When Conspiracies Collide:
The Fountain of Youth
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. Not all of their identities are, though.

Duncan MacLeod, Richie Ryan, 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, the X-Files and itís associated 
conspiracy all belong to Chris Carter, 1013 and all those guys.

Thereís also a passing reference to MacGyver, Pete Thornton, Murdoc, 
the Phoenix Foundation and may be a few other, and I donít own them 
either. Canít say off the top of my head who does.

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.

Continuity

Just forget about it and call it an AU; it doesnít really fit in 
anywhere. But if you want to get picky, it could take place 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. 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!!!!

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

Personal notes

Thanks to Michelle and Terri for encouragement and picking out holes in 
the plot. They also put up with me calling them and obsessing about 
this thing. Also for my Mom, for reading it in the first place and for 
correcting my grammar in the second. She even liked it. My husband even 
liked it.

As for myself, this one is not as good as the first part, but Iím 
hoping itís not terrible. It just didnít come to me as nicely as the 
first part. The major overhaul should help. The third part however, Iím 
very pleased with. Hopefully you can get through this and still want to 
read the next part.

Rating

Well, this one is much more violent and I think Iíll have to bump it up 
to an R for violence. The language is a little worse as well. There is 
also a character death. Iím sorry, but if you have bullets flying 
around people get hit and not everybody is Immortal.

Now, onto the story

***

Prologue

"What!"

"You are always so elegant on the phone Miss Parker."

"Cut the crap and get to the point Sydney."

"Broots has found a lead on Jarod."

"Where?"

"Seattle."

"Iíll meet you at the airport in twenty minutes."

The line went dead as the two parties hung up. 

It had taken more time than he would have liked to decode the call, but 
the four hours were worth the wait. He wasnít happy that the Center 
knew where Jarod was, but he could work around it. The last pieces of 
the puzzle were falling into place. For the most part. 

Setting up Marcus to attack Duncan MacLeod had taken substantial effort 
and the agents were taking their sweet time figuring everything out. 
For someone called Spooky, he wasnít putting things together very 
quickly. Though to be truthful, Ann was doing a wonderful job of 
covering things up and the illustrious agent did have other things on 
his mind. Such as family. 

Leaving the computer, he turned around and picked up a picture. It was 
of a young child, a little boy in a sailorís outfit with a small cap on 
his head, sitting on the lap of a young woman; her straight dark hair 
pulled up in a loose bun. Running a finger over the two faces, he 
paused for a moment before he slid the photo back in the pocket of the 
case heíd taken it from. He had mourned them for a long time.

Chapter 1

Opening the door, I felt almost strange. I finally had answers to some 
of the questions that were becoming important to me. I found out I had 
a brother. A real, live, flesh and blood brother. I even had a real 
name. Samantha. Of course my brother wasnít exactly normal, but than 
what in the past few weeks had been. 

Waking up with no memory, finding out I was an assassin trained by a 
place called the Center with an Immortal protector, who was currently 
no where to be found, and a brother, whoís job was to investigate the 
cases that usually ended up on the cover of World Weekly News, didnít 
lead me to believe in the myth of normality. But none of the 
strangeness took away from the joy I was feeling now that I knew who I 
was. It was a really sappy thought but somehow, I still felt like 
everything would work out. Eventually.

Since finding out that Fox Mulder was actually my brother instead of a 
merely irritating FBI agent sticking his nose where it didnít belong, 
Mulder. . . Fox and I had just sat and talked. It was hard, because 
neither of us really knew what to say. I told him about what Iíd 
managed to find out about my past with the Center, though I left out 
the connection to Immortals and Duncan MacLeod. Everyone has their 
secrets and itís up to them to confide them. I also told Fox how I met 
Joe Dawson here at the bar and my introduction to Duncan as well as how 
I met Jarod. Itís not like there was all that much to tell.

Fox, though, talked about what I was like as a child and what happened 
when I disappeared. He talked about his work, not going into many 
details but there was enough to give me a fair idea of how whacked out 
some of his cases were. Compared to giant fluke men in the sewer 
system, what was a little Immortality? He also told me about the death 
of his. . . our father and Momís stroke. 

I didnít have any memories our parents, but I could now remember the 
night I disappeared. The flashes of memory that Iíd had earlier, had 
since resolved into the whole sequence; the headache accompanying it 
wasnít the nicest though. It was quickly fading into the background.

Fox was behind me as I cracked the office door open and stepped 
through. Weíd spent a long time talking so it was now pretty late in 
the evening. The place was almost empty with only about five customers 
spread out among the tables and Joe was behind the bar explaining how 
to pour the different drinks to the Pretender Jarod, currently using 
the guise of Detective Logan. Duncan was sitting next to Richie Ryan, 
who must have just shown up from the drops of water still clinging to 
his hair. Foxís partner, Agent Dana Scully was nowhere to be seen, off 
hand Iíd guess the ladies' room. I donít think she had much to do while 
Fox and I were talking. 

Walking up to the bar, I watched as Jarod threw a bottle up, putting 
enough spin on it to spray liquid out of the spout before he caught it 
with a final flourish and poured the amber liquid into a glass. Joe 
clapped appreciatively, then threw a towel in his face. 

"Clean it up Tom Cruise." Joeís smile still tugged at his lips.

"Who?" Jarod had that ĎIím missing the referenceí look he got on 
occasion, but picking up the towel from where it had fallen, he 
proceeded to mop up the mess anyway. I shyly stepped up to the bar, 
brother beside me.

"Jarod, I have a brother." It was really starting to sink in and my 
heart was soaring. I could hear the excitement in my voice bubbling up.

"Yes, you do." His grin was infectious and I could feel my own 
starting. Pulling Fox up by the arm, he now stood beside me, a few 
inches taller.

"His name is Fox. Thatís what I was trying to remember." I sat on a 
stool, sinking down a few inches so I could rest my slightly trembling 
hands on the bar. "I have a name, a real name. Iím Samantha Mulder!"

"Pleased to meet you, Fox." Jarod held a hand out to my brother.

"Call me Mulder." I glanced over, unsure of myself and watched the 
gleam in Foxís eye sparkle as he grasped Jarodís hand. "Whereís 
Scully?"

"Dana is in the kitchen, making a phone call." Joe piped up from his 
seat behind the bar. 

Just then, the diminutive agent stepped in from the door to the back 
and paused as everyone looked at her. Stepping forward, she came and 
sat beside Fox.

"Scully, itís Sam." Thatís all he said but I could tell from her look, 
it was all he needed to say. 

The next few minutes were dedicated to inane conversation, filling the 
still slightly awkward gap. Duncan and Richie came over and joined the 
club, re-introductions were done and I became Samantha.

***

"Whoís that?"

"How the hell would I know?"

"Well find out, why donít you." 

"Just give me a sec to get a good visual." There was a pause as the 
click of a keyboard filled the air. "Here it is. Oh shit!"

"What?"

"Itís Parkerís daughter."

"Oh Shit!"

"Give me a sec to find out if this changes anything."

Pause. 

"Well?"

"No, itís still a go. Two minutes and weíre in."

***

She stepped through the door like she owned it. Never liked people like 
that. She was followed by a few guys, also in black, with all four of 
them pointing standard issue handguns at us. Jarod froze for no more 
than an instant as she came into view, then moved out from behind the 
bar. Everyone else was biding their time, sensing that this was Jarodís 
show.

"Hello Miss Parker, I thought youíd still be out checking fireworks 
factories." Jarodís face was calm, but I could tell he was worried. Not 
much, but a little. Joe moved closer to the bar, probably going for the 
Smith & Wesson by the cash register, and Fox and Scully were on edge, 
ready for whatever happened. Duncan was completely still, a look of 
disbelief on his face, while Richie leaned forward, almost anxious for 
a fight.

"Enough of this Jarod, youíre coming back. Iíve had enough of your 
little games." Miss Parker had her gun pointed straight at Jarodís 
head. I moved closer to his side, eyeing one of the thugs off to her 
side. It would have been an interesting fight if we hadnít gotten 
interrupted. I donít think the guys who burst in the front door were 
with Miss Parker. She was the first one they shot. 

As she fell, the rapid staccato of fully automatic gunfire filled the 
air, bullets ripping through the building. In the next few heartbeats 
the sweepers went down and then two of the Ďcustomersí pulled out 
handguns and started killing the real customers, including Richie and 
Duncan. Time stretched out as I dropped and dove for a gun held by one 
of the now deceased sweepers. Jarod also dropped and was making his way 
to the bar. Fox and Scully just dived over the top.

Miss Parker was still game, lying on her side; her gun was aimed at the 
three men now coming in from the back door. One dropped in his tracks 
but the others came on. I aimed at the two Ďcustomersí whoíd shot 
Duncan and Richie, taking them out with head shots, then flipped over 
as I heard shots from behind the bar. A man by the back door fell. Fox, 
Scully and Dawson seemed to be taking care of them. 

There was a tug at my side as I started to shoot through the wood, 
systematically emptying the clip into a sheltering table in a jagged 
line. I was rewarded with a body falling, the sound of cursing and a 
returning hail of cover fire. 

Miss Parker was hit again and she passed out. Back on the floor, I 
crept over to another gun, which almost had a full clip. Then I was 
around the stage so I could get a better shot. A quick glance over my 
shoulder revealed Duncan and Richie back in the game, creeping up on a 
gunman whoíd found shelter in Joeís office. Jarod and Scully were 
aiming at a guy hidden in the back while Joe and Fox took pot shots at 
the two left up front. 

I had a clear shot at the two still behind the table; their dead 
associate was shoved out of the way to make room. The two behind the 
table fell with three shots, then I twisted to find out what was 
happening in the back. Richie was down again and I couldnít see Scully. 
The only guy left was the one in the office. He was maintaining a rain 
of bullets that dug into the wooden top of the bar; one ricocheted into 
an arm aiming over the top. 

They where essentially pinned behind the bar by the guy in the office 
and while he was free to fire at will, they were in a bad position to 
fire back. Standing up, I picked up one of the machine guns that 
littered the floor. Inner walls tend to be two by four framing, with 
drywall and paneling over top. Doesnít do much to stop flying lead. 

Letting the gun empty, there wasnít a sound from the office. Creeping 
up to the door, a quick peek in got no answering shot and revealed a 
body on the floor, shot to doll rags. He wasnít going anywhere ever 
again.

"Itís clear." 

The gun seemed to weigh more now than it did a moment ago and I sagged 
to the floor with my back against the wall. I let the weapon drop from 
my hands, finally noticing the throbbing from my side. Looking at the 
spreading red splotch, I pressed a hand into the gash at the bottom of 
my ribs and concentrated on breathing through the sharp ache. It wasnít 
bad, but I didnít particularly feel like moving. Jarod was looking over 
Miss Parker and from his expression sheíd live. Scully was limping over 
to the inert from of Richie, who was on the morbid side of life and 
Duncan was making his way over to me.

"Whereís Fox?" I called out to him, a little worried that I couldnít 
see Fox.

"Heís in the back with Joe, getting the First Aid kit." His voice was 
tired and anxious, but there was a hint of something else that I 
couldnít quite identify. He almost sounded stunned.

"Is he okay?"

"Heís got a hole in his arm but heíll live. What about you, are you 
okay?" Kneeling down beside me, he gently lifted up the side of my 
shirt to look at the damage.

"Iíll live. I think it cracked a rib though." Putting my hand back on 
the seeping wound I pressed back down, the sharp stab of pain 
confirming the cracked rib. "A hand up?"

Duncan pulled me up just in time to hear Scullyís reaction to Richie. 

"What the. . . " The shock in her voice was more than obvious.

Richie sat up and looked at her, his expression a comical mix of 
confusion and sheer terror. Scully was sitting beside him with plain 
old confusion playing across her features. "Um, Duncan?" His plea for 
help went unheeded, as we walked closer.

"You were dead, you had no pulse! Not to mention you have a hole in the 
chest, right there." She pointed to the bloody hole in his shirt and 
the clear, unblemished skin underneath. "Had a hole? Someone please 
tell me Iím not going nuts. Maybe this is just a delayed stress 
reaction?"

"Hate to say this Scully, but ĎI told you so.í" Fox came up beside us, 
his right arm hastily wrapped up and carrying an armload of various 
bandages in the other.

"But he wasnít on the short list. And Jane was." Scully held a hand out 
for a dressing and pressed it down firmly on the hole in her leg. Her 
mental confusion didnít seem to affect her first aid skills.

"I was right about MacLeod though" Fox dumped the remaining bandages on 
the table and sat down. MacLeodís response was to look at me, then at 
the bickering agents, then over at Richie, who had gotten up, before 
looking back at the couple on the floor. 

"Are they always like this?"

"How should I know, Iíve only known them for 24 hours. Actually, itís 
probably closer 30. What time is it?" All that got me was a dirty look. 

Feeling the physical let down from the fight, I started to walk around, 
looking over the bodies littering the floor. Kneeling down beside one 
of the customers, I gently closed his eyes before I stood up and moved 
on. He was the only guy who still tried to hit on me. It had almost 
become a game of sorts. Heíd come up with some cheesy pick up line, 
some of them really embarrassing, and Iíd bat my eyes at him and tell 
him to take a long walk off a short pier or some other such brush off. 
Not any more though.

A few steps further on, one of the attackers was still breathing, 
barely. I doubted he would last very long no matter what was done to 
help him and I wasnít in a very charitable mood. Looking in his face, 
his eyes flickered open and regret shot through his face. Over what I 
didnít know, or care. As he lifted his head up, his com gear slipped 
off his ear and on to the floor.

"Ann. . . " He could barely whisper the word out before he died. It 
took a moment for my eyes to register the bulky gun by his side. It was 
a tranquilizer gun. Whoever they were after, they wanted them alive.

Shaken, I headed over to where Jarod was sitting beside Miss Parker. 
Her face was pale, but her breathing was steady and it looked like 
sheíd be fine. Jarod had a hand on his shoulder, trying to control the 
bleeding.

"Are you okay, Sam?" He was sitting on the floor, his shoulder mangled 
while I was walking around and he was asking if I was okay. 

"Itís not too bad. Just glanced off a rib, cracking it. What about 
you?" I knelt beside him and took his hand off the bandage so I could 
put more pressure on it.

"Oh Iíll survive no doubt." He flashed me a bit of a grin, that turned 
into a grimace as he shifted his arm a bit. I gave him a dirty look and 
put another handful of gauze over top the pile which had already bled 
through.

"I think Iím glad I sent everyone else home already." Joe came and 
stood beside us. "I wonder if the insurance will cover this."

"Joe, Iím sorry about this, I donít even know who those guys were." Fox 
interrupted me, drawn to our conversation. 

"Government henchmen." He had a no nonsense tone that said he had full 
confidence in his conclusion. I had to agree with him. They didnít look 
like Center goons and it just wasnít the Centerís style. Too well 
organized.

I never had a chance to say anything though, as sirens called out in 
the distance. I jumped and almost landed on my rump from the way I was 
sitting. I stood up and only paused when Fox put a hand on my arm. My 
heart was in my throat and I could feel the tension running up and down 
my spine. I still had that instant reflex I guess.

"Sam, you donít have to run." He said it gently, but I shot him a look 
anyway. "Itís better if weíre all here."

Jarod stood up and came to the other side, his hand on my shoulder 
anchoring me. "Heís right, you shouldnít keep running."

***

Jarod looked on as the paramedics loaded Miss Parker into the back of 
an ambulance. She would be fine; one bullet had glanced off her hip, 
while the other went cleanly through the same leg. He had a minor hole 
in his shoulder he was currently trying to ignore but was otherwise 
fine. Heíd refused to go to the hospital, so they were patching him up 
in the back of another ambulance. Across the parking lot, he wasnít the 
only one with an aversion to being confined to a hospital bed. 

He watched the reunited brother and sister as they sat and bickered 
with the guy looking at Mulderís arm. It was interesting to see how 
they were getting along. There was concern displayed on both parts; 
Mulder had hovered, refusing to do anything until Sam had been taken 
care of and she refused to let anyone touch her, until Mulderís arm had 
been looked after. They eventually compromised and were now arguing 
with the paramedics working on them (at the same time) over whether or 
not they were really going to go to the hospital for a few Ďscratchesí. 

Scully was talking with an officer, waving away the paramedic hovering 
around her gurney. As soon as she had given her side of the story, 
sheíd be on her way to the hospital to get the bullet in her leg 
removed. As for Duncan and Richie, they had faded into the woodwork 
just before the police showed up. Considering all their clothing was 
bloody and less than whole, yet they had a complete absence of any 
injuries, it seemed like a wise course of action. 

Joe, the only one to get off without anything more serious than a few 
splinters in his hand, was leaning heavily against the bumper of a 
police car, taking a breather. Heíd already given his version of what 
happened to the officer currently talking to Scully. 

Everyone had agreed that Duncan and Richie were never there and Jarod 
had managed to convince them to leave Miss Parkerís involvement out of 
it. Let the cops think she was a customer unlucky enough to be there 
that evening, but lucky enough to survive the experience. Everything 
else was pretty much explained as it happened. Group A entered and was 
attacked by group B, with everyone else more or less caught in the 
crossfire. 

Stepping away from the back of the ambulance, wincing ever so slightly 
at the sharp pain radiating from his shoulder that he couldnít quite 
pretend away, Jarod wandered over to where Joe was still resting. 

"How are you holding up?" He looked over at the older man and the 
strain in his eyes, but his fears were put to rest with a wry smile.

"It could have been worse. And Iíll survive." Shifting to a more 
comfortable spot and taking some of the weight off his feet with his 
cane, Joe continued. "I have a friend who should be able to help us get 
some information. Did you get all of your stuff out before the cops 
showed?"

"I gave it to Duncan before he left. Weíre meeting at the Dojo in the 
afternoon. Till then, Iíve a few tracks to cover. Is that enough time 
for you?" Jarod leaned against the car beside him.

"I should know something by then. How are the siblings doing?" He 
nodded in the direction where the police were questioning the two of 
them. Mulder had his badge out and they seemed to be waiting while his 
identity was being confirmed and Sam was still jumpy with all the cops 
around, though she seemed a little calmer than earlier. Her brother 
seemed the more edgy of the two, as unsure looks kept being exchanged, 
as though trying to confirm that the other was still there and not a 
figment of their imagination that could suddenly disappear. 

"Not bad."

Chapter 2

Finally being released from the presence of the police, it was coming 
on three in the morning and I had to stifle a yawn. Fox finally 
finished off the last of his questions and then we were pretty much 
free. Jarod and Joe had taken off a little earlier and those that 
could, would meet at the Dojo at about 3 p.m. tomorrow. Make that 3 
p.m. today.

"Where do you want me to drop you off?" Fox was being courteous again. 

"Well, my room at the back of Joeís is now a crime scene, so that makes 
it my previous residence. But first, we go see how your partner is 
doing and fill her in on whatís going on tomorrow." I picked myself off 
the car hood and waited for him to open the door.

"No, youíre going to go and get some sleep. And I thought you didnít 
like hospitals." Now heíd gone from courteous to overprotective. And he 
still hadnít unlocked the door.

"I donít like being a patient in a hospital. Visiting is different 
kettle fish. Besides, youíre gonna go nuts until you know sheís okay. 
So we go see her." I wasnít so tired that I needed someone telling me 
what to do.

"Itís three in the morning, they wonít let me see her. So we go and get 
you some sleep." Maybe he was just being concerned.

"I had plenty of sleep last night. Get a little adrenaline pumping and 
Iíll be as good as new." Not that it made it right for him to start 
bossing me around.

"Well, the fight is over for tonight, so letís go," he said. I couldnít 
argue with that. But I didnít have to like it.

"Fine," I snapped. 

It took a few minutes to drive to the office building Iíd been using 
and when Fox saw the place, his face became hard and unreadable. It 
wasnít that bad, but I figure he didnít like seeing first hand what Iíd 
been through lately. 

I didnít care about the past; I just wanted to start over. 

With the car parked in the back, I got out and smoothly picked the lock 
on the back door, Fox following me. Reaching blindly in the lunchroom, 
I found the flashlight where Iíd left it and turned it on, the weak 
light reflecting off the walls with a harsh gleam. 

"Do you want the grand tour, or are you going to be sensible and go to 
your hotel?" I turned around and looked at him, flashing him in the 
face with the beam. If he could boss me around, I could boss him 
around.

"I was thinking you could gather your stuff and sleep in Scullyís 
room." He just looked at me, his face drawn and grim and the hard lines 
showing no give, regardless of the carelessness in his voice.

"I donít think so. I can take care of myself, thank you." I wasnít 
about to let him start ordering my life around just because of some 
half-baked reasoning that made him feel responsible for me.

"Tell that to the hole in your side." He had a point.

