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Coming into Focus
Part 1

He could feel the tube being pushed, firmly and steadily, down his throat and his tongue fought to keep the foreign object away. Perspiration ran down the sides of his face and a hand clutched firmly at his chin, holding his lower jaw open. His lips were dry from the exertions and each breath came painfully from his open mouth. Swinging his head frantically from side to side, he struggled to get away from the hands that were holding him down and the other hands that were trying to force the plastic past his palate and down into his oesophagus, rough edges scraping at the inside of his mouth. Suddenly the second pair of hands pulled the tube away and he felt fingers come into hard contact with his cheek, forcing his head sharply off to the right. As he opened his mouth to gasp at the pain, the hands took the opportunity to force the tube down further than it had gone before. He gagged, but it didn’t help. The small prick on the back of his hand went almost unnoticed but he slowly and gradually felt a warm and slightly sickening sensation begin to sweep over his body. The limited view he had had began to dim and blur and, for a moment, he fought against the strong anaesthetic. It was to no avail. His consciousness was swept away.

Jarod’s hands clutched feverishly at his throat as his eyes flew open and he stared at the ceiling, gasping for breath. For several moments he lay, panting, on top of the blankets, before slowly pulling himself into an upright position. Looking around, he could see that his bags were still in the corner of the room where he had placed them the night before as he had entered and thrown himself onto the bed in exhaustion. He hadn’t slept in almost six days, struggling to complete a pretend that had, for some reason, been more work that usual. His weariness had almost caused him to drive off the road and into a tree but he had forced himself to keep going until he had reached the hotel and made his way into the room. Lying on the bed, it had swept over him and that dream had come…

In his mind, he could still feel it: the strength, superior to his own, that held him in place as they forced the tube down his throat. He felt the bile rise in the back of his throat as the feelings rushed in on him again and he barely made it to the bathroom door before he began to retch, his empty stomach twisting painfully inside him as he gagged. Slowly, painfully, he sank to the floor in front of the ceramic bowl, his mouth now so dry that the first attempt at swallowing was agony. Reaching up to the sink, he leaned against it to pull himself to his feet and dampened a cloth that he wiped against his mouth before sponging his face with it, enjoying the trail of cool moisture that it left behind. Turning, he pressed his back to the wall, the leather of his jacket creating sufficient friction to prevent him from sliding back down to the floor. Using what little strength he could muster, Jarod pushed himself off the tiles and staggered over to the bed, dropping limply down onto it. Gradually, his arms hardly moving, he managed to slip out of the jacket and left it lying on the floor in front of him.

Slowly, very slowly, the weariness began ebbing back. He struggled against it, not wanting to return to the agonising dream in the way that he knew he would inevitably have to. For several long minutes, he sat there, his eyes fixed to a point on the floor until, to ease the burning sensation that he could feel behind his eyelids, he allowed them to slip closed. Feeling himself sway, he used an arm to keep his body upright, forcing his eyes open once again. Numbly he noticed that his head had dropped forward and he was looking no longer at the carpet but now down at his legs. Once more his eyelids slipped shut and, gradually, the arm holding him up began to buckle at the elbow. Unwilling to yield, he fought again, trying to convince himself to get up and walk around, but the temptation to sleep was too great. He could almost have believed, as he finally gave in, that gentle hands supported his head down onto the pillow, but he was asleep before he could look around.

He awoke to find himself in a small, dark room that he instantly recognised. His throat seemed as if it were on fire and he lifted his head from the pillow on which he lay, sitting up only to sway as he swung his feet over the edge of the bed. He allowed his tongue to run over his lips, trying to moisten the dry skin. Sliding forward, he put weight first on one foot and then on the other, eventually making the effort and standing, one hand outstretched to use the wall as a means of support. He swayed again and felt his knees slowly begin to buckle. Before he could sit back down on the bed, he found himself lying on the floor and, with a sigh, he allowed his eyes to slip closed once again. The door opened but he had no strength to see who had come in. Hands lifted him back up onto the bed and placed his head on the pillow. The blanket that had been covering him before he threw it aside was now replaced. The prick in the back of his hand was repeated, but this time he didn’t bother to fight, yielding quickly to the sedative.

Jarod's eyes flickered open and he stared up at the ceiling once more, his gaze taking in each crack and cobweb without consciously registering in his mind that they were there. Slowly he raised himself on his elbows and looked around the room. Almost nothing was different from the previous time except for himself and the way he felt. Reaching out with one hand, he took his jacket from where it lay on the chair that sat beside the bed and pulled his phone out of the inner pocket. His fingers still trembled as he brought up the pre-programmed number and connected the call.

