Upright Infinity

 

home / season six / episode twentyfive / act II

   

Monday 9:15 am
Prometheus Building
Dallas
Apartment 1788

Jordan sat on the sofa, cartoons playing quietly in the background. The living room was softly lit with low wattage lamps in the corners, because Jacob's eyes had become increasingly light sensitive. The child lay in his arms, wrapped in his favorite soft blue blanket imprinted with fluffy white clouds.

"Thanks for bringing me home, Daddy," Jacob sighed against his chest. "I didn't like the hospital."

The teenager's eyes shifted involuntarily to the morphine pump standing at attention nearby, a slender tube dangling from it, plugged into a vein in Jacob's left arm. Automatically, he depressed the plunger as soon as the timer freed up the next dose, and moments later, Jacob gave a sigh of relief as the powerful painkiller went to work. Jordan tried to concentrate on the television, but he didn't really see the animated antics. All he could see was Jacob, even when his eyes were directed elsewhere.

"You're welcome, honey," he said softly, and kissed the child's forehead. "I wanted you to be comfy and happy."

Silence stretched between them, but it was warm and filled with love.

Jacob shifted in his covers to look up at the older youth. "Daddy, please don't be sad when I'm gone."

Tears started, and were hastily blinked away as Jordan made eye contact. "But I'll miss you, Jacob. You're part of me." He touched the soft cheek with the fingertips of his free hand, just a whisper of contact, but it was enough.

"I know." The child laid his tiny hand over Jordan's heart. "But you saved me, Daddy. You brought me home. And you know, if I had to do it all over again, it wouldn't be so bad with Sir, because I'd know you were coming to get me."

Jordan swallowed down his pain and smiled instead. "Has it been good, Jake? Have I been a good daddy?"

Jacob smiled, his face filled with light and joy, not a trace of pain showing now. "You've been the best." He puckered up for a kiss.

The teenager leaned down and gently accepted it, then stroked Jacob's soft, dark hair. "I love you, Jacob."

"Love you, too, Daddy. Always." He sighed and closed his eyes. "I'm tired. I think I'm gonna go now."

Jordan watched him, uncertain what the little one meant for a moment. Jacob's head nestled against his chest again, his beautiful brown eyes gently closed, little hand over Jordan's heart, and he sighed into sleep. That last breath left him with more noise than usual, and he was still.

For a long time, Jordan just held him, perfectly aware that he was gone, that the pain no longer touched him, but unable to rise and lay the body aside.

Jordan hadn't needed to check Jacob's pulse to confirm his passing. That happened inside, with a blossoming of light that was pure joy, the radiant brush of one soul passing through another on its way to a new journey. Then, with infinite care, he disconnected the IV tube from Jacob's frail little arm, and held him tightly against his heart until he could bear to let him go at last. Jacob was at peace, and in time, that would bring comfort to Jordan as well. But right now, there was only stunned emptiness, unimaginable grief and tender agony.

Trader Vic's Campground and Emporium

"Knock, knock," called Faith as she pushed open the door to Jarod's trailer. "You wanted to see me?"

Jarod finished typing in the email and sent it on its way, glancing up to give her a smile. "Yes. I wanted to know if our diversion is ready."

She smiled. "Simba knows what he's supposed to do, yeah. His trainer's been working him on the steps, and as soon as the door opens, he's in. Smart kitty."

He offered her a sly grin. "Smart trainer, too. Mariko really has a way with animals. Cam told me she's got a little something extra along those lines, and didn't know it. Sebastian's going to have a talk with her afterward."

All humor vanished between them at the mention of that word.

Faith took a deep breath. "Jarod, I… There's something I wanted to say."

He could see she was upset, disturbed by the impending event shadowing both their lives. He held out his arms to her and settled her into his lap, embracing her waist as he gazed up into her face. "Tell me. You can tell me anything, sweetheart." He smiled softly then. "That's a nice word. Sweetheart. And it fits you."

Her cheeks heated up instantly, and she almost climbed out of his lap. "No, it doesn't, Jarod. I'm not sweet. I never have been. I'm cranky and short-tempered and I have very little patience with people."

"All endearing qualities," he assured her with a big grin, and tightened his grip on her waist.

