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Jarod slammed his hand down on the table. “We need to get into the Centre fast. They’re hurting these children!”
“We all understand that Jarod.” Nemesis leaned forward in her chair. “We are just saying time might be our ally. If we’re not prepared to go in there then we could be leaving one of us or even you behind when we escape and none of us want that to happen.”
McKenzie put her hand on his arm trying to show she sympathized with his concern. She immediately pulled her hand away when her world spun. She braced the table and then her entire stature changed as though she was about to leap threw the air, or pounce on someone. She could feel surges of energy, a feeling of being invincible and the strange sensation she wasn’t even there anymore.
Jarod and Nemesis immediately noticed the change in her. Jarod didn’t know what to do to help her but he moved closer to her than he had been. Nemesis instantly went to McKenzie’s side. “What’s wrong, Mac?”
“We have visitors.” McKenzie surrendered to the feelings and suddenly went from looking lost to looking formidable. She turned on her heals and walked out into the hall that lead into the entry way.
Just as Nemesis, McKenzie, and Jarod entered the foyer three figures walked through the locked front door like it wasn’t there.
McKenzie felt her senses heighten and she could smell everyone in the room. She wasn’t sure what to make of it but something told her these three were like the children at the Centre.
Nemesis pulled her gun and pointed it at the intruders. “Don’t move!” She yelled, but a surge of energy from the tall dark haired man shocked the gun and she dropped it. She instantly knew they weren’t a match for the three of them. Nemesis shook her hand as she watched the blonde one and McKenzie stare each other down. Both of their demeanor’s were feral in nature but Nemesis knew only the blonde actually possessed such powers.
The blonde lunged first and McKenzie landed on her back flipping the blonde over her and then jumping to her feet. McKenzie whirled around as the blonde’s eyes flashed yellow and narrow like a feline’s.
Nemesis held back the urge to help McKenzie and noticed Jarod hadn’t moved. The tall dark haired man’s hands were still crackling with electricity and Nemesis figured the shorter man with lighter hair was probably the one that enabled them to walk through the door.
McKenzie backhanded the blonde and sent her into the wall where she looked up stunned. McKenzie was just about to lung again when the dark haired man spoke up. “Enough.” Electricity crackled from his figure tips.
McKenzie spun around and made eye contact with him. Her connection to the blonde seemed to fade as her connection to the dark haired man strengthened. McKenzie let out a groan as she tucked her arms to her chest.
“Stop,” Michael commanded as he stepped out of the passageway directly under the staircase. “You’re hurting her.”
The tall one’s finger’s fizzled out the electricity that had been there and McKenzie dropped to the floor breathing heavily.
The blonde jumped to her feet and walked around towards her friends. “Michael?”
Michael was checking on McKenzie but when McKenzie nodded she was all right, Michael turned to the blonde. “Shalimar.”
“What’re you doing here?” Shalimar smiled at him.
“I work here.” Michael eyed her.
“You are behind the research on New Mutants?” Shalimar’s face twisted with a feeling of betrayal.
“Actually, we are behind the information being leaked about the people responsible for the research. So, no.” Michael looked around the room. Something told him someone was missing.
McKenzie got to her feet knowing what Michael was thinking. She pointed next to Jarod. “She’s there.”
A brown haired woman flashed into existence next to Jarod, but it didn’t even startle him. “How did you know that?”
Shalimar came around Michael and stared at McKenzie. “She’s psionic. She has to be. It’s the only explanation for her mimicking my powers and being able to sense you.”
“Actually, I am what you call telepathic.” McKenzie patronizingly said to Shalimar.
Shalimar smiled a bit and then moved on. “That’s Brennan Mulwray, Jesse Kilmartin, and Lexa Pierce. I’m Shalimar Fox for those of you who don’t know me.”
Michael cleared his throat. “You’ve met McKenzie.” Michael indicated McKenzie who Shalimar had spared with. “That is Nemesis and Jarod.” Michael pointed to each person.
Brennan put out his hand which made McKenzie jump. He instantly felt bad but continued on with what he was saying. “We told you our full names and you give us first names and aliases.”
“I go by McKenzie. My last name is something of a debate.” McKenzie spoke up.
Michael, Nemesis and Jarod stared at him.
“Well?” Brennan said.
Nemesis stepped forward. “I don’t give my real name for a reason.” Nemesis crossed her arms.
Shalimar turned to Brennan. “Michael doesn’t remember his last name so he goes by Angel.”
Jarod eyed them. “My story is long and painful so I’ll just leave you with, I never had a last name.”
“What? How could you never have a last name?” Jesse asked.
