Alien nation 3 body an.., p.21
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       Alien Nation #3 - Body and Soul, p.21

           Peter David
 
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  Emmet swallowed.

  “But us,” continued Sikes, “we’re not with the government. And we don’t want your head. We just want information. So here’s the deal. You tell us what we wanna know, and we’ll forget all about your swimming pool.”

  Cutter looked into Sikes’s face to try and see if he was telling the truth . . . and then came to the realization that, ultimately, it didn’t matter. He simply had to hope that Sikes was telling the truth, because the rest of it was out of his hands. “Okay,” he said, beaten. “There was this real big Newcomer and this baby . . . we called ’em Bonnie and Clyde.”

  George pulled out police photos of the giant and infant, and handed them to the guard. It was a somewhat unnecessary gesture, because he was sure already of what the guard would say. And sure enough, the guard glanced at the photos and said, “Yeah. That’s them. It was weird . . . the giant couldn’t do anything unless he was holding her. Couldn’t even talk. And the baby, well . . . it was like she did the thinking for him.”

  “Who are they?” demanded George. “How did they get there.”

  Emmet shook his head. “Somethin’ to do with an experiment. Everything in there was some kind of Newcomer experiment.”

  George looked to Matt. “Chorboke’s experiments.”

  “I don’t know,” said Emmet. “I just started there six months ago. The program was pretty much shut down. Bonnie and Clyde were the only things still alive.”

  “What happened to them?” asked George.

  Emmet started to speak, and then he stopped. “Now . . . you gave me your word about the pool . . .”

  Sikes grabbed him by the shirt front. “You’re gonna be part of that pool, buddy! Now what happened to them?!”

  “A Newcomer came around!” Emmet cried out. “Said he wanted Bonnie and Clyde! Said he’d pay me a lot of money if I faked death certificates for ’em!”

  “And you did,” Sikes said.

  Emmet nodded with the air of a man who had discovered his weaknesses, and his price . . . and wasn’t happy about it. “He took ’em about a week ago.”

  “The Newcomer was Chorboke, wasn’t he?” said George, not able to keep the loathing from his voice.

  “I didn’t know his name,” said Emmet. “The man didn’t say, and I didn’t ask.” He paused, and then said miserably, “I did the wrong thing. I know I did. I . . . I feel like dirt.”

  “Oh, really?” said Sikes. “Well, you’re in luck, Emmet.”

  And with a quick move, he slugged Cutter in the jaw. Cutter tumbled back and landed facedown in the bottom of the partially dug pit.

  “You feel like dirt?” called Sikes. “Now you have all you can eat.”

  Cutter lay unmoving, unconscious. The operator of the bulldozer was sitting atop his machine in astonishment. He turned to look at Sikes.

  “Take a lunch break,” Sikes told him. And then he and George left without another word.

  C H A P T E R 2 5

  SUSAN LOOKED OVER the storyboards and nodded with approval.

  Molly, buoyed by what seemed to be the initial support from her boss, kept the storyboards moving. “You see I redrew the entire NuGuy deodorant campaign. Is this more what you’re looking for?”

  Susan smiled. “Clean . . . pine trees . . . oh, that white terry cloth robe is a nice touch.” She handed the sketches back. “Nice job.”

  Molly was positively beaming. “Thanks.”

  Susan glanced at her watch, and now she was starting to feel some genuine concern. “Have you seen Jessica?”

  “She didn’t come in today,” said Molly, shaking her head. “Didn’t call in sick . . . nothing . . .”

  Then she caught a movement from the corner of her eye. “Oh! There she is.”

  Jessica walked in, and she looked so miserable that if someone had been lying in the room in a deep coma, that person would have woken up and said, “Wow, who died?”

  Her eyes were puffy and red-rimmed from crying. She had made some effort to disguise her appearance with makeup, but it was like putting Band-Aids on a sucking chest wound.

  Molly and Susan exchanged glances, and Molly immediately said, a bit too loudly, “See ya.” She got out of the room as fast as she could. She nodded to Jessica as she left, but Jessica just stood there like a zombie.

  Susan went over to her. “Jessica . . . are you all right?”

