Michael T. Weiss as Jarod
Andrea Parker as Miss Parker
Patrick Bauchau as Sydney
Jon Gries as Broots
Paul Dillon as Angelo
Jamie Denton as Mr. Lyle
Lenny von Dohlen as Mr. Cox
John Neville as Wolfram Leiden
Benjamin Bratt as Wolfram Leiden (Young)
Holly Marie Combs as Julie-Ann Hueber
Randy Quaid as James Eaton
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Rebecca Eaton
Theodore Bikel as Dr Werner Krieg
Hart Bochner as Dr Werner Krieg (Young)
Keanu Reeves as Henri
Cole Mitchell and Dylan Sprouse as Young Sydney and Jacob
How many will perish and how many will grow?
Who will live and who will die?
Who at his destination and who before his destination?
Who by fire and who by water?
Who by sword and who by hunger?
Who will stay and who will flee?
Who will be saved and who will be punished?
Repentance, prayer and charity shall temper the severity of the
judgment, for as thy name is, such is thy glory. Hard to anger and
easy to reconcile, for you take no pleasure in the death of man, but
that he may turn back from his path and live.
Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year Festival)
* * * * * * * * *
The bed in the dark room was more than slightly damp and creaked softly in protest as the figure on it finally sat up, gingerly stretching the muscles that had become cramped during the frantic exertions prompted by the memories that, even now, still haunted the tortured mind…
Walls seemed to close in from all sides and harsh calls echoed callously out of the darkness, dying slowly away...
Next came silence, and eyes, hundreds of pairs of eyes, facing the figure as it stood there: defenseless, abandoned and agonisingly alone…
The dark, as the eyes opened, seemed to stretch ahead, endless and terrifying…
In a space that seemed to continue for eternity in all directions, the hands stretched out in the hope of meeting some object that could make that dread of being alone with oneself seem to diminish.
Exertions caused by the nighttime visions had caused strange movements that meant the walls of the room were beyond the reach of the outstretched fingers and so there was nothing to find but empty darkness.
At this thought, Reason started up and scolded, declaring that it was too late in life for a person to be afraid of the dark and of being left alone.
In the hours that the sun warmed the earth, reason was heeded.
But then the sun would vanish beyond the horizon and it was during the time of dark that the nightmares came…
And the nightmares were the most terrible of all - the moments when the worst of what had been became more indescribable and less tolerable than when it had ever existed in a form that could be touched or experienced…
* * * * * * * * *
Familiar as they were in the daylight hours, objects often became sinister and threatening when the illumination was extinguished.
And when the moment came for the brightness to be terminated, there was always pause, hesitation…
For so many years, they had not been quenched, broken sleep preferable to the temporary blindness brought on by their dousing.
But, with stern directions to self, they had finally been turned off and then had commenced the many hours of loneliness, when sleep was pushed to the verges and fought against for so many hours until, as the light appeared, exhaustion forced its way in and, finally, sleep came…
The dreams were never the same, their content always slightly altered, but the feelings were always identical - fear, loneliness, terror and waves of panic that radiated from an unspecified source but enhanced the other feelings brought to the surface by the dreamed images until their victim felt that death was preferable to this wave of emotion that crashed on the beach of consciousness, drew back and crashed down again; repeating over and over again, until rising was accompanied by exhaustion that was almost but not quite enough to send the sufferer back to the dreaded bed…
* * * * * * * * *
And yet, once upon a time, bed and sleep had been a haven of safety.
Memory, sweet and beloved memory, could bring back times when bed was accompanied by the arm of a mother or father and the muted tones as a favorite tale was spun out of a beloved book or an even more dear mind.
And then dreams brought to life these wonderful tales and created dozens more that were later used in play as the only form of expression of which the young person was capable.
And if the dark did sometimes seem to be full of monsters and fear, then a cry would bring a swift comfort in the form of a hand or smile and then the angels seemed to smile and clap their hands and rejoice.
But then the darkness descended and, in one movement, the light and joy was gone and the angels, in their turn, would weep as the childhood tears went undried until, finally, the child learned not to cry and then all fear was swallowed up and, despite there being no real safe refuge, the comfort could come in the knowledge that another day was over and, although there was no end in sight, it had been possible to live for those twenty-four hours.
And so, in the depths of darkness, the dread continued and, despite the offering of a friendly hand, loneliness was the hardest of all the trials to bear - when even a brother would be taken away - and it was then that the tears threatened again, but the lessons had been learned and the tears were no longer allowed to fall.
However there was never a reward for such behavior…
* * * * * * * * *
Then, one day, the longed-for light appeared.
No great light, as had shown the way through the more innocent and naïve early times.
This light was dimmed but was sufficient to show the path up out of the slough and onto the next length of the road that was to be traveled.
And the images of loved ones lost, now certified in the quiet words spoken by another who had tried to take the place of those far-gone figures, could come once more and then could the tears finally pour down for the loss of so much in the loss of those dreams.
And so a dimmer light, containing no source of brightness itself but instead reflecting the light from the earlier times, as the moon reflects the day’s sunlight that is long gone, shone on the path and showed the way that, although difficult, may finally lead to the great destination and reward at the end of life - the unity and safety in the arms of a loving family…
The rows of barbed wire rose ahead in the darkness, the raindrops gleaming on them like pearls in some mystic cavern. Spotlights slashed the mud-soaked ground and the clouds gave the sky a black and menacing look. The sky, despite the darkness of the night, glowed red in the northwest from the chimneys that constantly belched smoke and flames. In the barracks, the boys clung to each other, tears coursing down their faces as they muffled their sobs. Shadows hid strange and unknown places and the sounds around them were peculiar and unidentifiable. The unfamiliar sensation of harsh cloth clung to their skin and the peculiarity of wearing shoes in bed added to the newness and abnormality of the situation. The bed itself, several hard boards with a blanket above and one below the two bodies, made sleep, on this first night at the new camp, impossible. Instead, suddenly feeling terrified and alone, the boys held each other close, trying to ignore the proximity of other sleeping figures on beds that held four or more people at once.
Finally, however, the small, square window that was on the same level as their bed showed the more familiar and softer first hint of light in the far eastern sky and the boys turned to face it, as if it was an angel coming to their rescue. At almost the same moment, a hand reached over and shook them. Gentle though the contact had been, in this new and strange environment it was enough to make them both jump as they turned over to face the possible enemy that now faced them in this strange place.
For a fraction the words sounded strange but then memory awoke and it seemed as if their own father spoke to them. Both boys warmed suddenly to this voice.
“Wer sind Sie?” Who are you? To the young Jacob, the foreign words came slowly.
“My name is Henri.” The man smiled and changed immediately to the more familiar French. “I’m in charge of this block. It’s lucky for you that you understand German. It will be very helpful, particularly when you are working for the Herr Doktor Leiden.” The man pulled a small package out of his pocket and pushed it over to the boys. A young Sydney picked it up.
”A welcoming present.” He pulled himself up and sat down on the edge of the bed. “How old are you?”
“Ten years old.”
The man smiled. “You’re the youngest in the camp. And very lucky.”
Sydney overcame his shyness. “Why?”
“Didn’t you hear what Dr. Leiden said when he brought you here? You’re his special project - the only ‘Zwillingerprojekt’ in the whole camp.”
“What’s a ‘twins project’?'”
