Shadow game (Chapter Four)
Lily lay in her huge bed, staring up at the ceiling, listening to the sound of her own heartbeat. The soft music she normally played to help mask sounds she couldn't quite block out had been turned off long ago in frustration. She wasn't going to be able to sleep again. She didn't even want to sleep. It wasn't safe. The voices claimed her, soft and persuasive, voices whispering of danger and tactics.
She sat up amid the thick pillows scattered along the intricately carved headboard of her bed. Where had that come from? Tactics implied training, perhaps even military. Was she hearing Ryland and his men as they used their telepathic abilities to plot an escape? Was it possible? They were miles from her home, deep beneath the earth, with glass barriers guarding their cages. Her walls were thick. Were they so connected that she was in some way tuned to their frequency? Like a radio wave, a band of sound, the exact one? "What did you do, Dad?" she asked aloud.
She could only sit there in the comfort of her familiar bedroom while her mind played back the facts of the training tapes she had viewed and the confidential reports she had read. How her father had gotten away with writing reports with such incomplete descriptions of what he had done was beyond her. Why in the world had he gone to all the trouble of filling his data bank in the computers at Donovans Corporation with utter gibberish? The file was marked confidential and only his password and security codes supposedly could access such a thing, yet Higgens had obviously done so.
Her head was pounding, little white dots floating around in a black void that was pain. The aftermath of using telepathy. She wondered about Ryland. Did he still suffer the painful repercussions of prolonged use? He certainly had in earlier years. She had read the confidential reports on the training the men had endured. All of them had suffered terrible migraines, the backlash of using psychic talents.
Lily threw back her comforter in resignation and dragged on her robe, tying the sash loosely around her waist. She opened the double doors to her balcony and wandered out into the cool night air. The wind immediately whipped the thick mass of her hair into a cloud that tumbled around her face and down her back. "I miss you, Dad," she whispered softly. "I could use your advice."
Her hair was annoying her, blowing across her eyes, and she caught at the heavy mass, twisting it quickly and expertly into a loose braid. Her gaze followed the white tendrils of fog swirling through the trees a foot or two above the rolling lawns. Movement caught her eye on the far edge of the flower beds, a shadow sliding into deeper shadow.
Startled, Lily drew back from the railing, shrinking into the safety and darkness of the interior of her room. The grounds were protected, yet the shadow had been no animal-it was creeping about on two legs. She stood perfectly still, straining to see through the dark and fog to the grounds below. Her senses were shrieking a warning at her, but she was on sensory overload and afraid her fears had more to do with the continual whispering of voices than an actual threat to her home. It was possible Arly had hired extra security and not told her. He might have done so after her father's disappearance. He had wanted her to have a full-time bodyguard, but Lily had adamantly declined.
Lily lifted the phone and pressed the button to reach Arly automatically. He answered at once, on the first ring, but his voice was sleepy. "Did you hire extra guards to sneak around my property, Arly?" she demanded without preamble.
"Do you ever sleep, Lily?" Arly yawned heavily into the phone. "What's wrong?"
"I saw someone on the lawn. On the property. Did you hire extra guards, Arly?" There was accusation in her voice.
"Of course I did. Your father disappeared, Lily, and your safety is my primary concern, not your squirrelly ideas about privacy. You have an eighty-room house, for God's sake, and enough property for your own state. I think we can hire a few extra men without danger of bumping into them. Now go away and let me get some sleep."
"Not without authorization you can't hire extra guards."
"Yes, I can, you little snip. I've been given absolute authority to guard your butt in any way I see fit and I'm going to do it. Stop bitching at me."
"There's something to be said for 'Miss Lily' or 'Dr. Whitney,' " she groused. "Who was stupid enough to put you in a position of power?"
"Why, you were, Miss Lily," Arly said. "You made it part of my job description and signed it and everything."
Lily sighed. "You sneaky geeky nerd. You stuck that paper in with all the other stuff I had to sign, didn't you?"
"Absolutely. That should teach you about signing things without looking at the contents. Now go back to bed and let me get some sleep."
"Don't call me Miss Lily again, Arly, or I'm going to practice my karate on your shins."
"I was being respectful."
