This is the follow-up to "Building a Better Mousetrap". You don't need to have read the previous stories of this ongoing series to get the hang of this one, but it might answer a few questions. None of the characters are mine. Would I be doing this if they were? : ) Enjoy! Any and all *constructive* comments welcome.

Jarod looked nervously at his watch. He had arranged to meet Frank here in Vegas to tell him about the DNA tests but now he was wondering if it was still the right move when he still didn't have all the information. He heard a horn honk and his name called out. He winced, praying there were no Sweepers about.

Frank climbed out of a blue sedan and grinned in Jarod's direction. "Hey, I didn't think I'd see you so soon after Nebraska."

"Yes, well, I thought what I had to tell you would be better said in person as it's of a somewhat personal nature." Jarod glanced at the man who had gotten out of the driver's seat.

"Oh, Donovan knows me better than anyone. We were in the SEALS together."

"And now you work together at..."

"Yeah," Frank said quickly, stopping Jarod from revealing he knew about Backstep. "So, what do you want to tell me?"

"Frank, if it's of such a personal nature, I doubt he'll want to tell you here on the street."

"Thank you, Captain Donovan." Jarod took them inside and across the casino floor. Almost every worker smiled at Jarod and greeted him warmly. He then led them to the offices. The door was open to one and Jarod motioned them to enter first.

Frank went in and stopped short. Donovan gave him a push as he followed.

"Well, it's about time you got here."


Donovan looked at the woman behind the desk, acting as if it were hers. Her features were sharp and somewhat cold. However, there was something in her eyes when she looked at Frank that seemed out-of-place. To Donovan, it looked like concern.

"What is she doing here?" Frank demanded. "This whole thing is a setup, isn't it?"

"Put away your paranoia, Parker," she said sharply. "I wanted to be here."

Frank looked at Jarod. "Miss Parker and I have another truce, Frank. Her 'associates' know nothing about this."

Donovan could tell there was more to this conversation than what he was hearing. Perhaps Jarod and this Miss Parker were working for something just as secret as Backstep if not more so. Frank had never told him about the two previous times they had met-no matter how drunk he got him.

"Jarod, if you won't tell him, I will," said Miss Parker.

"When we first worked together, I had suspicions about you. I didn't act on them until Nebraska."

"Well, spill it out."

"I conducted DNA tests on hair strands from both you and Miss Parker. Frank, you are related."

Donovan thought Frank would have shown a bit more enthusiasm after finding family. All he did was stand there, no expression on his face. Then again, Frank already knew this Parker and didn't seem too thrilled about that. "This is great news!"

"You wouldn't say that if you knew the family," said Frank with a look at the woman.

"Don't worry, I feel that way myself sometimes," Miss Parker commented with a raised brow.

"How are we related?"

"It's hard to say based on the Parker family tree. I need to get samples of the possible parents."

"And the only place you can get them is the Centre." Miss Parker shook her head. "Now I know you're nuts. How do you expect to get in?"

"That would be telling. You can do something to help, though. Create a false sighting and get Lyle and as many Sweeper teams as possible away from the Centre."

Donovan looked on, bewildered. He had no idea what they were talking about. He glanced at Frank who didn't seem to know either.

"What is the Centre?" asked Frank.

"A place where secrets and lies are honed to perfection," Jarod answered.

"I worked for the CIA so I know about secrets."

"The Centre makes the CIA look like nursery school," commented Miss Parker.

"Not to mention the secrets they keep from each other," added Jarod. "That's why I hesitated in telling you about your possible relation."

"What changed?"

"A little coup has just happened and positions aren't too strong just yet. With the introduction of the right irritant-"

Miss Parker scoffed at this. "You certainly have the right irritant."

"It will either fall or perhaps be changed for the better."

"And you think Frank can be a part of this?" questioned Donovan.

"Finding another Parker will be like putting the cat among the pigeons."

"So when do we take off?" Frank asked.

"You're not going in there until we know what we're up against," Jarod informed him.

"I'm not gonna let you go in there alone for me. I'm in." He crossed his arms and stared at Jarod.

"All right. We both go."

"Hey, make that three."

"Excuse us." Frank grabbed Donovan by the arm and pulled him to the far corner of the office. "We can't both go, buddy. If anything happens to me, you're the only other chrononaut."

"I'll make a deal with you, Frank. I'll stay in the town closest to the Centre should you need me. There is no way I'm going back to the Base without you."


Frank and Donovan returned to the others and explained the deal they had made. Both Parker and Jarod agreed that backup was important in any infiltration. "You had better not let us down, Captain," stated Miss Parker.

