The elevator doors opened, and Willie stepped out, walking purposefully
down the corridor toward Suite 1217. The woman known as Looking Glass
was currently the only occupant of this sub-level, and he had his orders.
When Mr. Raines had taken Willie into his confidence about this matter,
he had given him one directive: if security surrounding her continued
existence were ever compromised, Looking Glass was expendable. Jarod and
Miss Parker, in particular, could never be allowed to find her. In that
light, Miss Parker's continued prying into the events surrounding Project
Eclipse qualified as cause for serious concern.
Willie had nearly reached the door in question when he heard a low moan
from somewhere nearby, and stopped long enough to investigate. Around
the corner he found Henry, the sweeper assigned to periodically make rounds,
struggling to rise from the floor over by the ventilation shaft. The grate
hung off the opening, slightly crooked, indicating that someone had removed
it and then put it back in a hurry.
This was definitely not a good development. He turned and headed for
the door, punched in the code, and went inside. A quick but thorough check
of the suite yielded nothing. Just as he'd suspected, the woman was gone.
He went back to Henry, who had managed to stand, albeit swaying like
a drunken man. "What happened here?" he snapped.
Henry gingerly cradled his right hand in his left as he spoke. "I
saw an unauthorized person trying to climb into the air duct. When I ordered
her to stop, she just… stared at me, and all of a sudden my hand
was on fire. At least, that's how it felt." He grimaced, and shifted
position slightly. "I don't know how she did it, but I must have
passed out from the pain. Damn thing still hurts, too."
"Describe this woman."
He thought for a moment. "Mid-to-late thirties, blonde, blue eyes,
Centre issue clothing."
Faith, without a doubt. But how had she gotten out, and why had she chosen
now to make her escape? Those questions would need to be addressed, but
by someone with a higher authority.
Guiding a staggering Henry back toward the elevator, he called for a
car and punched the button which would take them to Mr. Parker's office
in the Tower. There was no need to tell the Chairman what he had been
about to do. For now, the fact that he had discovered an escape would
be enough. No doubt it would help him score points with the man in charge.
And of course, if it didn't, there was always Henry to take the fall.
* * * * * * * * *
Somewhere on the
Miss Parker couldn't help but be curious about her old friend. She sat
behind the wheel, glancing away from the road at odd moments to watch
the woman sitting across the front seat. No doubt Sydney, sitting in the
back, was doing so as well. Both were interested in the same thing: the
woman's reaction, or lack of it, to stimuli.
Somehow, Parker would have expected someone who hadn't seen the light
of day in almost thirty years to be enraptured with the outside world,
excited, perhaps overcome by it all. She had no doubt, although she hadn't
been there, that Jarod's reaction to freedom had been like that. But Faith
seemed not to notice the landscape around her, or feel the brisk wind
on her face when Parker rolled down her window an inch or two. Instead,
she appeared to withdraw even further into her own world.
"Are you sure about where we're going?" Parker asked.
"Yes, a town called Corry. It's on Route 6 in the northwestern part
of the state."
"How exactly did you figure out where Jarod is?" Sydney's voice
carried from the rear.
"A little friend told me." Her face softened momentarily, and
her lips curved into the first genuine smile Parker had seen. It troubled
her that the sweet, friendly girl she had known, however briefly, had
become the serious, intensely focused woman she saw now.
But then, the same could probably be said of Parker herself. Had been,
actually, by Jarod. He would no doubt blame it on the Centre -- and it
was the Centre who had made Faith whatever she was.
Maybe Jarod was right. Maybe The Saddest Little Valentine has
some merit, after all. Aside, of course, from that humiliating cover that
I'll never forgive him for painting.
"Faith," she murmured, "what happened to you? Why did
the Centre feel they had to keep you a secret?"
For a moment, it seemed as though Faith hadn't heard, or wasn't interested.
Then her smile vanished, and she turned her face away, staring blindly
out the window. Quietly, she began to speak.
"Because of what I am -- what I became. I've always… known things
about people. My mother used to call it 'the gift.' After she died, I
thought I'd grow up in an orphanage…until they sent me to a place called
NuGenesis for tests."
Both of the car's other occupants reacted to the name, but she continued
before they could say anything.
