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The Centre Blue Cove, Delaware February 3
Mr. Broots turned down the radio as he pulled his Volkswagen up to the guarded gate. The twin uniforms checked his parking permit, key card, and ID badge, as well as the under carriage for explosives or contraband. It was easier to get across the border with illegal immigrants than to get into the Centre. Getting inside took forever, especially when the weather wasn't cooperating.
Eventually, the gate guards let Broots through. He was looking forward to getting indoors, out of the near blizzard conditions surrounding the Centre. After parking in the underground parking structure, Broots made his way to his tiny office in the bowels of the Centre. A calendar with the Dilbert comic hung above his monitor. Other than that, the place wasn't very personalized. It was encouraged at the Centre.
“Hey, Broots, been waiting for you to get here.” A short, blond fellow, Benny, interrupted Broots' second cup of hot chocolate. The chubby guy looked like one half of Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
“What's going on, Benny, your eye's twitching.” Broots asked as he logged on to the Centre main frame.
“Another email was sent from a terminal that's yet to be accounted for.” Benny smoothed his twitching eye, trying to get it to quit. It did that when he became overly excited. Broots skimmed over the file he'd been handed. The picture nearly made him laugh- until he realized who and what was in it.
“I also tracked down the reply that Jarod sent back.” Benny stifled a nervous laugh as he handed Broots an email and photograph. A rather blurry figure stood in the distance between Mr. Parker and Dr. Mentnor. Below was a caption: Major Charles. Broots' eyes became as big as saucers.
“I know the Centre has always been involved in some freaky stuff, but this is over the top.” Sydney and Miss Parker had to be told, but Broots wanted a little more info before telling them. “Thanks, Benny,” He looked at his anxious friend, “Does anyone else know about this?” Even the most absurd discovery was important.
“No, I just found it an hour ago. I brought it to you first.” Benny looked proud of himself as he pulled at the hem of his brown and black stripped shirt.
“Good job, Benny, keep this to yourself, okay. Can you track down the people in the article and the author for me?” Broots asked, his mind spinning in a million directions.
“I already did.” The eager Benny pointed to a print out behind the article. He grinned even bigger, his eye twitching overtime.
“You're the man, Benny.” Broots patted him on the back briefly before rushing off to Sydney's office.
The Centre 1000 hrs February 3
Miss Parker, the Ice Princess herself, strutted into Sydney's office. From the sole of her knee high, dress boots, to her perfectly curled, flip hairstyle, Miss Parker was a cool, aloof figure. She kept every one at arm's length, even the people who worked closest to her. If anyone at the Centre knew what made her tick, it was Sydney.
“Good morning, Syd, Broots, I received your message.” She sat down on the corner of Sydney's desk.
“We thought this would be of interest to you, Miss Parker.” Sydney's rolling accent dragged out the a in Parker. For over thirty years the Belgian doctor had been a fixture at the Centre and in Miss Parker's life.
“Yeah, Miss Parker, I've never seen anything like it.” Broots handed her the manilla file folder. Her blue eyes examined the photo as her shoulders began to quake in laughter.
“Where did you find this, the Enquirer? Boots, really.” Sydney rose from his desk. With arms crossed and chin down, the Belgian psychiatrist came around to join his colleagues.
“I've met Dr. Isaac Mentnor.” Broots and Miss Parker both looked at Sydney as if he'd sprouted wings.
“Did you see the aliens, Sydney?” Broots asked, wrapped in morbid curiosity.
“No, I did not.” The old gentleman smiled, amused at Broots. “I met Dr. Mentnor in the late 1960's, when Jarod was working on reverse engineering a craft I was told was Russian space technology. We had worked on other such top secret, government projects before.” Sydney opened up the file folder again, as if to refresh his memory.
“You never cease to amaze me, Sydney.” Miss Parker sighed.
“It gets better, this email was sent to Jarod, who sent one back, with an enhanced image of the background of the original photo.” Parker snatched the picture from Broots' hand. What she saw made her blood boil.
“Major Charles” The hatred in her voice made Sydney's office feel colder.
