New Kingdom: American Court Ch. 10byMicKay©
Gabriel drove the SUV through the night with no concern for speed limits or other vehicles. With Edward sitting in the passenger's seat, he felt confident that they had a mental block on all traffic cops and other motorists. Glancing in the rearview mirror, his eyes met Alena's, sending messages of love and encouragement to him without ever saying a word.
Even with the disappointment of not changing to his kind, she was still the positive motivation that encouraged him to keep progressing through this life. The phone call that had sparked this impromptu road trip had informed the group that two children had been found in an abandoned lab somewhere in the bowels of the children's hospital. Not the first time, Gabriel pondered on how the sight of these beings would affect his mate. With the strain on her emotions, he considered directing her to an office so she could avoid seeing the product of the experiment.
When Phillip had reported the findings at the hospital, he had mentioned finding evidence of failed experiments in various stages. Although a warrior by nature, Gabriel internally shudder at the thought of seeing his brothers' offspring deceased and preserved in jars. Looking at his side window, he sighed in relief to know that none of these creatures were products of his seed.
"Edward," he asked the man next to him, "you asked if one of the vials had your name on it and didn't seem shocked when Phillip answered with an affirmative. How would anyone have your DNA?"
"From a changeling that I sired," he answered quietly.
"Isn't Iona the only changeling sired by you?"
"But how....?" Gabriel started and then paused at the expression on Edward's face.
Alena had observed the conversation and sympathized with the difficulties Gabe would be tackling in his investigation. She had hoped to hear Edward's explanation of how someone had obtained his DNA but after a meaningful look passed between the men, no other words were said. Realizing that the men were now having a telepathic conversation, Alena started talking to her sister hoping to distract her from the awkward silence in the car.
"Iona," she offered, "I've never had a very strong stomach for, uh, medical things. If there are dead babies preserved in jars, I'll freak out. So I was thinking that maybe I'd visit my old office and collect some work. Would you like to go with me?"
When Iona turned her face from the window, Alena saw the tears running down her cheeks. With a silent nod of agreement, Iona returned her gaze to the side staring into the dark. Feeling pity for the girl, Alena reached for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze never letting go. Looking back to the front, she caught Gabriel's eyes glancing back at her. New stress lines were forming around his eyes and his jaw was clenched tight. With a quick wink to her, he turned his attention back to the road but nodded as if agreeing with a comment.
Arriving at the hospital entrance, Gabriel drove into a parking garage reserved for the executive staff. He turned off the ignition and sat quietly at the wheel, no one making the first move to leave the car. Finally after a few moments, he looked at Edward again with a question in his eyes.
"I have to see them," Edward responded.
"I will have guards meet us in the executive suite. They can watch over the girls while you and I go to the lab."
With a nod in agreement, Edward opened the car door and exited the car. When the others were standing with him, he looked at Gabriel and motioned for him to lead the way. They walked together toward the elevator never breaking their silence. Within a minute they were entering the dark, vacant offices used by the executive staff during the day. Gabriel quietly spoke to a man waiting at the entrance and unlocked the door to the CEO's office.
"Baby, you and your sister should wait here for us. Maybe you could log onto the system and see if you can find anything that might help us."
"I can access the electronic medical records and, if they were used to document the procedure, I could print the reports. Unfortunately, there's no way I can understand the terminology."
"Print everything you can find. We'll find someone to explain the clinical issues to us later," he replied hesitating at the door apparently dreading his next move. "Ok," he finally said, "let's go and see what we have."
Walking with Edward from the offices, they met a man standing in the hall. After initial introductions, they followed the man to a service elevator that carried them up three floors and then to the hidden stairwell leading them down one level to the mysterious lab. They met Phillip at the entrance of the chamber.
Entering the lab, Gabriel and Edward turned their faces away unprepared for the combination smell of formaldehyde and death. With a determination to resolve the matter as quickly as possible, they followed Phillip past the empty tables and sinks to a door located in the rear of the room. Another vampire guarded the door opening it at their approach.
