Chapter VIII

Marcus Lanway pulled the car to a stop in the parking lot, and got out. Sarah opened up her door and got out, watching him walk towards the group of buildings. "Where are you going?" she called after him.

"I'm going to talk to an old friend." Marcus called back.

Sarah looked at Evan who was sitting in the back seat rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He looked questioningly at Sarah, and then at his father who was swiftly moving towards one building in particular now. His mother looked much better now. She seemed to have gotten over the physical signs of her grief, now it was more of a sullen frustration, an anger that welled in her more powerful than Evan could imagine. She looked down at him and told him dryly, "Stay put, I have to go see what your father is up to." With that, Sarah slammed the door shut, and chased after his father. Evan sat in the car, hoping desperately that 'they' didn't find him.

It had been a rather hectic day and night since they had escaped from Morgenstern. The significance of Morgenstern's picture still remained a mystery to him, but it was one that he knew was sure to be solved. His Dad was smart. He'd figure it out.

Marcus was a good distance from the car when Sarah caught up with him, grabbed his arm from behind, and yanked him around to look at her. Her face was set, and Marcus recognized the play of emotions that swept over her face. As she stood there, the sorrow of losing her son - and the anger which followed which was directed at many people - Morgenstern, Marcus, and even herself - the resignation that had lasted most of the past evening was replaced by the fierce determination not to rest until she found her boy.

"What, Sarah?" he asked.

"What are you doing, Marcus?" Sarah asked him, her voice strangely detached.

"I'm going to talk to an old buddy of mine." Marcus replied. "He might be able to help us find where they took Jacob."

Sarah looked at him suspiciously, "Which old buddy is this, dearest?"

Marcus smiled reflexively, "One of my old hacker buddies. Houck may not tell us anything, but his computer might be able to."

Sarah nodded then, "And what if he doesn't find anything?"

"Then we'll have to find a more direct route." Marcus replied. "We don't have a lot of options, and I don't want to waste any time, because I know that itís only a matter of time before they find us."

"You don't think they'll detect you if you start screwing around in their computers?" Sarah pointed out.

"If we don't do something, they'll find us anyway." Marcus then grimaced. "If we don't do this, we might never have a chance to rescue Jacob."

Sarah sighed, "Do you need any help?"

"Just make sure that Evan is safe. I don't want to lose both my sons."

Sarah nodded and turned back to slowly walk towards their car. Marcus watched her for a moment and then called back, "Sarah, I love you. I swear, we will find Jacob."

Sarah nodded, and then disconsolently returned her steady shuffle back to the car. Marcus shook his head, and walked into one of the buildings.

Samuel Morgenstern was climbing back onto his private jet. The whether up here in Churchill was getting to him finally, and he felt it was time to make his exit. Harris and Simpson were with him at the moment, to see him off. Asgaard was too busy in moody contemplation, Salinger in observation, and Hall in befuddlement to join them. Morgenstern looked between the two grim faced men's faces for a moment before saying, "Asgaard has outlived his usefulness. He is transmitting information beyond the necessary means. See to it that it stops, but don't touch Hall. He is probably the only one on Earth that can help us unravel the virus's genetic code and reconstruction."

"No problem, Morgenstern." Harris replied swiftly. Simpson nodded.

"I didn't expect it would be. Also, talk to the coordinator, tell him that we're going to need that land soon."

"I know that." Harris said nonchalantly. "I think he knows already."

"Well he's taking his damn sweet time to tell us." Morgenstern grumbled.

"We'll talk to him." Simpson added. "What are you going to do?"

Morgenstern smiled, "I have a few loose ends to tie up down in the states."

"The Lanway's?" Harris asked, still remembering the beating that they had received from a guy with a brass telescope.

Morgenstern nodded. "I know where they will be."

"Well good luck." Harris wished him well.

"Of course, and you too." Morgenstern stepped into the private jet, and took his seat as his other assistants began to show him his schedule. Tomorrow would be an interesting day.

Dr. Ralph Mennini was no different than Marcus remembered him. He was tall, slender, not very good-looking, and quite jittery, and easily excitable. So when Marcus told him selected portions of what had happened, it was no surprise that Ralph immediately wanted to help him find out more. He left out the part of the mysterious call he got from somebody claiming to be the Left Hand of Fate, as well as the symptoms of Jacob's condition.

"So what do you think we should do?" Marcus asked him.

"Oh we should see if there is any information about these guys you've mentioned on the net. If they are famous scientists, I'm sure we'll come up with something." Ralph replied, bringing up a web browser, Marcus wasn't sure which one, he hadn't used them in years.

"I thought you hacker types didn't use the established stuff."