"You were being sarcastic. And when you're lying in bed, right before you go to sleep and you're feeling all proud of yourself for pulling one over on me, gloating at how smart you are, just remember who has the higher IQ." With that pathetic parting shot, Lily hung up the phone. She sat on the edge of her bed and burst out laughing, partly from the exchange and partly from sheer relief. She had been far more frightened than she had acknowledged even to herself.
She loved Arly. She loved everything about him. She even loved his atrocious manners and the way he growled at her like an old bear. A skinny bear, she amended with a little grin. He hated to be called skinny almost as much as he hated the reminder that she had the higher IQ. She used it only on rare occasions when he had totally bested her at something and was feeling particularly smug.
She padded down the hall on bare feet, down the winding staircase, without turning on lights. She knew the way to her father's office and she hoped his familiar scent, still lingering there, would bring her a measure of comfort. She had instructed everyone to stay out of the office, including the cleaning staff, because she needed to be able to find his papers, but, truthfully, she didn't want to part with the scent of his pipe that permeated the furniture and his jacket.
She closed the heavy oak door, shutting out the rest of the world, and settled into his favorite armchair. Tears welled up, clogging her throat and burning her eyes, but Lily blinked them determinedly away. She leaned her head into the cushions where her father had leaned so many times while he talked with her. Her gaze drifted around his office. Her night vision was acute and she knew every inch of his office so it was easy to make out the details.
His floor-to-ceiling bookshelves were symmetrical, the books perfectly aligned and arranged in order. His desk was at a precise angle to the window, his chair pushed in two inches from his desk. Everything was in order, so like her father. Lily stood up and wandered around the room, touching his things. His beloved collection of maps, neatly laid out to be easily accessed. His atlas. To her knowledge he had never touched it, but it was displayed prominently.
An ancient sundial sat to the left of the window. A tall glass Galileo barometer stood on a shelf closest to the enormous grandfather clock with its swinging pendulum. Next to the barometer was a thick hourglass wrapped in lead spirals. Lily lifted it, turned it over to watch the grains of sand slip to the bottom. His most prized possession was the large world globe on the mahogany stand. Made of crystals and abalone shell, the perfect sphere had often been examined as he talked with her late at night.
She touched the smooth surface, sliding her fingers over the highly polished shell. Sorrow washed over her. She sank into the armchair closest to the globe and slumped down, pressing her fingers against her temples.
The ticking of the grandfather clock was overly loud in the silence of the office. The sound beat in her head, disturbing her solitude. She sighed, got restlessly to her feet, and wandered over to the clock, brushing the intricately carved wood with loving fingers. It was magnificent, fully seven feet tall and nearly two feet deep. Behind the beveled glass the mechanism worked with precision and the giant golden pendulum swung. On each hour, beside a distinctive gold Roman numeral, a different planet emerged from behind double doors of shooting stars, beautiful glittering gems spinning through a darkened sky, complete with moons revolving. Only at noon and midnight did all the planets emerge together in a spectacular display of the solar system. Three o'clock had the emergence of a brilliant spinning sun. And the nine o'clock position held the moon, filling the entire clock with wondrous delights.
She had always loved the clock, but it belonged in a different room, where the loud ticking didn't drive a person crazy while they tried to think. Lily turned away from the unique masterpiece and threw herself into a chair, stretching out her legs and glaring at her feet without seeing them. There were nine planets, the sun and moon and solar system display, but during the night, the moon display was empty. It came out faithfully at nine in the morning, but steadfastly refused to make an appearance at nine in the evening. Lily has always been vaguely irritated by the inconsistency of the moon's appearance. A flaw in something so precise. It bothered her enough that she'd begged her father to have it fixed. It was the one thing he didn't keep in perfect condition.
Her head came up slowly, her eyes locking on the Roman numeral nine formed in gold. Images crept into her brain; the pattern lined up and she could see it so perfectly, just the way it always worked. She sat up straight, staring at the grandfather clock. A surge of adrenaline burst through her, carrying sudden elation. And sudden fear.
Lily knew she had found the way to her father's secret laboratory. She carefully locked the door to her father's office, then went back to the clock, moving around it, studying it from every angle. Carefully, Lily opened the glass door. Very gently, she spun the hour hand in a complete rotation, nine times, ending on the gold Roman numeral nine. A soft snick told her she found something.
