Father Doesn't Know Best (Part 3)
David J. Duncan
January 2002
For notes & such, please see Part 1

Chapter 19 [Geneomax]

  Stuart Dubois paced the parameters of his room.  While he recognized the need to respect his hosts' wishes, the consultant wanted to check on his daughter-in-law.  He knew that Eckhardt wanted to recruit her for the GSA, but if she were up to something, would she be there long enough for him to convince her?  "No, I gotta do something," he decided and left the area.

As he entered the detainees' wing, a guard stepped into the path.  "Mr. Dubois, you shouldn't be here," he detailed.

  "Step aside," the other snorted.  "You wouldn't dare fire that thing."

  "I mean it!" the sentry, a relatively new employee named Johnson, asserted.  When Dubois avoided his rush, he started to give chase, but fell way behind.  Taking his walkie-talkie, he revealed, "Security breach in the prison ward.  Dubois in the area.  Stop, but don't kill.  Repeat, stop but don't kill."  Having said that, he ran into the darkness.


  A ways ahead, Dubois found the right cell and pushed the speaker button.  "How's everything in there?" he sneered.

  "Who is it?" Lana's voice wondered.

  "Lana, let me handle him," Angie asserted.  After a momentary silence, she requested, "What do you want?  Aren't you a bit out of your area?"

  "Where you're concerned, I'm in the right area," the intruder laughed.  "As soon as I can get this door open, I'll teach you a lesson!"

  "Come in and get us if you can!" Angie defied him, muting her end of the comlink.  After all, there was just so much of him she could take.  Looking up the camera, she thought, "Darn that stupid thing!  If not for that, I'd let Xena handle him!"

  Outside, Dubois cursed as he fumbled with the security keypad on the door.  "How many codes are on this blasted thing?"

  "More than you can imagine in an entire evening, I'm sure," Eckhardt cut in.  "I gave you specific orders not to harass these women or Adam."

  "She's my business, not yours!  That's why I agreed to help you, so mind your own business!" Dubois mouthed off.

  "This is my facility and I say what business pertains to whom, Mr. Dubois," the director frowned, motioning for his security people.  After they had secured the guest, he continued, "Take Mr. Dubois to his room.  Perhaps a time in isolation might cure him of his insolence"

  Johnson and the others gladly pushed the other toward the holding area. 

  Having dealt with his bothersome guest, Eckhardt punched the code into the pad, opening the door.  "Are you two all right?" he asked, trying to sound hospitable.

  "Sorry, but I want to go," Lana indicated, folding her arms over her chest.  "I didn't ask for this."

  "When you stuck your nose behind the curtain, Miss Lang, you found more than you bargained for, didn't you?  I assure you, my Dear, you're not in any danger here.  Neither are you, Dr. Dubois, if you agree to a certain proposition," he retorted to them.

  "Which is?" Angie inquired.

  "I want you to join the GSA.  With your abilities and medical knowledge, you could be one of our top operatives.  In the lab, you could cure diseases.  And then, you could bring others such as yourself into our custody," he offered.

  "And if I refuse?"

  "Then, you'll be placed into stasis for study.  Believe me, it'll be a tragedy to lose someone of your ability, but your genes will provide some excellent data, I'm sure," he threatened.

  She laughed, "Trust me, Mr. Eckhardt, you don't want to do that.  I'm not some misguided misanthrope along the lines of my father-in-law that you can push around.  Besides, you wouldn't want to deal with my husband."

  "We're coming up with measures to deal with him," he responded.

  "Involving pain and torture, correct?  Do us all a favor, just let us all go.  If he charges in here under a cloud of pain, your insurance premiums are going to skyrocket.  Besides, you've lost credibility with our peers through that incident at the UMC.  And I'm sure my husband and our friends are coming up with nasty surprises for you as well," the doctor tried to rationalize.

  Eckhardt growled, "No matter.  24 hours, Dr. Dubois.  I'll wait for your answer."  Turning on his heel, he left the room and walked out of the area.

  "What was he talking about?" Lana wondered.  "Are you one of those mutants?"

  The oncologist shrugged, "Eckhardt thinks I am.  I'd rather not talk about that man or my father-in-law right now." Looking under the bed, she saw a small crack in the plaster.  "I wonder if that's the room I think it is," she mused aloud.  To cover her activity, she muttered, "Darn that hair clip, I knew it was here someplace!" Putting her face up to the crack, she whispered, "Dr. Zero?  Dr. Zero, are you there?"


  Adam lay on his cot with a splitting headache from Sanderson's probes.  Despite the telepath's attempts, his resolve had held firm and the Sanctuary's location remained safe.  Still, he didn't know how much longer he could hold out. 

  Then, he heard a whispering, "Dr. Zero?  Dr. Zero, are you there?"

  Realizing that the speaker was Angela Dubois, he looked for the source and isolated a crack in the wall plaster just beneath the bed.  "Angela, is that you?" he whispered.  "Are you and Miss Lang all right?"

"For now," the doctor replied softly.  "Dr. Zero, Eckhardt just gave me my join or jump in the freezer speech.  We need to do something."

  He sighed, realizing that their jailor was raising the stakes.  She was right, but timing was the key.  "Three things.  First, I wish you'd call me Adam.  Secondly, I thought I heard you mention something about a hair clip.  Would that be a bobby pin perhaps?  Finally, what time is it?"

"Indeed," she agreed, removing it from her hair and handing it through the crack.  "Here you go.  The time's almost 10:00 PM.  And, by the way, Adam?"

"Yes?" he asked, taking the clip.

"Please call me Angie," she requested.  "Good luck with your plan whatever it is."  With that, she crawled out of the bed space with the clip in her hand. 

"What were you doing down there?" Lana asked.  "There's not that much space down there." 

"Just looking for an answer to this problem," the doctor shrugged, putting the clip in her hair where the bobby pin had been earlier. If everything worked, soon they would be on their way out of here. 


For his part, the Mutant X leader waited for his moment.  When he estimated it to be 10PM and thus, the required shift change for the security details, he took the bent middle of the pin and began to unscrew the code box's inner panel.  Ten minutes and three screws later, he had the cover off and had begun to hardwire the door box.  When the mental clock in his head reached 10:15, he hung the lid back on and jumped back on his cot just before the security camera's light flashed back on.  "This'll take at least one more shift change, but we'll make it out of here," he told himself, resolving to be awake before the 6AM shift arrived.


Chapter 20 [Mutant X Sanctuary]

(Additional note: Mutant X spoiler: "In the Presence of Mine Enemies")

Emma paced the halls of the Sanctuary that night.  The emotional waves emanating from the lab left her unable to sleep.  Sliding out of bed, she quietly made her way down the stairs and followed the psychic waves to the medical area.  Glancing into the room, she saw that the unconscious man remained where the group had left him.  Yet, despite all of that, she felt his turmoil.  Focusing on him, she began to take the layers apart piece by piece. 

Looking around herself, she found that her illusion had remained fixed in place.  The grass felt cool against her feet.  The sky was a gentle salmon shade of pink with just a bit of dew hanging in the air.  A subtle yet soothing song, which she couldn't identify, permeated the air.  For a good ten minutes, she glanced about the scene for the professor.  "How is this happening?" she inquired. 

"Ya created it.  Ya should know," the Child smoldered to her right.   

The empath stared at him, considering the situation.  Yes, she had triggered this illusion, but somehow his, or rather, this manifestation's abilities were amplifying the effect, wrapping them in a cocoon of sorts away from the outside.  "Amazing," she admired silently. 

The young one in front of him seethed with anger and resentment, watching the intruder's approach.   "What d'ya want?  Leave us alone!" 

She put her hands up indicating that she meant no threat.  "Us?  You and who else?" 

"Me an' Big Brother," he spat.  "It's just him an' me." 

"Do you mean David?  Where is he?" she inquired. 

"Restin' safe from the long coats and yer pals," he snapped.  "That thing y'all slapped on us nearly killed him!" 

" 'We' didn't put that piece of plastic on him.  The men who took his wife hurt you both.  My friends and I only want to help you," she tried to explain. 

The maniacal boy hissed, "Talk's cheap!" 

"Hey, we need to listen to her," Dave argued, approaching him. 

"Are ya kiddin'?  We can't trust them!" the Other ranted.  " 'Mon!" 

She looked at the medievalist.  Now was the moment of truth.  If they were to defeat Eckhardt and rescue their friends from the GSA, she needed to convince Dave to come out.  He could reach his wife and help coordinate the operation.  "You have to, David!  We need your help.  If not for us then for your young friends and your wife." 

Dave turned to his younger counterpart and stated, "We need to go along with this.  Look, I don't want to see Angie in Daddy Dearest's hands.  We both need her." 

The Child kicked at the grass under his feet sullenly.  He liked having the upper hand and didn't want to concede it.  Still, a chance to put a licking on their father would be worth it.  Besides, as much as they fought, he admired the "Little Woman" for her spunk and fire.  "Oh, awright," he relented.  "But, we do this together!  Understand?" 

"I've kept my end of the bargain," the "older brother" told him. "Thanks for keeping yours and for coming through in the clutch back there.  You saved the day." 

"Ya mean ah did good?" the younger one stammered, tears in his eyes. 

"Yeah, you did," the historian smiled, hugging the Other.  "Just bear with us, okay?" 

"Okay," the kid agreed, sobbing in Dave's arms. 

She watched the scene with admiration.  When she entered the dreamscape, she had feared the worst, figuring on a long fight with the darkness, but it wasn't only anger, which drove the younger one.  Rather, distrust, pain, anguish, and an overwhelming protectiveness of both himself and the outer personality, or "Big Brother," served as the motivating factors.  Watching them come together and forge an agreement like that was something else. 

"I never thought I'd see this scene in a million years," Xena's voice suddenly noted. 

Emma spun to see the Warrior Princess materialize beside her.  "Who?" 

"Relax, I'm Xena, a friend of David, Angela, and Gabrielle," the warrior's image replied.   

"How are you able to be here?" Emma wondered. 

"'Cuz we said so," the Child sighed, still a bit choked.  " 'Cuz we trust her." 

"Amen," Dave smiled, glancing at Xena, his eyes glistening a bit in their own right. 

The words took Xena back a bit.  As with the empath, when she rode the connection between Angie and Dave to this point, she expected to have a fight with His Darkness.  However, it had been Dave himself who had won the day by persevering and winning his other personality's trust.  And, given how she knew the Child looked at things, his words meant a great deal to her.  "Thank you," she accepted.  "You don't know how much that means."     

"Ya earned it," the Other declared.  "Set everythin' right.  Promise?' 

Xena gave a determined stare and, arching her right eyebrow, replied frankly, "Count on it.  I'll be waitin' for you there as well.  It wouldn't be a good fight without ya." 

"Go," the Child told his "bigger brother".  "Ah'll wait here." 

"Right," Dave agreed.  "See you really soon." 

No sooner did he say those words then the dream faded, bringing them back to the lab. 

Emma watched as Dave sat up, rubbing the back of his neck.  "Dang spot still hurts." 

"It's going to hurt for a while," she advised.  "It's great to see you back here, David." 

"It feels good to be here," he agreed.  "I'm sorry if you gave us your name, I missed it." 

"I didn't have the chance," she grinned.  "I'm Emma.  That was an amazing scene in there." 

"It's a work in progress," he deadpanned.  "If we're going to survive, we need to work together."   

She nodded, admiring this man's inner strength in the face of everything he was facing both inside and outside of his own psyche.  That durability would be tested again inside of Geneomax, no matter how things turned out. 

"So what's going on?" he wondered, standing up. "The last thing I remember is blacking out with the goons around me." 

"And you don't remember anything afterwards?" she posed skeptically.  "About the fights at the UMC, or here?" 

"Nope," he revealed.  "My other half was at work, I'd say.  He's something else, from what I hear." 

"That he is," the empath told him.  "Using powers with a governor on him is something no other mutant has ever done.  Not only did he do it, he made it look easy." 

