obviously not cooperating again," Dr. Whitney grumbled and
scribbled fiercely in his notebook, clearly somewhere between
total exasperation and frustration. "Don't let her have her
toys again, until she decides to work. I've had enough of her
The nurse hesitated. "Doctor,
that isn't a good idea with Dahlia. She can be very
She paused, clearly searching for the right word. "Difficult."
That caught his attention. He looked
up from his papers, the impatience on his face fading to interest.
"You're afraid of her, Milly. She's four years old and you're
afraid of her. Why?" There was more than scientific interest
in his tone. There was eagerness.
The nurse continued to watch the
child through the glass window. The little girl had shiny black
hair, thick and long and falling down her back in an unkept, untidy
mass. She sat on the floor rocking back and forth, clutching a
small blanket to her and moaning softly. Pitifully. Continually.
Her eyes were enormous, as black as midnight and as penetrating
as steel. Milly Duboune winced visibly and looked away when the
child turned those black, too old eyes in her direction.
"She can't see us through the
glass," Dr. Whitney pointed out.
"She knows we're here."
The nurse dropped her voice to a whisper. "She's dangerous,
Doctor. No one wants to work with her. She won't let us brush
her hair or tell her to go to bed and we can't punish her."
Dr. Whitney lifted an eyebrow, sheer
arrogance crossing his face. "You're all that afraid of this child? Why wasn't I informed?"
Milly hesitated. Fear was clearly
etched on her face. "We knew you'd demand more from her.
You have no idea what you'd unleash. You don't pay any attention
to them after you make your demands. She's in terrible pain. We
don't blame her when she throws her tantrums. Ever since you insisted
we separate the children, many are showing signs of extreme discomfort
or, as in Dahlia's case, a high level of pain. She can't eat or
sleep properly. She's too sensitive to light and sound. She's
losing weight. Her pulse is too rapid, her heart-rate up all the
time. She cries even in her sleep. Not a child's cry, but a cry
of pain. Nothing we've tried has helped."
"There's no reason for her
to be in pain," Dr. Whitney snapped. "All of you coddle
those children. They have a purpose, a much bigger purpose than
you can imagine. Go back in there and tell her if she doesn't
cooperate, I'll take all of the toys and her blanket away from
"Not her blanket, Dr. Whitney,
it's all she clings to. It's all the comfort she has." The
nurse shook her head hard and stepped back from the window. "If
you want that blanket, you go take it away from her yourself."
Dr. Whitney studied the desperation
in the woman's eyes with clinical detachment. He indicated for
the nurse to reenter the room. "See if you can coax her to
cooperate. What does she want the most?"
"To be put back in the same
room with either Lily or Flame."
"Iris. The child's
name is Iris not Flame. Don't indulge her personality simply because
she has red hair. She already is more trouble than she's worth
with that temper of hers. The last thing we want is for Iris and
this one," he indicated the dark haired little girl, "together.
Go tell her she can spend time with Lily if what she does pleases
Milly took a deep breath and pushed
open the door to the small room. The doctor flicked a switch so
he could hear the conversation between the adult and the little
"Dahlia? Look at me, honey,"
the nurse wheedled. "I have a surprise for you. Dr. Whitney
said if you do something really good for him, you can spend time
with Lily. Would you like that? To spend the rest of the evening
Dahlia clutched the raggedy blanket
to her and nodded her head, her eyes solemn. The nurse knelt beside
her and reached out her hand to smooth Dahlia's hair away from
her face. Immediately the little girl ducked, clearly unafraid,
simply avoiding physical contact with her. Milly sighed and dropped
her hand. "Okay, Dahlia. Try something with one of the balls.
See if you can do something with them."
Dahlia turned her head and looked
directly at the doctor through the one-way glass. "Why does
that man stare at us all the time? What does he want?" She
sounded more adult than child and she looked like a young witch
with too-old eyes.
"He wants to see if you can
do anything special," the nurse answered.
"I don't like him."
"You don't have to like him,
Dahlia. You just have to show him what you can do. You know you
have all sorts of wonderful tricks you can do."
"It hurts when I do them."
"Where does it hurt?"
The nurse glanced at the glass too, a small frown beginning to
"In my head. It hurts all the
time in my head and I can't make it go away. Lily and Flame make
it go away."
"Just do something for the
doctor and you can spend all evening with Lily."
