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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.
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