Here's the first five pages as promised – actually I think I'll go back and add the scrolls part for your convenience (I'm so

First off thanks so much to Topanga who battled certain death to get this out. This gal is lucky to have such a fantastic and grammatically correct beta. Also thanks to whasaza, onisius and jacci who all took at look at this chapter whether they remember or not ;)

So after a ridiculously long wait here is the next chapter. I can only apologize for the wait. I'm finishing up my masters and it's really impossible to find quality writing time. I hope this can tide everyone over until the next chapter comes out. No promise as to time, but who knows, maybe I have a few surprises up my sleeve?

To Surrender readers, I have not given up on this fic. There will be more coming – I just cannot say when. I should be graduating by the end of this semester and some breathing room is in sight 

So to recap very briefly:

Jarod has ended up in Africa along with Lysander (the predictor introduced in the story's prequel, Conflict Sequel).

Both have been the victim of a plan of 'demise' created by Dr. Masoud, Dr. Stone and Henrik, the same pretender that caused Jarod's recapture at the end of Conflict Zero.

Back home in Blue Cove, Miss Parker, Syd and Broots have been working tirelessly to devise a scheme to get Jared back on American soil. Their efforts were aided by the arrival of Jay (the clone) who has since left the group and is returning back to Major Charles.

At the end of the last chapter, Lys broke free and found her way to Jarod (in the neighbouring sim lab). Both were surprised by the arrival of disgraced Dr. Visser who was caught in some act of betrayal and has been housed in the same cell complex as Jarod.

And so we continue….

Chapter # 14 – Stalemate

THE TRIUMVIRATE, AFRICA

Henrik fiddled with his thumbs. It has been at least a week since he has submitted his final proposal for exactly how the Triumvirate was to deal with Jarod. He didn't dare to bring it up to the men that routinely dropped off mundane the work to keep him occupied, but he kept wondering exactly when he would be returned to Germany.

They wouldn't leave him here forever, would they?

An unfamiliar man entered Henrik's workspace, catching the young pretender's attention. He could tell from the man's controlled and confident gait that he was powerful, much more so than anyone he had seen since arriving in Africa.

"How are you today Henrik?" the man questioned in a smooth European accent.

"Are you here to escort me back to Germany, sir?" he questioned hopefully.

The older man let out a small chuckle of amusement and Henrik felt himself deflate. It wasn't going to be today.

"You shall never return there. Your destiny has changed," the man stated as if he was casually recounting what he had eaten for breakfast that morning.

Henrik didn't bother to raise a protest. His life was in their hands, but he felt his fists clenching, as he was hit by a strong emotional cocktail of helplessness and anger. Such emotions were a rarity for him and he felt his breath leave him as he stared down at the table, unwilling to show the true extent of his despair. His life was not one that had the luxury of choice, but sometimes he wished that someone, just one, would ask him what he wanted. He had seen other subjects consumed by their enragement and their obstinate need to seek autonomy and freedom, but it was always a futile cause. Jarod and Lysander were just two examples out of many. In the end, it simply wasn't worth it. His feelings were better left repressed.

"Your work with our latest errant projects caught the attention of some very important people, Henrik," the man continued, oblivious to the young pretender's emotions.

Henrik remained silent. There was no point prodding for details, they would be revealed in time should he require them to be.

The man studied Henrik intently, the young pretender shifting awkwardly in his chair under the intense gaze.

"We've identified an area of our large organization that will be greatly assisted by your talents and loyalty. However there is some hesitation at the higher levels about your readiness for such a large and high profile assignment. An urgent matter has arisen, which we believe will be an excellent test of your abilities. Some files are being delivered to your workspace. They contain information about the situation at hand, and the key players involved. I want you to look over these files, and give me your suggestions. If necessary I will schedule a full simulation for tomorrow."

Henrik frowned in confusion, "About what sir?"

The man shook his head. "Not here. This situation is very volatile. You will share your thoughts and information, with me, and me only. Is that understood?"

Henrik nodded meekly, "Yes, sir." As it stood there was very little to understand and even less to go on.

"You can address me as Dr. Cox," the man stated. "Now let's go."

NEW ORLEANS AMTRACK STATION, LOUISIANA

Jay drummed his thumb nervously on his lap. To the casual observer he looked nothing more than a young man impatiently waiting to disembark from the train. Dr. Raines had taught him well, as there was no outward sign of exactly how terrified the teen really was.

It had be a long and tiresome trip from Dover to New Orleans, and Jay dare not add up the number of hours he had spent sitting on buses and trains, in addition to the stations that connected his journey.

