ER waiting room
She paced, head down, phone clutched uselessly in her hand. She had been
in and out of the ER for well over an hour, calling the private number
Jarod had given her, but without a response other than voice mail. It
was unlike him to be so unavailable; besides, he usually had a sixth sense
about these things. She had half-expected him to hear from him before
they'd even reached the hospital, saying he was on his way. At the very
least, he could have left her a message. The fact that he hadn't made
her wonder if something really was wrong.
As she went back inside after yet another attempt, a gray-haired man
in a lab coat approached her, carrying a clipboard. "Are you Miss
Parker?" he asked brusquely.
"Yes, I am." Her eyes went to the embroidered name sewn onto
his coat. "Do you have news for me, Dr. Behr?"
He smiled warmly. "Dr. Ritter's doing well, considering. He's had
a stroke, and we're still assessing the damage."
Morgan's knees wobbled, and she sat down on the nearest empty chair.
"Oh, my God." She covered her face in her hands, her insides
quivering, knowing that this could be bad, indeed. The doctor's hand on
her shoulder made her look up, blinking back her tears.
"Dr. Ritter named you on his health care proxy some months ago,
in the event of his incapacitation," he told her. "We'll be
bringing you any papers to sign or decisions to make, until such time
as he's able to speak for himself."
She sat for a moment, dumbfounded. Months ago? That meant Sydney had
to have made this decision well before they'd cleared the air between
them. Fresh tears flooded her eyes as she realized how much faith he really
had in her. When it came right down to it, he had trusted her with the
most precious thing of all
"We're admitting him to the ICU," the doctor added. "There
isn't a lot you can do at the moment. If you'd like to get something to
"Is he going to die?" she asked suddenly. "Just tell me
that much, is Sydney going to die?"
"Not if we can help it," he assured her. "He reacted well
to the drugs he's been given; the most immediate danger is over, but he's
not out of the woods. What's needed now is time, to let him rest and for
us to see what damage may have been done."
She wiped delicately at her eyes and tried to smile. "Thank you,
doctor. Please take good care of him. He's very important to a lot of
"We will, Miss Parker. I promise."
* * * * * * * * *
The town was called Kane.
The moment he said the name out loud, Jarod knew it was perfect. It reminded
him of another Cain he had read about -- spelled differently but pronounced
the same -- whose name stood for chaos and destruction. That suited the
way he had been feeling lately.
Cain and Abel. Light and dark. Good and evil, both in one package, bound
together and struggling for dominance. That was the essence of him; at
least, it had been since the moment he escaped from the Centre. The only
real question left to answer was which side would win.
Jarod felt his mind drifting, and knew he should get off the road. Besides,
the point of Walkabout was to walk, not drive, and he hadn't done much
of that so far. Walking would force him to stay on his feet, and to stay
awake. Kane, with its fateful-sounding name, would be as good a place
as any for that purpose.
The Kane Motel had rooms available, and offered him a small unit tucked
at the end of a row of six behind the main building. It provided him with
a parking space, and a place to retreat to when the sidewalks rolled up
at night. He had a feeling that happened fairly early in a place like
With his accommodations settled, Jarod decided to start walking and see
what, or whom, he could find.
* * * * * * * * *
Her empathic sense was nagging at her again, as it always did when someone
she cared about was troubled. Faith had tried ignoring it for a while,
thinking perhaps it would go away on its own; instead, it kept growing,
becoming so strong that she could no longer push it aside.
The distress was coming from three people now, all in different locations,
but she was having a little trouble sorting them out. Wondering if perhaps
someone had tried to contact her, she pulled out the laptop Jarod had
sent her as a belated Christmas present, and logged onto her e-mail.
One new message was waiting, from a familiar sender. C.J., she knew,
was Angelo's favorite alias, named after the Cracker Jack he loved so
much. He'd brought some to share with her over the years, and when she
tasted the sweet crunchiness for herself, she understood why he liked
Sydney in hospital, the message said. Dover. Jarod missing.
