Birthmarked Page 41

A bird chirped, and then voices approached from her left. Gaia backtracked quickly. She skirted to the right down the nearest hallway and walked directly into the entrance foyer of the Bastion.

The familiar white and black tiles expanded before her feet like a minefield, where any single step could result in her detection. She teetered in one last, indecisive moment of fear, and then she decided to walk directly across it, in the direction of the school. She hadn't taken four steps before she heard voices coming down the stairs, and she glanced up to her left to see the family of the Protectorat descending, all dressed in impeccable white: the blond, teenage girl Gaia had seen once before, the older brother, Genevieve trailing a light finger on the banister, and beside her, the Protectorat himself. Gaia was halfway across the white tiles, aiming for an open doorway on the other side of the foyer, hoping desperately that no one would recognize her, when the front door on her right was thrown open and two guards rushed in with a loud shout. They threw a man to the floor before them so that he landed roughly on his knees and one shoulder. Gaia gasped, pressing back tightly to a pillar.

The girl on the stairs shrieked in alarm, and the Protectorat hurried down ahead of his family.

"What do you think you re doing?" the Protectorat roared.

"Mabrother," the guard said firmly, in a loud voice. "We found this man trying to break into the Bastion." He jerked off the mans black hat.

Gaia's gaze shot to the figure on the floor, the young man in rough blue clothing who even now was straightening upward, his hair a shock of dark brown and his blue eyes blazing.

Despite having his hands tied behind his back, Leon Grey re' gained his balance and pushed himself up to his feet.

Genevieve gasped and Gaia instinctively took a step forward. Leons eyes flashed in Gaia's direction, taking in her clothes and the baby, and then with grim fury he faced his father.

"Gaia," Leon said. "I'd like you to meet my mother, Genevieve Quarry. This is my sister, Evelyn, and my brother, Rafael." His voice ground to an ironic undertone. "The Protectorat you already know."

He didn't call him his father. The Protectorat was a tall, distinguished man whose even features were accented by a black mustache. His salt-and-pepper hair was closely trimmed, and his white, tailored suit delineated a strong physique. Gaia had seen his image at the Tvaltar, projected on a screen twenty times larger than life, but he was far more commanding in person. Cool, calculating power emanated from him, as if he could charge the air particles around him even when he stood motionless. Every instinct in Gaia told her to shrink away, to run and hide, but she took one step forward and forced herself to stand straight.

"How do you do?" Her voice came out as little more than a whisper.

The man ignored her.

"Leon," Genevieve said, coming down the last few steps. Her voice was low with bewildered compassion. "What's happened to you?"

"Hello, Mother," Leon said evenly. His gaze never left the Protectorat.

"Stay back from him, Genevieve," the Protectorat said.

She paused beside the newel post, and her daughter joined her. To Gaia's left, the doorkeeper silently appeared with Mabrother Iris, closing the door behind him.

"Take the infant to the Nursery, Winston," the Protectorat said quietly. "Then take the other two downstairs and shoot them."

Leon's face drained of color, and Gaia hurried across the tiles to stand beside him.

"No, Miles. You can't," Genevieve said quickly, grabbing the Protectorat's arm.

Winston was coming closer, and Gaia pressed nearer to Leon, guarding the baby in her arms.

"She's right, father," Rafael said. "He's the one person you can't eliminate. It would be political suicide."

Gaia glared at Leon's brother. It was no surprise that he bore no physical similarity to Leon. His even features and care' fully combed, light brown hair were familiar to her from the Tvaltar specials, but there was something in his intense expression that drew her attention. Perhaps it was in his bearing, or his innate sense of entitlement, but in some elusive way, the younger brother resembled Leon.

"I appreciate your concern, both of you," the Protectorat said dryly. "But I'll take my chances."

"Miles, think," Genevieve urged him. "He's more important than ever right now-- your own advanced son from outside the wall. He even has the freckles. He's the future. And Gaia Stone is practically a hero. Look at her!"

"Dad, please! You can't kill them!" Evelyn said.

The Protectorat's mouth closed in a grim line, and his flat eyes yielded nothing. Winston was hovering just behind Gaia, and when he put a hand on her arm, she jerked forward.

"You're despicable," Gaia said to the Protectorat, a catch in her voice. "A man who would kill his own son. How can you call yourself the Protectorat?"

The Protectorat barely looked at Gaia before turning to his wife. "He's not mine. He's never been mine. I tried to reason with him four days ago, and what did he do? He ran. He's a catastrophe waiting to happen," he said. "Not to mention that he's acquired a mouthy, low-born slattern from outside the wall."

Leon angled toward Genevieve and spoke softly. "How can you bear to stay with him, Mother?" he asked.

With two steps forward, the Protectorat backhanded his fist against Leon's jaw. Leon's face whipped to the side and he stumbled back.

"You'll be silent," the Protectorat said.

Gaia saw Genevieve's complexion whiten, and Leon's sister gasped, covering her mouth. A trickle of blood came from the corner of his lip, but Leon was straightening again with slow deliberation.

"Enough of this nonsense. Who is the baby?" the Protectorat demanded.

Mabrother Iris stepped forward and nervously adjusted his glasses.