  She put her hand out, but Jessica moved quickly as if she were loath to be touched. “I’m fine, baby,” she said in a tone that probably, to her, seemed to have much of her usual zip. But it was only her imagination. “Kissy kissy,” she added forlornly as she sat down at her desk and started to set up her T square.

  “What happened?” said Susan, amazed at the change that had come over the normally boisterous woman.

  “Oh, honey, nothing,” Jessica said dismissively. “I was about ready to throw him out of the house anyway.”

  “Who?”

  “Who else? Frank. He left me.” Her voice was a flat monotone. Then, in a pathetic attempt to change the subject, she said, “Lordy day, I’ve got a lot to catch up on.”

  Susan was stunned. “Your husband left you?” Jessica nodded. “How could that happen? I mean . . . you know so much about men . . . I mean . . .”

  Jessica laughed, but it was not the kind of laughter to which Susan was accustomed from her. There was a self-deprecating tone to it. “Oh, I’m an expert.” She swiveled her chair around to face Susan. “You know what Frank said? He said I could keep the house—everything—just as long as he never . . .”

  Her voice caught. If anyone could ever choke on something as insubstantial as a word, then Jessica was about to manage it. She swallowed hard and forced out, “. . . never saw my face again.”

  In a whisper, Susan said, “Oh . . . Jessica . . .”

  “No, no.” She slapped the desk firmly. “It’s time for a change. Shoot, I’ve been married to Frank since I was eighteen. It’s about time I got out there and played the field, wouldn’t you say?”

  Susan was so accustomed to agreeing with everything that Jessica said, and learning from her vast experience with married life in specific and men in general, that she found herself saying automatically, “I guess . . .”

  “Sure it is, baby . . .”

  And then Jessica cracked.

  The tears started to roll down her cheeks, smearing her makeup for what had to be the fourth time that day. “Ohh, damn. I promised myself I wouldn’t do this.” Her voice was trembling and sounded high-pitched, almost like a child’s.

  Susan handed her a tissue. “Here . . .”

  Jessica wiped her eyes, and when she spoke it wasn’t to Susan but to herself. “Why didn’t I see it coming . . . ?”

  Susan put her arms around Jessica, comforting her. Jessica completely unraveled, her shoulders heaving, her body racked with sobs. She buried her head in Susan’s shoulder and kept saying, “Why didn’t I see it coming . . . ?”

  But Susan had no answer. Jessica was the one who had always had all the answers. Instead, all Susan had was questions of her own.

  And she was coming up with answers that she didn’t like one bit.

  C H A P T E R 2 6

  “HAVE YOU GOT an answer yet, Cathy?”

  Cathy made a quick gesture to Albert to indicate that he should be quiet. Albert immediately obeyed.

  She was in the holding cell with the giant. Just outside the cell were two cops with tranq guns, just in case. But it was clear to all that they were not going to be needed. Clearly the giant did not have the strength to tie his shoes, much less make a break for freedom.

  Cathy had a stethoscope to the giant’s chest, moving across it meticulously. She showed a brief moment of being startled, but then she nodded as if she’d discovered something that she should have anticipated. She removed the stethoscope then and placed it in her bag.

  As she did so, Albert noticed the arrival of George and Matt. “Cathy,” he said cautiously, not wanting to disturb her once more.
But when he saw that she looked up at him in an expectant fashion, he continued, “George and Detective Sikes are back.”

  “Thank you, Albert.”

  She got up and went to the cell door. One of the cops unlocked the door and let her out, all the time watching the giant warily. But it seemed as if leaving the cell door wide open with a red carpet unrolled in front of it would still not have gotten a rise out of the behemoth. He didn’t even blink when the door slammed shut again.

  “How is he?” asked Sikes.

  She shook her head. Sikes had seen that look in TV shows and movies a hundred times. It was the look the doctor gave when informing family or friends that a patient was dead or dying.

  They returned to the squad room. All that way, Cathy walked a bit apart from Matt. Her body language said it all. She wasn’t sure how to deal with what was between them, and so opted to try and keep as much distance between them as possible until it was sorted out. Matt couldn’t blame her. At the same time, it hurt tremendously.

