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Escape Part 2

Author:   AthenaDreamer


     "What do you mean you don't work for the Agency?" Nikita asked as she shifted in
her seat to get a clearer view of him.

     "I created a file and a back story.  I immersed myself in the Agency as a deep cover
operative who was on a priority assignment until recently.  The Agency took one look at
the bacterial situation that Section One was dealing with and reassigned me to the case.
Now, Operations has transferred my file to Section One.  I'm Section One material now."

     "Why would you place yourself in the Agency?"

     "It started out as a search for the missing body of Nicholas Brennan.  The story
about his suicide in prison just didn't fit with his personality.  I though he might be in
danger.  He was.  Section One had recruited him.  Now that I've found him, I'm in more
danger than he is."

     "How could you be in anymore danger?  When Operations finds out that you never
worked for the Agency, he'll have you canceled," Nikita warned.

     Jarod half-grinned, "I wish it were that easy.  He'll send me back to the Centre, and
that's worse than death."

     "Wait a minute.  What's the Centre?" She asked, getting more confused by the
minute.

     "There are a lot of things that I need to explain to you, Nikita," Jarod said as he
parallel parked the car in front of Vasya's townhouse, "Let's go inside.  I'll make some
coffee, and I'll explain everything to you."

     Nikita sat silently before asking, "Jarod, why are you telling me all of this?"

     "You don't belong in Section One.  You didn't kill the cop they accused you of,
and you only killed the other man in self-defense.  More than that, you haven't become
what they want you to be.  You're not a cold blooded killer.  You're nothing like the rest
of Section One.  You have a heart."

     Nikita took a sharp intake of breath.  He believed her.  Jarod was the first person
to believe that she was not a cold-blooded killer.  She felt relief, shock, and delight in the
same instant.

     No one had ever believed her.  The cops had not believed her nor had her court
appointed attorney.  The judge had not believed her.  Neither Operations nor Madeline
had believed her.  Not even Michael had believed her.  That fact hurt most of all.

     Michael had been all of the right things to Nikita.  He began as an adversary, a
teacher who scolded and bullied her.  He later became a friend, not in the traditional sense,
but he was someone with whom she felt comfortable, a trait not shared by all members of
Section One.  Eventually, Michael had become something more than a friend but not quite
a lover.

     Much later, he bridged the final gap and became her lover, and for a single moment
in time, Nikita had felt at peace with the universe.  All the nameless faces stopped
haunting her nightmares, and the pleas from people like Shays had been silenced.  Only
during that unique instant of clarity had Michael realized that she was not nor had she ever
been a cold blooded killer.  Strange it had taken Michael almost three years to come that
realization, but Jarod believed her after only two days.

     Involuntarily, Nikita found herself contrasting the two men as she climbed the front
steps to the townhouse.  Michael carefully chose his words to effectively corner her into
the situations he wanted while Jarod was straight-forward and honest in both his actions
and words.  Michael hid his emotions behind a practiced facade, but Jarod displayed
emotion with even the simplest of gestures.  Both men were self-assured, but Jarod did
not use his pride to intimidate.  Instead, he seemed to inspire others to feel pride in
themselves as he did about himself.

     Nikita asked herself why a man like Jarod would intentionally involve himself with
Section.  She wanted to know the answer, and she sincerely hoped that Jarod would be
just as candid as he had been earlier.

     Jarod slipped the key into the lock and opened the door.  He flipped on the light to
the foyer as they stepped inside.  He instructed Nikita to make herself comfortable while
he started the coffee.

     She was impressed with the decor of the townhouse, decidedly modern yet subtle
as an antique.  The den opened to the left of the foyer.  As she turned the lights on, the
room was illuminated by up-lamps in each corner.  Nikita looked up where a small crystal
chandelier sparkled from the light of the up-lamps and sent shards of light dancing across
the ceiling.

     She walked into the room and sat down on a navy blue plush sofa.  The pillows
surrounded her like the arms of a loving mother.  There was an oak coffee table in front of
the sofa, and two charcoal gray arm chairs completed the conversation area.  The maple
paneled walls held no pictures, only a lone painting of a waterfall.

     Nikita took a deep breath and thought about the 'project' Madeline had given her.
Could she betray Jarod by telling Operations anything that was said tonight?  She could
not answer that question.  Jarod was an honest and kind person.  He did not deserve
anything that Section One would levy on him.  However, Operations would cancel her if
she did not reveal everything she knew about Jarod.  Somehow that was not enough to
scare her.

     Nikita used to worry about being canceled.  When Michael had helped her escape,
she thought freedom was what she wanted and had finally obtained.  While on the outside,
she discovered that freedom was not what she expected it to be.  She was always looking
over her shoulder and wondering who could be watching her.  She returned to Section
One when she had the opportunity, but she still was not happy.

     The hopes of being with Michael had lured her into a lifestyle that she could not
live with.  Michael had strung her along for almost four years, and she came to the
realization that Michael would never share the feelings that she felt for him.  Her reason
for living had faded with that realization.  She no longer cared what tomorrow brought,
but she vowed that she would not let Section One convert her into a cold blooded killer.

     Jarod stepped into the room and sat in one of the arm chairs.  He looked tired and
distracted.  Nikita noticed that Jarod seemed a million miles away from that moment.

     "Jarod," Nikita spoke, wanting to get at the truth, "please tell me why you've
placed yourself in this position and what or who the Centre is."

     Jarod looked at Nikita for a moment while he pondered the ramifications of telling
her the truth.  Would Section One allow her to live with the knowledge of Pretenders and
the Centre?  Would she be able to hide the truth from Operations if he asked?  He hoped
that both answers were yes.

     "The Centre is a private organization based in Blue Cove, Delaware."

     "Blue Cove?" Nikita asked, recognizing the name, "that's the site of a Section
intelligence agency."

     "That's how Section One classifies the Centre.  The Centre classifies Section One
as their covert operations division."

     "What does this Centre do?"

     "The Centre has many different functions.  They have a scientific department which
serves as a research and development bureau for various other organizations.  They
perform simulations and sell the results to the highest military bidder."

     "So, Section One is one of the buyers."

     "That's right.  They've been doing it for years."

     "What type of simulations?"

     Jarod exhaled, "Just about everything you could imagine.  From what I've
participated in, I'd say everything from mission profiles to the actual amount of time it
takes a person to die from a certain drug."

     "You participated in these simulations?"

     "Unwillingly.  Let me explain it where you'll understand.  In the past, the Centre
has kidnapped child geniuses and used them to perform these simulations.  They train the
children to become whatever the moment necessitates.  They call them Pretenders.  I'm
one of them."

