When Conspiracies Collide:
Center of Attention
Axianna - permanantpsycosis.iwarp.com/


This is pretty much the same spiel as in the first book so you can skip 
it if you want. Just know who's mine and who isn't.


Disclaimers

Jane is mine, as is the character of Father, AKA Alex Thompson, Micheal 
Bentley and a few others. Although, in both cases, I donít own all of 
their various identities. 

Duncan MacLeod, Richie Ryans, Joe Dawson, Methos AKA Adam Pierson, 
Immortals, the Game, Watchers, Joeís bar and the Dojo all belong to 
Rysherís and their creators. 

Jarod, Miss Parker, Sydney, Broots, Mr. Raines, Mr. Lyle, Angelo, 
Brigitte, Kyle, Mr. Parker, Mrs. Catherine Jameson Parker (ever notice 
she's about the only one with a first and last name on the show?), 
Sweepers, Cleaners and the Center belong to their respective owners, 
such as NBC. I expanded their universe to include the Assassins.

Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, AD Walter Skinner, Cancerman, the 
Lone Gunmen, the Well Manicured man, Mighty Morphiní Bounty hunters, 
Giant Fluke men, Eugene Tooms, William Mulder, Mrs. Mulder, Samantha 
Mulder, Mrs. Scully, Melissa Scully, Bill Scully, the X-files and itís 
associated conspiracy all belong to Chris Carter, 1013 and all those 
guys.

This is a work of fiction that Iím not making any money of off so donít 
sue me. Itís not like I have any money in the first place. Just talk to 
all the people I owe money too, including the Bank. Iím just a poor, 
starving student, whoís soon to be a poor, starving working stiff 
trying to pay of student loans. Of course, that hinges on me actually 
finding a job when I graduate. If I graduate.

Continuity

Just forget about it and call it an AU; it doesnít really fit in 
anywhere. But if you want to get picky, the series could start before 
the season finale of the 97-98 season for Pretender (Season 2) and X-
files (Season 5) and so before XF: Fight the Future. It spins off from 
there. I do mention in passing various things that have occurred in 
previous X-Files, but nothing too major and itís not like you have to 
have watched every episode to get whatís gong on. For Highlander, just 
ignore the season 5 finale. Maybe I should take out membership in Clan 
Denial. . . RICHIE LIVES!!!! Even if you don't see him in this one.

This is the third installment of When Conspiracies Collide, a multi-
show crossover. The first two installments, Auspicious Beginnings and 
The Fountain of Youth really should be read in order for you to make 
any sense about what in heavenís name is going on. 

Personal notes

Hopefully this one is better than the last one. Also, donít try reading 
this as a short break from studying. Just ask Michelle. We decided to 
take a break from studying for finals, so I edited and then she read. A 
few hours later, we finished the book and it was time for supper. So 
major kudos to her for giving up study time to read this and comment on 
plot and for picking up the numerous typos (honest theyíre typos, my 
grammarís not THAT lousy). As a result, any Oops you see are mine and 
mine alone. Kudos also go to Terri for all her support and for not 
killing me as I fed this to her one unedited chapter at a time. With 
any luck I might finish off the last book sometime soon, but no 
guarantees.

Rating

I think I could get away with calling this one a PG 13. A fair bit of 
mental anguish, but other than that, not to many bad words and only a 
little violence and none of that too graphic.

***

Prologue

   Hi Fox, 

   I told you Iíd tell you when I was up to something, I just never 
   said Iíd tell you right away. Donít worry though, cause by the time 
   you get this, Iíll be back and have the info Iím after.  Father 
   Micheal and I are breaking into the Center tonight to try and find 
   out what happened to me there. 

   Russ will be looking after the bar for me, and Duncanís keeping an 
   eye out for people nosing around. Whoever sent Mary, hasnít made a 
   move since. Itís been over four months and not a whisper. I donít 
   know whether to be relieved or worried.

   So how are things at work? Anything weird lately? The hunted house 
   sounded like it was actually a blast. I canít believe you and Scully 
   tried to kill each other because of a bunch of ghosts? Though I have 
   to admit, Iím surprised she hasnít shot you yet. Wait a sec, she 
   already has, hasnít she. 

   Well, aside from collecting information about the Center, things 
   have been pretty slow. The knee is back in fighting form and the 
   redness is finally leaving the scar on my arm. Itís down from bright 
   red to a dull pink. Pretty soon, I might be able to wear short 
   sleeves again.

   Oh well. Iím not big on letter writing, as Iím sure youíve heard 
   from Mom, so Iíll leave off here. Say Hi to her for me, and Scully 
   too. And donít forget to feed the goldfish, the poor thing was on 
   its last fin when I saw you last month. Take care!

   Always,

   Sam.


           

Special Agent Fox Mulder gently placed the letter down on the table and 
immediately dialed up the bar in Seattle. After an interminable wait 
listening to the multiple rings, he got an answer as Russ finally 
picked up the phone. 

No, Jane wasnít around. Sheíd dropped in last week and hadnít said when 
sheíd be back in. No, he hadnít seen Micheal around since she left with 
him last Friday. After hanging up, Mulder dialed another number.

"Turn off the tape." He waited for the barely audible click before he 
continued.

Chapter 1

I woke with a headache. A really big one that recalled a similar 
experience of waking up in an unknown area with anvils ringing in my 
head; definitely a habit I wanted to break. Opening my eyes, I was 
greeted by darkness. That wasnít good. Nope, not good at all. 

Father and I had made it into the Center, no problem. The problem came 
when we ran into a Sweeper team on the way out. The computer systems 
had already been raided and we were heading into an air-shaft when they 
swept around the corner heading towards us. Much as I extol our 
physical prowess, they called reinforcements and we were soon out 
numbered by about a 20-to-1. 

Nobodyís that good. 

I got in a few good hits and Father broke a few bones, but pretty soon 
I was overwhelmed by a pile of bodies. Ditto for Father. We were 
dragged mostly vertical and after they exploited a few lesser known 
pressure points (no doubt in retribution) we were greeted by the 
deathís head himself. One Mr. Raines. The pictures Iíd seen didnít do 
him justice, he really was one ugly bastard. He looked us over and his 
eyes gleamed with recognition. Things were quickly going from bad to 
worse.

"Hello Alex." Mr. Raines voice sounded like his throat had been crushed 
at one point. I wonder if Father had anything to do with it. "I didnít 
think youíd darken our doorstep again."

"I just wanted a chance to get even." Father wasnít doing too bad, 
having that nice little healing thing going for him. I on the other 
hand was not exactly feeling 110%.

"It wasnít personal you know." Mr. Raines inhaled a few noisy breaths 
through a tube leading to an oxygen tank.

"You tried to kill me," Father said, smiling as he did so, "in rather 
messy manner. I think that can qualify as personal."

"You took something that didnít belong to you." Mr. Raines didnít look 
too happy; Father had a very cold smile.

"Well there is that I suppose."

"And you tried to double cross us." His voice took on a sinister note 
that out matched Fatherís. I think the speech impediment elped.

"Of course." Iím sure Father would have made an expressive gesture with 
his hand, if it wasnít currently being crushed by a goon. "I had to 
look out for myself you know." 

"So why come back now?" 

"I was home sick?"

"Well, Iím sure we can find a remedy for that." Mr. Raines looked at 
the two men holding Father and with a smug little grin jerked his head 
to the side. "Get rid of the body."

I took that as my cue to act. Theyíd pulled us up on our feet which was 
a pretty obvious mistake. Once I was up far enough, I swung my legs 
forward and kicked out in front of me. It was very satisfying to wipe 
the smile off Mr. Rainesí face with my foot and, as a side effect, pull 
the two guys holding my arms down with me. I managed to land on top of 
them and the fight started anew. 

Father had managed to lose his guards and jumped back into the fray. I 
flipped off my throwing blades, kicking anything that moved and slowly 
made my way to the edge of what was beginning to look like a bar brawl. 
At least I didnít have to worry about what I hit. Glancing over my 
shoulder, I was just in time to see the gun aimed at Father. Five shots 
later, I knew he had his way out. Now I had to find mine.

I slammed a foot into something with a wet crunch and found my back to 
the wall. I snarled at the first person to come near me, gulping in 
deep breaths with my eyes gleaming as the collection of sweepers 
flinched. I knew I was in trouble though and it wasnít as though Lady 
Luck was paying any attention to my plight.

My fingers searched the wall behind me looking for something, anything 
that I could use. I flipped off my last knife and ripped at the grating 
behind me, turning to look into the dark shadows and straight into 
blank, soulless eyes. Those eyes stirred something deep within me that 
I wasnít ready or willing to explore. Not when I had other things on my 
mind. 

The group of Sweepers surged forward but I couldnít tear my gaze away 
from a face full of angles that were as haunted as they were familiar. 
Something started to pound behind my eyes and I finally wrenched my 
eyes away. The hands pulling at me helped me to ignore the increased 
pounding and the tingle of a returning memory. 

I lashed out feeling thing crunch and pop beneath my hands, but by 
then, I could barely see through the lights that were flashing in my 
head. Whether they were from the way my screwy memory worked or from 
the fists that made it through my defenses, I wasnít sure. 

Suddenly the lights exploded big time, my knees collapsed under me, 
something connected with my face and that was it. The lights were 
washed over with blackness and I woke up here. 

***

He crouched outside the fence, his sharp face glaring at the building 
in front of him. Micheal Bennett, the Immortal that Samantha Mulder 
called Father, was ticked. Somehow they had been caught. The best 
planning in the world canít anticipate everything, such as a small 
group of sweepers staying late and entering the hallway before he and 
Sam managed to vacate it. 

Once the alarm was sounded, there wasnít much the two of them could do. 
By the time heíd recovered from being dead (coming to after being shot 
who knew how many times wasnít a quick process) they were already 
dragging his body away. There were only two Sweepers and they went down 
simply enough. He dumped their bodies where they were going to dump his 
and took off. 

He made it back to the Center and stood outside, twiddling his thumbs 
while his mind spun in circles. If he left, he could get Duncan, Fox, 
or even, heaven forbid, Jarod to give him a hand. It went against the 
grain, but he was dead. He couldnít risk the Center finding out about 
his kind. He shuddered at the thought of what the Center would do if 
they knew about Immortals. 

Samantha would be safe for the moment. While the Center may have been 
willing to kill her when she was a wild card, out side of their 
control, now that she was in hand, she wasnít as much of a threat. They 
could easily find out what she knew and then sell her off to the 
highest bidder. She was safe enough for the moment.

He scanned the grounds as his mind went along a train of thought that 
was becoming familiar. Duncan was good in a fight, but he didnít have 
the devious mind that was necessary for what was now bouncing around 
Michealís head. Fox was too Mortal and Samantha would kill him if Fox 
got hurt. Jarod might have some useful information but wasnít exactly 
keeping in touch. No, he couldnít go to them for help.

Micheal wasnít a man of many acquaintances, and many of those he did 
know would be more than happy to play Madam Guillotine. The others 
werenít even in the country. Last he heard, Connor was back in Japan 
and. . .

A sudden thought made itself know and a faint grin reached up to his 
eyes. Oh yes, he might help. He wasnít exactly next door, but anything 
was better than having to deal with Jarod. It was time to call an old 
friend. A very old friend. 

***

I ached all over, but my head was the worst. Sitting up, I stretched a 
little, feeling my muscles bunch and pull from the abuse. I was pretty 
sore. My face was all nicely swollen with one eye practically useless 
and my teeth loose in their sockets. 

Eventually I managed to stand up and walk around. The movement felt 
good in an achy kind of way, so I explored the confines of my cell. 
There wasnít much to explore. A 20 x 20 foot room, nothing in it. The 
floor was hard and cold, and the walls felt pretty much the same.

My explorations concluded I sat down. There wasnít exactly that much to 
do so my mind started to wander. That face. I knew that face, but 
nothing seemed to stick out. It wasnít like I had the worlds best 
memory or something so I started at the beginning and went over what 
little of my life I could remember.

I woke up after a bomb went off with no memory of who or what I was, 
and with a panic response that had me off and running. I hid out for a 
while and eventually met Joe, and through Joe, Duncan. He and his 
student, Richie, set a few bells off in my head and after a Quickening, 
I knew about Immortals, the Game and all it entailed. 

I replayed the experience in detail, from the static playing over my 
skin and the glass digging into my skin to the pounding in my head. 
Something slide through the empty halls of my mind and that awakened 
the knowledge of Immortals and their Game. Calming myself, I just 
breathed and let my mind wonder with the clash of swords ringing in my 
head.

Metal rang, one man thrust a sword in the other and said something. I 
made a noise and he turned to me. It was Father! He said something and 
then the Quickening hit him. I hadnít remembered that before. I took 
another deep breath and after the pounding in my head eased up, 
continued my mental inventory.

After the Quickening, I helped Duncan out, gave him an alibi and such, 
but there was still an investigation. But before the investigators 
struck, I met Jarod. He came to Joeís and confronted me about the bomb 
that blew up the professional building of a mall. I freaked out on him 
and ran. I seem to have a rather strong flight or fight instinct.

Any way, he convinced Joe, Duncan and Richie to help him, and woke me 
up at the building I was crashing in. For some bizarre reason Iím still 
not sure of, I trusted the creep and told him what I couldnít remember. 
Something he said triggered another memory, he said he could help me. I 
let the rich toned of his voice bounce around my head, the resonance 
awakening feelings I didnít want to deal with and nothing else. I 
slammed the mental door on Jarod and moved on. 

Fox and Scully were the next ones to show up, investigating the 
beheading. I didnít like them at first, though I tolerated Scully more 
than Fox. I was actually kinda mean to him. I even led him into 
thinking I was an Immortal, not that he had anything other then 
speculation about the mortally impaired in the first place. He showed 
up when I was going over some things with Joe, Duncan and Jarod, and a 
picture from when I was at the Center slipped onto the table. Fox 
completely freaked. 

It turned out I was his long lost sister. Who would have thought that? 
Itís not like we bickered like siblings or anything. In spite of itís 
auspicious beginning, that started the worst week I could remember. Iíd 
barely found out who I was and what had happened to me, when someone 
shoots up the bar. We all got off whole if not hale, but that was just 
the beginning. 

We spent the next day pooling our resources and put together a sequence 
of events of the past. When I was at the Center, when I left, that sort 
of thing. There were still a few holes but everyone had a good idea of 
what happened and when. 

Later that night, someone started killing those of us who survived, 
including Miss Parker. She was the first, followed by Richie, and then 
Joe. They killed Joe, just because he helped me. He took me in, helped 
me find myself when I didnít even know my name and was he dead because 
of it.

They were after me and wanted me alive, but everyone else was just so 
much dead meat to them. Duncan was attacked after Joe. He did a fairly 
good job of defending himself because the Assassin backed off. This 
gave me a chance to get ready for her.

I stopped her. 

Not to everyoneís satisfaction, since Jarod ripped me up one side and 
down the other, but all that really mattered in my mind, was that she 
was out of commission. Jarod disappeared after that and I havenít seen 
him since. I had to take another deep breath and clear the lump in my 
throat. He never said good-bye and I didnít get a chance to tell him 
that it turned out Miss Parker was Immortal. 

It took me a while to heal after my encounter with Mary, the Assassin. 
Soon as I was able, I went after the Center, with Father. We had 
planned this break-in as a fact finding expedition to fill in the gaps 
left and believe me there were gaps. About 8 years worth in total.

At one point in time, Iíd been contracted out to a group of people who 
did. . . something to me. I donít know what, but when Father saw the 
results, he broke me out of the Center. We both wanted to know who I 
was working for at the time. There was nothing about it on the system 
that Fox and his friends could find, so Father and I broke in to crack 
the storage files on an isolated system. 

I didnít come right out and tell Fox that we were going to do that. If 
Iíd told him that of the bat, heíd either stop us or come along. Iím 
starting to think stopping us would not have been a bad idea. Fox must 
be going crazy right about now. I hope he hooks up with Father. Father 
had all the information on him. 

That brought me to breaking into the Center and getting caught. And to 
the face I saw, just before I was knocked out. I thought about the 
face, letting it drift around as the other triggers had. Those eyes, 
they were so blue, but empty of thought. It was a kind face but he 
seemed infinitely sad, like he had something great and had it ripped 
from his hands. 

He was so familiar, in a way like the way I knew Father.

I forced my hands to unclench and then slowed my breathing. Duncan 
taught me some meditation techniques and I put them to use. I let my 
mind wander, seeing the image of the face and more importantly, his 
eyes peering out at me from behind the grate. 

Before any profound revelations made themselves known, I was 
interrupted by a door opening and a shaft of intense light that speared 
through my head. The pounding in my skull went from the slight pounding 
it had settled into, to something resembling thrash metal. I blinked 
more than a few times, then launched myself at the figure silhouetted 
in the doorway. 

***

Jarod smiled at his computer screen. With another click of the enter 
key, his program went into effect. The hard drive whirled for a moment 
before it settled down and then the screen cleared. It was done. 
Running a hand through his dark brown hair, he gave a satisfied grin 
and leaned back. 

It had taken him a while to find the information he was after, but now 
he had it, he could send it to the proper authorities and move on 
before the Center tracked him down. Mr. Lyle was now back at the Center 
and was assigned to find him. He had known Miss Parker well enough that 
he could predict her entrance down to the minute. Not to mention he 
knew all the right buttons to push and could manipulate her. But now 
she was dead. She was dead because she followed him and ended up in the 
wrong place at the wrong time. He clamped down on the thought. 

Since then, his life had been hell. Mr. Lyle had stepped up his efforts 
to catch him, employing more of the Centers resources than before. He 
seems to have become something of a priority. If he stayed in one place 
for too long, Lyle showed up with his sweepers. He rarely had time to 
properly set up an identity, relying on a few heíd established in the 
past years that hadnít been discovered and, several times, had to 
disappear before heíd finished what heíd started. He did what he could 
and then helped from a distance. Much of the last few months had been 
spent simply hiding himself from the Center. 

Heíd had more close calls in the last four months then heís had in the 
last two years and the strain was starting to tell. He was jumpy and 
less willing to trust. Traps had been set up for him that heíd barely 
managed to escape. A warning from Angelo was all that had kept him from 
getting caught one time. Heíd been more careful since then but he still 
used the fighting tricks heíd learned from Sam more than heíd like to 
think about. 

Jarod pushed down the wave of guilt that swamped him where he thought 
of her. What sheíd done was wrong. 

But she had a point; he had no right to judge her. He wanted to 
apologize to her, but he was so full of conflicting emotions and hurt 
and anger he ended up waiting too long. He went back after a month and 
sheíd already left. He could have gone to Duncan to find out where she 
was, but. . . He told himself it wasnít really safe to look for her, 
heíd just lead the Center to her doorstep. He was having trouble making 
himself believe that lie.

She scared him. Everything she was and represented. In many ways she 
was like him, but she was so much harder, colder, selfish. The Center 
had destroyed her then rebuilt her in to what they wanted. He could 
easily be what sheíd become.

Sydney protected him as much as he was able, allowing them to use his 
intelligence and skills, without manipulating him as they had others. 
Sydney, Miss Parker and even Broots were some of the reasons Jarod 
hadnít really gone after the Center. If the Center went down, so would 
they. There was more to it though.

His musing was interrupted by the little mailbox blinking on his 
screen. He clicked it open, expecting another warning from Angelo. He 
was half right.

It took a little while for the message to open and when it did, the 
figures on the screen started to move. The black and white story 
unfolded itself as two sweepers drug a body away and another was held 
up for inspection. The head rolled back and, through the bruising and 
veil of dark hair, Samís eyes stared blankly forward. Mr. Raines 
reached forward and looked in her face before waving her away.

