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“in the end everyone is pretending…”

His leather jacket and jeans were gone, as were his sunglasses and smile. He wore a suit, held a briefcase in place of his usual case and duffle bag, and his eyes were dark. The briefcase echoed when it dropped, loud – too loud – in the shocked and silent room.

Word travelled fast, a crowd gathered and he paid no heed. Miss Parker Sydney and Broots arrived; he ignored them too.

Lyle turned up with a group of sweepers and the mood changed from curiosity to grim. They took a step back, not wanting to get the blood on them. Miss Parker Sydney and Broots stayed where they were, the words run, leave and why, half formed on their lips.

Lyle gave a quick glance and sick smile to his sister, something akin to triumph in his eyes.

“Jarod,” Lyle greeted and this new Jarod rose gracefully and embraced him like a brother.

He left the suitcase behind.

“what most people don’t understand is that real life has no rules…”

What was once her grandfather’s desk, then Daddy’s, then Lyle’s, and Daddy’s again. What is hers by blood right – almost, not quite – now Lyle’s again: the Chairmanship. Lyle ascended to his new throne without objection and had a new desk installed next to his with the name Jarod written on a silver plaque.

Every Tuesday Miss Parker was required to go over reports with the Chairman in his office, even if it should be her name written in gold instead of Lyle.

Her first visit after – after Jarod … something – she commented on this.

“By rights this is mine,” she said, gesturing expansively to the tribal-mask covered walls, the expensive furnishings and the window that overlooks The Centre. It was true, Mr Parker had named her successor until his youngest son was old enough, and Mr Raines had died before he had chosen his.

It wasn’t that she wanted it, of course not, it was never something she aspired to. She didn’t need any more blood on her hands. But for Lyle to get it … the things he could do. The things he’d already done…

He, of course, smiled. “You didn’t catch Jarod.”

“Neither did you,” she hissed.

Jarod looked up and the two shared a smile. “You don’t know that, Parker.” She wanted to scream but settled for kicking the door open instead.

“all things change…”

The new Jarod brought a house on the outskirts of The Centre, Lyle offered to give him as much space, on any sublevel he wanted, but Jarod declined. In his absence he’d grown accustomed to windows, light and trees he said. Lyle replied he’d have to wean him off that, and as he said so, once again Miss Parker saw something strange in his eyes.

Not dressed in normal Centre attire, thank goodness, she climbed through a window conveniently placed near some trellis. As she climbed she told herself she was doing this for him, for his family and possibly for Sydney, but when her foot slipped and she nearly fell a story down she didn’t believe it.

The stairs creaked as she descended but he was reading files in the lounge and didn’t look up as she entered. The room was reasonably small, with two couches and a leather chair that he now sat on. A grandfather clock sat in the corner, the hands frozen on midnight. Parker knew that Jarod had chosen none of these things, that hey came with the house and he’d sit just as comfortably in Lyle’s Asian-style apartment.

“Who are you?”

He sniffed. “Perhaps it is I who should be asking you that question, considering that this is my house,” he replied lightly.

“Who are you?” she repeated.

He looked up from his file and Miss Parker took a step back. His eyes, his once warm caring brown eyes were so cold, empty.


She clutched at a nearby chair, holding the floral fabric so tightly it looked ready to tear but Jarod didn’t avert his eyes from hers.

“You’re not Jarod. Jarod was a kind, decent man who fought the Centre, he didn’t help it.”

He smiled; the tightening of muscles around the mouth showing teeth, white and perfectly straight, nothing more, nothing less.

“The world is changing.”

A whisper, “what did Lyle do to you.”

“Helped me find my way home.”

The man – she now refused to call him Jarod, even in her own mind – set down his file and stood.

“I think you should leave now, I have a lot of work to get through.”

Parker paused, her natural instinct to do the opposite of whatever someone – especially Jarod – told her and her will to leave clashing. With a movement too quick for even Jarod to catch, she darted forward, closed the distance between them, and kissed him fiercely on the mouth.