Dahlia sat silent for a moment,
still rocking, her fingers curled tightly in the blanket. Behind
the one-way glass, Dr. Whitney sucked in his breath and scribbled
across the page of his notebook hastily, intrigued by the child's
demeanor. She was clearly weighing the advantages and disadvantages
and making a judgment at her young age. Finally she nodded, as
if bestowing a great favor on the nurse.
Without further argument, Dahlia
placed her small hand over one ball and began to make small circles
above it. Dr. Whitney leaned close to the glass to study the lines
of concentration on her face. The ball began to spin on the floor
then rose beneath her hand. She transferred the ball to her index
finger, keeping it spinning a few inches above the floor in an
amazing display of her phenomenal ability to control the ball
with her mind. A second sphere joined the first in the air beneath
her tiny palm, both spinning madly like tops. The task appeared
almost effortless. Dahlia seemed to be concentrating, but not
wholly. She glanced at the nurse and then at the glass, looking
nearly bored. She held the balls spinning in the air for a minute
Abruptly she let her hand fall,
clapping both hands over her head, pressing her palms tightly
against her temples. The balls fell to the ground. Her face was
pale, white lines around her mouth.
Dr. Whitney swore softly and flicked
a second switch. "Have her do it again. This time with as
many balls as she can handle. I want the action sustained this
time so I can time her."
"She can't, doctor, she's in
pain," Milly protested. "We have to take her to Lily.
It's the only thing that will help her."
"She's only saying that so
she can get her way. How could Lily or Iris take her pain away?
That's just ridiculous, they're children. If she wants to see
Lily she can repeat the experiment and try a little harder."
There was a small silence. The little
girl's face darkened. Her eyes grew pitch black. She stared fiercely
at the glass. "He's a bad man," she told the nurse.
"A very bad man." The glass began to fracture into a
fine spider's web. There were at least ten balls of varying size
on the floor near the child. All of them began to spin madly in
the air before slamming again and again against the window. Glass
fragments broke off and rained onto the floor. Chips flew wildly
in the air, choking the space until it appeared to be snowing
The nurse screamed and ran from
the small room, slamming the door behind her. The walls swelled
outward with the terrible rage on the child's face. The door rocked
on its hinges. Flames raced up the wall, circled the door jam,
bright crackling orange and red, spreading like a storm. Everything
that could move was picked up from the floor and spun as if in
the center of a tornado.
Through it all, Whitney stood watching,
mesmerized by the power of the childish tantrum. He didn't even
move when the glass cut his face and blood ran down into the collar
of his immaculate shirt.
Dr. Lily Whitney-Miller snapped
off the video and turned to face the small group of men who had
been watching the tape with the same mesmerized enthrallment the
doctor in the film had exhibited. She took a deep breath and let
it out slowly. It was always hard to watch her father behaving
in such a monstrous fashion. No matter how often she viewed the
tapes of his work, she could not equate that man with the man
who had been so loving to her. "That, gentlemen, was Dahlia
at age four," she announced. "She would be a couple
of years younger than me now and she's the one I believe I've
There was an awed silence. "She
was that powerful at the age of four? A four year old child?"
Captain Ryland Miller put his arm around his wife to comfort her,
knowing how she felt when she delved into the experiments her
father had performed. He stared at the picture of the black-haired
child on the screen. "What else do you have on her, Lily?"
"I've found more tapes. These
are of a young woman being given advanced training as some kind
of field operative. I'm convinced it's Dahlia. My father's code
is different in these books and the subject under training is
referred to as Novelty White. I didn't get it at first, but my
father called each of the missing girls he experimented on by
the name of a flower. Dahlia is often referred to as a novelty.
I think he interchanges the name Dahlia with Novelty in these
experiments. These tapes cover preteens and teen years. She's
an exceptional young woman, high IQ, very talented, tremendous
psychic ability but the tapes are difficult to watch because she
is wide open to assault from the outside world and no one has
taught her how to protect herself."
"How could she possibly exist
in the outside world without being taught shields?" One of
the men sitting in the shadows asked. Lily turned her head to
look at him, sighing as she did so. Nicolas Trevane always seemed
to be in the shadows and he was one of the GhostWalkers who made
her nervous. He sat in such stillness he seemed to blend in with
his surroundings, yet when he went into action, he exploded, moving
so fast he seemed to blur. He was raised for part of his childhood
on a reservation with his father's people and then spent ten years
in Japan with his mother's people. His face never seemed to give
anything away. His black eyes were flat and cold and frightened
her almost as much as the fact that he was a sniper, a renowned
marksman capable of the most deadly and secret of missions.