A flight would have saved him days of travel time, but Miss Parker had cautioned that travel by ground was less likely to attract any unwanted attention. All Centre search and retrieval efforts were focused on him, now that Jarod was safely in their clutches. Jay knew Jarod had rarely travelled by air, unless he himself was the pilot, and likely for that very same reason. Airline travel left a paper trail, credit card purchases, passenger lists and baggage check information. It was a risk he couldn't afford.

Emily and his Dad had agreed to meet up in New Orleans, at which point the Major would pilot them down to their new place of residence in Belize. It was a relatively short flight between Belize and the US should Jarod reappear, yet far enough out of the states that they should be out the Centre's radar.

Jay took a calming breath as the train finally reached a full stop, the passengers around him jumping up and frantically grabbing for their luggage from the overhead bins. He knew he should join in the feeding frenzy and reach for his own small duffel bag of belongings, but he found himself frozen at his trackside window seat.

He had nothing short of abandoned his father and his sister, without any notice or explanation. While he didn't regret his actions towards Jarod, Jay knew he could have handled the family situation differently. After everything they had done and had sacrificed to try to make the later half of his teenaged years as normal as could be, he owed them more than a poorly scribbled note.

He just hoped that when he stepped down onto the platform, all would be forgiven.

PARKER SUMMER HOME, DELAWARE

Parker didn't notice that the world around her had gone dark. With the seasons lethargically turning from winter to spring, nightfall was increasingly getting later and later. It was a pace that matched there sordid scheme to bring Jarod home, painfully slow.

After weeks of pulling impossibly long hours, the past few had seemed rather empty. Parker had never been one for waiting and the sluggish pace of their plan to bring Jarod back to Blue Cove was unbearable.

Ironically she could almost hear the numerous lectures about patience Jarod had given her in the past. If she could have such a conversation with the pretender now, she doubted he would be lecturing her about serenity. This was one situation where the rules of patience and diligence simply did not apply.

Two months ago had marked the passage of too much time, and despite all the effort, today brought no foreseeable date of return for Jarod. Day by day they were creeping towards a result but the high stakes political power play that Jay had masterminded couldn't be rushed.

Sydney was clearly beside himself with worry, but now that their plan was in motion he seemed calmer. It was amazing what hope could do for a person, even with the potential result so far into the distant future.

However this whole gambit wasn't about them, it was about the pretender locked up an ocean away. Parker could not bring herself to fathom how hopeless Jarod now felt. They had sent him away with promises that they would fight for his return. The pretender had probably long given up hope that anyone would or could come to his rescue.

Since handing over the bulk of the information and control needed to set the plan in motion to Lyle, Parker's had spent many nights trying to figure out where she stood on what should happen to Jarod upon his return. Sydney had obviously been avoiding broaching this topic, choosing to live in his fairy tale ending where the plan from Africa would land and she would simply turn her back and let the pretender of the hour slip away into the warm amber sunset.

Someone had to be the realist, and she also suspected that Jay had come to a similar conclusion that such an act would unequivocally be signing their death warrants. The fact that the teen had not once asked what would happen to Jarod once he was brought back, made Parker believe that he was planning something on his own. She would have to make damn sure that Lyle was holding the reins when that happened

But where did she stand? She had been working to the point of exhaustion to bring Jarod back to the States. Was it simply to ward off the guilt she carried knowing the large role she played in the pretender ending up in Africa in the first place? The last few years had been about picking sides, the Centre or Jarod. She had stubbornly refused to leave neutral ground, justifying all actions with her favourite tagline, "it's business, not personal". But everything that had happened since he had left for Africa had been personal. But personal what? Redemption?

Jarod had always been there to help her through the most difficult moments in her life, but she had rarely been there for his, unless she was a participant in exasperating the situation. To stand up and fight the good fight alongside Jarod required an inner strength and desire she just didn't possess any more. Parker had spent most of her childhood suffering due to the sacrifices her own mother had made, when it came to choosing sides. Perhaps in that moment she had learned a valuable lesson that Jarod had yet to grasp. Though they may be able to tip the scales, at the end of the day the Centre would always win. She'd rather spent her life accepting what is, than yearning and fighting for something that would never be.

Throughout his years of freedom, Jarod had tried so hard to reconnect with her. There had been some moments where Parker could almost feel herself believing that perhaps the Centre was not destined to win a round. The pinnacle in their relationship had occurred on Carthis. That day on the island they had transformed from prey and huntress to equals, working together as if they slipped right back into their childhood, "fighting the good fight" and reconnecting. All of that had vanished the second Brother Renaldus had fallen dead, and her father and Raines had revealed themselves.

