Table of Contents [Report This]
I'm feeling so confused today.
It seems they've changed the rules again.
’Cause in my life I'm trying hard
To do it all so I can remain
Healthy and sane.
I'll live forever, always one more tomorrow.
Living forever, always one more tomorrow.
Heard it on the radio.
Too much of what they said wasn't so.
And now we've got to do those things
That they thought before were so wrong
To be healthy and strong.
And live forever, always one more tomorrow.
Living forever, always one more tomorrow.
I know we don't need you.
I know we don't believe you.
You don't really have the answer.
You think you know better.
You think it really matters.
You just want to rule over everybody’s lives.
I think I'll change my life today.
Gone are the times of taking care.
And I don't need a reason why.
All I need is all in a day
Survive in a way.
Or just till tomorrow, always one more tomorrow.
Living forever, do you really want to live forever.
Jarod pulled on the breathing apparatus and security equipment and tightened it around him. His fingers shook slightly in the tense few seconds that he had before the search team was due to enter the building and look for the two children left after the explosion. His hair stuck out at all angles from under the helmet and he impatiently smoothed it so that the breathing mask could fit over it and settle tightly over his mouth and nose. There was no knowing what gasses might have been released and, despite Jarod’s impatience to get in and find the victims, he understood the captain’s determination that the team be protected. Finally, along with the others, he was ready.
The dust was still hovering in the air and was circulated by a draft that blew in. Through the earphone he wore, Jarod could hear the instructions given by his superior.
"Split up and search."
That was fine by him. He always preferred to work on his own anyway. He settled a rope tightly into his harness and gingerly made his way through the debris, feeling all the time with a long stick he carried to make sure that the ground was secure. The darkness increased with every step and Jarod was grateful for the strong beam of light that shone from the lamp he carried.
Then, before he could fully understand, the rod appeared to stick in the ground. Looking down, he saw a whiteness, strange in the darkness, reflecting the light from his torch. He bent down and began gently moving the smaller pieces of debris, first away from the hand, then the arm and chest and gradually the head. Dirt covered the face and he brushed it gently away with his gloved hands, forgetting about the need for radio contact in his concern. As he looked, the eyelids quivered and, slowly opened. They blinked several times, clearing the dust away.
"Hi." Jarod’s voice was muffled through the mask but still audible. "My name’s Jarod. You’re going to be fine."
"My sister..." the voice was faint. "She’s beside me."
"I’ll find her," Jarod promised. He cleared a little more debris from both right and left and then, behind a small wall of debris that prevented the girl from seeing what he was doing, he found the second child.
Her eyes were open, but there was no life in them. Her mouth, too, hung open and it was full of dust and dirt. It was impossible to tell whether she had died during or after the collapse. Jarod’s eyes filled with tears, which he brushed away with an impatient hand. It was hard to be too late in a situation where lives were at stake. He made a call on the radio, finally announcing his position and the knowledge that he had found their target. As he did so, however, the other girl pulled herself up and, leaning against the wall, began to cough the dust out of her lungs. At that instant Jarod felt the building tremble and he twisted sideways and pulled the surviving girl to the ground underneath him, even as the walls tumbled in on them both.
The second movement of the old structure startled those outside as much as the people still trying to reach Jarod on the inside. Meanwhile Jarod pushed against the rubble that now lay on top of him, straining to move it aside. All he managed to do was to take some of his weight off the girl’s chest, allowing her space to breathe. He took the mask off his own face, after taking one long, deep breath, and put it on hers. She couldn’t move, her arms being trapped under the debris, but Jarod was relieved when she opened her eyes. The shock was evident in them and he tried to work out how to relieve it without being able to offer her either warmth or comfort. There was no knowing when they would get out of their current situation.
Gradually, though, the girl’s breaths became shallower. Even as he urged her to keep awake, her eyes were closing. With one final effort she forced them open and looked at him. "She died, didn’t she? I know she did. She was my twin. I could always feel her. But I can’t feel her any more."
Even as Jarod made encouraging noises and tried to convince her to keep talking to him, her eyes took on the same expression of her sister’s, rolling back in her head, and with a final sigh she stopped breathing.
