Perchance to Dream

by Stephanie

Regular Cast:
Michael T. Weiss as Jarod
Andrea Parker as Miss Parker
Patrick Bauchau as Sydney
Jon Gries as Broots

Guest Stars:
Harve Presnell as Mr. Parker
Candace Bergen as Eve
George Lazenby as Major Charles
Ryan Merriman as Jordan
Candace Bergen as Eve
Marisa Parker as Emily
Suzanne Rogers as the Mother Superior
Jim Byrnes as Uncle Max
Ron Hale as Hank Carter
Sebastien Spence as James Tyler

Act I

Our Lady of Refuge Convent

The convent was nestled between two large mountains in the rolling hills of Connecticut. It was a small convent, but it specialized in doing great good. Some of the people who entered sought sanctuary; others, simply a home away from a world that had become too complicated or frightening to live in.

There was one wing of the convent devoted to those who came for quiet prayer and reflection. But in that wing, there was also a plain room, painted a stark white, which held a woman who was there for another reason. She had come seeking sanctuary in its oldest sense, a place of safety from which to hide from the world.

She sat, as though in a dream. Every day, in the same chair, facing the same window, the red-haired woman just sat there. She was not a young woman anymore, and her hair was tinged with gray. Her hands were restless, moving as though seeking something she’d lost. Her lips moved in silent prayers. She liked to wear the same thing, a print dress. It was the dress she’d worn when she’d last seen her son. When the staff tried to take the dress away, she became agitated. It was as though she feared that Jarod wouldn’t recognize her if he didn’t see her looking the same as she did that day in Boston, when they had briefly glimpsed each other. Eventually, her daughter had purchased duplicates of the dress.

At first, she had been treated by physicians in nearby New York. Her daughter would bring her in for the treatments. Many were tried; none of them worked. Yet, her daughter refused to institutionalize her. Only the mother superior knew why. An old acquaintance of her mother's, the mother superior had been willing to give the woman a safe place to stay. Young nuns, just entering training, found it helpful to work with this woman. She needed to be reminded of the activities of daily living she’d turned her back on, but once reminded, she did take care of herself. Otherwise she responded only to her daughter, and then only sporadically.

* * * * * * * * *

On the road to Salem, CT

“If at first you don’t succeed,” Emily muttered to herself as she drove along the highway. She so hoped that seeing the rest of her family would help her mother. When getting so close to Jarod the last time had caused Margaret's breakdown, Emily had panicked. Oh, sure, they’d developed a contingency plan that got her mother to a safe spot. But Emily wasn’t sure she dared to let Margaret know she'd found the others. As much as Emily believed her father would want to help, she couldn’t take the risk of overwhelming Margaret’s already slim defenses. Watching her mother disintegrate emotionally had been terrifying.

Emily just wasn’t sure she could survive it a second time.

* * * * * * * * *

Willow Glen, NH, 1985

The kitchen was small, and the table and chairs only made it more cramped. The lighting was poor. Tiny rooms were an integral part of Emily’s childhood. It was as though her mother was afraid to have too many possessions, lest they be taken from her.

“Honey, you can’t go out with him. You don’t know who he is,” Margaret protested.

“Mom, I do know him. He’s in my karate class. He’s a neighbor. Get real,” Emily retorted with the sarcasm only a teenager can manage.

“But it could be dangerous,” Margaret answered.

“So’s crossing the street,” Emily snapped. “I need a life.”

“I don’t know what your father would say,” Margaret protested.

“No, you don’t. Because I don’t have one. And if I never get a date I’ll never have a chance to have a family of my own.” Emily flounced, making her skirts swirl. It was the sort of exuberant gesture that always drove her mother wild.

“Don’t you think you’re a little young to be starting a family?” Margaret answered.

“Yes, Mom. I just want to start doing things normal people do. I’ve read about a normal life, but I’ve never had one. I’ll never be sixteen again and I want to do what the other kids do.” Emily leaned against the chair with a sigh.

Margaret looked closely at her daughter this time. She saw that Emily wasn’t a child anymore and that keeping secrets from her wasn’t going to help matters. All that keeping secrets would do now would be to encourage rebellion. “All right,” she said softly. “Sit down and I’ll explain everything.”

Emily sat.

Margaret wrung her hands, then sighed. “You really don’t remember any of this. At least I’ve been able to spare you that. But before you were born, you had two brothers. They were kidnapped. I lost my babies.”

“I know that! You’ve always hammered into my head that I had to be careful so that nobody would steal me. Nobody ever has,” Emily protested.

“Because the Centre doesn’t know where we are. Listen. When you were a baby, someone I trusted, named Catherine Parker, tried to help. She and your father went to break your brothers out of the Centre. It didn’t work. And Charles never showed up at the meeting point. I don’t know if he’s alive or dead. I don’t know if your brothers are alive or dead. I do know Catherine is dead. I read her obituary. She was shot. I believe her own people tried to kill her. Many times she told me she was afraid they would hurt Jarod or her daughter if she openly helped us. They don’t know you exist. What they might do to you terrifies me,” Margaret said quietly. Her hands moved across her body in a protective gesture.

“Mom, nobody has ever bothered us. But I’ll stick out more if I don’t do anything. I promise to be careful, but you have to let me live.” Emily tried to look older than she was. She could see the concern in her mother’s eyes; concern she wasn’t prepared to translate into fear. Mothers weren’t supposed to be afraid.

Margaret just looked back with a sigh. “I guess I can’t keep you a child forever. But you have to promise to be extra careful with what you tell people and who you trust. I don’t ever want to risk losing you to the Centre the way I lost your brothers and your father.”

Emily nodded. “I promise.”

