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This story is No. 10 in the series "Shadow and Light". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy, Willow, Jarod, Miss Parker, NCIS, Special Agent Seely Booth, and Dr. Temperance Brennan combine forces to bring down a global conspiracy bent on world domination.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Buffy-CenteredphoukaFR18633,85748216,83526 Apr 1228 Sep 13No


Author's Notes: It's occurred to me that with a crossover of this many fandoms, it's probably a good idea to have a list of characters to refer to. After all, you can't tell your players without a program. So here you go:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy Summers, senior Vampire Slayer

Willow Rosenberg, best friend of Buffy, powerful witch

The Pretender

Jarod, the Pretender – really smart guy who can be anybody.

Miss Parker – former baddie who chased Jarod from one end of the Earth to the other. Strongly identifies with Wile E. Coyote.

Dr. Sidney Green – elderly psychologist responsible for raising Jarod and developing his talents. Possibly also helped him escape.

Broots – regular guy with strong computer skills. In any other world, he would be the Alpha Geek. Here's he's got competition.


Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs – former Marine sniper, often inscrutable, intensely loyal, and lives by a fairly inflexible code.

Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo – senior team member under Gibbs, former frat boy, occasional womanizer, and master of film trivia. He is a superlative law enforcement officer.

Special Agent Timothy McGee – the field agent equivalent of Alpha Geek/Smarty Pants. He knows his computer stuff like no one else. Often works with Abby Sciuto to figure out the more esoteric clues the team encounters.

Abby Sciuto – one of the best criminal forensic investigators around. She confounds people's expectations with a crunchy Goth shell, spicy Cajun interior, and squishy heart of gold. Surprisingly able to defend herself when attacked.

Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard – educated in Edinburgh with a professional practice in the military and law enforcement. Ducky is probably Gibbs most trusted friend. He is gentle, eccentric, and extremely insightful.


Special Agent Seely Booth – once an Army Ranger sniper with 50 kills, Booth is a devoutly religious and conscientious man. He often translates the world to his partner, Dr. Brennan, and Dr. Brennan to the rest of the world. Once skeptical of “squints”, Booth is now their strongest proponent.

Dr. Temperance Brennan – the world's foremost forensic anthropologist. Her skill has pulled her away from research to criminal investigation simply because she is that good. She is also cold, abrasive, has difficulty recognizing and understanding others' emotions.

Dr. Camille Saroyan – head of the Jeffersonian's forensic anthropology lab. Cam must balance her teams eccentricities against the demands of the outside world. She is easily the most cosmopolitan of the group.

Dr. Jack Hodgins – on his own, one of the wealthiest individuals in the United States. However, he didn't let that get in the way of pursuing a career as an entomologist with sides of fungus and minerals.

Dr. Lance Sweets – a prodigy who's become one of the FBI's youngest staff psychologists. He works with both to keep Booth and Brennan sane and as the team's source of psychological insight.

Angela Montenegro – once an itinerant artist, brought into the Jeffersonian to do portraiture of deceased victims, now a software whiz who has developed her own 3D visual re-creation program essential to investigations.


“I have never seen so many incredibly sexy men move so much furniture so fast in my entire life,” a woman said.

“I know,” another woman agreed. “It's really kind of . . . inspiring, isn't it?”

It didn't sound like the usual vampire banter. Groggy and trying to figure out exactly how and when she'd been knocked out, Buffy tried to open her eyes.

“Hello.” This was a man's voice, tenor, British, and very pleasant. But not Giles, which was odd. “I do believe she's coming around.”

“Buffy?” That was Jarod.

“Mmwu-whu hapnd?” she managed. “D'I win?”

“Well, you weren't exactly in a fight,” Jarod explained.

She managed to get her eyes open. The lights were dimmed, and there were two men hovering directly over her. One was Jarod. The other had to be the nice British man.

“I'm afraid, my dear, that you fainted,” the nice British man said.

“I did?” She looked at Jarod for confirmation. He nodded in agreement.

