VIEWS: 13 PAGES: 120 POSTED ON: 10/25/2012
Father Doesn't Know Best David J. Duncan January 2002 (Rating R-fight scenes, violence, language) Summary: When the Duboises host a couple of high school students on a college Visit, they get more than they bargain for. Notes: The characters from "Forever Knight" belong to Sony Tri-Star. The characters from "Xena Warrior Princess" belong to Renaissance Studios and StudiosUSA. The characters from "Mutant X" belong to Tribune and Marvel Studios. The characters from "Smallville" belong to their copyright holders. All other characters and scenarios are of my creation and are fictitious. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Dani and Stacy for help with Mutant X details. Thanks to Emily for the beta reading. Prologue [Queen's Hut, Amazon Village 82 AD] The battle between David and Dijon was over. With the way he won his victory, the prophecy of darkness seemed to be diverted at least for the time being. However, a familiar enemy brings trouble close to home, introducing us to new allies and foes alike.... Chapter 1 [Hampshire County Jail, Northampton] On the western outskirts of town, the county prison stood alone, separated by a good few miles by wide-open spaces. The building's granite walls held minor felons: gang members, thieves, dope dealers among others. For some, it was a permanent stop, a "Hotel California" of sorts. For others, it was a transitory point while awaiting trial and sentencing. Watching the storm raging outside through the bars of his cell, Stuart Dubois groused angrily at his situation. How could he be here? Didn't he want the best for his kids? Just two weeks ago, he had tried to drill some sense into his daughter, Cybelle, concerning her obligations as a mother and wife. Instead, she mouthed back to him and used her freakish abilities, but he showed her. After he had beat some sense into her, her brother showed up, using his abilities as well. Somehow, he lifted the older man into the air, threw him against the wall, and used some energy to deflect the bullets from his gun. As a final indignity, their FBI friend had him arrested and tossed in here to rot. "This is a fine situation," he groused sarcastically. "I wonder when I'll get out of here." "Hey, shut your hole over there!" his cellmate, a blond haired wino, complained. Shaking his head in disgust, Dubois continued to stare out of the window into the darkness of the night outside. Then, he saw something unusual. A pair of headlights approached the facility and drove right through the open gate. "In two weeks, I've never seen that!" he pondered to himself. Still wondering who the visitors were, he sat on his bunk and thought a while. A half hour later, the door to the prison block swung open, allowing the guard, a rather rude man by the name of McDermott, to proceed on his usual rounds. Usually, he made four or five sweeps per night around the area, making sure that the prisoners behaved themselves. Tonight, however, he stopped in front of this cell and indicated, "Hey, Dubois! Up and at 'em!" "What?" the confused businessman wondered. "What is it?" "You must have a fairy godmother or somethin'," the guard shrugged. "Your bail was just posted. Some guys are waitin' for ya." Opening the door, he allowed Dubois to follow him down the corridor and out of the block. Then, after allowing him to change into his regular clothes and regain his possessions, the former prisoner was escorted to the booking area. There, three men in fine brown suits, ties, and overcoats waited. "Are you Stuart Dubois?" the leader, a sandy haired man, probed almost robotically. "That's me," he concurred. "Are you the ones who set bail? I owe you my thanks." "Don't thank us, Mr. Dubois," the second man, a red-haired, bulky fellow, indicated. "Our boss is waiting to see you concerning a couple of unusual occurrences if you catch my meaning. Sanderson?" Without another word, he guided the surprised consultant through the glass doors and into the waiting 4 X 4. Sanderson, an African American, took off his sunglasses and stared into the officers' eyes. The latter stiffened and fell into a trance. When they awoke, they would have no idea where Dubois went or who he even was. Having accomplished this feat, he walked out casually, got into the vehicle with the others, and indicated, "It's done. Let's go." The leader nodded and drove them away from the prison. Following Route 9, to Routes 91 and 90, they proceeded quickly toward their goal over the New York state line. Two and a half hours later, they crossed that point and kept heading west. Throughout this journey, nobody had said a word. "Excuse me?" Dubois asked. "Might I ask where you're taking me?" Red Hair turned to face him, assuring, "Don't worry, Sir. We'll be there in just a few minutes. Have you heard of Geneomax?" He shook his head. There were lots of companies, which he had never heard of. Why was this one any different? Glancing out of the window, he noticed that the sun was rising on the horizon and recognized the Adirondacks around them. "It's a great place, Sir. Our employer really cares about society," the leader stated methodically. "But, you'll be meeting him soon enough." Just ahead, he saw a sprawling concrete facility taking up a slope just ahead. It appeared to be a treatment plant or a research facility of some kind, but, deep down, he knew that it held a deeper purpose. As the vehicle entered the compound, he marveled at the structure's complexity. Whoever ran this place held a great deal of authority that was for sure. "Follow me," Sandy Hair directed. With his guest right behind, the two men maneuvered their way through the complex passageways comprising the operational facility, heading for the main office. **** In the main office, a lone man sat behind his desk, smoothing his bright white hair, and adjusting the ascot he wore around his neck. Maison Eckhardt wasn't a man who liked to be kept waiting for anything. Of late, his field operatives, the Genetic Security Agency, or the "GSA", had failed to bring him results. In this case, that meant additional new mutants for study or utilization in the GSA. However, his former associate, Adam, along with his band of mutant outlaws, had made sport of his recent efforts, foiling him at every turn. "Hopefully, Mr. Dubois will have some worthwhile information," he thought, settling into a comfortable position. One should always project the right image, especially to a potential lackey. At that moment, a buzz came from the intercom. In response, he pressed an orange button on the side of his desk, allowing the door to open. His visitors walked in. Dubois took a look around, examining every facet of his host's base of operations before focusing his attention on the man seated in front of him. In silent admiration, he nodded, sensing a kindred spirit in the man before him. "Good Morning, Mr. Dubois," Eckhardt greeted. "I'm Maison Eckhardt, the director of this facility. I trust your trip was a pleasant one?" "It was. Thanks to your men, Mr. Eckhardt," Dubois replied pleasantly. "And thanks to you as well. You have my appreciation, Sir." The administrator smiled warmly. At least, the man had a sense of gratitude. This might lead to something provided it could be properly molded. "You're quite welcome, Mr. Dubois. Now, I was wondering if you might share some information with me?" "Information?" the contractor responded. "That depends upon what you want." Eckhardt frowned. Perhaps, this man might not be such an easy mark after all. Still, he pushed, "I was wondering about a story I heard concerning the circumstances leading to your...unfortunate incarceration. From what I understand, your children beat on you." The guest tensed angrily. Would everyone taunt him with this information? "Yes, it's true. They ganged up on me." "Did they do anything unusual?" Eckhardt probed, straightening his glasses. Granted, he already suspected that the man's children were mutants, but he wanted to hear it for himself. "Don't worry, we only want to help them." "Yes," the angry visitor admitted. "They had some sort of freakish powers. My daughter's disappeared, but my son's down in the Southwest. If you can help him, I'd be grateful." The white haired man nodded reassuringly, "I think we can help him. Don't worry about that, Mr. Dubois. Meanwhile, why don't you go with Mr. Slattery for some food and rest? After a while, I'll let you know if any progress is made." After his visitor left the room, he entered the computerized database, searching for items concerning the man's son. It seemed that David Dubois, the man in question, was a respected medieval history professor with a healthy vita. However, both he and his wife, Angela, ended up in mysterious circumstances on a regular basis. Scanning news wire services, he was convinced that the academic was indeed a possible mutant. "Don't worry, Mr. Dubois. I'll send my best after him indeed," Eckhardt promised to the spot where his guest had stood. With that, he rose and stared out the observation window toward the activity below. Yes, a new day was starting and already, it was proving constructive. *** [The Sanctuary, Jersey Coastline, Two Hours Earlier] Within the concealed facility, everything was dark, and the five residents lay asleep, resting for the new day's challenges. For Mutant X, this meant protecting the abnormal offspring of Geneomax's genetic experiments. During the past week, the team had foiled two more attempts by Eckhardt to capture their cohorts. Now, they were hoping to lie low for a day and collect their thoughts. Thrashing in her bed, the team's empath, Emma diLauro, couldn't sleep. For the past week, her mind had been filled with strange dreams linked to a man she didn't know. She had felt his emotions rolling, his anger surging like a gigantic tidal wave. Three nights ago, there had been a fight of some sort with monsters resembling vampires. During that conflict, she saw the man split in two as both light and dark images of him fought the invaders. Then, there was this dream. Once again, the mysterious man and his dark twin fought a vampire. Again, she felt the emotional bobbing, but this time, it was much more severe. Something hard fell on him. He was hurting...no wait...there was an inner burning. Then, the darkness consumed him and he turned on the other, reducing him to nothing in a furious tantrum of pure spite and fury. When the deed had been done, he screamed, releasing a burst of dark energy in all directions. "No!" she exclaimed fearfully, sitting up suddenly, her hands and forehead drenched in sweat. Her eyes were bulged open. From the darkness next to her, a voice asked, "Emma? Are you all right?" "Shalimar, I'm sorry," the frightened telepath shuddered. "It happened again." "The guy with the split personality again, huh?" Shalimar Fox inquired. She also knew of these visions due to the fact that her roommate talked in her sleep. A burst of anger rushed through the feral mutant as she allowed her eyes to flash yellow. Nobody hurt her friends like this. "Now, he has his mind on someone else, not me. Obviously, he has some issues to deal with," Emma tried to defend the dream-man. "Obviously," Shalimar muttered low. Just then, a knocking came from the door. "Yeah?" "Shalimar? Emma?" Adam's voice called through the door. "Is everything all right in there?" The feral cast her roommate a knowing glace. Sooner or later, she needed to tell him about her visions. "Are you going to tell him?" she asked. Emma nodded and replied, "Adam, you know those weird reports on Proxy Blue from yesterday? I think I know something, but I'd hate to disturb the guys this early." "Don't worry," he chuckled in an effort to hide his unease. "We've all been sitting on pins and needles lately. The sooner we get Eckhardt's strategies unraveled, the sooner we can relax for a while. See you two in about 30 minutes." After he left, the two roommates rose from their beds and headed for the showers. It was going to be another long day. Chapter 2 Jesse Kilmartin sat at the table in the midst of the Sanctuary's living area, muddling over reasons why Adam would have rousted them so early. The chat boards and email lines had been full of stories lately of weird things happening in Europe and the Middle East, but the satellite hadn't picked up any abnormal activity in the area. "Strange," he wondered, stretching and running his fingers through his dirty blonde colored hair. "This guy must be really good at covering his tracks whoever he is." "Not that good if you ask me," another male voice countered from the floor above. Brennan Mulray trudged his way down the stairs. "If he's allowing himself to get noticed like this." Looking at the coffee maker in the corner, he grinned, "You've got the grounds set up, water in the thing, and it isn't going. Let me guess, you want me to start it, right?" "This is a team effort, right?" his friend grinned. The thin black haired man descended to ground level and shrugged, "You just want me to do the dirty work. Oh well, think fast!" Rotating his hands around each other, first sparks and then, full-blown electrical current flowed between them. After building up a sufficient charge, he fired a bolt at his seated friend. Jesse smiled and concentrated, turning himself intangible. The bolt phased through him, hitting the appliance, and starting the coffee flow. "Not bad for early morning," Brennan yawned, joining the other at the table. "Still, it would've been nice having the coffee ready for me and the others." The computer geek sighed. "Give him a break," Shalimar advised with a saucy smile on her face for she enjoyed the bantering almost as much as they did. Then, putting on her most serious look, she added, "This is serious, guys." "Did Emma have another vision?" the electrical mutant probed, betraying a slight bit of concern. "Oh yeah. I'd say a full-blown nightmare," she affirmed. "She woke me up with it." "Sorry about this, everyone," Emma apologized, walking into the room. Behind her, a black haired man with similar colored clothes and a focused expression followed her into the room. "Hey, this isn't your fault," Brennan assured her. "Adam, what's going on?" Jesse asked. Their leader turned to the panel behind him. Pushing a few buttons, he brought up a visual of some tests he had been running. "I just ran a diagnostic on Emma. She's okay so that alleved my first thought. Then, I noticed that the computer had picked up something on the Proxy Blue broadcast last night." Pressing still other buttons, he commanded, "Replay file." The computer screen turned blue with a pink square in the middle. Within the square, a CGI image of a woman came into focus with fair skin and black hair with a streak of white running through it. As usual, she had a hard frown on her face and recounted, "These days keep getting weirder and weirder, I gotta tell you. Yesterday, we had two items for the record books. First, for no apparent reason, the whole waterfront area of Istanbul, Turkey was cordoned off to visitors until just about three hours ago. An eyewitness who snuck through the barrier recounted a battle taking place between two men for most of the night. At least, they seemed like men at first. According to the witness, one changed into...get this...a vampire and threw a huge chunk of masonry at the other guy, burying him in the rubble. Somehow, the second guy survived and changed as well. He became super enraged, somehow blasted the vampire with his hands repeatedly, driving him into the cobblestones. Then, in an act of barbarity, he staked the other over and over, leaving the sun to finish the defeated vampire off." The empath glanced amazedly at the screen, "That's him! The man in my vision!" "Well, at least, we know something now," Jesse commented, plugging his laptop into the dataport next to him. Running his fingers over the keyboard, he enlarged the image of the battle scene from the screen. Simultaneously, he assessed the mutant database and patched the image into it. 30 seconds of data crunching later, it came up empty. "Try the regular news board," Adam suggested. Upon doing so, the computer genius saw a string of files scroll across the screen. "Whoa!" he jumped back. "Man, that's a bigger rap sheet than mine!" Brennan exclaimed. The oldest of the group, scratched his chin, watching the files run across the screen. "I actually looked at most of these accounts last night. Most of these stories pertain to defending himself although he has a really bad tendency to attract trouble. The later stories are fuzzy. There's something about the man that I can't put my finger on. But, we cannot let anyone with that combination of ability and rage fall into Eckhardt's hands. Speaking of which, Jesse, can you start the recording again?" The density mutant nodded and let Proxy continue her speal. The image continued, "If things weren't strange enough, it seems that justice isn't getting any better either. Last night, a proven child abuser, Stuart Dubois, disappeared from the Northampton County Jail. While the guards weren't able to remember anything, the security cameras caught three men in suits, overcoats, and shades escorting the prisoner out of the facility. If anyone knows anything, please feel free to call the information hotline. Keep your eyes and ears open. Thanks." With that, the recording ended. "GSA," Emma muttered. "Terrific." "So, Adam, where is this David Dubois guy exactly?" Shalimar inquired. "According to the computer, he lives in Tucson, AZ where he teaches medieval history and also has served as a librarian at the university down there," he replied. "Tucson?" Jesse asked. "Isn't that where the cellular mutation conference is going on next week? You think you might be able to speak with him at that point?" "The thought crossed my mind," Adam indicated. "His wife, Angela, is going to be one of my co-panelists. Unfortunately, she's going to be following Eckhardt and me at that session. I want us all to be close by the campus in case the GSA tries to grab her. Meantime, let's get ready to head down there. I want to do some more training today." The others groaned good-naturedly. Those sessions could be harrowing, but, given the forces conspiring against them, necessary for their survival. Chapter 3 [Tucson Two days later] The sky over the Sonoran desert was just starting to light up with the first rays of dawn. Inside of the Dubois household, everyone was starting to stir for another day's living. Since their return from England, Dave and Angie had been relaxed. He had finally wrestled the 300 lb. gorilla off of his back when he defeated Bertrand du Dijon, the head of the vampire Enforcers, in Istanbul. "Hopefully, we can get back to normal now. I've had enough of monsters and angels for quite a while," he muttered. Then, he felt a pillow whack him in the head, followed by his wife's giggling, "And what about me, tough guy? Had enough of this angel, hmm?" "Never," he chuckled, kissing her ear, "C'mere!" He playfully wrestled her down to the mattress. "I love you, Dr. Dubois, he stating, kissing her again. "And I you," she beamed. "So, how are you going to try and kill yourself this week?" "I thought we'd take some time off from that kind of stuff," he shrugged. "Oh really?" she cracked. "My husband's going to play it safe? This I have to see!" "Hey, I'm still beat from the fight with Dijon," he complained, pointing to his wrapped midsection. "We have some time yet before we really have to get up," she smiled. "I could take a look at it...." He grinned and kissed her a third time. This was the best they had felt in a long, long time. **** The drive across town to the U of A went really quickly. After dropping Angie off at the UMC, Dave parked by the Main Library and, accompanied by Eve and Francesca, headed for that facility. "What are you going to say to Caitlin?" Eve asked. "I don't know. I'm going to let her do the talking," he shrugged. "She understands why we went there and what we had to attend to. Period." "Well, we've got classes to teach," his cousin stated. "If you need to talk later, Dave, we're here." "Absolutely," the Religion professor indicated. "Please stop by after your classes if you'd like." "Thanks," he expressed and walked into the library. Walking by the circulation desk and up the stairs, the professor proceeded past his part-time colleagues down to the Dean's office. He walked into the lobby where Mary-Sue McAllister waved to him. "David?" the secretary asked. "How are you doing?" "I'm okay. The trip was something else, but hey, it's time to get back to the grind," he shrugged good-naturedly. "Great. Caitlin's waiting to see you if you'd like to talk with her," she indicated. "Sounds good," he agreed. She buzzed the intercom. Immediately, the inner door opened and Caitlin walked out. "David, I was glad to hear you're back. How are you doing?" "I survived," he shrugged. "And Dijon?" "A pile of ash scattered across the Middle East," he noted. From his bag, he produced a finely polished pewter urn. "Here are some of them right here." Seeing her nervousness, he apologized, "Sorry, Caitlin, I didn't come here to brag. I just wanted to prove he's gone. He's gone...." His eyes began to water. The dean hugged her associate and soothed, "It's okay. The demon had tried to kill you for fifteen years. You just need to move on. Continue being a great father, professor, librarian, and man. We're all so proud of you, but...." He squinted at her in confusion, "But what?" "Your flourish at the end of the battle grabbed some attention. I thought you had indicated that the face-off would be kept away from the cameras," she told him. He gaped, "According to what I heard, it was supposed to be. What? Who?" "Somebody snuck through the cordon and gave an account that's been all over the newsnets for the past two days. Fortunately, Lydia's been explaining to me and to some other high powered folks around here what she saw," she reported. He winced and grumbled, "Some security. If the remaining Enforcers weren't on edge already, now they'll really be pushing things. I put that little show on for them to let them know what would happen if they came after me or anyone else that I cared about. I'll need to check with Lydia. By the way, where's the manuscript?" "In the safe where I promised it would be," she smiled. "David, I wish that you could have a normal life, but these things keep popping up." "Maybe if the folks from the Orientation Office would call me about helping out with the student tours, I might be able to do something to get my mind off of this mess?" he interjected. She nodded. Fifteen years earlier, he had been an award winning peer advisor for the freshman tour center on campus. Maybe, he was right, and perhaps, the items in the folder might be just what the doctor ordered. "Actually, I did get a call from them about you this morning. What would you think about showing a couple of student journalists/potential recruits around for a couple of days? They're from Kansas and get this; their assignment deals with the medical conference coming up in three days. However, they're both into History and the Humanities. When Dean Armas asked me who I felt we should give them to, I recommended you. He agreed. Well?" "Sure, if they wouldn't mind hearing a couple of my lectures not to mention one apiece from Eve and Francesca. I figure we can get them into the classroom mix, give them a sample of what to expect, and then, take them out for a good meal," he proposed. "That was what you originally suggested. The administration loves the small town atmosphere in the big time university angle. Then, it's settled. They're coming in on Thursday morning. Would you mind picking them up at the airport?" she confirmed. "Absolutely. Angie'll need the quiet time to prep for her talk. Meantime, I'll pick up..." he started. "Clark Kent and Lana Lang," she completed his thought, handing him the files. "Sounds great," he agreed. "Do you need me to do anything?" "Thanks, but we've already taken care of it. They'll be here at 9:00 on Thursday morning, okay?" Caitlin concluded. "Sure," he replied pleasantly. "Well, I've got a class coming up in an hour, so I have to run. Thanks again, Caitlin. I appreciate this." "Anytime," she noted, returning to her work. He walked out of the door, left the library, and headed for the Social Sciences Building and his class. **** That night, before Dave went home, he walked out of his office, and headed toward the plaque located just behind the Douglass Building. Once there, he dusted off the metal sheet bearing the name of his mentor and the former's wife, and placed a flower in front of it. "Hi," he stated. "It's me, David. As I'm sure you know, I took care of business in Istanbul. Dijon will never trouble anybody ever again, but I still feel empty. I miss you two and your guidance. Hopefully, I can be there for other students the way you were for me." "Nice speech," Lydia complemented as she approached him. "Thanks," he replied pleasantly. "For that and for helping out with the administration around here." "Marie and I are still putting together the facts behind what we saw," the Middle Eastern scholar told him. "I knew about your powers and your other personality. I've seen you unleash him before in class, but never like that." "That's because I'm sick of being hunted, Lydia," he commented. "I sent them a message. Besides, he killed another important person too in Pauline. Her murder needed to be accounted for as well." "If you say so," she sighed in confusion. "Sometime, you'll need to tell me the whole story, okay? Don't worry; your secret's still safe. The administration figures some crackpot put you in the middle of that battle. Well, I need to be getting on to Mass. I'll see you soon, huh?" "Sure," he nodded, waving as she left, leaving him to inspect the memorial and head toward the car across campus. Chapter 4 Across town at KRAN, LaCroix strolled into the booth and performed a sound check. With his duties as an Elder occupying his time, the Roman had neglected his audience over the past ten days. However, everything was solved, and he could return to his affairs at least for the present. Flipping a switch, he started into his monologue. "Good Evening, Gentle Listeners. It is I, the Nightcrawler, who has returned from a dark sojourn to you all. I trust you were all very observant in my absence. I know I was, and I missed you all, but when duty calls, one must listen. My children needed me to settle a dispute of sorts, and so, I did," he started. An unpleasant snort came from outside of the booth. While mortal ears wouldn't have been able to pick up on it, the Elder caught it quite well. Turning, he saw David Dubois standing there, staring intensely at him. Scowling in disgust, he continued, "In fact, it's such a pleasant night outside, why don't you all go outside for a few minutes? I'll be right back. I promise." Muting the microphone, he removed his earphones, and stood to his full height. Opening the door, he asked, "And what do you want?" "Believe me, it wasn't the displeasure of your company," the professor declared, folding his arms across his chest. "We have a problem." That statement got LaCroix's attention. "A problem you say? And what pray tell is that?" he baited. Dubois chuckled darkly, "Didn't my little object lesson register on you at all?" Leaning closely to the vampire's face, he glared right into the other's eyes, and snarled, "You're an annoyance. And with your latest little screw up, you might've endangered us all." "Latest screw up?" the DJ asked. "Yes, I thought the duel was supposed to be kept secret, LaCroix," the visitor noted. "It was." "So, why has it been all over the Internet chatboards for the past two days then? With images and everything?" Dave pushed, dropping a zip disc on the console in front of his adversary. "Go ahead. Look at it." LaCroix shook his head derisively. The mortal was pushing his luck badly. Nobody marched into his domain with such impunity. Still, he knew that the medievalist would never show up like this unless he had a good reason. Installing the disc and opening the files, the Proxy Blue playback appeared on his computer screen. For five minutes, the CGI image babbled about the mysterious battle and displayed grainy images of the contest. "Impossible. Yet, here it is." "Sure is," Dave sighed. "So, what do we do about it? They know about it at the U of A. You've put the Community at risk." "As if you care," the DJ scoffed, drinking from the bloodwine. "I do. I care about Janette, Nick, Alyce, Vachon, and the other immortals under your watch. Now, answer my question, Old Man," the professor insisted. For a moment, the vampire's eyes went yellow and his fangs descended. "Don't you dare address me in that manner! I don't care who you are, Dubois!" The mortal laughed and produced a bright orange colored ball, "You should care. As if I would come in here unprepared. As for your tirade, I give it 1 1/2 stars. Now, answer the question!" "I will have to consult with my colleagues," the DJ commented. "Now, will you get out of my booth?" "Why not?" Dave shrugged. "Have a good show spreading whatever crap you got up your sleeve tonight." With that, he left the studio and drove away. For a long minute, LaCroix shook with rage. Nobody talks to him like that! No one. "There will come a time, Dubois," he vowed. Taking another draught from the glass, he watched the program again. While the professor was annoying, he did reveal the security breach. Accordingly, Constantine would receive a stern lecture at the next opportunity concerning this issue. However, as the program ran on, the vampire DJ noted something else, which his impertinent visitor didn't see. Somehow, his father had escaped prison. "Interesting," the master vampire chuckled. "This could have a great deal of potential. A great deal indeed." **** Nick pulled the Caddy into a parking spot behind the precinct building. It had been over a week since his last shift. Accordingly, he knew Ramirez would have several cases waiting for him as soon as he got to his desk. "Might as well go face the music," he sighed and walked into the bullpen. As soon as he had cleared the doors, Chris Novak cleared her throat and greeted, "Good evening, Detective." "Sergeant," he replied pleasantly. "What can I do for you?" "Relax," she smiled. "I was just saying hello. The captain will want to talk with you later, but, as far as I know, everything's okay. Detectives Brown and Schanke held the fort while you were gone." He grinned in relief and kept heading for his desk. Sure enough, a few folders were waiting for him there. Also glancing at him expectantly, Tracy twiddled a pencil in the air. "Tracy, how's everything?" he asked. "Great," she noted. "We solved about three cases while you were traveling. Other than that, life was pretty much the same as always. Has everything been resolved?" "Dave took care of business," he revealed in a low voice. "But he ticked off LaCroix in the process." She winced. "That's not healthy." "Tell me about it," he concurred, shaking his head. "Well, Vachon and Janette kept everything in order here," she commented. "Nothing stirred due to LaCroix's directive." "I can imagine," he agreed. From long experience, he knew that defying the Elder meant a painful death. At some point, he would remind his academic friend of that. At that moment, Ramirez stuck his head out of the office, bellowing, "Brown! Miles! Get down to 36th and Campbell. We just received a tip! Schanke and Dr. LeBeau are both en route." As one, the partners stood and rushed out to the Caddy. Punching the accelerator, Nick drove them toward the scene. **** Fifteen minutes later, Natalie squatted on the pavement next to the homicide victim. From what she could tell, the woman, an African- American in her early twenties, was stabbed from behind. In addition, she noticed a fresh scar on the back of her neck along the spinal cord. Something had been there, but had been ripped out in a hurry. Scribbling notes to herself for the autopsy, the ME took in every detail. "It seems pretty open and shut, Natalie," Schanke indicated, looking about the dark alleyway. Despite the fact that the area was bathed in siren lights and surrounded with their colleagues, the souvlaki-loving detective felt nervous for some reason. Something wasn't right here. "What is that along the neck?" "A scar of some kind, Schank," she replied. "I won't know anything until I can get her back to the lab." She noticed the Caddy's arrival, stating, "Here are your partners now. Maybe, you guys can find something to help me. If you need me, I'll be at the lab." Schanke studied her face carefully. While he knew that she and Nick were having problems, he didn't know things were so bad that she wanted to get away from him. Despite her earlier protests, he decided to talk with his immortal partner at the first opportunity. "Sure," he agreed. She nodded, hurrying past the two newly arrived detectives, and silently getting into her car. Driving away, she wanted to put as much distance between her and Nick as possible. Despite her successful relationship with Steve Petersen, being around the vampire detective was proving harder than she initially thought. *** Back at the scene, Tracy quizzed the others, "What was that about?" "I'd like to know as well," Schanke chimed in. "Nick?" "I don't know. She and I are sorting out some details," he shrugged. " 'Sorting out some details'?" the blonde detective probed. "C'mon, Nick. From the way Natalie just reacted, I'd say she's giving Humpty Dumpty a run for his money right now." The former Crusader gritted his teeth and turned to his two colleagues. "We're working things out, okay? Leave