Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chapter 67: The Prisoner

"Trust me."

The words whisper in her ear, twist around in her mind like ribbons swaying in a breeze. Who's voice is that, anyway?

Jillyan feels her legs, one ankle sliding over the other calf. She must have fallen asleep.

When? The last thing she remembers, she was looking for Julian. That wasn't a dream, she's sure of that.

"Trust me," he had whispered, right before...what? After that, her memory goes blank. There was a prick in her neck, like a needle, and then, nothing. 

Had she been drugged?

Trust me.

Where the fuck is she?

The room is so neutral and pale, it reminds her of the MorcuCorp lab where she been searching for Julian. But, despite the unsettling pristine emptiness of the room, it's clearly not a laboratory cell or hospital room. More like a hotel, if anything, though there's something off about this place, even for a hotel.

The wall length windows look out over a beach somewhere, nowhere Jillyan has ever been. Wherever she is, prime real estate like this is expensive. Whoever owns this place has a lot of money. Probably more than her own family, who are pretty wealthy by anyone's standards.

Is she a prisoner, or is she a guest? How did she get here?

Trust me.

The room has two doors, right by each other. Jillyan has no way of knowing what is behind either of them, what she might expect to find if she opened either of them. Perhaps the door is guarded. Or maybe there's no one out there, and she could run, escape.

But, Julian. She came looking for Julian, and she's not going anywhere until she knows what happened, how he got that message out to her, if that was even Julian who did send that message.

Trust me.

Behind one door, Jillyan hears the sound of running water, like a shower, vague and muffled. Of course, a bathroom. A bedroom like this would have an en suite. But who's showering her bathroom? Julian? Unable to take the doubt any longer, Jillyan reaches for the door's handle, and pulls.

It is a bathroom, but empty. Another door stands across from the first one, adjoining to another bedroom? Jillyan presses herself against the wall; the sound of the shower is louder here.

The next room is some kind of closet, she discovers. Though she's been inside ancient Chinese tombs, underwater caves and even the experimental chambers of the Horticultural Research Center, nothing she's seen has quite creeped her out like this huge walk-in closet, unnaturally bare and clean, like a museum exhibit. Does anyone even live here? she wonders, and imagines herself entirely alone in this mansion by the ocean, wandering from empty room to empty room.

Maybe she's dreaming this.

This closet has two possible exits, the door to her left, or the open doorway, partially covered by a curtain, ahead. The doorway tempts her with its view of the open sky over the balcony she can see outside the window. Though she can see only part of it, there's obviously a large room beyond that curtain, as pale and clean as the room she woke up in. But behind the door the sound of the shower is louder, and more, she hears a male voice, singing.

It's Julian.

She pauses in front of the door. He drugged her, didn't he? Lured her to that lab with a phony message, drugged her and brought her here. She glances again at the sky outside the window. She could run, she thinks, run and run until she finds a phone so she can call Fergus...

Trust me.

She can't run. Not without knowing what's going on.

Quietly, she steps into the bathroom, finding at last the shower, the man singing, Julian.

It is Julian, right? she wonders, remembering what Fergus told her about MorcuCorp clones. He thought Julian might be a clone. She notices his tattoo, but maybe they all have tattoos, identical men with identical designs inked on their bodies...Julian couldn't remember getting his tattoo.

She's gotten this far, and there isn't a lot of time to figure out her options. He's unarmed, obviously, and not very likely to have any needles or syringes on him. 

The sound of the shower masks her footfalls as she slips up behind him, taking him by surprise.

She grabs his arms, puling them behind his back, wishing she had some kind of restraints or something.  

"What the hell, Julian?" she demands, all the many specific questions she wants answered distilled into one simple generality, "What is going on?"

"Jilly," he says her name, with a longing in his voice that makes her falter, her hands loosen their grip on him. She's missed hearing him whisper her name like that.

Sensing her uncertainty, he pulls free and turns, pinning her, not ungently, against the shower wall. "Jilly," he whispers her name again, "I've missed you so much."