     "You're saying this organization abducted you as a child, and you're a genius.  You
can become anything that you need to be?"

     "It sounds outlandish, I know.  I've done it all, Nikita.  I've been a surgeon, a fire
fighter, a member of the bomb squad, a homicide detective, a race car driver, a rodeo
clown.   You name it, I've done it."

     "What about your family?  Where are they?"

     Jarod frowned, "I don't know.  Ever since I escaped from the Centre, I've been
looking for them."

     "Escaped?  They continued to hold you hostage?" Nikita asked as she began to
grasp the situation.

     "Yes, I escaped a little over two years ago."

     "Jarod," Nikita said as she leaned closer to him, "Why would you jeopardize your
freedom by involving yourself with Section?"

     "Life is a gift, Nikita.  I've spent every moment since I've been free trying to help
others live theirs with some peace.  Nicholas Brennan deserves to be free.  He's innocent,"
Jarod paused as he thought about her, "just like you."

     Nikita took a moment to appreciate the predicament.  She exhaled sharply when
she thought of Jarod as a child running simulations of military scope.

     "Nikita," Jarod interrupted her thoughts, "I want to help you escape from the
Section.  I can make you disappear.  You can go somewhere they can't reach you."

     "They can reach anywhere, Jarod.  That's the problem with Section One.  If you do
escape, they'll hunt until they find you, and when they do, they'll kill you."

     "Nikita," Jarod raised her chin so that he could make eye contact with her, "I can
help you escape from the Section.  They'll never find you.  I can make it happen," He
smiled, "I have friends in low places."

     Nikita closed her eyes as she weighed her options.  None of them were pleasant.

     If she stayed in Section One, she would have to disclose all the information Jarod
had given her.  She would risk cancellation and would probably risk Jarod's cancellation as
well.

     If she left Section One, she would feel like someone was always following her or
watching her.  She also would be leaving Michael behind.  She mentally scolded herself for
that last reason as Jarod went to pour them a cup of coffee.

     Nikita followed him into the kitchen where she took a seat at the small bar that
separated her from Jarod who had finished pouring the coffee and placed a mug in front of
her.

     "The Centre.  Are they still looking for you?" Nikita asked, trying to make a
decision.

     "Yes," Jarod answered honestly, "The Centre probably already has a team of
sweepers en route."

     "Aren't you afraid that they'll catch up with you?"

     "Sometimes.  I try not to think about them."

     "What will they do to you if they catch you?"

     Jarod took a sip of coffee and let the steam from the cup force his eyes to close.
He tried not to think about the consequences if he were ever taken back to the Centre.  He
reopened his eyes and stared into the steaming brown liquid as he set the mug back on the
counter, "They'll try to use me for their research in one way or another.  If they can't make
me cooperate, they'll probably kill me."

     "If I let you help me escape Section, what's your plan?" Nikita said holding the
mug tightly, hoping that the warmth from the mug's contents would filter into her
bloodstream and warm the icy cold fear that she was feeling.

     "Section One will send us out on another mission tomorrow night.  It's a chemical
weapons manufacturing facility in the Middle East.  The facility also houses a genetic
research center which NATO suspects of researching bacterial warfare agents.  We'll be
told to go in, assess the dynamic of the situation, and destroy the plant.  This is where we
start our escape.  The explosives set through the plant will be on a timed detonator from a
remote oversight area," Jarod paused, "I'll set some of the charges to detonate sooner.  It'll
be a part of the facility that we're located in. The trajectory of the blast will be over us, but
the results will be identical.  The structure of the building will fall, causing the volatile
chemicals to create another larger explosion.  We'll have maybe three minutes to get out of
harm's way before the fatal blast will occur."

     "Won't they be able to track us from oversight?" Nikita asked, admiring his plan.

     "No, we stay close enough to the building to avoid infrared detection, but far
enough away to remain out of harm's way."

     "Then what?"

     "Then, we hike overnight through the desert to a small town where I have some
contacts.  We'll be able to secure airline passage to anywhere you want to go.  They'll be
sure to get us out of the country just as anonymously as we arrived."

     Nikita looked up at Jarod and knew at that moment what she would do.  Jarod
could be an incredibly dangerous adversary, and she almost wished that she could see him
in action against Operations.  He knew the mission already before Section had even given
it to them, and he was thorough.  She wondered if he had anything to do with the cause of
their mission, but it no longer mattered to her.  If he was what he said he was and she had
no reason to doubt him, then he could make the impossible become possible.  For the first
time in almost four years, she felt that freedom was a possibility.  She wanted to make that
possibility a reality.

     "Jarod, take me with you," She spoke as she reached out to take his hand.

     Jarod smiled at her as he gently squeezed her hand.  It was all he had to do to
reassure her of her decision.
 
   Jarod and Nikita moved their conversation back to the living room.  Both sat on
the couch, and Jarod was the first to shift the subject.

     "Nikita, tell me about Michael."

     "What do you want to know?"

     Jarod gazed into his cup, "How did he hurt you so badly?"

     Nikita took a deep breath and stated, "Because I let him."

     "What?"

     "I was told repeatedly that emotional attachments in Section were impossible.  I
chose not to believe it.  I wanted someone to love and someone to love me.  I've never
had that in my life.  When Michael began to lavish attention on me, I thought that maybe a
heart was hidden in that cavern he calls a soul.  I hoped that he could love me like I
thought I loved him," Nikita paused and gave a grin, "It's ironic that the things we want
most are the very things that continue to elude us."

     "That does seem to remain one of life's constants," Jarod said as he thought about
his family.  He had been so close just to have it yanked away from him at the last moment.
He shook off that thought and refocused on Nikita, "What happened between the two of
you?"

     "Michael has played tug-of-war with my feelings for him for so long that I'm not
sure when he's trying to be truthful with me.  I want to believe him so badly, and that's
what gets me into trouble.  Our relationship is a lot like a game of cat and mouse.  He
teases me.  I come running.  He pounces like a predator, and I always seem to be the prey.
I get burned, and he walks away seemingly unscathed."

     "Seemingly?" Jarod asked.

     "I don't think that Michael is the emotionless shell that he pretends to be.  I also
don't think that he walks away from everything he does to me as quite the same man he
was when the nightmares begin.  He does a great job of hiding behind walls."

     Jarod almost smiled.  Nikita had unknowingly just described Miss Parker.  If their
two tormentors actually were similar, Jarod knew exactly how to deal with Michael.

     "You think he pretends to be something he isn't.  What would he hope to gain by
appearing as a different person?"