"Itís not a hole, itís a scratch. It doesnít even have stitches! And I 
donít have my arm in a sling." I couldnít believe this. Iíd known my 
brother for only a few hours and we were already fighting.

"No you just canít take a deep breath with out wincing." His comeback 
hit home as I took a deep breath for my next statement, but I ignored 
it.

"Itís cracked, not broken. Iíll be fine in a few days if not sooner. At 
least Iíve never ended up in an isolation ward."

"That hasnít happened in over a year." He didnít have so snappy a 
comeback this time.

"Yea well, who sayís I need you to start looking after me?" I was now 
starting to go from annoyed to mad.

"I do!" We were standing toe to toe.

"Now children, Iím sure this can all be resolved without resorting to 
violence." A voice cut out of the dark, itís English accent distinct.

We both immediately dropped down, my gun out first, Foxís a second 
later though his was held a bit awkwardly in his left hand. Both guns 
were sweeping the black of the shadows around us, finally locking on 
the figure that stepped out from around the corner of the hall. The 
flashlight shone in his face, but he didnít even squint in the light. 
His sharp, dark eyes peered cleanly through the light in his face, 
gazing at us with a strange intensity. 

"Nice to know all that training hasnít gone to waste. You may put the 
gun away Agent Mulder, Iím quite harmless at the moment." As he stepped 
further forward, I got a better look at his face. Not that I needed to. 
His voice was just like that on the video Jarod had of me. This was the 
man I called Father. My gun disappeared.

"Who are you?" Fox spoke up, his gun still trained on the man. "And why 
send me to Samantha?" Father had led Fox here?

"I wanted Ann to find her family, as simple as that. Well, almost as 
simple. As for who I am, that is a rather long and complicated story." 
The man hadnít moved a muscle since the light was trained on him, but 
he still managed to fill the surrounding space.

"He already knows, Father." I hadnít meant to say the last word. It 
just sort of slipped out, and now Fox gave me a questioning stare. Iíd 
worry about it later.

"How many times have I told you to stop calling me that." There was a 
note of exasperation in the manís voice. "Oh well, I never could break 
you of that habit, so I guess Iím simply going to have to get used to 
it." Turning to look at Fox, his eyes took on a challenging gleam. "As 
for Mulderís knowledge, Iím surprised it took him as long as it did to 
figure this much out. As for the rest of the details, Iím sure you will 
figure those out as well."

"Why did you come?" I couldnít seem to wrap my mind around all the 
information that had been thrown at it the last few days. This last 
piece just added to my mental confusion. Foxís hand on my shoulder 
grounded, his voice cutting through my thoughts.

"Why now? Why come out instead of manipulating things as you have 
been?" Fox asked. Things finally started coalesce in my mind. Jarod 
being here, the mysterious beheading, Fox following it up. Father was 
the connection. It seemed like his style.

"Another player has entered the picture and is. . . interfering with my 
plans." That was the first time he moved, as he cocked his head 
slightly.

"The bar tonight, you donít know who that was?" I rejoined the 
conversation. 

"I have some ideas, but no proof. Some faction of the government 
perhaps." His head tilted forward and a slight patronizing grin tugged 
at his lips. 

"So the governmentís in on this?" Fox cut back in. I donít think he was 
entirely comfortable with this situation but he was more than willing 
to get as much information as he could.

"To put it bluntly, yes. Where do you think the Center gets its money? 
Smart financial planning? The private sector wants income, not 
Pretenders and Assassins. Although I have had a few interesting 
contracts from that area." His eyes gazed off for a second before 
returning to look at the hard lines of Foxís face.

"Youíre an assassin?" Fox asked bluntly. 

"Of course. And what do you think your dear little sister is? A 
waitress?" A sarcastic note lent it bite. He looked over at me, judging 
my reaction. Fox just glanced nervously between the two of us.

"Iím retired." If I wasnít before, I was now.

"Yes well, I still hope youíll change your mind. You truly are talented 
you know." The guy looked faintly disappointed.

"Doesnít suit me any more." I felt a shiver crawl up my spine. I think 
Iíd had this conversation before.

"There was always that problem. You had too much heart for this 
business." The man I called Father seemed to withdraw his presence as 
his eyes darkened. When he said that I felt the shiver run along my 
spine again.

"And thatís a bad thing?" Now I knew weíd had this conversation before; 
my response rolled out automatically, without a thought from me.

"Not really I guess, but it makes it too easy to have your heart ripped 
out." His face grew hard at this thought before he shook his head and 
continued. "I really should get going, I just wanted to let you know I 
was around. But right now, I have an appointment to keep."

"Wait!" I didnít want to let him go yet.

"What is it Ann?" This man was confusing. One moment he gave off this 
aura of barely suppressed energy, but the next he seemed to be weighed 
down by a million thoughts.

"What did the Center do to me, why canít I remember anything?" There 
was so much more I wanted to ask him, about who I was and what I was 
and the missing periods in my life where I still had no clue as to what 
had happened. But this was foremost in my mind, this violation of my 
past.

Looking at him, there was an instant of sadness in his face as the 
words left my mouth, but this was soon replaced with anger. His eyes 
went black in the dim light and there was a harshness to his face that 
suddenly appeared, making him look savage, instead of merely cold. "You 
will know everything that happened to you. Eventually."

Without another word he gone, melting back into the shadows. Not having 
the energy to move. I stared at the dark doorway until Fox came up 
beside me. "Come on, letís go to the hotel and get some sleep." Placing 
his hand on my elbow, I let him guide me into the hall. "Um, Sam?"

"Yea." Monosyllabic answers seemed to be all I could muster.

"Howíd you sneak the gun past the cops?" He looked at me in the 
reflected light of the flashlight and his eyes were completely 
guileless. "And the Paramedics?" 

"You donít want to know." A cocky note snuck in and I was grateful to 
Fox for giving my mind something else to chew on. But then the reaction 
from the entire day hit me and I felt what little strength I had left 
drain away, leaving me empty. I didnít say anything else as he led me 
away from the building, waiting as I cleared my stuff out. I only left 
the makeshift mattress and the moving blankets behind.

***

Miss Parker was not having a good morning. Waking up in a hospital will 
do that to a person. Sitting up she ignored the lights flying around in 
her head and concentrated on what had happened in the past day. Broots 
had gotten the lead on Jarod, she went to the bar in Seattle that they 
had traced him to and then all hell broke loose. Sheíd been shot up, 
though sheíd managed to take down two of the goons before sheíd passed 
out. Jarod had no doubt gotten away again and she was going to be stuck 
in some hospital. 

Just Great.

Reaching beside her, she looked for her cell or at least a table phone, 
not bothering to turn up the dimmed lights. She winced against the 
pulling at her hip, which protested any movement, and managed to grab 
the headset of a phone someone had set on the table beside her. 
Carefully easing the IV lines out of the way, she managed to punch in a 
long series of numbers. Then she leaned back, listening to the 
consecutive rings until a timid voice picked up on the other end.

"Broots, get me Sydney. . . 

"Of course Iím alive. . . 

"Quite sniveling and put. . . 

"Thank you." That was said with a false sweetness that contrasted with 
her normally sharp tone. The next part was true to form.  "Sydney, who 
the hell put the other sweepers on this case, they just about killed 
me. . . 

"No I didnít recognize any of them, which is why I asked. . . 

"Because if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a 
duck, itís a duck. . . 

"Well find out. . . 

"Is that what he was sniveling about. He didnít tell Daddy I was dead 
did he?" For the first time in the conversation, her facade broke and 
she almost sounded concerned.

"Good. . . 

"I should be out of here in a few days. In the meantime, Jarod was 
here, but those idiots probably scared him off. Keep an eye out for one 
of Wonderboyís presents and let me know when it comes. And get me 
another team down here; come yourself if you can. Something is going on 
here that stinks. . . 

"Then send Broots out here first, at least he can crack into the police 
departmentís computers. . . 

"He was still with the same cover when I got here. . . 

"I want to find him, Sydney not finish off his pet projects. . . 

"He was investigating a bombing from a few months ago. . . 

"It was? Since when did the Center start blowing up malls. . . ? 

"I donít care what the connection with the Center is. I want Jarod back 
where he belongs, so I can get out that place behind. . . 

"Fine." The word was spat out. "Till I hear it myself, I keep hunting 
him." With a bit of a snarl she slammed the phone back in the cradle 
and continued to mutter to herself before ringing the nurses' bell more 
than a few times.

"I think theyíre busy right now, thereís a code blue down the hall." 
There was a man in the doorway, back-lit by the lights shining in.

"Do I know you?" She wasnít about to be nice to this guy, whoever he 
was, and her tone spelled that out in no uncertain terms. She tried to 
sit up further but decided against it when her hip violently protested.

"No, but I know your mother. The resemblance is remarkable." He stepped 
into the room. It took her a moment to recognize him as one of the men 
from the bar. It was the guy with dark, long hair whoíd been shot. . . 
first. . . off? She must have been wrong. Maybe she hit her head when 
she fell. Then there was the medication she was on. She shook her head 
and glared at the man. This was not making her feel any better.

"Must be quite a trick, because sheís been dead a long time. If Jarod 
sent you, deliver your message and get out." She let a hard note creep 
into her voice. She was really getting sick of Jarod and his little 
games.

"Jarod didnít send me, I came to see if you were all right. I guess you 
are." Turning around the guy started to leave, the odd note in his 
voice catching her attention..

"Did you really know my mother?" She hated herself for grasping at the 
small bit of hope this man held out to her, but she needed to know 
everything she could about the mother that had been ripped from her 
side. The man stopped and glanced over his shoulder.

"Catherine Jameson was a very caring person. Too bad you didnít inherit 
that." The man walked out the door, the tail of his trench coat 
snapping in his haste.

***

Special Agent Fox Mulder stared at the television set for a moment 
before he flicked it to the next channel. The volume was almost non-
existent, but the light still reached out of the screen and flickered 
against his face. On the screen was a voluptuous blond with big hair 
urging the masses to repent of all their sins. And with a check 
addressed to. . . 

On to the next station. This time another blond but much more scantily 
dressed. Pause. <Click> 

Finally settling on an old monster movie with Japanese actors running 
around the screen as a giant moth attacked a building, he let the 
surreal violence wash over him. He glanced over at the figure in the 
other bed. His sister.

Heíd actually found her. The real her. There was no doubt in his mind 
this time. Not only were there the fragments of memory between them, 
but the fact that, for the first time, it actually felt like this woman 
was related to him. Scully would scoff at him and say it was merely his 
subconscious fulfilling the desires of his mind. Besides, if it was a 
hoax, they wouldnít be at each otherís throats so often. 

Point in case: getting her to agree to share a room when they realized 
Scully had her key-card with her and the night desk was already closed 
down. They sat and argued in the hall, keeping their voices down but 
they still got an angry head popping out of a door and telling them to 
take it inside. Sam then grabbed the card key, slammed it into the slot 
and pushed the door open. Plunking her bag on his bed, she then locked 
herself in the bathroom. Coming out a few minutes later, her face 
washed and her hair tied back, she jumped on the bed and climbed in, 
burying her head under the covers.

Now he could barely hear her as she drew a relaxed breath in her sleep. 
She hadnít moved since she fell asleep and Fox wondered if that was 
from her training or if that was just the way she slept. Punching his 
pillow a few times, he drew his eyes back to the TV, willing his mind 
to relax.

When the Cigarette Smoking Man had approached him with a woman looking 
exactly like the first woman claiming to be his sister, heíd felt his 
hopes rise only to be dashed later, with the Cancermanís supposed death 
and her subsequent disappearance. Every time he thought he found her, 
he was wrong.  But this time. . . 

Slowly, the agentís eyes drifted close and the TV was left quietly 
talking to itself.

Chapter 3

I woke up with light flickering in my eyes. Getting up, I looked over 
at my brother as he slept in his clothes, on top of the covers. He must 
have fallen asleep watching TV. The light played across his closed eyes 
and the short stubble on his chin, his arm propped up on his chest, the 
other curled around it protectively. 

Leaving him to his rest, I got up and headed over to the bathroom, 
wincing as the movement pulled at the gash on my side. Taking off the 
bandage, I dabbed at the gash with a wet face cloth, working off some 
of the built up scab. I knew you shouldnít mess with it, but I wiped 
the cut gently anyway and spread a little antibiotic cream on it before 
putting on some clean gauze and taping it back up. It had seeped a 
little over night, but was otherwise doing well.

After taking care of that, I rinsed a little water in the sink and 
splashed it on my face. Staring up at the mirror, I took inventory of 
everything I saw. This self-examination seemed to be something I had to 
do on a regular basis. But this time, I had a name to place with the 
face in the mirror. A real name. But I was still the person I was 
before, wasnít I? Finding my brother didnít change who I was. 

So I had three names, three identities. Sam, the missing sister, the 
child I was. Then thereís Ann, the trained assassin, the person that 
girl was trained to be. And last but not least, thereís Jane, the 
person that girl chose to be. If I wasnít careful I was going to end up 
with an identity crisis. 

Giving a snort of amusement, I shook my head and left my musings 
behind. I was the person I would choose to be. Names didnít matter. 
Grabbing a complimentary comb, I sat down with the mess of my hair and 
started to comb it out. I still had it in the ponytail from last night 
and by now, it was a matted mess. I knew I should have braided it. 
Taking out the elastic and patiently separating the strands, I thought 
about my family. 

Fox told me what he could in the time weíd had, but there were still 
gaps. My father was dead and Fox wouldnít talk about him. For some 
reason, that didnít really surprise me. My mother had had a stroke, but 
was doing fine now. After I disappeared, things in the family had 
gotten rough and Fox glossed over those times. But the stories heíd 
told me about when he was at Oxford and his adventures in the FBI gave 
me some insight into the person that my brother had become. I 
remembered so little, that those second hand memories were precious. 

Finally finishing up with my hair, I tightly braided it back. Changing 
into a spare shirt Iíd grabbed last night, I slipped into my jeans and 
was ready to face the world. Then I opened the door and stepped 
through, glancing at Fox still asleep on the bed with his tie dangling 
from one of the bedpost. It was an interesting tie to be sure. Creeping 
to the main door, I was almost out when I paused and left a note where 
heíd see it when he woke up. I was just going to go and get some 
breakfast.

By the time I got back, he was awake and in the shower. Leaving the 
card key back where Iíd grabbed it earlier, I sat on the bed and 
changed the channel. He must be a total TV addict to leave it on while 
he was in the shower. Flipping through, I ended up on a kids' show with 
a whole bunch of puppets running around. There was the red one that was 
really cute, Elmo. Or maybe he was orange; it was hard to tell. 

Changing the channel again, I managed to find a news station on a local 
break. They had some great pictures of the bar from last night. 
According to the reporter, it was all gang related. Hearing the shower 
stop, a few minutes later Fox came out with water dripping off his hair 
but somehow his bandaged arm was still dry. He looked at the report 
that was just recapping before going on to the weather. We both ignored 
our argument from last night, pretending that it never happened.

"There were a lot of MiBs firing fully automatic weapons at us for it 
to be a gang war, donít you think?" All I got for an answer was an 
amused snort. "What?"

"The report wasnít all that bad. You should have seen what they did 
with a few of the other cases I was involved with. They normally end up 
in the tabloids. World Weekly did a great write up on the cockroach 
invasion." Fox buttoned up a clean shirt (one handed! Something told me 
heíd done this before) and pulled a tie out of his travel bag. At least 
this one was a bit more subtle. 

"Ready to go see Scully?" I waited while Fox grabbed his suit jacket. 
"How can you stand wearing something like that in this weather?" 

"Part of the uniform." He struck a pose and pulled a serious face. "Now 
all I need are the sunglasses." 

***

Duncan sat looking out the large window in front of him. It seemed to 
be a time for memories, first Tessa and now Catherine. He had first met 
her when she was in college as the daughter of one of the professors he 
worked with. She was getting a business degree, fighting against the 
male dominated establishment, and then she fell in love with one of her 
colleagues. They were going to start their own corporation with her 
trust fund and devote it to research. It was going to be some sort of 
think-tank. The last time heíd seen her was the day of her wedding.

"Duncan you donít understand, this is the best thing." She was very 
stubborn and very sure of herself. When they first met, theyíd become 
fast friends and had been butting heads ever since.

"How? That man is a . . . a. . . " Duncan had an uneasy feeling about 
the man sheíd chosen to marry, not so pronounced as foreboding, but 
more like shivers up his spine. There was more to this man than 
Catherine saw.

"I donít want to hear it. Mr. Parker is a good man." She gave him a 
look that told him to drop it, but heíd known her long enough to ignore 
it.

"Then why do you call him Mr. Parker. Doesnít he have a first name?" He 
was picking her up for her father, entrusted to get her to the church 
with enough time for her to get ready.

"You can be childish if you want. The truth is that I love him and 
weíre going to do something wonderful." She looked up at him with those 
soft eyes, her smile filling the room. 

"And youíre going to do this together." There was marked lack of 
enthusiasm in his statement.

"Of course." She flashed him a coquettish little grin, then turned 
around to finish packing up the cosmetics spread before her. "And when 
we have children, theyíll grow up and learn about everything weíre 
doing so that they can follow in our footsteps." She was teasing him 
and he knew it.

"Sounds wonderful." That came out even drier than his last comment.

"You could always come work for us." Again she smiled at him, coyly 
looking up at him through her eyelashes. Duncan felt his heart jump.

"Not my area." There was more emotion in that than he had intended, but 
Catherine didnít hear it.

"Of course not, Professor MacLeod, historian extraordinaire." Her eyes 
were dancing with mischief. "Donít worry, weíll have lotís of help. We 
already have a person to start researching child behavior, a Mr. 
Raines. Heís already come up with some fascinating theories on the 
capacity of children to pretend."

"And how is that going to benefit mankind." Talking about what 
Catherine had dubbed the Center made him nervous. It was a fine dream, 
but heíd seen enough good ideas get twisted and destroyed to be 
cautious. Unlike Catherine.

"Well, if a child can pretend to be something, isnít it possible they 
could become that? Think about it, training future doctors and lawyers 
and, I donít know, even Policemen, while theyíre still children. No 
more need to study so long and hard, waiting so long before a person 
can become whatever they want. To the children, theyíd just be 
playing."

"It all sounds fine on paper, but do you think this is possible?" He 
looked at her with her hopes for the future and prayed she had the 
strength to keep this project from being exploited. He didnít like the 
sound of research involving children.

"Maybe not with all children. But itís possible that with a few of 
them, you could expand their minds when theyíre still young, maybe to 
the point that they could become anything they wanted to be. What could 
a person like that be able to contribute to society?" Her eyes were 
shining, full of idealized thoughts of the future.

"It boggles the mind." He, however, was definitely in a dark mood.

"Oh donít be so glum, Iím getting married today. I bet you never 
thought Iíd find a man whoíd put up with me and all my wild ideas." 
Finished packing, she handed him the bags filled with make-up, shoes 
and such, and picked up the large box that housed her dress and heading 
to the door.

"Oh, I knew youíd find someone." He thought for a while that she might 
love him, as he had come to love her, but sheíd met Mr. Parker first.

"Ha! I always thought I was going to be one of those spinsters you read 
about who grow old and leave their estates to their cats." Out in the 
spring sunshine, she walked away from the apartment she rented, 
stepping into her future.

"Not likely. You are a lovely and talented young woman, and you have a 
wonderful future ahead of you." Duncan stomped on his errant thoughts 
and the ignored the ache in his heart. "Come on, weíre going to be late 
if you donít hurry up."

"Iím not the one whoís taking forever to open the door." Over the door 
of the car, she looked at him uncertainly. "Am I doing the right 
thing?"

"All I can say is follow your heart and trust where it takes you." 
Closing the door behind her, he went to take her to the church.

They had started up their dream in a place called Blue Cove and though 
she wrote regularly at first, the letters soon tapered off and the two 
of them lost touch. When her father died of a heart attack two years 
after her marriage, she was close to term with her first child and 
couldnít make the journey. The last word heíd gotten was a birth 
announcement for her daughter. 

And the little girl had grown up. She looked so much like her mother it 
was like looking at a ghost. Unfortunately, she seemed more inclined to 
followed in her fatherís footsteps than her motherís. Getting up, 
Duncan walked over to the kitchen, his mind still full of the dreams 
and hopes Catherine had had for her Center. He wondered how sheíd died. 
Miss Parker had said it was a long time ago. Perhaps sheíd died of a 
broken heart when she realized what had happened to her dream. From 
what Duncan had heard so far, the Center wasnít exactly a humanitarian 
society.

Taking a sip of the drink in his hand, his mind returned to the 
present. Miss Parker, unlike her mother, was going to be in for a very 
long and interesting life.