"Oh c'mon, Marcus, this is just a cursory search. There's no need to get too fancy on a cursory search." Ralph looked pained as if he had been mortally offended.

Ralph entered the names of the scientists, Sauer, Houck, Hemley, Morgenstern, Asgaard, and Salinger, and then hit the enter key. The number of sites that had those names number well over a hundred, and Marcus looked distraught. "Can you make it search so that only sites mentioning all of them will come up?"

"Oh sure." Ralph quickly agreed, and redid the search. They had no matching sites that time.

"Okay, well that sort of eliminates that idea. Get rid of Morgenstern, we're not even sure if he is a scientist."

"Right ho!" Ralph smiled. After several seconds of clicking and pointing, the message 'no entries found' came back across the screen.

"This isn't working." Marcus sighed, slumping down into a chair. "What can we do?"

Ralph shrugged. "What do scientists do lots, especially famous ones."

"Write books, papers, articles for journals." Marcus shrugged.

Ralph then suggested, "Perhaps they've left some clue in the papers they've written."

"Perhaps, could you see if you find any similarities or connections in any of their journals?" Marcus asked.

"What, are you kidding? I doubt that half of them are even on the web. I however can find the titles, I know that most major science news magazines at least publish a catalogue of their material on the web, so I should be able to come up with a comprehensive list in oh say, fifteen minutes." Ralph shrugged.

"Good, you do that." Marcus sighed, looking about the room as Ralph delightedly turned into the computer, clicking away with his mouse and typing occasionally on the keyboard. Marcus looked at the array of books on his shelf, most of them were technical manuals for various computer programs, or simply notebooks of his own where he wrote down little things like web addresses, and certain products that could be useful. Also, he had several textbooks in the lower shelves, after all being on the faculty of WVU implied that he actually taught classes, which Ralph did every once in a while as he described it. Marcus found it quite easy to stare at these books, thinking back to his own office which was stacked high with various physics books, and even one on Astrology for he was quite fascinated with the theories that the ancients had for the night sky. He found that time passed quickly as he sat staring and rereading the titles of books.

"Got it." Ralph said all of a sudden. Marcus turned to look at the screen. There was a list of titles, underneath several names. He noticed with slight chagrin that there were no titles beneath Morgenstern's name.

"These are the major articles written by each of the scientists that I could find. I found nothing on Morgenstern, sorry about that, but I don't think there is even a scientist by that name."

"I saw him, Ralph. I saw him steal my son away form me." Marcus demanded.

Ralph held his arms up defensively, "I believe you, but I don't think he's a scientist at all. I have found nothing on him form the moment I started searching."

Marcus sighed, "Well what do you have anyway?"

Ralph pointed at the screen. 'Although they've never done anything together, it seems that Asgaard, Salinger, and Sauer were all biologists."

"I saw them in a picture together. I saw Morgenstern in the background of that picture." Marcus reminded him.

"I know, I know. I'm just pointing out that they've never collaborated on anything together."

"It's probably nothing, but I know in some way they are connected." Marcus sighed, not really knowing what to do about them. "And the others?"

"Well, I take it you already knew that Hemley and Houck were astronomers?" Ralph asked.

"Yes, I was aware of that."

"Well, just read this one title." Ralph moved the monitor a bit so that Marcus could see. Marcus followed Ralph's finger and read, "Ten Reasons why a Meteorite Collision Didn't Kill the Dinosaurs."

"That's interesting, I've never heard of that." Marcus admitted.

"I know, that's because the article was never published." Ralph smiled. "This is a preview article, one that announces the next weeks main feature. There probably was very little information in the advertisement itself, probably saving it all for the actual article, but it never got published. Apparently, the two men changed their minds, and denied anybody the right to publish it."

"How long ago was this?" Marcus asked.

"One year." Ralph replied.

"I wonder what it means." Marcus speculated. Whatever it was he wasn't sure how it could possibly relate to Jacob. Then again, this whole affair simply didn't make any sense whatsoever. He really didn't know what he was going to do, and he really didn't want to get Mennini into too much trouble, after all he was sure Morgenstern would kill him without a thought if he knew that he had helped them. However, there wasn't time to get sentimental, if they didn't act now, they might miss their chance.

"Well since we don't have the article, we'll never know will we?" Ralph asked him offhandedly.

Marcus jumped on the veiled invitation and asked, "Do you think you could hack into Dr. Hemley's computer, and see if you could download any information possible?"

Ralph smiled, "Sure I can try. No guarantees though."

"How long do you think it will take you?" Marcus asked.

"I don't know. It all depends." Ralph replied.

"Well, I better get back to make sure my family is safe. I'll stop back by in a couple hours, all right?"

"Sounds good to me."

"You be careful, Ralph." Marcus cautioned him as he stepped towards the door.