it alone! Let's focus on the case. Is there anything in the alley of interest?" His mortal partners relented, sensing that he was getting too testy at the moment. Schanke started, "We're still doing a sweep of the area. Forensics has nada so far." Nick nodded, focusing on his surroundings. Scanning the alley with his enhanced senses, he spied something at the area's far end. "Be right back." Rushing to the spot, he stooped over a storm grate. After looking about to insure that nobody was watching, he pried it loose and looked below. There, he found a bloody blade, a torn, bloody leather glove, and a half of a black plastic disk resembling a small hockey puck. "Best bag this stuff for later," he decided. After securing the materials, he rejoined the others. "Find anything?" Tracy probed. "Maybe," he indicated, holding up the bagged materials. "Hopefully, Nat can get a match on this knife and the glove. The plastic thing was with it. I bagged it just in case." "Careful, Pardner," Schanke chuckled. "Remember what you stuck me with during the Weiss case? It might be a piece of a kid's toy." "I'll keep that in mind," Nick replied flatly, a frown noticeably cutting off any further discussion. "I didn't find anything else down there, so let's get this evidence back to the precinct." His associates nodded, following him back out of the alley toward the Caddy and Schanke's parked stationwagon. Although it looked like another slashing, this case bothered Nick for some reason. Given everything else, which had happened lately, he knew better than to ignore his instincts. "So much for a quiet shift back," he sighed as he and Tracy pulled away from the scene. Chapter 5 Dave pulled the Subaru into the space beside Angie's Taurus and shut the engine down. In his mind, he puzzled over why everything needed to be so difficult. Reaching into his satchel, he took out his duplicate copy of the zip disc he had left with LaCroix. "Why can't people mind their own business?" he groused, getting out of the car and walking up to his front door. Just as he got there, Eve opened it and greeted, "Hi, David. Francesca's just putting dinner on the table. Nice timing." "I know," he replied with a bit of guilt, hoping that his side trip hadn't kept everyone waiting for too long. After entering the apartment, he hung up his coat, and made his way to the kitchen where his wife and cousin were watching him. Karen and Lauren stared at him with big eyes. They all knew that he had something else on his mind. "Hi, Princess," he greeted, kissing his wife on the cheek. "How'd your day go?" "Okay," she responded matter of factly. "Dr. F. was still concerned about the trip. By the way, Dave, we've got a problem I'd like to talk to you about." Taking the disc out of his pocket, he waved it about, stating, "I already know. Caitlin made this copy of the Internet broadcast. Some show called Proxy Blue picked up on my tete a tete with Dijon." "I thought the area was closed off," Francesca pushed, setting the ziti on the table. "So did I," Eve wondered. "What happened?" "Apparently, somebody cracked LaCroix's security net, took pictures with a digital camera, and spliced the footage into a movie format," he theorized, removing the diced cucumber and bell pepper mixture from the refrigerator, and adding olive oil, wine vinegar, and spices. "Anyhow, the folks at the U of A know about it." "So, where have you been? I was worried someone was harassing you," Angie expressed. "Checking on the quality of the security," he shrugged, sitting down and pouring himself a glass of soda. "He didn't even know about it. Twit." The women all looked at each other in total amazement. Finally, his wife threw him a stern glare, lecturing, "You mean you went down to that radio station and deliberately provoked LaCroix?" He returned her glance with one of his own. "I needed to get to the bottom of it. Besides, he was the one who was spitting at me like an angry Siamese cat. I just pointed out what his fledgling did wrong. He needed to know about it." "And did he challenge you?" the Amazon princess asked. "No, although he did make his customary threats to my health and welfare," the medievalist deadpanned, sipping on his drink. "We can talk more about this later if you want," he added, throwing the twins a glance. "Besides, there was some good news out of today." "Really?" Francesca asked. "What is it?" "Remember when I put in for the Faculty mentoring program?" he asked. "Yes. Oh, Dave! Did they pick you?" Angie exclaimed happily. She knew he'd been waiting for this opportunity since they started in their current positions. "Uh huh. Apparently, there are a couple of kids coming here from Kansas for a double purpose trip. They're here on assignment for their school newspaper to cover your conference, Angie. However, they've applied here for next Fall and they want to sit in on a few classes in the Humanities. I figured that they can sample one from each of us, if that's okay with Francesca and Eve," he explained. Turning to the other ladies, he asked, "What do you think?" "I don't have a problem with it," Francesca agreed. "Nor do I," Eve indicated. "When is this going to happen?" "Thursday or Friday morning," Dave explained, spooning out salad to everyone. "According to Caitlin, the kids are set to arrive about 9:00 on Thursday morning. I'm going to pick them up and usher them up to the U of A. Once there, I'll see what they want to do. What time is your session at?" "2:30. You should have plenty of time," his wife indicated, ladeling up pasta. "And, of course, please let them know that they're welcome to come here afterwards." "Absolutely," he agreed, biting into a forkful of pasta himself. "Mmm, magnifique!" "Thank you," his cousin smiled warmly. "It's nice to know I'm appreciated. My students looked as if they were ready to doze off in my lecture this morning." "Funny, I don't seem to have that problem. I must have great students," Eve wondered. "Or perhaps, it has something to do with you being the former Messenger of Eli," he teased. "Powers of conversion and persuasion provide music to soothe the savage beasts." "I'll take that as a complement," the former Messenger retorted, sipping on her lemonade. "You might have something there, David. Then again, I've seen you with your students. You have a mixed bag, don't you?" "Yeah. I'm going to take the kids to my upper division class. The World Civ. kids are just too crass and rude to make a good impression," the medievalist noted. "Speaking of the latter, I'm sending them over to the library to work on their papers during Thursday's session. Winnie offered to help them out with research questions. Since Caitlin's after her to get more reference practice, I figure this is as good a time as any." "Sounds good," Francesca agreed. "And you know you have our instructional classes next week, right?" "Yes," he agreed, biting into his ziti. "By the way, who are these kids?" Angie asked. "Their names are Clark Kent and Lana Lang. According to the file, they seem like really bright students and are very interested in the university," he said. "I'm sure," his wife nodded. "I'll be sure to let Dr. F. know to keep a couple of seats open for you as well as for Clark and Lana." "Thanks, Princess. You know I would never miss one of your papers," he smiled. "I know," she beamed. "And I'll appreciate the moral support. With all of our recent travels, I haven't been keeping up as much as I should on my own research. Hopefully, I can do as well as Drs. Eckhardt and Zero." "I'm sure you will," Eve assured her. "Worrying about it won't get you anywhere." "Besides, you have us to cheer you on. What's the worst that can happen?" he inquired. Just then, a knock came from the door. Dave got up to answer it and sensed Steve Petersen on the other side. "Come in, Steve." Concentrating, he used his powers to open the door. "Thanks, Dubie," the FBI agent sighed, walking slowly into the apartment, and hanging up his coat. "Steve, what's wrong?" Angie asked, noticing their friend's somber expression. "I don't want to ruin your dinner. It can wait for an hour," the visitor indicated. Dave folded his arms across his chest and studied the other man. He knew when something was eating the agent. "C'mon, Steve. Spill it." The agent looked at his hosts anxiously, requesting, "Please stay calm, everyone. I got some bad news when I got into work this morning. Dave, your father escaped from jail. They don't know where he is." The history professor glared at the other man, "What? I thought that they were going to put him away! What the heck happened?" "Apparently, someone paid his bail. Anyhow, as soon as he got out, he hopped in a car and nobody has seen him since. The plates were from New York State," he revealed. "And I trust you ran a check on the plate number?" Dave inquired. "We did, but came up empty. Apparently, it was a government car, but the specific agency wasn't listed." "What would they want with your father?" Eve wondered. "Know of any anti-mutant groups within Congress?" the medievalist replied. "With the sentiment growing in that body, quite a few actually. There's a rumor concerning a top-secret research facility dealing with that issue. I'm still checking on it," Steve reported. Just then, his phone rang, "Petersen here." "Steve, it's Natalie. We have an unusual case here. How soon can you get to the precinct?" the ME requested. "I'm at Dave and Angie's right now. Is 20 minutes okay?" he answered. "Why don't you bring them? This will concern them as well," she noted. "They were just sitting down to dinner, Natalie. I'd hate to disturb them," he doubted. Noticing Angie signaling for the phone, he handed it to her. "Hi, Natalie. This is Angie. What's up?" the oncologist inquired. "I was just telling Steve that we brought in an unusual body from a murder scene tonight. Trust me, you and Dave will want to see this. Besides, I'll need your help in cross checking something from it," the coroner indicated. "We'll be right there," she sighed. "Let us get a plate of ziti down and we'll leave in about 5 minutes." For his part, her husband had already wolfed down his dinner. Given everything else, which had happened lately, this situation wouldn't wait. "Okay," Natalie agreed. "See you then. I'll let Chris Novak know." Handing the phone back to Steve, she packaged a plate to eat on the way. "Dave, would you mind driving?" she asked. "Not at all," he agreed. "Let's go. Eve, we'll be back ASAP." "Right," she concurred. "I'll get them put to bed." After giving the twins a kiss apiece, the two parents climbed into the Subaru and sped westward followed closely be Steve in his own car. "What do you suppose is going on?" she inquired, between mouthfuls of lukewarm pasta. "I suppose we'll find out soon enough," he indicated, albeit more securely than he felt at the moment. Chapter 6 Meantime, Nick and Tracy were on their way back from the homicide scene. The drive had been a silent one as both partners were sorting through their own thoughts. To break the silence, he put the radio on, allowing LaCroix's voice to permeate the night. "Ah yes, Gentle Listeners," the Elder began. "Since it's a school night, tonight's lesson is not to trust sensitive matters to anyone other than yourself. On two occasions, I have done so. Both times, the task was bungled badly. I have talked with you all about the miserable child's tantrum years ago. Recently, I had charged another with securing privacy for a rather sensitive affair. Unfortunately, one person made it through my preparations. Whoever you are, you should have minded your own business. After the rather unpleasant visit I received earlier tonight, I discovered the situation. Did you ever trust someone with a task very important to you only to see it mishandled? The lines are open...." Tracy turned to Nick and asked, "What's he talking about?" He thought about his former master's words for a minute before answering, "He's obviously referring to Dave. The tantrum was the first battle with the Enforcers. The 'sensitive matter' concerns the duel. Someone must have gotten through Constantine's cordon and recorded the whole affair." "And let me guess, the visitor was Dave as well?" she theorized. "Judging from his tone, I'd say so," he replied. "That's a rather gutsy move, even for him," she shivered. "Especially given LaCroix's attitude toward him right now," he acknowledged. "They declared mutual war on each other. Given Dave's outlook, I don't think he really cares if LaCroix threatens him." "Yeesh!" she winced. "If those two go at it, I suppose that means Xena gets involved too?" "Along with Cybelle," he informed her. "We need to keep them from confronting each other." "So what exactly happened in Istanbul? I have to admit your intruder shot some interesting footage, but it wasn't clear," she told him. Turning into an empty lot, he hit the brakes, screeching the Caddy to a halt. "What footage? Tracy, what's going on?" "You don't know?" she queried. Then, judging by the shock on his face, she continued, "No, I guess not. Well, since the day after the grudge match, there's been a video piece circulating throughout the chat rooms on the Internet." "Damn!" he hissed, his eyes turning yellow. "If that's true, the whole Community's at risk!" Dialing the car phone, he looked for answers. "This is the Nightcrawler. Speak, Child," LaCroix replied, a smile growing on his lips after realizing whom it was on the other end. "Umm, yes. I was wondering to what you were referring just now," Nick inquired. "Answers aren't free, my Boy. You should know that," the DJ toyed with him, clearly enjoying the moment. "But, since this concerns all of my children, I'll tell you. Ask the Child if he'll spare you a copy. Now, I have to get back to my other listeners. Please feel free to stop by later if you wish." Nick hung up as well, shaking his head in silent confusion. "Earth to Nick, Earth to Nick. Excuse me, there's static on the line," his partner interjected. "Huh?" he asked. "I'm still looking for an answer to my question about Dave Dubois." "He managed to fight Dijon for the most part. His dark side emerged after the rubble fell on him," he recounted. "Yeah," she shuddered. "And just as with Divia, Dijon was blasted into oblivion. Remind me not to tick him off to badly." "Right," he nodded, pulling out of the lot and resuming their drive to the precinct. He needed answers, and that was the place to find them. **** Natalie gazed into the microscope once more. While the woman on her examination table looked normal, her blood was doing something unusual. Despite the fact that a DNA analysis still needed to be done, her work with Nick's condition had prepped her to recognize other irregularities. At that moment, a knock came from the door and Doug White, a patrolman, stuck his head into the room. "Excuse me, Dr. LeBeau? Agent Petersen and the Duboises are here to see you." "Thanks, Doug," she accepted. "Come in, guys, and close the door." Steve walked over to her side and kissed her cheek. "Hey, what's up?" "There's something odd about this case," the coroner asserted. "Angie, take a look at the sample, would you?" "Okay," she agreed and did so. Looking up from the microscope, she asked, "I know it's been a few years since med school, but since when do humans have a chromosomes doing that?" "They don't usually," the ME indicated. "Unless they're like you and Dave." "This woman had special powers?" Dave asked. "I can't say one way or the other," Natalie continued. "Only that she was extra special. I'm waiting for Nick and Tracy to get back here with some evidence from the scene. Between that and the skin samples I took from underneath her fingernails, I'm hoping for a match." He glanced at the other two women anxiously. "What's it now, open season on people like us? It never seems to end," he muttered. "You can say that again," his wife concurred grimly. "I hope we can get to the bottom of this before any more killings happen." He nodded knowingly. "Any chance of getting the FBI involved?" "I don't think you want them to get into this. At least not yet," the agent disagreed. "Let's try to do this on our own first." "Then, let's hope the evidence which Nick, Tracy, and Schanke are bringing with them fingers the murderer," the professor added. "You can say that again," Nick added, walking into the room. "Did you find anything, Nat?" "Yeah, I managed to get some skin under the fingernails," the coroner indicated. "Hopefully, I can get some blood from that stuff you brought back." "Whether it's from the murderer, the victim, or both," Tracy stated, dropping the bag on the table next to the corpse. "I don't want another uprising like that racial debate." "Speaking of an uprising," the vampire added. "What were you doing, Dave? Confronting LaCroix earlier tonight?" "Here we go again," Dave muttered, shaking his head. "I've already received this lecture tonight, Nick." "Well, I'm going to give it to you again," the detective continued. "What were you doing? You know LaCroix wants to kill you. So you go into the radio station and interrupt his show? Just to bait him?" "Well, maybe...just maybe, if your little brother didn't screw up his job, the trip wouldn't have been necessary. Because of that, more than a few people whom I didn't want to know about me now do. Besides, I'm not afraid of that sleaze," the professor snapped. "You should be more respectful of him," Natalie added, typing away on the computer keyboard. "Look," Dave hissed. "I know who and what he is! But that doesn't mean I have to cower before him!" "I give up," Angie shrugged. "Careful, Chief," Steve advised. "This isn't your father you're dealing with." "I know that!" the professor roared, his darkness starting to percolate toward the surface. "But, LaCroix's been after my ass since that night in the lecture hall! Almost fifteen years, Steve! Fifteen damn years of living with this shadow over my head! You weren't there when we met up again at the Raven." He hesitated for a second, shivering fiercely, and getting nervous glances from those around him. "I want him dead. He was the one who sicced Dijon and the Enforcers on the Samuelsohns and ultimately, on me! I'm sick of his bullshit! No more! NO...MORE!!!" His former classmate grabbed his arm, warning, "You're mortal, you know. He's not." "I know a few stakes which might disagree with that point," the medievalist disagreed. "Besides, I think others might have issues with him as well." "She would tell you to be strategic," his wife argued. "A frontal assault isn't always the best way." "We may have other problems right now," Natalie broke in while looking into the microscope. "What did you find?" Schanke asked, walking into the room. "I just typed the blood on the coat. They're both O negative," the ME reported. "The chromosome count matches as well from what I can tell. Guys, I think what Dave said is true. It's open season on you. All of you." Everyone stood where they were, shaking their heads sadly. When one fought the good fight, he or she was a target constantly. Dealing with that realization took some time, but, if one was to survive, then the knowledge needed to be accepted. For that, everyone noted that Dave was right in his directness. However, everyone also knew that Angie was right in that some strategy was needed as well. Finding the compromise was crucial for the future. Chapter 7 [Geneomax] Eckhardt reclined in his chair, studying his notes. When he received the invitation to speak on cellular anomalies at the cellular conference in Arizona, the prospect was less than tempting at first. Then, upon hearing that Adam would be speaking as well, he changed his mind. It would be so entertaining to have the opportunity to sway public opinion by implanting the seeds of doubt in the audience's minds. Yes, to see his former geneticist's hopes crushed would be a great triumph indeed. A buzz came from the door. Opening it, he discovered two field agents, a man and a woman, whom he had sent after a new mutant named Alicia Fallone. "Yes? I see you have returned," he stated. The man stepped forward. "Yes, Mr. Eckhardt. We..didn't get the Fallone woman." "She struggled and attracted attention," his female colleague continued. "As we went to put the governor on her, it broke off. We tried to subdue her, Sir, but we leaned on her a bit hard. She's dead." The administrator frowned. The woman's abilities would have made her a valuable GSA agent. "Did you bring her back for study at least?" His eyes were burning into the two subordinates' consciousness. "No. The police were right on top of us. We barely got out of there," the man stated. "I see," their boss shrugged, picking up two remote controls and depressing a button on each one. Instantly, the two agents were rolling on the floor, writhing in pain. For two minutes, Eckhardt allowed this dance to continue. He abhorred failure like this, especially when such errors left his organization open to public exposure. After he was satisfied, he switched the controls off again, allowing the agents to recover. Subdermal governors had their advantages. "Get ready to depart tomorrow. You're accompanying me back to Arizona along with Mr. Brown," Eckhardt warned. "And I will not tolerate any more excuses." "Yes, Sir," the two chorused and departed from the room, rubbing the back of their necks where the small plastic devices rested. Eckhardt sighed impatiently. Good help was so hard to find these days. At least, his guest was being cooperative and providing a great deal of information concerning the Dubois mutants. "A man who would betray his firstborn. Amazing," he remarked curiously. "Still, one doesn't need to look a gift horse in the mouth." At that moment, the door buzzed again. "Yes?" he asked. "Mr. Eckhardt, it's Stuart Dubois. I know you're busy, but might I have a minute?" Dubois requested. "Absolutely, Mr. Dubois," the host agreed, opening the door. "I was going to send for you in any event. I have news. We're taking a trip to Arizona tomorrow. I trust that you're ready." "I am," he grinned enthusiastically. Seeing his son get what was coming to him would make everything worth it. "Really? I wonder if you realize the implications of betraying family," Eckhardt started. "Awful business." The consultant glared at the white haired man in front of him. "What? Are you chickening out?" The administrator straightened himself and retorted plainly, "I would thank you not to address me in that way! I'll go after your son and daughter-in-law as I said I would!" Dubois backpedaled quickly, "Of course. My apologies." "Yes. Well, we all want these freaks off of the streets, but still, we must keep our passions in check, Mr. Dubois. Letting them get out of hand could have...great consequences," Eckhardt warned cryptically yet allowing his meaning to shine through. The guest nodded, "I'll be ready first thing tomorrow. About 6:00?" "That will be fine. Good evening, Mr. Dubois," the host concluded, turning away from him to study the anomalies in stasis on the level below his office. On the matter of his guest, he decided to have Mr. Sanderson keep an especially close eye on him. "It never hurts to be too careful." Dubois left the office quickly, scurrying for his room. There was a quiet menace to Eckhardt, which he understood, but didn't want to get in the way of. A great menace indeed. **** [Mutant X Sanctuary] Adam scanned the news files of every databank he could find. During the monthly check on all new mutants, one woman, Alicia Fallone, hadn't appeared. According to the Underground, she had never returned from an errand on the previous evening. As always, his mind considered the worst option, the GSA had kidnapped her. "We'll have to check on her after the conference is over," he decided, mumbling to himself. Jesse called, "Adam! Take a look at this!" The leader hurried over to the other's side. "What did you find out?" he asked. The computer genius sighed, "She's been found by the local authorities in Tucson, Adam. According to the police record, she was beaten badly and had a scar on the back of her neck." "No doubt caused by a subdermal governor," the older man concluded after scanning the report database. It was too soon for the coroner's official report, but hopefully, that could be taken care of as well. Although he wanted to give mutants a legal and safe living environment, sometimes that meant a little bit of subterfuge every now and again. "Something else to worry about down there." "You want us to hang with you tomorrow afternoon?" the density mutant inquired. "Let me think about that. I'll brief all of you during the trip. Since Eckhardt's going to be on the panel with me and Angela Dubois, you can bet the area'll be crawling with GSA agents," Adam noted. "You handle Eckhardt. We can take care of a few guys in the bad raincoats," Shalimar slurred, coming up the stairs with two steaming mugs of coffee. "I figured you could use these." "Thanks, Shalimar," Adam accepted, sipping from his cup. "Since we don't know exactly what we're getting into here, I would advise caution." "You smell a trap?" she probed. "With Eckhardt, one can never be too sure. As I just told Jesse, I'm leaving our options open at this point. Let Brennan and Emma know that I'll be briefing you once we're in the Double Helix. I'm not sure if we should try and contact David Dubois at the same time. Given his psychological history and abilities, he should be approached with caution. I want to avoid causing a scene at all costs. I'll be keeping an eye on his wife in case the GSA tries to grab her," the leader related. "Speaking of Eckhardt and the GSA, how's the speech coming?" she asked. Adam exhaled deeply and continued, "With everything else going on, I've managed to put together a few pieces here and there. This is one of the most important informational opportunities for the outside world to understand cellular anomalies. I can't let Eckhardt cause panic among those researchers." The feral mutant nodded knowingly. The more vital something was to mutantkind as a whole, the more Adam fretted over it. "You'll kick his tail, Adam. We have faith in you." "You don't know how much I appreciate that sentiment, Shalimar. Thank you. On that note, I think we should get some rest. Let the computers collect more data, Jesse. We'll analyze it on the way down. Good night," he concluded, heading toward the living quarters. The two mutants glanced at each other, wondering about what the team would be getting into on this trip. Neither liked surprises, and this expedition seemed chock full of them. **** Emma sat in her room, focusing on her surroundings, and allowing her mind to drift a bit. She had felt more psychic tremors coming from the Southwest. Concentrating on the negativity, an image formed in her mind of David Dubois once again. He was in a room with four...no six others, and they were arguing about something. As he was speaking, the empath noted that his image was blurring, a sign that the negativity was surfacing again. "How are we supposed to talk with him if he's that volatile?" she wondered aloud. "With caution, I'm afraid," Adam's voice replied through the crack in the door. "May I come in?" "Sure. I was just following up on some bad vibes I felt earlier tonight. I can't believe how much pain that man is in," she commented. "It's literally bleeding off of him." "After looking at his profile, I can understand it," he noted. "Did you find anything else?" "Wait," she requested, refocusing on the spot, but this time, between the speakers. "Yes, there's a body on the table. It's Alicia Fallone, Adam! What happened?" "She disappeared earlier tonight. The police found her a few hours ago. I had Jesse tap into their database. According to the initial report, she was beaten and left for dead," he reported. "She...had a scar in the back of her neck, and the detectives found a shred of a raincoat and a piece of the subdermal governor." The telepath closed her eyes and shook her head sadly. In the past six months since finding out who she was, Alicia had been a great help and a soothing presence in the adjustment to life as a new mutant. A tear creased her cheek. "I'm sorry," he soothed. "I know you two corresponded often. If it's any consolation, it's hard for me as well." She studied his face, noting his grim facade. He felt as though all of the mutant progeny of Geneomax were his children, and, just as with any parent, he was grieving as well. "Thank you, Adam. I appreciate it. Let's just stop the GSA from causing any more damage down there," she replied. "Absolutely," he agreed. "And I've got a big task for you as well. I'll fill you in on the flight down there." She nodded, "Sounds good. Well, if you'll excuse me, we've got an early start tomorrow. Good night." He smiled. She had certainly developed in her own inner strength since her arrival. "I'll see you then. Good night." With that, he left the room. Now that she was alone, Emma allowed the tears to flow for her friend. She would have to let out her sadness before the morning, so that she would be able to focus. Everyone would be counting on her. For some reason, she felt uneasy as if some other issue were waiting for them down there. "Calm down, Emma," she told herself. "You're an empath not a prophetess." Lying down on her bed, she created a bubble of tranquility for herself and slowly drifted off to sleep within it. Additional Note: This scenario takes place about three and a half years into the future of the current Smallville series. Chapter 8 [Smallville, Kansas--Two hours before the discussion in the morgue] Far away from the discussions occurring both to the east and west of him, Clark Kent sat in the coffee shop located in the heart of downtown, sipping on a lukewarm mocha, and waiting for his friends to show up. In between all of the events related to their senior year, he and his friends were busy with the editorial positions for "the Torch," the high school paper. On this particular night, Chloe, his long time friend and the editor in chief, had asked the editors to meet here. For his part, he hoped it would be a short meeting. He still needed to get home and pack for his trip in the morning. Just then, a voice cut into his reverie. "Hey, Clark. Spacing out on us again?" He looked up just as Chloe Sullivan and his other friend, Pete, slid into the booth seat across from him. "I'm fine. Just thinking about the trip is all." "So, are you psyched to get some time alone with Lana?" Pete pushed teasingly. He knew that his friend had watched their fellow editor for a while before they began dating almost two years before. "Pete, don't start," Chloe told him. She knew Clark had enough on his mind without them saying anything more about the subject. Besides, until they started dating, the editor in chief had held out hope that Clark would be her boyfriend instead of Lana's. But at least, they were all friends. "So are you ready for your trip?" "Everything's laid out on my bed, waiting to be thrown into my duffel bag," Clark revealed. "Dad's taking us to the airport early in the morning." "It's nice to know that we're both at the same point," Lana laughed, kissing him on the cheek and plopping herself down next to him. "I don't feel like I'll ever be ready." Chloe started, "Other than that, are you both ready? I mean this is an experience in the big city, and a major university. I would feel lost in your shoes." Lana shrugged, "Normally, I would. I mean visiting KU and Wisconsin seemed overwhelming. At least, Arizona has a personalized visit program." "Personalized?" Pete asked. "A professor will be picking us up at the airport and give us a snapshot of the experience. You know, a few classes, lunch in the Student Union, and we arranged to get into that conference as well," Clark added, taking another sip from his drink. "That sounds so cool. Some benefits and a chance to see how things really work," Chloe replied. "And you touched on the reason for my asking you all down here." The other three teens glanced at each other. What did she have in mind this time? Their chief editor had innovative if not provocative ideas for the paper. "Come on, guys!" Chloe continued. "I was just looking to start a student snapshot section. You know about our on campus visits and such. If you could make a few comments about your insights, that would be great especially with that meeting." Clark glanced at Lana who nodded back at him. "Okay," he agreed. "Great!" the leader beamed. She always loved it when they came up with a new idea. "Well, it's getting late. You'd best be getting home. Have a great time." "I'm sure we will," Clark agreed, looking at Lana, and smiling. "It should be enlightening." **** Six hours later, Clark roused himself from his slumber and dressed quickly. He needed to get the chores done before they left for the airport. Hustling to the barn, he checked the hay in the horses' stalls, made sure the animals were fed, the cows were milked, and the equipment put away neatly. At super speed, every task except for the milking was accomplished in the blink of an eye. Since the livestock were accustomed to his routine, they largely ignored their human caretaker's methods. The milk, on the other hand, came out at a normal rate so as not to hurt the cows. In 20 minutes time, he had everything under control, and was carrying two full milk pails up the dirt trail toward the house where a light was already shining in the kitchen. Entering the dwelling, the teenager noticed his mother already getting the coffee and breakfast ready to go. Even if her son weren't leaving this morning, Martha Kent would've been getting the daily routine started at this point. "Hi, Mom," he greeted. "Morning, Clark," she replied pleasantly, hugging