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I added this chapter because I felt the previous one was too long.
I hope you enjoy ;)
“What are you going to do, Miss Parker? It’s a simple offer. You’d rather save Jarod…or you want your son to have a nice happy life, far from the Centre?”
Parker really wanted to kill Hasani. Hadn’t she got a life to protect inside of herself, she would have jumped him to strangle the man.
Her gaze fell on Raines, who looked satisfied like never before in his entire life. And then she realized she was eventually living the dream that had frightened her for many nights.
She was right in front of a choice that she couldn’t give an answer to.
She had to choose between Jarod and their son.
And if the nightmare was real, she knew what would happen in the end.
So it hasn’t been a dream, but a premonition.
“So, what’s it gonna be, Miss Parker?” Raines’s voice asked, while Michael had finally stopped crying. Sydney and Broots were hanging on her words as much as all the others.
“Were you talking about me?!” someone asked at their backs.
A voice that sounded clear and dark at the same time.
With an unmistakable sarcastic tone.
A voice they all knew too well.
“Jarod! No!” Miss Parker shouted.
“Take him!” Hasani growled, willing to make the pretender pay for his brother’s death more than anything else.
Two sweepers surrounded Jarod at once and dragged him towards Hasani, he didn’t even make an attempt to resist.
“I’m here, Hasani. I surrender, as you’ve asked. You didn’t even need to wait, right?” Jarod’s voice betrayed all his tension and fear.
Parker knew hi, though; she had never heard Jarod express his emotions like that. His voice was fast and worried.
He was scared to death, but not for his life.
He was afraid of losing them.
Raines and Mr. Parker were looking at him like a smoker looks at a cigarette a couple of days after quitting smoking.
“Live up to your end of the deal and let him go!” Jarod shouted, squirming.
Hasani looked at Mr. Parker, then they both smiled maliciously.
“Let – go – of – him.” Jarod repeated, spelling the words slowly while he started squeezing his fists.
Miss Parker couldn’t utter a word.
Her nightmare was real.
And she couldn’t do anything about it.
“And why should we keep just one pretender…when we can have two? We just need to wait his inborn qualities to show. Just like his father…and his mother.” Lyle explained, with a mocking grin.
Jarod tried to escape from the sweepers held, “Lyle, you bastard! I’m here, you proposed a deal! Let them go, all of them! I’ll stay, I’m doing anything you want, you won’t have to oblige me. I’ll cooperate.” Jarod lashed out.
“You should know more than anyone…The Centre never makes deals.” Hasani clarified, approaching the pretender threateningly.
Then he punched Jarod in the stomach, obliging him to bend over in pain.
“This is for Adama.” he whispered, so that only Jarod could hear him.
Above all things that Jarod hated, to be accused of something he hadn’t done really drove him crazy. At that moment, though, the pain in his chest was piercing and he had no strength to retort.
He was dragged closer to Miss Parker and his friends, left on the floor right next to the woman.
“J-jarod…I’m s-sorry.” She whispered between a sob and the other.
He looked at her with trying to pass onto her all the love he felt. “You must be strong, for Michael…and Clio.” He murmured, regaining some of his strength.
Parker looked at him questioningly.
“I know we haven’t talked about it yet, but…our brother suggested this name and I liked it so much that I started to think about our daughter as Clio. You like it?”
Miss Parker tried to smile, “Clio is perfect.” she whispered, while the sweepers moved away from Jarod. The woman bended, putting her fingers on his cheeks, tenderly.
“Aren’t you a picture? The happy family reunited!” Lyle commented sarcastically.
Miss Parker threw him a look full of hate. She had never despised her family name as much as then.
“It’ll be nice to see your children growing up at the Centre, Jarod. They’ll have the great honor to become the most promising experiment in the whole Centre history.” Hasani revealed.
Leaving Jarod on the floor, Miss Parker stood up and moved towards the man, with the sweepers now aiming the weapons against her.
“You’ll never – have – our children.” she whispered, threateningly.
Raines was still holding Michael in his arms, while Mr. Parker looked at his daughter with newfound admiration.
“You know, obtaining Ethan from your mother was so hard. We had to convince her, inseminate her, keep everything a secret. But with you…you did it all on your own, Angel. Thank you.”
Miss Parker couldn’t stand it anymore; she wildly slapped the man she once used to call father.
He couldn’t block the blow, so her hand collided with his cheek in a sudden hurtful movement.
Mr. Parker felt confused as his daughter looked at him with hatred.
Angelo swallowed and felt all the hate growing inside his friend.
Jarod, by now, could breathe regularly again, so he stood up, with Sydney’s help.
