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Ex Multus Familia

Chapter 9

"How come you got onto the council and I didn't?" Dalton asked, his eyes narrowed as he looked over at Anica, "I went on the first mission, I think that should've given me some extra recognition."

They were standing in a corner of the gym, hanging up a new punching bag to replace one of the old ones that had been handmade by Gatorade, the transgenic who ran the gym. Last night had been a long, long town hall style meeting where everyone yelled t each other, made long involved speeches and almost got into fights. Eventually there had been a decision to make a temporary council to handle the governing of the city for now and come up with a more permanent government system. There were five transhumans and five X-series on the council, and Anica happened to be one of the X-series, much to Dalton's consternation.

Anica swung her dark ponytail back over her shoulder, her expression serious. "Dalton, you stowed away in a truck and then threatened to follow Sidda and Alec all the way to Italy if they didn't take you. That's a little different from being assigned to a mission with a purpose."

Dalton pursed his lips and stopped tightening the screw that held the punching bag to the hook. "So, I wasn't useful on the mission?"

"Don't put words into my mouth," Anica said shortly, "I was only stating a fact that could have been a reason why I was voted onto the council and you weren't."

Dalton glanced down at her, frowning. "It was probably the male to female ratio. They needed to balance it."

Anica put her hands on her hips, and Dalton regretted those heated words, but he kept the annoyed expression on his face. He wasn't going to let her run all over him.

Anica tilted her head. Dangerous times were coming. "So that's all I'm good for? To balance out ratios?"

"Come on, don't be like that," Dalton said, starting to climb down from the ladder he had been standing on to put up the punching bag.

Anica took a step back from him when he reached the ground. "You're the one who's being really immature about this whole thing. It's not like I volunteered to be on the council, I was nominated and voted on. Did you want me to turn it down?"

Dalton rubbed his face, wondering where this conversation had started unraveling. "No, that's not—"

She cut him off with one sharp look. "Maybe you should think about what you want, and then we can talk." Turning, she was a one-woman storm as she walked out of the gym just as Sidda and Alec walked in, looking like they were there to work out. The pair exchanged glances, spotted Dalton just as he kicked at the ladder and sent it toppling, then looked at each other again.

"I think the love birds are having a spat," Sidda muttered to Alec. She set her bag down beside the makeshift boxing arena and started taking off her sweatshirt and sweatpants. It had been cold on the way in here since it was early January, but now she was too hot to bear wear anything more than her gym shorts and tank top. Aiden had been left with Robin at HQ while Mom and Dad decided to go let out some frustration that had been leftover from the day before and the long meeting the previous night.

Alec nodded and watched as Dalton stomped around for a few minutes then headed out toward the backdoor, ignoring everyone who was staring at him. "Five bucks it's about Anica getting voted in."

"Since he probably took it as an affront to his manliness, you're probably right," Sidda said, admiring his rather Grecian muscles as he took off his shirt. There really wasn't anything that could be taken as an affront to Alec's manliness. She leaned against the boxing arena, not even minding that the two transgenics who were sparring there at the moment could have run up against the ropes and into her.

Alec glanced over at her, noticing the look in her eyes. He let his own gaze traveled over her, appreciating the gentle curves, the pretty face and the shapely little body that belong to him and him alone. If he hadn't been so involved with appreciating his mate, he probably would have noticed that the pair of X-series transgenic guys that had been fighting before had stopped beating the tar out of each other and were now only throwing the occasional punch while they glanced at Sidda out of the corner of their eyes.

Finally, he looked up and realized they had stopped fighting. "You guys done?" he asked, turning his gaze back towards Sidda. She didn't wait for a confirmation as she climbed up and into the ring, slipping through the ropes like water through fingers, smooth and quick. Playfully, she grinned at the two X-series before looking back at Alec.

"You coming?" she asked in a way that sounded incredibly inappropriate for two simple words. The two X-series males looked as if they were about to acquiesce to her request when Alec bounded up and into the ring, giving both of them fierce glares. Muttering under their breath, the two of them got out of the ring, but they stood nearby, watching with more interest than they normally would.

