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The Centre, Miss Parker, Jarod, Sydney, Broots, Mr. Parker, Mr. Raines and any others you might recognize from the series The Pretender are property of MTM Entertainment and NBC Productions and used without permission.. Everyone else including the fictional Fortress is mine and all rights to those characters and places are mine. This is a fic letting you know that the Centre is NOT the only evil organization out there.

This is a sequel to Nightmares


"Rivals"
by Melody Lane

Copyright 1997


Lakefield, Maine
9am

The silvery gray car pulled up next to the sidewalk.

Miss Parker and two sweepers exited a miniatures shop. Miss Parker handed the red notebook to one of the sweepers and took out a cigarette and a lighter. She looked around. She didn't see Jarod but she had heard he'd only left the shop a few minutes before. The silvery gray car stopped beside one of the Centre's black cars.

Miss Parker had just let out her first puff of smoke when she saw Jarod in the distance. "Jarod!" she yelled. She dropped the cigarette and took off running down the sidewalk. "Cover the alleys!" she told the sweepers.

The silvery gray car began to idle near the sidewalk along side Miss Parker.

Jarod glanced behind him. He too was running, but Miss Parker was starting to catch up. She had pulled her gun and was still yelling at him to stop. Miss Parker stopped to aim.

The silvery gray car stopped.

Miss Parker didn't notice it. Its color was a lot less conspicuous than the Centre's black cars. She could see Jarod was going to get away. There were too many people on the sidewalk to get a clear shot.

Two men wearing gray suits got out of the silvery gray car.

Miss Parker glanced at them.

The men went up to Miss Parker and grabbed her. "Get in," one man said gruffly pushing her towards the car. She dropped her gun.

"Hey!" Miss Parker protested.

However, there were no further protests. "Get in," said the man again. This time she could feel a gun at her side. She obeyed. The men and Miss Parker sat in the back-seat. A third man sat in the drivers seat. He began to pull away from the curb.

"Who are you?" Miss Parker demanded.

"We'll skip the pleasantries. We ask the questions, you answer them. And no struggling. It will save you the experience of being sedated," said the man without the gun. What he said sounded well rehearsed, almost computer-like. He had taken her wallet and was examining it. He nodded to the other men.

Outside, Jarod had realized Miss Parker was no longer chasing him. He ran back up the sidewalk and found her gun. He saw the silvery gray car driving away and had a pretty good idea of what had happened. He wrote down the license plate number.

"What is it you want?" Miss Parker asked. She figured this was some sort of sick joke that was probably Jarod's idea.

"Information," said the man with the gun. He had black hair and blue eyes. "Let me put it this way. You work for the Centre and we work against it. Unfortunately, that does not deal well in your favor."

"What are you talking about?" Miss Parker demanded. Somehow this annoyed her much more than it frightened her.

"Miss Parker," said the men in unison. "You've just been kidnapped." Suddenly Miss Parker realized this wasn't a joke.

* * * * *
There are Pretenders among us.

Geniuses with the ability to become anyone the want to be.

In 1963 a corporation know as the Centre isolated a young Pretender named Jarod and exploited his genius for their research.

Then one day, their Pretender ran away... *

*THE PRETENDER* *

Alley
10am

After an hour of driving the silvery gray car pulled into an alley. Waiting was a silvery gray limo. The men forced Miss Parker out of thecar and into the limo. They took off her suit jacket and used rope to tie her hands behind her back.

"You know, handcuffs might be a better idea," Miss Parker suggested rudely.

"We know about you and handcuffs," said the man with the gun.

"Exactly, how much do you know about me?" Miss Parker asked.

"What we need to know, and what you're going to tell us," said the man with her wallet. The limo pulled out of the alley.

"I'm not going to tell you anything," Miss Parker countered angrily.

"We'll see about that Miss Parker, but this is the part of our trip you can't see," said the man with the gun. The other man began to roll up the sleeve of her blouse. Then, he took out a syringe. Miss Parker winced. Secretly, she had never liked needles very much. She fidgeted.

"This will be a lot less painful, if you hold still," said the man with the syringe. He placed the needle in her arm and injected the sedative. Miss Parker was just about to yell some smart remark when everything began to get hazy. Then, everything went black.

* * *
The Cow Shop
Lakefield, Maine

Jarod sat in the small diner eating a hamburger and examining the scene of Miss Parker's kidnapping through a window. He was still trying to figure out what someone would want with Miss Parker. It was definitely not a Centre car that had driven off with her.

"Would you like a milkshake?" asked the rather chubby woman behind the counter. She had curly dark blond hair and wore a striped red and white outfit.

"Milk shake?" Jarod asked. "You drink shaken milk?"

"You ain't telling' me you've never had a milk shake," said the woman. Jarod nodded. "I'm Pearl and you have got to try one. It's a creamy smooth drink. It comes in strawberry and chocolate. Here's a strawberry one, on me."

