Father Doesn't Know Best (Part 2)
David J. Duncan
January 2002
For notes, please see Part 1. 

Chapter 8

Additional Note:  This scenario takes place about three and a half years into the future of the current Smallville series.   

[Smallville, Kansas--Two hours before the discussion in the morgue]  

Far away from the discussions occurring both to the east and west of him, Clark Kent sat in the coffee shop located in the heart of downtown, sipping on a lukewarm mocha, and waiting for his friends to show up.  In between all of the events related to their senior year, he and his friends were busy with the editorial positions for "the Torch," the high school paper.  On this particular night, Chloe, his long time friend and the editor in chief, had asked the editors to meet here.  For his part, he hoped it would be a short meeting.  He still needed to get home and pack for his trip in the morning.  

Just then, a voice cut into his reverie.  "Hey, Clark.  Spacing out on us again?"  

He looked up just as Chloe Sullivan and his other friend, Pete Wilson, slid into the booth seat across from him.  "I'm fine.  Just thinking about the trip is all."  

"So, are you psyched to get some time alone with Lana?" Pete pushed teasingly.  He knew that his friend had watched their fellow editor for a while before they began dating almost two years before.  

"Pete, don't start," Chloe told him.  She knew Clark had enough on his mind without them saying anything more about the subject.  Besides, until they started dating, the editor in chief had held out hope that Clark would be her boyfriend instead of Lana's.  But at least, they were all friends. "So are you ready for your trip?"  

"Everything's laid out on my bed, waiting to be thrown into my duffel bag," Clark revealed.  "Dad's taking us to the airport early in the morning."  

"It's nice to know that we're both at the same point," Lana laughed, kissing him on the cheek and plopping herself down next to him.  "I don't feel like I'll ever be ready."  

Chloe started, "Other than that, are you both ready?  I mean this is an experience in the big city, and a major university.  I would feel lost in your shoes."  

Lana shrugged, "Normally, I would.  I mean visiting KU and Wisconsin seemed overwhelming.  At least, Arizona has a personalized visit program."  

"Personalized?" Pete asked.  

"A professor will be picking us up at the airport and give us a snapshot of the experience.  You know, a few classes, lunch in the Student Union, and we arranged to get into that conference as well," Clark added, taking another sip from his drink.  

"That sounds so cool.  Some benefits and a chance to see how things really work," Chloe replied.  "And you touched on the reason for my asking you all down here."  

The other three teens glanced at each other.  What did she have in mind this time?  Their chief editor had innovative if not provocative ideas for the paper.  

"Come on, guys!" Chloe continued.  "I was just looking to start a student snapshot section.  You know about our on campus visits and such.  If you could make a few comments about your insights, that would be great especially with that meeting."   

Clark glanced at Lana who nodded back at him.  "Okay," he agreed.  

"Great!" the leader beamed.  She always loved it when they came up with a new idea. "Well, it's getting late.  You'd best be getting home.  Have a great time."  

"I'm sure we will," Clark agreed, looking at Lana, and smiling.  "It should be enlightening."  


Six hours later, Clark roused himself from his slumber and dressed quickly.  He needed to get the chores done before they left for the airport.  Hustling to the barn, he checked the hay in the horses' stalls, made sure the animals were fed, the cows were milked, and the equipment put away neatly.  At super speed, every task except for the milking was accomplished in the blink of an eye.  Since the livestock were accustomed to his routine, they largely ignored their human caretaker's methods.  The milk, on the other hand, came out at a normal rate so as not to hurt the cows.  In 20 minutes time, he had everything under control, and was carrying two full milk pails up the dirt trail toward the house where a light was already shining in the kitchen.  

Entering the dwelling, the teenager noticed his mother already getting the coffee and breakfast ready to go.  Even if her son weren't leaving this morning, Martha Kent would've been getting the daily routine started at this point.  "Hi, Mom," he greeted.  

"Morning, Clark," she replied pleasantly, hugging him.  "How're you this morning?"  

"A bit anxious, but otherwise, okay," he grinned sheepishly, placing the milk on the counter gently.  

"Thanks for milking them, Clark," she expressed.  "I'll have breakfast in a minute.  I made you and Lana a couple of sandwiches for the trip."  

"Thanks," he smiled.  "I wonder who this Dr. Dubois is.  The man that's going to be meeting us."  

"Actually, while you were at your meeting last night, both he and his wife called here and spoke to both your father and me.  He sounds like a wonderful man.  Apparently, there's a full slate for you two down in Arizona.  If he's like the rest of the professors down there, you should have a good experience one way or the other," she related.  

"I'll say," her husband agreed, entering the room.  Jonathan Kent eyed his son warmly yet cautiously.  Ever since they had found him in the crater thirteen years earlier, the Kents had tried to keep his abilities a secret.  Now, he was looking to go far away.  The big city was calling to him despite their best efforts to keep him there.  "At least, he knew how to speak plain English.  That's a rarity among those ivory tower types.  Anyhow, the Duboises filled us in on your agenda.  Apparently, you're going to get a slice of life at the university.  I like an honest approach," he remarked.  "By the way, the barn looks great, Son.  Why don't you get in the shower?  We need to be at the Langs' place by 4:30."  

"Right," he agreed, rushing up the stairs and into the shower.  Within fifteen minutes, he was cleaned up, changed, and had his bag beside his chair. "All set."  

"Not before you get a proper breakfast inside of you," she chuckled. "Take a seat."  

"Better listen to her, Clark," his father noted humorously, needling his wife.  

For her part, she ignored them both as her work took precedence.  Yet, under her facade, she secretly enjoyed the baiting.  Work was made easier when a good measure of humor was mixed in.  


The ride to the airport went fairly quickly as all three parties kept to themselves, wondering about the future.  Despite all of the good signs, a bit of tension hung in the air, hinting at something ominous.  Chalking it up to the weird ways in the prairie community, each person decided to keep it to himself or herself.  

Upon reaching the facility, Jonathan parked the truck and helped his son with the bags.  Even this early in the morning, there was a small line at the ticket counter.  However, within ten minutes, Clark and Lana had their boarding passes in hand and their luggage checked.  

"Thank you, Mr. Kent, for driving us here," Lana noted.  "I really appreciate it."  

"You're welcome," he replied pleasantly.  "Good luck with your trip.  Sorry to ask, but..."  

She grinned warmly and agreed, "You two need a moment alone.  That's okay.  I'll see you on the other side, Clark."  Walking through the security system, she gazed at the two men, talking to each other intently.  Not for the first time, she felt the pangs of loneliness for her own deceased parents and that they weren't there for her.  Hopefully, by leaving this town after graduation, she could start to build a new life for herself.  And if Clark would go too, all the better.  


"So, how are you feeling, Clark?" Jonathan asked.  

"I'm still a bit nervous actually.  I really want to do the big city thing, but I'm not sure if I'm ready for it," the younger man indicated.  

"Your Mom and I would like you to stay, you know," the older man started.  "But, you're always looking beyond Smallville.  Sooner or later, you're going to want to leave.  Just know that whatever you decide to do, we're in back of you."  

"Thanks, Dad.  This'll be a fact-finding expedition for all of us.  I figure Lana and I will go to class, get to know some people, research that story, and think things through.  That's what this trip is for, right?" Clark asked.

"Right.  Take care.  Call us after you get back from dinner tonight, okay?  And behave yourself around her," he requested, a smile forming on his face.  

"You know it," the younger man assured him.  "Well, I gotta meet Lana at the gate before our flight takes off.  Thank Mom again for packing lunch."

"I'll let her know.  Good luck," Jonathan concluded, slapping his son on the shoulder.  Then, as the latter went through the checkpoint, he watched as his son head off to the future.  "Good luck, Son," he thought as the latter disappeared around the corner, heading toward his destiny.   


Chapter 9 [Tucson]  

Nick walked through the front door of the El Gato Negro bar two hours before sunrise.  After his discussions with LaCroix and Dave, he decided to speak with the former, if he was available.  Looking about the place, he marveled at how much it resembled the Raven in its decor and the dancing of the mortals and immortals alike.  Running his hands along the chain link rail, he descended the staircase and made his way to the bar.  There, he sat down while continuing to observe everything around him. 

Janette broke off a conversation with another patron and made her way over to her master.  "Nicolas, I'm flattered that you would honor us with a visit.  Is this business or pleasure?" she asked.  

"Both actually," he grinned.  "I've been meaning to come down here and take a look around.  You've done wonders with the place."  

"Thank you," she acknowledged with a smile.  "It's been a labor of love, trust me.  However, our kind needs a central place, no?"  Scanning him through their shared link, she sensed the vampire's growing dominance.  "Would you care for a drink?"  

"My usual," he accepted.   

"One cow and wine coming up," she remarked dryly, signaling to the bartender.  "As for the business part, what would that pertain to?  If it's LaCroix, I would warn you, Nicolas, he is in a bad mood."  

"I know.  Apparently, he had a visitor at KRAN tonight," the detective remarked, sipping on the cow cocktail.  "Merci."  

"Dubois gets bolder by the day," the immortal lady of the night sighed.  "That man needs to understand that he's only mortal."  

"After what he's been through, Janette, I don't blame him.  LaCroix did start this mess.  As for how he's handling it, his wife and I have both lectured him on it, but...." he continued.  

"But, he's still sliding down that slippery slope?  From what I understand from my friends at the University, he's losing control.  Perhaps that fight is taking its toll, hmm?" she inquired.  

"I have to admit that you're right," he shrugged.  "Still, I would like to try and get this resolved if I could before it comes to war."  

At those words, he felt a familiar vibration followed by a sarcastic chuckling approaching from his left.  Turning, he saw the old Roman standing beside him, an intense expression locked in his eyes.  

"Good evening, Nicholas.  How nice of you to join us even if it means watching you drink that swill," LaCroix greeted.  "I must say that I was flattered when you called in.  Was work that quiet tonight?"  

"Actually, no it wasn't.  We found a homicide victim tonight on the south side.  A young woman with a remarkable DNA makeup," he reported.  

"Really?" the elder vampire asked.  "Could it be that a mutant hunter is in town?  Pity he or she got the wrong freak." 

"If I understood your clue right, he was with you tonight," Nick stated.  

"Nicolas..." Janette cut in with a warning tone.  

"Actually, he was there tonight.  He gave me some information concerning a breach in the security surrounding the duel.  Apparently, a mortal taped the whole thing.  How unfortunate, given the Enforcers' current status.  But your friend deliberately provoked me tonight, Nicholas.  Nobody comes into my domain and insults me!  No one!" the Elder hissed.  "Advise him to learn some manners."  

"Considering his mood tonight, you're lucky he didn't start something.  LaCroix, the man has defeated Divia, several Enforcers, and Dijon!  With all due respect, each of those parties either has hurt you or could hurt you.  Janette was right.  He's slowly losing control, and it's your fault.  You started it when you confronted him in the classroom."  

"I suppose he told you that he wants me dead?" the older vampire supposed.  "As if he could get close enough to do it.  Really, Nicholas.  I owe both him and his infernal sister, and I intend to pay them both back richly."  

"If he doesn't kill you first," his former protÈgÈ countered.   

