Perihelion,
Part Two

 

home / season five / episode twenty-three / act III

   

Jarod's Lair

Jarod laid the DNA profiles out, rearranging them like pieces of a puzzle, until he got them to match. Each profile for each of the children on his list contained two major sets of DNA patterns, with a handful of additional codes added in to make them complete and unique, different even from their parents. The two major sets of patterns under each name was designated with a number, and Jarod had spent hours studying genetics to understand all of what he was seeing.

Finally, he had everything separated into eight individual piles, all of the items in each pile relating to one specific child. One by one, he examined the data, working to determine which, if any, might be his. The oldest of the children was over two years, and Gabriel was the youngest. He went methodically in birth order, combing through the profiles to see if he could determine parentage on any of them.

He knew how to read the data. A dark spot in one column would indicate blue eyes; in another column it would mark brown eyes. This marker designated the profile as male, that one as female. He separated the men from the women, the blue eyed from the brown, and narrowed it down to four potentials. Three of the males, in fact, seemed to be related. He decided those three were himself, Kyle and Ethan.

At that point, he took a breather, and decided to work on the women’s profiles. He would need to know everything about these children, who their parents were, and if he was too overwrought, he wouldn’t be able to finish properly. So he studied the women’s profiles, and after a great deal of deliberation, he fixed maternity on each of the children.

For several minutes he stared at one profile, his heart pounding painfully in his chest. He would have to tell this child’s mother, if she didn't already know; either way, it wouldn’t be an easy thing to do.

He embraced his pain, and went back to the men’s profiles, studying those four that had the right characteristics.

Kyle’s eyes had been blue, and Ethan’s mother was different, so there were patterns in their files that marked them. Which left one profile that had to be his own.

He stared at that profile, aware of the thumping in his chest, the heat of his body, the life pumping in his veins. He was strong, able to wield tremendous destructive force with his hands and with his mind, but at the moment he was utterly helpless. What was done was done, and he could not undo it.

He had a child, part of his body and this woman’s who did not even know she was a mother. And his child lived as a prisoner, a laboratory animal in the Centre.

He rose and began to pace beside the table where he had so carefully laid out all the data. Rage swirled through him, blocking out rational thought. He envisioned the Centre exploding into billions of tiny fragments, fire ravaging whatever was left.

But he couldn't take direct action against them. Not yet. Not as long as they had his child. Not as long as they had any children, but particularly those who were the Yellow Files.

He sat down again, eyes closed as he tried to control his fury. He would have to restrain himself and think, figure out what to do to save them. He couldn’t do it by himself, he already knew that. But he needed a plan, and to construct one, he would have to be able to think clearly.

Jarod applied himself to that task with his whole being, unaware that he was crying. Tears streamed down his cheeks unheeded, dropping into a small puddle on the printout directly in front of him. Ink dissolved into the tears, blurring the name neatly printed at the top of the narrow strip of paper.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
SL-17, Nursery Level

Cox stepped out of the playroom, clipboard in hand, a broken plush toy tucked under his arm. He secured the lock on the door and looked up as he stepped away, heading for the elevator that would take him back to his office. Just stepping off that elevator were a group of workers, and Mr. Lyle.

Cox strolled over to him. “May I ask why you've chosen this level?” he inquired politely.

“Just giving Valentine, here, the tour,” Lyle answered casually. “He’s my new sweeper. Valentine, this is Cox.”

The other man leaned closer, narrowing his eyes as he stared directly into Cox’s, but did not extend his hand in greeting. In fact, he kept his hands firmly clasped behind his back. “You’re traveling light, there, aren’t you, Dr. Cox?” he asked enigmatically.

“This sub-level is off limits,” Cox reiterated. But he couldn’t shift his gaze back to Lyle. Something about the new sweeper mesmerized him, nailed his attention. It felt as if the man was looking right into his soul, but that was impossible; he had none.

Valentine smiled at him. Something cold glimmered in his eyes, with hard, sharp edges. Cox felt the danger instantly, and knew that this man should not be trifled with unless absolutely necessary. But if he was Lyle’s lackey, he could certainly be reassigned.