  “I ran a blood test on our infant,” she said, once they were settled in. “It revealed an alkaline phophotase level of an adult.”

  “Alkaline what?” asked Sikes.

  “It’s an indicator of bone activity—of growth,” Cathy told him. “It’s naturally much lower in full-grown adults. I then x-rayed her femur. The calcium layers, much like rings on a tree, confirmed her age.”

  “So what is she?” he asked. “Six months? Nine?”

  “She’s twenty-five.”

  Sikes looked surprised. “You’re telling me that kid is twenty-five months? That’s the most underdeveloped two-year-old I’ve ever—”

  Cathy leaned forward, resting her knuckles on his desk. “Matt, you’re not reading me. She’s twenty-five years old.”

  Sikes and George looked at each other in shock. “Cathy, are you sure? I mean, there’s no margin for error?”

  She shook her head. “None.”

  “Twenty-five?” said George, astounded. “That . . . that means she must have been born on the ship.”

  “She can’t be a hybrid!” said Sikes. “Grazer is gonna be ecstatic. He can call another one of his beloved news conferences and announce it was a false alarm. That’ll shut the Purists up, at least until they find something else to . . .”

  “There’s more,” said Cathy, interrupting. “I ran a cell comp on her and the giant. They’re twins. Identical twins.”

  “You mean fraternal.”

  Cathy rapped on his desk with impatience. “Dammit, Matt, if I meant fraternal I would have said fraternal. Stop challenging me.”

  “I’m sorry!” he said in exasperation. “I don’t mean to . . . but . . . but, I mean, what are you saying? They can’t be twins! I mean, okay, I don’t mean to keep acting like I disagree, but I mean . . . look at them! What’s identical?”

  “I’ll tell you one thing,” said Cathy firmly. “I just examined the giant. He also has only one heart.”

  Matt, who had been fiddling with a pencil, tossed it down onto the desk. It bounced away and under his chair. He paid no attention to it. “Somebody want to tell me what’s going on here?”

  And George, very quietly, said, “I think I know.” He wasn’t looking at Cathy and Sikes, but rather seemed to be staring inward. “The infant . . . the giant . . . they’re one. They’re two halves of one creature.”

  “Right. Sure. Happens all the time,” said Sikes.

  George ignored the sarcasm. “They’re incomplete without each other. The security guard said it. The giant can’t do anything without the baby . . . the baby does the thinking for him. We saw that, remember? He couldn’t talk until the baby was in his arms. Then what did he say? ‘I’m fine.’ Singular.”

  Even Cathy looked doubtful. “Still . . .”

  “They came from Chorboke’s lab! You know the kind of experiments he performed!”

  If Sikes needed any proof that George wasn’t exaggerating Chorboke’s reputation, he got it when he saw Cathy’s expression. She looked as if someone had just kicked her in the throat. “Chorboke,” she whispered.

  “Yeah,” said Sikes. “We saw some of his handiwork.”

  “You said it yourself, Cathy. They’re genetically identical. What if Chorboke was able to separate one being into two—the mental and the physical . . .”

  Cathy was mulling it over. The introduction of Chorboke into the equation made anything possible. “And now they’re both sick . . . they’re both dying . . .”

  “Because they’re apart,” affirmed George. “They need each other. They are each other.”

  “This is nuts,” said Sikes. “This is really nuts. But . . . I’ll tell you. We better get them together. Cathy, this has got to be more than enough in terms of medical reasons to bring the giant and baby together, right?”

  “I would think so,” said Cathy. “A human doctor might not fully understand, but if I run it by our Newcomer head of medicine—”

  “Yeah, let’s do that,” said Sikes. “And if he still gives us problems, well, I can be a pretty persuasive guy. Because otherwise, the giant and the baby don’t have a prayer.”

  As Sikes, Cathy, and George hurtled toward the hospital, with Sikes driving in his typically berserk fashion, two Newcomer doctors were heading down the hospital corridor. They looked brisk and no-nonsense. They walked up to the nurse’s desk, and one of them stepped forward and said, “Hello, I’m Dr. Miller. This,” and he nodded toward his companion, “is Dr. Stein. We’re from Cedars Sinai pediatrics. We’re consulting on the hybrid baby.”