Knocked out, killed twice, collapsed from illness, keeled over from exhaustion, drunk, drugged, and comatose from lack of sleep and far too many Cheezy Doodles – all of those were part of her life experience. But fainting?

“Why did I do that?”

“I think maybe we'd better wait until you feel better for the explanation,” Jarod said.

“Yes, we . . . don't want to risk a relapse,” the nice British man added.

Buffy's eyes widened. “Did the world end?”

“No,” Jarod assured her.

“I didn't kill someone, did I?”

“Ah, no,” the nice British man said. “Though your friend apparently was ready to. I'm still not quite sure how she was going to accomplish that.”

“I don't ask,” Jarod said. “Willow's mostly sweet and fluffy, but I understand grizzly bears hide when she gets angry.”

“I admit the resemblance is striking,” a woman further away was saying, “but if this person was killed, why would Miss Summers think Agent Booth was him?”

“You didn't see her face,” a man answered. “I don't know. Maybe she's had people come back from the dead on her before, but she seriously thought I was this guy.”

"Angel?” Buffy gasped, and tried to get up. The room tilted, and both Jarod and the nice British man held her in place.

“It's not Angel,” Jarod told her. “Angel really is dead. I'm so sorry, Buffy. The man you saw is Special Agent Seely Booth. He's in the FBI. He's a member of the team we're putting together.”

“But . . .”

“I know,” Jarod said. “There's a picture of Angel on your phone. Willow showed it to the others. They all agree he's a de- nearly identical.”

“Actually,” the nice British man, “before I saw the photograph, I rather thought he looked like John Wilkes B-”

“Are you feeling better?” one of the women asked, stepping over.

“I guess?” Buffy managed.

“I brought you some juice,” the woman said. She had an odd inflection, flat and brusque. “Syncope associated with an acute stress reaction often causes low blood glucose levels.”

Buffy looked at Jarod for a translation.

“You had a shock. Your blood sugar has probably bottomed out. The juice will help you feel better,” he explained.

“I just said that,” the woman protested.

Jarod looked up at her. “You did, Dr. Brennan, but I've found when working with laypeople, it often helps to alter my language register to a more informal level, even if it means sacrificing some accuracy in terminology. The layperson finds it easier to grasp the concept and is less intimidated.”

Buffy stared at him. Dr. Brennan considered this.

“You may have a point,” she conceded.

Dr. Brennan returned a discussion with several other people wearing the blue jackets of Jeffersonian Institute staff.

“Is she a Vulcan?” Buffy asked.

“No,” Jarod said. “She's Doctor Temperance Brennan.”

“Now then, my dear,” the nice British man said, “why don't we get you to sit up, slowly, so you can enjoy your juice.”

“By the way,” Jarod said, “this is Doctor Donald Mallard. His friends call him Ducky.”

“Up we go,” Ducky said, giving her his arm to pull up on. “My, you have quite a grip.”

“Oh! Sorry.” She adjusted her hold.

Once she was vertical, Ducky gave her the can of juice, which she sipped carefully. Willow came over, her arms wrapped around her. She looked very embarrassed.

“I'll let the two of you chat,” Ducky said, getting up.

“Thank you,” Buffy called. “I liked him.”

“He's very likeable,” Jarod agreed. “Willow?”

Willow took Ducky's seat. Buffy had been lying on a padded bench with the two men on either side of her.

“I can do a quick healing spell,” Willow offered.

Buffy shook her head. “No, not with so many people here. I'm better. Give me another couple of minutes, and I'll -”

She glanced across the room and saw him, standing next to Dr. Brennan and another woman. Her breath caught painfully in her chest. How could it not be him? It even sounded like him.

“It's all right,” Jarod told her. “I have a theory, but I need to do some research to confirm it.”

Gibbs stood and watched the interactions. The Jeffersonian team he got. They'd been together for years – probably as many as his current team – and they'd gone through thick and thin. There was a tight bond between Booth and Brennan, the regard of true partners. The others, Saroyan, Hodgins, Montenegro, and Sweets, were more fluid, but still solid.

