Father Doesn't Know Best
David J. Duncan
January 2002

 Notes: The characters from "Forever Knight" belong to Sony Tri-Star.  The characters from "Xena Warrior Princess" belong to Renaissance Studios and StudiosUSA.  The characters from "Mutant X" belong to Tribune and Marvel Studios.  The characters from "Smallville" belong to their copyright holders.  All other characters and scenarios are of my creation and are fictious.  Please send comments to dante0220@yahoo.com.  Thanks to Dani and Stacy for help with Mutant X details.  Thanks to Emily for the beta reading. 

Prologue [Queen's Hut, Amazon Village 82 AD]

 The battle between David and Dijon was over.  With the way he won his victory, the prophecy of darkness seemed to be diverted at least for the time being.  However, a familiar enemy brings trouble close to home, introducing us to new allies and foes alike....


Chapter 1 [Hampshire County Jail, Northampton]

On the western outskirts of town, the county prison stood alone, separated by a good few miles by wide-open spaces.  The building's granite walls held minor felons: gang members, thieves, dope dealers among others.  For some, it was a permanent stop.  For others, it was a transitory point while awaiting trial and sentencing. 

Watching the storm raging outside through the bars of his cell, Stuart Dubois groused angrily at his situation.  How could he be here?  Didn't he want the best for his kids?  Just two weeks ago, he had tried to drill some sense into his daughter, Cybelle, concerning her obligations as a mother and wife.  Instead, she mouthed back to him and used her freakish abilities, but he showed her.  After he had beat some sense into her, her brother showed up, using his abilities as well.  Somehow, he lifted the older man into the air, threw him against the wall, and used some energy to deflect the bullets from his gun.  As a final indignity, their FBI friend had him arrested and tossed in here to rot.  "This is a fine situation," he groused sarcastically.  "I wonder when I'll get out of here." 

"Hey, shut your hole over there!" his cellmate, a blond haired wino, complained. 

Shaking his head in disgust, Dubois continued to stare out of the window into the darkness of the night outside.  Then, he saw something unusual.  A pair of headlights approached the facility and drove right through the open gate.  "In two weeks, I've never seen that!" he pondered to himself.  Still wondering who the visitors were, he sat on his bunk and thought a while. 

A half hour later, the door to the prison block swung open, allowing the guard, a rather rude man by the name of McDermott, to proceed on his usual rounds.  Usually, he made four or five sweeps per night around the area, making sure that the prisoners behaved themselves.  Tonight, however, he stopped in front of this cell and indicated, "Hey, Dubois!  Up and at 'em!" 

"What?" the confused businessman wondered.  "What is it?"  

"You must have a fairy godmother or somethin'," the guard shrugged.  "Your bail was just posted. Some guys are waitin' for ya."  Opening the door, he allowed Dubois to follow him down the corridor and out of the block.  Then, after allowing him to change into his regular clothes and regain his possessions, the former prisoner was escorted to the booking area.  There, three men in fine brown suits, ties, and overcoats waited.  

"Are you Stuart Dubois?" the leader, a sandy haired man, probed almost robotically.  

"That's me," he concurred.  "Are you the ones who set bail?  I owe you my thanks."  

"Don't thank us, Mr. Dubois," the second man, a red-haired, bulky fellow, indicated.  "Our boss is waiting to see you concerning a couple of unusual occurrences if you catch my meaning.  Sanderson?" Without another word, he guided the surprised consultant through the glass doors and into the waiting 4 X 4.  

Sanderson, an African American, took off his sunglasses and stared into the officers' eyes.  The latter stiffened and fell into a trance.  When they awoke, they would have no idea where Dubois went or who he even was.  Having accomplished this feat, he walked out casually, got into the vehicle with the others, and indicated, "It's done.  Let's go."  

The leader nodded and drove them away from the prison.  Following Route 9, to Routes 91 and 90, they proceeded quickly toward their goal over the New York state line.  Two and a half hours later, they crossed that point and kept heading west.  Throughout this journey, nobody had said a word.  

"Excuse me?" Dubois asked.  "Might I ask where you're taking me?"  

Red Hair turned to face him, assuring, "Don't worry, Sir.  We'll be there in just a few minutes.  Have you heard of Geneomax?"  

He shook his head.  There were lots of companies, which he had never heard of.  Why was this one any different? Glancing out of the window, he noticed that the sun was rising on the horizon and recognized the Adirondacks around them.   

"It's a great place, Sir.  Our employer really cares about society," the leader stated methodically.  "But, you'll be meeting him soon enough."  

Just ahead, he saw a sprawling concrete facility taking up a slope just ahead.  It appeared to be a treatment plant or a research facility of some kind, but, deep down, he knew that it held a deeper purpose.  As the vehicle entered the compound, he marveled at the structure's complexity.  Whoever ran this place held a great deal of authority that was for sure.  

"Follow me," Sandy Hair directed.  With his guest right behind, the two men maneuvered their way through the complex passageways comprising the operational facility, heading for the main office.  


In the main office, a lone man sat behind his desk, smoothing his bright white hair, and adjusting the ascot he wore around his neck.  Maison Eckhardt wasn't a man who liked to be kept waiting for anything.  Of late, his field operatives, the Genetic Security Agency, or the "GSA", had failed to bring him results.  In this case, that meant additional new mutants for study or utilization in the GSA.  However, his former associate, Adam, along with his band of mutant outlaws, had made sport of his recent efforts, foiling him at every turn.   

"Hopefully, Mr. Dubois will have some worthwhile information," he thought, settling into a comfortable position.  One should always project the right image, especially to a potential lackey. At that moment, a buzz came from the intercom.  In response, he pressed an orange button on the side of his desk, allowing the door to open.  

His visitors walked in.  Dubois took a look around, examining every facet of his host's base of operations before focusing his attention on the man seated in front of him.  In silent admiration, he nodded, sensing a kindred spirit in the man before him.  

"Good Morning, Mr. Dubois," Eckhardt greeted.  "I'm Maison Eckhardt, the director of this facility.  I trust your trip was a pleasant one?"  

"It was.  Thanks to your men, Mr. Eckhardt," Dubois replied pleasantly.  "And thanks to you as well.  You have my appreciation, Sir."  

The administrator smiled warmly.  At least, the man had a sense of gratitude.  This might lead to something provided it could be properly molded.  "You're quite welcome, Mr. Dubois.  Now, I was wondering if you might share some information with me?"  

"Information?" the contractor responded.  "That depends upon what you want."  

Eckhardt frowned.  Perhaps, this man might not be such an easy mark after all.  Still, he pushed, "I was wondering about a story I heard concerning the circumstances leading to your...unfortunate incarceration.  From what I understand, your children beat on you."  

The guest tensed angrily.  Would everyone taunt him with this information?  "Yes, it's true.  They ganged up on me."  

"Did they do anything unusual?" Eckhardt probed, straightening his glasses.  Granted, he already suspected that the man's children were mutants, but he wanted to hear it for himself.  "Don't worry, we only want to help them."  

"Yes," the angry visitor admitted.  "They had some sort of freakish powers.  My daughter's disappeared, but my son's down in the Southwest.  If you can help him, I'd be grateful."  