When the scene was finished, he sat in stunned silence for a moment, 
then swore. He packed up his laptop, threw a few more things in a bag 
and was out the door. In less than half an hour he was on the highway 
out of town.

***

A phone rang out in the silence. An answering grown was heard from 
under a pile of blankets scrunched up on the bed and when the piercing 
sound rang out again, the mass moved. After another moment, a hand 
crawled out from under the covers and hit the clock by the table. When 
the ringing continued, the hand quested further out and knocked the 
phone on the floor. More grumbling later, Adam Piersonís head emerged 
from the pile and looked at the phone on the floor. Eventually the 
headset was picked up.

"This had better be good." He growled into the phone, wishing it was 
only the alarm clock so he could ignore it.

"After all this time and thatís the best you can come up with?" The 
voice triggered a few buried memories that werenít quite making it 
through the fog inhabiting the ancient Immortalís head.

"Who is this?"

"Methos Iím appalled you donít remember. After all the fun we had 
together." The voice abruptly switched to Latin. "Itís been a long 
time, old friend."

"Augustus? I didnít think you were still alive." Adam abruptly sat up, 
ignoring the chill in his apartment. He unconsciously switched to Latin 
as well. "What have you been doing for the last thousand years?"

"Oh this and that. Itís Micheal now by the way. I need your help."

"What do you need?" He didnít hesitate in answering. There werenít many 
people in the world that could call Adam up, ask for help and receive 
it, no questions asked. This man was one of the very few.

"Itís a long story, can I meet you somewhere?"

"Thereís a church over on 52nd."

"Afraid Iím after your head?" There was no shock in the voice; it was 
more like amusement.

"No, but you donít live very long if you donít take a few simple 
precautions." Adam got a chuckle in reply.

"In an hour?" Micheal asked.

"Iíll be there. Till then."

"Till then." 

Adam hung up the phone and was halfway dressed before he realized it 
was 3:30 in the morning.

Chapter 2

I felt something slam into my side, stealing my breath. The figure in 
the doorway was still there, unmoving. Someone must have snuck in while 
I was still blinded by the sudden light and their foot was what I felt. 
I grabbed the foot and yanked, trying to pull them off balance, but it 
didnít work. I must be really off my game. Either that or the guy 
weighted a ton. I got a fist in my gut for my efforts and was suddenly 
glad I hadnít eaten anything lately. 

A hand wrapped around my throat and tightened, cutting off my air. I 
took the hint and stopped fighting. The hand dragged me forward into 
the beam of light on the floor, loosening his grip just enough for me 
to gasp away the black spots dancing in front of my eyes. I was then 
pulled up off the floor so my toes barely touched the floor. I am not a 
short person.

The figure in the door was a man in his sixties, though they had been 
hard years from the lines etched into his face. He lifted his hand and 
took a drag on his cigarette, the smoke curling up around his head. His 
small cold eyes bore into me and I wasnít sure how, but I knew him. I 
seemed to be running into a lot of old friends these days. No 
insightful little glimpses from my subconscious though, just the 
certainty that I knew him and that I wanted him dead.

"See that sheís taken care of. Sheís no good to us half dead." His 
voice was slightly hoarse, but all his words where clipped off short 
with anger.

"Sheíll be fine by the time we hand her over. She didnít exactly come 
quietly." The voice spoke from behind the cigarette man. The other guy 
had to be around the corner. "Are we agreed on the price then?"

"Yes, Mr. Lyle. The funds will be transferred over the next week."

"Thatís not fast enough." The man who must be Mr. Lyle didnít sound too 
impressed.

"Not even we can transfer that amount of cash without properly cover 
our tracks. The time will allow us to ensure the transfer will go 
unnoticed and unchecked. Iím sure you donít want anyone to track the 
money to your door step?" The bright glow of the cigarette flared as 
the man took another drag and then flicked the butt in the direction of 
Mr. Lyle. "You will get your money, and we will get her back."

The man turned away and was escorted down the hall, the multiple echo 
of shoes on the tile floors rebounding into my cell. The hand around my 
throat tightened for a second and I was thrown across the cell with 
ease. The man whoíd held me by the throat stepped into the open door 
and glanced back. He was big, looking like nothing so much as a thug. 
His scarred face burned into my mind as I swore I would see that smug 
look wiped off his familiar mug

By the time I got back to the door, it was slammed shut and he was 
gone. I slammed into it anyway, venting my frustration on the metal and 
ignoring the increased pounding behind my eyes. I kicked my heel into 
the door, grunting in satisfaction as the metal dented in with a 
resounding thwack. I stopped, wishing I could see my handy work. I 
caught my breath and finally banished the last of the ringing in my 
ears. Then I smiled. The door was only hollow metal, otherwise I 
wouldnít have been able to dent it. That wasnít the smartest move.

I knew it wouldnít do much good, but I was feeling ornery. I wished for 
the nice, heavy hiking boots I usually wore. They were absolutely lousy 
for covert activities, though, so for this foray, I had on a pair of 
light, soft soled boots. I started kicking at the door some more, 
raising a racket and satisfying my violent urges. After a while, I 
realized I was doing a pretty good job, and wondered if they could even 
open the door anymore.

***

Mr. Lyle sat in front of a monitor watching the slightly grainy figure 
on it, kicking at the door. She was doing an admirable job. His sweeper 
looked a little anxious as another kick landed, denting the door in 
even further.

"Donít worry, sheíll tire herself out soon enough." He leaned forward 
as the woman stepped back from the door and with her hands explored the 
surface. Her fingers dug in and she started yanking on something. He 
focused in on her, the faint whir of the camera getting her attention 
in the silence. Her head snapped toward the sound and a grin formed on 
her face.

"Watching me are you?" She looked straight at the lens. "I bet youíre 
listening too, you arrogant little prick."

She went back to the door, and started to work at whatever had gotten 
her attention. She started kicking the door again, this time 
systematically kicking the edge with the resounding thwacks sounding 
loud in the room. Then she leaned in again and started prying at the 
edge of the door. A ray of light flashed into the room. Mr. Lyle turned 
around in disgust and barked at the man standing behind him.

"Drug her and get her out of there."

***

My hands were by now bleeding and my feet ached, but I was getting to 
them. I had a crack of light shining around the one side of the door. I 
wouldnít be able to break the door down; I knew that. But getting as 
far as I did, meant theyíd have to move me. And then Iíd be ready. I 
loosened my grip on the piece of metal Iíd pried up. My body pretty 
much covered the spot where I pulled it loose. Provided, of course, 
they hadnít change the set up of the cameras since Father left. 

I stopped for a breather, sucking on the cuts of one hand. They 
shouldnít know I had the makeshift knife, but if they knew, I wouldnít 
be given the opportunity to use it. If they didnít, the surprise was on 
them. It was about eight inches long, the twisted edges sitting 
awkwardly in my hand. I was holding the dull end, with the sharper edge 
tucked against my wrist and digging slightly into my arm. 

As the footsteps came down the hall, I tensed, ready for the 
confrontation. They startled a laugh out of me when the door remained 
stubbornly shut. It took them almost ten minutes just to enlarge the 
crack in it. I yelled taunts at them through the door, insulting 
everything from their parentage to the color of their underwear, not to 
mention the obvious lack of intelligence and puny muscles. Screaming 
"Mosquito Power" at them when they were all straining at the door 
really seemed to tick them off.

I heard the clang of metal as crowbars where jammed into sides of the 
door. After a few minutes they had another crack open along the side 
and a hose was pushed in. When the gas cloud started to float in I just 
shook my head and started kicking the door until the crack was closed 
and the hose with it. There was a commotion, someone started swearing a 
blue streak and the assault on the door continued.

There was a groan of metal and the door eventually caved in. A gun 
barrel was pointed in my general direction, and I heard a soft pop as 
the air-powered dart flew towards me. That was cheating, trying to drug 
me like that. Since it missed me, I rushed them for my revenge.

I tore into them, slicing with the piece of metal, gouging at eyes and 
anything else soft I could hook fingers into, and planting my foot in a 
few of the more painful areas. Did you realize that most of the 
sweepers in the Center are male? I used that little fact to my 
advantage and a number of those men were going to have a very empty 
social life for some time to come.

But it was not to last. I snarled as I felt something sting my back, 
numbness spreading rapidly out from the spot. I slammed my fist into 
someone's face and then tried to kick the guy behind me, but I fell as 
my knees gave way. I pulled a few guys down with me and forced an elbow 
into a gut. The last thing I could do was sink my short nails into the 
soft spot on an ankle.

***

Adam was almost ready to go, being as quiet as he could so as to not 
wake up his student, but it didnít work. She was waiting for him at the 
door.

"Slinking off into the night?" Miss Parker was already dressed with an 
eyebrow arched in question.

"I thought you were still asleep?" he snapped.

"Not with the phone ringing this early in the morning. So where are we 
going?"

"We are not going anywhere. I am going to go see an old friend, and you 
are going to go back to bed." He reached into the closet and pulled out 
his duster, hoping sheíd take the hint and leave him alone.

"Old friends. I like meeting your old friends." She ignored him and 
reached for her own coat, a special scabbard sewn into the lining 
months ago.

"Youíve never met any of them," he muttered.

"Then I guess Iíd better start. I canít stay in hiding all my life you 
know?" She threw his favorite taunt back at him, mimicking his tone 
exactly.

"Come along then. Lose your head for all I care" 

It took them about ten minutes to get to the church Adam had suggested. 
As they entered, they both got the telltale buzz of another Immortal. 
He was sitting up near the front, waiting for them to come to him. Miss 
Parker froze when she saw who it was.

"Micheal." Adamís face broke into a smile when he saw his old friend.

"Methos." Michealís face had a similar grin.

"Itís Adam right now. Iím a researcher with the Watchers." He sat down 
beside Micheal, the two of them keeping their voices low out of respect 
for the setting.

"Thatís a story that deserves to be told." Micheal glanced past Adam 
and his eyes rested on Miss Parker for an instant. His strategy made an 
immediate detour.

"But not right now. You call me up after eight hundred years, your tale 
must be just as good." Adam cut straight to the point, never having 
been one to beat around the bush. Unless it was his bush of course.

"Yes. And sheís involved." Micheal pointed a finger at Miss Parker, 
where she still stood a few feet behind the two of them.

"You know each other?" Adam asked, turning around to look at Miss 
Parker.

"Weíve met." She didnít sound too impressed with life.

"That's one way of putting it. Have you told him about the Center?" 
Micheal looked her over with an intensity that unnerved her.

"Enough. Why?" She was still reserved around the man she knew as Alex. 

"I need to get someone out of there and since they killed me last 
night, I canít exactly waltz in there myself." 

"The Center got one of your little pets did they?" She let a snide note 
slide in. Micheal ignored her and started talking to Adam.

"The Center has a friend of mine. I want to get her out before they 
mess with her more than they already have." There was an icy tone in 
his voice that sent a shiver up her spine. There was something about 
the Assassins, they always had that effect on her.

"Will they be expecting someone to go after her?" Adam was already deep 
in thought, pulling together all the little bits Miss Parker had let 
fall about the Center.

"Most likely, but theyíll expect her brother, not someone coming at 
them from the inside." Micheal already had the beginnings of a new plan 
in mind, pretty sure that Adam had similar ideas.

"You mean me. I'm dead also." Miss Parker wasnít sure what those two 
were cooking up, but the similar gleam in their eyes was a scary thing.

"They may think you're dead, but itís easy enough to arrange things so 
it looked like you faked it," Micheal said.

"Theyíll be suspicious. I haven't been too popular myself lately. 
That's why I'm dead." She didnít like the way this was going. She 
didnít like Micheal, or Alex, or whatever his name was. She didnít like 
the Assassins and he, in particular, gave her the willies. She wasnít 
too big on churches either.

"That won't matter once the two of you are in." Micheal smiled as he 
said that and she started to wonder how he knew she was with his Ďold 
friend.í

"Why the both of us?" Adam cut in.

"Come now Adam, I know I can trust you. Miss Parker can get you in, but 
I have no guarantee that she will get Ann out." 

"This is about Ann!? I should have know Jarod was involved in all 
this." It always came back to Jarod and the Center, and she knew the 
Center had no idea where she was, let alone alive. How did this man 
know? If she was a lesser person sheíd start screaming fate.

"This is about the Pretender?" Adam asked. This was becoming more 
complicated. From the tales Miss Parker told of Jarod, Adam thought 
this could get interesting. He hated interesting.

"Leave that sanctimonious twit out of it. I haven't seen him for 
months." Micheal snapped.

"Sanctimonious twit? I have to remember that one." Miss Parker allowed 
herself a quiet smile. That really fit Jarod at times.

"Can we get back to the business at hand. How long do we have?" Adam 
had a sickening feeling about this entire situation.

"Till the end of the week. After that, they pass her on to a third 
party. A party that's been trying to capture her for the last three 
years. If they get her, I don't know what will happen to her." Micheal 
leaned back in the pew, his face growing hard in conjunction with his 
thoughts. "I donít know what theyíre doing to her at the Center."

"Youíre really worried about her." Adam looked at Micheal, finally 
noticing the dark shadows and grim lines that marked his face.

"You donít know what theyíve already done. To her and others."

A few hours later, on the flight to DC, Adam looked over at his friend. 
Miss Parker was fast asleep in the chair across the aisle. There was a 
question that had been bouncing around his head for a while now, and 
this was his chance to ask.

"You had no idea I was training her, did you?" he asked. Micheal looked 
back at him, his tired eyes lighting up briefly with humor. 

"I know when to take advantage of coincidence." Then he closed his eyes 
and settled in for the rest of the flight.

Chapter 3

Mulder hung up the phone and pinched the bridge of his nose. Though he 
now knew where the Center was, he was still no closer to finding a way 
in. Flashing a badge wouldn't do anything but get him shot and from 
what else he'd found out, breaking into the place was not going to be 
easy. He took a sip from the cup of cold coffee sitting on the table 
and picked up the phone to fill Scully in on the latest information 
he'd gotten from the Lone Gunmen. 

He only got the first three numbers dialed before a knock at the door 
startled him. He knew Scully was at home, waiting for him to call, 
Skinner didn't want to see him for the next twenty years and the Gunmen 
never showed up at his apartment without letting him know first. If it 
was Samantha showing up on his doorstep, he was going to kill her for 
all the trouble she'd put him through. He was disappointed though. 
Jarod stood in his doorway instead. That was worse.

"How long?" Mulder didn't give him a chance to explain anything. 

"What no Hi, How you doing?" Jarod had an uncharacteristically uneasy 
smile.

"I already know the Center has Samantha. How long have they had her?" 
The harsh, tired look on Mulder's face didn't change. Giving up on 
pleasantries, Jarod just answered.

"A few days, not more." His voice was tired.

"Can you get in there?"

There was a bit of a pause before Jarod answered in the affirmative.

"Then why haven't you?" There was a faint slur of accusation.

"It's not that simple." Frustration crept into Jarodís voice. It was 
not an easy day.

"Why?"

"Aside from the fact I only just found out, I canít just waltz in there 
and escort her out." Jarod swept a hand through his hair, leaving it a 
mess. "Theyíd have her under constant surveillance. The minute they 
find her missing, the alarm is given and the building locks up tight. 
We both get caught."

"You got out once. How?" Mulder's eyes narrowed as he gauged the man 
standing before him. He looked like something the cat dragged in and 
there was a sadness in his eyes.

"I had help." A clenched jaw also indicated a fair dose of anger. 

"Can they help you again?" Mulder didn't care. He wanted answers and he 
had a source right in front of him.

"I don't know. He might, he might not. How did you know she'd been 
caught?"

"I wasn't sure. She wrote me a letter, telling me she was breaking in. 
I got it yesterday. According to the bar, she's on vacation with 
Micheal."

"Micheal?" Jarod had no idea who that was. Mulder's jaw clenched and 
then he tersely explained.

"The Immortal, his current name is Micheal."

"Have you heard from him?"

"No." That didnít seem to bother Mulder, but it set Jarod further on 
edge.

"From what I know, she's been caught and he was killed," Jarod said, 
his eyes narrowing in thought. "They should have taken his body out 
well before now. Why hasn't he gotten in touch with you?"

"He wouldn't call me unless she was dead. If he needed help, he'd go to 
someone else."

"Duncan?"

"Hasn't heard anything." Mulder had gone through all this already and 
being forced to go over it again was frustrating.

"What about the Watchers?"

"They don't even know Michealís alive," Mulder snapped, "Joe Dawson 
didnít exactly get a chance to report in."

The conversation ground to a sudden halt as the two men lost themselves 
in the situation. After leaving Jarod standing in the hallway, Mulder 
gave Scully a quick call. He filled her in on Jarod and quickly 
outlined the information from the Lone Gunmen, nodding once as she said 
she was on her way. In the mean time, Jarod went and sat on the couch.

"How was she doing?" There was no need to specify who Jarod was asking 
after.

"She was okay. Had to move around every few weeks. She'd stop by when 
she could."

"We'll get her back." That seemed to be the wrong thing for Jarod to 
say as Mulderís anger got the better of him.

"To help her, or ease your guilt." 

"What are you talking about?" With Jarod on the defensive, Mulder 
pushed him a little harder.

"Do you really care what happens to her? Or are you just here to get 
back at the Center?"

"Of course I care." Jarod shot back.

"Then why didn't you help her when she needed it. Why did you leave her 
when she needed someone who understood? But then, you didn't 
understand. Didn't even try."

"What she did was wrong!" Or so he kept telling himself.

"And what you do is right? Youíre a nothing but a vigilante." 

"I help people!" Jarod defended himself and what he did fiercely.

"What do you think she was doing!" Mulder countered.

"By blowing off that girl's knees?"

"That girl was a trained and paid assassin after our collective heads!"

"She was cruel."

"Who, Sam or the girl who tortured Miss Parker?"

If looks could kill, those two would have been dead many times over. As 
it was, they stared at each other waiting for something to happen. 
Mulder broke the silence.

"She never talked about you. She would talk about Joe, trying to 
remember everything about him, telling me about how he'd like what 
she'd done with the Bar. She'd fill me in on Duncan and talk about 
Richie's latest escapade. Micheal would be mentioned just about every 
third sentence. She even talked about Mary. But you, she couldn't talk 
about. She looked to you for guidance and you left. So all I want to 
know, is why you are here."

Jarod's face was stone and his eyes full of anger; Mulder had hit more 
than a few nerves. To be truthful, Jarod wasn't too sure himself why he 
was there. When he saw the clip of Sam, he found himself on his way 
without much conscious thought. It was the same thing that prompted him 
into finding out what he could about how she'd been doing. He knew 
about her buying the bar as well as tracking down some of the places 
she'd been, once she'd left Seattle. He knew he wanted to help her. He 
knew he had to.

"I came to help."

Mulder's glare didn't ease up in the least. The two of them didn't get 
along too well at the best of times and after Samantha had fought Mary, 
it only got worse. But because he knew she cared about this jerk, he 
didn't say half of what was on his mind that night when Jarod sewed her 
up. Later, when she came to see him, he asked after Jarod and she 
clamed up. When he talked to Duncan, he found out about the fight 
they'd had, but didn't know the details. He didnít need to.

"If you ever hurt her again, you won't have to worry about the Center 
catching you, because I will personally make your life a living hell."

***

Nothing like waking up, head pounding away, to make one's day. 
Considering how often that had been occurring in what I could remember 
of my life, it was definitely a habit to kick. At least it wasn't pitch 
black this time. The muted lighting was much more my taste, although 
the dull gray dťcor was something I could do without. A nice, dark 
green throw rug, a few lamps and a window or two would make the place 
more habitable. Anything besides a mattress on the floor would make the 
place more habitable.