Cox opened his mouth to speak, but the stuffed Eeyore under his arm hiccuped and said, in a deep and slightly forlorn voice, “Got a question? Well, go ahead and ask it.”

Lyle grinned. “I know you want me out of your way. You were in cahoots with Raines, trying to get rid of me. And I also know you’re using the Yellow Files to try to snatch power, but you’ll going to have to watch your step. After all, the Chairman of the Triumvirate is my father.”

“I’m aware of your family tree, Mr. Lyle,” Cox assured him coolly. He wanted to laugh at the man’s overblown sense of importance. “But whom do you think the Centre would consider more important to its continued success: someone who has deliberately mishandled their prize Pretender, and lost most of the Blue Files, or the man who created the Seraphim for them?” He chuckled, forgetting about the new sweeper for the moment. “I have the power of life and death in my hands. What do you have in yours?”

He yanked the toy out from under his arm and pushed it against Lyle’s chest.

“Outcome looks sorta gloomy,” said Eeyore.

Cox laughed softly. “If your 'vitamin deficiency' doesn’t destroy you, maybe Faith will, as she did Raines. Your ineptitude seems to be forever coming back to haunt you.”

"You can't win them all," Eeyore commiserated.

Lyle took the toy as Cox sidestepped and walked away toward the elevator. "Keep away from the children, Lyle,” he called over his shoulder.

A pair of nearby sweepers heard the directive and moved toward them. Lyle held up his hands in a placatory gesture and began to back away. He and his companion also turned and headed toward the elevator, stepping inside just as the doors closed.

Cox selected a floor, and Lyle pushed another button immediately afterward.

“Watch yourself, Cox,” Lyle warned amiably. “One day soon, I just might be your boss. Then where will you be?”

He tossed Eeyore back to the doctor just as the doors slid open to deposit him on the next floor down.

"Looks good, for you," the toy said. "Must be nice."

“Never underestimate someone who’s got nothing to lose,” Lyle offered as a parting shot, just as the doors closed again.

Cox tucked the toy back under his arm. “Idle threats,” he mused to himself, certain that Lyle was just trying to make himself look good in front of the new lackey.

Eeyore hiccuped once more. "Sorry to bother you, but... is my tail still there?"

Cox stared down at the toy, its sad eyes in brave contrast to its stitched smile. He didn’t have a talent for precognition, but recognized that all humans were capable of it at times. And suddenly, he didn’t feel quite as sure of himself where Lyle was concerned.

He punched the button again, even though the elevator was already in motion, anxious to get back to his office after completing his rounds.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Miss Parker's office

The day seemed to last forever. Miss Parker put in overtime, sifting through clues left at Jarod’s last lair as if she were seriously trying to divine his next mission. He was gone from Norfolk already, and in another day she would lead her cohorts to Ghent On The Square for a search of his latest lair. For now, she played her part well, stretching out the time until she could call it quits for the day.

Her drive home was uneventful, but she took notice of the cable van parked just up the road from her house. That would be the listening post, where the technicians assigned to spy on her would be waiting, monitoring for any visitors to come to her house or any phone call she made, hoping she would slip up and plot something aloud that could be reported to the Chairman.

Parker was no fool. Broots’ warning had been sufficient. She knew there would be no cameras installed to watch her at home -- he had told her so. They didn’t want to see her doing mundane things, only to know if she was planning treason with any accomplices. She was safe as long as she kept quiet, but the feeling of being watched was impossible to shake.

Uncomfortable as that was, she wanted nothing more than to get a good night’s rest. Dinner was leftovers from the Chinese takeout she’d had the night before, and after a hot bath and a large scotch, she fell into bed. Sleep claimed her quickly, but it was not peaceful.

Get up, honey.

Parker moaned, and pulled the pillow over her head. “Not now, Mama,” she said aloud.

It’s time. You have to finish my work.

She sat up slowly, suddenly aware that the voice she had been hearing was her mother’s. The room was empty, as usual, but the feeling was strong that Catherine was somewhere nearby.

“Mama?” she whispered sleepily. “What is it?”

