This one was written in the summer of 2000, and is a sequel to my previous story, "Simulations", written by request of some of the other writers on the pretendfic mailing list. This story is being published here as part of an effort to get all my fanfictions, past and present, archived together in one place. I haven't re-edited it for posting here beyond adding 888888 to denote a scene change where ff . net eats the asterisks. Also, it was originally posted in several chapters - I have added a notation where the chapter breaks were.


Rating: G-PG (I really don't think anything about the Pretender is really G)

Spoilers: None other than Simulations I

Summary: Jarod has been recaptured by the Centre and must overcome his anger

and disillusionment with Sydney to escape.

Note and Disclaimer: Well, I have to admit that I didn't really want to

write this one at first; I liked how I'd left Simulations unresolved.

However, I received a number of emails requesting a sequel, and the more I

thought about it, the more it sounded like a not-so-bad idea. It's been a

good piece for re-entering fanfic after a break, and I've enjoyed writing

it. Please write me, and tell me what you think, not only of this part, but

of the story as a whole. The first part of the story, the original

"Simulations" can be obtained at Nicolette's or Cleo's site, or by

contacting me.

Of course, I can make no claim to owning the characters, places, etc.,

associated with the Pretender; I think that's rather obvious. No copyright

infringement is in any way intended.

Simulations II

by Deichtine

Jarod began to open his eyes, then stopped. If they knew that he was awake,

they would start again, and in the last few months, rest had become the most

important thing in the world to him - rest without invasion, glorious

solitude.

His body wanted to move, to stretch, but he resisted. It was worth some

mild discomfort, to revel in the silence a few moments before-

"I saw that, Jarod. You might as well stop pretending."

Jarod opened his eyes. "I would, but you won't let me."

The man standing there wore a grey business suit and an impatient

expression. He ignored the comment. Jarod sighed and sat up. He was not

looking forward to today. He didn't know this man's name, but his

simulations were usually violent and left Jarod feeling unclean. There was

a tray of what the Centre called "breakfast" on the table beside the bed.

He ate quickly, having long since learned the folly of hunger strikes or

refusing meals.

The man began to talk, introducing the subject matter and background

information of the day's sim. Jarod tried not to listen, but he could not

stop his ears from hearing. Gradually, unwillingly, he felt himself being

drawn in to the simulation, his true self pushed aside to make way for the

foreign personality. He tried concentrating on complex mathematics, singing

songs in his head, translating "Jabberwocky" into Arabic - but to no avail.

He had known it was useless - if there was one thing the researchers at the

Centre had perfected, it was breaking his barriers. He was now fully

immersed in the scenario.

888888

Sydney watched the sim progress in silence, concealed behind the one-way

glass. In the sim lab, Jarod performed the exercise with perfect precision,

finding a solution within exactly the time predicted. Sydney smiled. He

knew that that accuracy was not the result of any excellence on his part -

Jarod knew the procedure used to approximate such things as well as he, and

it had been a "secret" game for him since childhood always to endeavour to

finish exactly when predicted. Sydney had often wondered if the equation

would actually have worked without that demand characteristic. Suddenly

Sydney started, as he realized the implications of what he'd been thinking.

Why would Jarod continue to do that now? He hadn't spoken to Sydney since

his recapture; why why did he go on with a game that Sydney had thought to

be a result of the affection between them? Sydney shook his head. He was

thinking about it too much. It probably didn't mean anything - just force

of habit, or maybe the equation actually worked. He turned away from the

glass, and so didn't see when Jarod, himself again, took a moment to turn

and look at the glass, exactly where Sydney had been standing, an unreadable

look in his eyes.

888888

"What do you think, Sydney?"

"It's hard to say. His work, if not as exceptional as before the initial

escape, is fine, and progressing at the expected rate. I worry about his

emotional and mental health, however."

"Why? It's been three months, and he's shown no sign of impending

breakdown."

"Would you be at your peak if, every day, someone came to you and mentally

invaded you? I'm sorry sir, but that's what we're doing. I've been

monitoring him carefully, and I'm worried. He needs rest if he's going to

continue like this."

"I'm afraid that's out of the question. There's just too much work to do,

and we can't let him think that we're going to coddle him every time he

seems tired."

"I know that, sir, but - "

"I'm sorry, Sydney, but the subject is closed."

888888

Jarod opened his eyes slowly, blinking against the bright fluorescent light

which shone above him. An unfamiliar man was standing next to where he lay

on the floor.

"Get up," the man said. "You're late."