McKenzie walked forward a couple feet. “When you grow up in a facility after being stolen from your parents and told they were dead, you don’t get a last name. It tends to get overlooked.”
Nemesis stepped out into the room. “Why don’t we go into the common room?” Nemesis walked ahead of all of them.
Once they were all settled in the common room Nemesis began. “Who you are really after is The Centre. They have been doing research on people for decades and we have been trying to stop them for years now. At one point all of us were at The Centre or worked with them. I was trained as a child to kill as was McKenzie. We both believed The Centre was there to help but we both learned the truth early enough to get away. Michael is believed to have been trained at the Centre, but without his memories there is no way to know. And Jarod was at the Centre for 33 years. He escaped in 1996. Jarod was kidnapped when he was three and taken to the Centre where he was told his parents were dead. Jarod is what we call a Pretender; he has the ability to become anyone he wants, a doctor, a lawyer, a pilot, a fireman. It doesn’t matter what. He can become it. This is why the Centre took him. The rest of us were taken or approached for similar reasons.”
“So the rest of you were stolen as children?” Brennan stood behind the couch Lexa and Shalimar had parked themselves on. Despite the invitation to sit down he felt uneasy trusting complete strangers who seemed even stranger than normal.
“Sort of.” McKenzie looked devastated at the very thought of it.
“What does this have to do with genetic mutations?” Lexa to Brennan and then back to the man she now knew as Jarod. The Dominion had mentioned, long ago, a man by the name of Jarod whose mind was that of a shifter. He was able to retain knowledge and thereby change his identity. His only draw back was his need for family. Lexa related to him long ago because of her need to help her brother. She thought the Dominion horrible in their definition of a flaw.
Jarod rose to his feet. “The Centre has been working on genetics for decades. They have been playing god with people’s lives to give them the Pretender ability, or telepathic abilities. They have just recently moved into another field which is genetic mutations. I went through hell as a child and I refuse to let the children undergoing these experiments now, go through anything like what I did.”
“What’s the problem? Let’s just go in there and get them out.” Brennan spread his arms out. “What are we waiting for?”
“Like us, the Centre is spread out over the globe and we aren’t even sure the children are in the Centre located in Delaware.” Nemesis said.
“So you all have to do your thing and find out where the kids are before anything can be done?” Jesse asked. He had planted himself against the wall next to the couch. He always felt better knowing he could go through a wall if necessary. Jesse realized Michael and Nemesis had looked at one another. He knew what they went through to pin-point locations for their work and if these people really did work on a global basis, chances were searching would taken longer than normal.
“Yes.” Michael said. He stood at Nemesis side as though he wasn’t just her lead operative but her protector.
“I have an off topic question.” Lexa waved a finger in the air. “Who the hell funds your global network?” She prayed these people had nothing to do with the Dominion.
“I do.” Nemesis state plainly. “I removed funds from the Centre to finance the upstart of our public face but the profit from that foundation and anything we come across legally is put back into keeping us going.”
“Oh.” Lexa looked at her. “Wait I have another. When we got here did you know we were out there?”
Michael smiled slightly. “Only, I did.” Nemesis glared at him in obvious frustration.
“How?” Jesse was more than curious about the man who simply stood quietly by with his hands clasped behind his back.
“I knew you were coming so I watched for you. When the winds exhibited aircraft landing qualities I realized I mustn’t be able to actually see your craft.” Michael stated. He had come to the realization, the moment these mutants arrived; they were no harm to them. Michael was sure they would make better allies in the future.
“How did you know we were coming?” Jesse was becoming more and more impressed with these people and their operation by the minute.
“I’d like to know that myself?” Nemesis turned to him.
“I met Shalimar and Adam many years ago. Once I learned about the nature of the Centre’s work, I assumed Adam or his people would be interested and watching for it as well. It wasn’t hard to find the tracer you tagged the e-mail with. I simply left it in the computer long enough to bring you here.” Michael looked to everyone in the room.
Nemesis shook her head. “You never cease to amaze me.” She turned to the Mutant X team. “You are welcome to stay here until we find out where the children are.”
“All right.” Brennan said reluctantly.
McKenzie had been given the job of showing their guest to rooms. She had put Jesse and Lexa in rooms next to each other, because she could feel the emotions brewing between them. Shalimar had been next and now she walked down the hallway with Brennan behind her.
She could sense his desire to say something and finally she stopped and turned towards him. “Just say it.”
“I scared you earlier when I put my hand out. I’m sorry.” Brennan looked down at her.
“No problem. I had just never felt anything like what you obviously deal with on a daily basis.” McKenzie said and started to turn from him.