The white haired man nodded reassuringly, "I think we can help him.  Don't worry about that, Mr. Dubois.  Meanwhile, why don't you go with Mr. Sanderson for some food and rest?  After a while, I'll let you know if any progress is made."  

After his visitor left the room, he entered the computerized database, searching for items concerning the man's son.  It seemed that David Dubois, the man in question, was a respected medieval history professor with a healthy vita.  However, both he and his wife, Angela, ended up in mysterious circumstances on a regular basis.  Scanning news wire services, he was convinced that the academic was indeed a possible mutant.  

"Don't worry, Mr. Dubois.  I'll send my best after him indeed," Eckhardt promised to the spot where his guest had stood.  With that, he rose and stared out the observation window toward the activity below.  Yes, a new day was starting and already, it was proving constructive.  


[Mutant X Sanctuary, Two Hours Earlier]

Within the concealed facility, everything was dark, and the five residents lay asleep, resting for the new day's challenges.  For Mutant X, this meant protecting the abnormal offspring of Geneomax's genetic experiments.  During the past week, the team had foiled two more attempts by Eckhardt to capture their cohorts.  Now, they were hoping to lie low for a day and collect their thoughts.  

Thrashing in her bed, the team's empath, Emma diLauro, couldn't sleep.  For the past week, her mind had been filled with strange dreams linked to a man she didn't know.  She had felt his emotions rolling, his anger surging like a gigantic tidal wave.  Three nights ago, there had been a fight of some sort with monsters resembling vampires.  During that conflict, she saw the man split in two as both light and dark images of him fought the invaders.  Then, there was this dream.  Once again, the mysterious man and his dark twin fought a vampire.  Again, she felt the emotional bobbing, but this time, it was much more severe.  Something hard fell on him.  He was hurting...no wait...there was an inner burning.  Then, the darkness consumed him and he turned on the other, reducing him to nothing in a furious tantrum of pure spite and fury.  When the deed had been done, he screamed, releasing a burst of dark energy in all directions.  

"No!" she exclaimed fearfully, sitting up suddenly, her hands and forehead drenched in sweat.  Her eyes were bulged open.  

From the darkness next to her, a voice asked, "Emma?  Are you all right?"  

"Shalimar, I'm sorry," the frightened telepath shuddered.  "It happened again."  

"The guy with the split personality again, huh?" Shalimar Fox inquired.  She also knew of these visions due to the fact that her roommate talked in her sleep. A burst of anger rushed through the feral mutant as she allowed her eyes to flash yellow.  Nobody hurt her friends like this.  

"Now, he has his mind on someone else, not me.  Obviously, he has some issues to deal with," Emma tried to defend the dream-man.  

"Obviously," Shalimar muttered low.  Just then, a knocking came from the door.  "Yeah?"  

"Shalimar?  Emma?" Adam's voice called through the door.  "Is everything all right in there?"  

The feral cast her roommate a knowing glace.  Sooner or later, she needed to tell him about her visions.  "Are you going to tell him?" she asked.  

Emma nodded and replied, "Adam, you know those weird reports on Proxy Blue from yesterday?  I think I know something, but I'd hate to disturb the guys this early."  

"Don't worry," he chuckled in an effort to hide his unease.  "We've all been sitting on pins and needles lately.  The sooner we get Eckhardt's strategies unraveled, the sooner we can relax for a while.  See you two in about 30 minutes."  

After he left, the two roommates rose from their beds and headed for the showers.  It was going to be another long day.


Chapter 2  

Jesse Kilmartin sat at the table in the midst of the Sanctuary's living area, muddling over reasons why Adam would have rousted them so early.  The chat boards and email lines had been full of stories lately of weird things happening in Europe and the Middle East, but the satellite hadn't picked up any abnormal activity in the area.  "Strange," he wondered, stretching and running his fingers through his dirty blonde colored hair.  "This guy must be really good at covering his tracks whoever he is."  

"Not that good if you ask me," another male voice countered from the floor above.  Brennan Mulray trudged his way down the stairs.  "If he's allowing himself to get noticed like this."  Looking at the coffee maker in the corner, he grinned, "You've got the grounds set up, water in the thing, and it isn't going.  Let me guess, you want me to start it, right?"  

"This is a team effort, right?" his friend grinned.  

The thin black haired man descended to ground level and shrugged, "You just want me to do the dirty work.  Oh well, think fast!"  Rotating his hands around each other, first sparks and then, full-blown electrical current flowed between them.  After building up a sufficient charge, he fired a bolt at his seated friend.  

Jesse smiled and concentrated, turning himself intangible.  The bolt phased through him, hitting the appliance, and starting the coffee flow.  

"Not bad for early morning," Brennan yawned, joining the other at the table.  "Still, it would've been nice having the coffee ready for me and the others."  

The computer geek sighed.   

"Give him a break," Shalimar advised with a saucy smile on her face for she enjoyed the bantering almost as much as they did.  Then, putting on her most serious look, she added, "This is serious, guys."  

"Did Emma have another vision?" the electrical mutant probed, betraying a slight bit of concern.  

"Oh yeah.  I'd say a full-blown nightmare," she affirmed.  "She woke me up with it."  

"Sorry about this, everyone," Emma apologized, walking into the room.  Behind her, a black haired man with similar colored clothes and a focused expression followed her into the room.  

"Hey, this isn't your fault," Brennan assured her.  

"Adam, what's going on?" Jesse asked.  

Their leader turned to the panel behind him.  Pushing a few buttons, he brought up a visual of some tests he had been running.  "I just ran a diagnostic on Emma.  She's okay so that alleved my first thought.  Then, I noticed that the computer had picked up something on the Proxy Blue broadcast last night."  Pressing still other buttons, he commanded, "Replay file."  

The computer screen turned blue with a pink square in the middle.  Within the square, a CGI image of a woman came into focus with fair skin and black hair with a streak of white running through it.  As usual, she had a hard frown on her face and recounted, "These days keep getting weirder and weirder, I gotta tell you.  Yesterday, we had two items for the record books.  First, for no apparent reason, the whole waterfront area of Istanbul, Turkey was cordoned off to visitors until just about three hours ago.  An eyewitness who snuck through the barrier recounted a battle taking place between two men for most of the night.  At least, they seemed like men at first.  According to the witness, one changed into...get this...a vampire and threw a huge chunk of masonry at the other guy, burying him in the rubble.  Somehow, the second guy survived and changed as well.  He became super enraged, somehow blasted the vampire with his hands repeatedly, driving him into the cobblestones.  Then, in an act of barbarity, he staked the other over and over, leaving the sun to finish the defeated vampire off."  

The empath glanced amazedly at the screen, "That's him!  The man in my vision!"  

"Well, at least, we know something now," Jesse commented, plugging his laptop into the dataport next to him.  Running his fingers over the keyboard, he enlarged the image of the battle scene from the screen.  Simultaneously, he assessed the mutant database and patched the image into it.  30 seconds of data crunching later, it came up empty.  

"Try the regular news board," Adam suggested.  

Upon doing so, the computer genius saw a string of files scroll across the screen.  "Whoa!" he jumped back.  

