Spoilers: Anything up through “The Pretender 2001” is fair game.
Author’s Notes: I found this on a disk and felt creative (or perhaps I was just avoiding working on my other wips) and finished this off. It’s…interesting. Yes, interesting. It has to be posted in parts, since it's rather long and I don't wish to overload you with a really massive chapter. Go ahead and have a read, then tell me what you think, good or bad. Con crit is always welcomed!
Summary: With the arrival of two not-quite-familiar twins to the game, Jarod and the Retrieval Team are about to make some discoveries they never could have imagined, and be placed in the crosshairs of a man they barely know, but fear anyway.
p g – 1 3
She hadn’t been out that long—a few years—but she still searched. She searched for her lost sister; her lost twin. They had been separated when they were five and she never forgot the pain caused by that separation. She did not know what her sister currently looked like, but she still gave a description to people she met on the street. It had been years, and she still hadn’t had any luck. But that never stopped her from searching, even though with each passing year it was more and more unlikely that her sister was still alive.
Her sister; her twin.
Her thoughts drifted back to the one memory she had of her sister, and it wasn’t a happy one.
She sniffled as tears that would never fall and memories arose of what had happened that day. It had been such an ordinary day in their blissfully ordinary lives. Their parents let them go out to play at the local park, just two blocks away from their house. They skipped happily down the sidewalk, never noticing the black car that followed them. They had gotten one block from their house when her sister noticed a quarter lying on the ground. She bent to pick it up, and that was when it happened. Three men jumped out of the car and grabbed them, putting their hands over their mouths to silence them. There were white handkerchiefs in the hands that went over their mouths, suffocating her and her sister. She remembered the faint scent of what she would later learn was chloroform before everything went black. When she woke up again, she was somewhere she didn’t recognize and her sister was gone.
Years later, she discovered just exactly what that place was. She, like many of the other people there, had been fed a lie for nearly twenty years. The amount of time she had spent helping those bastards still pained her to this day. The guilt over what she had helped them to accomplish slowly ate away at her, leaving her consistently trapped in the darkness of depression.
Depression was, of course, not unfamiliar to her. Her life had been spent in its strangling grip, controlling every aspect of her being. Her sister, always being the stronger of the two, had no had that problem—at least that she knew of.
She had barely seen her sister over the last twenty years, and, of all the unexpected meetings that existed in her recent memory, she always remembered her sister as being cheerful and happy, while she had been morose and despondent.
It was as if, somehow, they had been leading entirely different lives in the same dark place. On a level of her consciousness she rarely ventured, so twisted and manipulated by him was she, she knew that they had led very different lives, even to this day. As far as she knew, her sister was working for The Centre.
She hated the place with a passion, but she also knew it was impossible to fully escape its grip. The organization of it was so nearly-perfect that it could conceivably stand for a millennia, run by shadowy figures with nonsense names from vague areas of the world.
So, like so many others, she was resigned to servitude. Her master/handler/mentor/whatever you wished to call him reminded her of that fact. She would never be truly free. There was no freedom in The Centre, only the appearance of it. The unreal was real, the real the unreal. Such was life.
So now here she stood in the sunshine, quietly and invisibly observing. She had been given a new job (a duty, he called it), and it was one she was finally being trusted with. If she was capable of anything more than the faintest glimmer of happiness, she would be quite pleased right now.
Despite how much she objected to what she always had to do, she did it anyway. Doing her duty would allow her to continue her search, and in this instance, she might get a little help before completing her task. She was a Pretender, and anything was possible for one of her kind. She despised the “art” of Pretending, but would do it anyway. It was a means to an end.
Now all that was needed was to wait for the proper moment.
"What is it, Broots?" Miss Parker asked, pivoting on her heel in the long corridor and waiting for Broots to catch up. He side-stepped a janitor mopping the floor and avoided a near accident, until he slipped on the freshly mopped floor and fell on Miss Parker. Papers went flying everywhere as the files Broots had been holding slipped from his grasp. Miss Parker shoved him off of her, sending him sprawling to the marble floor where he landed with a grunt.
"Mm, sorry, Miss Parker."
"You better be," she replied, giving him her coldest glare as he got up from the floor. "Well?"
"Well what?" he asked, then realized what she meant. "Oh, right!"
Parker just rolled her eyes and motioned for him to continue.
"Um, you’re not gonna believe this. I intercepted a memo from Mr. Raines to your father about a project!"
"Well, what else is new, Broots? There have got to be hundreds of ongoing projects in the Centre!" Miss Parker growled, annoyed that Broots brought something this inane to her attention.
"Miss Parker, it’s about Jarod and you!"
"What? Let me see that." Miss Parker reached over and grabbed the papers out of Broots’ shaking hands, quickly glancing at them.
