A Free Man by Haiza Tyri
Summary:

Jarod meets a victim of one of his old simulations and learns the truth behind somone he has looked up to as an inspiration.

Crossover with the 1960s British TV show "The Prisoner."


Categories: Crossovers, Season 2 Characters: Broots, Jarod, Miss Parker, Other Non-Centre Related Character, Sydney
Genres: Character Musing, Drama
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 4724 Read: 26318 Published: 31/07/09 Updated: 31/07/09
Story Notes:

Pretender fans, I think you would like the Prisoner. It’s quirky and funny and serious all at once. The ending is frustrating and leaves you wondering what on earth happened, but hey, we Pretender fans are used to that, aren’t we?

This story completely ignores the last Prisoner episode “Fall Out,” because I, for one, don’t know what to do with it and would rather pretend it wasn’t there. Kind of like the last Pretender episode, but worse.

Jarod’s Pretend name, Jarod Patrick, is taken from Patrick McGoohan, who played Number Six. Dr. McKern’s last name is taken from Leo McKern, who played the Prisoner’s greatest Number Two.

The title of the first chapter is a common phrase used on The Prisoner. All the rest are episode titles.

1. Be Seeing You by Haiza Tyri

2. Arrival by Haiza Tyri

3. Hammer Into Anvil by Haiza Tyri

4. Dance of the Dead by Haiza Tyri

5. Free For All by Haiza Tyri

6. Fall Out by Haiza Tyri

7. Checkmate by Haiza Tyri

Be Seeing You by Haiza Tyri

1997, September

            “Good morning, Mr. Smith. I’m Dr. Jarod Patrick. I’m taking over Dr. McKern’s cases for a few weeks. How are you feeling this morning?”

            “I’m still alive,” the old man snapped, his words precise, with just a trace of an accent. “I don’t know how long that will hold true with the way you have me strapped down with needles and drugs in this bed.”

            Jarod smiled at the man in the hospital bed, and then slowly his smile disappeared. The man’s beard obscured his face, but Jarod felt he would know the strong bones anywhere, and the steely character behind the blue eyes, and the British accent hidden behind a creditable East Coast accent. He staggered back and fell, rather than sat, in the chair against the wall. It wasn’t every day you were faced with one of the people you had wronged and had an opportunity to atone for it.

            “Number Six?” he gasped.

            The man struggled into a nearly upright position, then fell back. “No!” he barked, and his East Coast accent was gone, replaced by perfect, crisp British. “I am not a number!”

            “I am a free man,” Jarod completed automatically. “So am I,” he murmured.

            The old man stared at him. “Who are you? What do you know about me?” He was old and weak, but the fire had not dimmed in his eyes nor the command in his voice.

            “I know you were once called Number Six and you escaped from a top-secret installation called the Village. As for me…I’m not even a number. I don’t exist. And I escaped from a top-secret installation called the Centre.”

            “Another Village?”

            “No, but just as evil. I’m sorry—I’m probably not making much sense, Number—er—”

            “Just call me Smith. Not Number Six.”

            “Is Smith your real name?”

            “No. Is Jarod Patrick yours?”

            “No. Jarod is; Patrick isn’t. I’m sorry. I’ve called you Number Six my whole life. I’ve never known another name to call you by.”

            “Your whole life?” the old man said sharply. “What have you had to do with me your whole life?”

            Jarod looked down at his hands and swallowed hard, looked back up at the man with his guilt and pain in his eyes. “I’m responsible for keeping you locked up in the Village.”

            You? Are you mad? You were a child when I was in the Village.”

            “I’m a Pretender, and my talents were used to keep you imprisoned.”

Arrival by Haiza Tyri

1967, 28 September

            “I have a special project for you today, Jarod,” Sydney said. He gave the boy a photograph. “You are to become this man and project ways in which he will attempt to escape from prison.”

