Part 2/Chapter 5

Striding into the living room, Methos searched quickly for Jarod but didn't see him in the immediate area.

"He's not here or in the kitchen either. He's in his room listening to the stereo." Macleod informed him. "I wouldn't expect to see him tonight and maybe not tomorrow. He's not talking to either of us. According to him you're pushing her too hard and I'm just standing back and letting you do it."

"Noone understands genius in its time. Maybe the music will calm him down."

Macleod smirked.

"You didn't see what he pulled out of his travel gear for CD's."

"Do I dare ask?"

"No. The covers I caught sight of were Korn, Metallica and.... what's that other hardcore mess.... Soggy Bagel?"

"Limp Bizkit. Dear God. He wants to smash us both."

"He's just blowing off steam. He'll cool down."

"We devoutly pray. He's so strong, Mac. He could do us a serious bit of mischief."

"He won't. He knows you're doing your best in a near impossible situation."

"Did you watch the session?"

"Beginning to end. So did he. That's why...."

"I thought as much."

"She regressed again."

"Only for a minute."

"Minute's too long. What was all that when you went to lay her down on the bed?"

"I don't want to know. Not yet anyway. One deep emotional scar at a time, alright? There wouldn't be the makings of a sandwich left in the fridge, would there?" Methos inquired, heading for the kitchen to check.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLUE COVE:

"Terri?"

"Shhh. He just fell asleep."

Rising gingerly from the sofa, Terri walked to meet Sydney as he emerged from the hallway and guided him into the kitchen.

"What did he tell you?"

"Enough. He said he's been having some first class nightmares. We talked about the worst ones, pulled 'em into daylight, you know? He felt a little better. What he needs are dream control techniques. Unfortunately I didn't have any to give him. Not my area."

"That crossed my mind. It wouldn't work. Dream control works on the sub-conscious level. Broots'.... nightmares aren't derived there. "

"You're talking about hallucinations then?"

"Not exactly. As long as he's doing better, I'm satisfied. For now, let it go. Did he eat?"

"Oh, yeah. Soup, crackers and half a sandwich.

"Good. Very good."

"You're looking better for whatever sleep you got."

"I'm in less pain, now. Is your neck better?"

"My neck will heal. Do you ever think about yourself for more than two seconds at a stretch, Abe?"

"I try not to. Selfishness is a trait I can't afford to reacquire. I.... hurt too many people when I was young."

"Young or old, you'd never intentionally hurt anyone. I think I know you well enough to know that." Terri commented as she brought toast and a bowl of soup to the table.

"You didn't know me then. You wouldn't have liked me very much, I'm afraid. I thought science was everything. It was my religion. I didn't realize it was Satan's throne I was worshiping at. All those wasted years.... I willingly put my soul into his hands. I only pray I can retrieve it."

"Okay. Enough of that. Stop knocking yourself long enough to eat, will you? Whatever happens you'll need to be at full strength to deal with it and right now your mixture's so lean you can't see straight."

"I'll be alright once this business is finished. A few more days...."

"It better not be that long. As it is you're looking at weeks of physical therapy to rehab that shoulder."

"If I have to endure it, I will. There are other much more pressing concerns right now and until those are resolved...."

"Hey. Don't you listen? You've got someone to help shoulder some of that weight now. I'm here for you and Petey until this.... whatever it is, is over and done."

"You do understand I'll never be able to tell you everything."

"Yeah. You should tell somebody though. It screws up your system to keep things inside all the time."

"I talk to Jacob."

"I mean someone who can respond, give you feedback."

"I know what you meant. I can't do that to my friends. I won't put them at risk." Sydney replied with finality. "No more, alright? No more questions. I need to focus on what I'm doing or none of us on either side will survive the next few days."

Looking up from his food, Sydney could clearly see Terri wanting to ask what he meant by "either side" but choosing to honor his request.

"What can I do to help?"

"Stay with Broots while I go and get some things done."

"You're going back to work? Bad idea, Abe. Really bad idea. The way Petey described the place it sounded more like a Russian gulag than a research facility. Can't you do what needs doing without going back there?"

"What did Broots tell you?"

"Only that he's hated the place for years and he wants nothing more to do with it He didn't have to tell me he's terrified. I could see it in his eyes, his movements. Whether it's the work or something else.... I don't know. He wouldn't go that far."