The man looked sober. “It means that, for a while at least, you will be safe.”
* * * * * * * * *
Opening his eyes to the dark room and feeling his heart pounding, Sydney sat upright in bed and inhaled deeply several times, trying to calm down. After so many years, it would have seemed reasonable that he should be at least partly used to the nightmares by now, but somehow he never was. He doubted if he ever really would be. Sydney stripped the wet sheets off his bed and threw them, with a kind of patient resentment, into the basket that stood next to the door of his bedroom. He could wash them, have them dried and remake the bed before he even left for the Centre, he thought ruefully as he looked at the clock:. 4:17am. He hated himself for getting up that early but, in all the years, he had never managed to sleep much later. Once, it had been a benefit to have this peaceful, personal time before the reveille clanged to announce another new day at the camp, but now it was a curse, a time when dreams, half remembered, would slip behind the curtains of his sub-conscious, waiting until he was asleep before appearing again and tormenting him with their vague memories. Still trembling slightly, he stepped into the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror.
The face that stared back at him was his and yet, at the same time, not. The eyes of his other half seemed to stare accusingly at him from the glass and he looked down and shook his head in a mixture of sadness and despair. His razor, always the old-fashioned kind, sat gleaming on the edge of the sink where he had placed it the night before, next to the towel and the soap. On the rack to his right another towel sat immaculately folded, waiting for him to use it. Glancing over his shoulder, Sydney could see his clothes neatly arranged for him to don when he was finished in the bathroom. Turning back, his eye was caught by the clean whiteness of his dressing gown. The collar of his sweat-soaked pajama top peeped out over the neatly folded collar and cuffs, the tartan a strong contrast to the gleaming whiteness.
The years and his experiences had made Sydney cautious and careful in his approach and nothing had thus far managed to break that habit. For a few moments, looking in the mirror and noting the lack of color in his cheeks and lips, Sydney considered calling in sick. For a few seconds, he allowed that possibility to pass through his mind. However, like every other day, he thought that perhaps he might be needed and he wanted the chance to be there if that happened. In the same way, Sydney thought with his mouth twisted bitterly as he picked up the soap, that people thronged to the site of a murder or an execution with a kind of morbid fascination….
* * * * * * * * *
“He’s calling himself Jarod. He wants his mother and father.”
The boy sat on the chair and trembled. His eyes were still covered by the black mask that had been put over his head in his room the night before and his hands were tied firmly behind him with a soft but strong binding. In the fast-moving car he had managed to move the cover a little and had a quick glance of unknown trees whizzing past the window before the man sitting silently beside him gently forced his head away and pulled the blindfold down firmly. The turning of his head showed the young Jarod a man in a black suit driving the car and another man sitting beside him with the gun on his lap . Now Jarod felt hands touch his wrists and gently untie the bonds that bound his wrists. As soon as they were loose, Jarod lunged forward and felt the chair tip over onto him.
Jarod, forgetting for a moment, waited for the nice soft voice that usually met his ear when he fell or hurt himself, but this time firm hands grabbed his shoulders, jerked him to his feet and pulled the mask away from his eyes.
“Be careful, Jarod. You wouldn’t want to damage that valuable brain of yours.”
The voice was neither nice nor soft in the way of the mother or father's had been, but there was something in it that made him turn towards it. The face wore a half-smile and Jarod smiled in response. The man bent down.
“Stay here, Jarod. I will be back later.” The man straightened up and walked over to the door. As he stood there, the door, with no handle inside the room, opened and the man walked through. Jarod waited for a few moments, then picked up the chair and sat on it.
There was no way for him to get out. He had spent the first hours in that room sitting on the chair and looking around him until every surface of the room was firmly imprinted on his memory. For the next few hours he had walked along each wall and closely examined it, hoping to find an exit he could use. Then suddenly the bright overhead lights were turned off almost completely, leaving only a dim bulb glowing in the ceiling. Despite its faintness, that didn’t fool the child. He had seen such lights before in cages of animals in the zoo that only came out at night. For a moment he forgot about his current surroundings in endeavoring to remember what they were properly called. Nocturnal, he said to himself after a moment or two and smiled. But, looking around the room again, nothing had changed. With a sigh, the young Jarod walked over to the only long, flat object in the room. If it was intended for a bed then it was a lot harder than he was used to but at least it seemed to be a bed of sorts and he was very tired. Imagining his mother with her arms around him and singing, Jarod finally went to sleep with a smile on his face.
Awakening suddenly, the boy found that he was no longer alone. The only sign that time had passed was that the lights in the room were now bright again and the man from the day before now wore a different suit. Getting up, the young boy walked over to the table and stared up at the man.
Nodding in reply, Jarod waited to hear what he wanted. He was somewhat surprised when the man picked him up and carried him out of the room and, down a long corridor, to another. In this room were several tables, including one that contained a large pile building materials. The man gave his directions quickly and quietly, leaving Jarod to interpret them as he wished. Then he left by the same door as they had entered, one that had a large mirror facing the inside of the room. As he worked on the task, Jarod could hear the voices on the other side of the mirror and he stared hard in the direction from which they were coming. They stopped.
* * * * * * * * *
The darkness that met his eyes as he opened them was a shock. Disentangling himself from the twisted bedclothes, Jarod got up from the makeshift bed with a muttered curse. A treacherous corner of the blanket, curling itself around his ankle, caused him to land on his hands and knees on the concrete floor.
“Dammit. Damn and blast it all to hell.”
Jarod pulled himself into a sitting position, angrily tossed the very damp blanket back onto the bed, and began to examine his wounds. Pressing on the skin, he oozed a few drops of blood out of either knee and watched indifferently as they ran down his legs. He would need to have a shower somewhere anyway. His body was slick with sweat and he could taste the salty drops that ran down from his forehead and past his mouth, some slipping through his parted lips as he struggled to regain control of his erratic breathing. The echoes of his voice sounded for a few seconds in the large room and came back to his ears before scurrying rather than fading away, as though frightened by the large, uninhabited space. Jarod glanced up through the broken window; in through which blew gusts of wind that moved the papers he had put on the floor and also allowed the broken padlock to beat an irregular tattoo against the wooden door.
Leaping to his feet, Jarod angrily tore the lock off the door and hurled it through the window and out into the building site outside. Standing for a moment, he took several deep breaths, trying to control his breath and also his frustration. He was sick and tired of dreams. Just one night, he thought - one night when he could sleep in peace. One night when he could forget the ghosts of his past. Ghosts… Looking around into the dark corners, Jarod shook himself slightly and then reached over and lit the powerful lamp that sat on the floor beside him. Darkness retreated, not beaten but forced, for the moment, to withdraw, and Jarod found himself facing the rest of the long night alone. He looked at his watch:. 4:17am. What an hour to be awake and alone...…
* * * * * * * * *
The more paranoid of those in attendance felt the prickling on the back of their necks and looked surreptitiously around the room, focusing finally on the camera that sat up in the corner of the room and that was supposedly not functioning. In an otherwise normal-looking boardroom, this presented the only anomaly. Not even a secretary was welcome in these rooms to take notes. More than one of those present at the meeting, however, believed that the Chairman made sure that the camera was activated so that he, at least, could later have a record of material discussed and suggestions made. Either that or he had a wonderful memory….