***

Walking into the hospital was harder than I thought it would be. I knew 
it was a silly fear, but I could feel a chill settle into my bones as I 
entered. But I wasnít about to be ruled by an irrational fear of a 
building. Following Fox into the building, we ambushed Scullyís doctor 
and got her prognosis before we headed to her room.

I left Fox as he stepped into her room, unwilling to intrude on their 
private moment. Standing outside, I listened to the faint murmur of 
their voices. Those two were very close. Not lovers, but they depended 
on each other so much that their lives had become completely entwined. 
I donít think either of them could imagine life without the other. I 
envied them that. 

Stepping away from the wall I was leaning against, I headed to the gift 
shop. Maybe I could get Scully a gift like flowers or something. 
Actually, flowers seemed too. . . normal and a card was just as inane. 
I think sheíd be more of a stuffed animal type of person. None of that 
cutesy, pink, fuzzy bunny stuff, but maybe something funny, like Marvin 
the Martian or something. 

The white hallways didnít seem to bother me as much as I thought they 
might and wandering the halls didnít hold the same tension that I had 
walking into the building in the first place. My stomach did do this 
queer flip-flop when I saw a patient walking down the hall with a pole 
and an IV line in her arm. I had to swallow a few times to clear the 
apprehension I felt. Picking up my pace, I made it to the main floor 
and buried myself in the gift shop. 

I looked up as I saw a body enter the shop out of the corner of my eye. 
It was Jarod. Curiosity overwhelmed my idle thoughts regarding fuzzy 
things so putting down the little plush cat, I went over to look at 
what he was picking up. He glanced up as I approached and a lazy grin 
spread across his features.

"Loveís Deceit? You never struck me as the type to read Romance 
novels." The gaudy purple cover had a half-naked woman held in the 
fervent embrace of some guy in chaps and a vest. Prominently pinned on 
his shoulder was an oversized silver star. Oh Pu-lease.

"Actually Iíve written a few myself." He had to wait a few minutes for 
me to pick my jaw off the floor before I could actually reply.

"Iím not sure I even want to know all the details about that." I looked 
up at him, eyes sparkling. "You have got to fill me in about that. So 
whatís this for then?"

"Oh itís a present." He placed a twenty on the counter to pay, then 
switched over to another topic. "I thought youíd still be at the hotel 
with Mulder?"

"Yea, well, you can only sleep for so long and Fox was starting to 
climb the walls worrying over Scully. So what are you doing here? I 
donít think youíd come all this way just to check on her and I donít 
think bodice rippers are Scullyís style?" I couldnít for the life of me 
guess why he was here.

"I thought Iíd drop in and see how things are going with Miss Parker." 
He said it calmly like going to see the person who was trying to return 
you to a life of slavery was a daily occurrence.

"What?!?!?"

Jarod let a slow grin spread across his face. "Sheís on her own right 
now and her back up wonít make it here for at least another hour. I 
thought Iíd see what I can find out from her."

"Ohh, youíre mean." I felt a similar grin light up my face. "Can I 
watch?"

***

"So howís the patient?" Mulder poked his head into the room. Looking up 
briefly from the book her nose had found, Scully gracefully pushed her 
glasses up and went back to the scene where Kilkenny was finally gonna 
kiss Rita.

"Iím in the last two pages of a book." She didnít do much else to 
acknowledge his presence and hoped she would be able to recapture the 
moment.

"What are you reading?" He wasnít taking the hint. She threw a brief 
glance at the cover before absently replying while trying to find her 
place on the page. 

"Mountain Valley War."

"A western?" The disbelief was thick in his voice.

"No immortals, assassins, or strange geniuses." Giving up on finding 
out whether or not Lance Kilkenny would actually kiss the girl, she 
reluctantly slid a piece of paper in her page and put it down. "Or 
Vampires, Witches, Fluke monsters, deadly fungi, dog-eating Crocodiles, 
Mighty Morphiní bounty hunters, Black ooze, green gunk, cockroa. . . "

"Okay, I concede. I will never complain about you choice in reading 
material again." He came up and sat on the edge of her bed, carefully 
avoiding her legs.

"It does have guns though. But I couldnít find anything without guns 
that didnít have half naked women on the front." Scully knew at that 
point that those painkillers theyíd given her were talking. Thankfully 
Mulder changed the subject.

"So when are they letting you out of here?" He looked around the room, 
his eyes never resting too long on one spot. Seeing Scully in a 
hospital bed brought back too many memories of her cancer and image of 
her body slowly wasting away as she fought against it. Her voice, clear 
and strong, broke through his memories and brought him back to the 
present.

"In another hour, as soon as they finish up the paper work and I get a 
final okay from Dr. Kean." She pulled herself up a little further and 
took a good look at her partner. It actually looked like he got some 
slept last night. Not a lot, but some.

"Are you sure youíll be fine?" In his voice was a note of concern that 
made her realize he was blaming himself for her injury. Again. And with 
less reason than usual. He always blamed herself whenever she got 
injured when they were on a case. He probably thought that if she 
hadnít gotten involved with the X-Files, everything that had happened 
in the past years would never have occurred. But sheíd seen enough to 
know bad things happened no matter what your life was like. In the X-
files, she made a difference and she wouldnít give that up if someone 
paid her.

"Mulder, the bullet came out last night with no complications. I lost 
surprisingly little blood and after a good nightís sleep undoubtedly 
longer than yours, Iím ready to tackle this problem." A little voice
tickled away in the back of her mind, asking her if she did this for 
the X-files or for him.

"With crutches or a wheelchair?" he deadpanned. She tried not to smile 
but lost the fight. Quickly squashing the little grin, she put on a 
serious face and just looked at her partner.

"Ha-ha. Donít quit youíre day job." When his face cracked and a smile 
broke through, she let her own resurface. They just sat and grinned at 
each other for a few seconds. "So, what are the plans for the day?"

"Everyoneís getting together at Duncanís to pool our information." 
Mulderís smile faded and he sighed.

"Are youíre okay with this?" Dana wasnít sure why this would bother 
him; normally getting information would have him bouncing up and down. 
Given the thought of him doing that while sitting on the edge of her 
bed, she was almost relieved he didnít. Almost.

"They know more about whatís happened to Sam then she does. Thereís not 
much we can add. Iím just glad weíre invited."

***

Sitting up in bed, a frown marred what could easily be considered a 
beautiful face as Miss Parker fumed. Broots wouldnít be arriving for 
another hour and half, and she couldnít even get a nurse in there to 
get something to eat. Theyíd taken her for some tests during breakfast 
and by the time sheíd gotten back, her half eaten meal was gone. Not to 
mention the fact that she really needed a cigarette. Her hand had just 
the barest waver that was a sure sign that if she didnít get one soon, 
someone was going to die. 

Then there was the mysterious stranger whoíd popped in early this 
morning to see her. She wanted to know what he knew about her mother, 
but there was something about him that set her on edge. It was 
something that ran shivers up her spine and made her want to look over 
her shoulder. And to top it all off, the watch that Daddy had given to 
her on her birthday was smashed to bits. She didnít think things could 
possibly get any worse. She was wrong.

Her first instinct was to throw her pitcher of water at the smug figure 
that sauntered into her room. Instead she leaned back into her pillow, 
scowling, and wished for a shotgun.

"So Jarod, come to gloat?" Her eyes narrowed as someone followed him 
in, sliding gracefully to the side of the door. "Whoís the charity 
case?"

"You are." He threw a package on the bed, neatly wrapped with a pink 
bow. His smug grin screamed at her and she seriously wished she was in 
a condition to wipe it off.

"Spare me."

"Arenít you going to open it?" He almost sounded hurt. Not that she 
believed him.

"Iíll wait for the bomb squad to check it out first." She flashed him a 
saccharine smile and picked it up by the ribbon, dropping it with 
distaste on her bedside table.

"And here I thought youíd want some relief from the boredom of a 
hospital stay." 

She refrained from dignifying that with an answer.

"Go ahead, open it," he urged.

Reaching over, half expecting him to disappear the moment her eyes were 
turned, she was almost startled to see him still there when she turned 
back. Taking a deep breath, she quickly opened the paper to reveal a 
tacky romance novel and a pack of cigarettes. Much as she wanted to rip 
open the pack and light one up right away, she wasnít about to give him 
the satisfaction. The book just lay on her lap, ignored.

"Cute. No cryptic messages, no mysterious toys? Iím almost 
disappointed." She gently picked up the pack, making a big show of 
checking it over for his usual tricks.

"Oh theyíre on their way to Sydney right now. Donít worry, Iím sure 
youíll love the Cotton Candy." He grinned at her and she had visions of 
her office filled with clouds of spun sugar. Wiping the idea out of her 
mind, she opened the pack and pulled out a cigarette. She had to stop 
herself from smelling it gratefully as she popped it in her mouth. Now 
all she needed was a light.

"So whoís the bimbo?" The faintly familiar figure now moved to stand at 
Jarodís elbow and Miss Parker recognized her from the Bar last night. A 
corner of her mind noted that even now, the womanís back wasnít to the 
door.

"Another of the Centerís alumni." The light alto voice cut across the 
conversation. "You can call me Ann."

Miss Parker froze as the name, combined with the face, hit home. That 
was one of the Centerís Assassins. She wasnít eased a bit by the amused 
smile that lit up the womanís face.

"Get that bitch away from me." So much for playing it cool. Miss Parker 
tried disappear into her bed.

"Tsk, tsk, Miss Parker. Donít you know that swearing is the sign of an 
unimaginative mind." The assassinís soft voice almost rolled out to her 
and she really started wishing for a gun. A really, really big gun. The 
figure moved a step closer to the bed before continuing. "So tell me, 
how often does the Center try to kill their own people?"

"I donít know where you picked her up, Jarod, but they make Lyle look 
normal." The quiver in her voice just seemed to make it harder for her 
to breathe. Miss Parker tried to calm her heart long enough to get 
through this without getting killed.

"Really Missy, itís rude to ignore a person." Annís eyes lit up with an 
unholy gleam as she leaned over the bed. Miss Parker couldnít help it. 
She flinched. A shadow passed in the eyes of the woman and she backed 
off.

"Scared Miss Parker?" Jarod spoke up but she couldnít tear her eyes 
away from the slim figure that now stood, perfectly still.

"No shit Sherlock. I donít even want to know what youíre doing with 
her, but they arenít sane."

"Oh?" Jarod looked at Miss Parker and realized she wasnít just scared, 
she was terrified. Her face was washed of all color, her eyes wouldnít 
budge from Samís position by the door and she wasnít even listening to 
him. It annoyed him faintly but he could live with it. It offered some 
interesting possibilities. But for later.

"Miss Parker?" He was ready to say her name again, when her face turned 
back to him, her eyes still following the ex-assassin.

"What!" she snapped.

"Say Hi to Broots for me. And ask how Debbie is doing." 

Chapter 4

I didnít realize how upset I was by Miss Parkerís fear of me until I 
pushed open the fire doors so hard they slammed into the wall and left 
a dent. Jarod was a few steps behind me and he winced as the door made 
contact. Glancing down the hall, I took a deep breath when it proved to 
be empty and no one was coming to chew me out for the damage. 

"It upset you, that she was afraid of you." Jarod came and stood beside 
me as I leaned against the wall, trying to calm down. 

I didnít feel like saying anything, but I had a suspicion he wouldnít 
leave me alone until I spilled. Taking a deep breath, I tried to figure 
out all the conflicting emotions running through my head. Triumph at 
intimidating her, pleasure at the fear in her eyes and disgust at 
myself. Disgust at the person who could inspire such terror in a person 
with a glance.

"I wasnít upset at her reaction but at my reaction." Another breath 
helped calm me down some more. "I was. . . It. . . " I was at a loss. I 
couldnít put into words the self-hatred at coming face to face with the 
person I was, reflected in the eyes of another. 

"You felt powerful at being able to so thoroughly intimidate a person."

"Well, thatís one way of putting it," I said dryly. "And when it hit 
me, all I could think about was, what kind of monster am I? What kind 
of person was I to. . . inspire such panic? How could I get a kick out 
of another personís abject terror?" I looked up at Jarod, searching his 
face for something. Some sign that I wasnít completely amoral.

"The fact that it bothers you is enough to let you know that youíre not 
a monster." His voice was kind, but there was a little squiggle of 
worry in his eyes.

"So what does that make me then?" For a person who wanted to start 
over, I wasnít making that good a start. 

"An x-assassin trying to put her life back together after having her 
memories ripped away and reclaim the life taken from her as a child. 
And I bet you thought it would be easy." He sounded altogether too smug 
saying that.

"And I thought I had a talent of stating the painful truth, but you 
just beat me there." Stepping away from the wall, I headed down the 
hall way to Scully's room. 

By the time all was said and done, it would take her about another hour 
and a half to get out of the hospital, so Jarod and I took off. I had 
managed to calm down considerably and now we just sat in a nearby park 
until it was time to head over to Duncanís. It was a clear day and the 
sun was beating down on us rather mercilessly until we moved over to 
the grass under a shady tree. 

"So what are you going to do now?" I picked at few stems of grass and 
started to rip them up, leaving little bits of grass confetti all over 
my pants. "You canít exactly stick around here now that the slave 
traders are back." Jarod looked a little askance at my description of 
Miss Parker and her crew.

"I guess not. I was thinking of heading to New York for a while. I 
donít have anything in the works right now, so Iím pretty much free to 
go wherever I choose." He looked out over the people passing us by, 
eyes darting from one to the other under the cover of his sunglasses.

"So everything right in the world right now?" I grabbed another handful 
of grass and vented the last of my frustration as the green blades 
flutter away on the slight breeze.

"No." He took a deep breath before continuing, a grim smile in place. 
"But a person can only do so much and has to choose where they can do 
the most good."

I glanced over to where some kids were jumping around in a shallow 
fountain, their happy shrieks ringing through me as I wondered if I was 
ever that young. It was almost as if every thing that happened to me 
wasnít possible. If it hadnít been for Jarod, I wouldnít even know what 
did happen.

"Jarod, why do you do it? Why do the whole Avenging Angel routine?" I 
guess I wanted to know why he had helped me, why he had gone out of his 
way to help me find myself. What did he see in me that was worth 
helping?

"Someone needs to help the people that the world ignores, the people 
who fall through the cracks. There arenít that many people that care 
beyond there own concerns. Some have a total disregard for others while 
some simply see people in their way as obstacles." He paused for a 
moment as if gathering his thoughts. "Most people just donít look 
beyond their own problems."

"But why you?" Why did he have that need in him, to help the innocent 
and punish the guilty? His eyes clouded over as his mind worked.

"The Center used what I did to hurt people, twisting what I became so 
that they could use me for their power struggles. I help those who 
needed it so that no one could abuse people the way I was." 

Something told me there was much more that he didnít say and the 
conversation faltered, the quiet settling over us like a fog. It wasnít 
an easy silence, being weighed down with the sorrow and anger rolling 
off of Jarod in waves. I thought back to the look on Miss Parkerís face 
when she figured out who I was. I wasnít sure what type of person I was 
before and at that moment I didnít want to know. I looked over to where 
Jarod now sat, leaning against the tree, his eyes not seeing the people 
he still scanned but lost in old memories that played across his face. 
I was very glad right then for my empty past.

"Can I help?" Where in heavenís name did that come from? But now that 
it was out of my mouth, I didnít want to take it back. I knew enough 
about who I was that I knew I needed to make up for the things Iíd 
done. And what heíd said was true. Corny, but true. He looked at me 
over the rims of his sunglasses, giving me a surprised glance. I wasnít 
the only one caught off guard by my question. Then a gentle smile 
crossed his face and my heart started beating faster than it should 
sitting down not really doing anything.

"If you want."

***

Stepping into the air-conditioned coolness of the Dojo, Joe was 
incredibly grateful Mac had managed to get everything up and running 
again. While his place stayed fairly cool in the summer heat, Adamís 
apartment was stifling and the ancient Immortal didnít even seem to 
notice it. But it was worth the trip to pick up the database. 

Now he had the name and some background of Janeís strange Immortal. He 
also went and picked up a few of his chronicles, hoping theyíd have 
more details. Stepping into the groaning Elevator, he rode it to the 
loft stepped out into a blast of warm air. So much for air 
conditioning.

Looking around, he found Richie passed out on the couch with Duncan 
tip-toeing around. Mac shot him a disgusted look before noticing that 
the younger immortal hadnít budged regardless of the noise. He looked 
at the reclined figure in annoyance.

"How on earth does he do that?" Duncan asked.

"Confidence of the young. But sleep looks more tempting than Iíd care 
to admit." Joe limped over to a chair and plopped down, before rubbing 
his eyes.

"Didnít you get any last night?" 

"Nope, too busy annoying old friends and digging up information."

"Find anything?" Duncan came over and placed a cup of coffee in front 
of his friend.

"You could say that." With that, Joe put the case he had slung over his 
shoulder onto the table and started to pull things out. "This guy has 
quite a history. Heís fairly old, well over 800, and heís got a 
checkered past that boggles the mind. Whenís everybody else due?"

"Within the hour. Agent Mulder called and said he and Agent Scully 
where on their way, but as for the other two? I have no idea."

"Well, thatís no surprise," Jane called out as her head poked out from 
the stairwell. "You rarely have an idea in that pretty little head, 
Duncan."

"Speak of the devil." Duncanís voice took on a dry, wry note.

"And I shall appear." She walked across the room, Jarod a step behind 
her, and went over to the couch. Looking down at Richie, still 
blissfully dead to the world, she got an evil gleam in her eye. "I 
wonder if he sleeps in the buff?"

"Now, now, Sam, be nice." Jarod had followed her in and started to set 
up his laptop next to the pile of information that Joe had set out.

"But Jarod, think about how much this will help him. Heís altogether 
too heavy a sleeper. If I was a less scrupulous person, Iíd have taken 
his head by now." The look on her face was innocence itself, with her 
head cocked daintily to one side.

Duncan looked at her and just shrugged, while Joe gave a rueful shake 
of his head and started looking back through the papers he had stacked 
on the table. Jarod gave her a sharp look, but didnít say anything as 
she turned back to her victim. With incredible patience, she eased the 
blanket out of his hand and pealed it from him.

Fortunately for Richie, heíd had the presence of mind to slip into a 
pair of sweat pants before collapsing on Macís couch. Unfortunately 
they did nothing against the ice that found itself on the back of his 
neck. With an undignified yelp, Richie jumped off the couch and glared 
into Janeís highly amused eyes.

"So nice of you to join us this morning, Mr. Ryan." Jarod called out 
across the room from where he now sat beside Joe, both of them trying 
to suppress their laughter.

"Hey, Gimme a break, I died twice last night. That takes a lot out of a 
man." Getting off the slightly damp couch, Richie headed to the 
bathroom, muttering under his breath the entire way.

***

About twenty minutes after my amusement with Richie, Fox and Scully 
showed up. The groaning of the elevator gave us all ample warning and I 
got up to grab some extra chairs. Duncanís table was already buried, so 
we had pulled out a card table and use that to house Jarodís laptop, 
along with the information heíd accumulated on the Center. As the metal 
grillwork was pushed up, the two agents stepped in, Fox in his suit and 
Scully in a comfortable looking pair of sweat pants with a T-shirt. It 
could be said she hopped more than stepped though, as her crutches 
where just a tad on the long side.

Coming back with two chairs in hand, I smiled at my brother, who was in 
a much better mood now than the last time I saw him at the hospital, 
and held one out for Scully. She graciously dropped into the chair and 
waved Fox into the other one. After the requisite small talk that 
ensured that everyone was in better shape than the night before, Joe 
started to fill in the gaps in their knowledge.

"Well, we tracked down Janeís mysterious Immortal." He picking up a 
picture from in front of him and slid it across so Scully and Fox could 
take a look. It was a good forty years old and the black and white face 
was grainy and slightly out of focus. "The first records we have of him 
date back to 1135 AD in England as Oliver of Kent. We donít have 
anything on his first death though, so he could be much older. He spent 
some time as a knight, before we lost record of him. 

"He showed up with the Puritans and Cromwell as Edward Beverly, then 
later showed up in the French courts known only as the Baron. Thatís 
when we think he started his work as an assassin, but it could have 
been earlier. He specialized in elaborate schemes, that left the victim 
dead in a bizarre, but apparently accidental manner." Everybody leaned 
forward, looking at the various photos and copies of Watcher 
chronicles. I carefully fingered the picture of Father that Joe had 
passed around.

"He stayed till the revolution, when he had an apparent change of heart 
and started to help members of the aristocracy escape from Madame 
Guillotine, using the guise of an English noble, Percy Hampton, Lord 
Rochdale. He disappeared again for the next few hundred years until the 
late forties, where he ended up with MI6 doing the James Bond routine. 
He went by the name John Bentley. 