LaCroix gripped his glass so hard that he broke it, spilling the blood-merlot all over the counter.  "HE IS AN IRRITANT!  THAT IS ALL!" he roared, vamping out.  "I'll thank you to remember that!"  

Feeling the uncomfortable glance from Janette, Nick picked up his glass and departed from the bar area, leaving the other two vampires seething behind him.  Picking a table in the corner, he settled in to finish his drink before leaving.  

"Hey, Miles, that was some scene over there.  Had a little too much?" Javier Vachon gibed.  

"This is my only one, Vachon," Nick sighed.  "What's on your mind?"  

"Tracy told me about Dubois.  Man, that is one crazy hombre," the conquistador remarked.  

"If you felt hunted, you might respond the same way," the detective argued.  "He's having problems handling all of the stress lately.  The more he uses his darkness, the less control he has over the Other.  I worry about him and LaCroix. If LaCroix goes after him, I wonder if he'll survive, considering that Dave, Xena, and Cybelle are all waiting in line to kill him."  

"Yeah, I can see your point, Amigo," the Iberian concurred.  "With everything else, we don't need a spark to set off the Community.  After that Enforcer mess, everyone's still a little edgy.  By the way, Tracy also told me about that weird corpse you got in tonight."  

"We're checking it out," Nick replied.  "Meantime, I want everyone to keep a lid on this one.  That situation's not helping Dave either.  Besides, who's to say that this suspect isn't looking to take a vampire as well?"  

"Like they would?"  

"I have to stay open to all possibilities," the detective commented, finishing his glass and leaving a generous tip on the table.  "The sun's almost up.  I'll see you soon."  With that, he rushed out the front door toward the Caddy.  

Vachon shook his head as he contemplated Nick's words.  "Unbelievable," he muttered, heading out himself.  Seeing the first dim signs of pink in the east, he took off heading for the apartment.  The day would be long enough to allow some thought on this issue and the ramifications to them all. 


Chapter 10  

The radio alarm went off early in the Dubois household on that morning.  Angie stirred first, getting up and walking out into the living room.  Her paper wasn't flowing properly, at least, in her estimation. So, she scratched and marked up the draft, reading it for flow and content as she went.  Three times she rehearsed the piece, but it never sounded right to her.  

About an hour into this litany, Dave shuffled into the living room and silently watched her.  "She's always a perfectionist," he thought with admiration, entering the area.  He cleared his throat to get her attention. 

"What?" she asked nervously.  "Oh, Dave!  Good morning.  How long?"  

"Just long enough to watch your last run through," he grinned, ambling over to her side.  "It's fine, Princess.  You're going to be great."  

"I wish I could agree.  My co-speakers are experts in this field."  

"As are you when it comes to cancer and cellular mutation," he argued.  "Have faith in yourself.  Dr. Fishburne never would have arranged this session if he didn't think you were up to it."  

"I'd listen to him, Angela," Xena's voice added as she appeared in the corner.   

"Tell her," the medievalist requested.  

The Warrior Princess grinned, "I've watched you fretting over this speech for the past three days.  You're a terrific healer.  Have faith in yourself.  Remember, you're not alone up there.  I'll be with you every step of the way."  

The oncologist looked at her companions, thinking about their words.  Just as with the sun after a rainstorm, a smile slowly broke through her gloomy features.  "Thanks, guys.  You're the best," she told them, embracing first her husband and then, the image.  

"Our pleasure," he assured her, rubbing her shoulder.  "I'll go look in on the twins if you'd get the coffee."  

"Why don't you get in the shower?" she urged.  "You need to get to the airport for 9:00 AM, don't you?"  

"If you say so," he shrugged.  "I'm on my way." Turning, he walked into the bathroom and shut the door.  

"Keep your chin up, Angela," the warrior urged.  "If you need me, I'll be close by."  Fading away, she left her "roommate" feeling much better than when she had appeared moments before.  


Two hours later, Dave parked the Subaru in short-term parking and entered the airport terminal.  Finding a monitor screen, he browsed through the listings. "American 7845.  Gate 15.  They'll be on the ground in 15 minutes."  Making his way through security, he headed for the gate to meet the kids.  


About 15,000 feet above him, Clark and Lana were descending toward the Old Pueblo.  The flight from Smallville had been enlightening for them.   

She had admired the scenery far below them and the different vistas.  For her, the desert had a hidden beauty with the rock formations, wide-open spaces, and a sunrise with a wide spectrum of colors.  Unlike the smothering small town atmosphere of Smallville, she felt free as if she had room to breathe for the first time.  She could definitely see herself going to school out here.  

For his part, he felt something about the sensation of being miles off of the ground.  On top of his nerves over being out of Kansas for the first time since the meteor shower, he felt as if another aspect of his abilities were coming to the forefront.  Over the past three years, one power after another had revealed themselves to him.   The familiar feeling preceding a new aspect of those talents had begun to churn inside of him.  For some reason, he felt at home high above the clouds.  Staring out the window, he wondered what it would be like to fly like a bird, to soar like an eagle surveying everything around him.  

"Clark?" she asked.  

"Yeah?  Oh, sorry.  I was just taking in the sights," he excused himself.  

She giggled, "You're so insightful, always looking into things lying beneath the surface.  Anyhow, we're about ready to land, so you'll need to buckle your seat belt."  

"Right," he concurred sheepishly, securing the restraint.  "I just have a lot on my mind is all."  

"Uh huh," she cracked, raising a humorous eyebrow.  That was so Clark-like.  Still, after dating her previous boyfriend, he was a refreshing change.  "You know, there's nothing wrong with admiring the scenery.  Wouldn't it be marvelous to be able to fly without the plane?  I would love to be able to soar above the clouds, feel the wind on my face, watch the birds fly by, and look down on this scene without having to peer through the glass.  Wouldn't you?" she inquired.  

"I know what you mean," he agreed.  "It's breathtaking, isn't it?"  

"It is."  

Then, the plane alighted on the runway and taxied to its destination on the far row of gates.  It wouldn't be long now.  

Fifteen minutes later, the two teens strolled into the terminal area.  Looking about, they tried to locate Dave, but there were so many people around them.  Finally, they saw a man dressed in a navy, pinstriped suit with a large white sign.  

"I think that's him," Clark indicated.  "Come on."  


Dave arrived at the gate about seven minutes ahead of schedule just to be on the safe side.  With all of the people milling around the area, he wanted to be sure that the kids wouldn't miss him somehow.  On that note, he surveyed the area around him.  "I wish this airport would learn how to space flights out," he groused.  Oftentimes, there would be no activity for an hour and then, five planes would land on adjacent strips at the same time, making for a congested runway.  Still, he knew it was futile to ask an administrator to plan ahead.   

Sipping on his blackberry tea, he stood across from the gate, waiting for the flight to descend.  At that moment, a rush of people from another flight swept past him.  That, in itself, wasn't unusual.  However, midway through, the professor felt a familiar presence in the crowd, and, for a brief second, he could have sworn he saw his father walk right by him accompanied by a slender white haired man.  "What in the...?" he growled low.  But, by the time he took a second look, the men were gone and so was the feeling.  "Come on, Dave, lighten up," he advised himself.  "He's nowhere near here."  

At that moment, the PA announced, "Attention, everyone!  Flight 7845 from Chicago has landed and will be at the gate shortly.  Thank you."  

"Okay, get a grip on yourself," he muttered, forcing his anger back down.  "They'll be here any minute."  A nervous gulp of tea later, the gate door opened, allowing the passengers to enter the area.  For five minutes, he watched the crowd, seeing if he could spot his guests.  Then, from the jet way, his psychic senses locked onto a particular powerful aura.  "What the?" he wondered and focused on the source.  Whoever it was, the person was definitely coming closer.  Recalling his initial experience with Alyce, he sighed, "How come I get the unusual ones?  Just dumb luck, I guess."  

At that moment, he spied two teenagers looking around for somebody.  "I'll bet that's them," he smiled and held up a sign with their names on it.  When the young man waved back at him, he knew that his suspicions had been accurate.  "Here we go," the professor thought a bit nervously, walking toward them.  

"Excuse me, Professor Dubois?" the woman asked.  

"That's right," he grinned warmly.  "Lana, right?  Hi, I'm David Dubois, a history professor at the U of A."  

"Pleased to meet you," she accepted, shaking his hand.  "And this is Clark Kent."  

"Good to meet you as well," Dave greeted, shaking her friend's hand.  As soon as they touched, however, the professor felt a surge of energy from him.  His was the aura he had sensed earlier.  Taking a step backward, he rubbed his head to alleviate the slight headache between his eyes.  "Whoa!" he winced.  

Clark watched the medievalist warily.  Perhaps, it was his father's cautiousness about his powers, but somehow, he got the feeling that this man had discovered whom he really was.  "But, through a single touch?" he thought.  

Lana looked at their host curiously.  Granted, Smallville had its share of weirdness, but, as with Clark, questions popped up in her mind.  "Why would he react like that?" she mused.   

Dave managed to straighten up.  "Great.  I need one of my episodes now.  Probably scared them six ways to Sunday," he chastised himself.  "Sorry about that, guys.  Long night, I guess.  Well, let's say we pick up your bags and then, head over to your hotel.  I figure you might want some time to freshen up before you hit campus."  

"That sounds great," she agreed.   

"Then, let's go," the professor concurred, guiding them toward baggage claim.  Still, the uneasiness about his father persisted.  The sooner he could get them to the hotel, the sooner he could talk to Steve about this occurrence.  


Across the terminal, Eckhardt observed the trio leave the area with concern.  Between the elder Dubois's legal status and the usual GSA concerns, he insisted on taking a private flight.  However, due to the logistics of this airport, the group ended up pulling into a public terminal.  Obviously, this wasn't his first choice, but they made due.  Allowing his agents to mix in with the rest of the milling crowd, he entered along with Dubois, making their way for the exit.  Still, running into Dubois's son was an unexpected surprise.  "His senses are sharper than I thought," he assessed to himself, making a note to prepare for great difficulty with the professor and his wife.   

"We got by him unnoticed," Dubois assumed.  

"No, Mr. Dubois.  He noticed you even in the midst of this throng," Eckhardt corrected.  "Not to worry, though.  Everything's under control.  Now, let's go.  The session starts in six hours, and I want to be ready."  

The other man nodded.  Whatever he thought of his routine, Eckhardt certainly had his act together.  


About 400 miles to the east, the Double Helix streaked toward the Old Pueblo at Mach-1 speed.  Inside, Mutant X contemplated its next move as well as the GSA's.  

Adam scratched his head, "I know I've been keeping you in the dark since last night, but I needed to work out some details."  

"So, are we going to approach Dubois directly?" Shalimar inquired, watching the leader carefully.  

"No.  I think that between the recent situation and his father's escape, the man will be too edgy to confront.  I would like to keep an eye on him, however.  I want you all to stay close by the Medical Center, but not too close.  Eckhardt has no doubt prepared something with you all in mind," the older man noted.  

"From what I could tell," Jesse added.  "He's going to be in class at that point on the main campus."  

At that moment, Emma rubbed her temples again.  For the entire trip, she had felt momentary flashes of pain.  Now, as Dave felt his father's presence and came into contact with Clark, the telepath received yet another signal.  "Speaking of our professor," she winced.  "Adam, his father is here!"  

