Crossroads

 

home / season six / episode fifteen / act I

   
Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I've seen your face before, my friend
But I don't know if you know who I am
Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin
I know where you've been
It's all been a pack of lies….
--Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight"


Comfort Inn
Bradford, Pennsylvania

He was groggy at first, then instantly awake when two sweepers dragged him from bed and pinned his arms, pulling him with them down the darkened corridor. He was barefoot, and the floor was cold. Dressed only in his pajama pants, he felt almost naked, terribly vulnerable.

This wasn't the first time. He knew what was coming, what they would do to him. He fought them, jerking on his trapped arms, nearly tearing them from his shoulder sockets. He shouted and pleaded with them, but they drew him inexorably toward that awful cryogenic machine, and strapped him down onto the sliding tongue that would take him into its mouth. He barely felt the needle slide into his arm, but the medication took effect almost immediately. He felt sluggish, his heartbeat slowing from its terrified tattoo. He could hardly hold his head up, but still he fought, his arms jerking weakly as they slid him into the metal tube and turned on the cold.

He was fighting for his life, and losing. His eyes slid closed, rolled open again as he struggled to stay awake and alive. Then they closed again, slowly his struggles ceased, and he died.

Jarod's head jerked upright as he woke suddenly, the scream dying on his lips before he could utter it. Looking around, he realized he was sitting at the table in the motel room he had rented, his laptop in front of him. Working. He had been working, and he had fallen asleep in his chair.

He hadn't intended for that to happen. Maybe stopping at the motel was a mistake, but he had needed to get off the road for a while. Bradford boasted that it was home to the Zippo lighter factory, and under different circumstances he might have been interested in a tour. It would have been a fun, completely frivolous thing to do. Zoe had once told him he needed to take more vacations. But what had actually enticed him into stopping were the road signs, offering the promise of a clean, comfortable room where he could rest.

Rest was what he needed, though not in the traditional sense. Jarod had no desire to sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, the dream was there, waiting for him. Knowing his limits so well, he had thought a brisk swim in the indoor pool and a few hours of quiet activity would be enough to refresh him; apparently, it wasn't.

He thought he knew why this particular nightmare had returned. Luther Ecksley's death was bringing up shades of his own mortality, reminding him what it was like to feel helpless, to have life forcibly taken away. He had let this particular episode from his past lie unresolved for more than four years now, waiting on Sydney's promise to investigate it fully. Maybe it was time to take the initiative and look into it himself.

That would have to wait a while longer, because for now he had plans -- plans he should probably tell someone about. Checking the digital clock next to the bed, he realized it was early, but still possible that Sydney might be in his office. Deciding to take a chance, he punched in the number.

His mentor answered on the second ring. "This is Sydney."

"It's me."

Instantly, the voice on the other end perked up. "Jarod, it's good to hear from you. I've been worried."

He took a slow, deep breath, running a hand through his hair and thinking idly that it was time for a haircut. "I called to let you know I'll be out of touch for a while. I'm going on a kind of trip -- something called Walkabout." He paused, remembering his time with Lauren Taylor and her friend John. "It's an Australian concept."

"Yes, I've heard of it."

"They say if you walk long enough and far enough, you'll eventually meet up with yourself." He sighed deeply. "That's what I need, Sydney, to find myself. I don't know who I am anymore."

The sun was barely up, and Sydney already had his psychiatrist's hat on. "This has something to do with Luther's death, doesn't it? You still haven't come to terms with what happened."

"It has to do with a lot of things," Jarod replied. "I just need to get away for a while." He was reminded why as a memory of the inside of the cryochamber flashed through his mind in frightening detail, and he shivered involuntarily. "I've… been having nightmares again, about the freezing experiment."

"The one Raines and Lyle conducted on you."

"Yes." He took another breath, and let it out. "You promised to look into this for me, a long time ago. Have you found anything?"

Sydney hesitated, and Jarod wondered if he'd forgotten, and was too embarrassed to admit it. "Nothing of any significance, but I'm still looking into it, I promise you. And I will let you know when I find something of import." He paused, and his tone changed. "Please be careful, Jarod. You're still in a precarious place right now."