Commander Leightner, Jarod, was in love with the Summers girl, not that Gibbs could blame him. Pretty thing, and awake, she was starting to move with a decisive energy. There was something in her gaze, once it was off Agent Booth, that reminded him of Ziva. If he hadn't known better, he'd have thought she'd done at least a couple of combat tours in Afghanistan, but that wasn't in her file.

The redhead, Willow Rosenberg, was a cypher. Abby had talked to her for a few minutes and came back to Gibbs with a short report. “Wow,” was one part of it, and “really freakin' smart,” another, and finally “intense. Don't piss her off, Gibbs,” was the last. Right now, though, Willow looked more embarrassed than anything else. Like Summers, Rosenberg had the look of someone who'd gone through hell. It took a hell of a lot more than a “computer geek and all-round-genius” to rattle the cage of an army Ranger sniper.

Broots reminded him a bit of McGee, if you sucked all the color and fun out of him. Doctor Sidney Green, European but not British, older than Ducky. He studied the people around him – intently, silently. He also kept looking back at Jarod and Parker.

And Parker. He did not like her. Her kind got people killed.

“What do you see, Boss?” Tony murmured, keeping their conversation from being noticed.

“This is more than just a mission,” Gibbs replied softly. “This is personal. Especially for her. Tell Abs I want her digging up everything on Katherine Parker. Ignore the file we were given. If it wasn't manufactured just for this job, I'll go back to Mexico.”

“You got it,” Tony replied.

The lights came back up, and the people near the center began moving things around. Jarod helped Buffy to her feet, and the two of them went over to Finn. There was a short discussion. Jarod put something forward, Finn didn't like it. Both Jarod and Buffy said something. Finn reluctantly agreed. Miss Parker was called over. She listened, and then she shrugged. Either way was fine by her.

“Can we get everyone down here?” Finn called.

The different groups had spread out around the small amphitheater while they waited for Miss Summers to recover. Now they made their way to the front two rows and took seats.

“I want to apologize for the confusion at the start of this,” Finn said. “It's been dealt with, and we need to get back on track. I cannot emphasize this enough – we are dealing with an ambitious group of killers whose goal is nothing less than to undermine as many world governments as it can in order to profit in the wreckage. Now, several of the people here are going to speak about this group, The Centre, not just to fill you in on details but to give you a visceral understanding of what they're capable of. I'll tell you right now – they are amoral, they are vicious, they are well funded, and they are implacable.”

Jarod stepped forward. He had a hand held control he used to dim the lights a bit and bring up the projector.

He paused and flicked through several slides. Each one showed a particular disaster or event. Some of them were small, some had global influence. Nearly all of them were deadly in one way or another. The attack on the US Marines barracks in Beirut, the explosion of Flight 800, an outbreak of SARS in Seattle, Toronto, and Tokyo, a spree killer in Omaha, baby formula in Croatia contaminated with industrial toxins. There were more than twenty events.

“Each one of these,” Jarod explained, “was planned and sometimes executed by The Centre. Sometimes, the plans were commissioned by a client – usually a declared terrorist group. Sometimes, The Centre initiated the event, in order to profit directly or indirectly by it.”

Miss Parker joined him at the front.

“This is not a short-lived conspiracy,” she said, her attention turned toward the group. “The Centre has been operating since before I was born.”

A picture came up of a strikingly beautiful woman. She looked almost exactly like Miss Parker, but the hard edges was softened.

“This is my mother, also named Katherine Parker,” Miss Parker said. “She was . . . involved with several of the higher ups in The Centre, including my father and the man who raised me. She became aware of the ultimate goal of The Centre and one of the projects intended to bring it about. Children – gifted children, children with extraordinarily high IQs or evidence of other remarkable abilities – were being systematically kidnapped. They were then raised under extremely controlled environments and molded so their abilities could be put to The Centre's use. Their families were . . . hunted down and sometimes exterminated.”