The entire front of the clock moved aside, revealing the entrance into the wall. Her breath catching in her throat, she found and opened the door without much trouble, entering the narrow space to stand there staring at the walls. It didn't really go anywhere. Lily frowned at the walls, ran her hands up and down the panels, feeling for something hidden. Nothing. "Of course not. The clock. It's in the clock." She turned back to look at the door of the clock. The solar system etched into the mirrored background. The golden sun, so radiant and in plain sight. She pressed the sun hard with her thumb.
The floor in between the walls slid away to reveal the steep narrow stairway below the floor. Lily stared down into the utter darkness, her mouth suddenly dry, her heart pounding in alarm. "Don't be a coward, Lily," she whispered aloud. Peter Whitney was her beloved father and she was suddenly terrified of what hidden secrets lay in his secret laboratory.
Taking a deep breath, she started down the stairs. To her horror, as she stepped on the fourth stair, the floor slid into place above her head with an eerie silence she found frightening. At once a faint light glowed along the edges of the stairs, illuminating the descent. She was instantly claustrophobic, the feeling of being buried alive overwhelming. The staircase was extremely steep and narrow, obviously to make it more difficult to find sandwiched between the basement walls.
Lily? The voice swirled in her mind. Lily, talk to me. You're afraid. I can feel it and I'm trapped in this damn cage. Are you in danger?
She remained at the top of the stairs, startled at the clarity of Ryland Miller's voice in her head. He was so strong. Lily could see why he would terrify Colonel Higgens. Ryland Miller just might be able to influence someone to kill. He might be able to influence someone to commit suicide.
Ryland swore, a harsh, brutal string of words, venting his frustration. Damn it, Lily, I swear if you don't answer me, I'm going to rip this cage apart. You're killing me. Do you know that? You're taking a knife and driving it through my heart. I need to get to you, to protect you. I don't have any control over the feeling.
The desperation in him penetrated her fear. She could feel the strength and wildness of his emotions. Captain Ryland Miller, so in control with everyone else, cool under pressure, so out of control with her, burning like a wildfire neither could hope to contain. Lily let her breath out slowly, made every effort to conquer her aversion to tight quarters.
She stood on the stairs, awareness creeping in. The murmuring voices were gone abruptly, disappearing with the strength of Ryland's voice. She gripped the banister, wondering what she was more afraid of, finding out what her father had been involved in, or the fact that the tie between Ryland and her was growing stronger with each passing hour. She couldn't resist the hoarse plea in his voice. He sounded raw with tension, edgy with the need to know she was unharmed.
Most people sleep in the middle of the night. Have you and your friends been playing together on the Ouija board? You're coming in loud and clear. I wonder who else is hearing you?
She sensed him letting out his breath. Felt the tension leave his knotted muscles. What frightened you?
Voices. Your voices. They… She searched for some way to explain. It's like a thousand bees…
Stinging your brain, he finished for her.
His voice gave her an added confidence. She looked up at the trapdoor and saw the same characters etched into the door. She wasn't imprisoned. Unlike Ryland and his men, she had a way out. Lily started down the stairs. I know you're planning an escape, Ryland. That's what you're doing at night. You've found a way to communicate with the others and somehow I'm in on the loop.
I'm sorry, Lily, I had no idea we were hurting you. I'll do my best to shield and ask the others to do so also.
She hesitated only a moment. I think I've found it. My father's secret laboratory. Don't do anything crazy until I see what's in there.
We can't take the chance of staying here, Lily. Higgens has some plan to get rid of us. I need to get to General Ranier. I'm not certain he'll believe you, because Higgens has to be lying to our people about what's going on here. The colonel is a decorated officer and respected. It won't be easy to convince anyone that he's a traitor.
She could believe that. Higgens had stayed away from her, preferring to have Phillip Thornton, president of the Donovans Corporation, ask her to take over her father's work. But Colonel Higgens had been pushing for her father's computer password and the codes to override his failsafe so his work would not self-destruct should they access it carelessly. She knew everything on the computer in her father's office at Donovans was carefully planted gibberish. Codes and formulas that had nothing to do with a psychic experiment. I think my father became suspicious that Higgens was up to something and that someone at Donovans was helping Higgens. There is nothing in the computers at Donovans and Thornton sent over men to pick up Dad's private office computer. I'd already checked it and there was nothing usable there either.