That day she’d also made another promise to herself. She’d find her brothers and her father and reunite them with her mother. Somehow, Emily swore, she’d learn everything she needed to in order to defeat the Centre and reunite her family.

* * * * * * * * *

Present day

Emily turned her car onto the last street before Uncle Max’s. Ever since the day her mother had explained the need for secrecy, Emily had gone along with her mother’s plans. After all, Margaret had been the only family Emily had. Finding her brothers had been the one thing that Emily had been sure would help to give her the normal family she desperately wanted. It was one thing, she had always thought, to not have a father because your parents were divorced, or your father died. To not have a father because he had to run for his life seemed an injustice she refused to accept.

That day in Boston, seeing Jarod, seeing the danger he was in, Emily had grown stronger. It wasn’t a myth, something her mother had made up to keep her daughter in line. It wasn’t a delusion. There really were people chasing her brother who would stop at nothing to harm her family.

That day had also been too much for Margaret. She had retreated into a world of her own, and nothing Emily could do seemed to help. Eventually there had been no choice. Emily had to place her mother in an environment where she could receive skilled nursing care.

Uncle Max had been a godsend then. He’d known which convent would keep their secret and why Margaret would be willing to go there. Some of those secrets Margaret had only been willing to trust to another adult. Emily frowned. If Jarod were here, she’d be able to convince her mother that they were both adults. She wasn’t sure that either Jordan or Ethan would be enough to help Margaret. After all, like her, they weren’t Jarod.

Emily parked her car outside the small white bungalow. She walked up the steps and knocked on the door.

“OK, coming.” She heard the sounds of his cane tap on the floor. Uncle Max was retired air force, a friend of her parents. He’d been injured in a plane crash after retirement and walked with a cane or used a wheelchair. Perhaps the Centre hadn’t sought him out because his connection with the Major was too tenuous. Max had been Charles’ flight instructor. Or, Emily had sometimes thought, perhaps they just didn’t care about her and her mother. Maybe, to the Centre, all females were like Catherine Parker... expendable.

He let her in and she followed him to the old beat-up kitchen where they’d shared dinners between relocations.

“Hey, sweetheart. What’s wrong?”

“Mom,” Emily answered, going to the stove to put the kettle on for tea.

“Is there a change?”

“Not exactly.” She paused. “Awhile back I found my Dad, or rather, he found me. He really misses Mom. “

“You thought he wouldn’t?” Max asked.

“Not really. Mom doesn’t talk about him. She just talks about Jarod. I never really understood that part of it.” Emily poured her tea, then refilled Max’s cup.

“It was hard for Margaret before you children were born. She’s a homebody, always was, always will be. Charles’ work took him from one town to another. Margaret believed that was part of the reason they couldn’t conceive. It caused enough friction to drive them to doctors, and eventually to NuGenesis. As much as Margaret loves her children and feels you’re a special blessing, she also has inside her a lot of guilt. She believes that if they hadn’t gone to NuGenesis, none of you would be in any danger. She wanted children enough to do anything, face anything. But it’s a little hard for the average person to anticipate something like the Centre coming after them.” Max looked her straight in the eyes. “Can you understand that?”

“You mean she thinks Dad is at fault? Or that she is?” Emily asked.

“A little of both. If it were simple, Margaret would snap out of this state in no time. But she can’t get around the idea that she insisted on having children instead of adopting when they had fertility problems. As a mother, she feels responsible for her children’s lives. It doesn’t have to make sense. That’s why she’s got problems.” Max groaned. “ It got to be too much when she saw the Centre try to take Jarod back. They were trying to hurt him. She was powerless to help him, and I’m sure that has eaten away at her more than anything. There’s no feeling quite so bad as being totally helpless when someone you love is in danger.” I should know, Max thought to himself. He loved Emily as though she were his own. He’d taught her everything he’d learned from his special ops days in order to keep her safe and give her the skills she’d need to avoid the Centre. But he still hated the fact that she put herself at risk at all.

“That’s all very well, and it does help. But my question is, can I, should I, tell her about Dad?”

“It’s your decision, Emily. But for what it’s worth, I doubt you could make things worse.” Max sighed. “I go to visit her every week and there’s no response. Most likely if you tell her about your Dad you’ll get the same lack of attention. It can’t hurt to try.”

“Okay.” Emily put the tea cups in the sink.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Max asked.

“No. I reach Mom a little, every time I visit. It’s just that she can’t keep focused if I don’t stay there. I guess I just needed to talk to a friend before I jumped into the hot seat.” She turned to leave.

“I’ll always be your friend, kid. You know that. And if you want to tell your Dad about me, go ahead.” Max hadn’t understood why Emily wanted to keep him a secret. But he’d gone along with everything she’d suggested, because once he’d trained her to research, to plan, and to learn how to take cover, she’d shown that she had the ability to become a chameleon and get into her role. He sometimes thought he served the purpose of a dress rehearsal for a consummate actress. Once she’d practiced what she wanted to be, she simply walked out the door and into her role.

Act II

Avon, Pennsylvania

Jordan sat intensely concentrating on the computer screen. All the data Major Charles needed to do as Ethan asked was there. There was just one teeny tiny problem: all the research indicated that that this treatment was going to be tricky, especially since they couldn’t exactly bring Jarod into a hospital. And he had the feeling there was a lot more going on which Ethan was neglecting to tell him.

“Something wrong, son?” the Major asked. They’d made their way to this hotel room after Major Charles had agreed to do the simulation that Ethan suggested. It had given him the cold shivers, though. The idea that Jarod could be in that much trouble was extremely unpleasant.