Miss Parker paused for a moment, her jaw working.

“My mother did her best to save the children she could, warn the families she could, and sabotage the program. For her efforts, she was killed. I was eight years old at the time, being raised as the daughter of the director of The Centre's North American headquarters. Her death was covered up. I was groomed to take my place at the highest levels of The Centre. And then . . . Jarod happened.”

“Yeah,” Tony muttered to Gibbs, “this is sounding pretty damned personal.”

Dr. Brennan raised her hand.

“Yes, Dr. Brennan,” Jarod called on her.

“You are making some very serious allegations,” Dr. Brennan said. “I've counted a minimum of seven hundred sixty-eight first degree murder charges, multiple conspiracy charges, as well as possible counts of treason, and that's not counting the kidnapping charges Miss Parker mentioned. I'm sure you're familiar with the dictum that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Can you back up your claims?”

“I can,” Jarod said. “And the first thing I'm going to do to back up these claims is tell you that I have lied to you.”

A hush fell over the group.

“Here we go,” Gibbs said.

Jarod carefully removed his uniform coat, folded it and set it aside. “The truth is that my name is not Commander Jarod Leightner. I'm not a naval officer. I am a Pretender. I was one of the children kidnapped so many years ago. I have an eidetic memory, my IQ measures greater than 170, and I have the ability to become any person, living or dead, that has ever existed. I can step into the shoes of a President or a cleaning woman. I have become an FBI agent, a Coast Guard officer, a test pilot, a bus driver, a trauma surgeon. Before you leave here today, I'll have a list of the names I've used over the last ten years – since the day I escaped from The Centre. You'll be able to research my life during that time and draw your own conclusions. I don't expect you to believe me right now. I am asking that you hear me out, look at the evidence, and make up your mind from there.”

Riley Finn came back to the center.

“What Jarod has is true,” Riley said. “I've worked with him before on two separate occasions. Once when he was satellite technician with the CIA and the other time when he was a Secret Service agent with duties protecting a Ruritanian envoy.”

“These,” and Jarod held up a thumb drive, “contain copies of all the documentation I've done over the years. The originals – these red notebooks – are available for your forensics teams to verify their authenticity. This device,” and he indicated a briefcase size piece of hardware, “is a playback system for digital records of my upbringing, training, and the projects I completed before I escaped. I've included all the discs I was able to bring with me. They're also at your disposal.”

“Kind of old school,” Abby muttered. “I mean, for a take-over-the-world conspiracy.”

Jarod looked directly up at her. “The technology is nearly forty years old, Miss Sciuto, and it's only now been surpassed by commercially available hardware. The records it can access are irreplaceable. I'm sure you'll take good care of them.”

Abby slid down in her chair like an embarrassed high school student.

“I escaped from The Centre nearly ten years ago,” Jarod continued. “And when I say escaped, I mean exactly that. I was raised in the equivalent of a prison laboratory. When I discovered that the work I had done was being turned to evil, I used my abilities to finding The Centre's weaknesses, stole whatever documentation I could, sabotaged anything else I could get my hands on, and ran away. Since then, I've been searching for the family I was stolen from. I have seen my mother and sister from a distance. I've met my father and helped rescue a younger brother from The Centre. I had another brother, but . . .”

Here, Jarod paused, and his jaw tightened. He swallowed hard before continuing.

“Kyle was killed.” He paused again. “The Centre turned my work from ideas that saved lives into designs that took them. The past ten years of my life, I've done four things – keep The Centre from killing more people, redeem my work, find my family, and stay at least a step ahead of the team Miss Parker led to capture me.”

Miss Parker stepped forward again.

“The records Jarod is providing you with will prove his case. The ones I'm giving up will help you dismantle The Centre. The hierarchy is run by the kind of amoral bastards that would give the Borgias pause. It may also be just as incestuous. I've outlined the leadership and history the best I can with profiles of the major leaders. What I learned is why I'm here and why I want The Centre torn down and the earth it stood on sown with salt.”

