Disclaimer: All characters and events in this story are fictitious, and any similarity to a real person, living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintended by the author. "The Pretender" is a protected trademark and I'm just borrowing the characters. So, please don't sue.

A/N: This is a sequel to Survival, a story I wrote between S3 and S4. I did my best to write it so that you don't have to read the original – however, if you want to read it, you can find it on my website.

Also, unlike Survival, which had chapters that rated anywhere from PG to NC-17 - the strongest rating this story will have is a mild R for implied sexual abuse. As such – this will be the ONLY chapter I post to All other chapters will be posted to my website, as I complete them. If you want to be notified when another chapter is posted, please send me an email and I will do my best to keep you notified. Of course, in return, I ask for some feedback (I think that's fair, don't you?)

However, if you are under 17, or Survival wasn't your cup of tea, then the chances are that this is not the story for you.

Survival II: Retribution

Part 1

by imagine

Last week of August, 2000


With a sudden gasp, Jarod bolted upright, his arms wrapping protectively over his face for only a second, before they slowly crossed over his chest. His erratic heartbeats and labored breaths echoed loudly in his ears; but, even as his body struggled for composure, Jarod heard the light tapping of the shade against the window. He knew his shivering was not due to the cool air that streamed into the room yet pulled one of the discarded blankets from the floor and slid it around his shoulders. The soft fabric against his skin was somehow comforting and, as he held it tightly, Jarod moved hesitantly off the bed.

Coaxed by the steady rhythm of the waves on the beach outside, he crossed to the patio doors and slid them open further. With one hand beneath the blanket, gently tracing the jagged scar on his left shoulder, Jarod leaned against the window frame and watched the Pacific swell against the shadowed sand. Mesmerized by the gray-white foam of the rolling waves, the low timbre of the sea, and his own repetitive motions, Jarod's heartbeat found a steady tempo and his lungs began drawing in the heavy salt air in deep, even breaths.

When he was confident that the terror had passed, Jarod turned away from the view but, suddenly, the comforting roar of the sea gave way to a crescendo of whispered demands in his head and the tremors resumed. He squeezed his eyes shut only to have the images that had soured his sleep flash in front of him, taunting and torturing him with threats he could only barely comprehend.

With little more than a whimper, Jarod fell to the floor and, succumbing to his growing panic, burrowed himself against the wall. Curled under the blanket in the corner of the moonlit room, with his knees to his chest, his head lowered and his hands pressed against his ears, Jarod softly rocked in place. The blanket slid down his back and, rather than pulling it back to his shoulders, Jarod wrapped his bare arms over his chest, hugging himself in a last ditch effort to find comfort.

"I am your property," he finally murmured, "yours to do with as you see fit."

"Major Charles?"

"Yes, who is this?" Rubbing his eyes, he glanced at the clock and frowned. Any phone call after midnight was not destined to be a good call.

"This is Jack Simon," the deep voice cracked, "I'm a friend . ."

"Yes, Jack," the Major interrupted anxiously, pulling himself to a sitting position, "I know who you are. Is something wrong?"

"Well, um, that's why I'm calling." There was a slight pause as the young man cleared his throat. "Is Adam home?"

"Why would Adam be home?" He felt Margaret wrap her arm around his shoulder and move closer. "I thought he was at the concert with you."

"He was but he left and . ."

"He left? When? Why?" the Major asked, quickly sliding his legs over the side of the bed, "Jack, what happened?"

With one hand gripping the telephone receiver tightly, the other fingers of the other instinctively slipped between those of his wife as he met her worried gaze. The slight pressure he added to her hand had been meant to be reassuring; but, instead, seemed to intensify the fear in her eyes.

"The concert ended about an hour ago. We got separated in the crowd, and when Mel, Steph and I got to the gate, Adam was talking to a woman I'd never seen before. As soon as we walked up, well, Adam started acting kind of weird," the boy paused a moment, waiting for the Major to comment. When the man was quiet, the teen took a deep breath and continued, "He kept looking past me, wouldn't look me in the eye, ya know? That's not like him. And, when he left, he didn't say a word to Mel. It was like he was pretending she wasn't there. All he said was that there had been a family emergency and that he had to leave with his aunt."