"What?" the leader asked.  "Are you certain?"  

"He picked up on his father's essence," she told them.  "And then, he touched something or someone with a big charge.  Wow."  

Brennan probed, "How does the fact that his old man is here change things, Adam?"  

Emma cut in.  "There's a history between them, Brennan.  From what I've been able to pick up, his father abused him.  That's why he's so unstable."  

"And, given how he's on edge to start with, I was hoping to avoid something like this," Adam stated, shaking his head.  "Emma, will you be able to maintain contact while I'm with the panel?"  

"Absolutely," she nodded.  "In any event, I can't tune him out."  

Her teammates gathered around her, trying to be supportive.  Given how much she cared about others, Dubois's pain must have been Hell for her to bear.  All they could do was to help her and stay alert for any surprises from Eckhardt or the GSA.


Chapter 11  

Angie had performed her rounds with great care, making sure that her patients were comfortable.  By noon, she had all of her reports completed and stacked on a corner of her desk.  

"Okay, everything's done," she thought.  "Now, I can focus on the paper."  Just then, a knock came from the door.  "Yes?"  

"Dr. Dubois?" Belinda McDermott asked.  "How's everything?"  

"A bit antsy, but otherwise, I'm okay," the oncologist admitted.  "The patients are set for now."  

"And your presentation?" the other doctor asked.  

"It's coming along all right," Angie noted.  "The charts are in the database, and the paper's right here."  She picked up a bound document, admitting, "It does feel good to be getting back into this again."  

"You're the expert in this area, Doctor," her colleague assured her.  "I can't wait to see your presentation this afternoon."  

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Angie expressed, a shy smile making its way across her face.  "It makes it easier, trust me."  

"We're all pulling for you," Natalie added, sticking her head in the door.  

"Thanks," Angie accepted.  "A lot of work done, but this is my ticket back into my research area."  

"One step at a time, Angie,"  the coroner advised.  "You're going to do great, Kiddo."  

"How's everything on your end, Dr. LeBeau?" Belinda asked.  

"The cases are always interesting," the pathologist remarked.  "Never a dull night down there."  

"Speaking of which, I have some rounds to attend to.  Good to see you, Dr. LeBeau.  Dr. Dubois, as soon as I finish everything, I'm heading downstairs.  See you there," the younger doctor concluded, walking out of the room.  

Looking around the hallway to make sure that nobody else was coming, Natalie closed the door, insuring their privacy.  Holding up a file folder, she announced, "Here are the DNA results."  

"Really?" Angie inquired, her curiosity piqued.  "And what do we know?"

"Steve oversaw the whole procedure.  According to this report, we were right.  The Fallone woman wasn't your run of the mill homicide.  She had an enhanced cellular structure.  Angie, how many others are out there like her?"  

"More than you think," the oncologist confirmed.  "Such as me, my family and many of my in-laws."  

"Right," Natalie realized.  "So what do we do about this?  Steve doesn't want to bring in the big guns, but I don't see any choice.  To commit a murder, leave clues, and yet, have nothing pop up in the investigation, we're dealing with a major league cover up."  

"I'd say so," Angie replied.  "Did he find out anything about that car that helped my father-in-law to escape?"  

"He's still looking," her visitor shrugged.  "He'll let us know.  But, for this afternoon at least, he'll be here along with Schank, Tracy, and me.  After you're done, I think we're going to question both Zero and Eckhardt about it."  

"Is there a connection?" Angie probed.  

"Not as far we know, but since they seem to be two experts in the field of cellular genetics, they might be able to provide some insight," Natalie revealed.  "Well, I gotta run and get some lunch.  Want to come with me?  My treat."  

The oncologist grinned.  A break was just what she needed.  "You're on.  Let's go.  Remember, I need to be there by 2:00 PM."  

"Don't worry.  You're in good hands on that one," Natalie assured her as they headed for the door.  


Meantime, Dave escorted Clark and Lana to the Arizona Inn and made sure they were checked into their rooms.   

"I'll meet you down here in 25 minutes," he indicated.  

"Right," she agreed, walking into the elevator alongside with her boyfriend. 

After the doors had closed, the professor crossed the lobby, moving toward a particular corner table where Steve was waiting for him.   

"What's up, Dubie?  I thought you were on babysitting duty," he joked.  

"Yok it up, fuzzbrain," the medievalist growled.  "We've got problems."  

The agent recognized the darkness brewing across his friend's face.  "Uh oh, this has got something to do with your father, doesn't it?  We're still looking for him, Dave."  

"Have you thought about looking here?" the professor suggested.  

"Huh?  He's up in New England," Steve stated.  

"Some hotshot agent you are.  He was in the crowd at the airport this morning just before my guests arrived.  I saw him and felt his presence," Dave reported.  

"Are you sure?" Steve asked.  "How could he have gotten through our security net?"  

"Maybe he flew here on a private plane or has some powerful friends," Dave shrugged.   "Anyway, I only felt him for a second, but it was him.  Trust me, when the Child goes nuts like that, I know.  I still have the headache from it."  

"Wow," his friend sighed.  "If it was a private plane, that would explain it.  So, where do you think he'll be?"  

"I don't know," the professor replied honestly.  "But Angie's presentation would be a good bet to smoke me out.  Also, keep an eye on the apartment just in case."  

"I'll get right on it," the agent agreed, standing up.  "I'll phone it in.  Just make sure you get over to the session before your wife speaks, huh?"  

"I'll be there as soon as I can.  This was just a case of bad timing,"  Dave concluded.  "Go on.  Eve and Francesca will be here any minute as will the two recruits."  

"Okay.  Good luck with them.  They seem to be wary of you already," he gibed good-naturedly. Smiling, he held the door open for the two aforementioned professors before ducking through it himself.  

"What was that about?" Francesca wondered.  "He was in a hurry."  

"I think he has a lead on my father.  He's been spotted," Dave indicated.  

"Really?" Eve asked.  "Where?"  

"Here.  Actually, he walked right by me in the airport this morning.  He was with another man who I can't identify at this point.  Anyhow, given his attitude toward this area, he's up to no good, I'm sure of it," he explained.  

The former Messenger soothed, "It's going to be okay, David.  Our friends with the police department will be at Angela's talk in case of any trouble.  Also, you told Steve right?"  

"That's why he rushed out of here," he noted.  

"Okay," the Italian Literature professor declared.  "Then, it's being taken care of.  On another note, are our guests here yet?"  

"They're upstairs, freshening up, I guess," he replied.   

"So, what's your impression of them?" Eve asked.  

"They seem like great kids," he smiled.  Looking around to make sure that nobody was eavesdropping, he leaned close to the two women and whispered, "There's something strange about the young man, however."   

"What?" they chorused, trying to stay composed.  

"Oh great, now you're finding something weird behind every rock and tree," Francesca jabbed.  "I think the mess with Dijon has pushed you over the edge."  

"I know what I felt!" he hissed low.  "Francesca, remember what I told you about my first meeting with Alyce in the airport?"  

"Yes.  What about it?" she asked.  

"It happened again.  I sensed something about him.  Not that he's going to be a hazard or anything, but there's something special about him," he surmised.  

"So, what do you want to do about him?"  the Religion professor pushed concernedly.  

"Nothing yet.  As I said before, he seems like a nice guy.  A few powers don't make or break a person," he responded.   

"Yes, I'm sure," Francesca grinned at her cousin.  "If they did, we'd all be up the creek without a paddle as you Americans like to say."  

Then, feeling the aura coming closer again, he said, "They're coming down the elevator."  

His companions looked at each other skeptically before staring at him.  "How do you know that?"  

"Trust me," he chuckled, albeit rather anxiously.  Twenty seconds later, the doors opened, allowing their guests to reenter the lobby.  "I told you," he stated.  

After the visitors had reached them, he inquired, "Everything okay up there?"  

"Absolutely," Lana remarked.  "Thank you."  

"Everything seems great," Clark added.  

"Well good," the medievalist agreed and motioned toward Eve and Francesca.  "Clark Kent and Lana Lang, these are Dr. Eve Messenger from the Religious Studies Department and Dr. Francesca Alvaro from the Foreign Languages Department."  

"Welcome," Eve greeted, smiling and shaking their hands.  

"How was your trip?" Francesca asked.  

"It was great," Clark indicated.  "The views were breathtaking."  

"Especially after we crossed into New Mexico from Oklahoma," Lana added.  

"The desert is beautiful," Dave concurred.  "I was hooked when I took a trip just like yours almost 15 years ago.  Trust me, it never gets old."  

"By the way, pardon me for asking this, Sir, but are you feeling better?" the younger man probed.  

"Much better.  Thanks," the professor replied.  "Sometimes, if I don't get enough sleep the night before, I have those dizzy spells."  

The two female faculty members gave each other a look, managing to keep their mouths shut on that note since he was trying not to scare these kids off.  

"According to your itinerary," the history professor started, looking at the document in front of him, "you have a class with Dr. Alvaro at noon and Dr. Messenger's class at 1:30.  In between, we'll grab some lunch at the Union."  

"And then, we'll be heading over to the lecture?" Clark asked.  

"That's correct," Eve agreed.  "Was there anything you needed before we leave?"  

"We're set," Lana indicated.  

"Okay," the Literature professor indicated.  "First stop, my Renaissance literature class.  Avanti!"  

With that, the group walked out of the lobby, walked down Third Street, crossed Campbell, and headed for the Modern Languages Building where the visitors' first college experience awaited them.


Chapter 12  

Two hours later, Eckhardt paced the stage where he and his co-panelists would be speaking.  Although the auditorium was fairly spacious, he observed that a few strategically placed agents could cover the exits and the crowd.  After all, one could never be too prepared in case of trouble, especially given that Adam's band of outlaws would more than likely be close by.  He had asked Dubois to wait behind stage just in case anyone here should recognize him.  

Then, Sanderson approached him, asking, "Mr. Eckhardt, when do you want the other half of our engagement mobilized?"  

Looking at his watch, the administrator smiled, "Patience, Mr. Sanderson.  Give it about another 45 minutes.  Then, go to the Social Sciences Building on the main campus to accomplish your mission.  Is the equipment ready?"  

The agent held up what appeared to be an animal injector gun.  "It's ready, Sir.  We won't fail you."  

"See that you don't," Eckhardt remarked dryly.  "A word of caution.  Remember that this particular anomaly should be treated with the utmost care due to his psychological makeup."  

"Absolutely," the other man agreed and left the scene.  

"Splendid," the white-haired man smiled. 

"Not from where I'm standing," a familiar voice countered.  

The director turned to see his one time geneticist and present adversary standing behind him.  "Adam.  I see you came early.  Are you getting a feel for the hall as well?"  

"No actually, I wanted to keep an eye on you.  You're playing with fire this time, Maison," Adam warned.  "Leave the Duboises alone."  

"Actually, I can't do that.  Those two freaks need to be contained for the greater social good and at any cost," Eckhardt noted.  "The wheels are already turning, and this time, you can't stop them."  

"Well, all I have to do is keep an eye on the good doctor during our session.  As for her husband, I trust you know that there's more to him than his powers.  Your cost might jeopardize his whole career and his stability.  Nothing is worth that."  

"That's your misguided view," Eckhardt shrugged.  "Just stay out of my way."  

