Jarod's Apartment, SL-12
His body still ached. Everything hurt. The punishment he had given himself
in Miss Parker's hotel room was nothing compared to what had taken place
there once the sweepers arrived. There were four of them, called from
a local branch of the Centre. They had come bursting into the room and
hauled him up off the bed, intending to take him outside to the waiting
As soon as Miss Parker holstered her gun, he went wild, making a great
show of trying to get away before they stuffed him into the car. In the
end, one of them knocked him cold long enough to get him into the back
seat and strap him down with seat belts, his hands still secured behind
him with Miss Parkers cuffs. She followed behind them in her own
car, heading for the airport and the plane that would fly them all back
They had sedated him at once, not with a pill, but with an injection.
He fought that, too, but was unable to completely resist the medication.
When he managed to rouse somewhat, he was already in the Centre dispensary,
getting his wounds treated. Just scrapes and bruises, mostly, but a few
cuts needed antibiotic ointment and some x-rays were taken to see if any
bones had been broken. An army of sweepers and security personnel stood
guard over him, proving that he was firmly back in their possession.
He was afraid. This was the last place on earth he wanted to be, and
he knew that he might never escape again. This time, everything would
be different. He just wasnt sure how yet, and that uncertainty made
everything much worse.
Once he had been cleared by the medical staff, he had been escorted back
to the apartment he had lived in before his initial escape.
That was a surprise. There was no cell this time, no Lyle spraying him
with a firehose, no cage, no torture. Miss Parker stood by, watching everything
with steely-eyed confidence, playing her part to the hilt. But he knew
she was upset. This was what had to be done, the sacrifice that had to
be made, for Gabriel and the other children.
Moments after being released into his former home, a woman in a lab coat
joined them. Her blonde hair was swept up in a chic but efficient coiffure,
and in her hand she carried a small portable medical kit. With a nod,
the sweepers directed Jarod toward a chair. He didnt want to be
drugged again - the effects of the first medication still hadnt
quite worn off, and he was groggy, muzzy-headed. He didnt want to
add to that.
No, he said firmly. Im not sure youve explored
the interactions between whatevers in that kit, and whats
in my system now.
The blonde woman laughed softly. My name is Eve, Jarod, and Ive
been a primary on the research for this protocol. The sedative youre
on now wont have any contraindications, I promise.
He backed away. It took eight of them to manhandle him into the straight-backed
chair they pulled away from the table, and hold him while the others strapped
him in with thick leather bindings. He could still tip over the chair,
but decided against it. Such movement would only delay the inevitable.
He was conquered now, and he knew it. That terrified him, and he watched
in abject fear as Eve calmly opened the kit and prepared the injection.
She handed a rubber tourniquet to one of the sweepers, who placed it around
Jarods left arm.
Tears gathered in his eyes, but he refused to let them fall. He was sweating,
despite the coolness of the room. There was no pretending now. His pleas
for mercy were genuine as he begged Eve not to drug him.
The needle slid expertly into his vein, and the drug was delivered. Jarod
watched in horror, strapped as he was into the chair. His arm felt warm
at first. He tracked the drug as it moved throughout his body, timed the
effects until he was certain they had started. He fought the sensation,
but found himself slipping into a haze of pleasure that lightened his
mood, which he recognized as a major effect of this treatment. It shocked
and frightened him. What were they doing to him now? What was this drug
made to accomplish? Why did it affect the pleasure center of his brain?
This is for the children, he reminded himself.
Whats this drug called? he asked.
Aurora, said the woman as she finished packing up her medical
kit. Nice, isnt it?
Yes. It feels good. He felt himself smiling, his eyelids
drooping. It was almost as if he was floating outside himself, unaffected
by his own emotions. Like intravenous ice cream.
Miss Parker shot him a look, pivoted on her heel and left the room. He
was saddened to see her go, but that disappeared almost instantly. He
felt too good to feel bad about anything, and he knew he would see her
Eve laughed softly, and signaled one of the sweepers to come forward
to release him from the chair.
Jarod stood, flexing his arms, rubbing them where the restraints had
been. When do I see Sydney? he asked.
Im afraid you dont, she said stiffly. Her smile
melted away. She nodded, and the gang of men left the room.
The Pretender knew he should have been startled by that pronouncement,
but it simply registered as fact, without emotional repercussions. He
still felt good. This was a far better reception than his previous one
Then who will I be working with? What am I supposed to do with
The woman smiled again. Your new handler has yet to be determined.
As to your duties, thats been planned for some time.