A long pause followed as their audience absorbed what they'd delivered.

Agent Booth was the first one to speak up. “How is it, in all these years, there is no mention, no record, no action, no nothing concerning The Centre? I mean, come on, there is no such thing as a watertight conspiracy. Someone always talks. Someone always messes up.”

Agent Finn fielded the comment.

“There are records, Agent Booth. From my research, there are incomplete investigatory statements implicating The Centre going back to before World War I. Even then, a coherent picture of the organization was nearly impossible to put together because so many mid- and upper-level law enforcement and government officials had been compromised by The Centre.

“At this point,” he continued, “we've accumulated a substantial amount of information, but until Jarod and Miss Parker came to us, it was nebulous at best. Those records were held as top secret, sensitive compartmented information, and very, very few individuals were given access. The previous code name for this topic was “Wyvern”. We have reason to believe that The Centre is aware of it and the security has been compromised, which is why we're creating this new initiative.”

Riley scanned the group before settling on one particular member.

“Doctor Hodgins.”

The nebbish scientist sitting next to Dr. Brennan looked up from his notes.


“Your file shows what some agents consider a paranoid obsession with government or organization intrusion on private life. You take what some consider extreme measures to preserve your own privacy, and you're often the first to question government motivation. You've been described as cynical, paranoid, defiant, and unwilling to accept conventional authority.”

“Yeah, and?” Hodgins demanded.

“That's why I'm making you the information security officer for this project,” Riley told him. “No one outside this group will know anything about what we're doing until it's all over. That means physical security of all evidence, including what Jarod and Miss Parker have given us. That means computer security. That means individual security. Put your paranoia to use, Dr. Hodgins. Whatever you say is necessary, that's what we'll do.”

Dr. Hodgins stared at him, horrified.

“I'm a bug guy,” he insisted. “I take scrapings of mold. I hatch fly larvae.”

“You're also one of the richest individuals in the United States, and you have an excellent grasp of what covert organizations are capable of. As an entomologist, you're about as far down on The Centre's list of people to be on the lookout for as you can be. I'm using that to my advantage.”

“Oh, fuck me,” Hodgins muttered, putting his head in his hands.

Angela patted him on the shoulder. “Look at it this way, honey. Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean you weren't right.”

“The mission codename has been changed,” Agent Finn resumed. “It is strictly need to know, and there will be compartmentalizations within the group as a whole, the teams, and by individuals. It's one of the reasons you were asked to participate. I need to know that when your partner says 'jump', you trust him or her enough to jump, no matter how strange it may seem.

“The codename is Carthis,” Finn told them. “It's off the books. Your superiors are aware that you've been assigned to duties deemed necessary by the United States government. Anything you need, let me know.”

Both Jarod and Miss Parker jerked in surprise when he said Carthis.

“We're signing up for a black ops mission?” Doctor Saroyan asked, incredulously.

“You have twenty-four hours to review the evidence provided by Jarod and Miss Parker,” Finn told her. “At that point, you're in or you're out. My hope is that once you understand the gravity of the situation, you'll say yes.”

Hodgins leaned forward. “So, we look at all this stuff, learn all about Carthis, we say no, and you just let us . . . walk away? How are you going to guarantee we don't talk about this?”

Riley leaned against the table in the front and crossed his arms. “Doctor Hodgins, I've read exhaustive psychological profiles and histories of every single person in this room, and I've reviewed the cases you've worked on, interviews with the people you've helped, and your behavior in situations like . . . being buried in car with a limited amount of oxygen while a serial killer taunted your friends.

“Anyone,” Riley emphasised, “can be broken. But not everyone can be turned. Just being here today puts you at risk should The Centre ever learn of Carthis. I make sure they never get their hands on you, but I also know – I trust – that you're not going to do anything that might aid The Centre. You wouldn't be here if I thought you might.”

