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Insert standard disclaimer here.
This may have some standard plot bunnies in it, but I promise some non-standard twists… and as always, this is a Miss Parker-centric fic. Beyond that, I have no leanings whatsoever.
"No! Mama, no! Mama!" the words were cried in the high-pitched voice of a troubled child. Gunshots. Falling. And oh, so much blood.
Sweat beaded on her ashen forehead, her head twitching almost imperceptibly from side-to-side. She lay on her back, her legs twisted to the side, the fingers of the hand laying on her stomach curling and then uncurling; if the motion had not been out of fear, it would have been a caress.
"They're hurting her! Let me go, let me go!" a young boy cried.
A low groan forced its way to the surface. Curls of dark brown hair, sweat-dampened, stuck to the side of her face.
"Jarod..." she cried, voice strained and sad and child-like.
"Miss Parker!" A hand descended on her shoulder, "Parker, wake up." Her eyes snapped open, flooded with fear and angst, red-rimmed with tears. Tracks streaked her cheeks. Ben Miller sat on the edge of the bed, his hand moved to cover the one laying at her side. "Just a dream, little Miss," he near-whispered.
She involuntarily jerked her hand away but the injured look on his face made her reach back toward him without a second thought. "I'm sorry for waking you, Ben."
"It's only seven o'clock, Miss Parker. You've been asleep since you arrived before noon," he paused, "You should have at least wrapped up." His words were scolding, fatherly.
The dates, she couldn't help but think, oh the dates line up. If he were my father...
"I'm sorry, Ben, I'm afraid I'm not very good company today."
"You aren't feeling well," he nodded, laying a hand over the one on her stomach. "Is it your ulcer?"
Her look was sharp, accusatory. "How did you know about my ulcer? Never mind, let me guess - Jarod?"
"No, me." A new voice joined the duo. The calming accent kept her hackles from rising. "I followed you here, Parker. I knew something was wrong," he paused at her mildly annoyed expression. "Call it my inner sense." Sydney stepped forward into the room, and Ben vacated his seat so that he could reach her forehead. "You are ill, Miss Parker."
"No, Sydney. Just tired." And I get the feeling my plan for a weekend retreat has just flown out the window, she thought, swiping a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.
"I'm going to go keep Mr. Broots and his lovely daughter company. Jarod should be here before nightfall," Ben announced, exiting the room.
"Broots? Jarod? Sydney, what's going on?" her tone demanding.
"I don't know, Parker. Broots and I received a video call this morning from Jarod, telling us we needed to follow you here. You were too far ahead, so Jarod told us where we could find you. He said he'd meet us here, that we all needed to be out of the Centre for a few days. Something bad is happening, Parker, and only Jarod can explain it."
Silence reigned. "Sydney, I..."
"Just relax, Miss Parker. Everything will be okay, Jarod will be able to give you something for your ulcer."
"No, Sydney. I have to leave. Now."
"Jarod can't fix this, he can only make it worse. I have to leave, now."
"What about your answers, Miss Parker? You know Jarod holds the key. Something's going on Parker, something we need to know about!" He watched her sling her legs over the edge of her mother's old bed, and stand using the bedside table as support.
"Sometimes, Sydney, there are more important things than the past."
"And what is that, Miss Parker?" he questioned.
"The future." She grabbed her coat from the hope chest at the end of the bed, and hefted a small bag from beside it over her shoulder. "Tell Jarod..." she faltered, "Tell him that if he isn't careful, the answers will eat him from the inside out. Tell him that I'll find him, the game has not changed, I'm just giving him a reprieve. If I'm not here, he has nothing to fear."
"I'll see you on Monday, Sydney. You can listen to Jarod's gibberish and give me the condensed version, otherwise I'm sure I'll hear it around 2 a.m."
Let either one of those two figure this one out. God, did she hate her every movement being analyzed.
"Don't go back to the Centre, Parker. Jarod warned us..."