“This is…”

“When was I force-fed?”

“Jarod? What are you talking about?”

“You know, Sydney.”

Some of the strength came back into his voice as he got up off the bed and slowly began to pace the length of the room.

“Jarod, I don’t know what you mean. You were never…”

“I was.”

The voice was soft but Sydney, sitting in his chair behind his desk, could detect the pain in the tones.

“That never happened, I promise you. I wouldn’t have allowed it.”

“It did, Sydney. It must have. I remember…”

Suddenly there came a stabbing pain in Jarod's stomach – an agony that made him drop the phone and double over with a cry, falling to his knees. He gasped once before passing out, lying face down on the floor.

“Jarod? Jarod, answer me! Jarod!”

The voice rang thinly from the device that lay on the carpet, the unconscious man lying next to it, his fingers only inches from the handset. Soft footsteps came across the floor and knelt down, picking up the phone.

“All right, Sydney,” a female voice soothed. “He’s safe now.”

Before the frantic psychiatrist could respond, the call was disconnected.


“You still don’t remember me?”


The woman sitting on the chair smiled grimly as she watched the pale-faced figure who lay on the bed, his eyes closed and chest rising and falling irregularly. “You should, Sydney. Even though you only saw me once, I would have thought that that was often enough. He will remember.”


“Of course.”

“Is he…?”

“He’s still unconscious, for the moment. He’ll be coming around soon, though.”

“How do you…?”

She slipped forward in the chair. “You really don’t remember, do you?” Her tone contained a hint of incredulity. “He nearly died and yet you blocked it all out.”

There was a pause.

“I didn’t want to remember.”

“But you do now.”

“Yes.” It was little more than a whisper.

“Good.” She sat back in her seat, satisfied. “That’s fortunate because he’s going to need you.”

“Rebecca,” he paused, working out what he wanted to say, “how did you know?”

She laughed softly and hung up.

Sitting there, she watched him sleep. The pain had diminished and his time of unconsciousness had been brief, replaced immediately with a period of very deep sleep. Occasionally he moaned, tossing his head from side to side on the pillow and, when this happened, an expression of sympathy would appear on her face. Once she went into the bathroom, dampened the cloth on the sink and, returning, gently washed his hot face with it. After getting him up onto the bed, she had removed his shoes and loosened his belt. Other than that, however, she left him alone. Most of the time she simply sat and watched him, her mind travelling back through the years to the time when, briefly, they had met. She wondered if he really would remember her. She, of course, had never forgotten him. She had had no chance. How could she?


Jarod felt the soft, cool material on his face before he was properly awake and moaned softly as he felt it passing his lips. Gently it was lifted away from his face and he opened his eyes to the darkened room. Several drops were squeezed onto his lips and he gratefully swallowed, trying to discern shapes in the dark. He felt a hand on the side of his face and, reaching up, caught it clumsily. A white shape appeared in his blurred vision and slowly came closer, revealing itself to be a woman with long, blond hair.

“All right, Jarod. You’re safe now. I’m here.”

His lips moved, but no sound came from them. The face smiled and looked away for a moment. He tried to move, but a stab of pain shot through him and he arched his back, trying to escape from it. A second pale form appeared on his other side; this one was familiar, a firm, warm hand covering his.

“It’s okay, Jarod.”

“S…” His lips shaped the letter but no sound came. The first figure nodded.

“Yes, Jarod. It’s Sydney. But he’s not here to hurt you. We want to help.”

“Jarod, I’m going to give you something for the pain.”

The prick on the back of his hand was reminiscent of his dreams but he had no strength or desire to recall them. Still feeling the comforting hand on his cheek, he relaxed with a grateful sigh.

Rebecca looked up at the psychiatrist with a small smile. “Good timing.”

“Fortunately.” Sydney recapped the needle.

“He would only have passed out again. He was close to it when you appeared in the doorway.” She slid off the bed and returned to the chair, looking up at him and examining his features. “You haven’t changed.”

“You have.” He snapped his bag shut and took the seat opposite her. “I wouldn’t have known you at all…”

“…if you hadn’t heard my voice. Face it Sydney, you couldn’t forget that. At least, not one particular phrase of it.”

“No,” he admitted, slowly looking over to the bed. “That I could never forget.”

“And yet,” her lips twitched in amusement, “you didn’t recognise me at first. What would your brother say?”

“Thirty-six years is a long time, Rebecca,” Sydney reminded her. “Even he…”

“He would have remembered.” She nodded to herself. “And Jarod will, too. He’s slowly remembering what happened that day. It’s only a matter of time before he remembers me too.”

