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Charleston General Hospital
Charleston, South Carolina

Samantha sat in the lobby of Charleston General Hospital, tapping her foot lightly as she waited for the nurse to call her name. She had an appointment at ten for a physical, something that she had been required to get before being allowed to tryout for the girl's basketball team, and it was already almost ten thirty. It wasn't like she had anywhere important to be; she didn't have any classes on Fridays. Still, she hated waiting without anything to do.

"Miss Wilson?"

Samantha looked up as a nurse walked over to her. "Yes?"

"Dr. Patterson will see you now." Samantha followed the nurse down the corridor to a cubicle, where the nurse handed her a hospital gown to change into. The young woman quickly changed then waited another ten minutes before Dr. Patterson came in. "Miss Wilson?" he said. "I'm Dr. Patterson." Samantha shook his offered hand. "So, you're here to get a physical, huh?"

"Yep."

"First time here?"

"Yeah, never had the need for doctors since I moved here; never got sick."

"When did you move here?"

"About three years ago, when I transferred to Charleston."

"What year are you?"

"I'm starting my senior year."

Patterson looked confused. "A little strange to be trying out for the team your senior year, don't you think?"

"Not really. Spent the past four years on my degree. Now, since my workload's gotten smaller, I'm bored."

Patterson didn't respond to that as he started his examination. It took about twenty minutes for him to complete it, except for the blood test. He called the nurse in, who helped prepare Samantha. Patterson stuck the needle in her arm and drew the necessary amount then handed the syringe to the nurse. She left while Patterson bandaged Samantha's arm. "Well, Miss Wilson," he said, "we'll get the blood test running. If there are any problems, we'll let you know." He left the cubicle as Samantha started changing. When she was finished, she walked to the front desk, took care of the paperwork, then left.

****

Luke was in the lab when the nurse brought in the blood sample to be tested. It was only after she left did he begin his testing, but it wasn't the normal testing that the hospital thought he was doing. Luke was an employee of the Centre, having been put into this position in order to look for a new Pretender. His assignment was to analyze the blood of all the patients to see if they had the genetic marker of a Pretender. So far, however, nothing had turned up, and the Centre was not pleased. Luke took a small sample of the blood and put it on a slide, then he started examining it under a high-powered microscope. After focusing it, he stopped short. He blinked, then shook his head before peering through the lens again. When he realized what he was looking at he immediately reached for the phone. Some people at the Centre were going to be very pleased.

****

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Lyle was walking in the lobby with Willie when his phone rang. He stopped and answered it on the third ring. "What?" he asked. He listened, then smiled. "Good work." He hung up and put his phone away. "Willie, go find one of the techs - make sure it's not Broots – and get them to collect as much information on a Samantha Wilson as possible. She's from Charleston, South Carolina." Willie nodded before leaving. Lyle walked to the elevator, nearly bumping into Miss Parker in the process. Broots was with her. "Hello, Parker," Lyle said, smiling. "Lovely day, isn't it?" He got on the elevator.

"He's awfully chipper today," Miss Parker said. "I don't like it. Broots, find out what he's so happy about."

Broots sighed, not even bothering to argue. "Yes, ma'am." He walked away. Parker continued on with her business. What no one realized was that Angelo was hiding in the vent nearby. He turned around and crawled away to the vent that led to Lyle's office.

****

It didn't take long for Willie to come back to Lyle's office with the requested information. He handed the information to Lyle, and he looked over. "Samantha Josephine Wilson," he said, reading from the file. "Twenty-two years old, born in Chinook, Montana, on July 2, 1979, to Benjamin and Marie Wilson." He showed the picture that had been obtained from her school records. Samantha was smiling at the camera, her blue eyes radiating. Her blond hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail. "A little old, but her parents were killed a few years back. No siblings, no known relatives. No one will miss her." He handed the picture to Willie. "Memorize that face, Willie. Get the jet ready. We're going to Charleston."

Lyle and Willie left the office. When the coast was clear, Angelo opened the grate and jumped into the office. He hurried over to Lyle's desk and took Samantha's picture, then hurried back into the vent. He crawled to his room and went over to his computer. He took a marker and scribbled 'Need Help - Charleston' on it before putting it in the scanner. He scanned it in, then quickly sent the file to the one person he knew would be able to help.

****

Columbia, South Carolina

Jarod was in the process of packing up his room, getting ready to leave, when he heard the "You Have New Mail" from his computer. He hurried over and saw the picture that Angelo had sent him. He frowned slightly, then reached for his phone and dialed Sydney's number.

"This is Sydney," the familiar voice answered.

"What does the Centre want with her?" Jarod asked. "Who are you talking about, Jarod?" Sydney asked.

"I've gotten some information from a reliable source that the Centre has taken interest in a young woman in Charleston."

"Jarod, I can assure you that this is the first I've heard about it, but I'll see what I can find out."

Jarod hung up then stared at the picture. He started typing on his computer, searching through all the databases in the Charleston area. It didn't take him long to discover that her name was Samantha Josephine Wilson, and she was a student at the College of Charleston. "Well, Miss Wilson," he said, "I don't know what it is the Centre wants with you, but help's on the way." He looked at his watch. If he hurried, he could be in Charleston in a little over two hours.

****

Broots hurried to Sydney's office, where Parker was already talking with the psychiatrist. "I think I found out why Lyle's so happy." He handed a sheet of paper to Parker. "Samantha Wilson. She's a student at the College of Charleston." He handed Parker a picture he managed to pull up. "According to this, her blood contains the same genetic marker as did all the children of the Red Files."

"Is there any record of her at the Centre?" Parker asked as she stared at the photo.

"The file was started today," Broots said. "That's why Lyle was so happy. He's on the verge of getting a Pretender to replace Jarod." "We're going to Charleston," Parker said as she walked out.

"Why?" Broots asked, following her.

"Because Jarod will get wind of this and try to stop Lyle. Coming, Syd?"

"I'll catch up in a minute," Sydney said as the two disappeared from sight. He reached for his phone and dialed Jarod's number.

"Yes?" Jarod answered.

"Samantha Wilson," Sydney replied. "She's a student at the College of Charleston. She has the potential to be a Pretender."

There was a pause. "She has the marker?"

"According to the file Broots stole from Lyle's office. You can bet Lyle is already on his way there. Jarod, you must not let Lyle get his hands on her."

"Trust me. They're not going to take another one." Jarod hung up. Sydney hung up then quickly went to catch up with Parker and Broots.

****











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