I would have stayed but it turns out I have business back home. You have a nice smile. Try to hold on to it.

The text message Emily had left him on his cell phone said she'd got a room at the hotel Parker and Lyle were staying at. After he'd sorted out the stuff he'd needed to sort out, Jarod had headed to the hotel. Now, he frowned at the note Emily had just passed him and looked up to meet his sister's gaze. "Back home?"

"That's what I thought," Emily replied, wearing an expression of some worry. "Where's that? 'Back home'?"

"Emily, when did you meet Sydney?"

Emily frowned. "What? I... don't think I have. Have... have I?"

Jarod nodded to the letter seriously. "That's Sydney's handwriting," he told her. "I assume it came without an envelope."

"It was just sitting there when I woke up this morning," Emily told him, indicating the coffee table across the room. She frowned some more and shook her head. "No, you don't understand. It might be Sydney's handwriting, Jarod, but it's not from Sydney. It's from..." She sighed. "Lyle."

"Oh, okay," Jarod said jokingly. "I guess that means he's gone back up to the mothership, then." He grinned.

Emily didn't. "He's not an alien, Jarod," she said, sounding a touch offended.

"Technically, no. He's a human/alien hybrid. So you're right. At least, in part."

Emily glared at him.

Jarod sighed. "Yyyer. Not funny, huh? Kyle would have thought it was funny."

"I'm not Kyle."

"Raines believes in aliens. Then again, he's nuts."

Emily nodded, her expression mere inches away from stricken. Yes, and he was not!

Jarod frowned. "'A nice smile,' Em? I don't know whether to gag or go after the creep and whack him!"

"My Convergence partner? Yeah, because that'd be one of your brighter ideas, I suppose?"

"Actually, I think I know now!"

Emily pointed at him. "Don't tell me I wouldn't know Empath fun and games from the real thing, Jarod! I'm a Mediator! And I was trained!"

Jarod shrugged. "If you say so," he replied casually. "It's still Sydney's handwriting."

"I'm not saying that it's not!"

"I mean, not just a clever forgery – actually Sydney's handwriting!"

Emily shook her head and walked off, towards the sofa. She took a seat and sighed, running a hand over her hair.

"But that doesn't bother you at all because Lyle's an Empath," Jarod surmised, walking after her and stopping in front of the sofa. "I think you're missing something here, though, Em. Sydney's got the Anomaly, too, and he's been trained to resist Empathic intrusion. Basically, to Block. We all have. Me, Parker, Kyle, even Alex. Nobody underestimates an Empath, or the harm they can wreak. They're dangerous, Em, and if you knew anything, you'd know that."

"Yeah, I got the same rubbish too!" she snapped. "Doesn't mean I bought into it! No, I don't think they're all soft and cuddly and harmless, but I'm not going to be scared off by them, either. They're just people; they're no different to anyone else, or anyone else with the Anomaly. You put a bullet in their head, and they go down like the rest of them. I know what Empaths can do, and I know about Blocking, but did it ever occur to you that this has nothing to do with Lyle's Empathy. Being an Empath isn't your whole life, you know. Being a Pretender isn't your whole life – so why should it be Lyle's?"

Jarod scowled at her and sat down next to her. "You have a point. Not that I like it, but you have a point." He scowled. "But why use Sydney's handwriting? It's obvious I would recognise it right away, even if you didn't. So what's the point? He's just trying to piss me off?"

"Maybe he's only good at Sydney's handwriting and not yours or... Parker's, for instance."

Jarod rolled his eyes. "That's stupid."

"Cute, Jarod."

Jarod grinned. "Maybe the aliens came and told him he had to come 'home,'" he thought out loud.

"Sure. Aliens," Emily replied darkly. "Would you stop fixating on aliens, alright. The note didn't say anything about aliens – and I bet it's just Raines who believes in them, not Sydney!"

"Mmm." Jarod nodded absently.

"Why are you even thinking aliens?"

"At school, the other kids used to think Bobby was half-alien. I guess that says it all. I mean, it says so much about his social skills."

"Well the note's not from Bobby, Jarod. It's from Lyle," Emily reminded him.

He shook his head without looking round at her. "I don't buy that dissociative identity disorder nonsense," he muttered darkly.

"It's been documented before amongst high-Class Empaths, Jarod. Th... they're not alternate personalities, strictly speaking. They're successive personalities. But you know all that already. Their personality changes to better accommodate their abilities. Each successive personality screens the Empathic... psychic streaming a little more than the last did."

