Written and posted on pretendfic in May 1999. When writing this story I did a lot of reading online about invitro fertilization (IVF) and found it fascinating (if not always entirely ethical, but that's a discussion for another time and place). I tried to get the details right according to my understanding at the time, understanding that a) it's not always this easy and b) the Centre has lots of advanced medical tech not available to the general populace. This was originally posted in five chapters - I've indicated the chapter breaks. The only editing I've done is putting in 88888 to mark scene changes as ff net eats my asterisks. I don't remember in what season the show would have been in in 1999, but suffice it to say, this story takes place post-Donoterase but before Jarod catches up to Emily.
Note and disclaimer: For the purposes of this story, assume the time period is sometime before the third season finale and the preceding episode. Oh, and, by the way, nothing in this story is intended in any way to infringe on anyone's copyright, whether they may be the writers and producers of the Pretender or the Pillsbury Doughboy himself. All events/characters are of course fictional.
The black car screeched around the corner, its back end swinging wildly. Other, identical cars joined it, coming from all directions, alongside large groups of running men and women in black suits, all carrying weapons. The passersby looked on in fascinated confusion as the forces closed in to cut off one man, tall and dark-haired, who was running as fast as he could.
He glanced behind him every few seconds, and every time he did he spurted forward, as though sheer desperation and fear could force his legs and feet to move faster. His laboured breathing was easily audible to the gathering crowd over the pounding feet and squealing tires of his pursuers.
Suddenly, one woman, red haired and beautiful despite her fading youth, gave a small cry as she recognized the fleeing man. She stepped forward.
"Jarod!" she cried.
The man stopped in mid stride and turned towards the voice, his eyes widening.
"Mom!" he called. He stepped towards her as she ran towards him, his arms outstretched. All he could see was her.
Their hands touched.
- And suddenly they were violently torn from each other, dragged back by the strong arms of the impassive sweeper teams. Six men held Jarod as he was handcuffed and propelled toward a car. His mother also was pulled away. Jarod struggled wildly, shouting and kicking. He could hear his mother crying for him. He just had time to see her being pushed into the back of a black car when he was hit on the head, and knew no more.
There are Pretenders Among Us...
Jarod awoke to darkness and pain. As he regained conciousness, the usual momentary panic set in: panic at being trapped, alone. This time, however, it did not go away. He was secured by his wrist to the bed where he was lying, and there was no light. He was trapped. Mom, he thought.
"Mom!" he said, expecting and getting no answer from the darkness. He began to cry helplessly. There was no hope, and the Centre had them both.
The cell where Margaret sat quietly was grey and bleak, containing only a bed and spartan toilet facilities. She was not bound, but the small camera mounted in the corner followed her every move. She had sat, unmoving, as relaxed as she could force herself to be, on that cot for what seemed like hours. As the time slowly passed, she moved through feelings of wonder at seeing her son, so tall, so handsome; of grief at having lost him again so soon, to their life-long enemy; of despair at her own helplessness; and a grim determination not to be helpless, but to find a way out for herself and for Jarod. It was as she came to this final decision, the door opened, and a tall, sinister, and very familiar man entered.
"Margaret." He greeted her, his eyes wide and unblinking.
"William." Raines shifted, and Margaret mentally smiled. If he presumed to be on a first name basis with her, he'd have it back in his teeth. She doubted many people here dared call him William to his face. "I can't say it's a pleasure to see you again." She refused to stand to meet him.
Raines smiled grimly. "Your presence in Dahlby was an unexpected, but nonetheless pleasant, surprise. There are many questions the Centre would like answered."
Margaret laughed quietly. "There are many questions I would like answered, but something tells me neither of us are going to be enlightened tonight. Or is it today? I must say, you people have confinement down to an art form. From the silent guards to the clichéd cell you've got me in to the time you made me wait - oh, and the camera in the corner was a nice touch - but then, no doubt, you've had lots of practise."
Raines smiled again. "You flatter me," he rasped in his dead voice.
Margaret's blue eyes glittered coldly. "Not at all," she responded. Mr. Raines simply stared down at her.
"Where are Emily and Major Charles?" he asked her bluntly, ending the wintry courtesy session.
"Where is Jarod?" she shot back. Margaret stood up and turned away from him. "You should know better than to think I would tell you. Emily is safe where she is, and as for Charles, your guess is as good as mine." Her voice broke slightly. "I haven't seen him in over twenty years."