Lily bowed her head to avoid looking
into his icy eyes. "I don't know, Nico. I have fewer answers
now than I did a few months ago. I'm still having trouble making
myself understand how my father could have experimented on children
and then again on all of you. As for this poor girl, this child
he virtually tortured, if I'm reading these notes correctly, she
was eventually trained as a government operative and I think its
possible they're still using her."
"That's not possible, Lily,"
Ryland objected. "You saw what happened to us when we tried
to operate without an anchor. You said your father had tried using
pulses of electricity on all of you. You know the results of that.
Brain bleeds, acute pain. Strokes. It just isn't possible. She'd
go insane. The experiment Dr. Whitney conducted opened all our
brains leaving us without barriers or our natural filters. We're
grown men, already trained, yet you're talking about a child trying
to cope with impossible demands."
"It should have driven her
over the edge," Lily agreed. She held up the notebook. "I've
discovered a private sanitarium in Louisiana that the Whitney
trusts owns. It is run by the Sisters of Mercy. And it has one
patient. A young woman." She looked at her husband. "Her
name is Dahlia Le Blanc."
"You aren't going to tell me
your father bought out a religious organization," Raoul 'Gator'
Fontenet protested. He hastily crossed himself. "I won't
believe nuns could possibly be a part of Whitney's cover-up."
Lily smiled at him. "Actually,
Gator, I think the nuns are fictitious as is the sanitarium. I
think it's really a front to hide Dahlia from the world. As the
sole director of all the trusts, I was able to dig fairly deep
and it seems she's really the only patient and aside from the
trust picking up all her bills, she has a sizable trust in her
name with regular deposits. The deposits coincide with entries
seemingly indicating my father had become suspicious she was being
used as an operative for the United States government. Apparently
he allowed her to be trained and then when he realized it was
too difficult for her, he moved her to the sanitarium and, as
always, when things went wrong, he left her without following
up." There was an edge of bitterness to her voice. "I
think my father tried to create a safe place for her there, just
as he created this house for me."
Ryland bent his head to Lily's,
his chin rubbing the top of her sable hair. "Your father
was a brilliant man, Lily. He had to learn about love, it wasn't
shown to him as a child." It was a refrain he reminded her
of often since it had come to light that not only had Dr. Whitney
experimented on Lily, removing the filters from her brain in order
to enhance psychic ability, but that she wasn't his biological
child as he'd led her to believe, but one of many children he'd
'bought' from foreign orphanages.
There was another silence. Tucker
Addison whistled softly. He was a tall, stocky man with dark skin,
brown eyes and an engaging smile. "You did it, Lily. You
actually found her. And she's a GhostWalker like all of us."
"Before we get too excited,
I think you all should watch some of the other training tapes
I found. Each of these is labeled Novelty." She signaled
to her husband to press play on the machine to start the video
Lily found herself holding her breath.
She was certain the child Novelty and Dahlia were one and the
same. "According to the records, Novelty, is eight years
old here." The child's hair was thick and as black as a raven's
wing. She wore it carelessly braided and the braid hung to her
waist in a thick rope. Her face was delicate, matching the rest
of her and the thick hair seemed to overpower her. "I'm certain
this is the same child. Look at her face. Her eyes are the same."
Lily felt the child was hiding from the world behind the mass
of silken strands. She looked exotic, her origins, Asian. Like
all the missing girls, Dr. Whitney had adopted her from a foreign
country and brought her to his laboratory to enhance her natural
In the video, the little girl was
on a balance beam. She didn't walk carefully. She didn't even
look down. She ran across it as if it was a wide sidewalk instead
of a narrow piece of gymnastics equipment. She didn't hesitate
at the end of the beam, but did a flip off of it, landing on her
feet still running without breaking stride. She was far too small
to leap up and catch the bars over her head, but she didn't seem
to notice. She launched herself skyward, her hands outstretched,
her small body tucked as she connected with the bars and swung
over them with ease.
A collective gasp told Lily the
men were all watching. She let the tape play through. All the
while the little girl performed amazing skills. At times the child
laughed aloud, bringing home to them the fact that she was alone
in the room with only the cameras catching her incredible performance.
Lily waited for the end of the tape and the reaction it would
bring. As many times as she viewed it, she could not believe what
she was seeing.