That explained the emotions she felt coming from two of her friends; both
Angelo and Miss Parker were in Delaware, worried about Sydney. She managed
to partition them off for the moment, but Jarod's case was different.
For one thing, he was some distance from the others, and he wasn't worried;
more than likely, he didn't even know about Sydney. Jarod was in a different
kind of emotional pain, the like of which she hadn't felt since the memories
of Eclipse had broken free in his mind. Aurora's one benefit had been
to calm him for a time -- but now he was on the brink, with it all threatening
to come crashing back.
Jarod needed help. He needed Sydney. But before she could give him either,
she had to find out for herself how the others were doing.
Knowing she had to move quickly, Faith packed up her things, made her
way to the bank and withdrew every penny she had. Then she went to a car
lot, made a down-payment on the cheapest car she could find, filled up
the tank with gas, and hit the road, heading east.
* * * * * * * * *
Intensive Care Unit
Visiting hours in the ICU were limited, so Morgan took advantage of them
as best she could. After Sydney was settled, she sat with him for a while,
watching him sleep and saying half-remembered prayers she'd learned in
childhood. When the nurses politely shooed her out, she found Kim waiting
for her on a bench outside the unit.
"You asked for me, Miss Parker?"
The sweeper's voice and posture were crisp, but Morgan could see a glint
of uncertainty in her eyes. Her uncle was there in the hospital, and she
couldn't help but be worried about him. Having to hide that worry behind
a professional façade at a time like this would be agonizing. Morgan
knew something about that kind of agony.
"Yes, I did. I have some things to take care of back at the Centre,
and I need someone I can trust to keep watch over Sydney when I'm gone."
Kim straightened her spine. "You can trust me, Miss Parker. I'll
look after him."
I know you will." Her tone softened a bit, and she moved closer,
lowering her voice. "Sydney told me you were his niece. That information
isn't going anywhere, but it's the reason I chose you. It will give you
a chance to be near him without raising anyone's suspicions."
"Thank you," Kim whispered, relaxing her guard for just a moment
as she searched the other woman's face. "How is he, really? I heard
the talk that's going around, but--"
"He's stable," Parker assured her, momentarily placing her
hand on the other woman's shoulder. "He's had a stroke, but the doctors
think he'll make it. We just don't know the extent of any damage yet."
Kim nodded. "I understand."
"I want you to stay right here by this door. Don't leave for any
reason. And don't let anyone from the Centre except Broots or myself into
the ICU. Got that? No one, especially Lyle or Cox."
Kim frowned in concern. "Do you really think they might try something?"
Parker sighed. "Honestly? I don't know. But we have to be prepared,
because if they do show up, you may be the only thing standing between
Sydney and oblivion. Remember that."
* * * * * * * * *
There hadn't been a sign of Faith in far too long, and Lyle had gotten
suspicious. He had sent Valentine on the Centre jet to Vancouver, had
him drive the rest of the way in, and sent him stalking through the woods
to visit the cabin they knew she had used as her quarters. After watching
it for most of a day with no signs of life, Valentine ventured had inside.
According to him, she hadn't been there for at least a week, possibly
more; it was difficult to tell because everything had been spotlessly
cleaned and stored before she vacated the premises. He had personally
visited each of the sweepers assigned to watch for her, and they had seen
nothing in that time frame. Knowing her personality as he did, Valentine
was certain she had slipped away, probably on foot through the woods,
out the proverbial back door.
Lyle had been furious when he received the report. Valentine knew how
bad it made him look, and understood the resulting anger that he had been
bested by a mere woman. That embarrassment had resulted in his request
to mount an all-out effort to find her, which pleased Lyle immensely.
It took a great deal of footwork and canvassing to find the dealer who
had sold her the car she was traveling in, but with adequate persuasion,
Valentine soon had the car's description and license number. After returning
to the Centre, he also had a couple of sightings under his belt to report
to his boss.
