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I've always walked the halls of the Center. It's just in the last five years that I've begun to stalk them. I stalk them now, dreading my final destination. I recieved a call from my 'father' earlier this morning, asking me to come to the Tower.
I don't know why the fear -- that's been living in my stomach since that call -- came in the first place. I mean, it's not like I've never been to the Tower before. In fact, I've been there many times, my father is the chairman. I practically lived there until I was sent to school.
I do know where the fear came from however. I don't want to admit it, but I know. Somewhere deep inside the tangled mass of pain and anger that is my damaged physce, I know why I'm terrified. Why goosebumbs have raised on the skin under my blazer, and on the exposed skin of my chest.
My father's words were so harsh, cold, not all that different from his usual treatment, but still. I heard something that almost sounded like regret in his voice. My father never sounds like that unless he speaks of my mother. The woman he claims was the only one he ever loved, and yet somehow she was murdered, the orders coming from the highest level of authoraty. My fathers level.
That tremor in my fathers voice only appears when he speaks of her, and that same tremor was in his voice while he told me I was expected in the Tower.
To keep my mind off the thoughts that will only get me emotional, and therefore into trouble with the Triumvarite, I focus on the sound of my sttilleto heels clicking loudly on the hard floor of the empty corridor.
If I hadn't been listening, I wouldn't have heard it, but just as I reached the elevator that was to take me to my last board meeting, the impersceptible breathing of the man seemed loud in the silence. They had assumed, expected me to be caught up in my worry, my fear. They had assumed I would be oblivious to the outside world. They had assumed that I would be lost in my thoughts and not hear it, not smell it, not know.
They assumed wrong.
I heard his breathing like he was leaning over me, could smell his nervous sweat as if his arms were around me. Maybe the fear-inspired adrenaline made it possible, but I heard his joints coil for the attack.
Just as the man jumped out behind me, I started the motion of pulling my gun. It was a motion so familiar to me that it was as natural as breathing, an unconscious defence. Pull your gun first and you will have the opportunity to shoot first. Shoot first and you will live.
Something They had taught, and something that will save me now that They think their creation knows too much.
I am turned, gun drawn, hammer cocked, before the man's feet hit the ground. His gun is just coming up, the hammer not yet drawn back, no bullet in the chamber. I fire before he get's a chance to rectify his mistake.
He is dead before his limp body hits the ground, a neat hole in the center of his forehead, his eyes still open, a look of shock upon his features.
They taught me to be a killer.
They taught me to survive.
They taught me not to care.
And now that education has come back and bit them in the ass, hard enough to draw blood. Their perfect killing machine, who had only one moment of conscience in her training, has surpassed its instructors, its masters, and survived their best shot.
If I had a heart, I would feel some remorse. If I had a heart, I would almost feel pity for the dead man sent to kill me. If I had a heart, he would not be dead. If I had a heart, I would have left long ago, never allowed myself to begin training.
And yet, there are some small hints that there might be something left of my humanity. I want revenge on the man that killed my mother. I want revenge on the men that tortured Jarod. I don't actually want to catch Jaord at all.
Maybe that will be my undoing. It is signing your own death warrant to betray the Center. My mother did it, Fenigor did it, and now they think that I have done it.
They want me dead now. I know too many of Their secrets, hidden deep in the tooms of the Center. I know what price they put on human life. As much money as they can get, fuck the consequences.
My thoughts somehow, against my better judgment, wander to the subject of my father. I have spent the better part of my life trying to earn his approval and pride. I tried to earn his love, tried to please him, doing everything he's asked of me.
I feel the tears well in my eyes, knowing that they will betray my weakness if They see. I cannot allow myself to cry. If I cry, I cencede the power to him. If I cry, it proves as much to myself as to Them, that I indeed have a soul. I cannot afford to feel, to be human, to have a soul.
How could he do this to me? It's as if now that he has a son, his adoring daughter is of no more use. He has Lyle now, so I'm nothing, just something to use to reach his own ends, and I haven't gotten there fast enough, so I now have no use, and am something to get rid of.