"He soaks up pain like a sponge eats water," Dave told her.  "But we both paid for the punishment he took in the process.  Now, we're going to dish out a bit of punishment of our own on those guys, especially if they're harboring Daddy Dearest.  If he's even laid a finger on Angie, there'll be Hell to pay." 

"You need to stay calm, David," she reminded him. 

"I'm okay," he promised.  "I'm focused and in control.  Now, I want to do something." 

"It's the middle of the night and you need your rest," she protested. 

"First, I want to eat something.  Then, put me in the lab or whatever you think I can do.  If you want to help me keep control, give me something to do.  I've got some ideas, but, since this isn't my turf, can somebody work with me?" 

She nodded enthusiastically.  "How does some ziti and meatballs sound?  We saved a plate for you. " 

He expressed, "Thank you.  Let's go. "  Following her lead, the two headed for the dining area. 


Despite the hour, Jesse plugged away at his terminal, trying to find a chink in Geneomax's computer system.  Due to their earlier successes at hacking into the system, the GSA had improved their firewall.  But, with Adam and the others being held in there, he was determined to find a backdoor. 

"Okay," he mused, running down a mental checklist of procedures.  "What else can I try?" 

"You know, there's always the program I installed when they were holding me last month," a feminine voice suggested. 

He turned to see his girlfriend, Toni Quintana, leaning against the inner edge of the open doorway, chewing on a bagel, and watching him intently.  "What program is that?" he asked.  "I thought they were watching you closely." 

"Who do you think you're talking to?" she cracked playfully.  "I managed to get through to you under their noses, didn't I?" 

"That's true," he admitted.  When he had introduced them to each other, Brennan had said she was the best hacker available.  That certainly had been true, as she had penetrated Adam's security, but nearly bringing the GSA down on their heads in the process.  "But that's why we picked you up on the way back from Tucson." 

"And here I thought it was because you missed me," she giggled, taking a seat beside him.  "Seriously, what did you find out?" 

"That they've improved their security since our last visit," he groused, punching a few other keys and watching the system rebuff his efforts again.  "What's this Trojan horse of yours?" 

"Oh, just a surprise to pay them back for their wonderful hospitality," she snickered.  "Do you mind if I play here?" 

"Go right ahead and dazzle me," he declared, turning the keyboard toward her. 

With a sudden eagerness, her fingers glided across the keyboard, groping for entrances and testing digital passageways.  With each new procedure, her smile widened a bit more.  After all, the tougher the program and the surer the CIO was, the more she enjoyed it when she finally cracked the code. "Let's see, where did I implant that virus?" she asked herself.  Scanning through subdirectory after subdirectory, she searched for the security protocols.  "Hmm, here's the one for the subdermal governors," she continued, deleting it.  "Correction, there was the subdirectory."  Looking at her associate, she asked, "I heard that your patient downstairs resisted the governor.  Is that true?" 

"It is," he indicated.  "According to the scans, he shrugged off the pain and still managed to use his powers.  Go figure." 

"Talk about a high tolerance level," she shivered, recalling her own experience with the plastic dampening devices.  "At least, he's up and about." 

"He's awake?" he asked. 

"Uh huh," she replied, taking another bite of her bagel.  "He's in the mess hall now working on a plate of ziti.  Talk about focused.  Geez...." 

"From what I saw in the auditorium, I'd say that's about right.  Of course, considering the pain he was in, he had a good reason for his moodiness," the density mutant supposed. 

"At least I'm back in control," Dave indicated, entering the area with Emma.  "Do you folks need any help?" 

"I think we're set," Toni commented.  "But thanks.  By the way, I'm Toni.  He's Jesse." 

"Dave Dubois," Dave introduced himself, shaking their hands.  "Did you find the security yet?" 

"We're working on it," Jesse declared.  "All subdermal governors should be offline." 

The blonde woman at the keyboard added, "And I just found the security override.  Hang on!"  Slipping a disk in the drive, she uploaded a file to the Geneomax system.  "Time release virus," she noted.  "It's set for 6 PM tonight." 

"Sounds good," Dave concurred.  "Meantime, when I was attacked, I remember those guys having only one black glove apiece.  What's the deal with that?" 

"On the left hand, right?" Jesse asked.  After the professor nodded, he continued, "Those gloves are for generating a dampening field which prevents us from using our powers." 

"And it works off of a pulse field, correct?" Dave continued. 

"Absolutely," Toni mentioned.  "At least from what I've heard." 

"We have a couple that Adam's been playing around with down in the lab," Emma added. 

The medievalist nodded earnestly and a smile formed across his face, "Do you think that I can bring somebody here to the lab?" 

"If you can blindfold them," the telepath stated. 

"Deirdre can handle it.  Steve Petersen from the FBI and I have been thinking about this type of stuff for a while now.  I think he's close to something," the medievalist explained.  Receiving dumbfounded looks from the others, he continued, "Yes, technically, this isn't my field, but I think about it out of survival." 

"So you think you can create a counter field to block the gloves?" Jesse asked. 

"Why not?" Dave shrugged.  "Theoretically, it's possible." 

"If you could do it, it would be a big advantage going into Geneomax," Emma realized. 

"Well, I sensed that Deirdre's awake in her room.  I'll see what's going on and if she can get us back there and return tonight," he concluded and left the area. 

The new mutants watched him depart, wondering if indeed he could pull off what he had mentioned.  At least, he was up, under control, and thinking in the right direction. 


Chapter 21

Clark remained flat on his back, staring at the ceiling of the guest room.  While Eve's talk had helped him feel somewhat better, he still wanted to get Lana back.  He felt empty and alone, fearing the worst.  At least, his parents felt better after he had called them.  "This trip's been a total disaster," he sighed and, allowing his control to lapse, began to float off of the bed. "I hope Professor Dubois's going to be all right." 

"I'm fine, thanks," Dave's voice replied from the door.  "Nice trick, by the way."  The professor entered the room and quickly closed the door, ensuring their privacy.  I knew there was something special about you." 

"When did you figure it out?" his guest inquired. 

"When we shook hands in the airport.  You've got a powerful aura, Clark.  In fact, you nearly knocked me for a loop there.  And don't worry, your secret's safe with me," the medievalist assured him. 

"Thanks for that.  I guess that makes us even, doesn't it?  What exactly happened back in the classroom, anyhow?" Clark wondered. 

Dave scratched his head for a minute, formulating a way to explain it to his young friend.  Finally, he stated, "A group of the guys who grabbed Lana and my wife attacked us as well.  They were really after me, but well, things got complicated." 

"So why did you freak out like that?"  

"Honestly?  Well, have you ever heard of people with multiple personalities?"  After the young man had nodded, he continued, "You saw my Inner Child.  At least, that what people have been telling me over the past hour.  He's very territorial and doesn't appreciate threats against him or those he holds dear.  The powers you saw are both mine and his," Dave explained.  "I don't remember anything from the time those guys burst in until I woke up downstairs, but that's par for the course." 

Clark sighed again.  What the medievalist had just entrusted him with would've sent most people screaming out of the room in panic, but he understood what his host was trying to say.  Somewhere in the man's past, he had encountered a series of situations so bad that the personality had formed within him.  "At least, he's aware of it," he thought.  "So, what do we do now?" 

"We wait until the right moment.  Currently, there are several items in the works.  I'll say one thing, we're going to get your girlfriend and my wife out of Geneomax, and you can take that to the bank.  On that note, I've got some other things to do.  Why don't you try to get some sleep?  Everything's going to be fine," Dave advised and walked toward the door. 

"Professor Dubois, thank you for coming by.  I appreciate it," Clark expressed. 

"My pleasure," the older man nodded and left the room. Turning the corner and walking down the hall, he came across Nick sitting on one of the fountain edges admiring the scenery.  "It's nice, isn't it?"  

"Hmm?  Yes, it is," the vampire agreed.  "And speaking of nice, it's good to see you walking around and in control again." 

"Thanks," Dave grinned.  "Well, everything's in the works.  I was just telling Clark that our timing will be very important.  I sent Deirdre to get Steve and my gear." 

"What for?" Nick probed.  "Isn't he needed more back in Tucson?" 

"Not for what we're cooking up," the professor alluded.  "I've got a surprise in store for Eckhardt and Co.  Steve told me that certain government agencies had been conducting secret experiments to block certain abilities from manifesting themselves.  He and Angie thought that this breakthrough might work for me, so they've been cooperating with other researchers on this procedure." 

"And you figure that you can adapt the research to this situation?" the detective guessed. 

"That's the idea," the medievalist indicated.  "Although they didn't get a chance to use them on me, those goons have gloves that emit energy waves which somehow emulate the experimental process.  If we reverse the polarity and find the right frequency..." 

"Then you can neutralize their gear's effectiveness," Nick finished the thought.  "It sounds good.  When do we test it?" 

"As soon as Deirdre and Steve get back here.  Meantime, I'm going to lie down for a few minutes.  How are you holding up?" Dave inquired. 

"Oh, I'm okay considering the circumstances.  I wish Alyce were here.  I would like to know how Schank, Tracy, and Natalie are doing.  Other than that, I'm all right," the former Crusader revealed. 

"Sounds great," his friend agreed, slapping him on the shoulder before walking away. 

Nick watched as Dave turned another corner, disappearing from sight.  How many times had mankind attacked each other just because of the slightest difference in skin color or genetic type?  For the immortal, there had been too many such instances during the Crusades, the Inquisition, England and Spain during the respective reigns of Edward I and the Catholic Monarchs in addition to places where tolerance was supposed to reign supreme.  In one instance, he remembered the horrors suffered by the Orthodox Christians under the Turkish yoke for 500 years.  When he had wanted to do something, others such as LaCroix told him to be quiet. 

[From the sands of time, his former master's voice stated, "You cannot stop this, Nicholas.  Watch and learn about mortals and their follies.  The strong shall survive and the weak shall fall.  This is about social evolution and the survival of the fittest.  Deal with it."] 

"Well, for once, the so-called deviants are the strong ones," Nick retorted tersely.  Reaching for a glass of wine, he finished it quickly and headed for his quarters in search of further solitude and reflection. 


Chapter 22 [Geneomax]

Angie sat in the corner, meditating on the events going on around her.  Neither she nor Lana had slept very well during the previous night as each worried about their respective male companions and what would happen to them.  Focusing at the clock on the wall, the doctor noted that it was now noon.  "Nine hours to go before Eckhardt's deadline," she muttered to herself, shivering at the thought of the stasis chambers on the other side of the complex, and hoping that she would receive an opportunity to do something to save herself. 

"Are you still thinking about that man's threat?" her cellmate asked from her cot. 

"Yes," the oncologist responded, a little nervousness creeping into her voice.  "It's kind of hard not to think about torture when it's staring you in the face, but I'm not going to give into it."  Walking about the room, she surveyed every inch of the area once again.  "Somehow, we're going to get out of here." 

"But nobody knows where we are," Lana doubted. 

"Wrong.  Lana, Professor Dubois and I have some very influential friends who can find a single grain of sand on a huge beach if need be.  Besides, if I know my husband, he's working on the situation himself," Angie assured her.  "We're going to get out of here." 

"I hope so," the teenager sighed, trying to hold onto her composure.  "Do you know what happened to Dr. Zero?  Ever since those creeps took him away a couple of hours ago, I've been worried." 

"It's always a wonderful sentiment to worry about your fellow man, Ms. Lang," Eckhardt complemented, unlocking the door and entering the room.  "At the moment, the man is sleeping in his cell.  It was a rather nasty yet futile session." 

"Your creep couldn't pick his brain, could he?" Angie baited, a saccharin-sweet smile forming on her face.  "He's not going to give it to you, I'll bet." 

"You're pushing your luck, Dr. Dubois," the administrator advised. 

"I've got faith in Adam for some reason," she declared,  "As well as in my husband and our friends.  You're not sticking me or any of them in your popsicle chambers.  If you try, you'll have a fight on your hands." 

