The Centre is Bad Enough Without Synergy

Spring 1996 (1997?) shortly following the precipitous departure of the Pretender

The envelope was sitting on Sydney's desk one sunny Monday morning. The good doctor stared at it as though it was a letter bomb, which expression, given where he worked and some of his co-workers, was somewhat more resigned than others might consider a similar missive. As his name was placed in the middle of the envelope with a laser-printed sticker in Arial bold, with his very rare employee number included, he knew who had probably sent the envelope.

"What's up, Spock?" Miss Parker, despite having been publicly educated, often gave the appearance of having fewer social skills than her sequestered counterparts. She never answered the phone politely, and was now demonstrating that she'd long forgotten how to knock. She strode into Sydney's office without even announcing her presence, the technician, Broots, in tow as if he had no other purpose in life.

"Did you get a notice from HR as well?" Sydney asked, still considering poking the envelope with a pencil to make sure it was completely dead.

"N-no," Broots stammered. He, too, looked at the envelope as if it might hold an attendant demon, and even Parker gave it wide berth as she stepped around Sydney's desk to mind his other business for him.

"Did you open it?" Broots asked. "What does it say?"

"I've been afraid to find out," Sydney admitted.

Parker rolled her eyes. "Open the damned envelope, Freud," she snapped. "We've got work to do."

There were three employees at the Centre that nearly every other employee avoided like a job. Miss Parker was one of them, the Chairman's beautiful, vicious daughter, with a reputation that was at least three times colder than her actual personality, and possibly more dangerous as well. Mr. Raines was another, and that needed no further clarification than the name.

The third, however, was obviously the person who'd sent the missive Sydney now pulled from the envelope. The paper was a dead give away - it was an iridescent, unholy, and thoroughly disreputable shade of yellow. Across the top of the offensive paper was the more offensive statement, scrawled in bright, perky, and cruelly pink letters.

Sydney's eyes flicked over the paper and then he knew for certain. The document had indeed been sent by the Centre's Director of Personnel, Suzie "Bubbles" Miruble ("It's easy to spell if you just remember that 'I' am here for 'u'!"). Of all the sweepers, cleaners, doctors, lawyers, and lay-terrorists the Centre employed, only Bubbles Miruble always got what she wanted. Helpless, Sydney stared until someone shoved the paper, snapping its baleful, hypnotic influence.

"Well?" Parker purred, glaring into his eyes over the top of the yellow tragedy.

Sydney sighed. "It seems the Centre has decided to punish me for my role in Jarod's escape," he admitted. It was the only possible explanation, after all.

Parker's voice oozed false sympathy. "Aw, did they take away your Xeroxing privileges on all your test subjects?"

"No," Sydney said grimly. He handed her the missive, somewhat mollified as she flinched away from the pinkness and the sweetness and the butterfly-sunshine-puppy-happiness. "I've been made co-Coordinator for the United Way campaign."

"That's cold," said Broots, shocked and wild-eyed. "That's... that's really cold."

"Good god, Sydney," Parker began, somewhat apologetically.

She never got to finish. The door to the Sim Lab flung open and a tiny ginger whirlwind clattered inside. "Hi, Sydney, did you get the wonderful news, I've always wanted to work more directly with you, isn't it exciting, I just wanted to check you got the memo, we don't want to be late for the coordinators meeting, it's in Dover, we should probably leave now, I hope you don't mind driving..."

The steady stream of hyperactive, breathless, perky patter continued while Sydney collected his hat, briefcase, and a notepad, and Bubbles availed herself of his arm. His teammates just stared at Sydney as if he was a pariah suddenly (he technically was) and said absolutely nothing in his defense. Even Parker stepped aside to allow Sydney to be dragged away with the fragile tatters of his dignity.

"...and your accent, your voice, I think that's just what we've needed, so we've decided to set the goal rather high this year..." Sydney looked at Parker to beg her for her intervention. The woman wouldn't even meet his eyes. Whatever plague Bubbles carried with her had already gotten on him, and he was doomed. In mere seconds the door of his haven closed behind him, and all the tortures of the damned to meetings opened before him.

"If Jarod calls," Parker growled, "make sure he knows about this."

Broots gaped at her. "Wha... Bubbles Miruble... why... which... wha?"

"He needs to know what he's done," Parker snarled. "If this is the kind of torture Sydney has to endure for his sake!"

"D-do do you think it'll get him t-to come back?" Broots asked.

Parker slumped against Sydney's desk. "No," she admitted. "But he might have some sympathy for the poor bastard." She smirked. "Or at least some spare change."