"Man, that's a bigger rap sheet than mine!" Brennan exclaimed.  

The oldest of the group, scratched his chin, watching the files run across the screen.  "I actually looked at most of these accounts last night.  Most of these stories pertain to defending himself although he has a really bad tendency to attract trouble.  The later stories are fuzzy.  There's something about the man that I can't put my finger on.  But, we cannot let anyone with that combination of ability and rage fall into Eckhardt's hands.  Speaking of which, Jesse, can you start the recording again?"  

The density mutant nodded and let Proxy continue her speal.   

The image continued, "If things weren't strange enough, it seems that justice isn't getting any better either.  Last night, a proven child abuser, Stuart Dubois, disappeared from the Northampton County Jail.  While the guards weren't able to remember anything, the security cameras caught three men in suits, overcoats, and shades escorting the prisoner out of the facility.  If anyone knows anything, please feel free to call the information hotline.  Keep your eyes and ears open.  Thanks."  With that, the recording ended.  

"GSA," Emma muttered. "Terrific."  

"So, Adam, where is this David Dubois guy exactly?" Shalimar inquired.  

"According to the computer, he lives in Tucson, AZ where he teaches medieval history and also has served as a librarian at the university down there," he replied.  

"Tucson?" Jesse asked.  "Isn't that where the cellular mutation conference is going on next week?  You think you might be able to speak with him at that point?"  

"The thought crossed my mind," Adam indicated.  "His wife, Angela, is going to be one of my co-panelists. Unfortunately, she's going to be following Eckhardt and me at that session.  I want us all to be close by the campus in case the GSA tries to grab her.  Meantime, let's get ready to head down there.  I want to do some more training today."  

The others groaned good-naturedly.  Those sessions could be harrowing, but, given the forces conspiring against them, necessary for their survival.  

Chapter 3 [Tucson Two days later]  

The sky over the Sonoran desert was just starting to light up with the first rays of dawn. Inside of the Dubois household, everyone was starting to stir for another day's living.  Since their return from England, Dave and Angie had been relaxed.  He had finally wrestled the 300 lb. gorilla off of his back when he defeated Bertrand du Dijon, the head of the vampire Enforcers, in Istanbul.  "Hopefully, we can get back to normal now. I've had enough of monsters and angels for quite a while," he muttered.  

Then, he felt a pillow whack him in the head, followed by his wife's giggling, "And what about me, tough guy?  Had enough of this angel, hmm?"  

"Never," he chuckled, kissing her ear, "C'mere!"  He playfully wrestled her down to the mattress.  "I love you, Dr. Dubois, he stating, kissing her again.  

"And I you," she beamed.  "So, how are you going to try and kill yourself this week?"  

"I thought we'd take some time off from that kind of stuff," he shrugged.  

"Oh really?" she cracked.  "My husband's going to play it safe?  This I have to see!"  

"Hey, I'm still beat from the fight with Dijon," he complained, pointing to his wrapped midsection.   

"We have some time yet before we really have to get up," she smiled.  "I could take a look at it...."  

He grinned and kissed her a third time.  This was the best they had felt in a long, long time.  


The drive across town to the U of A went really quickly.  After dropping Angie off at the UMC, Dave parked by the Main Library and, accompanied by Eve and Francesca, headed for that facility.  

"What are you going to say to Caitlin?" Eve asked.  

"I don't know.  I'm going to let her do the talking," he shrugged.  "She understands why we went there and what we had to attend to.  Period."  

"Well, we've got classes to teach," his cousin stated.  "If you need to talk later, Dave, we're here."  

"Absolutely," the Religion professor indicated.  "Please stop by after your classes if you'd like."  

"Thanks," he expressed and walked into the library.  Walking by the circulation desk and up the stairs, the professor proceeded past his part-time colleagues down to the Dean's office.  He walked into the lobby where Mary-Sue McAllister waved to him.  

"David?" the secretary asked.  "How are you doing?"  

"I'm okay.  The trip was something else, but hey, it's time to get back to the grind," he shrugged good-naturedly.  

"Great.  Caitlin's waiting to see you if you'd like to talk with her," she indicated.  

"Sounds good," he agreed.  

She buzzed the intercom.  Immediately, the inner door opened and Caitlin walked out.  "David, I was glad to hear you're back.  How are you doing?"  

"I survived," he shrugged.  

"And Dijon?"  

"A pile of ash scattered across the Middle East," he noted.  From his bag, he produced a finely polished pewter urn.  "Here are some of them right here." Seeing her nervousness, he apologized, "Sorry, Caitlin, I didn't come here to brag.  I just wanted to prove he's gone.  He's gone...."  His eyes began to water.  

The dean hugged her associate and soothed, "It's okay.  The demon had tried to kill you for fifteen years.  You just need to move on.  Continue being a great father, professor, librarian, and man.  We're all so proud of you, but...."  

He squinted at her in confusion, "But what?"  

"Your flourish at the end of the battle grabbed some attention.  I thought you had indicated that the face-off would be kept away from the cameras," she told him.  

He gaped, "According to what I heard, it was supposed to be.  What?  Who?"  

"Somebody snuck through the cordon and gave an account that's been all over the newsnets for the past two days.  Fortunately, Lydia's been explaining to me and to some other high powered folks around here what she saw," she reported.  

He winced and grumbled, "Some security.  If the remaining Enforcers weren't on edge already, now they'll really be pushing things.  I put that little show on for them to let them know what would happen if they came after me or anyone else that I cared about.  I'll need to check with Lydia.  By the way, where's the manuscript?"  

"In the safe where I promised it would be," she smiled.  "David, I wish that you could have a normal life, but these things keep popping up."  

"Maybe if the folks from the Orientation Office would call me about helping out with the student tours, I might be able to do something to get my mind off of this mess?" he interjected.  

She nodded.  Fifteen years earlier, he had been an award winning peer advisor for the freshman tour center on campus.  Maybe, he was right, and perhaps, the items in the folder might be just what the doctor ordered.  "Actually, I did get a call from them about you this morning.  What would you think about showing a couple of student journalists/potential recruits around for a couple of days?  They're from Kansas and get this; their assignment deals with the medical conference coming up in three days.  However, they're both into History and the Humanities.  When Dean Armas asked me who I felt we should give them to, I recommended you.  He agreed.  Well?"  

"Sure, if they wouldn't mind hearing a couple of my lectures not to mention one apiece from Eve and Francesca.  I figure we can get them into the classroom mix, give them a sample of what to expect, and then, take them out for a good meal," he proposed.  

"That was what you originally suggested.  The administration loves the small town atmosphere in the big time university angle.  Then, it's settled.  They're coming in on Thursday morning.  Would you mind picking them up at the airport?" she confirmed.  

"Absolutely.  Angie'll need the quiet time to prep for her talk.  Meantime, I'll pick up..." he started.  

"Clark Kent and Lana Lang," she completed his thought, handing him the files.  

"Sounds great," he agreed.  "Do you need me to do anything?"  

"Thanks, but we've already taken care of it.  They'll be here at 9:00 on Thursday morning, okay?" Caitlin concluded.  

