by Elisabeth Delaney

Light from the city's buildings did not reach into their
alleyways, but the biting chill of the air did. A woman stood in
an alley, thin coat pulled tightly around her swollen belly. Her
breath frosted the air in front of her as she paused for a
moment. Her only thoughts had been of escape, getting away from
the sadistic man who'd held her captive these past months. It had
taken some assistance, a turned head at just the right moment,
and she knew without doubt that whoever her captor suspected of
helping her would be dead. But so would she, very shortly now,
once her usefulness was done and the child she carried born. Now
she still wasn't safe, but she had to stop, figure out where she
was and where she was going. A car's headlights flashed nearby
and she instinctively ducked into the shadows, fear causing her
stomach to constrict. The car passed the entrance to the alley
slowly, but kept on going. She let out a brief sigh of relief,
but it quickly turned into a hiss of pain as the tightness in her
belly didn't ease but grew stronger. The first contractions had
hit her earlier that afternoon, before her escape, and they had
steadily increased since. She knew she had to find shelter and
soon. The hospitals were not safe, surely he would have his men
combing them all. That was the way he was, ruthless and thorough. 
*     *     *     *     *  
She had first gone to his house, an impressive villa on Long
Island, to apply for a job as a nanny. Tall and angular, the man
had acted pleasant, insisted that she call him by his first name,
Julian, but something about his dark eyes disturbed her. He
introduced her to his son, an colicky toddler named Gabriel. She
desperately needed the money, so accepted the job despite her
uneasy feelings. Three weeks later the father had apprehended her
as she was on her way out the door. "Come with me, please," he
requested firmly. Thinking she had done something wrong, she
hesitantly followed him into his office. "Sir, have I done
anything--?" Julian laughed. "No, on the contrary. You've done
quite an impressive job with my son. That is why I've selected
you for a special assignment." He gestured her to a seat. She
sat, the stiff leather creaking beneath her. He turned his back
to her and began mixing a drink. "On my staff I have doctors,
scientists...working at my behest to create a new type of man. Do
you know anything about genetics, my dear?" "Uh, no. Not really,"
she admitted, confused by his words. "That's all right, you don't
need to. Drink?" He handed her a small tumbler full of an amber
liquid. She sipped at it, grimacing at the bite but swallowing
anyway. A tight smile curved his mouth as he observed her for a
moment. "They've devised a way to combine DNA, human
with...various others. But as of yet they've had no success at
incubation. That's why I've chosen you." "I don't understand.
DNA?" She shook her head then groaned as the room started to tilt
around her. Julian stared closely at her, then pushed a button on
his desk. The doors opened behind them, and three men walked in,
two in white smocks. "Take her." Barely able to protest, she was
led away. The next few weeks were a blur, filled with vague
memories of being strapped to a table, injected over and over
again, a burning in her abdomen that never seemed to go
away...but that was then, and now she needed to get out of this
cold wind. Pushing away from the damp brick wall, she started
*     *     *     *     *  
The faintest trace of light smudged the east horizon as she sank
to the dew-soaked pavement and leaned heavily against a trash
dumpster. Pain contorted her face, her voice worn out from trying
to keep her moaning quiet despite the fact that her insides felt
as though they were being ripped apart by the massive
contractions. Wave after wave of searing pain swept through her,
paying no heed to her exhaustion. Then, all at once the pain
stopped. A moment of utter peace, then the urge to push consumed
her utterly but painlessly. The child emerged within seconds in a
gush of fluid. She quickly pulled it toward her to shield it from
the wind, but paused in fear when she noticed its features. Tears
filled her eyes, and she shuddered, realizing just how evil
Julian really was. The baby's face was almost feline in
appearance, a flattened nose leading down to a cleft lip. Its
fingernails were longer and thicker than they ought to have been
and a soft but thick down covered its entire body. It was
breathing, but shallowly, and made no cry. She doubted it would
survive long. Around her, the sky began to lighten ever so
slightly and she despaired. A part of her felt tied to the
strange infant. She had carried it within her, birthed it. But it
would not live, and she could escape detection easier without the
burden of a dying newborn, possibly even making it out of town.