“I don’t know.” Jordan sighed. “The nightmares have stopped. But I can’t shake the feeling that it isn’t a good thing. It’s like things feel too good to be true. And we don’t really know that much about Ethan, do we?”

“I wish there were a way to test things.” Charles replied. “I do trust Ethan, but I don’t feel that I understand him. He spent too much time under Raines' guiding hand for me to know how to reach him.”

“Didn’t Jarod say some kind of inner voices guided him?” Jordan asked.

“Yeah. He also said the voices drove Ethan nuts,” he answered.

“He seems pretty okay.” Jordan placed his head on his hands and sighed. “It isn’t like it’s possible to be involved with the Centre and not go just a little bit nuts anyway.”

The older man grinned. “True. Meanwhile, maybe you’d better show me what you’ve found on the computer.”

The man and boy bent their heads over the computer screen.

“Ethan expects me to help with that!” the older man exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Jordan answered. When Jarod’s feelings had entered his head, Jordan’s first reaction was to get them out. He didn’t want any kind of psychic link with his progenitor. It was bad enough to be a clone, without being a reflection of the real thing. But the lack of any contact with Jarod by phone or e-mail had made everything pretty scary. Jordan had come to rely on Jarod and he missed him in ways he couldn’t put into words. “It’s the only way we can get him back safely. I can help, but I can’t do it.”

Major Charles looked at the boy. “Are you positive this is the only answer? This goes a little beyond having been a medic in a few skirmishes, you know.”

Jordan nodded. “There’s no alternative. All other things aside, once Jarod is free he’ll be pursued. We can’t run the risk of his coming into contact with the Centre until all traces of the drug are gone from his system, or he may very well return to them voluntarily.”

“Yeah. And Ethan did say he was going to have someone else there to help,” he sighed.
All this would have been a lot easier if he’d nursed Jarod through more than just a few colds as an infant.

* * * * * * * * *

Ventilation System
The Centre

Angelo slipped through the ventilation ducts like a rat through a maze. He was always moving, always in the shadows. Down and further down he went, past the sensors. Nobody kept track of what went on in the very depths of the Centre. In the secret tunnel where he’d stored the boxes and boxes of material he’d stolen from the Centre’s archives, he removed one file and clutched it to his breast. Rocking back and forth, he said softly, “Dead, she’s dead now. He’s dead now. All gone now.”

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod’s Apartment

Jarod waited patiently for the shot to take effect. He could steal some time here and there, right after he was first injected. While he didn’t want the time to plan a physical escape, the part of his brain that was still Jarod sometimes needed to take a mental escape.

His son, his and Parker’s son. As horrified as he had been by the idea that someone had stolen his genetic material again, the idea of having a child by Parker fascinated him. He had always wanted family, his family. He couldn’t stop thinking about that. Would the boy have Parker’s temper or his? Would he be a pretender or not? What would he be like?

There was a white ranch house with a picket fence. In the yard, a little boy played with a plastic airplane. A swing set and sandbox were also there, with toys in the sandbox as though they had been played with that day. A woman wearing an apron worked in a garden. She kept a close eye on the little boy, smiling at his game.

Jarod smiled to himself. Even in his imagination he couldn’t quite see Parker being so passive. She’d always need to be accomplishing something practical. That was her nature.

A man carrying a doctor’s bag came up the path and let himself in through the gate.
Jarod saw that it was himself. Parker reached out and kissed him, with the familiarity of a customary but still passionate relationship. The little boy ran to him calling out, “Daddy!” Jarod picked the boy up and swung him around. “More!” the boy exclaimed. Jarod made airplane noises as he swung his son around.

“Don’t play forever, you two,” Parker said. “Dinner’s almost ready to be taken out of the oven and I don’t want it to get cold.”

“I wouldn’t dream of avoiding your cooking. We’ll go in and wash right away, won’t we?” Jarod said. The little boy nodded and they went into the house. Parker followed them, and set a pizza and breadsticks on the table. Jarod came in and helped his son get seated at the table. Parker cut the pizza and put slices on each of their plates. They ate and both of them helped clean off the table. Jarod and the little boy went to play video games. Parker sat down next to them, and made comments about his skill and strategy. Later, they both helped put the little boy to bed.

Jarod’s smile grew broader. He wanted to have a family. This was a good dream. He’d have to try and remember it.

* * * * * * * * *

Our Lady of Refuge Convent

Her lips moved. “Jarod,” she whispered. The ache inside couldn’t be stifled by drugs. She’d lost her son, her life. Cradling her firstborn, she had known that her true purpose in life was to be a mother, to care for her child. That was the most important thing in the world. Her little boy had been so clever, too, learning his letters and numbers very young. He’d had a happy, eager curiosity that made him shine brighter than anything Margaret could imagine. And it was all gone.

Now all she saw was her little boy, all grown up, the way she’d last seen him in Boston, forced to go on the run. And there had been nothing she could do to protect him. That was the worst of it, to have been close enough to see him and be unable to touch him, to help him. That had been true torture.

She never let her mind touch her other child, the one that had been poisoned by the Centre. Harriet was her friend and Harriet had been hurt by Kyle. She couldn’t forget that. She couldn’t think of that.

Her mind returned to Jarod. Where was he? How was he?

* * * * * * * *

Mr. Parker’s office
The Centre

Mr. Parker was waiting for his daughter to arrive, standing impatiently near the window. He handed her an envelope when she neared, her stride purposeful as usual. And her expression, as usual, was unreadable. It was getting to harder to know what she was thinking these days, and he needed that insight.

“Here’s a job we need you to do as head of SIS. Can you go and audit our other offices, make sure that security is everything it should be?” Mr. Parker’s tone left no doubt that he wasn’t going to listen to excuses.