"I know she's heading east," Valentine told him, "but
without a specific destination in mind, I can't get ahead of her. That
will mean more research, but I'm willing."
"I've given you everything we have on Looking Glass," Lyle
shot back angrily. But he knew that wasn't entirely true, and so did his
"All right, but I can't work in the dark," Valentine returned
casually. "If I don't know important details, I can't predict what
she'll do next. She might even be on her way back here, for all I know."
Lyle knew Valentine was playing him, but the thought was unsettling nevertheless.
He decided to swallow his pride for the moment, and give the sweeper what
he wanted. He might not completely trust Valentine, but he knew that any
secrets revealed would stay between the two of them. With a sigh, he headed
for his safe and withdrew a DSA for the sweeper to watch.
"This doesn't leave my office," he told the other man. "Not
even by word of mouth."
Valentine nodded. "Of course."
He put the disc into the machine and let it play, explaining briefly
what the Eclipse simulation had been meant to produce. This DSA showed
only the aftermath, what had happened during the retrieval phase. Still,
it didn't show everything. Much of their experience had taken place in
the landscape of the subconscious, and that wouldn't show up on the video.
He smiled, knowing that some of his secrets were still safe.
But as he wandered around his office, waiting for the recording to end,
his thoughts turned back to the recent invasion of his private space.
Sydney had been there, he was sure of it. The cameras watching the corridor
had picked him up, coming and going. Undoubtedly, he had taken something,
some piece of information meant to remain private, but Lyle had yet to
discover what it was.
That it had something to do with Jarod was a given. That was always at
the root of Sydney's quests. Lyle resented Sydney's protectiveness, always
playing the sympathetic advocate. He was
fatherly toward the Pretender,
in a very real way.
Lyle felt an unfamiliar surge of emotion, sadness fading into jealousy,
as he thought about the two of them. No one had ever gone to the mat for
him. Not even his real father, once he discovered the relationship between
them. Mr. Parker was always somewhere on the outside, watching, waiting
to see if his progeny would fall on his face or stand on his own two feet.
For a moment, Lyle indulged in the fantasy. It would have been nice to
have someone care for him the way Sydney had cared for Jarod. If he'd
had that, who knew what he might have become
But that sort of fondness made people weak, unable to do what needed
to be done in tough moments. Lyle was strong. He could handle anything
that came his way.
"I think I have a better understanding of your Looking Glass,"
Valentine announced, his grin filled with secrets. "I'm going after
her, boss. And this time, I'm going to find her."
"Be careful," Lyle advised. "She'll locate whatever emotional
weakness you have, and exploit it."
Valentine stood, removed the disc and handed it back. "What if I
don't have any?"
Lyle smiled. "Then that would be the greatest vengeance of all,
The sweeper chuckled darkly, and left on his new mission.
Sydney would have to be dealt with, Lyle mused, secure now in the knowledge
that Faith would have to go through Valentine to get to him. But this
wasn't something he could do publicly. He needed assistance, but in this
case, he knew just who could handle it for him.
He strode out of his office, intent on his task, with a memory of Zoe
fresh in his mind.
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker's office
When she finally got back to the Centre, Broots was waiting for her.
After describing Sydney's condition to the best of her ability, she headed
straight for the desk, glancing around for the promised booty. "Well,
where is it?" she demanded.
"On the chair over there," he told her. "I sort of put
it in the corner out of the way, just in case." She went to get it,
and placed it on top of the desk. "You'll never believe what's in
here," he added. "Looks like Sydney's got a soft side we didn't
"Which makes me wonder why he'd leave it sitting out where anyone
could find it," she replied, peering into the box. As Broots had
done, she pulled the items out one by one, sorting through them and stopping
to examine a few. The Father's Day card received special scrutiny, as
did a drawing of herself that was more recent. "Jarod's always been
a pretty good artist," she said, smiling faintly. "Pity he's
used his talent mostly to annoy me over the last five years."