A pained smile flashed across Jarod's lips. "Is that your way of telling me I'm losing my mind, Sydney? I already knew that when I came to your hotel room in Columbus." He rose, phone still in his hand, and started packing up his meager possessions. "As I said, I'll be out of touch for a while. No e-mail, no calls. I'll get back to you as soon as… as whatever's waiting down the road manages to find me. Goodbye."

He turned off the phone before his mentor could reply, and then realized what he'd done. He never used that word when ending his calls. Instead, he would simply hang up, because he didn't like the finality of farewells. Well, he told himself, there was nothing he could do about it now. But perhaps it had been a Freudian slip of sorts, because this did feel very much like the end of… something.

He finished gathering up his things and headed for the stairs, intent on leaving the Comfort Inn behind. He had found no comfort here at all. In truth, he was beginning to wonder if there was such a thing, for him -- and if he would find it, anywhere.

* * * * * * * * *

Sydney's Office

He placed the receiver back in its cradle and stared at the ceiling for several moments. Now, it was his turn to feel guilty. Jarod was right to question him. He should have honored his promise, and worked at solving this mystery long ago.

They stopped my heart. Why?

I don't know. Why does Mr. Raines do anything he does?

It was a flippant answer, one Jarod hadn't deserved. Raines might have been an evil man, but he never did anything without a reason. Sydney wasn't sure why he hadn't taken the incident more seriously. True, Jarod had already remembered most of it on his own, but that didn't mean there weren't questions still to be answered. Perhaps that was the reason his nightmare had returned -- a demand for closure.

I won't let this go; I promise you that.

But he had let it go, four long years without further investigation. His negligence was finally catching up with him; now, more than ever, Jarod deserved to know why during that three-week period he had been repeatedly killed, and then brought back to life.

The question was where to look for information. Simply going to the archives, where many had traveled before, was unlikely to reveal anything new. And Broots had enough to do as Morgan's second-in-command without being asked to conduct yet another computer search in his "spare time."

The man in charge of the experiment had clearly been Raines. His private files would be the ones to check. The problem was that Raines was dead, and his office had completely burned out months ago. Everyone seemed to believe his files -- both past projects, and those still in progress -- had gone with it, but Sydney had always suspected otherwise. He noted that Lyle, in particular, had been very nonchalant about the whole thing; most unusual for a man who had a stake in some of those projects. Sydney couldn't help wondering if he had found a way to get at least some of the files out before they were destroyed.

There was only one way to be sure.

He checked his watch. Lyle wasn't usually an early riser, so there might still be time for a trip to his office before he arrived for the day. It was a dangerous proposition, with a high probability of being caught, but Sydney couldn't allow that to stop him. If Broots, one of the most timid yet courageous men he had ever known, could do such a thing -- on multiple occasions -- then he could expect no less of himself.

* * * * * * * * *

Route 219 South
Pennsylvania

Jarod had promised himself there would be no distractions from now on. He needed to think, needed to come to some understanding of who he was and where he was headed, before he could ever hope to carry out Catherine Parker's plan.

To keep himself honest, he left his cell phone, laptop, and Halliburton locked in a secure storage facility. The Centre would never find them, he was certain. They'd probably never know he'd been to Bradford in the first place, since Miss Parker was cutting him a fair amount of slack these days. Having divested himself of everything but a few changes of clothes, he got in his car and headed south on Route 219, not really sure where he was going but hoping he would know when he'd arrived.

The scenery, at least, was pleasant. He drove in and out of small boroughs and townships, down roads that showed him panoramic views of the countryside. After a while, a sign informed him that he was entering the Allegheny National Forest. Trees along both sides of the road began to multiply after that, many of them tall pines that partially blocked the sun and made sunglasses unnecessary.

Jarod liked having the road mostly to himself. He knew he was tired, his reaction time slowed as a result; driving in heavier traffic might not be safe right now. Equally unsafe, he feared, would be to stop the car, give in to his need for sleep, and allow the memories to torture him. He'd had enough torture, real and remembered, to last him into the next life.

