Cause and Effect by chopsticks
Summary: With the arrival of two not-quite-familiar twins to the game, Jarod and the Retrieval Team are about to make some discoveries they never could have imagined, and be placed in the crosshairs of a man they barely know, but fear anyway.
Categories: Post Pretender 2001 Characters: All the characters, Original Character
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Suspence/Mystery
Warnings: Warning: Character Death, Warning: Violence
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: No Word count: 9873 Read: 4960 Published: 13/07/05 Updated: 20/09/05

1. Beginning by chopsticks

2. Truth by chopsticks

3. Revelations Part One by chopsticks

Beginning by chopsticks
Disclaimer: I do not own The Pretender or anything affiliated with it. It is owned by TNT, NBC, and Steve and Craig. No profit is being made from this, and no infringement is intended.

Spoilers:
Anything up through “The Pretender 2001” is fair game.
Author’s Notes: I found this on a disk and felt creative (or perhaps I was just avoiding working on my other wips) and finished this off. It’s…interesting. Yes, interesting. It has to be posted in parts, since it's rather long and I don't wish to overload you with a really massive chapter. Go ahead and have a read, then tell me what you think, good or bad. Con crit is always welcomed!

Summary: With the arrival of two not-quite-familiar twins to the game, Jarod and the Retrieval Team are about to make some discoveries they never could have imagined, and be placed in the crosshairs of a man they barely know, but fear anyway.

Cause and Effect
by: chopsticks
p g – 1 3

-----


She hadn’t been out that long—a few years—but she still searched. She searched for her lost sister; her lost twin. They had been separated when they were five and she never forgot the pain caused by that separation. She did not know what her sister currently looked like, but she still gave a description to people she met on the street. It had been years, and she still hadn’t had any luck. But that never stopped her from searching, even though with each passing year it was more and more unlikely that her sister was still alive.

Her sister; her twin.

Her thoughts drifted back to the one memory she had of her sister, and it wasn’t a happy one.

"Help Me!"
"Noooo!"


She sniffled as tears that would never fall and memories arose of what had happened that day. It had been such an ordinary day in their blissfully ordinary lives. Their parents let them go out to play at the local park, just two blocks away from their house. They skipped happily down the sidewalk, never noticing the black car that followed them. They had gotten one block from their house when her sister noticed a quarter lying on the ground. She bent to pick it up, and that was when it happened. Three men jumped out of the car and grabbed them, putting their hands over their mouths to silence them. There were white handkerchiefs in the hands that went over their mouths, suffocating her and her sister. She remembered the faint scent of what she would later learn was chloroform before everything went black. When she woke up again, she was somewhere she didn’t recognize and her sister was gone.

Years later, she discovered just exactly what that place was. She, like many of the other people there, had been fed a lie for nearly twenty years. The amount of time she had spent helping those bastards still pained her to this day. The guilt over what she had helped them to accomplish slowly ate away at her, leaving her consistently trapped in the darkness of depression.

Depression was, of course, not unfamiliar to her. Her life had been spent in its strangling grip, controlling every aspect of her being. Her sister, always being the stronger of the two, had no had that problem—at least that she knew of.

She had barely seen her sister over the last twenty years, and, of all the unexpected meetings that existed in her recent memory, she always remembered her sister as being cheerful and happy, while she had been morose and despondent.

It was as if, somehow, they had been leading entirely different lives in the same dark place. On a level of her consciousness she rarely ventured, so twisted and manipulated by him was she, she knew that they had led very different lives, even to this day. As far as she knew, her sister was working for The Centre.

She hated the place with a passion, but she also knew it was impossible to fully escape its grip. The organization of it was so nearly-perfect that it could conceivably stand for a millennia, run by shadowy figures with nonsense names from vague areas of the world.

So, like so many others, she was resigned to servitude. Her master/handler/mentor/whatever you wished to call him reminded her of that fact. She would never be truly free. There was no freedom in The Centre, only the appearance of it. The unreal was real, the real the unreal. Such was life.

So now here she stood in the sunshine, quietly and invisibly observing. She had been given a new job (a duty, he called it), and it was one she was finally being trusted with. If she was capable of anything more than the faintest glimmer of happiness, she would be quite pleased right now.

Despite how much she objected to what she always had to do, she did it anyway. Doing her duty would allow her to continue her search, and in this instance, she might get a little help before completing her task. She was a Pretender, and anything was possible for one of her kind. She despised the “art” of Pretending, but would do it anyway. It was a means to an end.

Now all that was needed was to wait for the proper moment.

-----


"Miss Parker!"

"What is it, Broots?" Miss Parker asked, pivoting on her heel in the long corridor and waiting for Broots to catch up. He side-stepped a janitor mopping the floor and avoided a near accident, until he slipped on the freshly mopped floor and fell on Miss Parker. Papers went flying everywhere as the files Broots had been holding slipped from his grasp. Miss Parker shoved him off of her, sending him sprawling to the marble floor where he landed with a grunt.

"Mm, sorry, Miss Parker."

"You better be," she replied, giving him her coldest glare as he got up from the floor. "Well?"

"Well what?" he asked, then realized what she meant. "Oh, right!"

Parker just rolled her eyes and motioned for him to continue.

"Um, you’re not gonna believe this. I intercepted a memo from Mr. Raines to your father about a project!"

"Well, what else is new, Broots? There have got to be hundreds of ongoing projects in The Centre!" Miss Parker growled, annoyed that Broots brought something this inane to her attention.