“You haven’t lost your abilities, then.”

“They’ve been enhanced. You know that.” She looked at him. “If they weren’t, how would I have known where to come?”

He nodded, acknowledging the truth of her statement. “When did you get here?”

”Yesterday, about an hour before he did.”


She stood up and began to pace the room. “What do you mean, ‘and’? And nothing. I didn’t let him know that I was here until he collapsed.”

“Why didn’t you do something before that?” Sydney stared at her. “He could have suffered permanent damage!”

”No. That wouldn’t have happened.” She stepped over to the bed and looked down at the man, his flushed cheeks and deep, regular breathing softening her hard expression. “He’s only reliving the agony, not the cause of it. For that reason he couldn’t suffer anything apart from what he has now – fever and pain.”

“And you wouldn’t have done anything about that earlier?”

“And have the events of that day haunt his dreams for the rest of his life?” Knowing that her argument was unanswerable, she turned away and walked over to the window, slipping between the closed curtains to step out onto the darkness of the balcony.

The pain was the worst. It had gnawed away at him all day, making him feel sick to his stomach and forcing him to send his meals away uneaten. He hadn’t felt scared for a long time but now he was. A book that Sydney had loaned him about sickness for a simulation had mentioned feelings like what he had, but he was scared of the idea of an operation and didn’t want to have one. That was why he wasn’t going to tell anybody about this and he tried to hide his pain from the cameras. In bed, he was unable to find a cool spot on the pillow to rest his hot head and, turning his face to the wall, he allowed several tears to slip down his cheeks. A sharper stab made him arch backwards, as if he could throw off the pain, but that only made it worse and he hid a moan in his pillow. He was slipping in and out of sleep when the door of his room opened and the lights were turned on. Voices and faces came into his confused and feverish mind as from a great distance, but he was really aware of only one thing – a gentle, small hand on his cheek as the pain began to fade away.

Rebecca slipped back into the room, the open curtain briefly allowing light into the room before it once again became dark. Walking over, she switched on a small lamp that stood on a table on the far side of the room and looked around. As she had expected, Jarod still slept on one bed and Sydney was now lying on the other. It was, she thought as she walked over and sat on the edge of Jarod's bed, only going to be a few more seconds…

Jarod turned onto his side and curled up with a soft moan, his hands clutching at his stomach. The pain was stabbing at him again and he couldn’t get away from it, no matter what he did. The cool hand on his face distracted him for a moment but, as he opened his eyes, the world appeared to waver in front of him and he closed them again.


The voice was softly spoken in his ear and, forcing his eyes open once more, he tried to focus on her face.

“It’s all right, Jarod. Relax.”

“It hurts…” The voice was the whimper of a very small boy and he clutched at the hand she slipped into his.

“I know, Jarod,” she soothed. “Just try to relax and it will go away.”

“I…I can’t…”

“You can, Jarod.” She smiled. “Focus on my voice. Can you remember it?”

With an effort, he shook his head. “I’ve…never seen…”

“You have, Jarod.” To keep him focused on her, she constantly repeated his name and kept her sentences short. “You’ve seen me once before. You heard my voice then, too, Jarod. Try to remember.”


“Yes, Jarod.” She leaned in closer, her hair almost touching his face as it fell over her shoulder. “You can remember. I know you can.”

The face was that of a small girl with long, honey-coloured hair and eyes that were dark like his own. She sat beside him, one hand firmly wrapped in his and the other gently touching his cheek.

“Who…are you…?”

His voice was weak from pain and fever and she bent down so that he could focus properly on her.

“I’m a friend.”

“Why…are you…?”

“I’m here because you’re sick, Jarod.”

“You know…my…”

“Your name. Yes, I do. And I know a lot of other things about you, too.” She smiled and the movement caused her hair to slip over her shoulder so that it almost touched his face.

“My name’s Rebecca.”


His eyes slowly opened again and came to focus, once more, on her face. With a sluggish gaze, he looked up at her. She smiled. “I knew you’d remember me, Jarod.”

“Why…are you…?”

“I’m here to help you.”

A faint smile appeared on his face but, as he tried to move, he winced.

“Try to relax, Jarod. If you relax, it will help.”


“You can.” She moved her hand, gently stroking the side of his head in slow, calm movements. Her voice, too, became slower and softer. “That’s it. A little more.” She slipped her hand out of his grasp and straightened his legs so that they were flat on the mattress and he was lying on his back.

“That’s better. Now, close your eyes.”

She watched as he did so, pain making him as docile as a child.