"You know I can't do that," Adam stated stubbornly.  "And Mutant X is here to back me up."  Noticing the lights starting to come on, he continued, "I think this discussion should be postponed due to our host's appearance, wouldn't you agree?"  

The other man grimly concurred, but this debate wasn't over.  The plan was already in motion.  Soon, the dominoes would start to fall.  


Natalie and Angie walked back into the complex contentedly.  The Lebanese food had been a wonderful treat, as had the opportunity for the two friends to catch up on things.  

For her part, Angie enjoyed watching her friend practically glow over her developing relationship with Steve.  It was great to hear about what the couple was doing and the planned getaway to San Carlos sounded wonderful.  The agent had been so quiet and, in the 12 years that she had known him, had always been a loner.  Now, he was enjoying himself and being good to the coroner at the same time.  

Natalie liked her friend's enthusiasm as well.  Grappling with her husband's moods, the kids, co-existing with Xena, and the nonstop crises had kept her from her oncological research.  From the draft she had read two days earlier, the ME knew that Angie was on to some other major breakthroughs.  "Now, if only things stay stable for a while," she mused.  "Certainly, Dave and Angie have been through enough already."  

At that moment, Dr. Fishburne approached them, asking, "How was lunch?"  

"Great, Sir," Angie replied pleasantly.  

"Good," he smiled.  "Are you ready to go?"  

"As ready as I'll ever be," she sighed nervously.  "I can't believe there's only an hour to go."  

"You'll be fine," the coroner reassured her.  

"Absolutely.  Your research is top-notch.  I can't see why you'd have any problems," her boss agreed.  "By the way, your husband is waiting for you in your office with a young lady."  

"Really?" the oncologist wondered.  "If you'll excuse me, I need to see what Dave wants.  Natalie, thank you, I really appreciated the treat."  

"I'll see you in the auditorium," the pathologist stated.  

Angie rode the elevator up to her department and walked down the hall.  There, Lori Applegate confirmed what their boss had told her before.  Reaching the office, she peeked in.  

"Hi, Angie.  Sorry to intrude like this," Dave apologized.  

"No problem," the doctor assured him as they embraced.  "A surprise visit from you is always a nice thing.  And, I take it that this young lady is one of our guests."  

"Right," he concurred.  "This is Lana Lang from Smallville, Kansas.  Lana, this is Dr. Angela Dubois, the best oncological researcher in these parts and a great doctor."  

"It's a pleasure, Dr. Dubois," the younger woman expressed, shaking hands with Angie.   

"Would you like something to drink?" Angie asked.  "I must apologize if I wasn't expecting you yet.  I thought you'd still be in class."  

"I wanted to spend some time with you for the story I'm working on," Lana replied.  "No disrespect meant, Professor Dubois, but I was hoping to spend some time with your wife if that's okay."  

"That's fine.  You have Dr. Messenger's class first thing in the morning and then, my World Civ. Course in the afternoon.  Believe me, I appreciate initiative," he assured his guest.  "Well, if you don't mind, I need to be getting back to campus.  I'll be back in about 45 minutes as soon as Winnie's settled."  

"I'm reserving a seat for you and Mr. Kent," his wife informed him warmly.  "A girl needs her cheering section, you know."  

He beamed at her for a minute before departing.  

"Well, Lana, how's your trip been so far?" Angie asked, fixing herself a cup of coffee.   

"It's been wonderful so far.  Your husband's been great, making sure that everything's taken care of.  He seems to really know how to show people around this place," Lana complemented.  

The doctor chuckled, "That comes from being a peer advisor himself.  He also loves this place.  Although we're both from the Northeast, we feel that this is home.  Are you sure you won't have something?"  

"A Pepsi would be great if you don't mind," the recruit accepted.  "Thanks."  

Angie walked down the hall to the soda machine and produced the requested item.  Within a minute, she had returned to the room.  Giving it to the other woman, she responded, "My pleasure.  By the way, what does your family do, Lana?"  

Taking a sip from the bottle, the teen sighed, "My aunt and I have a farm.  She works in town too."  

"Really?  I was raised on a farm," her hostess informed her.  "My parents live in Wabash, NY, an hour or so northeast of Albany."  

Lana smiled warmly.  She knew that Professor Dubois was doing his best and that his hospitality was winning them over.  Yet, somehow, the fact that his wife was a former farm girl who had gone on to bigger and better things reassured her.  She and Clark were in the right place.  "And, if you don't mind me asking, what brought you both out here?"  

"Well, my husband had come out here in the early eighties to get away from his family and for the climate.  I admit I did the same thing.  We didn't actually meet until eight years later down in Texas.  We were out here on a vacation trip when Dr. Fishburne offered me a job.  Caitlin Sommers, the library dean, gave him his position.  Dave...Professor Dubois...proposed to me in front of a group of people at the Foreign Languages Building.  Right in the auditorium where Dr. Alvaro was lecturing to her class this morning.  So, we accepted the jobs, moved out here, and started a family," she recalled happily.  "Actually, I need to thank you as well."  

"For what?"  

"For helping me get ready for my talk," the researcher continued.  "I have to admit that I'm nervous."  

"Really?  But you've published quite a bit.  I did a search on you in MEDLINE before I left Kansas," Lana doubted.  

"I may be a doctor, but I'm also human.  We all get nervous sometimes, Lana," Angie assured her, allowing a warm twinkle to shine in her eyes.  "Would you like to go to the auditorium?  I have to get down there."  

"Sure.  Thank you," the teenager concurred, picking up her soda and walking with her toward the elevator.  


Meantime, Dave walked into his office and grabbed a little stack of notes on his desk.  "Can't let the kids off without their research assignment," he mentioned.  Usually, he would be in a better mood, but the humor just wasn't there.  Something was eating at his gut.  For some reason, he sensed something weird once again.  Reaching behind his desk, he inspected his shafts and tested the bow.  "Just in case," he muttered.  

A knock came from the door.  "David?" Lydia Coltrane asked.  

"Yes?" he inquired.  "What's going on?"  

"I think that's my question.  You have class in 10 minutes, and your wife's speaking across campus.  What're you doing checking your weapons?"  

"We do have a threat," he replied.  "My father's in town, and he's brought some friends.  I saw them in the airport this morning."  

"Your father?" she gasped, recalling the scene from the day after his wedding.  "Why?"  

"How the Hell am I supposed to know?" he snapped.  Picking up two smoke grenades, he put them in his pants pocket.  "Just in case."  Seeing her fearful expression, he pushed, "What's the problem?"  

"You can't take weapons into a classroom," she argued.  

"They're defensive weapons.  They don't hurt anyone, rather they provide a smoke screen," he noted.  "Relax, nobody will know unless it becomes necessary."  Picking up his satchel, he added, "As soon as I introduce Winnie, I'm on the way over to the med complex."  

"Okay, I'll see you there," his former professor agreed, walking out of the room.  

He locked the door, pocketing the key and feeling the items in his pockets.  "I've really must come up with something less conspicuous," he lectured himself. Walking around the corner, he found the room and entered it to see his students sitting there, not so patiently waiting for him.  To his right, he saw Eve and Clark standing there.  

Winnie walked in a moment later and set down her materials.  "Dr. Dubois," she greeted.  "Thanks for letting me talk to them."  

"Thank you for covering me," he stated.   

"No problem," she smiled.  "It's time, you know."  

"Right," he agreed, making his way over to the podium.  "Hi, gang.  Today, we have a guest speaker from the library.  Winnie Henderson's come over from the library to give you some pointers for your research assignment...."  

A collective groan arose from the gathering, eliciting grins from Eve and Dave.  

"As I was saying, your research assignment which you'll have to work on over the next week.  Any questions before I turn you over to Professor Henderson?" he continued, fighting the feeling of triumph.  

At that moment, the door opened again, allowing five men in raincoats and dark sunglasses to enter the room.  Flanking all parts of the room, they stood, watching everyone motionlessly.  

"I've got a question," Sanderson cracked.  "How about you surrender, and we'll keep this quiet?"  

Dave glanced around the room, surveying the situation, recalling the weapons just around the corner and out of his grasp.  


Chapter 13  

Over at the UMC's auditorium, the crowd was starting to filter in, anticipating what promised to be an informative session.  For many of them, the new ideas would be enlightening especially given the differing stances over cellular mutations in medical studies.  

Around the parameter of the room, GSA agents took their positions, awaiting their superior's word.  

On the side of the stage, Natalie, Steve, and Schanke observed this activity uneasily.  They wished that Ramirez hadn't changed his mind about providing uniforms to keep an eye on things.   

"Damn it, Dave," Steve muttered.  "What's going on this time?"  

The detective glanced at him, probing, "You think something's up?"  

"Count on it," the agent replied, keeping a wary eye on the area.  

Natalie sighed.  Despite the crowd's anticipation, the air was becoming charged with nervous energy.    Looking at her watch, she saw that it was only 2:20.  "Still six hours to go until sunset," she muttered, wishing that Nick and Tracy were there.  


Angie paced behind stage, nervously rehearsing her piece and checking the connectivity of her presentation.  After seating Lana in the front row, she inspected the web pages and saw that everything looked great.  The paper was in order.  Why should everything be so nerve wracking?  

"I'm on my home turf.  Why does everything seem so wrong?" she wondered.  

"Maybe it's because we've got a serious debate coming up," Adam interjected.   

"Dr. Zero, right?" she supposed.   

"That's right," he indicated, offering his hand.  "Please to meet you, Dr. Dubois."  

She shook it, remarking, "This isn't supposed to be a debate over the place of mutants in society, Doctor."  

"Our co-speaker is prepared to make it such," he commented.  "With so much on the line for both of us, Angela, we need to be ready to defend any mutants against sociopaths like Maison Eckhardt."  

[From within her head, Xena warned, "Careful, Angela.  Somehow, this man knows something."]  

"What does that have to do with me?" she insisted, studying his face.  

"Your husband has special abilities.  He and your children need protection," he explained.  

"Trust me, he's quite capable of taking care of himself," she countered.  "If anyone's foolish enough to make him angry, well let's say they better have a good life insurance policy.  And, if you're threatening our daughters, Dr. Zero, either one of us can account for ourselves rather well.  There is one way to tell if you're speaking the truth.  Hold still."    With her mental powers, she surveyed his thoughts and found that he was telling the truth.  

Adam smiled.  "You're a mutant too."  

She nodded, "And I'm sorry for doubting you.  I'm...."  She winced and looked about the room.   

"What's wrong?" he asked.  

"It's my husband.  He's been surrounded by goons...in raincoats," she revealed.  "We have a telepathic link.  Who?"  

"GSA agents," he declared.  "I knew Eckhardt was up to something.  Fortunately, I've positioned help around the corner."  

"And they'll come too late, Adam," Eckhardt cut in.  Three agents flanked him.  "I'm stepping things up.  Let's go."  

"Excuse me?" she doubted.  "Go where?"  

"You're going with us," her father-in-law directed, grabbing her from behind and producing an oversized gun.  Before she could react, he placed against the back of her neck, and pulled the trigger, shooting something sharp into that spot.   

She pulled away from him, feeling a small plastic piece there.  However, more importantly, she couldn't sense Dave anymore.  When she tried to reestablish the connection, she doubled over in pain.  "What is this?"  