Jarod took a sip. "This is very good!" he said "Very good."

"Knew you'd like it," Pearl answered.

"I was wondering if you saw anything unusual this morning," Jarod asked.

"Now that you mention it, I did. Some woman got forced into a car by two men," Pearl answered.

"Could you describe the men?" Jarod questioned. "Were they wearing black suits?"

"No, they wore suits but they were gray, kinda like the woman's suit except hers had a silvery purple tint to it and she was wearin' a short skirt," Pearl remembered.

"Did you call the police?" Jarod asked.

"Well, before they took her she had a gun. I figured they were the police," Pearl responded. "Was she a friend of yours?"

"More of an acquaintance actually," Jarod replied. He took another sip of the milkshake.

* * *
Dark Room
Location: Classified

Miss Parker's head pounded. It must have been a side effect of the sedative. She focused slowly. The room she was in was dark. She was sitting in a chair and her hands were no longer tied behind her. They seem to be strapped to the arms of the chair. Her legs were also strapped.

The only light in the room came from two windows high above her. The ceiling must have been about twelve feet up. There was one window on the east wall and the other was on the west. Standing in the east window she could see two shadowy figures staring down at her.

A door to the side of her opened, flooding the room with light. Miss Parker squinted. The light hurt her eyes. They had become accustomed to the darkness. Three people entered. One wheeling a cart, one wearing a lab coat and another wearing heels.

After the doors closed again, the one in heels hit a light switch. It turned on one light far above them. Miss Parker could now get a good look at her three captors.

The one wheeling the cart was a man in a gray suit. He had brown hair and brown eyes. The cart had several vials, beakers and syringes on it. Miss Parker could only guess what those were for.

The one in a lab coat was a woman. She had black hair and blue eyes and didn't look very sure of herself. She wore a pair of thin rimmed glassed and began examining the items on the cart.

Lastly the woman in heels had red hair similar to Miss Parker's own. Except hers was short and light red. It didn't go beyond her ears. Her red bangs covered her eyebrows but not her intimidating gray eyes. She wore a silvery gray business suit. She walked proudly and smiled evilly.

"Who are you?" Miss Parker demanded.

"Hello Miss Parker. Glad to see that this whole escapade has not dampened your spirits," said the woman in heels. "My name is Akiva, and welcome to The Fortress."

The Fortress. Miss Parker had heard the name before. It was another secret organization, and the Centre's main rival when it came to business. "Some welcome this is," Miss Parker replied sarcastically. She made a vain attempt to pull her arm free of the straps.

"Yes, I suppose you are not enjoying your stay with us. Really now you should try and relax. For one, it makes my job easier, and you wouldn't want to irritate that ulcer of yours, now would you," Akiva answered. She seemed untouched by Miss Parker's tone.

"Why would I want to make your job easier?" Miss Parker hissed angrily.

"You'll live a lot longer," Akiva replied through clenched teeth. Then, she forced a smile on her face. "This is Dr. Politan," Akiva continued, pointing to the woman in the lab coat. "Now I wanted to give you the chance to answer our questions on your own free will."

Miss Parker glared at Dr. Politan, who looked a little scared, and then at Akiva. "I am not going to tell you anything."

"We'll see about that," Akiva answered. "Now, we've realized the Centre had spent quite a lot of money, and is still spending a lot of money, on the chase of a certain man named Jarod. Now, why would that be?" Akiva gave Miss Parker a chilling glare.

"If you wanted to know about Jarod, then, you should've have kidnapped him!" Miss Parker gave Akiva an equally chilling glare.

"Oh, we would have, but we were hoping the Centre would do it for us. Also we figured that since you were the one chasing him you would have more information," Akiva answered. "And you are the chairman's daughter. You are much more valuable to us."

Miss Parker realized in some ways this was all a game. A game with no rules.

* * *
Cozack Motel
Lakefield, Maine

Jarod ran a search on the license plate number he'd written down, FORT 43. It had been issued to an Alexander Keller, three years before. The car was suspected in several kidnappings but there was no address for Mr. Keller. He had moved only a month after receiving the car. No forwarding address for mail or anything. All his bills were mysteriously paid and it didn't seem like he owned anything to tax. The man had disappeared without a trace. And now, so had Miss Parker. Jarod decided to give Sydney a call. "Hello?"

"Have you heard from Miss Parker?" Jarod asked.

"Jarod," Sydney greeted. "No, she left for Maine yesterday and hasn't returned. Have you seen her?"

"Briefly, but I believe she's been kidnapped," Jarod answered.

"By whom?" Sydney asked. His tone was one of surprise and concearn.

"I was hoping you'd know. She was taken away in a silvery gray car," Jarod replied. "Now, based on that, who would want to kidnap Miss Parker?"