"We both have legitimate reasons for being frightened, Terri. Reasons you can't know and shouldn't have to. I'll let you help, but only to a certain point. I won't drag you any further in than you already are."

Pulling down one edge of the bandage on her neck, Terri stared Sydney in the eyes, her mouth set in a thin line of determination.

"I'd say that decision's been taken out of your hands, wouldn't you?"

Sydney started a response, but closed his mouth on it, knowing all he had to offer Terri were more evasions and carefully worded phrases meant to stall her one more time. Reaching out, he gently replaced the bandage, pausing for the briefest of moments to brush her cheek as he retreated.

"Is there anymore soup?"

Knowing all she could do for him was what he'd asked of her earlier, Terri gazed at him sadly then relented.

"Only a ton and a half. You'll be eating it for the next year or so if I freeze some."

"I'll be glad to. It's really very good."

"Well, thank you, kind sir. I may not be Cordon Bleu, but there are one or two things that I do pretty well."

"Being a good friend seems to be your real talent. How did you get Broots to talk? He's usually more.... circumspect with strangers, especially lately."

"I don't know exactly. We just seemed to trust each other right off the bat. I like him, Abe. He's funny, really smart and he's so sweet."

"Yes. He is all that."

"I wish I could have done more than just feed him and offer up my ear and my shoulder. "

"Emotional support is worth more to both of us right now than you could ever guess, Terri. We're terribly grateful." Sydney told her as she set his second serving in front of him and reclaimed her chair.

"Abe...."

"No. Please, right now just accept what I can tell you, alright? It.... it's all I can do."

After showing her the best smile he could manage, Sydney returned his gaze to his meal.

When he'd finished, though she tried again to get him to stay, he slipped into his coat and left for the Centre, hoping against what he knew were very long odds that he'd get out again without being caught.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Sydney. Quite a surprise to see you. You're looking much better."

"Approaching it, sir." Sydney responded, desperate to be anywhere but in Mister Parker's presence.

"Back to work are we?"

"Only for a short while, sir. I should be back on full duty tomorrow."

"And Broots? How is he?"

"Not well sir. His injury may take another week or ten days before he's even able to be up and around. Dr. Raines mentioned the damage to your hands, sir. How is it?"

"Flesh heals." he intoned, moving away a step or two before speaking again. "Oh, Sydney."

"Yes. sir."

"If I find out you had even the smallest part in the disappearance of either of my children, I'll carve a piece off your body for every day you've made me wait for the truth."

Watching the other man walk away, a large, very frightened, part of Sydney understood that the threat was by no means idle, while his companion voice kept insisting that Broots had to be protected at all costs.

Moving into his office, he closed and locked the door before taking a seat at Broots' computer terminal. Pulling a folded piece of magician's flash paper from his pocket, he reviewed one of many copies of instructions his friend had given him months earlier and began to rapidly enter several long alpha-numeric sequences into the system. When the screen he was waiting for appeared, he brought up the Centre e-mail program and initiated the process that would get him through to the contact who sent his messages to Jarod.

As he typed, he prayed silently for the safety of all those he cared for, adding a post-script about the Centre never finding out how many of their security measures Broots intimately knew how to subvert, shut down or tunnel under. Finishing, he backed carefully out, leaving no trace of what he'd done, grabbed the flash paper lying by the corner of the keyboard and moved to his desk. Pulling a small glass from a drawer, he dropped the paper in and added a match. When the glass was clean he replaced it and the matches, slipped two more small items into his pocket and headed out for a distant part of the building to complete his final tasks of the day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Hey. Wake up, sleepyhead. Time to eat."

Producing a jaw-breaking yawn, Broots gingerly pushed to a sitting position and accepted the two pills Terri handed him. "Buffered aspirin. Abe said you might be needing them about now. Here." she said, offering a glass of ginger ale and placing a laden plate on the coffee table. "Dinner is grilled chicken and angelhair pasta. It's only a frozen dinner from the nuke-box, but I want to see every bit of it gone. You're skinnier than an anorexic toothpick. Eat, eat!"

Throwing Terri a crisp salute and a smile, he found his silverware and dug in.

"I'll tell you something. As much as I love havin' everybody cook for me and all, I can't wait to get home and do for myself again."