“You have to relax, Jarod. Breathe with me. In. And then slowly out.” She picked up his hand again and held it to her chest. “And in again. That’s right. And out, very slowly. Good. And in, deeply and slowly. And out.” She continued to stroke the side of his face, knowing that his own weakness would not enable him to stay awake. He sighed once and then relaxed, his lips parting slightly. Gently she eased his hand out of hers, placing it on his stomach, and looked up to find Sydney watching her.

“He remembers,” the psychiatrist stated.

“I knew he would. Did you doubt it?”

“He was only six.”

“So was I.”

Sydney sat up. “But you have an advantage.”

“If you want to call it that.” Her lips twisted bitterly as she came over and sat down beside him. “I don’t.”

“You always called it your curse.”

“I still do.”

“Why, Rebecca? Most people would call second sight a wonderful gift.”

There was a hint of a smile on her face as she looked up at him. “’Second sight’, Sydney? You’re as romantic as your brother. Why not just call it psychic power and be done with it?”

“Because it’s more than that, with you. The knowledge goes deeper.”

“The Centre fostered it. They always intended to use it…”

“They never got the chance.”

“They don’t deserve the chance.

“No,” Sydney agreed softly, his mind going back over some of the things he knew had happened to her. “Perhaps they don’t.”

“Perhaps?” She turned and stared at him angrily for a moment before getting up again. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”


Sydney awoke to hear the murmur of voices on the other side of the room. He looked over to see Rebecca kneeling down on the side of the bed and Jarod lying on his side, watching her. He sat up as the Pretender gasped with pain and drew his legs up. Going over to his case, Sydney drew out the syringe from the day before, affixed a new needle and filled it once more with sedative. Approaching the bed, however, he paused as Rebecca shook her head at him.

“Take it away, please!” the Pretender gasped. “Take the pain…”

”No, Jarod.” She tossed her hair back over her shoulder and looked down at him, one hand still resting on the side of his face. “You have to do it this time.”

“I…I can’t!” His voice was once more than of a small boy, begging.

“Jarod, you aren’t trying. You have to work with me here.”


She lifted his head slightly with one hand; the movement making him open eyes that he had closed in defeat. They filled with tears that slipped down onto her hand and then the bed. Rebecca leaned over him, her eyes revealing her determination.

“You hid your sickness, Jarod, and your pain. Do you remember?”

His eyes rolled up to her face, his voice a harsh rasp. “How…do you know…?”

Her smile contained a hint of bitterness. “I was trained to know.” She glanced up to meet Sydney's eye and the smile faded before she looked back at the suffering man. “And what happened next, Jarod?”

“You were there…”

“Yes, I was.” She turned the pillow and lowered his head gently onto it, wiping away the tears. “And what happened then?”

”Somebody…gave me something…”

“An injection.” She nodded. “And then…”

“No!” His whisper was full of pain. “I didn’t want it.”

“You were scared.”

His eyes were squeezed tightly shut but he nodded. “I didn’t want it.” His voice was a whimper. “I didn’t want an operation.”

“But you needed one. You knew that.” She picked up the damp cloth that lay on the table and wiped the perspiration away from his face with it. “You knew, but you were too scared to tell anybody.”

“Yes…” Jarod gasped, as tears soaked the pillow.

She nodded. “But do you remember why you needed one? It wasn’t appendicitis, like they thought it was. Can you remember what it was?”

“No…” He closed his eyes and turned away from her, gasping for breath. “No, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to have to remember this.” He looked up at Sydney, his expression pleading. “Make it go away. The pain. Make it stop. Please.”

Sydney looked over at Rebecca, his face wearing a similar expression to the one that Jarod’s face wore. She straightened up and, with a sigh, nodded. Sydney got up and walked over to the bed, bending down and slipping the needle into the back of the Pretender’s hand. Jarod closed his eyes with a soft groan, and then opened them once more to look at the woman who was staring blankly out of the window, before the sedative took effect.

“It isn’t helping,” she murmured.

Sydney pulled a blanket over Jarod's shoulders and then looked up at her.

“What isn’t helping?”

“All the injections. The sleep. Until he remembers what caused the problem in the first place, he won’t get over this.”

The psychiatrist sat down and looked up at her. “And what did?”

She turned, her mouth slightly open in shock. “You don’t know?”

“When I got the results of the surgery, they said they found some bleeding but couldn’t locate the source. It had stopped by the time they opened him up.”

Rebecca nodded. “They would say that. Or he would. I have to assume that, although Dr Raines didn’t carry out the surgery, he ‘helped’ to write the report.”

“What are you talking about, Rebecca? Raines had no contact…”

“You were told that Jarod was slightly unwell and that he should have a day away from his simulations, yes?”

