"Where are we going today?" asked Jarod as he stood behind
"To start your new project," she replied as she punched the
button for SL-17.
"I already have several in the works," he reminded her. "What's
the priority level of this one?"
She smiled. "This one comes first, and behind it Aurora, then Fountain.
There should be plenty of time for everything, and this one might even
be fun for you. The project is called Seraphim."
He nodded, his face blank. He had been expecting this, but sooner. Apparently
they wanted to make sure they could trust him with the children, and he
had certainly proved himself many times over. They could trust him now
to do anything they asked.
He searched himself for the feelings one particular child in the group
brought to mind. He should have been excited, knowing that he was going
to meet Gabriel, but there was nothing besides a mild anticipation and
a fragile wisp of sadness that he could barely hold onto before it began
to dissipate. Stepping off the elevator after her, he followed her down
the corridor, eyeing the man in the lab coat waiting for them outside
Cox smiled at him. Jarod remembered the things he'd done to this man,
all the nasty, twisted jokes he'd played. He remembered Zoe, and another
shadow of sadness passed through him and vanished. There was no reason
to hate Cox anymore, no reason for vengeance. Zoe was gone, and nothing
would bring her back. He strolled past and into an observation room, darkened
so that the light from the next room would illuminate the subjects on
the other side of the one-way glass.
In the corner, by herself and clutching a rag doll, was the one he guessed
to be Faith's daughter. He wondered again if she knew, and then that brief
curiosity was also gone.
"These are the Seraphim," Eve told him. "They have been
genetically created to fulfill a purpose, one we will tell you about in
good time. They possess certain skills which will set them apart from
the rest of humanity and make them dangerous unless they are taught control
and discipline. Conversely, they must also learn to develop those talents
in controlled circumstances."
Cox pointed at one little girl with Asian features. "That one is
an excellent mimic. She'll be able to copy any physical motion and master
it quickly -- dance, martial arts, knife-throwing -- the possibilities
are endless. That little girl there, the brunette, is an electrokinetic.
Her body can store up a charge of static electricity strong enough to
blow out a computer already. Once she becomes an adult, she'll be able
to kill with a touch and convince even the best forensic experts that
the victim was dispatched accidentally. Bolt of lightning or some such
easily explainable natural phenomenon."
Jarod noted the excitement in Cox's eyes as he talked about death. "These
are the children for whom Aurora is in development?"
"Yes, they are." Eve beamed proudly.
"I'll need their medical records, and those of their parents, if
they're available. I need more medical data to determine what levels of
the drug may be most appropriate for them."
"You're close, then?" Cox leaned closer, a gleam of greed in
his chilling eyes.
Jarod shook his head. "I have to do more than calculate a dosage
based upon weight, sir. There are whole spectra of contributing factors,
especially in light of each child's talent. I need to determine whether
the drugs will upset their natural chemistry, since we're dealing with
genetic constructs. You did make them here, didn't you?"
Cox nodded, crestfallen. "How long, do you think?"
Jarod shrugged. "Give or take, six months to a year. I'm much closer
to a patch system for adults. Three or four months on that." He glanced
down at his left arm, clothed in the black sleeve that discreetly hid
his needle marks.
"Of course you'd be more interested in developing that one quickly,"
Cox returned snidely.
And you're not the addict here, Jarod said in his mind. An instant
later, the flash of temper eased into perfect calm once again. "Yes.
It seemed more prudent to work on the delivery system first, and the reduced
dosages second. Would you like me to change my focus?"
"That won't be necessary, Jarod," Eve told him, patting his
arm. "Now, let's go meet them. This one's just settling into his
new quarters. He's been on a different floor, but we thought it wiser
to integrate them young, to make them a working unit."
He followed the man and woman out of the observation room and one door
down toward the elevator. An older woman was waiting, dressed in the white
uniform of the caregivers. She nodded to Jarod in greeting.
"I'm Ms. Penfield, Gabriel's nurse."
"Gabriel," Jarod murmured. A tiny thrill of excitement shot
through him. He focused on it, but it was too quickly gone. "I'd
like to meet him."
"He's been waiting for you," she assured him, and went through
the door into the room beyond. She barely had time to get inside before
she was stooping to pick the child up, and brought him back with her.
"Jarod, this is Gabriel. Gabriel, this is Jarod. He's going to be
Gabriel's dark eyes were shining with anticipation. He wriggled in her
arms, beside himself with excitement. She couldn't hold onto him, and
set him on his feet before she dropped him.
