Total Eclipse,
Part Two


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The Centre

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
Delaware/Pennsylvania border

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."

* * * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Chairman's Office

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 passenger."

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."

* * * * * * * * *

Starlight Motel
Corry, Pennsylvania

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 destruction.

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 eye contact.

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 hang on."

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 me."

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 slowly.

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 wall?"

"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."

On to Act II

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