"Something to keep freaks like you in line," the elder Dubois cracked derisively, grabbing her again.  

"Stop it," Adam told him.  "It's true.  You're what they say you are.  Now, I know why your son is the way he is."  

The contractor grinned wickedly.  "You're breaking my heart.  Mr. Eckhardt, can you get them away from me?"  

"With pleasure," the director agreed, motioning to the other two.   

The agents secured them and pushed their prisoners toward the side door of the auditorium.  

At that moment, Lana stuck her head in back of the curtain, and saw what was going on.  "What are you doing?"  When the third agent had grabbed her, she exclaimed, "Let me go!"  

"No, my Dear," Eckhardt disagreed.  "I'm afraid I can't do that.  Mr. Dubois, let's go."  

"Right," he agreed, handing the other the gun.  "Thank you for allowing me to do that."  

"You're welcome," Eckhardt replied evenly.  As long as the man didn't overstep himself, the director would be glad to let Dubois entertain himself.  Looking about, he started toward the exit himself.  


Steve glanced around the room for the twentieth time, still feeling tense about things.  Then, he noticed that Lana wasn't in her seat.  A moment later, he saw Angie, Adam, and the teenager being pushed out the door.  "Damn it!" he hissed, pulling out his pistol.  "Schanke!  It's happening!"  

"What's Angie doing?  The talk's supposed to start in five minutes!" Natalie wondered.  

"What's going on?" Dr. Fishburne demanded.  "Agent Petersen, where are they going?"  

"I don't know, but I'd say we've got trouble," Steve guessed.  "Natalie, stay down!"  

"Be careful," she advised.  

"Count on it," he told her, running for the situation followed closely by Schanke.  "Dave, where are you?"  


Across campus, Winnie glanced at the intruders surrounding her, the professors, and the students.  Why was it that every time David was involved with something, danger soon reared its head?  She still remembered the witch's attacks.  Now, a seemingly good opportunity turned into an ugly situation as well.  

Dave, for his part, had remained silent for a long minute, surveying the situation.  Now, he demanded, "What are you getting at?  And who are you to ask me that?"  

"We're the enforcers of genetic purity," Sanderson spat. "Take him!"  

The professor hesitated for an instant, considering the consequences of exposing himself in front of these kids but, given all of the scenarios, he had to do it.  Due to her vows of pacifism, Eve wouldn't strike back nor could Winnie.  Rushing forward, he waded into the GSA agents.   Allowing their bodies to cover him, he started ripping off blasts, scattering them in all directions.  

The agents stood up slowly and advanced again.  

Seeing that he had cleared the way for the door, he told Winnie, "Get them out of here!  Go!"  

She nodded and guided the students out of there.  Glancing back, she called, "Dr. Messenger!"  

The Amazon Princess hated to leave, but she had to find Francesca.  Something awful was happening, and reinforcements were needed badly.  "I'll be back," she promised, following the group.  

Wrapped up in the battle, the medievalist ignored her.  Then, he felt Angie's pain as the governor sent a shockwave through her and then, him.  "Arrgh!" he hissed.  Then, just before the link went dead, he saw something horrible through her eyes.  

His father had shot her.  

"Damn that bastard!" he bellowed, feeling the darkness beginning to surge upward.  Now that they were alone, he began to openly use his powers, picking the men off one by one.  Looking at the stunned men, he roared, "What's my father doing with my wife?"   He began to summon another pulse.  

Using his own powers, Sanderson managed to sneak up behind Dave.  With great quickness, he knocked the professor down from behind and slammed a governor into his neck.  "Got you!"  

Feeling the weird sensation from the plastic device, the medievalist trembled a bit.  "Get off of me!" he yelled, smacking the agent in the jaw.  Rising to his feet, he advanced on his attacker.  "What the Hell did you do?"  

"Something to keep you in line," the head attacker crowed, producing a remote control and pressing a button on it.  

Suddenly, pain blazed through Dave's head, rocking his equilibrium.  He staggered and fell to his knees under the blazing agony.  "Keep...me in...line?" he stammered.  

"Sure," another agent laughed.  "Your father's waiting for you."  

"My father," he spat through another wave of pain, clutching his gut through the ordeal.  His mind was on the verge of shutting down.  

["Grrahhh!" the Child screamed.  "Enough bullshit!  Let's show'em how we like pain.  Let me out!"]  

"G...Go," Dave slurred, collapsing to the floor.  But, as he did so, he released the floodgates, unleashing his dark counterpart.  

"This is too easy," the third agent smirked, unaware of what was going on inside of their quarry's head.  "Now, he's babbling.  Let's take him back to Geneomax."  

As three of the agents grabbed him, the Child snickered wickedly.  Then, his left eye opened and he let out a low growl.  "Ah said, let go!" he ordered, emitting another burst and knocking out his attackers.  "Now, where's the Little Woman?  Tell me!" he roared, staring savagely into Sanderson's eyes.  

The other man's psychic powers deduced what Eckhardt had been getting at.  After his attempts to "dissuade" the other via his abilities had failed, the telepath turned up the setting on the remote.  

The increased setting drove the Child into a frenzy.  Snarling, he backhanded the telepath across the room, stunning him.   

"Lit..tle Wo...man," he muttered, trying to form the words. "Wea...pons."  Bursting from the room, he ran around the corner.  Even in his rage, he sensed the right office and guessing at the key, opened the door on the third attempt.  Within a second, he had his gear and the bow, and was on his way back down the hallway.  

Lydia walked out of the departmental office, wondering about the noise when she heard the banshee-like scream.  "Oh no," she gasped before seeing him come down the hall, face all contorted in rage, snarling like a mad dog, and saliva dripping from the corners of his mouth.  

"Dave, stop!"  

 "Not...Dave," he growled, bursting by her, through the glass door and northward.   While he didn't understand a great deal, somehow the Child knew that he needed to get to the Medical Center to settle matters and that's what he would do.  Upon reaching Speedway and seeing the cars whizzing up and down the busy street, he bellowed his displeasure and, riding the wave of pain from the governor, used his powers to levitate over the street, not caring about the consequences of his act.  A fresh wave of agony hit him, almost dropping him halfway across, but he managed to reach the other curb.  After a minute, he resumed his advance, contemplating what he would do to his father when he finally got a hold of him.


Chapter 14  

Eve and Winnie guided the group out of the building, urging them toward the Main Library.  "Go!" she ordered.  "We'll meet you there!"  

Just then, Clark's enhanced hearing picked up a peculiar noise.  "Dr. Messenger, what's that?"  

Winnie told him, "Never mind!  We need to keep moving!"  

However, Eve grasped his arm firmly, asking, "What did you hear?"  

"A scream almost like that of a wild animal," he noted.  

From the upstairs window, she heard it as well.  The change had happened again.  "Come on!" she directed, guiding him away from the group.  Heading toward the side entrance, they saw Dave fully armed and focused, running northward.  She noted the familiar expression on his face.  Somehow, those men had caused this turn of events.  

"Eve!" Lydia called, hurrying toward them.  

"Lydia, where's he going?" Eve inquired.  

"I don't know," she shrugged.  "I heard the ruckus down the hall.  Then, I saw him come out of his office, snarling and growling, struggling with his speech.  He didn't even stop.  What happened?"  

"We were attacked," the Religion professor recounted.  "Dave got us out of the room.  The other students went with Winnie Henderson over to the library.   Why don't you go over there with them?  Meantime, Clark and I have other business."  Grasping his hand, she pulled him back toward the mall area.  

"Where are we going?" he asked.  

"Back to the Foreign Languages Building.  Come on," she advised.  

Even if he didn't understand why, the young man hurried, or at least, appeared to hurry, after her.  


Francesca sat in her office, examining a manuscript.  The class had been a good one.  She enjoyed interacting with her students as well as their visitors.  "They seem like bright kids," she smiled.  

"Francesca!" Xena's voice called.  

"What?  Xena?" she asked, looking about.  

In front of her desk, the Warrior Princess's image appeared with a grim expression chiseled across her face.  "We have a situation.  Angela and your guest have been kidnapped.  I need to speak to Gabrielle if that's okay."  

"Why didn't she just change into you?" the professor asked, getting out of her chair.  

"She didn't have the chance," the Thracian warrior stated.  "David's father hit her with something strange.  I'm still with her, but she can't use her own powers."  

"Madonna!" Francesca exclaimed.  Grasping the full implications of the situation, she concentrated and, in a flash, Gabrielle stood in her place, whirling her staff.   

"Where are they?" the Bard Queen inquired.  

"At the healing place," the Warrior told her.  "Come on!"  They looked about and, seeing that the hallway was empty, bolted out of there.  As they reached the bottom of the stairs, they saw Eve and Clark running toward them.   

"Eve!" the bard called.  

"Gabrielle!  We've got trouble!" her heiress advised.  

Xena frowned.  What was this, another of Ares' plots?  "No time to bat that one around now," she told herself.   

Clark's eyes went wide when he saw the blonde newcomer.  Even in Smallville, the news of her exploits with Xena was big time news and legend.  "You're Gabrielle, aren't you?"  

"No time now," she deadpanned. "Now, let's go.  Your girlfriend and my friend are in trouble up there." Turning, she started toward Speedway herself followed closely by Eve.  

He sighed.  To use his own powers down here would risk exposure, but with Lana's life on the line, he had no choice.  In a flash, he was gone, running at supersonic speed toward the Medical Center.    


Meantime, in his loft, Nick sat up from his slumber.  His face was drenched with blood droplets, his breathing was rapid, and his head rang like the bells of Notre Dame.  "Dave?  What's going on now?"  Then, he remembered that today was Angie's speech.  "Something must've happened."  Picking up the phone, he dialed his partner's cell phone number.  

"Schanke, pick it up!" he snarled, feeling that something was dreadfully wrong.  

"Schanke here.  Who's this?" the detective replied.  

"Schanke, it's Nick.  What's going on?"  

"Nick! Man-o-man, am I glad it's you!  Listen, Buddy, I know it's still daylight, but we're pinned down here at the UMC.  Steve and Natalie are here too.  If you can help, we'd appreciate it."  

Then, he heard Natalie add, "Nick!  They've grabbed Angie, a young girl, and one of the panelists.  They're men in raincoats and dark glasses.  Some of them have us stuck here."  

The vampire detective looked about the room.  His clock read 3:15PM, and the sunlight taunted him by streaming in through the crack in his blinds across the room.  But, he needed to get to his friends.  Somehow, he had to find a way.   

At that moment, mist appeared in the corner of the room, allowing Deirdre to enter the scene.  She rubbed her head and looked panicked as well.  "Detective Miles," she greeted.  "Pardon the intrusion, but we have a problem!"  

He grinned.  Somebody had heard his thoughts and delivered.  "Nat, give me a few minutes.  I'll be right there!"  Disconnecting, he turned to the young priestess and asked, "Deirdre, what is it?"  

"Mama and Papa are in trouble.  We need to get over there," she told him.  "Unfortunately, we don't have time for you to change."  Waving her hands, she cast a spell, clothing Nick in his work attire.  "There!" she smiled.  "All set!"  

"Almost!" he directed, running down the stairs.  If he was going to fight, he needed blood first.  Reaching the fridge, he grabbed one of the green bottles there and guzzled half of it down.  "Now, I'm ready," he told her, putting it back.  

