A passing car’s headlights glinted off the water covering the road. Stepping
back, deeper into the shadows, a man stared up at the house across the
She’d just arrived home. Obviously, she’d either ignored, or not received
his message the last time. This time, he’d make sure it was received.
Watching, he stood hidden in the darkness. The smooth leather jacket
hung open over the black t-shirt and jeans he wore. The black cap he’d
thrown on to cover his shockingly blonde hair allowed him to blend into
the night. He waited.
She was pacing the living room floor, obviously agitated. When she found
his messages, she would be more-so. Part of him regretted that he had
to put anyone through these paces, but it was necessary.
Her pacing stopped and as he watched, she picked up her phone, moving
to sit on the couch near the window. He’d wait until she was in bed to
leave the package that rested in his hand. No use in getting shot while
trying to help.
Leaning back against the tree next to him, he continued to wait. Luckily,
he was patient.
Miss Parker's Home
“Don’t you ever want to answer the phone like a normal person?”
Slipping her shoes off, Miss Parker sank onto her couch, leaning her
head back against the cushions. “Nah, normal is highly overrated.” Smiling
at the answering chuckle she received, she shut her eyes. “So what do
I owe this honor to Jarod? It’s almost midnight here.”
“Here too. We’re sharing a coast at the moment. As for why I’m calling...”
She could almost hear the wheels turning in his mind. “I missed your voice,”
he informed her in a wry tone.
“For a pretender, you’re a lousy liar.”
Jarod’s laugh rang through the phone. “I don’t have to lie to pretender.”
He paused for a moment, and when he spoke again, the mirth had left his
voice. “How’s everything going there?”
“Same old, same old. Lots of running around on a giant gerbil wheel,
never getting anywhere.”
“I know the feeling.” They fell silent a moment, the statement weighing
heavy in the air. There was a rustling on Jarod’s end of the line. “I
forgot how cold spring can be along the coast.”
“It’s an unusual year.”
“In more ways than one.”
Deciding that didn’t require a response, she propped her feet up on the
couch cushion next to where she sat. “So, why did you really call?”
He sighed quietly. “Just wanted to check in, see what’s going on outside
of the historic Virginia community I’m occupying at the moment.”
Blinking her eyes open for a moment, Miss Parker moved the phone from
her ear long enough to stare at it, as if it had tried to bite her. “Uh,
Jarod…” she began as she returned it to her ear. “Aren’t you giving me
a bit more information than you should be?”
“Do I have reason to be concerned? I thought just maybe we were actually
getting past that.”
“I guess we are,” she admitted softly, leaning her head back and shutting
her eyes again. “But it is still my job…”
Jarod was silent for a long moment. “That doesn’t exactly mean you’re
actually doing your job.”
Before she could answer, the call waiting beeped. “Jarod, I have another
Smiling, Miss Parker clicked over. “What?”
“Miss Parker,” Broots’ hushed whisper met her ear. “You told me to call
you if I found anything more about Eclipse.”
Eyes opening, she sat up. “And did you?”
“Not exactly.” He took a deep breath. “But I found something. There isn’t
much, but I ran across a set of files. All tied somehow to Eclipse. All
of them were empty, except for a single text file in each. All it said
was ‘Nebula Series.’”
Broots was being far too straightforward; this was serious. “What the
hell is that?”
“All I know so far is that it’s tied to Eclipse. And to three other projects.
They were what I found files on. Aurora, Nova and Starlight.”
“I want everything you can possibly find on those.” She paused for a
moment. “Like, yesterday Broots.”
Shuffling sounds came from his end of the line. “Of course Miss Parker.
I’m doing what I can.”
Disconnecting her call with Broots, Miss Parker clicked back over to
“Hmm?” He sounded tired.
She bit her lip for a moment, considering how much to share. In the end,
she was going to need extra minds on this one. And he not only had a right
to know; he would probably be more help than anyone else, aside, perhaps,
from Faith. “Nebula Series. Know anything about it?”
“Not a clue Miss Parker. Why?”
“I don’t know. But it’s related to Eclipse.”
“I’ll look into it.”
Standing, Miss Parker moved out of the living room to her bedroom. “Me
too,” she said as she slipped out of her work clothes, holding the phone
between her ear and shoulder while she unbuttoned her shirt. As she changed
into her silk pajamas, she sat on the edge of her bed. “Jarod, it’s late…”
“Get some rest, Miss Parker,” he murmured into her ear, his fingers tapping
over the keys on his keyboard. “We’ll talk again soon.
