Table of Contents [Report This]
Chapter or Story Chapter or Story
"You will learn respect again Jarod, either through me or my boss. Maybe even the Centre might teach you again. I am sure they do not appreciate your extremely bad attitude.” She lectured him, watching his face in the dim light of the box. She wanted him to lose control a little, but the few hours he had already been in here he had kept it together. She would have to resort to more extreme measures if need be.
Jarod kept himself calm by relying on his meditations, only half listening to her. He closed his eyes again, resting his head against the wall of the tiny space and tried to ignore the burning in his arm and how impossibly uncomfortable he was.
"It is very late in the night Jarod, and I am worn out. I am going to go to bed.” She said, watching him carefully.
Jarod opened his eyes, squinting in the effort to see her. "You are going to leave me here?” He asked, trying to keep the edge of panic out of his voice.
"Yes of course Jarod.” She nodded. He was slowly losing control, which was what she wanted. It worried her how she seemed to like this one’s panic and pain. She never got like this with the others, but this seemed almost personal to her and she couldn’t quite understand it.
His breathing picked up a little as his concentration slipped. "Why?” He appealed to her.
"Because you were disrespectful Jarod. I know you are not normally like this, the shock of being taken making your manners slip, but you will not be so rude to me." He was a project, he should know the consequences of such an attitude and behaviour. He should know that it is not accepted and will be punished. He was taken as a small child, so he had had all his life being polite and respectful and obedient, yet now he wasn’t.
Jarod had to force the retort back that it was completely unreasonable to expect him to be polite. She had taken him against his will, shot him, let rats gnaw on him and she was worried about manners? He took a deep breath. "I am sorry for my rudeness,” He said, swallowing his pride. "But you are right, this has been a shock and my manners had slipped."
"Thank you for the apology, but I must be getting to bed, I have to be up early." She was exhausted and needed sleep, no matter how much she might want to stay and watch him, talk to him, find out more about him.
"Wait, please,” He pleaded with her, trying to peer through the small slit to see her properly.
Grace sat back down, "What is it Jarod?” She asked patiently, liking the sound of his voice.
"At least can you undo my hands, and leave me some water to drink please?” He asked in his softest voice. They had stripped him down to his pants but he had nothing with which to pick the locks. At least if he could get his hands free, it would be a little more tolerable.
"I will see you in the morning Jarod, and this time, I hope you do learn your lessons." Gracie said as she stood up. She went about preparing the box for his stay, it was nearly 5 am, and she wanted at least a few hours sleep, but didn’t want Jarod sleeping at all. The less he slept, the more easy he would be to manage and to get talking.
Jarod could hear her moving about now and he wondered what she was doing. He had tried to find a way to open it and had been unsuccessful, and folded up the way he was, he was unable to contort himself to at least get his hands in front of his body, rather than locked awkwardly behind his back.
She pushed the sub woofers across to the box, setting one at the back, front and both sides. Adjusting them so the bass was on maximum, she moved to the stereo and turned it on, playing the CD. The CD was made up of sounds of bombs, and gun fire, fighter jets screaming over head. The subs being on max would not only make the noise unbearable, but being up against the walls of the box, would shake the metal, making it unpleasant more so for Jarod to be sitting in there.
Jarod startled so badly at the noise that he banged his head on the low roof of the box. He could feel the noise reverberating in his diaphragm, almost rattling his teeth.
Gracie moved over and peered into the box for a moment, her eardrums nearly being blown by the loud noises and smiled at him a goodnight before moving out the room, switching the light off and locking the room door shut.
The noise and vibrations were ceaseless and only seemed to get worse as time went on. Jarod knew that it was not the case, and he measured the time by the looping of the CD. It was impossible to rest, let alone sleep. His contorted body and the constant banging made it even worse, preventing him from finding that calm place within himself. It was like the sound was actually in his body now, and there was nothing he could to block it out. The minutes dragged by interminably and Jarod knew he was in hell.
Gracie moved about the warehouse to find the boys. Smiling as she walked into the comfortable lounge room to see them sitting on the couch, coffees each. "Did you get into the mainframe yet?” She asked sitting down. It had been nearly five hours now and surely he was in.