My mind was definitely running away without me, though the throbbing 
headache was down from a full blown fire fight in my head to an 
irritating distraction. I took a deep breath and sat up. Not too bad, 
once the black spots cleared from my vision and my gut stopped aching. 
My mouth felt like something had crawled into it and died. I didnít 
even what to think about what they used to drug me.

I spotted the camera sitting on the wall and made a rude gesture at it 
before going to the little, metal sink tucked into a corner. Dipping a 
hand under the stream of water, I scooped up a handful and proceeded to 
rinse the bad taste from my mouth. My hands were stiff as I washed off 
the bit of blood that still stuck near the scratches and my lip stung 
as I splashed water on my face and hair. 

My poor hair was a mess. The braid from earlier was a tangled nest, 
with little tufts hanging in my face and various strands working their 
way out of the elastic. Since I didnít even have a glass to drink out 
of, I was thinking that to ask for a hairbrush would be pointless.

Sitting back on the bed, I undid the braid and ran my fingers through, 
attempting to straighten the mess out. At least I didnít have any new 
goose eggs. My hair probably looked worse than it actually was, because 
pretty soon, I had the worst of the tangles out. I tightly braided it 
back and it ended up reaching down to my waist. I could probably 
strangle somebody with it. Now thereís a thought to keep me warm at 
night. 

I was still in the Center, the whole decor screamed Sub-level 
something, so Father would know where I was. Not that I was just going 
to just sit on my duff not doing anything. Not that there was all that 
much I could do. While they couldnít hurt me, much, if I became too 
much of a nuisance, theyíd just keep me drugged. Not something I was 
particularly looking forward to, so all I could do was annoy and 
distract them. That had potential, if only to keep me from going nuts.

"You know, you really need to see someone about the style of this 
place. Gothic gray is so very early nineties. Color is the big thing 
right now. Have you thought about a nice pale green with dark 
undertones?" I started rambling on, talking to the camera and 
dissecting all the decorating taboos theyíd committed. And Joe said 
watching Martha Stewart was a waste of time. When I ran out of 
decorating tips, I started in on the lack of hospitality. Then I hit 
the jack pot. 

While waiting tables at the bar one night, there was a group of kids, 
just barely over the legal limit, whoíd decided to celebrate somebodyís 
birthday. As the night wore on, they all started in on the most horrid 
song Iíve ever heard in my remembered life; 99 bottles of beer on the 
wall. Well, they actually started at 9999. Joe eventually poured them 
into a cab before they got through the first hundred. I still miss him. 

I decided not to be too ambitious off the bat and started at 999. Now 
my voice usually isnít so bad, but the last few days hadnít been a walk 
in the park and I wasnít about to make this easy on them. I started 
singing, letting the scratchiness in my throat throw me off key every 
once in a while. At 783 I heard a scratching above me and looked up at 
the air vent. Two bright blue eyes peered out at me. 

Not stopping my concert, I looked back at him. It was the same guy Iíd 
seen just before they caught me. It looked like he hid out in the duct 
work a fair bit. They probably hated it and anyone who ticked them off 
was a friend of mine. I gave him a brilliant smile and started to sing 
louder. He moved forward a little bit and I could see the smile on his 
face. A few minutes later, the eyes were gone.

***

Mr. Lyle was ready to kill someone. That in itself wasnít too unusual, 
but this time heíd take anyone who happened to make the mistake of 
getting within his reach. 

It was bad enough when she started talking. Worse still when she 
started singing. Then, somehow the communication system blanked out 
only to kick in playing the audio feed from her cell over the muzak 
system. The entire building was now being serenaded with, what was the 
count to now, 467 bottles of beer on the wall. 

When they tracked the problem down, there was Angelo, grinning like the 
idiot he was, in front of the computer that had arranged the little 
incident. When confronted, he simply said "pretty" and scampered off 
back into the air ducts. That little wench had better be worth it. They 
were still trying to cut her voice off. It was going to be a long week. 

***

I had finally run down to one lone bottle of beer on the wall. I could 
start over again, at a larger number, but my throat had been protesting 
during the last hundred or so bottles. So when I ran all the way down I 
took a break and got a drink from the sink. A cold hand on my forehead 
helped the headache that still hadnít dissipated. 

It had been worth it though. I had just about burst when I heard my own 
voice (was I really that shrill?) coming from a speaker in the hall. 
From the irritated looks I was getting through the little glass window 
in the door, I would guess it had been broadcasted through out the 
section. I thought again of the eyes in the vent and wondered. 

I leaned against the wall and wondered what Fox was up to. I never 
should have sent him that letter. He was probably going nuts, but I had 
told him I would tell him if I was up to anything, and I had to keep my 
promise. For the most part. I hope he hadnít told Mom yet, I didnít 
want her to worry.

My mind wandered to the visit this Christmas. It was completely weird 
being around so many people at once. Christmas eve, Fox and I went with 
Scully to her motherís party. There were a lot of people there. 
Christmas day was better, with just Mom, Fox and I. Fox dragged me out 
of bed at some insane hour and pulled me into the living room where the 
tree was set up. The lights where on, blinking in a steady rhythm that 
flashed onto the presents lining the tree. It was beautiful.

Fox was just like a kid. I could just see him picking up the presents, 
not even waiting until Mom and Dad were down the stairs. I didnít feel 
the pounding in my head that accompanied the flash of memory. 

Mom was standing at the top of the stairs looking down at us, smiling, 
but Dad was scowling. I didnít notice as I looked at the pile of 
brightly colored gifts. Fox had one in his hand, gently shaking it next 
to his ear, trying to figure out what it was. 

Another flash. Dadís mouth open as he barked at Fox. Fox, carefully 
placing the box down. Me, weaving my hand into his as we both walked 
into the kitchen. 

With a start, the images still lingering in the corner of my eyes, I 
shook my head. I had NEVER had a memory come that clearly. I was just 
in time to watch the door open and Mr. Lyle was walk in. He looked me 
over with a thoroughly disgusted expression.

"So you finally decided to shut up." Someone wasnít happy with life.

"What can I say, I had a dry throat. Give me another twenty minutes and 
Iíll serenade you till the cow come home." No one ever said I couldnít 
be sweet when I wanted to. There was enough sugar in that sentence to 
kill a diabetic.

"Not if you want to eat."

"From what Iíve heard, thatís not a threat."

"Come now Ann, we can be civilized about this." He gave me a smile 
that, for some reason reminded me of Miss Parker. It was about as 
sincere as a crocodileís tears.

"Why? You kidnap me, turn me into an Assassin and then you expect me to 
be civilized. You canít have your cake and eat it too you know."

"Actually, you were given to us." He was smug. Smug is not good.

"Really? I didnít know that. So who by?" I kept my voice light, hiding 
the trepidation that was starting to make itself known. To ease the 
tension building in me I batted my eyelids. It didnít have much effect 
on Mr. Lyle but it made me feel better.

"Youíll find out soon enough when you go back to them." So thatís who 
the smoking guy was.

"This is the whole, tell the victim everything because theyíre never 
going to see the light of day again type of thing, isnít it?" I opened 
my eyes wide and turned on a dumb blond voice.

"Thatís one way of putting it. More likely, youíll simply never 
remember this conversation." He said that as he turned around to the 
door and that scared me more than I wanted to admit. But I wasnít going 
to let him know that.

"And thatís a bad thing!?!?"

His shoulders stiffened and he almost slammed the door as he left. I 
smiled at his reaction and looked at the ceiling above. The eyes 
werenít there, but I smiled in that direction anyway. Snuggling into 
the bedding, I started singing again. 

"Iím Henery the eighth, I am. Henery the eighth I am, I am. I got 
married to the widow next door, and sheís been married 7 times before. 
. . "

***

The silence was thick enough to cut by the time Scully walked in. She 
gave Jarod a smile, taking note of his less than pristine condition and 
the frigid civility between him and Mulder. Having heard Mulder rant 
about the missing Pretender, she wasn't surprised. The surprise was 
reserved for the fact neither of them had any visible marks or bruises. 
They probably confined themselves to body shots. 

She had to stop hanging around the Gunmen so much, she was starting to 
think like them. 

Her entrance really didnít change the atmosphere that much, but 
eventually, the two were able to put the testosterone aside long enough 
to share there various bits of information, and generate a few ideas. 
An hour later, after an update, the Gunmen were rushing over. It didnít 
take much once they heard the Pretender was there.

Between the six of them, they were able to hash out something that 
actually stood a slight chance of posibbly succeeding. Thatwas after 
they got over circling Jarod like hungry sharks examining something 
under the microscope. If she was starting to mix metaphors, she needed 
to get more sleep. 

As for getting Samantha out, it looked like Jarod would go in first, 
scout things out and find where theyíre keeping her. If she wasnít 
there, theyíd have to tie in to the Center network and see if, between 
Jarod and the Gunmen, they could hack out her location. If she was 
there, Fox would come in to help get her out. Frohike would be 
attacking the security, Langly would screw up communication and Scully 
and Byers would be providing back up. And two get away cars because 
they wouldnít all fit in the van.

What would happen once they actually got Samantha out was still 
uncertain. She would have to hide and hide deep. Then again, chances 
were they wouldnít get past the front gate, theyíd all get caught and 
then none of the rest would matter because theyíd all be dead. Scully 
decided to be optimistic from that point on, purely to maintain her 
sanity.

Chapter 4

Three hours of Henry the Eighth left me with very little voice and more 
than a few dirty looks through the little glass window in the door. Iíd 
already tried to break that little panel but whatever it was, it didnít 
break. I did scare the living snot out of a few people peering in at 
the wrong moment, though. 

I sat back on the mattress and looked up to the vent; the blue eyes 
were back and the sight of them triggered another memory. I must have 
been around thirteen and for some reason was locked up in my room. For 
all I knew that could have been normal. I had woken up from a nightmare 
and had screamed out, desperate for comfort. But when I saw the eyes in 
the vent I was more afraid of them, than of the dream. I was huddled in 
a corner by the time the vent opened and a young man crawled out. 

He dropped to the floor and came over, crouched down close to the 
floor. His face reflected my fear, his eyes full of tears. But he still 
reached out a hand and touched me. His face screwed up a little and 
then he looked at me closer. 

There was a moment when his eyes cleared and it was like looking into a 
lake. There was a glimmer of something, very deep and hidden in the 
waters, but in the next instant it was gone. The clarity in his eyes 
fogged over. The hand on my arm was still there and he smiled at me. It 
was a little smile that disappeared quickly, then he backed away and 
was up the vent. 

I remembered the rest of the night, sleeplessly wandering around the 
cell, pacing back and forth, clenching my arms around me in the chill, 
but unable to go back to sleep and unwilling to just lie in bed. I was 
halfway through the next day before I tore myself out of the memory. 

I started to walk back and forth, going over what I remembered, trying 
not to become lost in it. The total loss of time that I experienced 
this time scared the life out of me. I couldnít afford to show any 
weakness to the Center, or they would exploit it and use it any way 
they could. If they realized I was remembering things, they would pick 
my mind apart piece by piece before they turned me over to whoever they 
made the deal with and then it would probably start all over again. 

The only theory I could come up as for why this was happening, was that 
being back in the Center was triggering more memories, breaking 
whatever barrier was keeping them back. I didnít say it was a good 
theory. 

I stared at the two men who brought in Supper. Lunch was still sitting 
on its original plate, but this looked marginally more edible. 

Instead of green slop, at least this looked more like some kind of 
soupy stew. I think the Center liked that sort of thing so they didnít 
have to give me anything that could be made to resemble a weapon. The 
spoon on the tray was even plastic. No use trying to make a shiv out of 
that.

I waited for them to leave before I took a closer look. I probably 
would have skipped this meal as well, but I was starting to get hungry. 
Who was I kidding. I was famished, but that goo at lunch totally turned 
my stomach. I dug in to the stew. 

***

The first thing they did when they hit DC was find a few good clothing 
stores. Miss Parker needed to look the part if she was going to pull 
off this plan. She also needed to get Adam in with her, so he needed to 
look the part as well. As she sat down, her own wardrobe replenished, 
she looked over the tall, lanky figure standing in front of the mirror.

"I look like a thug." His sour comment matched the scowl on his face.

"Thatís what youíre supposed to look like so donít complain. Iím going 
to tell Daddy that with someone trying to kill me, I faked my death so 
I could get some breathing room." She filled Adam in on the plans she 
and Micheal had made up the night before while Adam had been getting 
supper. "Not to mention recuperate. While I didnít find who was behind 
it all, I had the actual assassin killed. You are my muscle, 
unaffiliated with anyone, but me." 

"And to do that I have to look like a thug."

"The Center is not very original when it comes to hired muscle. You 
should fit in fine." She smiled as he glowered at her. "Thatís the 
perfect expression. Once youíre in, you will be able to roam around 
while they have me in what will no doubt be dozens of interview and 
meetings. Youíll have to stick pretty close at first, but if you 
accidentally get lost a few times, that would be expected. The Center 
is a large place after all."

"Wouldnít they be likely to shoot me if I wander too far?" He started 
shrugging his shoulders to settle the not-quite-a-perfect-fit jacket 
into place.

"Of course not. Theyíll black mail you. Or perhaps take you out to be 
shot later. But not right off the bat. We should be able to find what 
we need and get out." She got up and started fussing with the shoulders 
of his jacket. It wasnít that bad of a fit.

"Do you know where to start looking?"

"I have a few ideas. There are a couple corridors that hold the more 
reluctant visitors. If sheís not there, they might have drugged her, in 
which case sheíll be in the infirmary. If that is the case, it will 
take some careful planning to get to her out. Whatís Micheal up to 
right now?"

"Heís picking up some equipment that, as he put it, might come in 
handy. Heíll meet us at the hotel before we head to Delaware." Adam 
finally gave up on the jacket and headed back to the change room.

"I canít wait to get back." She replied. He turned and looked at her, 
picking up on the hostility in her voice.

"Youíre not looking forward to this, are you?" he asked, dryly

"The most common way to leave the Center is feet first. Itís not an 
experience Iíd like to relive. But look at the bright side. . . " She 
smiled at him and the worldís oldest Immortal felt a chill crawl up his 
spine, cause Miss Parker was out for blood. "It gives me a chance to 
settle some unfinished business."

***

I was lost in another memory when he came in. It was a bloody one this 
time, of one of my earlier assignments that hadnít gone too well. The 
target went down, but his security didnít. Iíd ended up weighed down 
with a little lead as I pulled out of the scene. I could still feel the 
sharp pain as the bullet plowed into my leg. Mr. Lyle was standing in 
front of me by the time my vision cleared. 

Not sure of how long heíd been there, I left my face blank, hoping he 
would think I simply didnít care that he was there and was ignoring 
him. What else could I do? 

"Ignoring me wonít make me go away."

Since heíd fallen for it, I just turned my head away, trying 
desperately to keep my breathing regular and my hands from tensing. If 
I had realized how angry it would make him, I would have tried it 
earlier. He stepped forward and kicked out, his toe slamming just under 
my ear and forcing my head to snap back and around. 

The ever present pounding in my head picked up. I stayed completely 
still for a few moments, waiting for my sight to clear a bit more 
before I turned back to face him. When I did nothing else, he relaxed. 
Then I launched at him. 

My hand was around his throat cutting off his air supply before he 
could utter a word. My left snaked out his gun, and fired it at the two 
sweepers now running into the room. One dropped but the other ducked 
out of the door. Mr. Lyleís face was now an alarming shade of red and I 
eased up a little so he could breathe. I wasnĎt going to kill him. It 
wasnít worth the bother at this point in time.

"You forgot what I am, what you made me. Time to remember. Time to 
play." I smiled at him, tightening the grip on his neck, watching his 
eyes roll back as the oxygen deprivation took its toll. Just before he 
was out of it completely, I let go only to grab the back of his head. 

His face found my knee, then the wall and soon after, it connected with 
a satisfying thunk with the little metal sink in the corner. He was 
barely standing now and without my hand holding him up by his hair he 
might have fallen. 

The second I felt the change in him, the tensing of muscle in his 
scalp, I let go and tried to slam the pistol butt into his temple. He 
had already leaned out of reach, his hand raising another gun that was 
pressed up against my chin.

"I said theyíd get you in one piece, but we donít need the money that 
bad." Blood was freely flowing from his nose, though it didnít look 
broken, and his voice was scratchy. "Pull another stunt like that and I 
will find out just how much pain an Assassin can handle before she 
dies."

He pulled the other gun out of my now slack grip, tucking it back into 
its shoulder holster. The one in his hand must have been tucked in the 
back of his pants. He called out over his shoulder that it was clear 
and waited patiently as a few people filtered in the room.

"Keep her out of it for a few hours. I want some peace and quiet." The 
gun barrel was still pressing against the soft part in my chin, forcing 
my head up higher as the guy with the needle came towards me. 

The sight of the needle and the drop of liquid coming out the top as 
the Sweeper pushed the air bubble out sent a chill down my spine and 
froze me. As he came closer I couldnít move even if I wanted too. When 
he grabbed my arm, I could already feel fire running in my veins as 
another flashback claimed me.

***

Mr. Lyle was intrigued. He held up a hand to pause the Sweeper with the 
needle. Ann didnít move; hadnít move since she got a good look at the 
needle. Her eyes were lost in some sort of fog and as he took the gun 
away, she didnít even blink. It was the same blank expression that 
greeted him when he entered. 

Something was going on that he didnít yet understand and he was 
determined to find out what. The last few days she had been seen 
staring off into space, before resuming what sheíd been doing earlier. 
Sometimes it was a few minutes, sometimes a few hours. He hadnít really 
thought much off it, maybe a mild side affect of the usual mix of 
tranquilizers in the water, but now that he could see the expression in 
her eyes, caught between terror and nothingness, his curiosity was 
peaked. Not that he was going to take any chances. Not with her.

Signaling the sweepers to continue, he left the room, dabbing at the 
blood already drying on his face. She had gotten a few good hits in. 
Sending someone off for a wet cloth and some ice, he sat down at his 
desk, his computer still keyed in to the surveillance of her room. 
Using the cloth to take off most of the mess on his face and ice on the 
lump forming on the side of his head, he watched her. 

The muscle relaxant had taken effect and she was a boneless heap on the 
mattress. They wouldnít knock her out, but she wouldnít be up to any 
tricks. Or much of anything for that matter. She eventually curled up 
into a ball on the bed, arms and head tucked in so tight, you couldnít 
see her face. It took him a few minutes to realize she was trembling, 
the movements barely noticeable on the screen.

***

Miss Parker looked around her office. The months sheíd been gone hadnít 
really changed things much. Mr. Lyle was back, taking over her role in 
the chase for Jarod but having not much more luck, and Mr. Raines was 
up to his usual tricks. But the look on everyoneís face when she first 
walked through the door was priceless. 

Daddy Dearest almost had a coronary, Lyle looked ready to choke and 
Raines had to turn up his oxygen intake. But when Sydney saw her, she 
was glad she came back. He looked like heíd died and somebody forgot to 
bury the corpse. Yet, when he saw her, his eyes lit up, he smiled at 
her and the years were shed from his shoulders. She wished sheíd had 
the courage to contact him earlier, but the risk was too great. Broots 
just stuttered and turned very pale. He must have looked at the crime 
scene photos.

The whispered conference with Sydney filled her in on Jarod. Theyíd 
gotten very close, more than a few times, but he then headed 
underground. He hadnít surfaced in the last month, moving so constantly 
that theyíd completely lost contact. The past two weeks, he hadnít even 
been a ghost.

Adam was her shadow. He went where she went unless she was in her 
office or meetings, when he could be found wandering the halls, inspite 
of the growls security was spouting. All she had to say was that he was 
her man and if they didnít like it they could try to remove him. The 
one time they tried hadnít been very successful; broken fingers were 
the least injury. 