Raines touched her arm and she spun to meet his gaze, shaking off his hand. "Whether you choose to work with me or not, you will tell me what I want to know," he said. "It will be much easier on you if you cooperate."
Margaret laughed in his pallid face. "So now we've moved on to the threats, have we? You certainly don't waste any time."
His soulless eyes burned. "That's right," he said, and his voice took on a deadly serious undertone. "I don't. I don't make threats lightly, Margaret, and unlike some, I do carry them out."
She did not respond, but merely stood there, defiant, as though daring him to do his worst. Raines shook his head and went to the door to summon the guards into the room. Margaret continued to show no fear, but inside she shivered; as he turned away from her, Raines began to smile. He had expected this - and he was looking forward to it.
Jarod slept fitfully, unable to sleep well as he worried about his mother, in the hands of the likes of Raines, but, confronted with the dark, having nothing else to do than to try to pass the time as quickly as possible by seeking the oblivion of sleep. His dreams were full of fear, of being chased, of being alone, of the horror on his mother's face as she saw what was happening. He was unable to toss and turn properly with his wrist tethered to the bed, and he desperately needed to heed the call of nature.
Suddenly, a flood of light in the room woke him from his uneasy doze. Squinting against the brightness, Jarod tried to sit up to meet whomever had decided finally to acknowledge him. To his surprise, his mother was pushed in to the room, and Mr. Raines stepped in after her. She had been beaten badly, and she seemed to be barely concious, as though she had been drugged. She went straight to Jarod, who hugged her, one-armed, without a word. As he helped her to sit beside him on the bed, he looked up at Raines, eyes burning, enraged but unable to do anything about it.
"What have you done to her?" he asked angrily. "Why?"
Raines looked down at the pair with contempt. "She refused to answer our questions, so we... persuaded her. She should be all right in a few hours - except for the bruises, of course."
Jarod clenched his fists with barely contained anger. "Why are you doing this to my family?" he demanded, fighting to keep his voice level. He glanced at his mother, then back at his enemy. "You've ruined her life. You've deprived her of her sons and husband. What more do you want from her?"
Raines grined; on his dead face, it was ghastly. "Her daughter," he replied.
88888 Chapter 2 88888
Margaret began to cry softly as Raines continued.
"Emily's child will be the next great Pretender."
Jarod looked at his mother. "Emily has children?" he asked her. She shook her head and continued to cry into his shoulder. He held her tightly. "What do you mean?" he asked Raines, a horrible suspicion dawning in his mind.
"When Emily is brought here, she will be impregnated in vitro here at the Centre, where we can keep her under close observation. Her child will be raised here and trained for its destiny."
Jarod's eyes flashed, and he lunged at Raines, but was pulled back by the chain that held him to the bed. "You bastard!" he swore. "Don't you have enough to answer for?" Raines stepped back and looked down at the pair with disdain. Jarod strained forward desperately. "Leave Emily alone. Don't bring her into this. Don't ruin her life, too! Can't you use me instead?"
Raines sighed. "If that would have worked, we would have done it long ago. Suffice it to say, it's impossible."
Raines turned to leave, as though ending the conversation. Jarod tried again to rise, enraged that he could do no more to defy this evil man. "You won't get away with this," he vowed, never taking his eyes off Raines'. "I won't let you do this!" he yelled.
Raines raised one eyebrow, unimpressed. "You can't stop me. Welcome back to the Centre, Jarod." With that, he turned and walked out.
Emily brushed back a strand of red hair, pushing the screen door open with her elbow as she joined her husband on their front deck. She handed him a glass of lemonade, then sat down beside him on the swing, enjoying the evening sunshine. "It's a beautiful day, isn't it?" she asked him, leaning into his shoulder. He transferred his lemonade to the other hand and put his arm around her shoulders.
"Yeah," he agreed. Idly he watched the children playing in the yards across the street as the shadows lengthened, and he was struck by deep yearning he had never felt before. "Emily?"
"Yeah?" "Did you ever think about..." he trailed off, motioning with his lemonade glass vaguely towards the children.
She followed his gaze. "Well, sure I have. I thought you wanted to wait a little more-"
He turned towards her and looked her in the eye. "Emily, we're thirty years old. Time won't wait for us. Let's go for it!"