"Miss Parker, it’s about Jarod and you!"

"What? Let me see that." Miss Parker reached over and grabbed the papers out of Broots’ shaking hands, quickly glancing at them.

"What? How. . . I thought that Project Gemini ended when Jarod’s clone escaped The Centre," Miss Parker responded, disbelief in her voice at the latest information about Raines and her father.

"Well, that’s the weird thing about it! It’s not about Jarod’s clone. It’s about two twins that apparently were released from The Centre a year after Jarod escaped. Apparently, they were the real Project Gemini! The clone was the second project by that name, and was used as a cover for the real project!" Broots blurted out as they resumed walking down the corridor.

"And why is this important to me?" Parker asked, not seeing how this information affected her.

"These two girls, the twins, they’re Pretenders too. In fact, they’re kinda like Ethan, just not as screwed up."

Miss Parker quickly brushed away the tear that surfaced from the mention of Ethan’s name. He was dead and gone; had been for two months now. Two months had passed since Raines found him and made sure that his prized project wouldn’t be able to help her find the truth about her mother, but it still hurt.

"So, you’re telling me that these two girls could be my sisters?" Parker asked, incredulous over the idea that she may have more siblings she didn’t know about. Sometimes it seemed as if her family tree would never stop sprouting random branches from her mother’s.

"Yeah," he mumbled as they reached her office. Though it wasn’t vocalized, the term “clone” hung heavily in the air between the two companions.

"Broots, I want you to go find as much information as you can about these two girls. I want to know them like the back of my hand by yesterday, got it?" she ordered him before she entered her office.

"Yes, Miss Parker," he said to the closing office door before scurrying away to do her bidding.

The door clicked shut behind her, a soft, whooshing emanating from it as it sealed. The new information from Broots shocked her, but not as much as it should have. The idea that she had been cloned did not seem all that far-fetched; in fact, she had to admit that she had kind of been expecting it. Once they had discovered the clone—he was now being called Jake, according to Jarod—and the cloning facility at Donoterase, the wait for the discovery of her own clone began.

If these two girls were her clones, of course. But it made logical sense, didn’t it? There was no one else that would have been a better candidate to clone, in her mind. Perhaps it was her pride talking, but she felt that somehow, she meant far more to The Centre than anyone was letting on. So she simply made the natural assumption that these twins were her clones.

So, two years later, her search was not meant with disappointment, it seemed. She prepared herself a drink and downed it easily, the liquor burning her throat with its corrosive strength. She would wait for Broots to dig up some more information, then determine a course of action.

All that was needed was to wait.

She opened her e-mail and skimmed through it, stopping at a message from her father. It was a summons to his office for some kind of meeting. Great. But perhaps she could get some answers from him about this business.

She intended to use this summons to its fullest. She contemplated ways to bring up the issue as she made her way to his office, though in the end she decided to play doting daughter with a nagging “Daddy I don’t know what to do about this!” question, as always.

"Hello, Angel," Mr. Parker greeted his daughter as she entered his office, the doors sliding closed behind her.

"Hi, Daddy," Miss Parker said as she went up to hug her father. He accepted her hug, but only for a minute. She stepped back and looked at him. He was doing better since he had been shot by Alex. He was finally able to get back to work, which was a good thing considering that in Mr. Parker’s absence, Mr. Lyle had been in charge of The Centre. She shuddered mentally at everything that had happened since Lyle had taken charge again. She reflected back to something Broots had said when Lyle had first appeared, and all of the subsequent power struggles and disappearances that had plagued The Centre since.

"There are more bodies dropping around here then at the Valentine’s Day massacre."

She was jarred from her absent-minded thoughts when her father spoke to her again. "You alright, Angel?"

"Angel,” she thought bitterly. What right does he have to call me that?

As soon as the thought had entered her mind she brushed it aside. This man had been—was—her father for as long as she could remember. Plus, Alex was probably just trying to get to her, and it was working, unfortunately. She remembered that her father had asked how she was and quickly replied:

"I’m fine, Daddy. Why did you want to see me?" she asked curiously, taking a seat in the chair situated in front of the desk.

"Ah! Well-" he started, but the buzzing of the intercom interrupted him and forced him to hold up his hand to her as he asked the secretary what was going on.

"Your ten o’clock is here," the secretary simply answered, sounding mildly distracted.

"Ah! Send her in. Angel, I would like for you to meet the newest member of your team, Ava," Mr. Parker motioned towards the woman who had just entered the office. She had dishwater blond hair pulled back into a tight bun just below the crown of her head. She was about three inches taller than five feet, but she stood much taller with her heels on. She was wearing a gray dress suit and a metallic blue shirt beneath the fitted blazer. Her disconcerting green eyes scanned the room, and then landed on the other woman. She flashed a white smile at Miss Parker, though there seemed to be a note of cheery displeasure lacing the pearly sight. Miss Parker gave her a fake smile and then turned to her father.

"Daddy, I really don’t think we need another member in the hunt for Jarod. We’ve been doing fine-"

"Oh, be a sport, Angel!” he cut her off, something she had always hated but once again held her tongue about. “She’ll be a great asset to the team, and will hopefully help bring in Jarod quicker than you seem to be able to," her father said as he moved to stand in between Ava and Miss Parker.

Ava decided that she should argue her own case and piped in: "I look forward to working with you. I understand that you are not a person to be reckoned with, so I’ll keep off your toes."