"Good," she smiled.  "Let's go."  Willing up her portal, she allowed the former Crusader to step through.  

"Deirdre!  What is it?" Alyce's voice called from the top of the stairs.  

"We have trouble," the priestess told her.  "Wait until sunset and then, get yourself over to campus.  I'll be in touch."  With that, she stepped through the doorway, closing it behind her.  

For her part, the curator rushed back to her room and started laying her clothes out.  Although she still had about four hours, she wanted to be ready.


Chapter 15  

Meantime, the Mutant X team was coming down the stairs inside of the medical center.  It had taken some doing, but they had landed their ship on the roof.  Despite Adam's request, the silence from his comlink told them that trouble was brewing.  

About halfway down, Emma winced, "Argh!  Guys, he's changed!  The darkness!"  

"What?" Shalimar asked.  "What about it?"  

"He's been attacked by the GSA.  I see him, chained around the neck, but he's fighting it."  

"They've put a governor on him," Jesse interpreted.  "What do you mean fighting it?"  

"Somehow, he's using his powers," she told him.  "The pain is feeding his darkness.  We need to help him!" Focusing below, she forced herself to "feel" what was going on below.  "The GSA's struck down there too."  

Jesse looked down the winding cone of stairs.  The entrance to the auditorium was right beneath them.  "I'm going," he declared, turning intangible and phasing through the layers.  

"Count me in too!" the feral added, leaping into the abyss.  Landing every six floors, she made it in three stops.  

"Come on!" Emma urged, grabbing Brennan and hurrying down the remaining steps.  Whatever was going on would require immediate assistance.


Once he had reached the bottom floor, Jesse glanced about.  The doors were locked, but that was no trouble for him.  Phasing again, he stepped into the auditorium and saw his worst nightmare.  The audience was huddled in the middle of the room.  Off to the side, four people with guns were training them on the GSA agents across the area from them.  

"Shalimar, we've got a hostage situation here!" he reported into the comlink.  Then, turning himself rockhard, he advanced on the agents, looking for answers.

"Coming in!" she replied, kicking the doors in.  As her eyes turned yellow, signifying the dominance of her other nature, she started toward the agents as well.  

The rest of the GSA men rushed into the area, bringing their total to twenty.  Bagging these mutants would bring a high prize from Eckhardt. Surrounding their new quarry, they moved in.  

"Hey!" Brennan yelled, rushing in, his hands already churning up a blast.  Unleashing it, he took out four at once.  

Beside him, the empath was about to join him, but felt something coming closer.  Looking toward the locked outer doors, she realized the darkness was there.  Moving away from the doors, she saw them explode inward in a powerful blast of energy.  Glancing up, she heard the growling and snarling coming from the smoke.  A moment later, a man came into focus that she knew was David Dubois.   

"Scram!" he snarled, moving past her, into the room.  

Emma shook in spite of herself.  Despite the grown up appearance, the presence seemed to be a child motivated by pure anger and hate, but what could've been so bad as to do that to him?  Whatever it was, she needed to be with her friends at that point.  Rushing into the room, she readied herself for the battle to come.  


The Child stormed into the area, looking around.  While he didn't understand what was going on, he knew that Angie was gone, and that would upset Big Brother all the more.  Seeing the guys in the overcoats ticked him off further if that was possible given the crap that the irritating plastic thing was giving him.  Willing up another blast, he ignored the massive wave of pain from the device, and fired at the attackers, taking out five of them.  "Wh...Where is she??" he bellowed.  Firing another blast, he leveled four others, continuing, "Tell me!!!"  

Jesse hesitated for a second and asked Brennan, "I thought Emma said he had a governor on him?  How can he use his powers?"  

"How would I know?" the electrical mutant spat, jolting three more goons.  "After this is over, you can ask him!"  

The other silently moved on with his task, pummeling his adversaries with rockhard fists.  

At that moment, the fog opened at the side, allowing Nick and Deirdre to enter.  The fully vamped out immortal didn't hesitate, taking his share of the GSA agents.  

From the side of the room, Clark entered at super speed so as not to allow himself to be seen.  Whizzing past the agents, he smacked and punched his way through them.  

Gabrielle and Eve had finally reached the area as well.  For her part, the Bard waded right in, battling the remaining agents.  

Given the firepower of the reinforcements, the GSA had no chance.  Within minutes, they were beaten soundly.  

"Damn!" the Child snarled.  By now, the pain in his head was bordering on debilitating even for him.  "She ain't here!"  

"David?" Fishburne asked, approaching him tentatively.  While he had heard about the man's condition, he had never seen it manifested.  

"Get 'way!" he growled menacingly, trying to grab onto the governor and rip it out of his neck.  "Sonnuva...!"  

Brennan offered, "Hey, Chief.  Cool it.  Everything's all right.  You need some help with that?"  

"No!" the Other snapped.  "Keep 'way!" Grabbing the spot at the back of his neck, he sent one more pulse right into the device.  While he shorted it out, the backlash pushed his pain over the limit.  Falling to his knees, he collapsed.  

"Man, I could've done that," the electrical mutant said.  "Is he all right?"  

Natalie rushed over to the fallen man's side and performed a field exam.  "Pulse rate is weak, breathing is shallow.  We need to get him upstairs."  

Just then, the sirens could be heard in the distance.  The police were arriving late as usual.  

"On second thought," Shalimar commented.  "We should get him out of here, but we'll never make it back to the Helix."  

"Leave that to me," Deirdre indicated, summoning a wide blanketing mist in the way her aunt had shown her.  Enveloping the Mutant X members, Dave, Eve, and Gabrielle, she turned to Nick and Clark, asking, "Coming?"

"Yes," Nick agreed, rushing ahead.  As he vanished into the mist, he told Schanke and Natalie, "Let Ramirez know I'll be reporting in."  

"You got it," the souvlaki-loving detective agreed.  

Clark jumped into the portal just as it faded away, leaving the others to pick up the pieces.  


When the mists had parted, the group stood on the roof beside the large aircraft.  For safety's sake, Nick had stayed behind so as not to expose himself to the sun.  Once they were on board, the priestess stated, "Can you close off the ship's windows?"  

"Why?" Brennan baited.  "Is he a vampire or something?" 

"Actually, Detective Miles is a vampire," Eve revealed, a frown painted across her face at his wisecrack.  

Shalimar pressed a switch on the console, dropping covers over the windows.  "How's that?" she asked.  

"Perfect," Deirdre complemented, opening the portal again.  "It's safe, Detective."  

"Is he secure?" Jesse asked, firing up the engines.  

"We're set!" Emma advised.  "Go!"  

"We're off!" he told them, raising the ship from the structure, and flying away from the scene.  "Stealth cloak," he stated to the screen.  

At that moment, the Double Helix turned invisible even as it streaked away toward the northeast.  


Back at the medical center, Tracy ran into the auditorium just before ten uniforms.  "Natalie?  Schanke?" she yelled, fearing the worst.  Seeing the devastation around her, she experienced an incredible sensation of deja vu.  "Can't they stay out of trouble?" she groused, surveying the scene.  

"Hey, Tracy," Schanke retorted, waving her over.  

Moving quickly, the blonde detective made her way over to where he was standing along with Steve, Natalie, and Michael Fishburne.  "What happened?" she asked.  "I could guess, but I want to hear it for myself."  

"The panel was set and ready to go," Fishburne stated.  "I had Angela going first followed by Adam Zero and Maison Eckhardt.  Everything seemed to be okay.  Then, I heard some arguing behind the curtain.  The next thing I knew, Eckhardt was shoving them out the door along with that young guest of David and Angela's."  

"The fighting got pretty heated," Natalie added.  "First, these mysterious people burst in.  Then, Dave showed up."  

"You forgot about Detective Miles," the hospital administrator cut in.  "He was here too.  I don't know how he fought as he did, but he held his own against at least fifteen of those criminals."  

Tracy glanced skeptically at Fishburne.  How could Nick have gotten down there in broad daylight?  "Cybelle," she thought, recognizing that the priestess could have popped in and out, shielding her partner from the sun in the process.  "Anything you want to add, Agent Petersen?"  

"Not yet," Steve declined.  "But, I want to have some time with these SOBs myself."  Just then, his cell phone went off.  "Petersen," he replied.  

"Agent Petersen?  This is Caitlin Sommers at the library.  What's going on?" Caitlin demanded.  

"Somebody decided to strike at the conference," he explained.  "Why?"  

"One of my librarians not to mention Lydia Coltrane is standing here, shaking in their shoes over an incident at the Social Sciences Building," she told him.  

Thinking for a second, he recalled that Dave was already under a full head of steam when he burst into the room.  "Dean Sommers, as soon as I know more, I'll let you know.  Right now, we're getting ready to take the attackers downtown for questioning.  As soon as I get some more backup here, we'll move out.  Talk to you soon," he concluded, hanging up.  

"Actually, Steve, the other uniforms were already there," Tracy reported.  "Unfortunately, the room is a wipe and the perps got away."  

Glancing at Natalie, the agent shook his head disparagingly.  It was going to be one of those days all right.  "Just another day in Dave's neighborhood," he grumbled.  With Farrell's lecture and the paperwork, this was going to be a really long night.


Chapter 16 [Geneomax]  

Eckhardt frowned as he read the field report from the Tucson raid.  While some of the agents including the ones on the main campus had managed to escape, the police had detained twenty other operatives for questioning.  In addition, the audience had seen him pushing Adam, Dr. Dubois, and the young woman out the door.  It had been quite a two-ring circus between the main campus and the medical center.  "One wonders what I train these people for," he complained to himself.  A buzz came from the outside.  "Yes?"  

Sanderson entered the area nervously, "Mr. Eckhardt, I'm sorry to disturb you, Sir."  

"Yes.  I wanted to ask you about the escaped Dubois mutant.  Why didn't you do what I instructed?" the administrator asked, his hand fingering the remote control in his coat pocket.  

"We did, Sir.  Just as with any other new mutant, we surrounded him.  I implanted the governor myself," the operative reported.  "But then, something strange happened."  

"Yes, I read about it in your report.  Mr. Sanderson, what do you think happened?"  

"Beg your pardon?" Sanderson inquired.  

"With Dubois, what happened?  The governor should have inflicted pain when he tried to use his powers," the director supposed, getting up from his seat, and glancing through the window behind him to the stasis chamber far below.  

"That's just it, Mr. Eckhardt.  It did that, but something else happened," the telepath recounted.  "Somehow, the pain tripped a switch inside of his head.  The more I turned up the volume on the governor, the stronger he became.  I also tried to use my abilities, but when I looked into his psyche, it was like glancing into the eyes of a pit bull.  As much as the pain was bothering him, Dubois was feeding off of it as well."  

Eckhardt cursed himself.  How often had he told his agents to do their homework, and he was now guilty of the same error in judgment.  "Yes.  We all make mistakes, Mr. Sanderson.  That's quite an interesting enigma, isn't it?  How the darkness surfaces within him, I mean."  

"That's because he has multiple personalities, Sir."  

"Indeed," the superior replied coldly, his fingers rubbing his chin.  This issue would take some more thought.  "In the meantime, how are our guests?"  