Emily smiled radiantly and hugged her husband hard, kissing his neck lightly. Just then, they were distracted by a black limousine which suddenly pulled up into their driveway. They let go of each other, confused. "Honey, do you know who they are?" she asked. "No. I've never seen those people in my life. Maybe they're just using the driveway to turn around-" Emily's breath caught as she suddenly remembered.
The taxi stopped, and her mother jumped out. They were both so excited - they were going to see Jarod at last! Her long-lost brother that she had heard about all her life. She turned around to see him. There he stood, tall, dark like the dim memories of the father she'd never really known, and incredibly handsome. Their eyes met - and suddenly men in black suits and black cars were closing in from all sides.
"Run!" Jarod yelled to them, in a deep, terrified voice.
Emily's mother was crying now. "I love you!" she called to him. "I love you!"
He was obviously stricken, but he just yelled to them to run, turning to distract the men closing in on them. As their mother got back in the cab, crying uncontrollably, Emily looked back, just in time to see Jarod fighting off the crowd of armed men and women encircling him. One of the cars moved to follow them, but an older man ran in front of it, cutting it off so that they could escape. Emily looked back once more as they drove away, but she could not see her brother anywhere.
"Oh my god. They're back. They've found me," Emily gasped, standing up as two men jumped out of the car.
"What? Who? What are you talking about, Emily?" her husband asked, standing up.
She turned towards him, and her face was white. "I can't explain now. I have to get out of here. Please understand, honey. I love you." With that, she turned to run into the house- - but it was too late.
"Freeze!" the men shouted. Their guns were pointed unwaveringly at Emily and her husband. Emily stopped.
"What's going on here?" her husband asked. "Who are you people?"
They ignored him, but advanced on Emily, who pulled him into a hard embrace, tearfully whispering, "I love you" as they pulled her away.
"Don't you touch my wife!" he yelled. He started forward, and the second sweeper raised his gun again, aiming directly at him. Emily struggled wildly in the first man's grasp, kicking desperately.
"No!" she screamed. Her foot connected, and the gun went off. Emily's husband crashed to the ground, gasping in pain. He clutched at his bleeding leg, calling helplessly after his wife. "Tell my mother!" Emily called to him as she was pushed into the car. "I'm so sorry! I love you!"
The car pulled away, leaving two empty lemonade glasses and one bleeding, weeping man lying on the deck as the sun went down.
When Emily finally reached the Centre, she was exhausted. She had spent the entire trip stubbornly questioning her uncommunicative guards. She was terrified, but determined not to show it, and she had fought, every step of the way, both physically and emotionally. They had refused to answer any of her questions or demands, and refused to look at her more than was necessary. When they hauled her out of the car, the sun was just rising, and the dim light made the tall, fortress-like structure even more forbidding. Emily had the unshakeable feeling that those who went in, never came out.
Staring up at the building, Emily shivered. "'Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,'" she quoted softly, and the passage from the Inferno rose unbidden to her mind:
"Through me is the way into the doleful city...through me the way among the people lost..."
Yet she would be no mere traveller through this Hell, she knew, and she would have no Virgil to guide her out again.
She had no time to muse about her situation, however, as the two guards pushed her on into the building, through the bright, expansive lobby down elevators and corridors to a dark, windowless cell which was placed next to the door marked "To Infirmary". Drained, and reasoning with herself that she was in no shape to fight whoever it was without rest, she threw herself down on the bed and slept.
Miss Parker stalked into Broots' office, her bearing tense enough to be felt two floors away. She leaned down on his desk, and opened her mouth to deliver a scathing remark, but was interrupted as the phone rang. Broots reached for the receiver and she stood up, absently reaching into her pocket for the cigarettes that were no longer there.
Broots picked up the phone and answered cautiously. "Hello, um, Broots here."
Miss Parker turned back again in time to see him almost fall out of his chair as he recognised the voice on the other end of the line. "Mr. Raines?... What?... Sure, medical records should be no problem... Emily who?... okay, certainly, sir. I'll get right on-" With that, he looked at the receiver and put it down. "He hung up on me," he explained sheepishly to Miss Parker.
"Well?" she asked coolly. Broots' eyebrows furrowed. "He wants me to look up medical records. I wonder why he asked me to do it? Almost anyone in the tech room could have done it."
Miss Parker raised an eyebrow. "Who knows why Raines does anything? Who does he want you to look up?"
"See for yourself," Broots said, handing her the piece of paper where he had written down the information. She scanned it quickly, and the other eyebrow joined the first.