As they stood in the middle of the ring, as if waiting for a bell that would never ring, Sidda stepped up to Alec and gave him that impossibly mischievous smile. "Don't go easy on me, Monty Cora," she teased, managing to make that stupid fight-name sound sexy, "I'll give as good as I get."

"Got it," he replied huskily, catching the thick, wonderful scent of her as she turned and started walking around him. She looked like she was sizing him up instead of preparing to fight him, but Alec knew better than to underestimate her. He knew what was going on, but the intelligent, rational side of his mind was going into dormant mode. He was aware of the other people in the room, mainly the males, but this game Sidda was playing was too interesting to take much notice of them. For now. If any of them made a move, though…

While she had Alec distracted, Sidda went in for a punch. Alec stepped aside, but instead of letting her move away he caught her arm as she started to retract it. He brought her close, just for a second, inhaling her scent.

Then Sidda laughed and spun around, catching him a good one in the side with her free arm. Alec caught that one as well, and now she was pinned to him, right up against him.

"Alec!" Her tone, her eyes, her face was full of laughter. "That's not how you're supposed to play."

"Hmm, is that so?" He leaned down for a kiss, and she let him have one for a split second before she tore one arm out of his grasp and had it around his neck. Without thinking, Alec instinctively bent and tossed her over, dislodging her arm in the process.

He scooted away and breathed deeply of the fresh air that was less filled with her scent. It was unfairly difficult to concentrate when Sidda was like this.

They danced around each other, feinting, throwing punches, darting back. Sidda was practically showing off her muscles and flexibility to the rest of the room, and occasionally it brought a growl out of Alec's throat when some of the males edged too close.

He ducked as Sidda tried to kick at him, then he tried to grab her leg. But it was already gone, of course.

"Whoa, whoa, hey, stop!" Suddenly Alec's view of Sidda was obstructed by a brunette female with chin-length brown hair waving around her face. Gatorade. Alec shook his head, wondering what she was doing in the arena. He was slightly surprised to realize that he could hear Sidda hissing from Gatorade's other side.

"Sidda, stop it." Gatorade leveled Sidda a stern glare, and Sidda blushed and looked away. "I think you two need to take this fight home," Gatorade continued, "Out of my gym and into your bed."

Sidda's mouth opened and closed in wordless protest, and it suddenly hit Alec like a brick. Sidda was in heat! "Hey, I thought you promised to warn me next time," Alec said with a laugh. He shook his head. "Thanks, Gatorade, will do."

'I'm sorry,' Sidda mouthed. She shrugged her shoulders and moved toward Alec. "Heat…makes you blind to itself." She paused and smirked at Alec before tracing one finger up his chest. "If it makes you feel better, I sort of assumed that being attracted to you wasn't out of the usual…"

Alec wrapped his hand around her finger and started to draw Sidda closer to him, but Gatorade's voice cut through again. "All right, listen, if you're not on your way to the apartment in five minutes I'm going to escort you two there myself. I do NOT want things getting messy here."

Not sure what she meant by that, Alec looked around to find several pairs of hungry male eyes trained on Sidda. He frowned and looked back at her only to find her smiling coyly at the lot of them.

"Okay, she's right," he said roughly. Alec grabbed Sidda and pulled her close to him even as he started heading to the side of the arena. If Sidda hadn't been so graceful she probably would've stumbled. "We're leaving now."

"Geez, we don't have to rush so much…" She caught a scent of a male nearby and she turned automatically; a moment later and Alec was growling and pulling her away again, muttering things about ripping people apart under his breath.

"Okay, maybe you're right," Sidda said. She grabbed her water bottle from her bag and splashed some cool water over her face. It immediately steamed a little. Wow, she was seriously in heat. Her senses cleared for a moment, she grabbed Alec's hand to pull him out of the gym even as he was still shrugging his jacket back on. She could keep him warm on the trip home, but Gatorade was right; they needed to get out before they caused any problems.

Sidda knew she wouldn't ever end up with anyone but her mate, and Alec knew that too, but she hated the way heat made her actually look at other men. She didn't want to; she didn't want to tease them to the extent she did, she didn't want to make them desire her, and she didn't want Alec to get jealous over her. Well, mostly. That was her sensible side. Her heat side wanted all that very much, which was the frustrating part.

