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This story is a sequel to "Dial E for Esper," found here: http://www.pretendercentre.com/missingpieces/viewstory.php?sid=5608&warning=4
I highly recommend you read that before this one, but if you are avoiding explicit content or just want to get to the juicy Angelo bits, here's a quick summary:
Jarod finds Angelo/Timmy's family (mother Joan, sister Cathy), who, it turns out, are a bunch of country-living telepaths. They direct him to Angelo's cousin (Annalise) and daughter (Miriam) hiding out at a farm in Oregon with some other relatives. Raines had kidnapped the cousin thirteen years prior for her telepathic powers, then decided a telepathic Pretender would be a swell project and impregnated her with Jarod's child. Fortunately for all she escaped while pregnant. Jarod hangs out awhile at the farm, gets to know his chess prodigy/engineer/chicken farmer kid, gets his mind probed quite a bit, and eventually starts a grown-up relationship with the baby mama. Philosophical introspections about Pretenderism, telepathy and the nature of memory abound in the story.
This story starts in October 1998, in roughly the same timeline as early Season Three. Rated M for language and adult discussions.
Miss Parker strode into Broots' office for what she assumed would be another demoralizing dead end of a Friday report. The ritual always put her in a fantastic mood to start the weekend, and by extension Broots as well, but it was a necessary evil as long as Jarod remained vanished off the face of the earth. He hadn't been spotted doing a full Pretend in over two months, not since the crazy act at Pleasant Woods Psychiatric Institute. Since then there had been a prolonged multi-day attack on the mainframe, and one short disturbing phone call to Syd. Other than that, nothing.
The mainframe assault had been thwarted thanks to a large-scale upgrade of the Centre's computer systems, ostensibly in the name of Y2K prevention but in reality to purge every possible backdoor and weakness Jarod might conceivably be aware of. Apparently the mainframe team had been successful. Good for them, thought Broots, somebody might actually get a bonus this year. It sure as hell wasn't going to be him, the way things were going.
Broots' search algorithms had by now reached fairly insane Big Brother levels. The Centre was now at least passively monitoring every Jarod-with-an-oh in the United States, all 47,146 of them as of last week's report. This made it much easier to spot a "new" Jarod, although of course most of them were from births, vising foreigners, or someone on the list taking a vacation outside their normal haunts; all of those were flagged for review. They were working on Canada as well, and had a list compiled based on National Health Service records (5215 Jarods), but getting real-time updates of those Jarods' locations proved to be a more difficult task. Things were so much easier with cooperative American credit card and utility companies, not to mention law enforcement databases, although the latter were notoriously spotty and slow to update. Broots also had some nifty -- at least he thought so -- bots trawling the web both for certain key words and Jarod's image, sparing Angelo the time to scan manually the exponentially exploding internet.
Despite all of this, there had been bupkiss for weeks. Broots couldn't understand how one man could go underground so effectively. Unless, of course, he had finally decided to change his first name, something Sydney had assured him went against everything in Jarod's psychological profile. It was also possible he had left the U.S. for an extended stay abroad, something Sydney again felt was unlikely given Jarod had previously been hot on the trail of information about his father.
As always in these circumstances, when leads dried up and certain people got desperate, the Centre began to eat its own. Thus Miss Parker had ordered Broots to divert a good 0.2 FTE to monitoring Lyle, Raines, and her father, always an underwear-staining and potentially lethal task, and frustrating to boot as none of the three were big on computers or email. But he surreptitiously infected the computers of the latter two's executive assistants -- Lyle refused to use to use anything electronic above a phone -- with a virus which at least allowed him to read the titles of every email in and out, although actually opening an email was fraught with more difficulty. Tapping their phones would be vastly more effective, but seeing as how even the virus could get him a bullet in the brain, Miss P was going to have to be satisfied with what she got.
Then there was the small matter of the phone call to Sydney. Syd had neglected to mention it as usual, and Miss Parker had been forced to throw the now-routine recording of his cell phone in his face before he relented. Jarod had been disturbed that, as he put it, there was "reason to believe that the Centre has used my genetic material to try to create more Pretenders." An assertion which naturally disturbed both Parker and Broots as well. Sydney had been vaguely noncommittal about knowledge of such a thing while on the phone, and had denied it to Parker as well. But reading between the lines, she plainly thought Sydney was lying. She certainly wasn't going to be happy with what Broots had dug up on that front as well.