"Emily? This has to be Jarod's sister - it's too much of a coincidence. But why would he want her medical records?"
"Search me," Broots said, turning to his computer. "But there are rumours that a red-haired woman was brought in to the Centre early this morning and was taken directly to sublevel 18."
Miss Parker looked down at him, eyes widening. "The same level that the infirmary is on," she observed.
Broots turned back, confused. "But why would he want Emily's medical records if he has her here, and why would she be held in ... the... infirmary... Oh, God," he said, finally making the connection. "What is he going to do to her?"
Miss Parker nodded. "I think we'd better find out. You get looking for those records - I'm going to talk to Sydney."
Emily woke slowly out of a troubled sleep. She rolled over, flinging her arm out beside her without opening her eyes.
"Honey, you won't believe the dream I just had-" she began, then opened her eyes and sat up as she suddenly realized that she was not in her own bed, and her husband was nowhere to be seen. She looked around confusedly, then winced as she realized that it had been no dream. Standing up, she began investigating her surroundings. There was one bed, one chair at a small table, and a little door in the corner which led to a perfunctory bathroom with a toilet, sink, and shower cubicle. On a shelf above the table were several books of all sorts. She glanced over the titles, but did not take down any of them. A small video camera was mounted in one corner, whirring softly as it followed her movements.
Emily ran a hand over her red hair to smooth it down, then walked over to examine the camera more closely. She was just tall enough to reach it. Smiling slightly, she stood just beneath the camera, out of its view, and took off one of her shoes. Then she calmly reached up and hung the shoe over the lens, blinding the eye that watched her.
As soon as the camera was out of commission, Emily went running about the tiny room, looking for any hiding place or method of escape. She shook the grille on the air vent, but it was welded on. She hauled the bed away from the wall, but there was nothing beneath it that could be of help, and it was too low and too narrow to hide beneath. She considered the shower, but then dismissed it as too obvious. She began to examine the door's locking mechanism, or what she could see of it from her side. All the while she was mentally timing her absent captors. She was obviously not going to escape this time, but at least she would see what would happen - and how fast. Next time, she'd know how much time she'd have to work with.
Within minutes, the door opened, and she was back sitting calmly on the bed, forcing herself to smile mysteriously. Let them think I've learned something important, she thought.
A tall man entered, wheeling a small oxygen tank behind him. The tube at his nose and his sickly pallor made him look weak, but he wore menace as another man would a smile. He was flanked by two dark-suited, dangerous-looking young men who stepped back at his motion. With a contemptuous flick of his arm, he knocked the shoe from its perch, then looked down at her and smiled.
"You're very like your mother, Emily. It would be wise not to be too much like her."
Emily stood up. "Who are you?"
Mr. Raines took a deep, rasping breath that rattled in his chest alarmingly. "My name is Mr. Raines. I'll be working with you very closely in the next few months."
Emily stepped back. "If this is your messed up idea of a job offer, I think I'll decline."
Raines snorted. "I'm afraid that's not an option."
Emily lifted her chin slightly, her blue eyes remaining cool. "Why have you brought me here?" she demanded. It took tremendous willpower not to look away. His wide eyes never seemed to blink.
Raines made a rasping sound that could have been a laugh had he not looked so serious. "You'll find that out soon enough. Suffice it to say, you're here to assist us with some...research."
"What kind of research?" she asked warily. "And who's us?"
"We are the Centre," Raines replied, and for a split second, Emily almost laughed as the wildly inappropriate thought flitted across her mind. We are the Centre. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Then, she reconsidered. Maybe not so inappropriate.
"Who or what is the Centre, and why should I help you?"
"Who we are is not important. You will assist us because you have no choice. Just remember, things will go far more easily for you if you sit back and cooperate."
"Not until you tell me what's going on."
Raines turned to leave, but then stopped and looked back. "Any further attempts to tamper with the security camera will be punished," he said.
Emily simply stood her ground, refusing to be cowed. "You can't keep me here," she said. "My husband will come looking for me."
Ignoring her, Raines just left the room, and Emily was left alone and frustrated.
Sydney stood with Miss Parker and Broots in his office. "Are you sure?" Sydney asked them.
Miss Parker nodded, and Broots chimed in, "as sure as we can be."
Sydney sat down hard. "So the whole family is here now, except for Charles, that is?"
"Yes, though we don't know if they know that. Jarod and his mother are being held together, but Emily is two floors up, near the infirmary," Miss Parker informed him.