The child went up and over a two
story high cargo net and then raced across the floor toward the
last obstacle. A cable stretched across the length of the room,
sagging in the middle, several feet above ground level. Novelty
stared at the cable as she ran, concentration apparent on her
face. The cable began to stiffen and by the time she leapt onto
the steel wire woven into a thick rope, there was no sag what-so-ever
in the middle, allowing her to run lightly across it to the end
and jump off laughing.
There was another silence when Ryland
switched off the tape. "Can any of you do that?"
The men shook their heads. "How
did she do it?"
"She has to be manipulating
energy. We all do it to a much smaller extent," Lily said.
"She's able to take it a step further and at little expense
to herself. I'm willing to bet that she's generating an anti-gravitational
field to levitate the cable. It could be done by psychokinetically
converting the underside of the cable into a superconductor, and
applying the Li-Podkletnov technique of spinning the nuclei in
the atoms of the underside to generate a sufficiently powerful
anti-grav field to lift it. And that would explain how she just
danced across it as if she were floating!"
Lily turned to look at the men, her eyes alight with excitement.
"She was floating! Her own weight was reduced
to almost nothing by the same anti-grav field."
"Lily," Ryland shook his
head. "You're doing it again. Try speaking normal English."
"I'm sorry. I get carried away
when I'm excited," Lily admitted. "It's just so incredible.
I've been scouring the research literature and what's amazing
to me is that she's doing with her mind what a couple of scientists
are only beginning to be able to do in labs: generate anti-gravity.
Only she does it much better, and she seems to be able to generate
anti-gravity whenever she likes. She turns it on and off in a
way that the scientists aren't even close to at this point. Plus
scientists, and I as well, would give anything to know how she
is doing it at room temperature. They currently need to lower
the temperature to several hundred degrees below
zero in order to create their superconductors."
echoed, "isn't that just a little far-fetched?"
"And what we do, isn't?"
"Well, actually I thought so
at first too," Lily conceded. "But if, like me, you've
watched these tapes several hundred times, you begin to notice
little details. Here, let's rewind it to where she's crossing
the cable. Now let's watch it in slow motion. See? Right there
when the cable starts to straighten out?" She touched the
screen to indicate where they should look. "Look here, at
the ceiling above the cable - see that electrical wire connecting
the two overhead lights? Look, it's moved up, about half an inch!
Do you see that? And then it falls back right when Dahlia jumps
off the other end of the cable. That's exactly what
you'd expect to see if there was an anti-grav field extending
upward from the cable."
Lily pointed to the image of the
young girl frozen on the screen. "Look at her, she's laughing,
not grabbing her head in pain." She snapped in another tape.
"In this one, she moves locks so fast, at first I thought
a machine had to be involved." The tape showed a huge vault
with a complex lock system. The bolts slid so fast, the tumblers
spun and clicked as if a large pattern was predetermined. The
camera had focused completely on the heavy door so that it wasn't
until they heard a child's laughter as the door swung open that
they even realized Dahlia was there, the one opening locks with
Lily regarded the men. "Isn't
that incredible? She never even touched the vault. I considered
a few theories - clairaudition for one, but I just couldn't account
for the sheer speed with which she opened the vault.
Finally it hit me. She was directly intuiting and taking pleasure
in the state of lowest entropy in the tumbler-lever system of
Lily looked so triumphant Ryland
hated to crush her joy. "Sweetheart, I'm so excited for you.
Really, I am. It's just that I didn't understand a damn thing
you said." He looked around the room with a raised eyebrow.
The other men shook their heads.
She tapped her finger on the table,
frowning. "All right, let's see if I can come up with a way
to explain it to you. You know those movies where the burglars
put their stethoscope up against the safe as they're turning the
"Sure," Gator said. "I
watch that stuff all the time. They're listening for the tumblers
to click into place."
"Not exactly, Gator,"
Lily denied. "They're actually listening for a drop in the amount of sound. You're hearing clicking with each number
you pass, and then you hear just a little less clicking
when one of the tumblers has fallen into place. That's why I first
thought of clairaudition, which as you know, is like clairvoyance,
seeing things at a distance in your mind, but this would be hearing
things at a distance in your mind."
"But you don't think that's
what she's doing there?" Nicolas asked.
Lily shook her head. "No, I
had to throw that explanation out. I couldn't get it to explain
her incredible speed. Plus, I found out that the vault in the
videotape-like most safes made since the 1960's, has all kinds
of safeguards like nylon tumblers and sound baffles that make
them pretty much impenetrable from lock-picking of this sort."