     "It's an act of self-preservation, Jarod.  Inside Section One, you have to protect
yourself from everything and everyone.  You can't trust anyone or become emotionally
involved.  The people you trust or care about are the ones that are often sent to destroy
you.  You have to become two people, one for inside Section and your own persona for
your down time.  We'd all go insane otherwise.  Some do," Nikita said taking another sip
from her coffee.

     "So, here we are, two innocent souls among a multitude of blood-thirsty wolves."

     Jarod sighed and placed his mug on a coaster on the coffee table.  Tomorrow was
going to have it challenges, and Jarod knew his biggest challenge would be Michael.  As
he thought about Michael, he wondered what exactly Vasya had done to the poor man.
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     Michael lost sight of Nikita and Jarod just as a huge Russian stepped in front of
him.  The Russian sneered down at him.  Michael looked at the man, un-intimidated and
unimpressed.

     "Would you excuse me?" Michael asked as he tried to get around the Russian.

     The man moved into Michael's path.

     Michael decided to ask in Russian.  Still, the man stepped into Michael's path.

     Two other Russian men had joined them, one standing on either side of Michael.
He started to move backwards and met with a body behind him.

     Michael remained calm and spoke softly, "Is there a problem, gentlemen?"

     "There would seem to be a problem, yes," Vasya said as he stepped into the circle,
"I'm going to have to ask my bodyguards to escort you out of the club."

     "May I ask why?"

     "You can ask, but you won't get an answer."

     Michael watched each of the men and decided that there were not many options.
He knew that Nikita and Jarod had probably already left the club if they were trying to
elude him.  He decided that a quick end to the situation was best.

     "Why don't I just show myself out?"

     "You could, but somehow I get the feeling that I can't trust you," Vasya replied.

     Michael knew that he would have to take the offensive if he was going to leave
this club in one piece.  He pulled his weapon and trained it on Vasya, "I expect that you're
the one giving orders here.  Tell your men to back off.  I'll walk out the door on my own."

     Vasya laughed heartily, "You've got a lot of nerve aiming a gun at me.  I might like
you if I didn't want to crush your bones for bread."

     At that moment, one of the Russians clubbed Michael in the back of the head with
a beer bottle.  Michael went down on his knees, severely disoriented.  Two of the Russians
attempted to lift Michael off the ground to carry him out, but Michael fought back by
striking each man in the knee cap with the butt of his hand.  The Russians both collapsed
in pain as the Russian with the beer bottle stepped forward.  He reached around Michael in
an attempt to choke him.  Michael drug the man over his head and flipped him onto the
floor.  The Russian quickly recovered and spun around to deflect Michael's next blow.
Michael and the Russian circled each other as one then the other deflected an offensive
blow.  The other two Russians had been drug from the dance floor while a crowd had
gathered to watch Michael and his opponent.

     Vasya stepped into the brawl, "Gentlemen, that'll be quite enough.  There's a
crowd gathering, and crowds tend to attract the wrong element, namely the police."

     Michael nodded and rewarded his opponent with a slight bow of the head to
acknowledge their no contest ending.  The Russian stood with a proud smile adorning his
harsh features.  Michael made his way out of the club and back to the parking garage
where he saw Jarod's car parked in exactly the same spot.  Michael was impressed.  Jarod
had successfully lost him.  He would have to watch over Jarod more carefully in the
future.
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     Jarod glanced over to the dozing Nikita who had fallen asleep after they had spent
hours talking.  They both were victims of circumstance.  Both of them were innocent, and
yet, both of them had been drawn into the sinister world of deceit and constant
treachery.

     He watched as a wisp of blond hair lazily drifted to hang in front of her eyes.  She
looked so peaceful and so young.  She was beautiful, and Jarod found himself wondering
what it would be like to spend more time with her, to really get to know her.

     She had a genuine beauty about her.  Nikita did not enjoy the lying and killing
involved in Section One.  She did not enjoy the constant secrets and games that Section
used to test their own people.  She wanted something better for herself.  In reality, her
wants were simple.  She wanted honesty, peace, and love.  Her wants mirrored Jarod's.

     He exhaled on that thought.  They were so much alike, and their circumstances
were not all together dissimilar.

     Jarod sat beside her and brushed the wisp of hair from her eyes.  Her eyes opened
lazily, only half-awake, and she smiled up at Jarod.  It was a smile of hope and trust.

     Jarod lifted Nikita from the couch and carried her upstairs to the master bedroom.
He placed Nikita on the king-size four-postered oak bed and pulled a quilt around her.
Her blond hair was a vivid contrast to the navy blue pillows and the multi-colored hand-
crafted quilt that surrounded her.

     He watched her for a few moments.  He hoped that his plan worked perfectly.
Somehow, he knew there would be a glitch, and it's name was Michael.  Jarod took one
last look at the sleeping woman before gently easing the bedroom door closed behind him
as he went off to get some sleep.
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     Miss Parker swallowed the medicine cup of Pepto Bismol in a gulp.  Her ulcer had
given her fits as of late, and she knew it was all related to Jarod.  She stared at the manila
envelope which sat upon her desk.

           Miss Parker
           c/o The Centre
           Blue Cove, DE  19901

     She rolled her eyes as she tried to guess what the envelope could hold.  Jarod
seemed to enjoy his petty torments.

     She carefully bent the metal stays and opened the package.  She turned the
envelope upside down to empty the contents onto her desk.  A small red package plopped
onto the desk followed by a post-it note.
 
     "A Sour Candy for A Sour Disposition.    Jarod"

     Miss Parker lifted the red package and read the label.  Atomic Warheads.  Jarod
got more annoying by the day.

     She lifted her bottle of Pepto Bismol and sighed as the door to her office opened.
She looked away from the pink medicine to see her father standing at the door.

     "Daddy," She said as she placed the bottle back on the desk, "What can I do for
you this morning?"

     "I've received a call about Jarod."

     "Jarod?" Miss Parker asked, her hopes of family conversation dashed.

     "Yes, it seems he has paid a visit to one of our other divisions.  Section One."

     Miss Parker flinched at the mention of the name.  There was only one thing that
she feared more than The Tower, The Triumvirate, or Mr. Raines, and that single entity
was Section One.  She had been asked by her father to pay them a short visit several years
before.  She would never forget the man called Operations.  He was the only man other
than her father that intimidated her.

     "Section One?"

     "That's right."

     "I'll send a Sweeper team immediately."

     "I want you to go on this one, Angel.  I don't trust Operations, and I don't trust
Madeline.  Find out why he's there, and bring him back."

     "Daddy, I'd rather."

     "I knew I could count on you, Angel.  You leave this afternoon.  I'll see you when
you return with Jarod," Mr. Parker had interrupted her and left in the same breath.