"At least you knew where I was," she answers. The days since his disappearance had been torturous, not knowing where he was or what happened to him, "And for all I know, you're a a clone," she adds angrily while she thinks about the best ways of breaking his hold on her. She knows of several...but she still wants answers more than she wants escape, so she stands still in the prison of his arms, unresisting.

"I am a clone," he replies, and here eyes widen in shock. She wanted answers, yes, but maybe not that one..."But not in the way you mean."

"I don't even know what kind of clone I mean," Jilly complains, "That was Fergus' idea, he said MorcuCorp uses clone agents and you might be one."

"Yes, they do. Use clone agents," Julian says, dropping one hand from the wall to wrap it around Jilly's waist, pulling her close to him, "I'm not that kind of clone. I'm the only one of my kind currently in existence."

"And was Fergus right, about you working for MorcuCorp?" she asks. One hard thrust of her knee into his groin would take him down, she thinks, and she could escape. But that isn't what she wants. What she wants is to take her hand and run it over his chest, to press her lips against his and taste his tongue...what she wants is her Julian, back with her. And she'll she see this through until she gets it.

"I thought Fergus was crazy and paranoid," Julian says, "But, I've got my memories back now, Jilly. And Fergus was right. Right about nearly everything. But not about me...not entirely, anyway."

"Are you working for MorcuCorp or not?" Jilly asks again, noting the way he dodged her question, "It's a simple question. Yes or no?"

"It's not a simple question at all actually," Julian says, "And this shower probably isn't the best place for this. Your clothes are getting wet. And I'm not wearing any."

Jillyan giggles, breaking the tension that had become like a wall between then.

He gave her a shirt to put on, so she could get out of the wet clothes she'd slept in. He hadn't put any thought into his choice, he still doesn't think of these clothes as his clothes, this room as his room, despite the memories that tell him who he is, or was, and what belongs to him. But seeing her in that shirt stirs an old memory of another woman who had a habit of wearing his shirts to bed.

Peridot is dead, he realizes as the memory completes itself. Geoffrey was a cold, hard bastard sometimes. Julian pushes that memory aside and looks at Jilly. Unlike Peridot, she doesn't bother buttoning the shirt all the way up. She's not trying to be seductive, he knows, she's just not conscious of the effect the sight of her bra peeking through her open shirt has on him. He can't lose her, not now.

"You asked me about my tattoo," he says, "I remember getting it now. I was just the latest in a long line of clones, just like the man I called my father. We're supposed to be perfect, above the rest of humanity. But the knowledge that you are physically identical to all your predecessors tends to make you feel less 'special' and more like a faceless number. The tattoo was my way of setting myself apart, I guess. I later learned that there was another clone who did the same; he was known as a traitor, actually. That used to amuse Geoffrey."

"Who is Geoffrey?"

Julian rubs his thumb over his palm, bring himself mentally, "Geoffrey is the man whose memories I carry," he explains. Jillyan cocks her head to the side, perplexed. He takes a deep breath, "Geoffrey created Julian."

"You're a clone of Geoffrey," Jilly says.

Julian shakes his head. "From what I can put together, Geoffrey came up with this plan to get past Fergus' ability to read memories. He had his memories hypnotically suppressed, and had false memories and a false identity implanted. And that's me, Julian. That's why my memories were incomplete snapshots. I was only given enough of a background to get past Fergus. I wasn't supposed to fall in love with anyone."

"Fergus said I might have broken you," Jilly tells him, getting it now.

"Jilly, if anything, you fixed me. You made me real," Julian says, sitting beside her on the bed.

"But you have your memories back," Jilly says, "Doesn't that make you Geoffrey again?"

"I think that's what was supposed to happen. But it isn't working like that. The memories are there now, but I still don't feel them as my own. All I have that's truly mine are my memories with you, Jill. Everything is else is like watching a movie through some other person's eyes."

"That's how Fergus describes his ability, too," Jilly says, "But that doesn't explain why you drugged me, or what we're doing here. Wherever here is."