"With the governor on you, it'll be a short fight," the director promised, unaware of Jesse's and Toni's handiwork. "Besides, my agents are on full alert for your friends and Adam's outlaw band.  We'll have a few surprises waiting for them.  I'll be back about 9.  Do enjoy your afternoon." With that, he left the room, shutting them back in after he had done so. 

"I have to say that you're being very brave, Dr. Dubois," Lana declared.  "I wish I could be that way." 

Angie walked over to her young friend and rubbed her shoulder, "And who says you aren't?  You're being quiet is all.  You didn't show fear to that monster.  For what it's worth, I'm proud of you.  No matter what happens, don't give that creep any satisfaction, okay?"  Feeling a nudge from Xena, she told Lana, "I'm feeling a little tired.  Why don't we try to rest and save our energy?" 

"I'll try," Lana agreed.  "Thank you for being so strong.  I also wanted you to know that I know this mess isn't your fault or your husband's.  If anything, I'm leaning more closely to the U of A than ever." 

Angie smiled, "I appreciate that very much.  Rest now.  It won't be much longer."  After watching the teen close her eyes, she laid down on her own mattress, allowing herself to focus on her "roommate".  ["Okay, Xena.  What's going on?" she wondered, seeing the dreamscape form in her mind.] 

[The Warrior Princess appeared in front of her and complemented, "Nice show of strength there with Eckhardt, Angela.  I was impressed."] 

["Thanks," the doctor mentioned.  "But he's right, with that plastic whosis on me, I won't be able to do much."] 

["Wrong," Xena disagreed.  "You're a more resourceful person than he knows.  Two other things.  First, the plastic thing has been disengaged since early this morning, but don't say anything.  Secondly, I'm not going to let anything happen to you."] 

["But, with all of the cameras and such, we'll be exposed!" Angie worried.] 

["It's a small price to pay," Xena noted.  "As I said to you when we started this, Angela, except for Gabrielle, you're my closest friend.  Nothing's going to happen.  As if David would let things escalate.  I don't think so."] 

["But those goons did something to him!  I..." Angie started to doubt.  "Wait..."  Using her mental powers, she reached across the miles and brushed his mind.  "He's okay!"  she realized.  Looking at her fellow conversant, she guessed, "You knew, didn't you?"] 

["I was there when everything was resolved," the warrior recounted.  "Adam's friends especially the one with the mental powers, really helped David to get back on his feet.  And he's been working since then on a plan with them and Steven to get you out of here just as you said earlier.  They'll be here tonight.  Be ready.  Meantime, I'll look in on your cohort in the other cell.  Take care and continue being strong."]  With that, she disappeared from view, allowing Angie to return to her normal dreams. 


Within his cell, Adam was flat on his back, recovering from the physical and psychic beating he had just received.  While the bruises were minimal outside of a bloody nose and a fat lip, he had held his own against Sanderson and not revealed the Sanctuary's location.  This time, it had been his conversation with Angie Dubois, which had bolstered his resolve.  His jailers' reckoning that solitary confinement would make him crack faster was shattered by the conversation on the previous evening.  He wasn't alone.  "And I know Mutant X will be here," he told himself. 

"Absolutely," Xena agreed, appearing in front of him.  Before he could say anything, she warned, "Don't say anything and act as if I'm not here.  The guard devices can't see me.  My name is Xena.  I'm a friend.  I wanted to let you know that your group is working on a plan to get you out of here.  David Dubois is all right as well.  Emma helped him.  At least I think that was her name.  Oh, and I wanted to say that you have a fine band there.  They fought well in Arizona." 

He smiled, accepting the complement in silent fashion.  Whoever this phantasm was, she had picked his spirits up, keeping his mind working on a plan of his own. 

"Before I leave, I wanted to ask if you could keep an eye on Angela and Lana.  I don't want anything to happen before I get back with help," she requested. 

"I'll do what I can," he whispered. 

"Thank you," she replied graciously, fading away. 

He sat up and felt for the bobby pin in his pocket.  As his fingers brushed across it, he smiled, knowing that he would be finished with the panel during the next shift change and he could get them all on the way to safety. 


[Mutant X Sanctuary] 

Steve and Dave sat on benches across a table from each other, staring at what appeared to be a flashlight.  However, the device, which the former had worked on along with Angie and Dr. Frank Landers, was more than what it seemed on the surface.  For the better part of the previous morning, the two men had played with the settings, testing and retesting it against the impounded GSA equipment and the Mutant X members.  At 11:00, they had hit pay dirt.  The device had blocked the glove's dampening effects over a distance of some 200 feet.  Now, they secured the casing, knowing that this would be the only copy, which would be carried into Geneomax so it had to work. 

"I hope this works," Steve muttered, running his hand across the casing.  "If it doesn't, things could get interesting." 

"It's a Plan C," Dave commented, walking across the room.  On the countertop, a small pot full of bubbling white mixture sat heating.  "Looks like my stuff's ready."   

"Oh goodie.  Your pyretic 'touch', I presume?" the agent cracked.  Approaching his longtime friend, he handed him a slim box.  "Here are your arrowheads." 

"Thanks," the professor accepted, taking the box and opening it.  Inside were a dozen hollow plastic tips.  One by one, he unscrewed the top, filled it up, stuck a wick in it, put the top back on, and laid it down beside its counterparts.  When he finished the final one, he stated, "That's all of them." 

"When does this operation go down?" Steve wondered. 

"According to Jesse and Toni, their virus will have everything shut down security wise at 6PM.  That's when the security shifts change over at GSA central.  Accordingly, we wait, let the bug do it's thing, let Deirdre guide us in, and...." Dave started. 

"We blindside them.  And without the security, we'll have Xena there too.  Sounds great, Dubie.  Let's just hope it works out that way." 

"You and me both," the medievalist hoped.  "But that's why we have contingency plans, right?" 

"Right," Steve agreed, once again admiring his former classmate's ability to plan and orchestrate operations in a fashion, which would make the Bureau green with envy.  "Hey, it's coming on for 2:30, let's get something to eat and talk with the others." 

Placing the newly minted arrows in his quiver, Dave concurred, "Sounds good."  With that, he shouldered the quiver, following his friend out of the lab and securing the door behind them.  It wouldn't be long now. 


Chapter 23     

In preparation for the night's activities, the Mutant X team members had worked their way through a computer simulation of Geneomax.  As always, they had some difficulty maneuvering around all of the facility's safeguards, but, by the third time, the practice had gone without a hitch.   

"So, what do you think about Dubois?" Brennan asked, toweling the sweat out of his hair. 

"He seems really focused," Shalimar replied frankly, stretching the kinks out of her back.  "Emma, you've been in his head.  What do you think?" 

"He has a lot of issues," the empath stated.   "To say he's complicated would be an understatement." 

"Why did he go off like that?" the electrical mutant wondered. 

The empath bit her lip, wondering if she should share the knowledge from her experience.   

"What is it?" Jesse asked.  "What did you see in there?" 

Emma revealed, "Actually, Brennan, you should be asking about 'them' not 'him'."  When the others stared in surprise at her, she continued, "There are two distinct personalities inside of him.  There's Dave, and then there's a very hurt little boy.  When he's pushed, the latter grabs control and blasts the opposition into oblivion.  The fact that the father is involved in the situation only compounds it." 

The feral mutant guessed, "Judging from what we saw in the database, Dubois didn't get along with him at all.  I take it you felt some of that." 

Emma shook her head.  "The only thing I saw was the Child protecting Dave.  Beyond that, there wasn't much except for the illusion he was generating.  It almost seemed like a fairyland.  There was a woman there as well.  She was dressed in leather with chest armor and long black hair.  She seemed really caring yet focused." 

"Sounds like Xena," Jesse guessed.  "The warrior has been seen around him for the last couple of years." 

"That could be," Emma continued.  "She was really protective of him.  Anyhow, when he came to, he asked for some food and then, went to the lab." 

"Yeah, that secret project of his.  By the way, do we know anything about his friend?" Shalimar asked. 

"He's FBI, all right.  Petersen and Dubois went to school together both high school and graduate school.  They've had several adventures together including the recent trip to Turkey," Jesse noted.    "I hope that gizmo they're working on right now will work in Geneomax." 

"We'll find out in about 25 minutes," Emma told her friends.  "Let's hit the showers and then, we can talk to them." 


A half hour later, the group descended the stairs toward the dining hall.  Once there, they saw the two men, who they were just discussing, sitting across the table from each other.  Dave chewed on a cookie and talked calmly with his friend.  Next to his left foot, a fairly impressive bow and a quiver full of arrows were on hand in the event they were needed.  Petersen drank something from a mug, most likely coffee, and conducted the conversation with his friend.  Between them, a flashlight sat conspicuously.  Across the room, the mysterious detective, Nick Miles, watched them enter. 

"How's it going?" Brennan asked them.   

Steve looked up at him and stated, "We're okay, at least as much as we can be under the circumstances." 

"Dave, are you getting tired at all?  You've been going nonstop since you came to," Emma probed. 

"I can rest later once my wife and your leader are safe," the medievalist asserted, finishing the snack and starting on a cup of cherry tea.  "Meanwhile, we've finished our ace in the hole." 

"How's it going to help us?  It's a flashlight, right?" Shalimar doubted. 

"Appearances can be deceiving," Nick deadpanned from the side of the room. 

"This is the jamming device we were talking about earlier," the professor informed them.  "If you're within 200 feet and the GSA goon squad tries their glove thing, this 'flashlight' will jam them and voila, we can use our powers!" 

"In any battle, you need to have every advantage," Eve stated, walking into the room and sitting down. 

Gabrielle joined them, asking, "When do we move in?" 

"Toni's virus will disable security right at 6PM," Jesse mentioned.  "We need to be in there soon after." 

"Deirdre can handle that," Dave indicated.  "Once inside, we can hopefully hit them hard and fast." 

"Eckhardt's sure to have a few guards around," Steve added.  "I'm sure that Dave's father told him that my buddy here's not going to let him kill Angie." 

"And I'm not going to let Lana stay there either," Clark asserted from the other side of the mess area.   

"You're staying here with me," Eve told him. 

"No, if he wants to come, he can," Dave mentioned.  "Just as with the 'flashlight', there's more to him than meets the eye, trust me." 

The others eyed the historian and then, the young man.  While they weren't sure about the latter, if Dave trusted him, then Clark must be special. 

"So, that's settled.  Can you tell Deirdre where to pop us in?" Gabrielle asked the mutants. 

"That's easy," Jesse replied, calling up a diagnostic plan of the facility.  "The interrogation areas are on either side of the complex."  He pointed to the north and south ends of the building.  "According to what we managed to get from them, Dubois is in the north side.  Adam and the women are in the south." 

"That's if Eckhardt didn't plant that information to lure us into a trap," Brennan doubted. 

"It's a chance we'll have to take,"  Shalimar asserted.  "It's now 3:30, so we have about 2 hours and 45 minutes." 

Then, everyone should meditate or do what you have to before we move in," the professor directed, producing a CD. 

"And what's that?  Another ace in the hole?" the feral laughed. 

"No, it's a copy of some troubadour music.  I use it to stay composed," the professor shrugged. 

"And your other half?" Emma pushed. 

"He likes it too," Dave indicated.  "But, he'll have his role as well.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some meditation awaiting me.  Steve, can you keep an eye on our toy?" 

"Right," the agent agreed.  "See you in a bit." 

Dave nodded and walked out toward the living area.  The others watched him go, wondering what he had in mind and if he could hold his composure long enough to follow it to the end.  The next few hours would definitely drag by for everyone.


Chapter 24 [Geneomax]

 Eckhardt paced about his office.  He waited for word from the holding area to see if Angela Dubois would reconsider his generous offer.  Looking through the window, he gazed down onto the stasis area and the empty container being prepared there.  Unless something drastic happened, the oncologist would be forced into that tube.  "What a waste," he hissed.   