She loved the warehouse now, when they first brought it, it was filled with boxes and was one big open area. Jon and Wil had spent along time fixing it up. She helped too when she could. They had a garage at the entrance that led to what was meant to be a house. Comfortable, homey rooms, kitchen, real bathroom. But when you walked out the back door of the ‘house’, and entered the rest of the warehouse, it looked more like a jail of sorts. If Grace knew what the Centre looked like, she would know it was pretty damn close to how the Centre was set up.
"One more firewall to go. The damned Pentagon doesn’t have this level of security," Wil muttered and then looked up at her and grinned. "Got it, what do you want to know?"
"Everything you can get. Everything on pretenders, on Jarod and this Sydney man. See if you can find anything to do with Jarod and the Parker's. They way he spoke at the start asking Parker to get the hood off would suggest he was allowed the privilege of speaking with one or more of them."
Wil nodded and started to comb through the root directory. "There are about 10000 files here on Jarod alone,” He whistled softly. "Most of them have hundreds of documents in them."
"Well, at least now we know he is important. Alright, cut the search down to anything to do with Sydney and Jarod, Jarod and any of the Parker's and Sydney alone. I want to know who he is other then Jarod's mentor." Sydney could prove to be a very useful tool.
Wil nodded around a yawn and got typing, trying to set up filters for the information she wanted. "These people have a record of everything he ever did, and I mean everything since he was four years old.” He said incredulously. Nearly every file in there was to do with both Jarod and Sydney. Sydney had apparently been his keeper for his entire life and even after his escape, was closely associated with the pursuit.
"They watch him non-stop. He hates it." Gracie said watching Wil closely, Jon half asleep on the couch already. "For now, I need a secure line and a number to contact Sydney on."
Wil found the Centre phone directory and found his home and mobile numbers. "Give me a minute and I will tell you if they have his house wired."
"Thanks Wil. I owe you big time for this. You have been working harder on this one then any of the others.” She reached over and gently took the mug out of Jon's hand and set it on the coffee table. "Poor guy is worn out.” She smiled at the now sleeping Jon. They had all been awake for a long time now and surprised Wil wasn’t falling to sleep as well.
Wil looked up for a minute and then scribbled down two numbers. "They monitor calls, but only periodically. You should be safe to call in the next few days. I will find some biographical data on him for you."
"Will it be ok to call him now do you think?" The sooner she got Sydney where she wanted him, the better.
"It’s 5am," Wil stated tiredly.
"So?” She asked. "You go to bed, wake Jon and send him to bed too. I will go make this call." Grace said standing up. She didn’t like it when she was forced to wear them out so much. It was not fair on them.
Wil didn’t argue and got up, stiffly moving across to Jon and nudged him hard enough to wake him up. "Come on, bed, we need a few hours sleep before the day begins."
Jon groaned and stood up. "Fine. Night Gracie.” He said, giving her a kiss goodnight, "Night Wil," And gave him a kiss, a cheeky smile on his face. He so loved teasing Wil. He was an easy target and it just tickled him when Wil responded. Just another way to ensure his fun while on this mission.
Wil screwed his face up at him. "He is going to get himself killed if he isn’t careful,” He grumbled to her.
Grace laughed. "Goodnight Wil, Jon." Grace watched the two men leave before she moved to the phone. Settling down on the couch, she picked it up and dialled the house number Wil had given her. She knew her lines were secure, but hoped his was half decent as well.
Sydney fumbled for the phone on the bedside table, squinting in the pre-dawn light to look at his watch. "Hello, this is Sydney,” He said, half asleep still.
"Good morning doctor." Grace said with a smile in her voice. It served her purpose just that little bit better to catch him asleep. He wouldn’t be thinking as clearly, and was more open to her suggestions.
"Who is this?” He asked, relaxing a little when it wasn’t Jarod, fearing the worst if he was calling at this hour.
"You will find out soon enough. I want you to drive the roadside motel on highway 64. Be there in an hour. I have someone of interest to you.” She said cryptically.
"What?” He asked groggily. "I’m not driving anywhere."
"Then I guess you do not want to see your pretender.” She said, shrugging before falling silent. Grace knew that would catch his interest. If he was the project’s handler, he would want to see him and bring him back to where he belonged.
"What?” He said, sitting up in bed, instantly awake now. "Who is this?” He asked again, but this time more urgently.
