The four men rushed out of the lift just in time to see Valentine retreating
around a corner. Jarod gave chase, but the man disappeared amidst the
machinery before he could figure out where he had gone. Turning back to
his plan, he went up the stairs and ducked out into a corridor two floors
up, teeming with people. It was sheer bedlam.
This floor held the severely disturbed, the psychotic and irreversibly
violent patients whose minds had been pushed too far to hope for recovery.
They had either been released from their rooms simultaneously or had broken
out, and now they were attacking one another or trying desperately to
defend themselves from attackers both real and imaginary. The men fired
randomly with their tranquilizer darts, putting the patients down as humanely
"There!" Trevor crowed suddenly. He pointed at the far end
of the corridor, to a lab with glassed-in windows, the shades drawn over
them. "The man you're looking for is in there." Trevor's breath
caught, and his momentary glee turned to horror. "Oh, God, what he's
Jarod took off at a run, pushing people out of his way. Heart racing,
he punched in Miss Parker's access code to the electronic lock on the
door. It remained shut. He tried another code -- 4377 -- and the lock
disengaged. He jerked open the door and leaped inside, scanning quickly
for the man he knew would be waiting.
Blood spattered the walls, ceiling and floor. On a table in the center
of the room, a woman's body lay broken and bleeding. Her eyes pleaded
with him to save her, and without thinking he rushed to her side, holstering
his pistol. Lyle was nowhere in sight. Fingers working feverishly, Jarod
started releasing her bonds.
"It's okay," he promised gently. "I'm going to help you."
A noise behind him made him spin around, ready for action. Lyle was three
steps away, eyes sparkling with sheer madness. His hands were drenched
with blood up to his wrists. In his right hand he held the knife he'd
been using on his latest victim. In his left, he held the pistol he'd
just grabbed from the table behind the door, where he had been hiding.
"Give it up, Lyle," Jarod told him harshly. "It's over."
Grinning with abandon, Lyle nodded. "Yeah. It is for you."
He struck with his right hand, slashing at Jarod's ribs.
The body armor would have protected him, but Jarod reacted instinctively,
grabbing at his hand, trying to deflect the blade from his body.
The elevator door opened, and Faith stepped out. Shocked for a moment
by the pandemonium, she hesitated. Then, at the end of the corridor, she
Trevor's head came up, his dark eyes haunted by the memory of his vision,
now happening right before his eyes. "Jarod, run!" he cried.
Two young men tackled the psychic, carrying him down to the floor.
Sebastian grabbed one of them by the collar and hauled him off, tossing
him to one side.
Namir ducked as someone threw a punch at him, caught the offending fist
and use it to pull the man's ribs hard against his foot. The man buckled,
crumpling to the floor. He glanced sideways and saw Sebastian deliver
his last dart to a wild-eyed assailant. He looked for Jarod, and saw him
through the door.
"Look out!" he cried, and leaped toward the doorway.
Someone flew at him from one side, and knocked him down.
Lyle's left hand rose as Jarod laid hold of his right. He poked the
muzzle of his pistol into the base of the other man's neck, where the
Kevlar armor couldn't protect. Aiming downward, into the center of Jarod's
body, Lyle pulled the trigger and sent the bullet on its way.
Jarod's eyes went wide.
Time seemed to pass in slow motion, the details painful in their
Lyle watched his nemesis drop to his knees with the impact of the
bullet tearing through nearly every vital organ in the Pretender's body.
"I still win," he whispered hoarsely.
The woman's scream made Lyle turn as Jarod dropped limply to the floor.
Lyle looked behind him, and watched in disbelief as the crowd of people
began to part like the Red Sea before Moses. Fighting began to cease as
people backed away, crowding together against the walls of the corridor,
as if to hide themselves from the vengeful goddess striding toward him.
He looked into her eyes, terrible to behold, and knew what awaited him.
Already he could feel her reaching inside him, gripping his heart. "No,"
A dark-haired man dashed past him, kneeling over the fallen Pretender.
Faith was coming for him. He had seen what she did to Raines. She had
just watched him kill a childhood friend, and his mind could not wrap
itself around how that transgression would affect her.
There was only one way out of what she had planned for him.
He put his pistol quickly into his mouth, and saw her expression change
from promised vengeance to horrified disappointment just before he squeezed
the trigger and blew out his brainstem.
"No!" Faith shrieked again, knowing he was dead before
he hit the floor.
Impotent rage surged through her as she kicked at his body, screaming
wildly. She crumbled silently to the floor, covering her face with her
hands, and wept. It was over. She was too late.