"One of the Centre's main competitors, The Place, Section One, The Square, The Fortress. The Fortress!" Sydney repeated. "They are one of our biggest rivals yet. They have infiltrated the Centre and know about most of our projects, except maybe The Pretender Project and SL-27."

"Miss Parker knows more than she should about those two things. What can you tell me about the Fortress?" Jarod asked.

"Not much I'm afraid. We believe it to be exactly what it's called. A fortress, an impenetrable place. There's no way in and we aren't sure of its exact location but it's somewhere in the mountains and it's underground. It's run by a man we only know as The Eradicator."

"How bad is it?" Jarod asked.

"I'm not sure, but if Miss Parker is there, she is in a lot more trouble than you think," Sydney replied. "Mr. Parker and The Eradicator are not friends and like the Centre, The Fortress gets rid of those who they might consider an inconvenience."

"I understand, Sydney," Jarod responded.

"Be careful Jarod," Sydney warned. "If they took Miss Parker, they might have done so to get to you. And The Fortress gets what they want."

* * *
The Fortress
Sub-Level 35

The Fortress was as Sydney described it. A building located in a branch of Appalachian Mountains with only one level above ground. It had 39 sub-levels and it's location was a well kept secret.

Like the Centre, it took people illegally, used children in their research, and always looked for ways to make money. It had thousands of people inside it's impenetrable walls. It had people they had taken as children and raised, working for them as adults. They all served a function. The Fortress was it's own secret community with lawyers, doctors, teachers, judges, even assassins. The Fortress had tried many projects but it had never worked with Pretenders. However, learning of the Centre's success with this they had decided it was a good idea to learn about The Pretender Project. That was why Miss Parker had been kidnapped.

* * *

"I can't give her anymore injections," Dr. Politan told Akiva. "There's too much in her system as it is."

"But she's barely told us anything," Akiva complained. She looked at Miss Parker who looked half asleep.

"Another injection could kill her," Dr. Politan continued. "Then, she'll never be able to tell us anything."

"We'll try again in three hours," Akiva said.

"I'm not sure that's enough time," Dr. Politan replied.

"We'll try again in three hours," Akiva ordered this time. "Put her in cell 35d." Akiva told the man in the gray suit. "And you," Akiva looked Dr. Politan in the eye.

"Yes?" Dr. Politan asked. She looked worried.

"Next time I tell you to do something, you don't question me," Akiva said. "Unless you would like to be the one to tell The Eradicator why he doesn't see any progress in our work." Dr. Politan gulped and nodded.

* * *
Adriondack Mountains

Jarod drove up and down the same road several times. He didn't see anything that looked like it could be a secret entrance. He drove back into town. Parked outside several buildings were silvery gray cars. License plate numbers, FORT 45, FORT 23, FORT 12, 34 FORT, FORTRESS1 and AHG 675.

Inside most of the cars were men in gray suits. They were questioning people. On the streets were men and women in gray suits. He saw envelopes handed into the hands of regularly dressed people who would walk away smiling.

This had to be a Fortress clean-up crew. They were paying people off not to tell they had seen anything. Telling them to forget that they had seen a woman get kidnapped. Paying them not to tell the police anything.

Jarod rushed into The Cow Shop. He didn't see Pearl. Another woman was behind the counter. A few people in gray suits sat at tables eating and talking. "Is Pearl here?" Jarod asked the woman behind the counter.

"Pearl doesn't work here anymore," said the woman behind the counter.

"Was she fired?" Jarod asked.

"Naw, she quit." said the woman.

Jarod noticed some of the people in gray suits look at him curiously. He glanced at them and they looked away. "Thanks anyway," Jarod said as he left the shop. Two people in gray suits followed shortly. Jarod got into his car and sat there a second. He was waiting. The two people came right up to the car.

"Hello, I'm Lynn and this is Dave," said the woman. She had dark brown hair and gray eyes. "We noticed you asking about Pearl, did you know her well?"

"Yes as a matter of fact I did. I was a good friend. I arrived here a few hours ago and I was going to give her a surprise visit," Jarod replied in a very friendly voice

"Oh so you got here around nine?" Dave asked.

Jarod smiled. Nine was when Miss Parker had disappeared. "Maybe a little before. I was checking into my hotel about then."

"Did you see anything unusual?" Lynn asked.

"No, not that I can think of," Jarod replied. "Was there something to see?"

"No, nothing important," Dave assured him. They backed away from the car.

"Sorry to have bothered you...what did you say your name was?" Lynn questioned.

"Jarod."

"Sorry to have bothered you, Jarod." Dave and Lynn turned and got into one of the gray cars. The one with the license plate FORTRESS1. Jarod watched Dave pick up his car phone and dial before he took out a small black satellite dish. He put on a pair of headphones and hit a few
buttons on a number pad. He listened.