She just looked at him for a moment, untouched by his levity, her eyes great pools of emotion. She expelled a shaky breath and touched his cheeks with her fingertips. "Jarod, I… I wanted to tell you how I feel. How I've always felt about you." She blinked rapidly, as if fighting back tears. "You didn't remember me when we were teenagers. We had just a few hours together that day, but I was closer to you then than I'd ever been to anyone. I remembered you from when we were little, and after Eclipse…"

Just the mention of the word brought back too much. He needed to move, to get out of that trailer and into the sunshine. But he sat still beneath her and listened, his body tense with unpleasant memories.

"I mean… What I'm trying to say is…"

"Just say it," he prompted.

"I love you," she blurted. She seemed to pull back into herself immediately afterward, as if afraid of a reprimand.

That was Centre programming.

He pulled her closer, running his hands up her back, caressing her to comfort her. "It's okay to tell me how you feel, Faith. It's okay to have feelings."

She nodded, and looked away, still holding back. "I know. It's just… I'm not used to this. It's hard to let go, even with you." She sighed, and seemed to relax a little. "But I wanted you to know. I wanted you to understand this isn't a new thing for me. It's how I've felt about you for a very long time."

Faith kissed him quickly, bounded out of his arms and hurried out of the trailer. Jarod watched her go, knowing he needed to catch her and hold her, to reassure her that he cared for her as well. But her admission now, just before things were about to get so uncertain, only increased his own feelings of unease and foreboding.

She loved him. That love had been an unshakable source of strength for him in the past, especially when he was at his weakest. He only hoped that it would be enough to power him over the rough spots that lay ahead. It was something he could hold onto, at least. Something he could promise himself would always be there. And now, more than at any other time in his life, he needed that glimpse of a future. It would keep him going, keep him focused on what he had to do.

The computer notified him of incoming mail, and he saw the note from Jordan asking him to call as soon as he could. For a moment he just stared at the computer screen, knowing without being told why his son wanted to hear his voice. He turned on his cell phone and dialed the number, then started picking up all the research material scattered around his temporary home, and putting it all away.

Prometheus Building, Nursery floor
Dallas, Texas

Margaret sat watching the children play. Gabriel was such a little dear, so much like his father that it made her heart ache to look at him sometimes. The family had been careful in the way they told her about all the developments during her absence, but she was stronger now that she was in Dallas, and had them all around her again. Still, even with her grandchildren right where she could touch them, talk to them whenever she wished, the news about Jacob was the hardest of all.

For the moment, they had advised her not to see him, and she had agreed. But soon, she thought. Maybe today. There was an air of worry in the building, hushed whispers that would cease as soon as she came into view. Something serious was happening, and she sensed it was more than the little one's critical condition.

She would find out soon enough. But as she watched Gabriel with his playmates, she saw how they all stopped playing at the same time, heads up as if listening to something only they could hear, and then they came together in a group for a moment, hugging each other as if in some sort of mutual support. Then somberly, they rose from their circle and toddled off toward the elevator, caregivers in tow, as Helen came out of the nursery office and spoke with the women.

It was eerie, in a way. But this was how that terrible place had made them. And she loved each of them no less for it.

Monday 9:32 am
Centre Grounds

The lion twitched its ears, strolling slowly up the long paved driveway. As it had been taught, it headed straight for the stone steps that led up to the front entrance, and lay down. People gathered behind those imposing doors, gawking out at the sight of the great beast lounging on the steps. Sweepers in dark suits armed with pistols stared, wondering what to do.

Moments later, several pickup trucks and panel vans raced up to park nearby, and half a dozen people in wild costumes bounded out. There were clowns in full regalia, animal handlers in flashy satin, and others that appeared to be random crew members dressed in jeans and T-shirts with Angeles Family Circus printed across the front. Easing up to the lion, they called to it, appearing to be trying to maneuver it into the open panel van.

The lion ignored them all, its tail thumping casually on the steps.

One of the sweepers opened the door slightly and leaned his beefy body out. "You guys need any help?" he asked.

"Don't shoot!" called a woman in tights and a leotard covered by what looked like chrome armor. "He's very gentle, I swear. He won't hurt anyone."

The lion jumped suddenly to his feet, and before the sweeper could jerk himself back inside the safety of the lobby, the lion had its paw in the door and was pulling it open. The big cat strolled nonchalantly through the metal detector while sweepers scattered, running for near doorways and the closest elevators. Only one security officer remained, standing on top of the front desk, gun drawn and aimed at the lion.

