The sim lab was shrouded in darkness. Jarod found himself standing under
a single spotlight in the middle of the cavernous room. For a moment,
it seemed as if he were alone. No one else could be heard or seen; no
audience had appeared to judge him.
Still, he knew they were there, in the dark, watching. He could feel
their presence, even if he didn't know the exact number. For thirty years,
being observed had been a way of life. He still knew what that prickle
on the back of his neck meant.
"Who are you?" a male voice asked from off to the left. Jarod
squinted, searching the gloom for a face, a pair of feet, anything… but
found nothing. Instead, the others took it up, becoming a round robin,
asking the same question until it echoed around the room. "Who are
you? Who are you?"
They wouldn't be satisfied with "Jarod." Instinctively, he
knew that. They wanted more, but he had nothing more to give them. "I
don't know," he said quietly.
The question began again, louder this time, more demanding. "Who
are you? Who are you? WHO ARE YOU?"
"I don't know!" he shouted back, frustrated. Their voices
rang in his head, and he had to stop himself from clapping his hands over
his ears. "Who am I supposed to be? Who do you want me to
For a moment, there was complete silence. Then the chorus began again,
slowly. "Kodiak," they whispered. "Kodiak…"
The name made his heart beat faster. In the very core of his being he
knew it was a bad name, an evil name, to be rejected at any cost. "No,"
he whimpered, "not that one…"
The others ignored him. He could feel them starting to move, to push
closer, as if to crowd him out of the only square of light available.
"Kodiak," they insisted. "Kodiak…"
He couldn't move. Couldn't breathe. Couldn't think.
"Kodiak, Kodiak, KODIAK!"
Jarod was up and out of bed the moment his eyes flew open, trembling
so hard his legs almost went out from under him. It had been a stupid
mistake. He knew he shouldn't have gone to sleep, but he was so tired,
and the pillow had beckoned him…
"No," he murmured, reaching out for the motel room wall to
steady himself. "I won't go back to that place. I'll find something
to take my mind away from it."
At the moment, that would probably be a shower. He ran his hand along
the wall, making his way to the bathroom and what he hoped would be a
cool, invigorating spray. Morning had arrived, judging by the shafts of
light peeking around the drape. He had no time for demons from the past,
present, or future.
The question of whether they had time for him was yet to be addressed.
* * * * * * * * *
He knew the combination to the door by heart. Lyle's fingers flew over
the keypad, and within seconds came the click, which meant he could
enter. Not that he wanted to. Of all the responsibilities his father had
given him over the last several years, this was the one he enjoyed least.
The room he entered was no different from that of any other "special
resident" the Centre housed. Bookshelves lined the entryway; the
living area contained a sectional couch and dining set; against the back
wall sat a desk with a state-of-the-art computer; somewhere off to the
right were the bed and a door leading to the bathroom. It all seemed very
modern, very civilized… until you remembered the door was locked from
The room's occupant sat calmly on the couch, watching him. He hated the
way she looked at him. She had eyes that could punch through anything,
like a knife cutting into tender flesh, leaving a gaping wound behind.
If looks could kill... But then, he imagined her looks really could
kill, if she wanted them to.
"You know how much I hate that name," he growled.
"You hate so many things," the blond woman replied tartly,
"that it's difficult to keep track."
"Then don't bother." Pretending to ignore her, Lyle began wandering
around the room. His eyes did a visual sweep, searching for anything out
of place and desperately hoping to come up empty. Maintaining the status
quo was his job, and he did it, even though he'd rather be almost anywhere
else right now.
"You won't find any of your missing Blue Files under there,"
she commented as he checked under the desk, "if that's what you're
Lyle straightened. "And what would you know about that?" he
asked, trying to make his voice casual.
She blinked slowly, deliberately, drawing his attention back to those
eyes. "Gemini, Mirage, Nemesis… should I go on?"
"I think you've said enough." He completed his examination
of her quarters, satisfied with the results. "You know, I've often
wondered why we don't just send a sweeper down here and put an end to
this charade, once and for all."
"And whose torment would he be ending -- mine, or yours?" When
there was no answer, her voice became more strident. "We have unfinished
business, Bobby. One day, there will be a reckoning for the choices you've
Mustering all the bravado he could, Lyle leaned over and met her face
to face. "I'm not afraid of you."
Her gaze was steady, her face expressionless as she answered. "You
They stared at each other, but Lyle was the first to fold, lowering his
eyes. Without another word, he turned and left, locking the door firmly
A noise from the other side of the room made the woman rise, and head
for a large metal grate set low in the wall. The air duct leading to her
room was large enough, as many in the building were, to hold an adult.
In her case, the grate had been firmly welded to prevent its use as an
escape route. She didn't care; for her, it had another use.
She kneeled on the floor in front of the duct and Angelo appeared, as
she had known he would. He put his left hand up to the grate, pressing
against it, and she placed her right in the same position, palm to palm
with only the metal between them. It was a form of greeting, one they
had developed over the years.
"The time is approaching," she told him. "I know it will
be difficult. Are you ready for what comes next?"
Angelo nodded and reached somewhere behind him, then slipped a DSA through
the grate and into her hand. Smiling ever so slightly, he murmured, "Soon,
no more secrets."
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker was in Broots' office within moments of his call. Normally
she didn't respond to a summons from anyone, except perhaps her father,
but this sounded like a breakthrough. For this, she would make an exception.
"I did what you said," he told her eagerly as the door closed.
"I kept looking for anything relating to Project Eclipse, and I found
this old memo. It was really hard, because it was in code like the other
stuff and I didn't have a key at first, but--"
"Broots!" She smacked her hand down on the desktop, instantly
getting his attention. "Do you have something for me?"
