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Although the individual story ideas are mine, the characters are not and nor is the central concept of The Pretender. They belong to TNT, MTM and NBC productions, as well as the fertile imaginations of Craig Mitchell and Steven Van Sickle.
Original characters are mine and I would beg you not to use them without my permission.

Part 1

"Remember this, --that very little is needed to make a happy life."
Meditations. ii. 67


"It is the mind that makes the man, and our vigor is in our immortal soul."
Metamorphoses xiii

I don’t know what first prompted me, when I got out, to help people.

A desire for justice, perhaps, or just the need to make up for what happened.

But if I really wanted justice then I would have begun destroying the Centre from the outset, and if I wanted to make up for what had happened, I would have gone to all of the people who I harmed, or their families, and told them what had happened.

People always want answers to their questions and this is always more so in a tragic event or even a near-tragic one. But I could never bring myself to go and admit to being the cause of their problems. Would it have helped? I tried to convince myself that it wouldn’t. But I’ll never really know whether it would or not.

My life is easy. I have no responsibilities and no one is counting on me for anything. But my life is lacking and in some ways that is more difficult. At least if people are relying on you, it means that they are your own. I have no one and this is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, I’m lonely. Well, sometimes. I keep busy, as you might have noticed, but there’s always time to reflect and that’s the danger. Once Sydney talked to me about the possibility of finishing it all but that’s not an idea that I can deal with. Problems might seem severe but there’s always a solution somewhere, even if it’s not immediately obvious. I mean, in my time at the Centre I met quite a few people who killed themselves, unable to deal with what they were being forced to do. Not that I was told that they killed themselves. The official line was that they had been relocated to another site. At least that’s what Sydney told me. I saw no reason to doubt him then. Of course there are plenty of things that he told me which were also untrue. It makes me wonder how much I can trust anything that he’s said to me over the years.

I’m happy, to a certain extent, with my life. I can look back on the last few years with satisfaction, and even in the Centre I was of the belief that what I was doing would be beneficial, saving lives. Of course, pleading ignorance is no real excuse, but it’s the only one I have and the one that I truly believed at the time. If I could change the past…but I can’t and there isn’t any reason to think of the "what ifs". All it does is create a certain amount of stress and that’s never helped anyone unless they have a viable means of allowing it to escape. I don’t. I have a bad habit of berating myself for everything that’s ever gone wrong in my life. And that comes back to the idea of "what if". Nice vicious circle, huh?

So, anyway, that’s why I keep so busy - an attempt to escape from my own thoughts and ease some of my guilt by helping someone else. I figure that if I run around all day helping people and keeping myself totally occupied, by the time I fall into bed at night, I’ll be so exhausted that I won’t have time to remember or think about anything before I’m asleep. But there’s the little problem of the dreams that I have. See, I thought that if you were exhausted, you were less inclined to dream because your brain would be too tired to think of things like that. Only that theory was a little out. My nightmares are usually worse than the things I think about when I’m awake. And they only haunt me worse when I can’t remember them properly. Which happens quite a bit. I guess you know how frustrating that is. Like when you have a comment in your head but it vanishes somewhere between there and your mouth. Except that my fear is that it will always be a memory that would have helped me to recreate part of the life that I lost when I arrived at the Centre. Or even from my time in the Centre. One of the reasons that the DSAs are so valuable to me, annoying as the lack of privacy was at the time, was that it gave me a chance to see SIMs and other events from an unbiased perspective. A camera can’t be judgmental. It shows you everything, whether you want to see it or not. Most of the time I don’t, but often I just can’t help myself.

My view of the world is a little different from that of most people. I guess it’s because I don’t know it as well as they do. But maybe, seeing it through clear eyes, I understand it even better than they do. After all, they’ve never known anything else, whereas I’ve experienced an alternative life, if it merits that title. So much of what I see makes me angry and frustrated, not only because of the bad parts of life, but also because people so rarely value the good parts. Like the freedom to go wherever they want to and to do what they want. But the worst thing, the one thing that I can’t bear hearing is when someone says that they aren’t appreciated or loved by their parents or friends. Sure, some people don’t get on with their parents or other members of their family, but if they lost them, the grief would be enormous, whether they allowed themselves to admit it or not. And I defy anyone to say that, if they did disappear, no one would miss them. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t mean something to someone, even if they weren’t actually aware of it themselves.

In some ways, crazy though it sounds, I’ve had experiences, which, in the end, have become beneficial. Not because they were good at the time but because they have taught me something, either about other people or about myself. And I’ve learnt that it’s often the way with seemingly negative things. You go through the pain and difficulty, and when you emerge from the tunnel of darkness and unhappiness, you can look back and realize there was a reason, a purpose, and that whatever you have lost, at some point, provided you don’t give up, you will gain something equal to it in value.

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