home / season six / episode four / act I


Southern Tier Restaurant
Olean, NY

The albino leaned his elbow on the counter and eyed the woman standing behind it. He would have preferred a table, but experience told him sitting in this part of the restaurant -- off to the side away from traffic -- would create a feeling of intimacy. He would get more information here, and information was his stock in trade. "You say you recognize this woman?"

Edith, the rotund waitress serving him, nodded. She set his coffee in front of him and looked again at the picture he had given her. "Yeah, she worked here for a while. Wasn't much for talking, but she was good with the customers. Always seemed to know when they wanted something."

"And the name she gave you was Faith?"

"That's what she called herself... Faith Perkins." Edith paused. "Say, that wasn't a lie, was it? I'd hate to think we hired some kind of fugitive or something."

Mr. White merely smiled, and took a sip of the warm liquid. "Can you remember anything unusual about her -- things she liked or didn't like, strange habits, what she talked about?"

"Well, like I said, she didn't talk much. Kind of an odd duck, to tell you the truth. But once in a while, when business was slow, she'd open her mouth. Then, it was twenty questions. Always about the same thing, too."

"Which was?"

Edith shrugged. "People. She seemed to have trouble figuring out the relationship stuff."

As Jarod did, after he escaped. She's another seeker -- but for this one, understanding her own emotions will probably be the most difficult path of all. White shifted slightly on the stool underneath him, and wished again that he could sit in a proper chair. "What did you tell her?"

The woman sighed, and rolled her eyes. "Honey, I've been married for fifteen years. I've seen my husband bring me roses on our anniversary, and I've seen him fart like a demon in his sleep. Love isn't just about the mushy stuff. It's about life."

White chuckled briefly, knowing he needed to acknowledge her comment in some way. "That's very profound."

His flattery made her smile, but that faded quickly as she frowned in thought. "Why are you looking for Faith, anyway? She do something wrong?"

He perked up slightly. "What would make you think she had?"

"Well, she didn't act like a criminal or anything. But the way she left was strange. This guy came in, looking kind of lost. Said his name was Ethan, and asked for a minute of her time. They went in the back to talk, and she just stood there with the coffee pot in her hand for a good ten minutes after he left. Next thing I know, she's handing in her uniform and saying she's got somewhere else to be."

The mention of Jarod and Miss Parker's half-brother startled him. Ethan had been nearly impossible to trace ever since the subway incident -- Jarod had obviously hidden him well. How Ethan and Faith knew each other was uncertain, but it sounded as though they were now working together toward some goal. "Where was she planning to go?"

"Not sure. But whatever it was must have been important."

"Why do you say that?"

Edith gave him a knowing look. "Because she didn't even stop long enough to let me know where to send her last paycheck. Just took her things, and charged out of here like she was on some kind of holy mission."

* * * * * * * * *

Outside the Centre
Blue Cove, DE

It was the middle of the night when Faith arrived at her destination. She parked a half-mile from the main building, in almost the exact spot Miss Parker and Sydney had chosen months earlier.

She had promised herself she would never come back to this place alone. The Centre was dangerous, swirling with dark emotions, and the chance of capture waiting around every corner. Now that she had finally escaped, no one could have persuaded her to return.

No one, except Jarod.

She knew from Angelo that he had deliberately allowed himself to be captured, in the hope of learning the Centre's future plans. And she knew from her own special connection with him that drugs were slowly bending him to the Centre's will. The visit from Ethan had crystallized everything. There was a way out of the trap, but it had to be taken now. If she waited any longer, Jarod would be lost completely.

Angelo was waiting at the entrance to the ventilation system, as she had known he would be. After pressing his palm to hers in greeting, he handed her two small vials of liquid. "Aurora," he explained. Faith didn't ask how he had gotten them; Angelo had his own way of doing things. Instead she nodded, and slipped them into her pocket.