"His aunt? Are you sure Adam said the woman was his aunt?"

"Yes, Sir. He said she was his Aunt Claire."

Still trying to shake off the remnants of the nightmare and panic attack, Jarod stood at the door to the patio, holding two drinks and quietly taking in how much she had changed in a year. Aside from the obvious, like the length of her hair and a few extra pounds he would never admit to noticing, he saw a definite change in her attitude and confidence. Though he doubted she would ever have been classified as a shrinking violet, he sensed that she was putting more trust in others and, in the process, had become more relaxed.

When he was released from the hospital, she had argued emphatically that leaving him alone would put him at risk. Despite his assurances he would be fine, she insisted she could help during his recovery and, though Jarod had honestly wanted her company, the thought that he might continue to burden her with his demons was unacceptable. If it hadn't been for Sydney's promise to stay with him when his parents were not able, and Broots' design of a video feed that allowed her to monitor his progress from a secure Internet address, Jarod was sure that she would have never left his side.

"So, are you going to stand there all night," the woman said, without turning, "or are you going to come out and join me? It's absolutely gorgeous out here."

He smiled and opened the screen, not bothering with a verbal response. Padding barefoot across the wooden deck, he moved to the step below the one she occupied and held out one of the drinks. She grinned softly and accepted the glass of mineral water, then slid to the left, making room for him beside her before turning her view back on the ocean.

"I thought Elvis was exaggerating when he told me this was the perfect place to live. Guess I owe him an apology."

"Elvis? You're still calling him that?"

She shrugged, watching Jarod lower himself to the step. "I do it only when I want to annoy him but I slip once in awhile. Adam may be a genius, but he's still a teenager and, as his big sister, it's my job to embarrass him once in awhile. Letting his friends know his family nickname keeps him grounded."

"You're the only one who refers to him by that name, so I doubt it qualifies as a 'family' nickname, Emily. And, if I were you, I'd be careful," he cautioned, "Adam may turn the tables on you some day."


After sipping at her drink, she glanced at Jarod and then out at the beach. They sat in comfortable silence for almost ten minutes, before she faced him. "Thank you for finally letting me visit. I was worried that I'd be relegated to only seeing you on the Internet for the rest of our natural lives."

The flicker of worry in his eyes made Emily reach out and rub her brother's shoulder reassuringly. "Don't worry, I am not a voyeur," she smiled, "The feed was disconnected a few weeks after it was installed. I came to my senses and realized that you were in capable hands and that Mom, Dad and Sydney would keep me in the loop. Besides, I was afraid the Centre might stumble upon it." Her smile faded, and, after taking a deep breath, she dropped her hand and her eyes, "I never want you hurt because of me again."

"I'm sorry this has been so hard on you," he whispered, softly pressing his lips against her forehead. "But, you have to believe me, Em, nothing that happened was your fault."

Ignoring his reassurance, she took another sip of the drink. She knew, all to well, it had been Lyle's threats against her that had prevented Jarod from trying to escape, but Emily had no intention of discussing the matter. Talking would not change any of the facts or take away her guilt.

"I know we have to make sure the Centre believes you're dead and that they believe coming after Adam would put them all at risk, before we can even think about leading a normal life . . ."

"But, understanding doesn't make it easier."

Emily's voice cracked when he reached for her hand. "The last time I saw you . ."

"I'm better, Em."

Drawing her hand away, she looked down at her drink, swirling it just enough to make the ice clink softly against the side of the glass. "Mom told me you said the nightmares stopped." She hesitated and looked up at him with soft, apologetic eyes. "I heard you in your room, Jarod. The truth is that you've just stopped sleeping, isn't it?"

"Don't worry so much. Despite what you think you heard, the nightmares aren't as bad as they were, and I'm learning to deal with the flashbacks."

There was a long pause while Jarod waited for his sister to speak. She ran her hand through the condensation that beaded the side of her glass before finally placing the drink at her feet. When she looked at him, Jarod saw a mixture of concern, guilt and curiosity.

"I know what happened at the street fair," she said. Immediately, she reached up and gently pulled him back to the step when he tried to stand and move away. Folding both her hands over his, she held him tightly, "Adam was worried, he . ."

"He shouldn't have said anything."