Hodgins shut up and let Angela hold his hand.

“Mission timeline begins here and now. Twenty-four hours for your forensics and psychology personnel to review all the pertinent evidence and report conclusions to team leaders. Then each of you decides “go” or “no go”. Once membership has been established, mission teams will be created and will coordinate on all aspects of the mission. The immediate goals are as follows: locate and take into protective custody all members of Jarod's family, draw the triumvirate of The Centre to the North American headquarters, infiltrate the headquarters, and arrest the top and mid-level executives, disrupting their chain of command. If we can pull it off, we have commitments from eighty of the ninety compromised countries to follow up with arrests of Centre operatives on their soil.”

“What about intermediate goals?” Gibbs called.

“Rounding up the stragglers and making sure anything we charge The Centre with sticks. I want to lock them up in a room and throw away the room.”

“And long term?” Willow asked.

Riley gave her an even stare. “We have indications of potential large-scale future events with significant consequences for the United States and the global population. One of my jobs is to ensure there are inter-agency ties, relationships we can draw on when the shit hits the fan. Relationships which are not obvious to an external observer, relationships which will survive the possible destruction of large segments of the federal government.”

Someone gave a low whistle.

“That is probably the most vague yet frightening bureaucratic statement I have ever heard,” Dr. Saroyan said. “And I've heard a lot of them.”

“It's certainly open to a great deal of interpretation,” Dr. Brennan said. “Can you be more specific, Agent Riley?”

“Not at this time,” he replied.

“I knew this was going to be trouble,” Gibbs muttered to himself.

“Dr. Hodgins, Miss Sciuto – you are the forensics experts. I leave it to you to determine the validity of the evidence. I'd like you to present your findings to the rest of the group in twenty-four hours. Doctors Mallard, Sweets, and Green, I'd like you to review as much of the documentation that you can in order to draw up preliminary profiles of Centre leadership. Everyone else, relax, get to know each other. We're here for the rest of the day. Lunch and dinner will be catered.”

The group began to gather their things. Abby dashed down to the table where the boxes of evidence were stacked and started to reach into a box. Her hand was intercepted by Hodgins.

“Whoa, whoa,” he said. “Sorry, Miss Sciuto. No touchy stuff until we've got it in a secure environment.”

She shrugged and withdrew her hand. “Fine. Give me five minutes to load it up, another thirty to get it to my lab, and-”

“Uh uh,” Hodgins said, shaking his head. “It stays here at the Jeffersonian. Least amount of movement possible, least amount of handling, smallest chance of bad things happening.”

“Yeah, but everything I need is at my lab,” Abby insisted. She stood half a head taller than Hodgins and glared down at him, but he just looked back up, neither shaken nor bothered.

“The Jeffersonian's forensic anthropology lab has all the cutting-edge, top of the line equipment you could possibly want and some you've probably never even heard about. I promise, I'll give you the tour and set you loose.”

Abby set her jaw. “You have a forensics facility geared towards research,” she said, gesturing that she was picking up his little lab and putting it in a box of its own. "I have a criminal forensics lab geared to solving crimes.” She gestured, putting her own lab in different box.

“We solve crimes all the time, Miss Sciuto,” Dr. Brennan said, joining the discussion. “I think that our lab will meet all your needs. I'll ensure that every resource there is at your disposal. I think you'll find, for instance, that Miss Montenegro's skill at graphics manipulation as applied towards crime scene recreation is unparalleled.”

Abby glared at her. “Gibbs!”

Special Agent Gibbs stepped over. He nodded at Doctors Brennan and Hodgins.

“They won't let me do stuff at my place!” she complained. “I could totally connect both labs asynchronously so nobody misses anything.”

“You want to network video and data on a top secret project?” Hodgins asked, raising his eyebrows.

Abby tilted her head a little to the side, and her eyebrows drew together in the beginning of a rare Abby fit. “I'll put my encryption up against anything you, the Chinese, or The Centre have any day of the week.”