Disconnecting the call, her fingers buttoned the pajama shirt quickly.
She lay back, curling her arms around the extra pillow on her bed. Instead
of closing her eyes, she simply stared into the darkest corner of the
Smiling as the dial tone replaced Miss Parker’s voice, Jarod hung up
his phone, turning his focus back to the computer. He’d spent the night
researching the small bio-chem and bio-tech firm just outside the Norfolk
city limits that he was interested in and she’d been right, it was late.
Closing in on one in the morning and he was due to meet with the director
of the firm in less than six hours.
The ‘new mail’ notification sounded as he was going to disconnect the
modem. Opening his mail program, he stared at the message for a moment.
Blank subject line, ‘*.*’ as a sender. Deciding that the small file size
precluded a virus, he clicked to open it, staring at the words that appeared
on his screen.
Leaning back in his chair, Jarod squeezed his eyes shut for a moment,
before opening them, standing and heading into the kitchen to make some
coffee. He wasn’t going to sleep that night.
Meeting over with, having met the director's approval before walking
in the door, Jarod was escorted to his new office within the building
by the director himself, who wanted to continue their conversation. "So,
Jarod, you'll be sure and keep me informed as you work on these therapies?
I look forward to seeing what you can come up with. Your ideas should
be a welcome change from the same old monotony we've been working in around
Nodding, Jarod scanned the hallways. "Of course Dr. Kedis."
"Greg, please." The men smiled at each other as they rounded
a corner, coming up short to avoid crashing into a petite redheaded woman
walking toward them with her nose buried in a report. "Oh, Molly,
good to see you. I'd like you to meet Jarod Worton. He'll be working with
Shane. Jarod, this is Molly O'Brien."
Molly looked up at Jarod from behind a pair of glasses and smiled. "Pleasure
to meet you," she said softly, her voice reflecting a strong Irish
"You too." Jarod smiled warmly at her and extended a hand.
Molly shook it and turned to move around them.
"She's very dedicated to her work," Greg informed him as they
continued down the hallway. "Ah, here we are. I'm sorry you're so
far from the main entrance." Opening the door, he held it open for
Jarod to enter first. "There's parking and an employee entrance on
this side of the building."
Walking into the office, Jarod looked around. It was actually half office,
half lab and the office side was strewn with papers, as if someone had
been rifling through them and had left quickly. "Thanks," he
said to the man in the doorway. "I'm sure I'll be seeing you soon."
With a confirming nod, Greg left Jarod alone to acquaint himself with
his new office.
Taking in the lab equipment, the computers, Jarod moved toward the desk
and sat, running his hand over some of the paperwork, picking up a page
here and there, skimming it, returning it to the messy pile. Finding a
picture frame, which appeared to have fallen over and become buried, he
lifted it, looking at the young, dark-haired woman in the photograph.
"Who are you?"
Looking up, Jarod smiled at the man in the doorway as he returned the
photo to the desk, upright this time. "I'm Jarod Worton. You must
be Shane Roberts, I've been assigned to work with you."
Shane tipped his head to the side, regarding the man sitting at his desk.
"Worton? Any relation to Ronald Worton?"
Jarod grinned, and shook his head. "No, but working with him in
Ottawa, it was hard to convince anyone I didn't get the job due to nepotism."
Removing his glasses for a moment, idly cleaning one of the lenses, Shane
stepped closer to the desk. "I wasn't informed I'd be getting an
assistant," Returning his glasses to rest on his nose, he ran his
fingers through the short, somewhat spiky hair on his head, eyeing Jarod
"I think it was a last-minute decision." Jarod stood and held
out a hand, which Shane took, shaking briefly. "Dr. Kedis was interviewing
for a position on the chem side, but I expressed an interest in the ideas
behind the drugs made here. He mentioned that there was going to be a
second position opening in this department, and offered to let me in working
with, as he put it, the best he has, in order to get up to speed before
- Telkon, is it? Leaves."
"Telkon's leaving?" Shaking his head, Shane moved to sit in
the chair Jarod had recently abandoned. "So, Jarod, I assume you
come with qualifications?"
Jarod lifted his briefcase, popping it open, and extracting a resume,
one that would turn anyone's head, without raising enough questions to
get him into trouble. "Of course."
