Disclaimer: If you think these characters belong to me, you're sadly
mistaken. I stole them, hugged them, squeezed them, and called them George,
then I gave them back like a good girl. Steve and Craig, all I have is pocket
lint. This is in a response to Blade's genfic challenge.
Spoilers: Through IOTH
Jarod slurped the last bit of his frosted orange and went to get another. Finally, his pretend was coming to an end. He smiled as he paid for the beverage and wandered back to his table. The one good thing about this case was that it had brought him back to Atlanta and The Varsity. He'd never known that greasy batter-dipped and fried rings of onion and an orange sherbet concoction could taste so good on a hot, muggy summer day!
Sure, he'd been to Atlanta before, but he'd never had the opportunity to try the food at the famous hot dog stand. It was only the proximity to Georgia Tech that allowed him to try it now. He dipped an onion ring in a pool of ketchup and bit into it thoughtfully.
He was close; he knew it. Jarod reached out with his grease-free left hand, opened his red notebook, and frowned. A serial rapist had been operating between Georgia Tech campus and the Georgia State University Village across the street, and the local authorities were stumped. Normally, he would have just let the VCTF handle it, but they were working a case in California, and Rachel wasn't as good as Sam had been, anyway.
His thoughts were interrupted by a short, nondescript man who came over to his table. "May I sit here?" the man asked in a light tenor voice. "It's crowded today."
Jarod nodded absently. "Of course," he said as he took his laptop case off the other chair. "My name is Jarod," he offered with a smile.
"Jake," the man said, setting his tray down. Jake slipped off his jacket and sat down. As he reached for his hotdog, Jarod noticed an unusual tattoo on the inside of them man's wrist.
Jarod shivered and turned his attention back to his notebook. There was something about that tattoo that made him uneasy. He knew he'd seen it before, but he wasn't sure where. The memory of it tried to crash down on him, but he shoved it back. Sitting in the middle of a busy restaurant across the table from a man who was *wearing* said tattoo wasn't a good time for one of his waking nightmares.
He finished eating quickly, dumped his trash, grabbed his laptop and left the restaurant with a nod to Jake. Just the sight of Jake's tattoo had unnerved him; he hadn't seen that particular mark in a long time. He crossed the street and headed back behind the GSU dorm complex to the small apartment he was renting in the complex behind it.
The agent had been glad to rent it to him; ever since the murder that had taken place there fifteen years ago, they hadn't been able to keep a tenet living in it. He hurried up the path, unlocked the door and hurried up the circular staircase. He barely made it to his bed and dropped his laptop case on it when the memories crashed over him.
They called themselves "Eternity's Children". Jarod only knew because he'd overheard one of them talking to Dr. Raines. Sydney was away, so he'd been turned over to him during the holiday. Those who belonged to Eternity's Children were Centre-trained, and he was the Pretender that had been chosen for the SIM they had paid for.
Jarod shivered on the cold metal table as one of them came toward him. Raines had ordered him to strip to his underwear and lay down upon entering the SIM lab, and he hadn't dared to protest. The man reached over and fastened the leather straps around him snugly, and it was then that Jarod noticed the tattoo. It was unusual to say the least--a ghost-like figure bound in varying shades of geometric darkness.
The man smiled at him. If Jarod could have recoiled from that smile, he would have; there was something in it that he didn't like. Something in that smile scared him. The man attached electrodes to his bare skin, then stepped back and motioned to Raines.
"Is that sufficient, Dr. Raines?" he asked.
Dr. Raines nodded. "Perfect," he said. "Let me get to the console," he smiled at the man, then walked across the room.
"All that matters are the results, Doctor," the man leaned against the walls and folded his arms across his chest.
Dr. Raines ignored him. "Tell us exactly how this feels, Jarod," he instructed, then threw the switch.
At the first strong jolt of electricity, Jarod started screaming. It hurt worse than the detox he'd endured a short while ago. The man came forward and injected something into his arm that made the pain worse. His screams grew louder until Dr. Raines shut off the machine.
"Very good," he said dryly. "We'll have to try that again, but I need to hook up some more machines first."
The man nodded and scratched his tattoo absently. "I'll call the sweepers; the Tower will be pleased." The two men left the room together, chatting lightly about the applications of the experiment.
Jarod panted for breath. He would remember the tattoo; that mark was one of danger. He didn't know how long Dr. Raines and his friend were gone, but it didn't seem like long before they came back in the room. Sweepers wheeling more equipment came in behind them, and situated it around the metal table he was lying on.
"Doctor Raines," he ventured, "why do we need all that equipment?"
"Shut up, boy," Raines said coldly. "It's for the SIM, and that's all you need to know."
Jarod shivered slightly as Raines hooked up the equipment and returned to the console. Raines motioned to the tattooed man to come help. "You may flip the switch this time, James," he said magnanimously.
"My pleasure, Dr. Raines," James said with a small smile.