The doctor nodded.

“He had a day away from the simulations, alright. He had a tube shoved down his throat so that they could look at his insides!”

“What?!” Sydney leaped out of his chair in shock and stared at her.

“Raines was writing a dissemination on the functions of the human digestive system. He had the wonderful idea that perhaps those of a pretender might be different from those of other people, so he hauled that poor boy out of his room, got people to hold him down and tried to push a tube down his throat that would protect the camera. When Jarod fought, he was anaesthetized.”

Wordlessly, Sydney sat down next to the unconscious figure of the pretender and began to gently and protectively stroke his hair. Rebecca continued.

“Once Raines finally got the camera into his throat, he found that all he could see was blood. Jarod's movements, and also the rough edges of the tube, had scraped the sides of his esophagus, almost from his mouth to his stomach. Raines yanked out the tube, made sure that Jarod would still be asleep for a while and had him taken back to his room. When he woke up at one point and got out of bed, he was put back into it and sedated again. He suffered the whole of the next day without anybody noticing until that night.”

Rebecca walked over and picked up the cloth from the table, holding it in her hands for a moment before walking into the bathroom and rinsing it out. Coming back, she continued.

“I was asleep in my room when this image of a boy in agony flashed into my mind. I climbed up into the air vent above my bed and crawled along the passageway until I could see into his room. His face was red and he was sweating badly, moaning in his sleep like he was earlier.” She glanced at the sleeping man for a moment, her face showing sympathy once more. “When I saw him, it hit me that he could actually die unless I did something, so I crawled further along until I came to a cover that I knew from experience was loose. I got out, ran along the hallway to Jacob’s office and came in.”

“And then you told us that Jarod was dying.” Sydney spoke softly and looked up at her, tears in his eyes. “How did you know his name?”

“Jacob thought it a lot. He still regretted his involvement in the kidnapping. That was why he tried to get him out.”

Sydney nodded silently.

“Five days ago, I knew that Jarod was about to begin reliving it all. It took me all that time to get here.”

“And will he…?”

“If he lets himself remember – and right now, he’s too scared to do that – he will get over it, yes. But, like I said, sedating him all the time isn’t really helping. It’s making him dream with no way of waking up from it, and it’s also prolonging the inevitable.”

“Did Raines find out what you’d done?”

Rebecca nodded. “That was the day that your brother decided to get me out of the Centre. I looked,” she paused for a moment. “I looked almost exactly like Catherine Parker did after Mr. Raines was finished with her, four years later.” She looked up at him. “You saw me, Sydney. Not then, but earlier.”

“I don’t…remember.”

“You will.” She looked sadly down again.

“And were you injured?”

“A few broken bones. Nothing that didn’t heal.”

“Except your mind.”

She sat down on a chair and stared at him. “What do you mean?”

“My brother and I used to talk about the two of you.” Sydney smiled. “One of the things that Jacob could never get over was how…unbitter you always were. I know that you were only a child.“ He forestalled her comments and continued to speak. “You, like Jarod, were mature at a young age. Because you’d spent longer in the Centre by the time you met him, you were even ‘older’ than he was.”

“Girls mature faster than boys. Miss Parker said that to him.”

“She was right, and she was more mature than Jarod. But you were even more so. Jacob used to say that, if you ever became bitter or angry, somebody specific would cause it and it would affect your whole outlook on life. And I think it did.”

“Maybe he was right.”

“Maybe?” Sydney glanced from Jarod to the woman sitting opposite him. “Rebecca, even the day we saved Jarod, you weren’t bitter towards the man who did it. Since then, though…”

“It’s been forty years, Sydney. Forty years since Jacob told the Tower I’d died and smuggled me out of the Centre. Even you’ve become bitter in that time.”

“Still, with me it’s different; it’s taken time. You’ve been like this for so long that you don’t even notice it anymore.”

“I thought I was the psychic one.” She tried to smile but failed.

“You are.” He stretched out a hand and touched her face in the same way she touched Jarod's. “But I’m the psychiatrist.”

He could feel himself tense as soon as the door of his room opened and it wasn’t Sydney who walked through it. He lay on the bed for a moment before forcing himself up and off it, standing in the middle of the room.

“Are you ready?” the stranger demanded.

“I’m not…” The boy looked over at the pile of clothes that sat on the chair.

“It doesn’t matter. You don’t need to be dressed today.” Jarod felt the hand in the middle of his back that pushed him towards the door. “Just come with me.”

The room was big, white and empty, with only a table standing in the middle of it. “You’re going to be very useful to me today, Jarod. You might even make me famous.”