Jarod pounded on her chest, restricted by the space in which the were trapped, and took a deep breath from the oxygen tank before blowing it into her lungs. Even as he took his mouth away, a cloud of dust came from between her lips. Jarod tried, pounding frantically and blowing precious oxygen from the tank until the breath coming from the girl was clear of dust and his own head was spinning. He failed to notice the sounds from above him and even when the structure was lifted from his shoulders, he still fought to try and bring her back. When someone placed a hand on his shoulder, he impatiently pulled out from under it and, in a futile manner, kept trying to make the dead live again.
"Jarod, no. She’s gone."
Two strong arms lifted him off and held him back as he struggled against them. Jarod momentarily stopped struggling, hoping that the man taking his position would try to keep up the fight, but instead the hardened searcher shook his head in sorrow and, with a gentle hand, brought the lids down over eyes that would never look out onto the world again.
"Where’s the other one?"
Jarod numbly indicated with a wave of his hand and the removal of debris soon uncovered the second figure, still caught in the instant that had torn her away from life.
"Come on, let’s get out of here before something else gives." The group turned soberly away from the scene, leaving both bodies for removal by the proper people later, when the building was more secure.
Jarod was the last to get out, not wanting to leave the place where he had, for the first time since escaping the Centre, failed at what he had set out to do. He lifted his eyes from the ground and focused on a dark-haired woman fighting against the arms of a man that Jarod figured was her husband. Even as he watched, the leader of the rescue group walked over to her and the few words he spoke made her collapse, weeping, into the arms of the man, down whose face tears also poured. Then he could make out the words the man was saying. Thank you. He was thanking people for failing to do what they had set out for.
Suddenly Jarod wanted to scream and the thoughts bounced around inside his head until he felt the vicious throbbing clearly across his forehead. It wasn’t right that we should be thanked, his brain screamed. We failed, remember? We didn’t do what we went in there to do. They still died. We couldn’t save them. We were meant to, but we didn’t. How can you thank us when we failed? He turned away, his heart aching at the pain of loss and failure.
The leader of the team came across and spoke a few words but Jarod was unable either to comprehend their meaning or to think of a reasonable reply. His head spun and a high-pitched whining filled his brain and drowned out all other messages.
The words, unspoken and yet still audible, echoed in his head.
‘You failed. They both died and you couldn’t save them. You failed. You are a failure.’
The phrase hit him with almost physical force and it was only by a miracle that he stayed on his feet. He felt as though someone had struck him, even as the phrase was repeated over and over, burning itself into his brain. He tried to deny it to himself, to say that one lack of success did not constitute failure, but the same voice, echoing in his head, restated the same words, eventually forcing him to concede that he had, indeed, failed.
Returning to his lair that night, to the neatly laid out red notebook and the packed bags, all ready for his flight into the unknown and the next pretend, it all seemed pointless to him now. Why not stay and just wait for them to come and get him? What was the use of him being out in the world, when he couldn’t even help the people in it? Was it, after all, better that he went back to the Centre? There, at least, he had always managed to do what they had asked of him. What use was it to be out in the world, if he couldn’t be a success at what he wanted to accomplish? His computer, the only item in the room not ready for instant departure, beeped, alerting him to a new message. He stared blankly at the machine for a few seconds, unable to get beyond the mantra that was now being regularly repeated. You are a failure. You have failed. Finally he dragged himself to his feet and moved over to the computer where the screen flashed twice as he activated the inbox. A message appeared, a familiar one with familiar origins and only habit made Jarod open it.
The words took time to become established in his mind and the single phrase was almost beyond understanding. They’re coming. Angelo had sent the message, expecting Jarod to respond to it but the pretender only sat, staring at the black letters against the white screen. Even the sounds of screeching brakes and slamming doors wasn’t enough to prompt him into more than closing down the computer and packing it into his bag. Voices came up on the wind from the ground floor as a methodical search was begun and the reaction of various occupants, in the form of screaming and yells of protest were clear to Jarod, as he sat in the small, dark room.
It was instinct that took over and forced him to pick up the bags. Only instinct, formed over the years and activated at the sound of Miss Parker’s voice, which prompted him to take up his bags and finally flee from the room. His escape plan was simple - up the fire escape and over the adjoining roofs. Then down another fire escape and into a taxi. Only a few minutes and he was gone. An empty room, containing only a red notebook and a pile of dust was all Miss Parker found when she burst, unannounced, through the door.