"Sure," he replied pleasantly.  "Well, I've got a class coming up in an hour, so I have to run.  Thanks again, Caitlin.  I appreciate this."   

"Anytime," she noted, returning to her work.  

He walked out of the door, left the library, and headed for the Social Sciences Building and his class.  


That night, before Dave went home, he walked out of his office, and headed toward the plaque located just behind the Douglass Building.  Once there, he dusted off the metal sheet bearing the name of his mentor and the former's wife, and placed a flower in front of it.  

"Hi," he stated.  "It's me, David.  As I'm sure you know, I took care of business in Istanbul.  Dijon will never trouble anybody ever again, but I still feel empty.  I miss you two and your guidance.  Hopefully, I can be there for other students the way you were for me."  

"Nice speech," Lydia complemented as she approached him.   

"Thanks," he replied pleasantly.  "For that and for helping out with the administration around here."  

"Marie and I are still putting together the facts behind what we saw," the Middle Eastern scholar told him.  "I knew about your powers and your other personality.  I've seen you unleash him before in class, but never like that."  

"That's because I'm sick of being hunted, Lydia," he commented.  "I sent them a message.  Besides, he killed another important person too in Pauline.  Her murder needed to be accounted for as well."  

"If you say so," she sighed in confusion.  "Sometime, you'll need to tell me the whole story, okay?  Don't worry; your secret's still safe.  The administration figures some crackpot put you in the middle of that battle.  Well, I need to be getting on to Mass.  I'll see you soon, huh?"  

"Sure," he nodded, waving as she left, leaving him to inspect the memorial and head toward the car across campus.


Chapter 4  

Across town at KRAN, LaCroix strolled into the booth and performed a sound check.  With his duties as an Elder occupying his time, the Roman had neglected his audience over the past ten days.  However, everything was solved, and he could return to his affairs at least for the present.  Flipping a switch, he started into his monologue.  

"Good Evening, Gentle Listeners.  It is I, the Nightcrawler, who has returned from a dark sojourn to you all.  I trust you were all very observant in my absence.  I know I was, and I missed you all, but when duty calls, one must listen.  My children needed me to settle a dispute of sorts, and so, I did," he started. 

An unpleasant snort came from outside of the booth.   

While mortal ears wouldn't have been able to pick up on it, the Elder caught it quite well.  Turning, he saw David Dubois standing there, staring intensely at him.  Scowling in disgust, he continued, "In fact, it's such a pleasant night outside, why don't you all go outside for a few minutes?  I'll be right back.  I promise."  Muting the microphone, he removed his earphones, and stood to his full height.  Opening the door, he asked, "And what do you want?"  

"Believe me, it wasn't the displeasure of your company," the professor declared, folding his arms across his chest.  "We have a problem."  

That statement got LaCroix's attention.  "A problem you say?  And what pray tell is that?" he baited.  

Dubois chuckled darkly, "Didn't my little object lesson register on you at all?"  Leaning closely to the vampire's face, he glared right into the other's eyes, and snarled, "You're an annoyance.  And with your latest little screw up, you might've endangered us all."  

"Latest screw up?" the DJ asked.  

"Yes, I thought the duel was supposed to be kept secret, LaCroix," the visitor noted.  

"It was."  

"So, why has it been all over the Internet chatboards for the past two days then?  With images and everything?" Dave pushed, dropping a zip disc on the console in front of his adversary.  "Go ahead.  Look at it."  

LaCroix shook his head derisively.  The mortal was pushing his luck badly.  Nobody marched into his domain with such impunity.  Still, he knew that the medievalist would never show up like this unless he had a good reason.  Installing the disc and opening the files, the Proxy Blue playback appeared on his computer screen.  For five minutes, the CGI image babbled about the mysterious battle and displayed grainy images of the contest.  "Impossible.  Yet, here it is."  

"Sure is," Dave sighed.  "So, what do we do about it?  They know about it at the U of A.  You've put the Community at risk."  

"As if you care," the DJ scoffed, drinking from the bloodwine.  

"I do.  I care about Janette, Nick, Alyce, Vachon, and the other immortals under your watch.  Now, answer my question, Old Man," the professor insisted.  

For a moment, the vampire's eyes went yellow and his fangs descended.  "Don't you dare address me in that manner!  I don't care who you are, Dubois!"  

The mortal laughed and produced a bright orange colored ball, "You should care.  As if I would come in here unprepared.  As for your tirade, I give it 1 1/2 stars.  Now, answer the question!"  

"I will have to consult with my colleagues," the DJ commented.  "Now, will you get out of my booth?"  

"Why not?" Dave shrugged.  "Have a good show spreading whatever crap you got up your sleeve tonight."  With that, he left the studio and drove away.  

For a long minute, LaCroix shook with rage.  Nobody talks to him like that!  No one.  "There will come a time, Dubois," he vowed.  Taking another draught from the glass, he watched the program again.  While the professor was annoying, he did reveal the security breach.  Accordingly, Constantine would receive a stern lecture at the next opportunity concerning this issue.  

However, as the program ran on, the vampire DJ noted something else, which his impertinent visitor didn't see.  Somehow, his father had escaped prison.  "Interesting," the master vampire chuckled.  "This could have a great deal of potential.  A great deal indeed."  


Nick pulled the Caddy into a parking spot behind the precinct building.  It had been over a week since his last shift.  Accordingly, he knew Ramirez would have several cases waiting for him as soon as he got to his desk.  "Might as well go face the music," he sighed and walked into the bullpen.  

As soon as he had cleared the doors, Chris Novak cleared her throat and greeted, "Good evening, Detective."  

"Sergeant," he replied pleasantly.  "What can I do for you?"  

"Relax," she smiled.  "I was just saying hello.  The captain will want to talk with you later, but, as far as I know, everything's okay.  Detectives Brown and Schanke held the fort while you were gone."  

He grinned in relief and kept heading for his desk.  Sure enough, a few folders were waiting for him there.  Also glancing at him expectantly, Tracy twiddled a pencil in the air.  "Tracy, how's everything?" he asked.  

"Great," she noted.  "We solved about three cases while you were traveling.  Other than that, life was pretty much the same as always.  Has everything been resolved?"  

"Dave took care of business," he revealed in a low voice.  "But he ticked off LaCroix in the process."   

She winced. "That's not healthy."  

"Tell me about it," he concurred, shaking his head.  

"Well, Vachon and Janette kept everything in order here," she commented.  "Nothing stirred due to LaCroix's directive."  

"I can imagine," he agreed.  From long experience, he knew that defying the Elder meant a painful death.  At some point, he would remind his academic friend of that.  

At that moment, Ramirez stuck his head out of the office, bellowing, "Brown!  Miles!  Get down to 36th and Campbell.  We just received a tip!  Schanke and Dr. LeBeau are both en route."  

As one, the partners stood and rushed out to the Caddy.  Punching the accelerator, Nick drove them toward the scene.  


Fifteen minutes later, Natalie squatted on the pavement next to the homicide victim.  From what she could tell, the woman, an African-American in her early twenties, was stabbed from behind.  In addition, she noticed a fresh scar on the back of her neck along the spinal cord.  Something had been there, but had been ripped out in a hurry.  Scribbling notes to herself for the autopsy, the ME took in every detail.  