"Like I already said, you will find out if you meet me. Not before then doctor." She repeated herself. But she was right, it had gotten his interest. He would prove to be very useful figuring out if this man was worthy of her boss or not.
"What do you want?” He asked, reaching for a pad and pen, scribbling down the directions.
"You will not tell anyone you have received this call, or where you are going or why. You will call Parker," Gracie said, leaving it up to Sydney to decide whom she was talking about, "And give them some excuse as to why you won’t be in. We are watching and listening to you doctor, you fail us, he will be killed without thought. Am I making my self clear?" Grace asked, using the most threatening voice she had.
"Yes,” He said with worry. He knew he should tell Parker or Broots, but he was not about to risk Jarod. "I will be there.” He was already getting out of bed to start to get ready.
"Do not make us kill him doctor, I will see you in an hour. Do not bring any weapons. You have been warned." Gracie knew he would not bring a weapon. His concern of the pretender evident and she knew he didn’t want to see Jarod hurt or worse, killed.
"I understand,” He said. "You don’t have to hurt him, I will do as you say."
"Good." Grace said in satisfaction and hung the phone up, making her way out the door to the car to meet the doctor. She had a fairly long drive ahead of her, and she had had no sleep. But she would, as every other time, force herself to do it, knowing it had to be done.
Sydney left a message on Broots' answering service to the effect that he had some personal business to attend to and that he was taking a day or two. Not to worry, it was no big deal. He was not about to get Parker out of bed to tell her that he couldn’t come in, it would only arouse her suspicions. He showered quickly and grabbed a coffee to take in the car as he started the drive, that at this time of the morning he guessed would take about 45 minutes. He tried hard not to imagine who these people were or what they could possibly want.
It took Gracie two hours to get to the motel. She knew she had told Sydney to meet her in one, but knew he would be there waiting. He was not like any mentor she had known, he actually seemed to care about his project, which was a dangerous thing if the wrong person found out about it.
Sydney sat in the car, engine running to keep the heater going. She had not told him a room number, so he assumed they would come to him. After waiting for an hour, he was beginning to think that it had been a hoax and he was thinking about turning around and going back home.
She pulled her car into the parking lot. Sydney's was one of only a few cars there and she knew it was him because he was the only one sitting in the car when it was freezing cold. Parking, she climbed out and moved over, tapping on his window, looking around.
Sydney jumped at the sudden noise and rolled the window down, narrowing his eyes at her.
Gracie leant down, resting on the window frame of the door, "Good morning Sydney. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She said with a warm smile.
"Who are you and where is Jarod?” He asked bluntly, not liking this at all. This girl couldn’t have been much more than 16 years old.
"If you would please park your car around the back and leave it. We will take my car.” She knew it was dangerous to leave his car out back. If she had to keep him longer then she wanted, his car would eventually be noticed and reported. Which was bad for her.
Sydney looked at her, trying to gauge how serious she was. "How do I know that Jarod is safe, how do I even know that you have him?"
"I am not waking my boys up for them just to put the guy on the phone. You will have to trust me on this one. Now won’t you?" She knew trust was a very hard thing to come by, but it was also over rated. In instances like this, trust wasn’t a key factor, but survival and necessity was.
Sydney nodded, not liking this at all, but put the car into gear and waited for her to move so he could park it. He questioned the wisdom of meeting with her alone, but all he could think about was her threat to hurt Jarod if he didn’t come alone. Sydney owed Jarod, and he would do anything if it meant his safety.
"Around back,” She reminded him, stepping aside.
Sydney did as he was instructed and parked his car. He got out and walked back to her, wondering just what the hell was going on here. He had already guessed it was not the Centre and he wondered if it was another enterprising individual like that Argyle had been. If that were the case, Jarod was lucky they called him this time, not Lyle or Parker or Raines.
Grace walked him over to her car and climbed in, waiting for Sydney to do the same. She could feel his worry, his concern, over the pretender and knew he wasn’t like the other mentors and handlers.
He looked at the car and got in, keeping his mouth shut for the moment.
Grace engaged the locking system to prevent him from getting out. Looking at him for a moment, she handed him a hood, "Please wear this Sydney." No one ever was taken to the warehouse without either being knocked out cold, or wearing the hood. She always preferred both, but sometimes it couldn’t be helped.