Jarod flicked on the small radio and looked in a hunted manner around the tiny room. It was now almost six months and he rarely left the room, only tidying himself up once every few weeks to go shopping for food, despite the fact that he hardly ate and was also badly dehydrated. He was thinner, the bones protruding from his face and his ribs obvious under his shirt. But Jarod never looked in a mirror anymore. In fact he never did much of anything anymore. Just sat and stared out of the window, hearing the same words repeating themselves over in a continuous stream. After only a few weeks he had begun to believe them and now, even after all that time, he saw himself as nothing else. Even the least well-trained psychiatrist would have had no trouble diagnosing deep depression and the wonder was that he was still alive.
Not that Jarod felt alive. Days passed and the sun rose and fell without him being consciously aware of it. There was no way to undo it, to overcome the feeling that someone had died because he had not done enough. For a time, with the scene constantly replaying in his mind, he tried to find another answer, another way out. Even the most incredulous solutions seemed now to be practical alternatives to the action he’d taken. If only he’d called out his position earlier, if only he’d stayed and protected the girl instead of going to look for her sister, if only he’d kept trying to resuscitate her...The many possibilities swum in his head and he relived the scenario a hundred times in every twenty-four hour period. He almost never slept, sitting up in a chair and staring out through the window to the gray brick wall that stood opposite. When he did sleep, his brain twisted his earlier, successful pretends and presented to him the other alternative.
The bad one.
The clothes he wore were the ones that he had been attired in during the rescue and he had never bothered to unpack, leaving his bags piled up in a corner of the room. The t-shirt he wore had deeply ingrained folds, caked with dust and dirt. The collar stood stiffly all the way around the neck, caused by the fact that Jarod spent most of the day sweating profusely as he recalled vividly the events which had occurred weeks earlier. The jeans, too, were stiff with constant wear and Jarod spent most days barefoot. There was no mattress on the bed but on the odd occasions that he got out of the chair and lay on the hard boards, he hardly noticed it. The voice in his head changed in volume but never in tone. What terrified him most was that he recognized the tones and the voice. No matter how hard he tried, though, he could never remember Raines using those words to him. It was frustrating but with the words repeating themselves constantly and numbing his brain to all other attempts at thought, he had no way of trying to recall when and where those sentences had ever been uttered.
His chest rattled with every breath he took, pneumonia having resulted from the lack of movement. It left him feverish and weak, given to almost constant delirium and it was fortunate that he had no neighbor, because they would have been disturbed by his almost constant cries of anguish. His rent was paid regularly out of Centre funds and the building had been classified as dangerous, meaning that no one ever came near. Jarod, therefore, had the time and solitude to let his actions prey on him, until they produced the state of half-madness into which he had now sunk. As well as the pneumonia, which made his eyes glitter with fever and brought a brilliant flush to his cheeks, both of his eyes were slightly infected and produced a regular stream of discharge. Open sores on parts of his body were due to the contact of his bones on furniture and, due to neglect, many were infected. Finally Jarod’s hair was a knotted and tangled mess and stood on end.
He sat, curled up in a chair, and shivered in the weak evening sunshine that shone through dirty windowpanes. Even a loud cracking from the front of the building caused no reaction, his thoughts having made him immune to anything happening around him. A few moments later a voice could be heard, familiar tones calling his name and creating an echo within the ramshackle structure. Finally the door to his room was opened and the white-haired figure stood in the doorway. There was a long pause, during which time Sydney stared at Jarod as though unable to believe his eyes. Taking a firmer grip on himself, he strode into the room and sat down on the bed. Another figure that had been standing behind Sydney took up a spot in the doorway.
Jarod never looked up, the fever making him shake even more violently and his mouth began again to move, saying the familiar mantra repeatedly, but without sound.
Sydney leaned over and placed one hand on Jarod’s shoulder. Feeling the heat that was coming off him in waves, Sydney picked up a rug which lay on the end of the bed and, after a shake which removed the dust and set the other figure in the doorway coughing violently, he placed the rug around Jarod’s shoulders. The man didn’t move, and his eyes stared blankly out of the window, sometimes rolling away to one side and occasionally darting sharply to the right or left but always brought back to the front again, although it was obvious that they saw nothing.
"Broots, bring that bag over here."
The technician crept over with the big, heavy bag. "But, how did you know Syd? How did you know he’d be like… be sick?"
"I didn’t." The psychiatrist sighed deeply and shook his head. "But it wasn’t like Jarod not to get in touch, no matter what happened. There had to be something seriously wrong."
