Chamber of Horrors

 

home / season five / episode nineteen / act IV

   

Dachau Concentration Camp
Munich, Germany
December 24, 1944

The call came in the middle of the morning, when many in the camp were on personal errands. Within ten short minutes, the Appellplatz was full of thousands of people standing, bareheaded, in neat rows and looking straight ahead, silent and unmoving. The two boys were right at the back beside Henri. A voice from the front of the group sounded loud in the square.

“Early this morning, we discovered that an attempt was being made by a group of prisoners to sabotage the work that they were carrying out to aid the Greater German Reich. As a group, you have all sinned against the Great Fatherland and are here to be punished for this heinous crime. For this reason, then, and to deter those others among you who may have had equally foolish notions about such actions, you shall see the perpetrators punished, here and now.”

A young Sydney glanced out of the corner of his eye to either side and then at Jacob. He found that his twin was doing exactly the same thing and, had there not been a guard behind them, the two would have clasped the other’s hand for the feeling of security it gave. Instead they forced themselves to look forward where, despite the height of those in front, the twins could see the tops of the gallows and the terrible, thick ropes that hung down from the wooden struts.

Both boys and several other new arrivals jumped as, from the right, came the sounds of haunting German classical music, played by an orchestra. Sydney turned his head and was rewarded with a knock from the guard behind that sent him sprawling on the ground and left him with a swollen shoulder and a ringing sound in his ear. Jacob would have offered an arm to help him up but Henri prevented the action and Sydney was left on the ground until a kick, aimed at his chest by the same guard, helped him quickly to his feet.

“Non.”

The negating word was a quiet whisper that Sydney almost missed as he, with some difficulty, began to reach a hand around to feel the injured shoulder. To forget the pain, Sydney concentrated on the music that the orchestra continued to play; music that effectively covered the sound of the ropes tightening and the necks breaking on that terrible wooden structure only a few feet away. Both boys tried to ignore the truth of what they knew was happening and being displayed to them but, after all, some part of them was deeply affected by the event that was happening before them; some part that would never be the same again.

After some minutes of deathly silence, broken only by the gentle creaking of taut ropes, the order was given and the prisoners marched past the scaffold and back to their barracks. For one frightful moment, the spectacle hovered before the boys - one that would haunt their dreams for the rest of their lives. Despite shutting their eyes, the images of the swollen faces swung before them, eyes half open and dull with the skin already showing the flowering bruises that would travel from the neck upwards, regardless of the way in which death had mercifully stopped all other action. Then turning - their eyes drawn back time and again to the spectacle but still marching smartly in their lines - they made their way back to the safety of their quarters.

In the room, Jacob looked, an expression of horror on his face, at the hideous discoloration that spread across Sydney's right shoulder and a short way down his back and the other patch that formed a yellow and brown almost perfect circle on his abdomen and ribs. For several seconds the two boys stood in silence, staring at the ugly and, this being the hardest to understand, deliberately inflicted injuries on Sydney's body. Henri entered with Sydney's shirt in his hand and he gently wrapped the snow-filled garment around the bruised areas. Sydney gasped aloud at the increased pain as the blood flow increased and would have torn it off; however the gentle but persistent pressure applied by Henri’s hand stopped him.

“Why?”

Henri looked over to find Jacob staring at him, confusion apparent in his eyes.

“Why what?”

“Why did they do that to Sydney?”

For a moment, Henri paused. The outrage and anger that both boys felt shone through their eyes, along with the last vague hints of naiveté that they had managed to retain and Henri hesitated to tear down the veil of ignorance. It had been an almost maternal instinct that had made Henri take these boys into his protection and these same feelings prompted him to choose his words with care.

“Because it’s how they show their strength.”

“But, look,” outrage crossed Jacob’s face as he pulled away the shirt, allowing the snow to fall on the floor and revealing the bruises that, despite the treatment, were deepening and expanding in color. “How can they do that?”

Sydney, now lying on Henri’s bed with his eyes closed, spoke. “Jacob, it doesn’t matter. It happened. Let’s just try to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Shaking his head sadly Henri walked away from the bed, wondering, as Jacob had, how it could happen to anyone, least of all a child…

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
January 19, 1964

Jarod had been dreaming about his mother when the door to his cell opened and as the light of the small flashlight entered his room, he raised his head sleepily from the pillow.