     Miss Parker closed her eyes and took a deep breath.  Sometimes, it was very
difficult to try to please her father.  If she had been allowed to finish her sentence, she
would have told him that she would rather send anyone to Section One than to go there
herself.  However, she was a Parker.  She had to be fearless even in the face of pure evil
such as Section One.

     Sydney who had almost gotten mowed down by Mr. Parker on his exit knocked on
the door.  He knew that if Mr. Parker had visited with Miss Parker this early in the
morning that she would not be in the best of moods.

     "What?" She barked at the door.

     Sydney stepped inside and crossed his arms as he surveyed the contents of Miss
Parker's desk:  a medicine cup, a half-empty bottle of Pepto-Bismol, a manila envelope,
and a package of Atomic Warheads.  It could only add up to one thing.  Jarod.

     "I take it you've some word on Jarod," The psychiatrist said as he sat in a chair
across the desk from Miss Parker.

     "Hmmm," She said as she glared across the desk at him, "It seems that Wonder
Boy wants to kill me with this ulcer.  He's at Section One."

     "Section One?" Sydney repeated the word, utterly confounded as to why Jarod
would associate with any place as heartless as Section One, "What is Jarod doing there?"

     "Your guess is as good as mine, Freud.  Why don't you rake that brain of yours
and figure it out?  And find Broots.  We'll leave this afternoon."

     Sydney stood and walked from Miss Parker's office not believing what he had just
heard.  Jarod must have good reasons for placing himself in danger this grave.  While he
walked to the computer room where Broots was hold up, Sydney tried to imagine possible
scenarios as to what or who Jarod was trying to protect or rescue.  He found himself
perplexed at the idea.

     Sydney stepped into the room where he found Broots taping away at the keyboard.
Broots glanced up momentarily, "Oh, hi Sydney, I'm just finishing up a few things here.
Any word on Jarod?"

     "Yes, he has involved himself with Section One."

     "Section One!" Broots shrieked as he jumped out of his chair, denying the impulse
to soil himself, "Wha . . . what is he doing there?"

     "That is the question, Broots.  We're going there this afternoon to retrieve him."

     "Section One?  We're going to Section One?"

     "Yes."

     "No way.  I'm not going.  There's no way that I'm going to that hellhole."

     "I'm afraid that Miss Parker has other ideas, Broots.  She wants us ready to go."

     "Oh hell no.  I'm not going."

     "Yes, you are," Miss Parker's voice echoed from behind him, "If I'm going there
with no arguments, you're going too."

     Broots sat back in his chair, his hopes dashed.  He did not want to go to Section
One.  People who went there usually did not find their way back to the Centre.  Life in the
Centre was not always peachy, but it was better than being in a body bag.

     "Why is Jarod at Section One?" Broots asked again, finding it hard to imagine that
a man with a good heart would intentionally put himself in a place not known for its
kindness.

     "That's what we're all trying to figure out," Sydney answered.

     "Has Wonder Boy finally lost his marbles, Syd?" Miss Parker asked as she crossed
her arms.

     "I can't conceive of any reason Jarod would chose to involve himself with Section
One.   It's simply not logical," Sydney replied.

     "Well, the only real reason we have is that he's a fruit loop.  That reason takes my
vote," Miss Parker said as she lit a cigarette and began walking out the door, "The plane
leaves at three.  Don't be late."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

    Nikita woke bright and early as per her Section routine.  She stretched in the
luxuriously large, warm bed.  It was so nice to wake up and feel safe.  She twisted and
sunk deeper into the long fluffy feather pillows.  She looked around the room and realized
that she was no longer in the living room.  She felt a momentary sense of panic before
vaguely recalling Jarod bringing her upstairs.

     She wondered where Jarod could be.  She slowly folded the quilt back and placed
her sock-clad feet on the hardwood floor.  Nikita ran her fingers through her tousled hair
and pulled the length into a makeshift bun at her neck.  She stepped into the hall and
peered over the railing.  There were no lights visible downstairs save the sunlight trickling
across the floor of the living room through the thick curtains.

     Nikita walked to the end of the hall to a door that was slightly open.  She eased the
door open and saw Jarod sleeping in a large bed similar to the one that she had slept in.
He was sleeping restlessly.  Most of the pillows were not on the bed but scattered on the
floor.  His hair showed signs that he had not slept peacefully all night.

     Nikita watched him closely.  He seemed to be struggling against something or
someone, but he must have been confined in his dream because he was not able to get
away.  He was calling out for them to stop repeatedly.  He was sweating profusely as he
fought his captors.  He gasped for breath a few moments before his breath became even
more labored.

     Nikita had seen enough.  She had to end the torture he was enduring.  She stepped
over to the bed and gently touched his arm.  Jarod's eyes burst open.  Before he was aware
of the situation, he grabbed Nikita and pinned her on the bed beside him.

     "Jarod!" Nikita cried, trying to assure him that he was safe, "It's okay.  You're safe
now.  It's alright."

     Jarod recognized the shocked woman beneath him and loosened his grip.  He tried
to regain his breath as he closed his eyes.  He knew exactly what he had been dreaming
about.  He could remember the face that haunted him through recent days.  Mr. Lyle.
Since Kyle's death, Mr. Lyle had appeared in Jarod's dreams as an added insult to the near
fatal injury Kyle's death has caused to his soul.

     In this particular dream, Jarod had been back at the Centre.  It was the simulation
that Mr. Lyle had overseen where Jarod's heart had been stopped.  Jarod felt the pain as if
the simulation was occurring all over again.  He bit his lip trying to ward off the ill effects
of the dream:  pain and nausea.

     Nikita saw the recognition in Jarod's eyes and felt him relax.  He was still haunted
by whatever demons had been tormenting him in the dream.  She had a strange sort of
inherent understanding as she looked into the wounded eyes.  His heart was aching, and
she could see the pain oozing from his body.

     She felt that she and Jarod shared more than she had first realized.  They both were
involved in situations that were less than savory as well as being victims of forced
cooperation.  They were both vexed by nightmares of past experiences.  It was as if they
were both members of a secret society whose sole function was to suffer the torment of
those in positions of power.  They were both trapped by circumstances beyond their
control, and both only wanted their freedom.  Nikita also knew that both of them felt their
"humanity" as Madeline would phrase it.  Each of them felt for their fellow human beings,
a trait unheard of in Section One and Nikita surmised The Centre also.

     Jarod fought to compose himself but to no avail.  He released his grip on Nikita
and rolled to rest on his back.  He had tried every method that he could think of to drive
the dreams from his sub-conscious, but none of them had worked.  He concluded that one
thing and one thing alone could exorcise his demon.  He would have to beat Lyle at his
own game.