Sydney opened the cupboard that stood in the room and, with Broots’ help, pulled out a mattress and quickly made up the bed. Everything was there and it was obvious that the room had once been lived in but a glance at the pretender showed Sydney that Jarod had not been the one using the bed linen. Moving over, he and Broots pulled Jarod out of the chair and, despite the fact that he fought them vigorously, got him to sit down on the bed. The half-crazed man slid backwards into a corner and curled up in it, rocking gently backwards and forwards and, as his mouth continued to silently chant the mantra, his eyes looked straight past them. Sydney reached into the bag and drew out a small syringe and a glass phial.
"You’re going to sedate him?"
"Do you have a better idea?"
Sydney leaned forward and, finding a vein, inserted the contents of the injection. Stepping back, he watched as the medication took effect. Slowly Jarod’s mouth stopped moving and, as his eyes slid shut, he slumped into the corner and his head fell forward. The other two men shifted his body around until he was lying properly on the bed and then covered him with the blankets.
Finally Sydney stood back and inhaled deeply. Then he reached into the bag again and, after a moment, injected a second substance into the sleeping form.
"Broad-spectrum antibiotics. I don’t know exactly what’s got hold of him but they can only help."
"What do you think, Syd? Is he going to make it?"
The psychiatrist looked up at Broots with a touch of amusement in his face. "Considering that I haven’t properly examined him yet, I’d say it’s probably a little early to tell, wouldn’t you? But I’d say, looking at him, that the main problems are malnutrition, dehydration, an eye infection and these sores. Look," Sydney drew out a pad of paper and a pen from his pocket and wrote down several items. "I saw a hospital supply shop near here that was still open when we passed. Try and get everything on that list for me - oh, and use the Centre card. We’ll also need some more food. There’s not much here," Sydney’s eyes traveled to a bowl on the table, in which lay a rotting banana and something that probably once would have been called a pear, "and what is here isn’t fit to eat."
Two hours later Sydney was watching when the sedative began to wear off. Jarod’s mouth began to move, repeating the same phrases he had been saying when Sydney had first entered the room. Wheezing from his chest also became more audible. The psychiatrist moved over and placing one hand on his shoulder, shook the younger man gently.
"Jarod. Jarod, wake up. Look at me."
The dark lashes trembled once and then lifted, blinking slightly in the light from the overhead globe. Sydney moved slightly so that his head blocked the brightness and smiled.
"How are you feeling?"
Jarod looked at him and then turned his head away.
"What is it? Can’t you at least talk to me?" Sydney sat down gingerly on the edge of the bed. "Please, tell me what’s happened. I can’t help you unless you tell me."
Jarod’s eyes turned around and focused on the psychiatrist before he looked away again but that one look gave Sydney the hint of an idea.
"Jarod, this isn’t the Centre. This is an abandoned building that you’ve apparently been living in for nearly six weeks. Do you remember?"
"Yes." The word was little more than a whisper, but Sydney heard it. " I remember."
"I know you’re feeling awful, but I’m going to give you something to improve it."
Jarod still had his head turned away from Sydney as the doctor filled another syringe and quickly injected first a sedative and then another dose of antibiotics. These were a little more specific, designed to combat both the pneumonia and the infections from the various sores. As he finished this, Broots returned.
Two hours later a drip was set up to try and rehydrate Jarod’s ravaged body and various pieces of equipment were being used to try and take weight off the various open wounds. The small kitchen was also fairly well stocked with food and two other beds had been set up. Finally the men had a chance to talk.
"So, what’s wrong, exactly?"
"As I said before, he’s dehydrated and suffering malnutrition. He’s also got a large number of pressure sores, a raging eye infection and a good bout of pneumonia. But there’s something else. Something deeper that’s allowed him to let himself go like that. You know Jarod almost as well as I do now. Tell me, do you think he’s likely to neglect himself?"
"I… I guess not. No."
Sydney, during Broots’ absence, had begun to organize some of Jarod’s things. Now he pulled the computer towards the technician. "Can you access that for me? I want to see if there’s any hints at all to why this might have happened."
While Broots worked away at the computer, Sydney began to trim the ends of Jarod’s hair, removing much of the matted mess and eventually managing to make it smoother. He also combed water and then soap through it in an attempt to remove the built-up oil and dirt. The two men finished their respective tasks in much the same time.
"This might be something." Broots handed a cutout newspaper article to the psychiatrist and Sydney, reading it quickly, nodded thoughtfully.
