Title: Temptation

Author: A. X. Zanier

Rating: C, T, FRT-13 (not suitable for anyone under 14)

Fandom: The Invisible Man

Series: Pater Noster Arc

Pairing: Bobby/Claire

Sequel: Five months after Lead us not...

Summary: Alex goes missing and the Agency has to find her with few leads and less information.

Spoilers: Probably, does it really matter after three years?

Disclaimer: a) The characters and basic story ideas of The Invisible Man are the property of others including, but not limited to Matt Greenberg, Studios USA, Stu Segall Productions and NBC Universal. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine. I make no money from this intellectual exercise. b) This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any opinions or views found herein do not necessarily reflect those of the author and are used for story-telling purposes only.

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Temptation

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"When you make a mistake, don't look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power." -- Hugh White (1773 - 1840)

Anyone can make a mistake.

Claire did when working for the DOD, and Gloria lost a decade of her life. Bobby did when he gave his heart to a woman that, in the end, couldn't deal with who he was. Kevin did when he trusted the wrong person and paid with his life.

A harsh lesson, that one.

And me? No need to list the number of mistakes I've made in my life. Let's just say there's been more'n a few.

Alex, Miss damn-near-perfect-super-agent, has made exactly one mistake that I know of, and that was not trusting her own instincts when it came to protecting her son. She paid dearly for that one and still is every single waking moment.

Claire was able to fix Gloria and send her home to her family. Bobby healed as much as he could and moved on. Kevin... well, Kevin is still dead.

And Alex... well, she was gonna grasp the future and make it her own.

---

"Well?" Sharon asked, impatience coloring her words. She was not overly fond of waiting for results, no matter how dedicated she was to long-term plans.

"I cannot see what is not there," was the confounded response from the woman seated before the desk as she tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.

"A year ago you easily saw forward a decade..."

"Then something changed in that year. Something significant enough to alter the timeline." The woman crossed her arms over her chest, vivid blues eyes meeting Sharon's without flinching, stubbornness written on every delicate feature, but it was also obvious she was just as unhappy as Sharon with the lack of answers.

"Perhaps your gift is failing after all these years," she suggested, not truly believing it, given that there had been no problems before now. In fact, that very gift had resolved a long standing issue in South Africa six weeks previously.

"Delphi is fine. You are simply not asking the correct questions." That came from the male of the pair, Lethe, who's appearance, for all the attempts at homogeny, was markedly different from his counterpart. Both had blue eyes, blond hair, and were within inches of six feet (her under, him over), but that is where the similarity ended. At least in comparison to each other; they were very different from the other genetically enhanced members of Chrysalis, and not just because of the tattoo high on their cheekbones.

Sharon raised one eyebrow, watching him carefully; considering how young he was, he was remarkably loyal to Delphi, but, then again, they always were. "And what do you suggest?"

"The long-range views have been the same for many years."

"Until today," Sharon reminded him.

"Until today," he conceded with an inclination of his head. "Look closer, near-distant, to find where the cusp is."

Sharon considered his words, once again thankful for the unemotional reserve his line produced. Delphi had a far more volatile and inquisitive nature. "Bon. Delphi, what of Chrysalis three years from now?"

Delphi's gaze turned inward, her eyes glazing over as her oracular ability took control, but as before, she said nothing, blinking back to full awareness within 30 seconds. "Nothing of Chrysalis, Sharon."

"Merde, what could have possibly happened?" Sharon's words, rhetorical as they were, still affected Delphi, who groaned as her gift came to life.

"The serpent lies in the sand, guarding the barren nest," Delphi muttered softly.

Sharon huffed; the woman could be insufferable at times. "Without the melodrama or do you wish to winter at our Siberian compound?"

Delphi smiled slightly, clearly amused and unconcerned at the threat. "If I must."

"Del," Lethe admonished, contrite where she refused to be.

She rolled her shoulders and settled deeper into the seat. "I see you in a jail cell, pale, eyes sunken, hair shorn to the quick. You are in despair. The libraries being opened, the volumes removed. The databases and seed banks pillaged, all our work, our secrets revealed to the world."

Sharon sat frozen in place, shocked disbelief easily read upon her face as she listened to the impossible, fear rising within her for the first time in many decades. "When?" she breathed, her voice barely a whisper.

"When what?" Delphi sounded stressed, the question too vague for her abilities to grasp and make use of.

"When will Sharon be arrested?" Lethe offered up, giving her a specific direction to move into.

The response was swift. "No more than two years."

Sharon shivered at the thought of being imprisoned by those mere mortals, she would much rather die than suffer the ignominy. "How does it begin?"

Delphi shook her head, free of her geas for the moment. "The act that precipitated this has already occurred. I cannot see it."

"Then how do we change this future you see?" Sharon very nearly snarled the question, not willing to admit that all they had worked for, labored for all these many years was lost to them.

Delphi went still for several seconds, but the question produced no results.

Lethe softly said, "Can it be changed?"

That was far more effective. Delphi's eyes went wide, but she was no longer seeing anything in the room. "Yes," she hissed, voice faint and distant, "many paths still remain."