“Talking about Ethan, if Jarod was listening, he might be close, too. We can’t let him escape, we won’t have such a chance to capture him again.” Raines interrupted.
“What Raines, two pretenders aren’t enough?” Jarod asked, his sarcastic tone fully recovered.
“Jarod.” the doctor replied, looking at the boy in his hands with affection. “Why be satisfied with what you have, when you can have it all?”
Sydney took that moment to try and regain a bit of authority, “If Jarod is really starting to make sims, I want to be his tutor again.”
Hasani and Mr. Parker laughed, “I didn’t know you were a comedian, Sydney.”
Jarod looked at his mentor with terror, then his eyes fell on Broots.
At that moment he realized that, among all those persons, the two of them were the only expandable. He needed to figure out a way to save Broots and Sydney, fast.
But Hasani decided it was his turn to talk, again.
“We know that all the failures of your pursuit were mostly due to Miss Parker. I’ll never forget how she let Jarod escape when they were stuck together in Bahia Grande. What did the mission report say?” Hasani interrupted himself to emphasize the suspense. “Oh, yes, now I remember. When you tried to shoot at the helicopter that Jarod was using to escape, you realized your gun was unloaded.”
Jarod took a step towards Miss Parker to let her feel his reassuring presence. They knew how much it had meant to be stuck together in that hell, for them both. Parker hadn’t found the courage to stop Jarod while he was escaping with Simone.
“If I’m not mistaken” Hasani went on. “Something similar happened almost a year later, when Jarod managed to escape with Davey Simpkins.”
Miss Parker was dragging Jarod from the limousine to the plane that would take them back to The Centre. He had never been more furious, ever. Once again, she was surrendering to her father’s will, instead of following her instinct.
“It doesn't have to be this way.”
She ignored him, but his words were hitting the mark.
“New blood for the Centre. Your mother would be so proud of you!”
“Save it!” she lashed out, at the limit of her tolerance.
Jarod suddenly turned around and took off his sunglasses, so that she could see the anger in his eyes.
“I saw your face when Angelo gave up his last treatment for Davey!”
“Keep moving!” she replied, silencing him as she pushed him.
“Let’s go!” Gar shouted.
Right then, Angelo bended and started to moan, faking sufferance.
“Angelo, are you all right?” Jarod asked.
“What's wrong with him?” Miss Parker asked, worried.
Then Angelo took a hidden syringe and used it to hit Willie, starting a tussle that allowed Jarod to run away with Davey.
“Get off of me! Jarod! Jarod!” Parker shouted, running after him with a gun aimed towards the pretender.
“Save Davey!” Angelo pleaded her.
She shook her head slowly, his words hitting the mark, “Angelo…”
In spite of everything, she stopped and didn’t do anything. Jarod started the plane engine and lifted off, bringing Davey far from that place and leaving Miss Parker with nothing.
The woman put her gun down. She couldn’t believe she actually let him escape.
But maybe it was for the best. At least Davey was safe.
“Guess your gun jammed huh?” Gar asked, almost teasing her.
She sighed and bended her head backwards, accepting that moment of defeat but also aware that Jarod’s escape meant that she had to start chase him, again.
“Davey free.” Angelo told her, glad.
“Miss Parker still in hell.” she complained.
“Gar the sweeper swore that your gun might have jammed, because only a blind man might have missed such a simple target.”
Miss Parker grinned maliciously in answer, glad that she could reply sincerely to Hasani. “Consider it my moment of glory. Knowing that I’ve spared pain at least to one of those boys helps me sleep at night.” She confessed.
She echanged a knowing glance with Jarod, he stared at her full of pride.
He’d always known she had secretly been glad to watch him escape, that day, even if she never admitted.
He had known even when she had shot at him a few hours later, when Fenigor had confessed that Major Charles had killed Catherine.
“Anyway, that wasn’t my point, Miss Parker.” Hasani continued, interrupting that moment of tenderness between former huntress and prey.
“I was trying to explain Dr. Sydney, here, that even if the Triumvirate has always known about the reality of your bond with Jarod, which prevented you to chase him objectively and without being involved, we also knew that there was another weak link in the chain.”
Everybody looked at Sydney.
“Sydney had nothing to do with my escapes!” Jarod lied to protect him. “He always tried to lure me back, he only used words of discouragement, he tried to make me face the reality of the cruel world I was knowing for the first time!”
Hasani smiled again, “Your attempt to protect your mentor is praiseworthy Jarod, but futile. We know the good doctor often helped you staying away from the Centre, all these years.”
Jarod sighed, and so did Miss Parker.
And what could they reply to that?
It was simply the truth. Sydney had developed a huge sense of guilt since Jarod had escaped, even more when the pretender had obliged him to face their crimes. Jarod’s escape had changed him deeply; it had helped him become the man he should have always been.