Jarod was dead, and she could never make Lyle pay for all the evil
he had done in his lifetime.
Namir cradled the fallen Pretender in his arms, his eyes closed, his
head bowed. His deep breathing turned to exhausted tears. Sebastian and
Trevor joined them, releasing the Asian woman on the table from her bonds
and helping her up. They made her sit down beside Namir, but he shook
"I am spent, my friends," he panted, wiping away his tears
with a trembling, bloodstained hand. "I cannot finish. She will have
to depend on traditional medicine to heal her."
"Will Jarod be
all right?" Sebastian asked breathlessly.
Tears filled the Israeli's eyes. "I
" He shook his head
and bowed it over his friend. "I cannot be sure. There is only pain
inside him, more than I have ever felt before. I cannot tell if what I
have done is enough, or will simply delay what already is."
Trevor nodded. Picking the woman up in his arms, he said quietly, "I'll
take her up to the infirmary and send medical staff down for the wounded."
Namir raised his head and reached out to Faith. She sat on the floor
beside him, eyes straight ahead, seeing nothing. He waved his hand in
front of her face, and when there was no response, he called to Sebastian.
"Help her," he ordered.
He let Jarod's body slip gently to the floor, and straightened up, sitting
on his knees, too weak to stand.
"Will you be all right here?" Sebastian asked, reaching out
to touch Namir's shoulder.
The Israeli nodded. "I will not leave my friend alone with
this," he snapped. Leaning sideways, he gave Lyle's body a shove
for emphasis. "Come back for me, for both of us, as soon as you can.
"That's a promise, mate," Sebastian assured him. Gently, the
tall man bent down and tried to help Faith to her feet.
She seemed to waken slightly from her stupor, and looked down at Jarod's
relaxed face, his staring eyes. She shook Sebastian's hand off and lay
down beside Jarod's body, draping her arm across his chest protectively.
And then she began to cry.
Sebastian glanced at Namir, nodded in agreement with his unspoken promise
to watch over them both, and turned away to follow Trevor down the now-quiet
corridor to the elevator. He stepped in with the psychic and the injured
woman, still trembling from the horrors he had seen. The doors slid quietly
closed, and for a moment, there was peace.
Rebecca sat on the floor, her long skirts spread about her, hiding her
feet. She had stayed behind for the children, one of those who had been
chosen to remain with them rather than go to Blue Cove for the mission.
But like Trevor, she had seen what would happen to many of those who had
She had been with Tempest when Helen delivered the announcement about
Jacob, and had escorted Margaret upstairs to be with Jordan. As soon as
she was sure the woman would be all right with her grandson, she had come
directly back to the nursery. And waited.
Now, as she expected, the little ones were picking up on what was happening
to their loved ones so far away. The children sat in a circle around her,
staring off into space, holding hands with each other in total silence.
They sat without moving, except for the rise and fall of breathing. They
held tightly to one another, waiting.
Uriel screamed. A moment later, Gabriel chimed in. All of the children
started to cry, obviously shaken by the events they so clearly felt happening.
Then Angelique stood up and closed her eyes.
"We's okay," she said quietly.
Gabriel and Uriel came to her, hugging her close, and after a moment
their terror began to wane.
"We's okay," she repeated.
"My daddy," sobbed Gabriel. "My daddy's gone! Gone like
She put her arms around him and kissed him. "We's okay," she
Both boys stopped wailing, and the trio sat down in the middle of the
circle. The other children closed ranks around them, joining hands again
and waiting, tears streaming down every face now. The three in the middle
began to rock together, and sing a nursery song that Jarod had taught
"Cree craw toad's foot, geese walk barefoot
Rebecca knew what Angelique had done. She had blunted their fear and
grief, but not taken it away. The child somehow knew that they needed
those emotions, and helped to make them manageable.
This was far too grown up a thing for such little ones to have to experience.
But they were amazing in the way they handled it. She watched and waited,
knowing that Tempest would come to her as soon as she was ready for her
mother to comfort her. As long as the Seraphim had each other, Rebecca
thought, they didn't really need anyone else.
Angelique had said it herself: they were all right, as long as they were
together. And they would survive this tragedy, as well as all the others
that lay ahead in their young lives.
Faith listened to Namir's groans of pain and exhaustion as he lay on
the floor, trying to recover some strength. He was still panting, both
from the fighting and from the effort to try to save Jarod's life. Help
was on the way, she knew, but they weren't likely to get there in time.