Sydney's brow furrowed in thought. "Do you know anything of why Emily was brought in?"
Broots shrugged. "About all we know right now is that we're not supposed to know."
Sydney sighed. "I'll see if I can get myself included on the project. Miss Parker, why don't you see if you can manage to get in to see Jarod. Maybe he knows something about it - and if he doesn't, he deserves to."
For once, Miss Parker offered no argument.
The first day Emily was at the Centre, they drew her blood. The second day Emily was at the Centre, they drew her blood and also took her temperature and a urine sample. They did this for two weeks. The fifteenth day Emily was at the Centre, everything changed.
The small troop of nurses, friendly yet frustratingly uncommunicative, came in as usual early in the morning and woke her up. Emily had stopped fighting and demanding answers out of them on the fourth day, when Raines had had her forcibly restrained after she bit one of the guards hard enough to draw blood. He had left her that way, lying dirty and humiliated in her own filth, for two days until she had agreed not to fight them anymore. So it was that this morning, Emily just lay there as the nurses went about their work. Then, she felt a new sensation - a pricking in her thigh. She sat up quickly.
"What are you doing?" she demanded, watching in horrified anger as the nurse calmly drew the needle out of the skin of her thigh and daubed lightly at the site with a cotton ball. "What is that?"
The nurse looked at her companion on the other side of Emily. He shrugged, and said, "It's called Lupron. I'm afraid that's all I can tell you."
Emily's jaw dropped. A fertility drug? Suddenly she understood. "So that's what you're doing. But why?" She jumped up, sending the little jar of urine the nurse had been holding flying. She grabbed him by the collar of his uniform shirt and shook him hard. "Why, damn you!"
The nurse merely pried her hands away from his clothing and sat her back down on the bed. "I can't tell you that," he said, gently. "Even if I knew, I couldn't tell you. I just do as I'm told - I'm sorry that we have to do this, but we have no choice. The one you need to talk to is Mr. Raines. I'm sorry." His deep brown eyes looked down at her with undisguised pity, and he gently let go of her wrists. She didn't move, but just sat there as they gathered their equipment and left. When they were gone, she curled herself into a ball, drew the blanket around her, and cried.
Miss Parker stood outside the door of the little cell, steeling herself to face him. She had not seen Jarod since Thomas died, and though she would never admit it even to herself, she missed what they had had when they were young, and it hurt to see him like this. You can't change the past, she thought. But you can do something about the future. She took a deep breath and went in.
Jarod was sitting beside his mother on the single bed. His wrist had been freed, but his mother still bore the marks of her interrogation. There was a pile of blankets on the floor in the corner where he had obviously been sleeping. Mother and son were deep in conversation, but broke off as soon as the door opened. Margaret's eyes widened in surprise and recognition as she saw her, and she stood up. Jarod stood up as well, but with no surprise -- as though he had been expecting her.
"You look just like her!" Margaret gasped, and Miss Parker mentally groaned. She was getting very tired of people saying that to her.
Jarod smiled slightly, but it didn't reach his eyes. "So nice to see you, Miss Parker. I must confess, I'm surprised you waited this long to come gloating."
She bared her teeth at him in what could have been called a smile, though it was doubtful. She then turned back to Margaret. "You knew my mother?" she asked.
Margaret smiled. "Not well. She came to us shortly after Jarod and Kyle were taken, and brought us to hide with Harriet. She was wonderful to us, and went out of her way to see that we were safe, even though she was pregnant herself, and we were practically strangers. Harriet told me later that Catherine knew something about the kidnapping that she would never tell. All Harriet could tell me was that Catherine's husband had been involved in some way, and she felt guilty, though she could do nothing about it."
Miss Parker nodded. "That sounds like Mom." She turned to Jarod. "So do you want to explain this?" she asked him.
Jarod snorted. "Shouldn't I be asking you that?"
Miss Parker gave him a withering look. "Look, wise guy, they didn't even tell me that you had been brought in. I want to know what's going on."
Jarod opened his mouth to deliver a cutting reply, but his mother laid a hand on his arm and he stopped.
"The Centre brought me in to lead them to Emily. They want to take her and impregnate her so that her child can be the next pretender." Margaret said it calmly, almost emotionlessly.
Miss Parker's eyes widened. "Oh my god," she breathed. "I had no idea. Let me guess who's behind this: Raines."