He stopped her by grabbing her arm. “In the common room, when I asked if all of you were stolen as children you said sort of. What does that mean?” Brennan looked down at her.
McKenzie stared up at him. “It’s nothing. Bad memories.” She tried to shrug it off.
“I have bad memories, why don’t we share?” Brennan was obviously trying hard to get into her head.
“I know about your bad memories. When that thing happened in the foyer I was connected with you. I saw a lot.” McKenzie said as she walked to the next door and opened it to Brennan’s room.
Brennan on purposely baited her. “Well, if you know my bad memories. I think it only far you should share yours.”
“I don’t want to share.” McKenzie walked into the room. “There are towels in the bathroom, like I told your friends. You can wander but locked or sealed off places are forbidden, whether you can walk through wall or not.”
“That’s great. Why don’t you want to share?” Brennan questioned.
“I don’t like talking about it.” McKenzie walked to the door.
“Come on, you know you want to.” Brennan ran after her and grabbed her arm, preventing her from leaving the room completely.
“No, I don’t.” McKenzie said pulling her arm away from him.
“It isn’t healthy to keep things inside. Spill.” Brennan continued.
“What is your problem?” McKenzie’s anger surged. “What part of I don’t want to talk about it don’t you get! You have no idea what my life has been like. I already know from connecting with you earlier you had trouble dealing with your powers and a horrible step-father. Big deal! Try being an assassin at the age of five. Try being locked in a dark room for days on end without anyone to talk to. Try dealing with a father who would lie, steal, destroy, and murder anyone to get to you!” McKenzie realized he had forced it out of her. She had obviously walked into the room on her rampage and now she was backing away from him and the pure shock on his face.
“McKenzie.” Brennan reached out to her; the shock on his face was evident. He had wanted her to spill but he had no idea the extent to which she had suffered. His childhood wasn’t perfect but if these people really lived like the way McKenzie had then he was grateful for his childhood.
“No.” McKenzie felt empty. She had been holding so much inside of her and now it was surfacing. This man was drawing things out of her she wanted locked up. She wanted to hate him for it but she could only be sorry she had screamed at him. She turned and ran from the room and through the hall.
Lexa walked out of her room the very moment McKenzie past. “What the hell’s wrong with her?”
“Damn it!” Brennan’s voice yelled from the room down the hall. Jesse had come into the hall, along with Shalimar, just in time to hear Brennan. All three of them headed to his room.
“What’s up?” Shalimar looked at an obviously emotional upset Brennan.
“I baited McKenzie in to spilling information about herself.” Brennan plopped down on the bed.
“Good. We need all the information we can get on these people. Granted Shal knows this Michael guy but these people are hiding something big and I want to know what it is.” Lexa looked around the room making sure they weren’t being watched.
Brennan shook his head. “I think these people are cautious. I think they are afraid. McKenzie informed me the Centre turned her into an assassin at the age of five, and her father kills people to get to her. I mean who does that to a child?”
Jesse shook his head. “I thought my family was dysfunctional.”
Shalimar glided into Michael’s office. “It has been a long time Michael.”
Michael looked up at her. “Yes.”
“Still involved with that Lily woman?” Shalimar all but purred at him.
“No.” Michael stated as he went through files he had connected to out of the Centre.
“Are you only going to give me one word answers?” She sat on the edge of his desk.
Michael stopped what he was doing. “What exactly do you want?”
“I want to catch up.” Shalimar smiled at him wickedly.
Raines stared at Willie from behind his desk. “Send him in.” Raines wheezed.
Willie opened the doors to Raines’s new office and waited as a tall man with dark brown hair entered the room. He looked harmless enough but even Willie knew the fact of this man. He was a killer… and it didn’t matter who he tortured… he even harmed his own daughter.
Broots ran into Miss Parker’s office. “Miiiiss Paaarker.”
“What?” Parker had been going over the information on her desk about what the Centre was currently up to. She didn’t want to have to deal with Broots’s antics.
“Your fath… Mr. Parker had Mr. Cox and Mr. Raines, now Raines has a guy named Connor. Actually now he has Lyle and Connor… or maybe he doesn’t trust Lyle as mush as we…”
“Broots! Get on with it.” Parker wished he would learn to get to the point.
Broots swallowed hard. “I thought you’d want to know more about him so I went to talk to Lenny in personnel. He was telling me Connor worked for the Centre years ago, but was let go or left rather after killing at least thirty Centre operatives.”
Miss Parker’s eyes reflected her surprise. “And Raines asked him back?”
