Show: Pretender and Orignial Characters
Part: 2 of 4
Setting/Season: Between Season 1 and 2
Spoilers: None really.
Warnings: Violence, Language
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Pretender characters so don’t sue me. The PHQ characters belong to me.
Summary: Pretending is one thing Jarod doesn't share with anyone else... or does he? Jarod is opened up to a world he never knew existed when he meets a woman who tells him there are more pretenders than he thinks.
A/N: These original characters were created long ago on NBC's Centre Exchange Board. They've kind of gotten into a roll playing group and now have a small world all their own... Thought I'd share it with you. Hope you like.
Oakfield, Maryland, February 1, 1997
Jarod had just stopped the Fax Bomber who was really Daniel Carlson, a bomb squad officer, who was planting bombs and then defusing them for the glory. Now he was on to helping a death row inmate receive justice. As he took out everything he’d shoved into this pack and placed it around his room he stopped as a card drifted to the floor at his feet.
Jarod set his pez dispensers and files on the bed and grabbed the card from the floor. The embossed numbers seemed to call to him. Kristina had seemed pleasant enough. She didn’t seem to want to harm him or even force him to call them. She just gave him the option to do so whenever he felt ready to. He could wait until the new millennium if he wanted but something nagged at him to call now.
Jarod went to his computer and set up all the routings. He didn’t want it to be traceable. He then dialed the number. The line clicked over to a messaging system with no message or prompt of any kind. Anyone who got the number by mistake would have no way of knowing what they’d reached which was fine. Even people against The Centre needed to lay low. “Um…” What had Kristina said? ‘Name,’ “This is Jarod.” ‘And location.’ He instantly felt wrong about giving up his location. He severed the connection quickly.
Michael sat at his desk working over what William had brought back from his last scouting mission. The Centre was definitely trying to keep something quiet and he would make sure it was exposed. He wasn’t going to let The Centre hide anything. He still searched for Lily which they’d managed to hide from him all these years. He’s instant attachment to her all those years ago was something that kept him going.
Michael computer blinked as a message came into the access numbers voicemail system. His eyebrow rose as he accessed the information. “This is Jarod…” There was a pause and then the line went dead. Jarod had hung up. Michael knew he was having second thoughts about contacting them and Michael was determined to prevent that from keeping them from Jarod. He was an essential piece in their fight against The Centre. They needed to make contact.
Michael saved the message to the computer and deleted it from the voicemail system. He rose and headed out of his office and down the hallway where he walked into Natasha’s office. “Jarod called in. He seemed hesitant but I’m going to track him and make contact.” Michael didn’t wait for her response. He closed her door and continued out into the foyer where he grabbed his jacket and headed out. If he planned to find Jarod he would go to the Hoffman Foundation offices and use the tracking software there.
Michael walked into The Brain of the Hoffman Foundation. Many who worked for the foundation called it The Brain only because it was the source of everything at the foundation. All computers were jacked into the main system which resided on the top floor of the Hoffman building. Gaining access to that part of the building was next to impossible, which was just the way Michael wanted it. There were no windows, despite the appearance of some from the outside. The walls were literally feet thick of steel to keep everyone out that shouldn’t be there and to keep anyone who was supposed to be there in. Only two people worked up there and Michael knew both of them. They actually lived in the building on the top floor. Both operatives had access to a chopper and often went off site to stay at one of their houses. Everyone else in the building worked for the cover foundation which had a good cause but wasn’t the major goal.
Michael closed the giant security door behind him and crossed the scanners which could literally stun him if he weren’t permitted to be there. Tyson and Elizabeth both met him at the other end of the security corridor. “Michael nice to see you.” Tyson nodded to him.
“And you.” Michael nodded to both of them. “As I told you on the phone. I need to trace a call that came into the voice system approximately one hour ago.”
“You know how it’s done.” Elizabeth gestured for him to go to the system and start his work.
Michael nodded to her and went to the system. It was a little over three hours later when he rose from the station and went to find Tyson and Elizabeth again. “I found what I needed. See you both soon.”
“See ya.” They both called after him. They were busy dealing with other situations and he wasn’t about to bother them. He turned and headed out of the brain the only way he could… the same way he’d come.
Oakfield, Maryland, February 2, 1997
The general location was all he found but after reading the local newspaper he knew exactly where to find Jarod. Michael waited outside of the prison until Jarod was off. It surprised him Jarod didn’t seem to notice his presence but thought the mere fact he was on a motorcycle instead of in a dark sedan proved he wasn’t a sweeper.
Michael watched from outside as Jarod sat and talked with a woman named Jessica Wills. Michael knew enough about her to know she was trying to save her father from the electric chair. He’d read the files and knew why Jarod was there. The man was innocent and Jarod was going to prove it.
As soon as Jessica Wills left Jarod at the diner, Michael saw his chance to make contact with Jarod. Michael entered the diner and took the seat Jessica had occupied.
