Episode 3: Herald In The News- By Toni Walker
The offices of The Trust were brightly lit and full of activity. Situated in the Library command center, Candice worked tirelessly as she searched for intel and gathered information from all her contacts.
“All my agents have come up empty,” Candice Kent said hours later. “The one I have going to the Park Ridge address has just arrived. We’ll play this one close to the vest considering the Jenna in Park Ridge is a reporter.”
“She could be the original model… the one all the clones were made from,” Hank said.
“Clones? Who said anything about clones?” Bailey Chase asked. He wore a black turtleneck beneath a sports coat even though it was eighty-five degrees outside.
“My brother, David and I are experts on cell duplication. It’s a process that could easily translate into cloning. Plus, he’s been working on a hush, hush project he couldn’t talk about. This could be it.”
“Technology is not that advanced yet,” Bailey said, convinced of his conclusions.
“We’ve come father than you think. There is a company out there -- Echelon -- who is probably closer than any other with the technology,” Hank continued. “And not so surprisingly, they have leased the abandoned base.”
Holt Martin received the call from his Trust contact unexpectedly. Work from them didn’t come on a normal basis. The boss was abrupt and to the point.
“We need you to find Jenna West and put her into protective custody,” Bailey said over the phone.
“Jenna? Why? What did she do?” he asked, surprised by the request.
“You know her?”
“Sure. My pop has been an investigative reporter for years. She was one of the interns who worked with him.”
“Was this recently?” Bailey asked.
“Ten years ago, maybe. Jenna’s a local, one of the few reporters who came from here and stayed here.”
“We need to examine her, son. Bring her in as soon as you can -- without alarming her. She may be in danger.”
Holt chuckled. “Easier said than done, sir. That girl can smell a story a mile away. She won’t be easy to mislead.”
“One hour, son. I’ll expect both of you in one hour.”
Holt shook his head as the call disconnected. He might as well have asked for the moon.
The Facility was white and medicinal. There was nothing homey about the place. Jenna hated being there. That much she did remember.
“Why are you doing this to me?” she asked. “Why are you so loyal to these people?”
Elizabeth leaned over her. “The better question is -- why aren’t you loyal? They created you for a specific purpose. All the rest of your line has done exactly what the Echelon has wanted.”
“My line?” Jenna asked.
“We’ve all been genetically engineered,” Liz said. “They control everything about us. So why can’t they control you?”
The offices of the Daily Sentinel newspaper were cluttered and filled to the brim with people and paper. The place was a fire code violation if he ever saw one.
Les Martin sat at the editor’s desk near the back of the newsroom. He shook his head at Holt’s inquiry.
“I haven’t seen Jenna around town in weeks, maybe a month,” Les said. “I can have Stanley call the Editor of the Herald. He would know more about her investigations.”
“Thanks, dad. I’m going to swing by her place and see if she’s there.”
“Why do you need to see her? You looking for a date?” Les always held out hope that he’d find a nice girl for Holt.
“No, I need to question her about a case I’m working on. Nothing serious.”
Jenna West’s apartment was near the park which was five minutes from the center of town. Her front door was secure and locked but the back door was another story.
He pulled out his weapon. The door was ajar, lock smashed. He nudged it open with the tip of his gun and quickly checked every room.
There was no sign of her.
There were, however, signs of a struggle. He flipped his cell phone open and dialed Bailey.
“She’s been missing for weeks and her house is trashed. Looks like she may have been kidnapped.”
Marcus watched Jenna out of the corner of his eye. She’d been quiet since her return to the Facility. Something was different about her, more genuine. The scar on her hand was already healing. Marcus felt the same lump under his own skin.
Marcus wasn’t someone who connected with people. He did have memories deep in his psyche of a brunette girl who needed help. Those memories didn’t quite seem to belong to him, though.
He approached Jenna, more out of curiosity than anything else.
“What happened to your hand?”
“There was something there,” she said. “It’s gone now.”
Jenna’s eyes seemed glazed and hooded. The doctors at the Facility had already started to re-introduce her to the meds.
Marcus held her hand and rubbed the skin. The lump was definitely gone.
“He cut it out -- The man at the edge of the woods.” She stared up at Marcus, her yes brimming with tears. “It feels better without it.”
He brushed a tear from her cheek.
“Why are you crying?” he asked. When the charge nurse entered the main area, Marcus blocked Jenna from view.
Jenna touched her tears reacting as if she’d never experienced the phenomena before.
“Can I go home now?”
Before he could respond, the nurse approached. She was older, grandmotherly.
“There you are, sweetie. It’s time for your treatment.”
The Jenna look-alike followed the tunnel for nearly a mile before being met by her contact. He had the access code for the special necklace she wore. The man wasn’t familiar with her, just as she wasn’t familiar with him. He gave her the first six digits of a code on a piece of paper.
“You will receive another six digits at the location on the note. Your next contact will be able to remove the necklace. If you try to remove it now, it will detonate and kill you.”
The look-alike seemed startled.
“Why so cloak and dagger?” she asked.
“That’s the way the brass wanted it, so that’s the protocol.”
The Jenna look-alike shrugged, stuffed the note in her pocket and followed the man out of the tunnel.
“With the note is a train ticket to your next location. You have approximately eighteen minutes to get there and board the train.” He glanced at this watch. “Your time starts now.”
A technician studied Jenna’s vitals. He stared at one monitor in particular, the one that told how well the duplicate’s cells were holding up. The monitor showed no deterioration. This surprised him. He called his colleague over to check his results.
“According to our records, she could be at a level two cell deterioration. This scan shows no deterioration at all.”
The second tech shook his head. “Do the scan again.”
“I’ve done it three times and I’ve gotten the same result.”
“It shouldn’t be possible.”
The tech stilled. “It would be if she was the real deal. The original Jenna West.”
“Oh, man,” the second sighed. “We’re so screwed.”
“We can’t let the brass know about this complication,” the first said.
“Complication? These people don’t play around. The originals are supposed to know nothing about the process.”
“We have to fix this,” the second said. “We have to get rid of her before they realize who she really is.”
While the technicians fought a body on a slab on the next table moved. A blue sheet shuddered and Jenna jumped. As the moments went on the fog in her mind became clearer.
She jumped as a moan came from the other side of the room. Jenna’s heart jumped in her chest. She inched to the edge of the metal exam table.
The sheet moved again revealing a body beneath. It was a man. His arm moved to his head as he attempted to sit up.
“Are you alright?” she asked softly.
The man flinched and jumped up. His breathing was heavy.
“Who are you?” he rasped as he got off the table. The sheet fell from his body revealing chiseled abs and boxer shorts.
Jenna held her hand out., “Stay right there. Don’t come any closer.”
He shook his head, disoriented, wobbling on his feet. “Where is my sister?”