Jarod stood up, a little disoriented, wondering when and how, and most

importantly why, he had been moved from his bed during the night. He

quickly realized that he was restrained at wrists and ankles - he could

move, but not comfortably or fast.

"You are a prisoner at Attica Prison in New York. You have been wrongly

convicted of the rape of a sixteen-year-old girl..." the man began, and

Jarod felt a confused rush of relief and dreadful acceptance of what was to

come.

As Jarod felt himself sliding into the persona of the prisoner, a surge of

rebellion arose in him. In the last few seconds before surrendering to the

simulation, he resolved to try his hardest to foil the sim deliberately. He

couldn't stop the simulation, but maybe he could force a false result. Then

Jarod was gone, tucked back into a small corner of his mind as his body and

its fictional inhabitant entered their larger prison.

888888

Sydney looked from the scene in the Sim Lab to his watch and back again in

worried irritation. The projected time for the simulation to end had come

and gone, and Jarod was still struggling. He had come close to a solution

several times, but each time he turned away, claiming that it was a false

lead. Sydney shook his head. This simulation was like any other; Jarod had

successfully completed many more difficult. There was no reason for him to

be having problems now - unless... unless it was deliberate. Even as it

occurred to him, Sydney knew he was right. In almost forty years, Jarod had

never deliberately failed at anything, much less a simulation - was it even

possible?

No. Within the sim lab, an obviously disgruntled Jarod was bringing the

simulation to a close. The man leading the sim glanced at his watch, then at

the one way-glass, and then left the room. Jarod followed silently, never

looking at the guards who followed him or at the dark glass behind him.

888888

"This is unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable."

"I quite agree, sir."

"What made him do this now? He must have known how foolish it would be."

"I believe, sir, that, in a way, it was a cry for reprieve. He really needs

a rest."

"What Jarod needs is discipline, and he needs it now."

"Sir, I-"

"What is the one thing Jarod hates the most?"

"That's easy. The Centre."

"Don't be funny, Sydney. I don't laugh. I believe you know what I mean.

What is the most effective punishment I can give him that won't harm his

continued usefulness?"

"That's really very hard to say, sir - "

"You have until tomorrow morning to think about it. Meet me at seven

o'clock in his room, and he can hear from your lips the consequences of

disobedience."

88888

Chapter break.

88888

Jarod opened his eyes to a strange scene. Two burly guards, the unfamiliar

man from yesterday, and Sydney were all crowded into his small cell. Sydney

carried a DSA case and reader, and looked uncomfortable. Jarod was

surprised to find him there; he hadn't seen him for almost three months now.

He knew that Sydney still monitored his work, but they didn't actually

interact. Jarod frowned. The mixture of happiness, worry, and anger that

the sight of his old mentor caused in him was disquieting. He rubbed his

eyes and sat up.

"Good morning, gentlemen," he said in a voice rough with sleep. "I assume

you have something to say about yesterday?"

The unfamiliar man frowned, but Sydney spoke before him. "Jarod, your

performance yesterday was unacceptable. Sabotage of simulations has never

been, is not, and will never be tolerated in the Centre."

Jarod rolled his eyes towards him. "I see you've learned to conjugate the

English verb, Sydney. How nice for you. Is that what you've been doing

these last few months?"

The unfamiliar man spoke. "You were not given leave to speak. If you do

not know how to hold your tongue, you will be taught. Sydney, continue."

Jarod furrowed his eyebrows in genuine confusion. "I fail to see how

holding my... Ah." He stopped.

Sydney raised his eyebrows slightly, but did not otherwise respond to the

taunt. "Your punishment for this infraction will be one week's isolation.

This is your only warning - next time it will not be so light."

Jarod's eyes widened for a moment, and he endeavoured to look sullen.

Inside, he was shocked. This was no punishment - it was a blessing. He

studied Sydney's face and bearing, but he was unreadable.

"Sydney, we've spoken about this," the unfamiliar man said softly,

warningly.

"I assure you, sir, that this will be most effective. Since he was a boy,

Jarod has detested both solitude and mental inactivity. Alone, with nothing

to occupy his mind, the boredom will be terrible for him. I have DSAs to

support me if you so wish," Sydney replied. Jarod hid his surprise. Not

only was this stranger Sydney's superior, but Sydney was deliberately giving

him the rest he needed. This revelation jarred against the stubborn anger

that Jarod had nursed against Sydney for months, and it was difficult to

reconcile the two.