"You too, Marcus." Ralph replied with the most serious expression Marcus had seen him wear in several years.

Jacob looked about the rather drab room that they had left him in, and sighed. He had no idea what had happened to his parents, but he didn't think that they were alive. He could remember vividly seeing Dr. Ryan on the ground with froth coming out of his mouth, and he could remember how blase at the time had been about it. He didn't know why they had killed him, only that they had. He could remember that they were talking at the time as well, but he couldn't remember what they were saying, and at the time, none of it had made sense anyhow. Now he was in a room with five other kids about his age, completely naked like he was, and each of them quite wrapped up in their own thoughts.

He had tried to approach one once he was conscious enough, a boy a few years younger than he with dark brown hair, and a rather rotund belly. The boy had looked at him with his chubby cheeks, all the life gone out of them, and he just started shaking. His eyes looked like they had been crying a lot, and quite recently, so Jacob hadn't pressed the matter. They had probably done the same to that boy as they had done to him. After that, he wasn't sure he wasted to talk to any of the others, for fear that they might react similarly, or in an even more hostile fashion.

After he had been there for what must have been several hours, a small black kid who looked to be the youngest of the group crawled over to him on his hands and the tips of his toes. He sat down beside Jacob and looked up into his face. He might have barely been thirteen, maybe not even that, but it looked as if this kid had seen a lot of horrible things. There were scars in those eyes, scars of many injuries, many losses, and many disappointments.

"Name's Frederick." the kid offered his hand. "You know after Frederick Douglas?"

Jacob smiled a bit, "Yeah, I've heard of him." Jacob shook the offered hand, "I'm Jacob."

"Don't you worry about the others Jacob. They all still cryin' over their parents and brothers and sisters." Frederick told him matter of factly.

"And you?" Jacob asked tersely.

"Me? I lost my Mom when I was only two. Stray bullet hit her in the head. My father died when I was eight, some junkie killed him for the five bucks he had in his wallet. Brothers and sisters, never had any. Everybody I loved was already gone." Frederick spoke calmly, but Jacob sensed that there was a pain there that would never go away, no matter how calmly Frederick denied it's existence.

"I'm sorry." Jacob said rather absently.

"Eh, I'm not." Frederick shrugged. "The DHR put me with foster parents out in the suburbs, so I got away form the streets and the drugs and all that junk that killed them. I wish it could have been otherwise though. Now were up here in who knows where getting watched by some greasy spook in a white coat standing behind one of those damned one way mirrors. You think we were criminals or something. This ain't juvie! We ain't no stupid animal they can just dissect whenever they feel like it."

"Yeah, we're human." Jacob agreed.

Frederick then got a funny look on his face, and he started smiling, "You ain't seen anything yet. Jean and Jeff should be next, then Hank, Skip, and me. You get to watch it all. I don't know how much longer, the ones who were here before me I only see them a couple of days, if you could ever tell when the day is in this place."

"What are you saying?" Jacob asked.

"You'll see. Oh yeah, you'll see all right. Tomorrow morning I bet you'll see."

"When's tomorrow morning?" Jacob asked.

"Whenever you feel like getting up, Jake." Frederick smiled mischievously.

"I don't understand." Jacob admitted.

"Don't sweat it man, you will in a day or so. You see, somebody out there is determined to make sure that the freaks are kept apart from society, that stuff that shouldn't be is never found out. In a few days, you too will be among that number."

"What's going to happen to me?" Jacob asked.

Frederick looked around at the other kids in the bare room, and then leaned in a little closer to Jacob, "I hear from one of the doctors talking while they take one of them out, that they ain't going to look human anymore when they finish changing."

"Changing?" Jacob looked at himself to see if he had sprouted any tentacles or other odd appendages. No, he was just the same person he always had been. Nothing unusual in his physique. Except for that odd scar mark on his belly.

Frederick nodded, but didn't say anything. Then another thought occurred to him, and it looked as if he was going to leave Jacob for a while, when he then turned back to face him and added, "Oh, I hope you like fish, cause that's all they serve here to eat; you will be hungry, trust me."

Jacob sat there stupefied, and terrified. Changing, what was happening? This was no ordinary disease; this was something beyond the scope of human comprehension. What was he going to become? Some common animal? Or was this something altogether more different and sinister; would he become a monster of unearthly hideousness? Jacob wasn't sure then if he really wanted to know or not.

Ralph looked up to see Marcus entering his office. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it had been two hours. He looked over at his laser printer, which was still shooting out copy after copy of information that he had filched form Dr. Hemley's computer system. There wasn't that much left to print out, which he was thankful for, as he was nearly out of printer paper.

"So did you find anything?" Marcus asked.