Two seconds after James hit the switch, Jarod started screaming. Raines stepped over and injected a larger dose of the drug into his arm, then started monitoring the equipment. Jarod's screams grew louder as the pain increased, but this time, it didn't last as long.
Eighteen-year-old Miss Parker hurried into the room, drawn by the sound of her friend's screams. "Turn it off," she ordered, her eyes flashing gray fire.
"Miss Parker, you cannot interrupt," Raines said, smirking.
"Yes I *can*. Turn it OFF!" she ordered. "I bet Sydney doesn't know you're doing this, and I'll tell Daddy that you're hurting Jarod. Do it NOW!" Parker crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Dr. Raines and James.
Raines nodded to James, who turned the equipment off. "I'll be talking to your father about this, MISS Parker." The two men left the room, and Parker unhooked Jarod from the machines.
"M-m-melissa?" Jarod whispered.
"It's me, Jarod. They're gone." Parker grabbed a nearby blanket, wrapped it around him, and sank to the cold cement floor to sit next to him, heedless of her designer clothes. "As long as I'm here, I *won't* let them hurt you, I promise." She hugged him tightly.
Jarod snaked an arm out from beneath the blanket and put it around her. Swiss boarding schools and distance spent apart notwithstanding, Melissa Parker was still his best friend. He leaned against her and sighed. She was the only person he ever felt truly safe with; she was telling the truth, as long as they were together, nothing could hurt him.
Jarod shivered again. He'd found out something about Eternity's Children since he'd escaped. They were hired assassins, murderers who killed without compunction and who only worked for the highest bidder. It was only later that he'd found out the application that the electrocution SIM had been used for; they were looking for a more effective method for murder. The drug had been meant to increase the body's receptivity towards electricity.
Jarod crossed his arms and shuddered. It had worked, too. He still had some scars from the wires they'd used to conduct the electricity into his body. Seeing the tattoo earlier that afternoon had brought it all back. He closed his eyes and leaned against the wall behind the bed. Sydney. It had been a long time since he'd called his mentor just to talk, but perhaps it was time.
He wasn't really talking to anyone from the Centre much these days, and he'd been avoiding Miss Parker specifically. After what had happened in Scotland, it seemed... politic to give her some space. With shaking hands, he picked up his secure SAT phone and dialed Sydney's number. "Sydney?" he said shakily.
"Jarod!" the older man's voice sounded delighted. "Are you all right?"
"Sydney, I saw the tattoo for Eternity's Children," he said hoarsely.
"I'm sorry, Jarod. I thought all of them were gone," was Sydney's response. "I swear to you, Jarod, if I'd known..."
"I know, Sydney," Jarod murmured. "I remember what happened after you found out that Raines had allowed them access to me."
"I wish I'd done more than just complain to Mr. Parker; it didn't do me much good. I got a memo soon afterwards that the project that had created Eternity's Children had been terminated."
"So that's why you thought they were gone," Jarod commented. "Sydney, it's not your fault that Mr. Parker sent Parker away after that. She complained too, and I saw her before she got sent away again." Jarod lapsed into silence for a moment. "She said that he was sending her away because we were too close, Sydney."
"You never were, Jarod. When she came back, she was different, bitter. She'd perfected the face she shows the world."
"She never came to see me after she got back, and the few times I saw her, she acted like she hated me."
The two of them were silent for a few minutes before Sydney spoke again. "Speaking of Parker, have you spoken to her lately?" he probed gently.
"No, I haven't," Jarod admitted. "After what happened last month..."
"She's worried about you, Jarod," Sydney interrupted.
Jarod chuckled humorlessly. "And how could you tell?"
"Because she's crankier when you haven't been keeping in touch," Sydney laughed. "Call her, Jarod. She misses you."
"I'll think about it, Sydney," Jarod said quietly. "I promise."
"I'll contact you when I find out what they've been up to," Sydney promised. "Jarod--be careful. Lyle is determined to catch you, and he's more dangerous than usual right now."
Jarod hung up the phone, tossed it on the bed, and buried his face in his hands. Eternity's Children were still out thee, and still murdering innocent people. Silently, he vowed to find a way to stop them, but he knew that they were well-hidden enough that it would take time. Perhaps they wouldn't be destroyed until he destroyed the Centre.
Jarod drew in a deep breath, then picked up the remote and turned the TV on. He needed something to take his mind off the memory that had just surfaced, and cartoons sounded like a good idea to him. He started to change the channel from CNN when he caught sight of breaking news.
"In Atlanta today, officials caught the College Campus Rapist. David Wayne Johnson was caught in the act, and is said to be linked to 37 different rape cases on various college campuses."
Jarod sighed and closed his eyes. He would call Miss Parker later on that night, but right then, he didn't have to do anything but watch some Cartoon Network. A slow smile spread over his face. He didn't really need to be anywhere, and hot dogs from The Varsity sounded good for dinner.