She stepped back to gage his reaction; to find none.

“I have a lot of work to do,” the man repeated.

Parker nodded and let herself out.

“the more things change the more they stay the same…”

Security footage from Jarod’s entrance played over on a dozen different monitors in her shiny new office, every angle catered for, every possible view and close up reproduced in colour and sound.

She was missing something; she knew it, even if Sydney and Broots had given up. Even if Broots couldn’t find anything, and Sydney said that it was likely the damage was irreparable.

Parker watched Jarod get up and embrace Lyle again, it made her nauseous, she rewound and watched it again.

Rise from chair, smile, hug, smile, leave. Repeat.

She switched monitors and played back.

Enter, place suitcase, sit, wait, ignore everyone, see Lyle, smile, rise from chair, smile, hug, smile, leave.


He left without the suitcase…

This was important, Parker knew, inside would no doubt contain plans, blueprints, explanations or answers. It had to.

The world may change, but some things stay the same, Jarod.

She watched the monitors, the shocked crowd parting for the new Chairman and his pet, the sweepers glaring menacingly at everyone in general and Miss Parker in particular. Broots looking about ready to faint.

And Sydney, who looked broken and confused, took a step forward from the crowd and picked up the suitcase and clutched it close.

The words bastard and treachery passed through her mind before she could check them, but that didn’t matter now, Sydney had all the answers and come hell or high-water he was going to share.

“when things go wrong, we call it fate, when things go right we call it destiny…”

He was in the sim lab. He was always in the sim lab. It was like he had some sort of radar that knew when she was coming so he would go to the sim lab. Maybe he thought it hallowed ground, a place she would not defile.

He was wrong.

“Where is it?” she asked, painfully blunt and to the point.

His eyes where lost in the past when he glanced at her. “Where is what, Miss Parker, and hello to you too.”

“The suitcase, you have it, I want it. Hand it over.”

Eyes, now clouded with something akin to pain. “Ah, I was hoping you wouldn’t notice that.”

Always underestimating her was dear Sydney. “Well Freud, I did and I want it.”

Shaking his head, telling her no, keeping her from the answers – just like always. “No, Miss Parker, you don’t.”

Her hand drifted towards her gun, even though she’d swore she’d never draw it on him again. “Why? Tell me why!”

He grabbed her hands, pulled one away from the gun and looked into her eyes. “Trust me.”

Her voice a whisper that travelled easy over the hallowed ground when she said, “no, not this time.”

“games are for children, or so we say…”

Time passes easily when you don’t know it's there. It passes more slowly when you live away the seconds. Two months prior to her meeting with dear Sydney she had security up to scratch, and with the Centre’s major flight risk running top level projects there was nothing much left to do. The day-to-day running of Centre security kept her busy, but it was nothing compared to the thrills of the chase. She’d thought she merely existed before, but it was nothing compared to the monotony she felt had hold of her soul now. But she was damned if she’d go to Lyle asking for a new assignment.

Her patience paid off; a month later they came to her.

They were already in her office (one with a window, a leather couch and armchair, a desk just like the one before, and a wall of monitors showing her anything she wanted, like playing God, she told Sydney once), when she arrived. Lyle comfortably sprawled in her arm chair, Jarod standing beside him and glancing around the office without interest.

“Sis,” Lyle greeted her, Jarod just nodded.

“Uh, uh,” Lyle called as managed to get halfway out the door. "Come, sit with us.”

Seeing no alternative (well there was shooting him, but it was only the beginning of the meeting), Parker obeyed, glaring all the while.

“What are you two doing in my office?”

Lyle feigned hurt. “Isn’t a brother allowed to just come and say hello to his favourite sister?”

Miss Parker stole a look at Jarod who was examining the picture of her mother and her as a child with blank disinterest.

“No. What do you want?”

He shrugged, “well it seems your days of being on the chase are not quite over, the Board and I have a job for you.”


“It seems that Jarod’s family has been making a bit of noise, raiding Centre facilities, destroying property and taking information. While no actual threat, it’s becoming tiresome. You two are to find them and bring them in.”