The small, flashing, red light was almost hidden behind the bars of the air vent and consequently went unnoticed by the attendees of the Triumvirate Conference below. Nor could they see the figure pressed up against the gently curving walls of the ducts, listening intently to every word uttered. And if they had been aware of the presence of the figure, none would have believed that he could have understood what was happening, as all those present believed that Angelo could have no thoughts or feelings of his own. But the empath, who had been to nearly almost every Triumvirate meeting taking place at the Centre for the last thirty years or more, also had a recording of all meetings, either audio or video, stashed away in a corner of an air vent that nobody else even knew existed.
As the meeting drew to a close, the sounds of people rising from their seats covered the muffled beep of the camera yielding its prize and the owner scrambling away, down into the darkness. Pausing for a moment above an empty office, Angelo let himself down into it with the agility of a monkey. In the space of a fraction of a second, he left the tape on the desk and was back up in the familiar darkness, soundlessly replacing the cover before retreating back to his space where he would be found some thirty minutes later when Sydney came, on the orders of Miss Parker, to bring him into the office for a discussion.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod dropped the paper on his bed and picked up his newest possession with a confused but proud air. Looking down at the curved, smooth piece of wood, his brow furrowed and he ran his hands up and down the strange object. The man, with an accent that Jarod had never heard before, had laughingly guaranteed that Jarod would never be able to lose the strange item. Jarod allowed his eyes to run over the various drawings that decorated it, the various dots coming together to create a pattern of color that, while he didn’t fully understand it, spoke to him of size, power and something deeper... For a few moments, Jarod contemplated this feeling but, giving up, he tossed it up into the air a few times, catching it playfully as gravity sent it directly back into his hands.
Putting it on the bed beside him, Jarod picked up the newspaper that he had also purchased and began to flick through it. At the same time, he opened a pack of Oreo cookies and started to eat them, occasionally pausing to swallow mouthfuls of milk from the bottle that sat on the floor beside his feet. A photo of a young girl caught his eye and he opened the page wider to find a detailed article about the death of the girl called Julie-Ann Hueber, who had died from a rare form of cancer. With a sigh at the waste of a life, Jarod allowed his eyes to wander over the two pages that contained information relevant to the illness suffered by this girl. In the act of closing the paper, however, his eye was caught by a name that somehow seemed strangely familiar. Jarod spread the pages wide on the bed and lay on his stomach, his chin resting in the palm of his hand while he read about the possible cure being worked on by a Doctor James Eaton. The paper went unnoticed as it slipped to the floor and Jarod stared blankly out of the window high above him.
* * * * * * * * *
Lyle opened his eyes and glared around at his room. He had woken to find himself in Renewal Wing, a place that disturbed him more than anywhere else in the Centre, with the possible sole exception of Suite Room SL-1217 before its occupant had escaped. His feelings had made him insist on being moved out of there as soon as it had been possible. He had also insisted on having his doctor changed. The expression of superiority on Cox’s face had been both unmistakable and unbearable and Lyle was doing his best to get back to full strength as quickly as possible so that he could escape it. He glanced down at his hands with an inward shudder but was slightly pleased to see that they were finally looking less like grotesque balloons and more like the things he was used to. Frustratingly, however, dried blood still clung defiantly at some parts under his skin, making those areas look black.
His sister had gleefully told him about what had occurred, how the meeting between with Raines and Faith had gone; and, while Lyle was glad to see that his way to the top had been further cleared for him, the fact also made him nervous. She, Looking Glass, knew far more about his deepest thoughts than he was comfortable with. In an attempt to pull his mind away from her, he concentrated instead on a far more pleasant subject - himself. Yanking back the blankets impatiently, he glared down at his foot. The swelling had done a lot more on it than it had in either of his hands, but that had a lot to do with the fact that he hadn’t been using his foot. Well, all that would soon change. Lyle swiveled on the bed, making sure that, for modesty’s sake, his gown didn’t open too widely at the back. With his feet hanging over the edge of the bed, he was about to try standing when a shape and voice outside his room caught his attention.
“In a lot of ways, of course, he’s very lucky.” There came a merciless chuckle from his most dangerous rival that made Lyle clench his fists in a way that would be agonizing when he realized it later. “He could easily have died in that little room before we found him. Or else he could have brain damage due to the loss of blood. Somehow, he escaped both those things. Still, it should be a good warning to him. Those injections control him and, without them, and us, he’s got no hope - or future. Kronos I has provided us with the perfect method of control.”
What on earth…?
Lyle reached forward to the end of the bed and, panting with pain, finally managed to grasp the folder that was clipped there. He opened it and blinked several times to control his ocular muscles before his eyes alighted on the term he was secretly hoping not to see.
Cox, the fiend, had been talking about him.
Lyle was about to read more when the folder was whisked out of his hand and he looked up to the find the doctor himself standing there, a sardonic smile curling his top lip.
“What have you done to me, you bastard?”
Lyle’s voice was a growl and was met with an answering smile on Cox’s face, the doctor obviously taking pleasure in the current situation. With no word, he turned and, taking the folder with him, left the room. Lyle’s expression creased into a glare and he muttered to himself. Kronos I. He would have to find out about it as quickly as possible.
* * * * * * * * *
“Finally!” Miss Parker spun around in time to see Sydney enter the office, followed by a reluctant Angelo. “I have a tip for you, Syd. Never delay the beginning of a meeting or a cocktail hour.”
Sydney nodded, smiling. “Thank you, Miss Parker. I’ll try to remember that.”
“So…,” Miss Parker shuffled some papers and looked across to where Broots was sitting quietly. “The last new lead we had was more than three weeks ago and several months old.”
“Well, strictly speaking, it wasn’t a lead,” Broots cleared his throat nervously. “It was really just a scrap of paper that mentioned a person by the name of Jarod Fuchs who was associated with an wildlife rescue center in Colorado. There’s no guarantee that it was our Jarod.”
“No.,” Miss Parker's voice made no attempt to hide her sarcasm. “Of course it wasn’t him.” She narrowed her eyes and leaned over the desk. "You're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man.” She rolled her eyes as Broots considered whether the comment was enough of a compliment to require a grin. He grinned anyway, just in case.
Miss Parker shook her head and watched as Sydney put Angelo into a chair and took a seat himself before looking up over her. “Parker, are we going to do this or not?”
Miss Parker picked up the videotape got up from her chair. She walked around the desk, bent down and handed it to Angelo. “Tell me, Angelo. Did Jarod send this to us?”
Angelo giggled and pushed it back at her. Then, getting up from the seat, he wandered over to a corner of the office and began randomly tearing up sheets of paper that sat on the floor there. Sydney got up, took the tape from Miss Parker and approached Angelo slowly. Kneeling on the floor, he tried to put the tape into the empath’s hand.
“Please, Angelo. We need to know who made this tape of the recent Triumvirate meeting. It’s important.”
At the final word, Angelo looked up, directly at Sydney, and held his gaze for several seconds before nodding decisively. Grabbing the tape, Angelo bounded towards the office television and stuck the tape into the machine. Pressing a button, he allowed the tape to be forwarded rapidly to a certain point, at which time he allowed the machine to resume playing at a normal speed and went back to the corner of the office, fingering something in his pocket.