  The nurse pointed down the hallway. “Room twenty-three,” she said. “Check with the guard outside the door.”

  “Thank you,” said Miller.

  As they started down the hallway, the nurse called after them, “I sure hope you can help her. She’s the sweetest little thing.”

  Miller tossed off a salute. “We’ll do our best,” he said confidently.

  The two doctors walked with authority up to the guard. It was Newcomer police officer Sandy Beach, who was holding a clipboard resting against his belt buckle. He looked at them carefully as Miller pointed to himself and his companion and said, “Dr. Miller. Dr. Stein.”

  Sandy checked over his clipboard and frowned. “Miller . . . Stein . . . No, I’m sorry, you’re not here—”

  But a second later, Sandy Beach wasn’t there either. The two bullets fired from the silencer-equipped gun that “Miller” was holding had more than done their job. They struck him dead center of both his hearts, killing him instantly. He started to sag to the floor, and “Miller” and “Stein” caught him by either arm before he could sink so much as a foot. They dragged his body into the room, with “Miller”—who, a day or so earlier, had been wearing a guard uniform with the name River on it—taking a last quick look over his shoulder to make sure no one had seen.

  And then they set to work.

  Outside the hospital, Sikes’s car pulled up to the restricted parking area, where a guard stood in a booth. Between Matt and George waving their badges and Cathy waving her medical ID, they wound up getting a space so close to the main entrance that they were practically parked in the lobby. They ran in, took the elevator up to the pediatrics floor, and headed down the hallway.

  Immediately Sikes knew that something was up. “There’s supposed to be someone on guard there,” he said, when he saw no one standing in front of the baby’s room.

  “He was here earlier,” said Cathy. She turned to the nurse on duty. “Did the guard leave?”

  “No,” said the nurse, looking puzzled. “But you know . . . I don’t think I saw him since those two Newcomer doctors came by . . .”

  George and Matt looked at each other, and then pulled their guns and ran ahead, with Sikes gesturing to Cathy that she should hang back.

  They darted inside the room.

  The walls had been spray-painted with Purist symbols and the slogan, “2-4-6-8, SLAGS AND HUMANS WILL NOT MATE.” Cathy gasped upon seeing it. Sike
s and Matt, meantime, spotted Officer Beach lying on the floor, eyes open wide but looking at nothing.

  George crouched down next to him, shaking his head and passing his hand over Sandy’s eyes, closing the lids. Sikes heard George murmur something in Tenctonese, probably some benediction for the dead. Personally, Sikes felt like a creep. No “Son of a Beach” jokes for the fallen officer. No children for his new wife. Just a knock at the door when two officers came to inform her that her husband wouldn’t be coming home. “Bastards,” he said.

  He crossed quickly to the crib, trying to tell himself that the best thing he could do for Sandy now was get the bastards who had done this. “She’s gone,” said Sikes.

  Cathy was looking around. “The Purists did this . . .”

  Sikes didn’t even bother to look. “Yeah, you kinda get that idea. But I have my doubts. How about you, George?”

  “The nurse said that two Newcomers were the last ones in here. Newcomers obviously wouldn’t be Purists.”

  “But they could have sneaked in here afterward without the nurse seeing them,” Cathy pointed out.

  “True,” said George. “But the Purists simply would have killed the baby. Not taken her.”

  That point seemed fairly incontrovertible. “Then who?” demanded Cathy. “Why?”

  “Chorboke,” said George firmly. “For some reason, he wanted them.”

  “We gotta find out who this Chorboke is,” said Sikes. “And where he is.”

  “The baby’s in critical condition,” Cathy said, checking the last notations that had been made on the baby’s chart. “You don’t have much time.”

  “No,” said George with a deep, burning anger, looking down at Sandy’s body. “It’s Chorboke who doesn’t have much time.”

  Mr. Brown, he of the deep, sunken corner of the federal building, looked up in surprise as George Francisco and Matt Sikes seemed to simply materialize in front of his desk. He opened his mouth to say something by way of greeting, but without preamble George said, “Chorboke was involved in Opsil. What human name was he given?”

 
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