A/N – Hey all – here is the sequel to Conflict Zero. I strongly recommend reading that before jumping into this story, there are a couple of characters who are my own creation that were introduced earlier. This piece is a direct continuation, but I felt the need to break it into its own story because after over 20 postings and nearly 60,000 words, I needed a clean slate so to speak. For those that don't, I have provided a small summary at the end of the prologue.
As another note – I was able to have such a great turn around time for my last story because of extended break over the holidays. I just don't want to disappoint, but it's not going to be possible this time around! I will do my best, but unfortunately I think I have set the bar way to high! My goal is about once a week, but maybe we'll get lucky and be slightly faster then that.
A tremendously big thank you to both Onisius and Terra, who both volunteered there brains to this project to keep my then and thans straight, and to call me on it when I was doing the characters justice. This story now belongs to them, as much as it belongs to me! Thanks guys!! It's been so much fun so far.
TRIUMVIRATE STATION, THE CONGO, AFRICA
Jarod groaned as he slowly returned to consciousness. His throat was painfully dry, and he could still feel the lingering remains of the sedative in his system. He went through a metal check-list of his physical well-being, his mind trying to dance around the one word that was screaming warnings in his brain – Africa.
He was in Africa, the only place on earth he could imagine as being worse then the Centre.
With a grimace, Jarod laboriously pushed himself off the cold floor that he was lying on, studying the small cell.
There was nothing to see. It was empty, save himself.
Glancing at his own body, Jarod was surprised to find that he was bare-chested, his only protection was a thin pair of neutral coloured pants. Looking down to his broken right wrist, Jarod was shocked to see the bulky plaster cast that the Centre's doctor had hastily made, had now been replaced with a thinner and noticeably lighter fibreglass one. Clenching his fist with resolve, Jarod pushed away the feeling of violation that was developing within. It wasn't the first time he had suffered the indignity of being stripped of his clothing, or subjected to a medical procedure, while unconscious. He hated the loss of dignity he felt at his loss of control, it never got any easier.
Jarod sank back down to the floor, conscious he needed to give his body more time to rid itself of the sedative. He closed his eyes, hoping that there was enough of the drug left to push him back into oblivion. It was far better then the reality he had woken up in.
However they clearly had other ideas for Jarod, as the second he had lay his head back down on the floor, the door to his small cell was opened, four men entering. Jarod brought his head up to meet their stares, but was kicked squarely in the gut, the air whooshing out of him as he was forced back to the floor. Without given a chance to react, two hands reached down and grabbed his arms, a swift blow landing on Jarod's head when the pretender resisted their movement.
Jarod sighed in resignation as he felt the cold metal of the handcuffs against his left wrist, then cried out as his broken right wrist was cruelly pulled behind him, and restrained. The purpose of his new cast now becoming blatantly obvious, as it ensured they could still use their damn handcuffs on him.
He was pulled to a kneeling position, facing the back wall of his cell. Jarod took a deep breath, desperately trying to calm himself. His head was painfully jerked backwards, and with growing panic, Jarod soon found himself in encased in blackness. They had hooded him. Jarod swallowed, willing himself to fend off the painful childhood memories that were forcing there way upwards.
As he was encouraged to his feet, Jarod focused on his breathing, trying to push away the fear that was slowly consuming him. He focused on the pain shooting up his right arm, his broken wrist angrily protesting to its abuse; anything to take his mind away from his fear.
By the time they had reached their destination, Jarod had regained control over the emotions and anxiety residing in his mind. He kept his eyes tightly shut, willing himself to forget the black material that kept him at such a disadvantage, trying frantically to imagine he was anywhere but here.
He was pushed forward, crashing into something at waist-level. Jarod then felt pressure on the back of his head, as he was slowly made to bend forwards, resting on a cold metallic surface. His arms were freed from the handcuffs, only to be forced forward and stretched out in front of him. Jarod couldn't withhold a cry of pain as it shot up his right arm. He tried to pull back, only to find them restraining him to the table with soft hospital restraints. Knowing he was trapped, Jarod ceased all movement, instead return his focus to his breaths. It was the one thing he could still control.