After all they had been through, she and Jarod had been nothing but their pawns.

Parker knew she had hurt Jarod badly that day, even before he had made one last desperate attempt to reach out to her in the limo. She took a generous sip out of her tumbler, as her mind was transported back to that night on Carthis when her father and Raines had trudged in out of nowhere after she and Jarod has discovered the scrolls.

"Long live the Centre." Her father had exclaimed proudly. It summed up everything - the power the deceit and the hamster-wheel that neither she nor Jarod could escape from.

After Raines had gleefully left, the crypt room fell into a deep silence. Parker watched as Jarod struggled to maintain his composure, looking down wistfully at the scroll held clutched in his hands. The answers were right there, but he was not going to be permitted to see them. It was nothing but another dead end for him – a Centre specialty.

Parker knew the pretender needed help getting through what was going to happen next. With a motion from her father the two sweepers that had been lingering in the doorway moved forward. The clicks echoed across the room as they cocked their guns, pointing them at the second prized catch-of-the-day. Jarod had lost his mother, his chance at the truth, and now he was about to surrender his freedom. .

Sensing it would be easier to pass the scrolls over to her, than be forced to hand them over to her father at gun point, Parker turned to walk towards Jarod.

"Angel, I've got it from here." Apparently he didn't want her any closer to the scrolls than Jarod.

"Jarod's my job," she stated forcefully.

"I said I'll handle it," her father restated, his voice taking on that edgy tone she had heard too many times in her adult life.

She was physically and emotionally exhausted and her drained energy reserves refused to argue with her father. Not that there was any use, the times she had stood up to him were few and far between. Besides, when all was said and done, it simply didn't matter. Her father usually found a way to block the truth.

In that moment she surrendered. She turned away from Jarod and instead made her way towards her father.

"It's nice to see you up again Daddy." Parker forced out as she gave him an obligatory hug, as if it was the most natural thing to do. It was surprising how easily she managed to slip back into her usual Centre persona. It was much easier just to admit defeat and play the part of the dutiful daughter.

"I know you have questions Angel," he remarked, as if reading her thoughts, "We'll get them answered as soon as we get back to the mainland.

She gave her father a fake smile, and excited the crypt room without even a glance back at the defeated pretender. There was so much more she could have done - ignored her father and taken the scrolls, insist on being the one to escort Jarod to the helicopter..

But this way was just easier………for her.

Parker walked straight to the chopper, and made herself comfortable beside the pilot. She hadn't even looked back when Jarod had been brought to the helicopter and secured between the two large sweepers.

She had enough of her own demons to fight, let alone watching him try to fight his.

Parker didn't even flinch as impatient knocking pulled her out of her memories of Carthis. She gracefully pushed herself from the armchair and slowly made her way to her front door, pulling it open to reveal her twin.

"What?" she asked tiredly.

Lyle pushed his way in. "We need to talk."

"It's three in the morning Lyle; couldn't this have waited four more hours?"

"It's well into the business day in Africa, besides what I have to share is not something I wish to discuss at the Centre." Lyle rebutted calmly, helping himself to a shot of scotch from Parker's earlier discarded glass.

Parker's mouth tightened in disgust but she said nothing, instead folding her arms across her chest, "I assume you passed along my information to one of the desired contacts?"

Lyle nodded, "I had a very enlightening conversation with one of my people in the Congo. He was very receptive."

Parker's eyebrows rose. "What do you mean one of your people?" Handling information such as what Jay had uncovered was volatile, and they had carefully handpicked people on the African side that would react well to the proposed plan. The more unknowns that were introduced to it meant that Jay's formulaic plan could spiral dangerously out of control.

Lyle raised his free hand in an attempt to silence Parker, as he finished another generous taste of Scotch. "I was more comfortable approaching this particular person than one of the unknowns that your supposed anonymous contact suggested."

Parker opened her mouth, but Lyle interjected before her protests could be heard. "Relax sis, unless the plan was the brainchild of a pretender, a few deviations along the way won't make a difference."

Parker clenched her fist, trying to conceal her concern over Lyle's idiocy. "In my experience Lyle, whenever you add a morsel of your 'individual' thought to a process, it causes people to lose their appendages. Care to share who your man of the hour is?"

Lyle just smiled smugly. "I am no more comfortable revealing my sources than you are yours."