Jarod looked down as the toddler careened toward him. Gabriel ran with
his arms out, ready to be picked up. The pretender glanced at Cox for
approval, and when it was given, he grasped the boy around the ribs and
lifted him into his arms, until they were eye to eye.
"Hello, Gabriel," said Jarod.
Hands waving back and forth with excitement, the toddler managed to control
himself enough to reach forward and touch Jarod with exploring fingers,
like a blind man learning the terrain of a beloved face. "Jawid,"
he breathed, eyes wide with awe. "Jawid."
"Looks like you've made quite an impression on the boy already,"
Cox observed with a knowing grin. "It's almost as if he knows you."
Jarod opened his mouth, hesitated, and closed it again. He wanted to
tell them that he knew this was his son, but the last reserves of resistance
won out. Instead, he asked, "When do I meet the others?"
"How about now?" Eve asked. She nodded to Penfield, who took
possession of the child and carried him into the nursery with the trio
of adults in tow.
Gabriel squirmed and reached over her shoulder for Jarod, hands opening
and closing, grabbing air between them, trying to close the gap. With
an exasperated sigh, Penfield set him down on the floor, and Gabriel rushed
up to Jarod, grasping his pant leg.
"Jawid!" he shouted, looking up at first, then out at the other
children. "Dis is Jawid!"
There was a note of pride in his expression, in the tone of his voice,
that was unmistakably possessive. Jarod thought he couldn't have been
more obvious if he had said, "This is my daddy."
Jarod squatted down, then sat on the floor and let all the children come
up and touch him. They explored his face, poking little fingers into ears
and up nostrils, squeezing lips and stroking over his clean-shaven but
still rough chin. They climbed on his back and into his lap, all of them
but the little girl who sat in the corner.
Gabriel noticed him watching her, and pulled him down to whisper not
so softly in his ear. "Annie scared. Peepoe too loud." He patted
his chest to emphasize that he meant inside.
"Their feelings are too strong?" Jarod asked, clarifying.
The boy nodded. Then he took Jarod by the hand, tugging until the man
got to hands and knees and crawled slowly toward her. Two of the toddlers
leaped gleefully onto his back for a ride.
Jarod felt warm inside with pleasure, intensified by Aurora's influence
in his system. This was good, being with the children. It was fun.
He stopped near the little girl, but not close enough to make her dash
away. She eyed him, looking so much like her mother, waiting for him to
get too close. But he sat down, letting his riders slide giggling to their
feet, and looked at the floor rather than make eye contact.
"How do I feel?" he asked her softly. "Can you feel me?"
In his peripheral vision, he could see her squinting, reaching out to
him, probing his emotions.
And then he saw her smile, a big, brilliant grin from ear to ear.
"Jawid is flat," she pronounced happily. She stood up, doll
clutched close to her chest with her left arm, and approached him. The
other children stepped away, watching to see what would happen. Angelique
touched his face with her palm, gently. Then she rested her hand there
for a moment and made eye contact.
She laughed. "Jawid is mine!" She threw her free arm around
his neck and hugged him, holding him close.
"No!" shouted Gabriel, but he didn't touch her. "Jawid
is mine, Annie!"
The girl let go enough to turn her head to look at the boy. Eye to eye,
they came to a silent agreement, and she sat down in Jarod's lap. "We
share," she announced.
Gabriel came over and wedged himself into Jarod's lap right beside her,
hip to hip, not giving an inch. And Angelique didn't move away.
Cox and Eve exchanged a glance of astonishment.
"Well, I never thought I'd see that in a million years," Penfield
said with a low whistle.
"Join the club," Eve agreed.
Cox moved into Jarod's line of sight and began introducing the children,
citing each of their skills, and describing what training they wanted
him to give them. The pretender glanced at Eve for confirmation, and then
shifted into the proper mode. He lifted his arms in a gathering motion,
and they all came to stand in front of him, except for the two in his
"Let's play a game," he suggested. "Who likes games?"
Little hands went up everywhere, and some jumped in the air for emphasis.
Children so young normally didn't know what it meant to raise their hands
in answer to a question, which was bold testament to how well they had
been trained so far. This was going to be a challenge, but he thought
it would also be quite enjoyable. And that was, after all, what it was
all about now. The pleasure was everything, artificial or not.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker's Office
"Miss Parker! Miss Parker! You'll never guess what I found!"