"After his visit with you, it was obvious that something was bothering him. I thought, if I knew what it was, I might be able to help and I made him tell me; so don't be angry with him. I understand why you didn't want me around after you were released from the hospital, but I can't just stand around and do nothing. Please, Jarod, let me help."

His eyes met hers immediately, wide with disbelief. "Emily, you've already done more than you should have."

She opened her mouth to protest; but Jarod's movements interrupted her. Sliding his drink on to the step above him, the Pretender gently took his sister by the shoulders and turned her to face him.

"You rescued me, protected me, and put yourself in danger for me. If it weren't for you, I doubt I would be sitting here now." Pulling her close, Jarod waited until his sister relaxed then kissed her on the forehead and murmured, "I know you're worried but it's time that I do for myself, Little Sister. I will be all right. I promise."

"There's no answer at the beach house," the Major said, disconnecting the call and slipping the small phone on to the table, "I'll try back in a little while."

"No answer?" she stopped pacing and glanced at the clock on the wall, "It's almost two in the morning. Why wouldn't they answer?"

"Honey, calm down. Jarod and Emily are in a different time zone, remember? It's not even midnight where they are. I left a message and we'll try back in a few minutes."

"This can't be happening. Not again."

"Margaret, calm down." The Major stepped to her side and took the distraught woman in his arms. "We'll get him back."

"It's all my fault," she told him. Laying her head on his shoulder, she curled her fingers around the fabric of his shirt, "If I hadn't dangled what I knew about her partnership with Damon in front of Claire, for so many years, she wouldn't be doing this."

"That's not true." He pulled back far enough to make eye contact, and continued, "If you hadn't intercepted the information about Claire, she would have done a lot worse to our family, a lot sooner. We can deal with this. Broots said he'd call back as soon as he accessed her file."

Turning away, she shook her head. "Broots isn't going to find anything, Charles, and you know it. Claire isn't stupid. She wouldn't file an itinerary."

"No, but, we might find something to go on, something that might help us find Adam before . ."

"She won't hurt him," Margaret interrupted sharply, pivoting in her spot and meeting his eyes, "because, if she does, I'll make her wish she were dead."

The night air sent a shiver up her arm and Emily moved from the stairs, quietly excusing herself. "I'm going to get a sweater," she said, "I thought California was supposed to be warm."

"For that to happen," he smiled, "the sun is usually up."

"Picky, picky."

He watched her walk away and then leaned back against the wooden railing, his eyes skimming the beach that doubled as his back yard. The house was set in a remote area, far away from the tourists and crowds usually associated with the Golden Gate State and had been the perfect place for him to recuperate. He no longer needed around the clock care and could move anywhere in the world, but, somehow, Jarod did not feel the need. Aside from the periodic getaways he took that offered him a change of scenery and chance to make new friends, he doubted he would ever fall back into the nomad way of life he had led in the years after his escape from the Centre. This was his home.

The beach house had three levels, which included a finished basement, six bedrooms, an office, three full baths and two half baths. To an outsider, it was much too big for a single man, living alone; but, to Jarod, the house was perfect. Though he seldom strayed from the first level, just knowing that the people he cared about had established residence in other rooms somehow made him feel closer to them, even when he was alone.

After his escape from Lyle's cabin, he had stubbornly tried to isolate himself, determined to suffer through the aftermath of his ordeal on his own. His friends and family, however, had other ideas. They not only forcibly included themselves in his recovery but banded together to provide him with round the clock companionship, whether he wanted it or not. They read to him, laughed with him and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was not allowed to disappear from their lives. Though he fought the intrusion at every turn, Jarod soon found that he enjoyed the company and was thankful for their support. By the time he left the hospital, the idea of sharing his home with them seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

His parents chose the finished basement as their quarters. It included a bedroom, private bath, a small living area and a top of the line entertainment center; however, they took little advantage of the seclusion. During the most harrowing of his recovery period, he never woke without one or both of them by his side. They were always close enough to hold him if he needed comfort, tease him into a smile if he needed cheering up, and restrain him if he threatened his own well being.

For months, they told him he was safe and promised things would get better, even when he wasn't sure they believed it themselves. More importantly, though, his parents respected his wishes and left him alone with his thoughts and memories, when he asked. Despite the years he spent questioning their role in how he had come to be at the Centre, Jarod now had no doubt that his parents loved him.

