Late Night: Centre
“This is so dangerous, Jarod,” Sydney warned him. Jarod kept in the shadows, with handcuffs on. He wanted to see firsthand what was going on. Gil was kept out of the loop enough, that with what knowledge he had, there was a good chance he could get in with nothing more than Sydney’s help. From a past shared point of view, Gil eased up with Broots enough to agree to see Sydney. If it backfired, he had a way out, but he wanted to try.
As Doctor Gil walked up, Sydney apologized right away.
“Gil, I am very sorry about what happened days ago with us,” he said. “I was in a terrible mood about Jarod. We were close to nabbing him and I thought I had lost him. It’s alright again though, he’s back. Now, you’ve been trying to tell me something?”
“Oh. Yes. Did Broots give you the DSA’s?” Gil asked.
“Yes, yes. It made Jarod feel much better,” Sydney said. “I have him now, it turned out alright in the end. He is anxious to see Mary again. Do you think we could arrange a very quick visit?”
“Well? Yes. Um? Things are desperate enough, I think we should do that,” Gil said. “You need to come up to my office. I need to show you something and get your opinion of it first.”
“If you don’t mind.” Sydney gestured toward the darkness and Jarod emerged. “We would love to.”
“Oh. You brought him?” Gil was getting nervous now. “Already? Oh. I wasn’t prepared for that.“
“Three weeks were stolen from me,” Jarod said to him. He knew he needed to be tender and gentle as possible. Most likely The Centre was messing with his medication to keep him under their thumb. “I want to know the Mary I saw on the DSA’s. Something. Good. About The Centre. Most likely, they won’t grant permission. Please.”
“This makes it harder, not easier to give you access. We should have talked without him, Sydney. Still?” He touched his chest. “My heart is too soft for my lesser. She always wanted to be the one to explain.”
Gil opened the doors. Awake in the smaller setting than Jarod’s room was Parker. Very white. No stimulation.
She looked toward him with no rage or anger. Serene and calm. “Hello, Jarod.”
“Hello, Mary,” he greeted her. “How have you been?”
That radiant smile on the DSA’s did not do her justice. “Much better. I am always better with Gil.” She looked at Gil.
“He does not remember either,” Gill said quickly to her. “Be careful of your words. You may open the panel when you are done. I am not far. Sydney, my office is this way. Our lesser and pretender need a few minutes to talk privately.”
Jarod watched her, finally alone. Which would be the better way to go? Anger Mary or calm Miss Parker for the future?
“During October of 1995, Gil left to Europe for three weeks with your Sydney. During that time, we were close.” She looked awkward. “We don’t remember it.”
“Of course not. The Centre takes everything,” Jarod said.
“You don’t know how true that statement is.” She gulped lightly. “Over the last few years, I’ve only had hours as myself each month.”
Wait. They were still bringing Mary out during the time Miss Parker chased him?
“I can’t believe you never told me about any of this!” Sydney was livid as he came back out. “Yes, I know about contracts and how you wanted to protect, but this was not right!” He looked at Jarod, his eyes filled with worry. “Are you okay?”
“Why?” Jarod looked at Mary. “What?”
“Doctor Gil made a contract. Oliver is his to watch without interference of a pretender.”
Oliver? “Who is Oliver?”
“Well?” she said, a little fidgety. “According to the archive that Doctor Gil cannot find anymore, we were mutually sexually active.”
“You didn’t know about protection yet, Jarod,” Sydney muttered.
Jarod stayed still. “What?” He watched Mary move toward the door on her side and open the panel.
She smiled into it and waved, then looked back at Jarod. “Oliver is our lesser pretender son.”
Jarod didn’t even think about the name of lesser pretender just the word son. He went to the panel and looked inside There was a little boy, who had apparently been waving at Parker for attention, now excitedly waving at him. He came running over while Jarod was memorizing everything he could about him.
“Hello, Jarod!” Oliver was happy to see him, trying to jump up closer to the panel. He reached in his pocket and showed him a picture of him. “Hello!”
Jarod waved once, as his mind pulled it all together. He stepped away from the panel and looked at Sydney. “Sydney? I have a son.”
“Yes. The.” Gil was quieter now after Sydney’s outburst. He still held out some of his papers. “The DNA testing is there. The, uh-“
Sydney snagged all of the papers as Gil found his place in talking, while Jarod snagged the DNA testing one specifically from him.