Did you view the training tapes? There was pain in his voice.
Her heart ached for him. She had viewed the earlier tapes and she had seen two of the original members of the team in the second year of training become increasingly unstable and violent. Ryland Miller had paid the high price right along with his two friends. It had been heartbreaking to watch; it must have been a terrible thing to have to endure.
The experiment should have been stopped right then.
The stairs continued downward, deep beneath the earth, sometimes squeezed so tightly between other rooms she felt she could barely breathe. But the air moved and the light glowed, guiding her beneath the basement level.
I told Dr. Whitney all of us were in jeopardy, but Higgens convinced him to continue. He pointed out all the things we could do. There is no other team like us in the world, we can enter an enemy camp completely undetected. We function in total silence. We're GhostWalkers, Lily, and Higgens wants to succeed at any cost. Even if we short-circuit and have to be terminated. I had to kill one of my friends and watch another one stroke out. I lost another, Morrison, a couple months ago to brain bleeds, a good man who deserved better than what he suffered. I'm going to save the rest of them somehow, Lily. I have to get them to safety.
She was at the bottom of the stairs at last, staring at the closed door to her father's laboratory. She knew his every security code and password. But the door had a scanner for prints. I'm sorry Ryland. I'm hoping to find out much more. You can't just take the men out of a protected environment with no real plan. Their potential for great violence has already been proven and there's the danger of losing the others the way you did your friend Morrison. You don't want that. I'll come in tomorrow and let you know what I've found. She tried not to feel guilty. Her father should have insisted on calling a halt to the project, yet he had agreed to incarcerate the men, rather than find a way to return them to the world. She was ashamed of Peter Whitney and it didn't sit well with her.
Damn it, Lily, I can't bear it when you're feeling so much grief. You didn't do this. You didn't know about this and it isn't on your shoulders. It tears me up inside when I feel your pain.
Lily was aware the connection between them was growing stronger, the physical, emotional, and mental attraction enhanced and amplified by something deep within both of them they couldn't control. She shook her head, wishing for the logic that always enabled her to solve every problem. Her bond with Ryland Miller was uncomfortable and unexpected and something she didn't need in the midst of an increasingly dangerous and complex situation.
I'll let you know what I find, she reiterated, wanting him to know she wouldn't abandon him.
Are you certain you're safe? Whitney implied someone in your home betrayed him.
She had the impression of him gritting his teeth, distressed that he couldn't be with her when she was in need of comfort and perhaps even protection. Her heart reacted to his need, the way he wanted to be with her, the way he reached out to her. He was twisting his way into her soul. No matter how many times she shored up her defenses, he said or did something that touched her.
No one knows where I am, Ryland. I'll be fine. She broke the link between them, carefully placing her hand in the scanner, trusting that her father would have coded her prints into the door.
The door slid smoothly and quietly aside. She entered the laboratory without hesitation. The lights blinked once when she flipped the switch, then surged brightly. A bank of computers ran along the left wall. A small desk sat in the middle of an area surrounded by shelves of books. The laboratory was as fully equipped as the labs at the Donovans Corporation. Her father had spared no expense in putting together his private sanctuary. Lily looked around, feeling a mixture of disbelief and betrayal. It was obvious he had used the room for years.
She walked around, discovered the rows of videos and disks, the small bathroom off to the right, and the other door leading to another room. This one had an observation wall made entirely of one-way glass. She looked into the room and saw what looked like a child's dormitory.
Her stomach lurched. She pressed her hand tightly to her middle, staring through the glass while faint memories swirled in her head. She'd seen the room before, she was certain of it. She knew if she entered the room, there would be another bathroom and a larger playroom through the two doors she could see.
Lily didn't go in. Instead, she remained quietly outside the room staring at the twelve small beds, children's beds, blinking back tears. Her father had told her he'd contracted tremendous renovations to the already enormous house to be built because he loved English castles and estates, but Lily knew she was looking at the real reason. She knew the stairs leading to the laboratory were sandwiched between the basement rooms. The laboratory itself was below that, completely hidden, and she already knew that there was no evidence in blueprints anywhere showing the location of the laboratory. These rooms were what the house was protecting, not her.