Miss Parker simply glared at her, then rose and moved past the two. She left, slamming the door whooshing silently shut behind her. There was no way that little witch was going to take over her hunt, not if she had anything to say about it.

-----


Jarod sighed and fell back onto his make-shift bed. His last pretend had been a strenuous one and all he wanted to do now was to sleep for days. Searching for missing children always made him feel this way. The only real consolation was that he had found and reunited the little girl with her family. The family’s joy had given him hope that there was still happiness and innocence in the world. And that was all he was surviving on lately.

The Centre had been chasing him more fanatically than ever before. It almost seemed like they were suddenly afraid he would do something or discover something he shouldn’t, but it didn’t make any sense to him. One would think that if they were afraid he would leak information about The Centre or something like that, they would have been coming after him like that when he first escaped. But then again, nothing made sense to Jarod anymore.

Everything in his life seemed to be coming apart. He had no idea where his father, the clone—who was now called Jake, a name of the boy’s own choosing—and Emily were, and that confrontation with Alex had taken a lot out of him. He had spent the better part of the last several months desperately searching for the answers to the questions that had been raised by Alex and that picture.

That picture was the source of most of his troubles. The picture of his mother and Catherine Parker had raised more questions than he had ever thought possible. Did his mother and Catherine know each other? Were they friends? Were they sisters?

Jarod didn’t have any answers to these questions, and it was possible that he never would. Where The Centre was concerned, nothing was ever the same as it would be on the outside. On the outside, people didn’t hunt others down like animals; they didn’t try to keep a person away from their family. The Centre did. They tore apart families, hunted people down, and destroyed friendships.

On that disturbing thought, Jarod slipped into a nightmare-filled slumber, as always.

When he awoke an unknown amount of time later, he felt vaguely disoriented and out of place, like he had been drugged. It didn’t take him long to figure out that he was handcuffed to the bed he had fallen asleep on. He must have been drugged, he realized as the grogginess quickly wore off and panic took its place.

Oh no. . . he thought to himself as he looked up at his hands and gently tugged, testing the strength of the handcuffs. He sighed and scanned the room, his eyes coming to rest on a figure in the corner. His or her features were shrouded in darkness so that all he could make out was the form of the person who had put him in this position. He squinted as he tried to discern who it was in the corner, but he didn’t need to. The person, now revealed to be a young woman, came out of the shadows.

"Hello, Jarod," she said softly, her voice having a musical tone to it.

"Who are you?" he asked, wondering what this woman would do to him and just how exactly she knew who he was. Better yet, he would love to know how she had found him.

"That’s not important. I need your help. Will you help me, Jarod?" she begged of him, moving closer to the bed revealing that she had dishwater blond hair. She was quite short but he assumed that was probably made up for in strength. Her eyes were green and seemed to be staring right through him to his soul. He shuddered slightly as the thought crossed his mind, as well as the certain knowledge that she could see his soul, but it disappeared and he quickly recovered.

"Depends what kind of help you need."

"I need your help to find my sister," was her simple reply.

"Un-cuff me first," he said, making a show of rattling the handcuffs. She sighed and reached into her pocket, pulling out the key and moving to the side of the bed. She gingerly lifted his arms and undid the cuffs, letting his hands fall back to the bed. She put the cuffs into the pocket of her short leather jacket, along with the key. She was dressed casually, wearing jeans and a white tank top. She had casual flip-flops on her feet, perfect for the warm weather outside. In short, she looked nothing like the type of person that would be sent by The Centre.

"How do you know who I am?" he asked curiously, ready to run if necessary.

"You’re quite infamous at The Centre, Jarod. Everyone knows who you are."

"You work at The Centre?" Jarod asked, fear once again creeping into his voice. He had been easily deceived by her appearance, it seemed. He unconsciously moved off the bed and a little closer to the door opposite the bed.

"No. I was released shortly after you escaped. I’ve spent the last four years searching for my twin sister, Ava. I haven’t seen her since we were children, when we were abducted by The Centre," she said, the pain of twenty years beginning to swallow her voice.

"I’m sorry. I know what that feels like," Jarod said, moving closer and laying a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"I know. That’s why I came to you for help. Well, it’s one of the reasons. Will you help me?" she asked as she looked at him through tear-filled eyes.

"Yes, yes I will."

-----

to be continued.

feedback welcomed at spacedoutwriter@hotmail.com
Truth by chopsticks
Disclaimer and other information in part one.

-----


"Broots!" Miss Parker called as she entered his hole.

"Yes, Miss Parker?" he asked, nervously wiping at the coffee that he had spilled when she came in.

"I want you to find every scrap of information on a new member of our team, some girl named Ava," she ground out through gritted teeth.

"Yes, Miss Parker."

"And how are you coming with that information on the real Project Gemini?"

"Um, I found a lot of interesting stuff. Most of this is thanks to my friend Max down in file storage."

"Which one was that again?" Miss Parker asked, rubbing her thumb and forefinger over the bridge of her nose, trying to keep get rid of her now massive headache.

"You know, the one with the clicking dentures. He’s always griping about how he can’t eat anything and-"

"I got it, Broots! What’d you find?"

"Um, apparently these two girls were born at The Centre and then shipped off to some foster family. It appears that they wanted to study what would happen if twins as gifted as they are were separated from each other after a few years together."

"Mmm, well, keep searching. And be sure to be on the look-out for any leads on Jarod," With that final order she turned and exited the room, planning to head back to her office and have some Advil and vodka. On her way, she bumped into the one person she did not want to see.