They’re listening. Remember that.

Parker nodded now fully awake. “I know.” She could hear the voice clearly, and wondered if anyone else could hear it, too.

The voice was calm, and a sensation of warmth infused her, as if someone had just put loving arms around her and held her close. Comfort seeped into her, and she lifted her head, eyes closed, listening to that wonderful voice she had wanted to hear again for so long. She sighed, and waited, and hoped.

This is your perihelion, my darling. You have to get close to the fire, and let the strength you find there propel you on a different journey. Finish my work, Morgan. It’s what you were born to do.

“But where --“

Parker opened her eyes. The vision of her mother was gone again, without giving her the information she needed. She still didn’t know where to find the DSA with her mother’s plan on it.

She wasn’t going to go back to sleep this time. She paced the floor until she got cold, then went into the closet to put on one of Tommy’s flannel shirts for warmth. It still smelled like him, and almost felt as if he had his arms around her.

Almost.

She wandered into the living room, poured herself another drink and sat down on the sofa to contemplate what her mother had said. She lifted her drink to her lips and raised her eyes to the fireplace across the room. For a moment, she couldn’t move.

You have to get closer to the fire, her mother had said. Mechanically setting the glass aside, she rose and moved to sit on the hearth, studying the bricks dusted with soot in the back of the fireplace. It was coming up on summer anyway, and the fireplace could use a good cleaning. She changed into sweats, pulled her hair into a ponytail and returned to the hearth with a box of tools. Donning a pair of rubber gloves to try to keep her hands clean, she began first to wiggle each of the bricks in the outer face of the fireplace, trying to find one that might be even the slightest bit loose, but there were none. She continued with those bricks she could reach on the three inner walls of the fire chamber, then hauled out all the partially burned logs on the iron cradle. Next, she swept up the ashes and worried at the floor, hoping to find something loose there.

With a sigh of frustration, she climbed all the way into the fireplace and took a look up the chimney, what she could see of it. Her head wouldn’t fit all the way into the flue, but she could get an arm into the mechanism that kept the smoke flowing upward, and not back into the house. Gingerly she felt around inside it, but wasn’t sure what she was feeling through the gloves.

Into her bedroom she dashed, retrieving a couple of small hand mirrors and a flashlight before returning to the fireplace. It took some clever maneuvering to arrange the mirrors in such a way where she could see into the chimney, but her efforts were rewarded with the sight of a small square, coated in thick black soot, attached to a wall. It didn’t appear to have a purpose, and she reached for it.

Moments later, she held the object in her hand, gently brushing the powdery black off the metal surface, in search of a catch. Holding her breath, she whipped off the rubber gloves, no longer caring if the soot stained her fingers or nails, and opened the box. Inside it was a DSA, carefully packed in heat-resistant foam.

At last!

She wanted to laugh, to shout for joy. This was her mother’s last message to her, recorded at some point before her death at Raines' hands. She could hardly wait to see her mother’s face smiling back at her, to hear her voice --

Parker suddenly realized she couldn’t play the DSA in her house or at her office. She was going to have to get away somewhere before she could hear her mother’s plan. Quickly, she went to the bathroom, washed her hands and took the DSA with her into her closet. She changed again, dressing in jeans and a silk tank top, with Tommy’s flannel shirt over it. Slipping the disc into one of the shirt pockets, she took her DSA reader, got into the car, and drove.

She gave no thought to where she was headed, but soon found herself pulling into a motel on the way to Norfolk. Watching the traffic all around her, she was certain she had not been followed, certain that no one would be listening. Barely able to contain her excitement, she checked in, locked the door and turned on the water in the shower, just in case. Setting the reader up on the bathroom counter, she slipped the disc in and set it to play.

Catherine Parker was alone in the house Miss Parker now called her own, sitting on the couch only a few feet from the fireplace where the DSA had eventually been stored. She leaned forward to adjust the camera, looked into the lens and smiled, but there was great sadness in her eyes, mixed with fear.