The room was a scene from a horror movie. Shelves containing a various sizes of jars lined the walls. If Gabriel had to guess, he estimated more than one hundred jars displayed the failed attempts to reproduce the members of the Third Creation. Looking closely at one jar, Gabriel felt his constitution waver as he realized that he was staring at the dead eyes of a brother.
Edward inhaled deeply and looked at the walls painted institutional green decades ago. The depressing color along with the smell of death was accompanied by a beeping sound coming from an area hidden behind a curtain. With a look at Gabriel, he nodded toward the curtain and finally exhaled his long held breath.
"Sir," Phillip said to Edward, "I feel that I should prepare you for this but I don't know how to describe it."
"Let's just get it over with," Edward said walking to the curtain.
With a quick snap of his wrist, the curtain slid across the track revealing a large area filled with a variety of medical equipment. Monitors, IV bags, tubes and incubators dominated the space but Edward's eyes locked on the small bodies inside the neonatal beds.
"Gabriel," he called with a voice raw from emotion, "They're babies!"
Stepping between the two incubators, Gabriel gazed at the bodies, naked except for the bandages covering their eyes, trapped inside the plastic cells. They were small and thin with no signs of muscular development. With a double take, Gabriel leaned over one and frowned in thought.
"This one is a girl," he said in awe. "I guess I assumed our DNA would only produce males."
"I thought they would be young adults," Edward returned. "We were never babies."
Stepping forward, Phillip stood beside Gabriel and began reciting their findings.
"We have not disturbed the," he paused, "children since finding them but I can assure you that they have not moved at all. Maybe they are kept artificially alive?"
"No," Gabriel answered looking at the monitors. "These EEGs show brain activity. Does anyone know how necessary these IV lines are?"
"The only notes that we've found describe a process similar to dialysis with old blood being removed while blood acquired from donors or stolen from blood banks is pushed into their bodies. Sir, one man, a vampire, came into the lab after we discovered the location. When he saw us, he tried to run but we were able to prevent his escape."
"Move him to a holding cell in the mansion," Gabriel ordered. "I assume that you have a block on his mind so he's not communicating to others."
"Elevate security, Phillip. You've done well but do not forget that you may have discovered the secret weapon of the rebellion. They will know something is wrong when their man does not report to them soon and they will send reinforcements to get this back in their possession," he said advised waving his arm toward the incubators.
"What about the children, sir?"
"They come back to the mansion too," Gabriel instructed.
"Why?" Edward asked.
"They are part of us. If they die, so be it. But I will not let them remain in this place nor will I purposely bring an end to their lives."
Nodding in agreement, Edward asked, "Can we get rid of these jars?"
"We will have transport units here soon to move the children and dispose of these remains," Phillip answered.
"Have someone escort my mate to meet me in the parking garage. She and I need to remember everything from our days imprisoned together...and afterwards. Gabe, I'll meet you in your office later." With a nod to the men, Edward left the laboratory.
Gabriel gave final orders for transport, assigned Phillip the task of moving all necessary equipment and every document to the mansion in record time. To delay their enemies attack, decoys would be placed inside the area and a chemical fire would be set and extinguished when the lab was completely destroyed. The fire would be ruled accidental by the fire marshal and the lab would be renovated as a storage area.
Looking at the children once again, Gabriel's gaze paused at the tiny girl so fragile and innocent in this evil place. Cautiously, he dropped his guard and listened to her thoughts smiling at the soft intelligible sounds. Before leaving the room, he made a vow to her and repeated the same to her brother.
As he walked through the darkened corridors of the hospital, Gabriel acknowledged that they had finally started making headway on learning more of the rebellion against the New Kingdom. Of course, for every answer, he had fifty new questions. He was convinced that the blood drained from the children was linked to the contaminated blood confiscated from Cassian. With the samples and the children in their possession, they would be able to compare the two and confirm his suspicions.