"Oh, yeah, right here. I scanned it into the computer." He
motioned for her to come around the desk, and showed her his screen. "It
was from Raines to your father. Take a look."
To: Mr. Parker
From: Mr. Raines
Date: July 8, 1975
Subj: Eclipse Schedule
Project Eclipse is now underway, and the subjects are currently in
the preparation phase. The pairings will be as follows:
Kyle Pauley Fishman
Damon Ron Chambers
Jarod Kodiak Brown
Lyle Lung Li
In addition, I have finalized the choices for Retrieval. They will
Kyle, Damon Angelo
Jarod, Lyle Looking Glass
I will assume this meets with your approval unless I hear otherwise.
The simulations are scheduled to begin shortly.
"My brother was part of this?" Parker leaned over the back
of Broots' chair, looking at the screen. "He's never said anything…
in fact, I've never heard a whisper, from him or anyone else, about it."
"Jarod either," Broots reminded her, "and he's not much
for keeping secrets about the way the Centre treated him."
Parker nodded slowly. "Jarod called a few nights ago -- just to
annoy me," she added quickly. "He had the same reaction Sydney
and Angelo did when I brought it up."
"Something weird is going on, because nobody, and I mean nobody,
wants to talk about this." The tech shrugged. "I asked some
of the old-timers around here -- just sort of, you know, sneaking it into
the conversation -- and if they know anything, they won't admit it."
"Subtlety isn't your strong point," she tossed back. "But
if old one-eared Grimby won't talk, I guess we're at a dead end there."
He tilted his head back and looked at her. "You remembered Grimby?"
She ignored him. "What about these other names, the ones paired
with Jarod and company? Anything on them?"
"Well, that's the really freaky part," Broots explained. "I
looked them up, and… get this… they're all serial killers." He shuddered.
"They've all been in prison since the early seventies, though. Thank
"That doesn't mean they couldn't still reach out and touch someone,"
she replied absently. Her index finger traced over the word Retrieval.
"Angelo knows something, though I doubt he's up to an explanation.
But Looking Glass… I've seen that before."
"Sounds like another project name."
"Yes, it does." She straightened. "Get me a hard copy
of this, and forget about Eclipse for the moment. I want you to find everything
-- and I mean everything -- you can about Looking Glass. One way
or another, I'm going to get to the bottom of this."
"What are you going to do?"
Miss Parker frowned. "I think I'll have another little talk with
The Man Who Knows Everything About Simulations."
* * * * * * * * *
The bell over the door jingled as Jarod entered the office. Aside from
the required check-in counter and pegboard full of keys, there were a
variety of items scattered around the room: postcards singing the praises
of northwestern Pennsylvania, toiletry items, snack foods, and a refrigerated
chest filled with various kinds of pop. It was there that Jarod gravitated,
lifting the lid and removing a bottle of orange Crush.
The manager appeared from a back room and gave him a good-natured grin.
"Good morning, Mr. Fairweather." He put the bottle down on
the counter and reached in his pocket for some change.
The man chuckled. "I swear, I never saw anyone drink so much cold
pop in this kind of weather. And always that Canadian stuff. Don't you
like anything else?"
"I was a Mountie once," Jarod replied, managing a wry smile.
"I acquired a taste for it there." He handed over the required
amount, and prepared to leave.
"Er, Jarod." Jarod turned back to look at him. "No offense,
but… you're looking kind of peaked. Are you okay?"
There was no use getting into it. Mr. Fairweather didn't really know
anything about him, and couldn't help if he did. "I'm fine,"
Jarod lied. "Just a little tired. I didn't get much sleep last night."
He held up the bottle of Crush. "I figured the sugar rush would help."
"Well, you know I'm grateful for what you did, and you're welcome
to stay as long as you like. But if you're sick, maybe you ought to see
a doctor." The manager pulled out the Corry phone book, a rather
slim volume. "I can recommend someone, or even make an appointment
if you want."
What I have, a doctor can't cure. At least, none of the doctors around
here. "Thanks, but I'll be fine. Really." Before the man
could say anything else, Jarod left, shutting the door carefully behind
Once outside, he thought briefly about taking a walk across the grounds
in back of the motel. The snow had melted, at least temporarily, and a
brisk exchange of air in his lungs would do him good.
And then, he suddenly changed his mind. Like the smell an epileptic often
experiences before a seizure, he felt the tickle in the back of his mind
that told him something was coming, something big. Jarod dashed down the
pathway back to his own unit, and went inside.
He barely had time to shut the door when it hit him, a wave of memory
so powerful it stopped him in his tracks. He doubled up, moaning as it
washed over him.
The knife in his hand felt good. Its length, its weight, the sharpness
of the blade -- everything had been chosen with the utmost of care. His
weapon was an extension of himself, and its selection was very important.
Craftsmen took pride in their work, and he was definitely a craftsman.
As they approached the sim lab, he held the knife at his side, making
no attempt to hide it. There was no need. People, especially women, were
extremely gullible. They would believe almost any story he told them.
No one wanted to admit they had the poor judgment to let a predator get
close to them.
Inside the lab, the young woman was waiting, as they said she would be.
Brunette, pretty, and innocent -- just the way he liked them. Winning
her over would be child's play.
He smiled as he approached, deliberately allowing it to reach his eyes,
warm them. "Hi, Natalie. My name is Jarod."
"No! That's not me!" Gasping, he managed to stand upright and
grab onto the bedpost for balance. A small table and chairs lay straight
ahead, and he did his best to navigate, although his head felt as if it
were going to explode.
"Jarod, don't! Please… no, don't… please don't hurt me…."
The bottle of pop slipped from his hand and crashed to the floor. Jarod
fell into the chair and put his head down on the table, clapping his hands
over his ears as if that could somehow drown out the sounds and pictures
racing through his head. "Go away," he moaned. "Please,