"What should we do, Sir?" Sanderson asked. 

"Nothing for the moment, Mr. Sanderson," the administrator directed.  "We'll wait until 9PM before placing her in stasis.  Hopefully, she'll see the light before then." 

"She won't change.  Let's at least make it quick," the subordinate urged. 

"Patience," Eckhardt told him.  "You're dismissed.  When the new detail comes on, we'll have to prepare for an assault tonight." 

"Tonight?" the other asked. 

"Yes. Tonight," his boss indicated.  "When you come back from your break, please bring Mr. Dubois in, will you?  He'll be a valuable tool to use against his son." 

"Right away," Sanderson agreed, departing to do his duty. 

Eckhardt walked about the area.  His instincts told him that something would happen within the next few hours.  He just didn't know when or from where.  Doubling the guard would do nicely to meet the threat.  The other measures would just insure success. 


A few minutes later, the clock struck 6PM.  The security detail began to change over as some people left their posts and others arrived to replace them.  Unbeknownst to anyone, Toni's virus had wormed it's way into the system, knocking out the security sensors, and replacing them with similar looking yet blank screens on their displays. 


Adam had finished hotwiring his cell's door panel, getting it to slide open.  Moving into the hall, he looked about.  There were no guards or anything.  "Perfect," he thought.  "We should have about five minutes to get out, but then, if the ghostly woman's plan worked the way it was supposed to, help should be on the way."  Knocking on the door of his friends' cell, he stated, "Ladies, it's Adam.  I'm out and the security's offline." 

At that moment, two GSA agents came into the hall and saw him.  "Hey!  Hands up!" they told him, holding him at gunpoint. 

Within the cell, Angie looked around desperately.  She couldn't let her colleague be killed.  Looking in the corner, she saw Lana stressing over the situation.   "Are you okay?" 

"Is he going to be okay?" the teen asked.  "I wish there was something we could do." 

"There may be," the doctor indicated.  "Can you keep a secret?" 

"Sure," Lana agreed, a puzzled look forming on her face.  "What could be so important that you would need to ask that?" 

"You'll see," Angie declared, reaching over her back and pulling the sword, producing a bright flash of light. 

Lana looked about blindly.  "Dr. Dubois?  What did you do?  Where are you?" 

"She's not here," another woman told her. 

At that moment, her eyes blurred into focus, picking up on the Warrior Princess.  "Who are you?  Where's Dr. Dubois?" Lana demanded. 

"She's safe," Xena indicated.  "I'm Xena and I'm getting us out of here!"  Getting up a good start, she kicked the door out into the hall.  "Come on!"  Leaping out into the hall, she spied the two goons coming at Adam.  Flinging the chakram, she took out the attackers with ease.  "Are you okay?" she asked him. 

"Yes.  Thank you.  Xena, right?" he expressed, admiring her handiwork.   

"That's right.  Let's go," she replied grimly.  "Lana, are you here?" 

"I'm here," the teen stated, making her way into the hall. 

"Come on," Xena urged, looking about anxiously. 

But, before they could go anywhere, ten other goons approached them.  "Stop!" they commanded. 

Adam advised, "Lana, find cover!" 

Before he could do anything, the warrior thrust herself into action, kicking, punching, and an additional fling of her signature weapon.  Within a moment's time, she had disposed of their attackers.   

"Impressive," he complemented.  "Let's get out of here.  What about Angie?  Where's she?" 

"She's been taken care of," Xena assured her companions.  "Shall we?" 

"Yes," he asserted.  "I need to do some things." 

With that, the trio took off down the hall, looking for an exit. 


Meanwhile, in the midst of the holding area where the fighting had just occurred, a misty portal opened, allowing the group to spill into the hall.  Seeing the strewn bodies of agents around them, they gathered that a battle had already occurred there. 

"Where did they go?" Jesse wondered. 

Dave surveyed the scene and smiled, "Xena's been here." 

"Right," Gabrielle stated, rushing off in pursuit of her best friend, leaving the others to follow as quickly as they could. 

Within moments, the invaders had caught sight of the trio.  The latter was surrounded by gray coats and struggling with their adversaries. 

"Party time!" Dave grinned, readying his bow and placing a shaft in it.  "Umm, Brennan, can you spark the wick?" 

"One spark coming up," his ally told him, lighting the projectile. 

"Thanks," the professor noted, firing it into the crowd.  The smoke filled the room, stopping the activity.  "Let's go!" he urged, charging into the melee. 

The others followed and started cutting down the GSA security in their path like so much grass. 


Sanderson unlocked the elder Dubois' door and urged the other, "C'mon, we have a problem." 

"Yeah?  Now you need me?" his colleague baited. 

"Shut up and follow me!  Looks like your brood is up to no good." 

Dubois smiled.  Now, he would have a chance to get even with his children.  Having decided that much, he rushed after Sanderson eager to confront the intruders. 


Despite the silencing of the alarms, Xena's cleaning efforts had attracted Eckhardt's attention.  "Attention, security!  Is anyone out there?" he demanded.  

"Sanderson here, Sir," the operative replied.  "I have Mr. Dubois as per your orders, and we're en route." 

"Excellent," the director complemented.  "We need to get a handle on this immediately.  Move all available agents to intercept the attackers!" 

"Yes, Sir.  We're on it," Sanderson concluded, signing off. 

"Well, Adam.  Let's see how well schooled your outlaws are," Eckhardt frowned, heading for the scene himself.  This crisis was getting out of hand, and he hated chaos especially in his own facility. 


Meanwhile, the combined Mutant X/Dubois group continued to dispatch the opposition with cold efficiency.  As if crawling from the walls, the overcoats seemed to flow endlessly into firing range of electrical bolts, mental pulses, chakram, staff, or blows delivered from the others. 

In the process of this fighting, Sanderson waded into the mess and saw Lana.  "Maybe with a hostage, we can stop this mess!" he realized.  Grabbing her arm, he said, "Shut up and come on!" 

"No!" Lana screamed.  "Help!" She resisted even as the operative pulled her back up the stairs, yelling to the others, but she couldn't make herself heard above the din. 

Then, Eckhardt's voice boomed, "Now!" 

Instantly, twenty-five other agents surrounded the group at a safe distance and held out black-gloved hands, generating the blocking field.  Under that influence, Dave's abilities as well as those belonging to Mutant X were negated. 

"Now, Adam.  It's over," the director stated to his adversary.  "I have you all, and this time, there's no escape." 

The leader looked around.  Given that they were surrounded and their fighting abilities were halved, he would have to admit that it seemed hopeless.  There had to be another option, but it wasn't presenting itself.  The situation looked bad and it did seem like the end. 


Chapter 25 

"Stick it, Whitey!" Dave challenged. Looking around him, he spied the men holding them at bay.   

"Such bravado and crassness, Professor Dubois," Eckhardt snorted.  "You'll address me as 'Mr. Eckhardt' before I put you into stasis." 

"Time for your surprise?" Shalimar asked expectantly, a smile on her face in expectation of Eckhardt's reaction. 

"Surprise?" Adam probed anxiously. 

"Absolutely," the professor grinned, producing the "flashlight" and flipping the switch.  Within seconds, the dampening energies were neutralized and the glove-projectors shorted out.  "You were saying, Whitey?" he taunted confidently.  "Guys, shall we?" 

The others resumed their pace.  Xena and Gabrielle engaged their opponents hand to hand.  Nick descended from above like a devastating hailstorm, pelting the enemy with blows.  Brennan zapped the opposition into oblivion.  Jesse switched density states, allowing the agents to swing through him before his fist knocked them unconscious.  Shalimar clawed and swiped her enemies into the same state.  Emma put an image of choking into her enemies' minds, making it hard for them to breath, much less fight.  Dave fired shaft after shaft at the agents, gassing and blinding them.   

But, after a few minutes, the medievalist doubled over as his head started to throb.  The backlash from the neutralization process had caught up to him, and, just like the kick of an old shotgun, it filled his head with an intense pain. 

The surrounding agents decided to take advantage and started pounding on him.  For a second, it seemed they would get their way.   

Watching from the upper deck where he held Lana, Sanderson relished the professor's pain.  For bringing this chaos, the man deserved to suffer.  Then, he felt the familiar twinge coming from the scholar.  "The darkness!" he realized. 

However, before he could warn the others, Dave's attackers exploded away from him in all directions.  As the academic rose, the goons saw the telltale grin, closed eye, and maniacal expression.  "Well now, let's party!" 

The new mutants glanced at their friend, wondering what his mood switch meant for them. 

"Keep goin'!" he bellowed, firing pulses to scatter the agents in front of him.  "Move it, Roadkill!" he snarled at his opponents.   

Charged by his contribution, the others followed the Child's lead.  Within a few more minutes, the remaining agents had been disposed of. 

"All's well that ends well," Nick told his friends.  "Now, let's get out of here." 

Xena looked about and wondered, "Where's Lana?" 

The others looked about as well.  The young woman was nowhere to be seen.   

Then, Sanderson yelled, using his telepathy to boost his voice, "Miss Lang is here with me, heroes.  Give yourselves up, and I might let her go!  Otherwise, she dies." 

Eckhardt smiled.  Perhaps, his operative may have regained the upper hand for them after all. 

The new mutants and their allies looked at their possibilities.  Given the distance they would have to cover, there was no way that they would be able to reach her in time.   

Xena looked to the Dark One and whispered, "Give me a distraction with one of your party favors.  I'll do the rest." 

"Right," he indicated, stringing the bow and firing a wild shot at the brewing scene. 

Sanderson shook his head and put the gun to Lana's head.  A ghastly smile was on his face, thinking he had won. 

At that second, Xena flung her chakram, allowing it to carom off of several overhanging pipes, cameras, and the upper floors' undersides.  The weapon knocked the gun from the operative's hand and sent him sprawling backwards.  However, as he went backwards, he pushed his victim over the rail and into the abyss.  

Everyone gaped at the sight of the young woman falling to her death.   

Nick hesitated for a second before flying at top speed to intercept her fall.  He wouldn't allow her to die no matter the consequences. 


At the others' urging, Clark had stayed in the shadows, waiting in reserve if needed.  His blood pressure rose steadily as the fight unfolded.  Then, he saw Sanderson holding Lana hostage.  "No!" he protested.  But, what could he do?  Should he reveal himself?  If he did, what would happen to him?  To Lana?  To them all?  Then, he saw the operative stumble backward. 

Then, Lana fell into the abyss. 

"NO!" he protested, forgetting about all of his doubts.  Somehow, his body relaxed, and he streaked off across the room, covering the distance in the blink of an eye.  His spaceship had killed her parents upon his arrival in Smallville.  He wasn't going to let her join them.  At least, not yet.  Floating under her, he caught the falling woman. 

"What?" she wondered, opening her eyes.  "Why am I still up here?"  Glancing around, she saw that Clark had her in his arms.  "Clark?" 

"I've got you," he assured her. 

"But who has you?" she demanded, looking down at the remaining distance to the floor below. 

"I've got me," he assured her as they alighted on the ground. 

At that point, she saw another man training a gun on him from behind.  "Clark!" she warned just as the shot rang out. 

Her classmate only made sure he was in front of her.  A second later, he felt the bullet bounce harmlessly off of his back.   

She looked at him with uncertainty.  Here was a man she had known all of her life.  Granted, she thought that he was mysterious, but never guessed that his secrets were on this magnitude.  "Clark, how?" she pressed. 

"I was born like this," he stated, looking about to make sure they were safe.  He saw that Nick had secured Stuart Dubois.  "Look, we can talk later when we're out of here.  Let's go." 

She nodded in confusion.  Between Dr. Dubois and Clark, they owed her an explanation apiece, but those could come later.  For now, they needed to leave here.   

After the two teens had joined their companions, the mysterious mist suddenly wafted over them all, teleporting them from the scene as quickly as it had deposited them there. 