Parker met his smile with a venomous look, but said nothing.

Lyle mistook her silence for assent. "My contact took the bait. It's a done deal, it's only a matter of time."

"Are you really stupid enough to think it will be that easy?" Parker asked indignantly.

Lyle discarded the now empty scotch glass with a heavy thud. "No. But as far as you are concerned, it's a done deal. It's the end of the road for you on this one Parker."

Parker's eyes flashed with rage. "What do you mean the end of the road? You wouldn't even know what damn road map to stare at if it wasn't for me."

"You're the one who agreed to clear the way," Lyle pointed out, referring to her earlier promise to eliminate herself from any competition for Corporate ascension.

"You're a long way from that level of autonomy Lyle." Parker warned, "You cut me out now, you'll screw everything up. You always do."

Lyle just smirked and made his way to the door. "While I appreciate your concern, I have the situation under control. Jarod will be back under my authority, Raines will be gone, and the Parker legacy of ruling the Centre will continue."

"One mistake Lyle, and there won't be a pothole big enough for you to hide in. I can guarantee that the Africans won't be as generous as the Yakuza, nor will I." Parker warned.

Lyle stepped out into the brisk spring air, "Raines is getting impatient with the lack of progress in developing tangible leads for the clone. I suggest tomorrow you focus on that, or you and your stooges may not live to see Jarod's homecoming." Once again, getting in the last word, Lyle stepped out, letting the door close heavily behind him.

Parker waited until she heard the sound of tires on loose gravel before instinctively grabbing her cell. With a sigh she let it drop back down onto the table. There was no reason to cause Broots a nearly sleeplessness night. She was doing that more than well enough for the both of them.

THE TRIUMVIRATE, AFRICA

Jarod wiped the heavy beads of sweat forming on his brow and peeked over the roof edge, scanning the vast complex in front of him. A property so large an elephant could find at least a dozen hiding places, yet security so intricate that if such a creature so much as looked at the fence running along the perimeter of the compound, it would be shot dead on sight.

"Anything?" Lys asked in a hushed voice and Jarod shook his head in response, sliding back down along the ledge safely out of sight.

"There is obvious chaos on the ground, but no-one has ventured near the helipad yet. We are safe here – for now."

Lys nodded while giving Visser a hesitant look. It was clear that she was still unsure about the doctor and his exact intentions. Or maybe too many weeks on the wrong side of the bars had left her unable to believe that they could catch a lucky break. Were they right to be suspicious, or was this just cynicism at its best?

Lys focused her attention on Jarod, a question obviously on her mind. Jarod gave her a soft smile, sensing her hesitation. What was Visser hoping to gain by having them here? Weeks of being manipulated by men no different than the elder doctor had him wary. If this escape was anything but, could he live with the consequences? Masoud had made it clear long ago that Jarod's cooperation was fatefully intertwined with six lives back on American soil that he cared so deeply about.

"Can…Can I see your back?" Lys whispered, her voice faltering until she found the air to add, "I have one."

Jarod's gaze lowered, while he shifted around to allow her a full vantage point of the mark the Triumvirate had seared onto his back. The three interlocking triangles were a physical reminder of his time in Africa that he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

Lys gently placed her index finger on the scar, following the grooved pattern as she spoke, "I traced it over with my fingers over and over again, but seeing it…it…."

"It has done its job." Visser quipped in. "It's funny how permanently disfiguring a small bit of skin can cause such desired psychological ramifications. Some may see it as a rather barbaric method, but its effectiveness cannot be disputed."

"'Funny? Small?' Easy words for someone who won't carry the mark of this evil place for the rest of his life," Lys sneered angrily at the doctor.

"Calm down Lysander. Everything that has been done to you has been nothing but a point in a sequence of well orchestrated events, designed to make you falter. By reacting so emotionally, you are giving them exactly what they want." Visser patronized.

"Last time I checked, they were not on the roof with me," the predictor snapped back. Visser wisely chose to remain silent, and Lys visibly relaxed when she realized the good doctor had backed off.

"Can you imagine trying to explain this at the beach? I guess my bikini days are over." Lys asked in a hushed tone, her face taking on a small smirk.

Jarod couldn't help but let a small grin escape at Lys' attempt to ease the tension. "Just cast it off as a mark of some crazy cult or cutthroat secret society. I hear that some people can be quite enthralled by people with a dark and mysterious past," he replied.

