The doors of the Institute shooting range opened, allowing two men in dark suits to enter.
"Holster your weapons!" one of them yelled at the Trainees. With an Operative watching, the Trainees knew better than to obey.
"Do they get agents from the stupid factory now?" Jacob asked, walking in.
"Mr. President!" the presumptuous suit exclaimed, stepping in front of him.
"This is the Institute, agent," Jacob said patiently. "If someone here wanted me dead, you couldn't do anything about it. Besides, someone from the Institute would only kill me at my father's orders, and he prefers public executions."
"The Director wouldn't do that, sir," the agent insisted.
"You'll live longer if you assume my father would do anything," Jacob said pushing past him.
Elijah stepped in front of me as Jacob approached. He took his responsibilities as my protégé seriously, even the ones out of his purview.
"Sir," Elijah said to the President putting his hand up. The agents took umbrage to his tone and stepped forward. They immediately collapsed, holding their heads as Elijah's lips tightened.
"Our sister is going to get here any second, Jason," Jacob warned with eyebrow raised in amusement.
"Elijah," I said. He released the agents and stepped towards the range to continue directing the weapons training.
"I thought only Operatives carried guns," Jacob said after a look up and down the line.
"Violence against Positives has escalated," I replied.
"No one told me," he said staring at the agents as they got back on their feet shakily. "It can't be good."
"You're a politician, Jacob. People don't tell you a lot of things; for your own good, or at least that's the excuse," I said shrugging.
"Is there anything else my people aren't telling me?" he asked.
"The New Christian Church is campaigning against your plans to have Sarah become the next President," I told him. "The agent who ordered the Trainees to holster is a spy for the Washington Episcupus. That's one priest with an almost unhealthy ambition to become the next Abbas."
Jacob turned towards the agent. The man took a couple of steps back and looked at me with hatred.
"My baby brother isn't known for leaving enemies of our family ambulatory, agent," Jacob said to him. "I would appreciate your resignation, but only because having Jason shoot you would disturb Sarah."
"Why would Jason shoot this nice man?" Sarah asked sneaking up behind the Agent. Her smile let him know she had been aware of his extracurricular activities.
"He's been spying on us for Episcupus Matthew," Jacob said.
"Father did teach us to sacrifice for the greater good," Sarah pointed out. "If Jason feels the need to put a bullet in the traitor, I'll have to deal with any negative emotions. This would be the best place for it; with so many Empathics around, someone will help me find my center again."
The agent took a step back.
"You're not running, dear" Sarah told him. The man's eyes widened before he fled.
"That's one problem," Jacob said turning back to me. "So what's this about the New Christians campaigning against Sarah."
"They don't want me to be President?" Sarah asked. "How wonderful! I don't want to be President either!"
"Should I tell father?" Jacob asked her.
"I'm sure if Joshua had not been assassinated, as the oldest, he would beat the crap out of you for saying that!" Sarah told him.
"Two old men punching each other's lights out over their little sister is probably not the image we want our family to project," Jacob said. There was sadness in his voice at the mention of Joshua's death.
"I'm sorry, Jacob," Sarah said putting her hand on his arm.
"It's okay," he said. "I'm glad I will finally be able to say he's still my big brother."
"Only the Director's conversion to the God Apart Cult was necessary, Jacob," I said. "Your conversion could destabilize the political landscape and bring things to a head much sooner."
Jacob and Sarah looked at each before turning towards me.
"Jason, the voice of reason?" Sarah asked.
"It could cost you the election," I told her.
"In that case, let's announce I was the second Cultist ever," she said brightly.
"In due time," Jacob said. Sarah gasped and turned to stare at him.
"You planned to tell everyone about it?" she asked amazed. "Before the election?!?"
"Little steps, Sarah," Jacob said with a shrug. "We can get everyone over the hurdle of voting for someone not New Christian, if she happens to be the Director's only daughter. After all, they passed a Constitutional Amendment to allow any member of the Director's family three presidential terms. There are a lot of people assuming you'll be partaking in the privilege that Amendment allows."