The Immortal had picked up more than a few dirty tricks over the years 
and already being shorthanded from the invitation Ann extended to enjoy 
a lengthy stay in the infirmary, not to mention those invited to the 
morgue, they gave up before anybody else died. Broots and Sydney 
accepted Adam without question, talking freely in his presence. Miss 
Parker trusted him, that was enough for them. 

As for the reports of her death, she made a comment about the wonders 
of modern imaging techniques and that seemed to satisfy most people. 
Long, unexplained disappearances were nothing new to the Center. The 
entire situation just gave her time to find Ann and maybe a little 
extra to find out who ordered her own death. 

There was a gentle knock at her door and Broots stuck his head in. "The 
tapes are off."

"Good, Whereís Sydney?"

"Heís on his way. I got the records you where looking for." Broots 
stutter was almost nonexistent. Her eyebrows rose a little as she 
realized that he hadnít made any comments on what he had to do to get 
them either.

"Entered speech therapy Broots?" Her acidic comment wasnít met with the 
usual cringe.

"After five months of working with Mr. Lyle, Iím glad youíre back." He 
looked at the floor as he said that.

"Iím glad Iím back too." To her surprise, it wasnít a lie. Just then 
Sydney entered, his warm accent washing over her.

"Is it safe to talk?"

"Safe enough, Sydney; what can you tell me about the Assassins? Where 
they are now and who theyíre working with?" She got straight down to 
business.

"I only know what Iíve been told. The program was never continued 
actively, but the few girls that survived the training process are 
working for the Center right now."

"What about Mary?" She really wanted to here the Centerís explanation 
about that particular Assassin.

"She was assigned to the Triumvirate for a while and last I heard was 
contracted out to the Consortium." Sydney took the opportunity to sit 
down, his movements still those of an old man.

"The Consortium? I donít know them." There wasnít much that went on at 
the Center that Miss Parker hadnít know about, yet the Consortium was a 
mystery. "Who are they?"

"Iím not sure exactly. We get the occasional contract from them, 
research and such." He leaned back in the chair. "They hired one of the 
Assassins, Ann I think it was. And after her, Mary." 

"They hired Ann?" That fit with what Micheal had told her.

"I think so."

"Is she still with us?" It was a bit blunt for Miss Parkerís taste, but 
then she was in a hurry.

"Last I heard, though itís been some time since Iíve seen her." The 
room went quiet as she thought over the information. Sydney leaned 
forward, his eyes sharpening as he took in the changes in Miss Parker. 
Broots was just being quiet near the door, not wanting to disturb the 
conversation.

"Broots, can you get me her file, and find me Maryís file as well. 
Also," she paused, her eyes narrowing as she thought about something. 
"Get me anything you can on the Consortium."

"Why the sudden interest in the Assassins?" Sydney may have aged a life 
time in the last few months, but his mind was as sharp as ever.

"Mary was the one who tried to kill me." There was very little emotion 
in her voice as she said that. It explained her caution in coming back 
to the Center, but Sydney thought there was more to her return. And it 
didnít explain her curiosity about the other one.

***

I was in Hell. Or purgatory, or Hades, or perdition, or wherever they 
sent little girls who were bad. I was burning, from the inside out, 
heat searing my limbs, flaming my lungs, destroying me. After a while, 
I could breathe again, the shallow breaths rattling in my lungs and my 
nerves all pins and needles. 

Then They came. The giant blue spacemen, shiny visors hiding their 
faces, air tubes trailing behind them. They stuck me with needles, 
drawing enough blood to leave me faint and light headed. They put tubes 
in my arms, sometimes pumping the fire into my arm, at other times it 
just gave me oblivion and I woke with my throat so dry I couldnít 
speak. Every few hours, they would come and take more blood. 

Then nothing. A room with nothing in it except a mattress and blankets 
and the tube still in my arm. I wanted to rip it out, but I knew it 
would hurt. I cried out, again and again, forcing the screams out of my 
abused throat until I couldnít force out a sound. Everything hurt. 
After some time passed it all started again, they came for me with a 
bag to attach to my arm and the fire was in me. 

***

Angelo was scared. She just sat now, curled up around herself. He 
didnít understand what was happening to her. Jarod would know, Jarod 
would fix, but Jarod wasnít there yet. One more day. Then he would come 
and take her away. But Angelo still needed to know, know what the 
Center had done to her. 

Making up his mind, he scampered through the shafts, dropping down to 
the ground and then burying himself in the computer. In a few minutes, 
he had a loop playing in the surveillance tapes. She hadnít moved in 
over an hour, so it was an easy switch. A few minutes after that, he 
was looking down at her through the vent.

Taking the grate off and easing himself down, he crawled towards her. 
He was ready to jump back, scared to touch her, yet at the same time, 
needing to find out. A tentative hand reached out to her just brush her 
shoulder.

The images filtered through, feelings that were racing through her. 
Fear, loneliness, longing, anguish, pain. Fire in her blood, harsh 
white walls, cold air against her skin. Angelo shook his head and moved 
closer to her. He remembered this, from some time in the past, when she 
was here before. His mind was clearer then, not as many images running 
through his head. 

He waited a moment than touched her again, this time on the back of her 
neck, skin to skin. More flashes inundated him, pouring into his mind 
so fast he couldnít see them all. Most where gray, old, but some were 
new, recent and colored with the tinge of emotion. He looked at her and 
this time she looked back. Her dark eyes full of unshed tears.

"Why?" The whispered words barely made it out of her throat. He shook 
his head, not sure what she was asking. 

Chapter 5

Jarod was breathing heavily as he squeezed himself through the narrow 
vent. Angelo was much better at navigating the web of air vents and 
tunnels, but a childhood trapped in the Center had still left him with 
an intimate knowledge. Most of the time when he was growing up, he was 
kept locked up, but as he got older and the Center became 
overconfident, he was able to explore and found places to hide and even 
a possible way out. 

But he thought he understood what he was doing there and thought what 
he was doing was helping people. When he found out what the Center did 
with his simulations, he left with the help of Angelo, vowing to undo 
some of the damage they had done. It was time to undo some more. So he 
put aside his anger and fear, and went into the Center to find Sam. He 
had to get her out. 

He was quickly out of the more constricting areas and started casing 
out the less public sections. They were empty for the most part, the 
Center having branched out into other areas and finding simpler ways to 
conduct their research, ways less connected to the growing legitimate 
business dealings. 

He turned into a slightly smaller vent and started looking through the 
grates, quickly glancing in and moving on. After a few minutes of empty 
rooms, he glanced into one and was almost on to the next when he saw 
the figure huddled on a mattress in the corner. He looked through the 
metal, focusing on the ball. It barely moved, shuddering every few 
moments. 

It took a while, but he knew it was Sam. He wanted to go to her, to 
ease what was happening, to just find out what was happening to her. 
But he couldnít, to do so would only trap himself. He turned back when 
he heard the door opening. Keeping well out of sight, he could hear 
what was happening.

"Sheís been out of it like that for the past day." That would be one of 
the Sweepers whoíd come in. 

There was some slight shuffling, and then a dull thwack.

"She is rather unresponsive. I want to know what is going on in that 
pretty little head of hers, though." Jarodís heart went cold as he 
recognized Mr. Lyleís voice. "Talk to Raines, see what little tricks he 
has up his sleeve. And try to be discrete?" 

Jarod waited for ten minutes before he moved out of his cramped 
position and then he spent another ten watching Sam, noticing the new 
bruise already forming on top of the older, yellowing ones. He 
definitely had to get her out of there. But now he was late and he 
needed to leave. He pulled himself away, hating himself for leaving 
her.

Coming out of the air system, he stretched out his long frame. He was 
in a storage area that was rarely, if ever used. He paced, trying to 
make himself calm down and ignore the knots in his stomach. It wasnít 
often that he couldnít and after a few deep breaths, his mind cleared 
and he started planing. He needed to talk with Mulder and Scully, but 
the state Sam was in made things a little more difficult. 

He tensed as he heard the brush of cloth behind him. Whirling around, 
he had to calm himself again, when he realized it was only Angelo. A 
few deep breaths later, he was back to his usual self. He gave Angelo a 
big grin, happy to see the man relatively unhurt and still allowed to 
wander the Center at will. 

"Hurts." Angelo looked up at Jarod, his large eyes filled with pain, 
though Jarod knew he was all right.

"What hurts, Angelo?" 

Angelo shook his head, pointed down the way Jarod came, then tapped his 
temple. "Hurts."

"Samantha? You saw her?"

Angelo bobbed his head in reply, automatically connecting the woman he 
saw with the one Jarod mentioned.

"Do you know why? Why she hurts?"

Angeloís face screwed up together, as he tried to find words to 
describe the images he thought in. He often found words useless to 
describe the things he felt. Now was one of those times.

"Is she injured, did the Center do this to her?" Jarod was getting 
worried. They would already have to move up the time table from the way 
she looked. If the Center was playing mind games, it made it that much 
more imperative to get her out of there as soon as physically possible.

Angelo just shook his head in frustration. "Head hurts, mind hurts."

"Do you know what is happening to her?"

Angelo gave up on words and slipped his hand into Jarodís. Heíd never 
tried this. He was a sponge, he absorbed what other people felt, his 
mind collecting images from everything he touched. But he had to make 
Jarod understand what was happening with the woman heíd touched. She 
needed help, as her mind opened up too fast to the images of her past. 
He pushed for the first time, taking the images and confusion and pain 
that she felt and pushed them at Jarod.

It was like heíd been punched. Jarod jerked back, his mind flooded with 
confusing images he couldnít place. Some were of the Center, some were 
of another place, some were of a childhood heíd never had. His mind 
latched on to an image, the reflection of a face in a mirror. Samantha.

With that, things started to settle in his mind. Somehow Angelo had 
pushed what heíd felt from Sam into his mind, showing Jarod what was 
happening to her. She was remembering the things that theyíd taken from 
her but the images where flooding in, overwhelming her.

"Is that whatís happening? Everything sheíd lost is flooding her mind?"

Angelo again bobbed his head, happy heíd made Jarod understand. He 
cocked his head at an angle, seeming to listen but actually tracking 
the movement of the people coming down the hall. One was Miss Parker, 
her spirit so strong he could feel her from the distance. Sheíd become 
stronger somehow, her mind clearer. But she still wouldnít like to see 
Jarod.

"Go." Angelo started pushing Jarod towards the vent leading to the 
storm drain, but before the two of them had a chance to escape, Miss 
Parker strolled in with Adam behind her and not very visible.

"Jarod?" she asked.

The person in question was seeing a ghost. Literally. Heíd seen the 
police photos; he saw the preliminary report on her body before it 
disappeared from the morgue. She was dead. But she wasnít since she was 
now standing in front of him. 

"Miss Parker?" His confusion was more than evident. He didnít even clue 
into the Sweeper at her side.

"I can explain what happened." She wracked her brain trying to think up 
a good enough story to satisfy the Pretender, but nothing was coming 
immediately to mind and to be perfectly honest she didnít think she 
could fool him in the first place. 

She looked at him for clues, hoping to see something that would let her 
know how much he knew about her death. He was involved but he might not 
know the details. His eyes were dark in the dim light and a myriad of 
emotions flashed over his face in the few moments that had passed, then 
understanding flashed only to be quickly replaced with anger.

"Your Immortal." It was a statement of fact. Apparently he knew more 
than he had any right knowing. So much for the story her brain was 
finally starting to drag up.

"I guess that means you wouldnít believe I faked the whole thing to get 
away from the Center."

"No." 

"Listen, I donít care why youíre here, but it has something to do with 
Ann, doesnít it." Miss Parker paused, giving Jarod a chance to speak, 
but he held his silence. "Iím doing what I can for her, but if the 
Center finds out youíre here, it will only make things worse. Theyíre 
transferring her out in three days. Weíve got till then to get her 
out."

"What do you mean we?" He was doing a good impression of a block of 
stone.

"Do you think I came back for my health? A friend of my mentor asked 
for our help. I still donít know how he knew I was with him." She 
stopped talking when she realized she was babbling. No need to give 
away too much. 

"Michealís involved with this then."

"Shorter guy, English accent, also known as Alex?" 

Jarod nodded. She just sighed and tried to figure out what to do next. 
Adam was no help, simply fading into the background to the point even 
she forgot he was there.

"Who all is with you?"

"Iím alone." His cold eyes revealed nothing.

"And Angelo is sane. How many, if you donít want to involve names." She 
was hoping Jarod would ease up and that they could work on this 
together. It would be a lot easier.

"Five others."

"That many? I have Micheal and Adam helping me. Weíre all alike." She 
wasnít sure, but she was pretty sure Jarod already knew about Micheal. 
Might as well put her cards on the table and hope heíd trust her. Jarod 
picked up on her subtle admission and the expression of trust.

"We can get her out of the area if you can get her to us." His eyes 
eased up and lost their icy edge, but he wasnít ready to trust her too 
far yet.

"Iíll see what I can do."

"You have to hurry." Jarod started to turn away, he needed to get 
going.

"Why?" Miss Parker wondered at the stress she saw on his face as he 
turned through a beam of light. He looked like hell. Not all of it can 
be explained by the increased pressure from the Center, or crawling 
around the ducts in here.

"Have you seen her?" His voice sounded tired.

"No."

"She caught Mr. Lyleís attention."

Her response was not exactly repeatable. She turned around, her hand 
over her eyes, thankful she didnít have to worry about her ulcers 
anymore. Otherwise, sheíd be drinking the pink stuff like coffee. "I 
really wish he would just die already."

"I have to go." Jarod was cursing himself. He was already behind 
schedule with Mr. Lyle showing up and this was making it worse. In a 
few minutes, the cavalry would start charging to the rescue. At least 
he hoped they would if he was caught. He wasnít too sure on that point.

"Will you call me?" she asked. Jarod was faintly surprised at the 
change in her. She wasnít used to asking, she demanded.

"Weíll see." With that he ducked into a corridor and was gone.

She turned around aimlessly pacing. She was so lost in thought she 
almost screeched when Adam spoke up. 

"So thatís a Pretender."

After she calmed down, more unrepeatable phrases spiraling through her 
mind, she walked over to the two men. Angelo, who was now standing in 
front of Adam, was fascinated by the ancient Immortal.

"Is he always like this?" Adamís eyes tracked the man as he was 
circled, Angelo practically jumping up and down as he walked.

"Old." Was the only thing Angelo said.

"Heís an Empath. Although this is the most excited Iíve seen him about 
anything other than Cracker Jacks." She was enjoying this, her eyes 
lighting up at Adamís consternation.

"I donít think I want to know about that."

***

It was getting bad. I knew it was bad to begin with, coming out of a 
nightmare and realizing that it was real. But now, I didnít even wait 
for the memories to grab me. They would come and visit me, spiraling 
through my mind so fast that my head felt ready to explode. Can we say 
hallucinations?

I keep seeing people walk through the cell, my dad, mom, Fox, Father, 
Mary, the girl I used to play with down the street; all hand in hand 
with more than a few corpses I had disposed of. The worst was when I 
saw Jarod. I could have sworn he was real; he wasnít simply going 
through old motions but actually looking at me. 

The first time, he came over and banished the pain in me, his hand cool 
on the back of my neck. I tried to talk to him, but not much croaked 
out. The second time, he walked up to me and just hit me. Right across 
the face. Jarod then said something that I couldnít comprehend and 
left. 

Iíd rather have the memories straight. They hurt less that way. I 
surrendered myself to the images playing across my eyes, hoping that 
eventually, I just wouldnít come out.

***

Jarodís mind was again running in circles. He had to pause once he got 
out in the open, so that he didnít take his frustration out on someone. 
He and Mulder had been cordial to each other, but it wouldnít take much 
to set either of them off. Scully was a saint for what she put up with 
between Frohike, her partner and himself.

Walking through the late night streets of Blue Cove, he got in his car 
and headed out of town. It was tempting fate to stay in the town, so 
everyone was at a local resort, taking advantage of the early spring 
weather. 

By the time Jarod hit the highway, he was mulling things over in his 
mind, letting the pieces fall in place naturally. Miss Parker was alive 
and an Immortal. Sheíd managed to hook up with Micheal and an Immortal 
named Adam. When Micheal and Sam got caught, Micheal got away, but she 
didnít. He called in some help and found Miss Parker. She said 
something about her mentor. 

Joe had mentioned getting information from a friend of his, Adam. They 
could be the same person. At the thought of the old Watcher, Jarod 
still felt like heíd failed. Someone else destroyed that he couldnít 
help in time. Wrenching his mind back on track, he picked up the train 
of thought and followed the line.

Something was happening with Sam and Mr. Lyle had noticed. He might 
figure out that her blocked memories were coming back en masse. If that 
was the case, heíd try to find out everything he could about her. The 
transfer would most likely be stopped and if she was extremely lucky, 
or unlucky depending on your point of view, she might actually survive 
his questioning. 

Her memories had been blocked before she went to the Center, both 
times. So something in her mind was important enough to hide, even from 
the carrier and they, whoever they were, didnít want the Center to know 
what it was. 

Would they be willing to kill her if they knew she was divulging their 
secrets? So far, theyíve shown no difficulty killing, but theyíve 
always tried to capture her alive. Was she valuable enough to keep 
alive no matter what? The Center had wanted her dead, but had kept her 
alive when she landed in their lap. They must still be in contact with 
the people who had been trying to capture her. Thatís probably where 
she was to have been transferred to. 

Regardless of whether she was to be kept at the Center or to be passed 
her on, they had to get her out quickly. Pulling up to the seaside 
hotel, Jarod parked the car and made his way to the suite of rooms 
everyone was sharing. 

When he came in, people were clumped around one of the laptops on the 
table. Scully broke off from the group when she noticed him come in and 
the strain in her eyes got worse when she noticed the look on his face. 

"How bad is she?" As she said that, the four guys around the computer 
turned around and looked at him.

"Not good. We need to get her out of there. I also ran into Miss 
Parker."

Scullyís eyes grew wide as she placed the name, but Mulder didnít look 
surprised. The gunmen didnít know who they were talking about.

"Why didnít you say anything?" Jarod was looking straight at Mulder.

"Wasnít my place. You never stuck around long enough to find out." 
Mulder couldnít help the jab that slipped out. Scully started putting 
the pieces together.

"Theyíre set to transfer her in three days, but sheís come to the 
attention of Mr. Lyle. She might not make that." Jarod turned away from 
the laptop.

"Whoís Mr. Lyle?" Scully asked, starting to drag information out of 
Jarod and getting the full story of his visit to the Center, though he 
left out the part about Angelo. After a few questions more, everyone 
was fully agreed that they needed to get her out quicker than they 
thought. After Jarod was done, Langly started to describe what heíd 
found on the Centerís computers.

The security was tight, but after a while, the three gunmen had started 
making progress, the three of them attacking the Centerís database at 
the same time, dividing the resources of the security net and making it 
easier for them to get in.

Once in, they cleaned the tracks they made and started snooping. Most 
of it was automatically saved, since they didnít really have the time 
to really look at everything they saw. They also didnít limit 
themselves to Samantha and the Assassins. They just didnít tell anyone 
else that. 

What had intrigued them was the steady flow of cash into one of the 
Centerís accounts. Not so much as to attract the attention of the 
automated watchdogs, but the steady flow to a previously unused account 
was suspicious. They were tracing the money when Jarod walked in.

It could have been any of a thousand illegal and semi legal projects 
the Center had going, but the timing was too perfect. The payments 
started the day after Sam was caught and when traced back, it had, 
surprise, surprise, ended in the Capital. They now had a tentative lead 
on the people whoíd been trying to capture Sam. 

Chapter 6

The next day, Micheal rubbed his fingers across the bridge of his nose 
while wishing he could remember the acupressure points to relieve a 
stress headache. The other two Immortals sat with him around the coffee 
table, looking over the blueprints for the Center. 