Broots nodded. “This may have something to do with the new projects Raines is working on. Connor once worked as a watcher for a child named McKenzie.”
Miss Parker nodded. “McKenzie Calhoun. I remember her. She worked as a sweeper before fleeing the Centre. What does she have to do with any of this?”
“Well, apparently Connor used McKenzie to kill a Centre liaison before he handed McKenzie over to Raines. That’s where it gets interesting. According to Naomi in archives Mr. Raines has been pulling old DSA’s. She gave me some copies.” Broots held up the silver disks.
“Show me.” Miss Parker moved away from her desk so Broots could set up the DSA.
As soon as the DSA started Miss Parker spoke up. “Broots, there’s no picture. Fix it.”
“Miss Parker, the DSA is like that. Just wait.” Broots nodded at her.
The whimpering of a child was clearly registering on the DSA’s sound. “Cree craw toads foot…”
“McKenzie?” Jarod’s voice whispered.
“Jarod?” Miss Parker said.
“Jarod?” The young McKenzie’s voice whispered back. Suddenly a light shown through a grating as Jarod brought the flashlight up to the room. The young girl in the light shielded her eyes. “Too bright.”
Jarod turned the flashlight away from her. “I’m sorry. I forgot your eyes are sensitive.” Jarod finally made his way through the grating as he plopped himself down in the dark room. “I brought you something?”
“What?” The little girl got excited as she made her way over to Jarod and sat down next to him.
Jarod smiled at her. “Nothing fancy.” Jarod held up the origami swan he’d made and handed it to the young McKenzie.
“What is it?” She looked at him. Her face seemed so trusting and so very young. Jarod had obviously taken to visiting her, and Miss Parker had to wonder how long it was before they were discovered.
“It’s a swan made out of paper. There are real swans out there in the world but I’ve never seen a real one.” Jarod looked away briefly into the darkness.
Young McKenzie reached out her hand and took Jarod’s. “Me either.” She frowned. It hit Parker like a ton of bricks. The age difference between McKenzie and Jarod made them so different but the innocence made them the same. Neither one of them had seen the things most took for granted. It stung a bit knowing she had helped track him. Jarod smiled down at the young McKenzie and McKenzie smiled back. “Jarod? Do you know who your family is?”
“No, I was told they died.” Jarod swallowed hard.
“Raines says no one wanted me except him.” Young McKenzie looked as though she was about to cry.
“He’s lying. I bet your parents are looking for you.” Jarod tried to reassure her.
“What if I don’t have any family?” McKenzie seemed struck by the thought she was alone in the world.
“Then I’ll be your family… your big brother.” Jarod squeezed McKenzie closer to him.
“Did you think we wouldn’t find out you were interfering with my project!” Raines’ voice broke through the silence that seemed to engulf Jarod and McKenzie.
McKenzie’s face contorted with horror as Jarod tried to get her to follow him out the grating. “No! My fault!” The little girl seemed intent on taking the punishment for Jarod.
“Is this why your abilities haven’t shown up? You are supposed to be using your sixth sense but instead he sneaks in here to play the big brother. NO MORE!” Raines snapped his fingers and lights came on. The grating was visible and Jarod was being followed back into the room.
“No!” McKenzie screamed as she shielded her eyes. “Please don’t hurt him. Please Mr. Raines. I’ll do what you say. I’ll stay in the dark. I’ll try to sense people. Please don’t hurt him!”
The sweepers had cornered Jarod in the room and knocked him out. They drug him out of the room but before Raines shut the door he turned back to McKenzie. “Jarod won’t remember any of this and neither will you!”
The DSA ended and Broots noticed the tears in Miss Parker’s eyes. Sydney noticed them as well. “Parker?”
“I’m fine.” Parker waved them off. “Raines was trying to jump start the girls abilities by keeping her in a dark room.”
Sydney nodded. “Take away one sense and another will surface.”
“I knew McKenzie and she never seemed to have any special abilities.” Parker looked to Sydney.
“That’s what this file says.” Broots dropped a file infront of Miss Parker.
“Failed.” Miss Parker read the big letters across the folder. She opened it and began reading. “Raines had both Jarod and McKenzie’s memories wiped and then tried to start from scratch with McKenzie.” Miss Parker read on. “Her abilities never surfaced.”
Sydney came around the desk and looked over Parker’s shoulder to read the file. “My guess is the trauma to McKenzie’s brain, during the wiping of her memory, delayed her abilities by years. It is possible they will never surface.”
“I’d bet my cute little ass Jarod knows where she is and Connor’s here to find both of them.” She looked up at Sydney and then to Broots.