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Parker sat on her couch in the summer house, wrapping herself in a wool blanket and pouring herself a drink. She was settling in for a good night of brooding, followed by a very late entrance to work the next morning. After the complete failure in California she sent Broots home for an early long weekend, ordering him not to show up again until Monday. And Sydney ... Sydney was off on his secret Tower meetings, who knows when she would see him again. It was an increasing challenge to even care what Syd was up to.

The hunt for Jarod was done in some crucial way, she felt in her bones. Oh, the Centre would keep up the pretense for a long time, maybe years, but unless they got very lucky it was over. She was sure, for instance, that he would never again use his first name in any sort of traceable document, Sydney's psych assessment notwithstanding. There would be no more taunting packages, no more red notebooks, maybe even no more do-gooder newspaper articles after the fact. Jarod would probably attack Centre facilities at irregular intervals until the soon-upcoming day when he located his parents, and then it would be complete radio silence. He had people to protect now, and that changed the calculus of the game. Ended it.

Someone knocked on her front door, and she jerked out of her despondency in surprise. She didn't even bother to put down her glass when she answered the door. It was Sydney.

"Look who dragged themselves up my side of the hill. Come on in." She took a swig and closed the door behind him.

"May I?" he asked, motioning to the bottle.

"Go for it," she said, smiling bitterly. "Mi casa es su casa." Somehow it was funny, getting drunk with someone who practically raised her, who was her mother's psychiatrist for Christ's sake.

"I just wanted to let you know in person that I have new duties, and will no longer be available to help you on your ... quest ... for Jarod."

"No longer be available for Jarod? Riiiiiiight. This is about that mysterious 'Gemini' project, isn't it? The Centre has its nose in some other little kid, and you have to get in on it. For Jarod, of course." She took his complete silence to this as confirmation. Parker poured herself another drink.

"Well good luck with your new duties, Syd." She clinked glasses with him. "Tell me something, though. Were you ever on my side, really?"

"I was on the side that I thought was best for Jarod. At the beginning, I did think it was in his best interest to come back to Centre, to maximize his potential. But now that I've seen what he can do out there, and I've seen what horrors we are doing in here. If the Centre wants him back, they can keep trying, but they will fail. He doesn't belong to us anymore."

"I know." The words slipped out before she could stop them. "I don't know what to do."

"You can leave. Walk away. Your father will ensure nothing happens, no matter how much noise Raines makes."

She laughed again, even more caustically. "Walk away. Can I? Can you? Could my mother? Can any of us?"




Sydney left Parker's house very late, after the scotch had some time to wear off. At home he flipped open a laptop and began setting up the encryption for the email to Jarod. The message was simple:

Found the boy at Donoterase. Will contact soon with info for pickup.

Neither Jarod nor anyone else heard from Sydney again for another six months.

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