Jarod peered at him. “This is my booth.”
Michael nodded to him. “Yes, which is why I sat here,” Michael thought twice about saying Jarod’s name but thought it would be best to convey his knowledge of the pretender, “Jarod.”
Jarod’s face quickly changed to surprise as he sucked air in clearly anticipating sweepers to pour into the restaurant. “Who are you?”
“My name is Michael. I’m a friend of Kristina’s. You called.” Michael leaned back in the booth. The waitress approached and he quickly looked up at her. “Just coffee. Black.” She nodded and went after it.
Jarod shook his head. “How did you find me?”
Michael waited for the waitress to set down the coffee and walk away before replying. “I tracked you.”
Jarod actually laughed. Not even The Centre could track him so quickly when he called. He always went above and beyond to hide his location from the people he called. “I routed my call…”
“Through Jamaica, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Ulaanbaatar…” Michael would have gone on if Jarod hadn’t stopped him.
“I get the point.” Jarod sighed. “Not even Broots could track that so quickly.”
“We’re not The Centre or Broots, though he is quite talented.” Michael smiled slightly. “At The Centre pretenders like you give only the information required of them. With us pretenders create and apply anything they wish, within the boundaries of good and just. Our tracking system was created by a brilliant mind named Ryan Zimmer. He’s not exactly a pretender but he’s extremely smart and technically inclined, much like Mr. Broots.” Michael sipped his coffee.
Jarod couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He looked out into the night and then back at Michael. How could he even begin to think there were groups of people just like him banning together against The Centre? “Why are you so interested in me?”
Michael looked at Jarod with a raised eyebrow. ‘Did he not know he was the most gifted of all pretenders?’ Michael looked at Jarod as though he was a child. “Our fight against The Centre will be on going until their fall but we believe we can make a bigger impact if we help you. Of course, we would appreciate a helping hand in return, but it isn’t necessary. We are out there for people like you. Ryan, the one I mentioned before. The Centre exploited an accident and put Ryan on death row, much like your new pretend. The Centre’s objective was to rescue Ryan and have him feel indebted to them. We prevented that plan.”
“So now he feels indebted to you?” Jarod stared at him blankly. He wasn’t about to jump into something that would in turn cause him to give away the freedoms he’d fought for. He’d spent so much time running from The Centre and he’d only been free for a few months. If he got involved with these people would they betray him? Would he be giving up the freedoms he now cherished?
“Maybe, but he doesn’t have to work for us. He is free to do as he pleases as long as he doesn’t turn against us and start working for The Centre or someone like them.” Michael sighed. “My job is to prevent people like The Centre from harming those like us and others. If you do not wish to be part of that, it is fine, but let me know so I don’t waste my time.” Michael said quietly. It was a bit harsh but he thought conveying they could take him or leave him would indicate they had no interest in pressing the matter if Jarod didn’t want to associate with them.
Jarod rose from his seat at the booth. “I have a job to get to.” Jarod headed to the door of the diner.
Michael sighed. Maybe he’d pushed it too far? Maybe Jarod did feel threatened? He knew he wasn’t always the best person for something diplomatic but he had the skills to find Jarod quickly which matter in this case. Michael saw Jarod pause at the door.
Jarod’s hand rested on the door. He thought twice about asking, “If I want to contact you…” Jarod looked to Michael waiting for the answer he was sure he already knew.
“Call the number.” Michael tilted his head with an approving glance.
Jarod nodded to him and exited the diner. He now stood out in the dark night thinking about his encounter with Kristina and now Michael. If he hadn’t called them he’d think they were as bad as The Centre, but he had. It was obvious they thought highly of him and he wondered why? He knew he was gifted but if there were other pretenders or people like them, he couldn’t possibly be as important as The Centre wanted him to believe. Someone else had to be more important.
Jarod walked to his car and got in. He looked back to the diner. Michael was no where in sight. How exactly had Michael found him besides tracking him? He’d called in from his hotel. Jarod grabbed the red notebook from the seat next to him and opened it. It suddenly dawned on him that if Michael were at all like him, he’d know exactly what he was up to just by looking at the newspaper.
“How important can I really be?” Jarod said aloud. Obviously these other pretenders believed he was extremely important which would explain why The Centre wouldn’t leave him be. Maybe it was in his own best interest to try getting to know these people. He looked up at the diner again before starting the car. He had other things to take care of right now and he didn’t have the time to worry about visitors.
February 18, 1997
Jarod sat staring out the window of his car. His mind lingered on touching Nia. He missed her more than he could imagine missing anyone. His first love… well outside The Centre. Miss Parker had been his first love… long ago, when they were children. He still thought of her frequently, but her constant pursuit of him for the purpose of returning him to The Centre, made him think twice about having feelings for her.