The children. Jarod turned slowly to face her. What did you have
A project called Seraphim, eventually. She put the syringe
into the portable sharps disposal unit she had brought with her. But
in the meantime, wed like your assistance in research. There was
a project in development while you were away that went awry, and we need
your intellect to help us sort it all out, possibly find where the process
went so horribly wrong. It will have to be restarted almost from scratch.
We only have a few notes from a fellow researcher who was reassigned during
the initial states of the project.
The woman ambled toward the door of the elegant apartment. Everything
you need has been loaded into the computer files in your terminal. You
can begin whenever you like.
Moments later, she was gone.
Jarod wandered around the room, glancing over the books and objects on
the shelves, the paintings on the wall. His mind was tumbling over problems
and questions constantly, but there was nothing for him to work on in
that room that could occupy him well enough to avoid Eves assignment.
Not even knowing what the project was, Jarod was certain it was something
He could sleep, but sleep was never pleasant for him. There were demons
waiting there, so he slept as little as possible. He could read, but he
had already read every book in that room many times over. He could meditate,
but under the influence of the drug he shied away from the idea.
For hours he wandered through the room, needing something to do, some
project that he could apply himself to completing. Still, he had given
himself up for Gabriel, and for the boys mother. He had done it
for all of the children. He could imagine them, see the photo of his son
in his minds eye, but even that was not enough.
And finally, he sat down at the terminal, just to have a look. He had
no intention of doing anything they wanted. The project of Catherines
plan was still uppermost in his thoughts, but he had no way to communicate
anything to Miss Parker just yet
not until Angelo decided to make
an appearance at his air vents.
He booted up his terminal and tried to make a foray into the mainframe,
but this particular station was not in the network. It was isolated in
his quarters, for his use only. So, he opened up the file on his desktop
and gave it a peek.
The folder was titled "Fountain."
* * * * * * * * *
She entered the room quietly, her footsteps soundless on the carpet.
Parker was on the telephone to Germany, gazing out the window as he spoke,
and as soon as he swiveled his chair to hang up the receiver, he saw her
sitting across the desk from him, waiting. His normally pink face flushed
pinker, as if caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Eve, what are you doing here? he demanded.
She shrugged. You may be the chairman, Parker, but as your next
junior member in the American branch of the Triumvirate, I can still come
to see you without an appointment." Her blonde hair was swept back
from her face in an elegant coiffure, her business suit expensive silver
Italian silk, handmade in Rome. Everything about this woman bespoke power
Well, of course, Eve. Im always at your disposal. What did
you want to talk about?
Eve steepled her hands over her lap, elbows delicately balanced on the
chair arms. Ive just come from giving Jarod his first dose
of Aurora, and wanted to thank you for the privilege, she began,
her mellifluous voice husky and smooth.
Parker beamed. Youre welcome. I know youve been a big
part of that project, and thought it would be appropriate.
She inclined her head regally toward him. And now I have another
request. Id like to be assigned as Jarods new handler, since
Sydney is otherwise engaged. I have the credentials and the skills, and
even though Ive never worked with Jarod before, Ive taken
great interest in his work and am, as you know, quite familiar with the
process. Have you spoken to anyone else about it yet?
Parkers humor evaporated. You know we were still exploring
that idea when my daughter brought him back.
Eve could see that he wasnt pleased with her suggestion, but also
knew that he could hardly refuse. Few people were qualified to work with
Jarod, but she was one of them. Shed dealt with some of the less
stellar pretenders and been reasonably successful. There was no reason
to think she couldnt handle this assignment as well, and she reminded
him of that.
How will you manage to keep up with your regular duties on the
Triumvirate, if you begin this project?
She chuckled. Jarods a self-starter, Parker, she told
him confidently. Aurora will take some time for the effects to become
cumulative. During the initial adjustment period, hell need something
to do, so I thought Id start him on research. In fact, its
already in progress. I can check on him several times a day, and be there
to administer both injections during my shift, with a med tech to handle
the evening dose. Trust me, I have it all planned out.
Parkers eyes narrowed as he gauged her intent, studying her for
hidden motives. He smiled, but suspicion still gleamed in his blue eyes.
He reached a hand across the desktop toward her. I think this may
work out just fine, Eve. But if problems crop up with your time, you come
see me. Ill keep looking through the roster for a replacement, if
one becomes necessary.