That was sick, even by Centre standards.

“Jarod and I are to hunt down his own family and bring them in?”

Lyle looked confused, “is that a problem?”

Miss Parker shook her head and left her office.

“irony is best viewed from afar...”

There was a clear cut trail of clues and word of mouth and it lead right to Emily, the poor woman was probably hoping that Jarod would find her before the Centre would and they could skip along and play finding families together. Emily was wrong, however, it was Miss Parker that found her first and thus Miss Parker’s first impression of Emily wasn’t of Emily at all, rather the gun she carried. The one pointed straight at her head and held by a woman who looked determined to use it.

“Like brother like sister. Come to finish me off,” she hissed. “Dad said you were different, I knew not to believe him. WHERE’S JAROD!”

She had a standard issue police gun; maybe from some pretend she’d done in the past. All Parker saw was the barrel. It would be ironic, she found herself thinking, for me to be shot down by Jarod’s sister while he himself is only just down the corridor searching the rooms.

“I didn’t find her, have you found someone, Miss Parker?” Jarod called and after a pause, entered the room.

Emily’s hand, for her credit, only wavered. “Jarod?” she said weakly. “What, what’s going on?”

Jarod smiled. “It’s ok Em, I’m with her.”

Maybe Emily should have taken better note of that, I’m with her, not she’s with me, I’m with her.

The gun slowly lowered and Parker breathed again. Emily took at tentative step forward and embraced Jarod. “It’s all right, little sister, it’s all right,” he intoned.

The bore needle entered under her arm and Jarod made a disapproving noise when it nearly snapped.

“You…” she gasped out before hitting the floor with a thud.

Jarod didn’t even pause to look at her.

“I could have handled anything except betrayal…”

They interrogated Emily for 16 hours on the whereabouts of her mother, father and half-brother. Ceaseless and remorseless Jarod was, unrelenting in his questioning and all Emily did – could do - was sob until she ran out of tears. Then she yelled and screamed and said Jarod – the brother she’d spent so long searching for – was a traitor, a collaborator and that she’d kill him when she got hold of him.

At the end of the 16 hours Jarod dismissed his sister with a casual wave of his hand and ‘she’s of no use’. Miss Parker was the one to take her to her cell, Sam trailing a metre or so behind. “What did you do to him,” Emily hissed. Her voice was cracked, broken and harsh on the ears.

“I swear to God, Emily,” Parker replied in a low voice. “I did nothing to your brother. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I suspect Lyle.”

Maybe Emily would have believed her, maybe they could have worked together to find someway to bring Jarod back from what ever Lyle did, but Emily fell to the floor unconscious and Sam carried her back to her room. Miss Parker didn’t see her again.

Jarod was sitting quietly in her office when she arrived and for a second she let her heart jump. He’d explain it all away, it was all some part of a huge plot, this wasn’t real.

“We have a lead on the Major,” was all he said.

“SHE’S YOUR SISTER!” Parker screamed.

“Only by blood, Miss Parker,” he replied and left.

“Hope is a young girl, full of childish wonder…”

Miss Parker waited a week after her unsuccessful trip to find the Major before she met with Sydney and Broots. The did so in the lobby, where all of this started. The sounds of busy people passing, their shoes on white tile covered any sound they might make and one of Broots’ gadgets doing the rest.

“A test.” Miss Parker decided. “To see if this is real.”

Broots fidgeted and Sydney looked concerned, for whose welfare was a mystery. It was just like ever day of the last five years she could almost believe everything was … normal.

“We’ll tell him that Emily is in danger. He’ll save her.” She hoped there was some confliction in her tone.

“And if he doesn’t,” replied Broots.

Parker said: “He will.”

And Sydney said: “He won’t.”

Parker snapped: “I have to believe.”

Broots fidgeted and Sydney looked concerned. But she knew they’d back her up. They always backed her up.

Parker said: “I know he’ll do this.”

Her words were drowned by the sounds of busy Centre workers passing by.