Eckhardt grumbled indignantly at how triumph could have slipped through his fingers so quickly and totally.  The group had thrown his best security forces about like so many rag dolls.  He had lost his hostages.  But worst yet, this disaster had shown how easily his measures could be circumvented.  There would be Hell to pay for this disaster.  As such, he went off in search of Sanderson to hold him accountable for this mess.  


Chapter 26

 Adam stared at the fog surrounding the group in wonder.  He had heard of myths and legends of priestesses doing such feats, but he had dismissed them as legend.  Turning to Deirdre, he asked, "I take it we should leave while this cover remains?" 

"We're no longer in Geneomax, Adam," Emma told him. 

He looked at her skeptically.  "What are you talking about?  We were standing in the main lobby.  You just can't pop in and out of places...." 

Xena shrugged, "You'll see. " 

At that moment, the mists parted, allowing the group to step back into the physical world.  To Adam's amazement, they stood in the midst of a prison compound right after sunset.  "Where are we?" 

"The Hampshire County prison system," Steve stated, grabbing hold of Dave's father.  "We have a stray to drop off." 

The elder Dubois struggled, "You can't put me back in there!" 

"Oh yes, we can," Nick asserted, staring into the other man's eyes.  His stare became intense as he hypnotically suggested, "You will come with us quietly.  Understand?" 

"Yes..." the prisoner blankly agreed. 

Just then, a guard ran up to them.  "What is this?  Who are you?" 

"I'm Steven Petersen, FBI, and he's Nick Miles, Tucson, AZ PD. Here's Stuart Dubois back from his little jaunt on the outside.  Add three counts of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder to his slate, will you?" the agent explained, handing over the other man.   

"Absolutely," the guard agreed.  "But, I need to know who your friends are.  They just can't come waltzing in without ID." 

Nick looked at the prison official's eyes and asked, "What friends?  Agent Petersen and I are here by ourselves.  You should be concerned with getting Dubois to his cell." 

The guard nodded robotically.  "I understand.  Dubois should be back in his cell.  Thanks for bringing him back." 

The agent struggled to keep a straight face, deadpanning, "Not a problem." 

After the guard had escorted Dubois into the cellblock, Steve nudged Nick, asking, "How do you do that?  You'll have to show me some time." 

Recalling Natalie's request, he smiled, "Get in line."   

Deirdre inquired, "Are we set here?" 

"Absolutely," Steve agreed. 

"Then, let's get out of here," Adam urged, looking about at the scene. 

"Done," the priestess shrugged, dropping the misty blanket once again.  When the cloud lifted, they were inside of the Sanctuary.  "How's that?" 

"Amazing," the leader admired, soaking in the fact that she had transported them home in two steps.  "So you do this all the time?" 

"It beats the airlines," Dave grinned, hugging his daughter's shoulders. 

"Nice to see you in control again," Gabrielle informed the professor. 

"I gave him some herbs to chew on back at the prison," Deirdre noted. 

"And I admit that I was giving him some pleasant thoughts," Emma added. 

"Whatever works," Shalimar explained.  "That's pretty cool, isn't it, Adam?" 

"Yes," he admitted, although he was more than a little troubled about her ability to bypass his safeguards.  Then, he noticed Eve sitting by the fountain, drinking a cup of tea.  "And who's she supposed to be?" 

"She's with us," Xena smiled.  "That's my daughter, Eve.  Don't worry, she was keeping an eye on things here." 

" 'Keeping an eye on things'?" Adam wondered, thinking the worst.   

"Everything's okay," the Religious studies professor explained.  "I'm glad that everyone's back in one piece.  I was praying for your safe return." 

"Well, thank you for your thought," Adam replied warmly, her nature winning him over for some reason.  "We can use more help like that." 

"Where Eckhardt's concerned, you can say that again," Brennan mentioned. "Well anyhow, I don't know about all of you, but, after that fight, I want a shower." 

"Go ahead," Adam agreed, allowing his charges to do so.  When they had left, he eyed the remaining group carefully, asking, "I wonder what happens now?" 

"Excuse me?" Dave probed. 

Adam sighed, "Now that you've seen the Sanctuary, I need to ask that you keep this secret." 

Lana stared at both Clark and Xena.  What was one more secret after today? 

"That's not a problem," the Warrior Princess informed him.  "You're waging a good fight.  You can count on us."  After the others nodded, adding their agreement, she raised her right eyebrow and asked, "See what I mean?" 

"Besides, with the way I brought everyone in and out of here, we didn't see anything," Deirdre commented.  "And the windows on your ship were sealed shut." 

Adam nodded in satisfaction.  "Sounds as if you covered all of the bases.  Well, I thank you for helping us out and I'm glad we could help you as well."  He shook each hand in turn.   

"Actually," Dave realized.  "I was hoping that we could talk again.  This has been really helpful for me believe it or not." 

The others glanced in surprise at him, but Adam could see where he was coming from.  "Yes, I think I see.  But you all are too well known to join the Underground.  Clark would be the only exception to that, but he needs to consider that option for himself.  Actually, I have to return to Tucson in any event.  I still want to give my talk even if Eckhardt won't be allowed within 50 miles of the place," he noted, a slight smile forming on his face. 

"I think Dr. Fishburne will agree," Dave agreed, glancing at Xena.  "Then if it's all right, we'd like to chat with you and the rest of Mutant X about something.  You're right, neither Angie nor I can join directly, but we might have something of interest to you.  All I ask is that you have dinner with us and hear me out." 

"Deal," Adam concurred, shaking his hand.  "Meantime, have a safe journey and the thanks of Mutant X." 

"Thank you," Eve smiled as the mists thickened around the group, transporting them away.   

For a long minute, Adam studied the spot where his new friends had been only a minute before.  This new alliance would be interesting for all parties, but with the GSA lurking out there, allies such as the Duboises and their friends would be necessary.  "Diagnostic," he requested to the computer and watched as the system started its operations.  It felt good to be home. 


This time, the group found themselves back on the campus in Tucson.  The sun had set hours before and night's ebony sheen had taken over its dominion, insuring that the campus wouldn't be at its most populated. 

Dave inhaled deeply, "It's good to be back here and everyone's safe and sound." 

"Amen," Eve agreed, glancing at everyone but allowing her eyes to settle on Clark and Lana.  "We're glad that you two are safe." 

"Thanks for helping to get her back," Clark expressed, rubbing Lana's shoulder.  "I have to admit that I was pretty worried back there." 

Lana smiled, allowing her eyes to sparkle into his.  Granted, they had some things to settle when they got back to Smallville, but she knew that those issues could be worked out.  "Clark, thanks for the thought.  I was concerned about you as well.  At least, I know why you've been so mysterious."  Seeing the nervous look creep across his face, she assured, "I appreciate that you trust me with your secret, Clark.  Your parents sent you here, didn't they?" 

"Yes, we both lost our parents because of the meteor shower," he admitted.  "My parents died when their...our...planet...exploded.  The fragments chased me to Earth and...." His eyes teared up. 

Lana stared in disbelief at him.  The meteor shower, which had brought so much strangeness to their town and had taken her parents from her, had brought him there.  For a split second, she wanted to lash out at him, but, seeing his expression, the anger quickly abated.  She could see the longing, which she had felt for years reflected there.  They were a pair joined by loss as a result of the cataclysm.  "It's okay, Clark," she whispered, embracing him.  "I know now.  You won't be alone anymore." 

"Thanks," he told her relievedly.  "You don't know how long I've wanted to get that off of my chest.  I've cared about you for a long time and wanted to tell you the truth.  And I've made up my mind on the application process, if that's okay." 

"Here, right?" she laughed.  "I was going to say the same thing.  Granted, it's been a hectic and scary ride this weekend, and I'm sure that Nell and your folks aren't going to be too thrilled, but we'll have some good guidance here both in and out of the classroom.  That is, if we get in and they'll have us." 

Dave nodded, "Somehow, I don't think that's going to be a problem.  If everything works out, we'll look forward to seeing you in our classes." 

"Thanks," Lana grinned.  "Xena, can you thank Dr. Dubois for me when you see her?  She really kept my spirits up back in that cell, and I really appreciate it." 

The others looked at the warrior who smiled warmly, commenting, "She knows, Lana, but thank you from both of us." 

"Well shall we get you two back to the hotel?  I'm sure you going to want to change before dinner," Eve directed. 

"On that note, I'm going to check on things," Nick concluded, hustling off.  Once he was out of sight, he took off for the museum to set Alyce's mind at ease. 

"And I'm going too," Steve indicated.  "I've got to check in at TPD on a case and file a report with Farrell.  See you all soon.  Have a good trip back, Guys."  With that, he headed for the parking lot where his car waited. 

"Eve, can the two of us go with Clark and Lana while everyone else finds cover before the authorities arrive?" the professor asked. 

"Absolutely," the former Messenger agreed. 

"See you all later," Deirdre stated, willing a portal to appear.  The two warriors and she stepped through before it vanished. 

"I'll say one thing," Lana laughed.  "Life never seems to get boring around here, doesn't it?" 

The medievalist looked at his colleague and smiled, "Not too often, but we like it that way."  With that, the group headed toward Campbell and the Arizona Inn.   


Chapter 27

Natalie walked out of Ramirez's office with mixed feelings.  Granted, she never liked leaving things out of a report.  However, now that it was turned in, she was more concerned about her friends.  Since Steve had gone with Deirdre to help Dave and Angie, nobody had heard anything from them.  

Schanke walked over and asked, "Anything?" 

"Not yet," she replied.  "Ramirez is ready to eat nails over this mess.  I wish Nick would get back here." 

"Me too," he agreed.  "At least, we got some info from those GSA creeps we bagged from the auditorium incident.  Steve's going to have some work to do when he returns." 

She glanced around the bullpen.  At that moment, she saw the agent walk through the front doors.  "Steve!" she called, running across the area. 

"Hi, Natalie," he smiled, hugging her and kissing her cheek.  "I just got back and wanted to check in." 

"I'm glad you did," she told him.  "We've been concerned about everyone.  Any news?" 

"Hold on," Steve requested.  "Everyone's fine.  Nick will be back shortly.  Angie's okay.  The kids are at their hotel right now, and Dave pulled through all right." 

"What about Dr. Zero and those other guys?" Schanke pushed.   

"Dr. Zero's fine.  As for the others, they've vanished.  Poof!" the agent stretched the truth, trying to give Mutant X some cushion.  "They did help us get Dr. Zero, Angie, and Lana back, but they disappeared right after that." 

Ramirez stalked over and indicated, "Well, I would've liked to have talked with them, Agent Petersen, but all's well that ends well, right?  We got some more information from those men we bagged at the U of A.  Looks like another big can of worms, eh, Amigo?" 

Steve's mind flashed back to the scenario at Geneomax, and he shuddered at the knowledge that Eckhardt had built such a juggernaut with government funding right under the Bureau's nose with nobody being the wiser.  "It sure is, Captain, but we're on it.  Measures are being set up even as we speak." 

The coroner studied her companion's face.  Although they had only just started their relationship, she knew he didn't allow fear to show very often.  Something on this mission had scared him deeply.  Once she got him alone, she would ask him about that. 

"Bueno!" the Captain cheered, unaware of the pathologist's observations.  Then, noticing his detective's entrance, he called, "Detective Miles, good to see you!  Thank you, by the way, for the updates.  At least, I had something to tell the U of A and the kids' parents." 

"Sorry, we couldn't get everyone back sooner," the vampire apologized.  "We needed to make a few stops first.  Stuart Dubois's back in custody in Massachusetts, and everyone's back here safe and sound.  By the way, how were the kids from David Dubois's class?" 

"Shaken up, but otherwise, they're fine," Tracy answered, approaching the group.  "You know, Guys, one of these times, you're going to have to let me in on the game.  Covering you is getting old."  A smile grew on her face.  "But I'm glad that you're all safe and sound." 

"Did you get anything out of the guys you arrested?  Steve mentioned that you were interrogating them," Nick probed. 