"Yeah, well, it may be documented, Em, but I don't believe it. Not in his case. He's nothing but a sociopath and a compulsive liar." He frowned, talking to himself. "What does that mean? 'You have a nice smile. Try to hold on to it.' What is he planning?"

"Oh, listen to me, will you, for a moment, please, Jarod," Emily spoke up, interrupting his thoughts. "He's not saying 'I had some shit to take care of then I'll be back to cut you up into tiny little pieces and eat you'! Would you get that creepy idea out of your head! You're... making me uncomfortable. Aretha and I, in fact."

Jarod looked at her with a frown. "I'm making one of your characters uncomfortable with my 'creepy' thoughts!" he laughed sarcastically.

She made a face at him, then sighed, dropping the scowl. "No, Jarod, you're not making one of my characters uncomfortable. You're making my baby uncomfortable."

Jarod choked. "Oh, that's disgusting!" he said loudly.

"Oh, shut up," Emily replied.

Jarod shook his head and stood up. "Get your stuff together, Em. It's time we packed up and got out of here, anyway. Your boyfriend can go and do whatever he likes; I'm not sticking around to find out what his sick, little game is. And I don't think you should, either." Having said that, he walked off to start getting Emily's stuff together so they could leave.

.

As they were leaving the hotel room, Parker appeared in the hall and walked toward them briskly. She sighed heavily, stopping next to them. "I thought the lunatic had gone and called the Sweepers on the two of you. You'd better hurry up and make tracks, in that case, to be on the safe side." She nodded to Emily. "It was nice to have met you at last, Emily. I hope things go alright for you in the future and we don't run into each other again. At least, not under any unpleasant circumstances."

Emily offered a smile and glanced at Jarod for just a second, before walking off down the hall, deciding to give the two a moment alone.

Jarod frowned after his sister but made no comment. After a long moment, he returned his gaze to Parker's face, then handed over the note Lyle had left for Emily. "Apparently it's from your brother," he told her.

"Always with the doom and gloom, that one," she muttered, folding the letter up and stowing it away in her jacket. She sighed. "Until next time, I guess."

"Until next time," he agreed.

She pointed a finger at him. "Mind you, next time you better be ready to run."

"Ditto," Jarod replied.

Parker grinned. "Oh, I will be!"

Smiling, Jarod stepped past her and headed off after his sister.

.

Sydney was looking more worried than usual, when she returned to the Centre. He didn't bother asking about how her school reunion had gone, he just snapped out that he had something to speak to her about, and started walking. Suppressing a sigh, she followed him. When he got to his office, Broots was already there, or perhaps he'd been there before, talking with Sydney, and he'd stayed there when Syd had come to get her. Parker supposed that was the most likely story, as opposed to Broots breaking in to Sydney's office in effort to surprise him (for whatever reason). The fact that Sydney didn't look in the least surprised – he hadn't stopped with the worried look – seemed to point to that as the logical conclusion.

"What's this all about, Syd?" she asked, once they were inside the office and the door was closed.

"I think they've found Noah, Miss Parker," Sydney replied.

The mug on Sydney's desk shattered with a loud crack!, nearly giving Broots a heart arrest. He leapt back from the desk and his eyes snapped to Sydney, now very wide in his face.

Parker growled. She'd talked about this with Sydney only once before, but he knew very well that she knew Lyle was her real twin. Her real twin had been Noah. Now they were saying he was alive and they'd found him. "How can he be alive when Lyle has his upgrades!" she growled furiously. "You fuck with people's brains and they die, Syd!"

Sydney nodded. "I understand what you're saying, Parker, and I'm not saying I believe the talk, I'm just telling you what I've heard."

She growled again, her eyes glinting darkly. "Where's that freak Lyle?"

"Who knows?" Sydney replied heavily. "The Tower may have asked to see him. After all, if they have somehow managed to recover Noah alive and well, they'll likely be wanting his upgrades back, too."

Parker smiled sinisterly, a murderous glint coming to her eye. "I guess I should feel sorry for him – but I don't!" She laughed hysterically.

Standing well back behind Sydney's desk, Broots looked uncomfortable. "S...Silvie's not going to be happy when she hears ab-about this," he stammered. She wouldn't be happy at all. The guy was her dad, even if he'd been sorta a crappy one.

Parker waved a hand at him dismissively. "Ah, she'll be better off without the loser!" she told him.

He frowned. Debbie wouldn't be happy, either. Or Reagan. He sighed mentally. Apparently Parker was happy, and, in her world, that was all that mattered.