The boy could feel himself beginning to tremble as the man laughed. He backed away slowly until he was pressed up against the table. Then he was picked up and held down on it…

“No. No. Oh, God, no!” The last three words were almost a scream as Jarod sat upright, panting heavily and one hand pressed against his chest.

“It’s all right, Jarod. It’s over.” Sydney sat down on the bed next to him and wiped the cool cloth against his face.

“No, Sydney.” The Pretender’s face was white and he still gasped for breath. “It’s not.” He felt the arm that the psychiatrist put around him and leaned against it for a moment, grateful for the support. “It’s not over.”

“I’m glad you can see that, Jarod.”

He looked up to find Rebecca leaning against the wall, watching him, with her arms folded on her chest. “It’s important that you realize we have to confront that while you’re awake and not just in your dreams.”

“You confront it,” Jarod growled and turned away. “Just tell me what you see.”

She raised one eyebrow. “I’ve already seen it.” She came over and sat in front of him. “I saw it happen. I even saw the parts you won’t ever remember.”

“Lucky you,” he snarled.

She half-smiled at Sydney. “He must be feeling better. He couldn’t have been angry with me yesterday.” She reached forward and touched his hand. “If we don’t deal with this, it will only get worse.”

Jarod thought back over the pain he’d experienced and suppressed a shudder only with difficulty. “It couldn’t get worse.”

“Oh yes, it could. A lot worse.” Her face was serious now, almost sad. “But I don’t want you to have to go through that, either.”

The Pretender turned away, refusing to look at her and Sydney looked at him in concern. “She’s only trying to help you, Jarod. We both are.”

“Sydney,” Rebecca looked up at him, “Would you mind giving us some time alone?” She reached into her pocket and pulled out some money. “Go down and get Jarod some ice-cream or something.”

She smiled, seeing the glance of amazement that Jarod sent in her direction as Sydney got up off the bed, nodding in agreement.

“I won’t be too long.”

“Take your time.” She stood up also. “We’ll both be here when you get back.”


“What do you really want?”

Jarod's voice was still a growl as he sat back against the head of the bed, too weak to be able to get up, however much he wanted to.

“I want to know what you remember.” She sat opposite him, both her hands supporting her chin as she leaned forward, her elbows resting on his knees. “And I want to help you.”

“You’d help me a lot more,” he turned his head to look at the wall, “if you’d go away and leave me alone.”

“You wouldn’t have wanted me to do that when you were six, when you were lying in bed in that room, sick, scared and alone. You wanted me then.”

“Then isn’t now.”

“Isn’t it?” She sat back in her chair. “You’re feeling the same pain that you were then. The only difference is that you’re a few feet taller – and a lot heavier,” she smiled.

“How do you…?”

Her head tilted slightly to one side. “Who do you think was the first person in your room that day? Sydney?”

“It was you, but…”

“And who was the first person in your room when you passed out? Sydney?”


She smiled again. “You see. Things aren’t that different. And if you refuse to deal with this now, it will come to haunt you again.” Her voice softened. “You were so terrified of that operation, weren’t you Jarod? The pain was terrible – it was agony – but you were so scared of the things you’d read about operations that you were willing to put up with it rather than have one. Even though it nearly killed you.”

“I don’t want…”

“But you have to, Jarod. We both know that you couldn’t live through this again.”

He down at his hands, one finger lightly tracing the two flowering bruises where the needle had injected the sedative.

“We – the three of us, Sydney, Jacob and I – came into your room to find you slipping in and out of consciousness, with a fever that would have left you dead in the morning. You were in absolute agony and couldn’t speak. Then Sydney gave you something to make you sleep and they took you to the infirmary.”

She paused, waiting for him to interrupt, but he stayed silent.

“I was taken back to my room but, a few hours later, knew that you needed me. I got up into the vents and went down to where you were. Your room looked like the one where you found Faith, curtains and all. I crept in and held your hand until you woke up.”

“We…met,” he murmured, studying his hands with intensity.

“If you want to put it like that, yes. But I’d known you for so long before that day that it didn’t seem like it to me.”

“How did you know me?”

“How do you know how to be a doctor, a pilot or a lawyer? The same way I knew about you.” She paused. “We aren’t that different.”

“And then?” he mumbled uncomfortably.

“You were taken away for the surgery. You didn’t want to,” she added, smiling gently, “but you were too weak and sedated to fight them.” She looked up at him, the smile replaced with a look of sadness. “And what came next?”

“You tell me.”