Sydney looked at the door as it locked and then took the hood in his hands. "If I don’t?” He asked softly. "I have already seen your face, what difference does it make now?"
"Oh no Sydney, it’s not my face I am worried about, it is our location I do not want you to see. That is all." The windows of the car were a black tint. Even if you stood in front and peered in, you would see nothing, so she was not worried about anyone seeing Sydney with the hood on.
Sydney looked at the windows, realising that it would be unlikely that anyone would be able to see him, they were very dark, and he guessed that she had done this before. He was a little surprise she didn’t try to restrain him, trusting him not to remove it. He fidgeted with the hood for a moment, caught in indecision and then finally put it on, hating the feel of helplessness it engendered, reminding him of his blindness after the bombing.
Grace watched him before patting his leg comfortingly, "You do not need to worry. You will not be harmed. And your pretender is safe for now." She tried to soothe. As she touched his legs, she was bombarded with images and feelings of Sydney’s past. She didn’t understand most of the images, but she got the feelings.
"For now?” He asked suspiciously. "Who are you and what do you want?"
"I can see where Jarod gets his curiosity from. You ask just as many questions as he does.” She pulled out onto the highway, speeding just a bit over the limit to get home faster.
"You are trying to deflect my question. I have done all you have asked, now you told me you would tell me."
"So I did. Though I only told you I would let you know who I am. Nothing else doctor." But she had to smile, he was right, she was trying to deflect his questions.
"That is a start,” He sighed heavily, gripping his hands tightly in his lap to avoid the urge to take off the hood.
"My name is Miss Grace.” She introduced herself. "And I am extremely sorry for the early morning wake up call." She apologised genuinely. Even though it played to her advantage, she knew how rude and disrespectful it was.
"Well Miss Grace, I don’t think you are sorry about the early wake up call at all,” He told her.
Grace glanced at him as she drove. "I am sorry you believe that Sydney, because I am sorry about it. I didn’t mean to wake you up so early, but it seemed the best time to get you over here."
Sydney nodded under the hood. He understood her reasons for making it such an early call, catching a person when they were most vulnerable, and most of their defences were lowered. He wondered how one so young would be so well versed in that kind of aspect of psychological manipulation. "So you are sorry about waking me early, but not sorry enough not to threaten to kill or hurt Jarod?” He asked, trying to figure out this girl.
"Exactly. You are smart Sydney.” She complimented him. "But I had to ensure your co-operation without you risking us, hence the threats." She couldn’t afford for Sydney to go whine to the others someone else had his toy, because if they tracked her down, her boss would be extremely angry with her.
"And us, meaning there are more than just the one of you?" But he had already known that. This girl could never have taken Jarod by herself.
"Yes of course Sydney, I already told you I didn’t want to ring the boys. I thought that would have told you there was more then just me." She started to reassess the thought of Sydney being smart. She had told him already about the boys, so why did he presume she was alone?
He had to admit she had caught him out on that one. "Very well then, can you give me a hint on how long this will be?"
"No, because when you do get back home, you will be able to work out a radius on where to look."
"I am going to be able to work out a radius anyway, and I am guessing you are smart enough to move on." But he had not failed to notice the implied idea that he would be returning home. “And if that radius is within a hundred miles, then that will leave more than 30000 square miles for me to start my search.”
"I would rather not. I like where we are right now. But I know I have not dealt with people so smart yet, and I will be forced to leave my home." She hated the idea of having to leave now. She liked where they were living. It felt real.
"Alright then, I will guess the time and the radius, but I imagine it will be about the same amount of ground to cover, I think you will be relatively safe."
"But I am still going to have to move aren’t I Sydney? Either way." Gracie all but whined to him.
"I guess that all depends on what happens next doesn’t it?” He asked her instead.
"And what do you mean by that?” She asked curiously, shooting a glance at him. This man was fun to speak with. He was like Jarod, smart and curious. Asked a lot of questions, talked to her without crying and pleading.
"I think I can safely assume Jarod has no idea where he is?” He asked her.
"No. We took him from the town he was just 'passing through', as he told me. He was out cold. has no idea. But what has that got to do with anything?"
"And I have no idea either. You have him somewhere secure?” He prompted.