"So Dahlia doesn't do it through
sound," Nicolas said.
"No, she doesn't," Lily
agreed. "I was stumped for a while. But in the middle of
the night a much simpler explanation occurred to me; she literally
'feels' each lever falling into place. But there's more. I think
she has an emotional distaste for entropy in systems that gives
"You've lost me again, Lily,"
"Sorry. The second law of thermodynamics
says that the amount of entropy, or disorder, in the universe,
tends to increase unless it is hindered from doing so. You can
see the second law in action in everywhere. A vase breaks into
pieces. You never see a bunch of pieces assemble themselves into
a vase. Left to itself, a house always gets dustier, never cleaner.
And tumblers, because they're spring-loaded always spring out of place, not into place, when left to themselves. That's the
second law of thermodynamics in action-disorder keeps increasing
if things are left to themselves. The closest I can figure it
is that Dahlia is a part of nature that runs counter to the second law. In other words she loves order and despises
"That's true of a lot of people.
Rosa is a nut about the house being tidy," Gator said, referring
to their housekeeper. "And her kitchen has to be just so.
We don't dare move anything around."
Lily nodded. "That's true,
but with Dahlia it runs much deeper. Because she's psychic, she
actually takes pleasure when she intuits the tumblers falling
into place. It's because she's doing her lock-picking at the level
of feeling and intuition, motivated by pleasure that gives her
speed. Think of how quickly we take our hand off a hot stove when
we start to feel pain, or how the knee jerks up when you hit it
with a hammer. These are reflexive responses; they don't involve
any thinking, which is a good thing for that hot hand, because
thinking is much slower."
"I can open small locks,"
Ryland admitted. He glanced at Nicolas. "You can too. But
I admit, I'm definitely thinking about it. I have to concentrate."
"And neither of us can open
locks on that scale or at that speed," Nicolas denied. His
gaze remained riveted to the screen. "She's amazing."
"I'd have to agree, Nico,"
Lily said. "So as near as I can tell, she's psychokinetically
moving the tumblers into place in the same kind of reflexive fashion.
It doesn't get slowed down by her thinking mind; she's just getting instantly rewarded by a jolt of pleasure from her
nervous system every time she moves one of the tumblers into place.
And when all the tumblers are in place
well, that's why
she laughed with such exuberance when the door swung open. That
was the real rush for her." She swallowed and looked away
from them. "I'm that same way with mathematical patterns.
My mind continually has to work on them and I get a rush when
the patterns all click into place."
Nicolas whistled softly. "I
can see why the government would want her working for them."
Lily stiffened. "She's still
a child who deserved a childhood. She should have been playing
Nicolas turned his head slowly,
looked at her with his cold black eyes. "That's exactly what
she appears to be doing, Lily. Playing with toys. You're angry
with your father and rightly so. But he tried to do for this child
what he did for you. Your brain had to work on mathematical problem
and patterns all the time, this girl required a different type
of work, but she obviously needed it just as much. Why wasn't
she adopted out?" His voice was flat, almost a monotone,
but it carried weight and authority. He never raised his voice,
but he was always heard.
Lily repressed a shiver. "Maybe
I'm too close to the problem," she agreed. "And you
very well could be right. She does seem to be able to do all this
without pain. I'd like to know why. Even now, with all the work
I've done, the exercises to make myself stronger, I still get
violent headaches if I use telepathy too much."
"But you maybe weren't a natural
telepathic. You have other talents that are amazing. When I use
telepathy, it doesn't bother me at all," Nicolas said.
"Lily, you said the tapes of
the child were difficult to watch," Tucker pointed out, "but
she seems fine in that one."
Lily nodded. "The tapes involving
operative training were difficult for me to watch. This one you're
about to see really covers both her tremendous skills, how dangerous
she can be and the cost of her gifts."
The hallway depicted on the screen
was very narrow, an obvious maze set up by to represent various
rooms in a house. A dozen other rooms were seen as smaller images
along the left side of the screen. A small black-haired woman
came into view, stalking silently along the wall. She took several
steps into the maze and stopped. She seemed to be listening or
concentrating internally. The watchers could see a large man crouched
behind a curtain in one of the rooms and a second man in the beams
along the ceiling waiting in ambush almost directly above the
The woman was tiny, her black hair
straight and shiny, swept back in a careless ponytail. She wore
dark clothes and moved with graceful, almost fluid stealthy steps.