They werenít having much luck in trying to find a way to get Ann out of 
there. She was in a well-guarded area, with camera surveillance, 
numerous walk-bys and the personal attention of Mr. Lyle. The fact that 
she didnít move around much made looping the tape that much easier. But 
the walk-bys were irregular, with an average of about six an hour. 
Also, getting a semi conscious body through the tunnels would not be an 
easy task. It would have to be somebody she knew and would trust, 
cutting the list down severely. Actually, at least two somebodies, if 
she was unconscious.

It would be easier to snatch her during the transfer, but according to 
what Miss Parker had relayed from Jarod, that might not happen. Even if 
it did, she might be. . . damaged by what ever Mr. Lyle had in mind for 
her. Micheal could feel the cold rage build up in him at the thought. 
Merely holding her was one thing. Messing with her head and drugging 
her was something else altogether.

They needed to talk to Jarod and his people. Most likely Mulder and his 
partner and some of their friends. What did Sam call that group of 
computer nerds, the Lone Gunmen? They might be the other three. 
Together they should be able to bring her out safely and quickly. 

Pulled out of his reverie by the shrill buzz of a cell phone, Miss 
Parker reached over and flipped hers open. After a brief conversation 
she looked at the two of them, a brief smile lighting up her face.

"That was Jarod, they decided they could use our help." Sheíd long ago 
stopped trying to figure out how Jarod always managed to find out her 
cell number. Sheíd changed it often enough and usually used an alias. 

"How generous." Michealís dry voice conveyed his opinion.

"They want to meet in a few hours and try to get her out tonight." Miss 
Parker was relieved no matter what those two said. She didnít think 
they could get Ann out short of storming the castle. Sheíd had enough 
of dying by violent means.

"Not giving us much time, are they." Adam piped up this time.

"Heaven forbid that we might have plans of our own." Micheal replied, 
each of the old Immortals having a faintly disgusted look on their 
faces.

"I guess weíll just have to drop everything and run to help them." Adam 
quipped, pulling himself off the floor.

"We could tell them to sod off?" Michealís eyes shone with fake hope.

"But that wouldnít be polite," Adam said.

"But it would be satisfying." Micheal grinned in anticipation.

"Are you two done?" Miss Parker looked at the two of them, wondering if 
it was just her, or were they really acting like they were twelve 
instead of twelve hundred plus.

"What?" They answered in unison, their faces exact copies of hurt 
innocence.

"I give up." She pulled herself onto the couch and snagged the remote, 
ignoring the two men as she channel surfed. She wasnít a big TV person, 
but Adam didnít even have one at his place and she was wondering what 
sheíd missed. Apparently not much. 

***

She was breaking. Mr. Lyle knew she was. The combination of her own 
messed up psyche and the hallucinogens they were pumping into her were 
making her malleable. Her blood chemistry was fascinating and theyíd 
had trouble finding the right combination, her body often reacting in 
ways they didnít expect. But now they had it right, she was putty in 
his hand. Well, not quite. 

She had started to talk, rambling on incessantly about childhood 
trivia, replaying scenes that happened years ago as if they were 
happening at that instant. It was disconcerting to hear half of a 
conversation, which would break off and start up somewhere else every 
few minutes. 

He could direct things to an extent, but not being too familiar with 
her history outside of the Center made things difficult. At one point, 
heíd triggered something that sent her screaming and scrapping at her 
arms. The haunted sound pierced through the entire section, sending 
shivers down the spines of people as they walked by. He merely left the 
room to avoid the noise.

He spent a lot of time in the cell himself, listening to her meandering 
voice. Every once in a while heíd hear something that made the time 
worth while. Mostly it was endless day to day routine, but he could 
occasionally get her to talk to him about some of the things sheíd 
done. During those rare moments, she would almost plead with him, 
trying to explain her actions. He gently reassured her then asked her 
about the specific details. He had enough now to black mail more than a 
few politicians and businessmen with those brief conversations. 

But he wasnít getting what he wanted. She never talked about her time 
with the Consortium. When he got her to that time frame, sheíd start 
screaming. The few times she didnít, her eyes blanked out and she shut 
up. Then sheíd start shivering, not from cold, but from all her muscles 
tensing up at once and shaking from the strain.

He would know soon enough. It wouldnít take much more, perhaps if they 
sedated her a touch and removed her more from the situation. He was 
sure there was something that would have the desired effect. He wasnít 
the genius that Mr. Raines was, but he knew a few tricks. And he would 
get the information he wanted.

Getting up, he left the rocking figure on the floor, wanting a break 
from the current recitation of a day in kindergarten, mumbled through 
parched lips. He should remember to make sure they got some liquids in 
her. She was getting dehydrated.

***

They ended up at Miss Parkerís house. It was closer than the resort 
Jarod had found and once it was thoroughly swept by Frohike and found 
clean, it was a safe place to talk. Surprisingly, they all settled 
quickly into their roles. Scully watched as everyone got down to 
business, throwing out ideas and picking things apart without egos 
coming into play. If she wasnít seeing it herself, she would never have 
believed it. 

Skinner would never believe that Mulder was actually listening to what 
was being said and not trying to take over the operation. Nor was he 
stewing in angst and getting ready to run in there, let the 
consequences be damned, and get himself killed. She was quite 
impressed. 

She found herself drawn back to the conversation as they started 
speculating on the type of drugs they might have given Sam. While they 
could let them wear off, it would be better if they knew what they were 
dealing with in the first place. There might be long term effects and 
just dealing with the short term would be difficult enough from what 
Jarod had seen. 

Miss Parker had been digging up what she could and managed to snag a 
few of the empty bottles that she thought had been used on Sam, but 
there were no labels and testing would take time. She also had dug up 
some information about the people Sam had been contracted to as well as 
her medical files. Sheíd been treated at the Center for various things 
and Scully looked over the reports, hoping to glean some more 
information from them. The blood work made her pause.

Micheal had already passed Mulder the zip disc that had all the 
information heíd gotten from the first attempt on the Center. While the 
two werenít the best of friends, their mutual worry over Sam had them 
getting along for the moment. They were even deep in discussion with 
Jarod on the best way to transport Sam once they got to her. 

They were planing to go in about six hours, waiting for the earlier 
hours of the morning, when the call to sleep was the strongest and eyes 
softly drooped down. It was going to be a smash and grab, with the main 
precaution being to throw the blame on the Consortium. 

With the information Miss Parker had gotten, they should be able to 
make it seem like they were getting impatient with the run around and 
had simply grabbed Sam. The money being routed into the Centerís 
accounts was already being diverted back to its source and should be 
the only clue they would need to leave. 

Everyone was breaking up into their respective clicks, now that the 
planning was accomplished. The Gunmen had taken over an office, 
preparing things for the morning and doing whatever else they did. Adam 
and Miss Parker (Scully wondered if the new Immortal even had a first 
name) had taken off outside and the faint clang of steal could be heard 
from their general direction. 

Micheal had taken over a couch and was already showing signs of the 
deep, regular breath of sleep. Scully had a silent chuckle to herself 
as her partner took over the other couch and followed suit. He could 
nod off at the drop of a hat, but always woke up at the least sound. 
Leaving the two men to their sleep she got up and headed over to the 
kitchen.

The leftovers of supper were still stacked up on the counter. Jarod had 
come through in the pinch and managed to make up some spaghetti for 
everyone that was quite good. It certainly was better than anything you 
get out of a can and was about all that could be made out of the little 
bit of food Miss Parker had in her house. Nobody really wanted to 
chance delivery.

Pushing up the sleeves of her sweater she figured she might as well do 
something about the mess, since it looked like no one else was. 
Leftovers were scraped into a garbage can and the dishes placed in the 
dishwasher. It was already empty so she didnít have to worry about 
figuring out where any of the clean dishes went. 

It didnít take long and after a few minutes the room was mostly clean 
with just a pot soaking in the sink. Giving a final wipe of the stove 
with a cloth, Scully deemed the kitchen clean enough and was about to 
leave when Jarod walked in. 

"You beat me to the kitchen I see."

"Well, it was just sitting here, and since I didnít have anything 
better to do I figured why not?" She turned to leave when he sat down 
heavily in a chair, his movements weary and tired. "Maybe you should 
try to get some sleep?"

"I will, I just didnít want to leave a mess."

"You havenít been sleeping very well, have you?" She winced a bit at 
the bluntness of her question, glad that her back was turned so he 
couldnít see the faint blush that had risen on her cheeks. 

"No I havenít." He didnít move as she turned back around and headed 
back into the room.

"If you want to talk about, I have a soft shoulder." She wasnít sure 
why she wanted to comfort this guy, but he seemed to bring out the 
mother hen instinct in her.

"Iím fine," he said, so she turned again to leave, only to turn back 
when he started talking. "Itís just that I donít understand it!" 

She felt a bit like a top spinning around so she solved the problem by 
quietly taking a seat at the table with him, and then waited for him to 
elaborate.

"Iím so worried about her its eating a hole in my gut. I canít eat, I 
canít sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I see her huddled in that 
corner shaking. They are destroying her mind! Again! And I canít seem 
to step back enough to look at this clearly." There was enough self 
recrimination in his voice to make Mulder jealous.

"Welcome to the real world." She ignored the affronted look on his face 
and continued. "Perspective is most often sought after and rarely 
obtained. By the nature of life, the people we love are too close to us 
to think about clearly. If something happens to them, you canít step 
back, you can only step forward." She half expected a caustic remark 
thrown back at her, but she received no answer. Jarod just sat there, 
lost in thought. "Youíre doing everything you can to help her."

"Itís not enough."

"You can only give everything you have. After that, you leave it in the 
hands of God." Having said her piece, she got up and left, intent on 
finding one of the spare bedrooms Miss Parker had mentioned earlier. 
She wasnít tired but she would need to get some sleep before they 
headed out. 

Jarod stayed in the kitchen, eventually getting up and pouring himself 
a cup of coffee. He absent-mindedly stirred a spoon around the cup, 
watching the flow and eddies as the liquid slowly cooled. What Scully 
had said made sense. 

He was so used to dealing with circumstances he controlled, at least to 
some extent. Now he was reacting to events as best he could, not really 
having time to plan ahead and sort things out. He was a control freak 
out of control. He chuckled to himself at the joke.

With a slight smile still on his lips, he left the kitchen, the coffee 
forgotten on the table, and went to find an empty bed. While his mind 
was still racing, the knots in his stomach had disappeared and a few 
moments after he stretched out on the covers, his eyes drifted shut and 
he was asleep.

***

It was easier now. I just sat and watched as the images darted in front 
of my eyes. I could reach out a hand and swat at them, my hand passing 
harmlessly through them. Jarod kept coming to see me, asking me 
questions. It took me a while to realize he wasnít actually real, just 
another figure my twisted mind had thrown up. There might have been a 
person there, but all I saw was Jarod. 

Something had changed and I felt like I was floating around. This was 
much better and things didnít hurt anymore. Not as much anyway. The 
dulling of the fires in my blood left me wanting to fly, so I did. Sort 
of. 

Part of me was screaming, trying to figure out what was wrong. This was 
the part of me that kept the other part babbling about silly things 
like the sleep-overs I had as a kid. That was the part of me that 
realized Jarod wasnít real and that I was still at the Center. 

The other part of me was the part flying. It was so free, so happy, so 
light after the dark and horror of earlier. Now when I watched them, I 
watched from a distance. I still couldnít see much and the fire tingled 
at the edge of my mind, but I could hardly feel it. 

Then I crashed. 

Crashing hurt. 

My stomach twisted, forcing bile into my mouth, but my mind actually 
cleared a bit. Jarod, or whoever that really was, had left, leaving me 
to my misery. Muscles cramped. I was too hot, then too cold. The cold 
metal of the small sink felt like ice, as I pulled myself up, dry 
retching into it until I simply didnít have the energy to hold myself 
up any longer. 

***

Mulder woke up to a hand on his shoulder. Scully smiled down at him and 
told him to go eat something. Glancing at his watch, they had about two 
hours before they left, so he hauled himself into the kitchen and 
poured himself a cup of coffee from the large pot brewing on the 
counter. It was already half empty.

Several others were already up and Miss Parker had left a few hours ago 
for the Center. Sheíd already called and said that things were quiet. 
Mr. Lyle had left for the night and only those on the actual night 
shift where left. Sheíd also hooked up the modem to the Centerís 
isolated system for the Gunmen. 

Cup in hand, he headed to the bathroom to change out of his blue jeans 
and shirt, into the dark sweats and turtle neck heíd brought. Heíd done 
something like this often enough, he didnít want to ruin his last pair 
of half decent black jeans and the sweats were easier to move in. 

Serious preparations were already in motion. Weapons were checked, many 
of which Mulder didnít want to know where they originally came from, 
radios turned on and volumes set. This was mostly done in silence 
punctuated by the occasional sound of someone coming in and getting 
something to eat. 

All too soon, it was time to leave. The three men, black from head to 
toe, faces included, piled into the van that Scully was driving; Adam 
followed in a large, black sedan. A few minutes later, they pulled up 
to the sewer drain that led into the Center.

***

Miss Parker looked around her office for one last time. After this 
night she would never be coming back and she was glad. But there was 
also a touch of sorrow at leaving a place sheíd spent so much of her 
life. She picked up her cell phone and called the strange men whoíd 
taken over her office at home. 

After a few minutes of conversation they did as she asked, pulling out 
enough dirt on the Center to close it down. Maybe not permanently but 
certainly enough for the jackals to set in and rip the pieces apart. 
They were also going to erase some personnel files while they were at 
it. Dialing in another number, she waited for the other person to pick 
up.

"Sydney, howíd you like to retire?" Letís just say it didnít take a lot 
of convincing for Sydney to contemplate a small country practice. 
Broots decided that a trip to Paris with his daughter would be the 
perfect way to spend the spring. That taken care of, she called as many 
Sweepers to her as she could and took them on a wild goose chase for 
Jarod in New York. She planned to fake her death most messily and leave 
them there.

Chapter 7

I must have passed out, because I know time had passed from when I 
dropped to the floor to when I crawled back to the blankets in the 
corner. I wanted a drink now more than anything, but I didnít have the 
energy to go and get it. I was floating again, but not as much as 
earlier. Just enough to make me nauseous. 

Images played around me, passing in and out of focus, running through 
my life in excruciating detail. From the guy I kissed in kindergarten, 
to the guy I killed when I was fifteen. I would see Jarod walking down 
the hall and then Fox would come to tell me about his day at work. I 
was crying on Momís shoulder, happy to see her for the first time in my 
memory, then I was a little girl sitting on her lap. I didnít even 
notice the men walk in the room. I guess they were back with more 
questions. 

"Samantha?" The voice was familiar and sounded like Fox, but I knew he 
wasnít there. Just a memory come to haunt me again. "Sam listen to me, 
we need to get you out of here." Or a dream.

"Sam?" Was that Father? But he was dead, shot by the Center, another 
ghost. But that wasnít right, I knew that wasnít right. I shut my eyes 
tight against the images that flooded my mind. 

I opened them when a hand was placed on my shoulder and another gently 
pushing the strands of hair out of my face. I licked my lips, not even 
wetting them as I tried to push out the fog in my head and really see 
who was there. All I saw was black. 

"Sam, listen, Iím going to pick you up and carry you. We need to 
leave." 

"Jarod?" The vague head shape nodded. "Youíre not real, nothing is 
real." I just grabbed a handful of shirt, surprised that my hand didnít 
pass through it. "Why canít it be real?" 

"I am real. Youíre remembering things too fast, too clearly. Your mind 
isnít really handling it well," he said. Was it possible that this was 
real, not some image my mind dragged up as wish fulfillment? 

By this point, I didnít care. If I was completely nuts, it was better 
than being stuck in the Center. I gave myself over to the illusion, 
feeling myself be picked up and clutching desperately to the handful of 
shirt Iíd latched onto. 

***

Jarod was horrified at how light Samantha felt. She wasnít a stocky 
person, but sheíd had a lot of muscle hidden on her frame that made her 
heavier than she looked. Now she was dehydrated and probably hadnít 
eaten much considering the state she was in. He could feel her 
swallowing convulsively against the jolting she was getting. He lifted 
her up through the opening, easing her grip off the handful of shirt 
she was still hanging onto as he passed her off to Micheal. 

They hadnít run into that much trouble yet, but that didnít mean 
anything. It wasnít over until it was over. Sam was mostly dead weight, 
but at least she wasnít fighting them. That would have put a quick end 
to this foray. He pulled himself up into the vent and they started 
crawling through the space. Sam was currently draped across Mulderís 
back, making it difficult for him to move quickly, while Micheal was 
bringing up the rear.

They made it out of the air vents into the storage room in which Jarod 
had earlier confronted Miss Parker. Angelo was in the shadows, waiting 
for them. He looked over the strange men with Jarod, trying to decide 
if he liked them or not. The tall man holding the woman was her 
brother, they both had the same intensity though hers was hard to see, 
dimmed beneath the confusion of her mind. The other man, the shorter 
one; there was something about him. Angelo left his hiding spot and 
ventured over to them. 

"Angelo, what are you doing here?" Jarod was glad to see the man but he 
was also worried about getting out of there in one piece. He could hear 
the Sweepers making their way to the room. The saving grace was that 
there werenít that many of them and they were checking out everything 
as they worked their way through the hallway. 

Angelo simply walked up to them, the need to satisfy his growing 
curiosity overriding his usual reticence. He decided he would go with 
them, the Center was no longer safe for him. He knew that on an 
instinctual level and he knew Jarod would help him. The others he would 
have to find out about. He slid in front of the group, leading them 
through a slightly easier route to get to the vehicles waiting for 
them. 

Jarod had taken Sam from Mulder, cradling her carefully against him as 
they went through the corridors. He didnít know this route, but he 
trusted Angelo and knew that the man was helping them. He could see the 
questions in Mulderís eyes and the only reason Micheal stuck with them 
was because Jarod was carrying Sam. But soon they were in the familiar 
drain and racing their way away from the increased noise of the 
Sweepers behind them. They still hadnít managed to lose them. 

Scully had the door open and waiting for them. They all jumped in and 
Jarod was surprised when Angelo joined them. He hadnít expected the 
empath to leave the Center as Angelo always seemed to become 
overwhelmed whenever he left his familiar haunts. But Jarod was happy 
to see him leaving. 

Moving to the back seat, Jarod place Sam on it. He eased her down, her 
legs still curled up against her stomach. He had to brace himself as 
Scully took a corner. When he turned to go, a hand lashed out and 
buried itself in his jacket. 

He eased the death grip off his jacket, but sat down on the floor of 
the van, leaning against her seat. Her eyes, red rimmed and blood shot, 
looked at him with utter disbelief, as if she expected him to fade 
away. They also kept darting around, off to the side and back again. 
Again a hand reached out and hesitantly touched his shoulder. He 
reached up and placed his hand over hers, letting her know he was real.

***

Angelo turned around in his seat, looking at the man sitting behind 
him. His eyes searched the face of the man they called Micheal. He was 
familiar. Something about him made Angelo glad he was there. That was 
why he had continued to follow Jarod, to be near the strange man. 

There was a hardness there, a cold anger that seeped out of the eyes, 
making his whole face seem like granite. He was worried about Sam. He 
finally realized that he was being watched and his gaze turned to 
Angelo. His eyes softened a bit and he gave the empath a brief smile. 
Angelo grinned back.

"Hello Angelo."

He bobbed his head in reply. And turned back around in his seat, the 
grin still on his face. Scully glanced over at him, enchanted by the 
expression she saw. She found herself smiling back. Things had gone 
surprisingly well; they werenít even being followed anymore. Another 
thing Skinner would never believe. If they ever told him. 