The room was eerily silent, and Jarod's sense of smell was soon bombarded with a smoke like aroma. He could hear water dripping above him, the ice cold drops landing on his bare back. The coolness was oddly comforting on his hot skin, the temperature in the cell he had woken in had been nothing short of stifling.
What was this? Chinese water torture meets medieval dungeon?
Jarod felt his muscles tense as a lone pair of footsteps entered the room, walking to the back of it. He could tell they belonged to a man, someone with authority given he was wearing dress shoes. He heard a large hissing sound when the steps stopped, similar to that of escaping steam.
Two men move in closely beside the pretender, placing their hands on his upper arms. Jarod could feel his heart racing as the footsteps slowly approached him, stopping directly behind him. Jarod was no longer able to suppress his struggles, he pulled back on his restraints in vain, trying to shake off the additional hold on his biceps. The hood was greatly handicapping him, and it was unnerving to not be able to see what was coming to him but also to be blind to who was doing the antagonizing.
The room erupted with painful screaming as something white hot was pressed into the upper left section of Jarod's back. He struggled under their tight hold, gasping in relief as the object was pulled back a few excruciating seconds later.
The men stood back, and exited the room, leaving Jarod alone, his muscles quivering due to the residual pain. With his breathing returning back to normal, Jarod focused on the water dripping onto his back, trying to draw comfort from its soothing coolness.
With unwanted revelation Jarod realized that he had just been branded as the sickening odour of burnt flesh infiltrated his nostrils; that of his seared skin. The sounds and smells had triggered a flash back to his pretend at the army POW survival training camp. He had witness a similar ritual then, although in that scenario there was a feeling of pride, of belonging, of strength. It was nothing like that here. This cruel lesson had been done to demonstrate to him that he was theirs, and he would wear whatever mark they had burned into his flesh for the rest of his life.
With a deep breath, Jarod forced himself to retreat into his mind, disconnecting him from the flaming hot pain on his upper back, the feeling of shame and humiliation that was growing within. He found that safe place Sydney had taught him to find when his simulations got too terrifying, when the pain got to bad.
When they came back, a few hours later, Jarod barley flinched as he heard the electric sparking of several cattle prods around him, the purpose of the water that continually dripped down to him finally became clear.
As the prods were brought against his damp flesh, and his screams filled the room, Jarod barely registered his own pain. He didn't care because mentally, he was barely there.
For those who haven't read Conflict Zero, I have prepared a small summary just to get you up to speed! If you are interested, it has been posted here.
Summary of Conflict Zero
The Triumvirate was under attack by a company called Corporation Zero. They had organized several murderous raids, and had taken three subjects: two German pretenders, and a predictor (Lysander) into their custody. Their next target: The Centre (and Jarod)
Jarod was captured by Miss Parker and Lyle and taken to a secret Centre facility know as Aquastar (it masks as a cleaning service). He, upon seeing the bloodshed, agrees to help the Centre figure out a way to fight the threat.
Jarod finds a solution to the problem, but convinces the Triumvirate he needs to rescue Lysander himself. They agree, and Jarod uses this to escape. However unknown to our pretender, another pretender by the name of Henrik has been overseeing his work.
Jarod rescues Lysander, and gets away from Sam, only to be picked up later by Lyle as Henrik had predicted Jarod's actions. The two subjects are returned to the Centre, with transfer orders to Africa looming.
Back at the Centre, Lysander, obviously depressed, attempts suicide. Angelo gives Jarod the tools and freedom he needs to go to her. Jarod is forced to call for help, only gaining himself and Angelo Lyle's wrath. Lyle instantly orders termination for Angelo.
When Jarod is told of Angelo's murder, he overpowers Lyle and makes a dash for freedom, only to have it thwarted by Sam, leaving the pretender with a broken wrist.
Sydney and Broots work with Major Charles to attempt to free Jarod. The plan was almost successful, however a tracking device under the van doesn't give the Major the time he needs to free his son. Miss Parker arrives before the sweeper teams, sending the Major away before he his to be murdered.
The story ends with Parker leading Jarod onto the African bound airplane, where he is sedated
And so it begins…
It's a small tease, I know. The first chapter shall be up very shortly, I promise. It has a lot more substance.