Darren headed to Joshua Lords’ hilltop mansion on his way to work that night. As he rode the Tube to Oasis Springs, he thought about Skylar’s behaviour and tried to make sense of it all. He was unable to unravel her mysterious disappearance, but the psychological impact of it was beginning to vex him.
After pounding on the door, Joshua called him inside. “Whoa, what’s up?” he questioned as soon as he got one look at Darren’s face. “Have you had a slip or something?”
“No, it isn’t that,” Darren replied, “at least I don’t think so. A slip happens in your memory–something you notice after the fact–not something happening in the here and now, right?” Darren wondered as he walked around and sat down next to Joshua on the sofa.
Joshua was nodding, and preparing to answer Darren’s question when Darren blurted out, “Skylar’s gone missing!”
“What, are you certain?” Joshua asked.
“It hasn’t actually been twenty-four hours yet, but I’m definitely certain there’s no way she’d walk out on a helpless baby, let alone Jack and Iris!” Darren went on to explain the entire episode in the morning as well, when she kicked him out of the house. “Now I’ve got Daria babysitting because I’m also certain Skylar isn’t coming back tonight. Beyond that, I haven’t got a clue.”
Joshua rose up and said, “That’s my job, and I promise I’ll get to the bottom of this. I’ll start probing the Database right away.”
Darren fell silent once his concerns had been turned over, and Joshua saw his friend’s facial expression switch from fired up to downtrodden in a split second. He knew he needed to change the subject, so he said, “In other news, I gained access to Lily’s medical records.”
“Huh?” Darren looked up and his eyes said it all: he wouldn’t be able to cope with any additional bad news.
“Lily Randall is a true Randall in every way,” Joshua confirmed.
“Oh, my little Lilybug is mine!” he cheered.
“Yes! Congratulations,” Joshua said with a big grin, enjoying the brightness of his friend’s joy. “I’m so glad I was able to bring you some good news on that front, and I’ll investigate every aspect of Skylar’s life so I can bring you more good news.”
Joshua raised his fist to defy whatever their enemy was, but Darren couldn’t muster any will to fight. His eyes filled with tears and he said, “What if my kids grow up without their mother?”
“Darren, don’t give up hope,” Joshua tried to soothe him. “We don’t know the Watcher’s plan, but the Watcher has no desire to see you suffer.”
“Oh, stop it about the Watcher!” Darren grumbled as he wiped his tears. “I believe in what I can see, and you know the stuff we’ve seen is weird enough!”
“The Watcher has gotten us this far,” Joshua reminded Darren as he got up to leave.
Darren went to work and Joshua started poking around in the Intelligence Database immediately. He was also on child care duty because Clara had proudly returned to work as a technical support agent at AzureCom Industries, but he couldn’t avoid worrying about her working so late.
After getting the baby to sleep, Joshua freshened up and waited at the front of the house for Clara. He also tried to spy anything unusual about the vacant house across the street, where he’d had his strange slip memory.
“Joshua, what are you doing out here?” Clara asked when she walked up the hill from the Tube platform.
“I was just looking out for you,” he answered. “I was worried.”
“Oh, Sweetness! There’s no need to worry about me, my beloved,” she told him as she embraced him lovingly.
“The only thing you might need to worry about, Sweetness, is whether we’re going to need to prepare another baby’s room.”
With that, Clara walked toward the house, leaving Joshua stunned.
“Did she just hint that she might be pregnant again?” he thought. He turned and followed her into the house.
“Another baby,” he continued to ponder, and he was torn. On one hand, he wanted another baby or several more babies, if Clara wouldn’t mind it, but now there was even more at stake! He couldn’t help but fear for his wife while another wife and mother was missing, not to mention the risk of timeline corruption.
Joshua called Clara into his office after she got freshened up. “I told you I would tell you everything,” he said, “and there’s way too much to tell all at once. It wouldn’t even be good for you to tell you all at once, anyways. But it’s time that I show you how to access the Database…”
“I completely understand,” Clara said, though she couldn’t hide her excitement that she’d finally be able to learn how to access the real data she’d been aching to get a look at!
“Okay, so first you run this app here called ‘Brother’s Keeper’ which I did not make, by the way,” Joshua explained. “It was created by my brother, and he used it against me but that’s a story for another day. So anyways, you run ‘Brother’s Keeper’ and it opens a browser with the Pen Pal website.”
“So that’s it, you’re just going to skip over an obviously fascinating story about your brother?” Clara questioned him playfully.
“Are you going to tell me the results of the pregnancy test?” Joshua countered her question. She shook her head to decline, and he continued explaining the process. “Okay, so once you’re on the Pen Pal network, you click on any one of these people listed here, and it masks your activity; just in case you mess up. Now minimize that and click on the UIA app that I did make,” he sounded very proud at that moment.
As boxes started popping up on the screen, Clara could see he’d just hacked into the Database. “Wow! So that’s it? Now you’re hacking the UIA Database as if you were that random person you selected on the Pen Pal site?”
Joshua nodded, “Yeah, and I really need you to help me search through this data. Darren’s wife has gone missing, and there’s information in here somewhere that will help us bring her home safely.”
“Wow, yes, of course I’ll help you!” Clara was thrilled to be invited to participate in an important investigation, and the opportunity to use her skills to help save someone was a dream come true for her. Joshua thanked her and when he started making copies of files, she suggested, “If it would help, I could obtain some old hard drives from work and we can grab all the available data.”
“That would be incredibly helpful,” Joshua replied. “Also, please do not misinterpret my interest in this case as any lack of excitement about our unborn child. I am absolutely thrilled about that, but I need to find Skylar.”
“How could you tell?” Clara asked.
Joshua winked at her in a flirty way, then went back to his hacking.