She pressed a hand to her trembling mouth. She had stayed in that room. She even knew which bed had been hers. Lily turned away from the sight and looked carefully around the laboratory. "What did you do here?" She asked it aloud, afraid of the answer, afraid the knowledge was already blossoming in her logical brain.
That room with its little beds sickened her. Her head buzzed worse than ever, a swarm of angry bees, stinging, hurting, so painful she pressed both hands to her temple in an attempt to alleviate the throbbing. "It's only memories," she whispered to give herself courage. She had no choice but to face her past.
Lily walked reluctantly to her father's desk and turned on the laptop sitting in the precise middle of the desktop. As the notebook was powering up, she noticed her name on his day planner. Below it was a long handwritten letter scribbled in haste. It was written in one of his strange codes, but one she was familiar with, one she recognized from early childhood.
She picked it up, her fingers smoothing the ink over his handwriting. She read his words aloud, wanting to bring him back to life again. " 'My beloved daughter. I know the errors of my past are catching up with me. I should have done something about it long ago. I should have told you the truth, but I was afraid to see all the love shining in your eyes gone forever when you looked at me.' "
There were several blots, places he had scribbled over, not liking the words he had chosen. " 'Your childhood is completely documented. Please remember you're an extraordinary woman as you were an extraordinary child. Forgive me for not being able to find a way to tell you face-to-face. I didn't have the courage.' "
There were more scribbles, one so deep the pen had torn the paper. " 'You are my daughter in every sense of the word. Although, biologically you are not.' "
Lily read the sentence over and over. Biologically you are not. She sat down slowly in the chair, staring at the words. Her father had told her over and over of her mother giving birth to her and dying hours later. ' " I've never been married, never knew your mother. I found you in an orphanage overseas. There was no record of your birth parents, only of your extraordinary abilities. Lily, I love you with all my heart. You will always be my daughter. The adoption is completely legal and you inherit everything. Cyrus Bishop has all the papers.' "
Cyrus Bishop was one of Peter Whitney's attorneys, his most trusted and the one he used for all personal business. Lily slumped back against the backrest. "This isn't the worst, is it, Dad? You could have easily told me I was adopted instead of making up such an elaborate story." She let her breath out slowly and glanced toward the long room to her left. The dormitory. The one with all the little beds.
She remembered voices. Young voices. Singing. Laughing. Crying. She remembered those voices crying.
" 'I told you that you had no grandparents. I wasn't lying. My family is dead. They were lifeless people, Lily, without emotions. They had money and brains on both sides, but they didn't know how to love. I hardly saw them as a child, only when they wanted to reprimand me for not doing as well as they thought I should. It's my only excuse. No one taught me how to love, until you came into my life. I don't even know when or how it started, only that I looked forward to waking up in the morning and seeing you. My parents and grandparents left me more money than was good for anyone, and I inherited their brilliance, but they gave me no legacy of love. You did that for me.' "
Lily turned the page to find more. " 'I had an idea. It was a good one, Lily. I was certain I could take people who already had the beginnings of psychic talents and enhance those abilities, allow them free rein. You'll find all my notes in the laptop. The results are in the videos and disks I've recorded along with my detailed observations.' "
Lily closed her eyes against the sudden tears burning so strongly. She knew what the rest of the letter was going to reveal and she didn't want to face it.
Lily? The voice was faint this time, far away, as if Ryland were very tired. What's wrong?
She didn't want him to know. She didn't want anyone to know. Lily forced air into her burning lungs. She didn't know if she were protecting herself, or her father, only that in that moment, she couldn't reveal the truth. Nothing. Don't worry, I'm just working my way through dry notes.
There was the smallest of hesitations, almost as if he didn't believe her, but then his presence was gone.
