Jack walked past rows of gravestones, chilled despite the hot weather. He had never thought he would be walking through a graveyard in South Africa looking for his wife's grave. He had to keep remind himself that it wasn't Tanith's grave he was looking for, but the grave of a toddler named Sasha.
He still wasn't exactly sure what he was doing here, or why he had ever tried to find it in the first place. He had felt so helpless when he had sworn to never try to find her that he decided he needed to something for her, even if he couldn't rescue her from the psionics. Finding out who she really was and where she was from seemed like the biggest thing he could do for her, and it was a big enough undertaking that it gave him something to focus on.
In the few times he had been in contact with the Scotts, they had told him that the FBI had never been able to locate Tanith's birth parents. He hadn't been deterred. The feds hadn't been looking for children who were killed in accidents; they had been looking for missing children. It had taken him four years of researching dead-ends, until three weeks ago he had happened upon an obituary for a toddler in South Africa. He hadn't even added it as a country he was looking at until recently. Europe had seemed to be the most likely place for her to be from, other than North America.
He had been through so many that were similar. He had researched thousands of deaths of children all over the world that had been around the right time. It was a morbid task that often made him feel guilty when he read about a death that was truly horrible. Some of them had seemed promising, with deaths caused by accidents under suspicious circumstances, but eventually they had all led to dead ends.
Not this one. At first it had been just one more possibility, with a two-year-old girl from South Africa who had died in a house fire. When he managed to locate more details, the similarities to Casey's faked death made him excited. There was the lack of the body, as well as the miraculously unharmed parents, who had also been in the house at the same time.
Tanith had also had a hazy recollection of a fire, although the few memories she got back had never explained it. They wouldn't, not if the fire had happened when she was only two years old.
He still wasn't sure this was her, or even that he was doing the right thing by trying to find out, but he had spent so much time trying to find this information that he had to follow up on it. So he had asked his next-door neighbors, whose twin daughters were good friends with Casey, to look after her for a couple days while he took a flight halfway across the globe.
It wasn't a large graveyard and in less than an hour he found the gravestone he was looking for. It was small and had a sculpted angel on top, which seemed fitting.
"Is this you, Tanith?" He asked, almost expecting her to somehow answer him. It was eerie, standing over what was most likely his wife's grave, or what someone thought was his wife's grave. How many people had visited this place, having no idea that their Sasha was out there somewhere, living a full life?
He saw a man walking down the gravel path between the rows. He hesitated and then moved on, pretending to be looking at the names on all of the stones in search for one again. He watched the man out of the corner of his eye, who was carrying a few flowers in one hand, and was surprised when he stopped at Sasha's grave. Jack looked at him more closely. He had light gray hair that was cut short, but still long enough to tell that it was very curly. He had an angular jaw-line and high cheekbones, just like Tanith.
This man could easily be her father, he realized. The more he watched him, the more he decided that it must be true. Sasha Reeves was Tanith.
"Can I help you?" The man must have noticed that Jack was looking at him.
He felt his face flush as he tried to think of an excuse. "You were Sasha's father, weren't you?"
He narrowed his eyes at Jack, clearly annoyed by his forwardness in a graveyard. "Yes, I am. I'm sorry, but I don't think I know who you are."
Walk away now. Jack told himself. Don't bring him into this mess; it can only hurt him to know. But even as he thought it, he knew it wasn't true. He was fairly certain he knew what this man would prefer, because he had been in the exact position four years ago. Even after twenty-some years he would have still wanted someone to tell him. He's missed her whole life, though. You got Casey back, so how can you know how that would feel?
He shook his head. There was no way he could just let this go away. This man deserved to know the truth, or at least part of it. He held out his hand and introduced himself. "Sir, my name is Jack Owens and I have some information that I think you really need to hear. Is there somewhere private we can go to talk?"
Tanith stumbled backwards as the wall she was standing next to burst into flames. :: He's a pyrokinetic! She yelled at Lasalle. She ducked around the corner of the building and sprinted across the road towards the dining hall. Thank god whoever the assassin was wasn't also clairvoyant; otherwise she might have been in trouble.
:: Can you handle him?
She sighed, assuming that he was too occupied with the other intruder to help her. :: Of course I can, I just thought you might want to know.
