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After the bombing, Jarod met someone who surprised him more than can be imagined. Her name was Zoe Daniels, or at least that’s what she said. She had the I.Q. of a Pretender. She was a runaway, and she belonged to a gang. So Jarod being the kind person he is, took it upon himself to led her away from the gang and to teach her what he knew.
A month later...
Miss Parker stormed in, "Any leads on Wonder Boy?" She snapped.
"Actually I was just coming to tell you we found him. He’s in California. But... Miss Parker I’ve never found him that easily."
"Superman slipped up!" She grinned.
"I-I was th-thinking it’s a trap."
"We don’t pay you to think. Hard. Get Sydney, we’re heading out!"
"Do you think that would be ok? I-I mean with him being you-you know blind?"
"Yes, Broots it will be ok." Sydney said as he walked into the room.
"Oh, ok. Um, let me call Debbie’s babysitter."
A few minutes later Broots hung up. "Ok, the sitter’s set, but let me call my daughter."
"We don’t have a lot of time Broots, we’ll be waiting in the car." Grabbing Sydney by the wrist and leading him out of the room, Miss Parker ran into Mr. Lyle.
"Going somewhere, Sis?" He sneered.
"Well, does it look like I’m going somewhere?"
"You wouldn’t think of leaving me, your partner, would you?"
"Now why would I do that?" She said sarcastically.
Ten minutes later the four were seated somewhat confortably on their way to airport.
"Jarod I don’t see why you-"
"I’m not going to dress up in those dinky little suits and ask, ‘You want some more beer?’"
"Why do you always have to disagree with what I say?"
"’Cause I don’t like you." She smiled. "Anyway why are you being a steward?"
"Because it’s an easy way to get to where we’re going while being paid."
She smiled, "So, you are learning from me?!"
"So how much are we getting paid?"
"Not a lot."
"So you aren’t learning from me?"
"When does the flight leave?"
"In two hours. Now go get something to eat and get changed!"
"I told you I wasn’t going to-"
"Don’t start that again!"
"What do you mean, ‘We lost him’. Of all the stupid things to do you had to lose him!"
"Why don’t you try to find a man that can change his identities like that?" he snapped his fingers. As soon as Broots said it, he regretted it. Miss Parker glared at him, then changed her mind about slapping him.
"Now Sis, after all your failures you’re mad at this one?"
"Now Bro, we had him dead square!" She said in a fake-sweet voice.
"Broots, come with me, I’ll book us a flight." Sydney said.
"I’m going to stay here awhile. Debbie wanted me to put her up a souvenir." Broots said.
Meanwhile, Miss Parker and Mr. Lyle were arguing about how many times Miss Parker had ‘let’ Jarod go .
"I’m going to go get a flight!" Miss Parker snapped.
"Miss Parker, you can’t. Broots and I just booked a flight for all of the sweepers. Our Flight is leaving in 2 hours." Sydney said calmly.
"Oh, Oh that’s just great! Why?" She yelled throwing her hands up in exasperation.
"There was only room enough for them, besides I thought all of us could stay with Broots." Sydney explained carefully.
Two Hours Later
"FLIGHT 22 IS NOW BOARDING"
"Come on that’s our flight." Mr. Lyle said, helping Sydney up.
"Hello and welcome to Flight number 22. I’ll be your flight attendant. My name is Jarod, this is Zoe," He said pointing. " and that is Zack. If you need any of us-"Miss Parker spit out her wine and stood up. "Jarod!"
"Miss Parker? How nice to see you! Everyone, this is an old school buddy, Miss Parker. Meanwhile Zoe will show you how to buckle up!"
Jarod made his way to the stewards quarters, and Miss Parker followed.
"What are YOU doing here?" He screamed.
"What am I doing here? What are YOU doing here?" She yelled.
"A- I- like I have to answer you!" He said like a little four year old.
"Come on you’re coming with me!"
"What are we going to do jump out of the plane?"
"No, we’re going to the baggage department."
"So we can make everyone suspicious of where we went? They will want to know where the cute guy is!"