"That won't be necessary," the man said. "I can see from his expression that

your punishment will be most effective." Jarod knew that most of that

comment had been aimed for him, and began to wonder what game this man was

playing.

As he allowed himself to be led from the room, Jarod's eyes met Sydney's,

and found only sorrow there.

888888

Sydney smiled softly to himself as he watched the scene on the security

screen. The first day of his isolation, Jarod had slept five hours, done

some simple exercises, and taught himself to whistle. He already looked

much better. Sydney nodded, satisfied. He had been right. Jarod needed to

be just Jarod for awhile. He almost laughed aloud when the overused

pop-psychology phrase "To find himself" popped unbidden into his head. How

very appropriate it was now!

He turned away from the screen and nearly had heart failure, finding Miss

Parker standing there, watching him, her face unreadable.

"Syd, I'm sure you have better things to do than watch everyone's favourite

guinea pig learn how to sound like a frightened magpie."

"Parker," he said, smiling. "It's good to see you. How is life in

Corporate?"

"Irritating."

"What brings you down to this neck of the woods? I hesitate to think

homesickness?"

"Broots is in need of some serious taunting, and I'm always ready to

oblige." She turned back to the screen, her eyes opaque. "How is

Wonder-Boy, anyway?"

"Tired. I gave him a week's isolation, which should hopefully give him some

rest and time for reflection."

"He still hasn't forgiven you, has he?"

"No. And I don't blame him. I blame myself."

Miss Parker looked him straight in the eye. "Look, Sydney. I'm the one who

made you create that simulation. I'm the one who forced you to use it. I'm

responsible. Know that."

Sydney held her gaze for only a moment, saying, "There's always a choice,

Parker. I made mine."

She shook her head. "Get some rest. He's not going anywhere."

He nodded, and she turned to leave, then stopped. "I'm sorry, Sydney," she

said. "I know what this has cost you." He nodded in return, and she was

gone.

888888

"It's been five days of isolation."

"Yes. I've been monitoring him closely."

"And?"

"I can't be certain, seeing as he keeps his face turned away from the

camera, but his body language shows that he's itching to do something,

anything. He has nothing to keep him busy, no problems to solve - not even

a pair of needles to knit a sweater, and it drives him crazy."

"He knits?"

"No. I don't think so. It was just an example."

"Well, Sydney, I can't say you weren't as transparent as glass in arranging

a rest for him in the guise of a punishment, but nonetheless, I agree. I've

watched the tapes as well, and I'm sure that, when the time comes, he'll be

eager to recommence his work."

"I hope so."

"He'll have to work harder for awhile to make up the lost time, but that's

his own fault for trying to sabotage the sim. Have the next sims ready for

Monday."

"I will, sir."

As Jarod opened his eyes on his sixth day of isolation, he was ready to

admit that Sydney had been right. He had been right that Jarod had needed a

rest, and also that prolonged inactivity drove him up the wall. He had

learned to whistle, recited Hamlet backwards, and amused himself by creating

mathematical puzzles, but after the hundredth or so decimal place, even pi

gets boring.

What he needed was a way out. There were many avenues for escape that he

knew of, but simply no opportunity. He worked sims all day everyday, from

the time he woke up to the time they finally let him sleep at night. Under

the control of a simulated personality, Jarod had the volition only to speak

objectively about the simulation; everything else was automatic.

With this thought, Jarod's head snapped up, and he had to struggle to

disguise his epiphany in front of the camera. The solution was so obvious.

If a simulation could entrap him, was it not possible that another

simulation, carefully planned, could set him free? It would take time, but

it could work.

888888

Sydney watched once again from behind the one way glass. Jarod, having

completed his isolation, was at work again, moving flawlessly through the

simulation without pause or problem. The sim leader, a woman Sydney knew

only barely, guided his outward dialogue in a cool, detached manner. She

seemed satisfied.

When the simulation ended, Jarod and Sydney both realized that the

unfamiliar man, Sydney's superior, had been watching for some time. He

stepped forward now to face Jarod. In a situation that would have been

comical, had it not been so serious, the man, though at least a half-foot

shorter than Jarod, seemed still to be looking down at him. Jarod met his

gaze for a moment, then lowered his eyes to the floor.

"I'm glad to see that your week's isolation seems to have taught you

something."

"Yes, sir," Jarod replied quietly, keeping his eyes down, his posture

slumped, submissive. What was he doing? Sydney furrowed his brow in

confusion. Jarod had never been this submissive. Sydney watched, and

worried.

"I have to admit," Jarod was saying, "that, after that isolation,

simulations have become a kind of refuge for me."