     Nikita turned onto her side and braced herself on her left forearm.  She watched
him continue to fight the aftermath of the dream.  He seemed so helpless lying there.
Nikita walked into a nearby bathroom and ran a cloth under cool water.  She walked back
to where Jarod lay and wiped his forehead and face with the wet cloth.

     She felt as if she were nursing herself.  She had suffered numerous endless nights
of torturous dreams about her life at Section.  Nikita had learned early that the only way
to live with the dreams was to let them run their course.  She had spent many early
mornings wiping her own forehead with wet cloths or sitting in the shower while it pulsed
scorching hot water over her body.

     Jarod had never shared the experience of his dreams with anyone else, but she
appeared to appreciate the emotional turmoil that he suffered.  He watched her as she
attended to him, and instinctively, Jarod knew that given time he could fall in love with
Nikita.

     He gazed into Nikita's blue eyes, "Thank you, and I'm sorry about earlier."

     Nikita presented an understanding smile, "It's understandable.  I've been where you
are.  Sometimes it's hard to discern between the harshness of reality and the endless
torture of nightmares."

     He watched for a moment, "You do understand."

     She finished wiping his face and folded her hands in her lap, "Yes.  Yes, I do."

     Jarod ran his fingers through his hair and exhaled, "How did we end up like this?"

     "That's a good question, Jarod.  I'm not really sure that I want to know the
answer," She said with a nervous grin.

     Jarod sat up and pulled on his shirt that he had hooked over the foot of the bed the
night before.  He buttoned a couple of buttons before standing and walking to the
window.  He pulled back the curtains and saw the sun just clearing the horizon as it
changed from the early morning orange-red glow to a bright yellow-gold radiance.

     Nikita stood beside him and watched the sunrise with him.  This was it, the final
day of her torture inside Section One.  She felt a rush of anticipation as the thought
crossed her mind.  She hoped that everything went exactly according to plan.  She did not
want to live with the constant fear of Section One chasing after her.

     Jarod seemed to perceive her fear, "Nikita, it's going to be fine.  Today marks the
end of your torment.  Think about tomorrow, the first day of your new life."

     "Is that possible?  A new life?" Nikita asked, truly doubtful of the possibility.

     "Yes, it is.  Where would you like to go?  Any where special that you'd like to
visit?"

     "No.  Not really."

     "I think I know where I can hide you safely.  You'd have plenty of protection, and
Section One will never be able to find you if they even suspect that you survive the
explosion."

     "Care to share?"

     "Not yet.  We'll call it a surprise," Jarod smiled as he brushed a wisp of hair from
her face.

     Nikita studied Jarod's eyes and saw the genuine feeling there.  She felt her chest
clinch at the reality of a man who could feel emotions and who perceived emotion in
others.  Jarod was a stark contrast to Michael.

     Nikita put her arms around Jarod and hugged him tightly, "Thank you, Jarod.  I'll
never be able to repay you."

     Jarod held her soft form against him.  She could be intimidating, but now she
appeared as fragile as a porcelain doll.  He stroked her hair as he spoke, "Just be happy,
Nikita.  That's all the compensation I could ask for."

     They held onto each other tightly.  Each one served as a life-preserver for the
other as the turmoil of their respective lives threatened to drown them.
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     Madeline and Operations sat at the table reviewing mission profiles while enjoying
breakfast.  Madeline lifted a tea cup and saucer and watched as Operations ate a bite of
croissant.  She placed the set back on the table as she watched a computer screen.

     "The Argentina Rendezvous, has the profile been set?" She asked watching more
numbers fill the screen.

     "Yes, just this morning," Operations said as he glanced across the table, "Any
word on when Parker's sweeper will arrive?"

     "Yes, he's sending his daughter."

     "Miss Parker?  As I remember her, she was quite a force in herself, but is she really
any match for Jarod?"

     Madeline pondered the idea, "Miss Parker always has shown accelerated
intellectual ability.  She also has the Pretender gene.  She would be the best candidate."

     "When does she arrive?"

     "Late this afternoon.  She'll be here when the team returns from Syria.  We'll offer
an escort to accompany them to Blue Cove."

     "About that," Operations began as he placed a coffee cup back on the table, "I was
thinking about backing out of our deal with the Centre."

     "Which deal?"

     "Returning Jarod.  I think he'd make a useful addition to the team."

     She glanced at him before returning her gaze to the steaming liquid in her cup, "I
agree.  However, there is the problem of gaining his cooperation."

     "Cooperation?" Operations asked almost shocked at the statement, "We don't have
to ask for his cooperation.  Either he works for us or he dies.  Don't over complicate the
matter because he's a pretender."

     "The problem is that he can't discard his humanity to do the job.  He would make a
powerful asset to Section One, but he's a lot like Nikita.  Jarod has spent the entire length
of his freedom from the Centre trying to help victims and the innocent.  He won't be easily
controlled."

     "We could use Nikita against him," Operations stated looking at Madeline with
certainty in his blue eyes, "He immediately formed an attachment to her.  Perhaps we
could use that bond against him."

     "That might not be a good idea.  It would place Michael and Jarod in adversarial
positions.  We don't need a war between powers of that level."

     "It wouldn't be a war," He smiled, "Did you read Michael's report?"

     "Not yet, why?"

     "It would appear that Jarod gave Michael the slip last night.  Michael is an
outstanding operative, and he and Nikita do share something.  But let's face it, Michael is
no match for Jarod.  Jarod is a pretender, and he does share the fixation with the innocent
with Nikita.  That's what will make him more acceptable to Nikita.  It's just a matter of
timing."

     "If you do that, Michael may not recover.  He's lost her once.  He may not recover
if he loses her again, especially to another man."

     "Michael is Michael which means he'll find someone else, and the cycle will begin
all over again."

     Madeline smiled across the table at Operations, "Then, what's your plan?"
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     Nikita and Jarod sat at the breakfast table when their cellular phones rang
simultaneously.  They looked across the table at one another knowingly.

     Nikita flipped her phone open and raised it to her ear, "Hello?"

     "Josephine?" Michael's voice was unmistakable.

     "Yeah."

     "Come in."

     Nikita snapped the phone closed and took a deep breath.

     Jarod did the same, "Ready?"

     "No," She managed an anxious smile.

     "You'll do fine.  Just remember to wear your dive suit.  It'll help to protect your
heat signature."

     Nikita nodded.  This was it.  The final mission.  The final moments at Section.  The
final time that she would see Michael.