The tape hummed into life and Sydney, who had managed to recover his balance after Angelo had pushed past him, glanced up at the screen before taking his seat again. Miss Parker had already reseated herself and Broots, needless to say, had decided that his seat was probably the safest spot right then and hadn’t moved. Angelo had finished tearing up the sheets of paper and was now occupied in tossing them randomly in the air, creating a small snowstorm. As the screen flickered and stabilized, however, he stopped, staring as shreds of paper drifted to the floor around him. From a pocket in his clothes, he pulled out a remote control and, as the camera focused on various faces around the table, Angelo stopped the film at one and turned to stare directly at Sydney.
The boys stood for a few moments, their left hands gripping their right arms just above the place where the sharp needle had entered the skin. In shock, unable even to feel the first real pain in their short lives, they stared at each other until the tall German doctor came up and, placing one hand on each shoulder, they made their way back to the barracks.
“You were lucky,” Henri told them matter-of-factly as they were left inside the door. . “Usually the tattoos are applied as soon as one arrives at the camp.”
“But why?” Jacob whispered the sentence.
“So that they can easily identify you. Your clothes have the same number sewed onto the back.”
Immediately Jacob began turning himself around and around to try and see the numbers that were just out of view. The tall Frenchman began to laugh. Taking hold of Sydney, he turned the older twin around.
“You see, young one. This is what it looks like.”
After Jacob had seen the five black numbers on Sydney's back - 54679 - Jacob was turned so that Sydney could see as well. 54680. Suddenly the two boys, who for their entire lives had been the same, now had something that made them different. Sydney couldn’t help shivering at the thought.
“So what happens now?” he asked, nervously.
“Now, we wait until Dr. Leiden wants to see you.”
Warily the boys watched from their high bunks as the guard entered the barracks and looked around for them. As all the other occupants were out at roll call, it was not difficult for the guard to find the objects of his search.
When they hesitated, his brow lowered and, walking over, he gathered the collar of each in his hands and literally pulled the boys to the floor. Too stunned to react, they sat looking up at him.
“When, in this place, you are given an order, you will obey at once. Is that clear?”
Nervously, the twins admitted that it was clear and, upon the direction, led the way out of the barracks. In his over-large shoes, handed to him the day before, Sydney almost fell into the arms outstretched to catch him as he entered the strange new building.
“Well, this is a strange type of reception, isn’t it?” The doctor looked up at the man who had escorted the boys across the camp and laughed. “I think we’ll have to do something for my little friends here.”
The barracks wherein goods were stored was only a short distance away and the boys stumbled there in the shoes that were too big for them, their over-long sleeves flapping on their hands and their pants threatening to fall down around their ankles. As they were pushed gently through the doors, both looked up to see shelves bulging with clothes and boxes overflowing with photographs and other oddments. The doctor walked up to the counter and immediately the two men behind it stiffened to attention.
“Yes, Herr Doktor?”
“Shoes for these boys.”
“Ja, Herr Doktor.”
After a short period of scrabbling round, two small pairs of shoes were produced of different sizes. The doctor took one look at them and threw them back at where the two prisoners cowered behind the bench.
“Dummkopf! They’re twins. Their feet are the same size.”
“Ja, Herr Doktor.” After another short wait, a second pair of shoes was produced and the boys thankfully slipped off the old ones and then put the new ones on, nervously slipping the other shoes onto the bench.
“Will that be all, Herr Doktor?”
The man rocked back on his heels and examined the boys before he looked up again.
“No, that will not. We will need new clothes, as well.”
As the men turned back to the piles behind them, they cast glances of mixed astonishment and resentment on the two silent boys. Once the children had a pile of clothes each, the doctor turned to them.
“So, and now we will go.”
His arms outstretched, the man ushered the two boys from the hut and across the grassy square back to the building. Above the door, a sign read ‘Experiments’ and the boys exchanged nervous glances.
Later they talked to Henri about it. He was, like them, Flemish, like them, but had moved only as far as Paris and was there captured and sent to Dachau. He had arrived more than three months ago and was already well acquainted with some of the most bizarre happenings in the place. When the boys were back on their beds, he pulled himself up beside them.
”What experiments do they do here?”
It was Jacob that asked the question and Henri started before looking down at them, a faint smile on his face. “That’s not something you need to concern yourselves with. You’ll be safe here, with the protection of Dr. Krieg and the others.”
”And…and where are our parents?”
Henri’s half-smile vanished completely and abruptly. “I don’t think…”
The young Sydney reached out timidly and put a hand on Henri’s. “Please, tell us. We want to know.”
“I don’t really know myself, Sydney. But I think that your father and the other men were put on a different train, one heading west. It’s…not a good sign. I’ve heard stories of fires that burn there with the bodies of people who aren’t even dead yet.” Henri’s eyes were no longer focused on the boys but on the wall above their heads and his voice had taken on a dreamy quality as the words flowed from his mouth in a stream. “It’s said by some that they are killing people by the thousand and burning them so that no one will ever know.” Blinking suddenly, he looked down and tried again to smile, wishing suddenly to erase the words he had said aloud without realizing. “But it may not be so. They could be working at one of the other camps. There’s no guarantee that that’s what happened to them.”
* * * * * * * * *
“Hey, I’m finished!” The small face peered in through the glass but could make out nothing. As he looked, however, the door opened and he backed away.
“Hello Jarod. My name is Sydney. I’ll be taking care of you for a while.”
”Why? Where’s my mom and dad?” The boy expressed no concern or nervousness in his voice and hardly waited for an answer before he turned away and looked with some pride at the model he had built.
“That’s very good, Jarod.”
“Well, it’s hard to do from a picture. If I could go and see it, I could make it a lot better.”
The man laughed loudly. “Well, I’m glad to see that you have such a vivid imagination, anyway. That will certainly be useful for you in the future.” Sydney walked over to a table in the room and dropped a folder on it.
“What are we going to do now?”
The little boy looked up trustingly at the face above him and, for the first time, noticed that it was identical to the other man, the one who had brought him to this place. The voice, too, was almost identical and that, somehow, acted to calm any fears that the child may have had. The man pulled a sheet of paper out of the folder and the boy nodded towards it.
“What is it?”
“I want you to pretend to become someone else. Can you do that for me?”
The boy’s face lit up with the idea. “Sure. I can try.”
”Good.” The doctor led the boy to a couch and helped him up onto it, hiding a smile at the short legs that had no hope of reaching the floor and instead swung in the air. “Now, I want you to listen to what I say…”
The first simulation was complete. It had been, as predicted, a complete success and Sydney knew that it would be pleasing to his superiors. The boy had quickly picked up on the situation and had had no problem understanding what was required of him. The younger Sydney shuffled together some papers and was about to get up from his seat when the young Jarod spoke. “Can we do something else?”
Sydney looked over to him, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “We just did. You were building a model and then you performed a simulation.”
The boy nodded impatiently. “I know. I mean something totally different.”
Reaching over, Sydney grabbed the folder and pulled out a single sheet of paper, placing it in front of the young boy.
”It’s called a pattern recognition test.”
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney closed the door of the laboratory with a satisfied nod and glanced quickly through the folders that he carried. Twelve days and Jarod was still performing at 100% accuracy. They had made great predictions for this project but he was surpassing all of them, in both time and precision. For a moment, something made him stop. Time, accuracy, precision. What was he thinking that was so wrong? For a moment he stood, leaning against the desk, with his eyes closed. A memory from the past was teasing him, calling to him.