Simultaneously, Sydney did what he did best -- he listened and counseled. During Jarod's struggles to separate his memories from his nightmares, his attitude alternated between depression, anger and frustration. He accused Sydney of things he knew in his heart were not true, repeating vile insults Lyle had embedded in his brain automatically and then instantly regretting them. Though his voice trembled slightly at times, the older man was always tender and reassuring toward his protege and, no matter how the words may have stung, Sydney masked his hurt.

Soon, the emotional pain Jarod was causing his mentor became obvious. Sleeping, eating and socializing became nothing more than passing thoughts for Sydney. He withdrew from interaction with everyone but Jarod and seldom ventured from his room at the top of the stairs. He claimed he did it so that he wouldn't infringe on Jarod's time with his parents, but the Pretender began to believe that the psychiatrist was actually reacting to the anger, guilt and blame that had been forced upon him during their sessions.

Deciding to ease Sydney's torment, Jarod retained the services of Dr. Kelly, a psychiatrist who had taken an interest in him during his stay in the hospital. Adjusting to the new doctor and his techniques was, to say the least, awkward. There were times Jarod questioned his own judgment in hiring the man; however, he soon found that opening up to Philip Kelly was easier than expected.

The only down side to the arrangement was that, shortly after Jarod began his sessions with Dr. Kelly, Sydney announced it was time for him to return to Blue Cove. When questioned, the older man insisted his leaving had less to do with Jarod's choice of therapists than it did with his need to protect the younger man.

"Someone needs to keep tabs on what the Raines and the Triumvirate are up to," he said, "It's the only way we can assure your family's safety."

The thought of being separated, again, from the man who had raised and protected him for so many years was almost unbearable, but Jarod knew Sydney had made up his mind and that there was nothing he could say that would make a difference. When the time came, he hugged his mentor tightly and murmured a quiet promise that the room at the top of the stairs would always be his. In the brief second between when Sydney pulled away and turned toward the waiting car, Jarod heard the words he'd waited decades to hear. His eyes were suddenly moist and his heart was suddenly in his throat, but when Sydney faced him, one last time, Jarod nodded and mouthed that he loved him, too.

Turning on the step, so he could look into the house, Jarod's eyes fell on the framed Polaroid on the end table. Taken at a street festival almost two months before, it captured one of the first sincere smiles between him and Adam.

Only two of the six bedrooms were on the main level of the house and Jarod occupied the largest of them. Adam immediately chose the smaller, situated at the East end of the house. Though it didn't have an ocean view, Adam was more than satisfied with the mountains in the distance, the home theater/game room that Jarod had built in an adjoining room and the separate entrance the patio doors provided. The only thing he disliked was the neutral decor and insisted Jarod accompany him in scouring surrounding neighborhood shops for posters, lamps and second-hand furniture. Unfortunately, a few hours into their excursion, Jarod suffered a particularly brutal flashback after viewing a painting by a local artist at a neighborhood street fair.

The tremors, heart palpitations and labored breaths came on quickly, giving Jarod barely enough time to move away from the kiosk before he was reduced to a trembling mess. He stumbled through the crowd with a look of sheer panic, his face drenched in sweat and his hands trembling like an addict, desperate to find a secluded spot to ride out the attack. When Adam found him, Jarod was crouched in the alley behind an art supply store, his back against the brick wall and his head resting in his hands. Positive that the boy had been forced to offer explanations and excuses to strangers about his behavior, Jarod's first instinct was to apologize for ruining their day together.

Adam responded with a smile and a shrug as he held out his hand to help Jarod stand. "So you caused a little excitement for the locals; the day does not qualify as being ruined."

Although they were still, technically, strangers, Adam quickly took on the role of caretaker and psychiatrist. Despite the lengthy therapy sessions Jarod had with Dr. Kelly, immediately before and after the attack, Adam spent the entire night gently questioning his brother about the episode, insisting they analyze it together.