"Yeah, yeah your very funny," She started to drag Jarod a long with her. A sudden jolt stopped her and Jarod in their tracks.
"What the hell was that?" Miss Parker snapped.
"And I am supposed to know... How?"
"Alright everyone! Calm down! Stop your yelling!" Zoe finally got fed up and grabbed the microphone. "SHUT-UP!"
"If you don’t mind my saying so ma’am," A passenger whimpered to her, "I don’t like my children hearing that."
"Yeah? Guess what? I don’t care ok, we’re are crashing and if this gets people to shut-up I’ll use it! If you don’t mind my saying so!"
Miss Parker and Jarod came running in.
"What in the hell is happening?" Jarod screamed.
"We’re crashing, get in you damn seats everyone and put your head in between your knees and cover it!" Zack yelled, obviously panicked.
"Didn’t they teach you not to panic?" Zoe asked.
"Look-" But Zack was interrupted by a sudden jolt and a loud boom and then everything went black.
Jarod stirred. Opening his eyes, he looked around. He saw faces of people he’d seen when he had first stepped on the plane. Dead faces. He pulled himself out of the plane rubble. He looked around, he saw mostly dead, torn, mutated bodies. He looked towards the cockpit and found a small fire burning in the control panel. ‘Alright look’, he thought to himself, ‘the plane crashed, people are dead, the Centre is here, and we have to get the living people out of here and safe.’ He stood, then sat; or rather fell, back down.
He crawled out of the plane, struggling to get the door of the plane open. They were in the woods next to a small shore and a river running
swiftly through the woods.
"Jarod?" He heard a meek voice behind him.
"Zoe, is that you?"
"I’m here, I’m here!" He crawled back into the plane and over to her.
"Can you stand?"
"Why don’t you try?"
"That might be a good idea." She laughed which in turn made her wheeze.
Someone close to Zoe whispered something in a different language.
"Oui!" Jarod began to search for the person. Slowly one by one the living passengers made their way out of the mess.
"Jarod!" Miss Parker walked over to him. She was smoking as usual.
"Care to introduce me to your new friend?"
An elderly woman came over, "Hi, sir, I’m a nurse, I’d be glad to help with some of the injuries."
"Good, wait here," He turned to Zoe, "Is Zack alive?"
"Do you think that you could help?" He asked, concerned because she was having trouble breathing and it was showing. "Are you sure you’re alright?"
"Yes, yes I’m alright! And yes, yes I’ll help people, if I have to!" She started to laugh again but stopped when she remember what happened the last time.
Zoe and the nurse began to walk away, when Zoe turned to Jarod and asked him what to do with the dead. Jarod whispered to her, "Don’t let the younger ones see."
After the nurse and Zoe had finished helping the people that could be helped. Jarod had everyone gather around. "Alright we know that it is getting late and that we don’t have shelter. Now we have salvaged a inflatable raft. The raft can take two people only. Zoe, the stewardess has volunteered to go, anyone else?"
"I will!" Mr. Lyle immediately jumped at the chance.
"Um, um, I-I-" Jarod stammered he knew that if Lyle or anyone from the Centre left his sight they could and would contact someone from the Centre and then there would be no escape.
"You don’t have a problem with that do you sir?" He asked sneering.
Not wishing to arise suspicion, "Of course not," said Jarod. Zoe raised an eyebrow. She did not know who Lyle was nor anyone from the Centre, of course she had heard of them but she had never seen them before, therefore she didn’t know what the big deal was.
"I’ll be pumping the raft up, Zoe care to help?"
"I-!"She began in protest but was cut short.
"Zoe care to help?" Jarod said a little more ruffly.
"Like I was going to say, Ok."
Broots was frantically searching for anyone he knew when he feal head over heels into Miss Parker. He knew he was in trouble before he even looked up. He hadn’t been on her good side when they crashed, but he hardly ever was.
"You half-wit blubbering-," She cut herself off when she realized it was Broots. Grabbing him by the shoulders, she looked straight into his eyes trying to calm him down, "Where is Sydney?"
"I-I...you’re not going to hurt me?" He asked taking his hands away from his face.