“Hi, sweetheart,” she said softly. “It feels a little strange to be talking to you like this…”

Tears filled her eyes and she glanced away, then pasted on a brave face and continued. "If you've found this recording, it means that you've managed to develop the inner sense I always knew was inside of you." She smiled sadly. "Your father did his best to prevent that, by forbidding the use of your name. But I knew that one day you would see through it all. Your name is your strength, Morgan. Never forget that."

The sight of her mother pulled at Parker's soul, but she was trying not to feel the agony of her loss. She was trying to listen, to understand. Instinctively she knew how important this message was, both to herself and to her late mother.

"The reason I'm making this now is that I have to go away for a while. I don't want to leave you, don't want to put you through the pain that's bound to come… but the choice has been taken out of my hands." She stopped for a moment, sniffling, then continued. "When it's all over, I'll try to come back for you. But if I don't --" Her voice broke. "-- if I don't, then I need you to understand what I've been doing at the Centre. I need you to understand my plan."

Catherine’s face screwed up. Her breath caught, and her hand shot forward to shut off the camera. The scene resumed a half second later, but it was obvious that she had been crying.

"The Centre was a good place once, a place that helped people. The influence of the Triumvirate changed all that. Some of the things they've done, especially their work with children, frightens me. I've tried to save as many as I can, but it's never enough. And there are always people watching, always someone ready and willing to betray you for a chance to move up the ladder.

"I thought about leaving, but I couldn't -- not with so many innocents in danger. And then, one day, I had a vision." She tilted her head, as if reliving it at that moment. "It's difficult to describe, but I believe my inner sense was showing me a piece of the future… much further ahead than anything I'd seen before."

Catherine leaned forward, closer to the camera. "I saw children, dozens of them, all controlled by the Centre. I watched them grow into adults, right before my eyes. And then I saw them turn on their handlers, fighting as though for their very existence. It was a sort of… holy war, but fought with weapons I'd never seen before. Weapons the Centre had given them."

She shifted position, and her voice softened. "The Centre cannot be taken down from the outside. Cut off an arm or leg, even the head itself, and part will remain -- enough to regenerate, given time. The only way to stop this insanity is to change it from the inside. That's what I've been trying to do. It's what I need you to do now.

"Find the children," she instructed. "The Red Files, and the others to come, when they are old enough to understand. Together, you can root out the evil and help the Centre become the benevolent place it once was. My plan will take time… it will have to wait until you and the others are grown, but it's the only way. When you finish, you will have fulfilled my legacy -- and I have no doubt that God will smile upon you."

The woman on the screen finished talking, but did not shut off the camera. She looked into it for a moment, considering, chewing her lower lip nervously. And then she spoke again, even more softly.

"If you need someone to help you, someone whose strength you can rely on, seek out Jarod. I can see, even now, the kind of man he's going to be one day. He's his father's son, which means you can trust him implicitly. At the Centre, that's worth its weight in gold.

“That’s all I have to say, baby. I know you’ll do the right thing. You’re going to be a strong woman, and kind. You’re special, not just because you’re my daughter and I love you, but because you have a gift.“ She smiled, wiping her tears with a tissue. “You’re going to be amazing, Morgan. You have everything you need already inside you. All you have to do is find it.”

Parker’s mouth dropped slightly open. What was her mother talking about? Her brow furrowed, and she waited for more.

Catherine only smiled, blew a kiss, and reached to shut off the recorder. Static filled the screen, and Parker used the track ball to scan for any additional item that might have been recorded onto the disc, but there was nothing. She played the whole thing back again, just to watch her mother, to love her with her eyes.

And when she was finished, she retreated to the bed to catch up on a little sleep. She was exhausted, and more than anything else she needed to rest. Hours later, she rose, packed up her things and drove the rest of the way to Norfolk. Jarod was already gone, as she knew he would be. She telephoned him at the number he had given her, and waited for him to arrive.

Jarod would know what needed to be done. With his guidance, she would carry out Catherine’s brave coup. A holy war had started with her death, but now, at perihelion, the persecuted would turn and stand fast, rather than run and hide.

Things were changing, and she was going to be lost in the eye of the storm.

On to Act IV

 
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