Broots was beside himself with excitement. He had stormed into the room,
startling her from a report she had been reading. Without waiting for
a response, he grabbed her DSA reader from its spot beside her credenza,
set it up on the desk and then ran back to shut her office door.
"What the hell's going on, Broots?" she demanded crossly.
"You've got to see this to believe it! I saw it, and I still don't
think I saw what I think I saw." Hands trembling, he inserted the
disk, worked the track ball to pull up the scene he wanted, and then stepped
back to watch it with her.
The disc was dated June, the year before she was born in January.
The room in view was small, apparently a private office. Eve walked
in, followed quickly by a youthful Mr. Parker, who shut the door after
them. The woman turned on him, obviously upset, arms crossed, body tense.
"What are we going to do? I can't stay here and have this baby.
Catherine will figure out what we've done, and I'll get fired."
"I told you, I'll take care of it. I'll get you an assignment
overseas, at the German offices. Even as head of SIS, nobody knows her
over there. Her influence with them will be minimal. This'll just be a
shift of human resources. We do that all the time anyway."
"What will you do with it when it's born?" She glanced down
at her slim waist. "I certainly don't want it."
He took her by the shoulders and gave her a gentle shake. "I've
already got that all planned out. There's a couple in Kansas already waiting.
At least I know this one's mine." He patted her still-flat belly
Eve softened instantly. "Do you know who slept with Catherine?"
"Not yet. She doesn't think I know she was unfaithful. I may
not tell her, either. She's useful. We need her here, for the program.
If I tell her I know the truth, she'll leave and I've got plans for her.
"If I take a leave of absence instead of going to Germany, can
you get me back my position?"
"Maybe. Or I could have you work under me."
She chuckled. "Working under you is what got me pregnant."
He laughed with her. "That was the deal, as I recall. Catherine
didn't want to have a baby with me, so I had to go to someone else who
would. I need an heir, someone to carry on with the plan after I'm gone.
She wouldn't hear that."
"But she was all for it with someone else."
Parker glowered. "Oh, she'll pay for that, you can be sure,"
he promised the other woman. "I'll take my pound of flesh an ounce
or two at a time."
Both of them laughed, arms entwining, lips meeting in a happy kiss.
The picture went blank.
Stunned, Miss Parker sat still, staring at the black screen.
"I found this when I was going through some old discs I had taken
from Mr. Raines' office, the last time I was in there. I forget what I
was looking for, but I must have found it before I got to this one because
I never looked at it." Broots took the disc out and started putting
away the reader.
"Miss Parker?" He stopped, noting the absence of intellect
in her expression. He waved his hand in front of her face, and she didn't
blink. "Are you okay?"
Something clicked. "Don't tell anyone about this, Broots,"
she breathed, and snatched the disc out of his hand. "I guess we
know who Lyle's mother is now." She shook her head. "And it
was a business deal. My God, is there nothing that man isn't capable of,
no low he won't stoop to?"
"Apparently not." Broots packed away the reader and put it
back beside the credenza. "Miss Parker, I've been thinking."
"Don't hurt yourself," she retorted. Instantly she regretted
the snappy comeback. "Sorry. Old habits die hard. You were saying...?"
"Yeah. Thanks. I've got tons of these DSAs, but not enough time
in a day to go through them all, looking for things. So I'm working on
a voice recognition search program that will be able to do rapid locations
of key words on the DSAs. Hopefully, if that word or name pops up anywhere
on the disc, the program will be able to zip to those bits so we can see
exactly what the reference is without having to watch the whole disc."
She smiled. "That's brilliant, Broots. It ought to be a valuable
research tool. Please keep me posted on how it goes. And don't share it
with the company."
"Yes, ma'am." He was beaming at her polite praise.
"You do great work, Broots. I couldn't do my job without you."
He blushed and stumbled all over himself and his vocabulary on the way
out the door.
She shook her head, still smiling. Broots was priceless in his own bumbling
way. He had endeared himself to her with his willingness and his reluctant
affection, and earned her respect with his technical expertise. She was
lucky to have him on her team, and was beginning to think a promotion
was in order, if she could swing it. He'd make a good Number Two in SIS,
and he certainly had the technical skills to handle it.
Morgan could play games just as well as Eve; possibly even better. She
would pay a call to her fa-- to the Chairman, and make the arrangements
for Broots to join her in Security. She could use his expertise, and the
move would allow him more control over the sensitive areas where he went
on electronic raids. With him as her right-hand man, she could accomplish
a great deal more.