Miss Parker was sure that if Sydney had then been the man he was now, he would have certainly helped Jarod escape.
The pretender peeked at the sweeper standing next to him. The whole situation was so distracting that by now his gun was almost aiming at the floor.
Jarod needed to take it, at any cost.
“Jarod never needed our help, he was always a step ahead of us!” Broots surprisingly intervened, feeling he’d been silent for too long. “Whenever we got closer, when we thought we had caught him, he always managed to escape right under our noses!”
“You’re right, Mr. Broots” Hasani replied. “The pretender always showed his best magician’s tricks. Alas, even the greatest wizard leaves the stage, sooner or later.”
Jarod made another silent step towards the closer sweeper. If only they could distract Hasani for just a few seconds.
When Angelo noticed his friend’s movements, guessing what he was trying to do, he started moving his gaze from Jarod to the sweeper, careful not to be noticed by nobody else.
“What do you have in mind for us?” Broots asked, worried for his daughter’s safety.
“You were very useful, Broots.” Lyle intervened. “If we were able to track Jarod’s movements, it’s only because of you.”
Miss Parker scoffed with indignation, she couldn’t believe her ears. The same Lyle who once tried to get rid of Broots like a piece of garbage was now praising the technician.
Lyle would have been glad to see those people hurt, but he had to admit that Broots had been useful. He could be spared.
Also, he was too chicken to do anything against The Centre, too afraid for his daughter’s life.
“We can’t say the same about you, Sydney.” Raines went on. “Your complicity in this affair was the last straw. If Willie had succeeded, you wouldn’t even be here.”
Jarod squeezed his fists, bearing with Raines’s words, he only needed just a few other seconds.
But Parker, unaware of Jarod’s plan, chose that moment to do the wrong thing: she put herself in front of Sydney and Broots and covered them with her body.
“You won’t lift a finger on them.” she stated solemnly.
Her expression was worth a thousand words.
Right then, Michael moved between Raines’s arms to turn around and face Miss Parker, like he’d been called back from numbness after hearing his mother’s voice.
“Mom, they take me?” he asked.
Jarod moved as fast as he could. Taking advantage of the moment of distraction due to Michael’s comment, he attacked the sweeper and stole his gun. Now he was back to his previous position, watched clearly by all his enemies.
Parker smiled for his move, ready to taste his words when he would threaten Hasani, but she was wrong.
As soon as she noticed Jarod’s hand aiming the gun to his own temple, Parker immediately stopped smiling.
“Jarod, what the hell are you doing?” she yelled, approaching him.
A gesture from Jarod’s free hand was enough to silence her and made her understand that he was serious.
Hasani chuckled sarcastically, but Mr. Parker looked worried.
“This is just a huge waste of time.” the African stated.
“You’re absolutely right.” Jarod agreed. “That’s why I’m going to tell you this right straight: Parker, Angelo, Broots and Sydney mustn’t be touched. I want your word that if I work with you again, you let them go, along with my son.”
Mr. Parker looked at Lyle and then at Raines.
This hadn’t been expected.
“Jarod, put that gun down, now.” Miss Parker pleaded him.
“I’m waiting for an answer, Hasani.” The pretender continued, ignoring her.
Jarod knew that this was the only way to save them all.
He just had to understand how much The Centre cared for his own safety.
If he shot, he would deprive them of their most talented pretender for good.
He’d pull the trigger to make sure that they would spare the lives of the people he loved.
He was ready to die.
“You’d never do that.” Lyle stated, thinking he knew Jarod better than that.
Jarod clenched his teeth and loaded the gun, “Test me. Please.” He hissed back at him.
Lyle shut up, realizing that Jarod wasn’t pretending.
“Jarod, please.” Parker begged him again.
He was going through a considerable inner conflict.
Parker’s voice, so feeble and worried, made him realize that he didn’t have the courage to leave her. But at the same time, it was for this vulnerability that he needed to save her. She had to live to think about their children. And if he had to take his own life to assure her a future, he would.
“You have five seconds, then I’m pulling the trigger. I think the remains of this smart-pretender-brain will stick around on these walls for a very long time.”
Sydney cringed at the thought, and so did Miss Parker.
Hasani burst into a nervous laughter which took Jarod unprepared, but he didn’t flinch.
“I must admit, you’ve got guts, Jarod. Sacrifice your own life to –” he interrupted his words for a moment “– save your pursuers.” so said, he started to laugh louder and louder, and with him also the sweepers.
But Jarod didn’t feel like laughing, at all.
Hasani calmed down and stifled his laughter, then he looked at Jarod intensely.
“The boy will be ready to take your place soon.”