"The two women are secure in their area.  Adam has been kept away from the computers as per your instructions," the agent noted.  

"Excellent," Eckhardt smiled slightly.  "Just make sure that Stuart Dubois doesn't go near his daughter-in-law unless I say so, understand?"  

"Right," the subordinate agreed.  

"Very good," the administrator nodded.  "Come with me."  

Following Sanderson, Eckhardt stepped from his office, heading down the hall to check on his imprisoned adversary.    


Adam sat on his bunk, surveying the situation.  Just as he had expected, the GSA had searched him, confiscating anything of potential use for damage or escape.  In addition, his cell had no dataport access or computers of any kind.  That was hardly surprising.  Fortunately, he had managed to slip his comlink ring into Angela's pocket, avoiding that item being taken from him as well.  

"I have to think of a way to contact them," he thought in frustration.  

Then, the door opened, allowing Eckhardt to enter the area.  "Adam, I trust you're holding up all right?" he asked.  Although he didn't care one way or the other, it was the polite thing to ask.  

"You wouldn't care about the slop they're feeding me, Maison.  What do you want?" the imprisoned man sighed sarcastically. "And what have you done with Dr. Dubois and the girl?"  

"They're fine for now.  As for your second question, no, I don't care.  Well then, let's cut to the chase, shall we?  I know how you operate.  Somewhere, there's a base with all of your files.  I want to know where that place is.  You're going to tell me," the captor demanded.  

Adam grinned defiantly, "I think you're believing that stuff you put into the GSA handbooks about your invincibility and such.  If you really think I'm going to tell you, then you're full of it."  

Eckhardt shook his head.  While he expected this reaction, he really didn't want to get into a big show of getting the information.  "Mr. Sanderson, do come in, will you?" After the agent had entered the room, he continued, "He's a telepath.  Quite a powerful one too.  If you don't tell me, I'll have him rip the information from your mind."  

Adam shook his head and braced himself for the assault.  

Sanderson approached the prisoner, locking eyes with the other man, and started his probe.  


Meantime, Angie glanced around the quarters where she and Lana had been placed.  Despite the fact that the cots were surprisingly comfortable, she had been in this situation enough times to know that even a glided cage was still a cage.  To make matters worse, the thing on her neck was itching like mad.  Bad enough that the darn thing kept her from contacting Dave, but did it have to do that too?  Glancing up at the ever-watchful security camera, she groused that Xena couldn't get involved.  "This stupid thing wouldn't stop her, but if I change, I'll expose us," she mused silently.  

[As if on cue, the warrior's voice spoke in her head, "Angela, are you all right?"]  

["I'm fine," the oncologist thought, scratching at her neck.]  

["Good.  I wanted you to know that David escaped with the others.  Eve and I got Gabrielle involved.  We also received assistance from some unexpected reinforcements not to mention your guest," Xena reported.]  

["Guest?  You mean the young man?"]  

["Uh huh," the warrior continued.  "Apparently, he's more than he seems.  From what I could tell, he ran off at a rate which would've made Hermes jealous and was pushing those goons across the room with a great deal of force.  Since I wasn't involved with you, I kept an eye on things."]  

["Well, thanks for that," Angie expressed.  "How's Dave?"]  

[He's...being worked on right now.  Apparently, that thing in your neck causes pain when you try to use your powers.  Well, they put one on him too.  According to Eve, the damn thing caused him to change, pushing him further than ever.  After taking out his attackers, he made it over to your healing place where he stormed in and kicked tail before he collapsed himself under the strain. Deirdre got him and the others out of there before the authorities showed up.  Don't worry, Angela.  From what I could tell, these other allies were scanning him with something.  He seemed to be in good hands.  I'm heading back there so if you don't hear from me, I haven't deserted you," Xena stated.]  

["I know that," she replied, shuddering slightly.  "I'm worried about Dave is all.  Please let me know if there's any change."]  

["You got it," the other concluded, admiring her "roommate's" inner strength.   "Keep an eye on your cellmate there.  Her friend's really concerned about her."]  With that, she went silent.  

"Excuse me, Dr. Dubois?" Lana cut in, tapping her on the shoulder.  "Are you all right?"  

"Oh, never better," Angie smiled, trying not to let her nerves show.  

"I wish I felt that way," the younger woman sighed, pacing the area.  "I thought I was going to be looking at schools, not stuck in a room as if I was late for dinner or something.  Aunt Nell's going to be really worried about us not to mention Clark's parents."  

Angie embraced her companion, reassuring her, "It's going to be all right, Lana.  We'll get out of here. You'll see."  

"Thanks," the teen commented, managing a smile.  "I really appreciate how you're holding yourself together.  Aren't you concerned about your husband?"  

"I'm terrified actually and frustrated that I can't get us out of here," the doctor revealed.  "Judging from how we've been treated, they were going to hurt him. And with my father-in-law involved, it would be worse, trust me."  Seeing Lana's confused expression, she continued, "I know what you're thinking.  Believe me, there's a bitter history between my husband and his father, leaving scars on Professor Dubois.  Sometimes, he has his blackouts, and we have to deal with them."  

"He was acting strangely this morning at the airport.  When he touched Clark, he jumped. We were wondering about that.  I mean, he seems so nice otherwise, but that was too weird," Lana recounted.  

"Well, I'm willing to bet that he had just run into his father in the terminal, so he was a bit shaken up.  Maybe, Clark had some static electricity on him from the carpet?" Angie proposed, trying to fabricate an excuse as she went.  

"I suppose," Lana replied, still not satisfied.  There was something unusual about the history professor hidden beneath the surface.  If there were an opportunity later, she would like to find out more about him.



Chapter 17 [Tucson]  

Natalie stood over her counter, eyeing hair samples and fingerprints through the microscope.  Thankfully, the sample Nick and Tracy brought back from the murder scene had been clean enough to use as evidence.  Now, she was hoping that Schanke would bring some good news in terms of the goons from the Medical Center.  

Steve entered the area with a concerned look on his face.  As with many of his recent cases, he was too close to this one.  Yet, with his friends as deeply involved as they were, he wanted to make sure that all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed.  "Anything?" he asked.  

"Hmm?" she probed, still studying the samples.  

"You're something else, you know that?  I wish the forensics folks at the Bureau were half as dedicated as you are," he chuckled.  

The ME laughed at the comment, "If I didn't know better, Agent Petersen, I'd say you were trying to flatter me."  

"And if I were?" he asked.  

"I'd say keep it up.  It's working," she smiled.  Noting his concern, she added, "What's up?"  

"Oh, your captain's ready to spit nails again.  Besides, I'm concerned about Dave and Angie's disappearance.  At least, Farrell's complemented me on how we handled the situation," he mentioned.  "Schanke's working on getting the prints run through Interpol and the Bureau's database."  

At that moment, a knocking came from the door.  Spying the detective in question, she cracked, "Speak of the Devil.  What'cha got, Schank?"  

"We got a match on those fingerprints.  You know that guy, Brown, who was in with the goons we grabbed at the UMC?  The fingerprints on your victim match up with his," the newcomer reported, holding up a small dish with a blood sample.  "I take it that this is enough to type?"  

"It should be," Steve agreed, watching her place the sample under the microscope and looking at it.  Then, producing an eyedropper with a blue liquid in it, she released some of the solution into the sample before reexamining it.   

"I'd say we have ourselves a match, gang," she indicated.  

"Great.  That'll get Ramirez off of our backs for the moment," the souvlaki-loving detective stated.  "C'mon, Steve.  Our main perp's going to be waiting for us up in the Interview Room along with Tracy.  Let's go."  

"Right behind you," he agreed.  After casting the coroner a caring look, he disappeared up the stairs, heading for the interrogation.  


Tracy sat patiently in Interview Room 2 across the table from Brown, studying the prisoner.  The man seemed clean cut, well built, and intelligent. "Too bad he's such a sociopath," she thought to herself.  

Brown smiled across the table from her.  He knew that the GSA would send the best lawyer they could find to get him out of here.  All he had to do was to stall these imbeciles until his counsel arrived. "Trying to get a handle on me, Detective?" he baited.  

"It's my job, Mr. Brown," she responded coolly.  

"Do yourself a favor and stay out of my affairs.  They might prove a bit too much for you," he retorted.  

The smugness of his remark ticked her off, but she kept her composure. "C'mon, guys," she thought, wishing that Schanke and Petersen would arrive.  A minute later, they walked through the door and took their seats much to her relief.  

"Gentlemen," Brown greeted.  

"Mr. Brown, we've got some questions for you concerning what happened on campus as well as a homicide from three days ago," Schanke started.  "Where were you three nights ago?"  

"Back in Upstate New York with my boss in a meeting.  He'll collaborate it," the GSA agent replied confidently.  

"What would you say if we could prove differently?" Steve added, producing a manila envelope.  "These are the copies of your plane itineraries from Buffalo to here from the past week.  Says here that you checked in and traveled both ways."  

"So, I was in a teleconference.  Lots of people do that these days," the prisoner scoffed.  

"We also found your fingerprints on a murder victim named Alicia Fallone.  Under her fingernails, we found a skin sample which we used to test for blood type," Tracy added.  

"By the way, where's your coat, Mr. Brown?  All of your peers seem to have one except for you.  What happened to it?" Schanke interjected, locking eyes with the other man.  

"I don't have it right now.  Your point?" Brown retorted, a bit of irritation seeping into his voice.  

She reached under the table and placed a bag stuffed with what appeared to be an overcoat in it.  "Could this be it?" she inquired.  

"Could be?  Where did you get it?  Surely, you didn't just go through my things without a warrant?" the operative frowned.  

"No.  We found this in the alley where Ms. Fallone was murdered.  In addition, there was a puncture mark in the back of her neck, and we found this item as well," she continued, placing the broken governor and a picture of the victim's neck with the mark on it.  

"How do you know the coat's mine?" the prisoner wondered.  "Any wino in Tucson could have one."  

"A coat like this one?" Steve chuckled.  "Come on.  This is a $150.00 London Fog special.  The forensic tests showed that the wearer of this coat has the same blood type as you.  Perspiration and hair are wonderful indicators, Mr. Brown.  Besides, at the UMC, I got a look at the back of David Dubois's neck.   One of your associates implanted a device similar to this one in the same spot as on Fallone.  What do you have to say about that?"  

"Only that it's too bad that he escaped my associates.  Freaks like that don't deserve to live," the prisoner hissed.  "We know you're friends with him, Petersen.  Tell me, what's it like sheltering a monstrosity such as your so-called friend?"  

The FBI agent gripped the sides of the table and bit his lip.  As much as wanted to deck the obnoxious SOB across the table from him, Farrell had warned him to keep his composure.  For the past year, the Bureau had been investigating the activities of the so-called Genetic Security Agency without the knowledge of many field agents.  In fact, Steve had only become aware of it due to his involvement in this particular case.  Still, he managed to say, "He's a hundred times the man you are, Mr. Brown.  You have no idea what he's been through.  I've been his friend for two decades and over that time, I've seen him eat people like you for lunch."  

The two detectives exhaled in relief.  

"Speaking of Professor Dubois's experiences, have you any idea where Stuart Dubois is?" she pushed.  

"Who?" he fibbed.  