Just as the man sent to kill me was nothing but something to get rid of.
I try and convince myself that. Try to objectify the man I just shot.
I try to tell myself that he didn't matter, that he wasn't worth anything, that there wasn't the possibility that he could have a family, a wife, children. That he could have been just as trapped as I am.
No. Not a possibility. He was nothing. He was nothing. Was nothing. Nothing.
I can't let myself think like that. If I allow those thoughts to survive for more than a trili-second, a little piece of what's left of my soul would die everytime I thought of him. Don't think about the 'casualties'.
Too late. A small, almost insignificant shard of soul died along with that man in the corridor going up to the elevator to the Tower.
I didn't notice it at first. The small death's happening inside me every so often. After a few hundred, small insignificant pieces can make one big pice, and a big piece hurts like a bitch.
But it's not as if They're ever going to find out.
I don't glance back at the inept sweeper as I step over his still warm corpse. I can't afford to. I stalk down the hallway again, only this time, angry. I left the body just in front of the elevator as a message to the people who had arranged my termination. Don't fuck with me.
If they want me dead for a betrayl I have not commited, a betrayl I'll give them.
Jarod opened his small, but powerful, laptop and retrieved his mail. He was expecting something from Sydney, an answer to a question that had been asked so many times over the years, only now being acknowledged.
There was only one new message, and he clicked on the small icon. It opened almost instantaneously, making him wonder how Sydney could have answered in only a few words. The message that appeared before him was not what he was expecting.
Run. A team is coming for you.
He sat stunned, thinking it was some kind of trick, then decided to trust her, just this once. As quickly as he could, he packed up his laptop, the DSA case, picked up the suitcase that he never fully unpacked, and grabbed his leather jacket.
Carrying everything outside the hotel and onto the street, he quickly got into his silver convertible porsche, bought with Centre funds, and sped away just in time to see three black sedans pull up, followed by a large limo, right in front of the doors he had just vacated.
He pulled into an alley and watched as Sam got out of the limo, holding it open for the next person to get out. It was Parker. He watched as her long legs emmerged first, followed by the rest of her body. She stood, looked around, and stepped away from the door to let Sydney out. Suddenly her head whipped around and she looked directly at him, thier eyes meeting.
His heart began beating faster and he was about to pull away when he saw her smile. It wasn't the smile of a predator that he had suspected, or even in any way ominous. It was the smile of an old friend being reunited with her child hood play-mate.
He smiled back, his face spliting ear to ear, his dimples becoming prominent, and he raised his hand to her as he sped away. He had a feeling that Parker would keep the sweepers busy checking the area and interviewing neighbours until he could make a clean escape.
Miss Parker whatched Jarod drive away and was tempted to raise her hand in return, but restrained herself. She strode into the hotel after Sydney as soon as his car was out of sight, vowing to herself not to blow her scheme.
She had sweepers check the entire building, she interviewed the hotel manoger with Sydney and Broots, and basically bided her time before she felt Jarod was truly out of the city.
Four hours after they had arrived in Boston, Miss Parker finally called it a day and everyone was sent on thier way home to Delaware, only Sydney, Broots, and herself flying back on the Concord jet.
Instead of going back to the Centre, she decided to just go home and sleep, or at least try. The repurcussions of her actions at the Tower elevator were beginning to reach her and she did not need another lecture from her father.
She stepped inside her house, contemplated going and sitting in her mothers studio, but decided against it. So she kicked of her Gucci stilletos, shrugged out of her leater jacket of the same make, and wandered into the elaborate master bathroom, considering a long, hot bath.
She shed her suit with its short skirt, tight lace camisole, and low cut blazer. She allowed the water to heat up then placed the plug in and decided that rasberrry bubles would be perfect for her mood. As the tub was filling, the phone rang.
Wearing only her blood red satiny bra and matching panties, she strode into the living room and picked up the cordless, bringing it with her into the bathroom before pressing the talk button. "What," she said, her voice lacking its usual harsh tone, being replaced with only tiredness.