            Jarod studied the photograph. It was one that had been taken for a passport or a newspaper, a simple professional headshot. At first glance the man looked fairly ordinary, probably in his early forties, with a faintly smiling, rectangular face. He was neither handsome nor ugly. He could be anything, a salesman, an actor, a doctor, an administrator. His face gave no clues as to who he was or what he did. And yet—And yet the eyes. The eyes were alive with character. The one thing this man could not hide in an innocuous photograph was the vibrant determination in his eyes. There was razor-sharp intellect behind them. And the mouth, too, with its full lower lip and the smile tucked into the corners, gave away an amused intractability. He sat with his head thrust forward a little, his eyes boring into the camera.

            “Tell me what you think about him, Jarod,” Sydney said when Jarod said nothing for a long time.

            “This is one of the most intelligent men I have ever seen, Sydney. If he wants to escape from prison, he’ll do it. And he won’t stop trying until he succeeds. It doesn’t matter what they’ll do to him. He’ll keep trying. He’s incredibly stubborn. Who is he, and why is he in prison?”

            “He’s not in prison yet. He’s on his way there, and his government knows exactly what you’ve said, that he’ll never give up trying to escape. That’s why they’ve asked for our help.”

            “His government? He’s not American?”

            “No, he’s British. I haven’t been told his name but apparently he is a British secret agent who was discovered to be a Russian agent. They’re going to hold him in a special prison until they discover exactly what he told the Russians.”

            Jarod frowned at the photograph. “He has to be Russian, then.”

            “Why?”

            “Because this man’s not a traitor, Sydney. He’s loyal, intensely and fiercely loyal. If he was working for the Russians, it’s because he is Russian. He would never betray his own country, whatever that country is.”

            “That is a good insight, Jarod.”

            Jarod looked up at Sydney. “I need to see the prison, Sydney. I can’t figure out how he’ll escape unless I can see it.”

            “We don’t have footage of the prison yet, Jarod. That’ll come in a couple days. However, we do have some surveillance footage of the man himself.” He nodded across the sim lab to someone, who started up the projector. “This is outside his house in London.”

            The man was just getting out of a car, a low, peculiar little car that looked more like some kind of racecar than anything. The plate on the front said KAR 120C. Jarod paid close attention to the man’s movements as he got out of the car, walked down the pavement, and opened his house door. He walked in a tight, determined stalk, and all his movements were purposeful and efficient.

            “He’s angry about something. He’s going to do something about it.”

            The scene switched to inside a house. The man walked around it, prowling like a caged cat, his face drawn up into a scowl. Eventually he left the house again. The recording looped, and Jarod watched it for an hour, analyzing every movement and expression, working himself into the mind behind the eyes.

Hammer Into Anvil by Haiza Tyri

1967, 30 September

            Two days later, Sydney brought him new footage, of the man in his prison. It was merely a house that looked, from the inside, remarkably like the house he had left in London. But when the man left the house, all similarity to London ceased. Jarod and Sydney both stared as the security cameras followed the man through his strange new world.

            It was a tiny town, composed of a peculiar assortment of fantastical buildings and an even more peculiar assortment of fantastical people, all dressed in black and white blazers or in solid stripes, the colors impossible to make out in the black-and-white footage. The people were all strangely happy and scheduled and the place itself run along very strict lines. A casual visitor walking through might have called it a seaside resort. Jarod, seeing it through the man’s eyes, saw that it really was a prison, a strangely ominous one, beneath the bright, peculiar surface.

            Sydney read off some information from a paper. “It is called the Village. Agents suspected of treason are brought there. It is purposefully disorienting and lulls them into a false sense of security. With the sea on one side and impassable mountains on the other, it is a very effective prison, despite its lack of walls and locks. Security cameras monitor all areas of the grounds and buildings at all times, and there are highly sophisticated security measures in place.”

            Jarod shivered. “I don’t like it, Sydney.”

            “Why not? It seems like a very pleasant place, for a man who deserves to be locked in a jail cell.”