“Mom?”

The face approached out of the darkness and smiled gently.

“No, Jarod.”

Failing to recognize either voice or face, Jarod shrank back against the wall, involuntarily drawing the blankets closer to his face as though the flimsy fibers could protect him from some great, unknown danger. The hand that pulled back the covers and pushed the tousled hair back from the boy’s eyes had gentleness matched by that of the mother Jarod was slowly beginning to forget. The form that pressed down the mattress was of a similar shape and size as that same mother. And Jarod's response was as it would have been had his own mother appeared suddenly and unaccountably out of the darkness. He allowed himself to relax and the woman slowly and gently stroked his hair.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Catherine, Jarod.”

“And…what do you want?”

“I want to help you.” She paused, waiting to see if he would respond. When the silence threatened to become too long, she filled it with her soft voice. “What is it you want more than anything else?”

Jarod immediately felt his eyes fill at the thought of his dearest wish being granted but his short time in the Centre had already taught the young child a sense of caution and prudence.

“Come, Jarod,” the voice pleaded in the semi-darkness. “Tell me what you want, more than anything in the world.”

“My...” The whisper was soft - full of pain, but audible. “I want my mom and dad.”

“Tell me about them.,

Slowly, and then, like an accelerating train, the words came tumbling out. “My mom has really nice long, red hair. My dad is really tall. He likes
planes...”

****************

January 20, 1964

Jarod woke to find himself alone. The woman, if she really existed, had made him talk until all of the emotions he had been suppressing about his family had come to the surface and he had eventually cried himself to sleep in her arms. He raised his head and looked cautiously around his room. He instinctively knew that it was still too early to begin work, so he had time to wonder whether she had really been there at all. He stretched out a hand and felt his fingers brush something that usually wasn’t there - a ball of soft material. Looking up, he found that his hand had made contact with a handkerchief - and he owned no such thing. She had obviously left it there. Jarod had read about Guardian Angels and he began to think that that was what he had met the previous night: somebody who could take the place of his mother, as he tried to imagine Sydney doing for his father.

Sydney. The man he saw every day was slowly beginning to take the place of his real father. When thinking about his family, Jarod often found that the figure of his father had taken on the appearance of Sydney. With time to spare until the day began, Jarod allowed himself time to fall into his favorite daydream.

Jarod walked into the Sim lab to find Sydney wearing his jacket and a hat on his head. He came forward and helped Jarod to put on a coat that he held over his arm and the two of them left the room.

“Where are we going, Sydney?”

“If you wait, you’ll see.”

Jarod tried to restrain his impatience and followed Sydney into the elevator. He watched as it rose up through the floors, finally arriving at the Ground floor.

“We’re going outside?”

Sydney nodded, smiling.

“Oh, boy!” Jarod danced around his mentor as the two of them walked through the heavy front door of the Centre and out into the sunlight. The waves of the ocean stretched ahead of them, with only a strip of green grass and another strip of rocks between. He stood for a moment and breathed in the sea air then glanced around and saw a gull flying high above, floating on the breezes. In an instant, Jarod could imagine that he, too, was flying high, soaring above the clouds and hovering on the wind.

“Jarod? Jarod!” The voice rudely broke through the imagination and Jarod tried to ignore it and continue dreaming, but he couldn’t. Opening his eyes, he found that the former darkness of his cell was changed into bright light and that Sydney sat on the bed next to him, feeling his hands and face with a concerned look on his face. “Are you okay?”

Nodding and slightly abashed, Jarod pulled himself up in bed. “Sorry. I was…”

“Dreaming.” Sydney looked stern. “You need to stop doing that, you know. We have work to do.” He stood up and nodded towards a pile of clothes on the chair. “You have ten minutes to dress."

Jarod nodded again and glumly climbed out of bed as Sydney left the room, shutting the door firmly behind him. Work. It always got in the way of his dreams.

* * * * * * * * *

Lyle's office
The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Limping slightly and putting a substantial amount of weight on the stick that he was being forced, if only temporarily, to use, Lyle maneuvered himself through the door and into his office. By the time he was sitting on the chair behind the desk, his forehead was beaded with sweat and he could feel it beginning to trickle down in face in places. Still, he wouldn’t give himself the satisfaction of making a sound, knowing that his secretary was sitting at her desk within earshot. Propping the cane up against the desk and shooting a black look at it, he reached over and activated the computer that sat on his desk. He had been reluctant to try again after the previous fiasco with a reformatted hard drive, but Mr. Parker had insisted -- and what the Chairman wanted, the chairman got.