"He met an American Agent, Alice Palmer, and they married in 1959. They 
moved to the States that year and as far as we can tell lived as a 
happily married couple for 5 years. They adopted a young boy, Timothy, 
but about three years later the boy was kidnapped. It was a real slick 
grab too. He spent the next year looking for his son, but with the 
death of his wife under suspicious circumstances, he went underground 
and we lost him."

"Thatís all youíve got?" I spoke up first, glancing around the table at 
everyone.

"We can add some more to his file, now that this has come up, but other 
than what you see here?" Joe shook his head then took a sip of his 
coffee. "We donít have much else."

"What do we know about afterwards?" Fox looked up from the papers he 
was reading. Joe looked over at Jarod, letting him take over the 
narrative.

"He showed up at the Center in 1977 as Alex Thompson. He was there 
sporadically for a little over ten years, training Sam and others like 
her. He left sometime in 1989."

"Until last night. Fox and I had a chat with him." I spoke up, quickly 
outlining the conversation from last night. "So this leaves us with a 
lot of questions and not a lot of answers."

Chapter 5

A figure crept stealthily into the dim room, the pale pink of her 
nurseís outfit contrasted sharply with her olive completion and 
straight black hair. The subtle noises of late evening in the hospital 
were subdued as the door clicked shut. On the bed lay a pale figure, 
wrapped in silk, head tossed back on the pillow, with her dark hair 
splayed around her. According to the doctorís file, sheíd had a healthy 
dose of painkiller as well as a sleeping pill thrown in. Miss Parker 
should be sleeping very peacefully by now. 

Stepping lightly up to the IV unit, the nurse slid her hand into a 
pocket and pulled out a small hypodermic needle. Seconds later the 
needle was empty and redeposited in her pocket. Leaning back, the nurse 
contemplated her handy work. 

It would take a few minutes for the agent to work its way through IV 
system and enter Miss Parkerís blood stream. Once there, it would only 
be a matter of seconds before a severe allergic reaction, resulting in 
anaphylactic shock, would cause the death of this particular witness. 
The chemical was detectable, but it wouldnít show up on a standard 
toxicology report, so it would do under these circumstances.

The womanís thoughts where rudely interrupted as the figure on the bed 
suddenly ripped out her IV and rolled off the bed onto the opposite 
side. Quickly jumping on to the bed, the nurse looked down into the 
corner only to find her prey was already out of sight. 

"Itís no use to run. Iíll get you eventually. Why not make it easier on 
yourself?" Shifting her weight around, the nurse slowly scanned the 
room, knowing where Miss Parker was hidden, but more than willing to 
play with her target. She had thought it would be a fairly boring hit, 
but it was actually turning out to be a little fun. 

"I could make it quick, Miss Parker, painless." Her excitement was 
starting to build as she hoped her prey would fight, adrenaline raging 
in anticipation of the kill. She could hear it seeping into her voice, 
giving it a breathless anticipation. She couldn't drag it out too long 
so she planned to enjoy herself while she could.

The woman slid off the bed and her hand snaked out underneath, grabbing 
a handful of hair. A quick jerk and the head hit the hard tile floor 
with a distinct smack. Dragging the stunned Miss Parker from under the 
bed, the assassin looked into her half-closed eyes.

"Now I get to be creative." The unholy gleam in the Assassinís eyes was 
the last thing Miss Parker saw.

***

Mulder stood up and followed Duncan into the kitchen area. Richie had 
already gone home, while Jarod and Scully were busy scouring the web 
for information. Sam and Joe where quietly talking in a corner while 
pouring over an old chronicle. 

"You killed that man, didnít you?" Never one to mince words, Mulder 
started his discrete (to his mind) interrogation.

"Yes." Duncan saw no point in lying. 

"Why?" 

"Because he was after my head." Duncan emptied out the filter of the 
coffee maker and put in a clean one, for the forth time that evening.

"Why come all that way to kill you. Why would a accountant from Toronto 
come all this way to take your head?" Mulder wasnít going to leave this 
alone. Before he could, he had to know more than the bits and pieces 
that have been tossed his way in the place of an explanation.

"Itís a private matter." A scoop of coffee grounds went into the 
machine.

"Not when these deaths have been going on for hundreds of years and my 
sister is right in the middle of one." 

"She wasnít involved, other than covering for me. Of her own free 
will." Duncan emphasized the last part, hoping to get the Agent off his 
back. He wasnít that lucky.

"So why go around killing each other in ritualized duels. Why can there 
only be one?" Mulder laid out what he knew and hoped that he hadnít 
overplayed his hand.

"All I know is what every other Immortal knows." Duncan started the 
coffee maker then leaned against the counter, giving up on getting out 
of this without giving a complete explanation. "We play the Game, two 
fight and one wins, taking the otherís head and his Quickening, But 
never on holy ground. Not even the most evil of us will break that 
rule. The last one alive wins the Prize, to use as they see fit."

"Whatís a Quickening. And the Prize?" Mulderís eyes lit up as his 
curiosity was being satisfied. 

"Quickening is like a personís life force; their knowledge, their 
experiences and all that makes us different from mindless animals." 
Duncan had never been the best at explaining this, and now was no 
exception. Maybe he was just tired. "Some might call it the closest 
thing we have to a soul. As for the Prize? No one is really sure what 
it is. It will be the accumulation of every Quickening of every 
Immortal." 

They sat in silence for a few moments, contemplating what had been 
said. Mulder went through everything in his head, some points sticking 
in his mind, not so much over what was said but what wasnít. He knew 
his history very well, so he could build a bit of a picture of the 
superstition that must have surrounded Immortals through the ages. They 
would either be heralded as gods, or damned as devils. Pulling his mind 
back to more immediate concerns, Mulder broke the quiet.

"How does Joe know so much? Did you tell him?"

"Joeís a Watcher." Since Watchers had already been mentioned, though 
only in passing, Duncan didnít see any harm about explaining about 
them. Maybe Joe could recruit Mulder. "They follow the us and record 
our deeds for posterityís sake. They have a much more accurate view of 
history compared to the textbooks."

"This is all fine and dandy, but tell me why I shouldnít haul your ass 
into the station right now and have you charged with murder?" Mulder 
still felt that there was more to be said. He wouldnít betray this 
secret if only for the sake of his sister, but he wanted to know more 
about the thoughts of the man in front of him. He was more than pleased 
with Duncanís fervent answer.

"If you do that, hundreds of innocents will be hurt. The only thing 
keeping some of us in line is the need to keep a low profile. And what 
reaction would the public have to us. We are people easy to hate, 
easier to fear and all to tempting a target. The reason we hide is so 
that places like the Center, or even the Government can't use us as 
guinea pigs or lab rats to run through their mazes. 

"As for the population in general, Iíve seen enough of humanityís 
ability to hate on the slimmest pretext to realize we wouldnít be 
greeted with open arms. They would have reason to fear us and we can be 
killed if a person knows how. I lost a very old friend to a group of 
Mortals who thought we were all devils and deserved to die. He was a 
priest and hadnít stepped off of holy ground for hundreds of years.

"Some secrets are best kept."

***

Climbing up the stairs, the Assassin was hoping things would be as 
interesting as they had been with Miss Parker, but she also knew that 
another suspicious death would be more than her masters would permit. 
Her orders were to make this one less bloody. Of course, after the mess 
left in the hospital, less bloody covered a lot of territory. 

Reaching the door, she kicked it in violently. Since the victim was 
such a young man, dying of natural causes would be suspicious, so she 
decided to go for the botched robbery scenario. He lived in a bad 
enough neighborhood for it to be more than believable. Hearing a 
scuffle from the back she moved in that direction, gently swinging the 
baseball bat back and forth.

Stepping through a doorway, she found her prey more than ready. He let 
out a roar and charged her. Men could be so dense, but since he hadnít 
come up against her kind before, it was understandable. Letting him 
come at her, she threw a neat roundhouse kick, aimed at his head and 
was only faintly surprised when he blocked it. A few seconds passed in 
a series of attacks and counters that left her faintly amazed at this 
man. He was actually very good. Not even close to her league, but still 
good in his own right. 

But fun as it all was, sheíd have to end it. The violence never lasted 
long enough. She spun around, but this time, it was the bat that hit 
his face. There was a sick crunch and he fell down to his knees. 

"Well, fun as this all is, Richie, Iím afraid I have to end this."

"Why?" He could barely get the words past his mangled lips.

"Well, you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. No 
witnesses." With that, she brought the bat down on his head. The dent 
it left gave no doubt as to the state of the late Richie Ryan.

***

I basically turned the other cheek while Fox grilled Duncan. When they 
came back without any evidence of fisticuffs, I figured theyíd come to 
some kind of understanding. Having gone over the files and everything 
else Iíd managed to beg, plead and beseech out of everyone, I still had 
gaps in my life. The last time I show up on the DSAís was in í88. That 
leaves ten years between when I left the Center and when I showed up at 
Treemark Mall. Some of it can be attributed to hooking up with Father, 
as he seemed to indicate I had, but what happened then?

Things were starting to run down now that everyone had spilled their 
guts. There was a general feeling in the air of Ďwhat do we do now that 
we know all this.í Scully and Fox only had a few more days in the city 
before heading back to Washington, Jarod would have to move on soon and 
Joe and Duncan had businesses to run. They had already helped me out 
more than they could guess just by sharing what they knew. 

Stepping out into the night air, I took a deep breath and contemplated 
what I should do next. Now that I knew who I was, the main question 
left was what happened to me after I left the Center. I donít think the 
Center would willingly let me go so I must have gotten away somehow. I 
had to wonder how? Jarod hadnít said anything about how heíd gotten 
away, but it canít have been easy. 

Why would I leave in the first place? Did I get sick of the death and 
the killing? Something just wasnít falling into place. Stuffing my 
hands into the pockets of my jacket, I put aside thoughts of the Center 
and tried to just enjoy the night. The cool air brushed against my face 
and I closed my eyes in the sheer pleasure of the feeling. I untied my 
braid and let my hair out, letting the wind play in it, tugging at 
strands and causing them to flutter out behind me. 

I took another deep breath and let it out slowly, the whole time 
letting my eyes play over the nighttime crowds. There were a few bars 
in the area and a steady stream of people were out and about enjoying 
the last day of the weekend. 

Maybe I would go with Jarod and forget about the past. Isnít that what 
Iíve wanted from the start? It wouldnít be a new beginning, but it 
would be close enough for me. I could keep in touch with Fox and maybe 
I could visit with him for a while. I could go see my mother. 

A longing swept over me as I thought about her. I couldnít remember 
her, yet the thought of having a person to call Mother left me with a 
yearning to find that connection again. I should find out more about 
the child I was before I was taken. It seemed like she was happy.

I could ask Jarod if he wanted to come with me. I didnít really want to 
part company with him, but also I didnít really want to go much into 
the reasons behind those feelings. I had a suspicion it was one can of 
worms I didnít want to open. Anyway, the last thing he needed was to be 
saddled with me. Jarod would go to New York, Iíd go with Fox. 

Eventually, the tension of the past week leaked out of me as I walked 
and as I cut across a small park, I let the tranquillity of the night 
wash over me. It was a beautiful summer night. It had cooled off enough 
to give everyone a break from the humid heat of day, while being warm 
enough not to need a jacket or something. I had mine on anyway, 
snuggling into the folds of Jarodís jacket. Joe had brought it over 
when he came, probably guessing todayís session would end up going till 
well after dark and that by then, a light coat would be nice. 

I was glad that Joe had come by. I wasnít sure how heíd feel about 
everything since it was his bar that got shot up. I hadnít had a chance 
to talk to him last night, so when Jarod told me heíd be joining up 
with us, I was ecstatic. Joe was a good friend and I was glad that he 
had helped me. I didnít know how I could repay him for that.

***

Opening the door was the easiest thing sheíd done all day. Not as 
satisfying as kicking it in, but it was nice to get back to the 
simplicity of picking a lock. She entered the main room, impressed by 
the neatness that confronted her. It was definitely a manís place, but 
it had a Spartan comfort that she found soothing. She walked back to 
the door and quickly smeared a clear gel on to the outside doorknob. 
Carefully taking the latex gloves off, she put them into a plastic bag, 
stuffing it into a waist pouch. After that she closed the door, turned 
the dead bolt and sat down in a leather chair, patiently waiting. 

About ten minutes later, there was a slight rattle of keys before one 
went in the slot and the lock was turned. A second after that, the door 
opened and Joe Dawson walked in. He was an older man and nothing would 
be more natural than for him to suffer a heart attack after the 
stresses of the previous day. He put down his keys then stepped into 
the short hall, turning the lights on as he came forward. He froze, 
when he saw her.

"What do you want?"

"You know, some people have no imagination. Thatís all I ever get." 
Bringing her hands together, she clasped them on her lap. "I never get 
a ĎHelloí, or ĎHowís it goingí. I suppose it could be considered an 
occupational hazard."

"Why donít you cut the bull and tell me why youíre here?" He tilted his 
head to the side, his eyes squinting, as sweat broke out on his 
forehead.

"Well, there were some complications on a job my employers contracted 
out. I recommended never hiring them again." She gave a little chuckle 
at the thought of the survivorís last minutes. Sheíd been allowed to 
play with him. "Iím the clean up crew."

"Youíre here to kill me." Joe blinked a few times and his face had 
gotten very pale while his left hand opened and closed stiffly.

"Itís too late though." She leaned forward, a satisfied grin taking the 
place of the calm facade sheíd had in place earlier.

"What?" This time he shook his head, not comprehending her meaning as 
he swayed and then stumbled.

"Youíre already dead." She stood up, looking down at her now fallen 
victim. He was now in severe cardiopulmonary distress and was staring 
up at the ceiling, struggling to breathe. After a few minutes, he was 
still. Kneeling down beside the body, she double-checked the pulse, 
then pulled out gloves and a damp cloth from a different pocket in her 
pouch. Once the door handle was wiped off, she arranged the room to her 
liking and with the door unlocked, left.

***

The bar was still nuts as I stepped in, but Joe had managed to put some 
things in order after the police let him back in. The chairs and tables 
that were still usable were stacked up in a corner, while the wreckage 
that was left had already been taken out to the back alley. The bar 
itself was pretty much a write off, along with most of the stock, and 
Joeís office was in serious need of new paneling. 

Stepping into the back, there was much less damage. My room was pretty 
much the same as Iíd left it yesterday, if you ignored the light 
filtering in through the bullet holes. Fortunately, my bear escaped 
unharmed. The shirt Iíd hung out to dry was another matter entirely. 
The kitchen was unscathed, along with the back storage room, but the 
back door was barely hanging from the hinges. 

I gave up on surveying the damage so I flaked out on my bed with my 
bear watching over me. I still had a million thoughts running through 
my head and I let them wash over me, trying not to think of anything in 
particular. Staring up at the ceiling, my mind kept circling back to 
the Center and the gap of missing time. 

Actually, there were two gaps. I was abducted when I was eight, but I 
didnít show up at the Center until I was 12. There was no information 
from what anybody said about where I was during that time. Great, 
another question bouncing around my head. Was I at the Center or some 
where else? Somebody had to know. 

I was certain the Center had more information. They had to have some 
records about how I ended up there and even if theyíre false, thereís 
bound to be some sort of clue. They might also have some records about 
where I was sent to after I left the Center, but before I hooked up 
with Father. Or did I leave the Center at the same time Father did?

AARRRGGGGHHHH!!!! Punching a fist into a pillow, I tried to shut my 
mind off but I wasnít having much success, so I got up and went to the 
kitchen. With some luck, there might be something to munch on in the 
fridge. How had Jarod ended up at the Center? From what heíd told me, I 
was much younger than he was. What about the other Assassins? And why 
did the man I called Father work for the Center, when he seemed to 
carry such enmity to them? 

He wanted answers, he went to the Center. Ergo, if I wanted answers, I 
might find them at the Center. Just not right now. All I wanted at that 
moment was a clear head and a little sleep. I was tired of thinking. 
Not that I was thinking all that clearly. I wasnít sure if I wanted to 
be thinking clearly. If I looked too closely at what I'd found out 
about myself, I didn't like what I found.

***

Pain. 

Too much pain for a hit like this. 

Pulling herself off the floor, she looked at the body stretched out 
before her. It took a moment for her breathing to calm down to the 
point she didnít feel like her lungs were on fire. There was a long 
slice along her stomach and a gash on her hand where the man had caught 
her. He was better than he had any right to be. But like everyone who 
ever went against her, he was dead. Her face transformed with the 
thought, into a glorious smile.

He was fun. A master in Martial arts with a very violent history, he 
was very interesting. She already knew how she would display the body 
when sheíd first stepped into the Dojo. She was half tempted to bring 
the head back now and leave it as a present for her masters, but she 
also wanted to keep her own head attached. They simply had no sense of 
humor.

Her blood pooled around her feet, so she would have to clean that up. 
She kicked a leg out of her way to a position more suited to her needs. 
Time to get started. Some time later, she looked at the scene she had 
orchestrated. The body was laid out, arms stretched wide in a parody of 
welcome. Blood spread out from the body, reflecting the glow of the 
lights like a black mirror. Words played around the edge of the nearly 
perfect circle, which roughly translated to "Death walked here." 

The final touch was the sword sticking out of his heart. Heíd actually 
come after her with a sword. As sheíd sat waiting for him in the middle 
of the gym, she heard the ever so faint footsteps as they came down the 
stairs. Sheíd tipped a stack of weights over to get his attention.

She spun around on her butt to look at him and her eyes strayed to the 
tip of the sword pointed in her direction. Her eyes lit up at the 
sight. She loved swords. They were so brutal. It had taken all her 
skill to place that particular one in his chest when the man was 
breathing so she left it there as a testament to her skill. It had 
popped up a little when he fell, leaving glistening streaks of red on 
the metal. On the whole she liked the effect. 

Stumbling slightly as she went to the doors, she was going to call it a 
night. She was supposed to take everyone out as quickly as possible, 
but the rest could wait until later. She needed a chance to gather her 
energy after this. But boy had it been fun. With a grin still firmly in 
place, she carefully closed the door behind her and left.

Chapter 6

She was floating. It was the most curious sensation. If she didnít know 
any better, sheíd swear she was dead. Wait a second. She was dead. She 
remembered her arm breaking, the grinning face of the assassin, intense 
pain and then the slowing beat of her heart as it pumped out the last 
of her blood. Then nothing. Even now there was nothing.

No lights, no angles, no devils, no hell, no heaven. Just blankness and 
her budding awareness of it. Sorrow welled up in her. Her mother wasnít 
here. There was no here, no after life, and sheíd never see her mother 
again. Never get to say that she loved her and that she missed her. But 
it didnít last long, the sorrow. Because wherever she was, she was no 
longer floating.

***

"Somebody murdered her." Jarodís voice was harsh over the phone. I was 
still curled up in bed, reading a novel by Peter Benchley when the 
phone rang. The stupid phone was all the way over in what remained of 
Joeís office, plugged into the only functioning phone jack left. The 
others were shot out or destroyed on principle. Fortunately, Jarod let 
it ring enough that I had time to scramble there. He didnít even let me 
spit out a ĎHello.í

"Who?" As far as I knew everyone was okay, but that was more than a few 
hours ago. I had been letting my mind mull over everything with all the 
associated conflicts and ended up reading a book to get away from it. 
Now the worries slammed back.

"Miss Parker. Somebody got to her in the hospital." His voice was grim 
and mournful. I had a feeling he cared for the wench more than he 
really wanted to admit.

"Do you know why?" Picking up the phone and being careful to avoid the 
remaining mess, I headed off the blood stained carpet to somewhere less 
grotesque. Though I didnít like her much myself, I kept my voice soft, 
trying to comfort Jarod.

"It could have been a lot of people; she had enough enemies. But it 
doesnít seem right. The timingís too close to last night." 

"Someone coming to finish off the job?" I didnít like that idea very 
much. Too many people that Iíd begun to care about were involved last 
night. 

"It could be. If you can get a hold of Joe, Iíll call your brother." He 
sounded very tired.

"Iíll call Richie and Duncan as well. Theyíre not in the police report, 
but someone could have been outside monitoring the fight." I waited, 
expecting a reply, but I only got silence. "You going to be okay?"

"Yes. But I have to tell Sydney." 

It took a second for the name to register, but then I nodded to myself 
in understanding. "Just donít take too long and be careful. Where do 
you want to meet?"

"Meet us at the bar." 

I wasnít given a chance to reply. I looked at the phone cord stretched 
out of the office. Giving a sigh I walked over and called Joe, to warn 
him. There was no answer. He should be home right now, but he might 
have had to go in to talk to the police. Or he could be late getting 
in. Hundreds of reasons for Joe not being home flashed through my mind. 

A few phone calls later, my heart was in my throat and I was racing 
through the streets to Joeís place.