            “There’s something…malevolent about it. It feels like mind control. Those people aren’t normal. They’re all prisoners of this Village, and they’re wandering happily with umbrellas when it’s not raining. This man is the only one acting normally. He’s angry. He doesn’t liked being locked up—not any more than I do,” he muttered.

            “Concentrate, Jarod! This isn’t about you—it’s about him, a Communist agent sent to steal British secrets. Remember that.”

            Jarod sighed. He supposed if the man were sent to steal secrets, he would be very good at it and would be a danger to Great Britain and thus to every free country. “He’s going to try to escape soon. He’s angry and not thinking very clearly. He’ll just run for it.”

            Sydney looked through more papers. “This footage is from yesterday, and it seems he did exactly that. He was easily captured but was slightly injured. This morning he woke up in the hospital, where he met an old friend (perhaps another double agent), who then killed himself. Here is footage from the funeral.”

            A long procession of people in striped capes, carrying black umbrellas despite the clearness of the sky, proceeded along a flat beach to a place where a number of gravestones stood in the sand. The panning camera caught the man, now wearing a black blazer with a white-outlined collar, standing on a bluff high above the beach, talking to a beautiful woman in a hat and cape.

            “Who is that woman?” Jarod asked.

            “A friend of the old friend Number Six met.”

            “Number Six?”

            “The Russian agent. It seems no one is allowed names in the Village.”

            Jarod shuddered. He’d known he was right not to like the Village. It was a very effective way to eliminate a person’s identity, by first taking his name. Russian or not, he felt himself identifying with the man.

            “Jarod!” Sydney said sharply.

            He sighed again. “The woman is going to try to help Number Six escape. You can tell them that.” He got up and walked away from the projection screen.

            The simulation continued the next day. The woman had tried to help Number Six escape, and they had been foiled, not so much by Jarod’s information as by the astonishing return of the friend who had supposedly died. Jarod surprised himself by wanting to hate him for giving up his friend to prison while he walked free. Nevertheless, he had a job to do.

            “He wants to help people, Sydney. He doesn’t treat people very well if he thinks they’re against him, but he does want to help the people in this Village escape from the mind control. They could keep him running around in circles with that, so that he doesn’t have time to plan his own escape. He’ll play their games if it’ll keep others from being hurt. But he won’t ever give in. You can tell them that.”

            It was confusing that he felt like he was on the side of someone who was a Communist. But in this case he couldn’t help feeling that it was the good guys who were doing what was wrong and the bad guy who wanted what was right. That was confusing.

            “Sydney, are there any audio recordings of Number Six?” he asked. “I want to hear what he sounds like.”

            “Yes, there are a few of him from his first day.” Sydney nodded to the technician, who projected another recording on the wall.

            Number Six was in a large, round room with designs going around on huge screens on the walls. In the center was a bubble chair with a man in it and a number of control panels around him, and behind the man was a tall, old-fashioned bicycle. The two men appeared to be having breakfast together. They didn’t talk so much as they fenced with their words, and Jarod listened less to what they said than to how they said it. Number Six was…“pugnacious” might have been the right word. He was angry, harsh, demanding. Even his calm sentences were charged with meaning and sarcasm. In time the other man went from offering breakfast calmly to threatening equally calmly in the face of an increasingly angry Number Six. He flashed pictures on his wall screens, showing how the secret agent had been followed and observed at all moments of his free life.

            Number Six snarled at him, “I’ve nothing to say. Is that clear? Absolutely nothing.”

            “Now be reasonable, old boy. It’s just a matter of time. Sooner or later you’ll tell me. Sooner or later you’ll want to. Let’s make a deal. You cooperate, tell us what we want to know, and this can be a very nice place. You may even be given a position of authority.”

            Number Six’s voice was low, almost calm, but there was anger, power, and threat behind it. “I will not make any deals with you. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own.”

            “Is it?”

            “Yes. You won’t hold me.”

            And Jarod wanted to cheer for him.