Thats fine with me, she told him, squeezing his hand
firmly. His skin was clammy, but she held on, dueling with his eyes. She
had not been on the Fountain Protocol, but Parker had, and she was still
watching him, looking for signs of dementia. So far, there had been none,
but that was always subject to change at any given moment. Perhaps he
had stopped taking the doses in time, before any permanent damage was
done. Or perhaps it was just a matter of time, patience, and keen observation
before the effects made themselves known. Either way, she would be watching
Eve was a patient woman. She offered her thanks and rose, striding soundlessly
out the door with a smile on her face. Her wristwatch had already been
set to chime when she needed to return to the lab for the next dose of
Aurora and get it to Jarod before the previous dose wore off. The drug
was highly addictive and included a nasty, debilitating withdrawal process,
but Jarod would never need to know about that. If he ever left the Centre
again, his need would bring him back in short order.
Two days was all it took to get the habit going, though absolute subjugation
of his will would take considerably longer. Six doses, eight hours apart,
and he would belong to the Centre forever. Eve smiled and headed back
to her office, just a few doors down from the Chairmans, with an
equally stunning view of the coast and the grounds out in front of the
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker's Office
Once the final report had been printed, she tucked it into a file folder
- a red one, just for this special occasion. She had not been back to
visit Jarod since leaving his apartment, nor did she have any intention
of seeing him again soon; it ate at her, though, wondering what new horrors
were being visited upon him in her absence. But there were bigger fish
to fry at the moment, more important things that had to be done.
She waited, checking her watch. With an impatient sigh, she continued
to shuffle papers across her desk in an attempt to look busy when her
guest arrived. He was late, and trying her patience.
At last the door opened, but she did not glance up from her work until
the man was seated in her guest chair.
Hello, angel, said the Chairman, a note of gruff pride in
his voice. He chuckled.
Hello, Daddy, she returned softly, finished signing a document
and moved that paper aside. Thank you for coming. She raised
her eyes to his and sat back in her chair.
I knew you could do it, he added. I knew youd
catch Jarod one day.
Yes. Well, not without great difficulty, she told him with
a sigh. My job would have been a great deal easier if Id had
access to information along the way.
His smile vanished. Suspicion gleamed in his eyes. We told you
everything you needed to know.
No, you didnt. In fact, because of stonewalling on the part
of numerous Centre employees, it took me far longer to find Jarod than
it would have if Id known what I needed to. Sometimes it seemed
that Jarod knew more about what was going on inside this place than I
Need to know, angel, he reminded her firmly. And you
Her palm slapped down on the desktop in defiance. The hell I didnt!
she shot back angrily. You set me a goal and then made sure I was
cut off at the knees every time I started running. When it came to hunting
Jarod, no background information should have been off limits. You
knew that. If you really wanted him caught-
I did, the man growled back. And you did the
job. Just as soon as youre ready to go back to Corporate-
After what I did for the Centre, I can write my own ticket. Isnt
that right, Daddy? She glared at him, challenging him with her eyes.
He sat silently, waiting for her demands, already mentally preparing to
shoot her down. I want my mothers old job. I want to be director
For a moment the man didnt move. His mouth crooked up on one side,
and then he broke out into a beaming smile. You really are a Parker,
arent you, angel?
Did you ever have any doubts? she hissed back. Struggling
to calm herself, she tried a placating tone of voice. Look, Daddy,
I was happy in Corporate before this nightmare ever started. I was good
at my job, good as a cleaner before that. Ive got Parker instincts,
just like you taught me. Im not my mother. She swallowed,
hoping he didnt notice how her voice softened when she mentioned
her mother. I can do this job. Ive been head of Centre security
here before it was Triumvirate Station. Now its time the Parkers
were in charge of everything in this shooting match. I can do it better
than anyone else, because Im a Parker. And if you want the
Centre -- not just this station, but the whole organization -- to operate
like it should, youll agree to my request.
The Chairman nodded. You make strong arguments. Let me present
it to the -
Theres no need for that, Daddy, she reminded him curtly.
Youre the top dog. Whatever you say goes. If you want your
security problems handled, you need new blood in the directors chair.
Its a big commitment, he reminded her. You wont
have time for much of anything else.
She smiled, bitterness eating away at her inside. This place has
been my whole life, Daddy. What else could I ever do?
He chuckled. Thats my girl. He stood and offered her
his hand. Congratulations on the new job.
She took his hand, rose and leaned across the desk for a brief hug. Thank
you, Daddy. Ill run this place like a Parker.
He kissed her cheek and straightened, smoothing his suit back into place.
Ill write a memo to inform everyone of the change of command,
which will take place effective tomorrow.
One more thing, Daddy.
I want the surveillance on me pulled. And I want to see Gabriel.
I want visitation rights, whenever I have a moment to spare.
The Chairmans mouth drew up tightly, his gaze cool, calculating.
Ive earned it, Daddy. You know I have. So does everyone else.
If Jarod isnt proof of my loyalty, there isnt any. And if
you cant trust me
She smiled, aware that the gesture
was lacking in her eyes.
who can you trust?