Lys chuckled as she lay down on her back, pointing her head in the direction of the late afternoon sun rays. "My mother and I spent many hours at the beach as I was growing up. She always used to say that there was nothing more freeing than staring out in an empty world. That no matter how big her problems were, they seemed insignificant compared to the breadth of the ocean."

Jarod also slid so he was lying down, ignoring Visser's scrutiny. He couldn't shake the gut feeling that the doctor was studying them, instead of being a silent observer to their casual conversation.

On his first trip to the beach, Jarod had been captivated by the ocean. There was just something magical about the gentle rhythm of waves hitting the sand, and staring out into something much bigger than you. He turned to Lys and smiled sadly, "Your mother sounds like she was a wonderful person."

Lys turned away, "As hard as it was for me to be taken from her, I can't imagine what it was like for her to lose me. I was all that she had left. When I was taken, we were planning our dream trip, a ski trip to the Canadian Rockies. I can't tell you how many times I've visualized that trip in my head, from the in-flight movies to what mini-shampoo bottles would be in our ski chalet."

Jarod closed his eyes as his own thoughts turned back to memories his family. It had been many days since he had afforded himself the luxury of conjuring up the images of his broken family. It brought back a feeling of yearning so profound that at times he felt as if he could no longer draw a single breath more in captivity.

Needing to shake off the strong emotions that were beginning to consume him, Jarod forced himself back up into a sitting position. He frowned as he observed Visser's piercing gaze was still focused on him and Lys. He turned towards the predictor, but her eyes were still closed. He would let her have her moment. They were few and far between.

"What now?" he asked the putatively disgraced doctor. "How do you propose we get from this rooftop, to the other side of that fence?"

"We wait," the older man replied as if it was the most obvious course of action. "We wait and hope that they don't begin a helicopter search before dusk. By the time they get a search grid coordinated we should be able to blend into the dark of night.

Jarod frowned as he once again peeked over the roof ledge, Visser giving no clue as to how they could penetrate the tight security around the perimeter of the complex. Three people trying to escape from the Triumvirate was like asking a chef to appreciate a Big Mac– impossibly hopeless.

"You think too much." Visser muttered, pulling Jarod out of his thoughts. "It's always the same with your type. You have to analyze and overanalyze everything to death. You try to find reason behind every action."

Jarod scowled back at him, "You do know what a pretender is, don't you?"

Visser gave a nod, "That's not the point. After so many years of isolation, most people would have cut and run the very second freedom was in their sights. You on the other hand stay within an arm's reach, flaunting your freedom inches from your pursuers. You had to understand everything – why you held prisoner for so many years, how you came to be at the Centre and exactly who were the mystical mummy and father figures that let you down by failing to protect you all of those years ago. "

"How do you know...?" Jarod trailed off as he was interrupted by Visser.

"I wasn't the only reason for the meeting I attended hours ago. I was just forced to be present; you and Lys were both discussed at length. You may have started off strong Jarod, but your girl here has them so puzzled, they've just given up. If it was an outwit and outlast competition, I think I would have to grant her the winning prize."

The heated exchange of words quickly pulled Lys out of her memories; her words were rapid and harsh as she scowled at the doctor. "Nothing about this is a contest. The only difference is Jarod still has something on this planet worth caring about. Take that away, and what motivation does anyone have to cooperate? Staying alive? It's hardly a bargain worth making."

Visser nodded with approval at Lys's words. "You could learn a thing or two from her Jarod. Everything Lys has done since she was aquired by the Conglomerate has been for herself. You are handcuffed to some illusion of family and belonging that you will never have. Your escape from the Centre was inspired, genius really. If you had grown a beard, dyed your hair and simply chosen to disappear that probably would have been the last any of us heard from you. You can't really tell me you are surprised to find yourself here, after everything you have done?"

Jarod frowned at Visser's blunt words. "I was stolen from my family, robbed of the chance to grow up with parents. A person should never forget where they came from. I needed answers. There is no mistake in that." Jarod kept his tone low and dangerous, an unspoken warning to the elderly doctor that he was skirting a line that should not be crossed.

Visser shook his head, "No, you wanted answers; you've never needed anything beyond your freedom. Face it Jarod, you've been chasing a fairytale all of these years. You could have disappeared, started over, maybe even started a family of your own, but instead you've wasted six years and what has it gotten you, a few hours with your father, a dead brother and a few sightings of dear old mum?"

Jarod thumped his fist against the roof ledge in frustration, needing an outlet for the ball of antagonism and fury that was swelling on the inside. "Obviously someone of your background can't be made to understand such emotions as love and compassion. When you've had everything stolen from you, you fight to get it back. And as long as there is a chance, I will never stop fighting." His fists remained clenched as he glared at the elderly doctor.