She concentrated on trying to locate the man's mind, but he was moving so much she was finding it difficult. Her darts floated out of her pockets and made a circle around her, creating a ring of security for her in case he came from behind. She spotted him sprinting down the road towards her. "You lose." She said through gritted teeth, but spoke too soon. Her cotton sleeve was starting to feel very warm and before she could react it ignited. Throwing herself on the ground she rolled on top of the flames, but not in time before they reached her skin. She quickly responded by shooting three of the darts towards him.
:: Now why did you have to go and do that? She projected at him. :: I thought we were getting along so nice. She felt him knock her darts out the air as they sped towards him. They were great weapons, but even regular bullets were better against other psychokinetics.
She had a lot more she could do than shoot little pieces of steel at him, however. In the second it took him to take another running step forward she broke off a burning piece of the wall he had just ignited and threw it at his head. She could see him trying to hold it back, but she kept the pressure on. His eyes widened in surprise as the wall continued to move towards him. Before long his ability to fight her dwindled and she easily pushed the piece of wall on top of him.
Lasalle was moving quickly in her direction. :: Too late. Though, if you want to try to use controllers on him he might still be alive.
:: That was quick. You said he was a pyrokinetic?
:: Not all that strong, though. At least not compared to me.
She could hear his pounding footsteps coming down the road behind her. She crossed her arms and kept her eyes on the burning piece of building.
"That's him?" Lasalle asked, breathing hard.
"What's left." She lifted the burning pieces of wood up and moved them out of the way, dropping them onto the dusty road where they could burn out without starting any more fires.
"Well." Lasalle told her. "He's not going to be very happy but he'll live." She watched as he went over and kicked the groaning man in the ribcage with his boot. As soon as Lasalle laid a hand on his head he stopped making any noise.
:: You should try to learn this. He projected back to her. She assumed it was in reference to his ability to knock people unconscious. It was very useful in trying to detain a psionic, as she had learned firsthand when he had used it on her four years ago. It felt like that had been a different person, someone who Lasalle didn't rely on and wasn't nervous about angering
:: No thank you, I'll leave with the messing around in their heads for you. I'd probably just kill them trying to.
A few controllers had joined Lasalle, which meant that her presence was no longer needed. She walked over to the assassin and was surprised to note that he wasn't all that badly burned. She could feel the controllers' eyes on her as she passed by, making her way back towards the headquarters building, but refused to make eye contact with them. They knew she wanted nothing to do with controllers and it bothered them. This was only the third assasination attempt on Lasalle she had ever had to deal with and already she was sick of them. They were ugly to deal with, and it was hard to get herself motivated into fighting them when she probably wanted Lasalle dead a lot more than they did.
Politics in the psionic community were a messy thing and were something she wanted as little to do with as possible. Sure, all of the sites around the world technically worked under one large umbrella organization, but they weren't governed by any country's laws so they dealt with things in their own ways, which usually either involved trying to kill or control each other. Lasalle was powerful and his influence in the global arena was expanding rapidly, which meant he had some enemies as well. So far, they hadn't been anything more than a nuisance. They would probably concern her more if she was the one they were after.
An open 'all clear' projection went out to everyone in the compound. People started to emerge from the buildings they had holed themselves up in. Most psionics didn't have anything to defend themselves with in psychokinetic fights, which tended to be extremely destructive.
She jumped out of the way as a beat-up truck serving as one of the compound's fire trucks rolled by. With so few psychokinetics, most problems had to be taken care of by regular old. If it weren't for the projections and the surrounding high walls it could have been easy to imagine that the place was just a regular small town.
"That doesn't look so good." Ned fell in step next to her, looking at her arm with a wrinkled brow.
She looked down, realizing that there was still a large hold in her sleeve and her skin was red and blistered where it had been burned by the fire. Now that she thought about it, the burn really did hurt.
"Come on. Let me take a look at it."
She sighed but followed him as he started leading the way towards the infirmary, which was much farther away than the headquarters building. They walked in silence for a few minutes, which left Tanith with nothing to distract her anymore from the pain in her arm. She silently cursed him for reminding her of it in the first place.
"How come you never come to talk to anymore?"