Circus people poured into the front doors then, with the animal trainer shouting at the man not to shoot. In moments she managed to ease up to the beast and snap a lead onto its collar, all but hidden beneath its thick, dark mane. She urged it toward the door while the relieved security guard holstered his pistol. Two clowns opened the front doors to allow her to walk the cat back outside to the van, but as soon as the lion and its mistress had cleared the doors, the others outside rushed in.

The guard, surprised by all the commotion, was relieved of his weapon, and the circus people pulled theirs and started down the halls on the trail of the sweepers who had fled their posts.

Others would be coming. The security people in SIS would have seen the invasion as it happened, and summoned reinforcements. Every sweeper, bodyguard and security person would be on the alert, heading to their posts or to the front doors to control the influx of invaders.

Jarod knew that confusion would be their best weapon. He pulled off his wig and beard as he sat down at the computer terminal in the main lobby. Fingers moving as fast as he could type, he entered the security program and activated an override, shutting down all the security cameras and sensors throughout the building. To keep his command from being disabled, he popped in a disk and entered a program that would keep the security system busy by randomly activating and deactivating terminals and doors throughout the entire complex, the constant interruptions making it impossible for anyone to change anything within the system.

That done, he adjusted his body armor, grabbed the backpack with his store of weapons and headed for the stairs that would take him up to the Chairman's office.

9:35 am
SIS

Miss Parker heard the alarms go off, and bolted from behind her desk, racing out onto the balcony. On the huge viewscreens at the back of the observation room, she saw the scene in the front lobby and started shouting orders, glancing away just long enough to make sure people scurried away to do her bidding. Everyone was coming out of offices to look, while the techs at the security terminals below her frantically keyed in emergency codes and spoke into headsets, coordinating the response to the invasion, as they had been trained.

She stared at the figure on the left screen, and watched without surprise as Jarod peeled off his disguise. She had been hoping he'd keep it on, but apparently he wanted everyone to know he was responsible for this chaos. Dread settling into the pit of her stomach, she closed her eyes and said a brief prayer, crossed herself, and ran into her office to get her gun, calling for Broots to back her up.

He was right behind her as she ran down the stairs, pistol aimed at the ceiling, safety off. It was time for her to make her own move. She headed straight for the front of the cavernous room and shouted for attention just as the enormous screens went blank.

"Everybody, listen to me!" she called. It took a moment for the pandemonium to subside, but after the third try the security techs were calming, listening to their boss for instruction. She swallowed the lump in her throat, hoping she was making the right decision. "Listen. I know what this looks like, but those people are not the bad guys here. Everybody just keep your seats, sit quietly, and wait for it to blow over. You'll all be all right, as long as you don't resist."

The startled looks on the faces of her employees wasn't unexpected. Movement from one of them caught her eye, and the sound of a gun firing close to her ear made her turn. The man who had reached beneath his console for his pistol and aimed it at her dropped to the floor, holding his shoulder. His gun clattered onto the desktop, and Broots stood beside her, the smell of gunpowder strong in her nostrils. She gave him only a brief nod, and hoped he saw her gratitude in her eyes. There wasn't time for anything else.

"I'm taking over, people!" she shouted, eyes flashing, ready for anything. "Stay alive. Just let it happen. Don't try to interfere, and you'll be safe."

She turned and dashed for the stairs with Broots on her heels. She was glad he was there.

SIMULTANEOUSLY
IN BERLIN

Peter Winston strode confidently into Delius' office with three of his best men at his back, and more in the foyer outside.

"What do you want, Winston?" Delius demanded, glancing up from his computer.

"The keys to the kingdom, Martin," Peter told him with a smile. He pulled his pistol from his pocket and glanced at his watch, knowing that things were in motion across the Pond that could not be stopped. "You can give up without a fight, or you can die at your desk. Your choice."

Delius stared at the pistol, awareness dawning on his attractive face. "It was you," he breathed. "You were the one undermining all our progress."

Peter shook his head. "No, not me. I just stood back and watched, pretending all the terrible things I witnessed every day didn't bother me. Your reign of terror is over, Martin. The Master Race the Triumvirate wanted to use to dominate the rest of humanity is free. Or at least, they will be after today. And I get to play a part in that."

"Parker will kill you," Delius challenged.

With a broad smile, Peter shook his head. "I don't think so. Not after his daughter gets through with him."

The German nodded, his expression filled with approval. "I'm pleased to see that I was wrong about you, Peter. I thought you were too weak to ever be in command of an organization such as this." He leaned back in his chair. "What will you do with me now, and with those who have served me so faithfully?"