When she stilled, she seemed to become part of the shadows, a
vague, blurred image, so slight as to be a part of the wall. The
watchers blinked several times to keep her in focus.
"She's able to blur her image
enough to trick anyone watching," Ryland said in awe. "That
would be useful for us to learn."
"The focus and concentration
required is incredible," Lily pointed out. "But it's
costing her. She's rubbed her temples twice and if you look closely
at her face, she's already sweating. She obviously can feel the
emotions of those waiting to attack her. I observed her training
in martial arts. She was reading the mind of her opponent, anticipating
everything he did before he did it. She utilizes her psychic abilities
as well as her physical ones."
"She's not armed," Nicolas
"No, but she doesn't need to
be," Lily assured.
They watched the woman called Novelty
continue unerringly to the right room, not even bothering to check
the various empty rooms between her and the two men waiting to
ambush her. She trusted her instincts and her highly evolved psychic
"She's so damned small,"
Gator said. "She looks like a child. She can't weigh in at
a hundred pounds."
"Maybe," said Lily, "
but watch her. She's lethal."
The woman moved with confidence
until she was against the wall nearest where one man crouched
behind the curtains covering the opening to a closet. "She's
laying her hand against the wall, almost as if she's feeling for
something," Lily said. "Energy perhaps? Could she be
that sensitive? Could a human being's energy pass through the
wall in sufficient force to allow her to feel his presence, or
is she reading his thoughts?"
Novelty stepped back from the wall
in total silence, but remained staring at it for several minutes,
slowly sweeping her gaze upward as if she could see the ceiling
in the other room as well. The walls slowly blackened. Smoke poured
into the hall. Angry flames leapt through the wall to the inside
of the room and raced up toward the ceiling, reaching hungrily
for both men. Almost immediately the entire room was engulfed
in flames triggering a sprinkler system. It was the only thing
that saved the two ambushers from a terrible death.
"She generates heat,"
Ian McGillicuddy said. He was a giant of a man, with wide shoulders
and a heavy muscular body. His dark brown eyes were fixed on the
screen watching the flames in awe. "I wouldn't mind that
"Or curse," Nicolas interjected.
Ian nodded. "Or curse,"
The young woman slipped from the
house and moved back into the trees, pressing both hands to her
head. She sank to her knees, fell backward and went immediately
into a violent seizure. The cameras remained focused on her as
blood trickled from her mouth. It was several seconds before she
lay unmoving on the ground.
Ryland swore and turned away. His
gaze collided with Nicolas'. They stared at one another for a
long moment of understanding.
Lily paused the tape, leaving the
distressing picture of the woman lying in a heap on the ground.
"What's causing this pain? I've checked through my father's
notes and viewed the other training tapes. Every tape where she's
left completely alone she is able to perform all sorts of incredible
and nearly unbelievable feats, but if there is a human being close
by, she suffers tremendous pain and often passes out."
"Emotions swamping her?"
Gator guessed. "With no anchor she's left wide open to all
the emotions. The men in the room would have been scared and angry
and feeling betrayed by their handlers. I would imagine they didn't
like being put in the position of nearly being roasted alive."
"Maybe," Lily mused, "
but I think it's more complicated than what we go through. I'm
not certain she reads emotions, or at least not how most of us
Nicolas stared at the screen for
a long time, studying the image of the unconscious woman. "She
didn't sense the presence of her adversaries in the way we do,
did she? It isn't emotions, it's something else."
"I think it could be energy,"
Lily said. "My father didn't understand about anchors, not
really. When he first performed the experiment on all of us children,
he thought we just had close friendships. He didn't understand
that some of us trapped the overload of emotion away from the
others allowing them to function. Novelty, or Dahlia, is not an anchor, she needs one in order to function without pain. If
you notice, in the majority of the training tapes, she's alone.
They built a home for her, much like my home was built for me,
and she was shielded from people. Dr. Whitney believed she could
read minds in the same way many of us can and he thought he was
shielding her from emotions."
"You're getting all this from
his notes?" Ryland asked. "How dangerous does he say
Lily shrugged. "He's talked
about necessity of removing her from society several times, yet
he continued to allow this training to take place. I studied the
tapes as he must have, and she doesn't attack unless she believes
she is forced to defend herself. So certainly, during her teenage
years, she's gained some semblance of control over her abilities."
Lily put on the remaining tapes,
one after the other. She had watched them already, the heartbreaking
scenes of the woman she was certain was the missing Dahlia doing
martial arts, anticipating every move before it was made, defeating
every opponent in spite of her small size and lack of weight,
but inevitably collapsing in heap of muscle spasms, retching stomach,
and blood trickling from her mouth and even her ears at times.
