Prologue

The black Mercedes idled in the street under the faint glow of a nearby street lamp, rather out of place among the numerous jalopies and other rusted-out vehicles that lined the streets of the neighborhood. The car's lone passenger sat in the driver seat, cup of steaming coffee in-hand, wishing that something decent would play on the radio. The man looked over at the LCD display on the dashboard. 8:14 P.M. With a sigh, he killed the engine. The crappy 70's rock anthem that had been playing sporadically on the radio throughout the evening was replaced with a dull silence, punctuated only by the muffled sounds of crickets chirping outside. The man took a sip of his coffee, burned his tongue, muttered a curse that would've made his religious mother blush, and opened the car door simultaneously before emerging into the chilly autumn night. He had a job to do.

The walk up to the dingy house was as uneventful as expected. The man was careful not to soil his fancy shoes by stepping in any dog poop on his way there, having to navigate through the grass to get to the front door as there was no walkway to speak of. By the time he reached the front door and rang the buzzer he realized a suit and tie, while professional, probably wasn't the most fitting of attire for this occasion. Too late now, he thought, even as the door opened and a young woman stood there eyeing him suspiciously.

She was very beautiful, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. Her gaze seemed to pierce through more than just the surface, and he felt his skin prickle slightly. Strange feeling aside, perhaps this job wouldn't be so bad, he thought. He cleared his throat before speaking.

"Rachael Foster, I presume?" He tried to sound as cordial as possible.

"Yes. Are you here from the Bosse Research Center?" Her response was hasty. He got the feeling she wanted this to be over with as soon as possible.

"I am." He extended her a hand. "Blaine Wright, head researcher for Mr. Bosse. I'm sorry I had to come at this time of night, but things are busy as of late." They shook hands, and she stepped aside, opening the door fully.

"Please, come in."

She led him inside a small, two-bedroom house. They stepped through a tiny entryway and through a tiny living room before stopping in a tiny kitchen to sit at a tiny table. Blaine was actually surprised at just how tidy the place was. What little furnishings the place had were well-maintained and clean. A sanitary kitchen greeted him, and he thanked whatever god he believed in. Half the time — no, most of the time — these jobs involved subjecting himself to degenerate situations in equally degenerate places. This place seemed fairly decent, at least. It made his job that much easier.

Rachael was silent, obviously waiting for him to begin. He couldn't see it, but he could tell she was nervously tapping her foot under the table.

"Is the child here?" Blaine asked. He hated to sound so blunt, but there was no other way of getting straight to business. This wasn't exactly a social gathering.

"Yes."

"You are aware of the terms of the agreement between you and the Bosse Research Center?"

She nodded. He could tell this was getting hard for her already.

"Do you have any questions? I understand your last meeting with one of our representatives was very brief."

"Will she be treated well?" Rachael's voice was barely a hushed whisper. Luckily, Blaine was able to decipher the question.

"Oh, yes, I can assure you. The Bosse Research Center prides itself as one of the leading paranormal research facilities in North America. Your daughter will be well taken care of and treated to the same high quality of life as all of our other volunteers." Well, it wasn't exactly a lie. This seemed to satisfy her, and she visibly relaxed. "You have nothing to worry about."

Intent on finishing up here, Blaine reached into his suit pocket and produced a flashy credit card before she could ask another question. "Ten thousand dollars have been wired to an account in your name." He slid it across the table to her. "It is now yours to do with as you please. The Bosse Research Center thanks you sincerely for your contribution to our research."

She just stared at the card lying on the table for a moment before picking it up and stuffing it in a pocket. These people were all the same, Blaine thought, willing to sell their children for some quick cash. Disgusting. He couldn't help but be thankful, though, for without people like Rachael Foster, his organization's research wouldn't be possible.

"Would you like to see her?" She asked.

Blaine nodded. Rachael got up from the table and led him into the second bedroom. It was almost completely devoid of furniture save for a crib near the door. In the crib was the child, who was asleep, minuscule fingers tucked gently into her mouth. It was quite adorable, he thought. Rachael reached into the crib and picked up the baby, cradling her in her arms one last time. Blaine could almost feel the emotion radiating from the woman as she caressed the infant in her arms. He needed to finish this before his own black heart started to melt.

"I know this is hard for you," He began, struggling to find the right words. "Her foster parents were selected from a list of dozens of highly recommended couples; she won't be lacking love and attention while she's with us." The words tasted like ash on his tongue. He had to remind himself that their research was of the absolute highest importance for the well-being of humanity.

Rachael sniffed. "I-I know. This is for the best." She gave the child one last gentle squeeze before handing her over to Blaine. The man took the baby in his arms, careful not to wake her. Rachael looked pained. "Her name is Charlotte."

Charlotte. Blaine studied the baby's pudgy, pink features. Such a beautiful name, he thought. A beautiful name for an extraordinary child. He turned back to Rachael. "I need to be getting back to the center, now. You cannot understand how much your daughter will help us contribute to society."

Rachael didn't seem to hear this. She was staring at the crib. The pained look on her face had turned into what looked more like agony. She seemed to have entered a state of intense emotion Blaine couldn't even begin to comprehend. He took this as a sign for him to make his escape and made his way outside, past a grieving Rachael, with the baby in his arms. Too many times had he done this, and each time it got a little harder. Sometimes the parents happily gave the children away, while other times — well, the other times were like this one. Blaine wouldn't soon forget the look on Rachael's face as he took her only child away from her.

He looked down at baby Charlotte, who had now woken up and was innocently staring back up at him with eyes so intense and even more brilliantly blue than her mother's that it sent chills rippling down his spine. He smiled for the first time that evening. This girl, Charlotte, was definitely extraordinary; he could see it in her right now, despite her barely being a year old. Yes. Prometheus Labs was excellent at selecting individuals for research, and this time was no exception.

As he entered his black Mercedes and tucked Charlotte into a child seat set up in the back, Blaine thought to himself, "This kid will save the world one day."

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