She crossed her arms, envelope tucked beneath one with hardly more than a glance at its cover. She sighed, considering. “Only if I can take my team. The head of a unit doesn’t do the hands-on work, Daddy.” Her tone was appropriately firm. “But the break from routine will be pleasant. And it never hurts to see what’s going on elsewhere.”

She offered him a small, tight smile.

“My thoughts exactly,” he returned with a smile of approval. “Take whoever you need, within reason.”

“Meaning?” Miss Parker asked.

“It wouldn’t be reasonable to take Jarod, but it might not be a bad idea to take your brother,” he answered. Anything to get those two out from underfoot for a few days, he told himself. She was frighteningly efficient, getting in the middle of everything, and Lyle was just a nuisance lately.

Miss Parker controlled her expression, except for one elegantly arched eyebrow. “Do you have some reason for wanting to get Lyle out of the way? If so, you’d better give it to me. Little brother and I don’t exactly play well together.”

She was just too good. He frowned at her. “Maybe if you spent more time together, you would.”

“Actually, I was thinking about taking Sydney. He could be useful in checking the truthfulness of the interviews. It never hurts to get a second opinion,” Miss Parker answered.

He knew she didn’t trust Lyle. She was too smart for that. But he wanted Lyle out of the way, and she was the best excuse to accomplish that goal. “Sorry, angel. Sydney’s work here is too important. Take someone else from the same unit, if you like.”

“Very well. I’ll leave tomorrow,” she answered. Her glance at the envelope was doubtful, but resigned.

“Have a pleasant and profitable trip,” Mr. Parker answered, returning to his desk. She accepted his dismissal, and retreated without further protest. As an extra precaution, he checked his e-mail. Yes, everything was ready for his daughter’s arrival. She should be kept very busy indeed, which was just what he wanted.

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod’s Apartment

He used to escape through music, playing the music over and over in his mind. Now, happy as he was, he found he still wanted to escape further. It was as though he needed to remember something that was on the tip of his mind. What was it? What could it be?

Who was missing in his life? Parker, of course. She’d been a companion throughout his childhood. He made himself think of the adventures they’d had, the friendship. Perhaps if he found the perfect solution he’d be allowed to see Parker. He couldn’t help Parker if he couldn’t see her. Eve, who helped make him happy, would surely want to help make Parker happy. Parker was, after all, a part of the Centre.

Slowly, Jarod twisted the facts he knew into something that made him more comfortable. Miss Parker was his friend. She was a good person. The Centre made him happy. The Centre was good. Parker had to be part of the Centre. She had to be part of the good things.

He wondered if he dared to ask Eve to see Parker. Then his thoughts returned to the task at hand. For now, he needed to work on his assignments. A part of him wanted to pretend the fascination with work was all a pretend. Then as the drug took control of him, he forgot what he thought of doing, engrossed in the task that would keep him here in the Centre, working to get the drug he didn’t want to consciously know he needed.


Ventilation System

Angelo had long ago set up this hideaway for himself. Raines was his puppet master; he could never totally disobey him. But Angelo was also an adult, and he needed time to be on his own to just think without having to respond to others’ emotions.

Here was the place he’d hidden Timmy. Raines didn’t know he’d found the Timmy DSAs. He didn’t know Angelo had read all of Timmy’s records. Access to the files and the Internet had allowed Angelo to find Timmy’s family. Raines thought he had been very clever to destroy all of Timmy that lived inside of Angelo. Here, in his private place, Angelo could visit with what remained of Timmy. Here, too, he could just be Angelo.

The DSAs began with the pain that turned Timmy into Angelo. The feelings of others became primary and blotted out everything else, even the ability to speak and to dream the way Jarod did. Angelo had spent time with Jarod, and later with Kyle. He knew what individual feelings were supposed to be. He’d also quietly mirrored the feelings of other people, normal people such as Sydney and the other doctors. As he’d tried to discover who and what he was, Angelo had come to the conclusion he’d never be fully normal again. He was dependent on the Centre in a way that Jarod never had been. As a child, he’d tried to fool himself and hope he could get back home. Once he hit adulthood, that illusion didn’t last. Raines and the others assumed he was stuck in childhood, just because he couldn’t communicate. That was their illusion. It made them feel better to pretend he was retarded, just because they’d stolen his ability to communicate. Only Jarod had ever acknowledged that he wasn’t a fool just because he was forced by science to act like one.

Later, Sydney had tried to help. He’d tried hard, with the drug that helped Angelo's mind to focus. The shots had been slowly remylinating his nervous system. Even though Sydney had failed, his treatment still managed to help. He hadn’t lost the curse that made him Angelo, but he had regained part of Timmy.

Angelo’s hands moved among the files, seeking those DSAs. He watched himself on the screen slowly come to awareness. Sydney had kept DSAs of the treatments Angelo had undergone to restore his mind. Angelo found that if he watched himself regain control of his thoughts, he could actually recover some control even now. He smiled at the image on the screen. Miss Parker had been sarcastic as usual. She wanted to believe that Sydney was wasting his time. As Angelo recovered his senses, he had used the Angelo part of him to read her pain at the realization that Angelo hadn’t always been the mute he appeared to be. So he hadn’t been able to be angry at her, even with Timmy waking up inside him.

Revisiting his past through the DSAs was a technique he’d adopted from Jarod. He’d found that it helped him to remember and to direct his focus. It also let him guess what might happen in the future better than he could have without this means of protecting himself. He guessed what the others might do and made sure he was in the right spot at the right time.

That was one way he’d been able to help his friends and to help himself. As things changed in the Centre, it became even harder to know what to do, but Angelo allowed himself to move slowly so that he didn’t draw too much attention to any one person.