"That's when I started feeling sick. The Centre pumped me so full
of drugs that I really believed I was dying, that they were doing me a
favor by taking care of me. I didn't understand what they wanted from
me until it was too late."
"What did they want?"
Faith's expression hardened. "To make me into a weapon, Sydney.
One they could point in any direction they chose."
"And they gave you drugs to enhance your abilities?"
Her tone was sarcastic. "Oh, yes. It was their favorite game: 'Let's
See What This One Does.'"
With a muttered expletive, Parker gripped the steering wheel tightly.
She'd quit smoking a couple of years ago, but right about now she needed
a cigarette. "You were nine years old. What did they expect?"
Faith turned her head so she could watch Miss Parker's profile. "How
old were you when your mother was killed?" she countered. "How
old was Jarod when they took him? How old was Timmy when he became Angelo?
All these people care about is gaining power, any way they can."
"Those are Jarod's sentiments," Sydney murmured. "You
obviously think along the same lines."
"Jarod understands much of what was done to him… but the pieces
haven't come together for him yet. He's searching for answers to who he
is." She closed her eyes, steeling her resolve. "It's long past
time he found them."
* * * * * * * * * *
By the time Lyle arrived in response to his father's summons, Henry was
already halfway through a second recitation of the day's events. The unfortunate
sweeper had been seated facing the Chairman, with Willie standing directly
behind him. To Lyle, it looked like the perfect setup for an inquisition;
he just hoped it wouldn't end up being his.
This morning, Faith had sarcastically mentioned the loss of a number
of Blue File subjects. She knew damn well she was a Blue File herself,
and that her escape could easily be enough to get him in deep trouble.
That was probably all the motivation she had needed.
"…and then she just stared at me with those piercing eyes,"
Henry was saying, "and the next thing I knew I was on the ground.
My hand felt like someone took a hot iron to it."
Mr. Parker nodded his head to acknowledge Lyle's arrival before continuing
his questioning. "And when you woke up, she was gone?"
"Oh, yes, sir. I don't think I was out for very long, but I can't
be sure." The sweeper shook his head. "I still don't know how
she did it. I mean, she didn't touch me or anything -- just looked at
me with those eyes."
Lyle decided he'd better appoint himself chief inquisitor, and quickly.
He came up to stand beside his father. "Did something happen to your
hand earlier today?"
Henry looked surprised. Obviously, the connection hadn't occurred to
him. "Actually, Mr. Lyle, I sprained my wrist. But it wasn't bad.
I don't understand how that could--"
"She 'Mirrored' you," Lyle interrupted. "It's what she
does best. It's what we taught her to do."
"What I'd like to know is how she got out of her suite," Mr.
Parker added. "Someone had to have unlocked the door from the outside,
and I want that person identified."
Willie gripped the back of Henry's chair and straightened his spine,
making himself look even taller, if possible. "Shortly before this
happened, sir, Miss Parker was on SL-12."
The Chairman narrowed his eyes. "Are you accusing my daughter of
allowing valuable Centre property to escape?"
"All I know is what I saw, sir." Willie's expression was serious,
but a tiny hint of smugness played around his lips. "While waiting
for the elevator earlier today, I noticed that the car had previously
stopped on Sub-Level 12. When the doors opened, Miss Parker was the only
Lyle was more than happy to jump on the bandwagon, especially if it pointed
the finger at someone else. "Come to think of it, I haven't seen
dear old Sis in quite a while. Maybe I should find out what she's up to."
Mr. Parker's face resembled a thundercloud, but he inclined his head
in Lyle's direction. "Do that. Meanwhile," he addressed the
others, "I want a small but efficient group of sweepers to comb through
this building, including the ventilation system, and the surrounding Blue
Cove area. Next to Jarod, Looking Glass is our most valuable resource.
Any clue that leads to her recapture will be rewarded. Failure to find
her will be punished. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir." Willie helped Henry out of the chair, and both
men disappeared through the glass doors, Henry turning back to give his
boss a last, nervous look.
Mr. Parker turned to focus on Lyle. "I'll expect you to implement
some of the measures we agreed on earlier today. Find Faith before she
becomes another Blue File statistic." He let out a small, humorless
laugh. "At least you won't be able to blame this one on Jarod."