"It seems pretty open and shut, Natalie," Schanke indicated, looking about the dark alleyway.  Despite the fact that the area was bathed in siren lights and surrounded with their colleagues, the souvlaki-loving detective felt nervous for some reason.  Something wasn't right here.  "What is that along the neck?"  

"A scar of some kind, Schank," she replied.  "I won't know anything until I can get her back to the lab."   She noticed the Caddy's arrival, stating, "Here are your partners now.  Maybe, you guys can find something to help me.  If you need me, I'll be at the lab."  

Schanke studied her face carefully.  While he knew that she and Nick were having problems, he didn't know things were so bad that she wanted to get away from him.  Despite her earlier protests, he decided to talk with his immortal partner at the first opportunity.  "Sure," he agreed.

She nodded, hurrying past the two newly arrived detectives, and silently getting into her car.  Driving away, she wanted to put as much distance between her and Nick as possible. Despite her successful relationship with Steve Petersen, being around the vampire detective was proving harder than she initially thought.  


Back at the scene, Tracy quizzed the others, "What was that about?"  

"I'd like to know as well," Schanke chimed in.  "Nick?"  

"I don't know.  She and I are sorting out some details," he shrugged.   

" 'Sorting out some details'?" the blonde detective probed. "C'mon, Nick.  From the way Natalie just reacted, I'd say she's giving Humpty Dumpty a run for his money right now."  

The former Crusader gritted his teeth and turned to his two colleagues.  "We're working things out, okay?  Leave it alone!  Let's focus on the case.  Is there anything in the alley of interest?"  

His mortal partners relented, sensing that he was getting too testy at the moment.  

Schanke started, "We're still doing a sweep of the area.  Forensics has nada so far."  

Nick nodded, focusing on his surroundings.  Scanning the alley with his enhanced senses, he spied something at the area's far end.  "Be right back."  Rushing to the spot, he stooped over a storm grate.  After looking about to insure that nobody was watching, he pried it loose and looked below.  There, he found a bloody blade, a torn, bloody leather glove, and a half of a black plastic disk resembling a small hockey puck.  "Best bag this stuff for later," he decided.  After securing the materials, he rejoined the others.  

"Find anything?" Tracy probed.  

"Maybe," he indicated, holding up the bagged materials.  "Hopefully, Nat can get a match on this knife and the glove.  The plastic thing was with it.  I bagged it just in case."  

"Careful, Pardner," Schanke chuckled.  "Remember what you stuck me with during the Weiss case?  It might be a piece of a kid's toy."  

"I'll keep that in mind," Nick replied flatly, a frown noticeably cutting off any further discussion.  "I didn't find anything else down there, so let's get this evidence back to the precinct."  

His associates nodded, following him back out of the alley toward the Caddy and Schanke's parked stationwagon.  

Although it looked like another slashing, this case bothered Nick for some reason.  Given everything else, which had happened lately, he knew better than to ignore his instincts.  "So much for a quiet shift back," he sighed as he and Tracy pulled away from the scene.


Chapter 5  

Dave pulled the Subaru into the space beside Angie's Taurus and shut the engine down.  In his mind, he puzzled over why everything needed to be so difficult.  Reaching into his satchel, he took out his duplicate copy of the zip disc he had left with LaCroix.  "Why can't people mind their own business?" he groused, getting out of the car and walking up to his front door.  

Just as he got there, Eve opened it and greeted, "Hi, David.  Francesca's just putting dinner on the table.  Nice timing."  

"I know," he replied with a bit of guilt, hoping that his side trip hadn't kept everyone waiting for too long.  After entering the apartment, he hung up his coat, and made his way to the kitchen where his wife and cousin were watching him.  Karen and Lauren stared at him with big eyes.  They all knew that he had something else on his mind.  

"Hi, Princess," he greeted, kissing his wife on the cheek.  "How'd your day go?"  

"Okay," she responded matter of factly.  "Dr. F. was still concerned about the trip.  By the way, Dave, we've got a problem I'd like to talk to you about."  

Taking the disc out of his pocket, he waved it about, stating, "I already know.  Caitlin made this copy of the Internet broadcast.  Some show called Proxy Blue picked up on my tete a tete with Dijon."  

"I thought the area was closed off," Francesca pushed, setting the ziti on the table.  

"So did I," Eve wondered.  "What happened?"  

"Apparently, somebody cracked LaCroix's security net, took pictures with a digital camera, and spliced the footage into a movie format," he theorized, removing the diced cucumber and bell pepper mixture from the refrigerator, and adding olive oil, wine vinegar, and spices.  "Anyhow, the folks at the U of A know about it."  

"So, where have you been?  I was worried someone was harassing you," Angie expressed.  

"Checking on the quality of the security," he shrugged, sitting down and pouring himself a glass of soda.  "He didn't even know about it.  Twit." 

The women all looked at each other in total amazement.  Finally, his wife threw him a stern glare, lecturing, "You mean you went down to that radio station and deliberately provoked LaCroix?"  

He returned her glance with one of his own.  "I needed to get to the bottom of it.  Besides, he was the one who was spitting at me like an angry Siamese cat.  I just pointed out what his fledgling did wrong.  He needed to know about it."  

"And did he challenge you?" the Amazon princess asked.  

"No, although he did make his customary threats to my health and welfare," the medievalist deadpanned, sipping on his drink.  "We can talk more about this later if you want," he added, throwing the twins a glance.  "Besides, there was some good news out of today."  

"Really?" Francesca asked. "What is it?"  

"Remember when I put in for the Faculty mentoring program?" he asked.  

"Yes.  Oh, Dave!  Did they pick you?" Angie exclaimed happily.  She knew he'd been waiting for this opportunity since they started in their current positions.  

"Uh huh.  Apparently, there are a couple of kids coming here from Kansas for a double purpose trip.  They're here on assignment for their school newspaper to cover your conference, Angie.  However, they've applied here for next Fall and they want to sit in on a few classes in the Humanities.  I figured that they can sample one from each of us, if that's okay with Francesca and Eve," he explained. Turning to the other ladies, he asked, "What do you think?"  

"I don't have a problem with it," Francesca agreed.  

"Nor do I," Eve indicated.  "When is this going to happen?"  

"Thursday or Friday morning," Dave explained, spooning out salad to everyone.  "According to Caitlin, the kids are set to arrive about 9:00 on Thursday morning.  I'm going to pick them up and usher them up to the U of A.  Once there, I'll see what they want to do.  What time is your session at?"  

"2:30.  You should have plenty of time," his wife indicated, ladelling up pasta.  "And, of course, please let them know that they're welcome to come here afterwards."  

"Absolutely," he agreed, biting into a forkful of pasta himself.  "Mmm, magnifique!" 

"Thank you," his cousin smiled warmly.  "It's nice to know I'm appreciated.  My students looked as if they were ready to doze off in my lecture this morning."  

"Funny, I don't seem to have that problem.  I must have great students," Eve wondered.  