But he wasn't enough support for what she had in mind for the Centre.
She needed more, and had nowhere else to turn. Neither Sydney nor Jarod
could be completely trusted, and until she found sufficient allies to
help her, she would simply have to do what she could from SIS.
* * * * * * * * *
The program was working. He'd had to do some fancy footwork and tell
a couple of lies to get a DSA reader of his own to monkey with, and finding
a way to hook it up to his computer had been a challenge, but after that,
things had gone smoothly. Disc after disc went through the machine, playing
at speeds higher than humanly possible to comprehend, but when he was
done, the library of DSAs that he had amassed were catalogued completely,
referenced according to dialogue and ready for a search.
He programmed in the name Alexis Moore, and three hits popped up. Sorting
through the rack he had purloined from Archives, he pulled out the three
discs. The first one was a report on the female Pretender, delivered to
Dr. Raines by Jacob. The second was a meeting between Jacob and Raines,
where he wanted the woman added to the Proteus Project, which Broots knew
was the project name for all of the Pretenders, after the Greco-Roman
god who could change his shape and take on the persona of other people.
The third was pay dirt. He watched in horror as the woman in Sydney's
photograph gave birth, shackled to that table he had seen on SL-27. The
baby was handed off to a nearby nurse, who carried the child out of the
room while the doctors worked to save the mother's life in vain.
The next scene following that one showed the nurse heading for the elevator
on SL-26 with the baby in her arms. The doors opened, and Catherine Parker
stood there, waiting to take the child away. She thanked the nurse, who
headed for the emergency stairs rather than going back down below.
Just before the doors closed, Broots heard Catherine say to the newborn,
"You get to have a good life now, little girl. You're going to a
family who will love you and keep you safe from this place. That's what
Alexis and Jacob would have wanted for you."
There was nothing else after that. Broots felt his insides quivering.
Sydney wouldn't need to see all that. He would be told that the child
had been adopted out, and that would satisfy him. His niece was among
those children that Catherine had rescued, and she was safe. That was
all that mattered.
Rubbing his eyes wearily, he packed up the discs, locked them into his
safe that Miss Parker had sent to him for just such a purpose. He went
home for the night, intending to share his news with Sydney the next morning.
Good news could always wait.
* * * * * * * * *
Broots checked the hallway before ducking into the massive room where
all the old paper records were stored. He had a few files to put back
before they were missed, and some others to gather. Jarod had directed
him to look through the files on Jacob, and Broots was thorough. Even
though he had the answer he wanted to give to Sydney, it wouldn't hurt
to dig a little deeper.
He busied himself with putting away the files he had brought with him
first, and then started looking for files on Jacob. He decided to start
looking in the cabinets that he knew had once belonged exclusively to
The light bulb just above his head blew out, and the door opened at the
same instant. Out of instinct, Broots dropped down, hiding from whoever
had come into the room. Then he remembered he was on a legitimate mission,
under orders from both of his superiors, and cautiously stood up to peer
over the filing cabinet at the interloper.
No one was in view. He shrugged off the notion that someone had come
in, and started back on his search. He was working through the "R's"
when a hand came out of nowhere, reaching up from beneath the drawer to
Broots gasped and leaped backward as he saw Angelo squatting down below
him. The empath duck-walked to the filing cabinet beside the one where
he was searching and opened another drawer instead. Heart pounding, Broots
ran a hand over his smooth dome, struggling to catch his breath.
"Jeez, Angelo! You scared the bejezus out of me."
"Here," the empath suggested. "Jacob."
"Jacob would be under J," Broots corrected. Or under
R for Ritter. Thats the P drawer.
Angelo's left hand hovered for a moment over the open drawer. "Jacob,"
he insisted. He reached in without looking and pulled out a thick file.
The tab read: Proteus Project / Ritter, Jacob
Broots eyed Angelo, who glanced away, his blue eyes wandering aimlessly
around the dusty room. "You know, Angelo," the tech mused, "sometimes
I think you know everything that goes on in this place."
Angelo grinned and galloped away on all fours, destination unknown.
Broots just shook his head and smiled, closed the drawer and took it
back to his office for further study.
* * * * * * * * *
The dark of night was Angelo's favorite time. He could go anywhere, and
few people were awake and working, especially in the labs. Some were busy
24 hours a day, but this one only had only one shift. This was the lab
where all the manufacturing was done on finished products, but no research
was ever conducted.