"It's Bonnie Stone's child," Mabrother Iris said. "I was just coming to tell you we've located the body of the prisoner in the third floor laundry room. The infant, as you know, has as good a chance as any from Western Sector Three to have the suppressor gene. Just as the girl here does." Mabrother Iris turned to Gaia. "Is it a boy or a girl?"

"It's mine, you bastard," Gaia said. "You're not taking it."

The Protectorat turned again to Winston. "The girl was raised outside. You can see what she's like. Dispose of her already."

"But, Father. Think of the gene pool," said Rafael, coming to stand near his father. "You have to think of her genes."

To Gaia's alarm, the Protectorat suddenly grabbed her chin, jerking her so that she stumbled forward, her face clearly exposed for inspection.

"Would you have this?" the Protectorat hissed at his son.

Rafael's gaze narrowed in a slow inspection while she stared defiantly back. Rafael's gaze faltered, shot briefly toward Leon, and then down. His answer was obvious: no.

And in spite of everything, in the face of all the other more important dangers that threatened her, it still stung that some' one, some boy, found her ugly. Gaia burned with sudden hate for all of them.

The Protectorat saw. He smiled slightly.

"I thought not," said the Protectorat, releasing her with a flick. He turned back toward his family. "I cant thrust her on any family I know, no matter what her genes are. She's a freak, not a hero. I'd rather make a hero out of Myrna Silk."

Leon had been standing tensely throughout this exchange. "I'd take Gaia," Leon said, his low voice resonating in the space.

Gaia caught her breath and turned to find him watching her with his steady, intrepid gaze. She realized he had hardly spoken a word in the Protectorate presence, as if Leon despised him and distrusted him so completely that he wouldn't give his adoptive father the satisfaction of seeing Leon try to defend himself. But Leon was defending Gaia.

Leon's father laughed derisively. "Perfect," he said.

"He's right, Miles. Can't you see?" Genevieve said. "Think how it would appear if we took them in. He'd be reclaimed, totally submissive, and she'd be the hope of the Enclave. They might even have a child, one of the children you need, all under our guidance, and we, we'd be the heroes."

The Protectorat's face hardened. "You forget what he did," he said bitterly.

There was a silence during which the baby made a small, sucking noise in Gaia's arms and wiggled briefly. She instinctively drew her closer, shushing her.

"I haven't forgetten," Genevieve said quietly.

Gaia s gaze flew from one tense face to another. Genevieve's hands clenched to her chest, and a bit apart from her, Evelyn seemed lost inside herself Rafael, also standing aloof, had his hands buried in his pockets. The Protectorat was a stone. Finally she turned to see Leon s jaw rigid, his vivid eyes bright with defiance. For a fleeting moment, Gaia felt the presence of the missing sister, an absence as palpable as if a live twin had just descended the staircase beside Evelyn, only to vanish.

A touch of color rode high along Leon s cheekbones. "For the last time," he said softly. "I never touched her."

The Protectorat spoke distinctly and slowly. "You re a pervert and a liar. As far as I'm concerned, you might as well be a murderer." He abruptly turned away. "Do it quietly, Winston," he said. "Now."

Gaia felt Winston and the guards closing in on them, and Evelyn gave a shriek of protest. But Genevieve and Rafael had run out of objections, and Gaia realized with a shock that Leon stood frozen, doing nothing to resist, as if something his father had said proved he deserved to be killed. What was this insidious power his father had over him?

"No!" Gaia said.

On impulse, she pulled Leohs arm in the one unexpected direction, bolting forward toward the stairs. The Protectorat grabbed for them, but Genevieve lost her balance and pitched forward into his arms. Gaia shoved hard into Rafael, and when he gripped her arm, she jerked down and free. Then she and Leon ran up the great, curving staircase, gaining crucial seconds on the guards who wove through the family to follow.

Gaia sprinted up the stairs two at a time. Near the top of the staircase, Leon overtook her. His hands were still tied behind him, but he led rapidly to the right.

"Quickly!" he shouted to Gaia, and she flew after him, around another corner and bouncing off the wall of the hall' way with one hand for leverage. He slid to a stop before a small, half size door. "Open it!" he commanded, and Gaia jammed her thumb into the latch and yanked. She followed him out in a blind crawl, closing the door behind her, and for an instant she feared they were trapped on a balcony. A second look showed her they were on the roof of the solarium, and a narrow iron catwalk led over the arch of the glass panes.

Leon stepped out ahead of her. "Follow closely," he said. "Take my hand."

She reached to where his hands were bound behind him and felt the firm clasp of his fingers. If he slipped or lost his balance, he would have no way to catch himself before he crashed through the glass and fell fifty feet to the floor of the solarium below.

"I've got you," she said, and hitched the baby closer in her arm.

She forced her feet forward on the narrow rails. From be' hind came the noise of guards running in the hallway. She could only hope that they overlooked the little door. She and Leon reached the apex of the roof and started down the other side. Terror urged her to go more quickly than she would have dared, and she sucked in her breath as her balance teetered. Leon jerked her back in line and then wobbled himself while she clung to him.

"Forward," he said fiercely. "Now, Gaia. Don't pull me back."

They reached the far side of the roof with its corresponding little half door just as a voice called out behind her, and then a bullet blasted into the wall beside her face, scattering a spray of burst stucco.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies