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Author's Chapter Notes:
Thanks for dropping by. . .hope this opens my new site with a bang, and many apologies for the tardiness.  Blame it on unforeseen illness.  This was nuts to write, too.  Um, the daily fanfic grind. . .feel free to archive where you please, just as long as all the right names and disclaimers stick to it.  I’d also appreciate a note, when you get the chance.

We fanfic writers are slaves to two things:  hits and responses.  So bring your friends, tell your family, and especially, call that friend of a friend in the publishing business .  I’m amenable to collaborations and editing jobs.  If you want to tell me what a great (or cruddy) job I’ve done, drop me a line, but remember KICS (Keep it Civil, Stupid); flames are eaten for fun and profit.

P.S.  Watch your dates; things in courier new are DSA’s, things in Times New Roman are present date.  Ages are approximate; feel free to nail me if I’ve got them wrong.  I know this holds up to the beginning/early-middle of Season 2.  Other than that, don’t count on me for the mythology.

P.P.S. The question marks you see are really the Cyrillic alphabet; the translation, if it is unclear, is "empty hands," but nasty old HTML doesn't adjust to the Russian.  I'm working on it. . .for the moment, you'll have to pretend, da?

Ah, well, nuthin’ for it.  Enjoy!

Title: A Second Angel: Empty Hands (1/17)

Author:  Eva Parker

Disclaimer:  Concepts, characters, scenery, and psychotic corporations from the television show The Pretender are protected trademarks of MTM Television, Pretender Productions, and NBC.  I lay no claim to them; I’m just taking them out for a little spin.  All escaped characters will be returned immediately to the Centre.  All other characters, scenery, etc. belong to me.  Please note that fanfiction is covered under the “Free Use” clause of the copyright law.


Jarod  8/23/73  9:15 A.M.                           FOR CENTRE USE ONLY

   He lies on Sydney’s worn sofa, on his stomach, feet hanging over his head, dancing ever so slightly in the air.  It is his regular psychiatric session, a process Sydney initiated shortly after the “identity disorder” Jarod developed—and recovered from—at a mere eight years of age.
   Jarod stares at the wall, trying to keep his face bland, and only succeeding in making it look like an open wound to his psychiatrist.
Sydney is experienced enough with the precocious fourteen-year-old that his insight borders on telepathy; he perches his chin on his folded hands and waits, knowing that the young Jarod will speak.
   Jarod hums an old song he’d picked up at some point, the words so familiar that he feels a connection to some past long forgotten, as if he could sing to dinosaurs. 
He wishes he could tell Sydney about what he’s feeling; he really, honestly does: the aching pang in his fingers, the hollowness in his chest.
  He paces from the tiny library—he’s read, memorized, all the books—to the simlab in his Free Hours, desperate to do something, anything, in order to get his mind away from this unfamiliar and unusual despair.  But in all twelve languages and more than one-hundred-fifty dialects he knows, he cannot find the correct words to express himself.
The closest he can get is the new language he’s learned, Russian. It’s not because the Soviets had or have any overwhelming insight into the human psyche, but because the throaty sharpness of Russian—the images of bitterly cold Siberia, the pain, and fear, and strength of those bearing the iron hammer and sickle of Communism—the sound of it is the best way to re-enforce what he is saying. “?????? ????????,” he murmurs.  Empty hands.
  Sydney, forgoing the invisible wall that is created when one hides behind a desk, looks at his charge and feels a sinking of sympathy in his chest, a feeling which he knows will not be obvious on the DSA recording or to Jarod.  Empathy is frowned upon in the Centre.
  “Jarod,” he begins, but he does not know what he will say afterward.  There is nothing he can do for Jarod at the present moment, a familiar frustration that is made no less difficult every time he feels it.  Sydney massages the bridge of his nose, and says nothing.
  Jarod swings his legs over the side of the sofa, moving from a prone position to sitting upright in one smooth motion.  For a single moment, his expression has lost the usual self-control of geniuses and stoics; right now he is just a fourteen year old boy trying to figure out who he is and what he wants.  His innocent, chocolate brown eyes burn with sorrow and bitterness.  He spreads his hands out for Sydney’s inspection, though they both know he’s not talking about hands at all.
  Turning away again, he clenches his nimble fingers, so adept at typing and building, wielding a scalpel, guiding a stealth team; fingers that had built circuit boards and security systems, fingers that traced out complex mathematical problems with an ease even Sydney would never be able to achieve.  Right now, they offer him no more than his extensive vocabulary.  “?????? ????????,” he murmurs again, staring at the wood-paneled walls.



But this time, the words are devoid of emotion.
When the session is over, Sydney pulls a small, spiral-bound book from the bottom drawer of his desk, the drawer that locks.  The book is marked with the Centre insignia, and in smaller letters, identified as part of the Pretender Project. 
  It is a short list of vocabulary words not, under any circumstances, to be taught to the young Pretender at this stage in his psychological development or educational curriculum. Sydney had helped to write it, years ago. He traces his fingers down the dog-eared pages.
  Number forty-three is LONLINESS.

The Falls Apartments
Boston, Massachusetts
November 7

   For a moment, Jarod almost wishes he was back in the car.  The men still holding him, bruising him with their touches, are just cruel; Jarod knows right away that the man standing before him will really hurt him.  This is the kind of villain in those grown-up books, the kind that hurts little kids for no good reason.
   He wants his mother.  He wants his father.  He wants to curl up in the little nook that belongs all to him in their attic at home, and pull the tiny brown baby quilt around his shoulders and cry and cry.
  “Hello, little boy,” the man growls.  “What’s your name?”
   Four year old Jarod, terrified and confused though he is, is not fooled by the man’s words.  Nothing that came from a place this bad could ever be nice, least of all this cigarette-smoking. . .monster.  He curls away, almost into the arms of his captors.  “Jarod,” he murmurs, but his child’s voice is small and tremulous.
   “What do you want us to do with him, Dr. Raines?”  This from the tall black man on Jarod’s left.
   The man, Dr. Raines, takes a drag on his cigarette and seems to think for a moment.  “Put him in isolation, twenty-four hours.”
Dr. Raines commands.  “Find Sydney.”  He drops his cigarette onto the polished white tile and snuffs it out with a toe.
   Another long walk, this time without the stifling hood, through a labyrinth of corridors and doors, twisting and turning until Jarod doesn’t even know if he could find his way back.
   Then they shove him into a dark room.  A door slams.  Tumblers click harshly.
He is entirely, completely alone.  The shock is passing, and he is tired, overwhelmed, disoriented, crippled.  They have abandoned him.  They don’t even. . .they don’t even care.  The feelings he has stifled all night refuse to be pushed away; they rush over him, and he sobs.  Shaking, he drops to his hands and knees, in his choo-choo train pajamas and cries.
   And cries.

   Jarod blinked.
   He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling, digging his fingers into his sleeping bag he used as a coverlet.  His fingertips still had a tremor, and sweat beaded on his forehead, but he did not permit himself to cry out.  He was woken by nightmares more often than not; this night was no different from a thousand others.
   He would not fall back to sleep.  After a few moments of half-hearted effort, he rolled out of bed, shuffled to the refrigerator, and made himself a glass of chocolate milk.
   The apartment was small, stark, and standard.  There was a living and dining room, with a not-too-old TV and a round dinner table for four, which he kept his laptop, notebook, and DSAs on.  Connected to the living room, but separated by a small bar, was a kitchen with a puce green fridge—empty save for the milk and a dozen eggs—a row of very empty cabinets, a set of pots and pans which had come with the apartment, a black Mr. Coffee, and a mug which read The Only Person Who Really Knows What’s Going On.
   It had also come with the apartment.
   There was a small bedroom, with a twin bed and one dresser, and a small, white-tiled, and nondescript bathroom, as well.
   He had paid extra for the furniture.
   Jarod had moved in yesterday morning.  He would be gone before the week was out.  The lack of permanence used to bother him, but in the two and a half years since he had run away from the Centre, he had gotten used to it.
   Or at least, he tolerated it.  He would never feel comfortable, especially at night, when shadows and silhouettes, combined with the lateness of the hour and his razor-sharp imagination, could easily flip him into a black-and-white flashback of his former life, or turn a bedroom into a Simlab so accurate, he could almost hear Sydney’s voice.
   He wrapped his hand around the chill glass and walked back out into the living room, snatching a Pez dispenser from the tabletop as he moved past.  It was grape-flavored, one of his favorites, and it came from a plastic turkey head, a reminder of the time of year.
   Jarod had become very interested in the tradition of Thanksgiving for a short while.  He was not particularly religious, or, he didn’t think so.  His experience with such a holiday was of a different and rather limited sort.  It was, to Jarod, a time when families got together around a dinner table to eat simple, good food and laugh and be together.  Apparently, people found a way to their families on this designated day, even going across the country to find people they loved.
   Jarod had been looking for his family forever; his first Thanksgiving had been a lonely one and it was likely the second one would be, too.
   He found a spot on the floor where he could watch the sun rise, through his east-facing window, and sat down.  The first few rays of red glowed over the horizon.  In a few hours, he would start getting ready for work.
   Jarod ate Pez and drank chocolate milk and hoped that the sugar rush and the events of the day would bury the empty ache of loneliness, which trailed him much more efficiently than the Centre ever would.  He would call Sydney, he decided.  Later.
It hadn’t always been like this.  Freedom treated Jarod better than his life at the Centre ever had.    Such an incredible amount of space!  So many things to do, so many interesting things to read and find and discover.  From Pez to blues to doughnuts, five hundred glasses of chocolate milk and two cavities later, and it was still fascinating. 
   That was it, though.  He was fascinated, diverted, entertained, amused.  He could become engrossed in his work; satisfied; exhausted, even. 


It was one of the difficult lessons of the outside world:  prisons are more than just physical, and freedom was more than that.  It was complicated.  Weighty.
   The apartment was small enough that Jarod could lean back and twist his body in an unusual way to grab his cell phone from the table.  It was a new one.  Smaller, more compact, easier and a little more fun to alter than his old one.  He had created a small scrambler chip for this phone; even if someone had had the will and motivation, they couldn’t triangulate his position by monitoring the waves.
He flipped through the numbers recorded in the phone’s memory, found Sydney’s, and hit the green button.
   He listened to it ring.  Two times, and then it was picked up so lightly that he didn’t even hear the click.  “Hello,” the psychiatrist’s slightly accented voice resounded over the phone. “This is Sydney.”
   Jarod didn’t say anything.  He called Sydney regularly, at least in part to ensure that he was all right;    Sydney ran or monitored many projects for the Centre, raised many children, but he was neither poisonous nor political.  The psychiatrist simply did his job and tried to stay out of the way.  He had effectively run the Pretender Project.  Someday, they would come after him.
   That, Jarod had decided long ago, was when he would have to disappear.  Because the day when Sydney didn’t answer his telephone was the day they would stop playing cat-and-mouse with Jarod and move in for keeps.
   “Jarod, is that you?” Sydney’s voice was always gentle and controlled.  It could even have a thread of tenderness, if you listened carefully.  “Are you all right?”
   But why talk with the man who manipulated your life, used you, turned a blind eye to any suggestion that you had been kidnapped?  Why ask him for refuge?  Continuing those weekly psychiatric sessions, Jarod?
    Why do you care?
   Those were the questions that came from the lips of anyone—limited few—that he had ever told of his time at the Centre.  It was what made any call to his psychiatrist, his doctor, slightly disconcerting.    More than just verification; Jarod could do that from a computer.  Less than, vastly different from, friendship.  Most of the time.
   “Jarod, can you hear me?”
   He waited another moment.  “Good morning, Sydney.”
   It was five-fifteen.  Jarod had called Sydney’s office.  In nearly two years of telephone calls, he had never woken Sydney up.  In his mind’s eye, he could see Sydney lean back in his office chair and glance through the doors for people who shouldn’t be listening.
   Contact with the runaway lab rat was a minor faux pas at the Centre.
   “Hello, Jarod.”  He sounded relieved.  “How are you?”
   Jarod sighed.  “It’s difficult.”
   “Do you feel like talking about it?”  That question.  He had heard it perhaps a hundred times, each time with a slightly different meaning, a slightly different offer.
   He watched the shadows dance on the wall.  The sun splashed pale yellow; his dark silhouette seemed to glow.  Jarod regretted calling Sydney now.  Talking with the psychiatrist often laid his emotions painfully bare, and today he had wanted to swallow his wounds and adjust.  His reply was traditional enough.  “No.”
   A short silence on Sydney’s end.  “All right.  Are you comfortable with answering a question?”
   Jarod felt something creep into his shoulders, a familiar guarded feeling.  A question from Sydney, even a yes or no question, could yield any one of a number of correct conclusions.  He didn’t want to take a journey through his jungle of childhood memories today. “Depends on the question.”
   He flipped up the turkey’s head and drew a small purple candy from its beak with his teeth.  He pressed the candy up against the roof of his mouth with his tongue.
  “Have you. . .anything to do with what is happening here?”
   Jarod sat bolt upright.  Sydney wouldn’t have shared that information with him unless it was important.  There was nothing like a crisis to put Jarod’s often overwhelming feelings back into perspective.  “What’s happening?”
  “Do you know anything about a Directive 410?”
   He leapt to his feet and nearly tripped over himself to get to the table.  He found his MUFON pen, from another Pretend, and scribbled Directive 410 on the open page of his journal, right on top of an article which headlined COMPUTER GENIUS MENTALLY HANDICAPPED IN CAR ACCIDENT.
  “Jarod, I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to speak with you—”
   The line went dead, the low tone buzzing in his ear.
    Five-twenty.  If he was going to work, he would have to start now, and abandon Directive 410 for a moment.  Fortunately, at Eureka Technologies, he would have plenty of access to computers.
He flipped the telephone closed and turned on his laptop computer.  It was time to print all of his “records.”
   He moved in the direction of the bathroom, and whenever his emotions welled up and threatened to pull them under, he simply buried them in a fountain of other concerns.
Jarod’s hand’s felt hollow and clammy.  He shook his head.  He would, he decided, apply himself fully to discovering Directive 410.



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