Angelo had done another thing back then, when he’d been poised between Timmy and Angelo: he’d taken the equipment he needed and made a tape. He’d searched the Internet for Timmy’s parents. At first, he didn’t know what he’d do if he found them. It would give Timmy a place to go, a place to begin a new life. Angelo had hoped that would make everything better again.

When he found a trace of them, it was on a listserv for parents who were looking for lost children. Timmy had been their only son, stolen when he was four. Angelo had the files. The files gave him the data to tie everything together. He was glad he didn’t have to ask Jarod for help. This part of him, the Timmy part, was something he didn’t want to share even with his friend. Family was good. Family was private.

* * * * * * * * *

Our Lady of Refuge Convent

Emily walked down the familiar white corridors. Every time she came here she hoped things would be different. But, never before had she been willing to risk upsetting the status quo in order to get results. She knocked on a door.

“Come in, “ the Mother Superior answered.

“Hi. I’m here to see my mom. I just wanted to see if there was any change I should know about before I go visit.” Emily said, standing in the doorway.

“Please come in and sit down.” The Mother Superior sighed. “Nothing has changed. She’s our star boarder and the only one who has stayed so long.”

“Sorry,” Emily replied. “You do know how grateful I am that you’ve been able to keep her here.”

The Mother Superior nodded. “As I said, she’s no problem. Many of the people who pass through here are much more scarred than she is, on the inside and outside. But they have somewhere to go and people who can help them be safe in their new lives."

“Thanks” Emily replied. “I really admire the work you do here, helping people who have been displaced."

“I just wish we had it in our power to solve your problems.”

“I’m going to try something a little different this time. I can’t guarantee it will help, but it’s time I tried something new. I’ll let you know if things change.”

The busy administrator returned to her work as Emily shut the door and walked on down the hall. To manage a convent that dealt in refugees and others needing a place of temporary safety required tact, diplomacy, and the ability to let some problems take care of themselves. Margaret was one of the problems which stayed on the back burner precisely because she caused no trouble for any of the nuns or visitors. She was so quiet they hardly needed to remember she was there.

Emily exchanged greetings with the people she knew as she passed them in the hallway. She stopped to tell her mother’s primary caregiver, a petite brunette named Mary, that she needed some private time with her mother. She explained that she had permission from the Mother Superior to try a new technique that might help. Mary was more than willing to give them time alone.

Entering her mother’s room, she picked up a hairbrush and began to gently brush her mother’s hair. She sang, very softly, the children’s nursery rhyme her mother had taught her. “Cree craw toad’s foot, geese walk barefoot.”

“Catherine, is that you?” Margaret asked. The first time she’d answered like this, it had startled Emily. But like all the other scary and improbable things that had happened, it had soon lost its power to disconcert her.

“No, Mom. It’s me, Emily.” She walked around in front of her and sat down. Margaret focused on her, trying to reconcile the memory of the infant with that of her grown daughter. After a few minutes, she smiled and put her hand on her daughter’s hand.

“Do you remember when Catherine and I wrote the story? The story in which we used that rhyme?”

“I remember what you told me,” Emily answered softly. “You made up a fairy tale, to be told to your firstborn children. The song is a part of the story.”

Margaret nodded. “And he probably doesn’t even remember it. It’s been so long since I’ve seen my baby. My firstborn baby.”

“Mom, I’ve got some stuff to tell you today. Special stuff. Stuff about Jarod.”

“Jarod. Is he OK?” Margaret repeated. It was as though part of her couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing and another part of her wanted to hear even more.

“I’ve spoken with him. Visited with him. I’d like you to get stronger before he sees you. It would hurt him so much to see you hurting like this.”

“I’d like to see Jarod,” Margaret agreed. Her hands were clenched tightly and the rest of her body was held stiffly. She couldn’t believe in this good fortune. It couldn’t be real.

“Would you like to see Dad?” Emily asked. Mom sounded better. Maybe she wouldn’t need to do anything different.

“I see him. Every week he comes to visit,” Margaret answered quietly.

“That’s not Dad, Mom. It’s Uncle Max.” Emily kept eye contact, and let her hand be stroked.

“Yes, that’s right, Max. He’s the only father you’ve got.” Margaret often spoke of Max as Emily’s father, because Max had served in that role all throughout Emily’s teenage years. Margaret had hoped that Charles would contact Max, but that hope had been dashed when the Centre had gotten too close. All three of them had gone even deeper under cover, leaving Charles no way to find them.

“No, Mom. I’ve got another father, Charles. Jarod’s father. Try to focus on him.” Emily kept her voice calm.

“Jarod’s father is dead. The Centre killed him. They stole my boys and killed my husband. You’re all I have left.” This, Emily knew, was normal. Margaret often got confused about what had actually happened and what she feared had happened. She had often refused to believe Emily in the past. Too much had happened that was painful. Margaret had deliberately shut herself off from as much of the pain as she could. Emily accepted that this would happen and remained patient.

Over and over Emily covered the same points. It was going to be like every other time. Margaret wasn’t ready to come out of hiding. Emily had one more card to play this time. One more chance to reach her mother.

This was the hard part. Emily didn’t want to use Jordan, but he was the only chance of getting Margaret to respond. She pulled from her wallet a picture of the Major and Jordan, taken while skiing. It wasn’t the best picture, but it was the one that might reach Margaret. It had a date and time stamp.

Emily placed the picture in front of her mother. “Mom, look. Look at this picture for me, please.”

Obligingly, Margaret looked down. And gasped. Tears flowed. “It’s not possible. They’re dead, both of them.”

“No, Mom. Dad’s alive. Truly.” Emily kept her tone reassuring.