Visser chuckled, "Look around you? This is your life, and will likely be your life for as long as you are still breathing. You could be living some peaceful existence on some long forgotten island in the sun, but you traded it all for the "happily-ever-after" ending you were never entitled too."

Jarod tensed, preparing to launch himself at the older man, but Lys sensed his mounting rage and stepped between him and the doctor. Jarod's suspicions were multiplying by the second, his mind quickly connecting the dots that something about this rooftop scene was very very wrong.

"He's not worth it Jarod, none of them are." The predictor whispered into his ear, giving his bicep a gentle squeeze before turning around and focusing her attention fully on Visser.

"For a person who is allegedly leading a rescue brigade, threatening someone with life time imprisonment in Africa is hardly a recommended course of action." Lys observed with disapproval.

The older doctor looked as if he was about to say something, but changed his mind, instead moving over to the edge to check if their little scuffle had attracted any unwanted attention.

"It's because he's not really the saint that's here to help us escape, isn't it?" Jarod asked accusingly. The final alarm bell had gone off in his head, one that should have sounded hours ago. The older man's callous remarks were just the icing on one very suspicious looking cake.

Visser shrugged off Jarod's accusation. "I'm a realist. Miracles don't happen, not here anyways."

"You got that right." Lys added with a snort.

"What is it? Are you using us to attempt to fall back into good graces with your superiors?" Jarod pressed.

"Don't insult me with your speculative guesses." Visser warned.

"Well then you are going to help us out, because nothing about what's happened in the past few hours makes any kind of sense," Jarod spat back.

Visser just crossed his arms stubbornly. "I can see my acts of kindness towards you the past few weeks have meant nothing."

"I never wanted your attention. All I've ever wanted was to be goddamn left alone!" Jarod enunciated his words carefully, unwilling to raise his voice should it attract attention from the frenzied search going on below.

"Wake up Jarod. You are far too valuable to be left alone. Whether you are under our control or not, you'll never stop looking over your shoulder. But I do commend you; your accusation came about forty-five minutes earlier than Henrik estimated it would."

"Estimation?" Jarod asked with a deep snarl, Lys stepping closer to him, as they stared down the older doctor.

"Congratulations Jarod. You were right. Nothing about this escape was real. You're both nothing but two rats running a maze designed specifically for you to ignite more suffering into your pathetic little lives."

That was all Jarod needed to hear, he charged towards the doctor, only to stop short as his forehead met the barrel of one very loaded gun. "Easy now," Visser warned, smiling in satisfaction as Jarod took a non-threatening step back to join Lys.

"So - you cut a deal. What did they promise you, a promotion?" Jarod asked gruffly, his head held high in defiance.

Visser nodded, "You hit that nail on the head. Unfortunately they didn't count on one very important factor."

"What's that?" Lys asked in an equally defiant tone.

"I'm not as desperate, or as stupid as I may have appeared. Only an idiot would cut a deal, and expect it to be upheld with the highest of ethical standards. No, two minutes ago it stopped being their mind game, and became mine."

Visser cocked his gun smoothly and gestured towards where they were standing. Jarod and Lys looked helplessly at each other, before reluctantly laying face down on the roof top.

"What now?" Jarod muttered from his compromised position, still managing to malevolently glare at the doctor.

"I have a few lessons in corporate politics to teach. If you two want to live through the night, I suggest you keep your mouths shut and obey every command. "

Jarod laid down his head, looking at Lys hopelessly. Just a rat running a maze, he understood what this game was about. The only thing crueller than keeping someone from his greatest desire, is to flash it in his face, make him think it was his, and then and only then - snatch it away. It is what the Africans had concocted. They had thrown freedom in his face, made him believe it was his for the taking and now it was gone.

The emotions were too much to process, the fear, the hesitation and then that small glimmer of hope. It was nothing but a charade. Jarod should have suspected that they would have brought in the same pretender that had observed him during the whole Corporation Zero situation. It was likely that every breath he had taken had been observed and scrutinized. It all made sense now, the communal cell, the degrading treatment. What Jarod had cast off as status quo treatment by the Triumvirate was likely a carefully planned and executed step by step program to make him waiver.

The worst of it was, it worked.

Jarod didn't have to be a genius to know that this night was not going to end well, for any of them. Visser may have some ridiculous scheme to conquer them all, but it was just not how it was going to end.

In the end, Africa always won.