Parker stared at the report in disbelief. His face colored, then mottled
"How dare Delius keep something like this from me!" he snarled
aloud to the empty room. He read the file over again, taking note of
the boy's lineage and the technical evidence of his talent. Then he
typed out a memo, sent it to his secretary, and as soon as the document
was ready, he signed it off with his best black pen and handed it to
her for delivery.
"I want this transfer handled immediately," he snapped at
the woman. "Project number 865 will be delivered to us on the next
plane from Berlin. Capiche?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. Parker," she droned, and left the room.
The Chairman looked out the window of his tower office, at the restless,
surging sea. "A healer!" he breathed with a smile. "I'll
be well again, and nothing will stop me then
He chuckled to himself. Delius had tried so hard to keep the truth
from him, but Parker's spies were working hard to get him the information
he needed. And this prize would be the best of all. Little Peter's talents
might not be strong or easily controlled just yet, but anything would
Anything, to save himself from the ravages of Fountain.
He stared out the window, and waited for his wish to come true.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Sydney leaned his head in his hands, his eyes fixed on the image that
lay on his desk. He had asked Broots to print the photo for him, wanting
to see the fraud who had managed to raise his hopes to such an extent.
He had never really believed that Catherine had still been alive, but
he had wanted to. All his past dreams had been fanned by the events
that had culminated in one crashing disappointment, and it would take
him time to recover from it, if he ever did.
His eyes burned from lack of sleep and his throat ached from the effort
of constantly swallowing a lump that threatened to leak out in a steady
stream of tears. A DSA player sat on the desk beside him, and he rolled
the trackball to the start, letting the vision play. He could hear the
cry of the first baby as it was born, keeping his eyes fixed on the
baby girl as it was carried out of sight, and then listened to Raines'
declaration that there was something wrong with the other one. Something
seemed to tighten around his chest and he bent his head, automatically
stopping the DSA and replacing it with another.
Closing his eyes, he rested his head back against the chair, listening
to the sounds of the recording, hearing the first tentative cry of the
newborn baby, quieting almost immediately, followed by the soft murmur
of Catherine's tear-filled voice. Then the nurse took the baby away.
Raines' voice broke the silence, and the psychiatrist readied himself
for the crack of the gunshot.
It never came.
His eyes opened, focusing his gaze on the woman who stood next to him,
her hand still resting on the DSA player. Her blue eyes glowed with
sympathy as she lowered herself to the floor, kneeling beside him, out
of sight of anyone coming into the office. He exhaled shakily, raising
a hand to smooth the hair that was slightly ruffled, trying not to think
of the similarities that existed between this woman and her mother.
But the look in Morgan's eyes suggested that she knew and understood.
"Are you okay?" she asked softly.
"Are you?" he returned at once, his own feelings smothered
in the anxiety he felt for his daughter, noting the dark patches under
her eyes and the lines of tension around her mouth.
She took his hand and kissed the back of it, laying her cheek against
it and looking up at him, her eyes pleading. "Sydney," she
began awkwardly, as if the name was difficult for her to say. "The
other day, I
I called you something
He nodded, instantly understanding, his lips curling into a small smile,
using his other hand to gently stroke her cheek. "That was,"
he told her sincerely, "despite everything else that was going
on, one of the best things I've ever heard anyone say to me in my life."
Her eyes were skeptical for a moment, but belief blazed in them and
she rested her head on his knee, letting a few tears slip down onto
the gray material of his pants. Suddenly she looked up again, curious
"One of the best?" the woman demanded. "What was the
Sydney gave her another, somewhat watery smile, feeling a tear well
up in his eye and begin to trickle down his face. "When
he trailed off, swallowing hard, gently pulling her closer to him. "When
your mother told me she loved me."
She rose to her feet, smiling faintly, brushing away the tear from
his cheek and leaning over to kiss him. Then, for the first time, she
noticed that he already wore his coat. "Were you going somewhere?"