“But that’s Jarod. Catherine got me a picture, even when she couldn’t get me anything else. That is Jarod… or it could be. Couldn’t it?” Margaret looked so unsure it tore Emily in two.

“It’s Jarod’s… son, Jordan.”

“Jarod has a son? My baby boy?” Margaret’s hands shook.

“Yes. Jordan is a pretty special kid. I’d like him to know his grandmother.”

“I’d like that,” she said hesitantly.

“Would you see Dad, if he came, too?”

Your father? Charles?”

“Yes. Mom, please. I want all my family to be together. Jarod wants that, too.”

“You’ve seen Jarod,” Margaret stated flatly. Her lips moved, mouthing the words “not possible.” She wanted to believe, yet she didn’t dare risk it.

“Yes. But you’ve been ill and I didn’t want to hurt him. Seeing his mother in pain would hurt a lot.” Emily felt that her mother deserved the truth, even if it hurt. Perhaps that would be enough motivation to keep her connected to reality.

“I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you.” Margaret cried softly, twin tears running down her cheeks.

“I know. But you need to get stronger, so you can see Jordan and Dad and Jarod. You need to be strong so that they don’t hurt when they think of you.” Emily handed her mother a tissue.

Margaret nodded. “Can I keep this?”

“Yes. Just try Mom. Please?”

“I’ll try. I’ll pray. I’ll try.”

Over the next week Emily revisited Margaret. The improvement wasn’t dramatic, but it was more than had been shown in previous years. Margaret recognized Emily. She asked about Jordan and Charles. She managed to focus on the fact that Jarod was alive and well. This was a help.

As Margaret healed, Emily called on Uncle Max to come and help out. Max got Margaret involved in the work of the convent, helping those who could not help themselves. That gave Emily time to slip away and work on the next phase of Margaret’s treatment. For that, she needed something more than just herself and Max.

* * * * * * * * *

Avoca Examiner
Avoca, PA

One thing her father and mother didn’t understand was exactly how important her work was to her. Emily loved being a reporter, ferreting out facts, discovering how the pieces fit together and then writing the results. She was always investigating something. Sometimes it led to things like Ethan. Other times the mysteries were even more subtle.

Today someone had sent her an e-mail indicating that there was something for her at general delivery at the post office. She’d gone, feeling alive with curiosity. The envelope had been large and square. It came from a firm of lawyers. She’d inherited the contents of a safety deposit box, apparently. The box could only be opened in the presence of one of the lawyers.

* * * * * * * * *

Angelo’s Room
The Centre

Angelo paced back and forth in his room. He had so little control now. It wasn’t like being Timmy. Oh, there were things he could do, slowly, a little at a time. But it was still very different from being able to control what he did.

He smiled, the quirky little smile that meant he’d thought of something special. Angelo was an empath. He could use that to reach the help he needed.

For a time, nothing happened. Angelo tried to reach Sydney. Sydney was close. Sydney was his friend. Angelo entered the tunnels to get closer. Maybe he could get Sydney a message. Maybe he could communicate in other ways. Angelo was never sure exactly how well his particular abilities were going to work at any given time. He’d had more success than failure, but that was not to say that things always went his way.

He crept through the dark tunnels that were his home territory until he found Sydney’s office. But Sydney was not there. That was odd, but it didn’t concern Angelo. The only fact that registered was that Sydney couldn’t help him if he wasn’t there.

Angelo returned to his room and paced some more. He would need to try again. Who could he reach? Jarod, maybe. Jarod would help. Angelo thought about Jarod, and pulled out a small toy Jarod had sent him. Angelo smiled. He became very happy and content. Angelo went to do research then, while empathing Jarod. This lasted a long time.

Nobody came to be Angelo’s handler any more. Angelo had lots of time to research and play on the Internet. He’d gotten a lot of practice at faking the logs. The focus he borrowed from Jarod allowed him to get the addresses he needed. His hand touched the screen, the words of the obituary he sought. That was enough to break his contact with Jarod.

In sorrow, Angelo curled up. This sadness was his own, both for the parents who had been good to him before he was kidnapped and for the fact that he’d never been able to tell them who he was.

Anonymously, he’d sent presents, manipulated funds. That he could do, by empathing the people who had the knowledge and using their skills. But he’d known that the harsh words Parker had for him were only a minute part of how others felt. He could never leave the safety of the Centre.

Now, they were dead. They had a little boy, adopted after Angelo had been gone for ten years. The boy had been an orphan and had needed a home. The little boy’s name was James, and he’d also lost his parents for a second time. James, of course, was all grown up. Just like Angelo, yet different in that James was a scientist. It was ironic that the people who’d lost Angelo should have a son who would be a psychiatrist, but that was how it had happened.

Angelo went back into the tunnels to the hidden stash of records. He removed a high school graduation picture. James, the person who would have been his brother, if Angelo had been able to live in the real world, had lived a normal life. The Centre hadn’t come for him, perhaps feeling that would have drawn attention to them. Or maybe James was only special to his parents.

Angelo pulled out other records and photographs. James had played Little League, and still played on a team in the evenings. Now, perhaps, James would play another kind of a game. A game that would help some people and hurt others.

* * * * * * * * *

First National Bank
Avoca, PA

Emily hadn’t hesitated in going immediately to the lawyers. They’d postponed their meeting, however, until an interested party could appear.

“Miss Sullivan, I’m Hank Carter, the attorney for the Tylers. And this is their son, James Tyler.”

“Pleased to meet you. I hope you don’t think I’m interfering because of this legacy. There is undoubtedly a story here.”