"See if you can find out anything about these two girls - if anything happened that they might have been involved in: an accident, anything. If Jarod kept that then it must have meant something to him."
About twenty minutes later, Broots looked up. "Shouldn’t we...I mean, what’s Miss Parker going to say about all of this?"
"I don’t understand."
"Well, there’s always been this bond between them and I thought..."
Sydney tried to smile. "You make it sound like they’re destined for each other. Miss Parker’s main aim would be to take Jarod back to the Centre - and in this condition he wouldn’t be able to fight. Raines would destroy him before he had a chance to recover."
Sydney stared out of the window and into the darkness. One solitary star shone in through the window and seemed like a gleam of comfort. Suddenly Sydney smiled. "As long as we can cure him here, Raines won’t have the chance to get his hands on him. At least, not if I’ve got any say in the matter."
"You think he’ll recover?"
"I wouldn’t be certain with most people, but Jarod has always managed to surprise me."
Sydney watched from a corner as Jarod slowly pulled himself up in bed and stared out of the window. The therapist had been quick to recognize a case of severe depression and he had responded by giving Jarod a dose of anti-depressant medication. Now he could see that it was having an effect.
"How are you feeling?"
"How did you get here?"
Jarod turned his face to the older man and looked at him with a slightly severe expression.
"We tracked you from the credit card records. At least Broots did. After six months, I didn’t want to wait while Parker and Lyle came back from another useless hunt for you. We left almost immediately."
"And… Miss Parker...?"
"...won’t have a clue where we are. Without Broots, she can’t tap into the information that we found and we didn’t leave her anything to tell her where we were going. We also put Debbie somewhere safe before we left."
Sydney walked across the room and pulled up a chair. He looked closely at the pretender and was pleased to note the improvements in his appearance.
"How do you feel?"
"Better, I think. I don’t really remember..."
Sydney leaned forward and put his hand on Jarod’s. "Are you going to tell me what happened? I might be able to help."
Jarod looked at Sydney and there was a pleading expression on his face.
"Not yet. Maybe later, but I’m not ready yet."
Sydney nodded in understanding as Jarod turned and began to stare out of the window and into the blue sky. The therapist was pleased to note, however, that at least the suggestion of food was enough to spark his interest.
Sydney placed a tray on Jarod’s lap and then put a bowl and spoon onto the tray. Jarod’s expression was one of pure disgust.
"I was hoping for something edible."
"It is. It’s a vegetable puree. And believe me, after six months without food, you’ll be lucky to get through all that." Jarod picked up the spoon ate two mouthfuls. He placed the spoon back in the bowl and looked up at Sydney, whose eyes were twinkling.
"You see, I told you."
Jarod tried to grin. "Not at all. I was, um… savoring the flavor." He picked up the spoon and slowly finished the last two mouthfuls. Then he pushed the tray away before settling down further in the bed and then ran a hand over the soft surface between the bed and his back. "What’s this?"
"A sheepskin cover and an air ring. They’ll keep the pressure off the sores on your back but I don’t really know what else we can do about the ones on your arms."
"Got any moisturizing cream?"
"Lots, but I wasn’t willing to suggest it until you could put up with the pain of touching them."
Jarod smiled ruefully. "Got to start some time." His arms and legs were throbbing painfully by the time Sydney took the jar away and replaced the lid. Equally, his fever was beginning to mount again and the room was taking on a decidedly shaky look. Sydney took away several pillows and pulled a thick doona up on to the other blankets. As a last step, he tucked a hot water bottle in at Jarod’s back and watched until the shivering slowly subsided. Finally he checked the temperature of the room was constantly warm before going into the next room, where he could read a book while Broots watched television.
"I’ve got something."
Sydney stretched out one hand and took a piece of paper that Broots had just printed out, using Jarod’s computer.
"‘Girls Die As Building Collapses’"
Sydney read slowly and allowed his eyes to wander down the page.
"Despite the efforts of rescue workers, the bodies of twins Julie and Jenny Blackpool were removed from an abandoned warehouse on Tuesday night. It was believed that Julie died as the building collapsed and her sister died in a secondary collapse, despite the desperate attempt of a member of the rescue team to save her at the risk of his own life."