"Well, at least we brought the street bike," Alec said, breathing deeply when they got outside.

"Hey, love, I'm sorry about that," Sidda said, pulling him close so she could kiss him. "You know I don't want anyone but…"

"I know, I know, I do," Alec murmured against her lips, trailing off into a groan as her kiss deepened. One of his arms wrapped around Sidda. He closed his eyes and rested his forehead against her hair. "Sidda, we have got to get back to the apartment."

"Mmm, yes, we do," she said, snuggling closer into him. Alec bodily picked her up, displaying his manly strength to excellent advantage, Sidda thought. He set her on back of the bike and then climbed on in front. Sidda immediately wrapped her arms around him, needing to be as close as possible. Goodness, she couldn't wait to get home.

"We need to call Robin when we get back," Alec choked out.

"What for?" Sidda snapped, irritated at Alec mentioning another woman's name.

"Because…" Alec took a breath. "Umm…" he seemed to lose his thought as Sidda trailed small kisses down his neck. "Umm….Aiden…."

Sidda's eyes widened and she sat up. "Oh my gosh, you're right!" She moaned in annoyance. "Go, Alec! I need to feel the wind before I lose it again." Alec immediately pushed on the gas, and Sidda sighed in relief. Hopefully the wind would keep her sensible…long enough.

Three days later…

Seth left the X6 apartment building feeling like he had just gone through intense interrogation performed by angry teenagers, which was basically what had happened, except there hadn't been any physical torture. Unless you counted the assault of whiny voices on his ears. Almost every tenant of the building had turned out to complain about how the building was falling apart, how no one cared if they had a washing machine or not, how only about four stoves in the entire place worked, how the sinks had started spewing brown goo. Seth had let them complain and rant until they tired themselves out and then he had turned it all back on them.

Okay, yes, there were problems in the building, but why did the X6s think that it was up to the other transgenics to fix it? Out of all the groups who were old enough to take care of themselves, the X6s seemed to be the least self-sufficient. They hadn't gone on any missions yet when they got out of Manticore, so they had spent their entire lives having someone else taking care of them and they still expected someone else to provide for them. Max had coddled them by getting the other transgenics to help them out, but Max wasn't in charge anymore. That meant when the X6s had demanded yesterday that someone from the council come listen to them, the council had decided that the X6s, who weren't babies, needed to learn to take care of themselves. If that meant learning the ins and outs of plumbing, handling their own cooking and fixing up their building by themselves, so be it. Seth, who was one of the X-series on the council, had been elected to go deal with the X6s along with Anica.

At least Anica had been on his side. Whenever the rather put-out teenagers had tried to tell Seth that what he was asking was impossible, she had shot right back that they were just as capable as anyone else in the city and they were going to prove it. It was what they wanted, right? Seth had been grateful to have her with him on this one.

He walked back to HQ, thinking he would take a short break from his managerial duties. Maybe take Taylor over to Robin's studio for lunch or something. Lately Robin had been working hard on a plethora of room designs to show some Ordinaries who had become interested in transgenic artwork. It was a small but growing market, and when a few of them had figured out that there was a transgenic that decorated rooms, they had jumped on the idea. It was probably going to become a fad among the upper-class: have your house decorated by the artwork of illegal science projects, and if you can, have them decorate your penthouse apartment.

Whatever. As long as it made Robin happy, Seth didn't mind what she did with her spare time. It was better than her being called out to go on missions for the government. So far, there hadn't been many of those, but the threat was always looming nearby. Seth wasn't sure if he could just let her go if she was called, and knowing her successful record, she would be at some time. Maybe he could negotiate so he could go with her or, better yet, get her pulled off because of Taylor.

Seth pulled his toboggan down further over his ears. It was bitterly cold outside today, and there were flurries of snow cutting across the street. Maybe if it snowed enough, he could convince Robin to leave her studio for a little while to play in the snow with him and Taylor. He sorta secretly adored how his daughter was frantically in love with snow. She screamed and giggled every time it snowed, and she liked to sit on their bed and watch it from the window. When she could, she would bang on the window with her fists and yell her heard off, incoherently declaring that there was 'O' everywhere. Seth made a point to play with her in the snow whenever he could, just because it made her so wildly happy.