"Tourmaline, she's Geoffrey's second in command, I guess, decided this operation had failed and she pulled me back. That cell you found me in, that's where they were holding me for as long I persisted in claiming that I was Julian. I knew, because I remembered having that facility built, that there was no way out, no way to be rescued. So I did what I had to get out, I pretended to be Geoffrey. And I came up with a plan to lure you here. Drugging you was Tourmaline's idea, and I couldn't disagree with it without giving myself away, I would never hurt you Jilly, but I had to get you in here in a way that Tourmaline would believe."

"So, you're the boss of MorcuCorp, now? You couldn't have just flown me in on your private jet?"

"I'm only the boss of MorcuCorp as long as I pretend I'm Geoffrey," Julian explains, "Geoffrey wouldn't have sent a plane, he would have set a trap for you."

"Well, I'm here now," Jilly says, wrapping a comforting arm around him, "Let's go. We can get out of here. Go back to Isla Paradiso. Or China, or wherever..."

"It's not that simple, Jill," Julian sighs, "They aren't going to let me just walk away, not with the knowledge I carry. Tourmaline would kill me first. I'm not entirely certain she's not planning to get rid of me, anyway. I'm a prisoner here, Jilly. And I need you to rescue me."

"You have a plan?"

Julian shakes his head, "Not yet. There are so many loose ends to this. And we are going to have to get Fergus on board. I'm going to need you to follow my lead whenever we're dealing with the MorcuCorp people though. I have to be Geoffrey or we're both fucked."

"I trust you, Julian," Jilly says.

Julian smiles as they touch their foreheads together.

"There are things you should know," he whispers, telling her about the history of this operation, from the creation of Pearl and her seduction of Heath Brannon through Jack Horner's unwitting role as a spy for the corporation.

"Dad would just die if he knew..." Jilly says.

"Then don't tell him," Julian suggests, "MorcuCorp cut him loose, I know that much. And nothing really bad ever came of the information they got from him."

Jilly nods, relieved at that. "But, wait," Jilly says, adding some things up in her head, "You say Geoffrey was in charge of all of that?" 

Julian nods, "It was all his operation, from the beginning."

"He was alive when my great-grandfather was. He was alive when my grandfather was a baby...How old are you? Are you immortal?"

"Not anymore," Julian says with a smile, "Geoffrey had been under a fairy curse. He wouldn't age or die, ever, unless he managed to find true love."

"That's a weird curse," Jilly observes.

"Well, fairies," Julian says, "Their minds don't work like ours. The curse is broken now."

"You're sure?" Jilly asks.

"I've never been more sure of anything."

"I'm glad you set that trap for me," Jilly sighs, falling into his embrace, just glad to be with him again, no matter how precarious their circumstances, "And I'll get you out of here, somehow, I promise."

"I came to inform you that your prisoner had escaped," Tourmaline's cold voice chills the warmth of their reunion, "But apparently you already know."

"Follow my lead," Julian reminds Jilly in a low whisper, squeezing her once more before releasing her to stand and face the MorcuCorp agent.

"Miss Brannon is my guest, Tourmaline, not a prisoner," Julian says, arms folded against his chest, "She'll be needing a new wardrobe for her stay. Have someone attend to that."

Everything about him changed in an instant Jillyan notes, watching the agent stammer her obedient acquiescence to his commands. The man he was just a second ago, her Julian, is no longer recognizable, despite his appearance. He had been like that in the shower, too, quick to turn her hold on  him and pin her to the wall...that was not Julian's style at all.

"I need a word with you, in private," he says to his underling in his clipped, commanding tone, not even glancing back at Jilly as he leads Tourmaline out of the room.

"Are you really going to let that Brannon have the run of the house?" Tourmaline demands when they are out of Jilly's earshot, "She could escape! What the hell are you doing, Geoffrey?"