"Or perhaps, it has something to do with you being the former Messenger of Eli," he teased.  "Powers of conversion and persuasion provide music to soothe the savage beasts."  

"I'll take that as a complement," the former Messenger retorted, sipping on her lemonade.  "You might have something there, David.  Then again, I've seen you with your students.  You have a mixed bag, don't you?"  

"Yeah.  I'm going to take the kids to my upper division class.  The World Civ. kids are just too crass and rude to make a good impression," the medievalist noted.  "Speaking of the latter, I'm sending them over to the library to work on their papers during Thursday's session.  Winnie offered to help them out with research questions.  Since Caitlin's after her to get more reference practice, I figure this is as good a time as any."  

"Sounds good," Francesca agreed.  "And you know you have our instructional classes next week, right?"  

"Yes," he agreed, biting into his ziti.  

"By the way, who are these kids?" Angie asked.  

"Their names are Clark Kent and Lana Lang.  According to the file, they seem like really bright students and are very interested in the university," he said.  

"I'm sure," his wife nodded.  "I'll be sure to let Dr. F. know to keep a couple of seats open for you as well as for Clark and Lana."  

"Thanks, Princess.  You know I would never miss one of your papers," he smiled.  

"I know," she beamed.  "And I'll appreciate the moral support.  With all of our recent travels, I haven't been keeping up as much as I should on my own research.  Hopefully, I can do as well as Drs. Eckhardt and Zero."  

"I'm sure you will," Eve assured her.  "Worrying about it won't get you anywhere."  

"Besides, you have us to cheer you on.  What's the worst that can happen?" he inquired.  

Just then, a knock came from the door. Dave got up to answer it and sensed Steve Petersen on the other side.  "Come in, Steve." Concentrating, he used his powers to open the door.  

"Thanks, Dubie," the FBI agent sighed, walking slowly into the apartment, and hanging up his coat.  

"Steve, what's wrong?" Angie asked, noticing their friend's somber expression.  

"I don't want to ruin your dinner.  It can wait for an hour," the visitor indicated.  

Dave folded his arms across his chest and studied the other man.  He knew when something was eating the agent.  "C'mon, Steve.  Spill it."  

The agent looked at his hosts anxiously, requesting, "Please stay calm, everyone.  I got some bad news when I got into work this morning.  Dave, your father escaped from jail.  They don't know where he is."  

The history professor glared at the other man, "What?  I thought that they were going to put him away!  What the heck happened?"  

"Apparently, someone paid his bail.  Anyhow, as soon as he got out, he hopped in a car and nobody has seen him since.  The plates were from New York State," he revealed.  

"And I trust you ran a check on the plate number?" Dave inquired.  

"We did, but came up empty.  Apparently, it was a government car, but the specific agency wasn't listed."  

"What would they want with your father?" Eve wondered.  

"Know of any anti-mutant groups within Congress?" the medievalist replied.  

"With the sentiment growing in that body, quite a few actually.  There's a rumor concerning a top-secret research facility dealing with that issue.  I'm still checking on it," Steve reported.  Just then, his phone rang, "Petersen here."  

"Steve, it's Natalie.  We have an unusual case here.  How soon can you get to the precinct?" the ME requested.  

"I'm at Dave and Angie's right now.  Is 20 minutes okay?" he answered.  

"Why don't you bring them?  This will concern them as well," she noted.  

"They were just sitting down to dinner, Natalie.  I'd hate to disturb them," he doubted. Noticing Angie signaling for the phone, he handed it to her.  

"Hi, Natalie.  This is Angie.  What's up?" the oncologist inquired.  

"I was just telling Steve that we brought in an unusual body from a murder scene tonight.  Trust me, you and Dave will want to see this.  Besides, I'll need your help in cross checking something from it," the coroner indicated.  

"We'll be right there," she sighed.  "Let us get a plate of ziti down and we'll leave in about 5 minutes."  

For his part, her husband had already wolfed down his dinner.  Given everything else, which had happened lately, this situation wouldn't wait.  

"Okay," Natalie agreed.  "See you then.  I'll let Chris Novak know."  

Handing the phone back to Steve, she packaged a plate to eat on the way.  "Dave, would you mind driving?" she asked.  

"Not at all," he agreed.  "Let's go. Eve, we'll be back ASAP."  

"Right," she concurred.  "I'll get them put to bed."  

After giving the twins a kiss apiece, the two parents climbed into the Subaru and sped westward followed closely be Steve in his own car.  

"What do you suppose is going on?" she inquired, between mouthfuls of lukewarm pasta.  

"I suppose we'll find out soon enough," he indicated, albeit more securely than he felt at the moment.


Chapter 6

Meantime, Nick and Tracy were on their way back from the homicide scene.  The drive had been a silent one as both partners were sorting through their own thoughts.   

To break the silence, he put the radio on, allowing LaCroix's voice to permeate the night.  

"Ah yes, Gentle Listeners," the Elder began.  "Since it's a school night, tonight's lesson is not to trust sensitive matters to anyone other than yourself.  On two occasions, I have done so.  Both times, the task was bungled badly.  I have talked with you all about the miserable child's tantrum years ago.  Recently, I had charged another with securing privacy for a rather sensitive affair.  Unfortunately, one person made it through my preparations.  Whoever you are, you should have minded your own business.  After the rather unpleasant visit I received earlier tonight, I discovered the situation.  Did you ever trust someone with a task very important to you only to see it mishandled?  The lines are open...."  

Tracy turned to Nick and asked, "What's he talking about?"  

He thought about his former master's words for a minute before answering, "He's obviously referring to Dave.  The tantrum was the first battle with the Enforcers.  The 'sensitive matter' concerns the duel.  Someone must have gotten through Constantine's cordon and recorded the whole affair."  

"And let me guess, the visitor was Dave as well?" she theorized.  

"Judging from his tone, I'd say so," he replied.   

"That's a rather gutsy move, even for him," she shivered.   

"Especially given LaCroix's attitude toward him right now," he acknowledged.  "They declared mutual war on each other.  Give Dave's outlook, I don't think he really cares if LaCroix threatens him."  

"Yeesh!" she winced.  "If those two go at it, I suppose that means Xena gets involved too?"  

"Along with Cybelle," he informed her.  "We need to keep them from confronting each other."  

"So what exactly happened in Istanbul?  I have to admit your intruder shot some interesting footage, but it wasn't clear," she told him.  

Turning into an empty lot, he hit the brakes, screeching the Caddy to a halt.  "What footage?  Tracy, what's going on?"  

"You don't know?" she queried.  Then, judging by the shock on his face, she continued, "No, I guess not. Well, since the day after the grudge match, there's been a video piece circulating throughout the chat rooms on the Internet."  

"Damn!" he hissed, his eyes turning yellow.  "If that's true, the whole Community's at risk!" Dialing the car phone, he looked for answers.  

"This is the Nightcrawler.  Speak, Child," LaCroix replied, a smile growing on his lips after realizing whom it was on the other end.  

"Umm, yes.  I was wondering to what you were referring just now," Nick inquired.  