The daycare had moved again, thanks to the new renovations that were being done to the old daycare. This time it was in a building that the transgenics had been using a barracks when they first started coming into Terminal City. It was a simple but functional building that worked just fine while they worked on the old daycare, making it much more kid-friendly than it had been.

Like usual, no one was roaming around this area of TC since it was midday and most of the transgenics were either busy or sleeping. Seth headed up the steps of the makeshift daycare, and the feeling that something was wrong shot itself into his head. Something was missing and a familiar smell had taken its place. He touched the doorknob of the building jerked his head up as he realized what it was. There wasn't any noise. The kids were always noisy; Mole often complained that they were all born noisemakers and would never shut up. Usually you could hear the sounds of kids and babies screaming, crying, talking, gabbering or playing with toys before you even opened the door to the daycare. Now when Seth shoved the door open and hurried inside, there was an unnatural silence.

The smell was blood, he knew that smell almost better than his own. Beside the door there was a body, one of the daycare workers, a young transhuman with a small, dark red hole in the middle of his forehead. Farther down the hallway, there was a female body splayed out; he could tell her neck was broken from this far away. It was Hannah, a sweet-natured X5 who had a son around the same age as Taylor. Taylor…

His heart leapt up to his throat and pounded as he ran through the empty building, searching for his daughter, his baby girl. There wasn't a child in sight, no babies, no X9s or X8s, no one younger than an X7, and there were only bodies of older transgenics.

"Taylor!" Seth shouted, as if she would answer him. Cold washed over him. "Taylor!"

There was no one. Anywhere. Seth started blurring through the building, and it only took him five minutes to thoroughly establish that all the children were missing. He grabbed the list from the pick-up counter and glanced down at the names of the kids who'd been dropped off that day. Thirty-seven, total. Seth sighed. Not all the kids in Terminal City, but a good number. And his daughter was among then.

Seth picked up his cell phone. He would have to call the council members, and he would probably have to call Max since she was an honorary council member. Caretakers and parents would have to be called. But his priority was his family, so he called Robin first.

"Hey, Seth, what's up?" she said as soon as she answered the phone. She sounded cheerful and happy. Seth started walking towards headquarters; there was no time to waste.

"Robin…I've got something to tell you, but please, make sure you're sitting down first."

"Um, okay…" He heard some rustling around, and then the noise stopped. "There, I'm sitting." She sounded worried now. "What's wrong, Seth?"

"I went to the daycare to pick Taylor up for lunch, and she wasn't there."

"What? Where did she go?" Robin was only semi-worried now, he could tell, but that's because she didn't know the rest of it. "Did Sidda pick her up or something?"

"Robin, none of the children are here." Seth covered his mouth for a moment, feeling his throat choke up. He took a deep breath so he could go on and tell Robin the rest. "And Robin…all the daycare workers are dead."

There was a moment of dead silence, and then that moment stretched on. "Robin?" Seth askec worriedly, afraid that she had fainted.

"Taylor…" the word was barely understandable; it sounded half-strangled, and it ended with chocked sobs. Seth wanted to run to Robin, hold her, comfort her. But he had to make some other calls first. He could hear quiet, thin sobs on the other end of the phone now.

"Look, Robin, I gotta call the council and give them the list of kids to them so the parents can be notified, but then I'm going to come there, okay? I'll come get you. I'll be there soon—"

"No, I'll come to headquarters," Robin whispered. "That way, if you find anything out, I'll be there…" Robin's voice sounded shaky. "I'll call you when I get there, okay? You just work on trying to find out what happened to them. The sooner we know, the more chance we have of finding them."

Robin was right. "Okay, we'll do that," Seth said, battling the emotional side of him that wanted to either go be with his wife or just tear off looking for the kids. "We'll find Taylor, love." They said their goodbyes and Seth dialed the next number. Alec. He was on the council, but that wasn't the only reason to call him. Seth hadn't seen Aiden's name on the list; he needed to know if only the kids from the daycare had been taken.

Just as Alec picked up though, Seth reached headquarters. "Hey, Alec, where are you?" Seth asked as he hurried to the room where he knew at least two of the council members-Samson and an X-4 named Angela, were working.