"Stuart Dubois.  He's a fugitive who recently escaped from prison with the aid of your pals," Schanke commented.  "C'mon, Mr. Brown, the hospital complex's cameras caught him entering and several witnesses saw him leaving the auditorium.  Make it easy on yourself and tell us."  

"Mr. Brown," Steve declared.  "The FBI's already obtained a warrant to go through the GSA's databanks.  We'll find what we're looking for whether you help us or not.  Look, do you want to add kidnapping to your laundry list?"  

"Agent Petersen, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" Brown chortled. "However, I'm not saying anything else until my lawyer gets here."  

"Absolutely," Steve shrugged.  "Of course, that means our friends here are going to have to book and hold you."  

"The charges are Murder 1, three counts of kidnapping, endangerment of minors, disturbing the peace, aggravated assault, aiding, abetting, and harboring a fugitive, and I'm sure there are others we can think of," Schanke informed him.  Turning to the uniform standing by the door, he added, "Get him outta here!  Book him and put him in Holding with the rest of his buddies."  

After the officer had taken Brown from the room, Steve sat down in the corner, muttering, "I can't believe I let him get to me like that!"  

"Don't worry about it," she advised.  "You held your cool other than that comment about Dave eating people for lunch remark."  

"It wasn't a threat, Steve.  You were stating a fact," Schanke jumped in.   

"Thanks, guys," he smiled.  "I'm going back to my office to check on some other leads and to brief my boss.  Give my regards to Ramirez, will you?"  Donning his coat, the agent departed, heading for the parking lot.  

Then, the phone buzzed next to them.  "Yes?" Schanke replied.  

"Detective, it's Sergeant Novak.  Were you and Detective Brown expecting any visitors?" the desk sergeant asked.  

"No.  Hang on," he told her and walked out into the bullpen.  Standing at his desk were Alyce and Vachon both looking more than a bit concerned.  Motioning them back to the Interview Room, he waited for them to cross the bullpen.  After they walked in, he closed the door to insure their privacy.   

"Vachon, what are you doing here?" Tracy wondered.  

"I asked him to come," the curator sighed.  "When Nick didn't show up at sunset and nobody on campus had seen him since the incident at the UMC, I didn't know who to talk to. I called the El Gato Negro and Janette directed me to Vachon.  Is he all right?"  

"Sorry, Alyce, but you know as much as we do," Schanke declared.  "Nick disappeared along with Dave, the kid he was guiding around campus, Gabrielle, Eve, and those weird people in the dark leather."  

"They're mutants, si?" Vachon assumed.  "The Community's been hearing reports of this type of activity a lot lately.  With the duel being leaked, I'm not surprised that the University was attacked, but to go after El Hombre Loco in broad daylight and while he's teaching?  Ay caramba!  Anyhow, according to LaCroix, the Elders are monitoring this activity as well.  They were too distracted by the Dijon mess to deal effectively with it."  

"As if he would do anything to prevent them from striking at Dave?" Alyce inquired.  "The two of them threatened each other prior to the fight in Istanbul."  

"And the tension has carried over to here if last night's events were any indication," Tracy added.  "No, I think he would let this Genetic Security Agency do his dirty work for him."  

"Maybe," the Iberian immortal agreed.  "But, he doesn't want the exposure which this activity brings.  Even though the attack struck at Dubois, the old Roman was unhappy about it.  It's a turf issue to him."  

"So what's he going to do now?" Tracy asked him.  

"Watch and see what develops," the former Conquistador shrugged.  "You've got the creeps here, and the others have slithered away at least for now.  As with Alyce, he's concerned about Miles although not to the same degree as she is."  

"Meantime, Janette has told me to be patient.  I wish I could help," the fledgling sighed.  "I should've known when Deirdre appeared, it was serious."  

"Deirdre?  I thought Cybelle was the one there," Tracy interjected.  

"No, it was Deirdre Dubois.  She teleported herself and Nick from the loft.  Well, I have to go.  Caitlin Sommers has asked to meet with me tonight.  Wish me luck," the vampiress continued.  

"What are you going to tell her?" Schanke inquired.  

"There isn't a lot I can tell her frankly," Alyce stated.  "But maybe, she can give me some information.  See you all later."   

"Buena suerte con ella," Vachon told her.  "She's persistent."  

"Don't I know it," his fellow immortal replied outside of the door.  "Try having her as the head of the search committee for a job you're interviewing for."  With that, she left the precinct.  Once outside, she walked into the alley, looked around to make sure she was alone, glanced up into the sky, and took off for campus, still engrossed in the questions, which affected them all.



Chapter 18 [Mutant X Sanctuary]  

Despite making one stop, the Double Helix had crossed the country in only a few hours, reaching the eastern complex in due order.  According to Adam's protocol, while the mutants guided the ship, the other passengers sat in the thick mists generated by Deirdre.  While they didn't like it, they understood the need for secrecy.   

Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity, Emma entered the fog and told them, "We're here.  You can look now."  

The priestess nodded and allowed the cover mists to burn off, revealing the elaborate complex with supercomputers and the best technology yet an artistic style combined with elements of serenity.  "It seems as close to Paradise as one can get in this secular world."  

"Thank you," the empath noted. "Now, let's get David into the lab.  I hope Adam's machines can fix him." With Nick's assistance, Gabrielle and Brennan carried the unconscious professor to the specified chamber, setting him on a table under what appeared to be an x-ray machine.  Across the room, a computer console waited for input under a series of screens, which already brought up data on the patient from an impromptu scan.  "Stand back."  

Two beams of light poured down from the device above the table, brushing across Dave's unconscious form as if they were twin feather dusters.  After the first pass, a comprehensive diagnostic image appeared on the screen with some interesting readings.   

"There's been a lot of damage to his nervous system from the governor," Emma related.  "Fortunately, David managed to short it out before he collapsed."  Picking up a rod like device, she inserted it into the hole in the black plastic's center, and pushed, forcing it to pop out of his neck.  "There."  

Deirdre bit her lip watching this operation.  She would have rather seen her father in the House of Healing on Althanor still their new allies seemed to know their attackers and the latter's methods.  Reaching into her pouch, she produced some leaves and flowers in addition to a bowl and pestle.  Just as her aunt had shown her, the priestess ground them into a paste.  

"What's that?" Shalimar asked, turning her nose up at the odor.  

"Some herbs to help Papa calm down.  My aunt guarantees it," the young woman explained and moved toward him.  

But at that moment, Dave's eyes snapped open and he looked around nervously.   

"Where am ah?" the Child growled.  "Where's she?" Springing off of the table, he advanced on the two female mutants.  "You're with them, ain't ya?"  

"Emma, stay back," Shalimar advised.  "I'll handle him."  

"I really wouldn't advise it," Nick disagreed.  

"He's injured.  What can he do?" she doubted.  

The Dark One snickered, "Oh, ya'll be surprised.  Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty." The wicked grin formed on his face in a show of defiance.  Despite the pain he was still feeling, there was no way he was going to let her get the better of him.  

Her eyes turning feral, she leapt at him, taking a powerful swipe, but missing wide.  

"Mah turn," he chuckled and swinging wide himself. "Hold still!"  

She laughed and clubbed him across the lower back.  She swung again at his shoulder to disable her enraged opponent.   

He caught her hand and threw her right against the wall.  "Had enough yet?  Where's Little Woman?  Tell me or ah'll kill ya!" he spat.  

"That's enough!" Deirdre challenged, stepping between them.  "Look, I've got some of those herbs you like.  If you take them, then we can help you and Papa.  Okay?"  

"He doesn't get off that easy!" Shalimar hissed, advancing.  

The vampire detective intercepted her, urging, "Stay back.  He'll beat you and kill himself in the process.  Trust us, this is the only way."  

Shalimar struggled a bit in his grasp, but relaxed once she had a minute to cool off.  

After a collective sigh of relief around the room, Deirdre approached her "uncle" again and offered the paste to him.  

"They're not the creeps?" he asked.  

"No, they're on our side," she insisted nervously, giving him the bowl.  "Now please eat up."  

"Okay," he relented and consumed the bowl's contents unwillingly, knowing that the stuff would put him to sleep.  Walking back over to the table, he glared at all of them defensively, insisting, "You'd better be findin' her!"  

"We're working on it," Nick informed him.  "Rest now."  

"O...kay," the Child agreed, suddenly feeling very relaxed.  Instead of being in the strange place, he was back in Faerie Land with serenading music and a soft light reflecting off of the water.  Within seconds, he was fast asleep.  

Emma grasped her head in both hands, mentioning, "I just barely got through his mental shielding, but I did use the image of somewhere called the 'Faerie Land' in his mind.  He thinks he's there now."  

The priestess chanted briefly and then, stated, "Hopefully, the illusion will remain for a few hours at least.  Please resume what you were doing."

"Okay," the telepath agreed, restarting the scan.  The machine's beam swept across him once then again and again and again.  Finally, six swipes later, she commanded, "End scan." Looking at the monitor, she read the indicators.  

"So what do they say?" Eve probed, getting off of her knees where she'd been praying to Eli for a miracle.  

"The damage from the governor's been reversed, but we can't do anything for his overall condition unfortunately, due to its physiological nature," Emma replied.  "Come on, let's allow him to rest.  We'll get everyone something to eat."  

Walking out of the room, she led them to the dining area.  


An hour later, Clark paced in the area under the staircase, trying not to slip with his powers.  Although the pasta was tasty, he didn't have his appetite and only picked at the dish for three reasons.  He was sure that his parents were really concerned about him.  Plus, his insides were churning when he thought about Lana.  Finally, his prayers were with Professor Dubois who was lying in the lab facility.  Over the past few hours, their entire trip had been turned upside down.  "I wish I could use my abilities," he wished.  

"Clark?" Eve asked, coming down the stairs.  "Are you all right?"  

"I've been better," he replied moodily.  "Any change with Professor Dubois?"  

"He's improving," the former Messenger reported.  "Our hosts feel he'll be all right."  

"That's good at least," he remarked.  "I hope Lana's all right and Dr. Dubois is as well."  

"Dr. Dubois is a strong person.  I would trust her to look after Lana.  Besides, from what I hear, your girlfriend is quite resilient herself," she assured him.  "Our faith will carry us through this situation."  

"Can I ask you a question?" he requested.  After receiving a nod from her, he posed, "Have you had the ability to do something, but you've had to hold back for the sake of appearances?"  

She beamed at him.  For some reason, she could see what Dave was talking about with Clark.  The young man, despite his concerns, had maintained his composure and continued to hope for the best.  Still, she wondered about his meaning.  Did he have some abilities?  "Eli, provide this young man with your guidance," she thought.  Then, she stated, "Yes, I've been in that situation many times in my life.  When the time is right, you'll know it.  Just continue to have faith.  All right?"  

"Yes'm," he nodded.  While he knew that she was a Religious studies professor, somehow he got the feeling that she really knew more about theology than an academic level would indicate.  However, he decided to keep silent for now and accept her advice.  "There was one other thing."  

"Your parents, right?" she smiled.  "Yes, I'm sure they're concerned about you.  Come; let's see if we can find a phone for you to call them.  All right?"  

"Absolutely," he agreed, managing a smile.  Despite the situation, he was thinking that perhaps he had found a group of teachers he could relate to.

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