She was almost pleasently surprised to hear Jarods dep, soothing voice on the other end of the line. "Miss Parker, why?" He didn't to specify what he was referring to.
She sighed heavilly, having known the question was going to have come up eventually. She had just been hoping it would have been later in the conversation, for she would have to tell him the truth. She was tired of lying to Jarod, and herself. "My father called me to the Tower yesterday. Not so unusual, but I don't know, something in his voice . . . He just didn't sound right." She paused then, drawing a deep breath.
"I shot the man who had been waiting. Shot him in the head, once, before he had the chance to do the same to me. I left his body to cool just outside the elevator doors. The same place the man who shot my mother had stood." She finished her explanation, not willing to say anymore on that perticular subject. She cradelled the phone between her chin and shoulder, and reached behind her to unclasp her bra, then let it fall from her body, followed quickly by her panties.
"Why did they send someone to kill you?" he asked carefully, knowing full well that it wasn't for the e-mail she had sent. Besides that mornings message, she had never helped him.
She sighed again, this time in enjoyment as she lowered herself into the bath, being careful not to let the phone get wet. "It wasn't just a someone, it was a cleaner, and they sent him because they thought I was helping you. I don't really care anymore anyway, so I decided, why not?"
Well, that answered his next question. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Miss Parkers eyes closed, allowing herself to relax for the first time in months. She broke the peace by saying, "Where are you, Jarod?" In a tired voice.
His reply was sarcastic, but not in the way it usually was. "I thought you were helping me now, Miss Parker."
She didn't bother to open her eyes. "I am. I was just curious as to where you went with that four hour head start I gave you." She was enjoying thier banter tonight, just being herself. She had always been able to be herslef around Jarod.
His voice was quiet, but she heard him none the less. She sat straight up in the bath, opening her eyes. "What!?! Are you insane? What the hell do you think you're doing?" She was shocked by the concern in her own voice.
He was touched by her tone, the concern, and he laughed a little into the phone. "Don't worry. They won't find me Parker."
"I'm not worried. I just don't want to be awoken in the middle of the night by a call from the Centre saying they've spotted you somewhere and need me to come and aprehend you, because then I would have no choice."
"Well, you can get a good night sleep. They won't see me where I am now." There was a hint of something unrecognizable in his voice, something she had heard only a few times before, but never from him.
She wanted to keep the conversation going, so jokingly, not really expecting an answer, she asked, "And where would that be?" The smile on her face felt strange, like it didn't belong on her features. It had been so long since she had smiled, truly smiled, and she had allowed it to happen twice in one day. Before that morning in Boston, she couldn't remeber how long it had been.
The pause over the phone line made her think. Had he thought she was serious? Her thoughts were interupted by Jarod's quiet murmur. "Your backyard."
She sat up in the bubbles, then realizing the implications, lay back quickly. "You're not serious. You could not be that stupid." The hard tone had returned to her voice, despite her best efforts. Old habbits die hard.
"I'm standing right beside your pool, the deep end of course. Enjoy your soak." With that, there was a click and the line went dead. She looked at the headset of the phone in a daze, then slowly placed it beside the tub. How did he know about the bath?
If he had really been beside the pool, then that meant that when she had went into the living room to pick up the phone, in her underwear, he had been watching. But how . . .? He still wouldn't necassarilly know about the bath, unless he had been on the side against the wall, standing on the foot of cement between the stone work and the water.
And that would mean that he had seen alot more than her satin panties.
Jarod slowly edged his way back to the solid ground of the cement around the pool, the whole ten feet of it. The satisfied smile on his face probably would have provoked her to shoot him, but he couldn't seem to keep it from creeping across his lips.
She had absolutely no idea he had been there. He hadn't known she was going to take a bath when he had hidden against the wall, he just thought that that had been the most likely spot he could've stayed hidden from her.
He could almost feel bad about watching her, then he remebered the way the red satin slid against her skin, the way the lace of her shirt had fallen away to reveal that satin.
He reached his car moments later, and decided he would wait for her to get out of the tub. Then he'd go on in and see her.