He nodded at a chair in the corner, and she saw a delicately arranged
wreath of flowers. "For finality," he told her, his lips trembling
"Let me come with you," she pleaded softly. "Otherwise
people might wonder, and I don't want that to happen."
He clung to her hand for a moment before nodding and slowly getting
to his feet, reaching for his cane.
* * * * * * * * *
When the Director arrived in his office, the order already lay on his
desk. Recognizing the layout and the signature, he unfolded the page
with an impatient flick of the wrist, quickly scanning the request before
slowly sinking into his chair, his eyes wide.
It was impossible that anyone from the American branch could have known
about the healer. He had taken every pain to hide any trace of his existence,
particularly since word had begun to leak out about the new drug that
had been trialed eighteen months earlier. Delius had kept a keen eye
on the results and knew, through information provided by his spies,
what would happen. Knowing the value of a skilled healer like Joseph,
he had had all those who might have known about him permanently removed,
or at least he thought he had.
Delius' fists clenched as he thought of one loose canon that might
have leaked out the news, but even as he did so, the screen of his computer
beeped, announcing an incoming call. The number of the caller was instantly
identified and his blue eyes darkened until they were almost black.
"What do you think you're doing, Sam?" he snarled.
"It wasn't me, I swear," the American responded quickly.
"I don't know how Mr. Parker found out about Peter, but I never
breathed a word about him. Please, sir, believe me. There's no reason
for me to do it. What good would it do me?"
The German Director considered this for a moment before slowly nodding.
"So do you know who it was?"
"Not yet, but I'm working on it. I have been since I first saw
the order, about half an hour ago. I've got a couple of possibilities,
but at this stage it looks most like Jarod found out about it somehow."
"That damned Pretender," Delius growled. "We would have
been better off if he'd been taken care of a long time ago, instead
of being left to gradually take the place apart."
"Like I said, sir, that's just my preliminary suggestion. I'm
looking more closely inside the Centre as well." Sam arched an
eyebrow. "How soon will you send him over here?"
"What do they want with him?" he spat. "He's useless."
"Mr. Parker may not know that, sir," Sam responded. "He
must have his reasons."
The German didn't bother responding, cutting the call and then contacting
his head of security to arrange for transport to have the boy flown
to America. The man agreed, but then requested that his boss come down
to the infirmary.
* * * * * * * * *
Sumi MacKenzie watched her husband pacing the bedroom, head down in
thought. She was worried about him and all the stress with the way their
lives had changed in the last few weeks with all the new additions they
had taken into their protection. Having Gideon there was wonderful,
even with the daunting challenge of managing the boy's emotions on a
daily basis. She loved the child as if he was her own, knowing that
he was Sebastian's, and that they would likely have no other children
because of the risk of passing on his dangerous gift. But now, as she
watched him pacing, she knew something else was on his mind.
She moved her gaze to the patch in its sealed package, lying on the
mattress where he had left it. Her heart twisted up inside her as she
looked at it, wondering and hoping just as he was. "Is Jarod sure
this will work?" she asked him at last.
"All he said was that it might help," Sebastian murmured.
He ran a hand nervously through his hair and strode over to the bed.
He stared down at the patch in all its promise. "He also said it
might make me dog-sick for a few days, while my body adjusts to it.
And he's not sure about all the potential side effects."
"It's experimental," Sumi mused, looking up at his worried
face. "I guess it would have to be, with your unique physiology.
It's not like he can test it on a control group of pyrokinetic mice
or something." She saw hope warring with fear in his eyes, not
daring to hope herself until he made his decision whether or not to
try it. She stood up beside him and took him in her arms. "You've
been doing much better since Elizabeth got here. Maybe what she brings
will be enough."
Sebastian shook his head. "It's not enough," he assured her.