Broots didn't feel up to challenging after the incident with Syd's mug.

Sydney turned to offer him a supportive glance and spied the broken mug on his desk, whipping back around to Parker. "Nicholas bought me that, Parker!" he snapped angrily.

She made a face and shrugged one shoulder. "Oops!"

He shook his head. Sure, oops! That was the best she could do, huh? He threw her a scowl and stalked out of his office, pulling the door shut after him with a bit of a bang.

Broots glanced at the door uneasily, then to Parker. Well, she was smiling right now, and she didn't look too angry. He just hoped her light mood lasted long enough for him to get to the door and out of Sydney's office before she lost it and broke something else, too... or someone else...

.

Silvie sat in the hospital cafeteria, staring straight ahead of her, a glass of water in her hands and a look of mild distress on her face.

"Silvie, are you okay?" Debbie took a seat across the table from her best friend and frowned, waiting for her friend's reply. "Silvie?"

"I bought you a coffee," Silvie told her, and glanced at her finally.

"Thanks," Debbie replied.

"There's sugar already in it," Silvie added, as Debbie looked around for the sachets and spoon that weren't there.

Debbie picked up her coffee and pulled it towards her, feeling the warmth of it underneath her fingers. Looking at her friend now, there was no trace of her earlier gloominess on her face.

"Daddy's transferred to another branch," Silvie told her suddenly. "I hope the weather will be warmer there. I don't know where, as of yet, but I'm sure he'll write soon with the details."

Debbie frowned, but she didn't push the issue further. She had a feeling Lyle hadn't transferred anywhere; Silvie was just making something up to protect her from the truth, which likely wouldn't be very nice. Lyle had been her first friend, as a girl, and Silvie knew they were still very good friends. Debbie also knew that if he had been about to go anywhere, Lyle would have told her so she wouldn't worry.

She didn't say anything, though. She knew Silvie didn't want to see her hurt and she accepted that whilst she might have been lying, Lyle was still Silvie's dad and not hers. If it was hard for her, it was bound to be ten-times worse on Silvie. She just wondered how Parker and Reagan would fare, now. She hoped they would be okay, as well as Silvie's mom.

"How's Jethro?" she asked, changing the topic.

"He's fine," Silvie said. "He's sleeping."

Debbie nodded. It seemed strange to her that Silvie would just leave her baby alone in a strange hospital, but she had a feeling Silvie wasn't really feeling herself. Then again, she might have just been hiding her discomfort very well.

Debbie had seen her half-brother a couple of hours after he'd been born and she was looking forward to spending more time with him, in the coming weeks, just as she knew her dad was, she just hoped Silvie would be okay. If the Centre had done something to her dad, Silvie could snap and run away with Jethro, afraid that something bad would happen to them, too. Debbie just hoped that didn't happen. She wanted to be there for her best friend and her new baby brother as much as she could, and she didn't want her dad to be deprived of seeing his baby growing up as he had been with her. She couldn't think of a worse torture for a parent as to be separated from their child like that, which probably explained why Jarod's parents were so pissed off at the Centre. If it had been her, yeah, she'd be pissed off too!

"How are you?" she asked now.

Silvie offered her a small, tired smile. "I'm okay," she merely said, not trying to hide her tiredness at all. She was also very happy. Happy to have a family and a new baby; her first child.

Debbie smiled at her and took a sip of her coffee. In a couple of minutes, she'd be called back to work and she'd have to hurry off. She enjoyed spending time with her friend and drinking her coffee whilst she could.

.

"So, what's the news on the baby?" Parker asked, leaning over his shoulder and peering at the computer screen. "A boy or a girl?"

"We named him Jethro," Broots replied.

"Mmm. Tasty."

Broots shot her a funny look.

"I'm only kidding!" she laughed. "You must be proud. So, you and Debbie's best friend, huh? Kinda kinky. She's, what, a good two decades your junior? Did I mention 'tasty'?"

Broots sighed. "He's your niece's son, Parker," he said in a low voice. "There's no need to be making distasteful comments."

Parker tossed her chin. "Nah, that creep wasn't my brother. Don't mind the girl, though. Silvie. She's a nice enough girl. Pity 'bout the father, though. You must invite me round one of these days, when mommy and baby get home from hospital. We can all have dinner together. It'll be fabulous!" She grinned and snapped her fingers. "Keep at it!" she told him, and turned on her heel and marched off, out of Tech Space.