     She winced inwardly at the thought about Michael.  She wanted so badly to save
him.  She had been fortunate enough to see a more innocent side of Michael when he
suffered from amnesia.  He had put forth no masks.  He was a person that did not deserve
to be in Section One.  However, that Michael had died with the return of his memory.
The person that she really wanted to save was gone, and the one person that she needed to
save, herself, was alive and wanted to stay that way.

     Jarod escorted Nikita back to Vasya's car at the warehouse.  He drove back to the
club where he retrieved his own car for the drive to Section.  They rode in silence each
thinking of the night that lay ahead of them.  Jarod was planning for every possible
anomaly that might occur during the mission while Nikita replayed Jarod's plan in her mind
several times trying to memorize every detail.

     They arrived at Section just as everyone was gathering around the briefing table.
Operations stood with Madeline in the corridor watching the pair as they took seats next
to each other.  Michael sat on the other end of the table and watched them carefully.

     Operations glanced at Madeline, "What do you think happened between them?"

     "I don't know, but they do seem very comfortable with one another."

     "Michael doesn't look thrilled with the situation."

     "I told you that this would be playing with fire."

     "You of all people should know that I'm a gambler at heart," Operations said.
watching the operatives at the table, "Besides, this makes for an interesting experiment,
don't you think?"

     "How's that?" Madeline asked, her curiosity piqued.

     "Michael is the best Section One has to offer.  Jarod is the best the Centre has to
offer.  Let's see what kind of competition there really is between them.  It's a one in a
lifetime chance to see the best of the best match wits.  I'm curious about whether
emotionless brutality can subdue emotional morality."

     "You're right," Madeline agreed, "It is an interesting test, but what if, because of
this test, we lose them both?"

     "Then we live and learn," He answered as he walked over to the table to begin the
briefing.

     The operatives all turned their attention to Operations as he began, "A week ago,
NATO got word to us that a genetic research center in Syria is producing genetically
engineered chemical weapons.  If this is true, they could be selling the weapons to any
number of radical Islamic factions.  We need to destroy the plant.  Michael will provide
technical oversight.  Jarod, Nikita, Nicholas, Sam and Laurel will be leaving in one hour."

     Operations surveyed the team quickly before walking away from the table.  Jarod
and Nikita stood as Michael walked over to them.

     Jarod sensed that Nikita needed a moment alone with Michael before they left, "I'll
go see Walter about supplies."

     Nikita smiled in thanks for his understanding, "I'll join you in a moment."

     Jarod left the two of them alone and proceded to speak with Walter.

     Nikita smiled at Michael, "What's up?"

     Michael looked around for a moment, "Where were you last night?"

     "I was out."

     "I tried your cell phone.  I couldn't reach you."

     Nikita had switched off her cell phone on purpose but replied, "I don't know why
you couldn't reach me.  The signal must have been weak.  Was it anything important?"

     "I just thought we might get a cup of coffee together."

     Nikita deciphered Michael's code for "I was checking up on you."  She smiled,
"That would have been nice.  I'm sorry I missed you."

     "Maybe when you get back."

     Nikita forced her best smile, "Maybe."

     It was at this moment when she saw Operations motioning for her to join Madeline
and himself.  She took a deep breath before excusing herself with Michael and joining the
commanders of Section One.

     "Nikita," Madeline smiled, "I hear you lost your shadow last night."

     Nikita swallowed hard, "Yes, Jarod didn't like the idea of being followed."

     Operations turned his best inquisitorial look on, "What happened?"

     "We lost Michael in a crowd.  We went to some place that Jarod knew of and
spent most of the night talking."

     "About?" Madeline prodded Nikita to continue.

     "Family, our pasts, our experiences with Section."

     "That's all?" Operations asked.

     "Yes," Nikita nodded.

     "He seems to respond very well to you.  That's good.  We want you to get as close
as you can to him, Nikita.  He's not what he appears to be, and we need to find out just
what it is that he wants."

     "I understand."

     Operations looked at Nikita as if her answer had come too easily and too quickly,
"That'll be all, Nikita."

     Madeline finished the conversation, "Good luck, Nikita."

     "Thank you," Nikita said as she walked back across the floor.  She had almost lost
her composure.  She was now desperate for all to go according to plan for tonight's
escape.
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     Jarod stood across the workbench from Walter listening to the older man tell a
story.

     "I think her name was Donna.  It could have been Isabella.  I'm not sure.  The
point is that she was the most incredible woman I'd ever met.  She had this incredible
auburn hair and the most unbelievable eyes.  They were almost gray, cat-like.  I always
called her Catwoman anyway.  That's why I don't remember her name."

     Jarod seemed confused, "And what does she have to do with this bomb?"

     "She was a pyrotechnics expert.  It just crossed my mind that when this bomb goes
off it's gonna seem like a truckload of fireworks exploded.  And fireworks made me think
of Catwoman.  She could make fireworks go off for me, let me tell you."

     Nikita joined them and leaned across the table, "Are you telling dirty stories,
Walter?"

     Walter grinned, "Hey Sugar, I'm just telling Jarod about a woman I knew."

     "You know a lot of women, Walter."

     "You better believe it, Sugar.  A man has to have something to think about when
he gets old," Walter teased.

     Nikita changed the subject, "Are we about ready?"

     Walter placed one last pack of explosive inside Jarod's backpack, "Yeah,
remember.  Get the hell away from this stuff.  This stuff could level an entire city block
just by using a square inch.  You'll be using a lot more than that.  Just be careful with it."

     Jarod replied, "No problem."

     Jarod picked up the pack and swung it over his shoulder.  He left the area for van
access while Nikita lingered long enough to kiss Walter on the cheek.  She picked up a
pack of her own and joined Jarod.  The pair stepped into the van that would take them to
the airport and Nikita towards freedom.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 
     Miss Parker stepped into the Section lobby followed by Broots and Sidney.  She
had already slipped into 'bitch' mode in preparation of the events before her.  She saw
Madeline approaching her with that ever-present stoic smile gracing her lips.

     'How outdated and overdone' Miss Parker thought as the Section operative stood
before her.

     "Miss Parker, it's a pleasure to see you again," Madeline spoke in her most
diplomatic voice.

     "Hmm, likewise.  Where's Jarod?" Miss Parker asked, disregarding all the
formalities.

     "He's on a mission."

     "A mission?  You're using Centre property on one of your missions?" Miss Parker
asked, shocked beyond belief.

     "Yes, didn't your father tell you?" Madeline asked, knowing that he had not.

     Miss Parker mulled over the older woman.  Madeline was the queen of mind
games.  She did not want that woman to get into her head.  She decided to ignore the
question all together and move forward with the business at hand.

     "When is he expected back?" Miss Parker inquired as she crossed her arms and
stared down the older woman.

