Perihelion,
Part One

 

home / season five / episode twenty-two / act III

   

Blue Cove, DE
Miss Parker's House

She was hot. No, she was cold, but sweating, aware of her body’s discomfort somehow in her dream. The sheets twisted around her, trying to trap her. Breathing was difficult. Something deep inside her was burning, and she couldn’t put out the fire.

Miss Parker cried out softly, flinging the bedclothes off herself. That was better, but the eyes and ears that pursued her were still there, making her skin prickle. She grasped for the covers and dragged them over herself again, hiding in them so the eyes wouldn’t see.

“How brave you are, my darling.”

The voice was soothing, feather soft and sweet. She recognized it instantly, and drifted toward the sound, floating now. With graceful movements of her arms and legs, she flew through the dreamland toward the voice.

“Mama? Where are you?”

“Always with you, sweetheart. Always.”

“I’m scared. For little Gabriel.”

“Shhh… I’ll watch over him, for now. There are other things for you to do first.”

Something bright flashed in her eyes, blinding like the sun. It spun toward her, flipping over and over in mid-air, getting smaller and smaller as it drew near. Her hands came up as it grew close, and she reached for it, recognizing the mirror-like disk of a DSA.

“That’s all you need for now, honey. You have to find this first.”

“Where is it, mama? Where did you put it before they --“

The sharp crack of a gunshot in the distance rumbled and echoed away into nothingness, like a clap of thunder before a storm.

The sound sent fear slicing into her heart like a knife, and she screamed.

Parker sat up in bed, now fully awake, trembling with the adrenaline rush of her nightmare. She swore softly and held her head, pounding now with the vivid sensations lingering from aborted sleep. There was very little she could remember of what had startled her into wakefulness, except for the image of a spinning DSA and her mother’s voice.

What was it her mother had said? She couldn’t remember. But there was no more sleeping in store for her tonight. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was half past five, early enough to run off some of the tension, and still be early to work.

She would think about the dream later. There was meaning in it somewhere, she was sure, but she just didn’t want to think about it right now. She was tired and angry and afraid for her little brother, and the world was becoming a very nasty place indeed.

Well, she could be nasty, too. In fact, she excelled at it.

She rose from the bed and headed for her bureau to dig out some sweats, and began to hum a song that had been in the back of her mind ever since she awoke.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Raines' Office

Lyle spent the entire night in Raines’ office, looking through files and DSAs, boxing up the ones he wanted to keep. By morning he had cleaned out the essentials, all the secret files that the old man had squirreled away in his hiding places, and every scrap of information he could locate on what they had done to himself in particular. There were some amazing projects lined up at Donoterase that had been operating on their own since Raines’ initial injury put him in Renewal, and Lyle would need to check up on those first. The others could simply be dealt with as needed, but he would have to check in with each of the research teams and let them know that he was taking over since Raines was permanently unavailable for comment or guidance.

The old man had been brilliant and far-sighted, and Lyle could definitely use that to his advantage. Suddenly, the Blue Files that had gone missing were trivialities to him, though he would continue their pursuit as a secondary project. But first, if he didn’t cover his tracks here, he was sure someone would come snooping and discover what he had done. He couldn’t have that.

Finding his way through the air ducts was not an easy task. It took him far longer than he expected, and he would have preferred just to walk into Raines’ office, do the job and go out the same way -- but he couldn’t afford to be seen. However demeaning the process had been, he crawled into the office through the duct, set up the device once he was finished with his raid, and went back the way he had come. Returning to his office was faster since he knew the way now, and he began to read through files to establish priorities.

* * * * * * * * *

Miss Parker's Office

“Hello, where did you come from?” Miss Parker’s question was directed at a DSA lying in plain sight on her blotter. She was certain she had not left one out the previous evening, when she closed everything up for the day. A fragment of her dream flashed in her memory, along with the echo of her mother’s voice.

Was this it? Had someone found Catherine Parker’s last message, and left it for her to find? Was this a test from her father, to see how she would react to some secret he now wanted her to know?

She didn’t see the face at the air vent, staring at her with sharp blue eyes as she reached across the desk.

BOOM!

The sudden noise and vibration startled her, and she turned without picking up the disk.

“What the hell was that?” The whole building had shook with that sound. Fire alarms began to ring, and she stepped out into the corridor. People were headed toward the exits, piling into the elevators like fools rather than take the stairs.

