Valerie remembered the control room from her surveillance search for August. She scanned the cameras for Caleb. He was still fast asleep, and Kevin sat in the chair with his eyes closed. She let out a sigh of relief. On another screen, Jack and her father boarded a train. No one in the control room seemed to worry about the men wandering around the facility in the wee hours of the morning. She focused her attention on August. Glancing at Lucas, who was having a conversation with one of the guards, she retraced the camera feed, through the tunnels of the living area and up to his suite. Like before, her presence was felt. She tapped into the controls of the TV monitor in his room and wrote him a message.
I need you to know I didn’t kill those people. Lucas is blaming me for the attack to turn the people against me. What the Council plans to do is wrong, and I cannot let them move forward. I can’t fight Lucas on my own. Please don’t leave me here with him. I don’t stand a chance without you. If you won’t stay, take us with you. Please.
August sat up on the edge of his bed, hung his head in his hands and rubbed his temples.
“It’s not that easy. Every second I am here I want to kill him for even being near you. If his attraction is anything like mine, he’ll kill me if I try to take you. Even if we find a way to beat him, the Council will be after us. There is no winning in this,” he answered out loud.
She heard him and hid a falling tear from the others in the room.
I’m willing to take the chance.
August looked up at the camera and nodded. With his confirmation, she brought her focus back to the control room and wiped the tear away. Her heart fluttered with excitement and anxiety. Lucas stopped talking and looked at her. She wanted to smile at him but did not want to evoke any more attention. If he liked her angry, she would give him angry.
“Everyone, can I have your attention,” Lucas demanded of the room. “This angelic being before you is my betrothed. You all know Ms. Burton from monitoring her for the past week or so. But here she is in the flesh. She is part of me and will be treated as such.” Lucas winked from across the room and walked over to her.
The room remained silent, but those in attendance made notice of her before returning to their tasks.
“They should have the conference room ready to go. Once the Council caught wind of your arrival, they insisted August, and I move forward with Phase Two. And since you have already done part of the work for me, our region will be easy.”
On the screen, Eric Earl entered August’s room, and the two men exited the suite. Lucas motioned her to the door. Without expression, she preceded him through the threshold and back down the hall. She could see Hyka moving in her direction with the slightest limp and Rob behind her trying to keep up.
“What is it?” Valerie said, once in earshot of her friend.
“Nothing. If I had stayed in that room any longer, I would have killed his assistant. But that’s apparently against the rules,” Hyka said, turning to face Rob, who ran into her.
“Stop acting like children,” Lucas accused. “Is the conference online?”
“Yes, sir. New Zealand is having difficulty finding their male DiaZem, but otherwise, they are awaiting you and August.” Rob straightened himself and took a step behind Lucas.
Hyka reached the conference room first and held the door for Valerie. She cut Lucas off to follow her in. Rob caught the door from slamming on his boss. The room was like a home theater, but instead of comfortable armchairs, a desk with two office chairs sat in front of the large projection screen. Names etched into placards labeled their seats. Lucas pulled out Valerie’s chair before taking his own on her right.
The screen reflected hundreds of other DiaZem couples. Valerie could not count them all. Another large screen was reserved for the DiaZem team addressing the group. The label on the giant screen announced Beijing.
“Thank you for joining us at such an early hour, Ms. Burton.” The Asian woman greeted Valerie by her maiden name, as it appeared printed in front of her. “The Council has taken into consideration your lack of training to date and are in agreement to overlook the course of events leading to your arrival at the facility.
“A partial initiation of Phase Two could have proven to be detrimental to your region. If a rebellion occurs before your circuit is complete, the inferior population could overthrow your facility. Your conductors would be scattered to the winds. To avoid this, you must take the oath of coronation, proceed to marry your DiaZem partner, and initiate the cleansing of your nation sooner rather than later.
“Dr. Wilkes will leave for his station, and both cities will initiate a complete Phase Two. This will reach the remaining half of the United States and should suffice since the eastern coast is already online with our plan, and their Phase Two accomplished.”
“Can I be let in on the secret now?” August said, waving at the mounted screens.
Valerie was startled to see his face so large in front of her. She blushed and looked away. Lucas glared at her, sensing her excitement at the sight of him. His hands gripped the armrests. She was thankful for once to be on camera. He would not hit her on camera.
“What is Phase Two? I swear I’ll comply, I want to know what I’m walking into.”
This time Jacqueline Thomas, alone in her screen with San Francisco displayed under her name, spoke up. “To maintain the purity of our DNA and keep the gene from returning to a dormant state, the Council has agreed that the elimination of the inferior is the best way to maintain compliance, unity, and control of our governed regions. DiaZem who refuse this plan of action are, of course, removed from power and eliminated as well. I am sure you can see the danger in allowing them to live.”
August looked away from the sc...