"Um, on a supply run, why? We're headed back to T.C."

"Hold on a second," Seth replied. He lowered the phone and tossed the paper in front of Angela and Sampson. Anica was actually there too. "T.C emergency," Seth said quietly. "The kids from the daycare are missing, the daycare workers are dead. This is the list of parents. Get Krit on the phone and see what his security system shows."

Seth turned away, ignoring the excited and frightened questions from behind him. He didn't really know much more than he'd already told them; he'd answer their questions as soon as he was done talking to Alec.

"Did I just hear what I think I did?" Alec demanded, sounding angry.

"Yes, you did," Seth said, "I need to know if Aiden is okay…we have to know if it was only the kids from the daycare that we're taken."

"Aiden was home with Sidda…" Alec sounded tense, and Seth felt a moment of sympathy for him. At least Seth knew that Robin was okay. But if whoever it had been was going after all the kids…

"Call her and find out what's up," Seth said, "then call me back, okay?"

"Will do," Alec replied, and then hung up.

Seth turned around to find three pairs of eyes staring at him in total shock. They hadn't moved a muscle.

"My daughter was in daycare," Angela whispered, looking like she was about to cry. "Please tell me…it can't be…they're all gone?"

Seth quickly relayed all the details of what he'd seen when he went inside. "There were a few signs of struggle closer to the nursery itself where they were probably less surprised. But whatever was in there, it wasn't that hard for them to kill us."

"Familiars," Samson said, his eyes hard and angry.

"Let's find out for sure." Anica was dialing a number into her phone. "You said to call Krit, right? So he has that security system up?"

Sighing, Seth sat down and shook his head. "Not fully. The whole system was going to be defensive as well as observational. It was going to keep intruders out with motion detectors, lasers, special electric shocks, high-pitched sounds, the works. But at the moment all he has set up are cameras on the outsides of the buildings, insides of the public buildings, and along the fence perimeter."

"Well, that's a start," Anica said firmly. "We'll at least know who are intruders are, and possibly how they got past us."

"I'll start calling the other council members," Samson said, going for the larger phone that had been made especially for his rather large hands.

Angela started to reach for her phone, but it started vibrating before she could pick it up. She snatched it and pressed it to her ear. Being transgenics, all of them could hear what was said. One of the mobile patrols had just found the bodies of the gate guards at the East gate, along with the members of one of the other patrols. Well, that explained how whoever it was had gotten in.

Headquarters filled quickly with frantic parents who wanted to know what had happened to their children and mates of the daycare workers who had been killed. The only thing that had ever caused this much panic and sorrow in Terminal City had been when the Cultural Center had been bombed, but even that seemed less disastrous than this. How could anyone steal children? Who would do something like that?

Half of the council was currently holed up in one of the conference rooms while the other half did their best to comfort and explain whatever they knew to the growing crowd of upset and furious transgenics. Krit had set up the vid from the cameras in the conference room so they could examine them for whoever was going to die when the transgenics caught up with them. Seth was standing near the TV with his arms around Robin, his chin resting on the top of her head as he glared at the TV.

Robin's eyes were puffy and red from crying, and Seth was going to murder whoever had taken their child. God, he just wanted Taylor back right now. If anything happened to his girl… He had never really appreciated the training Manticore had given him until now; he was going to put every moment of those lessons and experiences to good use. He rubbed Robin's arms and kissed the top of her head, trying to give her some of the anger that he was running off of. She leaned her head back against his chest and gave a shuddering sigh.

In the back of the room, Alec was sitting in a chair with Sidda firmly in his lap and Aiden in her arms. He had almost panicked when he walked into their apartment and called for her and she didn't answer. When he blurred back to their bedroom, Sidda was sitting up and rubbing her eyes, giving him a sleepy glare while Aiden, who had been sleeping beside her on the pillow, started whimpering a protest at the noise. If Sidda hadn't been determined to get some sleep and spend time with Aiden after her three day stint of heat, Aiden probably would have been at the daycare center, and who knows, Sidda could have been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time like the nursery workers and the parents who had been at the daycare. Alec tightened his hold around Sidda and brushed his fingers across Aiden's cheek. He'd been damn lucky today, and he knew it.