     Madeline grinned, "Actually, he won't be back for about twelve hours.  You can
monitor his progress if you would feel more comfortable."

     "Yes, that would be acceptable."

     "Let me introduce you to Michael," Madeline said as Michael joined them.
 
    Miss Parker looked over Michael suspiciously and nodded at his presence, "So,
what's this?  My Section chaperone?"

     "No," Michael answered, "I'm in charge of oversight for Jarod's mission.  We
thought you might like to sit in and watch their movement with me."

     Miss Parker immediately heard distant warning bells in her head that told her not
to trust the incredibly handsome man before her.  He was entirely too calm and collected
and was definitely stamped with the Section seal of approval.

     "Yes, I'd like that."

     "If you'll follow me," Michael directed her to oversight where Birkoff was already
seated at the computer.

     They all sat silently waiting for the team to begin their mission.  Each person being
extremely cautious not to reveal anything pertinent to the other's interests.  Miss Parker
suddenly had a feeling that this was not going to have a happy ending.
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     Nikita, Jarod, Nicholas, and two other operatives sat outside the warehouse
waiting for instructions from Michael.  Nikita pulled out her night-vision binoculars and
scanned the area.

     "Four men to the east and three to the west," She announced as she continued to
watch the guards mingle among themselves.

     Birkoff's voice crept across the radio, "There are three in the building."

     Michael pondered the information for a moment before giving instructions, "Team
one, hold your position.  Team two, proceed."

     The two other operatives moved toward the building and shot the three guards at
the west entrance.  They gave the signal at which Nikita, Jarod and Nicholas joined them
at the entrance way.

     "Go," Michael instructed as he watched their progress on movement monitors at
Section.

     Nikita glanced toward Jarod who winked at her in assurance.  Nicholas threw open
the door, and Nikita entered slowly as she scanned the area for the three guards on the
interior.  Jarod followed behind her as the teams split up to begin planting the bombs.

     Jarod led Nikita and Nicholas to the rear of the plant.  They each placed the bombs
and set the timers.  Jarod pulled the two of them into the middle of the catwalk above two
large vats of chemicals.

     Jarod removed his communications equipment before speaking to them, "In thirty
seconds, swing hard to your left."

     Nicholas took a deep breath and slipped off his communications device.  Jarod
nodded at Nikita who knew what she had to do.

     "All of the charges are set."

     "Make your egress," Michael instructed.

     "Michael, there's an innocent here."

     "Nikita, exit now."

     "Michael, it's a hostage," She reasoned as she looked up to Jarod.  He smiled in
approval, "A young woman."

     "She's collateral.  Exit now, Nikita."

     "Now!" Jarod said as they each swung their weight to the left.   At precisely that
moment, an explosive charge rocked the building.  The catwalk separated from one side
and swung to the left as Jarod had planned.  The explosion had set off a series of other
reactions as machine gun fire could be heard on the other side of the warehouse and a vat
of chemicals began to boil and spew over the edges.  The chemical splattered along the
floor and trailed toward the fire raging where the initial explosion had occurred.

     Jarod slid down the catwalk and landed safely on the floor before directing the
others to do so.  Nicholas followed him and began to shed his Section paraphernalia.
Nikita slid down the catwalk, and Jarod caught her at the bottom.  They smiled at one
another before discarding their Section garb.

     Jarod stepped to the edge of the vat and pitched his equipment upward.  The
various devices fell into the boiling vat.  Nicholas and Nikita followed suit as they
followed Jarod toward the rear exit of the building.  He pulled them to stand directly
beneath an explosive he had planted.

     "Are you insane?" Nikita asked as she nervously eyed the bomb on the wall.

     "Nikita, trust me," Jarod answered.

     She took a deep breath and moved to stand directly beside him, " I do trust you."

     Jarod grinned, "I've rigged the explosion to go over us.  Just cover your head to
shield yourself from debris."

     Nikita and Nicholas both complied with Jarod's instructions as the bomb exploded.
Flying debris raced over their heads as the intense heat from the blast flowed over them.
Nikita was immediately very glad that Jarod had advised them to wear Neoprene wet suits
under their clothing.  Otherwise, they would all have third degree burns.

     Quickly, Jarod motioned for the two of them to follow him.  As soon as they were
directly out of the fire, he removed a small type of wallet from his back pocket.  He
unzipped it to show two sets of small surgical tools.

     He pulled out a small hypodermic needle as he stepped toward Nicholas.  He
placed the tip of the needle directly behind Nicholas's ear and pressed the plunger.  He
then pulled out a small scalpel and made an inch long incision.  He took a set of needle
nose forceps and pulled out a small metal object which he placed on the ground next to
them.  He quickly inserted small staples into Nicholas's neck to temporarily close the
wound.

     Jarod then stepped toward Nikita.  She took a short breath as Jarod repeated the
procedure on her.

     "What exactly are you removing?" She asked.

     "Section One calls it a clock.  Basically, it's a tracking device.  They began
implanting operatives with them a short time ago.  They first used them in the chest, in
between the ribs.  It became apparent that the clock was too easy for outside influences to
remove.  So, they began placing them in the neck.  There are a handful of arteries in the
neck, and there's a greater risk of killing the operative during removal of the clock.  Don't
worry though.  I used to be a surgeon."

     Nikita glanced at Jarod warily but saw that he already had the device in his hand.

    He smiled at her as he grabbed the clock and pitched them into a vat that was on the verge
of exploding, "Come on.  It's time to get out of here."

     Nikita, Jarod, and Nicholas exited the building through a opening in the metal wall.
The trio exited the area and began their trek across the open dessert.

 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     "Nikita . . . . . Nikita . . . . . . . . Nikita . . . . . . . Team Two?" Michael kept trying
for an answer from his operatives.

     "This is team two."

     "Report," Michael ordered, hoping that if Nikita could not respond that she was
only injured.

     "One of the explosives near the chemicals detonated prematurely.  It set off a chain
reaction that caused the entire building to explode."

     "Losses?"

     "Team one didn't make it out.  Both Sam and I are injured.  We need extraction as
soon as possible."

     "Team one?" Miss Parker asked, already knowing that she would not be pleased
with the answer she would receive.

     "Nicholas, Nikita, and Jarod."

     "Jarod didn't make it out?" Miss Parker asked, silently panicking at the possibility.

     "Team two, are you sure they're dead?" Michael questioned in clarification.

     The voice from team two responded, "Nothing could have survived the blast.  The
entire warehouse is destroyed."

     "How did you escape?" Michael continued.

     "We got out as soon as the explosions started."

     "How do you know that team one didn't follow suit?"

     "We've been over the entire area.  There's no sign of them."