"Maybe everyone will go insane and I'll lose," Sarah said hopefully.
"People like to think the most powerful man in the world will pay more attention to a President who eats Christmas dinner at his table," Jacob told her.
"Why are you here?" I asked Jacob.
"A Gift Plane has landed," he replied. "They will only talk to you though."
"I need to speak to father about a few things," he said. "He'll probably want to go to the airport too; nothing like getting the despair of our situation on the news while at the same time showing that the Institute is the only hope for a future."
"Go talk to daddy, Jacob," Sarah said pushing him gently towards the door before facing me. "Take me to the graveyard, little brother."
I nodded and extended my hand to her. I felt her age when she took it; I also felt her strength.
"Who has been maintaining the grave?" she asked angrily. There was no reason to reply; no one could have cared for her husband's gravesite well enough to satisfy her. She knelt down and spent a few minutes making it match the perfect vision in her mind.
"Sometimes I think my father shouldn't have tried so hard to save us," she said later.
"Santos would be disappointed to hear you say that," I told her.
"My husband was a better human being than I am," she said. "At least, better than the one I became after they killed him."
"As the First Operative," I said looking at Santos's grave, "I don't think he would have chosen a different fate than to die for duty. It lets every new Operative know what it means to walk in his shoes."
"He might have died after doing his duty by me," she said. "I would have liked a baby."
"You could've had a child any time," I said.
"Not without Santos," she said between her teeth.
"We should be getting back, Sarah," I told her.
"Are you ever going to call me sister?" she asked.
"Technically, you're not," I said, repeating an answer as old as the question.
"Remember what you said once: with Joshua dead childless, Jacob genetically anomalous, and your Santos murdered, the Director's line was ended," I told her.
"I was very angry at daddy when I said it," she whispered. "I didn't know you were there. I'm sorry you heard it."
"There's no reason to apologize for speaking the truth," I replied.
The Director and Jacob appeared on the path to the graveyard.
"We've decided to move Joshua's remains," Jacob said coming to a halt in front of Sarah. "Everyone in the family will be buried here."
He looked over at the gravestones of his wife and adopted son. Sarah put her hand in his and walked with him to the graves.
"My enemies have taken their toll on this family," the Director said staring at the backs of his children.
"Their time draws near, sir," I replied, making him turn the chair to study me.
"Sometimes, son," he said finally. "You scare even me."
"Sweep, Elijah," I said stepping out of the gravlimo and onto the airport tarmac.
"Already done, sir," he said. "Everyone is clean."
"Deep-level?" I asked.
"No, sir," he replied blushing.
"The Director's life is in your hands, Elijah," I said without looking at him.
"I'm sorry, sir," he replied. He stepped in front of me and looked closely at everyone in the crowd. They took a couple of steps back knowing what he was doing.
"They're clean, sir," Elijah told me.
I walked forward to give Jacob, Sarah, and the Director space to climb out of the gravlimo. Jacob's Agents fanned out facing the crowd to back them up with their presence.
"Are you ready, father?" Jacob asked looking at the Director, who took a deep, calming breath and nodded. Most people saw Gift Planes as cause for celebration--to the Director, they were defeats.
I walked in front of our group and got bombarded with questions.
"Jason, what country is the Gift Plane from?"
"Would you really have killed the Episcupus?"
"How is the Director's health?"
"Any comments about the Abbas's sermon at the Mount?"
An overly eager reporter with a holo-camera on his shoulder stepped in front of me. I put a bullet through the camera lens before he realized his mistake. I tracked on his head until he was out of my way.
"Maybe we can have someone with Operative status assigned to the White House," Sarah said to Jacob.
"You see," Jacob replied. "We need brilliance like yours in the hot seat."
"Sir," an airport executive said as we walked up to him.
"Tell the tower to signal the plane," Jacob ordered. "My brother is here."
I looked at Elijah.
"Deep-level, sir," he said. "The plane is clean."
.... There is more of this story ...