him. "How're you this morning?" "A bit anxious, but otherwise, okay," he grinned sheepishly, placing the milk on the counter gently. "Thanks for milking them, Clark," she expressed. "I'll have breakfast in a minute. I made you and Lana a couple of sandwiches for the trip." "Thanks," he smiled. "I wonder who this Dr. Dubois is. The man that's going to be meeting us." "Actually, while you were at your meeting last night, both he and his wife called here and spoke to both your father and me. He sounds like a wonderful man. Apparently, there's a full slate for you two down in Arizona. If he's like the rest of the professors down there, you should have a good experience one way or the other," she related. "I'll say," her husband agreed, entering the room. Jonathan Kent eyed his son warmly yet cautiously. Ever since they had found him in the crater thirteen years earlier, the Kents had tried to keep his abilities a secret. Now, he was looking to go far away. The big city was calling to him despite their best efforts to keep him there. "At least, he knew how to speak plain English. That's a rarity among those ivory tower types. Anyhow, the Duboises filled us in on your agenda. Apparently, you're going to get a slice of life at the university. I like an honest approach," he remarked. "By the way, the barn looks great, Son. Why don't you get in the shower? We need to be at the Langs' place by 4:30." "Right," he agreed, rushing up the stairs and into the shower. Within fifteen minutes, he was cleaned up, changed, and had his bag beside his chair. "All set." "Not before you get a proper breakfast inside of you," she chuckled. "Take a seat." "Better listen to her, Clark," his father noted humorously, needling his wife. For her part, she ignored them both as her work took precedence. Yet, under her facade, she secretly enjoyed the baiting. Work was made easier when a good measure of humor was mixed in. **** The ride to the airport went fairly quickly as all three parties kept to themselves, wondering about the future. Despite all of the good signs, a bit of tension hung in the air, hinting at something ominous. Chalking it up to the weird ways in the prairie community, each person decided to keep it to himself or herself. Upon reaching the facility, Jonathan parked the truck and helped his son with the bags. Even this early in the morning, there was a small line at the ticket counter. However, within ten minutes, Clark and Lana had their boarding passes in hand and their luggage checked. "Thank you, Mr. Kent, for driving us here," Lana noted. "I really appreciate it." "You're welcome," he replied pleasantly. "Good luck with your trip. Sorry to ask, but..." She grinned warmly and agreed, "You two need a moment alone. That's okay. I'll see you on the other side, Clark." Walking through the security system, she gazed at the two men, talking to each other intently. Not for the first time, she felt the pangs of loneliness for her own deceased parents and that they weren't there for her. Hopefully, by leaving this town after graduation, she could start to build a new life for herself. And if Clark would go too, all the better. **** "So, how are you feeling, Clark?" Jonathan asked. "I'm still a bit nervous actually. I really want to do the big city thing, but I'm not sure if I'm ready for it," the younger man indicated. "Your Mom and I would like you to stay, you know," the older man started. "But, you're always looking beyond Smallville. Sooner or later, you're going to want to leave. Just know that whatever you decide to do, we're in back of you." "Thanks, Dad. This'll be a fact-finding expedition for all of us. I figure Lana and I will go to class, get to know some people, research that story, and think things through. That's what this trip is for, right?" Clark asked. "Right. Take care. Call us after you get back from dinner tonight, okay? And behave yourself around her," he requested, a smile forming on his face. "You know it," the younger man assured him. "Well, I gotta meet Lana at the gate before our flight takes off. Thank Mom again for packing lunch." "I'll let her know. Good luck," Jonathan concluded, slapping his son on the shoulder. Then, as the latter went through the checkpoint, he watched as his son head off to the future. "Good luck, Son," he thought as the latter disappeared around the corner, heading toward his destiny. Chapter 9 [Tucson] Nick walked through the front door of the El Gato Negro bar two hours before sunrise. After his discussions with LaCroix and Dave, he decided to speak with the former, if he was available. Looking about the place, he marveled at how much it resembled the Raven in its decor and the dancing of the mortals and immortals alike. Running his hands along the chain link rail, he descended the staircase and made his way to the bar. There, he sat down while continuing to observe everything around him. Janette broke off a conversation with another patron and made her way over to her master. "Nicolas, I'm flattered that you would honor us with a visit. Is this business or pleasure?" she asked. "Both actually," he grinned. "I've been meaning to come down here and take a look around. You've done wonders with the place." "Thank you," she acknowledged with a smile. "It's been a labor of love, trust me. However, our kind needs a central place, no?" Scanning him through their shared link, she sensed the vampire's growing dominance. "Would you care for a drink?" "My usual," he accepted. "One cow and wine coming up," she remarked dryly, signaling to the bartender. "As for the business part, what would that pertain to? If it's LaCroix, I would warn you, Nicolas, he is in a bad mood." "I know. Apparently, he had a visitor at KRAN tonight," the detective remarked, sipping on the cow cocktail. "Merci." "Dubois gets bolder by the day," the immortal lady of the night sighed. "That man needs to understand that he's only mortal." "After what he's been through, Janette, I don't blame him. LaCroix did start this mess. As for how he's handling it, his wife and I have both lectured him on it, but...." he continued. "But, he's still sliding down that slippery slope? From what I understand from my friends at the University, he's losing control. Perhaps that fight is taking its toll, hmm?" she inquired. "I have to admit that you're right," he shrugged. "Still, I would like to try and get this resolved if I could before it comes to war." At those words, he felt a familiar vibration followed by a sarcastic chuckling approaching from his left. Turning, he saw the old Roman standing beside him, an intense expression locked in his eyes. "Good evening, Nicholas. How nice of you to join us even if it means watching you drink that swill," LaCroix greeted. "I must say that I was flattered when you called in. Was work that quiet tonight?" "Actually, no it wasn't. We found a homicide victim tonight on the south side. A young woman with a remarkable DNA makeup," he reported. "Really?" the elder vampire asked. "Could it be that a mutant hunter is in town? Pity he or she got the wrong freak." "If I understood your clue right, he was with you tonight," Nick stated. "Nicolas..." Janette cut in with a warning tone. "Actually, he was there tonight. He gave me some information concerning a breach in the security surrounding the duel. Apparently, a mortal taped the whole thing. How unfortunate, given the Enforcers' current status. But your friend deliberately provoked me tonight, Nicholas. Nobody comes into my domain and insults me! No one!" the Elder hissed. "Advise him to learn some manners." "Considering his mood tonight, you're lucky he didn't start something. LaCroix, the man has defeated Divia, several Enforcers, and Dijon! With all due respect, each of those parties either has hurt you or could hurt you. Janette was right. He's slowly losing control, and it's your fault. You started it when you confronted him in the classroom." "I suppose he told you that he wants me dead?" the older vampire supposed. "As if he could get close enough to do it. Really, Nicholas. I owe both him and his infernal sister, and I intend to pay them both back richly." "If he doesn't kill you first," his former protégé countered. LaCroix gripped his glass so hard that he broke it, spilling the blood-merlot all over the counter. "HE IS AN IRRITANT! THAT IS ALL!" he roared, vamping out. "I'll thank you to remember that!" Feeling the uncomfortable glance from Janette, Nick picked up his glass and departed from the bar area, leaving the other two vampires seething behind him. Picking a table in the corner, he settled in to finish his drink before leaving. "Hey, Miles, that was some scene over there. Had a little too much?" Vachon gibed. "This is my only one, Vachon," Nick sighed. "What's on your mind?" "Tracy told me about Dubois. Man, that is one crazy hombre," the conquistador remarked. "If you felt hunted, you might respond the same way," the detective argued. "He's having problems handling all of the stress lately. The more he uses his darkness, the less control he has over the Other. I worry about him and LaCroix. If LaCroix goes after him, I wonder if he'll survive, considering that Dave, Xena, and Cybelle are all waiting in line to kill him." "Yeah, I can see your point, Amigo," the Iberian concurred. "With everything else, we don't need a spark to set off the Community. After that Enforcer mess, everyone's still a little edgy. By the way, Tracy also told me about that weird corpse you got in tonight." "We're checking it out," Nick replied. "Meantime, I want everyone to keep a lid on this one. That situation's not helping Dave either. Besides, who's to say that this suspect isn't looking to take a vampire as well?" "Like they would?" "I have to stay open to all possibilities," the detective commented, finishing his glass and leaving a generous tip on the table. "The sun's almost up. I'll see you soon." With that, he rushed out the front door toward the Caddy. Vachon shook his head as he contemplated Nick's words. "Unbelievable," he muttered, heading out himself. Seeing the first dim signs of pink in the east, he took off heading for the apartment. The day would be long enough to allow some thought on this issue and the ramifications to them all. Chapter 10 The radio alarm went off early in the Dubois household on that morning. Angie stirred first, getting up and walking out into the living room. Her paper wasn't flowing properly, at least, in her estimation. So, she scratched and marked up the draft, reading it for flow and content as she went. Three times she rehearsed the piece, but it never sounded right to her. About an hour into this litany, Dave shuffled into the living room and silently watched her. "She's always a perfectionist," he thought with admiration, entering the area. He cleared his throat to get her attention. "What?" she asked nervously. "Oh, Dave! Good morning. How long?" "Just long enough to watch your last run through," he grinned, ambling over to her side. "It's fine, Princess. You're going to be great." "I wish I could agree. My co-speakers are experts in this field." "As are you when it comes to cancer and cellular mutation," he argued. "Have faith in yourself. Dr. Fishburne never would have arranged this session if he didn't think you were up to it." "I'd listen to him, Angela," Xena's voice added as she appeared in the corner. "Tell her," the medievalist requested. The Warrior Princess grinned, "I've watched you fretting over this speech for the past three days. You're a terrific healer. Have faith in yourself. Remember, you're not alone up there. I'll be with you every step of the way." The oncologist looked at her companions, thinking about their words. Just as with the sun after a rainstorm, a smile slowly broke through her gloomy features. "Thanks, guys. You're the best," she told them, embracing first her husband and then, the image. "Our pleasure," he assured her, rubbing her shoulder. "I'll go look in on the twins if you'd get the coffee." "Why don't you get in the shower?" she urged. "You need to get to the airport for 9:00 AM, don't you?" "If you say so," he shrugged. "I'm on my way." Turning, he walked into the bathroom and shut the door. "Keep your chin up, Angela," the warrior urged. "If you need me, I'll be close by." Fading away, she left her "roommate" feeling much better than when she had appeared moments before. **** Two hours later, Dave parked the Subaru in short-term parking and entered the airport terminal. Finding a monitor screen, he browsed through the listings. "American 7845. Gate 15. They'll be on the ground in 15 minutes." Making his way through security, he headed for the gate to meet the kids. *** About 15,000 feet above him, Clark and Lana were descending toward the Old Pueblo. The flight from Smallville had been enlightening for them. She had admired the scenery far below them and the different vistas. For her, the desert had a hidden beauty with the rock formations, wide-open spaces, and a sunrise with a wide spectrum of colors. Unlike the smothering small town atmosphere of Smallville, she felt free as if she had room to breathe for the first time. She could definitely see herself going to school out here. For his part, he felt something about the sensation of being miles off of the ground. On top of his nerves over being out of Kansas for the first time since the meteor shower, he felt as if another aspect of his abilities were coming to the forefront. Over the past three years, one power after another had revealed themselves to him. The familiar feeling preceding a new aspect of those talents had begun to churn inside of him. For some reason, he felt at home high above the clouds. Staring out the window, he wondered what it would be like to fly like a bird, to soar like an eagle surveying everything around him. "Clark?" she asked. "Yeah? Oh, sorry. I was just taking in the sights," he excused himself. She giggled, "You're so insightful, always looking into things lying beneath the surface. Anyhow, we're about ready to land, so you'll need to buckle your seat belt." "Right," he concurred sheepishly, securing the restraint. "I just have a lot on my mind is all." "Uh huh," she cracked, raising a humorous eyebrow. That was so Clark- like. Still, after dating her previous boyfriend, he was a refreshing change. "You know, there's nothing wrong with admiring the scenery. Wouldn't it be marvelous to be able to fly without the plane? I would love to be able to soar above the clouds, feel the wind on my face, watch the birds fly by, and look down on this scene without having to peer through the glass. Wouldn't you?" she inquired. "I know what you mean," he agreed. "It's breathtaking, isn't it?" "It is." Then, the plane alighted on the runway and taxied to its destination on the far row of gates. It wouldn't be long now. Fifteen minutes later, the two teens strolled into the terminal area. Looking about, they tried to locate Dave, but there were so many people around them. Finally, they saw a man dressed in a navy, pinstriped suit with a large white sign. "I think that's him," Clark indicated. "Come on." *** Dave arrived at the gate about seven minutes ahead of schedule just to be on the safe side. With all of the people milling around the area, he wanted to be sure that the kids wouldn't miss him somehow. On that note, he surveyed the area around him. "I wish this airport would learn how to space flights out," he groused. Oftentimes, there would be no activity for an hour and then, five planes would land on adjacent strips at the same time, making for a congested runway. Still, he knew it was futile to ask an administrator to plan ahead. Sipping on his blackberry tea, he stood across from the gate, waiting for the flight to descend. At that moment, a rush of people from another flight swept past him. That, in itself, wasn't unusual. However, midway through, the professor felt a familiar presence in the crowd, and, for a brief second, he could have sworn he saw his father walk right by him accompanied by a slender white haired man. "What in the...?" he growled low. But, by the time he took a second look, the men were gone and so was the feeling. "Come on, Dave, lighten up," he advised himself. "He's nowhere near here." At that moment, the PA announced, "Attention, everyone! Flight 7845 from Chicago has landed and will be at the gate shortly. Thank you." "Okay, get a grip on yourself," he muttered, forcing his anger back down. "They'll be here any minute." A nervous gulp of tea later, the gate door opened, allowing the passengers to enter the area. For five minutes, he watched the crowd, seeing if he could spot his guests. Then, from the jet way, his psychic senses locked onto a particular powerful aura. "What the?" he wondered and focused on the source. Whoever it was, the person was definitely coming closer. Recalling his initial experience with Alyce, he sighed, "How come I get the unusual ones? Just dumb luck, I guess." At that moment, he spied two teenagers looking around for somebody. "I'll bet that's them," he smiled and held up a sign with their names on it. When the young man waved back at him, he knew that his suspicions had been accurate. "Here we go," the professor thought a bit nervously, walking toward them. "Excuse me, Professor Dubois?" the woman asked. "That's right," he grinned warmly. "Lana, right? Hi, I'm David Dubois, a history professor at the U of A." "Pleased to meet you," she accepted, shaking his hand. "And this is Clark Kent." "Good to meet you as well," Dave greeted, shaking her friend's hand. As soon as they touched, however, the professor felt a surge of energy from him. His was the aura he had sensed earlier. Taking a step backward, he rubbed his head to alleviate the slight headache between his eyes. "Whoa!" he winced. Clark watched the medievalist warily. Perhaps, it was his father's cautiousness about his powers, but somehow, he got the feeling that this man had discovered whom he really was. "But, through a single touch?" he thought. Lana looked at their host curiously. Granted, Smallville had its share of weirdness, but, as with Clark, questions popped up in her mind. "Why would he react like that?" she mused. Dave managed to straighten up. "Great. I need one of my episodes now. Probably scared them six ways to Sunday," he chastised himself. "Sorry about that, guys. Long night, I guess. Well, let's say we pick up your bags and then, head over to your hotel. I figure you might want some time to freshen up before you hit campus." "That sounds great," she agreed. "Then, let's go," the professor concurred, guiding them toward baggage claim. Still, the uneasiness about his father persisted. The sooner he could get them to the hotel, the sooner he could talk to Steve about this occurrence. **** Across the terminal, Eckhardt observed the trio leave the area with concern. Between the elder Dubois's legal status and the usual GSA concerns, he insisted on taking a private flight. However, due to the logistics of this airport, the group ended up pulling into a public terminal. Obviously, this wasn't his first choice, but they made due. Allowing his agents to mix in with the rest of the milling crowd, he entered along with Dubois, making their way for the exit. Still, running into Dubois's son was an unexpected surprise. "His senses are sharper than I thought," he assessed to himself, making a note to prepare for great difficulty with the professor and his wife. "We got by him unnoticed," Dubois assumed. "No, Mr. Dubois. He noticed you even in the midst of this throng," Eckhardt corrected. "Not to worry, though. Everything's under control. Now, let's go. The session starts in six hours, and I want to be ready." The other man nodded. Whatever he thought of his routine, Eckhardt certainly had his act together. **** About 400 miles to the east, the Double Helix streaked toward the Old Pueblo at Mach-1 speed. Inside, Mutant X contemplated its next move as well as the GSA's. Adam scratched his head, "I know I've been keeping you in the dark since last night, but I needed to work out some details." "So, are we going to approach Dubois directly?" Shalimar inquired, watching the leader carefully. "No. I think that between the recent situation and his father's escape, the man will be too edgy to confront. I would like to keep an eye on him, however. I want you all to stay close by the Medical Center, but not too close. Eckhardt has no doubt prepared something with you all in mind," the older man noted. "From what I could tell," Jesse added. "He's going to be in class at that point on the main campus." At that moment, Emma rubbed her temples again. For the entire trip, she had felt momentary flashes of pain. Now, as Dave felt his father's presence and came into contact with Clark, the telepath received yet another signal. "Speaking of our professor," she winced. "Adam, his father is here!" "What?" the leader asked. "Are you certain?" "He picked up on his father's essence," she told them. "And then, he touched something or someone with a big charge. Wow." Brennan probed, "How does the fact that his old man is here change things, Adam?" Emma cut in. "There's a history between them, Brennan. From what I've been able to pick up, his father abused him. That's why he's so unstable." "And, given how he's on edge to start with, I was hoping to avoid something like this," Adam stated, shaking his head. "Emma, will you be able to maintain contact while I'm with the panel?" "Absolutely," she nodded. "In any event, I can't tune him out." Her teammates gathered around her, trying to be supportive. Given how much she cared about others, Dubois's pain must have been Hell for her to bear. All they could do was to help her and stay alert for any surprises from Eckhardt or the GSA. Chapter 11 Angie had performed her rounds with great care, making sure that her patients were comfortable. By noon, she had all of her reports completed and stacked on a corner of her desk. "Okay, everything's done," she thought. "Now, I can focus on the paper." Just then, a knock came from the door. "Yes?" "Dr. Dubois?" Belinda McDermott asked. "How's everything?" "A bit antsy, but otherwise, I'm okay," the oncologist admitted. "The patients are set for now." "And your presentation?" the other doctor asked. "It's coming along all right," Angie noted. "The charts are in the database, and the paper's right here." She picked up a bound document, admitting, "It does feel good to be getting back into this again." "You're the expert in this area, Doctor," her colleague assured her. "I can't wait to see your presentation this afternoon." "Thanks for the vote of confidence," Angie expressed, a shy smile making its way across her face. "It makes it easier, trust me." "We're all pulling for you," Natalie added, sticking her head in the door. "Thanks," Angie accepted. "A lot of work done, but this is my ticket back into my research area." "One step at a time, Angie," the coroner advised. "You're going to do great, Kiddo." "How's everything on your end, Dr. LeBeau?" Belinda asked. "The cases are always interesting," the pathologist remarked. "Never a dull night down there." "Speaking of which, I have some rounds to attend to. Good to see you, Dr. LeBeau. Dr. Dubois, as soon as I finish everything, I'm heading downstairs. See you there," the younger doctor concluded, walking out of the room. Looking around the hallway to make sure that nobody else was coming, Natalie closed the door, insuring their privacy. Holding up a file folder, she announced, "Here are the DNA results." "Really?" Angie inquired, her curiosity piqued. "And what do we know?" "Steve oversaw the whole procedure. According to this report, we were right. The Fallone woman wasn't your run of the mill homicide. She had an enhanced cellular structure. Angie, how many others are out there like her?" "More than you think," the oncologist confirmed. "Such as me, my family and many of my in-laws." "Right," Natalie realized. "So what do we do about this? Steve doesn't want to bring in the big guns, but I don't see any choice. To commit a murder, leave clues, and yet, have nothing pop up in the investigation, we're dealing with a major league cover up." "I'd say so," Angie replied. "Did he find out anything about that car that helped my father-in-law to escape?" "He's still looking," her visitor shrugged. "He'll let us know. But, for this afternoon at least, he'll be here along with Schank, Tracy, and me. After you're done, I think we're going to question both Zero and Eckhardt about it." "Is there a connection?" Angie probed. "Not as far we know, but since they seem to be two experts in the field of cellular genetics, they might be able to provide some insight," Natalie revealed. "Well, I gotta run and get some lunch. Want to come with me? My treat." The oncologist grinned. A break was just what she needed. "You're on. Let's go. Remember, I need to be there by 2:00 PM." "Don't worry. You're in good hands on that one," Natalie assured her as they headed for the door. **** Meantime, Dave escorted Clark and Lana to the Arizona Inn and made sure they were checked into their rooms. "I'll meet you down here in 25 minutes," he indicated. "Right," she agreed, walking into the elevator alongside with her boyfriend. After the doors had closed, the professor crossed the lobby, moving toward a particular corner table where Steve was waiting for him. "What's up, Dubie? I thought you were on babysitting duty," he joked. "Yok it up, fuzzbrain," the medievalist growled. "We've got problems." The agent recognized the darkness brewing across his friend's face. "Uh oh, this has got something to do with your father, doesn't it? We're still looking for him, Dave." "Have you thought about looking here?" the professor suggested. "Huh? He's up in New England," Steve stated. "Some hotshot agent you are. He was in the crowd at the airport this morning just before my guests arrived. I saw him and felt his presence," Dave reported. "Are you sure?" Steve asked. "How could he have gotten through our security net?" "Maybe he flew here on a private plane or has some powerful friends," Dave shrugged. "Anyway, I only felt him for a second, but it was him. Trust me, when the Child goes nuts like that, I know. I still have the headache from it." "Wow," his friend sighed. "If it was a private plane, that would explain it. So, where do you think he'll be?" "I don't know," the professor replied honestly. "But Angie's presentation would be a good bet to smoke me out. Also, keep an eye on the apartment just in case." "I'll get right on it," the agent agreed, standing up. "I'll phone it in. Just make sure you get over to the session before your wife speaks, huh?" "I'll be there as soon as I can. This was just a case of bad timing," Dave concluded. "Go on. Eve and Francesca will be here any minute as will the two recruits." "Okay. Good luck with them. They seem to be wary of you already," he gibed good-naturedly. Smiling, he held the door open for the two aforementioned professors before ducking through it himself. "What was that about?" Francesca wondered. "He was in a hurry." "I think he has a lead on my father. He's been spotted," Dave indicated. "Really?" Eve asked. "Where?" "Here. Actually, he walked right by me in the airport this morning. He was with another man who I can't identify at this point. Anyhow, given his attitude toward this area, he's up to no good, I'm sure of it," he explained. The former Messenger soothed, "It's going to be okay, David. Our friends with the police department will be at Angela's talk in case of any trouble. Also, you told Steve right?" "That's why he rushed out of here," he noted. "Okay," the Italian Literature professor declared. "Then, it's being taken care of. On another note, are our guests here yet?" "They're upstairs, freshening up, I guess," he replied. "So, what's your impression of them?" Eve asked. "They seem like great kids," he smiled. Looking around to make sure that nobody was eavesdropping, he leaned close to the two women and whispered, "There's something strange about the young man, however." "What?" they chorused, trying to stay composed. "Oh great, now you're finding something weird behind every rock and tree," Francesca jabbed. "I think the mess with Dijon has pushed you over the edge." "I know what I felt!" he hissed low. "Francesca, remember what I told you about my first meeting with Alyce in the airport?" "Yes. What about it?" she asked. "It happened again. I sensed something about him. Not that he's going to be a hazard or anything, but there's something special about him," he surmised. "So, what do you want to do about him?" the Religion professor pushed concernedly. "Nothing yet. As I said before, he seems like a nice guy. A few powers don't make or break a person," he responded. "Yes, I'm sure," Francesca grinned at her cousin. "If they did, we'd all be up the creek without a paddle as you Americans like to say." Then, feeling the aura coming closer again, he said, "They're coming down the elevator." His companions looked at each other skeptically before staring at him. "How do you know that?" "Trust me," he chuckled, albeit rather anxiously. Twenty seconds later, the doors opened, allowing their guests to reenter the lobby. "I told you," he stated. After the visitors had reached them, he inquired, "Everything okay up there?" "Absolutely," Lana remarked. "Thank you." "Everything seems great," Clark added. "Well good," the medievalist agreed and motioned toward Eve and Francesca. "Clark Kent and Lana Lang, these are Dr. Eve Messenger from the Religious Studies Department and Dr. Francesca Alvaro from the Foreign Languages Department." "Welcome," Eve greeted, smiling and shaking their hands. "How was your trip?" Francesca asked. "It was great," Clark indicated. "The views were breathtaking." "Especially after we crossed into New Mexico from Oklahoma," Lana added. "The desert is beautiful," Dave concurred. "I was hooked when I took a trip just like yours almost 15 years ago. Trust me, it never gets old." "By the way, pardon me for asking this, Sir, but are you feeling better?" the younger man probed. "Much better. Thanks," the professor replied. "Sometimes, if I don't get enough sleep the night before, I have those dizzy spells." The two female faculty members gave each other a look, managing to keep their mouths shut on that note since he was trying not to scare these kids off. "According to your itinerary," the history professor started, looking at the document in front of him, "you have a class with Dr. Alvaro at noon and Dr. Messenger's class at 1:30. In between, we'll grab some lunch at the Union." "And then, we'll be heading over to the lecture?" Clark asked. "That's correct," Eve agreed. "Was there anything you needed before we leave?" "We're set," Lana indicated. "Okay," the Literature professor indicated. "First stop, my Renaissance literature class. Avanti!" With that, the group walked out of the lobby, walked down Third Street, crossed Campbell, and headed for the Modern Languages Building where the visitors' first college experience awaited them. Chapter 12 Two hours later, Eckhardt paced the stage where he and his co- panelists would be speaking. Although the auditorium was fairly spacious, he observed that a few strategically placed agents could cover the exits and the crowd. After all, one could never be too prepared in case of trouble, especially given that Adam's band of outlaws would more than likely be close by. He had asked Dubois to wait behind stage just in case anyone here should recognize him. Then, Sanderson approached him, asking, "Mr. Eckhardt, when do you want the other half of our engagement mobilized?" Looking at his watch, the administrator smiled, "Patience, Mr. Sanderson. Give it about another 45 minutes. Then, go to the Social Sciences Building on the main campus to accomplish your mission. Is the equipment ready?" The agent held up what appeared to be an animal injector gun. "It's ready, Sir. We won't fail you." "See that you don't," Eckhardt remarked dryly. "A word of caution. Remember that this particular anomaly should be treated with the utmost care due to his psychological makeup." "Absolutely," the other man agreed and left the scene. "Splendid," the white-haired man smiled. "Not from where I'm standing," a familiar voice countered. The director turned to see his one time geneticist and present adversary standing behind him. "Adam. I see you came early. Are you getting a feel for the hall as well?" "No actually, I wanted to keep an eye on you. You're playing with fire this time, Maison," Adam warned. "Leave the Duboises alone." "Actually, I can't do that. Those two freaks need to be contained for the greater social good and at any cost," Eckhardt noted. "The wheels are already turning, and this time, you can't stop them." "Well, all I have to do is keep an eye on the good doctor during our session. As for her husband, I trust you know that there's more to him than his powers. Your cost might jeopardize his whole career and his stability. Nothing is worth that." "That's your misguided view," Eckhardt shrugged. "Just stay out of my way." "You know I can't do that," Adam stated stubbornly. "And Mutant X is here to back me up." Noticing the lights starting to come on, he continued, "I think this discussion should be postponed due to our host's appearance, wouldn't you agree?" The other man grimly concurred, but this debate wasn't over. The plan was already in motion. Soon, the dominoes would start to fall. *** Natalie and Angie walked back into the complex contentedly. The Lebanese food had been a wonderful treat, as had the opportunity for the two friends to catch up on things. For her part, Angie enjoyed watching her friend practically