"Frank and I have saved each others lives too many times for me to stop now."



Frank, Jarod, and Donovan looked over the sketch Jarod had drawn of the Centre. "Man, this place is huge. And run by the Parkers?" Frank couldn't believe what he was seeing. Almost put the Backstep facility to shame.

"It was started by Miss Parker's great-grandfather based on the strength of what he read in some mystical scrolls."

"Just what do these scrolls say?" asked Donovan.

"I don't know. I've held them but never had the chance to read them. Lives had been lost both protecting them and trying to gain possession of them, so I think they were worth it."

"Where are they now?" Frank needed to know as much of the story as he could.

"Somewhere in the Atlantic, I think. Mr. Parker read them on the plane from Scotland and parachuted out, taking the scrolls with him."

"Maybe paranoia runs in the family," Frank said, attempting a joke. He looked down at the sketched plans. "You really think your friend will help us?"

"Sydney was the closest thing I had to a father growing up. He'll help us all he can without jeopardizing his position."

"How long do you think it'll take?" asked Donovan.

"I'd say about two or three hours. Wait a total of five, though, before you do anything."


Frank followed Jarod to a large cement block in the middle of a field. Jarod gave a little laugh after a quick examination. "I can't believe they haven't sealed this yet."

"Your own personal entrance?" asked Frank as he helped to remove the lid.

"It comes in handy." He climbed into the hole and started down the ladder. "Once we get deeper into the Centre, some of the ducts are monitored. You'll have to just trust me."

"I'm only now learning how to be a team player. I'm more likely to trust my instincts first," he said with effort as he closed the lid.

"As long as you share them with me, we'll be fine."

Frank watched as Jarod navigated the labyrinth with practiced ease. He wondered if he really wanted to know if he was related to people who could do what they did to a boy. If it did turn out to be true, the only one he'd keep contact with would be Miss Parker. He smiled at the thought of being the irrepressible little brother.

Jarod stopped and held a finger up to his lips before pointing to the grate. Frank peered out and could see the back of a man sitting at a desk in a room down the hall. He pointed and Jarod nodded. This was the room they wanted.

Together they removed the grate quietly and stepped into the shadowed hallway. They replaced the grate and slipped into the room. The man paused at his work as if sensing their presence. From what Frank could see, he was an older man of average height with grey hair. He turned to face the shadows revealing a kind face.

"Jarod," he stated. "According to Miss Parker, you are in Colorado."

"I see she was believed. Not many Sweepers around."

"Why would she do you a favor?"

"It wasn't really for me." Jarod motioned Frank to step forward. "It was for Frank."

"Nice to meet you, Sydney. Name's Frank Parker."

Sydney stared at Jarod and then at Frank. "Why have you risked coming here?"

Jarod explained the DNA tests and the results. "So part of it is similar. I just need to verify his parentage."

Sydney fell into his seat. "You may not have to."

"What do you know?"

Sydney looked at Frank. "When were you born?"

"The orphanage told me February 17, 1969. Why?"

"Catherine Parker gave birth to a stillborn son in February 1969. At least she was told he was stillborn."

"That would give Miss Parker and I the same mother, but what about my father?"

"Do you think it could be Mr. Parker?" asked Jarod. "Those lab tests you ran before said he had a one-in-ten chance."

"And I could be that one? But why would they say I was stillborn then pass me on to an orphanage?"

"My theory? Someone felt threatened by the presence of Mr. Parker's true son."

"Let me guess. Raines delivered the baby. If Frank had grown up here, that would have pushed Lyle down a peg."

"With Mr. Parker gone, I'm afraid Frank won't last very long."

"What do you mean 'won't last long'?"

"Now that Raines-who is really Mr. Parker's brother-is in control, he doesn't need to be reminded about you. The moment he learns about you, you will be on your way to a reunion with your mother."

"These guys make the Borgias look like the Bradys." Frank looked at the two men. "Is there anyway we can get actual proof without alerting anyone?"

"There should be. I'll see what I can find then contact Jarod. You shouldn't stay here longer than necessary."

"Thank you, Sydney," Frank told him.

"I'll do what I can, Frank."

He turned away to place something on the desk and Frank felt a tug on his arm. He knew Jarod wanted to leave. Without saying a word, the two men slipped back into the ducts. Once outside, Frank looked at him questioningly. "Do you always leave without saying good-bye?"

"This way he doesn't see where I go and can't tell anyone. He knows and understands why, so don't think me cold in that respect."