"What? How. . . I thought that Project Gemini ended when Jarod’s clone escaped The Centre," Miss Parker responded, disbelief in her voice at the latest information about Raines and her father.
"Well, that’s the weird thing about it! It’s not about Jarod’s clone. It’s about two twins that apparently were released from The Centre a year after Jarod escaped. Apparently, they were the real Project Gemini! The clone was the second project by that name, and was used as a cover for the real project!" Broots blurted out as they resumed walking down the corridor.
"And why is this important to me?" Parker asked, not seeing how this information affected her.
"These two girls, the twins, they’re Pretenders too. In fact, they’re kinda like Ethan, just not as screwed up."
Miss Parker quickly brushed away the tear that surfaced from the mention of Ethan’s name. He was dead and gone; had been for two months now. Two months had passed since Raines found him and made sure that his prized project wouldn’t be able to help her find the truth about her mother, but it still hurt.
"So, you’re telling me that these two girls could be my sisters?" Parker asked, incredulous over the idea that she may have more siblings she didn’t know about. Sometimes it seemed as if her family tree would never stop sprouting random branches from her mother’s.
"Yeah," he mumbled as they reached her office. Though it wasn’t vocalized, the term “clone” hung heavily in the air between the two companions.
"Broots, I want you to go find as much information as you can about these two girls. I want to know them like the back of my hand by yesterday, got it?" she ordered him before she entered her office.
"Yes, Miss Parker," he said to the closing office door before scurrying away to do her bidding.
The door clicked shut behind her, a soft, whooshing emanating from it as it sealed. The new information from Broots shocked her, but not as much as it should have. The idea that she had been cloned did not seem all that far-fetched; in fact, she had to admit that she had kind of been expecting it. Once they had discovered the clone—he was now being called Jake, according to Jarod—and the cloning facility at Donoterase, the wait for the discovery of her own clone began.
If these two girls were her clones, of course. But it made logical sense, didn’t it? There was no one else that would have been a better candidate to clone, in her mind. Perhaps it was her pride talking, but she felt that somehow, she meant far more to The Centre than anyone was letting on. So she simply made the natural assumption that these twins were her clones.
So, two years later, her search was not meant with disappointment, it seemed. She prepared herself a drink and downed it easily, the liquor burning her throat with its corrosive strength. She would wait for Broots to dig up some more information, then determine a course of action.
All that was needed was to wait.
She opened her e-mail and skimmed through it, stopping at a message from her father. It was a summons to his office for some kind of meeting. Great. But perhaps she could get some answers from him about this business.
She intended to use this summons to its fullest. She contemplated ways to bring up the issue as she made her way to his office, though in the end she decided to play doting daughter with a nagging “Daddy I don’t know what to do about this!” question, as always.
"Hello, Angel," Mr. Parker greeted his daughter as she entered his office, the doors sliding closed behind her.
"Hi, Daddy," Miss Parker said as she went up to hug her father. He accepted her hug, but only for a minute. She stepped back and looked at him. He was doing better since he had been shot by Alex. He was finally able to get back to work, which was a good thing considering that in Mr. Parker’s absence, Mr. Lyle had been in charge of The Centre. She shuddered mentally at everything that had happened since Lyle had taken charge again. She reflected back to something Broots had said when Lyle had first appeared, and all of the subsequent power struggles and disappearances that had plagued The Centre since.
"There are more bodies dropping around here then at the Valentine’s Day massacre."
She was jarred from her absent-minded thoughts when her father spoke to her again. "You alright, Angel?"
"Angel,” she thought bitterly. What right does he have to call me that?
As soon as the thought had entered her mind she brushed it aside. This man had been—was—her father for as long as she could remember. Plus, Alex was probably just trying to get to her, and it was working, unfortunately. She remembered that her father had asked how she was and quickly replied:
"I’m fine, Daddy. Why did you want to see me?" she asked curiously, taking a seat in the chair situated in front of the desk.
"Ah! Well-" he started, but the buzzing of the intercom interrupted him and forced him to hold up his hand to her as he asked the secretary what was going on.
"Your ten o’clock is here," the secretary simply answered, sounding mildly distracted.
"Ah! Send her in. Angel, I would like for you to meet the newest member of your team, Ava," Mr. Parker motioned towards the woman who had just entered the office. She had dishwater blond hair pulled back into a tight bun just below the crown of her head. She was about three inches taller than five feet, but she stood much taller with her heels on. She was wearing a gray dress suit and a metallic blue shirt beneath the fitted blazer. Her disconcerting green eyes scanned the room, and then landed on the other woman. She flashed a white smile at Miss Parker, though there seemed to be a note of cheery displeasure lacing the pearly sight. Miss Parker gave her a fake smile and then turned to her father.