"Hello, Miss Parker," Ava said, smiling at her.

"Mmph." Miss Parker just kept on walking, determined not to let the day get any worse.

"I think I may have found a lead on Jarod!" Ava called after her retreating back. Miss Parker stopped instantly and turned to face the newest member of her group.

"Really? Where?"

"Sacramento."

Miss Parker groaned and walked up to the girl. "How did you find this out?"

"I have my methods," was the only answer Ava would give her. She couldn’t let Miss Parker catch on to her true motives for joining the team; Mr. Parker and her current handler would not be happy if she did.

"Wonderful," Miss Parker replied, rolling her eyes at the evasive statement. "Get the jet ready, we leave in an hour. And make sure that Broots and Sydney are ready as well."

"Okay!" Ava responded, faking exuberance and heading back the way she came.

"Great," Miss Parker mumbled, massaging her temples. She soon followed Ava down the same corridor to her office. She definitely needed that vodka and Advil now.

-----


"Okay, this is all the information I could find on your sister so far," Jarod said to the blonde standing next to him. He picked up the freshly-printed papers and handed them to her, watching as she flipped through all the information.

"Thank you," she said sincerely before heading over to the chair situated in the corner of the room.

"You’re welcome," he responded, but she was oblivious, having already focused all her attention on the papers she held in her hands.

Jarod sighed and got up and stretched. He had spent the past two hours in front of the computer, hacking into The Centre’s mainframe several times to get the required information for this woman. He had no clue as to who she was, since she still hadn’t told him her name, only her sister’s. All he knew was that her family had been ripped apart by The Centre just like his was, and he wanted to do everything possible to put that family back together again.

He grabbed a water bottle out of the fridge and sat down in front of the computer again to continue searching. He had only been able to find a few references to the name she had given, but each one was filled with references to numerous projects. The one that stuck out the most to him was the reference to Project Gemini. It was all the motivation he needed to perform a more thorough search immediately.

He had relinquished the information to her with barely a quick scan of it. He was far more interested in finding out whom and what she was.

He began to hack deeper into The Centre, the eerie calm that always came when he used his abilities washing over him. Finally, after several minutes of tedious work, he came across the files relating to Project Gemini.

He nearly gasped aloud in shock. What he was reading couldn’t be true, and yet it was. He now could explain the feeling of familiarity that had haunted him from the moment he laid eyes on this mysterious stranger.

She was Faith, or at least another version of her. They had cloned the little girl that had been so, so sick when he and Parker came across her with the help of Angelo.

He snuck a glance at her. She was deeply enthralled by the information he had given her, and so was oblivious to his piercing gaze. That is what she would have looked like had she not been so terribly ill; had she not died well before her time. He almost dared not believe it, but this was The Centre, and anything was possible.

He looked back at the screen and noted that there had been a recent addition to the file dated a little over a year ago. With interest, he clicked on it.

The update was just a copy of a memo stating that the twin’s handlers had changed. Andrea was now being handled by Mr. Lyle, while Ava was being handled by Mr. Cox. He still wasn’t sure which girl was which, but he had a feeling Andrea was the girl sitting a short distance from him. Her mood just seemed to fit with the form of control Lyle favored. He probably had found an extraordinary number of ways to torture this girl with promises of family and escape, therefore keeping her in a constant state of suffering servitude.

Which meant that her sister was Ava, and was controlled (They may call it “handled” in the files, but Jarod knew the truth of what they were doing.) by the mysterious Mr. Cox. Despite all of his searches, he had been able to turn up nary a droplet of information on this man. It was as if he had just appeared out of thin air and dropped into their lives, then just kind of stuck to the shadows and ignored everybody. He hadn’t even heard anything about the man in at least eight months, possibly longer. And yet, here he was, suddenly popping up right in front of him at such an unexpected moment, like a crazed jack-in-the-box.

He had a bad feeling about all of this. If he could help it, he would like very much to not step on Mr. Cox’s toes, but he also knew the man needed to be stopped, especially if he was in control of this woman’s sister. Even though he knew Faith had been harmless—just a little girl suffering from a horrible disease—and of no real interest to The Centre, he also knew that they had a way of twisting even the most innocent of people. If this woman had been twisted by The Centre, then the project would need to be stopped or even destroyed, much like SL-27.

How to go about that, though, he had no idea.

-----


"Mr. Parker, are you sure that was a wise decision?" Raines wheezed to his superior.

"Are you questioning my authority, Raines?" Mr. Parker demanded of the invalid in front of him.

"I believe I have every right to," Raines growled back at Mr. Parker.

"Then perhaps you would like to end up in Renewal Wing," Mr. Parker ground out, sending an icy glare at Raines. As soon as the words left Mr. Parker’s mouth, Raines felt a slight fear build up in him, though he would never show it. He returned the glare and left, determined not to let his prized project get into the wrong hands. Already it had been put under the supervision of two people he believed to be wholly inadequate and incompetent, if recent events meant anything, for the job. Now they were both assigned to this travesty!

Raines had the twins do some rather deplorable things in the last twenty years, but not even he had been willing to order them to do anything of this magnitude. Now Mr. Parker was usurping his power (what little he had left, that was) and had not only given each girl a different handler a little over a year ago, but then he released them fully, which Raines had never been willing to do (The girls were far too volatile for the outside world, much like Kyle had been.), and sent them off to do personal missions.