He stared down at her, his eyes glassy with fear. "Sumi, you don't
know how it scares me to touch you, to make love to you. I'm always
I have to be constantly in control. You don't know how
I long to be able to just
to let go
" His voice broke,
and tears filled his eyes. He looked up at the ceiling then, taking
several slow, deep breaths to maintain his calm.
Then he stepped away from her, reached for the package and tore it
open. Unbuttoning his shirt, he searched for an area of skin on his
side with little body hair to get in the way, and applied the flesh-colored
patch. For a moment, he just stared at it. Then he looked at his wife.
"It's done. Now we'll see if our resident genius was right, or
needs to make some adjustments to his formula." He started to shrug
back into the shirt, but Sumi stopped him, stroking her hands across
the dark hair liberally covering his broad chest.
"Before it takes effect, baby
" she suggested, cozying
up to him in invitation.
He grasped her arms and held her away from him, a look of sadness and
warning in his hazel eyes. "Not yet," he promised her. "The
next time I hold you, Sumi, I don't want to be thinking about anything
but you. All right?"
She nodded, her heart aching for him. He had suffered so much already,
his body liberally covered with burn scars where he had hurt himself
in the few moments his control or attention had lapsed. The promise
of this new drug was powerful, but uncertain. Now all they could do
"I'll tell Jarod you've started the treatment," she whispered,
and reached up to kiss him at the corner of his mouth.
"I love you, Sumi," he answered firmly. "Thank you for
standing beside me, knowing what I am."
Her heart went out to him, both in sympathy and in genuine, hopeless
affection. "I didn't have a choice, as I recall," she returned
with a smile. "You owned my heart from the moment I laid eyes you.
There really is such a thing as love at first sight."
"And I thank God for that every day," he assured her, planting
a quick kiss on her forehead. "Now, go. I'll have a try at some
sleep, if Elizabeth's ready to watch over me, and wait to see if I wake
up in bed or embracing the porcelain god of hangovers."
She laughed at his joke in the face of impending illness, gave him
another quick kiss on the lips, and went to find Jarod and tell him
* * * * * * * * * *
"Pity," remarked Delius casually. "Joseph was a great
asset to us." He sighed and gazed down at the body on the autopsy
table. "Still, we have his son and his DNA for additional prospects."
He raised his eyes to the chief of security. "See that the body
is cremated once the autopsy is finished, and find a suitable incubator
for a clone. Young Peter is not sufficiently skilled or trained, but
he will do for now. He may not have the talent as a healer, but he has
The Director narrowed his eyes at the other man. "And I'll expect
a full report on the accident that took him from us. Understood?"
Peter Winston nodded. "Understood. You'll have my report as soon
Delius started to walk away.
"But remember, sir
" Peter added, catching him as he
rounded the end of the cold metal table.
Delius paused and glanced back at him. "Yes?"
"I'm escorting that shipment of research materials to our satellite
facility in Dresden. It may be tomorrow before I'm finished typing it
"That will do," Delius assured him with a negligent shrug.
Delius sighed impatiently.
"I got a memo from Chairman Parker, demanding that we turn little
Peter over to the Blue Cove facility immediately. I wasn't sure if you'd
seen it yet."
Delius' face darkened. "Of course I have," he snapped, his
eyes blazing. "And if I ever find out who gave Parker that information
He took a step back toward his chief of security. "
care of them personally." He snorted angrily, and left the
Peter sighed and gazed down at the body. The death of this unfortunate
young man, sad as it was, had been a windfall of a sort. Even he couldn't
tell the difference between the latex face and the real one it had been
painstakingly blended onto, just for this event. This corpse looked
every bit like the real thing, though Peter knew the healer had been
packed up in the box that now sat in the truck at the shipping dock,
and his son was being escorted to the airport along with his nanny.
Dresden was far enough away to allow for a stopover for a meal, and
that was when Peter would open the box. The driver would know nothing,
and the box in the back of the truck would be switched out for the real
shipment by a couple of his security men. Then, Joseph would be on his
way after that, forged passport in hand, along with necessary cash and
an airplane ticket that would get him safely to America.