Sydney looked up at Broots and the technician found the expression in his eyes to be unnerving. "That’s it then. Jarod’s finally failed. He couldn’t save them. I always wondered," he continued conversationally, "what would happen in such a situation." Suddenly his voice became quiet. "I suppose we know now."
"But would that explain - everything?"
"I think so. People with severe depression are withdrawn, without expression, indifferent toward their surroundings, and may show signs of delusional thinking and limited physical activity. Think about how he was when he found him. They were textbook symptoms."
"Those words - what was he saying as we came in?"
"You failed. You are a failure." Sydney’s voice held a note of bitterness as he recited the line. Broots looked up in amazement. "How do you know?"
"It’s a long story."
"Not now. Maybe later."
Broots turned back to the computer but stopped as he heard a moaning coming from the next room. Sydney, however, was on his feet and through the door before Broots had a chance to speak.
Sydney watched for several seconds as Jarod thrashed on the bed, his moaning turning into screams, caused by a combination of pain and frustration. The psychiatrist moved over and placed a hand onto Jarod’s arm, shaking him first gently and then harder until Jarod’s eyes finally open and, with a muffled sob he turned and, putting his face into the pillow, began to sob violently. Sydney sat down on the edge of the bed and gently stroked the back of Jarod’s head, murmuring comforting phrases in a low voice. Reaching over, he took a couple of tissues from a box nearby and pushed them into Jarod’s hand. Then he resumed the stroking.
"Why… are you here?"
The muffled words were hardly intelligible, but Sydney heard them.
"Because you don’t need to go through these things alone. Because I don’t want to see you suffer."
Jarod rolled over and looked up, his eyes red and streaming with tears. "Anyone would think that you..."
Sydney smiled slightly. "Maybe I do."
"Really?" The voice was incredulous and the tone that of a small child.
"If I didn’t, do you really think we’d be here now?"
Jarod’s eyes traveled around the room and back to Sydney’s face. "Why is failure so... terrifying to me?" The sentence was broken by a sob and his dark eyes filled with tears for the second time. "And why do I keep hearing Raines’ voice, telling me that I’m a failure?"
Sydney sighed deeply and looked momentarily above Jarod’s head, collecting his thoughts. "It’s a long story."
"When you were first brought to the Centre, in February of 1963, you were not my only subject, little though I like using that term. I had other children to work with and so I couldn’t devote all of my time to the simulations. This meant that, some of the time, you completed some tasks under the direction of other doctors, including Raines. He had several difficult simulations that he asked you to run, and, for the first time, you had difficulty with them. I was coming to the lab one day when I heard Raines screaming and, entering the room, I found you in a corner and Raines standing over you, screaming that you had failed, and that it made you a failure. My mood that day was already bad and, when I saw Raines, something snapped. Suddenly he was the one in the corner and I was screaming at him with everything I had.
"After he left, I went over to you. You were curled up in the corner, rocking and chanting repeatedly that you were a failure, repeating Raines’ words. It was the position that you were curled up in when we arrived here the other day. I picked you up and tried to get you to talk to me, but you looked right through me. Eventually I took you down to the infirmary and they sedated you for several days. It took several weeks for you to get over that, and I presumed you had repressed it, because you never mentioned it again after that. I applied to the Tower and Raines was never given further permission to work with you. It was also the beginning of the Tower releasing Kyle from Raines’ control, which we now know never happened." Sydney sighed deeply and looked down at his hands. Looking up again, he saw that Jarod was paler and that the sobs which had punctuated the earlier parts of Sydney’s explanation were now quieter. "So now you can see why I came to look after you. It took a few weeks before you would even talk to me and even longer before you trusted me again. When you didn’t contact me in six months, I began to guess at the cause. And I was right, wasn’t I?"
Jarod nodded numbly and Sydney knew from looking at his face that the memories of that day were flooding back into Jarod’s mind. Sydney moved closer and took Jarod in his arms. The pretender clung to Sydney, sobbing violently again and letting the tears flow freely as the terror he had felt washed over him again. Sydney stroked the dark head again and continued to hold the young man tightly for several moments, until he felt Jarod begin to pull away. "I don’t want you to tell me now what happened. Right now you need some sleep. Shh."
He wiped away the tears with a gentle hand and gently placed Jarod’s head back on the pillow, after turning it to make sure that it was cool and dry.
"I want… to tell you."
"Not now." Sydney’s voice was soft and soothing and at the sound of it, Jarod felt himself beginning to relax. "Tomorrow. You can tell me everything then. I promise."