James nodded. There was a great deal he wasn’t willing to share with a stranger. His whole life had been spent with a cloud over it. The family secrets weren’t to be aired in public.

When the box was opened, it contained a letter and a picture.

“Timmy,” said James unemotionally.

“Who’s Timmy?” asked Emily.

“If he’d lived, he would have been my older brother. He was kidnapped as a baby. When it seemed pretty clear that he wasn’t going to be found, my parents adopted me,” James answered. He kept his face a careful blank, unwilling to share with strangers the emotions he felt.

“Oh.” We certainly have that in common, then, Emily thought to herself. She wasn’t adopted, but she’d often wondered if she’d have been born if Jarod hadn’t been kidnapped. Courses in psychology had helped her to understand that it was all right to have been jealous of the brother that her mother kept constantly in her memory. But childhood insecurities sometimes still surfaced, often at inconvenient times. She wasn’t going to let this be one of them.

Emily opened the letter. It contained mention of a legacy, a foundation created to search for and help reunite kidnapped children with their families.

“Do I have to accept this?” Emily asked the attorney.

“Why wouldn’t you want to?” James asked.

“It seems like a lot of work,” Emily prevaricated. It could also serve as a red flag to draw the Centre’s attention to her.

The attorney looked at it, and at the accompanying legal documents which established the foundation and trust.

“It’s legal. It’d take some work to break it and appoint someone else. If you really want to, we could recommend an attorney to advise you of your rights,” he answered.

Emily nodded. “That might be a good idea. It isn’t that I’m against helping kidnap victims in general, but a very wise lawyer once told me never to accept the first legal document you see without searching for the fine print.”

James grinned. “That’s a good psychological maxim as well.”

“It’s your parents' idea. Do you want to be involved?” Emily asked him.

“I am involved. It won’t hurt to get any more so,” James answered.

Emily nodded and they made plans to meet later to discuss the particulars. Just what I need, Emily thought. One more ball to juggle that could possibly be related to the Centre. While they weren’t the only connection to kidnapped children, it seemed just a little too coincidental that the timing was around the same time Jarod was kidnapped. It appeared from the papers that this other little boy, Timmy, had been exceptionally bright, maybe even as smart as Jarod. Maybe it was her imagination, but that made Emily suspect the Centre had to be involved somehow.

* * * * * * * * *

Somewhere in the Centre

Angelo looked at the e-mail, and smiled. Now it had begun. The others would be pleased. So was he.

* * * * * * * * *

Pittsburgh, PA

Major Charles didn’t like having to send Jordan away. Whenever he was separated from the boy, even when he was visiting Emily or Jarod, he had to constantly fight not to worry himself into distraction. But just now, when he was recovering from having learned to give the treatments that Jarod needed, it was better to be alone. What he was about to do was an indulgence, but it was one he needed.

He’d joined a support group for parents of addicted children. He entered the room and sat quietly at the back. He listened to the stories of other parents, whose children had been taken from them by drugs. Then it became his turn. He stood, and introduced himself.

“Hi. My name is Charles. I have an adult son who has been hooked on drugs through his work.”

As he told his story, it occurred to him that Jarod would be proud of him today. The story he told was close to the truth, but it was still a pretense. Nobody would recognize, in the story of the airline pilot whose doctor son had slid into addiction, the true story.

The Major sat down and the next person stood up. She was a thin person, nervous and shy, in her late fifties. “My name is Alison. My son Philip has been addicted for seven years now. It started when he was thirteen. We didn’t know. Nothing was wrong. His grades didn’t go downhill for a year.”

The information he was gathering would help him to help Jarod. The other skills might save Jarod’s life and his sanity. But at some point Jarod was going to be on his own, one day at a time. And the Major was going to have to cope with it the same way these parents did.

Act IV

Jarod’s Apartment

Eve came in to check on Jarod’s progress. She’d given Jarod a problem to work on that dealt with communication between chimpanzees. The improved sign language could also be used by operatives on covert missions. She wanted to be sure that Jarod could work with live subjects that engaged his emotions before she let him work with the children.

“Almost finished?” she asked. It was her way never to anticipate failure.

“Yes. It should only be another day now,” Jarod answered. “Is there something else you want me to work on?”

“I think so,” Eve smiled and patted his arm. “I’ll be back soon to let you know.”

Outside in the corridor, Eve looked back at her notes. Although she didn’t doubt that everything was going according to plan, it might be better to have Jarod work with the children before he found the solution about delivering the drug. Something was distracting Jarod. She felt confident that once he was working with the children the distraction would fade. Jarod was sufficiently compliant. It would just take a little more time.

* * * * * * * * *

Our Lady of Refuge Convent

The woman who carefully looked at herself in the mirror had spent the intervening weeks well. She had been to a hairdresser, and her hairstyle was now shoulder length. She’d kept the waves she’d had from birth, but the color had been changed from a deep red to a lighter brown.

Much more than how I look has changed, Margaret thought. I have to be stronger in order to help my children. Once upon a time, it had seemed that was futile. Emily was grown and would do as she pleased. Somehow, Jarod had grown up without her realizing it. Margaret shuddered. She’d missed so much of her boy’s life. Now, though, there was a second chance.

Today was the day the boy was coming. The idea that there was a brand new member of her family was unbelievably exciting. A chance to start over, to do things right, and to properly protect and teach the boy was something that made her glow with a warmth she hadn’t shown in years.

There was a knock on the door, and Margaret turned to face it. The door swung open. Emily entered first, then the boy. Margaret went over to him and just hugged him.

“I can’t believe you’re really here,” she said, stroking his hair.