It was at times like this that thoughts of Aurora came to him most clearly. Even now, after months had passed, he still heard its siren song in his weaker moments. Seems like I've had a lot of those lately, his own voice whispered. Under the drug's influence, he never had nightmares, never worried about who he was or what his ultimate purpose in life might be. Everything was so simple, so clear -- or at least, that was the way it seemed.

Without Aurora to keep his life serene, he was frequently bombarded with doubts and questions about his half-remembered life. Uppermost in his mind now was the Experiment, and why it had come back to haunt him after so long.

Jarod had no answers -- but perhaps, somewhere down the road, he would find them.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre

Sydney brought a folder containing Seraphim evaluations with him, in case he should be asked to justify his presence in the Tower. As the elevator doors opened, he saw no one, including sweepers, to block his path. Quickly, but as calmly as possible under the circumstances, he made his way to Lyle's office, and let himself in.

Lyle had recently received a promotion, though no one he'd spoken to was quite sure of the reason. At the Centre, such things were often handled behind closed doors, and it was unwise to ask too many questions. Decorating for the new office was obviously still in progress, as two of the walls remained blank and the desk itself was free of the usual accessories. Still, the man had already put his stamp on the place: an oriental silk tapestry hung prominently behind his chair, reminding everyone who might come to visit just where his interests lay.

Thankfully, Lyle had a sense of order, a fact confirmed during a clandestine visit to his apartment several years ago. Sydney was certain he would find all of the stolen files in one place, which made the search somewhat easier. He ignored the obvious targets of the desk drawers and filing cabinets; Lyle had a penchant for hiding things, and would no doubt have placed his cache behind a secret lock or recessed panel of some type.

Slowly, Sydney made his way around the room, freezing once as footsteps could be heard outside. If anyone came in, there was no chance of avoiding discovery, since he had neither the youth nor the agility of his colleague. Broots might be able to squeeze himself into small places for hours on end; Sydney, unfortunately, could not. Explaining away his presence probably wouldn't work, either. Lyle hated Sydney because he was Jarod's mentor, and was unlikely to let him off the hook for any transgression.

Eventually, the steps faded, and he went back to his task. The desk itself captured his interest -- it seemed to be one massive piece of wood, flat on top and curved at both ends to form the legs. The dimensions weren't quite symmetrical, though; one side was slightly thicker than seemed necessary. On a hunch, he got down on his knees, ran his hands along the side, and felt the faint lines of a hidden panel, all but invisible in the wood's grain. He pressed on it, and it popped open, revealing a recessed hiding place that was definitely worthy of Lyle.

Inside, the files were stacked neatly on their side, color-coded blue and red according to the Centre subject they concerned. Sydney paused momentarily; no doubt there were enough secrets here to keep Morgan busy for weeks. If they all disappeared at once, though, Lyle would undoubtedly come after her. For now, he contented himself with flipping through the red files, until he found one called "Resurrection" which seemed to concern Jarod.

A quick glance confirmed that it was almost certainly what he was looking for. Knowing he'd already overstayed his welcome, Sydney closed the panel and got to his feet, taking care to leave everything just as he had found it. He buried the red file inside his yellow one, and poked his head carefully out one of the doors. For the moment, the coast was clear, and he took the opportunity to made his way to the stairs, not even waiting for the elevator, and heading back to his own office and freedom.

* * * * * * * * *

Pennsylvania
Routes 6 and 219

The trees lining both sides of the road gradually thinned, and became a clearing as Jarod reached a crossroads. Four flashing lights stood guard over the intersection, one in each direction. Pulling to a stop, he was faced with a choice: continue heading south, or turn onto Route 6 and wherever it might take him.

Something about that number sounded familiar, and he thought for a moment before it came to him. The town of Corry was on Route 6. It was there, at the Starlight Motel, that he had finally regained his memories of Eclipse, and all the baggage that went with them.

Everything seemed to lead back to Eclipse: his connection with Faith; his dark side, represented by the "justice" he meted out; the train wreck that was his relationship with Morgan Parker. He would never be free of its influence, any more than he would ever be completely free of Aurora. The only chance he had was to try to put bookends around the incident, give himself some form of closure. The road where it had all started would undoubtedly be appropriate for that.