The other three council members in the room were Angela, the X4, a female transhuman named Kylie who had been taking care of a couple of X9s that had been taken with the other children, and a male transhuman named Baxter who had a one-year-old daughter who was missing. Their eyes were all trained on the TV, waiting for Krit to get the system working.

In a corner, Max was sitting with her legs pulled up into the chair and her forehead resting on her knees. Beside her, Logan had his gloved hand on her shoulder. She had finally come out of seclusion, and she was as pissed as anyone, but there was a hint of despair to her anger that no one really liked or appreciated.

"Got it," Krit said grimly before pressing the play button on the set-up he had put together in a hurry. He moved back to stand beside Syl; the petite blonde moved closer to him and put her head against his shoulder as they watched the screen.

On the screen, a couple of vans that looked like any other beat-up supply vehicle in TC pulled up to the daycare and people dressed in thick winter clothing got out. There was no sound because Krit hadn't installed the microphones yet, but it didn't look like the people were talking much anyways. They grabbed some boxes out of the back of the vans and headed inside, but two of the people in the front were fingering weapons by the way they had their hands in their jackets. The way they moved was distinctive, smooth and somehow like a confident slither even though they were walking, but if you happened to see them on the street, you probably wouldn't be able to tell these people apart from other people in TC; bundled up in winter clothes and carrying boxes, they could have just been delivering supplies to the daycare. As the one of the daycare workers let them in, one guy stayed outside and started smoking a cigarette: the lookout.

Seth felt Robin grip his arms when the Familiars started to come back out of the buildings, still carrying the boxes. Seth scowled, knowing that the boxes had probably been empty when they had gone in and now they were full; if they had hurt Taylor in any way, he was going to slaughter them, there was no question. While the Familiars repeated this process a few more times, and during it, an X-series woman approached them, smiling until she got close. She started to back up and walk away, but a Familiar rushed her and grabbed her before she could take off. Seth growled as the Familiar snapped the woman's neck and dragged her limp body into the makeshift daycare center. How the hell hadn't anyone noticed this? Everyone who had been a witness was dead; they had been lucky that the Familiars hadn't thought they were high-tech enough to have a well-hidden surveillance system.

As the Familiars finished packing up their trucks and drove off, Seth felt Robin shudder and a couple tears dropped onto his arm. He held her closer. "I swear we're going to get her back, Robin."

"But what if—" she trailed off, sounding incredibly lost and young. Sometimes he forgot, but Robin was young. Both of them were only in their early twenties, and they had seen and dealt with more than anyone should in that short amount of time. He put his head against the crook of her neck and wished they could lead a less adventurous life. He just wanted his wife and his child and a peaceful home where the biggest troubles were how they were going to pay the bills and what they should name their next kid. But now he had to rescue their child from people who wanted…she couldn't be dead. Seth refused to believe that, and he wasn't going to let Robin think about it either.

"She's still alive," he said fiercely, loud enough for the others to hear. He lifted his head and glared at the rest of them, daring them to fight with him. "If they were going to kill them, they would have left the bodies." Robin made a small noise of distress before she stifled it, her eyes closed tight. He hugged her close. "Trust me, they're alive."

"But why?" Max said, her voice bitter and despairing, "Why would they take them like that instead of just killing them?"

"Leverage," Alec replied, "They want something from us."

"They want us dead," snapped Angela, "And killing the kids would effectively cut off the next generation."

"But what if it's something else?" Logan suggested quietly, "I think there's something we're not seeing."

"I think it's what Alec said," Seth said. "They either want something from us…or from our kids." There was quiet in the room for a moment, with no one talking and no one meeting each other's eyes. And then the silence was interrupted by a knock at the door.

Baxter went to get the door. Yes?" he asked quietly. Normally cheerful, the transhuman had descended into a rather cold silence since he'd found out about his daughter. He'd become mission-oriented and hadn't spoken any unnecessary words, leaving hysterical chit-chat and speculation to the parents outside the room.

It was Jane, a transgenic who worked in the science department of TC. "Hey…" She glanced around the room uneasily. "I know you guys are dealing with the children problem right now, but I just…" she hesitated, obviously unsure if her problem was worth interrupting them.

