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Author's Chapter Notes:

A fandomly member requested "early stuff that you never shared and feel like you never want to share." I hastily visited the Mirarchives (horrible, wretched place) and stumbled across this thing. It looks like it's my third Pretender story. Confession: I made a few alterations. The final date you read in this (October 2018) was initially (obviously) many years before 2018.


Warning: it's rather simplistic and lacks twists and drama (that's probably why I don't absolutely despise the thing).


"Jesus, Sigmund," groused Parker irritably, "how in the hell could you allow this to happen?"
"Allow," rebutted Sydney softly, matching Parker's rapid, determined stride with ease. "Hardly. If you'll recall I recommended Jarod never be allowed beyond these walls and requested additional security measures to that end. The funding for those measures were denied, Miss Parker, by you."
"Jarod is one project, Sydney," chided Parker, revolving her eyes. "He gave you no indication of his intentions?"
"None," answered Sydney, perplexed. "Jarod completed the assignment and after a brief conversation with Eddie, one of our sub-par Pretenders, retired to his quarters."
"The Director will be displeased," remarked Parker blandly, her words barely audible over the rhythmic clacking of Manolo Blahniks on marble.
"What will you tell your father?"
"The truth," Parker said. "You do realize that until further notice I've been recalled from Corporate to clean this up- clean your mess."
Sydney smiled sheepishly and pulled open a door for Parker. "Perhaps the Tower feels you're more qualified to supervise the Pretender Project than I. After all," added Sydney softly, "you authorized and conducted the inspections and single-handedly thwarted Jarod's escape and spared the Centre a potential man-hunt and international scrutiny. A promotion is likely in order. If you don't mind my asking," said Sydney tentatively, "what prompted you to search the inside of the origami angel?"

Parker snorted her incredulity. "Not an angel," she reminded, clarifying indignantly, "Greek mythology. I bet none of the gods would have thought to concoct a sedative from dust and mold they'd collected and concealed inside folded paper."
"The significance isn't obvious to me," Sydney confessed easily.
"Mm no," interjected Parker absently, "your boy's gone crazytown."
"Jarod has demonstrated no instability," argued Sydney.
"Last we spoke, there were thinly veiled implications that I would be held accountable for my father's sins."
"That doesn't sound like the Jarod I know."
"According to you, Sydney, busting out of this joint doesn't sound like Jarod either. Perhaps you aren't as well acquainted with your Pretender as you believe?"
"Perhaps," Sydney conceded.
"Ma'am," a rapidly approaching sweeper frantically called to Parker. "I'm to immediately escort you both to the infirmary."


"Someone had damn better tell me what the hell is going on," Parker demanded when Sydney, at length, emerged from Jarod's infirmary chamber.

"Jarod's body, as you well know, was incapable of escaping these walls," explained Sydney, contritely, his eyes hooded and haunted below a corrugated forehead. "Jarod's mind, however, appears to have succeeded where his body failed. If Jarod did indeed procure chemicals that facilitated his present condition, as your father suspects, they are untraceable. Initially, I sought a physiological explanation, rather than psychiatric, that corresponded with the dust and mold, bacteria. My suspicions were disproved; there is no evidence of encephalitis. Jarod is in excellent physical health, in fact. I fear this is a psychotic break, a mood disorder with a catatonic features, perhaps. Jarod remains unresponsive to stimuli. He's no longer mute, however," Sydney offered with a mechanical smile in a tight voice lacking conviction.
"If he can speak, he can work," Parker reasoned aloud.
"I'm afraid he cannot. Jarod murmurs- as if he's telling himself a story of reassurance."
"Go back in there and tell boy-genius to snap out it. Story time is over. The Chairwoman wants an ETA on Jarod's resumption of simulations. There are pending military contracts to be considered and I don't have to remind you that both our asses are on the line here."
"Imperiled as you and I both are, Miss Parker," Sydney explained with a withering expression, "how long Jarod remains in this state depends entirely upon Jarod. It's been eighty-nine hours; if he hasn't responded to anti-psychotics yet-"
"What are you saying," Parker interrupted petulantly. "Hypnotize him, force him out of-- whatever this is," commanded Parker emphatically.

"I and several other leading specialists have pursued all avenues of treatment, exhausted every angle and effort. This may be beyond the scope of our collective expertise and comprehension. I'll advise the Chairwoman on accommodations," volunteered Sydney thickly, withdrawing hastily.



"What," Parker hissed at the landline in the darkness. Three in the god damned morning. Who even dares?
Parker's eyes widened at the voice on the opposite end of the line, the startling display of bravado.

"Please tell me it wasn't you."
"What wasn't me, Jarod," Parker said, concealing her surprise remarkably well, although not quite comprehending Jarod's attempts at effortless camaraderie.
"That brought me back here," clarified Jarod. "After everything that's happened, everything I helped you discover. Your mother, Thomas."

"Thomas," repeated Parker absently.
Jarod, she would discover later, truly believed that they had cultivated a bizarrely comfortable interdependency, had inexplicably—irretrievably—misplaced their defenses.
"Yes, Thomas," insisted Jarod hotly, his voice revealing complex, nuanced emotions that were as puzzling as they were convincing. "And our closeness in Carthis. It couldn't have been you. Tell me it was Raines."
"Don't," Jarod pleaded. "I know it was as real for you as it was for me. You're not cruel enough to fake affections. You never have been. Please, tell me it wasn't you that brought me back here- here to this hell," Jarod added with a forceful snarl of disgust, adding in a low, impassioned voice entirely foreign to Parker, "Swear to me it wasn't you."
"I didn't bring you in, Jarod," answered Parker ambiguously, hastily dialing Centre security on her mobile.
No one did.

You never left.


You never will.


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