“…you’ll have to make sure you work with people. You would never be happy at a desk. You need interaction, mental stimulus. You can understand people...”
That was it. People. That one word made all the difference. He had been to so many meetings where Jarod was discussed as a machine that he had begun to think the same way. Sydney strode along the hallways and ran up the stairs, thinking hard all the time. Was that their plan? To make sure that Jarod got no love, no affection from the man who, in the long term, was planned to become a type of teacher? If so, they would find that they were mistaken. Eventually Sydney arrived in the Security Rooms.
“Can I do something for you, doctor?”
Sydney was about to respond when his eye was caught by the sight of Jarod lying on the bed where he had managed to crawl, exhausted by the day of simulations, after the sweepers had pushed him into the room and slammed the door. Sydney's heart constricted to see the tears on the small, pale face and he admonished himself for his behavior.
Blinking suddenly, Sydney glanced down at the woman who stood beside him and shook his head. “Thank you, no. I’ve seen everything I came here to see.”
As he descended the stairs again, it seemed that two voices were having an argument in his mind - the forces of Emotion and Science: the two creatures that had controlled him together - or sometimes in dispute - for so many years.
‘He’s just a child. Did you see the tears? He would never cry when he was working so he takes his tears to bed with him and wets the pillow with them all night long.’
‘He’s a science subject. You can’t get too involved with him. If you do, you can’t be objective.’
‘That child isn’t going to know anything about the rigors of science, and why should he? You were grateful for every piece of comfort that you received when you were the subject.’
‘That was different. I was used to getting no special attention. Indeed, that was the quickest way to die - drawing attention to myself.’
‘But you can’t deny that you liked the special attention; that you were even jealous of your brother if he seemed to receive more attention than you did.’
Sydney stopped outside the door of Jarod's room and waited for the voices to conclude their discussion, listening passively as he had always done with his arms folded on his chest, leaning against the wall.
‘But you can’t really remember,’ Emotion pleaded, calling on her brother, Love, to help her. ‘If you could really remember - if you hadn’t blocked out so much of that time - you would never be able to say that. You would go into that room, hold that boy in your arms and understand how Henri felt.’
‘Henri?’ Sydney felt suddenly that Science had been struck a blow at a weak point. But Science rallied. ‘Henri was different. He was protecting me.’
‘And what do you think your role is?’ Emotion was triumphant but Science not dead yet.
‘All right, show some feeling towards the boy. But don’t get too attached.’ With a flourish, Science produced his trump card. ‘They might take him away from you and that would destroy both you and him.’
With a definite nod, Sydney pulled open the door and entered the room. Kind but not too kind; a pattern for all the years that were to come.
* * * * * * * * *
“Dr. Eaton, this is Dr. Jarod Shea. Dr. Shea, Dr. James Eaton.”
The doctor turned from the microscope and faced the newcomer, his hand outstretched. “Dr. Shea.”
“Jarod.” Instantly Jarod's mind was hit by a voice that was somehow familiar to him and he struggled to remember where he had heard it before.
“James. Nice to meet you.” The doctor turned to the secretary. “Thank you, Margaret. Coffee please, in an hour. That is,” he turned to Jarod. “If you drink coffee.”
“Yes, thanks. That sounds great.”
The woman left the two men alone and Henry waved Jarod to a high stool beside his microscope. “So, I understand that you’re interested in this type of work. I read your profile. Very impressive. Must have taken a bit of work to make up.”
Jarod grinned and refrained from commenting. It seemed safer somehow.
“So your main area of focus is…?”
”Well, it has been the field of pain relief but I’m becoming increasingly interested in trying to attack the very foundations of illnesses. I mean, we can provide painkillers until a person develops a resistance to them, but until a cure can be found, surely all that’s happening is a prolonging of the inevitable.”
Dr. Eaton nodded. “I agree. And that’s the purpose behind my research. I believe that I’m close to a major development in reversing the growth of cancers from any point - not just the smaller tumors but also even the larger ones that, up to now, have only been able to be operated on. The major benefit of my treatment is the possibility of reduced risk. As you are probably aware, cancer treatments now are so non-specific that a certain amount of healthy tissue must often be damaged when the tumor is targeted. With my treatment, I may have found a way to solve that problem. Equally, my treatment has few side effects, thus far, making it preferable to many products currently available. Let me show you…”
The doctor led the way out of the laboratory and into another smaller office and Jarod followed, a puzzled look on his face.
* * * * * * * * *
The tape stopped so abruptly that Miss Parker felt as though she had been thrown forward. She looked quickly over at Angelo and then followed his glance towards Sydney. The psychiatrist, however, only had eyes for the face on the television screen. For a few seconds, the room was so silent that voices in an adjoining office came clearly through the walls and, had any of the occupants been listening, they may have heard something that could have given them food for thought. Instead all attention was focused on Sydney.
The psychiatrist sat as if frozen, momentarily turned to stone as the mind first recognized and then repulsed the image that filled the monitor. Something that was for a moment like fear, suffering and anger all rolled into one flittered across his face, fading quickly into an emotion that might, by some, be called panic and by others to be terror. A moment of silence continued until, as though pulled by unseen forces, Sydney overturned his chair and bolted from the room.
Miss Parker and Broots stared after him for several seconds until the television restarted itself and the movement of the figures broke through the stifling atmosphere of the room. With a movement similar to Sydney's, Miss Parker leapt up from her chair and grabbed Angelo, as he was about to creep out of the room.
“Who was that, Angelo?”
Despite her firm grip, Angelo wrenched himself away and, reaching into his pocket, pulled out a DSA disk and he threw it at her.
“Experiments!” The word came out clearly but the voice was raised to the pitch of a young boy rather than a grown man. “Experiments! Suffering!” Yanking open the door, the empath disappeared through it and down the hallway at a run.
* * * * * * * * *
It was dark when Jarod returned to the Clinic and let himself in with a key that Dr. Eaton had grudgingly handed over upon Jarod's request that he often liked to stay late. Struggling to remember where he had heard the voice before, Jarod had spent the afternoon and evening comparing the voice with every one of the three hundred and twenty-two DSAs that he had in his collection. There was no match and now, becoming increasingly frustrated, Jarod had decided that his best chance was to go through the doctor’s records. So that was what he was going to do now. Entering the records room, Jarod systematically began his search. He was able to narrow down the field to a certain period, remembering that the voice had been heard when Jarod was only ten and only months before Catherine Parker had seemingly been killed in the elevator.
Four names appeared as patients of a Dr. Henry Eaton during that period and all of them caused a similar feeling in Jarod. Each had died of the same type of cancer and the name of one was painfully familiar. Rebecca Eaton. Jarod suspected a connection to one of the Drs. Eaton and was about to investigate when he heard the slightest sound of a door opening and closing further down the corridor. With a lightening movement, Jarod dropped the files back in the drawer, extinguished the light and slipped into the corner behind the door.