Julian and his men would be looking for a pregnant woman, or one
with a baby. If they caught her, she would die and the child
would be a prisoner for however long it lived, a specimen to be
gawked at and experimented on. Cradling the silent baby with one
arm, she tied a dirty piece of string around the umbilical cord
and used a rock to sever the cord, flinching even though the
child made no sound. Looking carefully, she could detect no
breath. Grieved and with tears stinging her eyes, she made her
decision. Unwilling to leave a baby exposed to the icy wind, even
one that was not alive, she glanced around the wide alleyway. The
dumpster she had been leaning against bore the name of a
hospital, so she rummaged through it hoping to find a discarded
hospital gown, but found only some torn hand-towels and cleaning
rags. Working rapidly against the dawn, she bundled the infant in
the ragged cloths, then placed him amid the bagged garbage piled
alongside the dumpster. A fleeting prayer, then she walked away
as fast as she could.  
*     *     *     *     *  
Two men walked side by side in the grayness of the early morning.
One was quite tall and broad shouldered, the other hadn't nearly
the height and walked with a pronounced limp and cane. Neither
was elderly, appearing to be perhaps in their mid-thirties. "We
should be heading back down I think, John," suggested the shorter
man, his breath visible in the cold air. Pre-dawn walks were one
of the few pleasures that they still enjoyed in the world Above,
but they had to be cautious. "Oh, Jacob," replied the other. He
walked calmly, his pace slow as to allow his friend to keep up.
"Has anyone ever told you that you are an incessant worrier?"
Smiling wryly, Jacob took comfort in the familiar banter with his
friend. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure of receiving that
particular insult before. Thank you for pointing it out. But it
is getting lighter." John studied the barely visible skyline.
"You're right as usual, Jacob." He glanced around at their
surroundings, and noticed the back of the hospital ahead. "Saint
Vincent's. There is an entrance just beyond." Jacob looked at the
building with a cross between longing and anger. It hadn't been
even two years since he had been blacklisted and ostracized,
barred from practicing medicine. Barely more than a year since he
had dropped off the face of the earth, relocated to a secret
place with a handful of others. A new world, safely hidden below
the streets of the city, away from the prying eyes and accusing
voices of those Above. "You still miss it?" asked John as they
strode quietly behind the hospital. Jacob nodded slowly. "In a
way, yes." He stopped and cocked his head. "Do you hear that?" A
few feet ahead, John stopped and turned around. He shook his head
impatiently. "I hear nothing. Its getting lighter by the moment,
you know." "Yes, yes. I know. But I could have sworn...there!" he
exclaimed. "There it is again." He peered at the pile of trash
near a large dumpster. "Oh, come on, Jacob," the taller man
insisted. "Its probably nothing more than a stray cat." He sighed
disapprovingly, as his friend was already poking through the
garbage with his cane. Jacob pushed aside crumpled newspapers and
biohazard containers, searching for the source of the faint
mewling. "My god," he whispered when he uncovered the tiny child.
With a tentative finger he touched its face. It only took him a
second to realize the urgency of the situation. "John, give me
your coat," he barked, the doctor in him taking control. John
recognized his friend's tone of voice and didn't argue, striping
off his jacket even as he asked, "What is it, Jacob?" Jacob
stepped away from the dumpster, a small bundle in his arms. "A
child." He glanced up and down the alley, making sure that no one
was around. "We have to get Below immediately." It didn't take
them long to find the entrance, a manhole no longer in use by the
city, and soon they were safe in one of the many tunnels that lay
abandoned beneath the streets. As they made their way down the
dimly lit passages, John placed a hand on Jacob's shoulder.
"Here, let me carry it. You can barely manage," he indicated the
cane that his friend was leaning heavily on. Setting down the
lantern he'd been carrying, he held his arms out for the baby.