"Jarod's still breathing," Faith observed, hearing a shallow
gasp as the man in her arms struggled to live. Fresh tears spilled down
her cheeks as she pressed her fingertips against his throat. There was
a pulse, but barely. Blood still flowed from the wound in his shoulder,
and pooled on the floor beneath her.
The Israeli roused somewhat, and rolled his head on the floor to make
eye contact with her. "I have done all I can, dear lady," he
promised her. "But it is not enough. There is still a great deal
of internal damage, and his spirit is slipping away. I can feel it, even
without touching him." Namir sighed, and rubbed his face wearily.
"I can heal him. I have done much already. But I cannot tether his
soul to his body."
She gazed down at Jarod's still, relaxed face. Her head hurt, a warning
sign that she was already dangerously close to doing herself irreparable
harm. Driving the people out of her way in the corridor had taken a toll,
and touching Lyle for that brief instant, only to have him wrenched away,
had hurt her.
But this was Jarod in her arms. He needed her.
Faith smiled faintly through her tears. "I can," she said quietly.
"It will hurt you," Namir observed. "He is already too
"I know the risks." She closed her eyes and probed for that
familiar resonance, felt him slipping away, barely a trace of him left
inside the body in her arms. She chased defiantly after that fading spark
of life, as she had done so many years before.
"Stay," she whispered aloud. "Come back, Jarod. You're
In her mind's eye, she could see him way ahead of her, close to the
end of a long, dark tunnel. She called to him, and he turned briefly.
Then he continued walking, his clothing changing from black to gray, on
its way to white. If he got there, she would lose him forever.
"Wait!" she called, her voice echoing down the tunnel. Pain
assaulted her, sending bright rays of needle-sharp light through her brain.
She raced after him, feeling a gentle suction begin to pull at her as
she moved closer. "No, Jarod!" she cried. "Jordan needs
you. Gabriel needs you. Don't go! Fight it!"
But he wasn't listening. He shambled slowly forward, barely able to
keep his feet as he was pulled toward the opening.
She latched onto him with her energy, hauling him back toward her,
until he was close enough to touch.
"It was a good fight, wasn't it?" he asked with a sad smile.
His voice was laced with agony, his face pulled into a grimace as he tried
to be brave.
That startled her a little, and she assured him that it was.
He nodded, gasping for breath. "Let me go, now, Faith. Please.
There's too much pain, more than I can bear."
"We're helping you. Namir's helped you already, and others are
on the way."
He shook his head. "I'm tired. I want
I need peace. I need
it to stop," he whimpered, tears streaming down his cheeks.
"You need to keep fighting, Jarod, just a little longer. We're
almost there. You've got a family now, sons who need you." She felt
him slipping, and poured more of her energy into the connection between
them. "We've challenged the Centre and won. You've got everything
you wanted, Jarod. You can't quit now."
"I want to go," he assured her desperately, his face filled
with anguish. "I'm tired of all the pain."
"You can't go," she repeated sternly. "I won't let
He glanced downward, and saw the glowing link between them. "You'll
hurt yourself," he breathed gently, his voice a ragged sigh. "I
can feel your pain."
"I won't leave," she shot back. "Not unless you come
back with me."
He glanced at the brightness beyond, his arms clutching at his body,
bent with suffering. "I don't have the strength, Faith. I have to
She understood then, saw how wispy this self-image was, how transparent.
He was dying, holding on with all he had, but it wasn't enough. If she
let go, he would be gone.
Her body sent another warning, and she knew then what the price for
helping him would be. She had dreamed for a few brief hours of sharing
a life with him, but now she had a choice to make. She could go on without
him, or he could live without her.
So much of her life had been about pain and misery. It was appropriate
that her last act would be about love.
"Take care of Angelique," she ordered, knowing he would
understand all that remained unsaid between them.
She closed her eyes and blasted him backward, using all her strength.
His image flew through the air, stumbling as it landed way back in the
tunnel, far from the end. That expenditure cost her, and she felt the
current of air lifting her as if she was a feather, carrying her toward
the light. She struggled briefly against it, but saw the gap between them
widening. She had done it, nudged him back far enough that Life was reeling
him back in, whether he wanted to go now or not.
"I love you, Jarod," she called to him. The current was
irresistible, and she had no strength left. She smiled at him, accepting
the price of her rescue. "Find happiness."
"Faith!" he called, reaching out to her as he was swept
But she was gone in an instant, in a flash of pure white light.