***

The figure in black stepped into the Dojo. The throbbing in his head 
rose to a peak until he spotted the figure on the floor. Sheíd really 
done an artistic job. The runes around the edge were a nice touch. He 
almost wished he had a camera. The sword in the heart was leaving the 
poor boy in limbo land though. Stepping through the drying pool, his 
feet stuck slightly and he dreaded cleaning them off later.

Crouching down beside the body he looked into the face. Duncan really 
looked nothing like his cousin. Or would that be uncle? Who cares? With 
a practiced twist, the sword slid out, so he stepped away and allowed 
the youngster to come around.

A few moments after the sword was removed, there was the sound of 
labored breath being drawn into empty lungs and the guy on the floor 
scrambled to get up. Turning back around from his inspection of the 
Dojo, the man watched with a faint gleam in his eye as Duncan MacLeod 
got to his feet with a very disgusted look on his face. A few choice 
words later, Duncan looked around him in the typical manner. His eyeís 
finally rested on the black figure now sitting on one of the free 
weight benches. It was Janeís Immortal.

"What do you want?" Duncan was far from being a happy camper and would 
give most disgruntled postal workers a run for their money.

"Is that anyway to talk to the man who just pulled a sword out of your 
chest?" The stranger just sat there with a faintly mocking grin on his 
face. 

"Give me back my sword and we can discuss it." Duncan managed to make 
it sound smug, though thatís far from how he was feeling.

"Feeling a little insecure are we?" 

"When strange Immortals come around and start playing with peopleís 
lives, I think I can allow myself to feel a little uncertain about 
their motives." That, and the fact he could still feel his bones 
knitting together, put him in a rather bad mood.

"Oh fine." With a flip of his wrist, the Katana went flying hilt first 
at MacLeod, who deftly caught it and rested it in his arms, almost 
cradling it like a baby.

"So why are you here now?" Duncan immediately began carefully wiping 
the blade off with the corner of his shirt. Heíd have to clean it 
properly later, but he wanted to get the bulk of the gunk off first.

"Here, now, as in Seattle at the moment, or here, now, as in your home 
at midnight?" Again, the stranger replied with that mocking tone.

"As in here, now, in the Dojo, at midnight?" Duncan managed to mimic it 
perfectly.

"Oh simple. I was following Mary." This time the man was condescending.

"Whoís Mary?" Duncan ground his teeth in silence; the game was getting 
on his nerves. The stranger simply pointed at the now not so perfect 
circle of blood on the floor.

"She always was sadistic. Youíre lucky she didnít cut your head off 
just for the hell of it. Sheís been known to do that you know." The man 
got a kick out of how Duncanís eyes widened as he said that.

"How nice to know that now." A sarcastic bite managed to come out 
despite Duncanís intentions to the contrary.

"Well, you did a fairly good job slowing her down and sheís gone 
underground for the moment. You should have at least a few hours peace 
before she gets started again."

"What do you mean a few hours peace?" Duncan was starting to get a bad 
feeling about this.

"Just full of questions this evening arenít you? Sheís eliminating 
everyone on her list, which is everyone whoís still alive after that 
botch up of a job at the bar. With the exception of Ann." That must 
have hit a nerve because the mocking tone disappeared and was replaced 
with a hard edge.

"How did she know about me?" Duncan had made sure he and Richie were 
out of the limelight before anyone showed up and everyone else was 
dead.

"Oh, even I know you and the child Richie left before the police and I 
was across town at the time," the stranger snapped.

"She was there?" Duncan didnít think so and the images that played in 
his head if sheíd participated left him feeling faintly queasy. 

"No, but someone else was and that person provided her with the list." 

"Do you know who?" 

"If I knew who, they would have a sudden desire to fly off a very tall 
building." There was a sharp bite in the voice of the man that had 
Duncan believing him at face value.

"Taking this a little personal arenít you?" 

"Iíve spent a long time removing Ann from their sphere of influence and 
Iím not about to give her back to them."

"You really care about her, donít you." That Jane was attached to this 
man Duncan knew, but apparently it went both ways.

"That is not your concern. I came to see if you still had your head and 
that was it. On a whim, I decided to help you out of your predicament. 
I can see now that was a mistake. I should have just taken your head." 
The bite in his voice had gone from cold to frigid, with a sarcastic 
edge that echoed out of the man's eyes.

"Why didnít you?" From everything Duncan had heard about the man, he 
figured it was a fair question.

"Well, aside from quite royally pissing off Ann, and if youíve ever 
seen her truly angry you would understand my reluctance in that area, 
Connor would have mine in return."

"You know Connor?" 

"An old friend. Of a sort. We do have a tendency of ending up at 
daggers drawn, so we try to meet on holy ground. Just in case. We get 
along much better at a distance." The man looked off into midair, quite 
possibly remembering a few of the times he and Connor had met.

"I find that all too easy to believe." Duncan said that under his 
breath, but evidently not soft enough from the raised eyebrow.

"We are getting dreadfully off topic here." The stranger that Jane 
called Father abruptly stood up and clapped his hands together.

"I didnít realize there was a point to all of this."

"Oh I assure you there is." The man grinned as he said that and Duncan 
was reminded of Jane's mischievous smile.

"And what is it?" A person has to wonder if an Immortal's teeth repair 
as well as everything else. Particularly since it looked like Duncan 
was going to need that information soon if he didn't stop grinding his 
teeth.

"I couldnít tell you, now could I? It would spoil the fun." Turning 
around, the man was almost out the door before he spoke over his 
shoulder. "Arenít you coming? I'm sure you can lend a hand."

***

By the time I got into Joe's apartment, I knew something was wrong. I 
was almost completely out of breath and had to blink the dark spots out 
of my eyes as I gulped air into starving lungs. I had run full tilt 
from the Bar to here and as I entered the open door, I cursed myself 
for being too late. I fell to my knees beside Joe, the sharp protest 
from the one knee as I landed only added to my sorrow. 

I didn't cry though. I just stared at the body dry eyed, willing there 
to be some sign of life, for his empty eyes to blink, for a miracle to 
happen. But I had been what I was for too long not to know death when I 
saw it. There was nothing I could do. 

It wasn't fair! Everything he'd done, everything he'd survived to be 
killed now. He came through last night with hardly a scratch! And now 
his smile was gone, his laugh was silenced and his music quiet. He 
deserved to die of old age, surrounded by family and loved ones. To die 
now, because of me, because he helped me. . . 

I don't know how long I just sat there unmoving, After a while, I could 
feel it building. Feel the rage as it first burned through me, only to 
settle in the pit of my stomach as a cold lump, sending out icy 
tendrils till I was cold and numb all over. It wasn't over; not by a 
long shot. The Assassin, whoever it was, wasn't done. There was still 
Fox, Dana and Jarod. Duncan and Richie could take care of themselves. 

I gently reached a stiff hand forward and carefully closed Joe's eyes. 
I knew what I had to do. All I had to do was wait. Find a place, watch 
Fox and Dana. The Assassin would show up soon to complete the job and 
then I'd have them, and whoever sent them. There was more to this than 
just the Center.

I stood up, the blood rushing into my legs with fiery pins and needles 
but I didn't feel it. My first step was unsteady and my knee started 
throbbing again, but I just walked out, having given myself over to the 
cold fury that cleared my head, pushed away pain and numbed my soul.

***

The first breath was the worst. It seared through her lungs forcing the 
tissues to expand. Her eyes opened wide staring into a blank whiteness 
and her hands spasmed shut, tightening on the sheet beneath her while 
her entire body burned as blood started to flow through empty veins. 
The next breath was easier, but only marginally. With another breath, 
Miss Parker ripped the cloth off of her face and sat up shivering. She 
had never been so cold in her life. A few moments later, she could 
finally breathe without feeling like her lungs were going to burst. 

She wrapped the sheet around her, rubbing her arms lightly in 
confusion. Stepping off the gurney, she pulled the cloth tighter around 
her. Why the hell was it so cold? Finally she let her eyes roam the 
room. A body lay on a gurney beside her, completely covered with a 
sheet. With trepidation, she reached out a hand and jerked it down, 
revealing a face. It was an old man, his face blue and his glassy eyes 
staring at nothing. He was obviously dead. 

Someone had a very sick sense of humor. This was not something to do to 
a person who was stuck in the hospital for an unknown length of time. 
Come to think of it, she felt surprisingly well and was standing 
without any difficulties. The sheet wrapped around her was pulled away 
and she looked at her leg where the bullets had plowed through only to 
find smooth, unblemished flesh. 

Her legs gave out from under her and she ended up sitting on the 
freezing floor. The cold seeped through her and chilled her to the bone 
as recent events flashed through her mind. Jarod, the bar, the 
hospital, the assassin, the pain. She remembered opening her eyes only 
to see through a haze of red from the blood streaming down her face. 
The last thing she remembered was the feel of a knife slicing through 
her side and the sensation of flesh parting on the blade. 

Her mind spun around in circles; she should be dead. No one could 
survive something like that and even if they did, they would not be 
sitting in the morgue without a scratch on them. Her heart pounded in 
her chest and she could hear the rush of blood through her ears, 
eclipsing all sound. The pieces spun together and she realized that 
even though she didn't understand what on earth was happening to her 
now, she knew she had been dead.

***

She wasn't in the bar. As Mulder, Jarod and a limping Scully entered by 
the unlocked front door, Jarod felt a spike of worry. The place was 
looked pretty rough, but no more so than was to be expected so everyone 
breathed a sigh of relief. An hour later, they weren't so easy. There'd 
been no sign of her. Duncan, Richie and Joe weren't answering their 
phones and the brief flurry of worry they'd all felt earlier was again 
making itself known.

By the time Richie showed up, Mulder was ready to go looking for her. 
Once the young Immortal relayed what had happened to him, Mulder was 
already out the door before Jarod caught up with him. Scully stayed 
behind with Richie, waiting for whoever was left to show up. If any one 
was left to show up.

Mulder got behind the wheel of his rental and a few minutes later, 
parked in front of Joe's building. He slammed his fist into door in 
frustration as he couldn't just waltz in because of the security door. 
His hands searched for his ID while he scanned the list of names for 
the manager. Before he reached out to punch in the buzzer number, Jarod 
pulled the door open and stuck the lock pick back in its case.

They both paused in the doorway, looking at the body of a man they 
hardly knew, yet mourned just the same. Another coincidence among far 
too many. Stepping into the room, Jarod looked around, letting the feel 
of the room seep into him. Mulder checked Joe's body, pausing a moment 
over the closed eyes. Samantha had been there.

The two men looked at each other, both of them coming to the same 
conclusions. There was someone killing the survivors from the fight 
last night. Joe's death was not as natural as it would appear, so now 
Sam was after his killer.

By the time the two of them made it back to the bar, Duncan had 
arrived. Richie took Joe's death very hard and Duncan seemed to fold in 
on himself with the news. Deciding the bar wasn't the best place to 
spend the night and that it would be a good idea for everyone to stick 
together, a very somber group of people left the building. As an after 
thought, Jarod locked the door as they left. 

Chapter 7

The glass shattered as Miss Parker punched her fist through the window. 
The green medical scrubs didnít exactly go with the desperate look on 
her face, but it was the best she could get her hands on at the time. 
She blessed the Center idiot who had chosen a hotel hosting a 
convention. Because it was so busy, sheíd ended up with a ground floor 
room which meant a ground floor window. In a minute she was through the 
window and rummaging through her room. 

She wouldnít have much time so she quickly grabbed a bag and started to 
throw clothes in. She quickly pulled off the green scrubs and changed 
into a pair of sturdy dress pants and a light sweater. Boots were soon 
on her feet and her back up gun was tucked into her waistband. An extra 
clip, with a box of bullets, was thrown on top of the cloths in her 
bag.

She paused when she came to her attachť case. She didnít know what was 
happening to her but she clearly understood what happened when she 
died. A Center Assassin had killed her and Daddy would know if an 
Assassin had been hired to kill her. He did nothing to stop it, perhaps 
even ordered the hit himself so everything changed and all deals were 
off. She was sick of everything sheíd learned about the Center and was 
ready to leave, but sheíd felt like she had to finish the one job. Once 
Jarod was captured and brought in, she could have left the Center and 
all it stood for behind. Now that didnít matter.

Her thoughts shattered as the sound of feet pounding down the hallway 
reached her ears. Ripping open her case, she left her files but grabbed 
the wallet sheíd tucked in there when sheíd gone to the bar to get 
Jarod. It seemed like a lifetime ago. By that time the footsteps were 
right outside the door. Climbing back out the window she was off and 
running down the street with her bag slung over her shoulder, not 
looking back.

***

The tap on my shoulder was the first indication I had that someone was 
there. Swinging around, my fist connected with something with a dull 
thwack before it was enveloped in an iron grip. By that time, I caught 
a glimpse of who was behind me. 

"You should have heard me coming." It was Father. His eyes, dark and 
unreadable, pierced through me.

"I was looking for someone else." I was too tired to say much more.

"No excuse." His face looked more worried than mad.

I looked at him, too numb to really care about why he was there so I 
turned back to the scene of daily life playing out below me. I wasnít 
in the mood to talk. 

"Youíd have a better chance of stopping her if you were inside with 
them." There was the soft brush as he came to sit down beside me. "When 
was the last time you slept?"

"Why do you care?" My voice was flat, emotionless, but like many things 
in the past few days, such as eating and sleeping, it wasn't important 
enough to worry about.

"Oh, I donít know. A passing fancy I guess. Here." Something crinkled 
and I glanced over at the granola bar he offered, raising an eyebrow in 
question. "I figure you havenít eaten either." I took a bite of the 
offering and watched the cars passing by on the street. 

"I also brought you a present." He seemed determine to get a 
conversation out of me, so I obliged.

"Oh?"

"Youíre a tad like talking to a stone right now." There was just the 
tiniest hint of exasperation in his voice, but other than that he 
seemed as calm as he had before. I didnít say anything.

"You gave this to me a year ago, for safe keeping." He dropped a black 
backpack on my lap, then took out a pair of binoculars and examined the 
hotel across the street, zeroing in on the room that held my brother 
and his companions. With nerveless fingers I opened the bag.

The first thing I pulled out was a pair of soft leather boots; ankle 
high, soft soled and died a mottled black. There was a set of matching 
daggers in wrist sheaths, a nine millimeter Glock in a well-worn 
shoulder holster, a bandoleer filled with small throwing knives, a 
black case with vials of assorted poisons, painkillers, antidotes and 
sedatives, high-tension wire, tazer, a laptop complete with case and 
some other assorted gear. It was my kit. Everything a good little 
assassin needed to be successful and at that moment, I wanted very much 
to be successful. 

"Why are you doing this?" Much as I appreciated the gift, I didn't 
understand why he was still there. I almost desperately wanted to be 
alone.

"I thought you could use an extra hand." Again he had that calm voice 
that cut through the cold I was wrapped in, that kept me from feeling 
anything beyond the need to stop the Assassin.

"Iím fine!" I snapped at him, hoping he'd take the hint and leave me to 
my vigil.

"No. Youíre not." His hand reached out to my arm but I shrugged it away 
and spun to face him. 

"Who are you to care!" 

He looked me over from head to toe, his hard eyes boring into mine. "I 
know you better than you could ever know yourself. Right now, youíre 
doing this to punish yourself for not being there for Joe. The guilt is 
a cold ball in the pit of your stomach and all you want to do is kill 
what you think is the source of that pain."

"She killed Joe," I reasoned, failing to keep the rage out of my voice.

"So youíre going to kill her."

"Yes." I looked away, trying to bring back the icy coldness that had 
been replaced by hurt and anger and a load of other emotions I didn't 
know how to deal with. 

"And what about the people who sent her."

"Iíll take care of them later."

"What if they don't wait for later? Theyíve already sent in a team of o
operatives as well as an Assassin. What sort of resources do they have 
deployed? Who do they have tracking the people theyíre after? What sort 
of equipment do they have access to? Are they local, national, 
international? Donít you know?" In all this, his voice never rose above 
his normal tone. He just fired the questions at me, each one rebounding 
through me and further crumbling the numbness that I had so welcomed 
earlier. "Youíre not thinking Ann."

"My name is not Ann." I growled at him, the rage that had been building 
in me focusing on the man who stood before me.

"Then who are you?" He didnít notice, or didnít care.

"I donít know!" 

"Youíre the only one who does." His words cut through the rage, leaving 
me with only desperation.

"What do you want from me!"

"I want you to pull your head out of your ass and start paying 
attention!" That was the first time he raised his voice. I spun away 
from him, unable to look at his face anymore. My mind went numb and I 
couldnít think. I was waiting for something to happen so I could at 
least act, wanting the Assassin to show up so I could do what I needed. 
All I wanted was to feel her blood on my hands, the stilling beat of 
her heart and the chill of her flesh as death settled into her bones. 
Again, I felt a hand on my shoulder, gently resting, as if afraid to 
startle me.

"Samantha." The voice I remember reaching out to me in my dreams, soft 
and gentle, so much different from the sharp biting tones that he 
usually used, turned me around. My eyes traced the random play of 
sunlight across the roof floor. "You shouldnít do this alone. Let me 
help." 

***

Two days. Samantha had been missing for two days. Mulder paced the 
confines of his room, shooting a glance through the doorway to the 
young figure sitting in a chair. Richie had taken things hard. His eyes 
where still red rimmed, but the hard gleam in them spoke clearly of the 
anger there. There was an answering gleam in MacLeodís face, but there 
was more acceptance there. The two of them had spent many hours 
talking, the soft whispers filtering through the walls of the suite 
during the night as the two immortals dealt with the death of their 
friend.

Giving up on pacing, Mulder sat on his bed and flicked on the TV. There 
wasnít much time left before he and Scully would have to head back. 
Their plane was booked for two days from now, giving Scully a bit more 
time to heal before the long flight. When heíd asked A.D. Skinner for 
even more time, but couldnít give a reason, they were recalled. The 
case was considered too cold to justify the expense. 

When heíd mentioned the deaths of Miss Parker and Joe, Skinner admitted 
it was suspicious but Joeís death was ruled natural causes and Miss 
Parkerís brutal murder, while unconfirmed, was thought to be committed 
by a mental patient who was being treated at the hospital for self 
inflicted wounds more serious then his institution could handle. Heíd 
escaped his room and hadnít been seen since. It would be thoroughly 
investigated, yes, but by the hospital, who was only interested in 
covering their butt against a wrongful death suit. 

Mulder almost told Skinner about Sam and what had happened to her, but 
paranoia won and heíd grimly hung up. After all this time, he still 
wasnít sure where Skinner fit into the scheme of things, sometimes 
helping, sometimes hindering the two agentsí search for the truth. That 
was enough for Mulder not to trust him with the precious information 
about his sister. Giving up on TV, Mulder got up and went back to 
pacing.

Sitting in the living area of the suite, ignored by Richie who sat near 
the window and watched the street below, Jarod stared at his laptop. He 
closed the program after reading the same screen for the last ten 
minutes and still having no clue as to what heíd read. The automatic 
motions of shutting down his computer started without much conscious 
effort on his part. Gently lowering the screen he slid it back into its 
case then spent the next five minutes waiting for his mind to catch up. 

He knew, in some part of his mind, he was simply going through the 
grieving process, simply following the steps everyone goes through when 
a person they care about leaves a void behind them. But he never 
expected the crushing sorrow, mixed with guilt and anger that 
threatened to overwhelm him. If he hadnít been at the bar, Miss Parker 
wouldnít have followed him and she would still have been alive. In his 
chest was this cold center of grief that the last two days had done 
nothing to dissipate. In fact, it had simply gotten worse. Jane was 
missing and Joe was dead. 

When he actually managed to get his mind working, he had a good idea 
what Jane was up to. Sheíd be stalking the Assassin as an expression of 
her grief over Joe. Finding Joe dead had been a blow to everyone and 
when Jane had disappeared, fear and anger had been the most noticeable 
emotions. Two days of waiting had reduced the rage and the fear had 
lost its edge in the boredom of waiting. Now, everyone was just numb. 

Scully came out of her room, limping slowly to the coffee maker and 
pouring herself a cup before quietly returning to the comfort of her 
room, where sheíd been writing up some reports. She wondered at the 
point of trying, because they sure were a nice piece of fiction. What 
sheíd been able to write. 

While she didnít have the emotional involvement everyone else with her 
seemed to have, she easily picked up on Mulder anxiety. Not to mention 
the fact that Mulderís quest to find his sister had at some point in 
the last years, become her own. To find her and lose her so quickly. . . 