"What I'm doing is salvaging an operation that you did your best to undermine, Tourmaline," he says, letting just a hint of anger into his tone, enough to remind her who is in charge. "I counted on you, all of you, to keep this end of things running while I did what needed to be done. But you dropped the ball, and now we are scrambling just to get back to where we were before this operation started."

"You have the girl," Tourmaline points out, "Use that to lure Fergus in."

"This will go a lot easier if she trusts me," he answers, "I need you to play along with this, even if you don't understand what I'm doing."

"Yes, sir," Tourmaline huffs in response, obviously not happy with the situation.

"You switched off so easily," Jilly says when Julian finally returns to her, "I didn't even recognize you."

"It's not easy, Jilly," Julian confides, "I'm walking a very fine line here, playing Geoffrey while remaining myself. I'm not sure Tourmaline is convinced by it, but she's going along with it, for now. One slip, though...," Julian shudders to imagine what the assassin might do to them both, "I'm doing my best to play Geoffrey, but I'm afraid of what might happen if I lose myself in that role. I need you to hold me together, remind me of who I am, until we can get ourselves out of here."


  1. This double life he now has...it's so hard to tell which is real and which is just a ploy. I'm rooting for Julian. But the Landgraabs have been such a force to be reckoned with for centuries really that breaking through that seems much more difficult than what's happening here. Great chapter!

    1. Thanks, heaven!
      That double life is hard to maintain, for him and for me, lol. I can say, none of this is going to be easy.

  2. Hmm, interesting... I'm hoping that Julian is telling the truth and he hasn't reverted to being Geoffrey, but he's playing that role so well when Tourmaline is there that I still have concerns he may actually be Geoffrey pretending to be Julian for Jillyan's benefit (and for exactly the reasons he claimed to Tourmaline)

    Btw, I've noticed that all the female clone's have the names of different precious stones, I'm sure there is a reason behind it and I'm quite curious

    1. It is hard to tell who he really is at this point. He certainly has Geoffrey down pat.

      The female clones do all have gem names. It started with Pearl Yang, who I scooped up from Sunlit Tides. EA named her and I didn't change it. As MorcuCorp produced more clones of the same genes, they all got gem names like Pearl had. It's not something I put too much thought into, but as I think about it, it does seem like a way of further objectifying these women. MorcuCorp certainly doesn;t treat them as people, and they are indoctrinated slaves to the corporation. Naming them after pretty jewels is just another way to define them as fembots rather than human beings.

  3. Oh wow, I am so utterly confused! Is he playing a game with Jilly, or with Tourmaline? This is just such an amazing plot! I'm loving every new chapter!

    1. Thanks, Karri! I love playing with the idea of identity, so this plot has been fun for me.

  4. Oof. What a fine line Julian/Geoff is walking there. I'm totally convinced he's messing with Tourmaline just to mess with her especially with his mention of having to get Fergus on board. If he wasn't on board with Jilly he wouldn't even have mentioned Fergus since Fergus is the one who saw through him in the first place. But still. One slip and the gig is up and what kind of hell would it all bet then? At least he's got Jilly with him now to help him hang on. Hopefully he can hang on long enough for their situation to be more secure. However, how long can Jilly stand out before others get worried about her disappearance?

    1. Fergus is the end result of Geoffrey's long line of genetic tampering in the Brannon line. Though he did not foresee the merger with the Hawksquill line, once he learned about it he immediately shifted his focus away from Shadow and to his children by Iola. So, he does have every reason to play for Jilly's trust as a way of drawing Fergus' closer. His mission as Julian was to befriend Fergus and possibly turn him, make him come to MorcuCorp willingly.
      That's not to say that Geoffrey is the one in conscious control, just that, what Julian is doing falls in line with Geoffrey's desires.
      It is a fine line to walk for him, he has to keep Tourmaline believing he is Geoffrey, while keeping Jilly on his side.

      Yes, the folks at home will figure out that Jilly is missing pretty soon. She rushed off to 'rescue'; JUlian right after getting that text, so it's been no more than a couple of days. Fergus probably hasn't tried to contact her in that time, since he's all about his wedding. But I'll have to do a chapter on his end next and all that.