            More recordings followed, one of which contained the declaration that stuck in Jarod’s mind: “I am not a number! I am a free man!” In simulations over the next few months, and at occasional times over the next year, Jarod came to know Number Six more and more. He hid how much he admired him. The man could say the most innocuous phrase and infuse it with defiance and threat. He went through things the boy, with all his simulation experience, shuddered to think about, but he held on to his sense of personal identity and his determination to be free. In a way Sydney never imagined, Number Six became Jarod’s role model.

Dance of the Dead by Haiza Tyri

1997, September

            “So it was you I was continually working against!”

            “Not always, but I brought you back or foiled your escape attempts several times. Your weak point was that you kept trusting people and helping the nobodies.” He grinned. “That’s my weak point, too.”

            “It’s a strength!” “Smith” snarled.

            “I agree.”

            “You know, all along I had a sense that I was working against a very powerful intellect. I thought it was Number One, but it was a little boy!” He gave another of his harsh laughs.

            “I was well aware of your intelligence, too. I liked you. I liked how stubborn and arrogant you were in your determination not to let them wear you down. You were my inspiration in some ways. I hated having to work against you.”

            “But how, Jarod? How did a little boy ever come to be mixed up in the Village?”

            “It wasn’t the Village I was mixed up in,” Jarod said bitterly. “It was the Centre.”

            “What is this Centre?” “Smith” demanded.

            “It’s a top-secret organization, loosely affiliated with the American government, loosely affiliated with the British government—loosely affiliated with anyone it wants to use on its way to gaining more power. It has its fingers in many pies, including kidnapping genius children to use their talents for its own purposes. I was one of those children, before I escaped. I solved problems. In this case, it was helping the British government find out about you.”

            “Smith” shook his head decisively. “But it wasn’t the British government. They didn’t run the Village, though they may have known about it and even been involved in it. I see you don’t know my side of the story.”

            “I figured out that you weren’t a Russian agent, at least.”

            “A Russian agent?” the old man exclaimed.

            “Yes. They told both Sydney and me that you were a Communist spy and were imprisoned in the Village so they could learn what you had told the Russians. Neither of us would have cooperated if it hadn’t seemed like we were helping the good guys. I figured out eventually that they were lying to us, but that was long after you faked your death and escaped.”

            “So you do know I faked my death. I’ve done it twice now. That was the first time. I escaped and came to America. It was well-known that I had no use for America, so I decided it was the best place to go. Eventually I settled down, married, had a family. I even came to like it. I kept investigating the Village, meanwhile, always a dangerous task—”

            “Tell me about it,” Jarod said grimly.

            “In time I discovered who ran the Village. That was always one of the greatest puzzles. Was it us or them, the British or the Russians—or someone else altogether?”

            “And who was it?”

            “Someone else altogether, an organization with their fingers in every pie on the global smorgasbord. No one has ever heard of it. It’s called the Triumvirate—”

            “The Triumvirate?” Jarod gasped.

            “You know the Triumvirate?”

            “The Triumvirate runs the Centre! It makes so much sense now. We’re both on the run from the same people, Smith.”

            “Well, I’ll be—” He put out his hand. “It’s good to meet another fellow who refuses to be a dupe of the Village.”

            Jarod shook it heartily. “Or of the Centre. But go on and tell me the rest.”

            “Well, I thought I was safe in America. I had a good life here, though not as exciting as I was used to. I have grown children—my wife died a few years ago.”

            “I’m sorry,” Jarod said softly.

            “Thank you, my boy. Then about two years ago, I got inklings that they were on to me again. I had set up a web of security around myself, and I could feel the tremors when the Triumvirate tiptoed around the edges. I don’t flatter myself that they cared after all these years about why I resigned, which was their ostensible reason for kidnapping me in the first place. It was about pride and power. They had owned me once, and they wanted me back.”

            “That’s exactly how the Triumvirate works. They’re after me because they think they own me, too.” His chin came up and his eyes narrowed as he remembered Number Six’s proud and independent words. “I am a free man!”