"Yes of course. Right now he can barely shift a few centimetres, let alone do or try anything."
Sydney tried to hide his unhappiness at that, now having determined that wherever he was, it was not going to be all that easy to escape from, and if he couldn’t move it meant he was either hurt or restrained. "Then I would say you are probably safe.” He concluded, trying to set her mind at ease. He needed her relaxed and confident, not wound up and suspicious.
"But once you go home, you will start searching, and I know you won’t give up until you find us." Grace told him. She sped up a little, trying to get home in the shortest possible time to throw Sydney off a little.
"We have been searching for Jarod for years, with little luck, as I am probably sure you know. I am curious as to how you tracked him down, and what exactly do you want with him, and me for that matter."
"I just need you for information about Jarod is all. Simple as that." And it was true. She needed answers and information, and Sydney was just the person to provide them to her. Once she had them, he was free to leave.
"For what purpose? It seems to me you are very well informed."
"No, the Centre mainframe is very well informed. Lots of goodies hidden away in there. We are still sorting through it." Grace answered. "But it doesn’t have details about Jarod, like his motives, his morals, why he has such lack of manners and respect for his correct place in this world."
"His correct place in the world?” Sydney repeated in surprise.
"As a project. He speaks about his owners with such disgrace I found it hard not to punish him for it." She was thoroughly disgusted with his mouth. He should be thankful to them, for providing such a wonderful life full of safety and purpose.
"You punished him?” He asked, trying to sound casual, not liking her references to owners.
"He punished himself. Once for not answering me when I asked him a question, and the second time for being disrespectful to me. We told him three times about it." She shook her head at his stupidity.
New fear grew inside Sydney and he had to force himself to remain calm and seemingly professional. "I assume that you did not punish him too severely."
"Depends on your definition of severely doctor.” She said casually, “And I did not punish him, he did it to himself."
"I made that mistake myself,” He told her.
"I do not understand." Grace said, clearly confused by his reply.
Sydney sighed heavily. "I used to tell myself that exact same thing, but it is not true."
"That he brings these punishments on himself?" Grace asked. He had in these cases. She told him over and over to be respectful. And the first time was because he stopped talking, he annoyed her. If he had talked, he wouldn’t have been harmed.
"And that he is responsible, it is only partially true. You are the one who administers it, and it will one day haunt you, as it does me. Do not fool yourself into the comfortable misconception that you are doing no wrong."
"I am not doing anything wrong. If anyone is, it is my boss. He gave me the assignment.” She tried to clarify. "And this time it was him. He is a project, he should know how to act like one and he choses not to. He should have learnt while at the Centre that if he does not behave, he is punished."
"He is not a project or a file, he is a human being with a right to be treated as one, and anybody violating that is in the wrong, no matter how justified you think your reasons are."
"No. He has no such right Sydney. You should know that. Projects have no rights at all." And she knew only too well.
He caught something strange in her voice, the sound of programming, but said nothing for the moment. "Even if that were true, Jarod is no longer a project.” He wished he could see her, take note of her body language.
"He will always be a project. That is what he was born to be. That is why he was acquired by the Centre. Even if he was so disobedient to leave, he will always be one." She tried to tell him. He should know this. Jarod is and will always be a project, no matter what. And as his handler, Sydney should agree with that.
"And you are here to ensure that?” He prodded gently.
"If my boss is interested in him, I am here to take him back home. And if he doesn’t want Jarod, then he will be let go, and with any luck, he will make the right decision about his future and return to where he belongs."
"Who is your boss, or am I not allowed to know that either?"
"No, I am sorry, you can’t know that. I am not allowed to say my boss' name. I cannot put anyone at risk or I am the one that will be punished.” She informed him.
"I understand that,” He said, falling silent, trying to puzzle out who this girl was, this mystery man she worked for and why they wanted Jarod. It was obviously not for money if what she said was true, that they would just let him go.
Grace drove the rest of the way in silence. She pulled into the warehouse, parking the makeshift garage and pressing the button for the roller door to shut. Un-locking the doors, she reached over and removed the hood form Sydney. "We are home."
Sydney blinked in the dim light as he looked around. He cast his eyes down to his watch and it had been slightly under two hours of driving. When he heard the doors unlock he reached for the handle and got out of the car. Nothing here gave him any hint of the location and he sighed a little.