glow over her developing relationship with Steve. It was great to hear about what the couple was doing and the planned getaway to San Carlos sounded wonderful. The agent had been so quiet and, in the 12 years that she had known him, had always been a loner. Now, he was enjoying himself and being good to the coroner at the same time. Natalie liked her friend's enthusiasm as well. Grappling with her husband's moods, the kids, co-existing with Xena, and the nonstop crises had kept her from her oncological research. From the draft she had read two days earlier, the ME knew that Angie was on to some other major breakthroughs. "Now, if only things stay stable for a while," she mused. "Certainly, Dave and Angie have been through enough already." At that moment, Dr. Fishburne approached them, asking, "How was lunch?" "Great, Sir," Angie replied pleasantly. "Good," he smiled. "Are you ready to go?" "As ready as I'll ever be," she sighed nervously. "I can't believe there's only an hour to go." "You'll be fine," the coroner reassured her. "Absolutely. Your research is top-notch. I can't see why you'd have any problems," her boss agreed. "By the way, your husband is waiting for you in your office with a young lady." "Really?" the oncologist wondered. "If you'll excuse me, I need to see what Dave wants. Natalie, thank you, I really appreciated the treat." "I'll see you in the auditorium," the pathologist stated. Angie rode the elevator up to her department and walked down the hall. There, Lori Applegate confirmed what their boss had told her before. Reaching the office, she peeked in. "Hi, Angie. Sorry to intrude like this," Dave apologized. "No problem," the doctor assured him as they embraced. "A surprise visit from you is always a nice thing. And, I take it that this young lady is one of our guests." "Right," he concurred. "This is Lana Lang from Smallville, Kansas. Lana, this is Dr. Angela Dubois, the best oncological researcher in these parts and a great doctor." "It's a pleasure, Dr. Dubois," the younger woman expressed, shaking hands with Angie. "Would you like something to drink?" Angie asked. "I must apologize if I wasn't expecting you yet. I thought you'd still be in class." "I wanted to spend some time with you for the story I'm working on," Lana replied. "No disrespect meant, Professor Dubois, but I was hoping to spend some time with your wife if that's okay." "That's fine. You have Dr. Messenger's class first thing in the morning and then, my World Civ. Course in the afternoon. Believe me, I appreciate initiative," he assured his guest. "Well, if you don't mind, I need to be getting back to campus. I'll be back in about 45 minutes as soon as Winnie's settled." "I'm reserving a seat for you and Mr. Kent," his wife informed him warmly. "A girl needs her cheering section, you know." He beamed at her for a minute before departing. "Well, Lana, how's your trip been so far?" Angie asked, fixing herself a cup of coffee. "It's been wonderful so far. Your husband's been great, making sure that everything's taken care of. He seems to really know how to show people around this place," Lana complemented. The doctor chuckled, "That comes from being a peer advisor himself. He also loves this place. Although we're both from the Northeast, we feel that this is home. Are you sure you won't have something?" "A Pepsi would be great if you don't mind," the recruit accepted. "Thanks." Angie walked down the hall to the soda machine and produced the requested item. Within a minute, she had returned to the room. Giving it to the other woman, she responded, "My pleasure. By the way, what does your family do, Lana?" Taking a sip from the bottle, the teen sighed, "My aunt and I have a farm. She works in town too." "Really? I was raised on a farm," her hostess informed her. "My parents live in Wabash, NY, an hour or so northeast of Albany." Lana smiled warmly. She knew that Professor Dubois was doing his best and that his hospitality was winning them over. Yet, somehow, the fact that his wife was a former farm girl who had gone on to bigger and better things reassured her. She and Clark were in the right place. "And, if you don't mind me asking, what brought you both out here?" "Well, my husband had come out here in the early eighties to get away from his family and for the climate. I admit I did the same thing. We didn't actually meet until eight years later down in Texas. We were out here on a vacation trip when Dr. Fishburne offered me a job. Caitlin Sommers, the library dean, gave him his position. Dave...Professor Dubois...proposed to me in front of a group of people at the Foreign Languages Building. Right in the auditorium where Dr. Alvaro was lecturing to her class this morning. So, we accepted the jobs, moved out here, and started a family," she recalled happily. "Actually, I need to thank you as well." "For what?" "For helping me get ready for my talk," the researcher continued. "I have to admit that I'm nervous." "Really? But you've published quite a bit. I did a search on you in MEDLINE before I left Kansas," Lana doubted. "I may be a doctor, but I'm also human. We all get nervous sometimes, Lana," Angie assured her, allowing a warm twinkle to shine in her eyes. "Would you like to go to the auditorium? I have to get down there." "Sure. Thank you," the teenager concurred, picking up her soda and walking with her toward the elevator. **** Meantime, Dave walked into his office and grabbed a little stack of notes on his desk. "Can't let the kids off without their research assignment," he mentioned. Usually, he would be in a better mood, but the humor just wasn't there. Something was eating at his gut. For some reason, he sensed something weird once again. Reaching behind his desk, he inspected his shafts and tested the bow. "Just in case," he muttered. A knock came from the door. "David?" Lydia Coltrane asked. "Yes?" he inquired. "What's going on?" "I think that's my question. You have class in 10 minutes, and your wife's speaking across campus. What're you doing checking your weapons?" "We do have a threat," he replied. "My father's in town, and he's brought some friends. I saw them in the airport this morning." "Your father?" she gasped, recalling the scene from the day after his wedding. "Why?" "How the Hell am I supposed to know?" he snapped. Picking up two smoke grenades, he put them in his pants pocket. "Just in case." Seeing her fearful expression, he pushed, "What's the problem?" "You can't take weapons into a classroom," she argued. "They're defensive weapons. They don't hurt anyone, rather they provide a smoke screen," he noted. "Relax, nobody will know unless it becomes necessary." Picking up his satchel, he added, "As soon as I introduce Winnie, I'm on the way over to the med complex." "Okay, I'll see you there," his former professor agreed, walking out of the room. He locked the door, pocketing the key and feeling the items in his pockets. "I've really must come up with something less conspicuous," he lectured himself. Walking around the corner, he found the room and entered it to see his students sitting there, not so patiently waiting for him. To his right, he saw Eve and Clark standing there. Winnie walked in a moment later and set down her materials. "Dr. Dubois," she greeted. "Thanks for letting me talk to them." "Thank you for covering me," he stated. "No problem," she smiled. "It's time, you know." "Right," he agreed, making his way over to the podium. "Hi, Gang. Today, we have a guest speaker from the library. Winnie Henderson's come over from the library to give you some pointers for your research assignment...." A collective groan arose from the gathering, eliciting grins from Eve and Dave. "As I was saying, your research assignment which you'll have to work on over the next week. Any questions before I turn you over to Professor Henderson?" he continued, fighting the feeling of triumph. At that moment, the door opened again, allowing five men in raincoats and dark sunglasses to enter the room. Flanking all parts of the room, they stood, watching everyone motionlessly. "I've got a question," Sanderson cracked. "How about you surrender, and we'll keep this quiet?" Dave glanced around the room, surveying the situation, recalling the weapons just around the corner and out of his grasp. Chapter 13 Over at the UMC's auditorium, the crowd was starting to filter in, anticipating what promised to be an informative session. For many of them, the new ideas would be enlightening especially given the differing stances over cellular mutations in medical studies. Around the parameter of the room, GSA agents took their positions, awaiting their superior's word. On the side of the stage, Natalie, Steve, and Schanke observed this activity uneasily. They wished that Ramirez hadn't changed his mind about providing uniforms to keep an eye on things. "Damn it, Dave," Steve muttered. "What's going on this time?" The detective glanced at him, probing, "You think something's up?" "Count on it," the agent replied, keeping a wary eye on the area. Natalie sighed. Despite the crowd's anticipation, the air was becoming charged with nervous energy. Looking at her watch, she saw that it was only 2:20. "Still six hours to go until sunset," she muttered, wishing that Nick and Tracy were there. **** Angie paced behind stage, nervously rehearsing her piece and checking the connectivity of her presentation. After seating Lana in the front row, she inspected the web pages and saw that everything looked great. The paper was in order. Why should everything be so nerve wracking? "I'm on my home turf. Why does everything seem so wrong?" she wondered. "Maybe it's because we've got a serious debate coming up," Adam interjected. "Dr. Zero, right?" she supposed. "That's right," he indicated, offering his hand. "Please to meet you, Dr. Dubois." She shook it, remarking, "This isn't supposed to be a debate over the place of mutants in society, Doctor." "Our co-speaker is prepared to make it such," he commented. "With so much on the line for both of us, Angela, we need to be ready to defend any mutants against sociopaths like Maison Eckhardt." [From within her head, Xena warned, "Careful, Angela. Somehow, this man knows something."] "What does that have to do with me?" she insisted, studying his face. "Your husband has special abilities. He and your children need protection," he explained. "Trust me, he's quite capable of taking care of himself," she countered. "If anyone's foolish enough to make him angry, well let's say they better have a good life insurance policy. And, if you're threatening our daughters, Dr. Zero, either one of us can account for ourselves rather well. There is one way to tell if you're speaking the truth. Hold still." With her mental powers, she surveyed his thoughts and found that he was telling the truth. Adam smiled. "You're a mutant too." She nodded, "And I'm sorry for doubting you. I'm...." She winced and looked about the room. "What's wrong?" he asked. "It's my husband. He's been surrounded by goons...in raincoats," she revealed. "We have a telepathic link. Who?" "GSA agents," he declared. "I knew Eckhardt was up to something. Fortunately, I've positioned help around the corner." "And they'll come too late, Adam," Eckhardt cut in. Three agents flanked him. "I'm stepping things up. Let's go." "Excuse me?" she doubted. "Go where?" "You're going with us," her father-in-law directed, grabbing her from behind and producing an oversized gun. Before she could react, he placed against the back of her neck, and pulled the trigger, shooting something sharp into that spot. She pulled away from him, feeling a small plastic piece there. However, more importantly, she couldn't sense Dave anymore. When she tried to reestablish the connection, she doubled over in pain. "What is this?" "Something to keep freaks like you in line," the elder Dubois cracked derisively, grabbing her again. "Stop it," Adam told him. "It's true. You're what they say you are. Now, I know why your son is the way he is." The contractor grinned wickedly. "You're breaking my heart. Mr. Eckhardt, can you get them away from me?" "With pleasure," the director agreed, motioning to the other two. The agents secured them and pushed their prisoners toward the side door of the auditorium. At that moment, Lana stuck her head in back of the curtain, and saw what was going on. "What are you doing?" When the third agent had grabbed her, she exclaimed, "Let me go!" "No, my Dear," Eckhardt disagreed. "I'm afraid I can't do that. Mr. Dubois, let's go." "Right," he agreed, handing the other the gun. "Thank you for allowing me to do that." "You're welcome," Eckhardt replied evenly. As long as the man didn't overstep himself, the director would be glad to let Dubois entertain himself. Looking about, he started toward the exit himself. **** Steve glanced around the room for the twentieth time, still feeling tense about things. Then, he noticed that Lana wasn't in her seat. A moment later, he saw Angie, Adam, and the teenager being pushed out the door. "Damn it!" he hissed, pulling out his pistol. "Schanke! It's happening!" "What's Angie doing? The talk's supposed to start in five minutes!" Natalie wondered. "What's going on?" Dr. Fishburne asked. "Agent Petersen, where are they going?" "I don't know, but I'd say we've got trouble," Steve guessed. "Natalie, stay down!" "Be careful," she advised. "Count on it," he told her, running for the situation followed closely by Schanke. "Dave, where are you?" **** Across campus, Winnie glanced at the intruders surrounding her, the professors, and the students. Why was it that every time David was involved with something, danger soon reared its head? She still remembered the witch's attacks. Now, a seemingly good opportunity turned into an ugly situation as well. Dave, for his part, had remained silent for a long minute, surveying the situation. Now, he demanded, "What are you getting at? And who are you to ask me that?" "We're the enforcers of genetic purity," Sanderson spat. "Take him!" The professor hesitated for an instant, considering the consequences of exposing himself in front of these kids but, given all of the scenarios, he had to do it. Due to her vows of pacifism, Eve wouldn't strike back nor could Winnie. Rushing forward, he waded into the GSA agents. Allowing their bodies to cover him, he started ripping off blasts, scattering them in all directions. The agents stood up slowly and advanced again. Seeing that he had cleared the way for the door, he told Winnie, "Get them out of here! Go!" She nodded and guided the students out of there. Glancing back, she called, "Dr. Messenger!" The Amazon Princess hated to leave, but she had to find Francesca. Something awful was happening, and reinforcements were needed badly. "I'll be back," she promised, following the group. Wrapped up in the battle, the medievalist ignored her. Then, he felt Angie's pain as the governor sent a shockwave through her and then, him. "Arrgh!" he hissed. Then, just before the link went dead, he saw something horrible through her eyes. His father had shot her. "Damn that bastard!" he bellowed, feeling the darkness beginning to surge upward. Now that they were alone, he began to openly use his powers, picking the men off one by one. Looking at the stunned men, he roared, "What's my father doing with my wife?" He began to summon another pulse. Using his own powers, Sanderson managed to sneak up behind Dave. With great quickness, he knocked the professor down from behind and slammed a governor into his neck. "Got you!" Feeling the weird sensation from the plastic device, the medievalist trembled a bit. "Get off of me!" he yelled, smacking the agent in the jaw. Rising to his feet, he advanced on his attacker. "What the Hell did you do?" "Something to keep you in line," the head attacker crowed, producing a remote control and pressing a button on it. Suddenly, pain blazed through Dave's head, rocking his equilibrium. He staggered and fell to his knees under the blazing agony. "Keep...me in...line?" he stammered. "Sure," another agent laughed. "Your father's waiting for you." "My father," he spat through another wave of pain, clutching his gut through the ordeal. His mind was on the verge of shutting down. ["Grrahhh!" the Child screamed. "Enough bullshit! Let's show'em how we like pain. Let me out!"] "G...Go," Dave slurred, collapsing to the floor. But, as he did so, he released the floodgates, unleashing his dark counterpart. "This is too easy," the third agent smirked, unaware of what was going on inside of their quarry's head. "Now, he's babbling. Let's take him back to Geneomax." As three of the agents grabbed him, the Child snickered wickedly. Then, his left eye opened and he let out a low growl. "Ah said, let go!" he ordered, emitting another burst and knocking out his attackers. "Now, where's the Little Woman? Tell me!" he roared, staring savagely into Sanderson's eyes. The other man's psychic powers deduced what Eckhardt had been getting at. After his attempts to "dissuade" the other via his abilities had failed, the telepath turned up the setting on the remote. The increased setting drove the Child into a frenzy. Snarling, he backhanded the telepath across the room, stunning him. "Lit..tle Wo...man," he muttered, trying to form the words. "Wea...pons." Bursting from the room, he ran around the corner. Even in his rage, he sensed the right office and guessing at the key, opened the door on the third attempt. Within a second, he had his gear and the bow, and was on his way back down the hallway. Lydia walked out of the departmental office, wondering about the noise when she heard the banshee-like scream. "Oh no," she gasped before seeing him come down the hall, face all contorted in rage, snarling like a mad dog, and saliva dripping from the corners of his mouth. "Dave, stop!" "Not...Dave," he growled, bursting by her, through the glass door and northward. While he didn't understand a great deal, somehow the Child knew that he needed to get to the Medical Center to settle matters and that's what he would do. Upon reaching Speedway and seeing the cars whizzing up and down the busy street, he bellowed his displeasure and, riding the wave of pain from the governor, used his powers to levitate over the street, not caring about the consequences of his act. A fresh wave of agony hit him, almost dropping him halfway across, but he managed to reach the other curb. After a minute, he resumed his advance, contemplating what he would do to his father when he finally got a hold of him. Chapter 14 Eve and Winnie guided the group out of the building, urging them toward the Main Library. "Go!" she ordered. "We'll meet you there!" Just then, Clark's enhanced hearing picked up a peculiar noise. "Dr. Messenger, what's that?" Winnie told him, "Never mind! We need to keep moving!" However, Eve grasped his arm firmly, asking, "What did you hear?" "A scream almost like that of a wild animal," he noted. From the upstairs window, she heard it as well. The change had happened again. "Come on!" she directed, guiding him away from the group. Heading toward the side entrance, they saw Dave fully armed and focused, running northward. She noted the familiar expression on his face. Somehow, those men had caused this turn of events. "Eve!" Lydia called, hurrying toward them. "Lydia, where's he going?" Eve inquired. "I don't know," she shrugged. "I heard the ruckus down the hall. Then, I saw him come out of his office, snarling and growling, struggling with his speech. He didn't even stop. What happened?" "We were attacked," the Religion professor recounted. "Dave got us out of the room. The other students went with Winnie Henderson over to the library. Why don't you go over there with them? Meantime, Clark and I have other business." Grasping his hand, she pulled him back toward the mall area. "Where are we going?" he asked. "Back to the Foreign Languages Building. Come on," she advised. Even if he didn't understand why, the young man hurried, or at least, appeared to hurry, after her. **** Francesca sat in her office, examining a manuscript. The class had been a good one. She enjoyed interacting with her students as well as their visitors. "They seem like bright kids," she smiled. "Francesca!" Xena's voice called. "What? Xena?" she asked, looking about. In front of her desk, the Warrior Princess's image appeared with a grim expression chiseled across her face. "We have a situation. Angela and your guest have been kidnapped. I need to speak to Gabrielle if that's okay." "Why didn't she just change into you?" the professor asked, getting out of her chair. "She didn't have the chance," the Thracian warrior stated. "David's father hit her with something strange. I'm still with her, but she can't use her own powers." "Madonna!" Francesca exclaimed. Grasping the full implications of the situation, she concentrated and, in a flash, Gabrielle stood in her place, whirling her staff. "Where are they?" the Bard Queen inquired. "At the healing place," the Warrior told her. "Come on!" They looked about and, seeing that the hallway was empty, bolted out of there. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, they saw Eve and Clark running toward them. "Eve!" the bard called. "Gabrielle! We've got trouble!" her daughter advised. Xena frowned. What was this, another of Ares' plots? "No time to bat that one around now," she told herself. Clark's eyes went wide when he saw the blonde newcomer. Even in Smallville, the news of her exploits with Xena was big time news and legend. "You're Gabrielle, aren't you?" "No time now," she deadpanned. "Now, let's go. Your girlfriend and my friend are in trouble up there." Turning, she started toward Speedway herself followed closely by Eve. He sighed. To use his own powers down here would risk exposure, but with Lana's life on the line, he had no choice. In a flash, he was gone, running at supersonic speed toward the Medical Center. **** Meantime, in his loft, Nick sat up from his slumber. His face was drenched with blood droplets, his breathing was rapid, and his head rang like the bells of Notre Dame. "Dave? What's going on now?" Then, he remembered that today was Angie's speech. "Something must've happened." Picking up the phone, he dialed his partner's cell phone number. "Schanke, pick it up!" he snarled, feeling that something was dreadfully wrong. "Schanke here. Who's this?" the detective replied. "Schanke, it's Nick. What's going on?" "Nick! Man-o-man, am I glad it's you! Listen, Buddy, I know it's still daylight, but we're pinned down here at the UMC. Steve and Natalie are here too. If you can help, we'd appreciate it." Then, he heard Natalie add, "Nick! They've grabbed Angie, a young girl, and one of the panelists. They're men in raincoats and dark glasses. Some of them have us stuck here." The vampire detective looked about the room. His clock read 3:15PM, and the sunlight taunted him by streaming in through the crack in his blinds across the room. But, he needed to get to his friends. Somehow, he had to find a way. At that moment, mist appeared in the corner of the room, allowing Deirdre to enter the scene. She rubbed her head and looked panicked as well. "Detective Miles," she greeted. "Pardon the intrusion, but we have a problem!" He grinned. Somebody had heard his thoughts and delivered. "Nat, give me a few minutes. I'll be right there!" Disconnecting, he turned to the young priestess and asked, "Deirdre, what is it?" "Mama and Papa are in trouble. We need to get over there," she told him. "Unfortunately, we don't have time for you to change." Waving her hands, she cast a spell, clothing Nick in his work attire. "There!" she smiled. "All set!" "Almost!" he directed, running down the stairs. If he was going to fight, he needed blood first. Reaching the fridge, he grabbed one of the green bottles there and guzzled half of it down. "Now, I'm ready," he told her, putting it back. "Good," she smiled. "Let's go." Willing up her portal, she allowed the former Crusader to step through. "Deirdre! What is it?" Alyce's voice called from the top of the stairs. "We have trouble," the priestess told her. "Wait until sunset and then, get yourself over to campus. I'll be in touch." With that, she stepped through the doorway, closing it behind her. For her part, the curator rushed back to her room and started laying her clothes out. Although she still had about four hours, she wanted to be ready. Chapter 15 Meantime, the Mutant X team was coming down the stairs inside of the medical center. It had taken some doing, but they had landed their ship on the roof. Despite Adam's request, the silence from his comlink told them that trouble was brewing. About halfway down, Emma winced, "Argh! Guys, he's changed! The darkness!" "What?" Shalimar asked. "What about it?" "He's been attacked by the GSA. I see him, chained around the neck, but he's fighting it." "They've put a governor on him," Jesse interpreted. "What do you mean fighting it?" "Somehow, he's using his powers," she told him. "The pain is feeding his darkness. We need to help him!" Focusing below, she forced herself to "feel" what was going on below. "The GSA's struck down there too." Jesse looked down the winding cone of stairs. The entrance to the auditorium was right beneath them. "I'm going," he declared, turning intangible and phasing through the layers. "Count me in too!" the feral added, leaping into the abyss. Landing every six floors, she made it in three stops. "Come on!" Emma urged, grabbing Brennan and hurrying down the remaining steps. Whatever was going on would require immediate assistance. **** Once he had reached the bottom floor, Jesse glanced about. The doors were locked, but that was no trouble for him. Phasing again, he stepped into the auditorium and saw his worst nightmare. The audience was huddled in the middle of the room. Off to the side, four people with guns were training them on the GSA agents across the area from them. "Shalimar, we've got a hostage situation here!" he reported into the comlink. Then, turning himself rockhard, he advanced on the agents, looking for answers. "Coming in!" she replied, kicking the doors in. As her eyes turned yellow, signifying the dominance of her other nature, she started toward the agents as well. The rest of the GSA men rushed into the area, bringing their total to twenty. Bagging these mutants would bring a high prize from Eckhardt. Surrounding their new quarry, they moved in. "Hey!" Brennan yelled, rushing in, his hands already churning up a blast. Unleashing it, he took out four at once. Beside him, the empath was about to join him, but felt something coming closer. Looking toward the locked outer doors, she realized the darkness was there. Moving away from the doors, she saw them explode inward in a powerful blast of energy. Glancing up, she heard the growling and snarling coming from the smoke. A moment later, a man came into focus that she knew was David Dubois. "Scram!" he snarled, moving past her, into the room. Emma shook in spite of herself. Despite the grown up appearance, the presence seemed to be a child motivated by pure anger and hate, but what could've been so bad as to do that to him? Whatever it was, she needed to be with her friends at that point. Rushing into the room, she readied herself for the battle to come. **** The Child stormed into the area, looking around. While he didn't understand what was going on, he knew that Angie was gone, and that would upset Big Brother all the more. Seeing the guys in the overcoats ticked him off further if that was possible given the crap that the irritating plastic thing was giving him. Willing up another blast, he ignored the massive wave of pain from the device, and fired at the attackers, taking out five of them. "Wh...Where is she??" he bellowed. Firing another blast, he leveled four others, continuing, "Tell me!!!" Jesse hesitated for a second and asked Brennan, "I thought Emma said he had a governor on him? How can he use his powers?" "How would I know?" the electrical mutant spat, jolting three more goons. "After this is over, you can ask him!" The other silently moved on with his task, pummeling his adversaries with rockhard fists. At that moment, the fog opened at the side, allowing Nick and Deirdre to enter. The fully vamped out immortal didn't hesitate, taking his share of the GSA agents. From the side of the room, Clark entered at super speed so as not to allow himself to be seen. Whizzing past the agents, he smacked and punched his way through them. Gabrielle and Eve had finally reached the area as well. For her part, the Bard waded right in, battling the remaining agents. Given the firepower of the reinforcements, the GSA had no chance. Within minutes, they were beaten soundly. "Damn!" the Child snarled. By now, the pain in his head was bordering on debilitating even for him. "She ain't here!" "David?" Fishburne asked, approaching him tentatively. While he had heard about the man's condition, he had never seen it manifested. "Get 'way!" he growled menacingly, trying to grab onto the governor and rip it out of his neck. "Sonnuva...!" Brennan offered, "Hey, Chief. Cool it. Everything's all right. You need some help with that?" "No!" the Other snapped. "Keep 'way!" Grabbing the spot at the back of his neck, he sent one more pulse right into the device. While he shorted it out, the backlash pushed his pain over the limit. Falling to his knees, he collapsed. "Man, I could've done that," the electrical mutant said. "Is he all right?" Natalie rushed over to the fallen man's side and performed a field exam. "Pulse rate is weak, breathing is shallow. We need to get him upstairs." Just then, the sirens could be heard in the distance. The police were arriving late as usual. "On second thought," Shalimar commented. "We should get him out of here, but we'll never make it back to the Helix." "Leave that to me," Deirdre indicated, summoning a wide blanketing mist in the way her aunt had shown her. Enveloping the Mutant X members, Dave, Eve, and Gabrielle, she turned to Nick and Clark, asking, "Coming?" "Yes," Nick agreed, rushing ahead. As he vanished into the mist, he told Schanke and Natalie, "Let Ramirez know I'll be reporting in." "You got it," the souvlaki-loving detective agreed. Clark jumped into the portal just as it faded away, leaving the others to pick up the pieces. **** When the mists had parted, the group stood on the roof beside the large aircraft. For safety's sake, Nick had stayed behind so as not to expose himself to the sun. Once they were on board, the priestess stated, "Can you close off the ship's windows?" "Why?" Brennan baited. "Is he a vampire or something?" "Actually, Detective Miles is a vampire," Eve revealed, a frown painted across her face at his wisecrack. Shalimar pressed a switch on the console, dropping covers over the windows. "How's that?" she asked. "Perfect," Deirdre complemented, opening the portal again. "It's safe, Detective." "Is he secure?" Jesse asked, firing up the engines. "We're set!" Emma advised. "Go!" "We're off!" he told them, raising the ship from the structure, and flying away from the scene. "Stealth cloak," he stated to the screen. At that moment, the Double Helix turned invisible even as it streaked away toward the northeast. *** Back at the medical center, Tracy ran into the auditorium just before ten uniforms. "Natalie? Schanke?" she yelled, fearing the worst. Seeing the devastation around her, she experienced an incredible sensation of deja vu. "Can't they stay out of trouble?" she groused, surveying the scene. "Hey, Tracy," Schanke retorted, waving her over. Moving quickly, the blonde detective made her way over to where he was standing along with Steve, Natalie, and Michael Fishburne. "What happened?" she asked. "I could guess, but I want to hear it for myself." "The panel was set and ready to go," Fishburne stated. "I had Angela going first followed by Adam Zero and Maison Eckhardt. Everything seemed to be okay. Then, I heard some arguing behind the curtain. The next thing I knew, Eckhardt was shoving them out the door along with that young guest of David and Angela's." "The fighting got pretty heated," Natalie added. "First, these mysterious people burst in. Then, Dave showed up." "You forgot about Detective Miles," the hospital administrator cut in. "He was here too. I don't know how he fought as he did, but he held his own against at least fifteen of those criminals." Tracy glanced skeptically at Fishburne. How could Nick have gotten down there in broad daylight? "Cybelle," she thought, recognizing that the priestess could have popped in and out, shielding her partner from the sun in the process. "Anything you want to add, Agent Petersen?" "Not yet," Steve declined. "But, I want to have some time with these SOBs myself." Just then, his cell phone went off. "Petersen," he replied. "Agent Petersen? This is Caitlin Sommers at the library. What's going on?" Caitlin demanded. "Somebody decided to strike at the conference," he explained. "Why?" "One of my librarians not to mention Lydia Coltrane is standing here, shaking in their shoes over an incident at the Social Sciences Building," she told him. Thinking for a second, he recalled that Dave was already under a full head of steam when he burst into the room. "Dean Sommers, as soon as I know more, I'll let you know. Right now, we're getting ready to take the attackers downtown for questioning. As soon as I get some more backup here, we'll move out. Talk to you soon," he concluded, hanging up. "Actually, Steve, the other uniforms were already there," Tracy reported. "Unfortunately, the room is a wipe and the perps got away." Glancing at Natalie, the agent shook his head disparagingly. It was going to be one of those days