And now. . .this.

Perhaps it was time Raines regained some of his power, even if it meant another needed to lose it. He had his own mission for his girls.

Now he just needed a way to contact them.

-----


“Syd!” the man called out from behind him, scurrying up to him. Sydney turned around and waited for the younger man to continue.

Broots’ voice dropped to a lower whisper, and he leaned in closer to Sydney. “Do you know about the latest revelation of Project Gemini?”

“Yes,” Sydney replied in an equally low tone. He had been made aware of it when he ran into Parker earlier. She had informed him, in a rather unpleasant tone, that they were going to Sacramento. He had immediately noticed that she was not feeling well and had asked after her health. She replied, telling him everything they had learned thus far. Same old song and dance.

“Well, I found out some more and. . . Sydney, you’re never going to believe this! The twins are actually clones of Faith!”

The news hit Sydney like a tree on a house, and he actually had to remind himself to breathe. Clones of Faith! The truth of this would be a sizable blow to Miss Parker. The knowledge that it wasn’t her that had been cloned but her adoptive sister would just be another addition to the list of betrayals she had suffered. Sydney, after all these years and all these betrayals, feared for her sanity.

“My God. . .” Sydney said slowly, the news still reverberating in his brain. “Does Miss Parker know yet?”

“No, I haven’t gotten a chance to tell her. I was hoping to tell her on the plane, but as it turns out Ava is gonna be along as well.”

“Why does that matter?” Sydney asked in confusion, his brow crinkling.

“Because Ava is one of the twins!” Broots exclaimed eagerly, albeit quietly, obviously glad to be sharing this information with another.

With that revelation, everything seemed to fall into place for Sydney. He knew she looked vaguely familiar, though if anyone had asked him he would have been unable to tell him or her why. Now he knew. And he also knew the danger that it posed.

“Broots, do you realize just how dangerous these two can be? If they have the same abilities as Faith. . . ” Sydney trailed off, allowing the information to sink in. Both he and Broots knew what the girl had been capable of, and if The Centre had indeed managed to clone her and make those abilities stable. . . . The thought was too horrible to continue.

“My God! And at least one of them was brought in to help capture Jarod, but who knows what her true mission is!” Broots exclaimed worriedly. “Sydney, we need to tell Miss Parker not only this but the truth about Faith!” They had both decided to withhold information from their boss about her sister. When they had discovered it, she was still in a fragile state, recovering from everything that had happened so quickly to her. By the time she was well enough there were more pressing secrets to be revealed.

“I know, but we can’t just yet. I think we need to learn as much as we can about these two as quickly as possible.”

“Well, it’ll have to wait,” Broots said in a low tone once again, his eyes darting to something or someone beyond Sydney’s head. “I think we’re going to Sacramento.”

“It’s good to know you at least sometimes listen to me,” Miss Parker said, coming up to the duo. Without waiting for a response, she turned to Sydney and said, “Are you ready to go?”

“Of course,” Sydney replied amiably.

“Good, then let’s go!” a cheery voice from behind Broots declared. Broots nearly jumped a foot at the sound of her voice, while Miss Parker merely closed her eyes in irritation. This was going to be a long trip.

“Yes, let’s,” Sydney supplied, smiling widely.

The group made its way to the jet in complete silence, no one daring to utter a word. When they got onto the jet, Ava had for some reason decided to seat herself next to Miss Parker, an act that only served to strain Parker’s already frayed nerves even more.

Miss Parker did not like this latest addition to the group, and had a childish hope that if she just ignored Ava she would simply just disappear or go away. Although, Miss Parker had to admit, the girl was proving slightly useful.

She had come up with a solid lead on Jarod, though she wouldn’t say how she had found out about this lead, citing her “unnamed sources” instead. She had also managed to actually find both Broots and Sydney when they were ready to leave, a task that normally would have taken Miss Parker a good ten to fifteen minutes to accomplish, since the two were almost never anywhere to be seen when needed. Both had then eagerly tagged along, especially in Broots’ case. She had a feeling that Broots had finally found a new object of his attraction in this latest addition to their team.

She smiled slightly at this thought. Maybe now Broots would stop pining after her, which was a very good thing. Sometimes she almost felt bad for not returning his affections, especially after everything he’d been through in the last six months or so. Besides being left on the side of the road by Jarod--which still amazed her to this day, he had also managed to get lost for nearly a month out in the middle of nowhere. He eventually found his way back home to his relieved daughter and coworkers, but it was soon revealed that when he was left on the road he had only been a few miles from Blue Cove itself, but somehow had wandered off into the surrounding states, finally making a loop back into Delaware.

He claimed that he had been unable to make contact, but Miss Parker often found herself wondering if perhaps he had simply cracked under the strain of the last few years and had just wandered around like a vagrant, not entirely knowing what it was he was doing. With The Centre, anything was possible.

That line of thought brought her back to the recent discovery made by Broots. There might be two other versions of her running around out there doing God knows what. The thought was terrifying. She now thought she knew exactly how Jarod had felt when he found out about his own clone.

She had to admit that, if she really was cloned, she had no idea what she would do. She had been expecting it for some time, so her reaction would be fairly blasť, but what would she actually do?

That, she realized, was a very good question.

-----


Seated next to Miss Parker, Ava had a pretty good hold on the entire situation. She knew what her orders were, and she was going to follow them through.