"I-what? Boots," She said more sharply, she knew he was in shock, "Where is Sydney?"
"I-I don’t know, I-I thought I mean I assumed he was with yo-you."
Miss Parker looked him over, she could she he was deeply cut on the forehead, "Go get down below those rocks and get cleaned up," She watched him go, "Oh and Broots," He turned around, almost stumbling because of loss of blood, "Jarod’s here."
"Oh." Was all he could manage.
Sydney searched him self over. He couldn’t see the phone, but of course he couldn’t see anything.
"Damn it!" He screamed loud enough, he hoped, so that someone, anyone could hear him.
"Sydney? Sydney?" Miss Parker screamed.
"Over here! Help I’m stuck." Sydney barely whispered.
"Sydney? Is that you?" Miss Parker ran over to Sydney he was jabbed into a metal slat that probably served as a wall when the plane was operating.
"Of course it’s me!"
"I’ll be right back!" Miss Parker ran back to the camp where they were removing the seats from the plane to make shelter. She grabbed Jarod by the sleeve, "Syd- Sydney back there." She pointed, out of breath.
Jarod dropped what he was doing and ran towards Sydney. He saw what was the matter and he quickly set to work to free him. Miss Parker came up behind Jarod, "You will be able to save him right?" Miss Parker asked nearly in tears. This man was the father she had never known. This man had practically raised her!
"Is that concern?" Then a few minutes later, "Yeah, of course. Parker get some morphine, if there is any, in the plane."
"Yeah, yeah." She turned and ran down the hill, stumbling in her heels. A few minutes later she came back up with Zoe. "I couldn’t find any morphine but I found some of this stuff, it says numbing on the side so..."
"Who’s that?" Zoe asked, wondering why everyone was making such a big deal.
"I thought you left! Parker find some sticks, Zoe get out of here! The faster you leave the faster you can get help.
"Alright, Alright but I don’t think Novocaine is going to help his leg much!" She walked off in a huff.
Miss Parker returned with two thick branches. "What are you going to do?"
"I’m going to right his broken leg, now hold the upper half and pull when I say pull."
Jarod went to work saving Sydney life. Sydney’s teeth felt nothing at all.
"Lyle? You touch her and I’ll rip your face off! Do you understand?"
Lyle grinned and started to walk away. But Jarod quickly grabbed his upper arm.
"Do you understand?"
"Yeah?" she turned around.
"I will," she looked confused and nodded, as if to convince herself.
He started to walk away.
"That women was someone from the Centre wasn’t she?"
"And the man that volunteered so quickly?"
"He is very, very dangerous, he’s...from the Centre also."
"I’ll be careful."
Zoe and Mr. Lyle had packed a blanket and some food. Zoe had changed into her regular clothes. She had blond short hair and brown eyes. She was tall and thin so thin it was nasty, almost. Her eyes seemed to play sadness and smiles all at once. She was paddling slowly down the river.
"Well, you’re going to be a lot of help aren’t you?" Zoe criticized,
"Do you even know how to row?"
"What is your name?" Lyle said, obviously not hearing a thing she said.
"I take that as a no."
"What’s your name?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"Why won’t you tell me?"
"Why do you keep answering everything I ask with another question?"
They rode along in silence. When they were a safe distance from the camp Lyle revealed a flare gun. Zoe stopped paddling.
"Why do you have that?" Zoe asked.
"Do you know who I am?"
"No. I. Don’t. But I have an idea."
"Ok." Then, "Good thing I changed. It’s pretty cold, huh?"
"Where do you think we are?" Lyle asked looking at the sky.
"Oooookay, I think it’s pretty cold at least." Then, "I’d say we’re on the Sevier River or somewhere around there."
The sun began to go down. Zoe began to shiver, and get very tired and hungry.
"Are you hungry?" Lyle asked with a grin.
"Yeah where do you want to stop?" Zoe inquired looking around.
"We’re not going to stop at least we’re not going to land. It would be too easy for you to run back to the plane crash."
