Anthea felt a surge of uneasiness within her. “Davis!” she called, but her voice was
The gangly orderly assisting with the delivery finally shook himself out of his surprise.
“Doctor, the procedure is clear. We have to report this to the secret police.”
“Yes, they’re already here in the building,” the doctor said, his voice shaky. “Alert security.
John Petty himself might want to talk with these two. Make sure the father doesn’t leave.” He
shot a sidelong glance at Anthea on the operating table, as if she were a particularly nauseating
specimen. The doctor no longer seemed to consider her human at all. The nurse handed him a
long syringe filled with a dark, oily substance.
“What are you going to do with that?” Anthea demanded, struggling to turn. “Answer me!”
She heard a commotion outside the doors to the delivery room.
“Don’t worry,” the doctor said to her with cool reassurance. “This will be quick and
painless. Your baby won’t feel a thing.” He bent over where her newborn baby lay helpless on
the adjacent operating table, extending the ominous hypodermic needle.
A surge of panic shot through her heart and mind like a fire siren. It wasn’t just her own
fear, but something tangible, a wave of panic transmitted by the tendrils of her baby—her slan
The shouts grew louder outside the delivery room, then the swinging doors crashed open.
Davis stood there, looking both angry and terrified, his fists clenched. The gangly orderly tried
to block him, but Davis knocked him aside with a roundhouse punch. She had never seen him
hit anybody before in her life.
“Davis! They’re trying to kill our baby.” Another blast of emotions seemed to be directed at
Anthea and at Davis. The newborn infant somehow understood that these two were his
When Davis saw the doctor bending over the baby with the long, wicked syringe, he
charged forward. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Screaming again, the nurse tried to throw herself in the way, but Davis knocked her aside
as if she were an empty cardboard box. The stunned orderly had gotten to his feet and
staggered out of the delivery room, bawling for guards.
Davis fought with the owl-eyed doctor, grabbed the hand that held the poison-filled
hypodermic needle and slowly twisted it away. “You’re a
. You’re not supposed to kill
people! You’re trying to murder a baby!”
“It’s not human.”
When Davis spotted the tendrils on the baby,
, he froze. His face became stony and
then hardened into a determination that Anthea recognized. When Davis looked like that, no
one was ever going to change his mind. “He’s my son.”
Then, with remarkable strength, he bent the doctor’s hand backward, turned the syringe
around. The other man gasped and struggled, but Davis easily directed the needle toward him.
Anthea fought to swing her legs over the table, wondering if her husband was using some
vestige of … slan strength that had just now been unlocked within him. Though she was weak
from giving birth, this emergency was making her recover faster. Was something awakening
inside her, too? Her heart pounded.
The frantic nurse threw herself upon Davis again, but with a backhand he sent her
sprawling into the tray of medical instruments. She and all of the tools fell to the floor with a
“I will not let you kill my son.” With a flood of strength, he pushed the hypodermic needle
into the doctor’s throat and depressed the plunger. The doctor’s eyes bulged behind his round
spectacles. Judging from his gagging sounds and writhing spasms as he fell to the operating
room floor, the poison was not quite as painless as the doctor had promised.
Davis looked in horror and disbelief at what he had done. The nurse scuttled back to the
wall, hiding next to a respirator machine. “Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me.”
Davis helped his wife off the table. “Can you stand? We’ve got to get out of here.”
She clung to his neck for just a second. She wished she could hold him forever, but knew
they didn’t have the time. “Our baby’s a slan, Davis! They’re going to kill him.”
“He’s still our baby.” Davis’s grim voice was totally inflexible. “I know they want to kill
him, and they’ll kill us as well. We have no choice.” He snatched one of the hospital blankets
and quickly wrapped the baby.
Anthea swayed on her feet, found strength miraculously returning to her. She could stand
to stand. Her body knew what was required of her. All of her preconceptions
and prejudices had changed. She and Davis had never intended to harm anyone. They weren’t
a threat to human society! And how could their innocent child deserve to die, just because he
happened to be born with tendrils?
Anthea had always hated slans because she’d been told to hate them. She’d heard a
distorted version of history, and now she wondered how many stories about slan atrocities
were merely propaganda spread by people like John Petty.
With each step she seemed to grow stronger. “Let me hold him.” She took the blanketed
baby in her arms. Just touching the infant seemed to give her more strength. She couldn’t tell
if it was her imagination or genuine mental feedback from the little child.
Davis quickly led her out through the swinging doors of the delivery room, and they
stumbled down the hall. Alarms had begun to sound. A harsh voice over the intercom shouted
A flash of realization went through Davis’s head. Anthea saw his expression go from
stunned confusion to determination and then resigned anger. “You have to go, Anth.” He
pushed her sideways to another hall that went in the opposite direction. “Take our baby and
“Davis, come with us!”
“If you don’t get away, they’ll kill both of you, and I’m sure they’ll kill me. I murdered the
doctor. I won’t get a trial. With all the news about the slans ready to attack, they’ll just gun me
down and mount my head on the wall of secret police headquarters.”
Suddenly, led by the flustered-looking orderly, three uniformed guards came charging
toward them with their weapons drawn.