"Daddy, I really don’t think we need another member in the hunt for Jarod. We’ve been doing fine-"
"Oh, be a sport, Angel!” he cut her off, something she had always hated but once again held her tongue about. “She’ll be a great asset to the team, and will hopefully help bring in Jarod quicker than you seem to be able to," her father said as he moved to stand in between Ava and Miss Parker.
Ava decided that she should argue her own case and piped in: "I look forward to working with you. I understand that you are not a person to be reckoned with, so I’ll keep off your toes."
Miss Parker simply glared at her, then rose and moved past the two. She left, slamming the door whooshing silently shut behind her. There was no way that little witch was going to take over her hunt, not if she had anything to say about it.
Jarod sighed and fell back onto his make-shift bed. His last pretend had been a strenuous one and all he wanted to do now was to sleep for days. Searching for missing children always made him feel this way. The only real consolation was that he had found and reunited the little girl with her family. The family’s joy had given him hope that there was still happiness and innocence in the world. And that was all he was surviving on lately.
The Centre had been chasing him more fanatically than ever before. It almost seemed like they were suddenly afraid he would do something or discover something he shouldn’t, but it didn’t make any sense to him. One would think that if they were afraid he would leak information about The Centre or something like that, they would have been coming after him like that when he first escaped. But then again, nothing made sense to Jarod anymore.
Everything in his life seemed to be coming apart. He had no idea where his father, the clone—who was now called Jake, a name of the boy’s own choosing—and Emily were, and that confrontation with Alex had taken a lot out of him. He had spent the better part of the last several months desperately searching for the answers to the questions that had been raised by Alex and that picture.
That picture was the source of most of his troubles. The picture of his mother and Catherine Parker had raised more questions than he had ever thought possible. Did his mother and Catherine know each other? Were they friends? Were they sisters?
Jarod didn’t have any answers to these questions, and it was possible that he never would. Where The Centre was concerned, nothing was ever the same as it would be on the outside. On the outside, people didn’t hunt others down like animals; they didn’t try to keep a person away from their family. The Centre did. They tore apart families, hunted people down, and destroyed friendships.
On that disturbing thought, Jarod slipped into a nightmare-filled slumber, as always.
When he awoke an unknown amount of time later, he felt vaguely disoriented and out of place, like he had been drugged. It didn’t take him long to figure out that he was handcuffed to the bed he had fallen asleep on. He must have been drugged, he realized as the grogginess quickly wore off and panic took its place.
Oh no. . . he thought to himself as he looked up at his hands and gently tugged, testing the strength of the handcuffs. He sighed and scanned the room, his eyes coming to rest on a figure in the corner. His or her features were shrouded in darkness so that all he could make out was the form of the person who had put him in this position. He squinted as he tried to discern who it was in the corner, but he didn’t need to. The person, now revealed to be a young woman, came out of the shadows.
"Hello, Jarod," she said softly, her voice having a musical tone to it.
"Who are you?" he asked, wondering what this woman would do to him and just how exactly she knew who he was. Better yet, he would love to know how she had found him.
"That’s not important. I need your help. Will you help me, Jarod?" she begged of him, moving closer to the bed revealing that she had dishwater blond hair. She was quite short but he assumed that was probably made up for in strength. Her eyes were green and seemed to be staring right through him to his soul. He shuddered slightly as the thought crossed his mind, as well as the certain knowledge that she could see his soul, but it disappeared and he quickly recovered.
"Depends what kind of help you need."
"I need your help to find my sister," was her simple reply.
"Un-cuff me first," he said, making a show of rattling the handcuffs. She sighed and reached into her pocket, pulling out the key and moving to the side of the bed. She gingerly lifted his arms and undid the cuffs, letting his hands fall back to the bed. She put the cuffs into the pocket of her short leather jacket, along with the key. She was dressed casually, wearing jeans and a white tank top. She had casual flip-flops on her feet, perfect for the warm weather outside. In short, she looked nothing like the type of person that would be sent by The Centre.
"How do you know who I am?" he asked curiously, ready to run if necessary.
"You’re quite infamous at The Centre, Jarod. Everyone knows who you are."
"You work at The Centre?" Jarod asked, fear once again creeping into his voice. He had been easily deceived by her appearance, it seemed. He unconsciously moved off the bed and a little closer to the door opposite the bed.
"No. I was released shortly after you escaped. I’ve spent the last four years searching for my twin sister, Ava. I haven’t seen her since we were children, when we were abducted by The Centre," she said, the pain of twenty years beginning to swallow her voice.
"I’m sorry. I know what that feels like," Jarod said, moving closer and laying a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"I know. That’s why I came to you for help. Well, it’s one of the reasons. Will you help me?" she asked as she looked at him through tear-filled eyes.
"Yes, yes I will."
to be continued.