She never cried out, she merely rocked back and forth, pressing
her hands to her head before her ultimate collapse. The tapes
depicted training that could possibly be used for undercover work,
and each time the woman called Novelty ended up the same way,
curled up in a ball in the fetal position.
Watching it made Lily sick. Once
her father discovered Dahlia couldn't work under the conditions
they were expecting, he should have pulled her from the training
immediately. Unfortunately, she always performed the given task
before she collapsed. Remembering the earlier tapes of the stubborn
and vengeful child in the laboratory, Lily wondered what they
held over her head to get her to work for them when she was so
clearly strong willed enough to refuse.
Instead of watching the tapes she
watched the reactions of the men. She wanted to send the most
sympathetic after Dahlia. The woman had suffered trauma for years.
She needed the safety of the Whitney home with the protection
of the thick walls and a compassionate and kind-hearted staff
all of whom had natural barriers so they couldn't project emotions
to the GhostWalker team. Her father had provided the safe house
for her and she had, in turn, chosen to share it with the men
her father had experimented on.
Lily looked at their faces and for
the first time felt the urge to laugh. Why had she thought she'd
be able to read them? They hid their thoughts behind expressionless
masks. They were well trained in the military, each of them receiving
special training long before they were ever recruited for duty
in the GhostWalker squad.
She waited until the last tape had
been played and the impact on the men was the most profound. Dahlia
Le Blanc was the kind of woman most men would want to protect.
Very small, very slight with enormous sad eyes and flawless skin.
She looked a doll with her skin and eyes and wealth of jet-black
hair. Lily knew Dahlia needed help, a tremendous amount of help,
to adjust to living in the world again. She was determined to
give Dahlia everything Dr. Whitney had failed to provide. A home,
a sanctuary, people she could call family and count on. It wouldn't
be easy to convince Dahlia to come back to the very place where
the original damage had been done to her.
Ryland swept his arm around Lily
and bent his head to hers. "You have tears in your eyes."
"Everyone else should too,"
Lily said and blinked rapidly. "My father took away her life,
Ryland. No one would adopt her and give her a home. No one could adopt her. I don't even know if we can help her. And why would
she trust me?"
"I'll go after her," Nicolas
said suddenly. Unexpectedly. And unwanted.
Lily tried not to gape in horror.
She took a deep breath and let it out. "You just came back
from the Congo, Nico. I know it wasn't pleasant. You need rest,
not another mission. I can't ask you to go."
"You didn't ask me, Lily."
His black eyes pinned her. Held her. "And you wouldn't ask
me, but it doesn't matter. I'm an anchor and I can handle her.
I'm here and I'm on extended leave. I'll go."
Lily wanted to protest but couldn't
think of reasons to stop him. It annoyed her that she was so transparent
that Nicolas could see she was uneasy around him. It wasn't that
she didn't like him, but he frightened her with his too cold eyes
and his implacable resolve. It didn't help that she knew his expertise.
"I thought Gator would know the area better and find it easier."
It was the best excuse she could come up with.
Nicolas simply looked at her. "I'm
going after her, Lily. If you need to give me papers to authorize
me to get her out of there and bring her here, get them done.
I'll leave in an hour."
"Nico," Ryland protested.
"You haven't had more than a couple of hours of sleep. You
just got home. At least rest tonight."
Lily knew none of the men would
argue with Nicolas. They just never did. And she had no good reason
to argue with him. Dahlia would be safe with him. She glanced
at Gator in the hopes he'd volunteer to go along. He wasn't looking
at her. Of course, the men would stand solidly behind Nicolas.
She sighed and capitulated. "I'll have Cyrus Bishop draw
up the papers giving you the authority to remove her. We know
we can trust Cyrus to stay quiet." Lily had taken her time
trusting the family lawyer after learning the extent of her father's
hidden secrets, uncertain just how deeply Cyrus Bishop had been
involved. Experimenting on people, especially children was monstrous,
yet Peter Whitney had provided her with a loving home life and
a wonderful childhood. She was still struggling to understand
the two sides of her father.
Ryland waited until his wife left
the room before turning to Nicolas. "If she knew about that
little scratch that almost ended your life, she'd be up in arms,
I have to go, Rye.