"So, what do you think we should do with it?"
She closed the lid, and hefted the box back onto the chair. "I'll
take it with me when I go back to the hospital. That will get it out of
the Centre, and maybe it will help to lift Sydney's spirits once he's
"That sounds like a good idea." Broots watched as she began
to go through the paperwork on her desk, occasionally dropping a folder
into her briefcase and filing the others away. Belatedly, he remembered
the red file, sitting on a corner of the desk, and held it out. "Miss
Parker, there's something else I think you should look at."
She glanced at the folder. "What's this?"
"Sydney left it," Broots admitted. "We were so busy getting
him help that we didn't pay much attention to why he was here. I think
he wanted you to see it."
Parker took it from him, flipped through it quickly without really looking,
then handed it back. "I'm sure you had a peek while you were waiting,"
she said, watching as he turned slightly pink. "So, why don't you
tell me what's in it?"
Broots lowered his voice. "Okay. The file is called Resurrection,
and it's a record of the experiment Raines and Lyle performed on Jarod
back in 1995, a few months before he escaped. You remember, those missing
three weeks in October? When they stopped his heart, and then started
it up again?"
She did remember. Morgan nodded, and went back to shuffling papers, while
continuing to pay attention.
"Well, there's a log of how many times they did that -- over a dozen!
According to one of the memos, they were trying to get at some kind of
information. I didn't really understand that part. But it wasn't just
torture for the sake of torture. They definitely wanted something."
He sighed, and sank into the chair opposite. "You know, I saw this
it was called Flatliners."
Miss Parker didn't look up from the papers she was shuffling. "You
live in the video store, don't you?" she asked mildly.
Broots continued. "See, it was about these medical students who
wanted to know what it's like on the other side -- you know, when you're
dead." He shuddered. "So they took turns stopping each other's
hearts for as long as they could, and then bringing them back."
She paused momentarily, and looked at him. "You think they stopped
Jarod's heart because they wanted to ask whether he made it to the Pearly
Broots sighed in frustration, but persevered. "The point is that
after they were revived, they were different people. They were
by these dark spirits that came back with them. It was really creepy."
His last two sentences brought Miss Parker's head up. Dark spirits.
"Give me that file." He handed it over, and she skimmed
through it, looking for a particular reference. "It says the experiment
was connected to Project Eclipse."
Broots nodded. "Yeah. That's the part I don't get. It was twenty
years later; what could they have hoped to gain after so long?"
For the first time since Parker had seen that chilling DSA almost five
years ago, it was all starting to make sense. "I think I know what
they were looking for." She hesitated; this was a story Broots hadn't
completely heard. "Jarod was considered the only true survivor of
Eclipse. You know that. But he came back with part of Kodiak Brown's personality
buried inside his own. That was potential the Centre wouldn't have wanted
"You mean -- they thought that if they killed him, then brought
him back, he'd be different?" His eyes widened as he digested the
information. "So, they stop Jarod's heart, wait a few seconds for
then revive him," she chimed in.
"And presto change-o, dark pretender," Broots whispered. "Man!"
"It obviously didn't work quite the way they intended," Parker
added, "but the experiment jarred something loose. And the people
Jarod's been punishing ever since he escaped have taken the brunt of it."
She pulled out her cell phone. "You did not see me do this,"
she snapped as she dialed. "And whatever you do, don't tell anyone
about any of this stuff. It could get us all killed." She sighed
as the call was picked up by his service, just as it was when she tried
to reach him at the hospital. "Jarod, call me ASAP. Life or death,"
she added before hanging up.
Broots nodded, feeling the blood drain from his face. He tucked the folder
into the box with Sydney's other belongings. Things certainly were different.
A year ago, he couldn't have imagined that she'd want anything more than
to catch Jarod and drag him back to the Centre kicking and screaming.
Now, she was doing her best to help him. Help Jarod, and watch over Sydney.
Maybe Lyle had been right all along. The world really was changing.