She wasnít sure what she was feeling, but carefree and happy she 
wasnít. There was worry over Samantha, a feeling of guilt over the 
death of Jarod's friend, Miss Parker, and a sense of loss over Joe. In 
the short time she knew him, she found him to be a good man who kept in 
trust the secrets given to him, but also willing to do the right thing. 
She wished sheíd had the opportunity to get to know him better. Sitting 
back down at her lap top she tried to form enough of a sentence to pass 
muster in the report.

***

Miss Parker walked down the street, feeling more confident then she had 
in a while. She was free. For the first time that she can remember she 
was free. Free of the Center, free of Daddy, free of Jarod, free of 
everyone and everything else. She didnít think too deeply into her 
resurrection. It sparked a feeling of fear that, though currently 
stilled, was ready to flare up in the pit of her stomach and make her 
hands shake. Pausing for a second, she glanced at a window display 
before moving on. 

Heading down an alley, she stepped into a dim hallway and up a set of 
decaying stairs. It wasnít the Ritz, but it was a roof over her head, 
which was more than sheíd had the first night. Sheíd already emptied 
out her accounts via ATM, maxed out her credit cards on cash withdraws 
and then dumped the lot, along with her ID. She didnít want anything 
that might lead the Center into believing that she was alive.

She jammed the key into the lock and opened the door to her room. She 
had found this place through blind luck and was paid up for the month. 
She now had time to figure things out and hopefully, she could create a 
new life. Taking a deep breath she looked at the pristine room around 
her. Like the stairway leading to it, her little bachelorís apartment 
was old, but the paint was relatively new and the bits furniture that 
were included had an aged elegance that appealed to her. 

Pain suddenly lanced through her head. A sharp pounding that grated up 
her neck through the base of her skull and exploding in her temples. 
She made her way to the window and opened it up looking at the street 
below, hoping the fresh air would help. There was a man there, standing 
on the street and staring up at her. The moment her eyes laid upon him 
the pain in her head disappeared, replaced by a shiver that ran up her 
spine. 

He stepped into the light of a street lamp and gestured to the back 
alley. Unsure why, she went down to meet him. Just before she stepped 
into the alley she pulled out her gun, letting her hand fall naturally 
just behind her. The alley was dim, but there was enough light 
filtering in to see the man. He was fairly tall, bright blond hair 
contrasting with his tanned face. The heavy oilskin slicker must have 
been stifling, but he apparently didnít mind.

"Didnít think Iíd get a bitch this time, but I must say, youíre a 
looker at least. Last girl I fought was a bloody cow." He spoke with an 
Australian accent and, while he was fairly good looking, Miss Parker 
really didnít feel like trying to guess at his motive.

"Nice compliment. Now get down to business." She waited for him at her 
end of the alley.

"What no introductions? Iím Jack Marlin." He paused waiting for her to 
answer. "I really would like to know who Iím about to kill."

"Well, I donít like to play by the rules." 

"Well then, as you said letís get down to business." At that, he pulled 
out a sword. This guy was obviously a few bricks short of a full load. 
Or maybe he was just dealing with some major feelings of inadequacy.

"Youíve got to be kidding." She just looked at him, not sure if she 
should shoot him or call the funny farm.

"You act like youíve never seen a sword before?" He almost sounded 
hurt, though the smile on his face didnít waver in the least.

"I prefer more modern weapons." She raised her hand, the gun pointing 
unerringly at his face.

"Come now, thatís cheating," he said. She expected a bit more reaction, 
but this guy took it in stride. She was definitely going to call the 
loony bin. They faced each other off for a few minutes before he rushed 
her. He was fast. Very fast. He was already half way down the alley 
before she fired her first shot. 

It hit him in the chest, causing him to jerk but it didnít slow him 
down and he came on anyway. Two more shots and he was on her. He hit 
her chin with the hilt of his sword, her head snapping back and lights 
exploding in her head. She then gasped as the blade slid into her gut. 
With the strength she had left she slammed the grip of her pistol into 
his temple. He staggered back and she put a bullet through his brain. 
The back of his head sprayed out against the wall to drip down in 
glistening streaks. 

Now on her knees, she was gasping for breath. She passed out just as 
her head started pounding again and the last thing she heard was the 
hollow ring of footsteps.

***

Mary stretched languidly, only wincing slightly at the cut in her side. 
It wasnít very deep and after two days of rest, she was ready to go 
after the last of her targets. Three left, then bring in the stray, 
Ann. That would actually be a true challenge, they where almost evenly 
matched. And they only said they wanted her back alive and relatively 
coherent. That left a lot of territory uncovered. She allowed herself a 
brief shiver of anticipation. Oh well. Time to get moving. 

Tonight was the Fedsí turn. Two bullets in the back of the head, a-la 
gangland murders. According to her information, there were enough 
people who wanted those two dead she could easily retire from the money 
already hanging over their heads. Not that her maters would ever allow 
it. They were probably already collecting it themselves.

Getting up, she dressed in the dark outfit she used for night work. The 
throwing knives were strapped to her back and matching guns slide into 
shoulder holsters. Various other surprises where stashed elsewhere and 
the bulkier equipment was hidden in a backpack. She was ready to go.

***

Again there was the horror of the first breath. But as the air entered 
her lungs, she grew stronger and more aware of the world around her. 
She was still in the alley and was now staring into the face of a 
complete stranger. It wasnít a bad face, but sheíd had enough of 
complete strangers. Her fist met his nose and within a second she was 
up and running. He caught up with her before she was halfway down the 
alley. He grabbed her arm, wrenching it around so her feet flew out 
from under her and she landed on her hip, pulling her assailant down 
with her. Unfortunately he landed on top and completely knocked the 
wind out of her.

"You donít play fair, do you?" It was a cultured British voice, just on 
the civil side of cynical.

"What do you want?" Miss Parker just wasnít in the mood for civilities.

"Well, I was just doing my civic duty and pulling a sword out of your 
gut. And they say Chivalry is dead." The sarcasm dripped out of his 
mouth. He tried to move and only dug an elbow into her side. She 
started to lose her temper, frustration was raising its ugly head and 
confusion was running rampant.

"Just get off of me!" She levered a hand under his chest and managed to 
push him off. By that time sheíd gathered he wasnít an immediate 
threat, so she didnít follow through on some of the thoughts running 
around her head. In the mean time, heíd started muttering under his 
breath in what sounded like Latin of all things while he got up and 
started to brush himself off. He held out a hand which she ignored.

"Iím more than capable of getting up, thank-you." Her tone of voice was 
a close match for his. "Shouldnít we be getting out of here?" 

"Why?" They were almost the same height, though she was just a shade 
taller in her heals. She didnít let it go to her head, much.

"Well, the dead body over there for a start." She jabbed a finger down 
the alley, then impatiently wiped it off on her when she caught sight 
of the blood staining her hand.

"Oh, you mean Jack. He left as soon as I showed up." The man noticed 
something stuck to his pants and was twisting around to pick it off. 
She gave him a strange look.

"But I blew his brains out. Literally." She turned around and looked 
down the alley to where the body was supposed to be. There was still a 
wet mess dripping down the wall, but the body was gone.

"Well, that does take time to recover from, but heís a fast healer." 
Having pulled the piece of paper stuck to the back of his leg he now 
was trying to shake it off of his hand, not noticing the growing 
mystification on Miss Parkerís face.

"You donít just recover from a bullet in the brain." She pushed her 
hand through her hair, wondering if she just stepped into the twilight 
zone or something. Having shaken off the piece of garbage the man 
looked up at her, his face freezing as he took in the scene Miss Parker 
presented.

"Oh no." He backed away from her and started to shake his head. "No. 
Iím not doing this, let Duncan be the noble teacher." 

"What are you going on about?" The confusion had just doubled.

"You have no idea what you are, do you?" His eyes pierced through her, 
staring into the depths of her soul.

"Well, humanís a start," she snapped off, a wry smile dying on her lips 
when the man standing in front of her answered. 

"Not exactly."

"What do you mean, not exactly?" 

"Let me guess, you just had some kind of traumatic experience and woke 
up in the morgue. You got a vile headache and then you met Crocodile 
Dundee." The guy took a step back and this time, he was the one who ran 
a hand through his hair

"Howíd you know that?" Her voice took on a low tone and she let a 
sinister note creep in. He ignored it and started muttering to himself 
again, this time in what she thought was German, but it was much more 
guttural. He turned to her and switched back to English, though he 
wasnít exactly talking to her.

"I suppose I can take you to Duncan, heís more set up for this. Or 
maybe Amanda. She might be more youíre style." He gave her a complete 
once-over with a raking glance that probably didnít leave much to his 
imagination.

"I donít know who you are or what youíre talking about, or why corpses 
are walking but Iíd really at least like to know who in hell Iím at 
least talking to!!!!!!" Now the only note that colored her voice was 
borderline hysteria. He paused for a moment, as if looking for an 
appropriate answer.

"Adam Pierson. For now."

"For now." She seemed to have calmed down with the normal answer. 

"And you are. . . " He let the sentence dangle, waiting for her answer.

"Miss Parker."

"Thatís it?" Adam thought that perhaps she had relaxed to much.

"For now." She shot his previous words at back at him with a smirk. He 
smirked back. "So if youíre not exactly human, what are you?"

"Iím really going to have to do this myself, arenít I?" He took a deep 
breath before continuing. "Letís see. Iím Immortal, youíre Immortal. 
Our friend Jack, also Immortal, was trying to cut off your head so he 
could take youíre Quickening, which is a bit like Chi, or life force. 
We all play the Game where we go about taking heads to see whoís left 
at the time of the Gathering, because there can be only one. Holy 
ground is the only place where youíre not allowed to fight, but other 
than that, its pretty much survival of the fittest. Or the slyest. I 
really donít think youíll have trouble with that." He finally paused 
and looked at his not so captive audience. 

"Right." She looked at him, then dismissed his tale with a laugh. "Now 
tell me a western."

"What?" He looked at her in disbelief.

"Game? Quickening? Youíve got to be kidding."

"Do I look like Iím kidding?" He almost spat out the last word.

"No, Iím thinking more along the lines of certifiable." 

"You donít get it. You canít die! Not unless some one takes a sword and 
removes your head from your neck." Before she could reply, a hand was 
pointing her gun in her face. It lowered and she saw a spear of flame 
from the nozzle. 

Chapter 8

My eyes narrowed as a shadow caught my eye. There wasnít anything 
particularly outstanding about the shadow, it just seemed a bit too 
dark and hiding more than it should be. From my spot at a second floor 
window, I could look across the street and see straight down the alley 
beside Foxís hotel to where the shadow fell. Getting up, I hit the fast 
dial on the cell phone Father gave me and relayed my news. Then I was 
out the door, a light black vest proof against the late night chill. 

As I stepped out a side door and into the night, I searched for the 
shadow across the street but it was just an empty shadow. Light steps 
carried me across and I stepped into the alley. Adrenaline surged 
through me, clarifying my senses. Walking among the dark shadows, I 
waited for my prey. Father and I had spent a fair bit of time talking 
about this, planing this. I knew who I was after; her weaknesses, her 
strengths. I knew what I had to do.

A slight scratch of sound led me to a doorway and then I was in the 
hotel. It was an emergency exit at the end of a hall, supposedly locked 
from the outside, but that never stopped one of us. A glimpse of dark 
gray slid down the hallway in front of me before it whipped around, the 
short black ponytail slapping her neck. 

"Took you long enough, Mary. But then you were always slow to pick up 
on a tail." I stood there, looking more confident than I felt. She knew 
me better than I knew her and I couldnít let her know that my knowledge 
of her was second hand.

"Well, hello there, Ann. Itís been along time. You really ought to keep 
your nose out of my business." She relaxed only marginally once she had 
made out my features, straightening up and coming towards me.

"This is my business. Youíre here because of me." The narrow hall 
wasnít the best place for a fight, but Iíd no doubt been in worse 
situations. I hope.

"Well, yes, but this part is just cleaning up loose ends. I was saving 
you for later. Itís been a while since I went up against one of us. 
Although youíre Duncan was very well trained. He was actually a bit of 
a challenge." It took me a moment to realize she didnít know he was 
alive and I was half tempted to let her find out the hard way. She 
never had the patience for proper surveillance. But the cold pit of 
fury in my gut was starting to unwind tendrils throughout me and I 
wasnít going to share this fight with anyone. So I laughed in her face.

"You really have no idea what youíre up against do you." I was out for 
blood.

"I know enough," she snapped. By now she was only a few feet in front 
of me, but not close enough to attack without broadcasting it like a 
public satellite.

"Always the one to rush in, never looking over your shoulder, or at 
whatís sitting under your nose." 

"Well, teacherís pet was the one who couldnít handle the pressure." Her 
voice lilted, teased.

"I simply donít enjoy otherís pain." I let a defensive note creep in my 
voice, hoping sheíd fall for the trap.

"But I do. That always bothered you didnít it." She took a step 
forward, triumph shining on her face over my discomfort. My hand 
snapped out in reply and hit her chin, open palmed. I was aiming for 
her nose, but she was already pulling her head back by the time my hand 
hit her face. The defensive posture I had adopted earlier was gone, 
replaced with lethal intention.

Mary fell back, twisting around so the movement covered the small hand 
gun she pulled out. The barrel was over-sized with the addition of a 
silencer. The flare of a shot lit up the hallway as I ducked back, 
flipping off two throwing knives that thudded into the wall near her 
head. I didnít really register the second spat as a bullet burrowed 
into the door behind me. 

Sheíd backed up and ran into a hall. I rushed after her but by the time 
I got around the corner, she was already out of sight. 

***

It took a few seconds for her fury to die down. How dare she! This was 
her job and she dared to interfere. Annís turn was soon enough, but she 
couldnít wait. Ducking through a door a soon as she was around the 
corner, Mary raced through the room and out the other side. In her mind 
she followed the route she had planned; take her targets out first and 
then deal with Ann. It was simpler that way. 

Her concentration became total as she swept other thoughts aside and 
focused on the job. That was what made her one of the best Assassins 
the Center ever produced. Once she started, nothing stopped her and she 
had never lost a target. 

Down the hallway, turn left, through the door and up the stairs, three 
floors and then suite 309. Two dead, Three if the pretender got in the 
way, but it wasnít much of a priority. Then she could take Ann down at 
her leisure. 

Turning the corner, a fist shot out and buried itself into her nose. 
The lights in her head quickly dissipated and Mary focused on Ann. 
Somehow the girl had gotten ahead of her, but that didnít matter. Since 
Ann was in such a hurry, sheíd take care of her now. There was a fight 
to fought.

***

The afternoon spent studying the blue prints was quite well spent. I 
still had to run full tilt, but I got a break with the elevator so I 
caught up with her at the top of the stairs just as she turned the 
corner. No word play this time, just my fist in her face. 

As she fell, I saw a flash of metal as she pulled out a knife. We were 
in one of the main hallways making silence a desirable option. She came 
at me, using the floor to push off of as she barreled into me. I 
blocked the swipe of her knife, but a fist snuck through my guard 
taking my breath with it. An elbow in her face gave me a moment to get 
my own blade out. 

The clang as metal met metal seemed loud in the silence of the night, 
but no heads popped out of door ways. She was still on her feet and our 
knives met in almost identical moves. I took a deep breath and let 
instincts and training take over. Her black eyes became my focus and I 
slid another blade out, using my knives to block the sting of her blade 
and to slide through her defenses in response.

A slice here and a slice there. The tip of my dagger slashed at her 
face leaving a trail of crimson behind. Hers reached out leaving a 
trail of fire across my arm, but the sharp bite soon became lost in the 
cold that enveloped me. This fight, this confrontation was be all and 
end all of my existence. Making her pay for what sheíd done was my 
reason to be there.

A whisper of sound came from behind me, the click of a door and I 
started to turn, just catching the underhand flash of a knife arching 
up to my stomach. I wouldnít be able to block it so I put it where I 
wanted it. My left hand flashed forward just in time for the six inch 
blade to plant itself between the bones of my arm. The sound of my 
knife dropping to the carpet seemed to echo in my head. 

Twisting my wrist wrenched the knife out of her hand and brought a gasp 
of agony from my lips, but my eyes narrowed and a round house kick sent 
her flying into the wall behind her. She then fled down the stairs. I 
took a short cut and jumped over the railing to land in front of her, 
not feeling the sharp pain in my knee as I landed. Blood dripped down 
my arm as I crouched in front of her, a pool just beginning to form 
under me as we tried to stare each other down.

We both let knives fly at the same time, she dashed around the curve of 
the stairs and I rolled backwards down the stairs. Only one of the two 
I released ended up in the wall. But then I realized my mistake and 
scrambled up to the landing as fast as I could, stumbling once as my 
foot missed a step. 

I peeked around the corner, expecting an answering spat of a bullet, 
but there was none. I scrambled up the rest of the way, only to fall 
for the same trick I played on her. I barely had a chance to register 
the foot flying at my face before it hit. 

Lights exploded and my head snapped back, throbbed with the force of 
impact. I slashed out with my knife from the floor and sliced across 
her ankle. She gasped, then hopped back, trying not to fall over. It 
was a fairly deep cut and was bleeding like a stuck pig. That gave me a 
moment to get a my foot under me.

I lunged at her, pushing her back into the hallway and away from the 
stairs. I was getting sick of those stairs. Tackling her also had the 
advantage of slamming her into the wall with a satisfying crunch. 
Before I had a chance to let her drop, she grabbed the hilt of the 
knife still stuck in my arm and twisted. 

She didnít get a chance to wrench it all the way out, because the fire 
alarm blared through the silence. So much for peace and quiet. Heads 
immediately popped out of doors looking in our direction and shocked 
exclamations rolled out of mouths. The smarter ones ducked immediately 
back inside. Those that didnít got an eyeful. Maryís foot flew at my 
knee, then she pushed off from the wall and dove over me as my knee 
collapsed, rolling when she hit the floor. By the time I turned around, 
she was over the railing and half way down the stairs, leaving a trail 
of blood. I scrambled after her.

Or at least, I attempted to.

***

Mary paused at the very bottom of the stairs in an empty doorway, her 
breath coming in great gasps as she tried to ignore the pain in her 
ankle. She cursed Ann as she grabbed a bandage and wrapped it around 
the wound. A few times around and then a tensor was tightly wrapped 
over it, slowing down the bleeding. She could walk on it.

People streamed down the hallway, ignoring her in their panic to 
escape. She stayed against the wall, working her way against the crowd 
and deeper into the hotel. Ann would be coming after her to finish this 
and she wanted to be ready. 

She stepped through a door and away from the crowd, slipping a new clip 
into her automatic. Following the hall, she made her way to the main 
entrance. She wanted to move this to a new hunting ground, someplace 
familiar to her but not to Ann. She had to hurry though, if she wanted 
to get out of the building before Ann caught up with her.

***

When my foot hit the ground, my knee gave way. The throbbing Iíd been 
ignoring had intensified to a sharp, intense pain. That was not a good 
sign. I pulled myself up and was a bit more careful on the stairs. Iíd 
pay for this later but that was later and if I wanted to catch Mary 
before she had a chance to leave I had to hurry. 

Down a floor, the hotel was beginning to empty of its patrons who now 
surged around me and clogged the stairs in their panic to escape. They 
didnít seem to notice anything wrong with me, but just nudged me around 
and I used the extra bodies to take the weight off my leg. The crowd 
was more of a hindrance then a help, though, and I just about killed 
the person who caught the blade stuck in my much abused arm. 

Since ripping it out was a bad idea involving serious blood loss, it 
wasnít the smartest thing to do at that particular moment, but I was 
about ready to do so anyway. At the bottom of the stairs I paused. 
Thereíd be too many people outside for Maryís taste. And she wouldnít 
want a crowd with me on her tail.

I knew what the alarm meant. Father had shown up and he would watch 
Fox, Jarod and the others. He would keep them safe so I could take care 
of Mary. She would be trying to head for ground more comfortable for 
her and not so familiar to me. 

Looking at the ground there was a fairly obvious blood trail. Didnít 
mean that was the way she actually went, but it was a place to start. 
Following the trail deeper into the hotel, I took the chance to do 
something about my arm. 

I could still use my hand, though not well, and the knife sticking out 
was an easy a target. Wrapping an elasticized bandage around it cut the 
blood flow down to a slow trickle, but I had already left a hefty blood 
trail myself. A first aid kit is another one of those things every good 
Assassin had on hand. 

My knee was down to a dull throbbing mess, but it was currently obeying 
orders so I let sleeping dogs lay and the shallow gash on my right arm 
was pretty much forgotten now that itíd stopped bleeding. That, 
combined with everything else, I could ignore and so it would wait. 
Other than that I was in perfect health. 

Reaching the end of the hall I paused, listening to the faint noises in 
the back ground. There was the dying murmur of people evacuating the 
building and the faint groan of the elevators, but not much else could 
be heard over the intermittent wail of the alarm. 