Tanith looked at him with raised eyebrows, surprised by him bringing the subject of their rocky friendship into the open. The truth was they hadn't really spoken much in the past few years, except for medical reasons. On her end, she was still partially bitter about him helping Lasalle control her when she had found Casey. It wasn't that she actually thought what he did had been wrong, but somehow she just hadn't been able to trust him as much after that. That wasn't the reason, though, that was just her excuse.
"What? Don't give me that look. Something happened between us and I never figured out what it was."
"Why are you bringing this up now?"
He was silent for a moment. "Because I'm worried about you. Lasalle's got some dangerous problems that are falling to you." He looked pointedly at her arm.
If he was going to be blunt she had no reason not to be as well. "Well, I work for Lasalle. The two of you don't get along very well. It kind of puts a strain on a friendship."
He frowned. "I don't care about that. I'm probably the only person around here who knows how you actually feel about that man." She snorted at his reference to Lasalle as "that man". He was looking at her quizzically and she realized that what he wanted was an explanation. Her unyielding loyalty to Lasalle didn't make sense without knowing about the deal as well, and she had never told anyone about that.
He opened the door for her and led her into the infirmary, the first place she had ever been on the compound that she could actually remember. The sterile smell brought back memories of when she had first met Ned.
I must seem like a completely waste of his time, now, just another blind follower of Lasalle.
"I need a refill, too." She told him and winced as he started to clean the burn.
"Still using that stuff." It wasn't a question. The only reason she had really had to talk to him recently was to get refills for her stabilizers. He opened a drawer and pulled out one of many identical bottles from it. She wasn't the only one he had to supply with the drug. Lasalle didn't go around advertising its use, but he certainly didn't discourage anyone from taking it.
She shrugged. "Better to take shots every day than blow up windows every time I get angry." He didn't respond and continued to work on her arm. They had already had this discussion, years ago. Neither of their opinions on the matter had changed much since then. She could sense the tension building up again between the two of them. She hopped off the table as soon as he was done.
:: I'm still here to talk, whenever you want to. He projected after her as she left.
Jack stirred his tea uneasily as he sat down in the chair Spencer Reeves offered him. They were in a small, walled garden, the perfect place for a private conversation. The man was watching him through narrowed eyes.
"Forgive me if I'm a little suspicious, but I don't often get Americans tracking me down in graveyards to tell me they have information for me."
"Sorry about that. I actually ... it wasn't you I was looking for, actually. Not really." How did he go about explaining this? Would this man think he was crazy? Would he call the police? There were so many reasons not to do this, not the least of which was that the psionics could find out and decide he wasn't abiding to their conditions.
"I'm not sure I understand. Who were you looking for, exactly?"
Jack couldn't help himself. This man had to know the truth. "Twenty years ago your daughter died in a horrible house fire when you and your wife were both outside."
He could see the pain on Spencer's face as he talked about the event. "We were in this garden, actually."
"You were told that there wasn't anything left of the body for you to identify, just enough remains that they could using DNA. In fact, there had been very little evidence available at all, as to what had caused the fire in the first place."
Spencer nodded and Jack could see his curiosity rising. He could easily imagine what was probably going through his head. There had been nobody to blame twenty years ago, and here was someone who seemed to be hinting that there was in fact someone who deserved the blame. But that wasn't what Jack was here to tell him. He took a deep breath.
"Sir, there was no body because your daughter didn't die in that fire." He could see the disbelief creeping up on Spencer's face so he quickly opened his wallet and pulled out a picture that he kept on the inside. It was fairly worn, because he had taken to looking at it every morning. The picture was of Tanith with Casey at her fifth birthday party.
He slid the picture across the table towards Spencer. "Do you recognize this woman?"
Spencer leaned forward and picked up the picture slowly. He stared at it for a minute in complete silence. Jack held his breath nearly the entire time. "That's impossible." He finally said, but his voice was quivering.
Jack shook his head. "The woman in that picture is Tanith Scott. She was adopted when she was seven years old by a family in the United States when she and several other children were rescued by the FBI. They never ... they never managed to locate these children's families." He watched Spencer cautiously, who was still staring at the picture. There was no doubt on his face as he looked at it. Jack knew that he recognized his daughter, even though the last time he had seen her had been when she was only two years old.