"How could I think you cold at all after what you're doing for me." They reached the car and headed back to Blue Cove. "Now what?"

"Now we wait for Sydney's call."


Back at the hotel, Jarod watched as Donovan greeted Frank with relief. It would be wonderful to have that type of camaraderie with someone who knew all your faults and didn't care. Frank was lucky in that he had a life where he interacted with people, from the orphanage all the way through now and his time at Backstep.

He headed for the connecting door. "While we wait, I'm going to do some research."

"Still no luck?" asked Frank.

"I saw he briefly in Scotland, but she didn't see me. We've been following the same path so I just might find her again." Jarod noticed Donovan's puzzled look. "He doesn't know?"

"No one does aside from me and Olga."

"Don't keep me in suspense, guys. What are you talking about?"

Jarod sat on the edge of the bed. "I guess you should know what you're involved in."

"You might wanna sit down," said Frank.

Donovan did so and waited for Jarod to begin.

Having told the story so often now, it rolled off his tongue without him even having to think. He watched Donovan's face as he related how he was taken from his family as a child; how he conducted simulations for the Centre like a trained monkey, sims they later perverted and sold to the highest bidder. "When I found out what they were doing, I escaped. To make up for all those sims, I try to use my 'gift' to help people while I try to reunite my family."

"Wow." Donovan looked over at Frank. "Good thing you didn't tell me, I wouldn't have believed it."

"You haven't seen him in action."

"So, Frank's possible family runs this place?" Jarod nodded. "And you still want him to see them?"

"A man should know where he comes from. What's that saying? 'You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family'."

The three were silent for a moment. "Anyone up for a trip to the hotel bar?" asked Frank.

Donovan laughed. "Leave it to you to follow something so serious with a trip to a bar."

"I can't help it if I'm thirsty." He and Craig headed for the door. "Care to join us, Jarod?"

"I have to keep a low profile here in Blue Cove. You two go ahead."

"Sure. We'll do room service later."

The two men left and Jarod went back to his computer. If this wasn't Blue Cove, he would have loved to go to the bar with friends, real friends, not just part of a pretend.

A couple of hours later they ordered room service and swapped tales well into the night. Pleading fatigue, Jarod returned to his room. He planned to catch a few hours sleep then rise early and do some more research before the others woke.

Things didn't go as planned. He woke to find the morning sun streaming through his window. He got up quickly and knocked on the connecting door. When there was no answer, he tried the knob and it opened easily. The room was empty and the beds still unmade. "Wonderful."


Donovan and Frank got up early. They each took a quick shower and tried to plan their day. "Want to get breakfast at the restaurant?"

"Donovan, I spend most of my days cooped up inside the base. Let's go outside. There must be some places that serve up a good breakfast."

"What about Jarod?"

"He won't mind. I'll leave him a note." Frank went to the notepad on the desk and scribbled a few words. "Okay, let's go."

The two men soon found a little restaurant with tables set up on the sidewalk. After ordering, Frank leaned back in his chair, basking in the sun.

"So, what was it like?"


"The Centre. You never told me."

Frank sat up and opened his eyes. "Dismal. All black and grey. Granted, the higher-ups might get sun, it was unheard of where we were."

"Not a happy workplace, then."

"Not at all. Next time I complain about being kept on the base, remind me of that place."

"Sure thing, buddy." Donovan stood. "I'm getting a paper. Behave yourself." Frank merely grunted in response.

Shaking his head, Donovan strolled to the newsstand he had spotted down the street. After picking up a copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the latest Sports Illustrated, he turned back. A few hundred yards away from the restaurant, he saw Frank being forced into a sports car. "Frank!" He ran but was too late. He got a good look at the license plate as it drove off: LYLE 3.


After Donovan had left, Frank just rested, soaking up the sun and trying to keep his mind blank. It was near impossible as thoughts of the Centre and his newfound family kept popping up.

"What are you doing here?" demanded a familiar voice.

Frank cracked open one eye to see the face of his half-brother, Mr. Lyle. "Oh, it's you."

"Where's Jarod?"

"How would I know? I do have my own life."

"So what are you doing in Blue Cove? How did you even hear of it?"

"I needed to get away from it all, y'know? Nebraska didn't do it, so now I'm here." Frank got a kick out of seeing Lyle's reaction to the mention of Nebraska.

"I know you're here to meet with Jarod so let's just change the meeting place." He opened his jacket just enough for Frank to see the gun. Not wanting any bystanders to be shot, Frank stood and walked to the car.