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He peered in through the small opening of the door to her office, and found her pacing like a caged animal. Bracing himself for a blast of anger, Sydney gently opened the door further and walked in.
“Miss Parker, is everything-”

“-Don’t you knock?” Before he could muster a response, she continued, the irritation in her voice plain. “Have you seen the ghoul’s memo? He has actually accused us of helping Jarod. It went Centre-wide, Sydney: the Triumvirate; my father; the tech staff... hell, I’m sure the janitors have heard of our duplicity by now.”

He moved closer to her, pitching his voice low. “Calm down, Parker.”

She glared at him, venom dripping from her tone, “Spare me the sweet-talk, Professor Higgins, that bald freak has made me the town-clown of this looney bin, and I intend to have the last word, one way or another.”

As she started past him, he took her by the arms. “Now you listen to me, Parker, in a few days, it will all blow over, and no one will remember the memo; just let it go.”

She pulled away from him. “No. You can stand by and play scapegoat to that empty scuba tank’s self-righteous bullshit if you want, but I’ve had enough, and it’s time for a showdown.”

Once again, Sydney grabbed her arms, this time with far more force, holding her tightly while she struggled to break free. “This is suicidal, and I won’t let you do it-”

“-Well you don’t have any choice.” She growled at him then, “Let go of me, Sydney.”

In response, he gripped her even tighter. “You have been antagonizing Raines for months, surely you knew there would be some kind of payback. And if you go to him with an ultimatum, even your father won’t be able to protect you.”

She stared into the warm chestnut eyes now darkened with fear, and she softened slightly. Gently she shrugged out of his grip, her voice cutting with less edge.

“I know that you think you’re looking out for me, Sydney, but I’m not a little girl anymore; I don’t need you to safeguard me from the demons of the Centre.”

She turned on her heel, and Sydney watched helplessly as she walked out the door, heading for what he knew could only be disaster.


Broots read the memo that was nothing short of an attack on the quality of work that he, Sydney and Miss Parker had diligently carried out for the past several years, and he shook his head to himself.
He muttered under his breath, “I’d like to see Raines chase Jarod all over the country and catch him...” Just then, Sydney entered the area, and Broots couldn’t help but notice the man’s ghostly pallor. “ don’t look so good. Are you okay?”

The doctor shoved his hands deeply into the pockets of his jacket as he paced the small area where Broots worked. “She wouldn’t listen to me, Broots.”

Given the agitation and worry that the doctor was displaying, there was little doubt in Broots’ mind as to whom “she” referred. “Miss Parker must have been fit to be tied when she read that memo.”

Sydney turned to face the computer-tech. “That’s putting it mildly, Broots. Under a full head of steam, she went to have it out with him.”

All the color drained from Broots’ face. “H-have it o-out with Mr. Raines?” He swallowed hard. “Wh-what exactly d-does that mean, Sydney?”

“If she’s lucky, and there are no witnesses to such a challenge, then he’ll probably re-assign her back to Corporate.”

“And if she’s n-not lucky?”

Sydney looked at the floor, his stomach suddenly lurching into his throat. “I hesitate to think about it, Broots.”

“Well surely Mr. Raines wouldn’t do anything to Miss Parker...I mean, Mr. Parker wouldn’t let him...right?”

“The way she’s been antagonizing Raines lately, Broots, I doubt even Mr. Parker could save her.”

“Wh-what should we do?”

The deep chestnut eyes misted with fear, and all he said was, “Pray.”


Miss Parker slapped a copy of the offensive memo on top of Raines’ desk. “What is the meaning of this?”
His voice rasped from lack of oxygen. “I would think it was self-evident, Miss Parker. Your team’s work has been sub-par.”


One of Raines’ eyebrows raised at the comment, but then he smiled. “You should learn to control your emotions better, Miss Parker, they will only interfere with your job.”

Parker’s hands fisted at her waist. “Is that how you’ve lived with all the unspeakable things you’ve done over the years? You don’t feel anything, so therefore the pain and suffering you’ve caused doesn’t exist?”

The smile on Mr. Raines’ face dissolved, and his eyes turned to stone. “Are you certain you want to go down this road, Miss Parker? You might find it rather...unpleasant.”

She leaned her hands on his desk. “Are you threatening me, you oxygenated bag of bones?”

“No. I’m merely asking a question and making an observation.”

Parker smiled, straightened and crossed her arms in front of herself, smug in her confidence. “Daddy probably wouldn’t be amused.”

“I’m afraid your father was called away rather...suddenly, so I wouldn’t count on his support.”

Her smile disappeared. “What are you talking about?”

“The Triumvirate summoned him early this morning, leaving me in charge.” As he saw the panic begin to fill her eyes, he showed a toothy grin. “I suggest, Miss Parker, that you get back to work and focus your attention on the search for Jarod...otherwise I can make no promises to you regarding your continued service at the Centre.”

The underlying meaning did not escape her, and Parker glared at him, but she said nothing more. After holding his eyes for a moment, she turned sharply and stalked out of his office.

Miss Parker entered the tech area and shook her head: Broots looked like he was ready to pass out, and Sydney appeared ten years older than when she’d left him a half hour before.
“You two look like you’re having a wake. Who died?”

Broots looked up at her, relief coloring his voice, “Miss Parker, you’re okay!”

“Well of course I’m okay, you moron.” She glared at Sydney. “You should have kept your worries to yourself, Dr. Strangelove.”

Sydney looked at her, his voice belying his fear, “Someday, Miss Parker, you’re going to push Raines too far, and your luck will run out.”

She sneered at his concern. “But obviously not today, Dr. Frankenstein.”

He shook his head, exhibiting his disapproval. “And what about those around you? Have you given any thought to the fact that your continued well-being might be of concern to others?”

If she was at all touched by his regard, she didn’t show it. “Not my problem.”

Shoving the hurt down, Sydney once again shook his head at her, and quietly left the room. Broots turned to Miss Parker, his voice soft, but full of reproach.

“You shouldn’t be so hard on him, Miss Parker, he was really worried about you.”

Parker swatted the back of his head. “Keep your attention on the search for Jarod. I’ll be damned if I let that oxygen-snarfing ghoul humiliate me.” Her voice turned more caustic, “And as for Dr. Doolittle, he should learn to mind his own business.”

Broots turned around to face the computer screen, and didn’t see Miss Parker bite down on her lip to keep the tears in her eyes from falling.

It was late and he was preparing to leave when his phone rang.
“This is Sydney.”

“Rumor has it that Miss Parker took on Mr. Raines today. Was that wise?”

“Not in my opinion, but Miss Parker is very willful and does not listen to anyone.”

Jarod paused for a moment, detecting an emotion his mentor rarely displayed. “You sound angry, Sydney.”


Jarod pursed his lips. “You’re worried.”

There was a long pause, then simply, “Yes.”

A frown tugged at the pretender’s brows. “You don’t think Raines would actually harm her, do you Sydney?”

He couldn’t keep the fear from his tone, “She’s been provoking him for a long time, Jarod, and I think Raines is capable of almost anything.”

“Surely Mr. Parker-”

“-Mr. Parker has been called away. I don’t like it, Jarod. I don’t like it at all.”

Before Jarod could comment further, Sydney terminated the call, leaving the pretender to wonder if it was due to his mentor’s emotional discomfort, or someone walking into Sydney’s office. As he set down his cell phone, Jarod began typing on his laptop, and three minutes later, he was booked on the next flight to Blue Cove.

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