He continued to stroke Jarod's hair with a gentle hand until the heavy lids fell and the Pretender finally relaxed.
"Is that true?"
Sydney, having finished settling the blankets around the sleeping man, looked up. "Is what true?"
"What you told Jarod."
"Of course. Do you think I’d lie to him? Here, I’ll show you."
Sydney picked up Jarod's DSA case and carried it into the other room. When the disk was activated, it showed a date of March 17, 1963 and the figures of a young Jarod and a younger William Raines. As Broots watched, he saw the balding doctor shove the young pretender off a piece of equipment which had obviously been used in a simulation. The older man continued to scream at the boy, who backed away into a corner. Suddenly the figure of a younger Sydney appeared in the room and, with a sweep of his arm and a glare on his face, shoved the other doctor away from the small boy and over to the other side of the small sim lab. Sydney had turned the volume down so that it wouldn’t disturb Jarod and so, once the action was over, Broots turned to the doctor. "So that’s why Raines is scared of you."
"You think so?"
"I’ve always thought so, ever since we started looking for Jarod. You’re the only person I’ve every met, except for Mr Parker, that will actually stand up to him." Sydney smiled grimly but didn’t comment.
Two days later the sores on Jarod's arms and legs, as well as those on his back, were beginning to clear up and regular therapy sessions had helped in curing the pneumonia, assisted by strong doses of antibiotics that also cleaned up the eye infection. Jarod had spent much of that time in a strict regime of sleeping and eating and he already looked better for it. This morning Sydney had finally allowed him out of bed and he was sitting in the chair where Sydney had first seen him, looking out at the brick wall and able, if he leant forward, to see the movement of people walking along the street below.
"It amazes me that you managed to survive for that long."
Sydney looked up from the newspaper as Broots made the comment, and smiled benignly. "He nearly didn’t. I’ve never seen a better example of trying to kill yourself from the inside out."
Jarod looked a little sheepish. He started to speak before suddenly closing his mouth and looking away and out of the window. Sydney caught the glance and understood it. He caught Broots’ eye and nodded, at which point the technician got to his feet with a slight yawn and stretched.
"Well, if everyone will excuse me, I’ll go and get that shopping done."
There was no response from the Pretender but Sydney smiled. "Good idea. See you later."
Jarod had given no sign that he had heard but waited until Broots had collected his coat and left before he spoke. Sydney moved over and sat of the end of the bed, where he could see Jarod's face clearly.
"I need...to tell you what happened."
Sydney remained silent while Jarod described the various stages of the pretend that had resulted in the death of the Blackpool twins. The Pretender didn’t stop his tears, which ran in a steady stream down both cheeks and Sydney didn’t interrupt until it was obvious that the story was finished. Then he spoke.
"And so, because someone died, you decided that made it your turn."
The younger man remained silent.
"Jarod, no one made you do this. It’s your choice, to help people. But if you do it, then you have to accept the responsibility and the loss if something goes wrong."
"I don't want that responsibility. I don’t want to care - but I can’t help myself."
"It’s your choice, Jarod."
"But they died - I let them die..."
"And there are so many other people who haven’t died because of what you’ve done. In almost five years you’ve saved and helped countless people and now, when you can’t help one, you decide that you’ll give up."
"But… you don't understand… they died..."
"You’re right. I don’t understand. But I know that you have to focus on the people who survived, not the ones that didn’t." Sydney spoke quietly and Jarod turned to look at him, tears welling in his eyes, and a kind of desperation evident in his face. "You’ve been blaming yourself when you know that you did everything you could. You always do. This was just one of those occasions when, no matter what you try, things go wrong. And things do go wrong, for every one. You might be a pretender, Jarod, but you’re human. And humans make mistakes."
"But if I’d..."
"Ah, how easy it is to say if, when it’s not possible to try any of the ‘what ifs’. Regrets are part of life, Jarod, and you have to accept them as use them as incentives to keep going, rather than reasons to give up. If you hang on, things always look better."
"Promise?" The word was a whisper and Jarod's eyes held a hunted expression. Sydney leaned forward and took Jarod's hand in both of his.