She followed him into the shaft -- sometimes crawling, sometimes walking upright through the system he knew so well. They deliberately chose an eccentric route, hoping to throw off the suspicions of anyone actually awake and paying attention. Nothing to see here, folks; nothing more than a blip on the radar, mice scurrying back to their nests in the walls of the lower floors.

At one point, Angelo paused on SL-17, behind the grate leading to a large, empty room. It was obviously meant for play, with plush carpeting on the floor and toys stacked neatly against one wall. He turned to her, and his eyes were large and shining in the near-darkness. "Scared for the babies," he whispered. "Scared for the One. Baby needs mommy."

She knew who he meant. Faith had been aware of the Seraphim for a long time, aware that her genetic material had been used to create a child destined to become a pawn of the Centre -- and a slave to anyone whose calm presence relieved the curse that was empathy, even for a little while.

To avoid a lifetime of pain, training in how to handle her talent would need to begin, hopefully before the child reached her fourth birthday. But who would teach her? Angelique knew nothing of her biological mother, and Faith paused to wonder if that, too, had been a mistake. She seemed to have made quite a few of them over the course of her life.

Angelo knew his daughter's need, but could offer nothing more than comfort. Even Jarod wouldn't have had the necessary skills. Only someone born an empath, who had learned how to place mental barriers between herself and the world, could pass on the knowledge. Faith knew she couldn't develop that kind of relationship with Angelique now -- not without surrendering to the Centre. It would have to wait until the day that all of the Seraphim were safe and protected.

She laid her hand lightly on top of Angelo's. "The time will come," she assured him. "Until then… keep her close."

He nodded his head gravely. "Understand."

Together they turned away from the grate, and continued their journey.

* * * * * * * * *

Sim Lab 2

One of the benefits of Aurora was deep, restful sleep. He always had pleasant dreams, and awoke refreshed. Jarod couldn't remember another time in his life when he could make that claim. And yet, somewhat perversely, he often preferred to stay up part or all of the night working on his various projects. Now that he was spending every day with the children, he needed the extra time these sessions afforded him.

He felt the approach of others, raising the hair on the back of his neck, before he actually heard them. Against the far wall, the grating covering the air duct opened and a blonde woman slowly emerged, then stood to face him. "Hello, Jarod."

"Faith." He knew he should feel surprise, excitement, something at her sudden appearance, but there was nothing... nothing but the peace of Aurora. The woman was a fugitive from the Centre, and he wondered idly if he should sound the alarm; but a small part of him still rebelled at the thought, so he let it go. Instead, he watched with curious eyes as she approached his desk.

"I'm here to help you escape."

"I don't want to escape," he told her simply, confidently. "I have a lot of projects to finish. I'm needed here. Why would you want to interfere with that?"

"I know you did this for the children, Jarod, because you had no choice -- but your goal has been accomplished. Miss Parker is back in a position of power now. It's time for you to go, before it's too late."

He could feel her gathering her forces, preparing herself for what the Centre had taught her to do. He suddenly realized it was the reason she had come. "Don't 'mirror' me, Faith," he warned. "I'm not one of your subjects."

Her face lost all expression, only her eyes shining as she began reaching down into his soul. It was the same look she'd had right before she sent Raines into mental oblivion. Jarod shook his head in denial and stood, knocking over the chair he'd been sitting in.

"I know you're in there somewhere, Jarod," she whispered. "Beneath the confusion and the fear, beneath Aurora, there's a part of you that wants to leave this place. I know it's there. Show it to me."

If she was determined, there might not be any way to keep her out. Again, Jarod considered hitting the alarm, even glanced across at it and wondered if he could make it that far before she could stop him.

"You don't want to do that," she coaxed, her voice softening.

She was right. He didn't. At the moment, Jarod wasn't sure what he did want, except to stop the war that was starting to build inside of him.

* * * * * * * * *

Gabriel's Room

Gabriel woke suddenly out of a peaceful sleep, sitting straight up in bed. Something was wrong, he could feel it. Automatically, he reached out with his thoughts, searching his familiar places for comfort. The woman he called his sister was asleep, in her own bed. That was good.

