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."
A couple of minutes later, the door opened and five people almost as old as the Director stepped onto the steps leading to the ground. Four of them walked down and approached us.
"Are you the one the Prophet called the Director's Hope?" their leader asked staring at me.
"Yes, he is," Sarah answered. "How did you hear that name?"
"A missionary came," the old man replied. "We have brought you a Gift."
I nodded, and the old man turned to signal the one they had left at the door of the airplane. Children poured down the stairs suddenly; from their energy, the flight must have been tough on them.
"The remaining wealth of our nation," the old man told me. "Our Gift to you."
I signaled the assembled staff to move forward and make sure no child needed immediate medical attention.
"We thank you..." I stopped as someone wearing white stepped out of the airplane. She was young, maybe sixteen, and her uniform clearly tried to imitate David's use of a white Operative uniform to mark him as a Healer.
"She is our Santera," he said. "I believe your word is Healer."
"There are no words to express our gratitude, sir," I said, bowing respectfully at the enormity of their generosity.
"We killed our first Positives," he said reaching out to straighten me. "We have earned no gratitude."
"Where are the parents?" Sarah asked. Usually, a Gift Plane did not include only children.
"A price must be paid for our sin," the old man replied. "They have chosen to pay it."
"The children will be raised by parents who respect your past," Jacob assured them.
"It is unnecessary," he replied. "We destroyed our only hope of survival. We deserve to be forgotten."
The Director turned his gravchair around and went back to the gravlimo.
"It is not your fault," I told the old man when he looked about to shout after him. "Every time he hears of a country that killed off their First Generation Positives he sees it as his failure, not theirs."
"There was nothing he could have done, we would not listen," the old man said desperately.
"You will not convince him," I said. "How can we make you comfortable?"
"A spot where we can watch the sun set over water," the lone woman in the group said. "Our task is done."
"I will sit with you," I said.
"There is no need," she replied.
"I define what is needed differently," I told her. "I know a spot."
It would have taken them longer to die except for the freezing rain; only the old man who had spoken was alive after the third night.
His eyes signaled me so I jacked into him.
Take care of our children
Do you believe God will forgive us?
"Mine does," I said. "I cannot speak for yours."
The missionary, he spoke of your Purpose. Are you strong enough?
I looked at the spot where the sun was beginning to rise; there was no harm in telling him the truth so I did.
Es justo that at my death, my failures be held up in the light of your father's successes.
"The Director is not my father," I said.
No, you would not see him as such. He was truly sent by my God.
"Did they suffer?" the Santera Healer asked, sitting down next to me in the Institute dining hall. Most of the table was covered with the remains of my first meal in days.
"Yes," I said, shocking her. She turned away and sobbed.
"Old bones don't take freezing rain well," I said. "It was a better death than dehydration and starvation."
"My name is Amada," she said.
"I know," she said. "They speak your name like you are..."
"Whatever anyone says about me, Amada," I interrupted. "I'm either much less or much worse."
"You sat with them so you're probably more," she said staring into my eyes. "Everyone I've spoken to here says to be careful with you so you're probably worse."
"You're sixteen?" I asked.
"I've seen a lot of death," she said. "There are more people in the Institute than I saw in my country."
"I'm sorry," I said.
"You're not though," she said studying me. "You don't feel..."
"I don't feel what you feel, Amada," I said.
"It's comfortable to sit with you," she said looking around the room. "You don't affect me."
"David will teach you how to adjust to having so many people around you," I told her.
"Empathics can't shield," she said.
"David can show you something almost as good," I said. "For now, it will be easier if you spend time around me. You cannot project what I feel so it will reduce the feedback."
"There is one thing coming from you that I do recognize," she said putting her hand on top of mine. It was a mystery; I had never felt sexual desire as hunger before.
"Are you doing this?" I asked seriously. She shook her head and looked around the room for someone who might be. It was impossible, but I jacked into everyone within Emphatic range to discover the hunger came wholly from within me.
"Interesting," I said.
"Do you want to do something about it?" she asked. "I am of age, and it is time for me have a child. A Positive would be the preferred father and you, the best."
The Director was going to like Amada.
"I am biologically incapable of having children," I told her.
"Then you can help me celebrate life," she replied.
"Positives and Positives don't do well together," I said.
"I'm a woman first, a Santera second, and somewhere far behind those, whatever the Institute calls me," she said smiling. "I'm sure I won't be the last woman to jump into bed with the wrong man."
"How much death have you seen?" I asked.
"I didn't want to get on the plane, Jason," she said meeting my eyes like no one ever had. "My father killed my mother and himself in front of me, to take away any reason I had to stay."
"That has to be the worst intro to foreplay I've ever had to overcome," I told her.
"The only things left for me are the children I will have, the pain I can heal, the hope that someday I will be unnecessary, and a few precious seconds I can steal for myself in someone's arms."
I jacked into her and took away the moments after she had put her hand on mine. They would come back to her after we were done, but I could give her more of the seconds she craved with just the offer of pleasure lying between us.
"Do you want to do something about it?" she asked. I sent a wave of affirmation through my link. Her eyes lost focus, and she took a deep breath before looking around.
"This way," I said standing up still holding her hand.
Amada deciding she did not want to wait to get to my room before she started stripping had less to do with the looks we got than was healthy for the human race. Positive/Positive relationships happened, but most were kept secret or public enough to maintain a lack of seriousness, like Elijah's wagers.
I keyed Amada's desire to grow by leaps and bounds with each step that brought us closer to my bed. There was something inside of me growing on its own, and I wanted her on the same mountaintop when it exploded out of me.
I slammed my door open and pulled Amada in front of me. Her nails dug into my shoulders as my lips crashed into hers. There was no time for anything other than feeding each other's hunger.
Amada's lust was mad: my jack pushed her, but she also received what was burning everything out of me.
I picked her up and threw her on the bed. Her back arched as the trigger I set went off. I was naked before her pleasure completed its cycle. She looked up at me as I grabbed her legs and pulled her to the edge of the bed. Amada's eyes seemed to glow as I fucked into her with no control. Her nails cut into me as what she received a direct skin-to-skin connection to what I felt.
"DIOS!" she screamed. It would have been blasphemy for me to scream that in his house so I made do with biting my lip until I could taste blood.