Jack nodded but didn't say anything. He let Spencer have a moment to take all of this in. He was a serious man, Jack realized, who saw things as they were. He wasn't reacting in any of the ways Jack had been afraid he would. He wasn't accusing Jack of anything; he wasn't refusing to accept what was there in front of him; and he wasn't having hysterics.
"No. At the moment I'm a schoolteacher in Canada."
"What's your role in this, then?"
"Tanith ... Sasha—she's my wife."
Spencer looked up at him in surprise. "You're telling me that you're my daughter's husband?"
"The child in this picture—"
"Our daughter, Casey. Your granddaughter."
"How old is she?"
"Ten, now. She's in grade five."
They both looked at each other for a moment. Am I doing the right thing? Jack wondered. Spencer didn't seem to be freaking out, but he could have just been hiding it really well.
"I want to see her."
The question caught Jack off guard. He had known there was no way to start this without explaining everything, but how could he tell this man, who had just found out that the toddler he had lost was still alive, the truth about Tanith?
Because I would want to know.
He sighed. "You believe what I'm telling you?"
Spencer nodded slowly. "It sounds crazy, and I can't help thinking that this is some sort of scam to get money out of me, but I can't help but want it to be true."
Jack winced at the sound of hope in his voice. He thought Tanith was okay, but alive wasn't okay. "I wish there wasn't, but there's a lot more that you have to know." Slowly, he started to explain about the psionics.
Having to meet with Lasalle was never a good thing. They usually meant something was up, something that would create extra work for Tanith. As soon as the door swung open he started projecting at her, which meant that he was aggravated about something. He knew she preferred verbal communication, and usually went along with that, but when he really wanted to get his point across about something he projected.
:: This isn't working.
She sighed. :: What's not working, Lasalle?
:: You. It's been four years and we're still no closer to working out your memory loss.
It wasn't for a lack of trying. Tanith spent long hours working with some of the strongest telepaths to learn what she had simply dubbed 'selective memory'. He knew that. He had to know that, since he was the one who often complained about how much time it took up without results. Was he finally ready to give it up?
:: Did you really expect much? I told you from the beginning I didn't understand it myself.
:: I know.
:: Well then.
:: But I can't help but wonder if you're holding back. It would be so easy to pretend that you don't understand it, when you really do. Or maybe you just subconsciously hate us so much you're holding back without knowing it.
Was he being serious? There was no way he could consider that her breaking their deal, could he? :: I'm not holding back. I know what's at stake here.
:: Do you?
He stood up from his desk and the furious look on his face made Tanith involuntarily back away a little bit. He was usually much better at hiding his emotions. She was used to seeing annoyance and frustration from him, but the pure anger bothered her. She tensed her shoulders and reached out her mind, instinctively preparing to counter-attack if necessary. Relax. She told herself. He can't hurt you, not immediately anyway. You're stronger than he is. The tension in her shoulders eased up but she was still on edge. He could still easily go after Casey and there was very little she could do about it, except refuse to cooperate any more.
:: Follow me. She hesitated as he strode through the door, trying to figure out what could be on his mind. Shaking her head, she jogged to keep up with him.
He didn't say or project anything as he kept up his quick pace through the compound, heading towards a group of buildings very close to the perimeter. She knew what was there, but had never actually been there before. She wasn't the only one to avoid the closed quarters; psionics didn't like to be reminded of the failures, the people who they could have easily ended up like if they too had been activated before they were ready. Some, like Tanith, had little reminders of just how close they had been to ending up like the failures. Her projected nightmares still woke up everyone in her building, on occasion.
She wanted to ask him what they were doing there, but the determined way he was staring straight ahead, not even blinking, made her think it would be better to wait. He obviously had some purpose in mind—she just hoped it wasn't to leave her there as some sort of punishment. It would be torture, to be stuck in a building with crazed psionics who couldn't control their own projections and who drove each other further into insanity by accidentally projecting at each other all day long. She knew Lasalle well enough to know he wasn't past doing something like that to get his way.
She started to feel them as they approached the buildings. The projections were mostly weak, since they weren't intentional and were from untrained telepaths, but they were persistent. Most of them were random images and thoughts that her mind had trouble processing into things that made sense. Starting to feel a little queasy and disoriented, she stopped in the road and sent Lasalle a nonverbal projection to remind him of what had happened to her when she had first come to the compound.