Sydney jumped, and was immediately thankful for the concealing glass before

him. What in the world did Jarod mean by that? It was obviously a message,

and meant for him. What was he trying to tell him?

In the sim lab, the man simply raised his eyebrows. "Good. Return to y our

space for the rest of the evening."

Jarod nodded and left the room, and Sydney remained, worrying, but beginning

to see a glimmer of hope.

888888

"Well, Sydney?"

:"Yes, sir?"

"What are your thoughts?"

"I think the isolation worked even better than expected. The simulation

went smoothly, and Jarod seems both rested and chastened by his punishment."

"I don't know. It seems to me that it has worked perhaps too well; Jarod

was too submissive for me to believe. Far more severe punishments in the

past never worked like that. He's trying to put us off guard."

"But, sir, those more severe punishments were designed to correct through

pain, and pain is something Jarod learned to deal with long, long ago. This

punishment was designed around Jarod's weakness."

"It's still too much of a good thing to me."

"Look at his body language: the set of his shoulders, the way he holds his

head, the restless movements. He definitely doesn't want to go through that

again."

"Well, I don't like it. Watch him carefully from now on - I don't trust

that man as far as I could throw him."

"Yes, sir."

888888

Chapter Break

888888

Jarod opened his eyes to darkness, and the sensation of someone shaking him. He squinted into the darkness, and soon made out a familiar form looking down at him.

"Shhh." It said, and the sound of the voice brought back the confused flood of affection and anger that Jarod felt whenever he encountered Sydney. He shook his head, put his emotions aside, and sat up.

"Sydney. You came," he said, keeping his voice level.

"I knew that it must be important, for you to use the codeword in front of everyone."

"It is. Sydney, I have to get out of here. Are you willing to help me?"

"Of course I am, Jarod, but there's nothing I can -"

"Yes there is. Just listen. You captured me by luring me into a simulation."

A shadow passed across Sydney's face. "Jarod, I-"

Jarod ignored the illogical swell of guilt that arose in him at the knowledge that he was causing Sydney emotional pain and cut him off again. "Just listen, Sydney. I didn't get you down here to revisit the past. Look, every day that I'm here I'm doing a simulation, right? I could escape, if there were opportunity, but all day, every day, I'm in a simulation. This is where you come in."

Sydney raised his eyebrows. "Jarod, I can't give you a day off. It was all I could do to arrange that week's isolation for you, as a rest."

Jarod shook his head again. "That's not what I mean. I need you to schedule a simulation for me."

Sydney looked confused. "I do that every day, Jarod."

"No!" Why didn't he understand? It was so obvious. "I need a particular simulation. One that I design."

The look on Sydney's face confirmed that he had understood at last. "Ah! Of course. A simulated personality that would logically lead you to escape the Centre - within the Simulation."
Jarod nodded. "And when the simulation finishes, I'm halfway across the country."

Sydney grinned. "That's brilliant! Is the simulation already prepared?"

Jarod looked away. "It's ... rough." He chased away the discomfort that came with the next statement. "I can't finish it alone - I need... I need you to work with me. I've never made a simulation for myself before." He looked up into Sydney's eyes and held his gaze, and Sydney nodded.

"Of course."

888888

Sydney took his gaze from the image of Jarod on the monitor and turned to Broots, who was peeking his head through the doorway, not wanting to interrupt him. He contained the mounting excitement within him. Finally, he could do something actively to make up for the wrong he had done to Jarod. It could never truly absolve him, of course - not a sin such as his - but it was a start.

"Come in, Broots," he said, beckoning. "And shut the door, please."

Broots did as he was told, and stood there, looking uncomfortable, obviously knowing that whenever Sydney called him like this, there was bound to be a large amount of secretive and dangerous work for him to do.

"What can I do for you, Sydney?" he asked warily.

"Broots, I have a favour to ask you."

Broots shook his head. "You'll forgive me if I tell you I'm not surprised," he said.

Sydney raised an eyebrow, inwardly a little amused, yet still regretful that he had to place his friend in danger once again. "I know I can trust you, Broots. And this isn't for me - not really."

"If not for you, then who? If it were Miss Parker, she would let me know, I'm sure."

"For Jarod."

Broots reflexively looked around, visibly shaken. "Sydney, are you insane? You do know that your office is bugged and monitored, don't you?"

Sydney knew, and had long since taken care of it. "Don't worry about that, Broots. You're not the only one who can disable a security camera, you know."