“-the uh, acute intelligence rating is there. Nothing significant. Enough that Mister Parker wanted him taken care of and doing minor simulations unless he improved significantly.” Gil didn’t know what else to say. “It’s there.”
Jarod had to bend his hand at a hard angle to read until Sydney straightened it out in his hand.
“He is at a lower pretender range,” Sydney said. “Meaning even if he was your son, he was of no use to them.” Sydney glared at Gil. “I think Jarod would like to see the boy.”
“He could start seeing him? Gil?” Mary asked. “He could see him on the fifteenth’s too?”
“What time on the fifteenth’s did you see him?” Jarod said approaching Mary closer. She took a step back.
“Jarod, your excitement may be too much for her,” Sydney reminded him.
“I just want to know the times.” Jarod tried to sound flat. “From when and what time?”
“Um?” She bit her lip and looked at Gil. “I found myself in my room between 9:00 and 10:00 every 15th. I. But it was worth it,” she smiled. “It was worth it, I got a whole hour with him every month and I loved it. Yet, I used to get once a week, but I don’t know what else happened.”
“They were pulling her away for one day a month for an hour,” Jarod said straight to Sydney. He looked back toward her. “Why? Why would The Centre bother with caring?”
“Uh?” She was uncomfortable with that question. “If he does terrible on his simulations, I’m not allowed to see him.”
“Of course,” Jarod muttered. “Of course!” He stalked around the room slightly, going back to the panel. The boy was still there, staring. “I want to see him now.”
Jarod yanked Sydney away with anger and desperation. He grabbed onto his jacket tighter. “Sydney? Please?”
Sydney patted his hand and approached Gil. “I think, considering how long the boy has been alive and how little Jarod knew, he should be able to see the boy a few minutes?”
Gil was jelly, but he also? “No, Sydney. No. He can see him from the panel.”
Jarod wanted to get the clearance from Gil and get in there already! I’ve been going everywhere trying to find my family, and they had my own son right here! No one told me, no one breathed a word about him!
“Gil.” Mary went over to him. “I don’t remember. I know you do. But? Jarod isn’t Alex.” Mary gave him a gentle pat on his hand. “He won’t hurt him. I don’t remember the three weeks, but I saw the DSA’s and I remember him from childhood. He would never hurt me, so he would never hurt him.”
“We should have discussed this alone, Sydney,” Gil insisted. He looked toward Mary. “A few minutes. If Raines knows about this, it is going to get ugly so please promise not to talk? We have no cameras in here.”
“None at all?” Sydney asked. “Not even minor?”
“None,” Mary assured him. “I’m not worth watching.”
Jarod banged against the wall, hearing her say that. Only when she can be used as Miss Parker. “She’s right.” Still, he had to be polite. He wanted to see him. “Please? I just want to see him, I’d never hurt him. I’d never hurt anyone.”
“You watched those DSA’s. Jarod’s a good pretender,” Mary insisted again.
“He’s been gone from The Centre for years, overstimulated, and has already tried to overrule on Sydney,” Gil said.
“Only because he found out he is a father,” Sydney said in his defense. “Jarod has been very good. On my oath, Jarod would not hurt Oliver.”
Gil looked at Jarod and his cuffs. He looked at Mary. He reached in his pocket and grabbed his clearance key. “The boy can touch him but he can’t touch the boy. This is so much further than I should be going yet, I know it. We haven’t even discussed Mary or Oliver’s futures yet.”
When the door opened up, Jarod was right there along with Mary.
It took seconds for Oliver to see them before he took off to him.
Jarod felt the boy hugging his legs. He bent down but remembered what Gil said. He couldn’t jeopardize anything.
“I have pictures of you!” Oliver said excitedly. “Did I finally get good enough to see you?”
I hate The Centre, I hate it so much. “Yeah,” Jarod said. He looked at the surroundings. Like his, but smaller. He had planets on the wall, fifteen. Countdown to be with his mother. Who lives right next to him. He saw pictures of himself, but not from The Centre. Apparently, any pictures they did get of Jarod from his pretends for his passports and licenses became something to give Oliver too. He looked back down at him. “I . . . wasn’t able to see you. I’m back now.”
“Gil is going to try and let him see you on the fifteenth’s too,” Mary said. She brought him over closer to them. “Do you want that, Oliver?”