"Oh, Jarod's involved in this somehow," Lyle insisted as he
turned to leave. "That, I guarantee you."
* * * * * * * * *
In his room, Jarod lay curled on his side on the bed, somewhere between
waking and sleeping. The time of day didn't really matter anymore. If
he slept, the nightmares were terrible; if he stayed awake, the memories
came at him with a force that literally paralyzed him.
There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to call. Something was
breaking inside of him, and he was a witness to its slow but inevitable
It was in this state that he saw her -- the figure who began to materialize
at the foot of the bed. She was young, and blonde, and beautiful. She
had brilliant blue eyes, and a long, pristine white dress that covered
her legs as she tucked them under herself and sat, the better to make
Somewhere deep inside, he still recognized her. She was dead, of course,
but in his vision she appeared strong and vibrant, just as she had up
on the mountain after his plane crashed. That, he suddenly realized, had
been two years ago.
"Jarod," the vision said, "don't give up. You have to
He looked at her through a haze, unsure of whether his mind was playing
tricks on him. "Faith? Are you here?"
The girl nodded, and the look in her eyes was infinitely sad. "You
see me this way because it's the way you remember me. But my thoughts
are here, now. I've been watching over you, just like I promised."
"Take me with you," he whispered. "Please, I'm so tired."
The girl leaned closer, putting her head down on a level with his. "Listen
to me, Jarod," her high, soft voice pleaded. "I'm coming to
find you. Just hang on a little longer." His eyes started to close,
and she became more forceful. "Promise me you won't give up. Promise
It's too late, he wanted to say, even for a guardian angel.
But something about her was compelling; even in his weakened state, he
recognized the intensity of her spirit. "I promise," he answered
That seemed to satisfy her, and she gave him a tiny smile. "I'll
be there soon," she told him, as her image began to fade away. Slowly,
she became more and more transparent, until she was finally gone.
Jarod's eyes started to close again, but this time he forced them back
open. The memories he continued to endure were agonizing, but he had made
a promise; for now, at least, he would do his best to keep it.
* * * * * * * * *
Somewhere in Pennsylvania
"Jarod's strength is beginning to fade." Faith opened her eyes,
which still held a faraway look in them. Miss Parker had thought she might
be asleep, but evidently she had been using whatever power she possessed
to make contact with the wayward Pretender. "We need to reach him
soon," she added.
Parker already knew better than to ask how Faith figured these things
out. If she said Jarod was losing it, then he probably was. But a problem
still remained, and apparently it was up to her to mention it. "There's
one thing we haven't discussed," she reminded the others. "What
exactly are we planning to do for Jarod when we get there?" She looked
over her shoulder at Sydney. "How about it, Dr. Freud?"
For his part, Sydney was studying her sister. "I have the distinct
feeling that Faith knows exactly what needs to be done."
He was probably right, but Parker wasn't sure how she felt about that.
A part of her wanted to believe that she knew Jarod better than anyone,
except perhaps Sydney. Another part wondered if perhaps the fact that
he allowed anyone to get that close was a good sign in and of itself.
There was a time when she had believed him incapable of such things.
"I knew this day would come," Faith was saying. "I've
been expecting it for a long time."
Parker frowned. "What I don't understand is why these memories are
so painful. I've come up with some pretty nasty things myself, but they've
never… 'attacked' is the word I think he used. They've never attacked
me like that."
"These memories are especially difficult because Jarod has a mental
block against Eclipse," she answered.
"What exactly does that mean?"
"Think of it as a wall in his mind, holding all the memories and
the pain in a place he can't access. The wall is cracked now, and the
memories are spilling out."
Parker considered for a moment. "And you need to reinforce that
"No, Miss Parker, it's too late for that. Jarod's own mind is fighting
itself now. I have to tear the wall down, piece by piece, before it disintegrates
on its own."
Sydney was silent for several moments. "Faith," he asked gently,
"how do you know so much about this mental block?"
Again, she turned her head away to stare out the window. "I think
you know the answer, Sydney." Her voice was soft, and tinged with
what sounded like regret. "I put it there."