Broots shook his head, and relaxed - slightly. "What do you need me to do?"
Sydney leaned forward, attempting to put into his tone all the seriousness of the situation. "Jarod has a solution to his ... situation. He and I have designed a simulation that will allow him to escape."

Broots' brows furrowed with confusion. "I don't understand. If Jarod is in a simulation, he can't escape - he's bound by the plot of the sim - isn't he? At least that's how I understand it."

Sydney nodded. "That is essentially how it works. But if the story of the simulation led him to escape?"

"Oh, I get it. But, where do I come in?"

Sydney warmed to his subject. "The simulation is prepared, but it has to be scheduled into Jarod's work. In order for it to appear authentic, an outside source, a client, has to contact the Centre and pay for the simulation to be run. Once the Centre accepts the simulation, it can be placed into the schedule legitimately. I need you, Broots, to be that client."

"Me? But I don't have that kind of money."

"That's not a problem. Jarod and I will take care of that. All you have to do is contact the Centre anonymously and arrange the simulation - and make sure that it can't be traced back to us."

Broots thought about it for awhile. "You do realize how dangerous this is, don't you, Sydney?" he asked.

"Of course I do, Broots. If you don't want to do it, I won't hold it against you."

Broots sighed. "You know I'll do it, Sydney. Just give me the information."

888888

"Sydney, I have a new simulation I need you to work into the schedule."

"Sir, the schedule is already overfull -"

"I know that Sydney, but I also know that you'll find a way to fit it in. This particular client has paid a very handsome sum for his simulation to be performed as quickly as possible."

"I understand, sir. May I ask the subject matter of the simulation?"

"It involves escape-proofing a confinement system somewhat similar to the one we use at the Centre. Jarod is to assume the role of a prisoner of the system and find its flaws through escaping from it. I'm sure that it is not lost on you that the results of this simulation could also be quite profitable for the Centre as well, in order to prevent further ... mishaps."

"Of course, sir. I'll make sure it's scheduled for this week."

"Good."

888888

Jarod opened his eyes and immediately sat up. Today was the day. He could taste the anticipation that rose in him at the thought. Only one more simulation, one more mental invasion, and he would be free again at last.

Perhaps the hardest pretending he'd ever had to do was to look interested as the man leading the simulation - the same mysterious man who had led the previous sims, Sydney's superior - described the details of the simulation. It irritated Jarod that he did not know who this man was, nor his precise role in the Centre hierarchy. He was an unknown element, and Jarod had no idea how he would affect the plan.

He followed the man into the lab, took a deep breath, and began the simulation.

888888

Sydney watched Jarod run through the beginning stages of the simulation. He heard his heart beating faster and harder as the moment of escape approached. Jarod examined every inch of the "cell" that had been assembled in the sim lab, from the handleless door to the cameras in every corner which afforded no blind spot to hide in. The air vents were small and designed to be almost invisible. For a second, Sydney thought that perhaps they had planned it too well. Jarod wouldn't be able to escape at all!

Sydney's superior entered the monitoring room, distracting Sydney, and swore.

Sydney quickly looked back to the screen - and Jarod was out! The door was open! Sydney realized that he was praying silently, and stopped himself, for fear that the other man would notice.

"How did he do it?" he asked, though he knew the answer quite well.

"I'm not sure," the man said. "We'll have to watch the tape after. Wait a minute - what the hell is he doing?"

Jarod was running towards the exit of the simlab, still obviously posessed by the simulated personality.

"He must not realize the simulation is over. This simulation being so close to his true situation in the Centre, perhaps he's more deeply immersed in it than normal. The fact that the simulation is involuntary already heightens the effect."

The man turned to him, his face red with fury. "Well, don't just stand there lecturing, find him!"
Sydney took off running, quickly, so the man could not see the triumphant grin which threatened to show itself on his face.

888888

"This is Sydney."

"It would seem we're back where we started."

"I assume that means that the search for Jarod will be reinstated."

"We're certainly not letting him go now. Not now that know we can control him."

"I'm not so sure we can, sir."

"What do you mean?"

"I think Jarod's escape - his most recent escape, I should say - proves that Jarod has more control over himself during a simulation than he would have had us believe."

"Jarod's recapture proved that he does not have that control. Think about it, Sydney. It was simply an unfortunate choice of simulation."

"That's the official story?"

"That's the only story, Sydney. Miss Parker and Broots will be joining you tomorrow to recommence the search. Get him back before he gets very far."

"We will, sir."

Click.

The end. For good this time, unless someone else wants to sequel it!