Her directive had changed just a bit though. Upon finding out that the other operative (My wayward sister, she thought, then nearly laughed.) had found but failed to eliminate Jarod, Mr. Lyle and Mr. Cox jointly decided to send her after the two of them while still remaining with her own target.

Therefore, if everything went as planned, she would have eliminated not only one person but three. The prospect was rapturous to her.

She had also been made aware, though not necessarily through words, that the three people she was sitting with had been doing a little digging and had managed to stumble across Project Gemini and possibly had found out about her. If they had, they hadn’t given anything away in their mannerisms yet, but that, she had found, never really meant a whole lot anyway. People were remarkably good at controlling their reactions around other people, especially if they knew something they shouldn’t.

Lucky for her, she had an easy solution to all of this. She continued to pretend to read the file in front of her, while in reality she was allowing her mind to reach out toward the woman next to her. She gently allowed her mind to touch upon Parker’s, and all of the other woman’s thoughts and feelings came rushing into Ava’s head. It was rather disconcerting, but she loved it anyway. It was exhilarating.

She imagined herself in a white room and allowed all of the information to swirl around her. She began to reach out to random bits, the information projecting itself on the wall across from her. She continued to do this, quickly and adeptly sorting through the information, a mark of her excellent training, and picked out the important stuff. Her mental self grinned and it nearly translated to her physical self, but she had excellent self-control in this state and quickly tempered it before it could give her away. As it turned out, at the moment, Miss Parker thought that the twins mentioned in Project Gemini were really clones of herself, and she had no idea as to the real identity of either of them.

Very good.

Ava let her mind relax and pulled away from Miss Parker’s. They would be landing shortly, and then everything would be put into motion. Her handler would be quite proud.

-----


Andrea barely noticed that Jarod was still in the room and was still searching for information. She was completely engrossed in the information he had just printed out for her. There were several reports along with many memos regarding her and her sister, though there was only one picture of them when they were first brought in. The Centre had apparently not updated the photos in years, though she couldn’t understand why. However, when it came to The Centre, she never understood why the majority of the time.

Her eyes were attracted to a recent memo between Mr. Raines, her handler, and a man whom she could only assume was Ava’s handler. She quickly scanned it, part of it being nothing new to her. The first bit was about her own particular mission, the one she had put on hold for a few hours to find out more information about her sister. The second part, though, stunned her. Once again, she couldn’t understand the why.

She knew she needed to tell Jarod. This sort of thing simply couldn’t be left alone, but if she showed him the memo, she would surely blow her own cover. Even though she didn’t give a damn about the mission she had been assigned right now, she also knew that if he read what she had been assigned to do, he would probably kill her. Or at least make it very difficult for her to move for quite a while.

Nevertheless, she knew, and knew very well, that she needed to tell the man sitting not ten feet from her. It was vitally important to everybody that she did. She could only hope that she could keep him calm enough to deal with the situation rationally. She despised using her “powers,” as Mr. Lyle referred to them, but she also knew that sometimes there was no other choice.

This was, unfortunately, one of those times for her.

“Jarod?” she said lightly, turning toward him and preparing for one hell of a mental struggle. If he was as strong as Mr. Raines had made him out to be, this could be interesting.

And dangerous.

“Yes?” he asked, and she realized that she had never told him her actual name. It was probably for the best at the moment.

“I found something here that-“

She was cut off by the slamming of car doors outside.

-----

to be continued.

feedback welcomed at spacedoutwriter@hotmail.com
Revelations Part One by chopsticks
Disclaimer and other information in part one.

-----


Jarod quickly moved to the window and looked out. A wave of terror and adrenaline shot through him as he recognized the people standing outside of a black sedan. He quickly turned from the window and began snatching up key items scattered throughout the room. He had not been prepared for them to arrive yet!

“Hurry,” he said to the girl, “The Centre’s here. We need to move!” He grabbed the DSA player and began heading toward the door, doing a final scan of the room as he walked through it.

“Jarod, wait!” she called out, closing her eyes and summoning all of her strength. She only hoped it would be enough.

“C’mon, we need to leave!” he cried urgently, turning to face her. He noticed her closed eyes, but his mind barely had time to process this before a powerful force took over. Suddenly he found it very difficult to think.

“I’m sorry, Jarod, but this is the way it must be.” With that final statement, she began to drive herself into his mind, destroying his thoughts, emotions, and memories as she was flung through his consciousness. In her mind, she saw a whiteboard slowly being cleaned, streaks of marker untold years old just lifting off the surface, no trace of their presence left behind.

She cried out slightly with the enormous effort required. He was beginning to resist her, just as she had feared he might. She pushed harder, fully aware that time was running out. She was faintly aware of the Retrieval Team entering the building. With one final effort, his defenses were crushed and his mind was completely ruined.

The Centre would be. He was once again a blank slate for their exclusive use, even more so than when he was a child. She placed a simple directive in his mind, Return to The Centre with the incoming team, and quickly left the room. She was, under no circumstances, to allow her presence to be known to other Centre personnel.

Jarod remained standing where he was, blankly staring at the wall, waiting for the team to take him back.

Andrea hurried down the hall, reaching out with her mind to find an empty room. She quickly located one four doors down. She stopped at the door and, using her sheer mental will, forced the lock to unlock. She opened the door and rushed in, the sound of the elevator arriving seeping through the door just as she closed it.

“Shit,” she said quietly, relocking the door and backing away from it. She allowed her sense to take her into the hallway where she quickly identified each member of the team.

