate," Sebastian interrupted. "I remember what it's like, when you don't feel as if you can put a comprehensible sentence together in her presence, and you wonder what she's up to every minute you're not there to watch her." He grinned. "Be a normal guy, for a change. Go up there and ask Elizabeth what she feels about you. Even if she knocks you back, she'll still respect you for asking."

"And when did you become the expert on all things female?"

"Since I got this." Sebastian held up his left hand and tapped the gold band on it. "I went through it all, and not just with Sumi. I've been rejected, and it hurt, but it was better to know than wearing a hole in the carpet of my room by all the pacing that accompanied the wondering." He shot a sly grin at his friend. "It's also threatening to bankrupt my company and send me around the twist, so will you just do it?"

"I'll think about it," Trevor compromised, turning his attention back to the computer and retrieving his pencil. "Now, can we get back to this?"

On to Act IV

 
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