"What are you so afraid of? If I did go back to the plane crash, where would that leave me? I’ll tell you: with a bunch of angry, hurt people!"
Changing the subject Lyle asked, "How do you know Jarod?" He was very curious about why and how he knew her.
"I am hungry!" She changed the subject once more. She was beginning to get the idea that Mr. Lyle was from the Centre and if that was true she, Jarod and everyone at the plane crash were in trouble.
Calmly, but with more force and still pointing the gun, Lyle asked, "How do you know Jarod?"
Not phased by the a gun, "Why is he so important?"
"So you do know him?"
"I never said that, I asked why he was important."
"You don’t get it do you? You don’t understand that I have a gun pointed at you and I will shoot you if you don’t tell me how you know him."
"Good then you’d actually have to row!" She laughed. "So what do you wanna eat?" She was still very hungry.
"Are you mentally challenged or something?"
He looked at her stomach. She wasn’t overweight, not in the least bit, but she was fascinated with food. He looked her over, she was cute now that she had changed back into her regular pants. Camouflaged. He thought about what he was wearing, a suit. He definitely was never, ever, ever going to wear this suit again. He was not prepared to walk, swim, or row. He hated his tie too. He wasn’t even wearing a normal jacket. Why he wore a suit at all was beyond him, even to catch the person he hated the most! Maybe he might try wearing jeans and a t-shirt for once in his adult life.
"Why are you looking at me?" She asked with disgust.
Rather than answering her question, he just posed one of his own, "What do you want to eat?"
"First I would like you to put that gun over the side, because it’s obvious that I’m not leaving. Next I would like to eat a cheeseburger, French fries, and an ice cream and for my drink I would like a Pepsi. But since we don’t have any of those I guess I’ll have airplane food.
She was funny, yes she was funny and literal. Would he laugh at her? Hell no!
‘Debbie! Debbie, Debbie, Debbie. Why, why, why? This wasn’t fair. No it wasn’t fair, and that was just the problem. Bad things always happen to good people.’ Broots thoughts were racing. He was in the plane with the others, lying down trying to sleep. He wasn’t a good person. No he wasn’t good at all, and he knew that! He chased and hunted a living, breathing human being! He made a vow right then and there; He was going to leave the Centre with or without their permission. He was going to take Debbie and never look back!
Why did I send those two? Jarod and the nurse were the only ones on the plane who actually knew how to heal. Jarod wished he had never sent Zoe with Mr. Lyle, she would have been fine all by herself. He knew Lyle and he knew Zoe, those two being together were going to get in to a lot of trouble. Zoe would annoy him to death or he would kill her. If Jarod had missed one crucial part, to look for a gun on Lyle. He knew he would pay for it dearly, by loss of friend and loss of freedom.
"Broots is all tucked in and ready for sleep, except he misses his teddy bear." Miss Parker was trying to lighten Jarod up, but she knew that he would lose everything he had worked so hard to preserve. Most of all he would lose the person he seemed to care more about then freedom, Zoe. Jarod had actually talked to her, talked to her like they actually were old collage buddies. He had told her almost everything about her. "So how is Sydney?"
"Fine." He said coldly. He thought, ‘Imagine! Her talking to him, as if they were old friends! She had pressed him for almost every detail on Zoe. She wanted to know everything about him too! Like he would ever tell her the truth!’
"So I’ll be off."
"Your actually going to sleep? On ground? Are you going to sleep with one eye open? ’Cause I was thinking about escaping. Oh did I say that a loud?"
Jeez, talk about mood swings! She stalked off.
A few minutes later Jarod went to sleep.
Zoe was finish eating. So was Mr. Lyle, whom she was now calling Lyle . She didn’t think he deserved a title. Well, maybe, she thought, he did but definitely not Mister. She didn’t like him, she thought he was a jerk.
She had quit rowing and now they both were trying to stare each other down. She wanted to back down, she was tired, and if they kept it up neither would be able to row.
"Well now, I think I’m going to go to sleep! How about you?"
"I need to stay awake, can’t have you wondering off."
"Oh. Yeah. You’re still paranoid."
"Goodnight!" He said rudely.