As it hummed into action, he allowed himself a few seconds to wonder how he was going to go about finding what he needed. It was obviously not going to be in the parts of the system that he was regularly accessing. He could do with a computer technician of his own, like the one his sister had. The one…

He could always borrow, couldn’t he? All he would have to do was ask…nicely.

Grasping the stick in his hand, he maneuvered his way once more around the desk and out of the office. An evil grin bedecked his face and prompted the few Centre employees he passed to move as far away from him as possible. He stepped into the tech room and glanced around. To his aggravation, it was empty of all but one person and that wasn’t the one he was searching for. A grunt of annoyance came out of his mouth as he turned and made his way to his sister’s office. It, too, was empty. Lyle stamped in anger and then immediately wished he hadn’t. His foot was still too tender for it and he could feel the pain pulse up the length of his leg. His bad mood deepened as he made his way to the last possibility - the psychiatrist’s room. Finally, he located the object of his search.

“Mr. Broots.”

He watched in satisfaction as the man jumped and spun around, sending a piece of paper flying.

“M…Mr. Lyle. I…I didn’t know you were out of the infirmary.”

“Surprise! I always manage to do the unexpected. And speaking of that,” Lyle spoke mildly but his eyes flashed with a combination of pain and frustration. “I would expect Sydney to be surprised at you going through his office.”

“I…Miss Parker asked me…”

Lyle walked around to the other side of Sydney's desk and sat down in the chair, allowing it to gently swivel from side to side.

“So you’re under Miss Parker's direction at the moment? Pity.”

Lyle allowed himself a few seconds to watch a point on the ceiling while he felt Broots’ nervousness levels rising.

“W…Why?”

“Well, I was hoping you could do me a favor of sorts…”

“Wha...a…favor?”

“I want to know how I can find information in the Centre’s mainframe.”

“Why…you…have the codes…”

“But what I want isn’t accessible through that.” Lyle leant forward and linked his still-swollen hands on the top of Sydney's now clean desktop. “I want to know how to find out information about…Kronos I…”

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod's lair
Scottsdale, Arizona

Jarod slipped his arms out of his jacket and threw it casually onto the bed. He hadn’t managed to find any information at all about his current workmate and it was beginning to be extremely frustrating. And then Sydney wasn’t answering his phone so there was no assistance from that quarter either. Flicking on his computer, Jarod sank with a deep sigh into the seat in front of it and considered aimlessly sifting through the Centre’s files again to see if there was any other information that might be useful.

“You have mail.”

The mechanical but cheerful voice startled Jarod and he jumped slightly before looking at his computer. A file filled with lines of information appeared on screen, at the base of which was a link to three attached sound files. The name that appeared at the top was what really caught Jarod's attention.

“Eaton. At last.”

Unaware that he had even spoken and ignoring the echoes that the walls sent back to him, Jarod turned his entire focus on the computer and skimmed through the pages. It detailed a simulation with which he had been presented with in 1968, in which he attempted it had been attempted by Jarod to find a cure of a particular type of cancer that - recognition dawned in the pretender’s eyes - was virtually identical in all but name to the one suffered by both Julie-Ann Hueber and Rebecca Eaton and which Dr. James Eaton now professed to be investigating and for which he was claiming many thousands of research dollars.

The sound files contained short snippets from what he only assumed was the DSA containing his SIM. He could easily understand why it wasn’t in his collection that contained only successful simulations, excepting, of course, one of his two other failures. The first was a conversation between Jarod himself and Sydney from the period during which the simulation had been undertaken.

“Sydney, I’ve tried! I can’t do this.”

“You have to, Jarod. If you don’t, thousands of innocent people will die of this.”

“I know, Sydney. But there is no way to completely destroy it without more powerful drugs than yet exist. And even if is destroyed in this form, it will mutate into other forms and need other, stronger drugs to conquer it the next time. It’s too well adapted to its current environment to be destroyed with what we have available at present.”

“So make other, better drugs. You could save thousands, no, millions of lives if you succeed.”