He gave her the weekly report: five new baby Jarods, one new visitor from England, one death, nothing otherwise out of the ordinary. No hits from the airline or credit card companies, nothing from his web trawling or media bots. No phone calls, no taunting packages, nothing new on the website Jarod set up about his family. Then he paused to give her the unofficial report.
"So, you know my friend Charlie Chang down in photo illustration? You know, they do those great full-color posters for the Society for Military Technology conference, and awesome report covers for clients ..."
"Get on with it, Broots. I have plans for this weekend which do not include listening to you ramble until midnight."
"Right. So I asked him to keep an eye out for anything unusual from Mr. Lyle or Brigitte. And it turned out one of the other guys down there had experience doing police sketches over in Maryland, really a neat skill ..."
"Okay, so Mr. Lyle asked this guy to do a project, not on the QT. It took a little wrangling and Funyun bribage, but I got a copy of what he was working on. You're not going to like it." He slid the folder over to her on the desk, looking sombre.
The top page was simply a list of physical attributes and numbers:
Eye color (Martin-Schultz): Blue (1-3) 0.5, light brown/hazel (9-11) 0.4, medium brown (12-14) 0.05, dark brown(14-16) 0.05
Hair color: Blond 0.25, blond with red highlights 0.25, light brown 0.2, light brown with red highlights 0.1, dark brown 0.15, dark brown with red highlights 0.05. Linkage blond-blue eyes 0.95
Hair texture: Wavy 0.7, straight 0.25, curly 0.05
Skin color, Caucasian (1.0) (Fitzpatrick): Olive (IV) 0.5, medium (III) 0.35, fair (II) 0.15
Height of nose 50.1-51.2 mm 0.95
Nasal bridge length 43.2-44.1 mm 0.95
The list continued in similar vein for a full page of increasingly obscure facial characteristics.
"Many of these lines add up to one. Probabilities?" guessed Miss Parker.
Broots nodded. "Look at the other pages." Parker did so and sucked in a breath.
The next two sheets were photographs, one of Jarod as an adolescent, the other of a sullen blond girl in her late teens. The last ten pages were drawings of a younger girl, perhaps thirteen years or so, clearly combining the facial morphology of Jarod and the teen. There was quite a range of potential appearances, ranging from the light end of the spectrum to the dark, but taken collectively it definitively gave the impression that one could identify a child of Jarod and the young woman.
"So, it's true. The Centre's been fooling around with breeding Jarod. Any idea who the mother is?"
She is taking this surprisingly well, thought Broots. He had been bracing himself for a rant at least. "No. I've put what I can into my image recognition bot and have left it running through all the usual media sites, so maybe we'll get a hit by Monday. It would help to have additional images of her, I can't guarantee the program will be able to get a match with just this one example to go off of."
Parker scrutinized the illustrations further. "Quite the crapshoot on hair color, huh?"
"Well Jarod's mother has red hair and the woman is blond, and they're both recessive on two different genes so ..." Miss Parker gave him her patented you-seem-to-be-confused-that-I-give-a-shit look, and he cut off. "Right. But Miss Parker, there's another thing. If the Centre has the child, why is Lyle asking for drawing of what she might look like? It only makes sense if they don't have her, and are looking for her."
"Well we know Jarod wasn't out playing the field with youngnubile coeds in the eighties. Hmm. Time to ask Freud what he thinks."
They walked down to Sydney's office in silence, Parker increasingly angry and brooding over the contents of the file, Broots increasingly nervous over her volatile mood. He hoped to hell she would let him go home at a reasonable hour that evening. He promised Debbie they'd go to movie for a father-daughter date night. It occurred to him to wonder if Jarod now had such a relationship with a similar little girl. The drawings indicated that the child was probably only a bit older than his Debbie.
Parker showed Sydney the photograph of the young woman first. He showed no sign of recognition. The she gave him the rest of the materials and Sydney sat back in his chair, rubbing his chin and contemplating the implications of what he was looking at.
"Give it to me straight, Syd. If Jarod found out he has a kid out there somewhere, is he gone for good?"
"I would guess not, at least not completely. He still has the rest of his family to look for, with many ties to his past wrapped up in the Centre. Starting with Major Charles and your mother, of course. This break in contact may only reflect his adjustment to a new relationship. If he wishes to get to know the girl, he cannot be running around the country assuming new identities and drawing our attention. " He handed the folder back to her. "Needless to say, Miss Parker, that Jarod will never allow the girl to fall into Centre hands. You might want to consider your strategy carefully here, now that there is strong evidence of a child involved."
She nodded, her face uncharacteristically inscrutable. Sydney knew that however much the capture of Jarod provoked her ambivalence, child victims brought it out to a different level entirely. The recent episode with Davy Simpkins demonstrated that.
"Do you think the girl is a Pretender?"
"Impossible to say without knowing the circumstances of her birth. The fact that Lyle has a photograph of the mother strongly implicates Centre involvement. We need to know more about her. So far as I know, no one of that age or description belonged to the Pretender project, nor was any young woman allowed near him in during that time. Perhaps Angelo could be of some use."
"Come on, Syd, Angelo has been Extra Crispy Crazy since Atlanta. We're never going to get anything coherent out of him." After his failed serotonin treatment, Angelo was supposed to regress back to his old self. However, he seemed to be getting worse, as far as Parker could tell. More isolated, more agitated, more incommunicado, simply weirder than ever.
"If you don't get anything, then you are no worse off than you are now."
Broots cleared his throat."I've heard he's been bedding down near the SL-11 dispensary recently. We could show him the photo, and if it doesn't pan out, come back on Monday and see if the bots have come up with anything." And I'll have time to make the 7:30 Mask of Zorro show.
"Fine, but if he starts humping the furniture, don't say I didn't tell you so."
They took the elevator up to SL-11 and asked the personnel in the dispensary for Angelo's whereabouts. He had created a nest of sorts in an abandoned supply closet, with a pile of blankets and pilfered clothes serving as a bed, and surrounding himself with objects and papers of all sorts. Broots noted a old clunky laptop half-buried in the rag pile. He wondered what Angelo could possibly be doing with it, playing Civ II all night? The thought nearly made him laugh.
Angelo himself appeared to be sleeping, curled up in a ball on the corner of the pile, but as soon as they opened the door to the room he popped right up, wide awake. Miss Parker knelt down to his level, always an amazing feat in those towering shoes, looked Angelo straight in the eyes and gave hima slight comforting smile. Ever since Atlanta her behavior towards him had changed, softening, even a little -- dare Broots even think it? -- maternal in her own way. For a few days she had to consider the possibility that he was her brain-damaged twin, and had come to some sort of peace in the acceptability of that result. Unfortunately the twin had turned out to be the nutcase Lyle.
"Angelo. We have a photo we'd like to show you. Will you look at it for me and tell me what you feel?" He nodded, apparently pleased that she had bothered to ask his permission.
She brought out the picture of the mystery woman, and Angelo stared at it, the strangest mixture of horror and longing on his face. He clearly recognized whomever it was. "Martha's baby," he whispered.
"Martha? Is that her name? Is her baby Jarod's baby?" Sydney placed a hand on Parker's shoulder, as she was clearly bombarding Angelo with too many questions.
He reached out and brushed the cheek of the face in the photo, just for instant, then pulled away as if he had been burned. Then he began to scream, a horrific bloodcurdling shriek as if someone was stabbing him over and over, and nearly knocked Parker off her feet as he flung himself onto the clothes pile.
"HURT MARTHA'S BABY HE HURT HURT HURT ..."
Parker regained her balance and violently shrugged off Sydney's attempts to pull her back. She placed both her hands on Angelo's face, willing him some comfort and calm and self-control. "Who? Who Angelo, who hurt Martha's baby?"
"HURT, HURT, LYLE HURT MARTHA'S BABY HURT." He jerked himself away from her touch and rolled towards the wall, sobbing, enveloping himself in a blanket to hide from them and the world. This time Parker did let him go, and stood up. They left Angelo's space to let him calm himself down.
"Lyle. Is my psychopath brother behind everything?"She shook her head and turned to Broots. "Add in 'Martha' to your search parameters, we'll see what the bots come up with. Sydney, look through your files for any mention of a Martha. Maybe someone my mother knew, or one of the rescued children? It must have been someone around here at some point, if both Angelo and Lyle knew her."
"Uh, so does this mean I can go home after this?"
"Why Broots, do you have a hot date or something?"
"Yes. With Antonio Banderas and an eleven-year-old." Even Miss Parker laughed at that one.
As they walked back to the sim lab offices, Sydney appeared thoughtful. "Parker. If Lyle really has hurt the child in some way, Jarod's fury may not be ... restrained by his normal ethical considerations."
"I know, Syd. I'm surprised he hasn't made a move yet. Calm before the storm."
"Perhaps. And perhaps we just don't have all the critical information of the situation, yet."