“Miss Parker! Miss Parker! Come on!” Broots appeared and grabbed at her arm, towing her with him toward the stairs. “There’s a fire in the Tower. We have to evacuate.”

“Where in the Tower? Is my father all right?”

She straightened as soon as the words left her mouth. Old habits died hard.

“I don’t know. But we have to leave now. We’ll find out more when we get outside.”

She knew he was right, and followed him to the ground floor and out onto the grounds. Sydney met them in the lobby with a relieved sigh, and accompanied them outside into the designated parking lot where they were supposed to wait during drills.

Only this wasn’t a drill. Smoke was pouring out a set of windows in the Tower. There was definitely a fire inside, and the Centre’s fire brigade was already hard at work trying to put it out.

“Isn’t that Mr. Raines’ office?” asked Broots, squinting in the early morning sunlight, trying to place the floor and layout in his head.

Parker said nothing, suddenly realizing that the tech was correct.

He sighed. A grin of quiet relief slid across his mouth. “Well, I guess I won’t be sneaking in there for any more secrets.”

“No, I suppose not,” she agreed. “How convenient, the timing of this fire.”

She shot a knowing glance at Sydney, and could see in his eyes that he was thinking the same thing.

After what seemed like an interminable delay, the Chairman himself gave the word that only a single office unit had been damaged; the building structure was being checked to ensure that it was still sound. Noxious vapors were being cleared, and by morning all would be safe to return to work. Those employed in the Tower could go home; all others could return to their offices.

By the time Miss Parker returned to her office, she had forgotten the DSA that had been on her desk, now conspicuously absent. Technically, she was allowed to stay, but some of the fumes had managed to make their way down to her level. It was as good an excuse as any to leave early, and she decided to take it.

Angelo watched her from the grate, twirling the disk in his left hand, as packed up her briefcase. The disk would be waiting for her again, when she returned in the morning. Then, she would have another piece of the puzzle.

* * * * * * * * *

Lyle strolled back to his office and resumed work on the projects, pleased that the season of fire that had burned him was now drawing to a close. No longer would he be the one in the frying pan or roasting in Mr. Parker’s unhappiness. He could not afford to waste time on hunting down missing lab rats. There was far more important work to be done, work that would earn him the notice of the Triumvirate… and possibly even the Chairman’s seat, when he had all the pieces in place.

The Centre had rented him out to a pair of lunatics, given him an incurable disease, betrayed him at every turn and cost him his thumb. Payback would be delicious, and he promised himself to enjoy every morsel of it. He studied the case files and tucked them into his briefcase when he was done, heading out of the Centre for a drive to Donoterase.

* * * * * * * * *

NuGenesis
Atlanta, GA

Seven minutes was all he had. Jarod walked swiftly down the corridors where the executive offices were located, glancing at the nameplates on the closed doors. In the dim glow of security lights for the nightwatchmen, he listened for approaching footsteps, though they shouldn’t be in this area for six and a half minutes.

Some of the names were familiar from the last time he had been there, investigating a lead on his family. But there was one door where the nameplate had been removed, traces of adhesive still visible on the painted door face. It would be a large office, not a storage closet, and that was the most likely place for a visiting doctor to call home inside the clinic, especially one as prestigious to NuGenesis as Dr. Cox.

Jarod connected his palmtop to the electronic keypad and let the machine discover the code for him. Seconds later he was inside, and with the aid of a desk lamp and his penlight, he found the file cabinets and started looking through them. The yellow folders he was seeking were top drawer, first priority.

But when he found them, the folders, each marked with one of the names on the list someone had sent him, were empty.

Another dead end. He glanced up, right into the glass eyes of a dead Peach-Faced Lovebird, stuffed and mounted on a driftwood perch decorating the file cabinets. The specimen, he noted, was conspicuously alone, and lovebirds were best kept in pairs. Cox would enjoy keeping a mated pair separate in death, and probably had its lifetime mate somewhere at his home.

Jarod would fix that. He hadn’t sent a greeting to his nemesis in far too long, and Cox was in need of a reminder. Jarod took the stuffed bird, closed the file drawer, turned off the light and counted down the minutes as he made his exit and tried to decide where to look next.

After he made a visit to Cox’s home, to reunite the lovebirds.