"Answers aren't free, my Boy.  You should know that," the DJ toyed with him, clearly enjoying the moment.  "But, since this concerns all of my children, I'll tell you.  Ask the Child if he'll spare you a copy.  Now, I have to get back to my other listeners.  Please feel free to stop by later if you wish."  

Nick hung up as well, shaking his head in silent confusion.  

"Earth to Nick, Earth to Nick.  Excuse me, there's static on the line," his partner interjected.  

"Huh?" he asked.  

"I'm still looking for an answer to my question about Dave Dubois."  

"He managed to fight Dijon for the most part.  His dark side emerged after the rubble fell on him," he recounted.  

"Yeah," she shuddered.  "And just as with Divia, Dijon was blasted into oblivion.  Remind me not to tick him off to badly."  

"Right," he nodded, pulling out of the lot and resuming their drive to the precinct.  He needed answers, and that was the place to find them.  


Natalie gazed into the microscope once more.  While the woman on her examination table looked normal, her blood was doing something unusual.  Despite the fact that a DNA analysis still needed to be done, her work with Nick's condition had prepped her to recognize other irregularities.  

At that moment, a knock came from the door and Doug White, a patrolman, stuck his head into the room.  "Excuse me, Dr. LeBeau?  Agent Petersen and the Duboises are here to see you."  

"Thanks, Doug," she accepted. "Come in, guys, and close the door."  

Steve walked over to her side and kissed her cheek.  "Hey, what's up?"  

"There's something odd about this case," the coroner asserted.  "Angie, take a look at the sample, would you?"  

"Okay," she agreed and did so.  Looking up from the microscope, she asked, "I know it's been a few years since med school, but since when do humans have a chromosomes doing that?"  

"They don't usually," the ME indicated.  "Unless they're like you and Dave."  

"This woman had special powers?" Dave asked.  

"I can't say one way or the other," Natalie continued.  "Only that she was extra special.  I'm waiting for Nick and Tracy to get back here with some evidence from the scene.  Between that and the skin samples I took from underneath her fingernails, I'm hoping for a match."  

He glanced at the other two women anxiously.  "What's it now, open season on people like us?  It never seems to end," he muttered.  

"You can say that again," his wife concurred grimly.  "I hope we can get to the bottom of this before any more killings happen."  

He nodded knowingly.  "Any chance of getting the FBI involved?"  

"I don't think you want them to get into this.  At least not yet," the agent disagreed.  "Let's try to do this on our own first."  

"Then, let's hope the evidence which Nick, Tracy, and Schanke are bringing with them fingers the murderer," the professor added.  

"You can say that again," Nick added, walking into the room.  "Did you find anything, Nat?"  

"Yeah, I managed to get some skin under the fingernails," the coroner indicated.  "Hopefully, I can get some blood from that stuff you brought back."  

"Whether it's from the murderer, the victim, or both," Tracy stated, dropping the bag on the table next to the corpse.  "I don't want another uprising like that racial debate."  

"Speaking of an uprising," the vampire added.  "What were you doing, Dave?  Confronting LaCroix earlier tonight?"  

"Here we go again," Dave muttered, shaking his head.  "I've already received this lecture tonight, Nick."  

"Well, I'm going to give it to you again," the detective continued.  "What were you doing?  You know LaCroix wants to kill you.  So you go into the radio station and interrupt his show?  Just to bait him?"  

"Well, maybe...just maybe, if your little brother didn't screw up his job, the trip wouldn't have been necessary.  Because of that, more than a few people whom I didn't want to know about me now do.  Besides, I'm not afraid of that sleaze," the professor snapped.  

"You should be more respectful of him," Natalie added, typing away on the computer keyboard.  

"Look," Dave hissed.  "I know who and what he is!  But that doesn't mean I have to cower before him!"  

"I give up," Angie shrugged.  

"Careful, Chief," Steve advised.  "This isn't your father you're dealing with."  

"I know that!" the professor roared, his darkness starting to percolate toward the surface.  "But, LaCroix's been after my ass since that night in the lecture hall!  Almost fifteen years, Steve!  Fifteen damn years of living with this shadow over my head!  You weren't there when we met up again at the Raven."  He hesitated for a second, shivering fiercely, and getting nervous glances from those around him.  "I want him dead.  He was the one who sicced Dijon and the Enforcers on the Samuelsohns and ultimately, on me!  I'm sick of his bullshit!  No more!  NO...MORE!!!"  

His former classmate grabbed his arm, warning,  "You're mortal, you know.  He's not."  

"I know a few stakes which might disagree with that point," the medievalist disagreed.  "Besides, I think others might have issues with him as well."  

"She would tell you to be strategic," his wife argued.  "A frontal assault isn't always the best way."  

"We may have other problems right now," Natalie broke in while looking into the microscope.   

"What did you find?" Schanke asked, walking into the room.  

"I just typed the blood on the coat.  They're both O negative," the ME reported.  "The chromosome count matches as well from what I can tell.  Guys, I think what Dave said is true.  It's open season on you.  All of you." 

Everyone stood where they were, shaking their heads sadly.  When one fought the good fight, he or she was a target constantly.  Dealing with that realization took some time, but, if one was to survive, then the knowledge needed to be accepted.  For that, everyone noted that Dave was right in his directness.  However, everyone also knew that Angie was right in that some strategy was needed as well.  Finding the compromise was crucial for the future.


Chapter 7 [Geneomax]

Eckhardt reclined in his chair, studying his notes.  When he received the invitation to speak on cellular anomalies at the cellular conference in Arizona, the prospect was less than tempting at first.  Then, upon hearing that Adam would be speaking as well, he changed his mind.  It would be so entertaining to have the opportunity to sway public opinion by implanting the seeds of doubt in the audience's minds.  Yes, to see his former geneticist's hopes crushed would be a great triumph indeed.  

A buzz came from the door.  Opening it, he discovered two field agents, a man and a woman, whom he had sent after a new mutant named Alicia Fallone.  "Yes?  I see you have returned," he stated.  

The man stepped forward.  "Yes, Mr. Eckhardt.  We..didn't get the Fallone woman."  

"She struggled and attracted attention," his female colleague continued.  "As we went to put the governor on her, it broke off.  We tried to subdue her, Sir, but we leaned on her a bit hard.  She's dead."  

The administrator frowned.  The woman's abilities would have made her a valuable GSA agent.   "Did you bring her back for study at least?" His eyes were burning into the two subordinates' consciousness.  

"No.  The police were right on top of us.  We barely got out of there," the man stated.   

"I see," their boss shrugged, picking up two remote controls and depressing a button on each one.   

Instantly, the two agents were rolling on the floor, writhing in pain.  For two minutes, Eckhardt allowed this dance to continue.  He abhorred failure like this, especially when such errors left his organization open to public exposure.  After he was satisfied, he switched the controls off again, allowing the agents to recover.  Subdermal governors had their advantages.  

"Get ready to depart tomorrow.  You're accompanying me back to Arizona along with Mr. Brown," Eckhardt warned.  "And I will not tolerate any more excuses."  

"Yes, Sir," the two chorused and departed from the room, rubbing the back of their necks where the small plastic devices rested.  