She went to sleep. Lyle stayed awake watching her. When he was sure she was asleep he pulled out his cell phone, hoping, praying it would work. He turned it on... fortunately for him there was a dial tone! He speed-dialed the Centre.
"Cindy, yes um put me through to my father...yes...hurry up I don’t have much time!" A few minutes later he had explained the situation to Mr. Parker.
"I’ll send down a helicopter, and some sweepers and cleaners. Is my daughter damaged? Syd?"
"Yeah, I’m fine, so is my sister, but Sydney, well he’s comatose." He paused, "Don’t send sweepers or cleaners, send two helicopters, one big enough for more then 50 people."
"Don’t send sweepers?"
"You can send sweepers, but send them in disguise."
"And,um, you can’t get a helicopter that big!"
"Then send a plane!" Under his breath Lyle whispered, "Idiot."
Miss Parker woke up up the sound of screaming and helicopter noises. She ran outside waving her sore arms. The helicopter passed by them. She looked around at dismal faces, trying to find Jarod.
"Jarod, there you are!" Miss Parker ran over to him. "How is Sydney?"
"He’s fine. He’s going to be alright. The question is am I?"
"What do you mean?" She touched his shoulder in an act of concern.
"Don’t. Just don’t! You know very well what I mean! That was a Centre helicopter!"
"What? No, it wasn’t! It couldn’t have been! They would have stopped for me and you and Sydney and Egghead. I didn’t call them I couldn’t!" Miss Parker stammered. She felt like such a fool
"There’s still Lyle to think about."
She walked over to Sydney.
Sydney was awake. Or at least he thought he was. He tried to look around, but he couldn’t move. He was tied to something or something was tied to him. He tried to sit up, move his arms, his legs, his eyes. He couldn’t. He couldn’t even open his eyes. He really had to use the restroom too.
Broots walked over to Miss Parker. He needed to talk to someone who he knew would think about Debbie the same way he did, with love. He also needed someone he knew and trusted. Even if that meant someone who loved to hate.
"Um, Miss Parker? Can I talk to you?" He asked timidly.
"As long as you keep down the ums, and uhs."
"Well, it’s about Debbie." He knew that would catch her attention.
She smiled at the mention of the darling little eight year olds name. She had spent time with her once and had hated her at first but soon loved her. And she hated to love! "Yes, what about her?"
"I need you to promise something Miss Parker. I need you to promise you won’t tell anyone except maybe Sydney. Not even your father!"
She considered it for awhile, she had never acted like a friend to him except on occasions like Christmas. "I promise. What?"
"Well, I have to leave the Centre!" He blurted.
"What do you mean Broots?" Miss Parker questioned in exasperation.
"I mean that every time I go on these "missions" I put my life on the line and I put the welfare of my child on the line. You wouldn’t want to have Debbie live with her drug dealing mother would you?"
"You actually think I would let you leave the Centre? But, you know, if you left the Centre without having this conversation, then maybe getting a new identity with money you ‘accidentally’ found in your bank account then maybe you could get away with it." She turned her back and went along with her business.
Zoe woke up, very cold and having use the bathroom. She didn’t want to tell Lyle cause she knew he would laugh. She looked at the gun. He was asleep he wouldn’t know she had the gun until it was too late. She reach for it. Way over to the other side of the raft. Over across him, to the gun he still held. Trying to keep from waking him up, by balancing all her weight on her wrist. She grabbed the gun. Finally her wrist could stand it no longer and collapsed under her own weight. Her elbow jabbed into Lyle’s stomach. Waking him up and knocking the air out of him. The gun went off and the struggle between them began. She wondered if Jarod had heard the gun shot.
They were wrestling for the gun and the boat tipped over, causing all the supplies to empty to the bottom over the lake. Only then did she notice that they had floated into a small cave. She could touch the bottom, but the water went over her mouth.
"Give me that gun you little-" Lyle screamed out in pain as a bullet whizzed through his hand.
"Uh, I-Oh...are you okay?" She said lamely.
"Of course I’m not ok you little-"
"Our stuff is at the bottom of the lake."