Jarod nodded. "I don't know why you're so surprised, Miss Parker. After what Raines did to Kyle and to Angelo, it's not hard to believe that he would attempt this."
Miss Parker ignored him, but instead focussed her attention on the other woman. "What can I do to help?"
Jarod scoffed, "You? Help me? Are you feeling all right, Miss Parker?"
Miss Parker glared at him. "I'm not helping you. I'm helping Emily. I can't let this happen. Emily is already here," she informed them. "She was brought in about two weeks ago. We've been trying to get in to talk to you ever since, but security on you three has been tight, and I'm not even supposed to know."
Jarod nodded, putting his resentful bravado aside. "Well, the first order of business is obviously to get Emily out of the Centre. Is she married?" he asked his mother.
"Yes. Her husband is a wonderful man."
"Will he come looking for her?"
"Probably, but he knows nothing about the Centre - all he knows is that Emily used to have two older brothers who were kidnapped when they were little. It's unlikely that he could find her in time - and even if he did, he'd have no idea what he was facing."
"Okay, then we can probably discount the possibility of outside help."
Miss Parker agreed. "It's up to us."
Sydney stood outside Mr. Parker's office, listening.
"With Genesis coming to fruition, I don't know why you insist on going ahead with this, Raines. Surely you have enough on your plate."
"Think of the possibilities. We can have a new Pretender, here at the Centre again. The boy will never leave his space in Donoterase. I estimate this child will be at least ten percent higher in potential than Kyle - or even Jarod. The blood will run true, Mr. Parker, and this child will have no messy memories of home or family to have to deal with. Trust me on this; Project Adelphideos will be the best thing to happen to the Centre since the original Pretender Project."
"It had better. The Triumvirate is getting impatient."
"These things take time, Mr. Parker."
"Just get Adelphideos moving. If Emily isn't pregnant at the end of two weeks, the project is cancelled."
Sydney gasped, but had no time for further thought as the door suddenly opened and Mr. Raines emerged. He looked at Sydney with undisguised contempt, but said nothing as he continued down the hall. Sydney steeled himself and went in.
Mr. Parker looked up from his desk. "Sydney? How can I help you?"
"I want Project Adelphideos."
Mr. Parker's eyes flashed. "How do you know about Adelphideos?"
"That's not important. I know. And I want in."
"This project requires a psychiatric element. For the health of Emily's baby to be optimal, and to reduce the risk of abnormalities in the pregnancy, Emily must be calm and feel safe."
"Out of the question. You have a job to do, Sydney. Raines is handling Adelphideos." Mr. Parker turned away, but Sydney took his arm and moved to meet his eyes.
"Raines 'handled' Kyle, too. And look what came of that! Danny, Angelo - how much of that could have been prevented? In the right hands, Timmy could have been almost on a level with Jarod. Kyle could have equalled him. But what happened? One of them irreparably damaged, the other a homicidal psychopath! Mr. Parker, if you allow Raines sole authority over Emily, the project could be - will be - compromised beyond repair."
Mr. Parker closed his eyes, and after a moment, nodded. "All right. You are assigned to Adelphideos on a psychiatric consult basis only. You will have no independent authority, is that clear?"
Sydney nodded. "Yes, sir. I expected no more." With that, he turned and left the office.
Emily was lying on the bunk, feeling vaguely detached. She had no tears left to cry. She stared at the ceiling, and the silence was so absolute that at first she thought she had imagined it when a small voice came from the air vent.
She got up and moved over to the vent. "Hello?"
"Sister sad," the voice repeated, and a pair of blue eyes peered out at her. They seemed to look straight into her heart. "Scared."
"Hello there. Who are you?" she asked gently, knowing instinctively that she had nothing to fear from this childlike young man.
The man blinked, and his eyes looked far away for a moment. "There is no Timmy now," he said. "Only Angelo."
Emily didn't really know what to make of this reply. "Okay... It's nice to meet you, Angelo."
He looked her in the eye again. "Sister sad," he said insistently. "Scared."
She smiled at him. "Sister? I don't understand. Whose sister?"
Angelo looked at her. "Sister of friend," he tried to explain. His brow furrowed, as if he were trying to remember something long forgotten. "Jarod."
"You know Jarod? How?" she asked. Suddenly she thought she knew who had kidnapped her brothers so many years ago.
Angelo smiled. "Jarod friend. Friend scared, too. Frustrated. Mother worried. 'What are they going to do to Emily?' Scared. Hurts."