Seth gave Jane as encouraging a smile as he could muster; this wasn't the time to get angry or upset with other transgenics. They needed to stick together now more than ever. "What's wrong?

"It's just…" Jane's voice quieted even more. "We can't find Marie."

Max's head popped up, and Alec stiffened and turned to look at Seth. Everyone else stilled.

"Isn't that Sandeman's wife?" Samson asked, eyes dark.

"And his science partner," Max said, biting down on a fingernail.

"And White's mother," Alec reminded Max. He hadn't forgotten learning about that whole sorry history; it had created some interesting times back when they were first putting TC together. And apparently that particular family was still coming back to haunt them.

"You don't think he came for her, do you?" Angela asked. "She's been here with us for forever, wouldn't he have come before now?" She tapped a pencil impatiently against a pad of paper; she didn't seem to like not having the answers.

"What we know is that a group of Familiars came in here, and since we didn't have any prior warning, they probably weren't government since we have agents there," Seth said.

"And we know that we have White's mother here, and she disappeared on the same day as the kids," Alec added.

"There's something else," quiet Jane spoke up. Everyone turned to look rather again; they had completely forgotten she was still in the room. Jane looked like she was in actual physical pain. "Some of the documents Marie was working with went missing with her. I don't know about all the ones she took, but I do know that she was working on translating the tattoos we found on the children, and she had a list of all the children with the tattoos. And those papers weren't there."

Robin turned to look at Seth, her eyes wide. "Those tattoos were important," she said quietly. "Marie must have figured something out." Seth's stomach tightened in a knot. He had been part of the mission to bring back Marie. It was his fault that his little daughter had been stolen from them, along with many of the other children of Terminal City.

Sidda shifted uneasily and clutched Aiden a little tighter. She was feeling immensely guilty about still having her child, even though she was glad that he was safe. Alec, sending her tenseness, rubbed his hands up and down her arms a couple time and then ruffled Aiden's fuzzy hair. He'd told her that he was going to refuse to feel guilty because they'd had their share of troubles in the past, and this certainly hadn't been their fault. But she also knew that like her, it was tough seeing their friends deal with this. And Sidda had helped raise Taylor, especially when Taylor was younger. She felt like a small piece of her was gone with the baby, so she could only imagine what Robin felt like. She didn't like to think about how she would feel if it had been Aiden.

"Did they manage to get all the tattooed children?" Samson asked.

Sidda could feel Alec's hair against her cheek as he shook his head. "When I came in a little while ago I saw Tate and his kid, Robby. Robby's tattoos just showed up a week ago; I noticed them on the kid's arms."

"So Marie may not have known about him yet," Jane said.

"Or they really just did take the kids in the daycare, and Robby wasn't there yet," Logan put in, speaking up for the first time in a while. He wasn't on the council, so he didn't want them so say much. But he didn't want this to turn into a Marie-conspiracy just because it was the easiest explanation. And he knew the transgenics would try to look at everything logically, like they normally did, but he also knew that emotions could cloud judgment. And the transgenics definitely invested a lot of emotion in their children. He knew he and Max would, if they had managed to have a kid before…well, before the Cure stopped working.

"What are they going to do with the ones who don't have tattoos?" Kylie asked, clutching at her hands nervously. None of the children she'd been looking after had had any.

"Well, maybe they don't know where the tattoos will show up," Jane put in helpfully. "After all, we weren't totally sure. The tattoos have generally shown up around six months, but they can take a longer or shorter amount of time. And not all the different types of transgenics have had children yet so that we can see if there's a pattern."

"But mine were made by Manticore—" Kylie started.

Seth interrupted before she could dissolve into the hysterics that was going on outside the room. "Whatever they're looking for, they didn't kill or leave behind the children without tattoos. So we can probably safely assume that for some reason, the Familiars want all of our children alive. They just only took the most conveniently large group."

"And Marie," Angela put in. Again, silence. So many speculations, but no answers yet.

"Hey Krit," Alec asked, suddenly curious. "Just how far past the gate could you track the Familiars with what the camera saw? Do you think we could get a good idea of what direction they went in?"