She nodded. “You wanted me badly when you woke up from the operation, but I never came and you were so angry with me. I felt your anger that night, and I felt as you cried yourself to sleep, and I was so sorry.” She smiled gently at him and he couldn’t help smiling back. “I was the only other person you knew apart from Sydney at the Centre and you kept waiting for me to come. But somebody else came instead.” She leaned forward. “And you remember who that was.”


His voice was faint and she knew that she had broken down the defenses he’d been building up against her.

“I sent Timmy to you, Jarod.”

“You what?” He stared at her in shock.

“I wanted very badly to come and see you but I couldn’t. So I asked Timmy to go instead. And he did.”

“And why didn’t you…?”

“Because I was in the room right next door.”

“You were…why?”

He straightened his back against the wall behind the bed and looked at her. She refused to meet his eye but spoke while looking down at the floor.

“When you were about to come back from the surgery, I went back into the room to wait for you, but there was somebody else there, waiting for me. I hoped it was Jacob or Sydney…”

“But it wasn’t?”

“No. It was Dr Raines.”

“But, just a minute.” Jarod leaned forward and stared at her. “You know all about all sorts of things – so how could you not know…?”

“I never said that I knew it was Sydney or his brother. I just said I hoped it was.”

“You knew what he would do?”

“I know what everybody will do. That’s my curse.”

“So he…” Jarod stopped, suddenly feeling sick, “he beat you?”

“Something like that.”

“Then what?”

She looked up to meet his gaze, but quickly dropped her eyes again. “It won’t help you to know that.”

“It will.” He looked at her sharply. “If I know what you went through…”

“You can simulate it and make yourself feel guilty about it.”

Jarod shrugged slightly. “Maybe, maybe not.”

She sighed and pushed her hair back over her shoulder. “You could find out later anyway, so I might as well tell you.” She swallowed painfully and one hand went unconsciously to the back of her hand in a movement that imitated his.

“I’m sure you remember what Raines did to Timmy in 1970, to try and enhance his potential.”

Jarod nodded silently.

“He developed that treatment in 1965, on me.”


“He wanted to wipe the memory of you from my mind. He thought that that type of treatment would be effective. So he tried it.”

“But it failed.”

“Spectacularly.” She gave a twisted, slightly bitter smile. “But it enhanced the abilities I already had. They used to be that of a normal psychic – vague feelings about things that could be easily interpreted. They became stronger, until I could tell you not only what a person was feeling but also where they were and how they would react to it. And I could predict it some time in advance.”

“And then…?”

“Then?” She looked up. “I was unconscious for hours. Unconscious, that was, to all outward appearances. But I could still feel. That’s how I knew you were angry with me.” She paused. “Jacob used the occasion to prove to the Tower that I was dead. I was ‘released’ – really released, not just hidden away on SL-27 – and Raines got a smack on the wrist, the same way he always does.” She smiled again at the memory. “I used to have the same sort of relationship with Jacob that you have with his brother, but that ended when he had the car accident.”

“You knew?”

“I watched it happen – once in my mind and then in front of me, when I was just that little bit too late to do anything about it.” She looked up at him, all emotion gone from her face. “I swore I’d never be too late again, ever.” Her head went up and she looked over at him. “And I wasn’t.”

There was a period of silence, during which Jarod saw Rebecca’s lips tremble slightly before they firmed into a straight line. She looked up at him again, meeting his gaze steadily.

“Jacob placed me with a family he knew, where he hoped I’d be safe. Every few weeks, he would come and visit me. Then the accident happened, and I visited him.”

“How often?”

“As often as I could.” She paused. “He was always like a father to me and I had to see him. Not even Raines would have been able to keep me away.”

“When were you…?”

“Brought to the Centre? When I was three weeks old. I was taken out of my dead mother’s arms and adopted by them, officially.”

“But now they think you’re dead.”

She smiled faintly. “Hmm, sort of.”

He looked at her, one eyebrow raised. “Explain, please.”

Her smile broadened and she nodded. “I have every intention of explaining. She never told you, but I met Miss Parker, too, some time before you did. Actually, she probably can’t remember me at all. She’s blocked a lot of those times out, except for the things you remind her of.”

“Any others?”

“Angelo knows, of course.”

Jarod nodded. “He knows everything.”

“I think that’s about right. That, presumably, is why you ask him for help so often.”

“Is that all?”

“Not quite.” She got up from the chair and walked over to the window.

“Sydney knew. At least,” she corrected herself. “He knew subconsciously but the time when you were sick was terrible for him and he’s blocked a lot of it out. He didn’t even recognize my voice when I talked to him the first time.”

“Neither did I.”