It was the end of another long week but Jarod was definitely better, Sydney reflected thankfully as he watched the pretender sit in the chair and, with his eyes closed, seem to bask in the sunlight. A blanket wrapped around his shoulders was keeping him warm but, for the first time in nearly two weeks, he was dressed and clean. Sydney had managed to peel away the t-shirt and jeans during the first twenty-four hours and had put them through several cycles at the local Laundromat, leaving them wearable, if a little worn. Jarod was now attired in the familiar black outfit and, due to a good diet and several days of intravenous fluids, had regained much of the weight he had lost over the past six months, as well as the healing of the many sores and the fact that both the pneumonia and eye infection was cleared up. In his manner, too, it was obvious that the feelings he had had about the death of the girls were diminishing in power and would soon, Sydney knew, be useful as an incentive to work harder but would no longer haunt him with their painful accusations. In fact the two Centre operatives were only staying until Jarod had recovered enough to get back to his normal life.
"Are you really going back to the Centre?"
"I have to."
Sydney walked over and sat in a chair opposite Jarod's. "I’ll tell you. You remember when I told you how I stood up to Raines."
Jarod nodded, a smile curling the corners of his mouth.
"Well, there’s only one person at the Centre who does scare the heck out of me."
Sydney nodded with a comradely grin. "Miss Parker."
Three days later and Jarod stood, looking around the room in satisfaction. His things were packed and ready to go, Sydney and Broots having left the day before. He looked for one long minute out of the window and turned to the door when it burst open to reveal Miss Parker standing there, gun in hand, and a pleased smirk on her face. Jarod successfully hid the smile that would have appeared on his own face if he hadn’t firmly repressed it.
"Well, well, well. What have we here? Looks as though I just caught Wonderboy on his way out the door."
Jarod tried to look innocent. "Now, Miss Parker, why would you think that I’d want to leave before you showed up? After all, it’s been so long since I last saw you."
He took a step closer to her, but she didn’t notice. She looked around the room and walked across to pick up the red notebook, making sure that the gun was trained on him the whole time. As she flicked the pages, the various headings made her snort.
"Depression? Huh! As though you’d need information like that! And what exactly have you learned from that?"
She snorted again in derision. Her sarcasm, however, prevented her from noticing that Jarod was approaching, until he was standing directly in front of her and she looked up in amazement when she realized where he was placed.
Her amazement at that, however, was nothing compared to what she felt when he bent down and gently kissed her lips. At the same time he twisted the gun out of her hand and stuck it in his pocket.
"It made me realize how much I value life, Miss Parker," he replied, a small smile curling his lip. "And that, if I want to do something, I should do it straight away."
He slipped quickly through the window and climbed quickly up the fire escape to where his bags were waiting for him. Picking them up, he walked over to the other side of the roof and looked down to where Sydney and Broots were waiting by the car. He waved once and then turned back and clambered over the adjoining roofs until he was several buildings away. He quickly slid down the fire escape and jumped into a nearby taxi.
Back in the room, Miss Parker stood in a state of shock. Then she lifted one hand and gently placed two fingers on her lips.
You’re Only Human
You’re having a hard time and lately you don’t feel so good
You’re getting a bad reputation in your neighborhood
It’s alright, it’s alright
Sometimes that’s what it takes
You’re only human, you’re allowed to make your share of mistakes
You’d better believe there will be times in your life
When you’ll be feeling like a stumbling fool
So take it from me you’ll learn more from your accidents
Than anything that you could ever learn in school
Don’t forget your second wind
Sooner or later you’ll get your second wind
It’s not always easy to be living in this world of pain
You’re gonna be crashing into stone walls again and again
It’s alright, it’s alright
Though you feel your heart break
You’re only human, you’re gonna have to deal with heartache.
Just like a boxer in a title fight
You got to walk in that ring all alone
You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only things that you can truly call your own
Don’t forget your second wind
Sooner or later you’ll get your second wind
You’re been keeping to yourself these days
‘Cause you’re thinking everything’s gone wrong
Sometimes you just want to lay down and die
That emotion can be so strong
But hold on
Till that old second wind comes along
You probably don’t want to hear advice from someone else
But I wouldn’t be telling you if I hadn’t been there myself
It’s alright, it’s alright
Sometimes that’s all it takes
We’re only human
We’re supposed to make mistakes
But I survived all those lonely days
When it seems I did not have a friend
‘Cause all I needed was a little faith
So I could catch my breath and face the world again
Don’t forget your second wind
Sooner or later you’ll feel that momentum kick in
Don’t forget your second wind
Sooner or later you’ll feel that momentum kick in