The American cocked his head. "I hate to break it to you, pal, but I've owned this place for a little while now. Nobody's gonna cry over what we do to you." He tossed his pistol to a sweeper standing behind him, took off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves. "I promised myself a little vengeance in Julia's name. Stand up, Delius. Let's see what you're really made of."

Five minutes later, Peter stepped back and nodded, and the bodyguards advanced toward to collect the Chairman from his spot on the floor.

"You know what to do with him, gentlemen," said Peter. "I think we'll all breathe easier afterward."

He watched as they carried Martin Delius out of the office, barely conscious, then Peter took his seat behind the desk and waited impatiently for the phone to ring.

9:38 AM
BLUE COVE

The Chairman's office was empty. Jarod spared little time on that disappointment, and raced through the Tower offices, noting that they were all unoccupied. Either someone had tipped them off, or they were being hustled to safety downstairs. Jarod followed the most likely path, eager to catch up with them, so he could force them to call for surrender. He didn't want this coup to be bloody if it didn't have to be.

He came to the executives lounge, and saw that three doors stood open in the back of the room. "Which way?" he called, turning to glance behind him at Faith. "Be careful. Not too much."

She closed her eyes, scanning for the emotional resonance of their quarry. "Lyle is down below, somewhere deep. Mr. Parker isn't here."

"Go tell Morgan. She'll want to deal with him personally."

Faith obeyed instantly, following her inner compass to search for her sister.

Jarod headed for the elevators with Namir, Trevor and Sebastian backing him up.

Kim raced down the stairs, abandoning her post when the melee broke out. Corridors were filled with frightened faces, all aware that something was happening, but not sure exactly what it was. She had to get to her uncle, had to keep him safe. He was all the family she had left, and she wasn't going to abandon him.

She knew where he was. The Sim Lab was quiet when she arrived, Alexander having already been taken back to his quarters sometime earlier. Sydney sat in the isolation of the lab, insulated from the noise outside, contemplating his young charge's condition.

Concern was evident in his features. When she came into the lab, he glanced up, surprised at the shouting in the corridor. He reached for his cane and started to rise.
"What is it, Kim? What's going on?" he asked worriedly. "Has it started?"

"Yeah. Looks like the cavalry came."

Worry and fear warred on his features. He hurried toward her. "We must help. I have to get to my daught-- to Miss Parker."

Realization dawned. "I thought there was something between you two," she stated with a grin. Reaching behind her, she locked the lab door from the inside. "But she can handle herself, Uncle Sydney. You have a seat and get comfy. You're not going anywhere."

Sydney towered over her, straightening to his full height. His expression was firm. "Move out of my way, Kim," he ordered quietly.

She stiffened and thrust out her chin defiantly. "You'll have to make me. And I really don't think you can. I'm doing my job here, and protecting Centre property." Her growing affection for him must have shown in her eyes, because he backed down with a sigh of acceptance. "I don't want you hurt, Sydney. You know?"

He smiled a little, sighed in resignation, and nodded. "I understand, dear. We'll wait here, together, until it blows over." He returned to his seat at the worktable and tried to study his notes, but he couldn't concentrate and returned to the door where Kim stood guard.

He raised the shade covering the window, and looked out at the people running to and fro in the corridor outside the lab.

Valentine he recognized instantly, coming down the hallway flanked by two other sweepers. The man who challenged them took a little longer for him to pull a name from his memory. "Yuri!" he breathed. "What's he doing here?"

Yuri threw a punch and danced back when it struck home on Valentine's jaw.

"You and me," he told Valentine. "Your boys get seconds."

Valentine grinned, rubbing his jaw. "I'm not stupid," he returned coolly. "I know who and what you are. And I know I can't beat you by myself. I like the three to one odds much better." He gestured the other men to attack, and all three men launched into the pretender with a vengeance.

"He's getting his ass kicked," Kim observed, agitated by the trio's vehemence. She handed Sydney her sidearm and reached for the lock.

He grabbed her arm. "Don't go out there," he ordered.

"I can take on one or two, and give the guy a fighting chance. He's gonna get killed if I don't."

"And you could get killed if you do," he reminded her.

She glanced at the pistol in his hand. "Then you get to watch my back, uncle. I trust you to do that for me."

A moment later, she was out the door and two minutes after that, Valentine was running down the hall alone, leaving her to disable the two sweepers. She made it clear to them that they were outmatched, and they sprinted after their companion.