            “You hold on to that, son. I have, in the face of everything. When they came for me the second time, they found me dead again. I faked my death once again. It was safer for my family that I do so. My children know nothing of this life. The Triumvirate has nothing to hold over them. I wish I knew how they found me, though.”

            Jarod’s head sank back down. “That’s my fault, too.”

            “Yours?”

            “Someone was going over my old sims, and they decided to look into your case again. Your death was more suspicious than it at first seemed. Since I had been the authority on your character, they brought it to me again, and I tracked you by what I knew of your character. I knew you were perverse and stubborn enough to go to a place you disliked just so you could thumb your nose at them while they ran around in circles in Europe.”

            “Smith” chuckled. “Right you are. But tell me this, Jarod: why did it take you so long? I felt the tremors on the edges of my security web in plenty of time to fake my death again and escape. It went a little too smoothly.”

            Jarod smiled faintly. “I did that on purpose. I had been suspecting for a long time that the Centre was lying to me and using my sim results to hurt people. I no longer even believed you were a Russian spy. All I knew was that you couldn’t bear captivity any more than I could and you didn’t deserve it any more than I did. So I skewed my results. I hoped you would take advantage of the time I gave you.”

            “And I did. You saved my life, Jarod.”

            He clenched his jaw. “And I caused you and your family so much grief—I’ve been the cause of separating a family!” He gasped at the pain of that.

            The old man reached out and grabbed his hand, put all the command he was so capable of in his voice. “You listen to me, boy. That was my choice. My family had me for a good, long time. Longer than I’d once thought possible. My ‘death’ was unexpected to them, but it was a good death for them. It was better than the two alternatives.”

            “Two?”

            “Yes. There was the Triumvirate catching up with me, and then there was my own mortality catching up with me. I knew then that I was dying, slowly, by inches. You’re a doctor—did you even look at my chart? My ‘death’ saved my family two years of watching me die slowly. I’ve been free these two years. That’s all I ask.”

            Jarod reached over and unhooked his chart, read it through. “You don’t have long,” he said softly.

            “Even shorter if the Triumvirate catches up with me. My web has been shaking again. They know I’m alive and what city I’m in now. I was about to leave when I collapsed and a neighbor brought me here.” He glanced around the room, sad and angry. “I refuse to allow this to be the end!”

            “So do I.” Jarod drew out a pen and applied himself to the chart.

            “What are you doing?”

            “Getting you out of here. You’re dead now, Smith, and look, there’s Dr. McKern’s signature to it. You’re going to live out your last few days in freedom.”

Free For All by Haiza Tyri

1997, September-October

            Jarod took him to a cabin by a lake. They spent a week in the openness and stillness, getting to know one another, mostly “Smith” getting to know Jarod and the peculiarity of his life.

            The obstinate old man lived days longer than expected. Jarod knew he was defying death, just as he had defied the Village, even when it was inevitable, living—and dying—on his own terms. Then one evening, as the sun was going down, Number Six died as he had lived, a free man.

Fall Out by Haiza Tyri

1997, October

            Sydney opened the manila envelope and pulled out a button of the pinback sort used in campaigns. It was white and had a tiny picture of a strange bicycle on it, the old-fashioned kind with a huge front wheel and a tiny back wheel, this one with a cover like an old surrey. A red 2 was printed in the center of the large wheel. The whole button itself looked old and ragged, and the pin no longer clasped.

            As he sat staring at it, trying to decide why it was familiar, Miss Parker burst into his office, followed by Broots, who looked bewildered as usual.

            “Syd, what does this mean?” She dropped something on his desk with a clank.

            He picked it up. It was another button like his, complete with red 2, but this one was new and shiny. He handed over his own.

            “You got one, too?” Broots said. “Why didn’t I get one? I just got a question.”

            “A question?”

            He gave Sydney a piece of paper on which was printed, “Who is Number One?”

            “What’s Wonder Boy up to this time, Syd?” Miss Parker demanded. “Why the bicycles?”

            “They’re called pennyfarthings, because of the proportion in sizes between the wheels.”

