Relaxing in her recliner, enjoying her Maker’s Mark and the tranquility of the night, Miss Parker was disturbed with the sound of a phone call. It wasn’t the typical phone call and she already knew what it would be. A part of her wanted to ignore it, but he would only bring it up tomorrow. She picked up the phone and answered it. “Parker.”

“Miss Parker? I know I am asking a lot. I am asking for you to look into the depths of your soul.”

“Whether I have one of those,” she said to him, “what is it?”

“Jarod. They want to ship him to the Triumvirate. I don’t know anything about the Triumvirate, but considering how your father acts? I fear what they will do to him.”

“Your Pretender should have thought of that before he tried to escape The Centre.” She looked at her whiskey. Did he have any idea what he was asking from her? “Daddy rules.”

“Jarod is a good man, you know that he is good,” Sydney continued to remind her. “You knew him when he was younger. A good boy. A good man. Will you help him?”

She sat her Maker’s Mark down next to her. Daddy’s word was final. Sydney was asking her to disobey her Daddy. She stopped to think of Jarod. He knew nothing of the world. He knew it was evil, but he was a trusting fool. Sydney had already shared events with her, letting her see how he had been exposed to the world. The Centre, due to his age, was using him in more advanced ways Sydney hated. Still, there was nothing to do for the lab rat. Life went on. “I can’t Sydney. I already told you, Daddy’s rules are law.” It was the reason she was there right now. Called back to capture Alex and Eddie. Then again. “If he knows something about where his cronies went to, maybe I could twist Daddy’s ear.”

“He doesn’t know. They wouldn’t even know,” Sydney said. “There must be something else.”

What did he want from her, to move the world? She hadn’t even seen Jarod since their early teens. “Considering how deep your boy got himself into trouble, I would think it’s a fair deal.”

“He wouldn’t know,” Sydney said. “Even if he did, he wouldn’t roll on them.”

Of course he wouldn’t, Jarod was a good boy. Very example of a good boy. “Look, Sydney? I’m going to give you a great big hint, okay?” she said. “I don’t know what to do with it, but this is the way it works in the real world. Make Jarod useful to The Centre and The Triumvirate won’t take him away from you. That’s it, that’s all, and I can’t help anymore than that.” She hung up the phone. Sydney would have to think quick if he wanted to save Jarod.

Even if she had the gall to walk into her father’s double doors with her best smile and ‘Daddy’, he would shoot her down so fast. She couldn’t reverse his decisions. Even trying would make him disrespect her and put Jarod in even more trouble.

 

 

Jarod tapped his pencil as Sydney asked him once again about where the others went. Sydney was trying to keep him from being transferred to the Triumvirate. “Trapped here. Trapped there.” No difference. America. Africa. No difference. He would find another way to escape whether it was there or in Africa with the Triumvirate. Sydney was still concerned, citing how much Mister Parker and even Mrs. Parker acted whenever they were in the room. Jarod didn’t like what Sydney said. More than the usual amount of respectful. Even Miss Parker. “You’re wasting your time.” Jarod stopped tapping the pencil. “She wouldn’t help. If I had escaped, she’d just be chasing me down too.”

Sydney couldn’t protect him. Sydney just couldn’t see it yet. He didn’t need Sydney anymore, he had been ready to get out. Get out for good. Visit the graves of his parents. See if there was anyone else out there. Triumvirate or The Centre, he wasn’t helping either one anymore. People died because of what he could do. All those years, he’d been ending so many lives.

Free or not. He was still free to pick that. If The Centre wanted to kill him because he refused, then that was just it.

 

“Sydney, you and freaking memory lane.” Miss Parker put down her whiskey and dialed him up. He’d be at home, relaxing in the same way she did. The stress of the day gone. Not face to face. That would make it seem like she cared way too much. A favor. Make him think about it. Try not to make him mad. “Hi, Daddy,” she said brightly when he picked up the phone.

“Ah, Angel. Nice to hear from you. How’s everything going?”

Of course, the current chase with Alex and Eddie. “Fine.” Not a shred of anything yet. “Sydney called.” Yes, his name would be brought into it. “He said you are sending Jarod to The Triumvirate?”

“What about it?”

Oh yeah, already gruffy. Ease him into it. “Seems like a waste, Daddy. Jarod was supposed to be smarter than both Eddie and Alex combined. There must be something we can do with him.”

“You already have technical help. It won’t be that hard,” her Daddy insisted. “A couple of Pretenders, they’ll be back in no time, and Jarod will be in The Triumvirate. He won’t get away again.”

Not even the slightest budge. Why did that Moron have to go and try and break out? No one escaped The Centre for long. Second choice. “Hopefully. We’ve never seen them in the real world. The more they learn, the harder it will be. If it does take awhile, it won’t look good on The Centre.” Pause. “Could we delay the decision? It doesn’t do any good to send him away to just want him back later. It’s like throwing away an antique dish set and realizing it was worth way more than you thought.” Maybe. That’s all she could give.

“Fine, we’ll postpone moving him. You’re right, Pumpkin, he might just be an antique set we don’t know the value of,” he admitted. “But if The Centre doesn’t have a good enough reason within the week to keep him, he is going to The Triumvirate. Case closed.”

“Smart decision, Daddy,” she said.

“Get some rest. I need you at your best to find those Pretenders. No one can have proof The Centre exists.”

“Of course, Daddy,” she said. “Good-“ He hung up. “Goodnight.” She hung up too. “Softie of a Witch.” A postponement. Jarod would have to use his own brain to get out of that one.

 

 

Postpone. Hm. Jarod looked at the papers in front of him he refused to mess around with. “Looks like there’s an itty bitty bit of warmth in her icy heart, huh?” It didn’t make Sydney smile.