Grace sighed at her lack of protocol and quickly moved around and snatched the watch from his wrist. "I was meant to take this from you at the start. So the point of you not knowing where we are by wearing the hood was basically useless."
"Well, I can’t calculate it exactly, I would need to know your speed, so I am guessing I could be out by as much as 5000 square miles or so, I don’t really think you have too much to worry about. And please be careful with that, it was a gift."
"Was it? From whom?” She asked, looking at it closely.
"A friend,” He told her.
"Who was this friend Sydney?” She pushed a bit further. "Please be polite and answer the question correctly."
"The way you are being polite and asking your betters questions that are none of your business?” He asked her firmly.
Grace shrugged, "I could just smash it now if you like?” She asked. She wondered why she wasn’t getting anything from it and put it down to how exhausted she was.
"Yes you could do that, do you think it would make you feel better if you did? More in control?"
"Not really, but it would upset you if it was really a gift. Now answer me.” She barked. "Or it will be taken out on Jarod." She threatened him. She was curious and wanted to know now who gave him a gift.
"And that will be my punishment that I was asking for, or did Jarod asked for that as well?" He pushed her just a little further.
"No that would be your punishment making more of an impact on you by doing it to your project." She said coldly, not really caring either way if she smashed it or hurt Jarod, as long as she was told what she wanted.
"He is not my project any longer, and the gift was from my son,” He said softly.
"Was there a termination, or transfer file signed by the owners and yourself?” She asked him, looking at the watch before carefully pocketing it.
Sydney saw no point in arguing with her, she was as stubborn as a teenager, and she held most of the cards right now. "Where is he?"
"You did not answer my Sydney.” She told him, not moving yet.
"No, papers were not signed."
"Then he is still your project Sydney.” She said as she moved to the garage door and opened it, walking into a hallway that was carpeted, walls put up and painted fresh cream colours. It looked like a real house. She took him into the kitchen, "I need something to drink before I take you to see Jarod."
Sydney followed her, looking around the house, which seemed fairly normal to him, so he guessed that they would be keeping Jarod elsewhere. "He is still my project?” He asked her.
"Yes of course. No termination papers, or inside transfer papers. So by all laws, he has not been traded from your care."
"Then I lay my claim on him, you are holding him against my wishes and I want to take him back where he belongs."
"Then if you wanted him back where he belongs, you would have trained him a lot better in the first place so he didn’t run.” She handed Sydney a coffee and sipped on hers. "He ran, we got him. Just inside the Centre he belongs to you."
"Then why am I here now?” He asked again, trying to follow her twisted and convoluted thinking.
"I told you, to supply us with information on how Jarod thinks and works. Why did you never train him better? He is so bad behaved for a project." Gracie cringed at the memory, and still couldn’t believe how bad he was.
Sydney snorted at that as he sipped on his coffee, watching her, impatient to see Jarod now.
Gracie frowned. "It is true Sydney. He is not only disrespectful, but rude and disobedient. No project should ever be allowed to get that far. They should all be well mannered, quite, and obey all orders, no matter what."
"Like you do?” He asked her casually.
"Yes." Grace nodded with out thinking.
He put his cup down. "What information do you want? I will tell you, but I need to see him first."
"Yes of course." Grace agreed and put her mug down as well. "Please follow me. And do not do anything foolish."
"You don’t have to worry about me, I know my place."
"At least someone does. You should train Jarod better, so he knows his place too."
"He used to,” Sydney told her, trying to find some common ground with her.
She grabbed a cell phone along the way and lead Sydney out the backdoor and into the rest of the warehouse. "Then he should be retrained then.”
"It is hard to get him to work if you keep punishing him and keep him restrained.” He argued.
"I don’t want him to work, just to be behaved.” She clarified and led him to the room used for punishments. She could hear the sounds from here.
Sydney frowned when he heard what sounded like a battle zone and looked at her questioningly.
"His punishment.” She said and opened the door, flicking on the light and allowing Sydney to walk in before shutting and relocking the door. She moved over to the stereo and shut it off, pushing aside the sub that was blocking the slit in the side.
Sydney looked around the room and sighed in relief as the noise was turned off and then he realised where Jarod must be and he paled dramatically.