* * * * * * * * *

Miss Parker's House
Blue Cove, DE

Miss Parker sat on the sofa, a tumbler of scotch in her hand, the decanter settled on the table to her left. Her head nodded forward and her eyes closed, slipping unwillingly into sleep. Her clothes and hair still smelled of smoke, and as she dreamed, she saw the fire leaping up to lay claim to all the secrets she had been searching for.

Raines himself stood in the midst of the flames, staring back at her, smiling and waving from his wheelchair. She had been denied even her revenge for the murder of her mother, and now she would never have that peace, that satisfaction. Killing him would be pointless in his current state.

“It’s not here,” he called to her cheerfully, apparently unaware that he was about to perish in the flames.

“What?” she shouted back.

He laughed. “Anything you’re looking for. It’s all gone.”

“I already knew that, you moron,” she growled.

“You never listen, Miss Parker,” he called. “The most important things are always right in front of you, but you can’t see them.”

She was tired of listening to that monster, glad he was being swallowed up by oblivion, but she didn’t want to watch. His flesh had already started to redden and blister, and worse was coming. She turned around, and almost bumped into Lyle.

He was standing a foot away, dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans, holding an elegant china bowl filled with rice and bits of meat and vegetables. Lyle swallowed the bite he had been chewing and grinned at her. He stabbed into the rice with his chopsticks, and suddenly a tide of crimson spilled over the side of the bowl and onto his thumbless hand. When his chopsticks lifted toward his mouth again, balanced between the two sticks was a human finger, the nail carefully painted in a French manicure.

“Want some?” he offered, extending the tidbit toward her. “It’s really good.”

She started to scream, jerking upright and awake in a single motion. Her eyes focused on the fireplace, and she realized where she was, safe at home and dreaming. She sighed.

“What a day,” she whispered aloud.

Unlike the pleasant dream she’d had about her mother, this one hung on, every scene vivid and realistic in her memory.

She had been up for far longer than was her habit, but after a nightmare like that last one, she was in no hurry to get to sleep. She rose and decided to take a long, hot soak in the tub, and listen to some good music. Surely, she hoped, that would put her in a better frame of mind for a decent night's sleep.

* * * * * * * *

The Centre
The Tower

As she and Broots went to check out the scene of the crime the next morning, Miss Parker spotted Lyle standing there, glancing about as people surveyed the damage in person. That was simply human nature -- the urge to see destruction and marvel how it had been conquered, or thrill themselves with the view of a body still trapped in a crumpled car. Lyle just watched them, an oddly peaceful expression on his face.

“Well, I don’t think anyone will miss him, anyway,” he mused.

Miss Parker crossed her arms over her chest. “We just lost the best source of information in this building, Lyle, or hadn’t you noticed? Including everything there is to know about you. I should think that might be important… especially now.”

His eyes were twinkling as he fixed her with an otherwise blank expression. “Maybe it’s best to let the past be the past, sis.” He walked away whistling.

Parker shivered, remembering the dream and his dinner. Then she turned her attention back to perusal of the office.

The room was gutted, stained black with soot and strongly scented with smoke. The Chairman would be unhappy that so much data had been lost. Only a handful of Raines’ projects had been handed out when he was injured, everything else put on hold until it was certain whether the man would recover or not. Now, everything he had worked on would have to be re-started from scratch. Every project would be assigned to someone new… except for those that no one knew about but Raines himself.

Parker drummed her fingers on her arm in contemplation. “Lyle was much too calm about this whole thing. My brother’s up to something,” she commented to the tech at her elbow. “And I’m going to find out exactly what it is. Even if it kills him.” She would watch Lyle, and see if he gave her any hints about why he was so smug. This loss would affect his work as well, and he should have been angry, outraged at the damage.

Broots said nothing, but he suddenly looked ill.

“I meant Lyle, not you, Broots,” she explained coolly.

His head bobbed. “I know. But sooner or later I know you’re going to tell me to go in his office to look for something, and I haven’t decided yet which is worse: Wheezy or Lyle.”

She smiled at him, genuinely amused. “You’ll do just fine, I promise,” Parker assured him. “You always do.” She patted his shoulder, and strolled away to get started on her workday.

Broots looked after her for a moment, then shuffled away to tend to his own projects.

On to Act IV

 
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