“Yeah. Hi.” The excitable boy now didn’t know what to do. “I don’t know what to say to you. Except, Hi.”
“Hi.” Jarod almost choked. “Hi is a good greeting in a pinch.”
“Hi. My name’s Oliver. Um? Uh. I like blue.”
“Good. Good, blue is a good color.” Nervous, but not rattling off scientific facts. “My color is red.”
“Compliments. We like compliments.” Oliver looked at his mom. “We like complimentary colors.”
“Your name is a good name.” Jarod kept the conversation at his excitable level.
“Heh! I knew you’d like it. You named me,” Oliver said.
“I named you?” Jarod looked at Mary. “How could I name him?”
“Oh. Gil?” She pointed out.
“I used to have the whole three weeks,” Gil said to Sydney. “I wish I could have . . . anyhow, in their many conversations of wishing to be free, like any other human. Futures were discussed that could never happen. And-“
Oliver didn’t like the slowness of the explanation. “Oliver sounds like I love her. You never wanted anyone to forget it no matter what happened because nothing’s ever certain in The Centre.”
Jarod felt like he had the breath knocked out of him. I wasn’t wrong on the island, I knew it. We even talked about the future, past The Centre.
“Don’t you think this is long enough, Sydney?” Gil asked Sydney. “Over stimulation isn’t good on a pretender or a lesser.”
“Don’t you think either of us is to blame for never covering protection for our duties?” Sydney shot back at him. “A few minutes more won’t kill you. Does he have cameras in here?”
“No, he hasn’t been worth their technology in here either,” Gil said. “I do however. I have some regular recordings from special occasions.”
“Want,” Jarod said, still staring at Oliver. My son. I’m cuffed. I’ve been forbidden from holding my own son!
“Oliver, come here,” Mary said reaching for her boy. “Why don’t you give us each a hug?” She took a moment to hug him. “Jarod, can you bend lower? He’s only five.”
Jarod bent all the way to his knees. He raised his arms higher as Mary helped Oliver figure out how to hug him. Feeling the loose strength of youth, yet the tight embrace of a child that longed for his family, he was losing it.
“Jarod won’t run, I promise,” Sydney promised Gil as he took out the handcuff key from his pocket. “He just wants to hug his son. Can’t you see that?”
“Please, Gil?” Mary asked. “I promise. It will be okay. I know it will be. You are being incredibly brave today, and I thank you for that. But this is their first meeting. Sydney promises.”
“I have broken so many rules already,” Gil said. “We still need to discuss them, Sydney.”
“Then we can discuss them out there.” Sydney took Gil back out, giving Jarod privacy and time to think.
At least, that’s what he thought. “Gil just got a call from Lyle, they are coming to get Mary. Jarod, we need to go for now.”
“She won’t go anywhere yet,” Gil said. “There are no transports set up.”
“Don’t make Oliver nervous,” Mary said to Gil. “I mean? Sorry. Just. Please be careful around Oliver.”
His son. With Parker. I didn’t even know of your existence, and now I just can’t let go.
“Jarod, Lyle! We have to come back later,” Sydney said. “If we get caught here, it’s over.”
Jarod took a deep breath. “Oliver? I’m coming back. Understand?”
“On the fifteenth?” he asked excitedly.
“On the fifteenth, but you need to be quiet. Don’t tell anyone you saw me. Okay?”
“Okay, Jarod.” He nodded. “Thank you for visiting me.”
“Thank you for . . . accepting my visit.”
“Jarod!” Sydney scolded him bringing him up. “Now!”
Jarod knew he was taking too much time. Even Sydney was getting rough. He hurried out the door, down the stairs, and out the painting with Gil’s card. “I am coming back, we are coming back,” Jarod insisted.
“I hope so,” Gil said to him. “We need to work out a use for Mary or she’s either going to Africa or Japan.”
“No time, come on,” Sydney insisted. “Move, we need to move.”
Jarod drug Sydney into the darkness with him as Lyle and Raines started to come.
“Gonna need Mary again,” Lyle yawned as he caught Gil coming out. “An old friend from College wants to see her. Remember?”
“Mary never went to college,” he said bravely. “Remember?”
“I know.” Lyle chuckled. “It was a joke.”
“Stop joking,” Raines scolded him. “Kids.” He looked back at Gil. “I need Mary. Now.”