"Yeah, we've found him," Dave was saying.

A deep voice was on the other end. "Does he know anything?"

"Well, if he does, he won't admit it," Dave replied.

"Stick with him. If we can't get anything out of her, we'll call you, and you'll bring him in. Alive this time. No more mistakes." The line went dead. Dave hung up.

Jarod put away his equipment. He started his car and headed to his motel. As he headed into the building he could see the gray car coming in the distance. It had parked outside by the time he entered his room. He looked out the window to see it. He smiled. His plan was working.

* * *
Cell 35d, Sub-Level 35
The Fortress

"How do you feel?" The female voice was kind and sincere. Not at all like Akiva's mocking and unkind voice. This voice was also a lot younger.

Miss Parker opened her eyes. She saw the face of a young woman who couldn't have been more than 22 or 23. Her hair was a sandy brown and her face was tanned. Her eyes were brown. She looked uncertainly at Miss Parker.

Miss Parker sat up. She felt nauseated. "Take it easy. Don't try to stand up yet. You've been out for hours. I was beginning to think you weren't going to wake up. Here, have some water." The woman handed her a cup.

Miss Parker took it. Usually she would have said she didn't need it but her mouth was dry and the water was cold. It tasted good. "Who are you?" Miss Parker asked. She wanted to know if she was some kind of Fortress doctor.

"My name is Amanda," said the woman. She sighed. "And you are?"

"Miss Parker." Miss Parker began her examination of the room.

It was made of some kind of gray stone. To the north was the only exit. A sealed metal door. next to it was a light. On the east wall was one bed. On the south another. On the back wall there was another light and a passage that led to a bathroom.

"What do you do here?" Miss Parker asked suspiciously.

"I was a nurse until I ended up here. Now, I take care of people after their interrogations," Amanda began to explain. "I know, why would I be here? They gave me a choice. They would take my daughter and kill me or make it so I could never see her again or I could stay here and see her once a week. I knew they were serious, they'd already killed my husband so I agreed to this so I could see Holly."

Miss Parker tried to follow her choppy explanation. "How old is your daughter?" Miss Parker questioned.

"Three but she'll be four next month. And it's really no wonder to me why they'd want her. Holly is special. She can speak nine languages, do algebra and what an imagination she has," Amanda looked sad a second.

Miss Parker stood up. Having the parents of the children around was something the Centre would never do. It would be considered an unnecessary security risk. And Holly sounded like she might be a Pretender. Miss Parker glanced at Amanda who was staring expectantly at her.

"What?" Miss Parker demanded. "It's just, there's not a scratch on you. Usually the people I get are in need of bandages or at least a few pills but all you needed was a glass of water. I'm just wondering who you must be that they've treated you so well," Amanda answered. Miss Parker was quiet a second.

"How long was I out?" she finally asked.

"Almost five hours. They tried to wake you two hours ago but you didn't respond. What did they want from you?" Amanda persisted
curiously.

"Information, what else would they want?" Miss Parker's tone was irritated.

"But where are you from, what kind of information did they want?" Amanda asked.

"The kind you don't give out," Miss Parker snapped.

Well whatever it is, you'd better be ready to die for not giving it out," Amanda said. Miss Parker didn't answer.

* * *
Cozack Motel
7pm

Jarod sat down at his computer and typed FORTRESS1 in the blank on the screen. SEARCH INITIATED blinked on the screen. Jarod made himself a milkshake while he waited for the results. Finally it flashed 1 Match Found . Jarod hit enter.

Basically the form was blank. It was issued to Fortress Ag. 101. It had no traffic violations but it did have an address unlike the other plate number he'd entered. It was in McAlister, MA on 875 Woodview Ave. Jarod grabbed his keys and got up. He exited the hotel, pretending he didn't see the silvery gray car.

Jarod climbed into his own hunter green car and headed down the road making three sharp turns down back roads and alleys before the silvery gray car could follow him. Then, Jarod pulled onto the highway and headed for McAlister.

Several hours later he was knocking on a door. A woman answered the door. She had shoulder length blond hair and blue eyes. She held a little boy who looked about five. It seemed there were several other children in the house. Her face turned pale as she looked at Jarod.

She put down the boy and sent him into another room. "What do you want?" She choked out the half whispered words. "If your looking for my husband, I haven't seen him in three years, not since he got that new job."

"My name is Jarod." Jarod smiled. "Don't be alarmed I'm not here to hurt you Mrs.-"

"Mandello," the woman whispered. Then, she relaxed and repeated much more audibly, "Ellen Mandello."