"You okay, man?" she asked Yuri breathlessly, tired but exhilarated by the fight. She knelt down beside him and helped him to sit up. "Looks like they got you pretty good."

"Yeah, they did. I guess I'm pretty worthless now." He glanced down at his injured leg and winced.

"What the hell's going on, anyway?"

"Good versus evil, baby." He eyed her. "Do you know which side you're on?"

She grinned and glanced through the window at Sydney. "Yeah. I do." She motioned to him. "Let's get you to the Infirmary. Maybe, if you're lucky, you can walk back out of here one day."

9:39
The Centre
Front Lobby

A contingent of sweepers poured out of one of the elevator cars just as Jarod reached for the button. Moving as a well practiced unit, Jarod stepped aside as Namir threw a flash grenade into the open area, temporarily blinding the sweepers. The invaders had been expecting the bright explosion and turned away, closing their eyes just long enough to protect their vision from the flare.

During the seconds they had to act, the four men fired tranquilizing darts into the sweepers and hurried into the elevator.

"Which floor?" Jarod panted. "Where is Lyle?" He glanced at Trevor, standing beside Sebastian, who was armed to the teeth, a pistol in each hand loaded with tranquilizer darts.

The man smiled back at him. "Sure would be nice if I had all the answers, now, wouldn't it? Too bad it don't work that way."

Jarod nodded, turned to the panel and pressed the button for the floor where his old quarters had been. It was a random choice, any button as good as any other. It might take a great deal of time for them to find him, but it was necessary that they did, and as quickly as possible.

The door opened, and sweepers and guards were waiting for them. Using the sides of the elevator as cover, they quickly closed the door and tried another floor. Jarod hit 26, knowing they'd be able to get out there and possibly use the stairs or the ventilation shaft Miss Parker had left open for maintenance crews to get at the fans in the system for the repairs. He knew exactly which shafts remained accessible, and intended to make good use of them.

Faith met Morgan coming out of the elevator, pistol ready. Both women cocked their muzzles upward on recognizing each other.

"He's not here," Faith reported. "Parker's not in the building."

"I'll find him," Morgan assured her. "Go. Be careful." She motioned for Broots to follow her, and the pair headed out the front doors.

Faith ducked into the elevator just as the doors started to close. She knew where Jarod was. His emotions were a beacon to her, and she punched the elevator button that felt right. It was difficult to concentrate with so much fear and confusion swirling around her, but she had to keep track of a handful of those who were most important to her. The doors slid closed, and she waited to be deposited on the lower level, thankful for a moment of peace in the storm.

Where could he be? Miss Parker stood in the front driveway, eyes closed, looking to her inner sense for help in finding the Chairman. With a sigh, she finally gave up and decided to drive to his house and look for him there.

There were two cars in front when she arrived, and she recognized both of them. She had a key to the front door and strode in, gun drawn, Broots two steps behind her, looking for the man who had savaged her mother and destroyed Morgan's happiness. After today, she promised herself, no one would ever call her Miss Parker again.

He was sitting on the sofa, still dressed in his pajamas and robe, apparently having just gotten out of bed. The expression on his face was one of concern, and as she stepped fully into the living room, she saw James Sun sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs facing the couch. His hands rested in his lap, and in one of them was a gun. Its muzzle was aimed right at the Chairman's heart.

"What's going on?" she demanded.

Mr. Sun gave her a gracious nod. "Hello, Morgan. The Chairman and I have been having a nice long chat. I got him out of bed this morning when I couldn't sleep. To keep me company, you might say."

Relief flooded Parker's features. "Thank God, angel! Mr. Sun wants to kill me."

Arching one elegant eyebrow at the old man, she asked coolly, "And precisely what do you expect me to do about it?" She put the safety on her own pistol and slipped it into her jacket pocket. Then she crossed her arms over her chest, and waited for more.

Parker's face fell. Anger leaped into his eyes. "I expect you to blow his head off! You're my daughter, or have you forgotten that?"

"I'm not your daughter," she shot back. "You knew it, and made me pay for it every day of my life." She straightened, lifting her chin proudly. "But all that's over now. It's your turn to answer to me."

Mr. Sun took his eyes off Parker to glance at her instead. "What have you got in mind, Morgan?"