“One week. You need to find a way to be useful to The Centre enough to avoid the Triumvirate,” Sydney warned him. “I doubt we can get this to happen again.”

Sydney still didn’t get it. “Become useful? I should think of a way to make myself useful to The Centre?” Jarod took the paper in front of him and started to make it into an origami shape. The Centre still hadn’t caught on and apparently neither did Sydney. Jarod’s simulations were responsible for killing thousands of people. He was either going to escape, or die, but he wasn’t taking another life. He wasn’t doing another simulation again. No matter what. “Why don’t you do it, Sydney? I mean, aren’t you supposed to be the one that protects me in The Centre?” Sydney didn’t respond that fast.

“Jarod,” he said slowly. “There are some thing that I can do and there are some things that I can’t. When you take the initiative to leave home-“

“The Centre is not a home!” Jarod interrupted him.

“Then I can’t protect you!” Sydney came back on him. “Jarod.”

“Then you can’t protect me. I’d rather die than have my work kill another person.” No more. They could starve him. Strip him. Torture him. Never again.

 

 

That would be decent. Miss Parker was out looking at new clothes when her Daddy called her again. “Yes, Daddy?”

“The thing about antique dishes, Angel?” Her father started. Oh no, this wasn’t going to be good. “Is that at least they don’t fracture and break in your hand! Jarod does nothing, he refuses to do any sims! He just sits in his apartment making origami angels all day long! Not a single thought about how he should become helpful, not a single thank you for the extension, nothing!”

Oh. Damn.

“I feel like an absolute fool for letting you talk me into this!”

“Daddy-“

“No! You are going to go down there and see him. You are going to come up with something for him before you leave, or he is going straight to the Triumvirate! No more time and no more excuses!”

“Well, but I-“ Hung up. Shoot. No choice. He just pissed Daddy off. This is not going to end well for anyone. She quickly left the shopping. She would need to get down there right away.

 

She marched down near Jarod’s apartment where Sydney waited. “Open up.”

“He won’t cooperate,” Sydney told her. “Jarod is tired of his work hurting others.”

“I really shouldn’t be sharing this with him, but he has pushed too far.” Her Daddy was upset with her! “I covered for him, for you,” she warned him. “I am not happy.” She pulled out an envelope. “We’ll see what your boy thinks of these. Open up.”

“What are they?” Sydney asked.

“Something to make him think. Make him wonder,” she answered. “Open the door.”

When Sydney opened up, she walked straight in.

There he’d been. Grown up. Just like the pictures showed. It’d been many years since she’d seen him, but memory lane was not something she coasted on in The Centre. She waited there in her stilettos. Not moving.

He eventually looked up from his little spoiled spot on the ground. “Miss Parker. Well, did Daddy send you down personally to come see me? I should be honored.” He looked back down at his origami. “Should.”

“You got a one week extension due to Sydney’s groveling on your behalf,” Miss Parker not wanting to sound like she was eagerly giving it to him. “All you’ve done is ignore your work and play with origami.”

Jarod just glared at her. “I didn’t ask for Sydney to say anything, and it doesn’t matter what you do,” Jarod said. “I won’t work for The Centre anymore.”

Damn. One more chance. That’s all he was getting before she did it. Mercy was not her highest quality. “Fine then, maybe you could get a longer extension if you tell us where you hid the DSA’s.” He didn’t get off Centre property. They had to still be on Centre property, but nobody could find them. He tucked them away somewhere securely. Otherwise? The only real reason they were supposed to be going after Eddie and Alex was to make sure they didn’t take it for Jarod.

“They aren’t on Centre property,” Jarod said not even looking at her as he continued.

 

“Did you give them to Eddie or Alex?” She asked. Once again, he didn’t even look up. “Have it your way. What constitutes killing someone, Jarod?” She began slowly. “I’m eager to know. Clearly you don’t think it’s just being behind a gun.”

“My mind was used against my wishes.” He barely looked up at her.

“Secondhand, like signing off on a paper. You weren’t behind a gun,” she kept going.

“I didn’t have to be behind a gun, my actions killed people!” Ooh, he was starting to get a temper.

Perfect. She bent down toward him. “They still are.” She dropped the folder. “As long as you don’t want to help? More people will die, thanks to you.”

Jarod grabbed the folder and opened it up. He looked at the pictures. “Centre lies.”

“You think so? Okay? Um. Sydney. Why don’t you go ahead and check your internet extensions?” Miss Parker asked him. “You know what? Better yet? Give Jarod access to the internet. Free reign. Make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid. I’ll just wait over by the couch.” She sat down as Sydney turned on access to the internet. Jarod started digging. She tried to give him a little leeway. He just wouldn’t take it. And now?

“Alex.” A whisper. Jarod looked back at the photos. “Why?”

“What, Jarod?” Sydney had asked. “Who are those people?”

“Alex’s family.” A hard gulp was seen from him. “Alex killed his family.”

“What?” Sydney couldn’t believe it either. “For what reason?” He looked toward Miss Parker.

“Either he’s not all there,” Jarod said as he glanced toward Miss Parker, “or The Centre’s trying to set him up. To make me go after him.” He stared at her.

Miss Parker knew what he was doing. If she was lying or hiding something, he’d see it. There was no dodging him. Even if she wanted to act like The Centre did something, he would spot the lie in it too. Instead she just sighed and waited. He would reach his conclusion soon. It didn’t matter if she even tried to go eye to eye with him. She knew him better than she wanted to know him.

Jarod looked back at the computer. He looked back at the photos. “Sydney. I want to talk to Mister Parker.”

 

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