"Well it's very nice to meet you. I was wondering about how much your husband makes at this new job of his to be sure about his taxes," Jarod explained. "I don't really know. David said he'd found some way to make a lot of money so he was going to take a new job. He didn't say what kind of job or where it was. He sends me a little now and then for our kids. We have three, Daniel, Jena and Marie." Ellen looked sorrowful as she glanced back in the house.

"Did he give you any clues as to where it might be?" Jarod asked.

"He said it might be a good idea to move to Mayville but that's all. I think Mayville is somewhere near The Adrionack Mountains," Ellen remembered.

"Thank you for your time," Jarod replied. He turned to leave.

"Jarod!" Ellen called. Jarod looked back at her. "If you do find him, tell him to come home. If not for me, for the kids." Jarod nodded his promise and headed for his car. Ellen turned and went back into the house.

* * *
The Fortress
Midnight

The sealed door opened. Two sweepers followed Akiva in. Amanda backed away. "Don't worry," Akiva snapped at Amanda. "I'm not here for you." Then, Akiva nodded towards Miss Parker and the sweepers seized her. "Time for another session," she laughed.

Miss Parker followed without a struggle. She was not going to give them the satisfaction of seeing her helpless. Besides that the sweepers had guns. Miss Parker walked slowly out the door and down the hall. It seemed the Fortress didn't care what you saw what you were inside. They seemed to figure there was no way for you to tell anyone, because there was no way out.

Miss Parker was strapped to the chair again and Akiva began another session. "If you don't start telling me something soon, I'm going to have to get more persuasive," Akiva warned. "My superiors aren't pleased."

"I'd like to have a word with your superiors," Miss Parker hissed.

"Maybe you will," Akiva laughed. "Maybe you will. Now once more I will ask you to answer me without any force. Why is Jarod so important to the Centre? What's special about him?"

"Why don't you bring him in here and ask him?" Miss Parker answered. Akiva slapped her. Miss Parker shot Akiva an angry glare but said nothing.

Akiva nodded towards Dr. Politan who gave Miss Parker an injection. "That won't help you any," Miss Parker told them.

"We'll see about that, won't we," Akiva replied. "Now how long has the Centre been chasing Jarod?"

Miss Parker was silent a second. "Long enough to draw your attention obviously," she said.

"If you won't tell me you'll tell The Eradicator. However for your sake, I hope your more cooperative with him. He hates it when he doesn't get what he wants," Akiva turned and motioned for the others to follow.

Miss Parker sat there alone a second. Soon the doors opened again and this time a man entered. He wore a black outfit and a black mask. "Well you must be The Eradicator I've heard so much about," Miss Parker greeted.

Silence.

He stood in the darkness as though he was studying her. He moved without making a sound. Something caught the light each time he moved. He paced then moved into the light. He wore a black glove on one hand. The other was exposed, but it wasn't a normal hand. It was metal. It was a hand with five mechanical fingers coming out of a metal palm. Miss Parker's eyes widened.

"What happened to you?" she asked.

"My hand gave me trouble, so I had it replaced." His voice was breathy but deep and definitely sinister. "That's what I do when something gives be trouble. I have them replaced."

"I suppose this is the part where I'm suppose to break down and tell you what you want to know." Miss Parker's voice was patronizing.

"It would be in your best interest," hissed The Eradicator.

"Well, it would be in your best interest to let me go," Miss Parker growled. The Eradicator chuckled to himself.

"You and I aren't very different Miss Parker," The Eradicator replied.

"Really," Miss Parker hissed.

"Yes, we're both hunters. Only difference is that this time, I'm the hunter and your the trap," he answered.

"And what exactly are you hunting?" Miss Parker demanded.

"The Centre has been the Fortress' prey for years." On that note, The Eradicator snapped his fingers and exited. Miss Parker was escorted out. Akiva stood by the exit.

"You really should try and be more cooperative. I'm sure after answering a few questions you could get a very lucrative job here," Akiva told. Miss Parker glared at her in disgust. Work for this awful place, never.

* * *

The Adriondack Mountains Mayville, Maine Jarod sat in his car just watching. It was amazing the amount of silvery gray cars going in and
out of Mayville. And his tail-gaiters had finally caught up with him again. Dave and Lynn kept just a mile away.

Jarod went into one of the local restaurants and ordered a chocolate milkshake. He watched Lynn and Dave get out of the car to keep an eye on him on foot. Jarod took a walk around the side of a building making sure Dave followed him into the alley. Jarod hid behind a dumpster. he heard the footsteps get closer and starting to walk past when he showed himself.

"Looking for me?" Jarod asked. Dave started to give an excuse. "How many people work for the Fortress?"

"I don't know what your talking about," Dave replied.

"I'm not interested in what they told you to say. I want to know why you're here, chasing me when you have a wife and three kids in McAlister who haven't seen you in years," Jarod continued.

"How do you know that?" Dave asked. "Who are you?"