"Where?" Sharon immediately realized her question was not specific enough and modified it to, "Where do we start?"

"Where?" Delphi echoed, as if suddenly struck dumb. "Not here... away... a city by the sea."

Sharon rolled her eyes. "Il y a beaucoup de villes par la mer." She turned her attention to Lethe. "Ce qui vous penser arriverez à vous si nous sommes exposés?"

Delphi visibly shuddered, but said nothing. The vision produced perhaps too horrific to speak of aloud.

"Del, focus. Follow the ripples back. Find where we need to be," Lethe directed, having had long practice at directing her to find the necessary cusp.

She cocked her head, as if listening to distant music. "Where desert meets the sea."

Well, that narrowed the field, though not nearly enough. Sharon couldn't order every inch of desert coastline searched. There must be a way to narrow the choices.

"Africa?" Lethe suggested, grasping the need as quickly as Sharon had.

"No," was the sharp response.

"Australia?"

"No."

"America," Sharon said, strangely certain it would be correct, especially given the... interesting problems in that particular sector in recent years.

"Ja," Delphi answered, slipping into her native tongue, the stress of seeing making her momentarily forget any others. "Ein Krieg kommt, einer, den wir nicht gewinnen können."

'A war?' This was not what Sharon needed, not when things had been going so well. The few trouble spots had been dealt with, and it looked to be smooth sailing for years to come. Until today. "Who, Delphi? Who brings this war down on us?"

The answer, spoken as if torn from her, was a single word, "Stark."

---

A single lamp was lit. Cool-white light poured down from beneath the artistically designed lampshade to illuminate the state-of-the-art LCD monitor that sat atop the equally artistically designed desk. The computer itself was an impressive tower that sat off to one side, the cooling fan humming softly in the enveloping darkness.

On the floor, just barely within the light that spilled over the edge of the desk, lay two travel bags, both in a non-standard shade of vibrant crimson. Next to the bags were a pair of spike-heeled shoes, also crimson, that had been discarded in an effort to achieve a moment of relaxation.

Relaxation that was, as often happened, short-lived.

The owner of the bags and the shoes was one Alex Monroe, who sat before her computer, typing in a password that would allow her to access the supposedly urgent report compiled by Nikki at the fourth monkey.

As the cipher program accepted the password and opened the encrypted file, she reminded herself, yet again, to thank Darien for suggesting the company when she had found herself at a dead end. Nikki had come through brilliantly, actually succeeding in accessing not just previously unknown Chrysalis databases, but Jared Stark's personal system (as personal as anything could be for a member of Chrysalis) and then proceeded to download massive amounts of information. Some was, understandably useless for her purposes, but some had been of great value to her and that was what had convinced her that they were indeed as good as advertised. So, a new deal was hammered out, and for a modest fee, the fourth monkey would monitor and decipher Stark's and PDA traffic, watching for very specific things. A weekly report was created and delivered on disk by messenger directly into Alex's waiting hands. In town or out on assignment didn't matter, they would find her and see to it that she got what she paid for. It was money extremely well spent.

Today, however, was different. She had already received this week's report and hadn't expected the next for several days yet. No, this was what the voice on the phone - it wasn't Nikki; that much she knew for sure - had called urgent. So, instead of a leisurely evening finalizing some preparations for her trip to Boston, she rushed and met the courier outside the Harding Building just after midnight.

The computer produced a musical trill to inform her that its task was complete. Alex quickly double-clicked on the report icon and skimmed through the first few paragraphs as soon as it appeared. Within moments, she had paused in confusion at one particular sentence, then returned to the beginning to read it in detail.

After several minutes, she sat back in her chair, eyes wide in disbelief. Hope, long forgotten hope, burned brighter than magnesium touching water within her. Initially, disbelief won out, the hope banked for the time being, but still warming her. She turned to the raw files; the actual emails and text messages - thought to be so very secure - to read them for herself. It did not take long to see why they'd come to the conclusions they had. Stark's emails were in coded even before the standard encryption had been applied, but she had learned to pick out the key phrases and words by now.

"Well... crap," Alex muttered into the darkened office.

Eleanor Stark was coming to town to see her husband.

With their son.

Alex's son.

'It's a trap,' the professional in her declared vehemently. And it was probably true. Alex had been hounding Stark personally and Chrysalis in general ever since she'd learned she'd foolishly, no matter how good her intentions, given James back to them. Stark had whisked them away and hidden them so well that even Alex's virtually endless resources had been unable to find them. Even Nikki had come up empty so far, which meant they'd been hidden very well indeed. But it looked as if their other efforts had paid off.

Big time, as Darien would say.

She glanced back at the report; the meeting was scheduled for tomorrow... this morning, a little over nine hours from now.

"What if it's not a trap?" she whispered aloud, the sound echoing hollowly off the invisible walls.

'Of course it's a trap,' that logical voice insisted.

She listened to that voice, gave its point of view the attention it deserved, taking it's warning very seriously, but ultimately it didn't matter if it was a trap. She had to take the risk, take the chance.

She looked down at the bags at her feet; the ATF would just have to find someone else.

Alex was going to get her son back.