            “I don’t care about their botanical classifications! What is it about?”

            He sat staring at the buttons and the question, the memory niggling the back of his mind. “Who is Number One? Who is Number One! I have it! Jarod wants us to find out who Number One was.”

            What is Number One?”

            “Years ago Jarod did a series of simulations dealing with the imprisonment of a Russian spy by the British government in a prison called the Village. All the prisoners were given numerical designations. The Russian’s was Number Six. Number Two was the warden of the prison. Number One was the person in charge, but no one ever knew who he was.” He looked up at Miss Parker sharply. “Jarod’s job was to keep Number Six from escaping. In the end, he failed. Later Jarod learned that Number Six was no Russian spy at all but an innocent man falsely imprisoned in a place that merely wanted to take advantage of him. And Number Two was his nemesis.”

            Miss Parker picked up her badge with a smirk. “That’s me, I suppose. Nemesis to Jarod’s Onisius.”

            “And what does that make me?” He compared the two badges. “Mine is old and no longer works properly.”

            “A comment on your encroaching senility, perhaps?”

            “That wouldn’t be like Jarod. No, it’s different than that. You see, Number Two was not a single person but a series of people, men and women, whose job was to use Number Six, break him, keep him from escaping. If one failed, a new Number Two would take the place of the old Number Two.” He snapped the pin off the back of the button. “Jarod doesn’t seem me as Number Two anymore. That is you, Parker.”

            “But who’s Number One?” Broots asked. “I mean, he sent me the question. He can’t think I am?”

            “Don’t be stupid, moron,” Miss Parker snapped. “You’re the computer whiz. You get to find out who Number One is. Look for Centre files on this Village prison.”

            “Oh.”

Checkmate by Haiza Tyri

1997, October

            By the next day, Broots had managed to access some deeply-buried information. Miss Parker and Sydney crowded into his office to see it. Reading through a few memos, it became quite clear who Number One was.

            “So the Triumvirate was in control of the Village the whole time,” Sydney murmured. “I wonder how often they lied to us, how often they told us that a particular simulation’s purpose was to assist in some national interest or to oppose some criminal and in reality it was quite the opposite. I don’t blame Jarod for being angry when he found out the truth.”

            “Watch it, Syd,” Miss Parker said. “You’re in the Centre.”

            He glanced at her, wondering if her warning was driven by loyalty to the Centre or by concern for him. “Well, it seems that somehow Jarod has now found out the truth about the Village and Number Six. He wanted me to see it too.” To let me know how I, too, have been tricked and used?

            “Hey, look, here’s a recording,” Broots said. “Kind of strange that it’s here and not on a DSA.”
            “Ah, I remember this,” Sydney said as they watched the recording of people moving around the Village.

            “Weird place,” Broots chuckled.

            “Jarod was convinced they were working on mind-control techniques. Look, there’s Number Six.”

            They watched the man with the rapid, arrogant stride go into the domed building. When he entered the round room, though, he was a different man.

            “Jarod,” Miss Parker spat. “He put this recording here.”

            “And did a really good job of inserting himself into it,” Broots said admiringly. “Nice jacket, too.”

            Jarod was wearing a black blazer with a white stripe along the collar, his hair combed in a way they had never seen it combed before, much more reminiscent of the 1960s than the 1990s. Looking closely, they could make out the button he wore. Sydney chuckled.

            “Number Eight,” he said.

            “Eight?” Broots echoed.

            “Eight is Jarod’s favorite number.”

            “Yeah, yeah, upright infinity, we remember,” Miss Parker interrupted.

            Broots frowned. “I don’t remember.”

            The security camera zoomed in on Jarod’s face, dark, angry, and ominous. “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own.”

            “Is that so?” Miss Parker muttered. “We’ll see about that.”

            As if in answer, Jarod turned and looked straight into the camera, his face triumphant. “I am a free man!”

This story archived at http://www.pretendercentre.com/missingpieces/viewstory.php?sid=5446