It was almost three in the morning when the teen suggested they return to the fair the next day so Jarod could face his fears, setting off an argument that the Pretender decided to dramatically end by going for a run on the beach. Less than a mile from his house, he realized Adam was following. The boy quietly kept pace at a respectful distance for almost five miles before Jarod finally turned to face him. Accepting that the boy was in better shape, and more determined than he had anticipated, the Pretender reluctantly agreed to do as his brother suggested.

When they arrived at the fair, Jarod deliberately walked past the artist's display twice, unable to make himself view the painting that had incited so much anxiety. A fist formed in his chest, wrapping its fingers around his lungs and refusing to allow them to fill to capacity. Even with Adam standing beside him, Jarod felt his body begin to tremble in anticipation of another attack. A fine sheen of sweat blanketed his forehead, his hands were clammy and he felt his gut twisting itself into a tight knot as he finally moved in front of the watercolor. Forcing himself to ignore the instinct that urged him to flee, Jarod stared at the wooded scene long enough to not only regain control of his emotions but for the artist to mistakenly believe he had made a sale.

When Adam smiled broadly and squeezed his shoulder in celebration, Jarod suddenly realized his brother was no longer the confused, frightened child that had been tormented by Raines and returned the grin. It was at that moment that a passing vendor snapped the photo, then sold it to them for ten dollars. Though the price was high, Jarod paid it willingly. The insecure teen who had been so desperate to feel loved was well on his way to becoming a self-sufficient, confident man and Jarod was not only impressed, he was proud of Adam.

Placing his drink next to his sister's empty glass, he stared out at the ocean again. They had corresponded via email, letters and videos, but Emily was the last in his family to visit because he felt she was the one who needed to see him the healthiest. In addition to her own battles with Lyle, she had taken on the role of Jarod's protector. She witnessed his withdrawal, his flashbacks and his hallucinations at a dangerously close range, absorbing more of his distress than she should have because of her empathic abilities. Jarod would forever be trying to make it up to her.

He was so determined that his sister's visit be pleasant, that he had tried to cancel it, when the nightmares returned. Using the unsolved murders of three local women as an excuse, he called Emily a week before her scheduled arrival and tried to convince her to postpone her trip. His hopes were that, after a few more weeks, he would have his subconscious under control. Unfortunately, during the conversation, he learned his sister shared his stubborn streak.

"I just don't think now is a good time for you to visit. I promise you can come later."

"You've had a number of guests since you've been in California, Jarod; but, there's always going to be a reason for me not to visit, isn't there?"

"Em, please, don't make this into something it's not," he pleaded, feeling the knot in his stomach tighten, "I promise, I want you to visit and you will. Just not right now. The first attack was only a few days after Adam left, and the last was two days ago. The police still don't have any suspects. The women who were killed were all found within a few miles of my neighborhood, they were single, in their mid thirties . ."

"And you think I'll become a target as soon as I step off the plane," she finished.

"I didn't say that."

"Jarod, I'm sorry about what happened to those women, but I'm not exactly defenseless and you know it. If you don't want me to visit, you're going to have to give me a better reason, preferably the truth."

Knowing that the truth would just make his sister more determined, Jarod denied having any motive, other than her safety, for almost an hour. Finally, he admitted defeat, made note of her flight information and promised to meet her at the baggage claim.

Emily's room was on the second floor, and was one of the three bedrooms in the house that had an ocean view and deck. He smiled, remembering the look on her face and the excited hug she'd bestowed upon him, when he'd shown her the large, airy chamber. Her reaction had surprised him and, at that moment, Jarod realized how thrilled he was to have his sister in the house. Though he was still concerned about her discovering his secret, he was anxious for them to build memories.

Emily was one of the strongest women he knew and he knew her strength could also be her weakness. He wanted to learn what made her happy, he wanted to keep her safe and, more than anything, he wanted a close, honest relationship so that she could never doubt how important she was to him.

Jarod felt his smile fade as his thoughts darkened and he wondered if he was capable of achieving everything he wanted with his sister. He had tried to provide another woman with similar emotional security, and he had failed. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head against the wooden railing and released a shuddered breath as his mind showed him the image of Miss Parker.

When they first escaped the cabin, they had been inseparable. She had been the one who didn't treat him as if he were about to shatter, the one who challenged him, and the one who got his adrenaline pumping. While his parents and Sydney were being sympathetic, listening and counseling, Parker was bullying him into living again.