"We found out some things about an outfit called the GSA.  Imagine, a group of sociopaths operating here in the good ol' US of A, and we don't even know about 'em until they attack our friends," Schanke noted.  "Did you see anything while you were cruising, Bud?" 

Remembering Adam's request to keep things quiet at least for now, the vampire shook his head, "They had an operation moving along until we derailed it.  Hopefully, Steve'll be able to find some things out in his upcoming investigation." 

"I guess that's to be expected," Tracy sighed, wishing he could say more.  However, she guessed that Steve had asked her partner to keep it under wraps for now.  "Well, we've got some patrols to do if you're up to it.  Oh yeah, did you stop by and see Alyce?  She was pretty worried about you." 

"That's why Steve beat me back here.  She's okay for now.  I'll tell her more after our shift," the immortal mentioned.  "Come on, the Caddy's waiting." 

"Sounds great," she grinned, glad that everything would be getting back to normal at least for now. 


A few hours later, Nick dropped Tracy off at the station and headed for the El Gato Negro.  As he walked in, he felt a tension in the air underneath the festive trappings.  While mortals and immortals alike were drinking from the bar, they weren't dancing despite the music blaring throughout the room and the strobes flashing shades of color in the air. 

"Nicolas," Janette greeted.  "It's good to see you.  We were concerned when you vanished." 

"Really?" he asked, enjoying the attention from his former sister turned protÈgÈ.  "How concerned?" 

"Let's just say that when Alyce came in here, worrying about your sudden disappearance with the Dubois girl, certain individuals were a bit anxious," the club owner declared, sipping on a frothy beverage. 

"It's nice to know that I'm wanted," Nick cracked, sipping from the bloodwine concoction placed in front of him.   

"If you would stick around, Nicholas, you'd see that we do care about you," LaCroix pointed out while sitting next to his former protÈgÈ.  "These are dangerous times.  With Dijon eliminated by your friend, the Enforcers are unstable.  Who knows where and when they will strike next?" 

"We have a bigger problem, LaCroix," Nick indicated.  "You know those mutant hunters we were talking about before I left?"  After receiving a nod from the elder vampire, he continued, "Those operatives are part of a much bigger xenopathic group.  I was inside of it, LaCroix.  Their facility is enormous, their resources immense, and their leader is quite capable." 

"Quite capable as far as mortals are concerned," the former Roman general doubted, finishing his own goblet.  "I'm sure that if we were to visit, he would run away quickly.  Did you see this leader, pray tell?" 

"From a distance.  He was cold, calculating and, even in the face of defeat, showed no fear," the detective recounted.  "If he can go after mutants in this fashion because of their potential threat to his world view, what would stop him from coming after us?" 

"As if he would," the ancient vampire doubted. "Really, Nicholas.  Such worries.  Still, as we learned from the Inquisition, mortal zealots can be an issue for us to deal with.  Thank you for the warning.  I do appreciate it."  For a second, he pondered the possibilities of meeting this mortal leader.  If he was half of what Nicholas had described, what a fine vampire he would make.  "No, he'd be too ruthless and ambitious," he disagreed, reconsidering and dismissing the potential issue due to the potential threat to his own authority. 

Watching his "son" get up and depart for the loft, he chuckled to the other's back, "I do, however, appreciate good intelligence, Nicholas.  Even without meaning to, you're serving my whims like the son you should be."   On that note, he rose from his own stool, making his way toward his room in the back of the tavern.  The sun would be rising soon, and he had much to think about. 


Chapter 28

On the following afternoon, Dave walked into the same room where the attack had occurred a few days earlier.  Since their return to Tucson, he, Angie, Clark, and Lana had been assuring people that everything was all right.  Now, he allowed the two visitors to take seats in the front of the room and stood quietly in front of the room.  How many more times would he allow these attacks to happen on campus, endangering the students, his friends, and his family?  All he wanted was to lead a normal life in spite of his abilities.  As the GSA had proven, that wish could be shattered in the span of a heartbeat.  "No," he hissed.  "You can't let them stop you from living your life." 

To their credit, the students were all there, anxiously awaiting his first words.  Granted, they were afraid, but they had the courage to show up. 

"Hi, guys," the professor started.  "Before I start today, I want to issue you an apology.  Last week, this class was attacked because somebody wanted to hurt my family and me.  Unfortunately, you were caught in the crossfire.  For that, I'm sorry.  I'm glad that you followed directions and got clear of here before anything else happened." 

Brigid Shannon, a sophomore, got up and walked over to the door.  Peering into the hall, she saw her boyfriend by the stairs and called, "Is it ready yet?" 

He bellowed, "Send him down to Room 100!" 

Dave walked over to the door, asking her, "Brigid, what's going on?  I'm trying to say something to everyone." 

"Dr. D., it's really sweet for you to apologize to the class, but we wanted you to come with us, if you would," she explained.  "Let's go, Folks!" 

The group left the room en masse, heading downstairs for the auditorium.  Clark, Lana, and Dave followed as best they could. 

For his part, the professor's nerves were rattling around in his belly.  What was going on now? 

Lana reassured him, "Professor Dubois, you did nothing wrong.  We were attacked, and you helped to defend our rights."  Glancing at her classmate, she kissed him spontaneously, asserting, "All of our rights." 

Clark, although flustered from the attention, added, "You got them out of there before the crisis started.  We're with you, no matter what." 

"Thanks," Dave expressed appreciatively.  Despite the fact that he had waded through killer vampires, demons, gangsters among other threats, he was petrified at what was waiting for him through the doorway.   

[From within his head, the Child urged, "Get in there!  They're meat if they spite us!"] 

Thus inspired, he followed his teenaged friends into the auditorium.  There, the place was overflowing with students both in the seats and along the sides of the room.  If the fire marshal were to have walked in there, he or she would've had a fit.  Walking down the only remaining clear aisle, he spied Eve, Francesca, Angie, Lydia, and Michael Fishburne smiling in the front row and holding three chairs for them.   

At the podium, Caitlin watched as the trio seated themselves before starting, "Good morning, everyone and it's an unusual one at that.  Never before has the student body here called an assembly themselves and then, asked two deans to oversee it.  It's a historic occasion indeed.  Anyhow a few days ago, a terrorist group attacked our campus.  Maybe not a political group, but this coalition is just as dangerous.  During the engagement, the conference that my associate, Dr. Michael Fishburne, had organized was disrupted.  Three people were kidnapped.  Upstairs, a class in which several of you were sitting was held at gunpoint as well.  Our rights were violated.  You know those ads we've been bombarded with on TV, radio, and the newspapers about the mutant menace?  They're lies!  Yes, they're in our midst, but not as a threat.  Most of this group is special.  One in fact risked injury to keep you all out of danger.  Despite the threat to himself, he made sure you were all clear of the scene before he tried to fight back and suffered major injuries to himself in the process."   

"Here it comes," Dave muttered, rubbing his head. 

"Let her finish," Dr. F. directed. 

The library dean continued, "These actions are hardly a surprise.  For twenty years, I've known the man in question to be strong in his convictions.  He wants the best for his colleagues and all of you.  On no fewer than three occasions, he's risked his life for others, myself included, against some pretty formidable competition including once on the spot where I'm standing right now. Anyhow, I want to ask Dr. David Dubois if he can come up here to grace us with his presence." 

The crowd started to chant, "Dr. Dubois!  Dr. Dubois!" 

The professor glanced nervously at his wife who mouthed, "Go on." Getting up slowly, he made his way up the stairs, feeling as if he was mounting a scaffold, and forced himself the rest of the way to the podium. Once he got there, a quick survey of the room showed him that nobody was jeering him.  In fact, they were eager to see him.  

In back of him, he heard a whispered, "Psst." Stretching out with his senses, he felt familiar vibrations coming from scattered points.  From out of the corner of his eye, he saw Deirdre smiling, her eyes motioning for him to get on with it.  Beside her, Adam nodded encouragingly to him as well.   At various spots throughout the crowd, he picked up on the members of Mutant X waiting for him to speak.  "Well," he started.  "I guess the gang's all here, isn't it?  Funny, I've never been called up to speak like this before, but I guess there's a first time for everything.  My students know how dry and boring my lectures can be, don't you?" 

The audience broke out laughing.  At least, Dave was retaining his humor despite his nerves. 

"I must say that I'm overwhelmed by this show of support.  My second thought over these past few days has been concerned with you all and your welfare.  You'll pardon me if my first thought was for my wife's safety.  That aside, I want to let you know that everyone is all right this morning.  Thank God for that..." he started, his eyes tearing up. 

A cheer went up from the room, echoing for several minutes.  From their posts within the crowd, the members of Mutant X appreciated his words and attitude.  This was a difficult speech for their new friend, and so far, so good. 

Allowing the kids to have their moment, Dave waited before raising his hands to regain the floor.  "Thank God that my wife and my friends are okay.  All's well that ends well right?  Well, the answer to that is a big fat 'no'.  By standing firm here, we've won a small battle.  As soon as we're finished here, I'm going to give my class the hardest test they ever imagined...."  

After receiving the anticipated groan, he grinned, before turning serious, "Just kidding.  But, the right to learn is yours.  The opportunity to teach you belongs to my colleagues and myself.  And the right to live in this society belongs to everyone, my Friends, no matter what gender, race, ethnicity, or..."   

Allowing a pause, he glanced over at Adam before continuing, "...genetic makeup.  Yes, I said genetic makeup.  As Caitlin indicated, I'm special and unique because of my talents and abilities.  But I'm still as human as the so-called "normal" people are, am I not?  How does that genetic quirk make me a freak? It doesn't in itself nor does it make the other so-called "special" people freaks either.  A hundred years ago, African-Americans in the South were harassed, murdered, killed, and denied their civil rights by the KKK because of their skin color.  Well, those goons in the raincoats aren't dressed in white robes and hoods anymore.  No, these days, the domestic terrorist likes good suits, overcoats, and technological toys.  They swoop down on "special" people because we're different not because of any real crime, and I've got news for you all, they don't care who they hurt to accomplish their goal.  But, we can do something about those creeps.  We can stand united and remain vigilant. I don't want to see another mob or a protest.   I just ask that you treat everyone with equal respect, and if you should happen to run into someone with special gifts, then be their friend as you would be to anyone else.  The people who attacked us would have you believe that mutants are a menace.  I say that they're the menace through their subversion of a social group's civil and constitutional rights.  Yes, I faced them and, despite the fact that they stuck one of their gizmos in me, I fought them.  I apologize if I scared anyone.  I want us all to live as one in our society.  Remember, as it says in our Pledge of Allegiance, we are one nation under God with Liberty and Justice for all.  I just ask that you remember that the next time the hate mongers start spreading their b.s. Thank you for listening and I'm glad that you're okay.  Thank you." 

With that, he finished his piece and started toward the stairs again, not knowing what the reaction would be. 

It started slowly at first.  Brigid stood and clapped.  Then, a few others joined in.  Finally, everyone else started to applaud him loudly and enthusiastically.  Chants of "equality" echoed throughout the auditorium. 

Adam's eyes watered a bit.  While he had been nervously listening as his friend addressed the issue, he was heartened by the result.  Without flinging mud at specific people, the medievalist had exposed the GSA for what they really were, letting his audience know that genetic terrorists had harassed them, willing to kill normal as well as superhuman individuals to accomplish their purposes.  Moreover, instead of being revolted by the words, these students seemed supportive.  "Maybe if this feeling were to permeate society, our job might not be so hard," he sighed.  "Maison, when you attacked this man and his students, you miscalculated on a tremendous scale."  

Dave collapsed nervously into his seat.  Besides the feeling of elation, he trembled, not believing that he just laid everything on the line in what was the biggest gamble of his life.  "I...I did it." 

"Yes you did," Angie cheered, kissing him proudly.  "And I'm so proud of you!" 

"As we all are," Dr. Fishburne added.   

"Amen," Eve stated. 

"Well, if it weren't for all of you, I wouldn't have been able to do any of it.  Thanks," the professor complemented. 