Something in his posture wilted slightly. Youre right, angel.
Ill make the arrangements.
Thank you, Daddy.
But no more of this gallivanting off with Gabriel to playgrounds
and such. He has all the stimulation he needs, right in his nursery. So
whenever you want to see him, you go on down there. And Penfield stays
while youre visiting. My orders. He does belong to me, after all.
Hes my son.
She stiffened, nostrils flaring, a retort ready on her lips, but she
bit it back. Of course. She picked up the red folder off her
desk, came around the side and handed it to him. This is my final
report on Jarod. Youll see after you read it why I asked for the
SIS position. There need to be some changes around here.
Well talk about that later, angel, he assured her,
and walked her to the door.
Morgan, she corrected. My name is Morgan. Dont
you think you could use it once in a while? She knew very well that
he wouldnt dare let her name cross his lips, but wanted to get the
dig in anyway.
Parker glanced warily at her over his shoulder, and went on his way.
* * * * * * * * *
He had waited long enough. Broots had been the one to deliver the message
that Miss Parker was bringing Jarod in, and while the announcement had
surprised him, it excited him as well. A sense of defeat shadowed him,
too, a part of him wishing that Jarod was still free. He wasnt sure
any longer that the Centre was the best place for his protégé
to live. Jarod had shown that he could survive in the world outside, but
there was still a great deal to do. Sydney would need time to repair the
damage previous treatment had inflicted on his charge, and have a free
hand in choosing his projects.
But first, he needed to see the young man, to make sure he was all right.
He had seen the gurney when they brought him in, took note of the bruises
on Jarods face, and knew he was right to be worried. Since then,
hed gotten a look at the medical reports from the infirmary. There
were no internal injuries; Jarod had just put up the fight of his life
to remain free.
The Pretender was most certainly settled in his quarters now, but Sydney
had to ask Broots where they had put him. That sort of information should
have been coming directly to Sydney, and it disturbed him that it had
not. Mr. Parker knew how important it was to maintain his relationship
with Jarod. No one knew the young man better than his handler of the past
He rose, taking a clipboard, writing tablet and a folder filled with
material to the elevator. He punched the button for Jarods floor,
and waited for the lift to deposit him there. It would be better to get
the debriefing started, to get the Pretenders mind off his aches
The doors slid open, and he stepped out into the corridor. He could see,
a long way down the hallway, a gathering of sweepers and uniformed security
personnel milling around outside Jarods old room. Striding purposefully
toward them, he began to organize the path his session would take. This
meeting had been a long time coming, and there was a great deal to discuss.
Three of the sweepers stepped into his path just as Sydney approached
Excuse me, gentlemen. I need to see my subject, he informed
Sorry, sir, said one of them. But youre not on
the approved list of visitors.
Startled, Sydney gave a short laugh. Then your list is incomplete.
Ive been Jarods handler for decades.
Not anymore, another sweeper assured him. We were told
specifically that you were not to come near him. That you werent
even supposed to be on the same floor with him. Well have to ask
you to leave.
Sydneys mouth fell open in surprise, and was hastily shut. On
whose orders? he demanded hotly.
Ill rectify this grievous error, and be back shortly,
Sydney shot back. He turned on his heel and stormed back to the elevator,
fuming that such an order had been given in the first place. Jarod needed
Sydney. He wouldnt be able to function properly for the Centre without
Half an hour later, the Belgian sat silently in his office, reeling from
the announcement that he had been taken off Jarods team completely.
He would no longer be allowed any form of contact with the Pretender.
His new job was to be centered around the Seraphim, and little else. There
were always research projects aplenty to occupy his time and talents,
but nothing like what he had experienced with Jarod.
To be removed from him so completely, so utterly
Sydney contemplated what would happen to Jarod on the Aurora program
that Mr. Parker had described to him. In a matter of days hed be
addicted, worse than what had happened to him as a teenager. Sydney remembered
how his own body had felt, first with the injections that he was told
were to help Jarods mental clarity, and later with the torture of
withdrawal when the drug didnt work.
He had spent the last ten minutes looking over the Aurora drug trials,
trying to prepare himself for what Jarod was up against this time.
From what he gathered in those files, this might well be the final trap
that Jarod could never escape. As soon as the drugs full effect
was in control of his system, the Pretender would never want to be far
from it. And even as strong as Jarod was, the notes Sydney read indicated
that not a single one of the test subjects completed a successful withdrawal
from the drug. They would die for it. They would kill for it, whatever
it took to keep the flow constant in their veins.
Sydney closed his eyes, and wept.