Approaching his office, Gabriel smiled at the sound of Alena talking to herself, reciting each step required to access the necessary records. Fortunately, it sounded like she had discovered documents pertaining to the experiments. As he quietly opened the door, he watched his bride yawn and rub her eyes as she struggled to stay away and navigate through the medical records.
Waiting for a queued a report to print, she rolled the executive chair away from the desk and closed her eyes. When she looked up, Gabriel was directly in front of her resting his hip against his desk.
"You must be exhausted," he commented.
"What can I say?" she asked with a smile. "Not all of us are vampires. Some of us need food and sleep."
Chuckling at the reference to their past, Gabriel reached around her shoulders and tenderly massaged the tension in her back.
"You've had a long day," he said.
"I've had the same length of day you have," she corrected. "Although it's hard to believe that we were at the cabin just a few hours ago."
"So it's the cabin and not the waterfall that you remember most?" he asked teasingly.
"I hope that means you are enjoying my new and improved body. It may not be eternal but it certainly has better endurance than the old one," she said leaning forward and resting her head on his leg.
"You were beautiful the first time I saw you just as you are beautiful now," he replied and then added, "But I did enjoy the new you that was begging me..."
"Hey," she complained then laid her blushing cheek on his lap to look at him, not realizing that she was now facing his groin.
With a quick knock, Iona entered the office seeing Gabriel sitting on the desk with his back to her.
"Hey Gabriel, Edward is in the corridor talking with security and will be here in a few. Where's my sis...?" she stopped seeing Alena raise her head from the man's lap.
"Good Lord, Alena," she teased. "Is now really the best time for a snack?"
"Iona!" her sister said with indignation. "His pants are still on."
"Oh honey, even you should know that the pants have to go," she said with mock disappointment. "But you're new and we'll let this one slide."
Looking at Gabriel chuckling, Alena said, "You shouldn't encourage her."
"I needed a laugh," he confessed sobering at the memory of their discovery.
"Was it that bad?"
"Edward is having a hard time dealing with it," Iona said walking into the office. "He had to tell me every freaking detail. I was ready to confess selling his and the other five vamps' DNA just so he'd shut up."
"Five? Not six?" Alena asked Gabriel.
"Mine isn't there. I don't know much more than that."
"The transport team has just left," Edward announced walking in and immediately pulling Iona close to him. "They have removed everything and are ready to start the fire."
"Fire?" asked Alena.
"It will be controlled," Gabriel promised her. "No flames, smoke or fumes will come into the hospital."
"How can you be sure?"
"Four thousand years of covering tracks," he explained with a smile. "Are you ready to go home?"
"Yes. I have several medical records printed. Most seem to be separated by date or by a new procedures but I have two that are documented by patient. Are there two patients?"
"Yes," Gabriel answered. "Good work, baby. Let's go."
The drive back to the mansion was long and quiet. Alena knew Gabriel was avoiding her eyes which made her dread his explanation of what they had found. Phillip had described the discovery as children in such pathetic condition that he would not describe them as alive. While her curiosity wanted to see them, she quickly reminded herself that the children had been created in a lab from the DNA of six of the New Kingdom brothers.
With a surge of pride, she realized that no one had compromised Gabriel. His DNA had not been found in the lab. But then she remembered Edward's earlier comment about his DNA having been collected from the person he had sired. If the act of siring had provided the sample, then his DNA must have been in Iona's body. If her limited understanding of Biology was correct, then Alena could be carrying Gabriel's cell pattern and be a liability to him.
Poor Iona. Her previous turn as a vampire had erased her human memory and created havoc on the lives of others through her consumption of contaminated blood. Now, as the sired mate of Edward King, she had her human memories along with her original personality. Unfortunately, she was condemned to blend the good and bad together and relive memories best forgotten.
Trying to place the events in chronological order, Alena stumbled over the fact that Iona had not been sired by Edward until after she had been completely drained of the infected blood. How could she have provided the necessary DNA sample when she had only belonged to him for little more than a week? The dates on the medical records had documented the experiments starting more than two months ago.