  5. Geoffrey is back. 100%. He's just pretending to be Julian to fuck with sweet Jilly's mind. *Nods sagely*

    Is it wrong for me to hope Jilly rolled single? >_> I just like seeing Geoffrey suffer I think. I like him.

    (Hey look. I'm alive!)

    1. *hugs* I'm so glad you're alive Cece! I hope everything is going well. Have you finished taking over the world yet?
      And, lol, you are the lone Geoffrey supporter. If wanting to see him suffer counts as support...

  6. Uhm.... :| So, the whole way through I'm like "Yay! Julians back!" then we get to the end and it dawns on me that he could just as easily be Geoffrey acting Julian for Jilly. DO TELL!

    If Julian is back, then YAAAAY! I really hope they have a long and happy life. But not too long. Julifrey/Geofian is probably about ready to die now. If it's really Geoff in there... RUN, JILLY! RUN!

    Hm... True love... Would Geoffrey have mentioned that little immortal tidbit if he was just playing Julian? Hmmm... I just don't know. I hope we don't have to wait too long!

    LOVED the beginning, following Jilly, btw :)

    1. First, YAY! That you lovedthe beginning. I had so much fun playing that like a tomb adventure, lol.

      The age/immortality thing is like, Geoffrey's age was frozen in place when he was in his early 20s. When the curse is broken, his clock will start up again, so he'll age normally from when he got frozen. So, he's not going to suddenly wrinkle up and turn into dust.

      Sooner or later, we'll all figure out if it's Geoff or Julian in there. LOL, Julifrey.

  7. Until we have Fergus on board? On board with what?! THAT alone makes me suspicious of Julian/Geoffrey. Otherwise, I want to believe Julian.

    1. Julian wants to have Fergus on board with getting him and Jillyan out of MorcuCorp...I'll get into what he's planning soon enough. But of course it should make you suspicious, because getting Fergus inside was Geoffrey's plan in the first place.

  8. The Julian that was known to Jillyan is gone. That is not the guy she believes she loves. It is all definitely a trap to get Fergus.
    But if Fergus actually took the path of Landgraab from his cave walk, then they are all in for a pretty unpleasant surprise I bet.

    1. AW...but what about True Love?
      I actually love the different reactions to what's going on, some people think it's really Julian, others that Geoffrey's back...and, yes,you are right, Fergus has his own ideas of how this is going to down, too.

  9. I don't know, I think it seems that Julian is genuinely back, but why does he need Fergus to help?

    The way his personality switched completely when he talked to Tourmaline is a little scary. If he's capable of that, then I don't know who he's playing, but I hope it's not Jilly.

    1. Another vote for Julian...I guess a lot of questions will be answered in the next chapter. Which should be coming son now that I know what I need to do.

  10. Oh what tangled webs we weave! lol How interesting the parallel between how Julian views Geoffrey's memories and how Fergus deals with memories that are not his. Add to that--the whole Fergus is the true heir--and I wonder just who the more dangerous person is in this story. I guess I'll find out soon enough when Fergus drags himself away from the wedding plans, haha. There's still a vengeful ghost running about, isn't there? If so, I bet HE has his own ideas about how this will play out!

    Loved it, and I look forward to reading what happens next! =)

    1. It is an interesting parallel about the memories.
      You are right to wonder about that. Fergus has decided to embrace his Landgraab heritage, and that certainly will be a factor in what comes next.
      Thanks, Nirar! Hopefully the next chapter willbe out soon.

  11. Finally caught up!

    I really can't make up my mind on whether he is Julian or Geoffrey. I want him to be Julian, but the way his conversation with Tourmaline went makes me doubt.

    1. Yay, thanks for catching up!
      It is hard to tell if we're dealing with JUlian or GEoffrey here, and I love how different people's ideas are on that.

  12. AAH! The suspense. It's killing me. I seriously love this generation. No doubt my favorite so far. It's so complex and you write it brilliantly. Off to the last chapter!