"Look at it, John," Jacob said, reluctantly handing the infant
over. "Isn't it amazing?" John peered at the baby's face. "My
god, what an ugly child." "No, no!" Jacob shook his head and his
voice turned soft. "Its beautiful. A miracle." "But a miracle
from who? It looks like the devil's own." "Nonsense." He picked
up the lantern and started walking again at an increased pace,
eager to get the child to the chamber he had set up as an
infirmary. As they passed deeper into the tunnels, nearing the
inhabited areas, Jacob idly thought about installing a sentry
system. He voiced the suggestion, explaining, "It would prevent
any unwanted guests from getting this far unnoticed." Nodding,
John agreed. "But we haven't the people to spare, yet. Pascal is
busy checking out that network of pipes, and teaching everyone
the codes. Lou is helping William and Byers carve out chambers so
that everyone will have their own rooms. Randolph and York are
working on those hot springs that we discovered, trying to make
them easier to access." Jacob chuckled in anticipation. "That
will be a lot more convenient than trekking all the way to the
waterfalls and bathing in that cold water." "Indeed. Here," John
pointed with one hand. "I believe that pipe goes through to the
main level." "Ah, yes. I'll have Pascal tell Mary to meet us at
the hospital chamber." Jacob stepped up to the ancient steam pipe
and tapped against it with his cane, sending the message. After a
moment, a brief reply came, quiet and almost musical in its
hollow clicks. "Good, let's go." A few minutes later, they
rounded a bend and the corridor grew lighter. Torches burned
brightly, mounted on the stone walls. A woman stepped out of a
side passageway, her long sandy hair braided and wrapped around
her head. "Father, there you are! Pascal said you were on your
way." She led the way down the tunnels. Many looked up to Jacob
as the unofficial leader of this fragile community and had begun
calling him Father, as he looked out for them all, but John
smirked at Mary's use of it. "An interesting title you've
acquired, Jacob." "It's a lot better than that absurd nickname
that you've started insisting everyone call you!" Jacob retorted.
"Paracelsus was a renowned chemist centuries ago. It's fitting."
"Whatever," Jacob laughed sourly. "Here we are. Ah, thank you,
Mary." He smiled at her thoughtfulness for bringing his medical
bag to him. Mary was a nurse specializing in midwifery, but
unable to have children of her own. Loneliness and desperation
had led her to join the group of castaways in this secret world
where everyone had a place and was wanted. The hospital chamber
was small and devoid of decoration. A high cot sat in the middle
of the carved out room. Several bookcases were filled with
medical journals but the cabinets were dangerously bare of
supplies. Candles sat upon every available surface, filling the
small room with a golden glow. John set the baby down on the cot.
"I don't think it's still alive." Silently, Jacob pulled his
stethoscope on and pressed it to the child's chest. He smiled.
"Yes, there's a heartbeat. Thank god." Mary stared at the tiny
baby in disbelief. "Father..." she looked at him in wonder, then
her eyes were drawn back to the infant. "How extraordinary," she
breathed. "Where did it come from?" Jacob spoke as he unwrapped
the soiled rags and examined the child. "Behind St. Vincent's
Hospital. Abandoned, left to die. It's a boy," he noted. Mary
shook her head, her face frowned in sympathy. "The poor thing.
Would you like me to fetch some of Devin's old things?" "Oh, yes,
Mary, would you be so kind? He'll need to be kept very warm." She
vanished, and Jacob delicately picked the infant up. John watched
from the side. "What do you plan to do with it, Jacob?" Jacob
looked up, startled. "Whatever do you mean? I intend to help him.
Keep him safe. It will be a wonderful thing for our community.
For if this child survives, we all must work together, to protect
him from the world Above." "What about the scientific aspects,
Jacob? There has never been anything like it before. There are
tests to be run...experiments to be performed." "Absolutely not!
This is a child, not an animal." Jacob cradled it to his chest as
if to protect it. "Are you so sure? Look at it! It looks like an
animal, borne of a beast. It's not human!" John insisted. Mary
walked in and stood beside Jacob. "Of course he's human. Don't be
ridiculous. It's a baby. Unique, yes, but not something to be
locked away and experimented on!" She took the child from Jacob's
arms, wrapping it in a crocheted blanket. "Come on, we need to
heat some milk for him." "You're missing a tremendous
opportunity," John warned, his voice low and somewhat menacing.
The baby started to whimper from Mary's arms. Jacob shook his
head and picked up his cane. "That's enough, John." He followed
Mary out of the infirmary and down the passage to the kitchen
area. A rusty potbellied stove sat in one corner of the large
room, its fire continuously burning. Setting Jacob down at the
trestle table that filled the other side of the chamber, Mary
handed him the baby. "I'll just use one of Devin's bottles. He's
nearly weaned off it anyhow." She busied herself fetching and
warming the milk. "Father," she asked several minutes later,
while waiting for the milk to cool down. "You wouldn't let
Paracelsus--John--hurt the little thing, would you?" Jacob looked
horrified. "Good heavens, Mary. Of course not!" He looked down at
the strange yet beautiful infant in his arms. The baby's deep
blue eyes opened and fixed on his face. "No harm shall ever come
to this one, I swear it with my life." "Here," she handed him the
warm bottle with a smile. He returned the smile, letting his
fingers brush gratefully against hers as he accepted the glass
baby's bottle. She blushed, but he didn't notice, trying as he
was to get the baby to take the bottle. It only took a moment for
the baby to figure out what to do, and he began sucking urgently
at the milk.  