Jarod looked to the dashboard where he’d taped the phone number Kristina had given him. He kept it there as a constant reminder that he was interested to learn more about Kristina, Michael and company. He thought back to what Michael had said. ‘He is free to do as he pleases…’ Jarod had to wonder how free they really were. It was evident they lived in a curtain of secrecy, but together like they were there had to be a certain amount of freedom involved.
Jarod picked his cell phone up from the passenger seat and turned it over several times in his hand. Was he really thinking of turning his freedom over to these people? Could he trust them? He had an idea how to test them. Would they trust him?
February 19, 1997
Jarod stood at the gates of a large mansion. He’d never expected a warm welcome but this seemed rather cold to him. The iron gates locked him out. Sure Michael had passed his little test. He’s simply asked how to find them. He wanted to come to them. Michael hesitated but gave him the exact location, telling him to be careful with the information. Jarod, doing his part, committed the location to memory and then destroyed the paper and pad he’d written on. He wouldn’t risk these people without reason.
Jarod was just about to give up when the iron gates swung opened and he saw Michael walking towards him down a very long driveway. ‘Where had he come from?’ He never did see the man come out of the house, but rather appear in the scenery like a ghost. Of course, San Francisco was often foggy in the morning hours. He chalked it up to the fog though a voice inside of him told him there was more to it. Jarod bent down and grabbed his bag and DSA case. He headed towards Michael who turned back the moment they met.
“We are happy you have decided to visit us.” Michael stated as he walked with Jarod up to the front door.
Jarod said nothing the several minutes it took them to get to the front door, but paused at the large oak door. “Where did you come from? I mean, you didn’t come from the house. You just appeared.” Curiosity finally wore him down.
“Actually, I did. I just used one of the many passageways designed when building of the house was underway.” Michael grabbed the door handle and opened the door giving Jarod access before him.
Jarod stepped into the grand foyer of the house and looked around with amazement evident from his expression.
A slender woman with dark brown hair and disturbingly bright blue eyes came down a hallway across the foyer and to the left. Her mere presence commanded respect and Jarod instinctively straighten his posture. The woman smiled slightly as she entered the foyer. Her professional dress didn’t detract from her beauty but something behind her eyes told him crossing her was as deadly as messing with The Centre. She stopped in front of him and gave a quick gesture of her hand. “Michael will take your things to your room.”
Michael took the bags gently and then climbed the stairs that crawled up the wall to the right of him.
The woman had turned and was gesturing for him to come with her to a room directly to his left. He followed quickly as the woman began to speak. “Jarod, it is a pleasure to have you here. Michael informed me you tested our trust by asking for the exact location of our home. I trust you were careful with such sensitive information.”
Jarod nodded. “Of course.”
“Thank you.” She walked to a chair and took a seat. “I can only imagine the questions you have. I suspect one would be who I am. I go by Nemesis…” She eyed him briefly as he took a seat in the chair across from her. “Though my real name is Natasha Hoffman. I once worked for The Centre. I trained many children to do many things children have no business knowing about. The short story is, I learned just what The Centre really was and left. The Centre’s security has improved since I was there.”
Jarod nodded knowing full well that The Centre’s security was state of the art. “All right. Then moving on to the next question,” Jarod had composed himself just a bit, “Why should I trust you?”
Natasha sighed pensively. “I’d hoped this wouldn’t still be an issue.” She relaxed her body in the chair. She’d just realized she’d been so tense only because she was meeting Jarod. “You don’t have to trust us.”
“Then why am I here?” Jarod was puzzled. Michael and Kristina seemed to want his trust but this Natasha person seemed to care very little whether or not he actually trusted her or not.
“You are here because you are curious. I would appreciate trust but it is unnecessary. We don’t trust many people we work with, though we do trust you. Our primary goal has been and will remain to halt Centre’s dealings. You have an extensive knowledge of what they’re up to…”
Jarod cut her off. “You want information?” He rose from his chair, angrily.
In a mildly firm voice Natasha continued, “As I was saying, you have an extensive knowledge of what they are up to; however, you do not have the benefit of our communication network. We have placed houses similar to this one around the world in an attempt to make ourselves accessible to anyone who needs our help. Operatives of these houses gather great amounts of information about The Centre and their current dealings. We would like to make it so you can access this network and leave information as you see fit.”
Jarod looked sorry as he landed in the chair again. He had gotten upset without letting Natasha finish. She was offering him everything and he had nothing to give her in return. “Why? Why would you give me access to your systems when I have nothing to give you in return?”
Natasha smiled sweetly and leaned forward. “You’re friendship is what we seek. Our goal in contacting you was to let you know we are here and willing to help. We know a lot about you, Jarod. We know what you seek. Many of our operatives seek similar answers.”
Jarod swallowed hard. He’d misjudged these people. All they wanted was all that he wanted. Companionship and answers.