After that, he'd be on his own. But Peter had already supplied him
with a list of contacts, and all the information he'd need to get started
in his quest. The information Sam had sent had been valuable indeed,
providing the last pieces of the puzzle he'd been researching. He had
the final blanks filled in, and Joseph needed to be with both of his
He'd been reluctant to go, of course, knowing that he'd be leaving
Julia behind, but Winston had convinced him to take the opportunity
when it arose, and let him protect her until the plan was under way.
Having a body in the morgue would prevent any recriminations against
the woman from Delius, and the loss of the other subject could be explained
away with a simple sanction and a follow-up viewing of the corpse, without
the makeup. The plan was perfect, and Joseph unhappily agreed.
By the time night fell on Germany, the plane carrying Joseph Otto was
winging its way across the ocean while Peter Winston enjoyed a meal
with an anonymous driver at a small country inn on the road to Dresden.
The corporate jet that carried little Peter would never show up at the
New York City airport, because its passengers had been benevolently
hijacked. The American man was relaxed and jovial, and when he could
get a minute, he stepped out into the night air and pulled out his phone.
Joseph would need an introduction when he arrived, and Sam would need
to know where and when to meet him with his son.
* * * * * * * * *
Julia held the small boy in her arms, feeling as the sedative he had
been given on the Director's orders gradually took hold and Peter's
head slowly drooped against her shoulder.
"My baby," she murmured, stroking his hair as tears began
to course down her face. "That's right, honey. Off to sleep."
The woman didn't know if he knew what was planned or not, but she hadn't
been about to upset him by asking. His arms were loosely curled around
her neck and his body was a warm, heavy weight in her lap. Turning her
head, she lovingly kissed his hair, seeing his cheeks glowing with the
warmth of the rug in which he was wrapped. His small lips were parted
and his breathing was audible, a soft noise in her ear. Slowly, as his
muscles lost their strength, his arms slid down until he was lying flat
against her. Julia gave a soft moan, tightening her hold around his
Of course, she knew this was necessary. Her knowledge of Aurora was
extensive, and it terrified her to think that Herr Delius was tempted
to addict her son to it. This was the only way of keeping him safe from
such a destructive thing, but it meant being parted from the thing she
loved most, and her heart seemed to be being squeezed by a clamp in
her chest. Picking up the quilt she had made, she wrapped that around
him also, determined that he wouldn't take cold on the journey to the
airport. Her son had never been outside Die Fakultät and, as well
as worrying about how the fresh air might affect him, she could hope
that such a new environment, as well as being with his father, would
make up for the fact of her absence when he woke up from this enforced
Her silent tears turned into soft sobs and she pressed her face into
the sedated boy's neck, trying to muffle the sound so as not to alert
the guard who waited outside the room for the child. When the door opened,
only a moment later, she rose automatically to her feet, touching her
son's hair one last time with her lips before the guard took Peter out
of her arms. She was left reaching out for him, unable to hold back
her tears as the man walked out with her son and shut the door with
a backward kick.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker rose from her seat and surveyed the assembled group of
all the managers and department heads, including her own. At the head
of the conference table, she glanced at the man they all assumed was
her father, and smiled at him. Then the smile vanished as she turned
back to the assembly.
"I'm sure you're wondering why I've called you all here,"
she began. "A few months ago, we lost an important project to theft,
a robbery carried out by our own employees." She knew they would
have no trouble understanding exactly which project, even though she
hadn't mentioned its name, or her personal connection to it. "Those
responsible were under the influence of a drug called Aurora, developed
right here by our own R&D teams." She let that sink in as well
before she moved on. "That we could lose such an important project
to one of our own discoveries prompted me to wonder if there are other
projects in similar danger, and to that end, I've had R&D working
on a testing protocol that will show definitively whether or not any
given individual is using Aurora."
A murmur of approval went up around the table, and she noted in her
peripheral vision that the Chairman was smiling in accord.