Lily turned her attention back to the letter. " 'I brought back twelve girls from overseas. I chose third-world countries, places getting rid of their children. I found the girls in orphanages, where no one wanted them, where most would have died, or worse. All were under the age of three. I chose the females because there were so many more unwanted girls to choose from. Parents rarely abandoned their sons in those countries. I was looking for very specific criteria and you, along with the other girls, met them. I brought all of you here and worked with you to enhance your abilities. I took excellent care of you all, had trained nurses for each of you and I'll admit, I convinced myself I had given you all a much better life than you could ever have had in the orphanages.' "
Lily tossed the letter down and paced across the floor, adrenaline pumping through her body. "I hope I'm getting this straight, Dad. I'm an unwanted orphan from a third-world country you brought home along with eleven other lucky girls to conduct experiments on. We had nurses and probably toys so that makes it all right." She was furious. Furious! And she wanted to weep. Instead she retraced her steps and sat at her father's desk.
How could he have possibly found traces of psychic adepts in children younger than three? What had he looked for? It shamed Lily that her mind wanted the answer to that question almost as much as she was outraged by the idea of what her father had done.
" 'At first everything went well, but then I began to notice none of you could stand noise, and you didn't like most of the nurses near you. I realized all of you were taking in too much information and that there was no way to shut it off. I did my best to provide a soothing, calming atmosphere and I worked at getting employees none of you could read. I had to enhance barriers at times, but it did help.' "
There were more scratches indicating extreme agitation. " 'Blue lights helped, as did the sound of water. It's all in the reports I've laid out for you. But the problems didn't stop there. Some of the girls couldn't be alone without you or two or three of the others. You seemed to help them function, drawing the overload of noise and emotions away from them. Without you, they could become almost catatonic. Seizures were common, along with a multitude of other problems. I realized I couldn't cope with so many children with such enormous problems. I found the other girls homes; it wasn't that difficult with the amount of money I offered prospective parents. And I kept you.' "
Lily pressed the heel of her hand to her throbbing forehead. "Not because you loved me, Dad, but because I was the least problematic." She saw it so clearly, her father as a young man, logically choosing the one child who would give him the least amount of trouble. He knew he should give up his experiment, but he couldn't bring himself to do so after all the time, effort, and money he had poured into it. So he had kept her. "And what of those other little girls, trying to cope without help, not knowing what was wrong with them? You abandoned them. Half of them could be dead by now or in institutions." Tears were burning and she struggled against them. How could he have done such a hideous thing? It was so wrong, so against nature.
" 'I know you so well, Lily. I know I'm hurting you, but I have to tell the truth or you won't believe any of it. I grew to love you over the years, and I realized what I really owed those other children. That's no excuse for my neglect of them. I'm responsible for the problems I know they must be having in their lives even now. I've hired a private detective to track them down. Some I've found, and those files are included for you to read. You won't like the results of my meddling any more than I have. I know you'll be angry and ashamed of me.' "
Lily lifted her head. "I'm already angry and ashamed," she said. "How could you do this? Experimenting on people, on children, Dad, how could you do this?"
She tried to remember the other children, but all she could hear was the sound of little voices mingling together in laughter and tears. She felt an affinity for the other girls. Women now, out there in the world without a clue as to what had happened to them. Where were they all now? She wanted to drop her father's letter and find the private investigator's reports. Instead she forced herself to continue.
" 'I can only say in those early days, I didn't have much of a heart or conscience. You're the one who provided those two important elements in my life. I learned from you. From watching you grow up and seeing the love in your eyes when you looked at me. Those years of you following me around asking so many questions and arguing with me, I cherish every single day. Unfortunately, Lily, you know how my mind is. I watched over you for years, protected you as best as I could, but I saw your potential and in seeing it, I realized how a tight team would benefit our country.' "
Lily shook her head. "Ryland." She whispered his name as if to protect him.