Taking it, Shane settled back, reading over the information. "Let's
see - you've worked on… bollworm moth gene splicing with Robert Staten.
You worked with gene mutations and therapies with Dr. Worton. You wanted
to work in this department… Are you one of those guys who grew up thinking
that you should have been god, because you could have done it better?"
Chuckling, Jarod shook his head. "I didn't think it, no." Looking
up from the report he'd been reading, he shrugged. "People around
me told me as much though."
"I know that one." Looking over the papers in his hand once
more, Shane tucked them into his desk drawer. "I suppose I can at
least trust you to do the work." He smiled to show he was joking,
but Jarod noted that the smile didn't extend to his eyes. Shane didn't
trust him. He was a smart man and it was obviously going to take more
than credentials to win him over.
"Shane?" The door to the office opened and the red-head Jarod
had met in the hallway stuck her head in. "Are you busy, or can I
get you to look at something?"
Looking up at her, Shane gestured for her to enter. "Come on in
Molly. Have you met Jarod yet?"
Dipping her head at Jarod in greeting, she walked straight to Shane's
desk. "Yes, Greg introduced us." Holding out a file, she perched
on the corner of the desk. “This is not working. The reactions are all
wrong. And I’m on a serious deadline to find out why. Can you take a look?
I’ve been staring at the formulas for too long, a second pair of eyes
would be extremely helpful.”
“Of course.” Shane looked up at her, and Jarod couldn’t help but notice
the gleam that entered his eyes as he gazed at Molly.
Gracing them both with a bright smile, Molly hopped off the desk. “Thank
you so much Shane.” Pausing at the door, she turned back. “Why don’t you
take a look at that, and come find me for lunch -- we can discuss what
you think.” Reaching the door, she paused. “How’s Mimi?” She asked quietly,
not turning her head back to look at the men in the room.
The pause prior to Shane’s response was heavy. “She’s… doing all right,”
he said, casting a quick glance at the photo on his desk, turning it back
to the face-down position it’d been in before Jarod had picked it up.
His gaze returned to Molly’s back. “I don’t know that there’s more that
can be done at this point -- and she doesn’t want help anyway.”
Nodding, Molly slipped out the door without a response. Shane’s eyes
remained glued to the door until Jarod’s voice snapped him back to the
here and now. “She’s gone now.”
“Right, so, shall I show you around?” Shane’s head shook, his eyes clearing;
the gleam instantly replaced with the emotionless, professional look he’d
occupied prior to Molly’s entrance.
Staring at the picture frame for a moment, Jarod nodded, following Shane
as he left the room.
Scrambling up from under the desk, Broots turned to look at Miss Parker
as she strode into the room. “Y-yes Miss Parker?”
Her hand extended toward him, offering him a stack of papers. “Find out
what the hell this is.”
He took the papers, glancing through them at the codes that left no white
space on any of the pages. “Are these…”
“No. These appeared on my doorstep last night. They’re similar to the
last set, but not the same.” She turned on her heel to leave.
“Um, Miss Parker?”
“I, um… may have found something else.” He gestured to his monitor once
she turned back to face him. “About Nebula.” As she moved quickly back
to his desk, he pulled up a file. “I was cross-referencing the names of
the files I found, against the Centre databases, and going through the
archives -- some of that stuff is secured using 128-bit encryption, I’m
still trying to hack into it…”
Miss Parker’s fingers snapped in front of his face. “In English and today
He nodded and hit a few keys on his keyboard. “Starlight is referenced
in an old file on Kyle.” Pointing to the screen, he pulled up an excerpt
from a memo. “This was all I could find, before the system locked me out
Test subject: Kyle
Notes: The new Starlight regimen seems to have secured the desired
result. Subject will remain on the trial protocol until we have assurance
of total success. Risk of imminent failure seems to have passed, proper
effects appear lingering. Memory retrieval is becoming more
“I’m sorry Miss Parker,” Broots continued as she read. “That’s all I
got. The memo seemed to just end there.”
“I want everything, Broots. And I want it now.”
His head dipped in acknowledgement. “Of course. I’ll do what I can with
the encryption, but 128-bit is next to impossible…”
Reaching a hand out, Miss Parker gripped his shirt collar. “I don’t care
if you have to walk on water to get me that information. Just get it.”
Releasing him, she left the room quickly, her heels echoing into the silence
she left behind, before it was turned into the click-clack of frantic