"As long as you screen your calls, you should be fine." Terri chuckled, sipping from a tall flute of chilled white wine.

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, won't work be calling wondering where you are?"

Thinking her comment totally innocuous, Terri was confused when her words produced a look of utter panic and nausea on Broots' face, which quickly transmuted to anger.

"They can't keep me out of my house! What gives them the right to.... it's not theirs! It's Debbie's and mine! "

"Huh? What's wrong? What did I say?"

"No, wait, wait. You're right. If I screen my messages and forward my mail and paper deliveries.... no. That's not enough. I can't cut off heat and lights and what'll we do for money? There's the savings account, but that won't last us three months....."

Raising her voice, Terri broke into his train of thought and finally got his attention.

"Hey! Over here! What are you saying? You're acting like a bunch of goons in black hoods and turtlenecks are going to come after you if you play hooky."

"Black suits. No hoods. Well, for me maybe...."

"What?! What is this research facility anyway; CIA? NSA?"

"I can't tell you. They'd hurt you too, and I can't let that happen...."

Furious, Terri jumped from the sofa, stalked a few steps away and then whirled back.

"Holy Mary, Mother of God! I am not two years old! What could possibly be so ghastly that you and Abe both think I won't be able to handle it? Hmm? If this place is that bad then you're gonna have to tell someone, sometime. It might as well be me, and it might as well be now."

"You don't get it. I hope you never...."

Broots words faded out mid-sentence, his eyes rolling back as he passed out, dropping bonelessly onto his right side.

"Petey? Hey! Talk to me, Petey!"

It took several minutes for Terri to restore Broots to consciousness. He sat up quickly, though he was still groggy.

"Ginger ale. Quick, please."

Passing him the drink, Terri examined him critically, assuring herself she didn't need to call for immediate medical assistance.

"Are you okay, now?"

"Yeah. I'm fine. I guess."

"What just happened?"

"Nothing. I'm good."

"Fainting is not nothing. Don't try and play me here, Petey."

"I'm not. It was .... you wouldn't understand."

"Here we go again."

"No. I mean I can't explain it. I didn't really tell you the truth about my nightmares. If I did.... Look. Just go reheat the food for me, would you? I'm totally starving." Broots asked, smoothly swinging into a new subject as a way of announcing he would no longer discuss his visions or his fainting spell.

Terri complied with the request, vowing she'd have the truth one way or the other.

When the food had warmed, she brought it back to him and watched to be sure he ate every ounce, trying, in vain, to draw him back to the topic she was interested in.

"All the things Abe could have taught you, and he shows you his one sentence "I'm not talking about that" routine. Terrific."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Standing just inside the doors of the Centre infirmary, Sydney waited impatiently for the attendant he'd spoken with to return, battling his instinctive urge to search out the location of any camera emplacements in the room. Although tension pulsed through his temples with every heartbeat and tightened every muscle, he understood that looking as strained as he felt was the sure path to being caught, so he kept his eyes down and put on the best charade of calm he could.

"The MRI is ready now, doctor. If you'll follow me?"

"It's alright. I know where it is. I can get there and back."

"But if that arm is as bad as you say it is, you'll need help."

"I'm sure the operator can give me any assistance I need. Your concern is appreciated."

"Sure. No problem. Doc, wait. That's your writing hand?"

"Yes, actually."

"I'll sign you in and out then."

With a nod of thanks, Sydney strolled off toward the scanning rooms at the rear of the immense maze of chambers and corridors collectively called an infirmary, though this one was the size of the ground floors of many hospitals. Though he hated lying to the attendant, who would face severe repercussions if Sydney's ploy were uncovered, he'd been unable to think of any other way to get the information he needed; information that might save his best friend.

Reaching a T-junction, he scanned the hallways with eyes and ears to be sure he was completely alone, then turned left instead of right, heading for a room, which, to his everlasting regret, he knew well. Getting Broots to describe the room in which he'd been held for those three awful days had been torture for both men, but Sydney had pushed him, knowing how important it was to know the location exactly.

The room was one he'd sworn he never wanted to see again after the last scene he'd watched played out there. In general, it was used only for constraining and experimenting on convicted death row inmates, whom society no longer cared about and would not miss when the Centre's work resulted in their inevitable extinction. The memory of his fatigue-induced, and mildly rude, comment to Raines, and what he'd been made to witness by way of punishment, was still vivid and bright in his mind, as he feared it would always be.