She didn't break eye contact with the Chairman. "I came to tell you what's happening with your precious empire. Voorhees was the first, in South Africa. That sanction you gave me to carry out will never happen." She let that sink in, enjoying the shock in his eyes before continuing. "Right now, in Berlin, Peter Winston has taken control through the security forces, and is putting the German Triad into secured cells on the lowest floor of Die Fakultät. They'll never get out of there, but all the people they kept down there will be free."

Realization was dawning slowly on Parker's face. His sagging jowls flagged even further, along with his eyes. Hope was fading in the blue depths as he stared at her.

"And at this very moment in Blue Cove, I have let Jarod in, along with Sebastian McKenzie and his staff, and they're having a wonderful time cleaning house, sweeping out the garbage that you thought passed for humanity. It's my Centre, now, Mr. Parker." She heard the ice in her voice, felt the heat of her hatred warming her. "You took everything away from me, old man -- my mother, my son, my life... And now I'm doing it to you."

"How's it feel, Parker?" asked Mr. Sun with a pleased grin. "Now you get to learn what it's like to live in a cage, powerless to make even the simplest decisions for yourself. Maybe we should put him in Jarod's old cell, Morgan. What do you think?"

"The nice one?"

"No, that's too good for him. The first one, the one they put him in as a child, with the tiny little hard bunk and the steel plated walls, and one dinky little barred window with a view of the hallway." Mr. Sun grinned. "Just the sort of executive accommodation suitable for his retirement, don't you think?"

She nodded. "Sounds like justice to me." With a sigh of triumphant relief, she turned to look at the other man. "What brings you here with your stainless steel friend, James?"

He shrugged and smiled. "I know I promised you I'd stay out of things, but I had a score to settle for your mother. I guess it's rightfully your vengeance to take, though, isn't it?"

"I'll have it, don't worry." She glanced at the old man, now slumped in defeat on the sofa. "I'll go by his tiny, dank, cruel little room every day, and look in the window at him. And I won't feel even the slightest little swell of pity for him, ever again."

"You're right. A bullet's too quick and easy."

"Who was he?" Parker asked quietly.

"Excuse me?" Morgan raised her eyebrows, displeased that the old man had dared to speak now without her permission.

"Who was he? Who was the man my wife cheated on me with?" He raised sad, weary eyes to her face, searching.

"You mean you never knew?" Sun returned, then chortled with laughter. "All this time, and you never figured out who stole Catherine's heart? That's rich! I guess she got a little vengeance on you after all. Sydney was right under your nose the whole time."

Morgan was stunned. "You knew?"

Sun stood up. "You didn't?"

"Not until recently."

James smiled. "I kept all of Catherine's secrets, Morgan. I kept hoping that one day, she'd see me as more than a friend." His smile faded, replaced by pure hatred as he turned to face the Chairman again. "But she never got the chance, did she, Parker?"

Parker stood up, and instantly every gun was trained on him. "Now, Catherine," he said gruffly, "You put that away. We'll work this out, I swear. I won't hit you again. That was stupid of me, and I don't want to lose you."

Sun's brows twitched together. "What the hell? Parker, this isn't your wife."

The Chairman turned toward him and studied his face. "I don't believe we've met, sir. I'm Grayson Parker." He extended his hand, apparently not noticing the gun in Sun's grasp.

"Looks like he finally slipped over the edge, Miss P--" Broots cut himself off after his long silence, and looked at her. "What do I call you now? Cause I figured you wouldn't want--"

"Later, Broots," she snapped. "Let's pack up the Chairman and get him installed in his new quarters." She smiled. "That is, if the whole building hasn't been burned down by now." She pocketed her pistol again and strode forward to take a painful grip on the old man's elbow. "Let's go, Grayson. I want you to see as much of this as possible."

She hurried him to the car and sat with him in the back seat while Broots drove. The man chattered aimlessly about things that made no sense at all, and she listened to every word with quiet satisfaction. It seemed that God had his vengeance as well, and she was perfectly happy with that.

9:42 am

Ethan watched the circus performers streaming in through the front of the building from a stand of trees well back from the rear of the property. Vehicles continued to pour in through the front gates and up the long drive. Others came out of the trees surrounding him, driving across the soft green turf and disgorging their colorfully dressed soldiers for the battle. They entered through windows and doors along the ground floors in each building, and Ethan cautiously crept up to see for himself how it was going.