11:03 pm EST
Sydney strolled down the corridor slowly, lifting the curtains aside
to peer into each room, at the faces of each of the wounded. He had read
the list of names of those who had died in the battle, though all of the
victims had not yet been identified. The morgue was the next stop on his
list, to visit those whom he loved who had died. His daughter was not
among them, and nor was his son, and for that he was grateful. But there
were others not on any list, and he hoped to find them still among the
It had only taken an hour for the takeover to be complete. When Morgan
returned to the front door with the Chairman in custody, the tide had
turned in her favor. Centre loyals who saw her with the old man laid down
their arms and allowed themselves to be taken into custody. Security forces,
confused by her apparent coup, quickly followed at her orders. She had
done what she could to make the takeover as bloodless as possible, but
there were those who refused to let themselves be taken, knowing what
justice they would have to face for their crimes.
The Belgian was certain none of the crimes committed there would ever
be seen in court, but Morgan would find a way for justice to be served.
There were plenty of cells below ground for offenders to serve out life
sentences, after all. But the toll had been great, most of the losses
suffered on the side of the invading army.
Sydney heard the voices and looked up to meet the eyes of the Australian
man who had been in charge of the cavalry. Tear tracks gleamed on his
face, twisted with grief, as he left one of the curtained rooms. A blond
man with a lower class English accent walked at his side, his arm in a
sling, offering comfort.
"North was ready for this, Sebastian," said the Briton warmly.
"We all knew we might not make it, but we were willing to pay that
price. So were you."
Sebastian nodded and wiped at his face. "I know, mate. But that
doesn't make losing him or any of the others any easier." He sighed
brokenly. "I didn't get a scratch. Nothing burst into flame. It should've
been me in there."
Sydney offered a grim nod of sympathy and moved past them. He saw a foreign-looking
man sitting wearily beside the bed where Ramona lay quietly, breathing
with difficulty. The woman pushed his hand aside weakly, and cautioned
him not to touch her.
"The doctors said I'd be fine, Namir," she chided him. "Stop
trying to make me better. You're already exhausted and you're going to
hurt yourself if you don't get some rest. Now, shoo."
"I'm sorry, Ramona," the foreigner apologized warmly. "But
you know how much I care for you. I only want to help
"Elizabeth," the woman called breathlessly, and another woman
appeared beside Sydney, her eyes expectant. "Take Namir somewhere
so he can sleep."
"Sure," responded the woman in a marked Australian accent,
fixing Namir with a firm gaze. "Let's go soldier. I'm in charge now.
Sydney shut out the rest of their conversation as he stepped into the
next curtained area. He recognized the face of the young man in the bed
from a photo Morgan had shown him some time ago, but what got his attention
was the shadow rocking in the far corner. Easing gently up to the bed,
he offered a smile to its occupant.
"Hello, Ethan. How are you feeling?"
The young man stirred and opened pain filled brown eyes. "I'll be
okay." He turned his head slowly on the pillow to regard the figure
in the corner. "He brought me here
saved my life. Who is he?"
Sydney smiled fondly. "He's your brother."
"Another one?" Ethan struggled to ease himself upright in the
bed, but his visitor placed a gently restraining hand on his shoulder.
"Just rest. Your injuries were severe, according to your chart."
Sydney laid the clipboard back on the bedside table and moved over to
the corner. Slowly, so as not to startle, he squatted down, holding his
cane between his feet with both hands for balance. "Angelo,"
he called softly. "Angelo, would you like to go home now? With me?"
The empath stopped rocking. He lifted his head slowly, his blue eyes
large and frightened. "Daddy?" he whispered.
Sydney couldn't help the broad grin streaking across his face. "Yes.
Daddy. I'd like it very much if you would call me that. Always."
He touched the young man's face gently with his fingertips. "Thank
you for helping Ethan. You saved him. That was very brave of you."
Angelo glanced toward the bed and slowly rose. He helped Sydney stand,
and then ambled slowly, hesitantly, toward the bed. He didn't seem to
know what to do with his hands, stuffing them into his trouser pockets,
then ruffling his hair with them, then tucking them into his armpits as
he crossed his arms.
"Ethan's okay?" he asked.
The man in the bed grinned. "Yeah, I'm okay. I can see our mother
in your eyes."
Angelo smiled wistfully. "Momma talks to Ethan."
Sydney put his arm around Angelo's shoulders and drew him close. "We'll
be a family," he promised. "I'll take you home and take care
of you, Angelo. I'll retire from this godforsaken place, and we'll start
over somewhere new. Someplace where you can walk in the sun, and none
of us have to be afraid, ever again."
Angelo leaned his head against Sydney's chest. "Go see the babies?"
he asked hopefully.
"Yes. We'll all put our families together again."