“But the treatment could be worse than death!”

There was a faint sound of footsteps and Jarod remembered vaguely that Sydney had momentarily turned his back and walked away.

“Nothing is worse than death, Jarod.”

“Are my parents dead, Sydney?”

The sound file ended sharply at this point and Jarod hurriedly started up the next one; two men in a deep discussion, one of whom he clearly recognized as James Eaton and the other as William Raines.

“Please, you have to help me…”

”Mr. Eaton, we’ve got our best people working on the problem. We’ll work as fast as we can to come to a solution.”

“But we don’t have long. Rebecca’s getting worse every day. If you don’t come up with a cure, she’ll die.”

“I know that, Mr. Eaton, but, as I said, we’re doing everything humanly possible to find a way to help your daughter.”

“I can’t lose her. She’s my life…”

Trembling, Jarod started up the last sound file, the smallest of all in size.

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Eaton.”

“There’s really no hope now. My life…”

* * * * * * * * *

Centre Limousine
Outside Blue Cove, Delaware

In the car, Miss Parker reached into her bag and pulled out the flat, firm cover of the passport, extracting it gently from its covering. Opening it, she looked down at the familiar face that stared out from the photo, a half-smile frozen on his lips for eternity.

Sydney Michael Ritter.

Miss Parker's brow furrowed in confusion. She knew he was Belgian, from the region of Flanders. How in heaven’s name, then, did he come to have a German surname? Born on the 14th of April, 1934. A dual nationality too, Belgian as well as American. She supposed that he had needed the American nationality to work at the Centre. An application form she had once seen mentioned this requirement in small print at the bottom of the page.

Of course, she had never had the opportunity to fill out such a form. Her work at the Centre was pre-determined, coming as it did on the anniversary of both her mother’s death and her father’s promotion, some years afterward, to the position of Chairman. Now that she thought about it, she had to wonder if she would have ever filled out the form. She supposed that she would have done, all other things being equal. The pay was fantastic and the hours flexible - that was a condition under which people were hired. The other conditions of complete loss of privacy and ownership of your past, present and future were not mentioned of course, Miss Parker thought with a snarl curling her top lip. But they happened anyway, from the moment you were hired. And yet Sydney somehow had still managed to keep some things secret and hidden…

Coming out of her reverie, Miss Parker heard a ringing and realized that it originated from her own phone. Pulling it impatiently out of her pocket, she activated it

“What?”

“Uh, M…Miss Parker?”

Rolling her eyes, Miss Parker realized that she had been secretly hoping it would be either Jarod or, better, Sydney himself, either of whom might have had some information that could be useful.

“What is it, Broots?”

“I have some information that could be useful.”

“Well?”

”It…It’s about this mysterious person and…”

”Yes, who?”

“Mr. Lyle.”

Miss Parker clapped the phone shut and stared ahead of her for a few seconds.Turn this car around.”

Sam turned slightly and stared at her in the rearview mirror.

“B…But Miss Parker…Sydney…”

“Sydney can take care of himself, for a while anyway. It’s more important to learn about who or what it was that upset him so that we know what’s going on.”

“Yes, Miss Parker.”

With a squeal of tires the car spun around in a tight circle and sped back the way it had come.

* * * * * * * * *

Mayo Clinic, Research Center
Scottsdale, Arizona

As Jarod walked along the halls, he was only briefly surprised to find them empty and the offices and laboratories without occupants. Looking at his watch, he found that it was after midnight and that, naturally, it could be expected that most people would have left for the night already. Having ascertained so much, however, he was surprised to then see a flickering light from the laboratory inhabited often by Dr. Eaton when he wanted to work alone. Jarod knocked and then pushed open the door slightly.

The first sight that met his eyes was one of total devastation. It looked almost as if the laboratory had been ransacked and Jarod thought for a fraction of a second that somebody had tried to steal from the doctor. Looking around, however, he saw first the feet on the floor sticking out from behind the desk and then the open flame that was slowly igniting everything that lay exposed on the desk. As Jarod took another step in, trying to work out the best way to save the situation, a flame traveled along the desk and crept into the top of a beaker. For a second there was silence. Then the contents exploded, belching tongues of flame up to and across the ceiling of the laboratory, then plunging it into darkness…

to be continued...

 
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