As he approached the room, he slipped a small steel-gray canister from his pocket, one of a supply he'd requisitioned when Jarod had first escaped. His hope had been to use the contents to render his protégé unconscious before he could run or Parker and the sweepers could harm him. For once, the bureaucracy of all large corporations, the Centre included, had worked in Sydney's favor. If anyone who'd ever known he'd received the grenades was still around, they'd long forgotten and he'd seen to it the relevant paperwork was deeply buried.

Cradling the canister in his good left hand, he pressed the call button with the fingers of the injured right, listening carefully for movement within.

When he heard someone approaching from the other side, he rested a thumb on the release catch and slipped his right arm from its sling. The moment the door opened enough for his purposes, he tossed the grenade and pulled the door closed again. Ignoring the pain, he stripped his jacket off and stuffed it at the bottom of the door to avoid any of the gas escaping and scattering his faculties when he needed them most. He waited the full five minutes it took for the grenade to empty, plus a little more, before pulling a flexible vapor barrier mask from his pocket, placing it over his nose and mouth and entering.

Moving straight to the computer terminal in the center of the room he sat and punched in Raines' personal enquiry code (a piece of information which, if Raines even suspected he possessed it, would cost Sydney weeks of excruciating pain before he was allowed to die) and began to work backwards, searching for the records covering the period just after Broots' accident.

When he found what he sought, the words on the screen froze his heart and stopped his breath for several seconds. Clicking on the print icon, he watched pages begin to emerge from the printer at a torturous pace while he silently urged them to appear faster, knowing now that Broots' life was in far greater danger than his sanity.

Rejoicing when the pages stopped, he gathered them, backed out of the system and left the room, headed to the MRI room to actually get the scan and assess the damage to his shoulder.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Syd! You don't know how good it is to see you."

"You too. Sit down. We have to talk."

"You better believe it! Wait 'till you hear...." Broots warned him as they headed for the kitchen.

"Later." Sydney replied wearily, dropping into a chair. "I found what we were looking for."

"You don't look like it's good news."

"No. I'm afraid it's all bad. The drug they gave you at the hospital is called Psychonodril-10. It's an extremely powerful psychotropic chemical cocktail. It was being developed for the Pretender project. Raines believed that if he could supplement their natural gifts with paranormal talents they would be even more valuable tools for the Triumvirate. The researchers discovered the fatal flaw just in time. None of the children had yet been given the drug."

"Fatal? As in dead? As in no longer with us?"

"No, no. That's just a scientific term. It indicates a problem with a theory or hypothesis that makes it useless. I didn't mean to scare you."

"It's okay. So what was the fat.... I mean what was the problem?"

"No drug is ever tested on human subjects, at the Centre or anywhere else, before they have an counter-agent prepared. This particular drug was first given to a convicted serial murderer, a brutal vicious thug. When they knew it had been successful, they administered the counter-agent and discovered their mistake. Separately, each chemical was relatively harmless, but brought together in the body they merged and became a virulent neuro-toxin that went straight through the blood-brain barrier as if it didn't exist and killed him instantly. The research teams tried for months but they never found anything safe that would also counteract the effects of the pyschotrope."

"So. I could get rid of the visions.... if I'm willing to die a horrible, painful death. Otherwise...."

"I'm afraid you're going to have to learn to live with it."

"There better be another option, Syd. You haven't heard today's update yet. I was talking to Terri and right in the middle of a sentence, I passed out and had another vision. They're comin' when I'm wide awake, now! Please don't tell me nothing can be done."

"What would you like to hear? I could lie if you think that will do any good."

"Syd.... What am I supposed to do? " Broots pleaded. "I can't handle any more."

"I know. I have a plan that will put you and Debbie far beyond the Centre's reach, if you're willing to hear it."

"I'm grasping at invisible straws here, Syd. How can I afford not to?"

"It won't be easy. It will mean being separated from Debbie for a week or two. Can you handle that?"

"Separated. You said...."

"I can get you both to safety, but you have to go first, otherwise the Tower will be suspicious."

"Go where?"

"That's the exciting part...."

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