But Jarod was awake. And someone was with him.

He recognized the voice, the feel of the woman talking to Jarod. She was his faceless friend, the one who had come to him when he was afraid, when Jarod was remembering all the Bad Things. She had comforted him then, promised to look after Jarod for him. Not knowing her name, he had given her one of his own -- Bunny, after the stuffed rabbit her voice had seemed to come from.

For a while, everything had been just as Bunny said. Jarod got better, and he even came to live in Gabriel's house, where all of the children could see him every day. When Jarod was around, Annie was friendly, Kayla didn't make people feel all tingly, and Gideon didn't burn up his toys. Everyone was happy. But now his Friend wanted Jarod to leave, and Jarod didn't want to go.

"No, no, Bunny!" Gabriel scooted to the bottom of the mattress, and crawled down between the bed rail and the foot board until he reached the floor. He ran to the door connecting his room to Ms. Penfield's. Panting with effort, he reached his little hands up toward the doorknob, trying to turn it, but he wasn't tall enough. Frustrated, he began pounding on the door instead.

"No, Bunny! No take Jawid!" He kicked the door, but that hurt without his shoes, so he went back to hitting. "Jawid! Jawid!"

Finally, the lights came on; then the door opened and his nurse appeared, wearing a robe she had hastily wrapped around herself. "Gabriel, what in the world…"

He dashed past her and over to the next door, the one leading to the hallway. "Bunny take Jawid 'way, Enny!" he cried excitedly. "Want Jawid now!"

She picked him up, starting back toward his room, and he struggled to release himself from her grasp. "Gabriel, it's all right," she said in what passed for a pleasant tone. "You had a bad dream. Jarod's fine."

Gabriel knew better. Enny didn't understand things the way he did. She couldn't hear the things Bunny was saying, and she didn't know how close Jarod was to giving in. He threw his head back and screamed, hoping that somehow his Friend would hear him. "No, no, Bunny! No, no!"

* * * * * * * * *

Sim Lab 2

Jarod had his back against the wall as Faith faced him, using all of her strength to try to reach him. She had never realized just how stubborn he was, and what a strong will he had. Even now, when almost anyone else would have given in, he continued trying to block her, throwing everything in her mental path that he could.

She was sure a large part of that determination came from Aurora -- the pull of the drug was strong, and he knew if he left the Centre he would lose his supply of it. Still, Faith had seen the real Jarod, the kind, gentle man who agonized over what the Centre had done in his name. That Jarod wanted out, and she needed to liberate him, before anyone else figured out what they were up to.

Faith realized moments later that it was too late for that. Another personality crashed awkwardly into her space, uncontrollable, spilling his emotions everywhere. It was a child, but one with a powerful mind… Gabriel, who didn't understand that Jarod was in danger as long as he stayed at the Centre. Gabriel, who only wanted to keep his father close to him, even if he didn't know why it was so important.

There was no energy to spare for an explanation. She needed all her concentration to break down Jarod's barriers. But without direction, Gabriel's distress could easily become an alarm that would wake the sleeping giant around them. Time was running out.

"Please understand, Gabriel," she murmured. "I have to do this, for his sake."

* * * * * * * * *

Angelique's Room

There were many nights when she lay awake, unable to sleep because of the noisy emotions around her. Angelique was used to it, but something about this night made her uneasy. She clutched Fay, her doll, close to her chest and listened -- not with her ears, but with her soul, in the way Jarod had told her was "special."

She didn't make friends easily, but she liked Jarod and she liked Gabriel. At the moment, both of them were very upset, and their feelings made a terrible grating noise inside her. Gabriel was crying, afraid that Jarod would go away. Someone was telling Jarod to go away. Someone, she picked up in a burst of inspiration, named Bunny.

Angelique didn't want Jarod to go, either. He was flat; it didn't hurt to be around him, the way it did with so many others. If he left, they would bring in other, nastier teachers, people who made her want to run and hide in the corner. She couldn't let that happen.