" 'I thought I'd gone wrong by choosing such young subjects. In the beginning it made sense because their brains weren't developed; I could use that, teach them to use the parts that were just dormant, waiting for someone to awaken them. But children were too young. I determined that if I chose men with superior training and discipline, I wouldn't run into the same problems. I could depend on them to do all their practices, build shields, erect the necessary barriers when they needed respite. You were able to do it, so a fully grown man would be stronger, a military man more apt to obey and make use of all the training.' "
Lily sighed softly and turned the page. " 'Everything has gone wrong again. You'll see the problems in the disks and the reports. There is no way to reverse this process, Lily. I've tried to figure a way, but once it's done, it can't be undone and these men, the women, and you all have to live with what I've done. I have no answers for Ryland Miller. I can hardly look him in the eye anymore. I think Colonel Higgens and someone at Donovans is conspiring to get the reports and sell the information to other countries. I've been followed, and my offices at home and at work have been broken into. I believe Miller and his team are in danger. You must get a message to General Ranier (he is Colonel Higgens's direct superior) and let him know what's going on. I can't get through to him. You know him well and I can't imagine him not responding to you. I've left him countless messages to call me or to come to Donovans but I've heard nothing back.' "
Lily stared at the familiar symbols, aching to hear her father's voice. She could be hurt and she could be angry, but she couldn't change anything that he had done. " 'I've set up bank accounts for Miller's team just in case. If I fail, you'll have to help them all for me. You'll have to tell them the truth. Without someone like you, with your talent to draw sound and emotion away from them, they will need to work continually to find private quiet places or they will eventually overload. Watch the tapes, read the reports, and then you must find a way to lessen the damage and teach these men and the others to live as you have lived. In a protected environment, useful to society, but living. Please think of me with all the love and compassion I know you have in your heart. I'm afraid, Lily, afraid for both of us and afraid for all of those men.' "
Lily sat for a long time with her head bowed and her shoulders shaking. Tears burned but didn't fall. She had been so unprepared for this, yet somehow she wasn't as shocked as she should have been. She knew her father, knew his belief that the laws were too stringent and only hindered medical and defense research. His name was revered in so many circles. His name had always been above reproach, yet he had conducted secret experiments on children. It was unforgivable.
Lily pushed herself up from the desk and made her way to the videos. She looked at the shelves of tape. Her life. Right there. All numbered neatly in her father's hand. It wasn't going to be of her first steps, as many parents recorded, or graduating with honors from a university, it was going to be a cold-blooded documentary of a psychic adept whose abilities were enhanced in some way by a man who claimed to love her.
She didn't think she could bear to sit through it. She couldn't even run to her father for reassurance. He was at the bottom of the cold sea. Murdered. A chill went through her. Peter Whitney had most likely been murdered in an attempt to gain the very information she possessed. Someone wanted to know how he had enhanced a psychic adept's abilities. Her father hadn't shared his actual process with anyone, not at Donovans Corporation and not with Colonel Higgens or the general above him.
Lily pulled the first video off the shelf with shaking fingers. Ryland Miller and his entire team were alive because her father hadn't provided the information. Why would they kill the only man who could give it to them? If they couldn't get the information one way, they would certainly go at it from another angle.
An accident would provide a dead subject, one they could dissect. One they could take apart and study in the hopes that they would gain the secret. They would have such power if they utilized the talents her father's work had unleashed. Had Morrison's death really been unintentional? Had he suffered the seizures from what Whitney had done to him or had someone given him a drug to cause seizures so they could study him?
Knowing she had a great deal of information to go through in a very short time, Lily inserted the videotape in the player and began to watch.
LILY felt absolutely numb as she watched the little girl with enormous eyes "play" games for hours. Her father's voice was without inflection as he gave data and recited her growing abilities. She tried desperately to detach herself from emotion the way her father was so obviously able to do as he watched and filmed the little girl vomiting repeatedly from the migraines. Light hurt her eyes, sound hurt her ears, she cried and rocked and pleaded, and, through it all, Peter Whitney filmed and documented and spoke in his impersonal monotone.
Lily stared at the video, sickened that the man she called her father, the man she loved as her father could do such things to a child. He stood there filming all the while the nurse worked to comfort and help her. He even ordered the nurse aside as he went in for close-ups as Lily pressed her hands to her ears. Several times when she had disconnected, withdrawing from the world, into herself, rocking back and forth, he had become annoyed and had instructed the nurse to isolate her from the others so she wouldn't "infect them with her methods of retreat."
Lily turned off the video, tears tracking down her face. She hadn't even known they were there. Her hand shook as she pushed open the door to the room where she had spent so many months being trained. Being watched and documented. Her breath caught in her throat. Like Ryland and his men. No matter what, they couldn't stay at the Donovans laboratories. She had to find a safe, protected place until she could sort out the information and find a way to help them.
Lily lay down on the third bed from the left. Her bed. She curled up in the fetal position and pressed both hands over her ears to drown out the sound of her own sobbing.