“And the terabytes of super-encrypted data over a secure government network won't attract any attention,” Hodgins snarked. “You can encrypt a riddle inside an enigma inside a puzzle, and I'll give you a standing ovation, but right now, encryption doesn't matter. Not getting noticed does. Stuff stays here.”

“Gibbs!” Abby pleaded.

“He's right,” Gibbs said. “You never put a sniper in a spot that looks like a good place to put a sniper. You put him where no one would ever expect a sniper, and then, the sniper stays still and shuts up.”

Abby growled and stomped her foot.

“Would you take Special Agent McGee with her?” Gibbs asked. “He's a . . . computer guy. Abby will vouch for him.”

“Sure.” Hodgins shrugged. “No problem.”

“And keep her supplied with Caf-Pow, if you know what's good for you,” Gibbs added before leaving.

Abby glared at Hodgins. “You're probably going to tell me to dress all business casual like some office drone.”

Hodgins widened his eyes and shook his head, innocent as a lamb. “Oh, no. Believe me, you'll totally blend in.”

Both Jarod and Miss Parker cornered Finn before he could get far. Buffy joined them.

“What the hell was that?” Miss Parker demanded. “Carthis?”

“Agent Finn, I think you should explain how you came up with that codename,” Jarod said.

Riley frowned. "All operation names are chosen randomly by a computer system. Carthis is a nearly uninhabited island in the Mediterranean with some poorly documented archeology sites. It's got nothing to do with this."

"Carthis is the island my father died at," Miss Parker spat.

"What?!" Riley demanded.

"Both Miss Parker and I went there in search of a set of scrolls," Jarod told him. "These scrolls were supposed to give the complete history of The Centre from founding through the end of the eighteenth century, and there were hints that it predicted events within The Centre itself, including me."

"Have you seen these scrolls?" Riley asked.

"We both have," Jarod said. "I glanced through them but didn't have enough time to really study what they said. Some of it made no sense at all. I was capture by The Centre - by Miss Parker, her father, and Mr. Raines. Just after the plane to take me back to The Centre lifted off, I . . . goaded Mr. Parker into looking at the scrolls. He must have understood better than me what they were talking about, because he took them and jumped from the plane without a parachute."

"Are you . . ." Riley stopped himself from finishing the question. Their expressions were dead serious. There was no humor in them.

"There are a handful of CIA listening posts around Carthis," Jarod said.

"You are not supposed to know that," Riley snapped.

"There are a lot of things I'm not supposed to know about," Jarod answered, bitterly. "By the time I was able to even consider getting back there, it was long after any evidence would have vanished, but those posts might have something in their records."

"It's a coincidence," Riley said.

"Riley, seriously?" Buffy asked. "You ought to know by now that there's no such thing as a coincidence in our world. There's a reason that computer system pulled up Carthis."

"I haven't shared your world in years," Riley answered her. "And mine has enough shadows in it as it is - terrorist cells, assassins, conspiracies. I do not need to be haring off after some sort of phantom."

"Check with the listening posts," Jarod repeated. "I'll give you the dates, the coordinates, and the likely areas the currents and tides would have carried the scrolls and Mr. Parker."

Cursing under his breath, Riley copied down the information Jarod gave him and disappeared. It took nearly an hour, and when he returned, he was much paler.

"Two weeks after the date you gave me," Riley said without preamble, "a fishing boat found the remains of a man tangled in a net in the area you described. A set of scrolls, badly damaged by exposure to the elements were found on a beach, three miles south of the airport your plane left from. Both of these were sent here. The scroll is currently a project of Angela Montenegro's - low priority since there's no indication they're of historical value. The remains were reviewed and catalogued. Isotope studies showed the subject was probably an American with an extensive history near Delaware, but no dental records or other matches could be found. The remains are stored here in a facility some of the staff calls Purgatory. I've already informed Doctor Brennan, Agent Booth, and Miss Montenegro. We'll meet them in the media lab."
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