Closing her eyes, Alena inwardly groaned at the thought of working in the hospital with these horrible experiments occurring right beneath her nose. Someone had to know about these heinous acts. Access to the hospital medical record system would involve the IT Department and the Health Information Management Department. Directors of both departments had been friendly acquaintances of hers.
In addition, financing the procedures would have cost a fortune. She was confident that her organization had not funded the system. With Gabriel's help, she had implemented strong internal controls to eliminate fraudulent billing and collections, supported by expense allocation policies which required multiple signatures of approval by directors, executive managers and board members. No money in the past eight years could have been used for this atrocity.
A revelation hit her so fast that she felt an invisible blow to her body. The project had been financed from the illegal activities that happened more than eight years ago. With a quick look at the rearview mirror, she saw Gabriel looking back at her. Apparently he had been following her thoughts during her entire reverie. Seeing his quick nod, she dropped her head in anguish. Together, they had managed to step in and save the children's hospital from financial bankruptcy but had failed to end moral corruption.
Determined to defeat this evil that had invaded the vampire and human worlds, Alena decided to enlist in the fight and offer her services. She would find a computer and log into the hospital records through the VPN access and find everything that would assist them annihilating their enemies.
Shaking off the nagging thought that she should have found this earlier, she reminded herself that her goal had been described by Gabriel as saving the hospital from the financial hemorrhaging that would have permanently closed the doors. Forming a game plan in her mind, she looked again at the reflection of Gabriel's eyes and, with his consent, decided on her first point of attack.
Arriving at the mansion, Gabriel escorted Alena to his office giving her instructions on how to access his computer and then his executive password to the hospital's information system. After assigning a vampire to guard her in his office, he gave her a quick kiss and left her alone.
Alena logged on to the system and began searching the cash flow of the hospital to the restructuring. Finding the final court ruling saved on the network drive, she copied the document and began methodically searching and highlighting the discoveries found during the investigation. Unfortunately, the police had only found the people involved with the fraud but had failed to find the stolen funds. A statement buried deep in the ruling verified that the funds had been received by the organization through overpayments from various insurances but had been allocated throughout various departments and eventually moved out of the hospital by purchase requisitions signed by those found guilty.
Opening an internet browser, Alena searched for those former employees who had been removed from the hospital in handcuffs but was not able to find their locations. She made a note to ask Gabe if he could locate them and then she returned to her financial review. After a couple of hours, she felt that she had made significant progress but was tired as hell. With her research saved into a new folder, she turned off the computer and asked the guard to escort her to Gabriel's suite.
Once in the apartment, she hurriedly prepared for bed dressing in the short red gown lying on the bed. As she rest her head on the pillow, she sent Gabriel a quick thought updating him on her location and sending him vows of love and then she slipped into oblivion.
Sometime during the night, she dreamed of walking through a corridor of the mansion opening doors and looking in the rooms. At one door, she saw Edward standing with Iona kneeling in front of him. Quickly closing that door and moving to the next, she watched Cassian pacing around with his hands behind his back as he ranted at a strange woman. At the next door, she watched a young boy and girl sitting on the floor playing with various toys. With a smile, she moved to the last door and paused.
Even in her dream, she knew that something evil was on the other side of the door. Slowly turning the knob, she pushed the door open and began trembling as she stared at her sister's tormentor. Standing before her was the image Iona had seen and shown to her during the interrogation. The beast was not man but stood on two legs. The creature was not angelic but displayed a six foot wing spread. The thing could only be a monster with his extremely long fangs and skinless body. Its eyes glowed yellow as he spotted Alena and growled at her. Stunned, she stood motionless, watching as he straightened to his full height and proudly exhibited the human from whom he had been feeding. Then she saw the woman, pale and dead. With a shriek, she sat up in bed trembling in fright. Two bands of steel wrapped around her pulling her toward a hulking mass. Twisting to find an escape, her fear escalated and she screamed for the only help she knew she had.