Father Doesn t Know Best - Forever Knight Fan Fiction 2

					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
dante0220@yahoo.com. 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!

				
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