“It’s good to be here.” Jordan answered. Emily had briefed him about his task. He needed to give Margaret something to live for, so that they could be a family again. That meant he would have to pretend to be part of a normal family. Margaret had lost contact with reality when she saw Jarod taken from her in Boston. Emily believed the chance to have a normal family again would help push her back into the real world.

Jordan wanted to help his sister, so he was willing to get to know Margaret. But he’d been very definite about refusing to pretend to be Jarod.

“Tell me about yourself. How is school?” Margaret asked.

Jordan looked at Emily.

“I went to school the same way you do, honey. It's best to stick to the truth,” Emily replied to the look. Jordan did simulations. He really hadn’t done many “pretends” and most of those had been planned by others.

“OK. I don’t go to school. I learn at home. It makes it easier, because I don’t have to pretend about stuff I never learned. I like it. And I like visiting with Jarod and Emily even more,” Jordan answered.

Margaret’s hands clasped and unclasped. “I’m glad. Can you stay long?”

“Not too long. Maybe about a week. Da doesn’t know I’m with you, though. He thinks I’m just with Emily,” Jordan replied. He had started calling the Major “Da” a few weeks ago, wanting a name for him which none of the rest of the family used.

This was the hardest part for Margaret. She could face her children, because they were the central reason for her being. If they needed her, she’d be there for them if she at all could. Charles was different. He was her husband and she cared about him. But it had been so long, there had been so many changes since they’d last seen each other. It scared her.

“Mom, it would be good if you’d try and speak with Dad, at least on the phone. It would make both Jordan and I feel better if we weren’t keeping stuff from him. Please.” Emily had been slowly introducing this idea to Margaret all throughout their visits together. She’d asked Max to talk about the good times the three of them had had before the children had been born. She’d hoped that would be enough to let Margaret speak to her husband. She just wasn’t sure.

Margaret’s hands still shook. “Not yet. Later. I promise.”

The two younger people turned the conversation to other things. Jordan did succeed in relaxing her without her calling him Jarod. That, both of them felt, was a big step forward.

As they left, Jordan turned to Emily. “It’s great that she doesn’t think I’m Jarod. But it does mean we’re going to have a problem at some point.”

“What? We’ll get in contact with Jarod again. I’m sure we will,” Emily answered as she opened the car doors.

“It isn’t that simple. Jarod’s a prisoner in the Centre. Getting him out and safe may be a pipe dream,” Jordan answered.

“Dad didn’t tell me that,” Emily muttered. A part of her was furious.

“He asked me to. I wasn’t sure when to tell you. Now seemed like a good time.” Jordan looked out the window at the countryside. “Da’s working with Ethan and others on a plan to get Jarod out. But it will be really hard to do.”

Emily looked at Jordan, who was the closest family member to her in many ways. Both of them liked to be alone. Neither of them tried to fool themselves about what they were feeling.

“And I suppose you don’t think I ought to help,” Emily stated.

“Not after seeing Margaret - my grandmother. She’s gonna need both of us, for maybe a long time. Da will take care of Jarod.” Jordan paused. “I think we may be the children Margaret dreams of. So we can help her. Da is the father Jarod always wanted. So he’ll be better at helping Jarod. That’s how I see it.”

Emily was not happy. She’d have liked to have single-handedly put everything back together again. But things didn’t work like that. “OK. We’ll try it like this for now and then see what happens. I’m really glad you came. It helps.”

“I’m glad,” Jordan answered.

As they went through the green mountains to the hotel where Emily and Jordan were staying, they traveled in a companionable silence. Both of them had learned to cherish the times they were together and to move forward into the future. Now they had to teach that lesson to Margaret. With a little luck, they’d be able to recreate their family into a new, stronger unit.

* * * * * * * * *

Chairman’s office
The Centre

Miss Parker entered the room with her usual confidence. She let nothing show on her face of the fatigue the few days of frantic travel had brought. “Hello, Daddy. I’m back.”

“That was fast, angel,” he answered, swiveling his chair to face her. He activated the screen saver before taking his eyes off the monitor to greet her.

Of course, she took note of that. He was obviously working on something he didn’t want her to see, but she could easily have Broots do a scan of the files he had accessed and find out exactly what it was. He didn’t give her enough credit, but in good time, he would understand how he had underestimated her.

She shrugged. “Not really. This is just the first round. I’ve made some recommendations for necessary changes. Once they’re in place, I’ll need to check in again.” Miss Parker faced her father across the desk. “You’ll find it all in my report.”

“Great,” he answered. “What’s next on your schedule?”

Parker sighed inwardly. Life had been so much more comfortable when she blindly trusted her father. “Implementation, of course.” She leaned forward, fixing him with a steady, intent gaze. “There are definite security issues that need to be addressed, and quickly. You’ll present my ideas to the Triumvirate and let me know when I can get started, won’t you?”

“Oh, sure. Of course. Just surprised you didn’t sneak in a little vacation while you were gone. Sure you don’t want to take one now?” he asked.

Parker did smile then. “No. You know as well as I do that if I took a vacation I probably wouldn’t come back to a job. That’s how things have always worked around here.” They were dancing around things, as they always did. Neither one would dare to speak clearly and directly about what was on their minds.

Mr. Parker answered her smile with a bemused chuckle. “I doubt things would be that difficult if my little girl took a break.” He reached for the report and flipped some through some pages. “I’ll take a look at this and get back to you later. Now, get some rest.”

He tossed the report on his desk and shuffled it quickly aside, dismissing her.

She watched him turn back to his computer screen, the report apparently dismissed right along with her.

“Yes, Daddy. Good night,” Parker answered. It wasn’t the time or the place to have an argument. She just hoped that her father would continue to delegate and let her keep out of his way. For now, that would be the best way to keep their truce.

Perchance to Dream