     Miss Parker closed her eyes, fighting the tears that threatened to break her facade
of control.  She bit into her lower lip before glaring at Operations who had just joined
them, "You killed a Pretender."

     "Calm down.  We didn't kill him.  Something went wrong.  I'm sorry."

     "I'm sure," Miss Parker said before crossing her arms to steady herself, "I want to
see the remains."

     "There won't be any," Walter said as he stepped forward, "Each of those charges
was enough to destroy a city block.  There won't be enough for identification."

     Miss Parker silently pondered before deciding to leave the Section before she got
herself killed, "I don't see any reason to stay here then," She glared at Operations, "but I
can guarantee you that my father is not going to be pleased with the fact that you sent
Jarod into what you knew could be a volatile situation.  You'll be hearing from the
Centre."

     Miss Parker nodded at Broots and Sidney who followed close behind her as she
exited Section One.

     Operations glared at Michael, "What the hell happened?"

     "Unknown.  We'll need to send housekeeping to get a clear answer."

     "Do it.  I want you to personally oversee this.  Not only did we appear really
incompetent to the Centre, but we lost their prized Pretender in the process.  Someone's
going to pay for this."

     Operations stormed off to his office as Michael left to do his job.
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     Nikita took a deep breath as she changed clothes.  Here she was.  She was really
free, but was she?  Would the Section come looking for her?  Would they know that the
entire incident had been a set-up?  Would they cancel her when they found her?

     She cleared all of those thoughts out of her head as she slipped into a large shirt.
She pulled her hair into a knot at the base of her neck and smiled.  Everything would be
okay.  She had faith now that she had never known in her entire life.

     Nikita stepped into a room where Jarod had already changed into messy slacks and
a rugged looking dress shirt.  She raised one eyebrow at him, "Dare I ask?"

     He smiled at his own appearance, "I'm leaving the country as a doctor.  It's safer to
appear to have lost everything than to leave the country knowing that you have
everything."

     "So," She shrugged, "Where do we go now?"

     Jarod walked over to Nikita and stood before her with a hopeful smile dancing
across his features, "You get to start over.  I spoke with Vasya before we left.  He has
arranged for you to reside with associates of his in Russia for a while.  If I were you, I'd
use that time to learn who I was again.  Then, I've set aside a substantial amount of money
for you in an account based in Hong Kong.  It's under the name of Catherine Parker.  She
was a savior to people, and I think she'd like it if she could help one more person.  The
money is yours to do with as you wish.  I want you to find a way to live in peace, Nikita."

     Nikita felt the tears streak down her face, "How do I thank you?  I didn't think that
it was possible to get out of Section, but you've changed that.  You've given me what I've
wanted more than anything."

     Jarod wiped a tear from her cheek with his thumb.  He leaned down and kissed her
gently.  Nikita cupped his face in her hand and returned his kiss.  They both wished that
they had time to be together, but each one knew that the other needed time to figure out
their own lives.

     Jarod brushed his lips against Nikita's in one last tender motion as he leaned his
forehead against hers, "You're going to make it, Nikita.  You're smart, and you've got
something that a lot of people don't have.  You have a heart.  Put it to good use.  It'll
never fail you."

     "Jarod, I'll never forget you."

     "Good," He smiled, "You never know when I might need your help."

     Nikita almost laughed at the idea, "Anytime I can help you, I'd be delighted."

     Jarod swung a dusty backpack over his shoulder and gave Nikita a final smile
before walking out the door and out of her life forever.
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

     Miss Parker sat at her desk reading and rereading her entry into Jarod's file, her
final entry.  How long had she wished the chase would end?  If she really had wanted the
chase to end, why did she feel so depressed now?

     She shuffled through the file until she found the most recent photo of Jarod on
Centre record.  She traced the outline of his face with her forefinger and sighed.  She had
cared for Jarod in some bizarre way that she could not comprehend and was not quite sure
that she wanted to.

     She picked up the pen from the desk and started to sign the report but paused for
what must have been the hundredth time.  She wanted to end this misery and get out of
the Centre for her own safety, but some mystical feeling would not allow her to sign the
report.

     She placed the tip of the pen on the paper just as the phone rang.  She exhaled
sharply as she picked up the phone, "What!"

     "Did you wear black to my memorial, Miss Parker?"

     "Jarod!" Miss Parker felt her heart leap in her chest.  She could not believe that it
was relief she was feeling and a strange feeling of joy.

     "Ahh, you missed me.  I'm touched," Jarod spoke in a sarcastic but playful tone.

     "Don't be.  So, how'd you do it, Wonderboy?  You've become a real pro at
escaping explosions, haven't you?"

     "Now, if I revealed my secrets, I wouldn't be very much of a magician, would I?"

     "Is that what you're up to now?  Who do you think you are now, David
Copperfield?"

     "Nope.  I'm strictly legit, Miss Parker.  You're not going to give up on just because
I'm dead, are you?"

     "No way.  You can't escape me even in death."

     "Good.  I'm glad that some things never change," Jarod said as he hung up the
phone.

     Miss Parker immediately picked up the folder and walked to her father's office.
She stepped into the room where her father was reading another file.

     "Hello, sweetheart," He said as he saw the file in her hand, "Is that Jarod's file?"

     "Yes, but it's not closed."

     "Why not?"

     "He's not dead.  I just got a phone call from him.  He's very much alive."

     "Alive?  Well, that means you'll be with us for a while longer.  I must admit I'm
glad that's the case."

     "Should we call Section One?" She asked, hoping that her father would answer in
the negative.

     "No."

     Miss Parker's eyes widened.  She watched her father very carefully, "No?"

     "They don't need to know that he's alive.  I don't trust Operations, and the less we
have to deal with him the better."

     "I agree," She answered with something close to a smile curling her lips.

     "Coordinate your search efforts with Sidney and Broots.  Let's find Jarod."

     "Of course, Daddy," She said as she stepped out the door of her father's office.

     Miss Parker smiled as she walked back to her office.  For once, she was glad that
Jarod was as resourceful as he was.  He was a challenge, and quite often, he tended to be
an annoyance to her.  However, she felt that without him there would be a void in her life.
She knew that he would continue to give her headaches, and she found herself looking
forward to each and every one of them.

     As she entered her office, she wondered what he could possibly be doing now.  He
had survived the most terrifying and dangerous organization on the planet, Section One.
What could he possibly do to top off his last act?
 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 

    "Are you ready?"

     Jarod glanced out of the airplane and lowered his goggles, "Definitely!"

     He lowered himself over the edge and jumped.  Jarod was settling into his newest
pretend, stunt skydiver.

The End
 

 

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