“I want to know where this was taken and where Isaac Mentnor is right now. Have the Centre jet ready in an hour.” Miss Parker demanded. “Wherever Major Charles is or has been, Jarod is bound to follow.” A defiant fire burned in Parker's eyes as she began to strut across the small office. Sydney had seen the set of her chin and the way Miss Parker steeled her spine many times over the years; every time she determined to do something. With hurried grace, Parker slammed out of Sydney's office and down the hall.
“That went better than I thought it would.” Broots relaxed, both men did. Miss Parker could be a force of nature at times.
“Come on, Broots, I think there are still bear claws left in accounting. That should settle your nerves.” Sydney walked out into the busy hub of the Centre with the high strung computer ace.
A Few Hours Later
Sydney sat at his desk reading his file about the supposed Russian reverse engineering project when the phone rang. He let it ring a second time, intuition telling him it was Jarod.
“This is Sydney.” He answered with his usual, bland tone.
“Have you seen the lights, Sydney?” A hint of Jarod's dark, wry humor sounded in his deep voice.
“Jarod, I was beginning to think you had been abducted.” The old Freud played along, just glad to hear the younger man's voice.
“The aliens and I agreed that the Centre had poked and probed me enough.” Sydney winced inwardly at the old jab.
“I take it this is about the email Broots intercepted.” Syd cut to the chase. He kept an eye on the door in case Miss Parker decided to quit tormenting Broots and take a crack at him.
“Ah, Sydney, you are perceptive, I'm just wondering what my father was doing in the background of a picture with Mr. Parker, a top secret, government scientist and dead aliens?” It was enough to bewilder even the most open minded person.
“I honestly have no idea, Jarod. My part in the project came here, at the Centre.” He thought back to that project and the wonder on young Jarod's face as he examined every piece of technology brought to him.
“Was Mr. Parker up to his usual nefarious plans or was it just a business arrangement?” Jarod asked, assuming the worst before Sydney answered.
“Again, Jarod, I have no idea. As I recall, Mr. Parker was particularly hands on with this project. We were rushed through the reverse engineering process and all my files were confiscated, officially.” Jarod knew his mentor well enough to know he had an 'unofficial' file of everything. Sydney was as capable of pretending as Jarod at times. He'd survived the Centre too long not to be.
“Watch for crop circles, Sydney, live long and prosper.” Jarod heard the Belgian chuckle as he abruptly hung up. The Pretender sat back in his chair, a Pez between his thumb and forefinger. Turning from the phone to the DSA player, he started the memory disk rolling. Black and white images of a small, fragile Jarod took over the seventeen inch screen. He and Sydney both wore anti-contamination suits with breathing equipment. Microphones inside their masks captured every word. The first thing young Jarod had to do was crack the language used to label everything on the vessel.
“What is the most commonly used letter of the English language, Jarod?” Sydney asked, his voice sounding virtually unchanged in thirty-odd years.
“E, is the most used letter, Sydney. So it stands to reason that among all these characters there is one used more often than others, and if I find it, I can break the code.” Jarod heard the need for praise in his young voice and the excitement of solving a puzzle.
“Very good, Jarod.” Just the words the boy had hoped to hear.
“Sydney, you have a message here.” A technician's voice came over the intercom of the lab housing the strange vessel.
“Continue working, Jarod, I will be back in a moment.” Sydney lumbered out of the cordoned off area. Anxious to please, the boy turned back to the vessel's controls. The voice over the intercom ceased, but the conversation didn't. Older, wiser Jarod turned up the volume and zoomed in on the booth above the work area.
“I want the guard doubled, Raines, he very nearly succeeded. The Triumvirate wouldn't like it if Major Charles used me as barter for his sons.” Jarod couldn't believe his ears. His father had tried to kidnap Mr. Parker to get him and Kyle back.
“Major Charles hasn't been see in the last three days, Mr. Parker, his attempt has ran it's course. That bullet the MP's put in him will end any further plans on the major's part.” Raines assured the other man. Mr. Parker eyed him with contempt momentarily before Sydney's voice drowned the conversation out. Jarod sat back, his lightning quick mind processing the new information. The Pretender made a copy of the audio and sent it to Angelo. To his credit, the emotional sponge had a habit of finding the most unusual and interesting nuggets.