"I'm glad you all agree," she shot back coolly. "Because
everyone is going to be tested. No exceptions, all the way up to the
Mouths fell open and the discussion began, some hotly refusing to be
tested, others debating why it would be necessary to test every Centre
employee, but when the dust had settled, she took control and reiterated
her statement, reminding them all of her position as head of SIS.
"Everyone gives a sample, numbered blind to help ensure honest
reporting," she told them. "I'll take the samples to an impartial
laboratory and stand guard over them while the testing is done. And
I'll hand deliver the results directly to the Chairman, who will be
the only one with the numeric code key to identify the samples. He'll
decide how to deal with the users once we know who they are. Blood draws
will begin in one hour at the Infirmary, under my direct supervision.
It's going to take us a few days to get through the process with as
many people as we have, but deal with the delays. This is more important
than anything else you're doing at the moment. Have your departments
For a moment, no one moved.
"What will happen to those who refuse to be tested?" someone
asked from down the table.
She reached into her jacket and pulled out her pistol. Laying it gently
on the table beside the pile of papers she was gathering after releasing
the safety, she glared back in the general direction where the question
had emanated. "No one is exempt," she stressed between clenched
teeth. "And I mean no one. If you work here, you get tested."
One woman in a lab coat rose from her chair, took her own stack of
papers and filed out of the conference room in front of the others.
"Well done, angel," the Chairman cooed. "Now they know
you really are a Parker."
She said nothing, but reholstered her pistol and continued gathering
up her things. When she was ready, she headed for the door, then turned
around halfway down the table and glanced at him. "Are you coming,
Daddy? You're second in line for the blood draw, right after me."
He looked surprised. "What? I don't need to be tested. I'm the
"And if someone's pulling your strings, I'd need to know about
it. Come on, Daddy. Nobody gets off this time. Not even me."
With a frown and a heavy sigh, he hoisted himself wearily out of his
chair and followed her doggedly out of the room toward the Infirmary.
* * * * * * * * *
Yuri/Paul Jennings' apartment
He stood in front of the bathroom sink, scrubbing his teeth white,
mind busy with plans for his next target. Emily had been a distraction,
but a pleasant one that he had deliberately chosen to give greater importance
than his work for the moment. But he was still unable to offer her the
intimacy she so obviously wanted.
It was easy with other women, when there was no emotional involvement.
He didn't care if they saw him naked and asked about the scars. All
he had to do was lie. But with Emily, he couldn't look her in the eye
and tell her something that wasn't true.
That frightened him a little. She was different from other women, and
when he held her in his arms, when they were kissing, there was a peace
that he had never found anywhere else. He didn't want to lose that,
no matter what the cost. Which meant he would have to be careful.
He closed his eyes as he brushed, leaning over the sink, and remembered.
The sting of the lash was sharp at first, and offered plenty of
incentive for him to do the work Raines wanted. For years, all it took
was the threat of a whipping to motivate him to comply. But as he grew
older and more resentful, that stopped working. He began to fight the
muscle men who subdued him as a youth, bound his wrists and hauled them
above his head so he couldn't get away. And then Raines would enter
the room with the lash, beating him until he cried out for mercy. In
time, even the whippings didn't work, since his back became so scarred
that the nerve endings had been all but killed. He couldn't feel anything
touching his back anymore. Not even his clothes.
He never took his shirt off in public, because of the looks people
gave him when they saw. He opened his eyes and spat out the foamy toothpaste,
then glanced at the less noticeable scars on his wrists, where he had
struggled against the manacles when they beat him. The look in Raines'
eyes was impossible to forget, since it was plain that the old man enjoyed
prodding Yuri to work.