Emily was shocked. "Where are they? Are they looking for me? Are they going to help me?"
Angelo pointed. "Down. Dark."
"Oh. I see." Emily's heart sank. The Centre had her brother - and her mother.
He looked at her again. "Sister sad?" he asked.
She smiled a little at him. "Yes. Sister sad. Sister wants to go home." A tear escaped her eye and she dashed it away.
Angelo smiled at her. "Jarod-friend loves. Mother loves. Sister wait." She nodded, and he clambered back down the passageway and was gone.
Emily sat back down on the bed. Her situation had not changed, but somehow she felt better. She had a friend. She lay back on the pillow and began a rosary.
Sydney, Miss Parker, and Broots met in Broots' office and began to plan the rescue, as Angelo watched, unnoticed, from the vent above.
Sydney knocked on Emily's door, ignoring the glare of the guard standing there. There was a startled silence, and then a tired-sounding feminine voice called, "Come in."
Sydney opened the door slowly and came in. Emily stood as he entered, wary and defiant, but obviously emotionally exhausted. He smiled, determined to be as non-threatening as possible. "Hello, Emily. My name is Sydney."
She regarded him cooly. "And what are you going to do to me? I know what you people are trying to do now. You'll never get away with it."
Sydney shook his head. "I'm not going to do anything to you. I'm just here to talk, if you want."
Emily gave him a flat stare. "You just want to talk. Yeah. And I hold galaxies in my grip."
Sydney ignored her sarcasm and waved at the chair. "Mind if I sit down?" he asked mildly.
"Do whatever you like. We all know I can't stop you."
Sydney sat down and looked up at her. "If you want me to go, I will."
Emily just turned her back on him. Her instincts told her that it couldn't hurt to listen to what he had to say, but her mind told her it had to be a trap - a new scheme of the Centre's to get her to cooperate with them.
"You know," Sydney remarked, carefully softening his accent to the tone he used when talking to small children, "you're very like your brother. Both very stubborn."
Emily turned around. "What about my brother?" she demanded.
Sydney smiled again. "I was Jarod's...teacher as he was growing up here. Would you like me to tell you about him?"
Emily struggled, not wanting to say yes to anything but desperately curious about the brother she had never known. Finally she nodded, and sat down across from him on the bed.
Sydney told her about her brother's childhood: his intelligence and empathy, his constant yearning for the family he couldn't remember, the unspoken bond he and Sydney had shared. She silently cheered Jarod on as Sydney told her of the time he had crept out to see the snow. She suffered for him as she heard how he had yearned to know who he was.
Sydney broke off his narrative and studied her face. "You can feel it, can't you." It was not a question. She looked up. "You don't just sympathize," he continued. "You're really feeling it. You're inside him." Emily didn't reply. "You have the gift too, you know, though it's never been trained. You're probably just as strong as either of your brothers." Sydney looked down at his hands. "I tried to help Jarod as much as I could. I didn't approve of all the orders I had to carry out, but I did try to protect him. I know you don't have any reason to trust me, but I will help you, if I can."
"And what are you going to do, Sydney? Get me to talk calmly about my feelings as they put a child in me and then take it away?"
Sydney turned away from the camera and said quietly, "We're trying to get you out. Don't react - stay angry at me."
Emily started, then glanced quickly up at the camera and back again. "Well?" she asked. "What are you going to do for me? Huh?"
Sydney turned away, as if ignoring her protests, and took a book off the shelf. "Modern Chemistry," he read. "Well, they certainly gave you an entertaining library." He flipped ostentatiously through the pages and, when Emily was between him and the camera, slipped a folded piece of paper between the pages. He then handed her the book and said, "I'm afraid I have to leave, now, but I'll come back again tomorrow." He smiled. "If nothing else, I'm someone to yell at. Is there anything I can get for you - within reason; I'm as subject to the Powers that Be as yourself."
Emily thought for a moment, then grudgingly replied, "If you really wanted to, you could get me some Pez candy. And a cool dispenser." Seeing his broad grin, she added, "What? What's wrong with Pez? Can't a grown-up enjoy novelty candy too?"
Sydney knocked on the door. "It's just interesting that you should choose that particular thing. I'll bring some tomorrow." Then the door opened, and he left.
Emily sighed, then took the book back to the bed and lay down. Propping it up on her knees so as to hide her doings from the camera, she opened the book and unfolded the note. It was her mother's handwriting.