Chapter 8

I slept for the first time in a period too long to count. The lull of 
the road and the feeling of Jarodís hand was enough for me to let 
exhaustion take over and my eyes soon drifted shut. There were no 
dreams, no visions and most of all, no memories. By the time I opened 
my eyes, I wasnít in the van anymore. 

My eyes flashed open as I woke, expecting to see gray walls and visions 
of the past dancing in front of my eyes. Instead, though my head felt 
stuffed with cotton, the walls were soft white and my eyes saw nothing 
but the walls. I just lay there, absorbing the soft feel of the sheet 
draped over me, my eyes flowing over all the details in the room. I was 
home. Well, Momís house.

This was Foxís old room; the blue curtains kept out most of the sun and 
there were pictures sitting on the desk. There was a book case against 
the wall filled with books, mostly hard cover, but some paperbacks were 
stacked in a pile on one of the shelves. 

I shifted forward, drawn to the books. At the edge of the bed, I didnít 
even try to sit up, I just pushed my feet out of the blankets and slid 
to the floor with a slight thump. That alone jarred me and I sat on the 
floor waiting for my heart to slow from its pounding in my chest. I 
crawled over and pulled the top book off the pile of paperbacks.

It was a copy of Farmer in the Sky, by Heinlein, obviously much read. 
The corners were folded, and the pages yellowed, but in my eyes it was 
new. Mom had gotten it for his tenth birthday. Sheíd wrapped it up in 
dark paper and left it on his plate at breakfast. Fox came down the 
stairs and rushed in, his T-shirt just pulled all the way down and his 
feet bare.

I was already at the table, barely able to look over the edge of the 
table with a plastic glass of orange juice in my hand. He looked at the 
package on the table and almost ripped into it right away when Dad came 
down the stairs. Dad looked at the disarray of Foxís outfit and with a 
tolerant smile, shook his head and went to pour himself a cup of 
coffee. 

Fox sat at the table and carefully opened the package, his eyes going 
big as he saw what it was. I asked him what he got and he ignored me, 
already reading the first chapter. 

A sound from behind me snapped my head up and around to see Fox, not 
even close to ten years old, standing there.

"Are you okay?"

"You got this from Mom, on your birthday." I said as I lifted up the 
book on my lap. My voice sounded like a gravel truck but I got the 
words out.

"You shouldnít be trying to walk around by yourself. Jarod said you 
need to sleep things off a bit more." He knelt down beside me, holding 
a hand out that I ignored.

"How long?" It grated out but the words hurt as I tried to talk.

"He didnít expect you to wake up for at least another eight hours." His 
reply wasnít what I was looking for. I wanted to know how long I was 
out of it.

"How long has it been? How long was I at the Center?" I had to swallow 
a few times to get it all out but the more I talked, the easier it 
became.

"We got you out early this morning. Youíd been there for about a 
week," he said. With the first three days in the Center fairly clear in 
my mind, that made about 4 days lost in a mental fugue.

"Itís weird Fox. I can remember things now, but it overwhelming. It was 
all coming at once, all jumbled up together. I know what happened to me 
now Fox. I wish I didnít." My voice was down to a whisper.

"Come on, letís get you back to bed." This time, he just put a gentle 
hand under my arm and started to pull me up. I was weaving and my legs 
felt ready to collapse. 

"Iíd rather have a shower." I was in something clean, but my scalp 
itched and I knew I wasnít smelling all that fresh.

"When you can stand up without falling over." He had a point. I was 
hanging on for dear life to Foxís arm, scared at how weak I was.

"Then something to drink." I sat on the bed, automatically pulling my 
legs up and hugging them. My throat was so dry, it felt like it was 
sticking together.

"That can be arranged. What do you want?"

"Just water." I couldnít drag up the thought of anything but water 
sliding down my throat.

"Coming right up."

"Is Jarod still. . . " I had to stop because my throat was seizing up. 
I wanted to think it was because I was so thirsty, but I knew that 
wasnít it.

"Heís downstairs, asleep on the couch." While Fox wasnít pleased about 
the question, judging by the expression on his face, he finished his 
thought anyway. "He only fell asleep an hour ago. He was sitting with 
you till then. Let me get you something to drink."

With that he turned away and I could hear him as he went down the 
stairs. I pulled the blankets over my legs and leaned against the 
headboard. My mind was so full, I just closed my eyes and tried not to 
think about anything. Instead I thought about Fox, Father and Jarod 
coming for me. Father I expected, and Fox was a given. Why had Jarod 
come? How did he know in the first place? Why did I care? Why did he 
care? But when he came, all I could think was that he could banish the 
nightmares if only he were real. And he was real and he banished the 
nightmares. 

Fox was back so soon, I suspected I dosed off for a minute or two, but 
the glass of juice in his hand was almost enough for me to jump off the 
bed. If I could. 

"I know you asked for water, but I thought since there was some apple 
juice in the fringe, why not." He handed me the plastic glass. It was 
one of those giant, plastic movie cups and full to the brim. I had most 
of it downed in a few seconds, a little dribbling down my chin in my 
haste. I savored the last few mouthfuls though, letting it trickle down 
my throat, easing some of the ache there. "Do you want some more?"

"Sure." I replied, sleepily. I was sliding down the head rest and 
pulling at the blanket. Fox leaned over and tugged the edge loose that 
was caught, pulling the blankets up to my chin. 

"Iíll leave it on the bedside table." He was at the door when he turned 
around, his face full of worry. "How are you feeling?"

I mumbled something in reply, already mostly asleep. I could see him in 
the doorway and just as he left I spoke up.

"Thanks, Fox." And then I was asleep.

***

As far as Micheal could tell, they had pretty much gotten away clean 
from the Center. There were no guarantees, though. Miss Parker had 
called them earlier in the day and asked Adam to head over to New York 
with a change of clothes. She was going to take a dive off a building 
where the Sweepers were sure to see. After that, she would leave the 
Center behind her completely. He didnít blame her one bit. 

She also told him about the information that the Lone Gunmen retrieved 
from the Centerís system. It was enough to shut down the company down 
in the least and at best could send most of the main players to jail 
for many years. 

It wasnít enough for what they did to his family, but it was a start. 
When the Center took his son, he swore all of those involved would die. 
But as years passed, he decided seeing them ruined and letting them 
know that he did it, was more. . . satisfying. 

Then he met Sam and priorities changed. Heíd lived long enough to not 
to feel guilty over transferring his need to care for someone to her. 
He still loved his wife and son, and now he loved her too. And he could 
help her. So he did. 

Now he could pay the Center back as well. He figured that releasing 
certain parts to the media, let the frenzy build up for a little while 
and then start feeding bits to the police. Maybe a bit to the FBI as 
well. Some of the financial information should find itself at home with 
the IRS. A few words in the right ears of the Mafia would take care of 
the remnants that escape prosecution. We canít forget the foreign 
investors either. The Center double crossed just about everyone at some 
point in time. 

Maybe when this was all done, he could sleep without seeing the mental 
image of his car exploding with his wife inside. And perhaps his son 
will find rest, wherever his body lay. Pulling his thoughts away from 
an area still painful after all these years, he got up and left his 
chair in the living room, wandering to parts unknown. 

The Mulder house was quite large. A porch ran the length of the front 
and the yard in the back was huge with a large tree dominating one 
corner. There were enough rooms to house just about everyone and to 
give Mrs. Mulder credit, she didnít bat an eye lid when they all 
descended on her at the crack of dawn. 

She took one look at her daughter and everyoneís disheveled appearance, 
then bustled them all in the house. Once everyone was settled, she 
spent the next four hours in the office pumping Mulder for information. 
Micheal thought it amusing that even Mulderís mother called him Mulder. 

Jarod stayed with Sam, watching over her to make sure that she was fine 
and to assess what all had happened to her. At least that was why he 
said he was keeping vigil at her bedside. Micheal let his lips slide 
into a sad smile. Jarod was just punishing himself for his earlier 
behavior. Call it penance. 

Scully called her boss and said that she was still down with the flu 
and then went home to complete the illusion. She told Mulder that if he 
didnít call her when Sam woke up she would take her revenge on his 
couch. Mulder went pale and promised to keep her filled in. The Lone 
Gunmen eventually called, saying they were back at their place and 
anytime they wanted to pick up the info they got a hold of, they could 
stop by and pick it up. 

Micheal went out the back door and regardless of the slight chill that 
clung to the spring afternoon, sat down in a chair. Angelo was outside 
with him, sitting under the tree and poking at the blades of grass. He 
shrugged his shoulders against the unfamiliar weight of Jarodís jacket 
and then went back to his studies. When the empath got up and moved 
towards the trunk of the tree, Michealís curiosity got the better of 
him and he went to see what Angelo was looking at. 

Before he got very far, Angelo turned away from the tree and ran 
towards the ancient Immortal. He skidded to a halt in front of Micheal 
and with solemn eyes, reached forward to lay a hand on the his cheek. 
Angeloís eyes bulged a little at first before they closed and an 
intense look passed over the little manís face. 

Micheal just stood there, not sure what to do or think. He knew that 
Angelo was special, that the Center had twisted him into the creature 
heíd become. Heíd seen the man give information about people just from 
touching something they owned. So he waited. 

After a minute, Angeloís eyes fluttered and opened. His eyes were 
glassy and he just wandered back into the house, leaving Micheal more 
confused than before. 

***

Jarodís eyes snapped open to the noise of a door closing. Now that he 
was awake, he felt as stiff as a board and he had that mucky, not 
enough sleep but it will have to do for now, feeling. He got up, 
stretched out the muscles in his back and went to find a bathroom. 
Heading down the hall a few minutes later, he felt more human. He had 
needed the rest, short as it was. 

When Mrs. Mulder had come in and seen him nodding off at Samís bed 
side, she suggested he could use some sleep. Realizing that the kink in 
his neck was not going to get any better sitting in a chair trying to 
nap, he took her advice and flaked out on the couch. 

Heading to the kitchen for something to eat, he kept an eye out for 
whoever else was around. The place sounded deserted, so he just 
rummaged around in the fridge. Giving up on the fridge he started in on 
the cupboards. 

Settling for a bowl of cereal, he quickly bolted it down. He wanted to 
see how Sam was doing, but he was also reluctant. Last night she was 
still out of it; how would she react to his presence when she was with 
it? He squashed the feeling that it would be simpler for all involved 
if he just moved on. Thatís what got him in this mess in the first 
place.

Putting his bowl in the dishwasher, he went up the stairs and headed to 
the room Sam was in. Easing the door open, he saw her asleep, still 
curled up around herself but her face was relaxed and her hand wasnít 
twisted up in the blanket anymore. She shifted a little at the noise of 
his entrance, but apparently the call to sleep was stronger than the 
call to wake and her eyes barely fluttered. 

He sat in the chair heíd earlier put near the bed, stretching his legs 
out and leaning his head against the wall behind him. He should have 
thought about that earlier. It was easier on his neck. 

Chapter 9

This time, when I woke up, it was a more gradual thing. I rarely do 
that, usually going from sleep to alert in the time it takes my eyes to 
open. Now I sort of faded into awareness, hearing the muted noises from 
downstairs first and then opened my eyes to the dimmed light from the 
window. I was still thirsty, but I was warm and comfortable and not so 
thirsty as to want to disturb the cocoon of blankets I was wrapped up 
in. The noises in the background quieted for a bit and I could hear the 
sound of breathing from right beside me. 

So I blinked my eyes a few times, to clear the last of the sleep from 
them, and looked at the man sitting beside me. He looked tired. He also 
looked very asleep. This gave me chance to again reassure myself that 
everything that happened, actually happened. It also gave me a chance 
to look over one of my rescuers. 

Jarodís hair had grown and was now a little poofy. I liked it that way. 
He also had a smudge of black in his hair line which might explain why 
I couldnít see any faces last night. At least, I think it was last 
night. People think blacking out a face is only something they only do 
in movies, but it does a lot to disguise features, without the bulk or 
bother of a ski mask. Some subtle highlighting can change the 
appearance even further. 

He wasnít in the black clothes of early, having changed into a pair of 
sweats and a T-shirt. It reminded me of the time I first took him to 
the Dojo. That seemed like a life time ago, before everything hit the 
fan and Joe died. There was more strain around his eyes now. It hasnít 
been easy for anyone I guess.

I shifted a bit, stretching a leg out and clearing a hair out of my 
face. I was going to have to do something about that mess. Maybe I 
would cut the lot off. Nah. I guess I was feeling better though. My 
head was even more clear. I had to giggle though, as I realized that I 
could look straight up Jarodís nose. Maybe my head wasnít all that 
clear after all.

I just laid there and watched the rise and fall of Jarodís chest for a 
while. He looked like he needed the rest. I eased up, trying to be 
quiet, and looked longingly at the glass of juice on the other side of 
Jarod. Oh well. Iíll have something to drink later. At least I was 
feeling better. 

I sifted through the jumble my head had become. There was so much in 
there, so many memories, images, ideas, details, emotions. It was 
different. It was like a part of me had opened up, that I hadnít know 
was there. Of course thatís exactly what did happened. 

But there was so much of it. I didnít even know what all was in there 
yet. It was all messed up in my head; the order was all wrong, and 
there didnít seem to be any rhyme or reason. I didnít know if that was 
normal or if thatís just the way the memories resurfaced. 

I looked back at Jarod as he shifted and his eyes fluttered a bit. 
Suddenly I was scared. Well, not scared exactly, but my heart started 
pumping and I wondered why had he come. Heíd made his. . . displeasure 
at me more than obvious the last time I saw him. 

So why was he here? Did he come because Fox called him, or because 
Father needed somebody with more inside information than what we had? I 
couldnít understand it. Why was he waiting here now? Heíd been a 
doctor, and Scully couldnít be here. That had to be it. 

I took a deep breath, willing my heart to stop pounding. I was an 
obligation to him, a patient. Nothing more. By the time I raised my 
eyes to look at his, I felt calmer. 

"How are you feeling?" He looked at me with concern in his eyes. Like 
any good doctor, I told myself, who would come and break you out of an 
underground research center that you were dumb enough to let yourself 
get caught in. 

"Okay." Short, sweet and to the point. Impersonal.

"Any headaches?" He got up out of his chair and sat in front of me on 
the bad, lifting my chin up so he could check my eyes. 

"No. Just feels like my headís full." Yup, he was just here to make 
sure I wasnít going to go bonkers from everything. 

"Thirsty?" His hand on my forehead checked my temperature, while the 
other reached out for my wrist.

"I thought youíd never ask." I pulled my hand out from where it was 
still buried in the blankets and gave it to him. 

After a few seconds of feeling the beats (I really hoped my heart 
wasnít still racing) he reached beside him and gave me the glass of 
juice, which I eagerly gulped down. About halfway through, I paused for 
a breath. 

"I think thirsty was an understatement." He looked me over with 
something in his eyes that I couldnít really place. Worry maybe. Why 
was he worried? I hid my continuing confusion by raising the glass up 
and finishing off the juice. If I kept this up, Iíd have to find a 
bathroom soon. "Youíre pretty dehydrated, and you need to eat 
something, but other than that you should be okay."

"Why can I remember now? I thought you said that wasnít possible." And 
there were some things in my head I didnít want to remember. I held the 
glass on my lap, trying to fascinate myself with the movie 
advertisement printed on the plastic, cause I didnít want to see what 
was in Jarodís face now. 

"I donít know." 

"Itís not to bad. Most of it. I can remember growing up and there were 
some good times." 

"And some bad," he said, knowing exactly how I felt. I shivered at the 
images that flashed through my head. Fire and pain were the most 
prevalent. 

"Some bad." I repeated. 

"Do you want to talk about it?" He put a gentle hand on my leg. Okay, 
that was taking this professional concern a bit far for me. 

"No." I let a definite edge slip in the word. 

"Maybe later."

"Oh youíre sticking around this time?" Can we say unresolved feelings 
of abandonment? Nope Iím not bitter, not at all. "Yes, Iím sticking 
around." 

My eyes snapped up to his. I hadnít really excepted an answer to that. 
"Why?" I asked, before I had a chance to stop myself. He didnít answer 
my question right away, instead his eyes broke from mine and shifted 
uneasily around the room.

"I thought you might need some help for a while." 

"Why do you care?" I snapped.

"Why wouldnít I?" He sounded hurt by my attack but I didnít really 
care. 

"You sure didnít last time."

"Thatís not fair." He snapped at me this time.

"Why, because itís true?" I was starting to get mad and I really wanted 
to get out of there.

"Iím sorry. Youíre right, it was wrong of me to leave as I did." His 
voice went soft and his eyes returned to mine, filled with something I 
wasnít used to seeing in him. Doubt.

"Well, I survived, as I no doubt will this time, so take your misplaced 
sympathy and take off. Thereís nothing holding you here." Iíd had 
enough. My mind was spinning and my adrenaline was racing. I flung my 
feet out from under the blankets and stood up, making it halfway to the 
door before a wave of blackness passed over me. I crumpled, but someone 
caught me before I hit the floor. 

"Careful." 

I opened my eyes and looked at Jarod, his face hovering in front of me. 
So much for stomping off in a fit of pique. He helped me back up and 
over to bed. Sitting on the edge, I let my breathing ease and the spots 
clear from my eyes. 

"Why do you care? Why are you here?" My eyes started getting blurry and 
I had to blink a fair bit to get rid of the moisture in my eyes. When 
he didnít say anything, I just kept talking in a rush, the dam Iíd 
carefully built up starting to break. "I understood your leaving. I 
donít understand why you came back. You should be out helping people 
who deserve it. Not me. Iím not worth . . . "

"Hold it right there. You are every bit as deserving of help as anyone 
else."

"Then why did you leave?" I whispered. Unable to tear my eyes away from 
the weave of the blanket.

"Because I was. . . I didnít know how to deal with the emotional 
baggage you represented." His voice was harsh with self recrimination 
and I could hear him shifting back and forth on his feet. I didnít even 
want to think about what it would take to get Jarod to pace.

"So you left." I took a deep breath and a bit of understanding filtered 
through the windmills of my mind. "That actually sounds familiar. Iíve 
done my fair share of high tailing it."

"I was wrong. I should have tried to help you instead of getting on my 
high horse and. . . "

"Judging me out of hand." I finished his sentence and watched his 
expressive face go through about a thousand emotions at once.

"Um, yea." He stopped rocking and looked at me, his eyes still 
doubtful.

"Maybe I should get Scully in here to document this. Jarod actually 
admitting he made a mistake." I grinned a little to take the sting out 
of the sentence. 

"Iím a Pretender, not perfect." Jarod dead panned. If it wasnít for the 
light in his eyes I would have thought him shocked.

I couldnít help it and at first a little giggle escaped. Jarod also 
seemed to be having trouble keeping a straight face and then I cracked 
up, starting a belly laugh that had me realizing that my stomach 
muscles were a lot more sore than I thought they were.

"Not fair," I gasped, an arm clenched around my stomach, "Laughing 
hurts."

"Easy there." Jarod helped me lie back down.

"Donít you Ďeasy thereí me. You guys keep this up, and youíll spoil me 
for life." I hated being mothered.

"Thereís nothing wrong with accepting help when you need it," he said, 
reprovingly. 

"Yea well. . . "

"Yea well nothing. Youíve been through hell and you need to take it 
easy."

"Yes mother."

"Thatís right. Right now you have enough surrogate parents to make sure 
that you get the rest you need." 

I groaned when I realized he was right. Fox had already started. Father 
was never a big one for coddling a person, but he could be as mothering 
a person as anyone I knew and now Jarod was in the mix. I was pretty 
sure Mom had set up a menu for me that included anything I ever 
expressed a liking for. For a brief moment I thought about my nice, 
little, quiet cell in the Center. 