Then it abruptly cut out, making it much easier to listen. I strained 
my ears, hoping for any trace of noise through the sudden silence. I 
wanted her and I wanted her badly. Turning right, I followed a faint, 
uneven tread. I wasnít the only one limping now. 

I smiled at the thought, enjoying the hunt. The footsteps werenít that 
far ahead, but she wasnít too close either. I finally pulled out my 
gun. There was no need to care about silence anymore.

Following the noise, which incidentally did follow the diminishing 
blood trail, it led me through the hotel to the other side, towards the 
main entrance. There was a hall that led to the parking lot that came 
off the lobby, so I figured thatís where she was heading. The main 
entrance would be too busy for her to sneak out.

I glimpsed her through the glass walls of the restaurant where food was 
left unattended on the tables, so I broke into a run. I caught up to 
her in the lobby and getting a clear view, I let the shots ring out. 
The slugs dug into the ground by her feet, causing her to jump back and 
lose her balance, precarious as it was. I didnít want her dead. Yet. By 
the time she was back on her feet, I was in her face.

I backhanded her, the gun in my hand gave it just that extra force. 
Next was a side kick into her gut, smashing into the ribs Iíd bruised, 
if not broken, earlier. My left palm found her face, causing my arm to 
start bleeding again with a vengeance. 

She came back by grabbing me and using my momentum to flip me as she 
fell back, going with the flow of my punch. I tucked up and rolled, 
keeping a grip on my Glock. She was immediately back up and advancing. 
I twisted as soon as I could and fired two shots at her legs. My aim 
was a little off though and only one shot hit.

The leg collapsed underneath her and she screamed in protest. I got up 
and limped over to kick the gun sheíd managed to pull so it flew out of 
her hands and across the room. I smiled as she struggled to sit up.

"Why? Why are you doing this? Why not kill me? Youíve had the chance." 
She breathed heavily, holding an arm across her stomach, bracing her 
definitely broken ribs. 

"I want you to feel what Joe felt. Helpless." I leveled the gun at her 
head, finally letting the rage completely engulf me. A deathís head 
grin spread across my face. "How do you like the feeling?"

"This is my job. Why canít you accept that?" She was getting desperate, 
sweat started to sprout on her, till now, dry face.

"You like your work to much." I kicked her in the face, watching blood 
pour down from her nose. Then she grinned, her face reflecting mine.

"I love it." The hand around her stomach flashed out and three knives 
followed the line of her arm to me. One I managed to dodge by twisting 
forward, but the other two struck; one buried itself into my shoulder 
and the other glanced of the back of my ribs. It only made me madder. I 
put another bullet in her leg and was rewarded by the grimace that 
replaced her smirk. 

I walked up to her and shoved the gun in her face. My finger tightened 
on the trigger and I looked into her face, watching the sudden horror 
pass across her face as she stared her death in the face. I reveled in 
that look, how it scrunched up her features and how her eyes glossed 
over with panic.

But then I stopped. The rage, the anger, all the hurt just drained out 
of me at once. We were so much alike, I could see her blood thirst in 
me, see my rage in her. Iíd had enough. Iíd had my revenge, Iíd beaten 
her and it was enough. I turned and started to limp away.

"NO! You canít walk away from this!" she yelled. I heard her scramble 
behind me and turned around. She was crawling over to where Iíd kicked 
her gun. A thousand thoughts spun through my mind. Joe, my brother, 
Jarod, all the people sheíd killed, all the people Iíd killed, the 
Center and the people behind Mary.

"Mary," I watched as she froze and turned to look at me. "Consider 
yourself retired." I fired off two shots, one into each knee.

Chapter 9

She was really starting to hate this resurrection business. It was 
always so painful. She was beginning to feel like Lazarus. Her eyes 
opened up on a familiar face, with a very. . . patrician nose that she 
thought should be broken, but wasnít. Her mind started to pull itself 
back together and then she got mad. 

Sheíd almost been poisoned, then sliced and diced until she bled to 
death. A few days later she was skewered on a sword and now sheíd been 
shot, in the GUT, by the guy standing over her holding out his hand. A 
few thousand images of his painful death flashed through her mind, but 
she settled on something simple instead. She kicked up and with her 
heavy leather boots, connected with his groin. He fell with a 
satisfying, high-pitched squeal. 

She stood up and brushed herself off. By that time her companion, the 
annoying Adam Pierson, had recovered and was looking at her with utter 
loathing shining like a beacon on his face. 

"That was not necessary." His face took on an even more annoyed look as 
his voice cracked on the first word. Miss Parker just smiled her catís 
grin.

"Maybe not, but it made me feel better." She looked like the cat who 
swallowed the bird.

"And I though the Sabine women could be annoying," he mumbled as he 
brushed off a piece of mangled, green something off his sleeve, giving 
it the same look heíd earlier given her. "Is there somewhere else we 
could discuss this a little less. . . filthy?" 

"You shoot me and then expect me to invite you in? And I thought Mr. 
Raines had twisted ideas about foreplay." She turned around and walked 
out of the alley.

"Duncanís rubbing off on me. I should have left her with the sword in 
her gut." He finally stood up and watched as she walked away.

"Are you coming or are you going to climb in the window, so I can see 
how fast you fall?" As she looked back over her shoulder, he muttered 
to himself again and this time she didnít even want to think about what 
he said. 

Once she was in her apartment with a cup of coffee warming up her 
hands, she again looked over the man who followed her. His story was on 
the fantastical side, but having just died three times, she was willing 
to keep an open mind.

"So this is just a big, testosterone fest?" 

"Itís not that bad." He stirred his own cup of coffee, while thinking 
of a way to explain the importance of everything. "Itís how we live, 
itís how everyone lives. You fight to defend yourself, or you fight to 
gain power. Immortals are just a bit more old fashioned about it."

"Opening doors and ĎPlease and Thank youí is old fashioned. Hacking off 
peoples heads with a sword is anachronistic." She arched an eyebrow as 
she said that.

"Iím talking about the fate of all mankind and sheís arguing semantics. 
I should definitely pass her off to Amanda." He looked straight at her 
with a smirk on his lips that smoothed out to an easy grin as she just 
looked at him.

"Do you always talk to yourself so much?" She found an answering smile 
gracing her lips.

"Only when I really wish I hadnít been hung but beheaded." He watched 
her, gauging her reactions and pleased with the results. Aside from the 
initial denial, she was taking this quite well. 

"How old are you?" Miss Parker switched her cup to her other hand to 
take off the chill that still lingered in her fingers. Adam didnít look 
that old, but it was a crazy day. She could easily believe he was over 
a hundred by this time. He looked her over and with a sly grin spoke.

"Fifty-two hundred is as close as Iíve been able to figure." 

The cup fell from her nerveless fingers, her jaw hung slightly open and 
her eyes positively bugged open. He just laughed. For some reason she 
had no doubt he was speaking the truth. It was too insane to be a lie. 
Her jaw twitched a bit as she tried to get some noise to pass out of 
her mouth. The best she managed was a squeak. 

Adam just started laughing harder at that point. When she finally 
remembered that breathing was a good idea, she had spots in front of 
her eyes and realized that not only was her sweater full of holes and 
covered with blood, she now had coffee splashed all the way down her 
front, dripping on her socked feet. 

"I knew there would be rewards for honesty, but this is more along the 
lines of instant gratification." He reached a hand up and wiped the 
last of the moisture from his eyes, which were still sparkling with 
mischief.

Miss Parker looked down at her ruined clothes, at the ancient man 
sitting at her dilapidated kitchen table, out the window to the street 
below where she first saw Jack, back to Adam then finally resting on 
the smashed cup on the floor. Time to breathe again. She had seen many 
weird, twisted and downright odd things in her life, but this was it. 

"Maybe I should clean this up."

***

By the time I got back to Joeís bar, I was about ready to collapse. 
What I had on me in the way of medical supplies had gotten me that far, 
but now I needed to do some serious fixing. If I could. I couldnít feel 
my shoulder, my knee would barely hold my weight and my left arm . . . 
Well we wonít think about that.

I had enough trouble getting the key in the lock so I could open the 
door and now I struggled through the back, attempting to pull out what 
was left of the First Aid kit. There were some bandages and such that 
hadnít been used and some other things I could improvise from what was 
around. 

Dumping what Iíd gathered on the table next to my gun, I got to work. 
Well, I wanted to get to work. Instead I just sat there, too exhausted 
to move. A few minutes later I got in gear and started to ease my vest 
off. I just cut the sleeve of my shirt off so I could examine the mess 
of my arm. 

It didnít look good; blood was still sluggishly seeping out around the 
knife. The tensor had done an okay job, but this now required more 
coordination than I could manage. If I pulled that knife out, it would 
start bleeding full flow. I couldnít do much about my shoulder either; 
the knife hadnít gone in very deep and Iíd yanked it out a while ago 
but I couldnít really reach it. The scratch down the same arm would 
survive on its own. That left my leg. 

A noise interrupted my mental catalog of what all was wrong with me. 
Within a second, the gun was pointing at the figures in the door way. I 
half expected it to be Joe but was disappointed in the vain hope as the 
sling gave Fox away. The other had to be Jarod. I didnít want company, 
but with the shape I was in, I wasnít in a position to argue.

"Samantha?" Fox ran forward when he saw me while Jarod trailed behind.

"Iím fine, a little sore, but Iíll live." I couldnít even wrangle up a 
pathetic excuse of a smile.

"Let me see." Jarod bent over to look at my arm, his cold manner not 
even penetrating the fog that was rapidly building in my head. 

"Thereís also my shoulder and a slice on the back of my ribs, across 
from the last one." I managed to get that out, but I was starting to 
fade out. Jarod poked at the knife, waking up what I thought had long 
since become numb. So much for the half bottle of pain killers Iíd 
already swallowed. "Thereís a. . . an anesthetic gel in the black case 
if youíre going to. . . go digging around." 

"Bring that over here." Jarod held a hand out to Fox, who got cast in 
the role of nurse. I could almost see the white cap. I guess the pain 
killers were kicking in. Finally. While I started fading in and out of 
reality, Jarod got to work.

After a few minutes the knife came out and sometime after that I 
realized my arm was bandaged up and Jarod was onto something else. 
Shoulder I think. I remembered someone saying something about 
infection, but after that it was all pretty hazy. Eventually I was 
wrapped up in something soft and that was it. I was out of it. I didnít 
even wake up for the argument that rang through the bar soon after.

When I did wake up, I really wished I hadnít. Everything hurt. Arms and 
legs particularly. Shifting onto my side started a bunch of things 
throbbing, but since I could feel it all hurting I wasnít too worried. 
It took more than a few moments for the past few days to filter through 
my brain, but after that, I wanted to get up. 

Swinging my legs over, I grabbed the back of a chair before I even 
tried to stand. Good thing to, because from the bulge of the tensor 
around my knee, I wouldnít be very mobile for sometime to come. Sitting 
in said chair, I pulled out the brace Iíd made what seemed like years 
ago and fitted it on. Just that hurt.

The vivid purple bruising peeping over the top of the wrappings 
promised more underneath and the stark white bandage on my arm hid some 
intense throbbing as I tried to tighten the buckles. I wasnít as adept 
at functioning one handed as Fox. With the tensor on, the brace slipped 
on over top and relatively secure, I was ready to try walking. 

Limping, painfully, to the main room reveled that no one else was 
around. Things looked much the same as it had last night with what was 
left of the supplies Iíd gathered, scattered on the table. The main 
difference was the blood that stained the already scared table top and 
a note.

"Gone for food and other stuff.

"Mulder."

He didnít even call himself Fox. The fact that he let me, gave me a bit 
of a warm, fuzzy feeling. But more important than the note was the 
bottle it was propped up against. Tylenol. He even left me a glass of 
water so I wouldnít have to go get one. Four pills and twenty minutes 
of not moving a muscle later, I was feeling much better. 

Since I wasnít wearing all that much when I woke up, just a tank top 
and underwear, I checked over my various injuries. I wasnít in as bad 
shape as I feared, but it was worse than Iíd hoped.

My shoulder had about five stitches and moving it wasnít pleasant, but 
was otherwise fine. The long scratch on the same arm and the gash on my 
ribs where also fine. Iíd have a fine set of matched scars once they 
heal and with the last bullet gash that was still a scab. So much for 
taking it easy to let my ribs heal. I lucked out though, since I didnít 
actually break any.

I slowly unwrapped the bandaging on the other arm and looked at the 
neat row of stitches. It looked a lot better than it felt. Slowly 
turning my wrist I looked at the other side. It looked about the same 
but was a bit more jagged. 

Moving back to my room, I looked for something that I could put on. I 
found a pair of sweatpants and replaced the tank top with an oversized 
T-shirt. It wasnít exactly an easy thing to do, but I eventually 
managed to get everything on. By the time I got back to the front of 
the bar, I was wiped.

The dried blood was still on the table and I had more than a few smears 
on me as well. But cleaning it up would require moving. It was kinda 
gory though and Joe hated a mess. I pushed the thought down and forced 
myself up. I slowly made my way behind the bar and got a wet cloth. I 
wiped off the table then went into the bathroom to clean myself off as 
best I could, taking the opportunity to have more than a few glasses of 
water while I was at it. A bar towel isnít the best thing to use as a 
face cloth, though, but it worked if I was careful around the various 
cuts, knicks and scrapes, many of which I didnít even remember 
receiving. 

By the time I was cleaned off, I headed back to the table just in time 
to hear the front door opening and see Fox step through the entryway. 
He was carrying a few paper bags that hopefully contained the food. 
Among other things my stomach was making its presence known. 

"What did you get?" If it wasnít edible I was going to make him go back 
out and get something that was.

"Chinese."

"Chinese? This early?"

"Itís not that early. Youíve spent the last 20 hours sleeping." He 
placed the bags on a clean table and started to empty the bags, 
politely ignoring my astonishment. I never sleep that much, injured or 
no. At least I didnít think so. No, I knew so. At the very least I 
should have woken up to go to the bathroom. Confusion reined until 
something clicked.

"What did Jarod give me?" I looked at Fox as I asked this and noticed 
the slight pause as he was putting things out.

"Huh?" He tried to look the picture off innocence and, his line of work 
being what it was, he was pretty good. But not good enough.

"I donít believe the innocent act." I eyed him for a bit more before he 
broke.

"Jarod found a sedative in your bag and gave you a dose before he put 
you to bed. You were already pretty much out of it." He admitted it but 
he still didnít look me in the eye. 

"Do me a favor and don't do that again." I reached for one of the 
containers Fox had laid out then snagged a set of chop sticks. Cradling 
my left arm on my lap, I settled in my chair and set about digging in. 
"Speaking of Jarod, whereíd he take off to."

Fox busied himself in his cashew chicken and didnít answer. 

"Fox, what happened?" I stopped with a mouthful of rice precariously 
balancing on my chopsticks halfway to my mouth.

"Nothing." He still wouldnít look at me as he spoke.

"Ya. Right." I said, but since he didnít want to talk about it now, I 
let it go.

***

The next morning, I felt only marginally more human. The painkillers 
Iíd taken the night before had worn off and I was a stiff as a board. I 
pulled myself out of bed and after actually walking around, worked out 
some of the stiffness. Tylenol took care of the rest. 

Fox had left last night to go back to his hotel and called later to 
give me the details of his flight. He and Scully ended up on an evening 
flight and they were spending the morning wrapping things up and 
packing. Jarod was nowhere to be seen and even though Duncan had called 
briefly last night, I wanted to see how he was doing. In my fury, I 
hadnít really considered how Joeís death was affecting him and Richie. 
They had known him for a lot longer than I had. 

Pushing aside the grief that still was eating away at me, I wrapped my 
knee and secured the brace, running pretty much on automatic. Iíd opted 
for shorts today since I didnít think I could fit my jeans over the 
swollen mess. They looked kinda odd with the long sleeve shirt Iíd 
thrown on to hide the other various bandages, cuts and so forth. 

I had trouble brushing my hair out and ended up leaving it loose, since 
it takes two hands to do anything with it. By then, as I peered into 
the mirror, I looked presentable. I was still a little pale and the 
blue smudges under my eyes were still there, but over all I would pass.

I stepped out and set off, taking my time. Not that I had much choice 
in the matter. As I walked (well, calling my gait a walk was being 
generous in the extreme) I had a chance to think. I didnít like what I 
had done, but it was done and I couldnít undo it. And it had needed to 
be done. 

It hadnít changed anything about how I felt, though. I still felt like 
my soul had been ripped out of me and I raged against the unfairness of 
Joeís death. The only thing that changed was that Mary was out of the 
picture and that gave Fox and Scully a chance to get back to 
Washington, where theyíd be safer. 

I had taken some more painkillers before I left, but even so, my leg 
ached. But I was almost at the Dojo, so I persevered for the rest of 
the way. The pain in my leg helped take my mind off the ache in my 
heart. What a melodramatic picture!

I had a sad smile at the turn my thoughts had taken. I was starting to 
sound like a character in a cheap novel. Picking up the pace a little, 
I traveled the rest of the way in a slightly better mood. As a result, 
when I stepped into the Dojo, I was able to greet Duncan with something 
resembling my usual cheer.

Poking my head into his office, I saw he was sitting down, messing 
around with his new computer. It came in a yesterday and heíd been 
having trouble getting it set up properly. I wasnít sure what to say so 
I fell back on inconsequentials.

"Hi Duncan."

He looked up from the screen, with a sigh of relief. "Hi" then the 
computer bleeped at him and he turned the screen off with disgust.

"I can come back later, You look like youíre busy."

"I can destroy this thing later. Have a seat." Well, I limped over to 
the chair and settled into it, grateful to be off my feet. Duncan eyed 
me as I sat down, worry in his eyes but he waited for me to start. I 
didnít want to start so we sat in the quiet for a while before I broke 
down and spoke.

"How do you do it? How can you be so clam about it?" Real smooth line 
to start off there, girly. As the words left my mouth, Duncanís face 
crumbled. Maybe he wasnít so calm about it. 

"Iím sorry, Itís just that. . . I donít know what to do." I started 
sniffling. "I donít know what to feel, I. . . I feel useless."

"So do I. But you still went after her." He looked at me and while his 
tone accused me, his eyes didnít.

"I needed to do something. And she needed to be stopped." 

"Who are you trying to convince; me or you?" He asked but I didnít 
answer his question, instead I was trying to keep the tears welling up 
in my eyes from spilling over. 

"What do I do now?" I wasnít very successful, but I managed to avoid a 
complete breakdown.

"You go on. You live and you remember. You do what you have to." He 
swallowed and tears were shining in his own eyes. "Then you put it 
behind you. Everybody dies. You have to deal with it."

I was quickly turning into a quivering mass of nerves. I wanted to get 
out of there, so Iíd have a chance to calm down. I blubbered out 
something and headed to the door, not even feeling my knee want to give 
out under me. Duncan just nodded as I left and I knew he understood.

I wasnít really paying any attention to where I was going so I ran into 
Jarod, literally, as I was going out the door. He grabbed my arm, so I 
didnít land on my butt. This saved my dignity, but my shoulder started 
throbbing from being jarred.

"Sorry." I moved over to the side so I was out of his way, but he 
didnít move. Instead he looked me in the face. The full force of his 
anger hit me like a ton of bricks.

"Inside," he growled. When I didnít move fast enough, he tried to pull 
me in with the hand still on my arm. I wrenched it out of his grasp and 
still a little off balance went back inside. The second we were out of 
the public eye, he started in on me.

"Why? Why did you do that?" His voice was low and dark.

"Why what?" I had a good idea, but I wanted to hear him say it. Just 
the look on his face had my ire up and the anger and sorrow Iíd kept 
just bellow the surface all day threatened to break loose.

"Why shoot out her knees?" His eyes bored into mine and my temper 
flared even more. But I took a deep breath and explained. Sort of.

"She was going to kill me and Fox, Scully, even YOU! And you ask me why 
I stopped her? I did what I had to."

"You had to stop her, not cripple her. She has no knees left and even 
with surgery and replacements, it will be a miracle if she ever walks 
again." His words dripped with ice and all the affection Iíd ever seen 
in his face was gone.

"It stopped her, didnít it?" I was mad now and threw back may answer 
with a cocky grin just to further annoy him.

"You did it on purpose." It worked as his eyes narrowed and I think he 
was getting furious.

"I made a decision and followed it through. I wanted her out of 
commission. Permanently."

"You had no right!"

"I had no right! And what about you!" With everything that had 
happened, I felt like my heart had been ripped apart. This was the last 
straw.

"What about me?" He asked that like no one had ever questioned what he 
did.

"Yes, you and youíre little. . . Jarodís Court of Justice. Who made you 
God to judge the world and punish the guilty! Are you so perfect that 
you are never wrong? That you never hurt the wrong person?" My voice 
got louder and I took a step towards him, getting in his face. He 
didnít answer.