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “That’s hardly a great surprise, really, when you think about what you were going through.”


“And that brings us back to the real discussion that we need to have now.”

“Sydney will be back soon.

“Not soon enough to let you get out of it.” She came and sat down in front of him on the bed, feeling him stiffen. “Actually, he only just left. He’s been standing outside the door and listening the whole time to make sure I wasn’t being horrible to you.”

“You couldn’t…” The words were out before Jarod could stop them and Rebecca smiled as she took his hand.

“Then you know I’m only doing this for your good.” She stroked his hand gently and glanced at him. “Even though it’s hard.”

He leaned back stiffly against the wall and looked at her. “So why…?”

“You know why. When you remember what he did, the pain will go.”

Jarod felt something sink and then tighten in his stomach until he felt as if he was about to be sick, although he knew now that it was all in his mind. His eyes pleaded with her when he looked up again. “Help me.” The words were whispered.

“I’ll be here, Jarod. But you have to remember on your own, otherwise it won’t work properly.” She leaned forward and brushed his lips with her finger. “You have to get over the mental blocks you’ve made about that day. But they can’t hurt you any more.” She placed her hands on his shoulders and forced him to look at her. “And that’s the part I’m here to help you remember.”


His eyes were closed and his hand was wrapped in hers. She was no longer sitting on the bed but had pulled a chair up close beside it and was watching silently as the tears began to slip from under his closed lids.


Her soft voice broke through the memory he was reliving and slowly his eyes opened and he looked up at her.

“I’m scared.”

“I know.” Her voice was soothing. “But you still have to face it.”


“Because otherwise you can’t overcome it.”

He nodded, feeling the sense of her words but still fighting against their meaning.

“You remembered what Raines did. Now you need to go further.”


“The next day.”

He allowed his eyelids to fall shut again, seeing the room he had had then at the Centre, and began to speak even before he realized. “I woke up in my room the next morning, wondering if I would see Sydney when the door opened. It was…a relief that it was him.”

“Just a relief, Jarod?”

“No,” he admitted softly. “More.”

She nodded, satisfied. “And then?”

“I managed to get rid of my breakfast by hiding it under the bed and I told Sydney that I wasn’t hungry at lunchtime and wanted to keep working.”

“And did you?”

He shook his head. “No. When he left, I lay down on the floor and tried…not to cry.” Jarod paused, a tear that had eased out from between his eyelids slowly making its way down his temple. “After lunch, we kept working. But it was hard. I was so hot. I couldn’t see things properly and I made mistakes.”

“And what happened once you finished work?”

“I was taken back to my room…and I lay on my bed and tried to hide how bad I felt from the cameras.”

She nodded. “And do you remember what happened next?”

His eyes opened and he looked at her frankly. “Only that you were there.”

“And who else?”

“Sydney…and Jacob.”

“And how did that feel?”

He paused for a moment. “Safe.” The word was a whisper and she saw the smile that curled his lips.

“And that was when you connected Raines with pain and Sydney with safety, and when you began to be terrified of one and attach yourself to the other.”

After a moment, he nodded. She smiled and sat back on the bed next to him.

“And are you still angry with me?”

“You know the answer.”

“Yes,” she nodded. “I do.” Stretching out one hand, she again placed it on his cheek. “You can sleep now.”

“Without dreaming?”

“Perhaps,” she smiled. “But dreams aren’t always bad.”

“All mine are.”

“All?” She raised an eyebrow. “I don’t believe that.”

She watched as he yawned and then slid slightly further down the bed. His eyes, when he looked at her, were already drowsy. “Stay with me?”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“Good.” He sighed, rolled onto his side and closed his eyes.


Sydney cautiously opened the door and stepped into the room, stopping short when he saw that both Rebecca and Jarod appeared to be asleep. The illusion was shattered, however, when she raised her head and stood up.

“Is everything…?”

Despite himself, his voice betrayed his nervousness and Rebecca smiled. “It’s fine, Sydney. It wasn’t easy – but he’s okay. He was tired at the end of the discussion and fell asleep. That’s all.”

The psychiatrist placed the bag down on the table and, walking over to the bed, sat down in the chair beside it and looked closely at the Pretender.

“He looks…better.”

She nodded. “He is.” She looked at him. “What did Miss Parker say?”

He opened his mouth to speak and she jumped in again.

“Please, Sydney, you can’t lie to me. I know that Miss Parker called your phone while you were shopping. Don’t insult either my intelligence or my knowledge by trying to deny it.”

“All right,” he said calmly. “She did call but I didn’t tell her where we were.”

“You might as well have.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s outside the door, right now.”

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