He held his breath as the door swung open but its shadow protected him as the lights overhead were turned on and, noticing a peephole in the office door, Jarod put his eye to it and was able to see quite clearly that it was the doctor himself who had entered. Opening the top drawer of his desk, Eaton pulled out a small parcel and thrust it into the deep pocket of his jacket. Then, to Jarod's chagrin, he opened the filing cabinet drawer and appeared to extracted the same exact files in which the pretender had greatest interest. rest. The drawer was slammed shut and the room darkened before Jarod had a chance to breathe. As the door shut and was locked behind him, Jarod stepped over to the desk and opened the top drawer. An empty corner was all that remained of the mysterious object that Dr. Eaton had removed and, closing the drawer, Jarod thoughtfully and warily exited the room.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker bent over the computer terminal where Broots was feverishly working and glared at the picture of the strange man on the screen. “How long?” The words came out in a snake-like hiss that made Broots shrink away slightly.
“I don’t know.” His response was slow and cautious, nervous of making the storm hovering above him crash down on his head. Regardless of his caution, it came.
“What do you mean, you don’t know? How can you not know? We’ve been working on it for almost an hour. No, I take that back. You’ve been working on it for over an hour.”
’And you’ve been hovering and yelling for over an hour,’ Broots thought to himself. ‘How am I supposed to work efficiently under those conditions?’
The voice above his head went on. “And how can it be possible that you haven’t located anything about this man yet? We know that he’s a member of the German arm of the Triumvirate and that’s it. Are you saying there isn’t even anything about his name?”
“Uh, no.” The words came hesitantly but the idea that followed came suddenly and abruptly. “Miss Parker, why don’t you ask Sydney who he is?”
Suddenly calm, the woman shook her head. “He left the Centre almost thirty minutes ago.”
”S…so why don’t you go and see him?”
”I will - soon. First, I have to know who this person is.”
Broots rocked back in his chair and looked up at her. “Those words that Angelo said - experiments and suffering. Do you think there’s a connection to this man?”
Miss Parker looked down at him in amazement. “Possibly. It’s an idea, anyway, so we’ll run with it. Try and work out who this guy is. If necessary, take a look in Sydney's office and see if there’s any idea there.”
Broots shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I…I don’t like the idea…”
Miss Parker looked down at him, suddenly exasperated. “For God’s sake, Broots, I’m not asking you to find out all of his dirty little secrets. We’re doing this to help him. Remember that.”
Broots nodded but, as Miss Parker reached the office door, he looked up again. “And w…where will you be?”
”I’m going to look for Angelo. I think he might be able to tell us a little more about what’s happening in this nuthouse.”
* * * * * * * * *
“Did you find what you were looking for?”
As he entered the lab, Jarod tried not to look guilty and instead looked, as he felt, rather foolish. He tried to bluff his way out of the situation. “What are you talking about, James?”
“Last night, Jarod. Did you find the things in my office that you were looking for?”
”Really, James, I…”
”Oh, come on Jarod.” Dr. Eaton turned from the microscope and looked over at the pretender. “I know that you were there and now I want to know if it was helpful for you.”
Jarod remained silent. The doctor spoke again.
“Well, I hope it was useful for you. Although I would have thought that any questions you might have had about Rebecca should really have been addressed to her father. I could have told you anything you wanted to know. In fact, those files in which you were particularly interested are sitting right there.”
Looking in the direction shown by Dr. Eaton, Jarod saw the pile of slim folders on the workbench beside his microscope and, looking up, met the eye of the doctor, which, at the present time, twinkled in a way that made Jarod more than a little uncomfortable.
“You see, Jarod, I know a lot more about you than you might think…”
* * * * * * * * *
Sitting in his lair that night, Jarod thought over the words that the doctor had uttered that day. Somehow he, too, had the feeling that he had once known a great deal about the doctor. But time or certain events had wiped that knowledge from his brain and left it blank, but with a vague and frustrating idea that something had once been there. In vain Jarod struggled to remember what that nameless, faceless thing was, but the information slipped through his mind like water through his fingers and he was eventually forced to admit that he wasn’t going to remember it alone. As the tail end of the idea came into his thoughts, Jarod reached over and picked up his phone.
Just as he was about to punch in the numbers, however, the phone rang as it lay in the palm of his hand.
“Suffering. Sydney. Suffering, suffering, suffering.” The last repetition of the word faded and was replaced by a dial tone and Jarod stared at the item in his hand. Why was suffering the significant word? Why not anger, sadness, or joy? For a moment Jarod stared off into the middle distance, his eyes focusing on nothing in particular as his mind focused on the problem at hand. Then, with a determined air, Jarod dialed a particular set of numbers and waited for the phone to be answered.
* * * * * * * * *
“What the hell are you, Jarod? Psychic?”
Ignoring the jibe, Jarod focused on the reason for his call. “It’s important that I talk to Sydney.”
“Well, I’d love to let you and all that, but at the moment we’re trying to work out what made him take off like a startled rabbit.”
“And what’s Angelo’s opinion on Sydney's behavior?”
Miss Parker sighed, admitting defeat mentally, and answered the question seriously. “He obviously had some idea of what was going to happen. He showed us a video of a meeting of the Triumvirate and stopped on one particular face and then Sydney took off at a run. But when I went to look for him a few minutes ago, I couldn’t find him.” Miss Parker turned and stared at the photo of the unnamed man that sat on the desk before her. “What do you know about him?”
“I don’t know much about any of the Triumvirate at the moment. Which country was he representing - South Africa, the US or…?”
“Germany.” Jarod repeated the word thoughtfully and both he and Miss Parker were silent for several seconds. “Well, if he’s a member of the Triumvirate then he’ll be well protected. Be careful, Miss Parker.”
“You too, Jarod.”
It was almost the identical second that the two of them terminated the call, Jarod to begin pacing the length of his lair and Miss Parker to recommence berating the technician for the lack of information he had found.
“You might remember,” Broots finally stated, amazed at his own courage, "We had exactly the same problems with Mr. Cox when he first appeared. “
”Ah, yes.” Miss Parker thought for a moment. “The terrible taxidermist. So we did.” She walked away and stared fixedly at a small spot on the floor for such a long time in silence that Broots felt that he had to make some sort of noise just to relieve the tension. As he was about to, however, she turned on her heel and walked to the door.
“M…Miss Parker, where are you going?”
Turning, she looked at him fixedly. “I’m going to find Sydney.” The door closed firmly behind her.
“Your parents are flying through the air.”
Sydney and Jacob heard the words called out after them as they ran with the other inmates of their block from the shower quarters to their room. Glances passed quickly between them but it was hard work to keep up with the men as they ran to avoid being beaten by the guards. Once they got back, however, the two boys made their way to Henri’s bunk. There, they found him lying on his back and struggling to regain his breath, shivering and perspiring at the same time; however, when he saw the boys, he sat up immediately.
“We need to talk to you.”
”Of course. What is it?”
Together, they told him about the comment they had heard shouted above the sound of so many boots and shoes running along the ground, muddy after the first of the autumn rains.
“Is it true, Henri?” “How are they flying?” The two voices were simultaneous. A second of silence passed and then Henri gathered the young boys and sat them on his emaciated knees.
“There are stories going around that some people in other camps are sometimes gathered into a room and die there. It is said that many people have died in this way, together. And that, you know, is better than dying alone and afraid.” Henri tried to smooth over the truth, to make it more palatable to the mind of the ten-year-old boys.
“Like the gas chamber here at Dachau?”
Henri silently cursed the rumor mill that was so active in the camp. “Yes, like the chamber here. It has been said that some camps have more than one chamber and that they actually use them there.”
“Are they burning them, like they do here?”
“More.” The word slipped out before Henri could help himself.”