“Faith was a little girl too, but she died, it’s more
symbolic than you think…”

He was polishing his silver name plaque when she entered, as always he didn’t look up but acknowledged her with “Miss Parker.”

The conversation she rehearsed had fled from her mind, looking at him made her want to cry, seeing him here in The Centre made her want to hurt something.

“Miss Parker?”

She almost didn’t go ahead, trust can kill you or set you free but so can truth. She wondered if her mother ever said that too.

“Emily,” was all she said in the end.

Without interest he asked: “What about her? Has she escaped?”

He’s failing...

“No, but Cox is threatening that if she doesn’t start doing Sims within a week she’ll be killed.”

Jarod dropped the plaque on his desk, maybe to listen to the sound it made; metal hitting wood. He studied her a long moment before coming around the desk and stopping in front of her.

“You’re lying. Why are you lying?”

She tried to be indignant, to play the how could you accuse me of such a thing card but all it came out as was, “I wanted to see…”

He leaned closer. “If the ‘real’ Jarod’s alive in here?” he whispered. “Is that what you want to know, Melissa, if this is just another of his games? If what Lyle did can be erased, undone and fixed.

A single tear escaped her eye, its passage watched by Jarod. “Yes,” she said.

He wiped it away with the cleaning rag making her cheek smell of polish.

The moment passed. “Cox isn’t threatening Emily at all. It’s a good idea though, but I’d better make it two weeks, not one. I don’t think she could manage it in one.” He smiled. “Even if her life depended on it.”

“How could you,” she wanted to say.

“You evil bastard,” she wanted to yell.

She wanted to slap him, maybe even kill him.

Instead she left quietly and Jarod continued polishing.

“the truth will set you free…”

In the end she went back to Sydney. Sydney who kept lies, who told lies and always chose Jarod over her. They sat in the Sim lab, trying to remember Jarod the child, Jarod the innocent, Jarod the good man.

Trying not to remember Jarod the traitor, Jarod Lyle’s partner, Jarod the fallen.

Miss Parker cried and Sydney held her hand and didn’t say anything. There was nothing he could say.

“I tried,” she mumbled.

“I know.”

“What am I going to do, Sydney?”

Sydney sighed and said he didn’t know.

“The suitcase,” Miss Parker said though there was no hope left in her voice. No hope left in her at all.

They looked out upon the hallowed ground. “I suppose I should show you,” he said and as he struggled to rise Miss Parker noticed just how old he seemed.

Underneath his numerous patient files he’d stowed it, the last clue Jarod would ever give them hidden under a sea of patient files. One of which was probably Jarod’s himself.

The suitcase itself was leather and unimpressive, simple locks – broken open – held it closed. It was placed ceremoniously on Sydney’s desk and the locks once again broken open.

Miss Parker gasped, clutched at her heart and turned away.

Sydney stared a moment longer before closing the lid.

It was a long stumble back to her office, all her mind wanted to do was think about what she’d seen, all she wanted to do was keep her legs working. The thought of the bottle she kept under her own files was all that kept her going.

She drank straight from the bottle, alcohol and tears splashing on her blouse and skirt but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.

Jarod was dead. The suitcase showed that as easily as any corpse.

The bottle was empty and she crawled to the cold couch to lie down, carefully not thinking…

She closed her eyes and it was all she saw. Such vivid clarity she saw it all again, the PEZ dispensers burned and smashed, the plastic monkeys mutilated and broken, the slinky stretched out of shape and crushed. Pictures of his family covered in blood, chocolate and ash.

It was the destruction of a childhood, of an innocence.

Sydney had lied. They both knew exactly she had to do.

“thirteen ties in a hangman’s noose…”

For the longest time it had been you run, I chase but now that Parker thought about it, it seemed more like you live, I die. Jarod hadn’t fixed the window she’d entered through the first time. Parker didn’t know what to think about that, but it was okay, because she wasn’t thinking about anything anymore.