all right. "Just another day in Dave's neighborhood," he grumbled. With Farrell's lecture and the paperwork, this was going to be a really long night. Chapter 16 [Geneomax] Eckhardt frowned as he read the field report from the Tucson raid. While some of the agents including the ones on the main campus had managed to escape, the police had detained twenty other operatives for questioning. In addition, the audience had seen him pushing Adam, Dr. Dubois, and the young woman out the door. It had been quite a two- ring circus between the main campus and the medical center. "One wonders what I train these people for," he complained to himself. A buzz came from the outside. "Yes?" Sanderson entered the area nervously, "Mr. Eckhardt, I'm sorry to disturb you, Sir." "Yes. I wanted to ask you about the escaped Dubois mutant. Why didn't you do what I instructed?" the administrator asked, his hand fingering the remote control in his coat pocket. "We did, Sir. Just as with any other new mutant, we surrounded him. I implanted the governor myself," the operative reported. "But then, something strange happened." "Yes, I read about it in your report. Mr. Sanderson, what do you think happened?" "Beg your pardon?" Sanderson inquired. "With Dubois, what happened? The governor should have inflicted pain when he tried to use his powers," the director supposed, getting up from his seat, and glancing through the window behind him to the stasis chamber far below. "That's just it, Mr. Eckhardt. It did that, but something else happened," the telepath recounted. "Somehow, the pain tripped a switch inside of his head. The more I turned up the volume on the governor, the stronger he became. I also tried to use my abilities, but when I looked into his psyche, it was like glancing into the eyes of a pit bull. As much as the pain was bothering him, Dubois was feeding off of it as well." Eckhardt cursed himself. How often had he told his agents to do their homework, and he was now guilty of the same error in judgment. "Yes. We all make mistakes, Mr. Sanderson. That's quite an interesting enigma, isn't it? How the darkness surfaces within him, I mean." "That's because he has multiple personalities, Sir." "Indeed," the superior replied coldly, his fingers rubbing his chin. This issue would take some more thought. "In the meantime, how are our guests?" "The two women are secure in their area. Adam has been kept away from the computers as per your instructions," the agent noted. "Excellent," Eckhardt smiled slightly. "Just make sure that Stuart Dubois doesn't go near his daughter-in-law unless I say so, understand?" "Right," the subordinate agreed. "Very good," the administrator nodded. "Come with me." Following Sanderson, Eckhardt stepped from his office, heading down the hall to check on his imprisoned adversary. **** Adam sat on his bunk, surveying the situation. Just as he had expected, the GSA had searched him, confiscating anything of potential use for damage or escape. In addition, his cell had no dataport access or computers of any kind. That was hardly surprising. Fortunately, he had managed to slip his comlink ring into Angela's pocket, avoiding that item being taken from him as well. "I have to think of a way to contact them," he thought in frustration. Then, the door opened, allowing Eckhardt to enter the area. "Adam, I trust you're holding up all right?" he asked. Although he didn't care one way or the other, it was the polite thing to ask. "You wouldn't care about the slop they're feeding me, Maison. What do you want?" the imprisoned man sighed sarcastically. "And what have you done with Dr. Dubois and the girl?" "They're fine for now. As for your second question, no, I don't care. Well then, let's cut to the chase, shall we? I know how you operate. Somewhere, there's a base with all of your files. I want to know where that place is. You're going to tell me," the captor demanded. Adam grinned defiantly, "I think you're believing that stuff you put into the GSA handbooks about your invincibility and such. If you really think I'm going to tell you, then you're full of it." Eckhardt shook his head. While he expected this reaction, he really didn't want to get into a big show of getting the information. "Mr. Sanderson, do come in, will you?" After the agent had entered the room, he continued, "He's a telepath. Quite a powerful one too. If you don't tell me, I'll have him rip the information from your mind." Adam shook his head and braced himself for the assault. Sanderson approached the prisoner, locking eyes with the other man, and started his probe. **** Meantime, Angie glanced around the quarters where she and Lana had been placed. Despite the fact that the cots were surprisingly comfortable, she had been in this situation enough times to know that even a glided cage was still a cage. To make matters worse, the thing on her neck was itching like mad. Bad enough that the darn thing kept her from contacting Dave, but did it have to do that too? Glancing up at the ever-watchful security camera, she groused that Xena couldn't get involved. "This stupid thing wouldn't stop her, but if I change, I'll expose us," she mused silently. [As if on cue, the warrior's voice spoke in her head, "Angela, are you all right?"] ["I'm fine," the oncologist thought, scratching at her neck.] ["Good. I wanted you to know that David escaped with the others. Eve and I got Gabrielle involved. We also received assistance from some unexpected reinforcements not to mention your guest," Xena reported.] ["Guest? You mean the young man?"] ["Uh huh," the warrior continued. "Apparently, he's more than he seems. From what I could tell, he ran off at a rate which would've made Hermes jealous and was pushing those goons across the room with a great deal of force. Since I wasn't involved with you, I kept an eye on things."] ["Well, thanks for that," Angie expressed. "How's Dave?"] [He's...being worked on right now. Apparently, that thing in your neck causes pain when you try to use your powers. Well, they put one on him too. According to Eve, the damn thing caused him to change, pushing him further than ever. After taking out his attackers, he made it over to your healing place where he stormed in and kicked tail before he collapsed himself under the strain. Deirdre got him and the others out of there before the authorities showed up. Don't worry, Angela. From what I could tell, these other allies were scanning him with something. He seemed to be in good hands. I'm heading back there so if you don't hear from me, I haven't deserted you," Xena stated.] ["I know that," she replied, shuddering slightly. "I'm worried about Dave is all. Please let me know if there's any change."] ["You got it," the other concluded, admiring her "roommate's" inner strength. "Keep an eye on your cellmate there. Her friend's really concerned about her."] With that, she went silent. "Excuse me, Dr. Dubois?" Lana cut in, tapping her on the shoulder. "Are you all right?" "Oh, never better," Angie smiled, trying not to let her nerves show. "I wish I felt that way," the younger woman sighed, pacing the area. "I thought I was going to be looking at schools, not stuck in a room as if I was late for dinner or something. Aunt Nell's going to be really worried about us not to mention Clark's parents." Angie embraced her companion, reassuring her, "It's going to be all right, Lana. We'll get out of here. You'll see." "Thanks," the teen commented, managing a smile. "I really appreciate how you're holding yourself together. Aren't you concerned about your husband?" "I'm terrified actually and frustrated that I can't get us out of here," the doctor revealed. "Judging from how we've been treated, they were going to hurt him. And with my father-in-law involved, it would be worse, trust me." Seeing Lana's confused expression, she continued, "I know what you're thinking. Believe me, there's a bitter history between my husband and his father, leaving scars on Professor Dubois. Sometimes, he has his blackouts, and we have to deal with them." "He was acting strangely this morning at the airport. When he touched Clark, he jumped. We were wondering about that. I mean, he seems so nice otherwise, but that was too weird," Lana recounted. "Well, I'm willing to bet that he had just run into his father in the terminal, so he was a bit shaken up. Maybe, Clark had some static electricity on him from the carpet?" Angie proposed, trying to fabricate an excuse as she went. "I suppose," Lana replied, still not satisfied. There was something unusual about the history professor hidden beneath the surface. If there were an opportunity later, she would like to find out more about him. Chapter 17 [Tucson] Natalie stood over her counter, eyeing hair samples and fingerprints through the microscope. Thankfully, the sample Nick and Tracy brought back from the murder scene had been clean enough to use as evidence. Now, she was hoping that Schanke would bring some good news in terms of the goons from the Medical Center. Steve entered the area with a concerned look on his face. As with many of his recent cases, he was too close to this one. Yet, with his friends as deeply involved as they were, he wanted to make sure that all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed. "Anything?" he asked. "Hmm?" she probed, still studying the samples. "You're something else, you know that? I wish the forensics folks at the Bureau were half as dedicated as you are," he chuckled. The ME laughed at the comment, "If I didn't know better, Agent Petersen, I'd say you were trying to flatter me." "And if I were?" he asked. "I'd say keep it up. It's working," she smiled. Noting his concern, she added, "What's up?" "Oh, your captain's ready to spit nails again. Besides, I'm concerned about Dave and Angie's disappearance. At least, Farrell's complemented me on how we handled the situation," he mentioned. "Schanke's working on getting the prints run through Interpol and the Bureau's database." At that moment, a knocking came from the door. Spying the detective in question, she cracked, "Speak of the Devil. What'cha got, Schank?" "We got a match on those fingerprints. You know that guy, Brown, who was in with the goons we grabbed at the UMC? The fingerprints on your victim match up with his," the newcomer reported, holding up a small dish with a blood sample. "I take it that this is enough to type?" "It should be," Steve agreed, watching her place the sample under the microscope and looking at it. Then, producing an eyedropper with a blue liquid in it, she released some of the solution into the sample before reexamining it. "I'd say we have ourselves a match, gang," she indicated. "Great. That'll get Ramirez off of our backs for the moment," the souvlaki-loving detective stated. "C'mon, Steve. Our main perp's going to be waiting for us up in the Interview Room along with Tracy. Let's go." "Right behind you," he agreed. After casting the coroner a caring look, he disappeared up the stairs, heading for the interrogation. **** Tracy sat patiently in Interview Room 2 across the table from Brown, studying the prisoner. The man seemed clean cut, well built, and intelligent. "Too bad he's such a sociopath," she thought to herself. Brown smiled across the table from her. He knew that the GSA would send the best lawyer they could find to get him out of here. All he had to do was to stall these imbeciles until his counsel arrived. "Trying to get a handle on me, Detective?" he baited. "It's my job, Mr. Brown," she responded coolly. "Do yourself a favor and stay out of my affairs. They might prove a bit too much for you," he retorted. The smugness of his remark ticked her off, but she kept her composure. "C'mon, guys," she thought, wishing that Schanke and Petersen would arrive. A minute later, they walked through the door and took their seats much to her relief. "Gentlemen," Brown greeted. "Mr. Brown, we've got some questions for you concerning what happened on campus as well as a homicide from three days ago," Schanke started. "Where were you three nights ago?" "Back in Upstate New York with my boss in a meeting. He'll collaborate it," the GSA agent replied confidently. "What would you say if we could prove differently?" Steve added, producing a manila envelope. "These are the copies of your plane itineraries from Buffalo to here from the past week. Says here that you checked in and traveled both ways." "So, I was in a teleconference. Lots of people do that these days," the prisoner scoffed. "We also found your fingerprints on a murder victim named Alicia Fallone. Under her fingernails, we found a skin sample which we used to test for blood type," Tracy added. "By the way, where's your coat, Mr. Brown? All of your peers seem to have one except for you. What happened to it?" Schanke interjected, locking eyes with the other man. "I don't have it right now. Your point?" Brown retorted, a bit of irritation seeping into his voice. She reached under the table and placed a bag stuffed with what appeared to be an overcoat in it. "Could this be it?" she inquired. "Could be? Where did you get it? Surely, you didn't just go through my things without a warrant?" the operative frowned. "No. We found this in the alley where Ms. Fallone was murdered. In addition, there was a puncture mark in the back of her neck, and we found this item as well," she continued, placing the broken governor and a picture of the victim's neck with the mark on it. "How do you know the coat's mine?" the prisoner wondered. "Any wino in Tucson could have one." "A coat like this one?" Steve chuckled. "Come on. This is a $150.00 London Fog special. The forensic tests showed that the wearer of this coat has the same blood type as you. Perspiration and hair are wonderful indicators, Mr. Brown. Besides, at the UMC, I got a look at the back of David Dubois's neck. One of your associates implanted a device similar to this one in the same spot as on Fallone. What do you have to say about that?" "Only that it's too bad that he escaped my associates. Freaks like that don't deserve to live," the prisoner hissed. "We know you're friends with him, Petersen. Tell me, what's it like sheltering a monstrosity such as your so-called friend?" The FBI agent gripped the sides of the table and bit his lip. As much as wanted to deck the obnoxious SOB across the table from him, Farrell had warned him to keep his composure. For the past year, the Bureau had been investigating the activities of the so-called Genetic Security Agency without the knowledge of many field agents. In fact, Steve had only become aware of it due to his involvement in this particular case. Still, he managed to say, "He's a hundred times the man you are, Mr. Brown. You have no idea what he's been through. I've been his friend for two decades and over that time, I've seen him eat people like you for lunch." The two detectives exhaled in relief. "Speaking of Professor Dubois's experiences, have you any idea where Stuart Dubois is?" she pushed. "Who?" he fibbed. "Stuart Dubois. He's a fugitive who recently escaped from prison with the aid of your pals," Schanke commented. "C'mon, Mr. Brown, the hospital complex's cameras caught him entering and several witnesses saw him leaving the auditorium. Make it easy on yourself and tell us." "Mr. Brown," Steve declared. "The FBI's already obtained a warrant to go through the GSA's databanks. We'll find what we're looking for whether you help us or not. Look, do you want to add kidnapping to your laundry list?" "Agent Petersen, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" Brown chortled. "However, I'm not saying anything else until my lawyer gets here." "Absolutely," Steve shrugged. "Of course, that means our friends here are going to have to book and hold you." "The charges are Murder 1, three counts of kidnapping, endangerment of minors, disturbing the peace, aggravated assault, aiding, abetting, and harboring a fugitive, and I'm sure there are others we can think of," Schanke informed him. Turning to the uniform standing by the door, he added, "Get him outta here! Book him and put him in Holding with the rest of his buddies." After the officer had taken Brown from the room, Steve sat down in the corner, muttering, "I can't believe I let him get to me like that!" "Don't worry about it," she advised. "You held your cool other than that comment about Dave eating people for lunch remark." "It wasn't a threat, Steve. You were stating a fact," Schanke jumped in. "Thanks, Guys," he smiled. "I'm going back to my office to check on some other leads and to brief my boss. Give my regards to Ramirez, will you?" Donning his coat, the agent departed, heading for the parking lot. Then, the phone buzzed next to them. "Yes?" Schanke replied. "Detective, it's Sergeant Novak. Were you and Detective Brown expecting any visitors?" the desk sergeant asked. "No. Hang on," he told her and walked out into the bullpen. Standing at his desk were Alyce and Vachon both looking more than a bit concerned. Motioning them back to the Interview Room, he waited for them to cross the bullpen. After they walked in, he closed the door to insure their privacy. "Vachon, what are you doing here?" Tracy wondered. "I asked him to come," the curator sighed. "When Nick didn't show up at sunset and nobody on campus had seen him since the incident at the UMC, I didn't know who to talk to. I called the El Gato Negro and Janette directed me to Vachon. Is he all right?" "Sorry, Alyce, but you know as much as we do," Schanke declared. "Nick disappeared along with Dave, the kid he was guiding around campus, Gabrielle, Eve, and those weird people in the dark leather." "They're mutants, si?" Vachon assumed. "The Community's been hearing reports of this type of activity a lot lately. With the duel being leaked, I'm not surprised that the University was attacked, but to go after El Hombre Loco in broad daylight and while he's teaching? Ay caramba! Anyhow, according to LaCroix, the Elders are monitoring this activity as well. They were too distracted by the Dijon mess to deal effectively with it." "As if he would do anything to prevent them from striking at Dave?" Alyce inquired. "The two of them threatened each other prior to the fight in Istanbul." "And the tension has carried over to here if last night's events were any indication," Tracy added. "No, I think he would let this Genetic Security Agency do his dirty work for him." "Maybe," the Iberian immortal agreed. "But, he doesn't want the exposure which this activity brings. Even though the attack struck at Dubois, the old Roman was unhappy about it. It's a turf issue to him." "So what's he going to do now?" Tracy asked him. "Watch and see what develops," the former Conquistador shrugged. "You've got the creeps here, and the others have slithered away at least for now. As with Alyce, he's concerned about Miles although not to the same degree as she is." "Meantime, Janette has told me to be patient. I wish I could help," the fledgling sighed. "I should've known when Deirdre appeared, it was serious." "Deirdre? I thought Cybelle was the one there," Tracy interjected. "No, it was Deirdre Dubois. She teleported herself and Nick from the loft. Well, I have to go. Caitlin Sommers has asked to meet with me tonight. Wish me luck," the vampiress continued. "What are you going to tell her?" Schanke inquired. "There isn't a lot I can tell her frankly," Alyce stated. "But maybe, she can give me some information. See you all later." "Buena suerte con ella," Vachon told her. "She's persistent." "Don't I know it," his fellow immortal replied outside of the door. "Try having her as the head of the search committee for a job you're interviewing for." With that, she left the precinct. Once outside, she walked into the alley, looked around to make sure she was alone, glanced up into the sky, and took off for campus, still engrossed in the questions, which affected them all. Chapter 18 [Mutant X Sanctuary] Despite making one stop, the Double Helix had crossed the country in only a few hours, reaching the eastern complex in due order. According to Adam's protocol, while the mutants guided the ship, the other passengers sat in the thick mists generated by Deirdre. While they didn't like it, they understood the need for secrecy. Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity, Emma entered the fog and told them, "We're here. You can look now." The priestess nodded and allowed the cover mists to burn off, revealing the elaborate complex with supercomputers and the best technology yet an artistic style combined with elements of serenity. "It seems as close to Paradise as one can get in this secular world." "Thank you," the empath noted. "Now, let's get David into the lab. I hope Adam's machines can fix him." With Nick's assistance, Gabrielle and Brennan carried the unconscious professor to the specified chamber, setting him on a table under what appeared to be an x-ray machine. Across the room, a computer console waited for input under a series of screens, which already brought up data on the patient from an impromptu scan. "Stand back." Two beams of light poured down from the device above the table, brushing across Dave's unconscious form as if they were twin feather dusters. After the first pass, a comprehensive diagnostic image appeared on the screen with some interesting readings. "There's been a lot of damage to his nervous system from the governor," Emma related. "Fortunately, David managed to short it out before he collapsed." Picking up a rod like device, she inserted it into the hole in the black plastic's center, and pushed, forcing it to pop out of his neck. "There." Deirdre bit her lip watching this operation. She would have rather seen her father in the House of Healing on Althanor still their new allies seemed to know their attackers and the latter's methods. Reaching into her pouch, she produced some leaves and flowers in addition to a bowl and pestle. Just as her aunt had shown her, the priestess ground them into a paste. "What's that?" Shalimar asked, turning her nose up at the odor. "Some herbs to help Papa calm down. My aunt guarantees it," the young woman explained and moved toward him. But at that moment, Dave's eyes snapped open and he looked around nervously. "Where am ah?" the Child growled. "Where's she?" Springing off of the table, he advanced on the two female mutants. "You're with them, ain't ya?" "Emma, stay back," Shalimar advised. "I'll handle him." "I really wouldn't advise it," Nick disagreed. "He's injured. What can he do?" she doubted. The Dark One snickered, "Oh, ya'll be surprised. Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty." The wicked grin formed on his face in a show of defiance. Despite the pain he was still feeling, there was no way he was going to let her get the better of him. Her eyes turning feral, she leapt at him, taking a powerful swipe, but missing wide. "Mah turn," he chuckled and swinging wide himself. "Hold still!" She laughed and clubbed him across the lower back. She swung again at his shoulder to disable her enraged opponent. He caught her hand and threw her right against the wall. "Had enough yet? Where's Little Woman? Tell me or ah'll kill ya!" he spat. "That's enough!" Deirdre challenged, stepping between them. "Look, I've got some of those herbs you like. If you take them, then we can help you and Papa. Okay?" "He doesn't get off that easy!" Shalimar hissed, advancing. The vampire detective intercepted her, urging, "Stay back. He'll beat you and kill himself in the process. Trust us, this is the only way." Shalimar struggled a bit in his grasp, but relaxed once she had a minute to cool off. After a collective sigh of relief around the room, Deirdre approached her "uncle" again and offered the paste to him. "They're not the creeps?" he asked. "No, they're on our side," she insisted nervously, giving him the bowl. "Now please eat up." "Okay," he relented and consumed the bowl's contents unwillingly, knowing that the stuff would put him to sleep. Walking back over to the table, he glared at all of them defensively, insisting, "You'd better be findin' her!" "We're working on it," Nick informed him. "Rest now." "O...kay," the Child agreed, suddenly feeling very relaxed. Instead of being in the strange place, he was back in Faerie Land with serenading music and a soft light reflecting off of the water. Within seconds, he was fast asleep. Emma grasped her head in both hands, mentioning, "I just barely got through his mental shielding, but I did use the image of somewhere called the "Faerie Land" in his mind. He thinks he's there now." The priestess chanted briefly and then, stated, "Hopefully, the illusion will remain for a few hours at least. Please resume what you were doing." "Okay," the telepath agreed, restarting the scan. The machine's beam swept across him once then again and again and again. Finally, six swipes later, she commanded, "End scan." Looking at the monitor, she read the indicators. "So what do they say?" Eve probed, getting off of her knees where she'd been praying to Eli for a miracle. "The damage from the governor's been reversed, but we can't do anything for his overall condition unfortunately, due to its physiological nature," Emma replied. "Come on, let's allow him to rest. We'll get everyone something to eat." Walking out of the room, she led them to the dining area. **** An hour later, Clark paced in the area under the staircase, trying not to slip with his powers. Although the pasta was tasty, he didn't have his appetite and only picked at the dish for three reasons. He was sure that his parents were really concerned about him. Plus, his insides were churning when he thought about Lana. Finally, his prayers were with Professor Dubois who was lying in the lab facility. Over the past few hours, their entire trip had been turned upside down. "I wish I could use my abilities," he wished. "Clark?" Eve asked, coming down the stairs. "Are you all right?" "I've been better," he replied moodily. "Any change with Professor Dubois?" "He's improving," the former Messenger reported. "Our hosts feel he'll be all right." "That's good at least," he remarked. "I hope Lana's all right and Dr. Dubois is as well." "Dr. Dubois is a strong person. I would trust her to look after Lana. Besides, from what I hear, your girlfriend is quite resilient herself," she assured him. "Our faith will carry us through this situation." "Can I ask you a question?" he requested. After receiving a nod from her, he posed, "Have you had the ability to do something, but you've had to hold back for the sake of appearances?" She beamed at him. For some reason, she could see what Dave was talking about with Clark. The young man, despite his concerns, had maintained his composure and continued to hope for the best. Still, she wondered about his meaning. Did he have some abilities? "Eli, provide this young man with your guidance," she thought. Then, she stated, "Yes, I've been in that situation many times in my life. When the time is right, you'll know it. Just continue to have faith. All right?" "Yes'm," he nodded. While he knew that she was a Religious studies professor, somehow he got the feeling that she really knew more about theology than an academic level would indicate. However, he decided to keep silent for now and accept her advice. "There was one other thing." "Your parents, right?" she smiled. "Yes, I'm sure they're concerned about you. Come; let's see if we can find a phone for you to call them. All right?" "Absolutely," he agreed, managing a smile. Despite the situation, he was thinking that perhaps he had found a group of teachers he could relate to. Chapter 19 [Geneomax] Stuart Dubois paced the parameters of his room. While he recognized the need to respect his hosts' wishes, the consultant wanted to check on his daughter-in-law. He knew that Eckhardt wanted to recruit her for the GSA, but if she were up to something, would she be there long enough for him to convince her? "No, I gotta do something," he decided and left the area. As he entered the detainees' wing, a guard stepped into the path. "Mr. Dubois, you shouldn't be here," he detailed. "Step aside," the other snorted. "You wouldn't dare fire that thing." "I mean it!" the sentry, a relatively new employee named Johnson, asserted. When Dubois avoided his rush, he started to give chase, but fell way behind. Taking his walkie-talkie, he revealed, "Security breach in the prison ward. Dubois in the area. Stop, but don't kill. Repeat, stop but don't kill." Having said that, he ran into the darkness. **** A ways ahead, Dubois found the right cell and pushed the speaker button. "How's everything in there?" he sneered. "Who is it?" Lana's voice wondered. "Lana, let me handle him," Angie asserted. After a momentary silence, she requested, "What do you want? Aren't you a bit out of your area?" "Where you're concerned, I'm in the right area," the intruder laughed. "As soon as I can get this door open, I'll teach you a lesson!" "Come in and get us if you can!" Angie defied him, muting her end of the comlink. After all, there was just so much of him she could take. Looking up the camera, she thought, "Darn that stupid thing! If not for that, I'd let Xena handle him!" Outside, Dubois cursed as he fumbled with the security keypad on the door. "How many codes are on this blasted thing?" "More than you can imagine in an entire evening, I'm sure," Eckhardt cut in. "I gave you specific orders not to harass these women or Adam." "She's my business, not yours! That's why I agreed to help you, so mind your own business!" Dubois mouthed off. "This is my facility and I say what business pertains to whom, Mr. Dubois," the director frowned, motioning for his security people. After they had secured the guest, he continued, "Take Mr. Dubois to his room. Perhaps a time in isolation might cure him of his insolence" Johnson and the others gladly pushed the other toward the holding area. Having rid himself of his bothersome guest, Eckhardt punched the code into the pad, opening the door. "Are you two all right?" he asked, trying to sound hospitable. "Sorry, but I want to go," Lana indicated, folding her arms over her chest. "I didn't ask for this." "When you stuck your nose behind the curtain, Miss Lang, you found more than you bargained for, didn't you? I assure you, my Dear, you're not in any danger here. Neither are you, Dr. Dubois, if you agree to a certain proposition," he retorted to them. "Which is?" Angie inquired. "I want you to join the GSA. With your abilities and medical knowledge, you could be one of our top operatives. In the lab, you could cure diseases. And then, you could bring others such as yourself into our custody," he offered. "And if I refuse?" "Then, you'll be placed into stasis for study. Believe me, it'll be a tragedy to lose someone of your ability, but your genes will provide some excellent data, I'm sure," he threatened. She laughed, "Trust me, Mr. Eckhardt, you don't want to do that. I'm not some misguided misanthrope along the lines of my father-in-law that you can push around. Besides, you wouldn't want to deal with my husband." "We're coming up with measures to deal with him," he responded. "Involving pain and torture, correct? Do us all a favor, just let us all go. If he charges in here under a cloud of pain, your insurance premiums are going to skyrocket. Besides, you've lost credibility with our peers through that incident at the UMC. And I'm sure my husband and our friends are coming up with nasty surprises for you as well," the doctor tried to rationalize. Eckhardt growled, "No matter. 