by Q4

"Can you tell me exactly what it was that you were expecting would happen here?" Rudy didn't wait for an answer, but kept right on talking. "You can't treat people like they're OSI property and think that they'll continue to tolerate it--"

"--I don't treat people that way, and you know it."

Rudy slammed a file drawer closed to accentuate his words. "I'm sorry, Oscar, but you do."

"I have never once treated you like that--"

Rudy rolled his eyes. "--You push people past their limits, and then act surprised when they can't take it anymore and choose to get as far away from you as possible."

"Oh come on, Steve wasn't really angry with me, he'll be back in a few hours after he's cooled off, and you know it. Besides, he knows how important the Butterfield project is to the OSI; he won't jeopardize it by quitting any more than you would."

Rudy let out a derisive snort. "Were you not in the same room that I was a short while ago? You might as well forget about the Butterfield project, Oscar; you'll be lucky if Steve comes back to the OSI at all."

Oscar smiled. "Rudy, you're overreacting."

Wells glared at Goldman, his voice turning cold, "I don't think so."

Oscar shrugged indifferently. "Guess we'll find out in a few hours."

"No. You'll find out in a few hours. I won't be here."

Oscar stared at Rudy. "What are you talking about? You can't take the afternoon off, you said yourself that this project is at a critical point--"

"--I'm not taking the afternoon off, Oscar. I'm taking the rest of my life off."

Rudy began tossing papers and files into a box.

"Whoa, Rudy...what the hell are you saying?"

"You need me to draw you a picture? I'm resigning, effective immediately."

"The hell you are, Rudy--"

Goldman grabbed Wells by the arm, and the smaller man spun around, anger lighting up his dark eyes.

"I've had enough, Oscar. For the past year, I've watched you manipulate, coerce, and just plain old overpower people into capitulating to your will, and I'm finished. Life isn't just about the OSI, government intrigue, and power plays. I'll be damned if I'm going to stay here for so much as another hour, involved in this." Rudy picked up the box he'd been packing, and moved to stand in front of Goldman. "The OSI used to be synonymous with integrity, loyalty, and advancement through hard work and preparation; this agency reflected the vision and beliefs of an exceptional man I once knew. In the past year, we've become nothing more than a shadow organization of the NSB, run with the same kind of thug-mentality. Start treating people like human beings again, Oscar, and maybe you'll keep the few friends you have left. I hope for your sake, you do." Moisture began to fill Rudy's brown eyes. "I'm sorry it had to end this way, you've meant a great deal to me."

Wells started for the door, but the icy venom in Goldman's voice stopped him, "You don't have any classified files in that box, do you?"

Rudy turned, his face colored with incredulity.


"I think you heard me, Dr. Wells."

Rudy shook his head in disbelief. "I don't know what's happened to you, Oscar, but I don't know who you are anymore."

"Let me see the files, doctor...."

Rudy threw the box on the floor, at Oscar's feet. "Be my guest, I don't need them anyway."

Wells slammed the door to his lab with a force that shook the floor. Oscar stared after him, his belly twisting in knots. After a moment, he walked over to the phone, and dialed a number.

"This is Goldman. Phase Two is in motion. You know what to do."

Oscar gently replaced the headset in its cradle, and swallowed hard, his heart pounding into his chest. There was no turning back now.