Theirs was an exceptionally twisted family tree, but they would make
sense of it somehow, and find a way to make what the Centre had done to
them work. They would change the legacy that had been intended for them,
and create one of their own. And theirs would be embroidered with love.
"Let's go home, Angelo," he urged gently. "We'll come
back to visit with Ethan again tomorrow. All right?"
Angelo nodded. Sydney started to lead him away, but he resisted for a
moment, reached out and stroked Ethan's dark hair fondly. "Momma's
happy now," he said simply.
Ethan caught his hand and gave it a squeeze. "Yeah. She told me,
too. See you tomorrow, brother."
"Tomorrow." Angelo sighed, held onto his father's hand, and
let the older man lead him out of the makeshift hospital to the elevator,
and the fast approaching twilight.
The place made Emily's skin crawl. For a while, she helped carry the
wounded to the infirmary, and when that filled up, she was directed to
a place called Renewal Wing. It was an eerie place, but in no time it
had been converted to a hospital. Her back ached from all the lifting.
Her feet hurt from standing and walking on those hard marble floors for
so long, but she would not rest until she knew everyone who had been hurt
in the battle had been tended.
Some were faces she recognized from her visit to Dallas. Most were strangers,
and she had no idea which side they were on. Her clothes were bloody and
her heart was breaking, but she kept on, looking for more people to help
and hoping none of them were family.
Wiping tears from her eyes with a clean spot on her sleeve, she headed
back to the infirmary to see if she might provide nursing assistance.
They'd need all the help they could get, not only hauling the wounded
into place, but also in making sure they stayed alive. She hadn't trained
as a nurse, but she picked things up quickly, and she could watch others
to see what needed to be done.
She stood in the doorway of the infirmary, watching the doctors and nurses
on staff working on the most severely injured patients. Behind a curtain
to her left, she could see a pair of legs sticking out on a gurney, but
nothing else of the patient. Figuring it was a body in need of being taken
to the morgue, she started toward it. A nurse cut in front of her, and
started working on the man.
"No!" he breathed softly, his voice gentle but insistent. "I'm
last. Take care of the others first."
"But, sir, you could lose your leg if--"
"It doesn't matter," he assured her quietly. "Take care
of those who need it. I can wait."
Emily knew that voice. When the nurse dashed back out into the chaos,
she stepped around the curtain and made eye contact with the man on the
gurney. His face was a mass of bruises and cuts, and she gasped at the
sight of him. "Paul! Oh, my God!"
He turned toward the wall, trying to hide his battered face from her.
"You shouldn't be here," he rasped. "It's not safe."
"The fighting's over," she assured him. "At least, for
now it is." She came closer, and saw the unnatural angle at which
his left leg lay against the gurney. She imagined how much it must hurt,
but he showed no sign of it. She wanted to touch him, to help him somehow,
but couldn't bring herself to do it. All she could think about was the
blood on his hands, lying so still in his lap. This blood was fresh, but
there were other stains there, invisible ones that only she could see.
He glanced at her hesitantly, and saw where she was looking.
"I didn't kill anybody today, Emily," he swore. "I could
have, but I didn't. I didn't want to."
She met his eyes then, and saw the pain in his soul. His broken leg was
merely an inconvenience compared to what he had been through. She remembered
the scars on his back and envisioned how they had been made, through years
of beatings, shredding his flesh and blackening his heart. His description
of Raines' last torture device made gooseflesh rise, and she could imagine
the echoes of sensation that he had experienced.
Emily understood why he was the Executioner. She felt what drove him,
felt the enormous store of agony and powerlessness that had made him what
he was. But he still had a choice. He could have chosen to do what he
had said he'd done that day, and helped people instead of killing them,
as her brother had.
"Thank you for that," she said softly, her voice quivering
with unshed tears. "I'm glad you've changed."
He nodded, his handsome face made hideous with injury. "I won't
be leaving here," he told her. "I can't go to a regular prison.
But they can keep me locked up here, to make sure I don't hurt anybody
else, ever again."
She nodded. "That's good."
She wanted to hold him. She wanted to kiss him, and tell him that she
forgave him for his sins. But she couldn't do that. What he had done was
unforgivable. She started to turn away.
With her back to him, she hesitated, listening.
"I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you
But then, I never meant
to love you, either." He sighed. "Good bye."
She walked away, out of the infirmary, and into the elevator. She had
to get out of that place, to feel the wind on her face and get some fresh
air, untainted with the smell of blood and death. And when she walked
out into the night, she fell to her knees on the steps, lay down against
the cold stone, and wept.