What surprised her the most, but also the least, was the presence of her sister. It was, she figured, only right that the girl she had been looking for all this time would now just appear, and only at the most inconvenient of times.

She quickly masked her mind, hoping she hadn’t left herself defenseless long enough for her sister to sense her presence. Ava was, as far as she could tell, not quite as powerful since her abilities were based in her emotions and the emotions of those around her. She lived to please, and that translated through to her abilities.

Andrea, on the other hand, had no such problem. She had no need to please those around her. She did as she was told, yes, but only because it suited her to remain breathing. While she carried out her little missions, though, she was also carrying out personal ones. She knew that the small changes she made weren’t very important, but she also knew they were building up slowly to undermine the demon that was The Centre.

This brought her mind back to Jarod, the former genius that was now just an empty shell thanks to her. It was a pity that this had to happen to him—she rather liked him, plus he was cute—but she knew better than to mess with such a prized object of The Centre. His demise would not be her own.

She moved to the only window in the small room and looked out, hoping the Retrieval Team was on its merry way already. She watched as Jarod was escorted out sans handcuffs by the ever-gruff Miss Parker, the rest of her team following behind. The blonde in the group instantly caught her attention.

That’s my sister, she thought absent-mindedly, and, for a fraction of a second, her guard went down. Unfortunately, it was enough.

Ava stopped dead in her tracks, instantly sensing the presence of someone else. Someone watching them. She had only caught the tail end of a thought, but it was enough to tell her who the unknown person was. Her mental self smiled grimly. Andrea was here, and she had done the job she had been given. Fine. She would live to see another day. The Jarod as he had once been was ruined, something the three bumbling idiots in front of her were unaware of. That was well enough for now.

But what to do about her beloved sister?

A few brief seconds of consideration led her to a simple answer: She would stay with her original mark and await orders as to what to do next.

As if somehow reading her thoughts, her cell phone chirped happily in her pocket, telling her that a new text message had been received. She pulled out the phone and accessed the message, reading it quickly. She needed to hurry, for she knew the others would become impatient if she dawdled much longer, though they seemed to be fully engrossed in a conversation of their own.

Three floors up, Andrea glanced down at her pocket as a song began to emanate from it. She had just received a text message, according to the song that was playing. Though it was a little early, she figured it probably meant that there was a new mission awaiting her at The Centre. She sighed and pulled out the phone, careful to continue guarding her mind all the while.

On another shore some thousands of miles away, a man stood looking out of his office window to the waves crashing on the beachhead. A small smile graced his hardened and weary features, a rare sight in these years of twilight. He took a wheezing breath and reflected that, finally, he would be getting the power he rightfully deserved.

On the monitor on the desk behind him, the message box with the words “message sent” continued flashing.

-----


Miss Parker was, at the very least, concerned that Jarod was suddenly completely complacent, willingly going with her when they arrived, guns drawn, in his room. In fact, it seemed as if he had been waiting for them to arrive.

Something was up; she just knew it.

She glanced over to the building, and noticed that Ava, the newest addition, seemed to have stopped moving a little ways off and was deep in thought. For not the first time since meeting her, Miss Parker reflected on just how odd, yet familiar, that girl was.

Broots and Sydney moved into her line of vision and she redirected her attention toward them. They both had the look as if they wanted to talk, which was almost always a bad thing for her.

“Miss Parker,” Sydney said in his most diplomatic voice. Inwardly, she sighed. It was almost never good news when he used that voice.

“Yes?” she questioned, making eye contact with the elder of the group.

“Broots has uncovered some disturbing news regarding Project Gemini.” It was interesting that, when he had bad news to tell, Sydney got right to the point, but when he had any other kind of news he took a large amount of time to circle around the topic, then perhaps finally get to it and poke it lightly with a stick. He almost never directly confronted good news.

Miss Parker sighed and nodded that the duo continue on. She had a feeling she knew exactly what this revelation was.

“I-I was looking for information, just like you told me, when I came across a reference to a project I didn’t recognize,” Broots said hurriedly, stuttering slightly. “I investigated and um, Miss Parker. . . Project Gemini was really about your sister, Faith!”

Suddenly she found that she couldn’t breathe; it was as if her lungs had forgotten how to function properly.

“What?” she whispered, and she suddenly felt their supporting arms grab hold of her. She realized that she had nearly gone crashing to the ground, her knees having buckled from the shock of the revelation.

They hadn’t cloned her; they had cloned her sister. Her adopted sister, who had died so soon after Catherine Parker. But she had died of cancer. Her father had tried to save her, but only because of his devotion to his deceased wife. Faith had been nothing special, just a cancer patient taken in by a compassionate woman. Why would The Centre clone her?

“Why?” she croaked out. She had a feeling the two in front of her knew more than they were telling.

“We’re not entirely sure why, but we have a fair idea.” It was Sydney that spoke now, as he probably would for the rest of the conversation. Now it was time for the doctor to do his job.

“Miss Parker, your sister wasn’t just a leukemia patient. She had abilities that were natural to her. The leukemia was just a side effect of one of the tests The Centre had run on her.”

So, in the end, The Centre manages to corrupt even this one piece of innocence, Miss Parker thought bitterly, her hatred for the place she had spent her entire life rising to the surface once again.

“They used her and ended up destroying her, just like the others.” Rage built up within her and she had to struggle against the urge to pull out her gun and just start shooting things.