She nodded. Her mother's voice was strong inside of her, telling her to leave. Leave now. They would be safe there. But she needed to be away. The answers Jarod would bring were not the ones she sought. Those were the ones she would find within her own heart, and soon, the voice promised.
"I'll be fine, Syd."
"Where is Miss Parker?" Jarod queried, surveying the faces around the room. The quartet lifted their eyes to him as he stood just inside, having just announced his presence after moments of casual observation.
"She left when we arrived," the aging psychiatrist informed him, gaze steady, analyzing his young protege's reaction to the words. "She said that your answers were unimportant, that there was nothing you could tell her that she didn't already know."
Dark brown eyes narrowed, his brow furrowed. "We made an agreement that all information would be shared!"
Broots shrugged helplessly from his position next to his daughter on the couch. "Debbie, why don't you go help Mr. Miller with that tea?"
"Just go, sweetheart."
No one had ever called Miss Parker "sweetheart", Jarod thought. Maybe that would have saved her.
"What's going on, Jarod?" Sydney asked, taking the seat Debbie had vacated, watching Jarod dance from one foot to the other.
"Do you remember, Sydney, when I left you the red notebook about the slumlord in New York? You and Parker went to the warehouse and you were shot by Parker's gun. Parker was thrown against the fence, you were both mugged? It was Centre organized, Sydney, they were meant to take Parker to a branch facility, impregnate her with the next Mirage. Something went wrong, they lost a man in the shuffle and that is what saved you both. Instead, Brigitte became the surrogate. If they had waited, she would have known too much, she would have been disposed of afterward, just as Brigitte was."
"Master Parker, the boy... he's dead, Sydney. He's been dead for weeks. They just removed his body from the Centre after dissecting it and analyzing every cell. Parker came here five weeks ago, escaped to Ben's, and that's when the boy inhaled a lethal dose of Raines' nerve gas - the gas that was supposed to stimulate lung growth when he was on the verge of death just after he was born."
"My God," Broots uttered.
"I don't know if she's aware... her access to the boy was restricted anyway, but she has to suspect something. I assumed that's why she came back to Maine so quickly."
"I didn't know she still visited the child," the older man shook his head. "But, he was her brother, and she did deliver him. Perhaps there was some sort of bond there that she was unwilling to share with us."
"I found a directive in the Centre mainframe - they're trying for a third Mirage. But they're out of Catherine Parker's DNA. So naturally..."
"They're going to use Miss Parker's?" Broots' face was sullen and horrified, but not entirely surprised.
"And yours?" Sydney guessed.
Jarod's face was grim. "My father's."
"But... that would mean..."
"I know, Mr. Broots. We have to find Miss Parker before they entrap her into this plan of theirs."
"She would never willingly become a part of something like this, would she, Sydney?" Broots looked to his cohort.
"No, Broots, she wouldn't. And that's the problem. They would need another surrogate, they would have to do it without her knowledge."
"Who better to be the surrogate for a Centre experiment than the child's own mother?" Jarod's question was rhetorical. "We have to find her before the directive is acted upon. She'll be a prisoner... just like I was."
"She's always been a prisoner, Jarod. Her cell was just bigger than yours."
Jarod's mouth was set in a grim line. "I've been in touch with my father. He's prepared to help us act against the Centre, take it down if necessary. We haven't worked out the details yet, but something must be done. There will be a war. But we need Parker on our side before she becomes a casualty. I need to find out where she might have gone, and why she came here five weeks ago."
"She hasn't been here in over a year, Jarod," Ben Miller answered upon his reentrance to the room. His and Debbie's expressions belied their eavesdropping.
"Daddy... Daddy please tell me what's going on!" Debbie flew toward her father, tears welled in her eyes.
"If she wasn't here..." Sydney began, watching as Broots took Debbie's hand and inhaled deeply.
"They may have already gotten to her." Jarod cut him off, obviously fearing the words he spoke.
"Or she may have gotten to them."
"Maybe she already knows, Jarod. Maybe she's already setting up her own contingency plan. One she doesn't want us to be a part of."