"To have good companions, you have to be a good companion," Francesca reminded him.  "Now, go on, you have a class to teach." 

He nodded and, after rising from his chair, departed the auditorium with his wife holding his hand.  As he left, he saw Jesse, Toni, and Shalimar smiling and nodding their approval.  From a distance, he felt Emma's appreciation within his mind.  He knew that Adam would support him as well.  It had been a hard opening salvo to the war, but a successful one at that. Now, he hoped that all would work out for them in the successive campaigns to come. 


Chapter 29 [Geneomax]

Eckhardt fumed as he watched the taped replay of the Tucson rally.  Not only had the raid on the University failed to secure the Duboises, but also it had resulted in unwanted exposure both within and outside of the GSA of the organization's activities.  Worse still, due to the fracases, most operatives were either injured or in police custody.  However, the piece de resistance came with the gathering that morning where David Dubois made his presence felt without a doubt.  The comparison to the Klan made the director indignant.  He thought himself to be more sophisticated than those ruffians.  But, with the comparison having been made, no amount of spin doctoring would be able to reverse the effects.   

With his remarks, Dubois had flip-flopped things.  Now, instead of the mutants as the threat, they were the victims.  In turn, the GSA was a persecutor instead of a guardian.  "This is intolerable," he groused.  "To have those freaks treated as a part of everyday society can't happen.  It would lead to the ruination of society." 

He stood up and walked over to the window.  Looking down into the stasis chamber below, he watched Sanderson sleep inside of his cryogenic prison.  As always, failure had a high price within the GSA. 

"Too bad," he sighed.  "Next time, I won't underestimate them.  As you said, Dr. Dubois, this is only the opening salvo.  I'll recover yet."  Shutting off the replay before it sickened him too much, the administrator went out to survey the damage and find a trustworthier operative to lead his next operation. 



The reduced panel with Adam and Angie had received positive feedback from the UMC officials.  Using Dave's comments at the rally as a springboard, he spoke to the nature of DNA mutations and how such things could be a positive rather than a negative social force. The audience received the information well, even enthusiastically.   

"Congratulations, you two, on an excellent session," Dr. Fishburne complemented.  "Under the original circumstances, I couldn't have hoped for a better reception or for a smooth operation." 

"Thank you," Adam accepted.  "I admit it was a welcome opportunity to be able to promote my research.  You have quite a person here in Dr. Dubois.  She's a quality individual as well as a researcher." 

She flushed pink and squirmed shyly, "You're too much, Dr. Zero.  I just did what was right.  You got us out of there.  I just followed your lead." 

Her boss chuckled knowingly.  Sometimes, she was too modest for her own good, but he let her play that hand for the moment. 

Likewise, the geneticist eyed his co-panelist skeptically as well.  The things he saw back in Geneomax didn't exactly add up.  Xena showed up a little too conveniently even though she did save his life more than likely.  However, because of the favor, he decided not to ask her unless the right moment came up in private.  "C'mon, give her a break.  Her research is first rate, but there's something to be said for modesty as well.  If there's an upside to our situation, I'm glad we really got to know each other." 

Fishburne agreed, "It's great to hear her speak about her research again.  Well, an administrator's work is never done.  Once again, nice job." With that, he left the area, heading for his office. 

Adam turned to her and smiled, "First rate job, Angie, all the way around.  You've been a big key to how everything turned out." 

"I would say the same about you, Adam.  You and your colleagues bailed us out as well.  I think Dave was right.  We could learn a lot from you and the others.  Also, I wanted to thank you all for coming with Deirdre to support Dave this morning.  Nobody expected the kids to react like that," she noted. 

"I must admit that I wasn't too thrilled with the circumstances, or with your husband choosing to take on Eckhardt and the GSA like that, especially given the spontaneous nature of the piece and how explosive his personality is," he revealed. 

"I wasn't so sure either.  He was so scared that we were going to get fired and was so nervous in that auditorium; I thought that he was going to erupt, but there are some things to remember.  This is his home.  Nowhere else had he been so well accepted as he has been here.  His colleagues were his professors, and he's always loved the students.  They accepted him, dealing with his moods, and giving him his background.  When Eckhardt marched in here, he violated Dave's safety zone.  I can safely tell you can threaten him, and he'll deal with it as you've seen.  Threaten his friends and colleagues here; you've got a war on your hands.  Eckhardt is only the latest in a line of bigots and bullies who've stood in his way," she reported.   

"I believe it," he realized.  "You're doing great things for him, Angie.  Stay with him and keep him improving in terms of his self-control.  After that piece, he's made himself a target." 

"You can talk to him about that tonight at dinner.  Please bring the team to our house.  Francesca, Dave, and I are cooking.  Consider it a thank you from us to you," she invited.  "No buts." 

"Since you put it that way, fine.  I need to look in on Emma.  She's having a hard time with Alicia Fallone's death.  Speaking of your husband, where did he go?" he accepted. 

"He went to check in with the others," she shrugged.  "Let's join them too." 

"Absolutely," he smiled, walking with her out of the auditorium toward the parking garage. 


On a rise overlooking the city's western edge, a thin layer of flowers covered a solitary gravesite surrounded by only a few well wishers.  Alicia Fallone had been a recent arrival in Tucson and wasn't that well known.  Her family had disowned her due to her abilities.  Consequently, her passing was barely noticed. 

Despite this, the members of Mutant X had gathered to mourn their friend.  Granted, they had only met her once in Phoenix, but her emails had been warm and outgoing to them all. 

Emma especially felt the tragedy.  They met right after she and Brennan had joined the team.  The transition was long and difficult.  The empath couldn't see herself as a viable hero.  However, despite Alicia's shyness, she had talked with Adam's newest protÈgÈ, bolstering her confidence and trusting that her own thoughts wouldn't be violated.  "Thank you, Alicia," she expressed.  "For everything." 

Having already said their piece, Jesse, Shalimar, and Brennan hung back, allowing their friend to mourn in her own way.   

Five minutes later, the Subaru pulled up.  Dave stepped out and solemnly joined the others.  "Is it all right if I say my piece as well?" Receiving no opposition, he leaned over the site, placed a bouquet of flowers on the grave and took a step back.  "Alicia, we never met in this life.  I'm sorry for that because you left a mark on us all.  What happened to you was tragic, but your sacrifice didn't happen in vain.  Your murder opened the can of worms on the GSA.  Because of you, Eckhardt's about to be investigated.  Because of you, I met our fellow mutants and learned that my wife and I are members of a bigger community.  Through them, I've come a few steps closer to inner peace and security.   Most importantly, this is our home.  I tried to convey that notion this morning at the U of A.  Seeing you in the morgue pushed me to assert our right to live our lives the way we choose not out of fear of Eckhardt and his goon squad.  I hope you thought the speech was worthy of your memory.  Thank you for your presence and your memory.  You won't be forgotten." 

"That was very nice," Emma smiled.  "Thank you." 

"Two such pieces in one day.  Not bad," Shalimar added, rubbing the professor's shoulder. 

"Who would've guessed a poet was hiding under the berserker faÁade?" Brennan remarked.  "Seriously though, Chief, those were some heavy words." 

"Heavy words for a heavy heart and a thoughtless act," Dave told them.  "Alicia deserves to be here with us, and she's not.  Her crime was that she was born different.  That's why I said what I said this morning and just now.  It's up to all of you to be the frontline defense against the GSA.  I'm just one professor doing my best to inspire the next generation." 

Looking toward the car, Jesse noted that Clark and Lana were sitting in the back seat.  Walking over, he asked them, "Hey, guys.  It's okay if you want to say a few words." 

The teens looked at each other anxiously.  Finally, Lana responded, "We didn't want to intrude on your grief.  We're sorry, but we wanted to respect your moment." 

"We'd really be honored if you would join us," the density-shifting mutant invited. 

"In that case, okay," Clark accepted, climbing out of the car first and then, assisting Lana.  The three solemnly walked over to the others.  

Once there, the young woman stooped close to the ground, indicating, "Ms. Fallone, you don't know me, but my name's Lana.  I'm sorry that we couldn't have met.  Like you, the GSA harassed me.  If not for my boyfriend, Clark Kent, who's here with me, I would've suffered as you did.  As Professor Dubois said, you continue to make a difference.  Your legacy began today and it will not end.  When I get back to Smallville, I'll write a column dedicated to your memory, the difference you made, and the ramifications of your accomplishments.  Be at peace and thank you for helping me to meet these friends and for getting to know my best friend.  I may be the only so-called normal person here, but I'm in good company."  At that point, she broke down, hugging Clark tightly. It would take a while for her to come to grips with the maliciousness she had encountered over the past few days if she ever did.  Yet, she had an obligation to talk about what she had seen so that it might not happen again. 

For his part, Clark stood silently, choosing only to reflect instead of adding more words to the plethora already offered.  He too knew the burden of having powers and having to hide them.  In his heart, he made a silent vow to use those abilities to serve and protect mankind, no matter what.  Without knowing, he had placed himself on the path toward his future endeavor as a multi-faceted crusader for justice. 

After the silence had lingered for a while, Shalimar asked Dave, "She touched you like that?" 

"Indirectly for the most part," he smiled, looking at Emma.  "Your teammate's illusion helped me and my inner Child to come to a peace of sorts.  For that, I'm grateful.  Besides, this city has and always will be my sanctuary, my home.  Anybody should be able to live here or anywhere else as they choose.  Speaking of that, I would be honored if you all would accompany me back to the apartment." 

"Is this when you make that proposal?" Brennan pushed.  "Adam hinted that you had something big up your sleeve." 

"Just my arm," the medievalist declared, waving it to them.  "Now, let's be on our way.  I think you might find this interesting." 

After the new mutants got into their rental car, they followed the Subaru back down the Ajo Trail toward the Old Pueblo just as the last colors of sunset faded from the western sky.  No matter what, Alicia would be able to rest in peace and enjoy the desert sky as she had in life.  No matter what, her memory would inspire change.  Her friends would see to that.



While Dave, his guests, and Mutant X were at the cemetery; Angie parked her Taurus in the usual spot and guided Adam into her home. 

"This is it," she announced.  "We don't have a lot, but we call it home." 

He surveyed the simple yet distinctive furnishings in the living room.  "And I take it each of you has a study?" he inquired. 

"Yes," she replied, showing him first her sanctum with its medical charts and reference works.  Then, he saw the other retreat whose walls were lined with shelves bulging with books.  Looking at the works, he recognized at least 7 languages and topics dealing with most historical eras.  However, the medieval emphasis hardly surprised him given the professor's research. 

"Amazing," he admired.  "You both have fascinating studies, I must say." 

She flushed pink.  "You're too kind, Adam, but thank you.  Both Dave and I value our research because it's a way of contributing to society, building for the future by examining the past and present." 

"Bravo," he agreed as they walked into the twins' bedroom where the girls were playing amongst themselves.  "These are your daughters?" 

"Two of them.  Adam, the one on the left is Lauren and the one on the right is Karen.  Girls, this is Dr. Adam Zero," Angie introduced. 

The twins smiled nervously and greeted, "Hi, Sir.  We're glad to meet you." 

"And I'm glad to meet you both," he responded warmly.  "What are you doing?" 

"We're just playing checkers," Karen answered respectfully.  "Right now, Lauren's winning, but I'm going to come back." 

The other twin shrugged.  In front of company, she knew better than to take the bait from her sister. 

"Just play nice, okay?" Angie requested.  When the kids nodded, she replied, "Awesome.  Dinner's going to be in a little while so we'll let you know.  Okay?" 

The girls smiled and nodded once again.  

 Just then, a wind gust tipped their favorite vase, sending it toward the floor.  Lauren stopped what she was doing and concentrated.  Instantly, the glassware stopped, suspended in midair.  Karen focused on the window, which unexpectantly eased itself shut. 