He let himself down from the grate and listened. There wasn't a sound
of human motion, just the handful of rats he liked to visit. They distracted
him for a moment, and he played with the long-tailed one that was his
favorite, letting her crawl onto his shoulder and ride while he felt along
the surface of the glass cabinet where the finished products were stored.
The vials had no names, no product information save for a code number
that matched up with a production record. Elsewhere in the system, that
number could be traced to a name, but that knowledge was unavailable to
the chemists and lab techs who created those compounds from chemical formulas
stored in their computers. They didn't know what they were making, and
thus, could be trusted not to tamper with or liberate any specimens for
Angelo didn't know exactly what he was looking for as he held out his
hands toward the cabinet. He felt for what he needed, and as soon as he
found the vials, he deftly picked the lock and removed two of them. He
didn't know for sure why it was so important to take these bottles, but
that would come later. All he knew was that it must be done, must be secreted
away now. They were necessary, even though they frightened him.
He put the vials into his pants pocket, kissed the rat on the nose, and
put her back into her cage.
"Bye, Sophie," he whispered, and scampered back to the grate.
Moments later he was on his way back to his secret place, to store the
vials of Aurora with his treasure stash. Jarod needed them, and he was
going to help.
* * * * * * * * *
The door opened slowly. Sydney glanced up, taking note of the tech hesitating
in the doorway. "Come in, Broots," he said gently. "Do
you have news?"
"Uh, yeah." He stepped fully into the dimly lit room and closed
the door behind himself. "Good news and bad news. Which do you want
Sydney's eyes followed the other man as he moved to the chair across
from his desk and laid a folder in his lap. "I'll take the bad news
"Leave it to a shrink to make that choice," Broots said with
a half-hearted grin that disappeared almost as quickly as it came. He
lifted the folder onto the desktop and slid it toward Sydney. "I
found this file on Jacob in the archives. I thought you might want to
For a moment, the older man just stared at it. Reluctantly, he flipped
the manila jacket open and began to read. There were pages of handwritten
notes, followed by neatly typed reports. It might take him weeks to read
through all the material, but he promised himself to do just that. It
would be a way of touching Jacob's mind again, and he needed that just
"What did you find, Broots?" he asked solemnly.
The technician winced and fidgeted in his chair. "There's a paper
in the back of the folder. It's an order from Mr. Raines."
Sydney closed the folder, opened it from the back and turned over the
last sheet of paper. It was an official Centre document, regarding Raines'
suspicion that Jacob was planning to flee with Alexis Moore. There was
documentation to back it up, and mention of Jacob's change of heart toward
others of the prized subjects currently in use for research. Raines stated
his fear that the psychiatrist might attempt to liberate others in addition
to Alexis, and that he had to be stopped. He called for official sanction,
and the signatures at the bottom revealed that the sanction had been approved
by everyone except the director of SIS, who would have been Catherine
Centre sanctions, Sydney knew, were often permanent. Then he noticed
the date. August 1, 1967, the day before the automobile accident which
put Jacob into a coma that lasted for nearly thirty years.
"Oh, my God," he breathed. "They meant to kill
"That's what I thought, too. I couldn't remember exactly when that
accident happened, but I knew it was somewhere around 30 years ago. Was
Sydney's throat closed up. He couldn't answer, but knew from the haunted
look in Broots' eyes that he understood. Sydney worked to swallow, to
try to regain his mental stability.
Raines had tried to have Jacob killed. Sydney had gone to pick up Jacob
at the last minute, because his brother had wanted to talk. Jacob was
trying to clear his conscience, and possibly ask Sydney to help him rescue
the children the Centre had stolen, and the woman he loved.
The older man stared at the signatures. All of them were dead. All
"And the good news?" he asked quietly, when he could make his
voice work again. He tucked the paper back into the folder and closed
it. That he would deal with later, in his own time, on his own terms.
At least, now he knew the truth.
"Jacob's daughter was rescued by Catherine Parker the day she was
born. She was adopted out, and they have no record of where she went.
She's safe, Sydney."
He closed his eyes, spilling great tears over his cheeks. He nodded.
"Thank you, Broots. You are invaluable to me. And a great friend."
"You're welcome, Sydney." The tech rose and stepped quietly
out of the office, leaving the other man to his own thoughts.