24 hours, Dr. Dubois. I'll wait for your answer." Turning on his heel, he left the room and walked out of the area. "What was his talking about?" Lana wondered. "Are you one of those mutants?" The oncologist shrugged, "Eckhardt thinks I am. I'd rather not talk about that man or my father-in-law right now." Looking under the bed, she saw a small crack in the plaster. "I wonder if that's the room I think it is," she mused aloud. To cover her activity, she muttered, "Darn that hair clip, I knew it was here someplace!" Putting her face up to the crack, she whispered, "Dr. Zero? Dr. Zero, are you there?" **** Adam lay on his cot with a splitting headache from Sanderson's probes. Despite the telepath's attempts, his resolve had held firm and the Sanctuary's location remained safe. Still, he didn't know how much longer he could hold out. Then, he heard a whispering, "Dr. Zero? Dr. Zero, are you there?" Realizing that the speaker was Angela Dubois, he looked for the source and isolated a crack in the wall plaster just beneath the bed. "Angela, is that you?" he whispered. "Are you and Miss Lang all right?" "For now," the doctor replied softly. "Dr. Zero, Eckhardt just gave me my join or jump in the freezer speech. We need to do something." He sighed, realizing that their jailor was raising the stakes. She was right, but timing was the key. "Three things. First, I wish you'd call me Adam. Secondly, I thought I heard you mention something about a hair clip. Would that be a bobby pin perhaps? Finally, what time is it?" "Indeed," she agreed, removing it from her hair and handing it through the crack. "Here you go. The time's almost 10:00 PM. And, by the way, Adam?" "Yes?" he asked, taking the clip. "Please call me Angie," she requested. "Good luck with your plan whatever it is." With that, she crawled out of the bed space with the clip in her hand. "What were you doing down there?" Lana asked. "There's not that much space down there." "Just looking for an answer to this problem," the doctor shrugged, putting the clip in her hair where the bobby pin had been earlier. If everything worked, soon they would be on their way out of here. **** For his part, the Mutant X leader waited for his moment. When he estimated it to be 10PM and thus, the required shift change for the security details, he took the bent middle of the pin and began to unscrew the code box's inner panel. Ten minutes and three screws later, he had the cover off and had begun to hardwire the door box. When the mental clock in his head reached 10:15, he hung the lid back on and jumped back on his cot just before the security camera's light flashed back on. "This'll take at least one more shift change, but we'll make it out of here," he told himself, resolving to be awake before the 6AM shift arrived. (Additional note: Mutant X spoiler: "In the Presence of Mine Enemies") Chapter 20 [Mutant X Sanctuary] Emma paced the halls of the Sanctuary that night. The emotional waves emanating from the lab left her unable to sleep. Sliding out of bed, she quietly made her way down the stairs and followed the psychic waves to the medical area. Glancing into the room, she saw that the unconscious man remained where the group had left him. Yet, despite all of that, she felt his turmoil. Focusing on him, she began to take the layers apart piece by piece. Looking around herself, she found that her illusion had remained fixed in place. The grass felt cool against her feet. The sky was a gentle salmon shade of pink with just a bit of dew hanging in the air. A subtle yet soothing song, which she couldn't identify, permeated the air. For a good ten minutes, she glanced about the scene for the professor. "How is this happening?" she inquired. "Ya created it. Ya should know," the Child smoldered to her right. The empath stared at him, considering the situation. Yes, she had triggered this illusion, but somehow his, or rather, this manifestation's abilities were amplifying the effect, wrapping them in a cocoon of sorts away from the outside. "Amazing," she admired silently. The young one in front of him seethed with anger and resentment, watching the intruder's approach. "What d'ya want? Leave us alone!" She put her hands up indicating that she meant no threat. "Us? You and who else?" "Me an' Big Brother," he spat. "It's just him an' me." "Do you mean David? Where is he?" she inquired. "Restin' safe from the long coats and yer pals," he snapped. "That thing y'all slapped on us nearly killed him!" " 'We' didn't put that piece of plastic on him. The men who took his wife hurt you both. My friends and I only want to help you," she tried to explain. The maniacal boy hissed, "Talk's cheap!" "Hey, we need to listen to her," Dave argued, approaching him. "Are ya kiddin'? We can't trust them!" the Other ranted. " 'Mon!" She looked at the medievalist. Now was the moment of truth. If they were to defeat Eckhardt and rescue their friends from the GSA, she needed to convince Dave to come out. He could reach his wife and help coordinate the operation. "You have to, David! We need your help. If not for us then for your young friends and your wife." Dave turned to his younger counterpart and stated, "We need to go along with this. Look, I don't want to see Angie in Daddy Dearest's hands. We both need her." The Child kicked at the grass under his feet sullenly. He liked having the upper hand and didn't want to concede it. Still, a chance to put a licking on their father would be worth it. Besides, as much as they fought, he admired the "Little Woman" for her spunk and fire. "Oh, awright," he relented. "But, we do this together! Understand?" "I've kept my end of the bargain," the "older brother" told him. "Thanks for keeping yours and for coming through in the clutch back there. You saved the day." "Ya mean ah did good?" the younger one stammered, tears in his eyes. "Yeah, you did," the historian smiled, hugging the Other. "Just bear with us, okay?" "Okay," the kid agreed, sobbing in Dave's arms. She watched the scene with admiration. When she entered the dreamscape, she had feared the worst, figuring on a long fight with the darkness, but it wasn't only anger, which drove the younger one. Rather, distrust, pain, anguish, and an overwhelming protectiveness of both himself and the outer personality, or "Big Brother," served as the motivating factors. Watching them come together and forge an agreement like that was something else. "I never thought I'd see this scene in a million years," Xena's voice suddenly noted. Emma spun to see the Warrior Princess materialize beside her. "Who?" "Relax, I'm Xena, a friend of David, Angela, and Gabrielle," the warrior's image replied. "How are you able to be here?" Emma wondered. "'Cuz we said so," the Child sighed, still a bit choked. " 'Cuz we trust her." "Amen," Dave smiled, glancing at Xena, his eyes glistening a bit in their own right. The words took Xena back a bit. As with the empath, when she rode the connection between Angie and Dave to this point, she expected to have a fight with His Darkness. However, it had been Dave himself who had won the day by persevering and winning his other personality's trust. And, given how she knew the Child looked at things, his words meant a great deal to her. "Thank you," she accepted. "You don't know how much that means." "Ya earned it," the Other declared. "Set everythin' right. Promise?' Xena gave a determined stare and, arching her right eyebrow, replied frankly, "Count on it. I'll be waitin' for you there as well. It wouldn't be a good fight without ya." "Go," the Child told his "bigger brother". "Ah'll wait here." "Right," Dave agreed. "See you really soon." No sooner did he say those words then the dream faded, bringing them back to the lab. Emma watched as Dave sat up, rubbing the back of his neck. "Dang spot still hurts." "It's going to hurt for a while," she advised. "It's great to see you back here, David." "It feels good to be here," he agreed. "I'm sorry if you gave us your name, I missed it." "I didn't have the chance," she grinned. "I'm Emma. That was an amazing scene in there." "It's a work in progress," he deadpanned. "If we're going to survive, we need to work together." She nodded, admiring this man's inner strength in the face of everything he was facing both inside and outside of his own psyche. That durability would be tested again inside of Geneomax, no matter how things turned out. "So what's going on?" he wondered, standing up. "The last thing I remember is blacking out with the goons around me." "And you don't remember anything afterwards?" she posed skeptically. "About the fights at the UMC, or here?" "Nope," he revealed. "My other half was at work, I'd say. He's something else, from what I hear." "That he is," the empath told him. "Using powers with a governor on him is something no other mutant has ever done. Not only did he do it, he made it look easy." "He soaks up pain like a sponge eats water," Dave told her. "But we both paid for the punishment he took in the process. Now, we're going to dish out a bit of punishment of our own on those guys, especially if they're harboring Daddy Dearest. If he's even laid a finger on Angie, there'll be Hell to pay." "You need to stay calm, David," she reminded him. "I'm okay," he promised. "I'm focused and in control. Now, I want to do something." "It's the middle of the night and you need your rest," she protested. "First, I want to eat something. Then, put me in the lab or whatever you think I can do. If you want to help me keep control, give me something to do. I've got some ideas, but, since this isn't my turf, can somebody work with me?" She nodded enthusiastically. "How does some ziti and meatballs sound? We saved a plate for you. " He expressed, "Thank you. Let's go. " Following her lead, the two headed for the dining area. **** Despite the hour, Jesse plugged away at his terminal, trying to find a chink in Geneomax's computer system. Due to their earlier successes at hacking into the system, the GSA had improved their firewall. But, with Adam and the others being held in there, he was determined to find a backdoor. "Okay," he mused, running down a mental checklist of procedures. "What else can I try?" "You know, there's always the program I installed when they were holding me last month," a feminine voice suggested. He turned to see his girlfriend, Toni Quintana, leaning against the inner edge of the open doorway, chewing on a bagel, and watching him intently. "What program is that?" he asked. "I thought they were watching you closely." "Who do you think you're talking to?" she cracked playfully. "I managed to get through to you under their noses, didn't I?" "That's true," he admitted. When he had introduced them to each other, Brennan had said she was the best hacker available. That certainly had been true, as she had penetrated Adam's security, but nearly bringing the GSA down on their heads in the process. "But that's why we picked you up on the way back from Tucson." "And here I thought it was because you missed me," she giggled, taking a seat beside him. "Seriously, what did you find out?" "That they've improved their security since our last visit," he groused, punching a few other keys and watching the system rebuff his efforts again. "What's this Trojan horse of yours?" "Oh, just a surprise to pay them back for their wonderful hospitality," she snickered. "Do you mind if I play here?" "Go right ahead and dazzle me," he declared, turning the keyboard toward her. With a sudden eagerness, her fingers glided across the keyboard, groping for entrances and testing digital passageways. With each new procedure, her smile widened a bit more. After all, the tougher the program and the surer the CIO was, the more she enjoyed it when she finally cracked the code. "Let's see, where did I implant that virus?" she asked herself. Scanning through subdirectory after subdirectory, she searched for the security protocols. "Hmm, here's the one for the subdermal governors," she continued, deleting it. "Correction, there was the subdirectory." Looking at her associate, she asked, "I heard that your patient downstairs resisted the governor. Is that true?" "It is," he indicated. "According to the scans, he shrugged off the pain and still managed to use his powers. Go figure." "Talk about a high tolerance level," she shivered, recalling her own experience with the plastic dampening devices. "At least, he's up and about." "He's awake?" he asked. "Uh huh," she replied, taking another bite of her bagel. "He's in the mess hall now working on a plate of ziti. Talk about focused. Geez...." "From what I saw in the auditorium, I'd say that's about right. Of course, considering the pain he was in, he had a good reason for his moodiness," the density mutant supposed. "At least I'm back in control," Dave indicated, entering the area with Emma. "Do you folks need any help?" "I think we're set," Toni commented. "But thanks. By the way, I'm Toni. He's Jesse." "Dave Dubois," Dave introduced himself, shaking their hands. "Did you find the security yet?" "We're working on it," Jesse declared. "All subdermal governors should be offline." The blonde woman at the keyboard added, "And I just found the security override. Hang on!" Slipping a disk in the drive, she uploaded a file to the Geneomax system. "Time release virus," she noted. "It's set for 6 PM tonight." "Sounds good," Dave concurred. "Meantime, when I was attacked, I remember those guys having only one black glove apiece. What's the deal with that?" "On the left hand, right?" Jesse asked. After the professor nodded, he continued, "Those gloves are for generating a dampening field which prevents us from using our powers." "And it works off of a pulse field, correct?" Dave continued. "Absolutely," Toni mentioned. "At least from what I've heard." "We have a couple that Adam's been playing around with down in the lab," Emma added. The medievalist nodded earnestly and a smile formed across his face, "Do you think that I can bring somebody here to the lab?" "If you can blindfold them," the telepath stated. "Deirdre can handle it. Steve Petersen from the FBI and I have been thinking about this type of stuff for a while now. I think he's close to something," the medievalist explained. Receiving dumbfounded looks from the others, he continued, "Yes, technically, this isn't my field, but I think about it out of survival." "So you think you can create a counter field to block the gloves?" Jesse asked. "Why not?" Dave shrugged. "Theoretically, it's possible." "If you could do it, it would be a big advantage going into Geneomax," Emma realized. "Well, I sensed that Deirdre's awake in her room. I'll see what's going on and if she can get us back there and return tonight," he concluded and left the area. The new mutants watched him depart, wondering if indeed he could pull off what he had mentioned. At least, he was up, under control, and thinking in the right direction. Chapter 21 Clark remained flat on his back, staring at the ceiling of the guest room. While Eve's talk had helped him feel somewhat better, he still wanted to get Lana back. He felt empty and alone, fearing the worst. At least, his parents felt better after he had called them. "This trip's been a total disaster," he sighed and, allowing his control to lapse, began to float off of the bed. "I hope Professor Dubois's going to be all right." "I'm fine, thanks," Dave's voice replied from the door. "Nice trick, by the way." The professor entered the room and quickly closed the door, ensuring their privacy. I knew there was something special about you." "When did you figure it out?" his guest inquired. "When we shook hands in the airport. You've got a powerful aura, Clark. In fact, you nearly knocked me for a loop there. And don't worry, your secret's safe with me," the medievalist assured him. "Thanks for that. I guess that makes us even, doesn't it? What exactly happened back in the classroom, anyhow?" Clark wondered. Dave scratched his head for a minute, formulating a way to explain it to his young friend. Finally, he stated, "A group of the guys who grabbed Lana and my wife attacked us as well. They were really after me, but well, things got complicated." "So why did you freak out like that?" "Honestly? Well, have you ever heard of people with multiple personalities?" After the young man had nodded, he continued, "You saw my Inner Child. At least, that what people have been telling me over the past hour. He's very territorial and doesn't appreciate threats against him or those he holds dear. The powers you saw are both mine and his," Dave explained. "I don't remember anything from the time those guys burst in until I woke up downstairs, but that's par for the course." Clark sighed again. What the medievalist had just entrusted him with would've sent most people screaming out of the room in panic, but he understood what his host was trying to say. Somewhere in the man's past, he had encountered a series of situations so bad that the personality had formed within him. "At least, he's aware of it," he thought. "So, what do we do now?" "We wait until the right moment. Currently, there are several items in the works. I'll say one thing, we're going to get your girlfriend and my wife out of Geneomax, and you can take that to the bank. On that note, I've got some other things to do. Why don't you try to get some sleep? Everything's going to be fine," Dave advised and walked toward the door. "Professor Dubois, thank you for coming by. I appreciate it," Clark expressed. "My pleasure," the older man nodded and left the room. Turning the corner and walking down the hall, he came across Nick sitting on one of the fountain edges admiring the scenery. "It's nice, isn't it?" "Hmm? Yes, it is," the vampire agreed. "And speaking of nice, it's good to see you walking around and in control again." "Thanks," Dave grinned. "Well, everything's in the works. I was just telling Clark that our timing will be very important. I sent Deirdre to get Steve and my gear." "What for?" Nick probed. "Isn't he needed more back in Tucson?" "Not for what we're cooking up," the professor alluded. "I've got a surprise in store for Eckhardt and Co. Steve told me that certain government agencies had been conducting secret experiments to block certain abilities from manifesting themselves. He and Angie thought that this breakthrough might work for me, so they've been cooperating with other researchers on this procedure." "And you figure that you can adapt the research to this situation?" the detective guessed. "That's the idea," the medievalist indicated. "Although they didn't get a chance to use them on me, those goons have gloves that emit energy waves which somehow emulate the experimental process. If we reverse the polarity and find the right frequency..." "Then you can neutralize their gear's effectiveness," Nick finished the thought. "It sounds good. When do we test it?" "As soon as Deirdre and Steve get back here. Meantime, I'm going to lie down for a few minutes. How are you holding up?" Dave inquired. "Oh, I'm okay considering the circumstances. I wish Alyce were here. I would like to know how Schank, Tracy, and Natalie are doing. Other than that, I'm all right," the former Crusader revealed. "Sounds great," his friend agreed, slapping him on the shoulder before walking away. Nick watched as Dave turned another corner, disappearing from sight. How many times had mankind attacked each other just because of the slightest difference in skin color or genetic type? For the immortal, there had been too many such instances during the Crusades, the Inquisition, England and Spain during the respective reigns of Edward I and the Catholic Monarchs in addition to places where tolerance was supposed to reign supreme. In one instance, he remembered the horrors suffered by the Orthodox Christians under the Turkish yoke for 500 years. When he had wanted to do something, others such as LaCroix told him to be quiet. [From the sands of time, his former master's voice stated, "You cannot stop this, Nicholas. Watch and learn about mortals and their follies. The strong shall survive and the weak shall fall. This is about social evolution and the survival of the fittest. Deal with it."] "Well, for once, the so-called deviants are the strong ones," Nick retorted tersely. Reaching for a glass of wine, he finished it quickly and headed for his quarters in search of further solitude and reflection. Chapter 22 [Geneomax] Angie sat in the corner, meditating on the events going on around her. Neither she nor Lana had slept very well during the previous night as each worried about their respective male companions and what would happen to them. Focusing at the clock on the wall, the doctor noted that it was now noon. "Nine hours to go before Eckhardt's deadline," she muttered to herself, shivering at the thought of the stasis chambers on the other side of the complex, and hoping that she would receive an opportunity to do something to save herself. "Are you still thinking about that man's threat?" her cellmate asked from her cot. "Yes," the oncologist responded, a little nervousness creeping into her voice. "It's kind of hard not to think about torture when it's staring you in the face, but I'm not going to give into it." Walking about the room, she surveyed every inch of the area once again. "Somehow, we're going to get out of here." "But nobody knows where we are," Lana doubted. "Wrong. Lana, Professor Dubois and I have some very influential friends who can find a single grain of sand on a huge beach if need be. Besides, if I know my husband, he's working on the situation himself," Angie assured her. "We're going to get out of here." "I hope so," the teenager sighed, trying to hold onto her composure. "Do you know what happened to Dr. Zero? Ever since those creeps took him away a couple of hours ago, I've been worried." "It's always a wonderful sentiment to worry about your fellow man, Ms. Lang," Eckhardt complemented, unlocking the door and entering the room. "At the moment, the man is sleeping in his cell. It was a rather nasty yet futile session." "Your creep couldn't pick his brain, could he?" Angie baited, a saccharin-sweet smile forming on her face. "He's not going to give it to you, I'll bet." "You're pushing your luck, Dr. Dubois," the administrator advised. "I've got faith in Adam for some reason," she declared, "As well as in my husband and our friends. You're not sticking me or any of them in your popsicle chambers. If you try, you'll have a fight on your hands." "With the governor on you, it'll be a short fight," the director promised, unaware of Jesse's and Toni's handiwork. "Besides, my agents are on full alert for your friends and Adam's outlaw band. We'll have a few surprises waiting for them. I'll be back about 9. Do enjoy your afternoon." With that, he left the room, shutting them back in after he had done so. "I have to say that you're being very brave, Dr. Dubois," Lana declared. "I wish I could be that way." Angie walked over to her young friend and rubbed her shoulder, "And who says you aren't? You're being quiet is all. You didn't show fear to that monster. For what it's worth, I'm proud of you. No matter what happens, don't give that creep any satisfaction, okay?" Feeling a nudge from Xena, she told Lana, "I'm feeling a little tired. Why don't we try to rest and save our energy?" "I'll try," Lana agreed. "Thank you for being so strong. I also wanted you to know that I know this mess isn't your fault or your husband's. If anything, I'm leaning more closely to the U of A than ever." Angie smiled, "I appreciate that very much. Rest now. It won't be much longer." After watching the teen close her eyes, she laid down on her own mattress, allowing herself to focus on her "roommate". ["Okay, Xena. What's going on?" she wondered, seeing the dreamscape form in her mind.] [The Warrior Princess appeared in front of her and complemented, "Nice show of strength there with Eckhardt, Angela. I was impressed."] ["Thanks," the doctor mentioned. "But he's right, with that plastic whosis on me, I won't be able to do much."] ["Wrong," Xena disagreed. "You're a more resourceful person than he knows. Two other things. First, the plastic thing has been disengaged since early this morning, but don't say anything. Secondly, I'm not going to let anything happen to you."] ["But, with all of the cameras and such, we'll be exposed!" Angie worried.] ["It's a small price to pay," Xena noted. "As I said to you when we started this, Angela, except for Gabrielle, you're my closest friend. Nothing's going to happen. As if David would let things escalate. I don't think so."] ["But those goons did something to him! I..." Angie started to doubt. "Wait..." Using her mental powers, she reached across the miles and brushed his mind. "He's okay!" she realized. Looking at her fellow conversant, she guessed, "You knew, didn't you?"] ["I was there when everything was resolved," the warrior recounted. "Adam's friends especially the one with the mental powers, really helped David to get back on his feet. And he's been working since then on a plan with them and Steven to get you out of here just as you said earlier. They'll be here tonight. Be ready. Meantime, I'll look in on your cohort in the other cell. Take care and continue being strong."] With that, she disappeared from view, allowing Angie to return to her normal dreams. **** Within his cell, Adam was flat on his back, recovering from the physical and psychic beating he had just received. While the bruises were minimal outside of a bloody nose and a fat lip, he had held his own against Sanderson and not revealed the Sanctuary's location. This time, it had been his conversation with Angie Dubois, which had bolstered his resolve. His jailers' reckoning that solitary confinement would make him crack faster was shattered by the conversation on the previous evening. He wasn't alone. "And I know Mutant X will be here," he told himself. "Absolutely," Xena agreed, appearing in front of him. Before he could say anything, she warned, "Don't say anything and act as if I'm not here. The guard devices can't see me. My name is Xena. I'm a friend. I wanted to let you know that your group is working on a plan to get you out of here. David Dubois is all right as well. Emma helped him. At least I think that was her name. Oh, and I wanted to say that you have a fine band there. They fought well in Arizona." He smiled, accepting the complement in silent fashion. Whoever this phantasm was, she had picked his spirits up, keeping his mind working on a plan of his own. "Before I leave, I wanted to ask if you could keep an eye on Angela and Lana. I don't want anything to happen before I get back with help," she requested. "I'll do what I can," he whispered. "Thank you," she replied graciously, fading away. He sat up and felt for the bobby pin in his pocket. As his fingers brushed across it, he smiled, knowing that he would be finished with the panel during the next shift change and he could get them all on the way to safety. **** [Mutant X Sanctuary] Steve and Dave sat on benches across a table from each other, staring at what appeared to be a flashlight. However, the device, which the former had worked on along with Angie and Dr. Frank Landers, was more than what it seemed on the surface. For the better part of the previous morning, the two men had played with the settings, testing and retesting it against the impounded GSA equipment and the Mutant X members. At 11:00, they had hit pay dirt. The device had blocked the glove's dampening effects over a distance of some 200 feet. Now, they secured the casing, knowing that this would be the only copy, which would be carried into Geneomax so it had to work. "I hope this works," Steve muttered, running his hand across the casing. "If it doesn't, things could get interesting." "It's a Plan C," Dave commented, walking across the room. On the countertop, a small pot full of bubbling white mixture sat heating. "Looks like my stuff's ready." "Oh good. Your pyretic 'touch', I presume?" the agent cracked. Approaching his longtime friend, he handed him a slim box. "Here are your arrowheads." "Thanks," the professor accepted, taking the box and opening it. Inside were a dozen hollow plastic tips. One by one, he unscrewed the top, filled it up, stuck a wick in it, put the top back on, and laid it down beside its counterparts. When he finished the final one, he stated, "That's all of them." "When does this operation go down?" Steve wondered. "According to Jesse and Toni, their virus will have everything shut down security wise at 6PM. That's when the security shifts change over at GSA central. Accordingly, we wait, let the bug do it's thing, let Deirdre guide us in, and...." Dave started. "We blindside them. And without the security, we'll have Xena there too. Sounds great, Dubie. Let's just hope it works out that way." "You and me both," the medievalist hoped. "But that's why we have contingency plans, right?" "Right," Steve agreed, once again admiring his former classmate's ability to plan and orchestrate operations in a fashion, which would make the Bureau green with envy. "Hey, it's coming on for 2:30, let's get something to eat and talk with the others." Placing the newly minted arrows in his quiver, Dave concurred, "Sounds good." With that, he shouldered the quiver, following his friend out of the lab and securing the door behind them. It wouldn't be long now. Chapter 23 In preparation for the night's activities, the Mutant X team members had worked their way through a computer simulation of Geneomax. As always, they had some difficulty maneuvering around all of the facility's safeguards, but, by the third time, the practice had gone without a hitch. "So, what do you think about Dubois?" Brennan asked, toweling the sweat out of his hair. "He seems really focused," Shalimar replied frankly, stretching the kinks out of her back. "Emma, you've been in his head. What do you think?" "He has a lot of issues," the empath stated. "To say he's complicated would be an understatement." "Why did he go off like that?" the electrical mutant wondered. The empath bit her lip, wondering if she should share the knowledge from her experience. "What is it?" Jesse asked. "What did you see in there?" Emma revealed, "Actually, Brennan, you should be asking about 'them' not 'him'." When the others stared in surprise at her, she continued, "There are two distinct personalities inside of him. There's Dave, and then there's a very hurt little boy. When he's pushed, the latter grabs control and blasts the opposition into oblivion. The fact that the father is involved in the situation only compounds it." The feral mutant guessed, "Judging from what we saw in the database, Dubois didn't get along with him at all. I take it you felt some of that." Emma shook her head. "The only thing I saw was the Child protecting Dave. Beyond that, there wasn't much except for the illusion he was generating. It almost seemed like a fairyland. There was a woman there as well. She was dressed in leather with chest armor and long black hair. She seemed really caring yet focused." "Sounds like Xena," Jesse guessed. "The warrior has been seen around him for the last couple of years." "That could be," Emma continued. "She was really protective of him. Anyhow, when he came to, he asked for some food and then, went to the lab." "Yeah, that secret project of his. By the way, do we know anything about his friend?" Shalimar asked. "He's FBI, all right. Petersen and Dubois went to school together both high school and graduate school. They've had several adventures together including the recent trip to Turkey," Jesse noted. "I hope that gizmo they're working on right now will work in Geneomax." "We'll find out in about 25 minutes," Emma told her friends. "Let's hit the showers and then, we can talk to them." **** A half hour later, the group descended the stairs toward the dining hall. Once there, they saw the two men, who they were just discussing, sitting across the table from each other. Dave chewed on a cookie and talked calmly with his friend. Next to his left foot, a fairly impressive bow and a quiver full of arrows were on hand in the event they were needed. Petersen drank something from a mug, most likely coffee, and conducted the conversation with his friend. Between them, a flashlight sat conspicuously. Across the room, the mysterious detective, Nick Miles, watched them enter. "How's it going?" Brennan asked them. Steve looked up at him and stated, "We're okay, at least as much as we can be under the circumstances." "Dave, are you getting tired at all? You've been going nonstop since you came to," Emma probed. "I can rest later once my wife and your leader are safe," the medievalist asserted, finishing the snack and starting on a cup of cherry tea. "Meanwhile, we've finished our ace in the hole." "How's it going to help us? It's a flashlight, right?" Shalimar doubted. "Appearances can be deceiving," Nick deadpanned from the side of the room. "This is the jamming device we were talking about earlier," the professor informed them. "If you're within 200 feet and the GSA goon squad tries their glove thing, this 'flashlight' will jam them and voila, we can use our powers!" "In any battle, you need to have every advantage," Eve stated, walking into the room and sitting down. Gabrielle joined them, asking, "When do we move in?" "Toni's virus will disable security right at 6PM," Jesse mentioned. "We need to be in there soon after." "Deirdre can handle that," Dave indicated. "Once inside, we can hopefully hit them hard and fast." "Eckhardt's sure to have a few guards around," Steve added. "I'm sure that Dave's father told him that my buddy here's not going to let him kill Angie." "And I'm not going to let Lana stay there either," Clark asserted from the other side of the mess area. "You're staying here with me," Eve told him. "No, if he wants to come, he can," Dave mentioned. "Just as with the 'flashlight', there's more to him than meets the eye, trust me." The others eyed the historian and then, the young man. While they weren't sure about the latter, if Dave trusted him, then Clark must be special. "So, that's settled. Can you tell Deirdre where to pop us in?" Gabrielle asked the mutants. "That's easy," Jesse replied, calling up a diagnostic plan of the facility. "The interrogation areas are on either side of the complex." He pointed to the north and south ends of the building. "According to what we managed to get from them, Dubois is in the north side. Adam and the women are in the south." "That's if Eckhardt didn't plant that information to lure us into a trap," Brennan doubted. "It's a chance we'll have to take," Shalimar asserted. "It's now 3:30, so we have about 2 hours and 45 minutes." Then, everyone should meditate or do what you have to before we move in," the professor directed, producing a CD. "And what's that? Another ace in the hole?" the feral laughed. "No, it's a copy of some troubadour music. I use it to stay composed," the professor shrugged. "And your other half?" Emma pushed. "He likes it too," Dave indicated. "But, he'll have his role as well. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some meditation awaiting me. Steve, can you keep an eye on our toy?" "Right," the agent agreed. "See you in a bit." Dave nodded and walked out toward the living area. The others watched him go, wondering what he had in mind and if he could hold his composure long enough to follow it to the end. The next few hours would definitely drag by for everyone. Chapter 24 [Geneomax] Eckhardt paced about his office. He waited for word from the holding area to see if Angela Dubois would reconsider his generous offer. Looking through the window, he gazed down onto the stasis area and the empty container being prepared there. Unless something drastic happened, the oncologist would be forced into that tube. "What a waste," he hissed. "What should we do, Sir?" Sanderson asked. "Nothing for the moment, Mr. Sanderson," the administrator directed. "We'll wait until 9PM before placing her in stasis. Hopefully, she'll see the light before then." "She won't change. Let's at least make it quick," the subordinate urged. "Patience," Eckhardt told him. "You're dismissed. When the new detail comes on, we'll have to prepare for an assault tonight." "Tonight?" the other asked. "Yes. Tonight," his boss indicated. "When you come back from your break, please bring Mr. Dubois in, will you? He'll be a valuable tool to use against his son." "Right away," Sanderson agreed, departing to do his duty. Eckhardt walked about the area. His instincts told him that something would happen within the next few hours. He just didn't know when or from where. Doubling the guard would do nicely to meet the threat. The other measures would just insure success. **** A few minutes later, the clock struck 6PM. The security detail began to change over as some people left their posts and others arrived to replace them. Unbeknownst to anyone, Toni's virus had wormed it's way into the system, knocking out the security sensors, and replacing them with similar looking yet blank screens on their displays. **** Adam had finished hotwiring his cell's door panel, getting it to slide open. Moving into the hall, he looked about. There were no guards or anything. "Perfect," he thought. "We should have about five minutes to get out, but then, if the ghostly woman's plan worked the way it was supposed to, help should be on the way." Knocking on the door of his friends' cell, he stated, "Ladies, it's Adam. I'm out and the security's offline." At that moment, two GSA agents came into the hall and saw him. "Hey! Hands up!" they told him, holding him at gunpoint. Within the cell, Angie looked around desperately. She couldn't let her colleague be killed. Looking in the corner, she saw Lana stressing over the situation. "Are you okay?" "Is he going to be okay?" the teen asked. "I wish there was something we could do." "There may be," the doctor indicated. "Can you keep a secret?" "Sure," Lana agreed, a puzzled look forming on her face. "What could be so important that you would need to ask that?" "You'll see," Angie declared, reaching over her back and pulling the sword, producing a bright flash of light. Lana looked about blindly. "Dr. Dubois? What did you do? Where are you?" "She's not here," another woman told her. At that moment, her eyes blurred into focus, picking up on the Warrior Princess. "Who are you? Where's Dr. Dubois?" Lana demanded. "She's safe," Xena indicated. "I'm Xena and I'm getting us out of here!" Getting up a good start, she kicked the door out into the hall. "Come on!" Leaping out into the hall, she spied the two goons coming at Adam. Flinging the chakram, she took out the attackers with ease. "Are you okay?" she asked him. "Yes. Thank you. Xena, right?" he expressed, admiring her handiwork. "That's right. Let's go," she replied grimly. "Lana, are you here?" "I'm here," the teen stated, making her way into the hall. "Come on," Xena urged, looking about anxiously. But, before they could go anywhere, ten other goons approached them. "Stop!" they commanded. Adam advised, "Lana, find cover!" Before he could do anything, the warrior thrust herself into action, kicking, punching, and an additional fling of her signature weapon. Within a moment's time, she had disposed of their attackers. "Impressive," he complemented. "Let's get out of here. What about Angie? Where's she?" "She's been taken care of," Xena assured her companions. "Shall we?" "Yes," he asserted. "I need to do some things." With that, the trio took off down the hall, looking for an exit. **** Meanwhile, in the midst of the holding area where the fighting had just occurred, a misty portal opened, allowing the group to spill into the hall. Seeing the strewn bodies of agents around them, they gathered that a battle had already occurred there. "Where did they go?" Jesse wondered. Dave surveyed the scene and smiled, "Xena's been here." "Right," Gabrielle stated, rushing off in pursuit of her best friend, leaving the others to follow as quickly as they could. Within moments, the invaders had caught sight of the trio. The latter was surrounded by gray coats and struggling with their adversaries. "Party time!" Dave grinned, readying his bow and placing a shaft in it. "Umm, Brennan, can you spark the wick?" "One spark coming up," his ally told him, lighting the projectile. "Thanks," the professor noted, firing it into the crowd. The smoke filled the room, stopping the activity. "Let's go!" he urged, charging into the melee. The others followed and started cutting down the GSA security in their path like so much grass. **** Sanderson unlocked the elder Dubois' door and urged the other, "C'mon, we have a problem." "Yeah? Now you need me?" his colleague baited. "Shut up and follow me! Looks like your brood is up to no good." Dubois smiled. Now, he would have a chance to get even with his children. Having decided that much, he rushed after Sanderson eager to confront the intruders. **** Despite the silencing of the alarms, Xena's cleaning efforts had attracted Eckhardt's attention. "Attention, security! Is anyone out there?" he demanded. "Sanderson here, Sir," the operative replied. "I have Mr. Dubois as per your orders, and we're en route." "Excellent," the director complemented. "We need to get a handle on this immediately. Move all available agents to intercept the attackers!" "Yes, Sir. We're on it," Sanderson concluded, signing off. "Well, Adam. Let's see how well schooled your outlaws are," Eckhardt frowned, heading for the scene himself. This crisis was getting out of hand, and he hated chaos especially in his own facility. **** Meanwhile, the combined Mutant X/Dubois group continued to dispatch the opposition with cold efficiency. As if crawling from the walls, the overcoats seemed to flow endlessly into firing range of electrical bolts, mental pulses, chakram, staff, or blows delivered from the others. In the process of this fighting, Sanderson waded into the mess and saw Lana. "Maybe with a hostage, we can stop this mess!" he realized. Grabbing her arm, he said, "Shut up and come on!" "No!" Lana screamed. "Help!" She resisted even as the operative pulled her back up the stairs, yelling to the others, but she couldn't make herself heard above the din. Then, Eckhardt's voice boomed, "Now!" Instantly, twenty-five other agents surrounded the group at a safe distance and held out black-gloved hands, generating the blocking field. Under that influence, Dave's abilities as well as those belonging to Mutant X were negated. "Now, Adam. It's over," the director stated to his adversary. "I have you all, and this time, there's no escape." The leader looked around. Given that they were surrounded and their fighting abilities were halved, he would have to admit that it seemed hopeless. There had to be another option, but it wasn't presenting itself. The situation looked bad and it did seem like the end. Chapter 25 "Stick it, Whitey!" Dave challenged. Looking around him, he spied the men holding them at bay. "Such bravado and crassness, Professor Dubois," Eckhardt snorted. "You'll address me as 'Mr. Eckhardt' before I put you into stasis." "Time for your surprise?" Shalimar asked expectantly, a smile on her face in expectation of Eckhardt's reaction. "Surprise?" Adam probed anxiously. "Absolutely," the professor grinned, producing the "flashlight" and flipping the switch. Within seconds, the dampening energies were neutralized and the glove-projectors shorted out. "You were saying, Whitey?" he taunted confidently. "Guys, shall we?" The others resumed their pace. Xena and Gabrielle engaged their opponents hand to hand. Nick descended from above like a devastating hailstorm, pelting the enemy with blows. Brennan zapped the opposition into oblivion. Jesse switched density states, allowing the agents to swing through him before his fist knocked them unconscious. Shalimar clawed and swiped her enemies into the same state. Emma put an image of choking into her enemies' minds, making it hard for them to breath, much less fight. Dave fired shaft after shaft at the agents, gassing and blinding them. But, after a few minutes, the medievalist doubled over as his head started to throb. The backlash from the neutralization process had caught up to him, and, just like the kick of an old shotgun, it filled his head with an intense pain. The surrounding agents decided to take advantage and started pounding on him. For a second, it seemed they would get their way. Watching from the upper deck where he held Lana, Sanderson relished the professor's pain. For bringing this chaos, the man deserved to suffer. Then, he felt the familiar twinge coming from the scholar. "The darkness!" he realized. However, before he could warn the others, Dave's attackers exploded away from him in all directions. As the academic rose, the goons saw the telltale grin, closed eye, and maniacal expression. "Well now, let's party!" The new mutants glanced at their friend, wondering what his mood switch meant for them. "Keep goin'!" he bellowed, firing pulses to scatter the agents in front of him. "Move it, Roadkill!" he snarled at his opponents. Charged by his contribution, the others followed the Child's lead. Within a few more minutes, the remaining agents had been disposed of. "All's well that ends well," Nick told his friends. "Now, let's get out of here." Xena looked about and wondered, "Where's Lana?" The others looked about as well. The young woman was nowhere to be seen. Then, Sanderson yelled, using his telepathy to boost his voice, "Miss Lang is here with me, heroes. Give yourselves up, and I might let her go! Otherwise, she dies." Eckhardt smiled. Perhaps, his operative may have regained the upper hand for them after all. The new mutants and their allies looked at their possibilities. Given the distance they would have to cover, there was no way that they would be able to reach her in time. Xena looked to the Dark One and whispered, "Give me a distraction with one of your party favors. I'll do the rest." "Right," he indicated, stringing the bow and firing a wild shot at the brewing scene. Sanderson shook his head and put the gun to Lana's head. A ghastly smile was on his face, thinking he had won. At that second, Xena flung her chakram, allowing it to carom off of several overhanging pipes, cameras, and the upper floors' undersides. The weapon knocked the gun from the operative's hand and sent him sprawling backwards. However, as he went backwards, he pushed his victim over the rail and into the abyss. Everyone gaped at the sight of the young woman falling to her death. Nick hesitated for a second before flying at top speed to intercept her fall. He wouldn't allow her to die no matter the consequences. **** At the others' urging, Clark had stayed in the shadows, waiting in reserve if needed. His blood pressure rose steadily as the fight unfolded. Then, he saw Sanderson holding Lana hostage. "No!" he protested. But, what could he do? Should he reveal himself? If he did, what would happen to him? To Lana? To them all? Then, he saw the operative stumble backward. Then, Lana fell into the abyss. "NO!" he protested, forgetting about all of his doubts. Somehow, his body relaxed and he streaked off across the room, covering the distance in the blink of an eye. His spaceship had killed her parents upon his arrival in Smallville. He wasn't going to let her join them. At least, not yet. Floating under her, he caught the falling woman. "What?" she wondered, opening her eyes. "Why am I still up here?" Glancing around, she saw that Clark had her in his arms. "Clark?" "I've got you," he assured her. "But who has you?" she demanded, looking down at the remaining distance to the floor below. "I've got me," he assured her as they alighted on the ground. At that point, she saw another man training a gun on him from behind. "Clark!" she warned just as the shot rang out. Her classmate only made sure he was in front of her. A second later, he felt the bullet bounce harmlessly off of his back. She looked at him with uncertainty. Here was a man she had known all of her life. Granted, she thought that he was mysterious, but never guessed that his secrets were on this magnitude. "Clark, how?" she pressed. "I was born like this," he stated, looking about to make sure they were safe. He saw that Nick had secured Stuart Dubois. "Look, we can talk later when we're out of here. Let's go." She nodded in confusion. Between Dr. Dubois and Clark, they owed her an explanation apiece, but those could come later. For now, they needed to leave here. After the two teens had joined their companions, the mysterious mist suddenly wafted over them all, teleporting them from the scene as quickly as it had deposited them there. Eckhardt grumbled indignantly at how triumph could have slipped through his fingers so quickly and totally. The group had thrown his best security forces about like so many rag dolls. He had lost his hostages. But worst yet, this disaster had shown how easily his measures could be circumvented. There would be Hell to pay for this disaster. As such, he went off in search of Sanderson to hold him accountable for this mess. Chapter 26 Adam stared at the fog surrounding the group in wonder. He had heard of myths and legends of priestesses doing such feats, but he had dismissed them as legend. Turning to Deirdre, he asked, "I take it we should leave while this cover remains?" "We're no longer in Geneomax, Adam," Emma told him. He looked at her skeptically. "What are you talking about? We were standing in the main lobby. You just can't pop in and out of places...." Xena shrugged, "You'll see. " At that moment, the mists parted, allowing the group to step back into the physical world. To Adam's amazement, they stood in the midst of a prison compound right after sunset. "Where are we?" "The Hampshire County prison system," Steve stated, grabbing hold of Dave's father. "We have a stray to drop off." The elder Dubois struggled, "You can't put me back in there!" "Oh yes, we can," Nick asserted, staring into the other man's eyes. His stare became intense as he hypnotically suggested, "You will come with us quietly. Understand?" "Yes..." the prisoner blankly agreed. Just then, a guard ran up to them. "What is this? Who are you?" "I'm Steven Petersen, FBI, and he's Nick Miles, Tucson, AZ PD. Here's Stuart Dubois back from his little jaunt on the outside. Add three counts of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder to his slate, will you?" the agent explained, handing over the other man. "Absolutely," the guard agreed. "But, I need to know who your friends are. They just can't come waltzing in without ID." Nick looked at the prison official's eyes and asked, "What friends? Agent Petersen and I are here by ourselves. You should be concerned with getting Dubois to his cell." The guard nodded robotically. "I understand. Dubois should be back in his cell. Thanks for bringing him back." The agent struggled to keep a straight face, deadpanning, "Not a problem." After the guard had escorted Dubois into the cellblock, Steve nudged Nick, asking, "How do you do that? You'll have to show me some time." Recalling Natalie's request, he smiled, "Get in line." Deirdre inquired, "Are we set here?" "Absolutely," Steve agreed. "Then, let's get out of here," Adam urged, looking about at the scene. "Done," the priestess shrugged, dropping the misty blanket once again. When the cloud lifted, they were inside of the Sanctuary. "How's that?" "Amazing," the leader admired, soaking in the fact that she had transported them home in two steps. "So you do this all the time?" "It beats the airlines," Dave grinned, hugging his daughter's shoulders. "Nice to see you in control again," Gabrielle informed the professor. "I gave him some herbs to chew on back at the prison," Deirdre noted. "And I admit that I was giving him some pleasant thoughts," Emma added. "Whatever works," Shalimar explained. "That's pretty cool, isn't it, Adam?" "Yes," he admitted, although he was more than a little troubled about her ability to bypass his safeguards. Then, he noticed Eve sitting by the fountain, drinking a cup of tea. "And who's she supposed to be?" "She's with us," Xena smiled. "That's my daughter, Eve. Don't worry, she was keeping an eye on things here." " 'Keeping an eye on things'?" Adam wondered, thinking the worst. "Everything's okay," the Religious studies professor explained. "I'm glad that everyone's back in one piece. I was praying for your safe return." "Well, thank you for your thought," Adam replied warmly, her nature winning him over for some reason. "We can use more help like that." "Where Eckhardt's concerned, you can say that again," Brennan mentioned. "Well anyhow, I don't know about all of you, but, after that fight, I want a shower." "Go ahead," Adam agreed, allowing his charges to do so. When they had left, he eyed the remaining group carefully, asking, "I wonder what happens now?" "Excuse me?" Dave probed. Adam sighed, "Now that you've seen the Sanctuary, I need to ask that you keep this secret." Lana stared at both Clark and Xena. What was one more secret after today? "That's not a problem," the Warrior Princess informed him. "You're waging a good fight. You can count on us." After the others nodded, adding their agreement, she raised her right eyebrow and asked, "See what I mean?" "Besides, with the way I brought everyone in and out of here, we didn't see anything," Deirdre commented. "And the windows on your ship were sealed shut." Adam nodded in satisfaction. "Sounds as if you covered all of the bases. Well, I thank you for helping us out and I'm glad we could help you as well." He shook each hand in turn. "Actually," Dave realized. "I was hoping that we could talk again. This has been really helpful for me believe it or not." The others glanced in surprise at him, but Adam could see where he was coming from. "Yes, I think I see. But you all are too well known to join the Underground. Clark would be the only exception to that, but he needs to consider that option for himself. Actually, I have to return to Tucson in any event. I still want to give my talk even if Eckhardt won't be allowed within 50 miles of the place," he noted, a slight smile forming on his face. "I think Dr. Fishburne will agree," Dave agreed, glancing at Xena. "Then if it's all right, we'd like to chat with you and the rest of Mutant X about something. You're right, neither Angie nor I can join directly, but we might have something of interest to you. All I ask is that you have dinner with us and hear me out." "Deal," Adam concurred, shaking his hand. "Meantime, have a safe journey and the thanks of Mutant X." "Thank you," Eve smiled as the mists thickened around the group, transporting them away. For a long minute, Adam studied the spot where his new friends had been only a minute before. This new alliance would be interesting for all parties, but with the GSA lurking out there, allies such as the Duboises and their friends would be necessary. "Diagnostic," he requested to the computer and watched as the system started its operations. It felt good to be home. **** This time, the group found themselves back on the campus in Tucson. The sun had set hours before and night's ebony sheen had taken over its dominion, insuring that the campus wouldn't be at its most populated. Dave inhaled deeply, "It's good to be back here and everyone's safe and sound." "Amen," Eve agreed, glancing at everyone but allowing her eyes to settle on Clark and Lana. "We're glad that you two are safe." "Thanks for helping to get her back," Clark expressed, rubbing Lana's shoulder. "I have to admit that I was pretty worried back there." Lana smiled, allowing her eyes to sparkle into his. Granted, they had some things to settle when they got back to Smallville, but she knew that those issues could be worked out. "Clark, thanks for the thought. I was concerned about you as well. At least, I know why you've been so mysterious." Seeing the nervous look creep across his face, she assured, "I appreciate that you trust me with your secret, Clark. Your parents sent you here, didn't they?" "Yes, we both lost our parents because of the meteor shower," he admitted. "My parents died when their...our...planet...exploded. The fragments chased me to Earth and...." His eyes teared up. Lana stared in disbelief at him. The meteor shower, which had brought so much strangeness to their town and had taken her parents from her, had brought him there. For a split second, she wanted to lash out at him, but, seeing his expression, the anger quickly abated. She could see the longing, which she had felt for years reflected there. They were a pair joined by loss as a result of the cataclysm. "It's okay, Clark," she whispered, embracing him. "I know now. You won't be alone anymore." "Thanks," he told her relievedly. "You don't know how long I've wanted to get that off of my chest. I've cared about you for a long time and wanted to tell you the truth. And I've made up my mind on the application process, if that's okay." "Here, right?" she laughed. "I was going to say the same thing. Granted, it's been a hectic and scary ride this weekend, and I'm sure that Nell and your folks aren't going to be too thrilled, but we'll have some good guidance here both in and out of the classroom. That is, if we get in and they'll have us." Dave nodded, "Somehow, I don't think that's going to be a problem. If everything works out, we'll look forward to seeing you in our classes." "Thanks," Lana grinned. "Xena, can you thank Dr. Dubois for me when you see her? She really kept my spirits up back in that cell, and I really appreciate it." The others looked at the warrior who smiled warmly, commenting, "She knows, Lana, but thank you from both of us." "Well shall we get you two back to the hotel? I'm sure you going to want to change before dinner," Eve directed. "On that note, I'm going to check on things," Nick concluded, hustling off. Once he was out of sight, he took off for the museum to set Alyce's mind at ease. "And I'm going too," Steve indicated. "I've got to check in at TPD on a case and file a report with Farrell. See you all soon. Have a good trip back, Guys." With that, he headed for the parking lot where his car waited. "Eve, can the two of us go with Clark and Lana while everyone else finds cover before the authorities arrive?" the professor asked. "Absolutely," the former Messenger agreed. "See you all later," Deirdre stated, willing a portal to appear. The two warriors and she stepped through before it vanished. "I'll say one thing," Lana laughed. "Life never seems to get boring around here, doesn't it?" The medievalist looked at his colleague and smiled, "Not too often, but we like it that way." With that, the group headed toward Campbell and the Arizona Inn. Father Doesn't Know Best David J. Duncan January 2002 For notes & such, please see Part 1 Chapter 27 Natalie walked out of Ramirez's office with mixed feelings. Granted, she never liked leaving things out of a report. However, now that it was turned in, she was more concerned about her friends. Since Steve had gone with Deirdre to help Dave and Angie, nobody had heard anything from them. Schanke walked over and asked, "Anything?" "Not yet," she replied. "Ramirez is ready to eat nails over this mess. I wish Nick would get back here." "Me too," he agreed. "At least, we got some info from those GSA creeps we bagged from the auditorium incident. Steve's going to have some work to do when he returns." She glanced around the bullpen. At that moment, she saw the agent walk through the front doors. "Steve!" she called, running across the area. "Hi, Natalie," he smiled, hugging her and kissing her cheek. "I just got back and wanted to check in." "I'm glad you did," she told him. "We've been concerned about everyone. Any news?" "Hold on," Steve requested. "Everyone's fine. Nick will be back shortly. Angie's okay. The kids are at their hotel right now, and Dave pulled through all right." "What about Dr. Zero and those other guys?" Schanke pushed. "Dr. Zero's fine. As for the others, they've vanished. Poof!" the agent stretched the truth, trying to give Mutant X some cushion. "They did help us get Dr. Zero, Angie, and Lana back, but they disappeared right after that." Ramirez stalked over and indicated, "Well, I would've liked to have talked with them, Agent Petersen, but all's well that ends well, right? We got some more information from those men we bagged at the U of A. Looks like another big can of worms, eh, Amigo?" Steve's mind flashed back to the scenario at Geneomax, and he shuddered at the knowledge that Eckhardt had built such a juggernaut with government funding right under the Bureau's nose with nobody being the wiser. "It sure is, Captain, but we're on it. Measures are being set up even as we speak." The coroner studied her companion's face. Although they had only just started their relationship, she knew he didn't allow fear to show very often. Something on this mission had scared him deeply. Once she got him alone, she would ask him about that. "Bueno!" the Captain cheered, unaware of the pathologist's observations. Then, noticing his detective's entrance, he called, "Detective Miles, good to see you! Thank you, by the way, for the updates. At least, I had something to tell the U of A and the kids' parents." "Sorry, we couldn't get everyone back sooner," the vampire apologized. "We needed to make a few stops first. Stuart Dubois's back in custody in Massachusetts, and everyone's back here safe and sound. By the way, how were the kids from David Dubois's class?" "Shaken up, but otherwise, they're fine," Tracy answered, approaching the group. "You know, Guys, one of these times, you're going to have to let me in on the game. Covering you is getting old." A smile grew on her face. "But I'm glad that you're all safe and sound." "Did you get anything out of the guys you arrested? Steve mentioned that you were interrogating them," Nick probed. "We found out some things about an outfit called the GSA. Imagine, a group of sociopaths operating here in the good ol' US of A, and we don't even know about 'em until they attack our friends," Schanke noted. "Did you see anything while you were cruising, Bud?" Remembering Adam's request to keep things quiet at least for now, the vampire shook his head, "They had an operation moving along until we derailed it. Hopefully, Steve'll be able to find some things out in his upcoming investigation." "I guess that's to be expected," Tracy sighed, wishing he could say more. However, she guessed that Steve had asked her partner to keep it under wraps for now. "Well, we've got some patrols to do if you're up to it. Oh yeah, did you stop by and see Alyce? She was pretty worried about you." "That's why Steve beat me back here. She's okay for now. I'll tell her more after our shift," the immortal mentioned. "Come on, the Caddy's waiting." "Sounds great," she grinned, glad that everything would be getting back to normal at least for now. **** A few hours later, Nick dropped Tracy off at the station and headed for the El Gato Negro. As he walked in, he felt a tension in the air underneath the festive trappings. While mortals and immortals alike were drinking from the bar, they weren't dancing despite the music blaring throughout the room and the strobes flashing shades of color in the air. "Nicolas," Janette greeted. "It's good to see you. We were concerned when you vanished." "Really?" he asked, enjoying the attention from his former sister turned protégé. "How concerned?" "Let's just say that when Alyce came in here, worrying about your sudden disappearance with the Dubois girl, certain individuals were a bit anxious," the club owner declared, sipping on a frothy beverage. "It's nice to know that I'm wanted," Nick cracked, sipping from the bloodwine concoction placed in front of him. "If you would stick around, Nicholas, you'd see that we do care about you," LaCroix pointed out while sitting next to his former protégé. "These are dangerous times. With Dijon eliminated by your friend, the Enforcers are unstable. Who knows where and when they will strike next?" "We have a bigger problem, LaCroix," Nick indicated. "You know those mutant hunters we were talking about before I left?" After receiving a nod from the elder vampire, he continued, "Those operatives are part of a much bigger xenopathic group. I was inside of it, LaCroix. Their facility is enormous, their resources immense, and their leader is quite capable." "Quite capable as far as mortals are concerned," the former Roman general doubted, finishing his own goblet. "I'm sure that if we were to visit, he would run away quickly. Did you see this leader, pray tell?" "From a distance. He was cold, calculating and, even in the face of defeat, showed no fear," the detective recounted. "If he can go after mutants in this fashion because of their potential threat to his world view, what would stop him from coming after us?" "As if he would," the ancient vampire doubted. "Really, Nicholas. Such worries. Still, as we learned from the Inquisition, mortal zealots can be an issue for us to deal with. Thank you for the warning. I do appreciate it." For a second, he pondered the possibilities of meeting this mortal leader. If he was half of what Nicholas had described, what a fine vampire he would make. "No, he'd be too ruthless and ambitious," he disagreed, reconsidering and dismissing the potential issue due to the potential threat to his own authority. Watching his "son" get up and depart for the loft, he chuckled to the other's back, "I do, however, appreciate good intelligence, Nicholas. Even without meaning to, you're serving my whims like the son you should be." On that note, he rose from his own stool, making his way toward his room in the back of the tavern. The sun would be rising soon, and he had much to think about. Chapter 28 On the following afternoon, Dave walked into the same room where the attack had occurred a few days earlier. Since their return to Tucson, he, Angie, Clark, and Lana had been assuring people that everything was all right. Now, he allowed the two visitors to take seats in the front of the room and stood quietly in front of the room. How many more times would he allow these attacks to happen on campus, endangering the students, his friends, and his family? All he wanted was to lead a normal life in spite of his abilities. As the GSA had proven, that wish could be shattered in the span of a heartbeat. "No," he hissed. "You can't let them stop you from living your life." To their credit, the students were all there, anxiously awaiting his first words. Granted, they were afraid, but they had the courage to show up. "Hi, guys," the professor started. "Before I start today, I want to issue you an apology. Last week, this class was attacked because somebody wanted to hurt my family and me. Unfortunately, you were caught in the crossfire. For that, I'm sorry. I'm glad that you followed directions and got clear of here before anything else happened." Brigid Shannon, a sophomore, got up and walked over to the door. Peering into the hall, she saw her boyfriend by the stairs and called, "Is it ready yet?" He bellowed, "Send him down to Room 100!" Dave walked over to the door, asking her, "Brigid, what's going on? I'm trying to say something to everyone." "Dr. D., it's really sweet for you to apologize to the class, but we wanted you to come with us, if you would," she explained. "Let's go, Folks!" The group left the room en masse, heading downstairs for the auditorium. Clark, Lana, and Dave followed as best they could. For his part, the professor's nerves were rattling around in his belly. What was going on now? Lana reassured him, "Professor Dubois, you did nothing wrong. We were attacked, and you helped to defend our rights." Glancing at her classmate, she kissed him spontaneously, asserting, "All of our rights." Clark, although flustered from the attention, added, "You got them out of there before the crisis started. We're with you, no matter what." "Thanks," Dave expressed appreciatively. Despite the fact that he had waded through killer vampires, demons, gangsters among other threats, he was petrified at what was waiting for him through the doorway. [From within his head, the Child urged, "Get in there! They're meat if they spite us!"] Thus inspired, he followed his teenaged friends into the auditorium. There, the place was overflowing with students both in the seats and along the sides of the room. If the fire marshal were to have walked in there, he or she would've had a fit. Walking down the only remaining clear aisle, he spied Eve, Francesca, Angie, Lydia, and Michael Fishburne smiling in the front row and holding three chairs for them. At the podium, Caitlin watched as the trio seated themselves before starting, "Good morning, everyone and it's an unusual one at that. Never before has the student body here called an assembly themselves and then, asked two deans to oversee it. It's a historic occasion indeed. Anyhow a few days ago, a terrorist group attacked our campus. Maybe not a political group, but this coalition is just as dangerous. During the engagement, the conference that my associate, Dr. Michael Fishburne, had organized was disrupted. Three people were kidnapped. Upstairs, a class in which several of you were sitting was held at gunpoint as well. Our rights were violated. You know those ads we've been bombarded with on TV, radio, and the newspapers about the mutant menace? They're lies! Yes, they're in our midst, but not as a threat. Most of this group is