"A lot of computational stuff that I didn't understand. Apparently he scanned one of his notebooks and put it on file on his computer. I separated that from all the reports he's got written up that I'm printing off now." Ralph pointed at two separate stacks of paper. Marcus glanced over the stack containing the computations that Ralph found so mystifying, and he nodded his head in understanding, then at the reports that were lying in the other pile.

"Did you find that one about the dinosaurs?" Marcus asked suddenly.

"Oh yeah, your not going to believe what they suggested. Apparently, they think the Moon is what killed the dinosaurs."

"What? How?" Marcus asked surprised.

"Read the article, it actually makes very good sense if you can understand the terms." Ralph replied. Then Ralph asked Marcus a surprising question, "Have you ever heard of FATE?"

"Fate, as in the sort of thing you can't avoid?'

"No, as in FATE, all capitals." Ralph corrected.

"I don't think so, no wait." Marcus got a distant look on his face for a moment, then he sighed, and asked a question himself, "As in the Left Hand of Fate?"

"There was something called LEHAFATE and RIGHAFATE. I guess that could mean Left and right Hand of Fate." Ralph surmised.

"I got a call from the Left Hand of Fate yesterday." Marcus pointed out. "It was a very shocking experience. What do you know about FATE?"

Ralph shrugged. "I've done some digging around. I found very little, but I did find one guy whose willing to swear that they are some subsidiary to a philanthropic organization created by some of the wealthiest and most influential people across the globe."

"I don't think trying to kill innocent people is too philanthropic." Marcus muttered.

"I didn't say that was what they were, but that is all I've been able to find out. Most people I've talked to have suggested I avoid them completely. There is no standard evidence on them on any channel, or on any WebPage. I've found a few possible links to them, but they always seem to end up to pages that no longer exist. I was about to start trying to hack into government records to see if there is anything on them there, but I'm afraid I've already raised several eyebrows by my search, so I am loathe to continue."

Marcus was biting his lip, now deep in thought, "Do you have a gun?"

Ralph shrugged, "I live in West Virginia, it's almost a requirement."

"I mean a handgun."

"Oh yeah, I have several."

"Do you think I could borrow one?" Marcus asked. "I'd buy one, but that Brady Bill simply makes it impossible. By the time the waiting period was over, I'd be dead."

Ralph then threw his arms up in disgust, "That's it blame Washington for all of your problems. Look, you don't need to explain to me why you want a gun. Considering what's been happening to you, I understand quite well. What are you going to do now anyway?"

"I'm better off not telling you. You should go into hiding though, take a trip, don't tell anybody where you're going either." Marcus advised. "If FATE is that desperate to keep themselves hidden, then your nosing around will have most certainly raised their ire."

Ralph nodded then. He reached into his desk drawer, and pulled out a small pistol. Marcus had shot guns before, but he had never done it much, so he really wasn't sure what the make was, but he took it gleefully enough. Ralph then pointed at the grip, "You've got fourteen shots with that thing if I remember correctly. I don't have any magazines with me, so you'll have to do with just those. If you want anymore, you'll have to come to my house."

"No, fourteen should be enough." Marcus assured him.

Ralph nodded, and then took the last of the paper form the printer and dumped in on the pile of reports. He turned his computer off then. "In that case, here's the stuff I managed to get form Hemley's computer. Damn that was hard to get too. You wouldn't believe the security measures they worked into that thing. But now you have the information. And we should get out of here as quickly as possible."

Marcus held his hand up to Ralph's chest, "Wait a second, I've got an idea."

They pulled onto a backroad into mountains of West Virginia with some trepidation. They had spent one night already in the car, and it looks lie they were going to have to spend another. Sarah had driven the whole way, while Marcus read through the reports and the computations that Ralph had managed to procure for him. Sarah repeatedly asked him what it all was, but Marcus still didn't know himself. Evan sat in the back watching his father, who seemed strangely to have grown quite mellow and pale faced over the course of the five hours more that they drove that day, before it became too dark to read.

Sarah had built a small fire and was siting with her back to it, watching down the road from which they came. Evan was also watching in the other direction, feeling somehow more important by doing so. Marcus however, was quite distracted. He kept staring up at the stars, and in one particular place, off to the northeast. On several occasions, he pulled out his brass telescope and looked up into the starry sky. For an hour he sat like that, until finally he gave up his search, and Sarah crept over to him, entwining her arm in his. He just shook his head and sighed, "I can't see it. Not with this little guy."

"Why don't you get some rest dear. We all need it." Sarah told him calmly.

Marcus looked once back into the sky, shook his head, and then laid down on the ground beside her, and looked into her eyes for a moment before saying, "We will find him. We will find him."

"I know you will." Sarah replied, smiling for perhaps the first time in three days.

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