Sydney looked over his shoulder to where, in the increasing darkness, the sky glowed red and yellow as the flames climbed through the chimneys and out into the blackness above.
“So our parents were - in that?”
Henri sighed. “It’s possible. It didn’t happen here, though. You know that your mother’s train never came here. After Doctor Krieg came and took the two of you, the group containing your father was put on the train again. It’s likely that he was taken to another camp, not far from Linz in Austria.”
“We spent so long in the first one, from that other camp.”
Henri sighed again, sadly, and tried to think of a way to explain the truth to the boys who were determined to deny everything, both to themselves and him. Eventually he realized that he would have to simply tell them the honest truth. They would hear the same story, no matter whom they went to, and he would rather that they heard it from him. Resettling himself slightly and allowing the two boys to slide off his knees and sit on either side of him, he started to explain.
“There are stories going around about things happening in other camps. Terrible things. I told you that some people even say that they are burning bodies of people who are still alive…”
Henri was woken up during the night by two hands shaking him gently. Looking up, he was able, in the light caused by the continually burning furnaces, to see the faces of the two boys, both streaked with tears.
“What is it?” He sat up and pulled the two boys into the bed with him.
“It’s true, isn’t it?”
Henri nodded. “I wouldn’t tell you lies about something like that. It’s better that you know because, here, the more you know, the better chance you have to survive. Although you will never have to go through a selection…”
“It’s when all of the prisoners go out onto the Appellplatz and are forced to run in front of the doctors.”
“Like Dr. Leiden?”
“Yes, and Doctor Krieg.”
“And they - pick people?”
Henri smoothed Sydney's hair and wiped a stray tear from Jacob’s cheek with gentle, almost loving hands. “The people who can’t work any more are taken away to one of the other camps. Sometimes their things are brought back here and given to other people.”
There was a few seconds of silence while Henri tried to think of something else to say. As he was about to open his mouth, Jacob spoke.
“Will you help us?”
“How?” Henri’s voice was full of curiosity.
“Will you look after us? Make sure that we do everything right?”
Henri paused for a moment, realizing that the longing he had had before he
left Paris of having a family might actually have a chance of coming true. However
he had to admit the truth. “I can’t possibly protect you from everything here.
But I will do my best - make sure that you know what might happen and how you
can do your best to avoid it.”
The two boys nestled closer to him and Henri took comfort from the warmth of their closeness. Closing his eyes, he sent up a brief prayer to hope that he could fulfill the trust placed in him by the two small, innocent, orphaned boys.
* * * * * * * * *
The door opened and the lights were switched on at the usual time but the figure that stood in the doorway was not the same.
“Get up.” A hand threw clothes in the direction of the boy, who pulled himself into a sitting position and caught the bundle with pure instinct.
“Who are you?”
The knock that sent the head back onto the pillow was only relatively light but, to a child who had never been struck, it was dumbfounding. He looked up at the stranger in shock.
“Well? Didn’t you hear what I said? We have work to do. You have ten minutes. No, five. Be ready when I return.”
The door slammed shut and the child pulled himself up on the bed, clutching the clothes in a nervous hand. In fact, as he saw in a moment, they were not his own garments. The items he held in his hand bore no resemblance to the lovingly hand-knitted jumpers and the well-fitting pants that had been brought with him to this place. These were a shapeless, gray pair of pants and top made in the same material. As he donned them, Jarod could feel his skin crawl at the feel of the unfamiliar material and he looked with longing at the pajamas he had just removed.
Several minutes later the man returned to find the boy dressed and waiting. A curt nod was all the direction that Jarod received and had it not been for the fact that he was aware of the destination, he would likely have received another cuff for going the wrong way through the winding passages. At the door of the lab, Jarod stopped, accustomed to allowing Sydney to enter first, but this time a hand was placed into the middle of his back and he was shoved forward, banging his head smartly on the door.
“Well, what are you waiting for? The door isn’t going to open itself.”
Reaching up, almost blindly, Jarod's hand found the doorknob and he staggered thankfully into the room. As he did every other day, Jarod headed for the chair that he sat on while Sydney read out the program but this time a hand grabbed his shoulder and he was shoved into the corner of the room.
“What do you think you’re doing? Do you expect to sit on a throne like a prince while I have to stand? You will come here,” a hand pointed to a spot immediately in front of the seat in which the strange man had seated himself. Jarod scrambled to his feet, his head throbbing painfully, and stood, as he saw, within arm’s distance of the man. Slowly, as if to an imbecile, the man began explaining his tasks for the day.
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney entered the room as usual, refreshed after the short holiday that he and Jacob had spent together at White Cloud Lake, to find Jarod standing, already fully dressed, by the bed. As the door opened, the young man had shuffled slightly backwards until his back was pressed against the wall and his bed was made with the sheets pulled so tightly that Sydney would later wonder how the mattress hadn’t bent in the middle.
“Good morning, sir.” The words came out before Jarod had really focused on the person that walked through the door and Sydney's eyebrows rose to see the young boy peering into the darkened hallway behind him and he made haste to step into the room and close the door.
“What is it, Jarod?”
“Of course. Who else would it be?”
It perplexed the psychiatrist to see that Jarod had still not relaxed his stance at all and, as he walked over to the one chair in the room and sat down, Sydney tried to work out what had caused the change.
“Aren’t you going to sit down, Jarod?”
“I…prefer to stand, thank you.”
Sydney nodded thoughtfully and watched as Jarod came and stood in a spot directly in front of him, his eyes focused on the floor. For a few seconds, Sydney waited, his eyes having seen that the boy was trying to disguise a limp. At the end of the time of silence, Sydney could see that Jarod was biting his lip and sweating profusely in, the psychiatrist supposed, a desperate attempt to hide the pain he was feeling. Reaching out a hand, Sydney suddenly and rapidly lifted up the sleeve of the gray top Jarod was wearing and gasped aloud as he saw the bruises that stood out along his whole upper limb.
“Who did it?”
Jarod shifted his gaze so that he was looking out of the small, barred window and refused to answer.
“Jarod, I want to know who did this to you.”
”I can’t say.” The whisper was almost silent but Sydney detected it and immediately walked over to the intercom, high on the wall. With a swipe of his security card, he activated it.
“I want a medical cart brought down here at once.”
There was a pause.
“Sydney, no, please. If you do it, he’ll be so angry.”
There was another pause, and then the words rushed out like water over the edge of Niagara Falls. “The man who was here instead of you for the last two weeks; who said that he would be taking over from you and that I wouldn’t see you again, ever.”
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker stepped through the open door and into a hallway cluttered with clothes and other assorted items.
“Sydney?” Her voice echoed back at her through the empty ground floor but from above she could hear sounds of movement - vigorous movement - that betrayed the existence of another person. As Miss Parker climbed the stairs, she could hear banging and a muttering of a familiar voice and, as she threw open the door in front of her, the figure turned for a moment before continuing to throw items randomly onto the bed, on which sat an open suitcase.
“What are you doing?”
Ignoring her, Sydney continued to throw items into the case until, when his back was turned, Miss Parker shut it and sat on it.
“Again, Sydney, what are you doing?”
“Leaving.” The word came out almost like a growl but Miss Parker hardly noticed as she threw back her head and laughed aloud.
“You’ve said that before. Why should this time be any different?”