Having chosen the room directly above his, she knew when he had trouble sleeping. More times than he cared to count, she would turn up at his bedroom door, fully dressed and insisting on accompanying him on a bike ride or early run on the beach, to clear his mind. She had been supportive and comforting, even when they fought, and he had trusted her with thoughts and memories he couldn't share with anyone else. She never seemed to be aware of the power she had; her strength and her companionship was a big part of why he had survived.

When she left, though, he discovered she also had the power to destroy him.

"Here," she said, stepping back on to the deck and handing him the cordless phone, "The flashing light means you have a voice mail message, doesn't it?"

Startled by Emily's voice, he looked up quickly, and a puzzled expression suddenly crossed his face. Taking the phone, Jarod dialed the proper sequence of numbers to retrieve the message.

"It's probably a wrong number," he said, lifting the phone to his ear.

Nodding, she slipped the cotton sweater over her arms and shoulders then sat beside him. Within seconds, Jarod's body stiffened, his face turned to granite and his dark eyes flashed with fear.


Unable to find his voice, he stood, disconnected the recorded message and started into the house, knowing his sister would follow. He activated the speaker phone, waiting until she was beside him before punching out the eleven digit number.

"The message was from Dad," he finally whispered.

She didn't ask what their father had said, nor did she ask why he was suddenly so agitated. Instead, Emily lowered herself into a nearby chair, brought her knees to her chest and hugged herself as Jarod paced in front of the table. As they listened to the ringing, neither was able to look at the other but each kept their gaze on the phone, silently willing it to make a connection.

"Hello?" the woman answered breathlessly.

"Mom?" the Pretender's tone became urgent at the sound of his mother's voice and he and Emily moved closer to the phone. "Mom, what's wrong?"

He had reacted differently than she expected. In fact, his reaction was completely contrary to what hers would have been, if the situations were reversed. As soon as he understood that the welfare of others were at stake, the boy abandoned any thoughts of escape. She'd seen the flicker of defiance, the kernel of hope he'd been clinging to, suddenly die when his friends approached and part of her had felt guilty.

After fingering the bruises on his arm, she slid her hand to his face and pushed back the long hair that covered his forehead. There had been no struggle, no game of chase through the crowd and the only real resistance he displayed was after they were seated in the car and the syringe was revealed. His eyes had widened, darting desperately between her and the guard that held him, but despite his attempts to pull away the needle was slipped into his arm and, less than a minute later the boy was unconscious.

Folding his jacket over her lap, she felt the weight of his cell phone and retrieved it from the inside pocket. Then, placing the device on the seat, she balled up the garment and carefully slid it under his head, ignoring his sleepy moan of protest.

"Ssshh, it's all right, Hon," she whispered, sliding her hand across his face, "It's best if you sleep now. You'll wake up to your new life, soon enough."

The sound of her own heartbeat threatened to drown out her mother's words, but Emily managed to hear the fear without any trouble. Claire James, a Centre operative who had once befriended Emily for no other reason than to keep tabs on her for Lyle, had taken Adam. The woman's name was synonymous with betrayal, as far as Emily was concerned; and, listening as her mother took the blame for what had happened, instead of letting it fall on Claire's shoulders, Emily felt angry, determined and frightened all at once. A sensation she had experienced more than once in her life.

Once all the questions were voiced and answered, they promised each other that Adam would be all right, and apprehensively disconnected the call. After a heavy sigh and letting her fingers run through her hair, Emily slowly pushed away from the table and looked at Jarod. Her brother had begun pacing the width of the room the moment he'd heard Adam was missing, and continued until the call was completed. Now, he was disturbingly still.

Staring blindly at the dark ocean, his back to her, Jarod turned when her hand slid on to his arm. Gently, Emily moved into him, rested her head below his chin and closed her eyes as his arms folded around her. His hands were cool and strong, his breathing was controlled, but his whisper was as ragged as their mother's had been.

"We'll find him."

Emily nodded into his chest and looked up. Waiting until he met her gaze, she said, "You know Dad was right, Jarod. We'll need help. As much help as we can find."