She was dressed in dark denim jeans a dark shirt and a leather jacket, all loose easy clothing. Just like Jarod used to wear. Her sneakers made no sound on his soft carpet, she avoided all the squeaky stairs and her gun was a comforting weight in her pocket.

He was in the small dining room/kitchen eating and reading the paper. He was eating the same stuff he’d been brought up on in The Centre, the stuff Miss Parker had once tried and nearly thrown up because of. Without having to look Parker knew there would be no ice cream in his house.

“Just can’t leave me alone, can you?”

She ignored the question and sat down at opposite. Taking in the floral wallpaper and drab curtains, the room looked like it had been decorated in the eighties.

“So, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

A hiss, “you sound like Lyle.”

Jarod smiled and ate a spoonful of the green glop. “And your tastes in food are both atrocious,” she added.

“It reminds me of my childhood,” he replied idly.

“What happened to you, Jarod?”

Another smile. “Lyle helped me see the light. Showed me the error of my ways, so to speak. He’s given me more than anyone else ever has.”

“Cut the crap, tell me straight. What did he do?”

He fiddled with the spoon, scooping green stuff up and then letting it drop with a splat. “You mean like in the movies when the bad guy tells he’s dark and evil plan. Am I a bad guy, Miss Parker?”


“To which?”

“To both.”

More smiling, but his eyes had gone distant, like looking on a fond memory. “I was waiting for you, I found something, about both our pasts. I don’t even remember what now,” he laughed. “Lyle found me, more sweepers than you’ve ever seen in your life. I guess he really wasn’t amused by the cargo freight. They took me home and showed me how stupid I’d been.”

“Why walk in the front door then?”

“Lyle always did have a liking of dramatic irony,” he said with a fond smile.

The moment of silence after his last statement drew out. He’s not Jarod anymore, he’s some creation of Lyle’s, some demon in a pleasing shape, the thought didn’t make her next words easier. “You know why I’m here?”

Jarod didn’t look shocked or surprised and folded the newspaper into a perfect square and had another spoonful. “You won’t kill me.”

“Why not?”

He gave her a full on stare, it was hard and cold and reminded her of her father. “You love me.”

A small smile graced her face even though she felt dizzy, light headed and faintly sick. “I did love Jarod,” she said quietly.

Jarod gave her a knowing smirk, only a ghost of the smirks Jarod would give her.

Parker took a good look at the man in front of her, he no longer looked young, The Centre took that away from you. In replace of his youth was cold, hard and unfeeling. His suit fitted him perfectly, designed to be imposing and take advantage of his 6 foot figure.

This man with Daddy’s eyes and power suit was nothing like – wasn’t – the man and boy she’d loved.

“But you’re not Jarod,” she said and drew her weapon.

In the next few seconds two things happened:

The already loaded gun was pointed right at Jarod’s head.

And Jarod’s latest spoonful of glop was thrown right at Miss Parker.

In the next few seconds other things happened.

Miss Parker ducked and fired, the shot going wild and smashing a window, glass rained on the carpet.

Jarod sprung up from his seat making a dash for the kitchen and the gun hidden in a draw.

Parker reloaded her own gun, a new bullet in the chamber, a new chance for survival.

The window above her smashed and Miss Parker tipped over the table.

“Tables don’t stop bullets,” Jarod said.

He was right of course; the table was made of a flimsy cheap wood only an inch or less thick. It didn’t matter; she’d never expected to come out of this.

Another shot and Jarod’s bullet struck her leg. Miss Parker hissed in pain, the sound so very loud in the quiet of the house. The blood from her leg and a dozen other cuts pooled creating a glass and red mosaic on the floor.

She ignored it as she’d been taught when young and concentrated.

She could feel Jarod taking aim again, hear the loading of
the weapon, she could almost see where he was; directly in front of her standing behind the counter. Maybe this was her Inner Sense coming into play, just as Jarod’s Pretender gene had allowed him to pinpoint her so accurately.

Maybe it was the link she shared with the real Jarod.

Or maybe it was Fate, coming to deal her final hand.

They both fired.

They both hit.

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