He came close to her and looked at her where she sat, her eyes on a level with his. “Because this time I know exactly how much danger I’m in. And, after what I’ve seen…” His voice trailed off and he turned away slightly. “I can’t stay.”
”Jarod is probably safer than any of us, out in the world and no longer within the Centre. If I’d known…”
”Known what, Sydney?” Miss Parker's voice was impatient. Getting up off the bed she began to pace the length of the room.
“Known how unsafe it was, with certain people running the place.”
“Who do you mean, Sydney? My…?”
Taking advantage of the situation and the fact that Miss Parker's back was turned, Sydney grabbed the case, locked it, and ran out of the room. She turned around to find that he was gone and her question unanswered. To the empty room, in a half-whisper, she finished it. “My father?”
* * * * * * * * *
“More tea, Jarod?”
The pretender shook his head, a smile on his face. “No thanks.”
Smiling, the woman replaced the teapot on the stand over the candle and looked at him. “I suppose you think it’s rather strange that I do things this way.”
”I’ve certainly never seen tea drunk this way before,” Jarod answered carefully.
“We were German, you see, and we moved when Julie-Ann was only a baby. We brought a lot of our traditions with us.”
“Can you tell me about your daughter?”
The woman smiled a little sadly and glanced at the framed photo that sat on the table in front of them. Jarod readied himself for the long spiel that such a question usually prompted.
“She was our everything.”
That was all, one sentence, and for a moment Jarod waited for more. There was no more, though, and the pause that was gradually intruding was, he felt, quite hard to overcome.
“She was beautiful.”
“She looked like her father used to.”
The woman looked up and her face now took on the sad expression he had first noticed when he had arrived at the house.
“My husband took the death of Julie-Ann very hard.” The widow swallowed. “He caught the flu the following winter and it spread into pneumonia. He had always been susceptible to infections when he was younger and, when he worsened, he told me that he wanted to be with our daughter again. Who was I to stop him? I couldn’t have, anyway, even if I’d wanted to.” She sighed and gently blew her nose on a tissue that had formerly been peeping out of the end of her sleeve.
She nodded. “Most people are, you know. But I suppose there’s nothing else to say. So they’re gone and I’m making the most of it. Still, even though Dr. Eaton thought he could come up with a cure before she died, at least her death will be able to help others.”
Jarod nodded consolingly, letting his gaze wander to the photo and the smiling face of the girl that looked out of the frame.
* * * * * * * * *
Sydney looked out through the window to the darkening sky. A light rain was falling but in some parts of the sky there were no clouds and in these areas stars could be seen. After abandoning his house, Sydney had driven without being aware of the direction. He had no plan in mind but a desperate desire to get away. The sun had gradually begun to slip down the horizon and, as oncoming vehicles had flashed their high beams at him to get him to put on his headlights, Sydney had slowly become aware of how late it was. Getting out of the car after more than eight hours behind the wheel, it had taken him several minutes to be able to straighten up. But now, oblivious to time, he knelt on an abandoned block of land, fences on three sides hiding him from view and a row of trees doing the same on the fourth. His car was some distance away; his case in the trunk, but Sydney had suddenly felt hemmed in by the metal around him and had wanted to get out. He stood in the middle of plot, having stopped in an area between major towns and without lit streets. The grass in the unmanaged area reached almost to the hem of his coat and gently stroked the clenched fists that hung by his sides, whispering to him in seeming sympathy.
“We’re free, Sydney.” A voice from the past seemed to be standing beside him. “I can finally believe that we’re free.”
“I wish I could believe it, too.”
“Believe it, Sydney. We can go home again.”
“And what will we find when we get there, Jacob? Will it all be the same as it was before? Can we be happy as well as free? An end to the suffering?”
Now, as had happened more than fifty years ago, there was silence as Sydney asked the question to the empty land. He had thought it was true. He had begun, finally, to hope that those dreams might be coming true.
But there could never be an end to the suffering….
* * * * * * * * *
Sitting back in his chair with a sigh, Jarod dropped the last page on top of the pile and stared at it.
The words were said aloud but he had no idea that they had been audible and the rest of his thoughts were silent. There was no sign that Julie-Ann’s body was used for scientific purposes. It had been transported from her home, where she had died, to the laboratory of Dr. Eaton and then, several days later, taken for burial. Having looked through all of the laboratory’s records, Jarod was beginning to believe that the body had never been touched by the scientist and, although he wouldn’t go as far as the exhume the body, Jarod was willing to lay money on the fact that any marks would have been caused prior to death and not after it. That meant that the mother’s wish for the daughter had not been fulfilled. Julie-Ann’s body had never been used and her death would have created no further progress in the search for a cure.
In fact, thought Jarod as he got to his feet and began to pace, there didn’t even seem to be any research into a cure. The work that Eaton had shown him was similar to other work being carried out in laboratories all over the world and could have been bought for the right price. His own investigations had, in fact, shown further steps being taken in other places that brought the possibility of a cure much closer than it was here, despite the fact that this was the only place in the whole of the United States where this specific cancer was being targeted. Definitely food for thought, Jarod said to himself as he walked over to the fridge and pulled out an O’Henry bar. Food for both thought and stomach…
* * * * * * * * *
“What in the name of all that’s good, bad or indifferent happened here?”
Broots spun around to see Miss Parker standing in the doorway and a familiar expression of near panic settled on his face.
“Well, you left to go and find Sydney and then came back and suggested that after I had finished looking for anything on the member of the Triumvirate I might go through Sydney's office in the hope of finding some clue about who he is…”
“Okay, okay!” Miss Parker put her hands over her ears then stepped into the room and looked around. “I asked you to go through it, Broots, not to make it look like a crime scene.”
“I didn’t!” The technician’s protest was vigorous. “It was like this when I got there.”
”That’s what Nixon said about the Watergate,” Miss Parker snorted loudly. “But what I want to know is what he took.”
Miss Parker shook her head in frustration. “Let’s just assume for the moment that we changed the subject, shall we? I’m talking about Sydney.”
“So get me a comprehensive list of what was here and isn’t now.”
“B…But, Miss Parker, I don’t know what’s normally here.”
Glancing around, the former cleaner walked over to the desk and scooped up the passport that sat there before turning back to Broots. “Work it out. If something’s missing, I want to know what it was. And I want to know ASAP.”
Turning on her heel, she walked to the door. Before she left, though, she turned back and looked once more at Broots. “What did you find out about our mysterious friend from above?”
He turned a nervous face to her. “Um, not much.”
“In other words, nothing more than when I left before, right?”
“So, keep looking.”
”Y…yes, Miss Parker.”
The door opened, she stormed through it and then it shut with a firm click behind her. Broots sighed and for the sake of it, stuck out his tongue as far as it would go in the direction she had gone. Maybe it’s a childish thing to do, he thought, but her behavior always made him feel infantine and doing something like that always made him feel a little better. Then, honor satisfied, he turned back to his momentous task.
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.
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.
Henri looked over to find Jacob staring at him, confusion apparent in his eyes.
“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…
* * * * * * * * *
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.
The face approached out of the darkness and smiled gently.
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
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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.
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.
“Well, I was hoping you could do me a favor of sorts…”
“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 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…”
* * * * * * * * *
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
“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.”
”It…It’s about this mysterious person and…”
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.
* * * * * * * * *
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…