Angie bit her lip.  While Adam knew about their pedigree, she wished that her daughters wouldn't have shown their true natures so easily.  At some point, she and Dave would need to have a chat with them about these things. 

"Wonderful," he praised, despite having similar misgivings.  As much as they would need to learn discretion, the twins' sense of teamwork was admirable in itself.  "Just do me a favor, okay?"  Stooping over, he requested, "Just be more careful about who you use your powers in front of.  The vase is important, but trust me, there are people out there who aren't as nice as me.  I think you're both very good girls, and I don't want you to be hurt by these bad people." 

"Are we monsters then?" the twins chorused. 

He shook his head, "No, never think that.  You're very special.  I work with many girls and boys like you, but there are people who disagree with me.  They would hurt you because of their short-sighted beliefs." 

"You mean like Grandpa Dubois?" Lauren asked.  Seeing her mother's disappointed look, she apologized, "Sorry, Mama, but he hurt Papa and Dee-Dee. " 

"He was so mad with Papa and Auntie," Karen added, shaking from the memory of the day when Stuart Dubois had confronted his daughter before the group had left for England. 

Adam explained, "Your grandfather isn't a bad man.  He's just misinformed about things and had some bad experiences fighting for our country.  He needs some help." 

Angie grinned.  He had relayed the messages that she and her husband had thought about, but never figured out exactly how to do it.  No wonder he was such a good leader and inspirational force.  "Girls, why don't you keep playing?  We'll have more time to talk later." 

They nodded and concluded, "Nice meeting you, Dr. Zero." 

After they walked out of the room, he complemented, "You've got two very well-behaved girls there." 

"Thank you," she accepted.  "They've had to get used to not having their sister around.  That's Deirdre." 

"The teleporter?" he asked.  "There seems like quite an age difference between them." 

"She's always been really good with her stepsisters," she fibbed. 

Before he could reply, the door opened and Dave announced, "Princess?  We're home." 

She walked over and embraced him, asking, "How did it go?" 

"Alicia got a nice sendoff, thanks to our new friends," he replied, glancing at his companions as they followed him into the room.  

"You had a nice piece as well," Emma told him. 

"Not a bad place," Jesse complemented. 

"It's very nice," Lana added. 

"Thanks, guys," the history professor accepted.  Can everyone take a seat?  We're waiting for a few other people."  Seeing the others' nervous stares, he reassured them, "Nick, Eve, Francesca, Steve, and Dr. Natalie LeBeau, the pathologist who examined Alicia.  Don't worry, she can keep a secret.  She wanted to fill you in on the official report." 

At that moment, the others came in as well.  Francesca walked through the living room and set a covered dish in the kitchen before coming back to join her friends.  "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes," she announced. 

Adam glanced over at Natalie unsure of what she would think of him or his team.  According to what Angie had mentioned during their drive over there, she was prepared to cover up Alicia's mutancy for the sake of all concerned.  "Forgive me, Dr. LeBeau, it's not my nature to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially after you took a great risk on our behalf, but I must ask that you keep what you know a secret." 

"I'm prepared to do that," the ME agreed.  "From what Steve and Nick have told me, we all owe you a big debt of gratitude.  You helped me along with Nick's partners back at the UMC."  Glancing at her immortal friend and her hosts, she smiled, "Discretion is an everyday thing for me, Adam.  You can count on me." 

"Thank you," he expressed.  "It's a hard world out there and we need to be careful.  On the other hand, there's the occasional need to go out on a limb."  Turning to Dave, he handed a disc to his host, adding, "We had this aired last night on Proxy Blue." 

The medievalist walked over to the computer and inserted the floppy.  When the screen popped on, the CGI image came up, saying, "To conclude tonight's show, I received word that the report concerning the battle in Turkey was no more than just two kids pulling a publicity stunt.  Just when you think you can trust people to report the truth, they don't.  Thanks for understanding." 

"How?" Angie asked.   

"Oh, Toni and I cooked up an email and some other "evidence" which led people to think that the fight between Dave and Dijon was nothing more than a publicity stunt.  Consider it a thank you," Jesse noted. 

Dave chuckled, "Nick, do tell LaCroix that he's off the hook...again." 

The vampire detective squirmed.  Given how the Elder was already feeling about Dave, delivering that message wouldn't be too pleasant, but at least the situation had been dealt with. 

Adam smiled and changed the topic.  "On top of the nice piece this morning, you had an offer you wished to discuss?  Forgive me for being forward, but if you're ready to speak...."  

The medievalist closed the front door and sat back down beside his wife.  For a long minute, he thought about what he was about to say.  It was probably one of the biggest steps he would take, but he felt it needed to be done.  "Adam, after our experience and the rally this morning, I got to thinking about the way things are.  Eckhardt's trying to tell people that mutants are bad, and preying on society's fears and misgivings.  I was thinking...what about sending some new mutants to school here?" 

"With you all teaching them," the leader surmised.  "Go on." 

"Now that people know that mutants aren't bad, this might be our chance to show everyone how we can attend school and go through the ranks according to society's expectations.  If you mix "normal" and "special" folks together, but don't tell them which ones are which, then personalities can win out," the professor continued.   

Eve nodded, "We can teach tolerance and respect for others along with the academic lessons.  Eli said that love is the center of all knowledge." 

The mutants all looked at each other with uncertainty.  Granted, these people had just taken a stand against Eckhardt and the GSA, but they were hardly the majority. 

"This is a special place," Dave noted.  "These folks are very tolerant of others.  Hey, they put up with the Child for the past fifteen years." 

Clark interjected, "Excuse me, Professor Dubois, can I say something?"  

"Sure, Clark.  What's on your mind?" his host inquired. 

"My parents and I had a chat on the phone yesterday.  They've agreed to let me come here if I'm accepted.  I would sure like to know some other people like myself," he revealed. 

"And I would like to be friends with them as well," Lana added.  "If Clark and you all are like most of these 'new mutants', then I know I would have many new friends." 

Adam glanced at the others, uncertain of what to make of the conversation.  While he wanted to trust in what Dave said, he knew that doing so in a public manner would make the university Eckhardt's number one target.   "I wish I could be certain of their safety." 

"Adam, don't worry about their safety," Nick assured him.  "We'll keep an eye on them." 

"The police can only do so much, Detective Miles," the leader disagreed.  "Pardon me, but I can't ask you to stop fighting crime to protect any mutants." 

"He wasn't talking about the police," Natalie commented, glancing at the vampire.  "Show him, Nick." 

The former Crusader closed his eyes and looked down.  When he raised his face again, he was fully vamped out.  "I was referring to the vampire community.  We're here as well.  I have already told the vampire Elder about Eckhardt's threat, and he'll keep an eye out over the city.  Besides, the rest of us can also watch for threats.  The GSA is a potential threat to us as well." 

"And what's to stop this Elder from going after the new mutants?" Shalimar cut in. 

"Me," Angie spoke but with Xena's voice.  Then, in her own voice, the oncologist added, "Adam, you were wondering about how I got out of Geneomax, right?" 

"I have a theory," he nodded.  "But, go ahead." 

"Clark," she requested.  "I need you to keep a secret." 

His classmate informed him, "Brace yourself.  This is a doozy." 

With that, she triggered the transformation, becoming Xena right in front of their eyes. 

Adam looked to Jesse who nodded at him.  Then, he grinned, "Nice work.  I thought as much too.  So, how are you going to keep our friends at bay?  You can't kill a vampire that easily." 

The Warrior Princess pulled her sword and held it up in the air, admiring the glint of the light on the blade, and arching her brow.  "This.  I have the power to kill immortals." 

"Besides, as a mortal, LaCroix, I mean Lucius of Pompeii, was my stepbrother," Eve explained.  "I can try and talk to him." 

"Lucius of Pompeii?" the leader asked.  "The Roman general?" 

"The same," Nick nodded.  "He was the one who brought me across." 

"And if you're his sister," Adam continued.  "That would make you Livia.  Sorry, but you don't seem like the berserker type." 

"Not anymore, thank Eli," the former Messenger stated.  "Emma, if you want to see for yourself, you may do so." 

"All right," the empath agreed and peered into the Religion professor's head.  There, she saw a split almost like the one in Dave's psyche.  She noted the light from her time as the Messenger of Eli.  But a few steps later, the scene turned dark and brutal as she saw huge Roman armies sweeping through villages on a rampage, killing, burning and pillaging everything in sight.  On a white horse at the front of this wave, a woman dressed in armor with Eve's face drove the troops forward on this killing spree.  Seeing this sight, Emma's face turned white and her eyes bulged wide.  "My God," she muttered.  "The blood and horror."  

Watching the other woman's reaction, Eve noted sadly, "Now, you know my shame." 

"Hey," Brennan asked.  "What did you see?" 

"Did you guys ever hear of the sack of Theothia?" Emma stammered. 

"Yeah, that was one of those battles we got in our high school world history class," Shalimar informed her.  "Led by a woman and....no, it can't be.  Emma, are you saying?" 

Xena hugged her daughter, as the latter's eyes started to water.  "I was there after the battle," she reported.  "And it's true." 

"I was like him...like Eckhardt.  If the barbarians wouldn't submit to Roman rule and customs then we... butchered them," Eve sobbed into her mother's breastplate.  "That's why we can't let that man succeed.  It's not the example we should be giving to the young people." 

The leader looked at his team members.  To a person, they all nodded at him.  For a long time, he had searched for a place in the open where new mutants could be safe from the GSA and live their lives relatively free from retaliation.  This was as good a place as any.  "We can give it a try," he agreed, shaking his friends' hands to seal the deal.  "Meantime, I'd like to swing by and check things out periodically if I may." 

"Certainly," Dave agreed.  "And we'd like to keep working with you all as well.  As I said in the Sanctuary, the experience was very beneficial for me as well as the rest of us.  Hopefully, we can help each other." 

"I think if Adam agrees, then we can do that," Jesse nodded. 

"Besides, I can't think of many nicer places to come on scouting missions," Brennan added mischievously. 

Xena chuckled at the smart aleck, "It beats northern Britannia."  Then, picking up a single white rose, she presented it to Emma.  "Angela wanted you to have this as a thank you." 

"For what?" the telepath asked in surprise. 

"Probably for helping me to achieve another step toward getting my two sides to cooperate," the professor guessed.  "Thank you, Emma.  As I said back at the cemetery, you helped me tremendously." 

"All I did was set up the vision.  You both maintained it," she argued. 

"But you created the safe haven for both of us," he pointed out.  "Thank you." 

"Well, okay.  In that case, you're welcome," she accepted. 

"And I want to thank you for taking on this responsibility," Adam added.  "May it be the start of something new and wonderful." 

"You know," Dave hinted.  "That sounds awfully close to a toast."  Hurrying to the kitchen, he grabbed the wine glasses and set one before each guest.  "Francesca, did you?" 

"Right here," his cousin indicated, producing a bottle of white wine and pouring some for each person except for Clark and Lana to whom they gave Pepsis.  "Sorry, guys." 

The two high schoolers smiled.  Given the mood in the room, they didn't care what was in the glasses. 

"Now, Adam, you were saying," Steve urged. 

"Yes, may this be something new and wonderful," Adam reiterated. 

"And may we provide an example for others to follow: a seed of love and tolerance from which a forest springs," Eve added, raising her glass. 

"Hear!  Hear!" the others chorused, clinking their drinks before taking a sip apiece.  Despite the scene they had faced, a new hope had been born in that small room between them.  Between those few individuals of differing backgrounds, abilities, and natures, a concord were reached that would give others an example to follow in the future. 

THE END (for now) 

I hope you all enjoyed this one!  With the next story, the "War Saga" resumes.  The trilogy starts with "Don't Talk to Strangers" where our characters meet up with some obnoxious furry aliens and the crew of a certain ship with a possessive Artificial Intelligence.  Stay tuned!

If you liked this story, then feel free to sign up for my "DuboisChroniclesUpdates" on YahooGroups.  That way, no matter when I post a story, you'll hear about it first.  Thanks again!

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