Davis took one glance at her hospital gown, at her weary features and bedraggled hair. He
gave her a quick kiss, the most passionate kiss she had ever received. “Go! I’ll buy you enough
time to find a hiding place. Don’t waste it.”
“No, there’s got to be another way!” In her arms, the baby began to cry.
Without listening to her, Davis ran into the main corridor, shouting at the guards. Anthea
moaned, wanting to go to him, wanting to stand beside him, but the baby in her arms was her
She allowed herself only a moment to look at Davis’s back as he charged toward the
guards, shouting wildly. Though they were armed, the guards were afraid of Davis, as if they
expected him to sprout horns from his forehead and call down evil curses upon them. The
man from the secret police had joined them. His face was red with anger.
With a hitch in her throat, Anthea ran barefoot away from the delivery room. Steadying
herself against the heavily painted cinderblock walls, holding the baby, she worked her way
down the side hall, no longer feeling weak—she couldn’t afford to feel weak. The infant was
calm in her arms, not sapping her strength, not distracting her.
She tried several locked doors and finally found a dark office. Inside, on a coat tree, a
doctor had hung a long trench coat, wet from that day’s misty rain. At least it would cover her
She pulled on the trench coat and found that it was baggy enough to cover the swell of the
baby that she held close. Under his desk, the doctor had a pair of slip-on shoes, comfortable
loafers that were too large for her, but she made do. Anthea hoped her disguise would be good
enough to get her out of the hospital. Hurrying—but trying not to look like she was
hurrying—she rushed down the hall, averting her gaze when nurses ran past her. Everyone
looked terrified and confused.
Alarms continued to blare, and the intercoms were filled with overlapping voices that
shouted contradictory orders. Security guards scrambled from room to room, as if expecting to
find a slan hidden under every bed. Anthea took advantage of the momentary chaos, praying
that Davis would delay the guards and the secret police long enough. Somehow, she still fooled
herself into believing that he would get away as well.
From behind, she heard shouts, cries of fear, and then the rapid sharp staccato of gunshots.
Four shots, a pause, three more … then complete silence.
Anthea nearly collapsed. The sounds themselves were like cold, leaden bullets striking her
in the back. Part of her heart seemed to die, and she felt an emptiness in her mind. She hadn’t
realized until now how much Davis had filled her emptiness. Now that feeling was gone.
was gone. The guards and the secret police hadn’t questioned him, hadn’t sent him to trial;
they simply gunned him down because he’d dared to defend his baby and his wife.
She felt as if her soul were torn in half. She wanted to run back, to throw herself upon his
attackers, to pick up her husband’s body and cradle him. But the warm baby in her arms kept
her running toward safety. She had to get away. Davis had sacrificed himself so that she and
the child could escape. She wouldn’t lose that, for his sake.
Despite the alarms, no one knew where to find her. Police would be converging on the
hospital from all quarters of the city. Teams would be scouring block after block, hunting for
her. They’d assume Anthea would run as fast and as far from the hospital as she could go.
Biting back tears, she followed the exit signs, picked her way down a flight of stairs, and
found a door that opened to a large parking garage, the hospital’s motor pool. Several cars
filled reserved spaces, expensive new models with large tailfins, extravagant hood ornaments,
and white-walled tires. Two ambulance vehicles sat parked and waiting.
She had a sudden idea. If they expected Anthea to panic and run, then the safest thing she
could do, the best place to hide, would be to remain here close to the hospital. While the slan
hunters ranged far and wide, she crept over to one of the two ambulances and opened the back
The dim interior contained a soft pad, a stretcher, emergency medications, first-aid
equipment—and plenty of shadows. It was a quiet and undisturbed place for her to hide, and
recover, and grieve.
Holding her baby close, Anthea crawled inside, quietly closed the door behind her, and
held her newborn baby as she wept silently for her lost husband.
The barred door rolled on its tracks and slammed shut, sealing Jommy Cross in an isolated cell
deep beneath the grand palace. Trapped, imprisoned—and unable to warn the rest of
humanity of the impending attack. He was completely cut off from any hope of escape.
Nobody trusted a slan.
With his tendrils, Jommy could sense that the guards’ fear of him was greater than their
confidence in their weapons. He considered himself lucky that they hadn’t just killed him on
sight, as the secret police usually did with slans … as they had done with President Gray’s slan
When he was only nine, slan hunters had murdered Jommy’s mother in the streets; she’d
sacrificed herself so that her boy could get away and live to reach the potential that his parents
knew he had inside him. After his mother’s death, young Jommy had lived as a fugitive, first
falling in with warped old Granny, who forced him to steal for her. When he’d come of age and
discovered the treasures left hidden for him by his dead father, the great slan scientist Peter
Cross, Jommy had vowed to discover where the rest of his race had gone into hiding…
From across the hall, just one cell down, he heard Kathleen struggling with the guards.
“You have no right to do this! We have the protection of the President himself. We—”
They showed her no kindness. “The President’s been arrested. Shut your mouth.”
“Better not let her talk at all,” said a second guard. “These slans can hypnotize you with a