He could still smell the blood -- his own blood -- in the air in that
room. Closing his eyes again, he tried to remember what it was like
to feel sensation on his back, even the agony of torture, but even the
memory of it was gone. They had mutilated him until the pain no longer
worked, and then they had thrown him away, like the garbage they believed
Yuri opened his eyes, intending to look at himself in the mirror, but
motion behind him caught his eye and he spun around, holding out his
toothbrush like the weapon it could easily become in his skilled hand.
It was Emily, breaking her previous respect of his private space in
the bathroom. He had left her in his living room, looking over her notes
for an article she was writing. He had expected to find her there when
he returned, after freshening up and changing clothes. But now he knew,
from the horrified look in her eyes, that she had seen his mutilation.
She swallowed audibly. "Is that why you haven't slept with me
yet?" she asked quietly, meeting his eyes.
His mind shot off in several different directions, figuring how he
could handle this turning point in their relationship. "Yes,"
he responded, lowering his weapon. He turned his back to her again and
began to rinse his mouth and the brush at the sink, ignoring her now
until he laid the brush aside in the rack. "Ugly, isn't it?"
"Yes," she agreed calmly. "And I can see from the pattern
of scarring that it's not the result of an accident. When were you planning
on telling me about it?"
He turned to face her, chin still dripping with water. His chest hurt,
deep inside. It was obvious that she was upset over the discovery, as
well she should be. "I'm not ready yet," he assured her gently.
I can't go there yet, Emily. Give me more time,
and I promise, one day I'll tell you what happened to me."
She nodded. "All right." She lifted her chin, looking him
straight in the eye, steeling herself for more. "Is there anything
else you want to show me?"
There were other scars, other torments Raines had put upon him, but
most of those scars were obscured by body hair now. Some had left scars
inside, invisible ones that only he could locate. She didn't need to
know about those. Nobody needed to know about those.
He felt a lump rising in his throat as he remembered, and shook his
She stepped closer, her eyes moving down the front of his body, appraising
the bulging muscles beneath his fair skin. Her hands slid around his
waist and she pulled him close, fingers moving to his back. He knew
from the motion of her arms against his sides that she was rubbing the
slick, white tissue that covered his back, but he couldn't feel her
Hatred blossomed in his heart, threatening to consume him in its heat.
He needed to go, to hunt, to kill something, but Emily wouldn't understand.
He wanted back what The Centre had stolen from him, but his life and
his innocence could never be returned. He would never be whole again.
"Don't," he ordered harshly, grasping her by the shoulders
with his wet hands, trying to push her away.
She blocked his path, forcing him to look into her eyes again. "I
know you're remembering, Paul," she told him gently. "I can
see it in your eyes. Somebody hurt you badly. But it's over now. You're
here, with me. Let me take away the pain, baby. Let me love you."
Yuri tried to hold onto his rage, but it slipped through his grasp
like water, in the face of her selfless offer. She did love him,
though she had never said the words until now. And in that instant,
with those words so filled with promise, nothing else mattered but her.
"Emily," he whispered, his voice thick with passion and pain.
"I should have told you. But I couldn't. I didn't think you could
"I can understand anything," she returned with a slow, sexy
smile. "Especially when it comes to you. I want to know everything
about you, Paul. But I won't push. You can tell me your secrets whenever
you're ready. But right now, we have other things to discover about
each other. If you're ready to take the next step in our relationship."
His hands slid around her shoulders and he pulled her close, just holding
her for a moment. Only Emily would have given him that space. Any other
woman would have prodded, demanded to know his secrets. But because
she understood pain so well, she could let him wait till he was ready
to share his with her. And in the meantime, she was ready to surrender
her heart to a man she didn't really know as well as she thought she
He'd have to find a way to fix that, to reveal to her slowly who he
was. He might even give up his mission, just for her. But his hands
were already bloody, and there were still those who needed to pay. He'd
have to consider that, but for now, he didn't want to think about anything
Yuri bent down and offered her his lips and his heart, and chose not
to think about the future. All that mattered was the moment, and Emily,
and her feelings for him. Love could fix anything. He was certain of
that. Everybody said so.