Which pulled me back into some of the not so nice memories that 
surfaced there. I knew they were memories, but I could still feel the 
phantom fire running through me. A shiver ran up and down my spine but 
I took a deep breath forcing my hands to stop trembling. I opened my 
eyes, and Jarod was looking at me, concern back on his face.

"It was just one of the not so nice memories." I looked away, still not 
comfortable with the concern on his face.

"It must have been pretty nasty to give you that much of a reaction 
from the memory."

"It was," I admitted.

"Are you sure you donít want to talk about it?" He asked me gently, 
probably trying to get me talk about it. I wasnít quite ready for that 
yet.

"Maybe later. Right now, I want to get something more to drink."

"Already?"

"Youíre the one who said I was dehydrated." I kept a sweet smile on my 
face as I said that, just to tease him.

"Well, itís not something to drink, but itís close." Mom walked in 
right then with a bowl of soup on a tray.

"I can handle something to eat too." I looked it over as my stomach 
decided food would be just as acceptable as something to drink. Jarod 
stood up from his seat on the bed, rubbing his eyes as he did so. 
"Maybe you should get some sleep of your own, Jarod."

He didnít say anything, but his eyes were getting more glazed over as 
he stood there.

"Iíll be fine. Besides, Mom can take up the vigil. Go get some sleep. 
In a bed."

He muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like 
Ďyes motherí but he left the room and hopefully made his way to one of 
the guest bedrooms. Mom sat in the chair beside the bed, watching as I 
dipped my spoon into the soup. Normally Iím not a big soup fan, but 
this smelled good. It triggered an image of me, about seven or so, 
sitting in bed and Mom bringing in a bowl of soup. I smiled at the 
thought. 

"So, Mom, howís Betty Johnston doing?" I let Mom start filling me in on 
the details of Betty and the other women of her bridge club, adding 
some of the details she didnít write about in her letters. It seemed 
silly, but I got to know Mom more through listening to her talk about 
others than in the stilted prose she used whenever she tried to talk 
about the past. Leaning against the head board, the empty bowl on my 
lap with Mom finishing her update on the lives of her friends, I was 
content, happy to let things just be.

"Oh, your poor hair. Let me get a brush and we can work out some of 
those tangles." She took the bowl out of my hand and in a few seconds 
was back with a brush. She sat at my side and as I took out the elastic 
that failed at holding most of the mess in place, I saw the tears 
welling up in her eyes. "Itís getting so long. I always loved sitting 
with you and brushing it out every night."

"I know Mom." I looked up at her and for the first time, could actually 
remember doing things like that. That made it easier to deal with the 
other things my mind had thrown at me. I wouldnít give up those happy 
moments for the world. 

Chapter 10

"I hate the morgue. Itís always so cold." Miss Parker ripped the sheet 
from her face and shivered. "Like anybody cares if a corpse is cold."

She sat up and jumped off the slab she was laid out on and winced at 
the bones still knitting. The feel of bones shifting back into place 
and solidifying is something that needed to be experienced first hand 
in order to fully understand. Adam had not described the experience 
adequately. 

She found herself remembering the first time sheíd woken up with a 
sheet over her face. This time though, she knew what to expect and Adam 
should be outside the building with a car and a change of clothes. 
Something more comfortable than the blood encrusted clothing she still 
had on, not to mention more inconspicuous. At least she still had 
clothing on this time.

Slipping out the door and high tailing it to an emergency exit, she was 
already in Adamís car and gone by the time someone investigated the 
alarm. In the back seat, she stripped out of the bloody clothing and 
into the jeans and shirt Adam brought. Socks were put on and her boots 
soon followed. She didnít get annoyed until she tried to brush out her 
hair. There was so much dried blood, the entire back of her head was a 
matted mess. 

"I donít suppose you can stop somewhere long enough for me to rinse out 
enough of the blood to comb this mess." She climbed over the seat and 
settled herself in the front.

"Becoming vain are we?" Adamís eyes stayed on the road, but he grinned 
in her direction.

"Iím just glad Iím not a blond," she quipped, her hand trying to break 
apart some of the strands.

"I would never teach a blond." This time he smirked.

"Oh, judging on appearances, are we?" She mimicked his tone, giving as 
good as she got.

"I can think of much better things to do with a blond." 

"Iím not even touching that one. So how did every thing go?"

"Like clock work." He sounded faintly surprised at this himself. She 
couldnít blame him, it was rare that anything resembling a plan lasted 
beyond the first encounter with the enemy. Maybe sheíd been chasing 
Jarod too long. He usually was about ten steps ahead of her. Nice to be 
on his side for a change.

"Is Samantha okay?" she asked.

"She was still out of it when I left, but Jarod called earlier, saying 
she was fine. The Lone Gunmen have also vacated your previous residence 
and are currently analyzing all the information they gathered."

"That could take a century or two" She meant it as a joke.

"You have the time," he replied in all honesty.

"Yea, I guess I do." Her voice lowered, losing its joking tone. That 
part of her new existence hadnít quite sunk in yet. Adam had pulled up 
to a small diner, giving her the escape she was looking for.

After a trip to the bathroom so her hair looked less like she had just 
fallen off a twenty story building (which to be truthful, she did) and 
more like a normal person passing through, she joined Adam at a table. 
She would deal with Immortality later, right now she was surprised at 
just how hungry she was.

"Anything look edible?" She sat across from him in the booth, picking 
up a menu as she did so.

"Well, itís not high cuisine, but look on the bright side; you donít 
have to worry about your ulcers." He had a smirk on his face that just 
begged to be wiped off.

"Iím never going to hear the end of that am I?"

"Youíre the one who mentioned them."

"In passing." She smiled back at him, falling easily into their 
familiar banter.

"Ah, but how else am I supposed to find out all about you."

"And why would you want to know about me?" She was surprised at the 
guarded look that came over his face. It wasnít a change of expression 
so much as a tightening around his eyes and a stiffness in his posture. 
If she hadnít spent so much time with him over the last five months, 
she wondered if she would have even noticed it.

"Oh just keeping an eye on my star pupil." He smiled again but this 
time it didnít reach his eyes. Miss Parker played along anyway.

"Iím your only pupil." She said dryly.

"All the more reason to make sure you donít have anything lurking in 
your past to come and haunt you." He buried his nose in the menu 
avoiding her glare.

"And my ulcers fit in this. . . How exactly?" No mere menu was going to 
stop her, so she reached over and pulled it down so he could feel the 
full effect.

"Theyíre a good indication of the type of person you used to be." He 
switched tactics, casually bringing up something that had been on his 
mind since heíd seen her at the Center.

"Used to be? I havenít changed that much." She glanced over her own 
menu, knowing what Adam was doing, but unable and perhaps unwilling to 
change it. 

"Everybody at the Center thought you had." She paused as he said that, 
her mind going over the past months, everything sheíd been through and 
what all she had learned. And not just about the rules of the Game.

"How have I changed?" she asked, keeping her voice calm, inspite of the 
trepidation she felt.

"Youíre more relaxed, not as tense. Youíre more polite, kinder I would 
guess from the shocked expressions of your co-workers. Iím really glad 
I didnít know you back then." His voice picked up that faintly mocking 
tone he like to use when he was trying to get a rise out of her.

"Funny." She said with a sarcastic bite. "I was just overworked and 
stressed out."

"If you say so." He went back to looking over the menu.

"I say so."

The conversation dwindled at that point as the two of them tried to 
decide what they wanted to eat. After placing an order with the 
waitress, Miss Parker fiddled with the little cream containers, 
stacking them up beside the plate.

"Do you have to do that?" Adam interrupted her.

"Do what?" She looked up from the stack of creamers, wondering what he 
was talking about. 

"Fiddle." He pointed to her accomplishment on the table. "If you start 
stacking the glasses, Iím leaving without you." 

"So what now?" She studiously kept her hands out of sight and instead 
fiddled with the edge of the table cloth. She just didnít like having 
nothing to do with her hands and since she finally managed to quit 
smoking two months ago, her hands often seemed to be empty. 

"Well, Micheal asked us to pick some of the files the Lone Gunmen have 
decoded and is expecting us at Mrs. Mulderís in a few hours. But after 
that, I was thinking of doing a little traveling."

"How much longer for my training?" She led into the question casually, 
but hated herself as she held her breath waiting for the answer.

"You can pretty much go on your own if you want to by now. You know the 
basics and I donít think youíll have too much trouble looking after 
yourself." That wasnít the answer she was looking for. She knew she 
didnít really need any more training, but. . . 

"What if I donít want to."

"You need to go out on your own, you canít hide behind me forever." He 
became engrossed in the dessert menu sitting beside the sugar pot.

"Who said anything about hiding."

"Pardon me?" It got his attention and he glanced up at her, his breath 
stolen by the look in her eyes.

"Listen, for someone as old as you claim to be, you can be as dense a 
chunk of lead. I want to stick around because I want to stay with you. 
Not as a student, but. . . maybe as something more. I want you, Adam, 
but not as an umbrella from the ills of Immortality." 

He swallowed, hating what he felt he had to do. This was why he never 
took students. You were supposed to teach them and let them move on. 
You werenít supposed to get involved, because inevitably, someday they 
came after your head. The first time he had to kill a student, he 
wanted to die himself. 

"Miss Parker. . . Damn it, I donít even know your first name!" He was 
frustrated by that little omission, more than he felt he should be.

"You never asked." She looked down at her coffee, trying to hide from 
what she suspected was coming, though it didnít help.

"Listen, this canít work. Itís normal to develop strong feelings for 
your mentor, but. . . " He never finished the sentence as she 
interrupted him, her eyes harsh as she erupted.

"Strong feelings? I donít believe this! I am NOT some school girl with 
a crush on her teacher. I can damn well tell if this is a fling or 
something else. If you donít feel the same way, tell me and thatís the 
end of it. Donít feed me some line to break it to me gently." She 
looked at him, waiting for his reply, dreading his reply.

"Iím sorry, but I donít feel about you that way," he said, feeling his 
chest constrict up with the lie.

"Thank you." She pushed her chair back, her earlier hunger now 
forgotten. "Iíll wait for you outside."

Once in the fresh air, she swiped at her eyes. At least now she knew. 
She made her play and was shot down. That didnít do anything to ease 
the ache she felt, but it was better than letting herself be strung 
along. By the time Adam joined her, a bare ten minutes later, she was 
more herself. She put on a fake smile and had buried her heart by the 
time they got back to the Mulder residence.

***

Angelo sat in the basement, hunched over Jarodís laptop. His mind was 
still full of the images heíd gotten from touching Micheal. There were 
a lot more there than heíd expected and he was having trouble sorting 
through them all. The basement was cool and dark, giving his mind a 
rest so that he had a chance to sort things out. 

Heíd gone up to snatch Jarodís computer because he needed to remember 
something that wasnít in his head anymore. Besides which, Jarod was too 
busy with his lady friend to notice it missing. He needed to spend time 
with her. 

Angeloís hands flitted over the little, silver DSAís until it paused 
over one in particular. Flashes passed through his mind and he knew 
this was the one he was looking for. He slipped it in, quickly coming 
to the scene he wanted. He watched the screen with wide eyes.

Catherine Parker was leaning over a young boy, his body limp and his 
face expressionless. She gently cradled his head, looking over her 
shoulder, anger warring with horror at what she saw. Behind her stood a 
young Mr. Raines, his face as cold and hard as ice as he answered her 
question.

"There is no more Timmy. There is only Angelo."

***

After Mom left, I read a little but my mind was too busy for a book to 
hold my attention. So I got up very slowly, but was pleased to note 
that this time, I didnít get any black spots and was only a little 
giddy when I stood up. Farmer in the Sky was placed back on Foxís book 
case and I decided that finding a bathroom was a good idea. 

When I walked in and glanced at the mirror, I had to stop and take a 
second look. I hadnít realized just how bad I looked. My face was 
pretty much one bruise, with my one eye, though now open, still blue 
and swollen. My chin had more yellow than anything else with some black 
still showing along the jaw, my lip was split and I had a rough black 
and green line down one cheek. It was all healing, and only the bruise 
on my cheek was recent. But Iím surprised Mom didnít freak when she 
first saw me. 

Checking out other things, the scrapes on my knuckles were mostly gone, 
leaving pink marks to show their passing, and my arms looked as bad as 
my face. I didnít even want to think about what my torso looked like. I 
remembered a number of well-placed kicks, not quite hard enough to 
break ribs or damage internal organs. That would require medical 
attention; no, the Centerís Sweepers knew how to make a kick hurt 
without causing any dangerous injury. 

After taking care of my business, I figured Iíd have that shower Fox 
promised me once I could stand without falling over. I was standing now 
and hot water would help all the stiff muscles I was feeling as well as 
ease a few aches. I needed a towel though.

It took me ten minutes to convince Fox and Jarod that I wouldnít 
collapse in the shower. No, I wouldnít have the water too hot, yes, I 
would get out if I started feeling light headed. Father walked in, took 
one look at me, with the determined look in my eye and my stance 
showing no give, and told them to give me a towel and leave me alone. 
They relented, but then Father told me that if I did collapse I could 
bloody well drag myself out because he wasnít going to get sopping wet 
because I felt like a shower.

I retreated with grace and spent the next twenty minutes in heaven. 
Even if the soap stung the cut on my lip, I didnít care because I was 
clean. I cut it short though when I started to get dizzy and then had 
to sit on the toilet for a few minutes before I could finish drying 
myself off. I was right about the bruising, I had some real beauties 
across my stomach and on my back. No wonder laughing hurt. 

Climbing into some clean clothes, I started to feel human for a change. 
I eased a wide toothed comb through my hair and wrapped it up lightly, 
the wet ends too long for the towel and still dripping water down my 
back. Experience (I could actually say that now) had taught me that 
leaving it in a towel for a while was easier than trying to towel dry 
it. Less tangles. 

Curling up back in bed, I was spent. I hated feeling like that. Iíd 
spent all together too much time feeling like that in the last year, so 
I wasnít about to give into it. But it was kinda nice to pull a blanket 
up over me and wrap myself up. My last conscious thought was that if I 
didnít get up soon, Iíd fall asleep. 

***

Micheal looked in on his charge, a small smile on his lips as she 
sighed contentedly and shifted ever so slightly. He knew the shower 
would drain her and since she needed the sleep, he didnít see any harm 
in it. 

She was safe now. She even had some of what the Center had taken from 
her; not enough to make up what theyíd taken though. They had stolen 
her childhood. A common enough story for any child unfortunate enough 
to end up in their hands. Michealís thoughts drifted to the other 
children the Center had destroyed. Jarod was lucky, he escaped with his 
mind intact. Angelo wasnít so fortunate, but he was alive and now that 
he was away from the Center, they might be able to reverse some of the 
damage done to him. Even Miss Parker was a victim of the Center. 

His eyes again focused on the figure on the bed as her face scrunched 
up and her body stiffened. She was no longer in the peaceful sleep of 
earlier and though she didnít so much as move a muscle, her eyes darted 
back and forth under her scrunched lids and her hands clenched around 
the blanket still held in them. 

He stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes flew 
open in response and startled gasp left her mouth. She looked up at 
him, terror slowly leaching from her eyes as she registered his 
presence. 

"Father." She relaxed but still pushed herself up off the bed, 
absentmindedly itching at the scar that still showed on her arm. 

"Yes?"

"Seems like old times, doesnít it." She smiled at him, mischief 
replacing the residue of the nightmare in her eyes. 

"A bit yes." A wry smile touched his lips. "But Iím not going to spar 
with you to vent your excess energy this time."

"What excess energy?" she asked dryly.

"There is that I suppose."

"Do you know if thereís any of that soup left?" She swung her legs out 
and held a hand out, waiting for him to help her up. 

"Hungry already?" He reached out and taking her hand in his, pulled her 
up. He didnít let go until she did; she steadied herself ever so 
slightly using his hand for balance before she let go.

"Itís not like Iíve eaten all that much lately." She rubbed her eyes 
with the back of her hand and headed to the door. 

"I think thereís still some left in the crock-pot. Thereís also a 
casserole baking in the oven. Your mother is taking this all rather 
well." In fact, her mom seemed to think there was nothing out of the 
ordinary.

"Thatís Mom. Too many years of putting up with Fox, I guess. Sheís 
changed though."

"Everything changes." He walked beside her as she made her way down to 
the kitchen.

"I know that, itís just before, everything was new. Now, everything is 
just different."

"Is that bad?" He looked around for a clean bowl and headed over to the 
crock-pot.

"No, just different." Her face became still as she tried to find the 
words to express her feelings. Micheal waited until she was ready. "I 
feel like Iím living in a paradox. Everythingís the same, but itís 
different. Iím the same person I was, but Iím not. It doesnít make a 
whole lot of sense. Iím not making a whole lot of sense."

"Yes you are, you just need to get everything settled in your head."

"Thanks for stating the obvious," she quipped and then eased herself 
down into a chair, spooning up the soup Micheal placed before her. 

"Youíre welcome."

Chapter 11

I looked up as Jarod again, wandered through the kitchen. That was the 
third time in the last ten minutes. I flipped a page in the puzzle book 
I was working my way through, then paused as he came in again.

"What's up Jarod?" 

"Have you seen my laptop?" He looked around the kitchen as if expecting 
it to miraculously appear.

"Nope." I put down the pencil in hopes that finding Jarodís computer 
would be more exciting than a search word.

"I left it in the living room, but itís not there anymore." He jabbed a 
thumb towards the living room in irritation and leaned up against the 
counter, perhaps realizing that wandering around the house wasnít going 
to make it show up any faster.

"Mom might have picked it up and moved it to one of the bedrooms." It 
was obvious, but sometimes the little things slipped the mind.

"I already asked her. Mulder hasnít seen it since yesterday, and 
Micheal hasnít either." Not for him.

"Did you ask Angelo?" I figured he was the only one left I hadnít seen 
lately, so Jarod might have missed him as well.

"I havenít seem him for a while. He might have borrowed it," Jarod 
admitted. Score one for me. Okay, this was only marginally more 
interesting than the puzzle, but it still had more potential. 

"What would he want with your Ďputer?"

"Iím not sure, but heís the only one left I havenít talked to about 
it." With that Jarod started walking to the stairs to the basement, the 
only place he hadnít searched ten times already.

"Wait up!" I got up and was halfway across the room before I realized 
my legs felt like Jell-O. I think I covered for it pretty quick, 
locking my knees and barely having a hitch in my stride. Didnít hide it 
from Jarod though. Bloody Pretender.

"You shouldnít be doing too much yet. You donít want to over do things 
and have a relapse." His mouth frowned and he was about ready to order 
me back to bed, but I wasnít going to have it. I needed something to 
keep my mind occupied and this little mystery was better than anything 
else. I pulled out the feminine whiles and went to work.

"A relapse of what? Memory influx? What else can I remember? Besides 
which, Iím bored and Fox has control of the remote. I need something to 
do." I widened my eyes and kept a hopeful smile plastered on my face. 

"Your body has been under significant strain, both from the memory 
influx and. . . " he trailed off when he noticed the look I was giving 
him. "What?"

"You were right. I am surrounded by mother hens."

After he pulled his open mouth off the floor, he kept it shut and let 
me follow him into the basement. Which is good, because I didnít have 
the energy to argue much further. 

***

Stepping out of the car and stretching muscles that had been stationary 
too long, Adam felt every one of his 5000 plus years. Stretching would 
quickly remedy the stiff muscles, but the weight of the years would 
take a while to ease. He hated his life. Heíd lived too long, seen too 
much, done too many things.

He should have left her in the alley, simply pulled the sword out and 
left. No, he had to stick around and find out who she was and why she 
didnít even carry a sword. His curiosity would kill him yet. If he was 
lucky, it would be sooner rather than later. 