:: We won't be long. He projected without stopping to wait for her. She tried to ignore the random projections as best she could and reluctantly followed. She found herself holding her breath, as if that would hold off the wash of unstable minds pounding against hers.
They went down long hallways of individual, locked rooms. They were similar to what Vince's had been like, although these people were all probably much worse than Vince had ever been, even without his drugs. Vince was still useful enough to be trained alongside other psionics, despite being crazy. To be locked away in seclusion like this meant that these were all people who were too far gone to have any more use to the psionics whatsoever.
Lasalle stopped at a room with a window. He gestured for her to look inside, which she did. Tanith caught her breath when she saw the occupant. The girl appeared to be about six or seven years old, with short dark hair and bright green eyes. The look on her face was disturbing for such a small child—it was all rage and fear. She was pounding at her head with hands that had large, padded mittens tied to them, which she alternately rubbed against the table in front of her in an attempt to get them off. A very patient-looking young man was talking to her in soothing tones.
"Her name's Marie." Lasalle explained, watching the girl. "A recent … acquisition." Tanith snorted at his word choice. "She's nearly eight years old, usually a very safe age to activate someone."
"You were wrong."
"We really have no accurate way of predicting what the result will be. You were barely three, yet you were fine."
"Is this supposed to make me feel bad that I haven't given you a solution? You kidnap perfectly happy children and in attempting to give them psionic abilities turn them completely insane. That is not something I can help you with."
"We wouldn't have to if we could have children like Casey."
Lasalle was looking at her now, and Tanith could tell that he was trying to gauge her reaction. It was definitely a guilt trip. He knew too well what her weak points were. She felt a wave of projections from the girl that nearly sent her reeling from the force of them. This child's life was over. She would spend the rest of it, however long it was, locked in a room with no way to escape the minds around her.
There's nothing more you can do than what you're already doing. She reminded herself. This child's fate was completely Lasalle's fault; it had nothing to do with her.
:: I swear to you, I'm not holding back. You think I want this?
:: No, I don't think you do. But somewhere in there you have an answer, and I intend to find it.
Tanith didn't like his threatening tone. "What are you getting at?"
"If I have to, I'll use controllers."
Tanith froze. She had witnessed Lasalle's controllers extracting information from his enemies before. The pyrokinetic she had taken down was probably still in their care somewhere on the compound.
"That won't work." She stammered. "I already told you I don't know how I did it."
He nodded. "That's probably true."
"So what would be the point?" She practically yelled at him. She accidentally lashed out with psychokinesis and he stumbled back a little bit. Realizing what she had done, she quickly pulled back, breathing hard.
"Calm down. We're not at that point … yet."
She worked on controlling her breathing. This was the first time she had had a slip like that in years.
"Have you had your shot today?"
"Yes." She lied. The truth was she had forgotten it this morning when he had asked her to meet him in his office, but she didn't want to admit that was the reason.
"Take some more when you get back." He ordered with narrowed eyes.
They walked back, neither of them speaking again. Lasalle's ultimatum stayed on her mind, making her feel a little panicked. There was nothing more she could do that she hadn't already done. She had explained what the memory loss had been like to nearly twenty strong telepaths, but she couldn't explain how it worked because it hadn't been intentional. She didn't want to think about what would happen if he used controllers on her. It would be constant, unrelenting projection. She was still feeling a little sick and dizzy, so what would that do to her?
The more she thought about it, the more anger she felt towards Lasalle. It was an effort to keep herself from trying to hurt him again. She was relieved when they finally parted ways at the headquarters building and rushed upstairs to get the drug that ease her emotions.
She quickly filled the syringe but paused before putting into her arm. It's good to hate him, even to want to kill him. This is what he wants. She pulled the syringe back. It had been the only thing that kept her from going crazy, from continuously thinking about what she had lost. But it means you've given in. Ned knows it, that's why he hates you.
Lasalle wanted her to take the drug. Lasalle took her family from her and wanted to use controllers on her. Before she could change her mind she threw the syringe back in the case and slammed it shut. She felt a small sense of satisfaction as she wrapped the entire thing in a plastic bag and threw it in the trash.