His heart was pounding. He was afraid, afraid of being accidentally killed in the brawl. He had never been in this place before, but he knew what happened there. This was where he was made. This was where his brothers had been kept as prisoners for decades. Because of this place, his mother was dead, and he had a son by a woman he'd never met.

He thought about Uriel, about all of the Seraphim, and what had been done to them.

And then he moved. He strode in through the doorway, picking up a discarded pistol. He studied it for a moment, divining from the design how it was meant to be used. A few experimental checks and he had made sure the safety was off, and that it was loaded.

The hallway was clear, except for those who had been tagged with tranquilizer darts and lay sleeping on the floor, or killed and left behind. He checked each of the bodies as he passed, making sure none of his brother's soldiers needed aid. The sounds of battle were still ahead, but something made him turn down a hallway and head for the elevators. Stepping into an open car, he punched a button without looking, following the internal directive without question.

As the doors started to open on the 17th sub-level, he stepped to one side, letting the control panel shield him from anyone who might be standing in the corridor. He could hear screaming, and glanced out to see if he could exit safely. There was no one in the corridor, and as he walked down the middle of the hallway, he noticed that the floor was mostly empty, the rooms filled with cribs and small beds, child sized furniture and a scattering of toys.

This was where the children had lived, he knew without being told. This was the Seraphim's floor.

Anger rose up inside him. The screaming drew him along, and he forgot to be cautious when he stepped inside the room. A bald man with cruel eyes stood over another man with sandy hair, who crouched on the floor, his hands covering his head as he wailed in pain. The older man gave the younger one another kick, drawing another yelp from him.

"This is your fault, Angelo!" shouted the bald man. "You knew this was coming, didn't you?" He drew back his foot for another kick, his face a mask of hatred. "You pathetic abomination--"

"Don't touch him!" Ethan growled from the doorway.

The older man glanced up at him and smiled, suddenly calm. He settled his foot back on the floor and straightened his suit. "Well, well. Mirage. How good to see you again. Though I doubt you remember when we met."

Ethan's mind drew up a foggy memory from a few years back, when the people who raised him had given him medication to help him sleep. Something had happened to him that night, something he hadn't wanted to remember. People had come into his room. They had touched him. They had taken… what they needed to make Uriel. And this man had been there. He was the man in charge.

It hadn't happened during his appendectomy, as he had presumed. The memory was there now, brought into hazy focus by the sight of this man's face. "You!" Ethan snarled, rage boiling over. "I remember." Tears clouded his vision, and the sense of violation was profound.

The crouching man scrambled away on all fours and hunkered down by the wall between the two men.

"You don't have the strength to do what has to be done," the bald man announced. "This is a war, and you can't handle the kind of stress that situation's going to deal out. Get out while you can, Ethan. Or die here, with Angelo and the other lab rats." He chuckled softly. "We're going to win, you know. Well trained troops against well meaning bleeding hearts… It'll be a mess to clean up, but in the end, I think we'll be better off for it. I was planning to trim off the fat anyway." He shot a dark glance at Angelo. "Starting right here."

He pulled a pistol from inside his coat jacket and aimed it at the cowering man.

Ethan fired at his hand, and missed.

The bald man turned the pistol instantly toward Ethan and pulled the trigger.

Angelo tackled the other man as Ethan fell backward into the open doorway.

It felt like being hit with a sledge hammer, a shockwave that threw him down on the floor.

"No, Fenigor!" Angelo screamed. "Don't!" He punched the old man in the face.

Fenigor shoved at Angelo and wrestled him off, scrambling to his knees. He aimed the gun at the empath again. The crack of a pistol sounded, and the old man jerked sideways and lay still.

Ethan lay on his back in the doorway, blood pooling underneath him. His extended arm, still clutching the smoking pistol, was too heavy to keep up, and he let it relax against the cold marble floor. But he had hit his mark this time, and Angelo was safe.

The other man crawled over to him, cradling his head in his lap. "Ethan's hurt," he cooed. "I help." He brushed the wounded man's brow with his fingertips, gently laid his head on the floor, and took off down the corridor at a run.

Ethan felt where the old man's bullet had hit him. It wasn't a good place to be shot, but dying would take a little while. Uriel would know what happened to him, and he would be afraid. He would be sad. But he would be well cared for, and he would be loved. He would be safe from this place, from people like Fenigor, and that was all that mattered.

He closed his eyes and thought of his son, imagining what he would be like when he grew up, since it didn't look like he'd be there to witness the real thing.

On to Act III

 
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