"Do you ever stick around to see the aftermath of your little power 
trips or do you get your happy headline and move on. Well, Iím not you. 
I did what I had to do. I probably should have blown her head off, but 
that was wrong. So I stopped her so that she couldnít ever go back to 
her job. She canít go back to the Center or back to whoever she was 
working for. And I stopped her before she could kill you and Fox and 
Scully, because if I hadnít stopped her, you would be dead."

"So you blow her knees off and call it mercy. You didnít have to do 
that to stop her." He hadnít calmed down any.

"Yes. I. Did." I grated the words out one at a time. "Now the Center 
wonít take her back. She knows what happens to people the Center 
doesnít want. Sheíll disappear before they get their hands on her. If 
they donít get it cleaned up quickly, theyíll leave Fox and Dana be, 
because theyíll be back in Washington with their reports made. By then 
it will be pointless to kill them." So far, Duncan was politely 
ignoring the two of us yelling at each other, but I was about ready to 
slug Jarod and I donít think Duncan would ignore that.

"You were cruel." Jarodís voice still held a cold edge but there was a 
bit of something else in his voice.

"So what! Think she was nice to Joe? Do you honestly think she didnít 
have evil in her heart when she did what she did to Miss Parker? Itís a 
cruel world we live in." Iíd had enough and turned to leave. Jarod had 
other ideas and grabbed my arm, clamping down on the stitches heíd put 
in last night. The fact he didnít realize that, only went to show just 
how mad he was. The fact I didnít feel it, only showed the same about 
me. 

"Weíre not done."

"What! Youíre going to make me pay, like you do everyone else you judge 
guilty?" My hand reached out and hit a nerve in his arm, forcing him to 
let my arm go. Blood was staining through the bandage and was starting 
to show through the sleeve. I held it up.

"Iíve already paid." Then I turned and stepped away. Of course, my much 
abused knee wasnít that impressed with the idea and I stumbled. When he 
reached forward to give me a hand, I knocked it out of the way. "Save 
it for someone you deem worthy."

Chapter 10

I made it back to the bar, keeping my eyeís mostly dry and suppressing 
the occasional sob. But as I stepped into the main room, I almost lost 
it as I tried not to let the tears filling my eyes blind me. The fight 
with Jarod didnít help my mental state and the feeling of the empty bar 
didnít help either. 

Taking a deep breath, I tried to calm myself. Bawling like a baby 
wouldnít solve anything. I wandered over to the stage and carefully 
pulled myself up. I looked at the stool that Joe used to sit on when he 
played and then noticed his guitar case. Curiosity got the better of me 
and sitting down, I opened it up. I had expected the instrument to be 
damaged but was happy to see it unscarred. Running a finger over the 
smooth finish, I reverently closed the lid. And then the tears Iíd been 
holding back started to flow. 

They streamed down my face and everything blurred together. I was 
sitting on the floor, arms wrapped around me as my whole body shook and 
the sobs pushed against the lump in my throat. I was lost in a haze of 
grief. But, eventually the vice around my chest eased and the tears 
slowed. 

By then I was curled up in a ball on the stage, my shirt was a mess 
with blood and tears. But for the first time in five days I didnít feel 
numb. I took a deep breath, then another and another, and could feel 
the air rushing in to the bottom of my lungs. I was still angry at what 
happened to Joe, but the cold ball of fury that was sitting in the pit 
of my stomach was a little lighter and with each deep breath, it seemed 
to disappear a little bit more.

Finally I got up and went to put on a clean shirt. When I stepped back 
in the room Father was there. He was sitting on a chair at the table, 
looking over the room with his back to me. There was a sadness about 
him that seemed to fit with the way my day was going. After a moment he 
turned around and looked at me. I was still in the doorway.

"Hello Ann."

"Iím not Ann." I smiled at him, not really caring at the now familiar 
jibe but flipping off the expected answer any way.

"Have you decided who you are then? Are you going to go back to 
Washington with Fox Mulder and reclaim your birth name, or maintain the 
persona youíre using now?" He looked me over expectantly, almost like 
he was holding his breath.

"I havenít had much of a chance to think about it." I was pretty 
noncommittal as I pulled a chair over to where he was sitting. 

"What have you been doing all day?" Nothing in his face had changed, 
but the sadness had returned to his shoulders.

"Not much, I went and saw Duncan, since I didnít get a chance 
yesterday." I armed the chair across the table from him.

"Oh?"

"Jarod slipped me a micky that knocked me out for 20 hours." With a dry 
tone, I sat down across from Father, my loose hair falling in my face.

"So nice of him." The acid bite conveyed his opinion of Jarod and I 
found myself in agreement. He continued on, this time in a more polite 
voice. "Youíre going to have to come to a decision about it you know."

"Really, I thought I could just go by Jane Doe, the rest of my life." 
It was my turn to be sarcastic.

"Jane Nygma wasnít bad." He didnít fall for it. "I actually liked it."

"You would." I swept the hair out of my face and unconsciously tucked 
it behind my ear. Fatherís eyes sharpened.

"Youíve been crying!" He sounded quite surprised.

"So?" 

"I just havenít seen you cry since. . . " He looked away, thoughtful.

"Since when?" I was curious. When we were waiting for Mary to show up, 
we talked, but never about anything personal. 

"Since you were first brought to me." His eyes looked off into the 
distance like he was reliving the past and didnít like what he saw.

"What was it like?" I sat and watched him, fascinated by what I saw. 

"The Center was as bad then as it is now. Mr. Raines had a free hand to 
do what he wanted and he used that freedom with little regard for 
ethics. He used children like clay to shape, mold and fire into his 
twisted vision. And if they happened to crack in the process, too 
bad." 

"Why did you join up with the Center then?"

"That is a long story, that doesnít really end but ties into everything 
else. I presume youíve read my Watcher file." He waited for my brief 
nod and then continued. "They took my son. In the middle of the night 
they came and stole him, leaving Alice and I completely. . . 
distraught. We started looking, checking out anything we could using 
our contacts to see what we could find. At first we thought it was 
because of our involvement with the government, but that was a dead 
end. 

"Eventually, Alice stumbled onto the Center through their contracts 
with the US Government. They supplied personnel, equipment, many things 
that werenít easily available through normal channels. A few days 
later, her car exploded. It was quite dramatic. I wasnít even close 
enough to see her, one last time." He stopped and stared out into space 
for a few moments. Iíd been caught up in the rhythm of his words and 
their cadence had pulled me in. But I didnít want to intrude on his 
private moment so I waited. Eventually he gathered himself together and 
continued.

"It took me a long time to find out everything I could about them. 
Finally I realized my son was already dead. Their records said he was 
released, but he never was. I searched the entire globe for him, but I 
know he never left. So I decided to get even. The best way to do that, 
was from the inside.

"I had a long history of, shall we say, less than moral standings on 
death. I went back into business and set out feelers in the right 
directions. And then I waited for them to notice me. Once I was in, I 
tried to destroy them one piece at a time. I was over ambitious though. 
After a few months, they started to get suspicious and stuck me as a 
trainer. I was no longer in a position to manipulate things as I had 
wanted. Instead, I gathered information and started training the 
Assassins. 

"And I met you. You still had a spark that was already beaten out of 
the other girls. You looked around you and saw what you were looking 
at. You were special. You also woke up every night screaming your lungs 
out. Youíd spend half the night sleeping fitfully and the other half 
curled up in a ball with tears streaming down your face. 

"I suppose that eventually your old nightmares were replaced with new 
ones. The dreams eased off, never going away completely, but youíd 
quickly learned to deal with them without attracting attention. But 
then your training was mostly done and they contracted the bunch of you 
out. I left before they became too suspicious of me and my motives and 
with what I knew, began to dig into their power base.

"Iíd come back every now and again when they wanted something done, all 
the while gathering more information. They have influences stretching 
out into areas you wouldnít believe. One time I was back for a job and 
you were there. But you were different. It was like your mind was 
blank. 

"Your instincts and training were still there, but you looked at me 
with empty eyes and you didnít see what you looked at. I donít know 
what happened to cause that, other than the fact it was done 
deliberately. When I asked, I was told you saw something you werenít 
supposed to. That was the result. 

"I was furious. I broke you out that week. It was quite interesting, 
because you didnít remember me. But you came anyway and we left. We 
were independent for a few years and then, one day, youíd had enough. 
You gave me your things for safe keeping and left. We kept in touch and 
you drifted around the country, doing odd jobs and enjoying yourself. 
But you soon realized someone was after you. 

"You came to see me and we were getting together for lunch when we 
stumbled on the bomb. I got you and most of the other people out of the 
building and tried to defuse the bloody thing, but it blew up in my 
face. You have no idea how much that hurts. Or how long major, third 
degree burns take to heal, even for someone like me.

"By the time I was able to look for you, you had already disappeared. I 
knew you where still in the city, so I started to set things up. I 
couldnít come right out and help you if I couldnít find you. You knew 
people were still hunting you and you wouldnít trust anyone who just 
approached you. I still donít know why you trusted Jarod."

"Neither do I." I whispered, still angry over the fight weíd had 
earlier. That seemed to break Father out of his fog and when he 
continued his tale, his eyes started to light up.

"I contacted your brother first. Dropping him hints to get him to come, 
but he was being stubborn and was rather busy thinking his conspiracy 
was behind it all. So I created an X-file for him, right on your back 
step. I really should apologize to Duncan about that. A rather nice 
piece of luck, your running into him. It tied things up so nicely. 
Since Jarod was already poking his nose around, I thought you might as 
well get some concrete knowledge about the Center from him. He has 
enough dirt on them to put them out of business, but hasnít done much 
with it."

"What about Miss Parker?" I didnít want to talk about Jarod at that 
particular moment.

"She was quite unlucky showing up like that. I wonder if sheís found a 
mentor?" He leaned back in his chair, a thoughtful expression on his 
face.

"What? I thought she was dead?"

"Well, not exactly." He had that Ďnot sure what to sayí look.

"You mean sheís. . . " I never finished the sentence as he cut me off.

"Yes."

"Oh." The thought crossed my mind that I should tell Jarod. If I ever 
saw him again. If I didnít kill him first. 

"So that is everything that has happened to date. Well, the important 
parts at least. Someone still wants to kill you and someone else wants 
you alive but in their hands."

"The Center wants me dead. But who wants me alive?"

"I think itís the people you went to work for when the Center hired you 
out. You found out something and you paid for it. Since you were still 
too valuable as a bargaining chip with Mulder and his father, you were 
kept alive."

"So why come after me now?" I asked, wondering at all the angles.

"I donít know," he said. 

From there the conversation fell to silence as I tried to digest all 
Iíd heard, letting it mull over in my mind. With someone still after 
me, I couldnít exactly stick around here and wait for them to show up. 
I needed to find out more about who they were and what they did. "Who 
did they send me to?"

"I could never find out exactly who. That theyíre in bed with the US 
government is a given. As for who they are and what they did, the best 
I could come up with was some sort of illegal medical research."

"That sounds like fun." I paused and chewed my lip for a second. "The 
Center should have records about them. Particularly if the relationship 
was more than just renting talent."

"I havenít been able to find it if it was there." 

"Did you ever get my whole file from them? Everything they had on me?"

"No, they kept most of the records in different sections. The main ones 
are in the Headquarters in Blue Cove. I kept your training records and 
dug up your personal files later. Whatís going through that head of 
yours, girl?" Fatherís tone was slightly patronizing, but I ignored it.

"Iím thinking a little breaking and entering in the future might answer 
a lot of questions." My eyes lit up.

"Not any time soon. Getting into that place is a lot easier than 
getting out. And youíre in no condition to be doing either." 

"Give me a few weeks. . . " I wasnít that bad off.

"Try a few months. At minimum." So much for that idea.

"Okay, a few months then. We go in and get the files." I suppose I 
could wait.

"Are you sure?" He asked that like he expected me to fall apart of 
something. 

"You couldnít keep me away from them if you tried." There was still one 
thing bothering me though. "Father. . . "

"How many times have I told you not to call me that." 

"Then what do I call you?" I smiled at him coyly. 

"I guess I havenít given you a name recently, have I?"

"Nope. Iíve got an Oliver, Edward, Alex and well, Iím still wondering 
about Percy."

"Call me Percy and Iíll take you out and have you shot. The current ID 
in Micheal Bennett. I donít want to take up Alex, and Oliver was a long 
time ago. Murdoc? No, Not that." Heíd started talking to himself, like 
he was rambling on.

"When were you Murdoc?"

"Before we left the Center, I was doing some outside contract work, I 
was hired to eliminate this man who. . . You know, I donít even 
remember what the reason was. Anyway, Instead he and a kid he picked up 
along the way managed to kill me. I wasnít being too serious about that 
job and had a blast playing the crazy killer. 

"So, as things progressed, I claimed my revenge a few years later only 
they did it to me again and it ended with me driving a semi off a 
cliff. I had a lot of fun with the two of them. The older man, Thornton 
eventually retired from active duty and the other, MacGyver, was quite 
smart. Constantly coming back from the dead drove him up the wall."

"You mean you kept going after him? And heís still alive?" That was 
quite a feat.

"Well, after the first few times, I wasnít really trying to kill him. I 
just wanted to see what heíd do. And it was quite funny, really. I got 
to set up all these elaborate death traps and lure him in. One involved 
a dungeon, a beautiful young lady in a cage and MacGyver charging to 
the rescue. When I was swimming out of the pool through the grate, I 
kept laughing and inhaling lung-fulls of water. I left the leg braces 
behind as a momento for him." He shook his head at the memory and 
looked at me. Knowing what Iíd learned about Father, I could almost 
picture the whole scene. I was softly giggling in my chair.

Then Father started to go into more details of some of his plots to do 
in this poor guy. I felt kinda sorry from him and he sounded like a 
nice guy, but I was still laughing my head off with an arm over my 
aching stomach muscles by the time Father finished. And then it was 
getting late, Fox would show up soon and Father had some business to 
take care of. After an admonition to take care, he was off. 

I was alone again, but I didnít mind. I puttered around a bit while 
waiting for Fox to show up. I cleared off the table and put away what I 
could. I was annoyed that I had to keep sitting down to catch my 
breath. I must have lost a fair bit of blood to be this tired. 

By the time Fox showed up, the place was looking more normal. Iíd 
discovered the sound system still worked, along with half of the 
speakers, so I had some soft music playing and most of the clutter had 
since been cleaned up. He looked around him and nodded appreciatively, 
his face brightening considerably as I smiled in welcome.

"Youíve been busy." 

"It was something I could do and yes," I could already see the question 
building in his eyes. "I took it easy." 

"I just wanted to see that you were okay before I left." He looked a 
bit sheepish and I guess he was still feeling guilty over having to 
leave.

"Iím fine."

"And I also wanted to give you my number so you can get a hold of me 
when you want." He pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket and handed 
it over. "My cell number in on the top, thatís the best way to reach 
me. My home and work number are underneath it. Scullyís cell is there 
as well; if you canít get a hold of me, she probably can. I also put 
down Momís number, although you might want to wait until I had a chance 
to talk to her. I have my email there, as well as a few others that if 
youíre ever in trouble and you canít find me or Scully, try them."

"Fox." I had tried to interrupt earlier, but he hadnít even paused for 
a breath.

"Yes." He looked up from where he was pointing out the various numbers.

"Iíll be fine and Iíll keep in touch."

"I just want to make sure that if you even needed to, you could get a 
hold of me, just in case anything happens."

"Yes mother," I deadpanned. He took the hint and changed the subject.

"What are you going to do now?" 

"Iím not sure. But Iíll let you know as soon as I do. And Fox?" I 
quickly stepped forward and gave him a hug, but I pulled away just as 
quickly, still unsure of myself. "Thanks."

"For what?"

"For not getting mad at me when I didnít tell you where I was. I should 
have told you what I was doing. But. . . "

"Itís okay," he interrupted. "I have a tendency of doing the same thing 
to Scully. Sheís been hounding me about it ever since last night." He 
looked a little embarrassed as he made his confession.

"Thanks anyway." I was starting to turn into a watering pot again. I 
sniffled and swiped at my red eyes. I wasnít the only one but neither 
of us would actually admit it.

"Iíve got to get going, but Iíll call you as soon as I get to 
Washington." 

"Okay." I walked with him to the door. "Take it easy and donít let the 
aliens suck your brain out. You donít have enough to loose."

Epilogue

I watched from behind the bar as the new band set up on stage. It had 
taken a while, but Iíd managed to buy the bar. It turned out that along 
with the gear Father was holding for me, there was a bank card and the 
associated paper work. I wasnít stinking rich, but I was well enough 
off that I could buy the bar out right. 

Joeís will left everything to the Watchers and they sold the bar soon 
after his death. With some computer hacking and creative accounting, I 
soon became the proud owner of Joeís bar; through a half dozen holding 
companies and leaving a paper trail that is hopefully sending the 
Center, and whoever else was looking for me, around the bend and back 
again.

I wasnít able to stick around much, but with the help of Russ, who was 
one of the bartenders, and Duncan the place was looking good. The new 
bar was the first thing to come in and soon after that everything else 
was put to rights. I kept the name and hung Joeís guitar on the wall 
near the stage. I could have stayed in the open and reclaimed my name, 
but that would be a bit like hanging a blinking neon sign with an arrow 
pointing straight at me. Instead, I moved around with Father, or I 
should say Micheal, and spent my time recovering. 

Any time Iím in town I get together with Duncan and we spar. With my 
knee now healed, weíre almost a match. Heís even teaching me a little 
fencing. As for Richie, heís been out traveling where the wind blows 
him. I see him every once in a while and then heís off on the next 
adventure. Last I heard he was into freehand rock climbing.

I keep in touch with Fox, calling regularly and sending out e-mail. I 
got a few new Internet accounts and with the help of some friends of 
Fox, updated all the software and such on the laptop. I was by no means 
a computer guru, but with the upgrades I could pretty much find out 
what I wanted. Well, not everything; I couldnít crack into anything too 
heavily protected. Those friends of Fox could. I was introduced to them 
when I was in Washington over Christmas. The Lone Gunmen were weird, 
but they could find just about anything and theyíve been helping us.

While I was there, I had a chance to meet Mom. She cried on my shoulder 
for almost an hour and then we sat and talked. I didnít tell her 
everything, but I let her know I was back and that I had no intentions 
of going anywhere. Sheís a hard woman to get to know, but we got along 
and she regularly writes me letters and sends them to Duncan until I 
have a chance to pick them up. Sometimes I even answer them. I usually 
just phone.

The band was finished setting up and started their sound check. They 
wouldnít start playing until at least nine, but they wanted to be set 
up before people started showing up. I patiently waited through the 
squawks and squeals, then smiled as they started up with a practice 
song. It was a band from Vancouver that was more alternative than 
Blues, but they played a number of ballads that while not traditional 
in sound, had the same feeling. I went back to my mental musing.

I was doing more than just hiding from the Center. Fox was checking 
things out from the official end where he could, while his friends have 
been visiting the Centerís network and finding what they could. Theyíve 
also been trying to track Jarod down. I havenít seen him since we 
fought at the Dojo. I know the Center hasnít captured him, but other 
than that, I donít know where heís gone. For some reason, it eats away 
at me. I try to tell myself that I donít really care, but I worry 
anyway. 

I was interrupted from my thoughts as the door opened and a dark figure 
stepped in. I knew in an instant who it was.

"Hi Father." I grinned as I said that, knowing it would drive him up 
the wall. 

"Hello Sam. Ready?" He didnít fall for it. I nodded to Russ, who was 
going to look after the bar for me for the next few weeks, and grabbed 
my bag. 

"Ready and willing." Iíd been wanting to do this for a while, but had 
to wait until my arm and leg healed. The Center had answers and now, we 
were going to get them.

***

End Note as of April 2000

IíM DONE!!!! This one was a beast to finish. First off, a major case of 
writerís block, followed by a writerís splurge on the next book, so 
this one was put on the back burner, with half finished paragraphs and 
trailing sentences. Editing this one was a nightmare. I think that took 
more time than it did to write in the first place. I have to say 
though, that it was worth it cause it turned out better than I thought 
it would. The ending, anyway. I must say I was most impressed rereading 
it to put up here. Itís still got its rough spots though.

Well, if youíre still with me, I hope you enjoyed the ride. The next 
installment, called Center of Attention, is finished, though the last 
part, Governing Bodies, isnít. If you feel the sudden urge to comment I 
can be reached at the address below. Flames will just count against you 
in the afterlife, so do yourself a favor and donít flame me ;-) 
Constructive critiques are always welcome, and mindless acclimation 
will be gladly poured over, read multiple times and sustain me through 
the dry periods between stories.

axianna@hotmail.com