Another car pulled up behind him and beeped its horn, pulling him out of his momentary reverie. The decision made, Jarod turned right and began heading west, toward his destiny.

* * * * * * * * *

Sydney's Office

The more of the file he read, the more concerned Sydney became. "Resurrection" had been no ordinary experiment, even by Centre standards. Raines and Lyle had outdone themselves coming up with it. Even though it hadn't been completely successful, he had no doubt there would be far-reaching consequences.

He put the folder down for a moment, and rubbed the bridge of his nose in an attempt to ease the discomfort there. He could feel a headache starting; it would probably be a nasty one -- maybe even a migraine, though he had never been prone to those before. Hoping to short-circuit the process, he dug a bottle of aspirin out of his desk drawer and swallowed a couple, washing them down with what was left of his morning coffee.

Jarod needed to know what he had found; but, since the Pretender was temporarily out of touch, that would have to wait. In the meantime, Miss Parker also needed to see the information he had dug up. Perhaps it would help her in the same way he hoped it would eventually help Jarod.

He felt extraordinarily weary as he rose from his desk to make the trek to the elevator. In the corridor, he stopped, momentarily forgetting where he was headed. The sequence of events seemed unfinished somehow, as if he'd forgotten something important, but he shook it off and stepped into the elevator car. As the doors slid open on SL-3, pain shot through his head, momentarily halting him. He ignored it once it had passed, reaching for the handrail to hoist himself onto the first step toward the balcony. By the time he reached the top, he was breathing hard, barely able to drag himself into Miss Parker's office.

Broots was there with her, which was to be expected. Sydney all but ignored him. Instead, he placed the folder on her desk, barely managing to let go of it before he turned and collapsed onto the sofa.

He heard someone call his name, and after that everything began to blur. He struggled to catch his breath, and the pain seized him again with a vengeance, making him clutch at his head. He could hear worried voices mumbling words he couldn't quite catch, felt hands loosening his tie and collar and helping him to lie down.

Not now, he pleaded silently, aware that something was terribly wrong with him. He thought he heard Miss Parker's voice from a distance bellowing something about the infirmary.

He struggled to speak, and it was more difficult than he could ever have imagined. "Not the Centre," he managed to say. To become a patient within these walls would be a fate worse than death. It was death for someone like him, someone with enemies who would see this as an opportunity to remove the obstacle his presence represented, once and for all.

Miss Parker leaned down close to his ear. "It's all right, Sydney. Broots called 911. They'll come and take you to the hospital."

He relaxed slightly, trusting her to do what was right. Morgan had never lied to him, not when it counted. He was glad now that they'd had that discussion in the car on the way back from Columbus. She had seemed much more comfortable around him since then. Sydney only wished he'd been able to do the same for Jarod. Both of the people he kept watch over deserved to know how he really felt about them.

I should have told you, Jarod, he whispered to himself as he drifted away and out of consciousness.

* * * * * * * * *

Her office was awash with bodies, first the personnel from the infirmary, then the paramedics as they arrived. Morgan knew she was walking on dangerous ground by summoning them. The Centre hierarchy didn't much like having outsiders in the building; but in a case like this, what they wanted went right out the window. Sydney had seen to it that she received hospital care when she had a perforated ulcer, and by God she'd do the same for him now. He deserved that, and much more, for the way he'd looked after her all these years.

When the paramedics had him ready to transport, she shooed the others out, and sent a message to her lieutenants that she would be gone for a while. Picking up her purse and keys, she prepared to escort them out of the building, planning to follow them to the hospital in her own car.

"I'd like to go with you," Broots piped up. "Is that okay? I want to be with him."

She put her hand on the tech's shoulder. "I know you do, Broots, but I really need you to stay here and put Sydney's office in Lockdown. We don't want any of his private data to… wander away, while he's gone." She gave him a look to convey her full meaning, and he nodded.

"O-Okay, Miss Parker. But please, make sure they take good care of him." He looked over at the psychiatrist, with his face so pale and various wires and tubes sticking out. "I don't think I could stand it if anything happened to him."

She followed his gaze with her own, understanding exactly how he felt. "Oh, they will. Because if they don't, they'll have to answer to me."