Eckhardt sighed impatiently.  Good help was so hard to find these days.  At least, his guest was being cooperative and providing a great deal of information concerning the Dubois mutants.  "A man who would betray his firstborn.  Amazing," he remarked curiously.  "Still, one doesn't need to look a gift horse in the mouth."  

At that moment, the door buzzed again. "Yes?" he asked.  

"Mr. Eckhardt, it's Stuart Dubois.  I know you're busy, but might I have a minute?" Dubois requested.  

"Absolutely, Mr. Dubois," the host agreed, opening the door.  "I was going to send for you in any event.  I have news.  We're taking a trip to Arizona tomorrow.  I trust that you're ready."  

"I am," he grinned enthusiastically.  Seeing his son get what was coming to him would make everything worth it.  

"Really?  I wonder if you realize the implications of betraying family," Eckhardt started.  "Awful business."  

The consultant glared at the white haired man in front of him.  "What?  Are you chickening out?"  

The administrator straightened himself and retorted plainly, "I would thank you not to address me in that way!  I'll go after your son and daughter-in-law as I said I would!"  

Dubois backpedaled quickly, "Of course.  My apologies."  

"Yes.  Well, we all want these freaks off of the streets, but still, we must keep our passions in check, Mr. Dubois.  Letting them get out of hand could have...great consequences," Eckhardt warned cryptically yet allowing his meaning to shine through.  

The guest nodded, "I'll be ready first thing tomorrow.  About 6:00?"  

"That will be fine.  Good evening, Mr. Dubois," the host concluded, turning away from him to study the anomalies in stasis on the level below his office. On the matter of his guest, he decided to have Mr. Sanderson keep an especially close eye on him.  "It never hurts to be too careful."  

Dubois left the office quickly, scurrying for his room.  There was a quiet menace to Eckhardt, which he understood, but didn't want to get in the way of.  A great menace indeed.  


[Mutant X Sanctuary]  

Adam scanned the news files of every databank he could find.  During the monthly check on all new mutants, one woman, Alicia Fallone, hadn't appeared.  According to the Underground, she had never returned from an errand on the previous evening.  As always, his mind considered the worst option, the GSA had kidnapped her.  

"We'll have to check on her after the conference is over," he decided, mumbling to himself.   

Jesse called, "Adam!  Take a look at this!"  

The leader hurried over to the other's side.  "What did you find out?" he asked.  

The computer genius sighed, "She's been found by the local authorities in Tucson, Adam.  According to the police record, she was beaten badly and had a scar on the back of her neck."  

"No doubt caused by a subdermal governor," the older man concluded after scanning the report database.  It was too soon for the coroner's official report, but hopefully, that could be taken care of as well.  Although he wanted to give mutants a legal and safe living environment, sometimes that meant a little bit of subterfuge every now and again.  "Something else to worry about down there."  

"You want us to hang with you tomorrow afternoon?" the density mutant inquired.  

"Let me think about that.  I'll brief all of you during the trip.  Since Eckhardt's going to be on the panel with me and Angela Dubois, you can bet the area'll be crawling with GSA agents," Adam noted.  

"You handle Eckhardt.  We can take care of a few guys in the bad raincoats," Shalimar slurred, coming up the stairs with two steaming mugs of coffee.  "I figured you could use these."  

"Thanks, Shalimar," Adam accepted, sipping from his cup.  "Since we don't know exactly what we're getting into here, I would advise caution."

"You smell a trap?" she probed.  

"With Eckhardt, one can never be too sure.  As I just told Jesse, I'm leaving our options open at this point.  Let Brennan and Emma know that I'll be briefing you once we're in the Double Helix.  I'm not sure if we should try and contact David Dubois at the same time. Given his psychological history and abilities, he should be approached with caution.  I want to avoid causing a scene at all costs.  I'll be keeping an eye on his wife in case the GSA tries to grab her," the leader related.  

"Speaking of Eckhardt and the GSA, how's the speech coming?" she asked.

Adam exhaled deeply and continued, "With everything else going on, I've managed to put together a few pieces here and there.  This is one of the most important informational opportunities for the outside world to understand cellular anomalies.  I can't let Eckhardt cause panic among those researchers."  

The feral mutant nodded knowingly.  The more vital something was to mutantkind as a whole, the more Adam fretted over it.  "You'll kick his tail, Adam.  We have faith in you."  

"You don't know how much I appreciate that sentiment, Shalimar.  Thank you.  On that note, I think we should get some rest.  Let the computers collect more data, Jesse.  We'll analyze it on the way down.  Good night," he concluded, heading toward the living quarters.  

The two mutants glanced at each other, wondering about what the team would be getting into on this trip.  Neither liked surprises, and this expedition seemed chock full of them.  


Emma sat in her room, focusing on her surroundings, and allowing her mind to drift a bit.  She had felt more psychic tremors coming from the Southwest.  Concentrating on the negativity, an image formed in her mind of David Dubois once again.  He was in a room with four...no six others, and they were arguing about something.  As he was speaking, the empath noted that his image was blurring, a sign that the negativity was surfacing again.  "How are we supposed to talk with him if he's that volatile?" she wondered aloud.  

"With caution, I'm afraid," Adam's voice replied through the crack in the door.  "May I come in?"   

"Sure. I was just following up on some bad vibes I felt earlier tonight.  I can't believe how much pain that man is in," she commented.  "It's literally bleeding off of him." 

"After looking at his profile, I can understand it," he noted.  "Did you find anything else?" 

"Wait," she requested, refocusing on the spot, but this time, between the speakers.  "Yes, there's a body on the table.  It's Alicia Fallone, Adam!  What happened?" 

"She disappeared earlier tonight.  The police found her a few hours ago.  I had Jesse tap into their database.  According to the initial report, she was beaten and left for dead," he reported.  "She...had a scar in the back of her neck, and the detectives found a shred of a raincoat and a piece of the subdermal governor." 

The telepath closed her eyes and shook her head sadly.  In the past six months since finding out who she was, Alicia had been a great help and a soothing presence in the adjustment to life as a new mutant.  A tear creased her cheek.

 "I'm sorry," he soothed.  "I know you two corresponded often.  If it's any consolation, it's hard for me as well."

 She studied his face, noting his grim facade.  He felt as though all of the mutant progeny of Geneomax were his children, and, just as with any parent, he was grieving as well.  "Thank you, Adam.  I appreciate it.  Let's just stop the GSA from causing any more damage down there," she replied.

 "Absolutely," he agreed.  "And I've got a big task for you as well.  I'll fill you in on the flight down there."

 She nodded, "Sounds good.  Well, if you'll excuse me, we've got an early start tomorrow.  Good night."

 He smiled.  She had certainly developed in her own inner strength since her arrival.  "I'll see you then.  Good night."  With that, he left the room.

 Now that she was alone, Emma allowed the tears to flow for her friend.  She would have to let out her sadness before the morning, so that she would be able to focus.  Everyone would be counting on her.  For some reason, she felt uneasy as if some other issue were waiting for them down there.  "Calm down, Emma," she told herself.  "You're an empath not a prophetess."   Lying down on her bed, she created a bubble of tranquility for herself and slowly drifted off to sleep within it.

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