You can trust Sydney. Help is on the way. Be strong! Trust God.
At the bottom, in unfamiliar handwriting was added,
P.S.: I can't wait to meet you finally. We will get you out of here - I promise. -Jarod.
She threw the book across the room in a great display of anger, but inside, she was exultant.
Sydney walked into the tech room, beaming. "I've got it," he announced. Miss Parker and Broots looked up at him questioningly. "We'll put them all to sleep."
Miss Parker raised an eyebrow. "You've always had a rather ethereal imagination, Syd, but this is pushing it." Her remark was tinged with interest, however.
Sydney smiled and moved closer conspiratorially. "I got the idea from a Chemistry book in Emily's room. We flood the air circulation system with sleeping gas, and while the guards are asleep, we rescue Jarod's family."
"But the cameras - " Broots began.
Miss Parker raised her eyebrows. "That's where you come in."
He shook his head. "No way. Uh uh. I wouldn't just have to turn the cameras off, I'd have to make completely false tapes to prove we weren't involved. Why, it would take days, weeks maybe, and I'm swamped as it is!"
Sydney put his hand on Broots' shoulder. "And if it were Debbie in Emily's place?"
Broots sighed, but turned back to the computer. "I'll do what I can. I'll have to get footage of all three of us succumbing to the gas beforehand - to clear us in the investigation later. And old footage of Jarod, too."
"Someone had to engineer this. It's a lot easier to prove you didn't do something when you can prove someone else did. If all goes well, well, Jarod's gone anyway. If it doesn't work, he can't really be in any more trouble than he is now, can he?"
Sydney smiled. "Good thinking, Broots. I'll get you what you need. Miss Parker, I'd appreciate it if you could procure gas masks for the six of us."
"And why can't you?"
"Someone has to get the gas."
About two weeks later, all was in readiness. Emily, however, was not. Six days ago, she had been dragged into the infirmary and drugged heavily while the doctors poked and prodded where no woman wants unsolicited attention. Three days later, they had done it again, though they hadn't drugged her, and she feared the worst. They had been injecting her twice a day with various substances and had been doing more and more tests.
Finally the day came. The gas masks were brought to the family and passed through the grilles by Angelo, who, alone of all the conspirators, had unseen access to all three prisoners. As the cameras showed them falling unconscious to the floor, Miss Parker, Sydney, and Broots donned their masks and began to run. Sydney went to fetch Jarod and Margaret as Miss Parker freed Emily and Broots sat down to manipulate the camera feeds.
Jarod's family was finally reunited in the lobby of the Centre. There was no time for tears or hugs, but Emily took her mother's and brother's hands in hers and squeezed. They walked out of the Centre - and there was Miss Parker, gun drawn, barrel pointing unwaveringly at Jarod. She had removed her mask, and her blue eyes glittered.
Sydney tore off his mask. "Parker, what are you doing?" he demanded.
Jarod hauled his mask off as well, and stepped towards her, his eyes just as cold. "You brought us this far, only to stop us now? I never realized you had such a cruel streak."
She smiled. "Oh, Emily and your mother are free to go. It's you who belong here."
"I never belonged here!" He took another step forward. They were only a foot apart now, and eye to eye.
"I wasted three years of my life hunting you, Jarod, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let you go now."
"Damn you," Jarod breathed, then, taking her face in his hands, he roughly pulled her to him, and kissed her thoroughly. Her gun clattered to the ground as she helplessly relaxed in his arms. He held her there for a long moment, then suddenly released her, scooped up the gun and ranback before she could recover. Her eyes were wide, with anger or surprise or exhilaration, he couldn't tell.
As the three drove away from the Centre in one of its own black cars, Jarod turned to his sister and said, "I'm so glad we got you out of there before their plan could succeed."
She shook her head and placed a hand gently on her abdomen. "I'm afraid you didn't." At their shocked stares, she continued, "Raines told me today - just before the gas began. I'm pregnant."
The two men sat side by side in the older man's office, watching a videotape. On the screen, Jarod emptied the canister of sleeping gas into the air supply for the Centre for the fifth time that morning.
"You're not just going to let them go, are you?" Lyle demanded.
Mr. Parker snorted. "Not on your life."
Lyle stared coldly at the screen. "You'd better not."
Mr. Parker turned to his son. "I'm not letting go of my grandchild that easily."