"I'm Jarod and I need your help. You can go back to your family, no questions asked. All I want is your ID card and your silence," Jarod responded.

"You don't understand. This is not a job you can just quit or I would have done so long ago. If I don't work for them I don't work at all," Dave explained.

"With my help and your cooperation you can," Jarod answered. "Just give me your ID card and a map of the Fortress."

Dave took off the ID card. He handed it to Jarod. "I need my family safe," Dave told Jarod.

"They will be," Jarod promised.

"What about Lynn?" Dave asked.

"If we hurry we can be gone before she gets back," Jarod replied.

Dave nodded and took another look out of the alley. "It's clear," he said.

Jarod and Dave exited the alley. Jarod went to grab something from the car and Dave kept a lookout. When Jarod returned he wore a gray suit and Dave's ID except now it had his picture on it instead of Dave's. He then showed Dave a paper to show how he hacked into Fortress files and changed Dave's info to his. He also carried a silver briefcase.

"Well it's a good thing I never spent a lot of time at the Fortress. No one but Lynn could say you're not me," Dave assured Jarod.

Jarod climbed into the silvery gray car. Dave handed him two maps. "This one shows you the way in and this one is a map of the inside," Dave explained. "Thanks again."

Jarod smiled then started the car and took off. He chuckled to himself thinking about what Lynn would do when she came out and found the car was gone. He followed the map. He soon saw what looked like a toll booth. He stopped.

"ID, please," said a man in the booth. Jarod passed the ID badge. The man ran it through the computer. "Good afternoon, Mr. Mandello." The man hit a button and the electronic railing went up to let the car pass and then went back down behind it.

The closer Jarod got to the mountains the more his anticipation grew. Was this Fortress worse than the Centre. The Centre would most definitely kidnap someone if they had something to gain from it. When Jarod reached the base of the cliff he stopped. It still looked like a cliff. Clipped to the visor was a garage door opener. Jarod hit it. The mountain door went up. Jarod drove through. It closed on it's own after he passed.

Jarod found himself in a parking garage full of silvery gray cars, vans, jeeps and limos. Jarod parked the car in an empty space that wasn't labeled and got out of the car. He walked over to an electronic metal door. There was no button just a slot with above it that read ENTER FORTRESS ID in red. Jarod entered the card. The doors opened. He entered. There was a door on the opposite side of the elevator that required an access code to enter. Jarod typed in the code off his card. The doors opened and he stood in a room full of security officers and cubicles.

An officer walked up to Jarod immediately. "ID please," he requested. Jarod showed it to him. Then he nodded. Jarod continued.

A blond haired woman sat behind a desk with a computer. "I can check you here sir," she said. Jarod approached and sat down at the seat on the opposite side of the desk to the woman. Her name tag read Hannah. "Okay," she said. "Place your hand on the scanner." Jarod did so. Hannah looked at the computer. "Okay, now roll up your sleeve please." The woman took a blood sample and handed the vial to the woman next to her who look at it and placed it on a computer scanner. She nodded at Hannah. "Have a nice day, Mr. Mandello. The elevator that's open today is number 3. It's on the east wall just twist the blue
flower vase and it will open."

"Thank you," said Jarod standing up.

"Oh no problem," Hannah replied. "Next!"

Jarod walked over the east wall. It didn't look like an elevator. Jarod twisted the blue vase. The wall slid up to expose two elevator doors. Jarod walked in. Another enter ID code sign was there. Afterwards a panel opened to expose the buttons for the floors. There were 39. All going down. A label was next to each button. Some labels read research, others read personnel offices or cells, cabins 1-355 and beyond, Eradicators Lair, Emergency, dispatch and security. Jarod hit the button that took him to Sub-Level 17, Security.

Jarod walked into the back room. It was full of security guard uniforms. Jarod smiled as he took one.

* * *
Tech Room, Sub-Level 5
The Centre

"Is Miss Parker still missing?" Broots asked.

"Yes, Jarod has contacted me to say he's found her," Sydney replied.

Just then walked in Mr. Lyle followed by Brigitte. Mr. Lyle wore a grey suit while Brigitte wore black with a shiny blue jacket over her outfit. "Mr. Lyle, sir, um how can we help you?" Broots stumbled through his question.

"Shame Miss Parker still missing," Mr. Lyle asked. "Any new information?"

"There's been nothing new reported yet sir," Broots answered.

"So, have you been looking for Jarod?" Mr. Lyle asked.

"We've been, well not exactly. He's been trying to find Miss Parker and we, well we were letting him help. He's looking for her too," Broots stuttered through an answer.

"Yes I figured that. Brigitte will take charge now," Mr. Lyle replied.

"But Miss Parker-" Broots began.

"Isn't here," Mr. Lyle finished. He exited. Brigitte stepped forward. Broots and Sydney glanced at each other and then at Brigitte.