Rubbing her shoulders, Jarod swallowed hard and finally pulled away, moving toward the deck. The muscle in his jaw clenching with tension, the Pretender purposely avoided her touch when she reached out for him.

"Jarod . ."

His dark eyes were clear and his expression was firm, but the tone of his voice resembled pleading. "Dad and I can find him."

"I know you can," she assured him, "but if someone sees you in Chicago or, if someone is watching the house and follows Dad here, it could get dangerous for everyone. If we called Miss Parker . ."

"I can't -- I won't allow her to be brought into this," he interjected angrily.

"You won't allow it?"

She grabbed his arm as he tried to turn away and, though his eyes avoided hers, Emily felt his turmoil. He was frightened; frightened for himself almost as much as he was for their brother. He needed to be involved but the thought of working with Parker, a woman who had voluntarily walked away from him almost a year before, paralyzed him.

"I don't know what happened between the two of you, but, this is about Adam, not you," she told him, "We have no idea what Claire wants, what she is planning . ."

"She wants the disks."

"Or if she's working with an accomplice," Emily continued, talking angrily over his interruption, "The only thing we know is that she has Adam. We need Parker, Jarod. Adam needs her."

Her words hung in the air as he weighed them against his emotions. When he looked up, Emily saw his eyes soften and, loosening her hold on his arm, she took a step closer. Jarod wiped his face and leaned back against the thick glass doors. Avoiding her gaze, he followed the slow revolutions of the ceiling fan with a blank stare. The muscles in his jaw and neck constricted and relaxed, then, finally, he took a deep breath and looked at his sister.

"I don't know how to contact her."

Taking his hands in hers, Emily whispered, "I do."

Adam slowly rose to a sitting position on the cot, his fingers gingerly applying pressure to the bridge of his nose in hopes of abating the pounding in his head. Swallowing hard, he lowered his hand and looked around the small, dark room. There were no windows, but small slivers of light seeped in through the space above and below the door. The walls and floor were cement and though he was still donned in his jacket, he could feel the dampness in the air. He was underground and, judging by the red flashing light of the camera perched in the corner, he was being watched.

He watched the monitor intently as the boy paced the length of the room. From time to time, he looked at the camera in the corner then dropped his eyes and continued pacing. Lyle frowned and moved away, glancing back over his shoulder once before taking a seat at the large dining table.

"Is something wrong, Hon?"

"He's plotting something."

She laughed and placed a cup of coffee in front of him. "Of course he's plotting something. His escape."

"I'm glad you find this so amusing," he growled, "but I don't like it. He's adjusting too well. You have to keep him off balance. When is his first feeding?"

"Feeding? You make him sound like some zoo animal."

He raised an eyebrow and stared at her.

"He's due to receive his first meal in about two hours," she sighed, sipping from her own mug, "Eggs and toast."

He shook his head, "Feed him now. Dinner. Red meat. Carbohydrates. Hold him down and force feed him, if you have to."

Placing her cup on the table, she stared at the man as he rose from his chair.

"We need to get his internal clock off cycle," he explained, moving to the monitor, "We need to confuse him."

"And feeding him a heavy dinner, at five o'clock in the morning, will do that?"

"It's a start," he said. Then, retrieving a bottle of pills from his pocket, Lyle held them out, adding, "This will help it along."

"What are they?"

"A mild sedative. Put it in his meal," he answered, watching his captive pace across the screen, "While he's asleep, have the guards change him into the clothes I brought from the Centre. Make sure they take away any personal affects he may still have."

"And do what with them?"

"Send them to his parents."

Without comment, the woman slipped the pills into her pocket. Her head was lowered, but she watched her partner in crime through narrowing eyes and thick eyelashes.

"When he wakes up, put him to work. The more manual the labor, the better," Lyle continued, finally turning toward her, "Don't let him eat or rest until it's time to move him, then sedate him again but startle him whenever he dozes off. If he talks about his family ignore him. Under no circumstances should his comments or questions be acknowledged. Make him repeat that his name is Gemini over and over, make him tell you he belongs at the Centre. Then feed him, sedate him and start it all over again. It's important that he believes more time has passed than actually has. Disorient him."

"You mean brainwash him."

He grinned and reached for his coffee cup. "It worked with Jarod."


Feedback is a wonderful thing ;-)