*     *     *     *  
"I vote for myself and Anna," John declared loudly. He stood next
to his wife, a pale woman, still weak from a miscarriage the week
before. It had been her fourth in less than a year. All of the
Tunnel-dwellers and their Helpers, those who lived Above but kept
the secret, were gathered in Jacob's personal chamber, a tall
room with every available space crammed with books of all sorts.
He planned to expand it one day, carving a second story out of
the ledge above to make room for all of his journals and tomes,
but for now it was cramped, even more so with the people crowded
in. There was a dispute going on, one that could forever change
the atmosphere of the small community, for John and his wife were
claiming rights to the child found by Jacob. True, he had been
present when the newborn was found among the trash behind the
hospital. But it had Jacob who rescued it and cared for it ever
since. "Jacob already has a son to care for," John pointed to
Devin, the one year old boy whose mother had passed away in
childbirth. No one knew who his father was, but Jacob had taken
the responsibility of raising him. "We have none." "But would you
treat him like your own child?" Mary asked. "We know that you
don't even think of him as human. He shouldn't be treated like a
freak his whole life." Several others agreed with her, nodding
their heads and glancing at the infant that Mary held. He was
three months old now, his eyes bright and wise. His hair had
turned sandy colored, thickly covering his head, while thinner on
his chest and arms. Everyone had grown used to his feline-like
appearance, accepting it and becoming protective of him. "He is a
curiosity though," John insisted. "Science demands that he be
examined, tested." Many shook their heads at that, but John's
wife kept silent. She loved the strange child as dearly as anyone
else, but she didn't understand her husband's obsession with it.
"How do you vote?" John asked, his voice loud and with an edge to
it. The gathered people looked at each other and at the child.
One by one, they all voiced their opinion, saying, "Father," or
"Jacob". Only one or two chose John as the better parent. His
face grew hot and steel-hard. "I see. Well, then,
congratulations...Father." He grabbed his wife's arm. "Come
along, Anna." She glanced apologetically at everyone and followed
her husband out. Jacob and everyone else breathed a sigh of
relief, and the unseen tension disappeared. "Have you decided on
a name, Jacob?" Peter Alcott, a Helper who had gone through
medical school with Jacob, stepped close and held his hands out
to the baby. Gurgling, the child made no protest as he was
transferred from Mary's arms to this new man's. "Ah, yes, Peter,
actually I thought we'd call him Vincent, after the hospital
where he was found." Jacob smiled at the boy in his friend's
arms. Peter nodded in approval. "A fine name. It means
'conqueror', does it not?" "Indeed it does. And this little one
had battled so much already and won. But the fight will never be
over, not for him, I'm afraid." Jacob sighed and looked around
his chamber. The community was growing fast, already a couple
dozen strong, with a few children to brighten their lives. Devin
was toddling around, getting into everything; Robert Pascal
Junior was just learning the pipe codes from his father, even
though he couldn't yet read; Elizabeth's daughter Sara was
teenaged and the only girl, but seemed happy; and of course,
Vincent, young and innocent but bringing a new hope and
motivation to the people. They had to survive and make this world
work now, for themselves and for this amazing child who could not
live in the world Above. "You know, Peter," Jacob finally said.
"I really think we're going to make it." "Did you only just
figure that out Jacob?" Peter laughed and patted his friend's
shoulder. Vincent had long since been taken from him, and was now
being passed among the women. "I hear you got a new chess set for
Winterfest. How about a game?"  

About the Author: 

Elisabeth Delaney is one of three pen-names used by the author,
who is not comfortable using her real name on the internet. She
has been a fan of BatB since 1991 when she happened to catch the
rerun episode, "China Moon", which she hasn't seen since. For
three years she was insanely jealous of Catherine, but snapped
out of it when meeting her own True Love in 1994. She has written
several stories, including other BatB, some of which can be found
by visiting Ori's Singularity:
www.geocities.com/area51/vault/2090. She loves feedback and can
be emailed at: psyberwolf@juno.com.