"Will you let me finish you little-"
"Jarod heard that, he’ll come and get us."
There was a pause.
"We’re in a semi-under water cave. We could work our way back and get to dry land." A suddenly calm Mr. Lyle suggested. He was still nursing his wounds, but the blood was beginnings to slow down. Besides he had won the fight for the gun, though he knew there were no flares left.
"Yeah, if we work our way back we can get drowned at high tide.... Here let me help you with that." She said indicating to the hand. She tore some of her sleeve off and started to wrap his hand up in the cloth.
After she was done with that she swam out of the cave to get the raft. She came back and turned it over, but it was flooded with water and sank immediately. ‘My brain must not be working right, I know not to do that. It’ because it’s so cold,’ she contradicted herself. She was shivering and her breathing was acting up again. She looked around and swam out of the cave. She saw they were in a cove and she needed desperately to get to land and warm up.
"Lyle?" She called over her shoulder.
"What?" He asked sharply.
"I," gasp, "need to get to land now!" She said urgently.
"What? No, no, no, no, no." He swam up behind her and grabbed her arm roughly. Then seeing she was having troubled breathing stepped back. Her lips are blue, she’s suffering from hypothermia. He thought.
"Were you like this when you came with me?" He asked, pissed off at Jarod for not telling him she had troubled breathing.
"Like what?" Her mind was closing in on her. She felt her legs go out from under her. She could feel herself breathing in water. Save me! She thought. It was like a nightmare and she couldn’t wake up! She felt his arms pulling her up and she heard a helicopter. Then everything went blank.
The girl collapsed, and Lyle pulled her up. Waved to a helicopter. Sydney couldn’t see where the helicopter was from but he knew it was from the Centre. And then it blurred and the dream was over.
Sydney sat bolt upright and opened his eyes. He could see! He couldn’t see, however, the girl in his dream; he couldn’t see Zoe.
"Where’s Jarod?" He asked Miss Parker urgently.
"Well, I’m fine, Broots is fine. You were in a coma. I stayed by your side but Jarod didn’t seem phased by it! Oh you want Jarod. My mistake." She said hotly. "Jarod, your friend wants you!"
Sydney was embarrassed. He noticed that he was being watched by Broots, a old woman and Miss Parker, but she had left to get Jarod.
"Sydney, you’re awake?"
"She went with Lyle to-, what?"
"You sent her with Mr. Lyle? What, are you an idiot?"
"Why are you so concerned?"
"She’s in trouble! I saw her and Lyle and a helicopter. A Centre helicopter."
Sydney’s word seemed to have punched Jarod in the chest. Suddenly he couldn’t quite catch his breath. He grabbed his stomach and Threw-up, all over Miss Parker’s shoes.
"I need to get out of here!" He got up.
"Jarod!" Broots yelled.
"What?!" Jarod said tensely.
"I’m sorry. I know she was like a daughter to you."
Jarod spat in front of Broots’ shoes. Broots seemed to be taken aback. Jarod ran.
"Why did you tell him that? We had him dead!"
"Dead is right! You think he would have stayed alive in the Centre? No! He would’ve been taken away from me! He would go to Raines! Did you want that for him?"
Miss Parker stared at him. She got up and was going to wash her shoes, seeing she couldn’t argue with him.
"Miss Parker?" Sydney grabbed her arm.
"I was going to wash my shoes!"
He let go.
Jarod ran from the crash, he had to get as far away as possible.
Zoe could feel she was in a laying position, though she didn’t know how she got there. She could also feel she was on something soft, she didn’t know how she got there either. She was warm and dry.
She opened her eyes. She was in a loud building. No, it wasn’t a building it was a helicopter.
"Lyle?" She called out, her voice horse.
"Where?" She was breathing heavily.
"Helicopter. Centre helicopter. You know what that is right?"
She moved into a sitting position. "Yeah. So we’re going to the Centre?"
"First we’re stopping by the crash, so we can pick up a few...things." He grinned evilly.
Realization came over her and she said quietly, "Jarod."
**To Be continued...**