“But it’ll take you years to train him, while I’m an experienced pretender, ready to serve you unconditionally, if you let them go.”
“Mmm…” Hasani had an almost crazy look, by now. He approached one of his sweepers and took his gun. “I’ve got a better idea.”
In two seconds he shot straight to Sydney’s left leg and the psychiatrist collapsed to the floor, starting to hold his hurt leg between his hands, struggling in a terrible pain. The blood started to flow copiously from the wound.
“No!” Jarod shouted, bending slightly towards him, but Hasani anticipated him and aimed the gun towards the pretender.
“This ends now, Jarod, or I will shoot at every arm of your friends until you put the gun down.”
So said, Hasani shot at Miss Parker’s left shoulder and she also fell to the floor only to be approached by Angelo, who started to moan because he could sense the same pain his friends were in.
“You damn bastard!” Jarod snapped at the man.
Jarod gave up, realizing that his attempt at blackmailing Hasani was over. Sydney was losing too much blood and he needed to get immediate medical care. Miss Parker’s wound, fortunately, didn’t look as serious as Sydney’s.
“Jarod, please.” Miss Parker whispered, holding her shoulder.
“Jarod, he’s losing too much blood, he needs a doctor, now.” Broots explained, checking on the wound.
Jarod glimpsed at Hasani with pleading eyes.
“He will receive medical care immediately. We don’t want your beloved mentor to die now that you get to work together again, do we?”
Jarod lowered his gun in disgust and threw it to the sweeper he had taken it from, then he bended over Sydney to check his wound.
The bullet had severed an artery.
“How are you, Parker?” he asked the woman, not taking his eyes off from Sydney’s leg.
She sighed in answer, “You have a backup question?”
Jarod admired the fact she wasn’t losing her humor even in such situation, “The bullet went in and out, it’s nothing.” she stated, doing her best to reassure Jarod.
“Hey, Sydney…how are you?” Jarod asked the old man, trying to keep him awake.
“It s-seems that in the end…t-they manage to knock me d-down.” he answered.
Parker approached them both, taking Sydney’s hand and squeezing it for dear life. She brought his hand to her mouth while Jarod ripped an edge of his shirt to tighten it around the man’s thigh.
“He must go to the infirmary, now!” he yelled, looking at Hasani full of hatred.
“Grandpa.” Michael suddenly said, pointing at the man on the floor, his eyes filled with shock.
Jarod exchanged a look with Parker. Not only Michael had understood that Sydney was risking his life, but he had also realized how much he meant to both his parents.
“It’s all right, kiddo.” Parker tried and smile at the boy.
“Sydney’s going to be okay, Michael. It’s just a…scratch.” Jarod told his little boy, lying to himself and noticing that this had been the first time he’d spoken to his son.
“He’ll be taken care of. But now it’s time to go.” Lyle said, noticing Hasani’s apprehension.
“Yes, Africa’s waiting for us.” Hasani said.
Jarod lifted his gaze, worried more than ever, “You never mentioned Africa.”
“You never asked.” Hasani smirked. “I think your son will like Africa. It’s hot and sunny, nothing like this place.” Hasani commented.
“Don’t!” Michael screamed, as if he had understood.
Jarod felt like a stupid. So this was their plan since the beginning.
They would take Michael to Africa, far from his parents.
“Jarod…” Miss Parker claimed the pretender’s attention.
Sydney was losing consciousness, he had lost too much blood for a man of his age. He was very pale.
Jarod couldn’t define priorities anymore.
Sydney was lying in front of him, dying. Miss Parker, hurt and defeated, looked like a mess. Broots and Angelo were worried and powerless.
And Hasani was leaving with his son.
“Please, somebody help us.” Jarod murmured, closing in eyes with resignation.
Hold on, we’re coming, Parker suddenly heard the voices in her head.
“Let’s go.” Hasani concluded.
“Nobody’s going anywhere!” a voice behind them all shouted.
When all of them turned around, no one could believe their eyes.
Shock spread all around, because nobody would have ever expected to see those people at that moment.
The speaking voice belonged to Major Charles, who had a shotgun in his hands aiming straight to Mr. Parker.
Next to him, his recently-found sons, Ethan and Jesse.
Raines’s eyes almost sparkled in wonder when he saw his two most successful experiments standing right in front of him.
He felt like a proud father, but he had to rethink his emotions when he noticed that Ethan was aiming a gun against him.
But Ethan, Jesse and Major Charles hadn’t been the ones to cause such confusion.
Two other figures were capturing all the attention.
The looked older and shattered by all the years spent in jeopardy, running together. But here they were.
Margaret and Catherine.
Forgive typos and misprints! And, as usual, my poor English :)
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