Nicolas indicated the others as he spoke telepathically to insure
privacy. It had taken long months of practice to be able to direct
telepathic communication to only one subject and keep the others
from hearing, but it was a useful tool and Nicolas had worked
hard to learn the skill. Lily has them all bleeding in sympathy
for this woman. Anyone capable of generating an anti-gravity field
or the kind of heat it takes to start a fire and has the ability
to change the structure of a cable is dangerous. Every one of
the men would hesitate to do whatever was necessary if she turned
on them. I won't.
Ryland let his breath out slowly.
Nicolas always sounded the same. Calm. Unemotional. Logical. He
wondered what it would take to ever stir Nicolas up and ruin his
tranquil nature. I trust you, Nico, but Lily is afraid for
this woman. She feels her father robbed Dahlia of everything she
deserved. Parents, a home, a family, essentially a life.
He did. Lily takes on his
blame and she shouldn't. She's every bit a victim as this poor
woman, but none of that changes the danger to anyone trying to
persuade Dahlia to leave her only known sanctuary. Don't you see
what they've done, Rye? If they're using her as an operative as
Lily suspects, they keep her in line because she needs that home
out in the swamp. She has no choice but to return to it. She can't
live outside of that environment so she does what they tell her
and returns to it. They wouldn't even need to watch her, they'd
know she'd have to come back.
Nicolas stood up and stretched,
suppressing the wince when his body protested. The bullets had
come a little too close to his heart for comfort and he was still
recovering. He had looked forward to some down time. His team
immediately got to their feet. Ian MacGillicuddy, Tucker Addison
and Gator were all tired and needed rest. He knew they expected
to accompany him. Nicolas scowled at them. "Do the lot of
you think I can't handle that little woman all by myself?"
The men exchanged long grins. "I
don't think you can handle any woman, Nico," Tucker answered.
"Least of all that little stick of dynamite. We have to go
along and make certain she doesn't kick your ass."
"I've gotta agree," Gator
said. "She looks like she could do some real damage to a
push over like you."
Ian snorted in derision. "She
might run if she saw your sorry face looking at her through the
swamp. She'd think you were some swamp monster sent to drag her
into the black depths. She needs to see a good looking man coming
to take her home."
"And that wouldn't be you,
would it?" Gator nudged him. "I'm familiar with the
bayou, Nico, and I know how you get so turned around."
Ryland watched the men laughing
and joking with Nicolas. All of them knew Nicolas could be sent
out alone into the deepest jungle or the broadest expanse of desert
for months and he always returned with the job done. It didn't
matter, they would throw everything they could think of at him
and Nicolas would take it all good-naturedly, but in the end,
he would leave his team behind.
All of them had pulled duty in the
Congo and had spent weeks infiltrating the enemy camps both in
the villages and camps to gain vital information. Using psychic
talent for extended periods of time, especially shielding themselves
from large groups, was extraordinarily draining. All of them needed
rest. Nicolas would see to his men first and he would protect
them from Dahlia Le Blanc in spite of any sympathy Nicolas might
feel toward her.
Do your best to reassure Lily. Ryland found it much easier to use telepathy these days. The exercises
Lily insisted the men do daily had added, not only to their control,
but to reconstructing a semblance of the barriers her father had
brought down in his experiment to enhance them all. Lily worked
hard at conditioning them, hoping to give them the necessary tools
to be able to live in the world with families and friends. In
the meantime, she generously shared her home and her time working
with them all. It only made him love her more. He wanted Nicolas
to find a way to reassure Lily. Nicolas wasn't the type of man
to lie even to make Lily feel better.
If it's at all possible, I'll
bring Dahlia back to her. That's the best I can do.
Ryland nodded to him and left the
men to their teasing. He glanced up at a camera and waved in case
Arly, their security man, was watching as he went in search of
his wife. He found her in their bedroom staring out the large
bay window at the rolling lawns below.
"Lily, he promised he'd bring
her home to you."
She didn't turn around. "It
isn't that I don't like him, Ryland. I hope you know that. I hope
he knows it. It's just that he can be so unemotional. She needs
someone to love her and care about all the things she's been through.
I don't think Nicolas is capable of that kind of compassion. "
"So you think the reason he's
leaving his men behind is duty? He looks out for them, watches
over them. He takes every dangerous job himself, Lily, and believe
me, what you're asking is very dangerous, very high risk."
"He's capable of killing her,"
"And she's just as capable
of killing him."
Lily looked at him with sorrow in
her eyes. "What did my father do?"