Gil swallowed. “We haven’t even talked about moving them. I thought you would wait longer into the night to take her. I haven’t even woken her up yet.”
“No. She’s got a date as Miss Parker now,” Raines said. “Possible future. We’ll see.”
“Possible future of which?”
“Just get Mary.” Sweepers and cleaners both stepped out more into the light.
Gil nodded and opened the door. He came back down with Parker. “Be careful. May I come this time?”
“Will she be back soon?” Gil asked.
“An hour or two probably,” Lyle said, “Dad.”
Gil watched them leave and then turned to Sydney. They were both already gone.
“Okay, Jarod, far enough,” Sydney insisted as they stopped in the middle of a Centre hall. “Jarod.”
“I have a son!” Jarod yelled at him. “You never even knew, Sydney!” He palmed his face, trying to concentrate.
“Yes, I know how you feel,” Sydney said. “When I discovered Nicholas, it wasn’t easy. Oliver though, he is still young, and he sees you as a father. Even if he’s . . . never actually seen you.”
“Five years old. I’ve been out there, looking for my mom and dad,” Jarod reasoned. “My sister. My brother. I lost my brother. I found a new brother. Even my clone, everyone. And this whole time?” He tried to take several deep breaths.
“Had his intelligence been as much as you, I’m sure we would have heard of him,” Sydney reasoned.
“No.” Jarod shook his finger. “I don’t care about any of that. He was my son. Why did they . . .” He looked to the wall. “They use everything to get me. They always use everything.”
“Well? Contrary to how bad it sounds,” Sydney said gently. “Mister Parker must have been watching over them. And, like it or not? His grandfather is Mister Raines. It is family, and he may want to preserve that line.”
Jarod leaned against the wall. “Everything you taught me, Sydney. All of the skills and abilities you pressed into me.” He glared at him. “And you never once thought, hey, why not teach him about protection? Oh no, no, because why would I ever end up in that kind of situation in The Centre!”
“I didn’t know,” Sydney defended himself. “I didn’t ever think that . . . I have nothing I can say for it,” he responded. “You were isolated and alone. You barely knew about women. I did teach you how babies were made.”
“Sure all the different ways from in vitro to artificial insemination to- you never got down to it!” Jarod still had trouble controlling his rage. “Oliver. I have a boy named Oliver. I don’t even know what day he was born.”
“I still have the papers.” Sydney looked through them. “July 4, 1996.”
“Right before Damen. Right before Eddie, Alex and I got out.” Jarod walked the lone halls. “I had a chance, it was my chance and Gil never told me.”
“He never told me either,” Sydney reminded him. “As I said before, because of Oliver’s relation to the Parkers. Being a Parker. They probably didn’t want to risk him in any scheme. Even Mary, no one knew anything until Raines came to power.”
“I knew,” Jarod reminded him, “and I had my heart stopped after it.” He took a deep breath. “Out. I have to get him and Miss Parker out of here.”
“We’ll have to overthrow Gil,” Sydney said. “That’s not good for his psyche.”
“He’s going to have to learn to deal with what happens. Get therapy, get help and get away from The Centre. I’ll even set him up afterward to make sure he’s okay,” Jarod said, “but he’s going down tonight. Oliver and Miss Parker. They are coming out of The Centre and with me. Not one more day,” Jarod warned him. “Not one extra hour. Nothing.”
“Mary out there though. If she becomes Miss Parker, things will get tough, Jarod,” Sydney warned him.
“No. I have to try and get them both to emerge. I expect it to get hairy, it is how I get her better,” Jarod said.
“Your avenging pretends will have to be put on hold,” Sydney pointed.
“My son, five years old, trapped in The Centre. Miss Parker’s mind divided into two by The Centre. Gee, let me think if it’s worth it,” Jarod practically growled with a glare.
“Easy, Jarod. I know. I know,” Sydney tried to calm him. “Very soon? You will be able to hug your own son.”
“His little arms,” Jarod looked at the cuffs still on his hands as Sydney reached in for the key. “Weak but strong. You know? You could feel how much effort they were putting into trying to hug their dad.” He was starting to break down. “I know, I did that too. But my hands weren’t half as small. He’s so small.”
“Yes. He is,” Sydney said as Jarod’s hands were freed, “and you are going to make a great dad, Jarod. Now. Let’s not go too far. As soon as the coast is clear? We’ll take Gil and get your family out.”