* * * * * * * * *

Sydney's Office

Lockdown. It was standard procedure when the Tower or any of the higher-ups went on an extended trip, got sick, or was fired. Broots wasn't sure he'd seen many examples of the latter, at least leaving the building in one piece. While Sydney was in the hospital, though, it was a definite necessity.

He spied the long, deep silver box sitting on top of the desk almost immediately, and wrinkled up his nose quizzically. It was unlike Sydney to leave something so obvious just sitting there, and then walk away. It had to have been shortly before he'd gotten sick, though, so maybe his brain hadn't been working just right.

Broots knew he probably shouldn't open the box; but then again, if he was going to figure out what level of security this thing needed, he'd have to see what was there. Relieved at having found a logical reason for behaving like a spy, he went behind the desk and reached for the lid, gently opening it to peer inside.

He stood there looking at the plastic toys, origami figures, and drawings, and knew almost instantly whom they had come from. Feeling a bit like a voyeur, but unable to resist the temptation, he sat down in Sydney's chair and pulled out the items one by one with a sense of reverence, then carefully put them back into the box. The last was a Father's Day card, drawn in pencil and signed with a childish hand.

A slow smile spread across the tech's face. He'd never have guessed the old guy was so sentimental, but these things obviously meant a great deal to him, or else he wouldn't have kept them all these years. He shook his head as he closed the lid. Keeping private mementos could get Sydney in a lot of trouble, and would be better hidden away; until he discovered their usual hiding place, he'd take them to Miss Parker's office for safekeeping.

Turning his attention back to Sydney's office, he took the files and other papers sitting on the desk and placed them in a file drawer. Then he took everything else that could possibly be of concern to anyone and put those items away as well, locking the desk and cabinets with the master keys he had gotten from the SIS office. When he was finished, he picked up the box, turned out the light and left, locking the door behind him.

* * * * * * * * *

From inside the vent, a pair of bright blue eyes watched Broots go. Angelo could still get into certain parts of the ventilation system, and he had other ways to get into and out of someone's office without being seen. His empathic sense understood what had happened to Sydney, and what he most needed to get well. The box would make its way to him; Sister would see to that. Then, hopefully, it would just be a matter of time until another of the Secrets Kept Too Long would finally be revealed.

* * * * * * * * *

When Broots was finished, he went directly to Miss Parker's office. There, he placed the box on a chair in the corner out of direct sight of the door, so that anyone coming in wouldn't immediately see it. No one besides himself had the authority to be in her office when she was gone anyway, and few others had the nerve. Still, he had seen Valentine with his own two eyes; it was best to be careful.

His task completed, Broots wondered if he should go to the hospital. Maybe it would be best to call Miss Parker first. He reached for the phone on her desk and dialed her cell number. It rang half a dozen times, and he wondered if perhaps she had turned it off; finally, she answered. "What?"

"Miss Parker? I -- I just wanted to know how Sydney's doing."

"I'm not sure yet," she replied. "So far, no one's told me a damn thing."

Broots could hear how worried she was, and he shared her concern. Maybe it would help to have a distraction, if only for a moment or two. "You'll never guess what I found in Sydney's office."

"The Empire State Building," she returned without thinking.

"Well, yes, but I left that on the floor," he told her in all seriousness. "I don't think it's a security risk. But I found this box full of… well, stuff I think you should see. Unusual stuff. I've got it secured in your office until you get back."

"Keep it there," she told him. "Baby-sit it, for now. As soon as I know that Sydney's stable, I'll be back to do a proper lock-up, and then you can come with me to the hospital."

That sounded reasonable, and held the promise of keeping him in the loop. "Okay, I guess I'll wait for you, then."

"I'll call you when I know anything."

She hung up, and he began idly looking around, hoping to find something to keep him occupied while he waited. Running a glance over the desk, he spotted the red folder. In all the excitement, it had been forgotten, but apparently Sydney was bringing it for Miss Parker to look at.

Broots decided it wouldn't hurt to take a little peek. "Resurrection. Hmm." He opened to the first document, and began reading.

On to Act II

 
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