He waited at the door for Miss Parker to enter first but she ignored 
him and continued to sit in the car. After a few minutes he went in 
without her, finding Micheal in the living room but no one else around. 
He went to a chair opposite Micheal and plopped down. Micheal just 
raised an eyebrow at his old friend and waited.

When Miss Parker finally entered the house and walked past both of them 
without acknowledging their existence, he nodded to himself.

"You told her it was time to move on, didnít you." It wasnít really a 
question. Micheal knew this man quite well.

"She knows enough and itís time for her to move on before she becomes 
dependent on me." Adam replied, shifting in his chair and again wishing 
heíd never gotten involved in this mess.

"Always afraid that someone is going to realize you have a heart, 
arenít you."

"Micheal, now is not the time," Adam snapped.

"Yes, it is. Before you screw up another relationship."

"Oh please, Iím quite capable of taking care of myself."

"Oh and when was the last time we saw each other?" Micheal leaned 
forward, a wicked gleam in his eye. 

"That was not my fault." Adam felt guilty about it, but he was a 
different person than when he had disappeared on Micheal nearly a 
thousand years ago.

"No, you just dropped off the face of the planet." Micheal snapped this 
time, his eyes betraying the smallest hint of hurt.

"You found me easily enough when you needed to."

"By shear luck! I only found you because of youíre association with 
Duncan." The assassin leaned back into his chair, taking the moment to 
calm himself. It was a touchy subject for both of them. "So what are 
you going to do?"

"About what?" Adam didnít want to be having this conversation.

"Even I can see how you feel about her." 

"She hasnít even told me her first name." He seemed to be fixated on 
that point, focusing his frustration on the one fact, minor though it 
was. 

"And I bet you havenít even asked her." Micheal knew he hit a nerve 
when Adam visibly flinched.

"It doesnít matter. Teachers donít keep their students around. They 
need to get out and learn for themselves." Adam sounded like he was 
reading from a book.

"Thatís a convenient excuse."

"Itís also true."

"No, itís not. Sheís seen more of the world than you know and sheís no 
innocent. Sheís stronger than you give her credit."

"I came to help you with youíre problem, not let you screw with my 
life." Adam gave up and tried to end the conversation, his voice 
growing cold with the statement. Micheal reacted, but not in the way 
Adam expected.

"Iím sorry, for over stepping the bonds of family and questioning your 
authority." Micheal fell back to the formality of an earlier age, 
recalling Adam to a time long lost in the dust. 

"Micheal donít." This was not what Adam expected or wanted. Digging up 
the past was always a bad idea.

"You are my father, my mentor and my friend. You took me in and raised 
me as your own. When I died, you taught me what it meant to be Immortal 
and became my mentor. And when I threw it all away, you taught me what 
it means to be a friend." Michealís whole demeanor had changed. The 
harshness, the anger and the arrogance disappeared. All that was left 
was a son explaining his life to his father.

"Micheal that was nearly two thousand years ago. Itís the past." Adam 
said, but Micheal ignored him.

"I came for your head and you spared me. Perhaps you shouldnít have."

"Thatís nonsense." Adam cut in, finally getting a direct response. 
Michealís eyes fired up and his self hatred rang out in his voice. 

"Is it? I came after you for no more reason than that you were old and 
powerful. I found out that friendship is worth more than a Quickening, 
that loyalty means to the death. That has been my one saving grace." 
Michealís anger bled out of his voice, till the last words were barely 
whispered.

"You underestimate yourself Micheal. You always did." Adam looked over 
his friend. This whole situation must have been harder on him than Adam 
knew, to get him to open up like this. After a few quiet moments, 
Micheal drew himself together and the son was gone, replaced with the 
hard edges of the man he had become. The care and friendship was still 
there, though.

"This isnít about me, itís about you." Micheal put the past behind him 
and went back to the reason for this conversation in the first place. 

"Leave this Micheal." Adam almost pleaded this time. 

"Love is the only thing that keeps us from going insane, Adam. Without 
it, we lose our humanity and spend the rest of eternity empty. To find 
a love like us, one who understands, is that much more precious. Donít 
turn your back on it." Micheal got up and left Adam in his chair, 
stunned into silence.

***

Well, we found Jarodís computer. And Angelo. And something else. 

It took a while for it to penetrate my too full mind, but when it did, 
it hit me like a ton of bricks. Angelo was sitting in front of Jarodís 
computer, replaying a scene over and over again, a man repeating the 
phrase, ĎThere is not more Timmy, there is only Angelo.í

Angelo turned around as we came towards him and then hit a series of 
keys, breaking the loop. He hit a few more and it started from what I 
assume was the beginning. A little boy being essentially tortured by a 
young Mr. Raines when a woman, who was the spitting image of Miss 
Parker, charged in and put a stop to it. 

She ripped off the straps holding the little boy and carefully cradled 
his head in her hands, her eyes going wide at the slack look on the 
childís face. She asked him what heíd done to Timmy, and thatís when it 
started to fall into place. 

The boy on the screen looked familiar and I knew Iíd seen his face 
before and not in the Center. Suddenly I felt very faint and if Jarod 
hadnít caught me, I would have landed on my dignity as I practically 
collapsed.

"I told you, you shouldnít be. . . " His voice was full of concern, but 
I didnít give him a chance to finish.

"Jarod, whatís Angeloís name. His REAL name?" I clutched at his arm, 
hoping and dreading his answer at the same time. This was definitely 
not what I had in mind when I said I wanted some excitement. 

"Timmy?"

"His full name!" 

"Iím not sure, Timothy. . . "

"Bentley." I cut across him again, feeling like the world had moved 
without me again.

"Howíd you know?" His confusion would normally have put me in raptures 
for a week, but I didnít even notice it.

"What was the name of Michealís son, the one kidnapped by the Center?" 
I couldnít bring myself to come right out and say it; instead, feeding 
the bits to Jarod as they had come together in my brain.

"Timothy." Jarodís eyes grew huge as the significance penetrated. He 
looked as shocked as I felt.

"He was so sure he was dead. He wasnít at the Center, but they never 
released him." I started rambling, my brain spilling its thought from 
my mouth as I tried to reconcile this within myself. How could I 
explain this to Micheal? "Sweet merciful. . . FATHER!!!"

I ran up the stairs, tripping at the top and not even feeling it as I 
kept screaming for Father. He pulled me up from the floor at the top of 
the stairs, concern for me clearly evident on his face. 

"Ann, what is it?" He led me to a chair, but I didnít sit down. 
Instead, I tried to catch my breath enough to spit out what Iíd found 
out.

"I didnít realize it was him, heaven help, me I didnít know, I should 
have figured it out, I knew all the pieces but I couldnít put it 
together." I was talking so fast the words streamed together and Father 
pushed me down in a chair, telling me to calm down and take a breath.

"Angelo is Timmy."

"What?"

"The Center turned Timothy into Angelo."

Michealís face lost all color. His hands clenched around my arms, 
painfully digging into the muscles, but it didnít matter. He eventually 
let me go and turned away, his movements stiff and disjointed. He was 
out the door before I realized. I followed him out, leaving a group of 
very confused people behind. 

It was dusk and a heavy drizzle had finally broken from the overcast 
skies. He just stood there, with the rain streaming down his face. I 
came up behind him, putting my hand on his shoulder. He was as cold as 
ice but he didnít even shiver. It was like his entire body just shut 
down. 

"Father?"

"Heís alive." He was still in shock, hardly noticing my presence.

"Yes he is." I turned to look at him, barely noticing the tears that 
blended with the rain streaming down his face.

"How could I not have known?" he asked, his voice dull, lifeless.

"You did everything you could to find him. I helped you for a while 
myself, trying to track him, to find him." I felt bad about this 
myself. I should have been able to put the pieces together but by then 
my head was so screwed up I couldnít even remember my own name.

"I thought he was dead, I should have kept looking." 

"We both thought he was dead." I was in front of him, hoping he would 
look at me but his eyes kept staring off into the distance.

"I am his father, I should have stopped this from happening." His voice 
got a hard edge that spelt trouble in the future but he needed to do 
something else first. I pulled his face around, forcing him to look 
into mine, finally seeing his eyes focus on mine.

"Stop this! Enough guilt, enough self recrimination, enough self 
pity." I released his face, a gentle smile on my face as he snapped out 
of his fugue state. "Your son is waiting for you."

***

Angelo could feel emotions pouring off the man as he came down the 
stairs. When Jarod and his lady left, heíd waited, knowing that his 
father would come. Now everyone knew, as they should, and his father 
came for him. 

Hope, joy, fear, confusion, guilt, exultation swept over him and then 
he was enveloped in a hug that surrounded him. Then contentment slid 
into the emotional mix and soon overwhelmed everything but a note of 
rage that still burned in his father. But it was not directed at him, 
never at him. 

His father gently released him and was soon looking over every inch of 
him, touching his face, his eyes, his hair, his arms, his shoulders, 
reaffirming their presence in his mind. Then a wave of guilt washed 
over his father and he was again pulled into the embrace, soft 
reassurances murmured into his hair.

Angelo finally wiggled from the embrace, his hand gently taking his 
father over to the computer to show him what he couldnít tell him. His 
father needed to know, to know what happened to him, to know that it 
wasnít his fault. The old man did this to him, and now the old man 
would pay.

The dim light played across his fatherís face and Angelo knew that what 
he saw hurt him, so with light fingers, he slipped his hand into his 
fatherís and let him know he was there. He was even happy now. Jarod 
was with his lady, the lady was with her brother and he was with his 
father. Now he could be free.

Chapter 12

When Miss Parker walked into the room, she hoped for some sort of a 
reaction, even if only to her Immortal presence, but Adam didnít even 
look up. She would have thought him asleep if she didnít know better. 

Looking across at his still form in the chair, a thousand thoughts and 
feeling ran through her mind. Most of them were screaming at her not to 
go, not to leave the man who meant so much to her. But heíd made his 
feelings plain. He didnít care for her beyond a feeling of 
responsibility as her mentor. Staying would just break her heart all 
over again. As heíd said, it was time for her to get out on her own.

"Adam?" 

"Yes" He kept looking at his book, though he didnít seem to be paying 
it too much attention as he turned over three pages at once.

"I just wanted to say good-bye before I left." She thought that kept it 
pretty simple.

"So soon?" He looked up quickly from his book. What did he think, she 
was going to hang around here for the rest of eternity? 

"So it would seem," she answered wryly. 

"Do you have a few minutes?" He finally looked up from his book, his 
face carefully neutral.

"Well, itís a long drive, but I donít think ten minutes is going to 
make that much of a difference." She followed him out of the library 
and up to the room he was using, unsure of what to think. On the bed 
was lying a package that was fairly obvious from itís shape.

"It seems to be a bit of a custom for a mentor to give his student a 
sword when they are finished their training. I thought this one would 
suit you." 

Her eyes stayed on the package as she sat on the bed and carefully 
unwrapped the gift. It was a beautiful, hand and a half sword, with 
delicate runes that seemed to dance along the length of the blade and a 
leather wrapped handle dyed a dark red. Lifting it up, the balance fit 
naturally in her hand. She felt like the sword was a part of her, an 
extension of her hand, willing to do her biding.

"Itís beautiful." The simple phrase was inadequate, but she couldnít 
think of anything better to say.

"Itís light enough to use single handed, but long enough to use with a 
double grip. Itís about. . . "He was starting to ramble and was having 
second thoughts about the gift, which, when she interrupted him, he 
knew he should have listened to. 

"Can we try it out?" Her eyebrow arched up invitingly, but her heart 
ended up in her throat as all the animation left his face. 

"I thought you had a long drive?" He gave a stiff smile, but it didnít 
reach his eyes.

"Yea, well, I should get going then." Her face was empty as she got up, 
slipping the sword into its scabbard and carrying it carefully out the 
door.

"I guess so." He looked around the empty room, feeling miserable.

***

Mulder sipped his coffee while he walked down the hall, smiling at a 
coworker but missing the strange look he got in return. Samantha was 
doing much better, Micheal and Timothy had taken off to parts unknown, 
Adam had just disappeared while Miss Parker had left for Seattle, the 
Gunmen where incommunicado as they slogged their way through the mass 
of information they'd gathered and unfortunately, Jarod was staying. 

As he turned the corner, Mulder wasnít sure if having Jarod around was 
a good thing or a bad thing. Sam seemed to enjoy his company, so Mulder 
didnít comment. His Mom was just happy to have Sam at home. Now at the 
office door, he fumbled with the files in his hands while trying to 
turn the door knob. Fortunately, Scully came up behind him and spared 
him the balancing act.

He gave her a brilliant smile and held the door open for her with an 
elbow. Today, it was back to the daily grind of mutants, aliens, and 
the seedier side of the supernatural.

"Good morning, Scully." He put the files on the desk.

"Good morning, Mulder." She picked them up and leafed through them.

"Thereís been a rash of mysterious deaths in California lately. So far 
itís mostly been limited to one small town, but get this, they all died 
of exsanguiation."

"Vampires again, Mulder?" She flipped a page and caught the name of the 
town. "In Sunnydale? Youíve got to be kidding." 

***

I was just starting to doze off when Jarod stiffened. I was leaning 
against his side, tucked in under his shoulder with his arm draped over 
me. It was a really comfortable position and I was more than happy to 
catch a nap while we watched the news. Iíd been sleeping so much the 
lately youíd think Iíd had enough, but sitting on the couch, with Jarod 
and a blanket I was too comfy to argue with the demands of my 
recovering body. 

When I felt his whole body stiffen, my eyes darted over to the 
newscast, wondering what had caught his attention. Weíd been keeping up 
with the media frenzy involving the Center for the past two days, since 
the story broke. By our anonymous tip of course. Already most of the 
upper echelon, including Mr. Parker and Mr. Raines were already in 
jail. Mr. Lyle was still at large, but Iíll track him down eventually. 

What caught my eye was the latest news. Apparently, Mr. Raines was 
found dead in his cell this morning. As long as his medical needs were 
monitored, it had been deemed acceptable that he be kept in custody 
until the trial. The reporter was now going on about how his 
difficulties should have been taking into more serious consideration 
since he died of asphyxiation when his oxygen tank failed. 

That sounded a bit too much like a coincidence to me and Iím sure 
thatís what was going through Jarodís mind when he saw the piece. That 
particular death had Fatherís finger prints all over it. 

"Jarod, breath." I waited to see if he was following my advice and to 
see if he wanted to talk about it. Weíd actually been talking the last 
few days and I didnít want to push the fragile trust weíd developed by 
pushing at the wrong moment. 

"It isnít right," he said, cautiously.

"No it isnít." I agreed.

"He shouldnít have done that."

"No he shouldnít have."

"Would you quit agreeing with me?" His tone didnít change but he turned 
to look at me and glared.

"Why? I do." I admitted. I understood what Father did, but I had to 
side with Jarod on the fact that Father shouldnít have gone after Mr. 
Raines.

"You do?" Jarodís glare eased as he tried to figure out if I was just 
joking or if I was serious. I was serious. For the most part.

"You have a point, Mr. Raines was already paying for what he did. His 
death was revenge, nothing more." 

"I hear a but in there." Jarod knew me too well.

"But, it was something I think Father needed to do in order to live 
with himself. He swore heíd make the people responsible pay for what 
they did to his son and for the death of his wife." I explained.

"They already are." 

"But not enough for what that man did to Angelo." I wonder if Angeloís 
dreams were as haunted as mine? Jarod didnít answer right away, but let 
things mull around in his head.

"Itís not up to us to decide," he finally said. I guess I was starting 
to agree with him. Or maybe I was just tired of arguing with him about 
it.

"You have a very peculiar sense of justice Jarod." 

"Why do you say that?" he asked. I must have peaked his interest. I 
leaned my head back from its spot on his chest and looked at him, 
wanting to see his reaction to what I said.

"You take down the people who commit crimes against the people and 
punish them to an extent. Or maybe a better way to put it is to say 
that you make them fully aware of their sins. Then you leave them to 
the mercy of the courts. You do both. You get your revenge, but you 
leave their ultimate fate to the law."

"I wouldnít call that revenge." He had a bit of a point there. With 
Jarod it usually wasnít so personal.

"Call it justice than. But," This was a question Iíd been wondering 
about. "What if youíre wrong?"

"I make sure Iím not." He said gently.

"Your a Pretender, not perfect." I threw his early words back at him, 
breaking the seriousness of our conversation. It worked and we both 
chuckled over that for a bit. I was happy to discover that most of the 
bruising on my stomach was healed and I could laugh without it hurting. 
After we settled down, Jarod started to explain.

"I spend most of my time on a Pretend gathering information and the 
proof that the person is who I think they are before I do anything 
about it." It made sense. I hadnít actually seen him through a whole 
Pretend, as he called it. 

"Have you been wrong?" I was amazed at what he did actually. I could 
slip into any situation, no problem, but I could never undo the things 
that are wrong. I just wouldnít even know where to start.

"Yes. But I canít let that stop me. There are too many people out there 
who need help, who fall through the cracks." He seemed to accept that 
responsibility very readily; the whole, save the world deal. I had 
enough difficulty dealing with a full set of memories. 

"What about the ones who donít deserve it?" Does he help everyone? He 
was quick enough to skip out on me. I stopped that train of thought 
before it got much further. Weíd already gone over that and I would 
jump off that particular bandwagon.

"Everyone deserves help." There. He just confirmed that I shouldnít let 
those niggling little doubts see the light of day. 

"Even Father?" I teased.

"Even Micheal." he admitted.

"Even when he does something you donít think is right?"

"Even then," he said dryly. "You can go back to your nap now." 

"You know me too well, you know that?" I pulled the blanket down 
against the draft that was coming up my feet and snuggled in, my eyes 
already half closed.

"I wouldnít have it any other way." When he said that, I felt warm all 
over. I defiantly liked that thought.

Epilogue

The broken and bleeding body was brought before the Cigarette Smoking 
Man. It hadnít taken that long to track down this loose end. All it 
required was to set Krycek on the trail and a few days later, he had 
results. 

Taking a drag on the ever present Morley, his eyes traveled over Mr. 
Lyle taking in the missing thumb and fingers. The thumb was nicely 
healed over, but the two fingers were still weeping stumps. That the 
man could screw over that many powerful people and still be alive, said 
much of his intelligence and perseverance. Not to mention luck.

Such a man could come in useful. After heís paid for his mistakes. If 
he thought loosing fingers to the Yakuza was bad. . . 

***

End note as of April 2000

Okay, so I didnít mention that I donít own Sunnydale and all things 
vampish, right off the bat. The reference just sort of slipped out in 
the end. Iím not bringing the Scooby gang into this though. That would 
be just too much for my poor mind to cope with.

As for the story itself, I like this one. I think itís my favorite of 
anything Iíve written in a long time. If you didnít like it, shut up 
and let me keep my illusions. 

If you loved it as much as I did, you can write me and let me know.

I have started the next book, but unfortunately, Iíve had a bit of a 
slump and havenít had much time to work on it in the first place. I 
like what I have so far, but havenít written much the last few months 
so it might take a while to get finished. Can we say Writerís Block? 
Note the capital letters. 

Anyway, the upcoming section is called Governing Bodies and is the last 
installment of When Conspiracies Collide. It has been one heck of a 
ride. The scary part is that itís not over yet. Well I hope youíve 
enjoyed yourself and are willing to patiently wait as I work on the 
last part. If not, try sending the muses my way, because otherwise it 
will take a while.

For those of you who are impatient and canít wait, Iím toying with idea 
of setting up a mailing list for Governing bodies as it is written. You 
can drop me note if youíd like to be on the list, or just send me kudos 
and tell me to get my butt in gear and finish the last part. Now that 
the Web Page is pretty much up and running, I hope to get back to some 
serious writting. Thanks!!

axianna@hotmail.com