special. One in fact risked injury to keep you all out of danger. Despite the threat to himself, he made sure you were all clear of the scene before he tried to fight back and suffered major injuries to himself in the process." "Here it comes," Dave muttered, rubbing his head. "Let her finish," Dr. F. directed. The library dean continued, "These actions are hardly a surprise. For twenty years, I've known the man in question to be strong in his convictions. He wants the best for his colleagues and all of you. On no fewer than three occasions, he's risked his life for others, myself included, against some pretty formidable competition including once on the spot where I'm standing right now. Anyhow, I want to ask Dr. David Dubois if he can come up here to grace us with his presence." The crowd started to chant, "Dr. Dubois! Dr. Dubois!" The professor glanced nervously at his wife who mouthed, "Go on." Getting up slowly, he made his way up the stairs, feeling as if he was mounting a scaffold, and forced himself the rest of the way to the podium. Once he got there, a quick survey of the room showed him that nobody was jeering him. In fact, they were eager to see him. In back of him, he heard a whispered, "Psst." Stretching out with his senses, he felt familiar vibrations coming from scattered points. From out of the corner of his eye, he saw Deirdre smiling, her eyes motioning for him to get on with it. Beside her, Adam nodded encouragingly to him as well. At various spots throughout the crowd, he picked up on the members of Mutant X waiting for him to speak. "Well," he started. "I guess the gang's all here, isn't it? Funny, I've never been called up to speak like this before, but I guess there's a first time for everything. My students know how dry and boring my lectures can be, don't you?" The audience broke out laughing. At least, Dave was retaining his humor despite his nerves. "I must say that I'm overwhelmed by this show of support. My second thought over these past few days has been concerned with you all and your welfare. You'll pardon me if my first thought was for my wife's safety. That aside, I want to let you know that everyone is all right this morning. Thank God for that..." he started, his eyes tearing up. A cheer went up from the room, echoing for several minutes. From their posts within the crowd, the members of Mutant X appreciated his words and attitude. This was a difficult speech for their new friend, and so far, so good. Allowing the kids to have their moment, Dave waited before raising his hands to regain the floor. "Thank God that my wife and my friends are okay. All's well that ends well right? Well, the answer to that is a big fat 'no'. By standing firm here, we've won a small battle. As soon as we're finished here, I'm going to give my class the hardest test they ever imagined...." After receiving the anticipated groan, he grinned, before turning serious, "Just kidding. But, the right to learn is yours. The opportunity to teach you belongs to my colleagues and myself. And the right to live in this society belongs to everyone, my Friends, no matter what gender, race, ethnicity, or..." Allowing a pause, he glanced over at Adam before continuing, "...genetic makeup. Yes, I said genetic makeup. As Caitlin indicated, I'm special and unique because of my talents and abilities. But I'm still as human as the so-called "normal" people are, am I not? How does that genetic quirk make me a freak? It doesn't in itself nor does it make the other so-called "special" people freaks either. A hundred years ago, African-Americans in the South were harassed, murdered, killed, and denied their civil rights by the KKK because of their skin color. Well, those goons in the raincoats aren't dressed in white robes and hoods anymore. No, these days, the domestic terrorist likes good suits, overcoats, and technological toys. They swoop down on "special" people because we're different not because of any real crime, and I've got news for you all, they don't care who they hurt to accomplish their goal. But, we can do something about those creeps. We can stand united and remain vigilant. I don't want to see another mob or a protest. I just ask that you treat everyone with equal respect, and if you should happen to run into someone with special gifts, then be their friend as you would be to anyone else. The people who attacked us would have you believe that mutants are a menace. I say that they're the menace through their subversion of a social group's civil and constitutional rights. Yes, I faced them and, despite the fact that they stuck one of their gizmos in me, I fought them. I apologize if I scared anyone. I want us all to live as one in our society. Remember, as it says in our Pledge of Allegiance, we are one nation under God with Liberty and Justice for all. I just ask that you remember that the next time the hate mongers start spreading their b.s. Thank you for listening and I'm glad that you're okay. Thank you." With that, he finished his piece and started toward the stairs again, not knowing what the reaction would be. It started slowly at first. Brigid stood and clapped. Then, a few others joined in. Finally, everyone else started to applaud him loudly and enthusiastically. Chants of "equality" echoed throughout the auditorium. Adam's eyes watered a bit. While he had been nervously listening as his friend addressed the issue, he was heartened by the result. Without flinging mud at specific people, the medievalist had exposed the GSA for what they really were, letting his audience know that genetic terrorists had harassed them, willing to kill normal as well as superhuman individuals to accomplish their purposes. Moreover, instead of being revolted by the words, these students seemed supportive. "Maybe if this feeling were to permeate society, our job might not be so hard," he sighed. "Maison, when you attacked this man and his students, you miscalculated on a tremendous scale." Dave collapsed nervously into his seat. Besides the feeling of elation, he trembled, not believing that he just laid everything on the line in what was the biggest gamble of his life. "I...I did it." "Yes you did," Angie cheered, kissing him proudly. "And I'm so proud of you!" "As we all are," Dr. Fishburne added. "Amen," Eve stated. "Well, if it weren't for all of you, I wouldn't have been able to do any of it. Thanks," the professor complemented. "To have good companions, you have to be a good companion," Francesca reminded him. "Now, go on, you have a class to teach." He nodded and, after rising from his chair, departed the auditorium with his wife holding his hand. As he left, he saw Jesse, Toni, and Shalimar smiling and nodding their approval. From a distance, he felt Emma's appreciation within his mind. He knew that Adam would support him as well. It had been a hard opening salvo to the war, but a successful one at that. Now, he hoped that all would work out for them in the successive campaigns to come. Chapter 29 [Geneomax] Eckhardt fumed as he watched the taped replay of the Tucson rally. Not only had the raid on the University failed to secure the Duboises, but also it had resulted in unwanted exposure both within and outside of the GSA of the organization's activities. Worse still, due to the fracases, most operatives were either injured or in police custody. However, the piece de resistance came with the gathering that morning where David Dubois made his presence felt without a doubt. The comparison to the Klan made the director indignant. He thought himself to be more sophisticated than those ruffians. But, with the comparison having been made, no amount of spin doctoring would be able to reverse the effects. With his remarks, Dubois had flip-flopped things. Now, instead of the mutants as the threat, they were the victims. In turn, the GSA was a persecutor instead of a guardian. "This is intolerable," he groused. "To have those freaks treated as a part of everyday society can't happen. It would lead to the ruination of society." He stood up and walked over to the window. Looking down into the stasis chamber below, he watched Sanderson sleep inside of his cryogenic prison. As always, failure had a high price within the GSA. "Too bad," he sighed. "Next time, I won't underestimate them. As you said, Dr. Dubois, this is only the opening salvo. I'll recover yet." Shutting off the replay before it sickened him too much, the administrator went out to survey the damage and find a trustworthier operative to lead his next operation. **** [Tucson] The reduced panel with Adam and Angie had received positive feedback from the UMC officials. Using Dave's comments at the rally as a springboard, he spoke to the nature of DNA mutations and how such things could be a positive rather than a negative social force. The audience received the information well, even enthusiastically. "Congratulations, you two, on an excellent session," Dr. Fishburne complemented. "Under the original circumstances, I couldn't have hoped for a better reception or for a smooth operation." "Thank you," Adam accepted. "I admit it was a welcome opportunity to be able to promote my research. You have quite a person here in Dr. Dubois. She's a quality individual as well as a researcher." She flushed pink and squirmed shyly, "You're too much, Dr. Zero. I just did what was right. You got us out of there. I just followed your lead." Her boss chuckled knowingly. Sometimes, she was too modest for her own good, but he let her play that hand for the moment. Likewise, the geneticist eyed his co-panelist skeptically as well. The things he saw back in Geneomax didn't exactly add up. Xena showed up a little too conveniently even though she did save his life more than likely. However, because of the favor, he decided not to ask her unless the right moment came up in private. "C'mon, give her a break. Her research is first rate, but there's something to be said for modesty as well. If there's an upside to our situation, I'm glad we really got to know each other." Fishburne agreed, "It's great to hear her speak about her research again. Well, an administrator's work is never done. Once again, nice job." With that, he left the area, heading for his office. Adam turned to her and smiled, "First rate job, Angie, all the way around. You've been a big key to how everything turned out." "I would say the same about you, Adam. You and your colleagues bailed us out as well. I think Dave was right. We could learn a lot from you and the others. Also, I wanted to thank you all for coming with Deirdre to support Dave this morning. Nobody expected the kids to react like that," she noted. "I must admit that I wasn't too thrilled with the circumstances, or with your husband choosing to take on Eckhardt and the GSA like that, especially given the spontaneous nature of the piece and how explosive his personality is," he revealed. "I wasn't so sure either. He was so scared that we were going to get fired and was so nervous in that auditorium; I thought that he was going to erupt, but there are some things to remember. This is his home. Nowhere else had he been so well accepted as he has been here. His colleagues were his professors, and he's always loved the students. They accepted him, dealing with his moods, and giving him his background. When Eckhardt marched in here, he violated Dave's safety zone. I can safely tell you can threaten him, and he'll deal with it as you've seen. Threaten his friends and colleagues here; you've got a war on your hands. Eckhardt is only the latest in a line of bigots and bullies who've stood in his way," she reported. "I believe it," he realized. "You're doing great things for him, Angie. Stay with him and keep him improving in terms of his self- control. After that piece, he's made himself a target." "You can talk to him about that tonight at dinner. Please bring the team to our house. Francesca, Dave, and I are cooking. Consider it a thank you from us to you," she invited. "No buts." "Since you put it that way, fine. I need to look in on Emma. She's having a hard time with Alicia Fallone's death. Speaking of your husband, where did he go?" he accepted. "He went to check in with the others," she shrugged. "Let's join them too." "Absolutely," he smiled, walking with her out of the auditorium toward the parking garage. **** On a rise overlooking the city's western edge, a thin layer of flowers covered a solitary gravesite surrounded by only a few well wishers. Alicia Fallone had been a recent arrival in Tucson and wasn't that well known. Her family had disowned her due to her abilities. Consequently, her passing was barely noticed. Despite this, the members of Mutant X had gathered to mourn their friend. Granted, they had only met her once in Phoenix, but her emails had been warm and outgoing to them all. Emma especially felt the tragedy. They met right after she and Brennan had joined the team. The transition was long and difficult. The empath couldn't see herself as a viable hero. However, despite Alicia's shyness, she had talked with Adam's newest protégé, bolstering her confidence and trusting that her own thoughts wouldn't be violated. "Thank you, Alicia," she expressed. "For everything." Having already said their piece, Jesse, Shalimar, and Brennan hung back, allowing their friend to mourn in her own way. Five minutes later, the Subaru pulled up. Dave stepped out and solemnly joined the others. "Is it all right if I say my piece as well?" Receiving no opposition, he leaned over the site, placed a bouquet of flowers on the grave and took a step back. "Alicia, we never met in this life. I'm sorry for that because you left a mark on us all. What happened to you was tragic, but your sacrifice didn't happen in vain. Your murder opened the can of worms on the GSA. Because of you, Eckhardt's about to be investigated. Because of you, I met our fellow mutants and learned that my wife and I are members of a bigger community. Through them, I've come a few steps closer to inner peace and security. Most importantly, this is our home. I tried to convey that notion this morning at the U of A. Seeing you in the morgue pushed me to assert our right to live our lives the way we choose not out of fear of Eckhardt and his goon squad. I hope you thought the speech was worthy of your memory. Thank you for your presence and your memory. You won't be forgotten." "That was very nice," Emma smiled. "Thank you." "Two such pieces in one day. Not bad," Shalimar added, rubbing the professor's shoulder. "Who would've guessed a poet was hiding under the berserker façade?" Brennan remarked. "Seriously though, Chief, those were some heavy words." "Heavy words for a heavy heart and a thoughtless act," Dave told them. "Alicia deserves to be here with us, and she's not. Her crime was that she was born different. That's why I said what I said this morning and just now. It's up to all of you to be the frontline defense against the GSA. I'm just one professor doing my best to inspire the next generation." Looking toward the car, Jesse noted that Clark and Lana were sitting in the back seat. Walking over, he asked them, "Hey, Guys. It's okay if you want to say a few words." The teens looked at each other anxiously. Finally, Lana responded, "We didn't want to intrude on your grief. We're sorry, but we wanted to respect your moment." "We'd really be honored if you would join us," the density-shifting mutant invited. "In that case, okay," Clark accepted, climbing out of the car first and then, assisting Lana. The three solemnly walked over to the others. Once there, the young woman stooped close to the ground, indicating, "Ms. Fallone, you don't know me, but my name's Lana. I'm sorry that we couldn't have met. Like you, the GSA harassed me. If not for my boyfriend, Clark Kent, who's here with me, I would've suffered as you did. As Professor Dubois said, you continue to make a difference. Your legacy began today and it will not end. When I get back to Smallville, I'll write a column dedicated to your memory, the difference you made, and the ramifications of your accomplishments. Be at peace and thank you for helping me to meet these friends and for getting to know my best friend. I may be the only so-called normal person here, but I'm in good company." At that point, she broke down, hugging Clark tightly. It would take a while for her to come to grips with the maliciousness she had encountered over the past few days if she ever did. Yet, she had an obligation to talk about what she had seen so that it might not happen again. For his part, Clark stood silently, choosing only to reflect instead of adding more words to the plethora already offered. He too knew the burden of having powers and having to hide them. In his heart, he made a silent vow to use those abilities to serve and protect mankind, no matter what. Without knowing, he had placed himself on the path toward his future endeavor as a multi-faceted crusader for justice. After the silence had lingered for a while, Shalimar asked Dave, "She touched you like that?" "Indirectly for the most part," he smiled, looking at Emma. "Your teammate's illusion helped me and my inner Child to come to a peace of sorts. For that, I'm grateful. Besides, this city has and always will be my sanctuary, my home. Anybody should be able to live here or anywhere else as they choose. Speaking of that, I would be honored if you all would accompany me back to the apartment." "Is this when you make that proposal?" Brennan pushed. "Adam hinted that you had something big up your sleeve." "Just my arm," the medievalist declared, waving it to them. "Now, let's be on our way. I think you might find this interesting." After the new mutants got into their rental car, they followed the Subaru back down the Ajo Trail toward the Old Pueblo just as the last colors of sunset faded from the western sky. No matter what, Alicia would be able to rest in peace and enjoy the desert sky as she had in life. No matter what, her memory would inspire change. Her friends would see to that. Conclusion While Dave, his guests, and Mutant X were at the cemetery; Angie parked her Taurus in the usual spot and guided Adam into her home. "This is it," she announced. "We don't have a lot, but we call it home." He surveyed the simple yet distinctive furnishings in the living room. "And I take it each of you has a study?" he inquired. "Yes," she replied, showing him first her sanctum with its medical charts and reference works. Then, he saw the other retreat whose walls were lined with shelves bulging with books. Looking at the works, he recognized at least 7 languages and topics dealing with most historical eras. However, the medieval emphasis hardly surprised him given the professor's research. "Amazing," he admired. "You both have fascinating studies, I must say." She flushed pink. "You're too kind, Adam, but thank you. Both Dave and I value our research because it's a way of contributing to society, building for the future by examining the past and present." "Bravo," he agreed as they walked into the twins' bedroom where the girls were playing amongst themselves. "These are your daughters?" "Two of them. Adam, the one on the left is Lauren and the one on the right is Karen. Girls, this is Dr. Adam Zero," Angie introduced. The twins smiled nervously and greeted, "Hi, Sir. We're glad to meet you." "And I'm glad to meet you both," he responded warmly. "What are you doing?" "We're just playing checkers," Karen answered respectfully. "Right now, Lauren's winning, but I'm going to come back." The other twin shrugged. In front of company, she knew better than to take the bait from her sister. "Just play nice, okay?" Angie requested. When the kids nodded, she replied, "Awesome. Dinner's going to be in a little while so we'll let you know. Okay?" The girls smiled and nodded once again. Just then, a wind gust tipped their favorite vase, sending it toward the floor. Lauren stopped what she was doing and concentrated. Instantly, the glassware stopped, suspended in midair. Karen focused on the window, which unexpectantly eased itself shut. Angie bit her lip. While Adam knew about their pedigree, she wished that her daughters wouldn't have shown their true natures so easily. At some point, she and Dave would need to have a chat with them about these things. "Wonderful," he praised, despite having similar misgivings. As much as they would need to learn discretion, the twins' sense of teamwork was admirable in itself. "Just do me a favor, okay?" Stooping over, he requested, "Just be more careful about who you use your powers in front of. The vase is important, but trust me, there are people out there who aren't as nice as me. I think you're both very good girls, and I don't want you to be hurt by these bad people." "Are we monsters then?" the twins chorused. He shook his head, "No, never think that. You're very special. I work with many girls and boys like you, but there are people who disagree with me. They would hurt you because of their short-sighted beliefs." "You mean like Grandpa Dubois?" Lauren asked. Seeing her mother's disappointed look, she apologized, "Sorry, Mama, but he hurt Papa and Dee-Dee. " "He was so mad with Papa and Auntie," Karen added, shaking from the memory of the day when Stuart Dubois had confronted his daughter before the group had left for England. Adam explained, "Your grandfather isn't a bad man. He's just misinformed about things and had some bad experiences fighting for our country. He needs some help." Angie grinned. He had relayed the messages that she and her husband had thought about, but never figured out exactly how to do it. No wonder he was such a good leader and inspirational force. "Girls, why don't you keep playing? We'll have more time to talk later." They nodded and concluded, "Nice meeting you, Dr. Zero." After they walked out of the room, he complemented, "You've got two very well-behaved girls there." "Thank you," she accepted. "They've had to get used to not having their sister around. That's Deirdre." "The teleporter?" he asked. "There seems like quite an age difference between them." "She's always been really good with her stepsisters," she fibbed. Before he could reply, the door opened and Dave announced, "Princess? We're home." She walked over and embraced him, asking, "How did it go?" "Alicia got a nice sendoff, thanks to our new friends," he replied, glancing at his companions as they followed him into the room. "You had a nice piece as well," Emma told him. "Not a bad place," Jesse complemented. "It's very nice," Lana added. "Thanks, guys," the history professor accepted. Can everyone take a seat? We're waiting for a few other people." Seeing the others' nervous stares, he reassured them, "Nick, Eve, Francesca, Steve, and Dr. Natalie LeBeau, the pathologist who examined Alicia. Don't worry, she can keep a secret. She wanted to fill you in on the official report." At that moment, the others came in as well. Francesca walked through the living room and set a covered dish in the kitchen before coming back to join her friends. "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes," she announced. Adam glanced over at Natalie unsure of what she would think of him or his team. According to what Angie had mentioned during their drive over there, she was prepared to cover up Alicia's mutancy for the sake of all concerned. "Forgive me, Dr. LeBeau, it's not my nature to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially after you took a great risk on our behalf, but I must ask that you keep what you know a secret." "I'm prepared to do that," the ME agreed. "From what Steve and Nick have told me, we all owe you a big debt of gratitude. You helped me along with Nick's partners back at the UMC." Glancing at her immortal friend and her hosts, she smiled, "Discretion is an everyday thing for me, Adam. You can count on me." "Thank you," he expressed. "It's a hard world out there and we need to be careful. On the other hand, there's the occasional need to go out on a limb." Turning to Dave, he handed a disc to his host, adding, "We had this aired last night on Proxy Blue." The medievalist walked over to the computer and inserted the floppy. When the screen popped on, the CGI image came up, saying, "To conclude tonight's show, I received word that the report concerning the battle in Turkey was no more than just two kids pulling a publicity stunt. Just when you think you can trust people to report the truth, they don't. Thanks for understanding." "How?" Angie asked. "Oh, Toni and I cooked up an email and some other "evidence" which led people to think that the fight between Dave and Dijon was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Consider it a thank you," Jesse noted. Dave chuckled, "Nick, do tell LaCroix that he's off the hook...again." The vampire detective squirmed. Given how the Elder was already feeling about Dave, delivering that message wouldn't be too pleasant, but at least the situation had been dealt with. Adam smiled and changed the topic. "On top of the nice piece this morning, you had an offer you wished to discuss? Forgive me for being forward, but if you're ready to speak...." The medievalist closed the front door and sat back down beside his wife. For a long minute, he thought about what he was about to say. It was probably one of the biggest steps he would take, but he felt it needed to be done. "Adam, after our experience and the rally this morning, I got to thinking about the way things are. Eckhardt's trying to tell people that mutants are bad, and preying on society's fears and misgivings. I was thinking...what about sending some new mutants to school here?" "With you all teaching them," the leader surmised. "Go on." "Now that people know that mutants aren't bad, this might be our chance to show everyone how we can attend school and go through the ranks according to society's expectations. If you mix "normal" and "special" folks together, but don't tell them which ones are which, then personalities can win out," the professor continued. Eve nodded, "We can teach tolerance and respect for others along with the academic lessons. Eli said that love is the center of all knowledge." The mutants all looked at each other with uncertainty. Granted, these people had just taken a stand against Eckhardt and the GSA, but they were hardly the majority. "This is a special place," Dave noted. "These folks are very tolerant of others. Hey, they put up with the Child for the past fifteen years." Clark interjected, "Excuse me, Professor Dubois, can I say something?" "Sure, Clark. What's on your mind?" his host inquired. "My parents and I had a chat on the phone yesterday. They've agreed to let me come here if I'm accepted. I would sure like to know some other people like myself," he revealed. "And I would like to be friends with them as well," Lana added. "If Clark and you all are like most of these 'new mutants', then I know I would have many new friends." Adam glanced at the others, uncertain of what to make of the conversation. While he wanted to trust in what Dave said, he knew that doing so in a public manner would make the university Eckhardt's number one target. "I wish I could be certain of their safety." "Adam, don't worry about their safety," Nick assured him. "We'll keep an eye on them." "The police can only do so much, Detective Miles," the leader disagreed. "Pardon me, but I can't ask you to stop fighting crime to protect any mutants." "He wasn't talking about the police," Natalie commented, glancing at the vampire. "Show him, Nick." The former Crusader closed his eyes and looked down. When he raised his face again, he was fully vamped out. "I was referring to the vampire community. We're here as well. I have already told the vampire Elder about Eckhardt's threat, and he'll keep an eye out over the city. Besides, the rest of us can also watch for threats. The GSA is a potential threat to us as well." "And what's to stop this Elder from going after the new mutants?" Shalimar cut in. "Me," Angie spoke but with Xena's voice. Then, in her own voice, the oncologist added, "Adam, you were wondering about how I got out of Geneomax, right?" "I have a theory," he nodded. "But, go ahead." "Clark," she requested. "I need you to keep a secret." His classmate informed him, "Brace yourself. This is a doozy." With that, she triggered the transformation, becoming Xena right in front of their eyes. Adam looked to Jesse who nodded at him. Then, he grinned, "Nice work. I thought as much too. So, how are you going to keep our friends at bay? You can't kill a vampire that easily." The Warrior Princess pulled her sword and held it up in the air, admiring the glint of the light on the blade, and arching her brow. "This. I have the power to kill immortals." "Besides, as a mortal, LaCroix, I mean Lucius of Pompeii, was my stepbrother," Eve explained. "I can try and talk to him." "Lucius of Pompeii?" the leader asked. "The Roman general?" "The same," Nick nodded. "He was the one who brought me across." "And if you're his sister," Adam continued. "That would make you Livia. Sorry, but you don't seem like the berserker type." "Not anymore, thank Eli," the former Messenger stated. "Emma, if you want to see for yourself, you may do so." "All right," the empath agreed and peered into the Religion professor's head. There, she saw a split almost like the one in Dave's psyche. She noted the light from her time as the Messenger of Eli. But a few steps later, the scene turned dark and brutal as she saw huge Roman armies sweeping through villages on a rampage, killing, burning and pillaging everything in sight. On a white horse at the front of this wave, a woman dressed in armor with Eve's face drove the troops forward on this killing spree. Seeing this sight, Emma's face turned white and her eyes bulged wide. "My God," she muttered. "The blood and horror." Watching the other woman's reaction, Eve noted sadly, "Now, you know my shame." "Hey," Brennan asked. "What did you see?" "Did you guys ever hear of the sack of Theothia?" Emma stammered. "Yeah, that was one of those battles we got in our high school world history class," Shalimar informed her. "Led by a woman and....no, it can't be. Emma, are you saying?" Xena hugged her daughter, as the latter's eyes started to water. "I was there after the battle," she reported. "And it's true." "I was like him...like Eckhardt. If the barbarians wouldn't submit to Roman rule and customs then we... butchered them," Eve sobbed into her mother's breastplate. "That's why we can't let that man succeed. It's not the example we should be giving to the young people." The leader looked at his team members. To a person, they all nodded at him. For a long time, he had searched for a place in the open where new mutants could be safe from the GSA and live their lives relatively free from retaliation. This was as good a place as any. "We can give it a try," he agreed, shaking his friends' hands to seal the deal. "Meantime, I'd like to swing by and check things out periodically if I may." "Certainly," Dave agreed. "And we'd like to keep working with you all as well. As I said in the Sanctuary, the experience was very beneficial for me as well as the rest of us. Hopefully, we can help each other." "I think if Adam agrees, then we can do that," Jesse nodded. "Besides, I can't think of many nicer places to come on scouting missions," Brennan added mischievously. Xena chuckled at the smart aleck, "It beats northern Britannia." Then, picking up a single white rose, she presented it to Emma. "Angela wanted you to have this as a thank you." "For what?" the telepath asked in surprise. "Probably for helping me to achieve another step toward getting my two sides to cooperate," the professor guessed. "Thank you, Emma. As I said back at the cemetery, you helped me tremendously." "All I did was set up the vision. You both maintained it," she argued. "But you created the safe haven for both of us," he pointed out. "Thank you." "Well, okay. In that case, you're welcome," she accepted. "And I want to thank you for taking on this responsibility," Adam added. "May it be the start of something new and wonderful." "You know," Dave hinted. "That sounds awfully close to a toast." Hurrying to the kitchen, he grabbed the wine glasses and set one before each guest. "Francesca, did you?" "Right here," his cousin indicated, producing a bottle of white wine and pouring some for each person except for Clark and Lana to whom they gave Pepsis. "Sorry, guys." The two high schoolers smiled. Given the mood in the room, they didn't care what was in the glasses. "Now, Adam, you were saying," Steve urged. "Yes, may this be something new and wonderful," Adam reiterated. "And may we provide an example for others to follow: a seed of love and tolerance from which a forest springs," Eve added, raising her glass. "Hear! Hear!" the others chorused, clinking their drinks before taking a sip apiece. Despite the scene they had faced, a new hope had been born in that small room between them. Between those few individuals of differing backgrounds, abilities, and natures, a concord were reached that would give others an example to follow in the future. THE END (for now) I hope you all enjoyed this one! With the next story, the "War Saga" resumes. The trilogy starts with "Don't Talk to Strangers" where our characters meet up with some obnoxious furry aliens and the crew of a certain ship with a possessive Artificial Intelligence. Stay tuned! If you liked this story, then feel free to sign up for my "DuboisChroniclesUpdates" on YahooGroups. That way, no matter when I post a story, you'll hear about it first. Thanks again!
Pages to are hidden for
"Father Doesn t Know Best - Forever Knight Fan Fiction 2"Please download to view full document