"No, Bunny!" she cried, kicking the bed and adding in her own high-pitched scream. "No, no, no, no, no!"

Within moments her caretaker, Nancy, appeared, still in the nightgown she had worn to bed. "Angelique, honey, what's wrong?"

"Bunny taking Jawid away, Nanny," she explained, breathing hard.

"Bunny? Who is Bunny?" the woman asked.

Angelique didn't know how to explain. Instead, she screamed again, and her panic began to bleed out into the other rooms, waking the rest of her sleeping playmates.

After that, things accelerated quickly. She heard Nanny talking on the phone to Miss Penny, heard her say that someone should go to check on Jarod. Once they were certain he was still there, they would send for him to come down to the children and quiet them.

Nanny and Miss Penny were upset too, but the grownups didn’t understand. They didn’t hear or see or feel like the Playmates did. And until they knew, until they saw that Jarod was in trouble, nothing would be all right, no matter what they said.

Angelique couldn't go to sleep now, not until she saw Jarod again. Not until he promised that he would stay. She slid off the bed and ran away when Nanny tried to catch her. She didn’t like to be touched, not by anyone but Jarod or the Empty Man, and right now, the only one she wanted was Jarod.

* * * * * * * * *

Sim Lab 2

They were calling out the cavalry. The need to leave had become urgent.

Inside the air duct, Angelo was becoming agitated. He stuck his head out and called to Faith. "Must go!"

With a final effort, Faith pushed past the last of Jarod's defenses and found what she was looking for. He did want to leave the Centre -- that voice had simply been drowned out by the others imposed on him, those which advocated peace and obedience above everything else.

Using the skills she had learned, she magnified that feeling, allowed it to blossom, until the desire to leave was so strong it shoved everything else aside. When it reached what felt like critical mass, she stretched out her hand in wordless invitation. Jarod took it without hesitating, and together they hurried over to the grate.

Angelo was urging them on. "Go! Go now!" He went first, and Faith let Jarod take the middle position, with herself bringing up the rear. They scrambled through the duct on all fours, no longer trying to hide their presence or their destination. Surprise was lost, and speed was the only thing still on their side.

* * * * * * * * *

The door to the Sim Lab opened, and two burly sweepers entered the cavernous room. Jarod's workspace was deserted, the computer he used still up and running. Contact with a second team sent to his quarters confirmed that he wasn't there, either.

"Sound the alarm," one of the men barked into his phone. "Jarod is missing. He may be trying to escape."

* * * * * * * * *

There was no physical alarm bell, but Faith was aware the instant they began searching for Jarod in earnest. She knew the pattern: they would seal all of the traditional exits, then search all of the rooms on the floor he was known to inhabit, and quickly expand to other floors. It would take a very short time for them to remember the air ducts -- especially since their last escapee, namely herself, had used them.

They practically flew through the system, following the pace Angelo set. Faith could almost hear the echoing cries of frightened, angry children, but knew they were too young to understand, even if she could have explained it to them. For now, there was nothing anyone could do.

When they reached the end, Angelo burst out the grate into the night air, Jarod following quickly after him. He was panicked now, eyes glassy with fear, his peace temporarily shattered. Faith had to try to keep up with him, but as she emerged from the duct she saw the look on Angelo’s face and knew instantly where he was headed.

“You can’t go to her, Angelo,” she warned. “Not now. They'll be looking for you, wanting to know if you helped us. Go to your special place and hide until it's safe.”

He was crestfallen. “Baby needs daddy,” he whispered, still panting from exertion.

“Yes. But you can’t go to her now. Too many people.” Faith laid her palm along his cheek. “Wait till she’s alone. You can help her then. Okay?”

With tears in his eyes, he nodded and darted back into the duct, pulling the grate in place behind him.

“Let's move,” she told Jarod, and they were off, racing across the field of tall grass into the darkness, and oblivion.

On to Act II

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