"So, where shall we start luvs?" Brigitte questioned.

* * *
Sub-Level 17
The Fortress

Jarod, dressed in a security uniform got into the elevator. He noticed a button for an alarm. It wasn't a fire alarm it was an alarm in case anyone escaped. Jarod went all the way down to Sub-Level 39. He looked around. It looked like a storage area. He looked in a few of the storage containers. Most were filled with exploratory chemicals.

Jarod looked at the labels and finally took one filled with red liquid. He tested it on one of the metal containers. It ate a hole into it. He smiled. He moved a few storage containers looking for more. He moved one of the larger containers and instead of finding the gray shiny metal wall that was all over the Fortress, he found gray rocky wall.

Jarod took out a flashlight from the belt of his uniform and shined it in the wall. He pushed on it. The wall pushed back to reveal a kind of chute. Jarod went down it. He found himself in a stone corridor tall enough to stand in. He wandered the corridor a while which gradually went up. He finally found himself in an open cave filled with silvery gray cars. He exited the cave to find a road leading to the highway. He'd found the Fortress secret evacuation exit.

* * *
Tech room, Sub-Level
The Centre
11am

"So where do you think Jarod is?" Brigitte asked her British accent making her voice sound prickly.

"Looking for Miss Parker who, last we knew, was in Maine," Broots replied.

"Then how come we're still around here and not in Maine," Brigitte asked.

"We aren't sure which part of Maine Miss Parker went to, Miss Parker is not used to reporting to others," Sydney answered.

"Why didn't you just check her flight plan?" Brigitte questioned.

"They delete the flight plans every two days," Broots replied.

"Brigitte, Willie and Sam have returned," said a sweeper.

"Send them in," Brigitte ordered. A couple seconds later Willie and Sam entered. "Where did Miss Parker disappear?"

"We were chasing Jarod in Lakefield, Maine. When we came back, since we lost track of him, we didn't see anything but a silvery gray car in the distance," Willie explained.

"We're going to Maine," Brigitte exclaimed. She brushed past everyone and left the room.

* * *
The Fortress
3pm

Whirp! Whirp! Whirp!

"What is that?" Miss Parker demanded. She sat up on the cot.

"It sounds like the fire alarm," Amanda replied. She hugged her daughter, Holly, who was there for her weekly visit.

"Good, maybe now I can get a light for my cigarettes," Miss Parker snapped. She got up and tried the door. "If there's a fire then why isn't the door unlocked."

"The doors only unlock on the level that the fire alarm is pulled and the two levels above and below that level," Amanda replied.

Miss Parker sat back down. "You've been here a year, how much do you know about this place?"

"It has 39 sub-levels about 3,000 people working for them," Holly answered.

OOF!!!

"What was that?" Amanda asked.

Just then the door opened. "Jarod!" Miss Parker exclaimed.

"Who were you expecting?" Jarod asked. "Now come on." Jarod exited.

"We'll never get out. When they realize we're gone they'll seal all the exits," Amanda complained.

"We are going out an exit they can't seal, come on," Jarod replied.

"Let's go!" Amanda picked up Holly and walked out of the cell.

"Why are you doing this, Jarod?" Miss Parker asked.

"I figure I owe you," Jarod replied.

Jarod led the three to the elevator. Before he got in, he hit the fire alarm. Then he stepped in and hit 39 on the elevator pad. "Where are
we going?" Amanda asked.

"Down and out," Jarod replied.

Mayville, Maine Brigitte got out of a Centre car followed by Sydney, Broots, Sam, and Willie. "Come on now, that woman said she saw Jarod around here, find him!" Brigitte told the sweepers.

"Hey, look at this!" Broots held up a map. "We're only about a mile from the mountains."

"That's very good Mr. Broots. I think we should take a visit to the mountains," Brigitte said ordering everyone back into the car.

They drove towards the mountains. They pulled up to the toll booth.

"ID please," said the guard.

"What ID?" Brigitte demanded. She pointed a gun at the guard.

"The one you must have left at home," the guard replied hitting the button to make the railing go up.

* * *
Secret Tunnels
The Fortress

"Are you sure this is a way out?" Amanda asked.

"Don't worry, I've come this way before," Jarod replied.

"Jarod knows a lot about escaping from secret organizations," Miss Parker added.

Jarod finally led them to the final tunnel and came up in the cave full of cars. All of which were unlocked with keys in the ignition. Jarod climbed into the drivers seat. Holly and Amanda sat in back. Miss Parker got into the passenger seat next to Jarod even though she would have forced Jarod out of driver's seat if she'd still had her gun.

"Where are we going?" Amanda asked and Jarod pulled the car out of the cave and onto the road. it took them back around to the front and out past the toll booth. suddenly a black car pulled up behind them..

