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Approaching the black sedans parked outside the dilapidated warehouse, Parker paused – much against her better judgment – and glanced over her shoulder at the weather-worn steel. She reprimanded herself in a silent snarl for looking back, for letting monkey boy’s words continue to turn in her head.

This was the whole reason why she kept telling him to shut his mouth. He would say something that would have her thinking, thinking led to questioning, questioning led to doubting. For once, couldn’t he be a good little monkey and keep his smart mouth shut?

Can’t you see they control you just as they try to control me?

Leave it to the genius to say the exact thing she didn’t want him to. She knew she was their puppet; it was either her father pulling her strings or Jarod when he sent her on a merry little chase for the latest twisted family secret. She was their puppet and she wanted to escape. It was why she hunted him.

The deal with her father was clear; she returned Jarod, she could leave. Like that will ever happen, a voice in the shadowy corner of her mind muttered sourly.

She did her job by capturing him, and she would be treated like public enemy number 1 because of it. Had she not received the memo stating the pursuit for Jarod was all for show? Were they just to go through the motions, give the impression they were working – giving themselves ulcers – but if by some miracle they got lucky with a getting Jarod in sight they were to look away?

Parker would need her job description redefined when arguments began.

Can’t you see they control you just as they try to control me?

Second thoughts were dangerous things, and this time was no different.

Once again the meddling rat had a point – he was always right, she just wished he kept his opinions to himself – but denial was a wonderful counteragent. She could ignore that he might possibly - most probably - be right.

However, denial and the web of lies created to mask the truth from herself wasn’t going to be enough. Not this time.

It would either be proven absolutely and unequivocally that her father had no intention of keeping his word by letting her go. Ever. Or he would just let her go. The chances that she doubted him over nothing were so minute they didn’t merit contemplation.

Hauling his rat ass wasn’t going to give her what she wanted – maybe a newer, bigger office, a pay rise, 5 seconds of praise coupled with 10 minutes of ‘it took you long enough’, and then she would have to deal with Sydney. He would either be ecstatic that his favourite science experiment was back, or he would be moping around like his puppy died. Parker was laying odds on the latter.

Daddy’s promise of freedom, it was another empty promise, another element of control. She wasn't going anywhere. Any deal she had made at the beginning of the pursuit would be conveniently forgotten, smoothed over with the words 'But I need you here Angel' or 'What would I do without my Angel?'

Parker didn’t think it ever occurred to him to consider what his Angel wanted for a change.

She could almost picture the homecoming now:

Her father would play his part, say something that crushed her hopes of ever being free of that place with his blessing. She knew that when – the chances of it being an ‘if’ were becoming less convincing – Daddy denied her the freedom she earned – his part of the bargain – there was the option of merely running away.

She contemplated that for 0.3 seconds.

She was under no disillusion, she knew they would hunt her down to return her, most like to Renewal for Re-Educate, she didn’t think they would go to the extreme of a termination order. She was the Chairman’s daughter after all. No, after a nice vacation in Renewal Wing she would come back as good as new, ready to work.

Was fortune smiling her, or mocking her?

She was screwed either way. Part of her suspected - knew absolutely - that her father wouldn't grant her the freedom he promised, and yet she was still going to go through all this shit by taking Jarod in on the off-chance that her doubts were unfounded – not likely.

She could feel this solo-hunt already coming back to bite her in the ass. Sydney would chew her out in usual-Sydney style by guilting her about recapturing Jarod, guilt her about going on her own.

Schlepping across the country, chasing the breadcrumbs that Jarod so generously threw in their direction, were they just sight-seeing or were they actually meant to be catching him? Sydney's desire to have Jarod free hadn't changed.

She silently had to wonder, how many times Sydney had seen the rat without the Centre ever learning of it, how many correspondents had slipped under the radar?

The reception awaiting her at the Centre would be a mixed one, there was no doubt about that. And the rat’s health would be a mitigating factor with just how chilled her reception would be.

She had noticed the cold and flu medication among the candy wrappers and discarded PEZ dispenses. Ratboy had gone and caught a cold. Serves him right. It was karma for that time he gave her the flu. She thought Jarod knew better; karma was a bitch.

Of course, her demented twin would have something to say about it. She only caught Jarod because he had gotten sloppy due to his sniffle. It wouldn’t last long, Lyle would be distracted with getting access to Jarod.

Watching the Sweepers dragging the barely conscious Pretender out of the warehouse, Parker bit back the small grimace when coughs raked through his body. Fate was definitely mocking her.

Times like this, she could strangle the moron whose ingenious idea it was that she quit smoking.

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