“Parker, I know you’re angry, but you need to just listen! Sydney exclaimed, pulling her from her dark musings. She cleared her mind and found her focus once again. She needed to find out everything she could about these clones. For all she knew they and their unknown abilities might have something to do with Jarod’s newfound complacency. She snuck a look through the window and saw that he was sitting exactly the way he was before, when she had led him into the vehicle and secured him.

She briefly wondered what had happened to him. Never before in her entire life had she seen his eyes look so utterly dead. Even when he had been broken down and beaten by The Centre, there was still a light of life in his eyes, of that boyish curiosity that permeated his entire being. Now, none of that. He was like an empty shell.

“Faith had the ability to do that,” an accented voice broke into her thoughts.

“Do what?” she queried, turning her head to face the speaker.

“What’s been done to Jarod.” There was a hint of forlorn sadness in that tone. For a moment, Miss Parker pitied the elderly man standing before her.

“What has been done to him?”

“His mind has essentially been cleaned out. Wiped clean. He is no longer Jarod. He now just follows orders. He has no preset motives or beliefs. Everything that made Jarod a unique individual is now gone. He’s like an automaton with no true will of his own.

“I feared The Centre might do something drastic to get him back, but I never thought that they would go so far as to destroy him.” Anger lurked behind that sentence, preparing to spring out and savagely set into anyone nearby with its deadly claws.

The efforts of nearly five years and the work of a lifetime had just been destroyed by two girls who shouldn’t even exist under the laws of nature.

“Do you know who or where they are?” She had the sudden urge to track down and kill these monsters that had made the last five years of her working life moot. These monsters that had stolen the face of an innocent girl and twisted that innocence into something so sinister it could only have come from The Centre.

“We know where one of them is, and we know who their handlers are.”

“Uh, Mr. Lyle and Mr. Cox are the handlers. . .” Broots trailed off, allowing that information to soak in.

“Figures,” Parker said testily. As if these two science projects wouldn’t be warped enough, they had to be put under the control of the Boogeyman and the Grim Reaper. “So who is this mystery clone?”

“Broots shot a nervous glance back at the blonde, who was apparently checking something on her cell phone. When he looked back, Parker knew instantly from the look on his face.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

-----


On a plane aimed for Delaware, Andrea took the time to reflect on the message she had received. It had come from her former handler (Creator, her mind told her, and she could not deny the truth of it.) and contained a directive that she knew would have massive ramifications throughout The Centre. As the message had made blatantly clear, her handler was not to know about this little side mission. No, Mr. Lyle was to be kept blissfully unaware, which she was perfectly fine with. She deeply loathed Lyle, not only for the creepiness factor (and he was very creepy), but also because he didn’t have stable loyalties. Lyle was loyal only to himself and the person in power at the moment. She feared that, one day, he would easily turn against her, or start using her for his own personal use.

That thought sent a shudder through her body. She was certainly glad she wasn’t Asian, otherwise she doubted she’d still be alive and in one piece under Lyle’s care, abilities or no abilities.

Lyle was, as she had found out, a product of The Centre. A product of the twisted Parker family and Mr. Raines. She was a product of Mr. Raines, true, but he had respected her abilities, which was always a plus. She had been made to do some horrible things, but ultimately, she knew she could easily overpower Raines. Lyle, on the other hand, had no respect for her. He had no respect for anyone. He was a Parker, true to the bone. Only Parkers lacked respect for other people.

Mr. Parker was quite the stereotypical Parker. He would do anything for power, as was proven time and time again. She shook her head and smiled slightly.

Maybe he’ll finally learn what true power is, she thought as she gazed out the window.

Somewhere across miles upon miles of sunny, blue sky and fluffy, white clouds, another woman watched the world from above through the window of a plane.

She was not nearly as contemplative as the other was. After all, she was not concerned with the morality of The Centre. No, she was a selfish being, and she was perfectly happy with that. She saw—or rather, heard—what it did to her sister, and she was very glad she was not like that.

She smirked to herself as she heard the low murmurs of the three seated kitty-corner to her on the plane. She couldn’t hear what they were saying, but she didn’t really need to. She knew they were talking about her and whom she really was. It most certainly took them long enough to figure it out! She had been waiting for this for quite some time—ever since she had been introduced, to be exact. The fact that no one recognized her right away was rather amazing to her.

Then again, she considered, no one had seen Faith in over thirty years. She had only been a little girl tentatively stepping into adolescence with a fatal disease when they last had seen her. No, she supposed it wasn’t all that amazing after all.

She glanced over at Miss Parker and noticed, with some amusement, that their already low voices somehow became even lower. She had chosen not to sit by Miss Parker, instead volunteering to guard Jarod, even though she knew that there was no way in hell he was going to be attempting anything.

She looked over at him. He was sitting across her, blinding staring into space. He was absorbing all of the information around him, but he didn’t know what to do with it. He was, in essence, an infant again, only he still retained enough of his mental faculties to control his bodily functions, answer basic questions, and other necessary things for his retraining.

She realized--surprised that she hadn’t come up with this before, that he was like a machine with an empty hard drive. He had the basic operating system, but that was it. Everything else needed to be added in by The Centre.

As she thought the name, the pilot announced that they were entering their final descent. It was time for her to finally start doing her job. She was going to do it well, and Mr. Cox and Mr. Raines were going to be proud.

-----

to be continued.

feedback welcomed at spacedoutwriter@hotmail.com.
This story archived at http://www.pretendercentre.com/missingpieces/viewstory.php?sid=3403