"That looks like a Centre car," Jarod said.

"And Princess Eyes is in the driver's seat," Miss Parker replied.

"The new cleaner Sydney told me about?" Jarod questioned.

"The one and only," Miss Parker replied.

"Look, she has a gun!" Amanda exclaimed. The sound of a bullet ricocheting off the bumper was heard.

"Hang on!" yelled Jarod. He made a sharp turned off the road and into the grass heading down hill.

"What...do you think...your doing?!?!" Miss Parker yelled between bumps and glances behind them. Brigitte was still in pursuit. The car finally stopped going downhill and Jarod turned onto the road. He kept driving making sharp turns and soon it began to get dark. Brigitte finally had to break off pursuit due to lack of gas. Jarod dropped Amanda and Holly in a nearby town where she had some friends.

Jarod continued on and finally stopped at a motel just outside of Augusta. It was in the small town Conindale. "Wait here," Jarod said.

Miss Parker started to open her car door. "Jarod, you don't seriously think I'm just going to sit here," Miss Parker mocked.

Jarod pointed Miss Parker's gun at her. "Actually I think you will," Jarod replied. He ran into the motel. As soon as Jarod was out of sight Miss Parker jumped up. Just then two black cars pulled up. Brigitte got out.

"Have you got 'im?" Brigitte asked.

"He's inside," Miss Parker answered. She grabbed a gun from one of
the sweepers. "What are you doing here?"

"We're here to catch Jarod, same as you," Brigitte replied.

Sydney and Broots got out. "Miss Parker are you alright?" Sydney asked.

"I'm fine, Willie, Sam, you take the back," Miss Parker ordered. The two sweepers didn't move.

"They're under my direction now, luv," Brigitte laughed nodding to the sweepers who ran towards the back of the motel.

"We'll see about that," Miss Parker gave Brigitte her most chilling glare but Brigitte didn't even flinch. "And don't ever," Miss Parker pointed the gun at Brigitte, "call me luv again."

"Right!" Brigitte brushed past Miss Parker and ran into the motel. Miss Parker followed angrily. Sydney and Broots followed as well. They found Jarod's hotel room. "He's gone!" Brigitte exclaimed. She looked around the room. It was full of blenders and fruit.

"I guess Jarod discovered milk shakes," Sydney said.

Miss Parker looked around. "You let him get away," she said sounding annoyed.

"We'll get 'im," Brigitte replied. Miss Parker just glared at her.

"Where has Jarod gone?" Sydney questioned.

* * *
McAlister, Maine
8pm

"Jarod, you're right on time. Please come in," Ellen greeted.

"Jarod, I really need to thank you," Dave added.

"Dinner will be ready in a minute," said Ellen. "Go have a seat in the
living room."

Jarod followed Dave into the living room. The Mandello house was decorated with wooden paneling. Jena, Marie and Daniel were in there playing. "Wanna play?" Jena asked. She was nine with blonde hair and brown eyes. She held out her hand to show her toy. She dropped it bounced back up and caught it.

"Balls of rubber that bounce. How interesting!" Jarod exclaimed.

"They're called bouncy balls," Marie laughed. She was seven and had black hair and brown eyes. "Here, you can have one." She handed Jarod a rainbow-colored bouncy ball.

"Thank you," Jarod replied.

"Dinner's ready," Ellen announced. Everyone got up and headed for the dining room.

* * *
Miss Parker's Office
Intergroup Concourse Level
The Centre
11am

Miss Parker entered her office. She looked puzzled to see a large brown box on her desk. She went up to it and read the label. It read To: Miss Parker. She opened the box. It was full of bouncy balls. On the top was a red notebook with a note taped to the front.

Miss Parker picked up the red notebook and read the note. Just thought you might enjoy these and I've decided to return your gun. Underneath it was a plastic bag with her silver gun in it. Miss Parker took out the gun and placed it on her desk. She flipped through the red notebook. It spoke of a man missing for three years and finally being reunited with his wife and three kids.

Miss Parker put both on her desk. She picked up a smaller box inside full of black bouncy balls. Miss Parker picked up one, bounced it and caught it. She smiled a second.

Just then the door opened and Brigitte walked in. "Miss Parker-"

"Don't you ever knock?" Miss Parker asked angrily. "Right, what's that?' Brigitte questioned.

"It's a gift. From Jarod," Miss Parker replied.

"Really? I've heard about these." Brigitte grabbed one of the bouncy balls. She bounced it and caught it. "What does it mean?"

"I don't know," Miss Parker admitted.

* * *
Recycle Center
Pontiac, Michigan
Exact Same Moment

"Here the tires go over here," said a man. He handed a tire to Jarod.

"Thanks Leo," Jarod threw the tire into a pile of black rubber and smiled as it bounced before landing next to the pile.

The End


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