This story was first posted on the pretendfic mailing list in July 1999. It is the first of three stories that make up the "Reconciliation" trilogy. Please forgive formatting issues.
Note and Disclaimer: Well, The Pretender and all of its associated persons and locales, etc., are obviously not my property and I certainly didn't intend to make anyone mad by taking them for a jaunt. No infringement of copyright, etc., intended. Don't sue me!
It occurred to me while trying to puzzle out a piece of German fic that I've never read a piece of fanfic written from a sweeper's pov. So, I decided to give it a try. As always, comments and suggestions and inane remarks are always welcome.
I don't know if anyone will ever read this. Chances are, if they do, I'm dead. I won't be allowed to live. By writing this, I am signing my own death warrant - and yet I can no longer remain silent, so I write, and hope.
I work for an organization, a corporation gone far beyond a mere business. The Centre is an Entity, with an awareness all its own. The malevolent gaze of the Centre follows me everywhere - through the hallways, on the streets, at the playground with my child, in my bed with my wife. Yet I know that the evil that is the Centre must not continue, and if no one else will try to stop it, I will.
My job at the Centre is a simple one; I am a sweeper, a kind of glorified security guard. I am expected to obey and keep silent, and no one will ever even notice me there. I am but a small muscle fibre in the great body that is the Centre, one of thousands just like me. Yet I am myself, and I will no longer be invisible. I will put behind me the darkness, and allow the light to expose the evil of the Centre.
For more than two years, I was "privileged" to be assigned to one of the more sensitive, most important projects being conducted at the Centre: a young man named Jarod. For years, that is how I thought of him; he was nothing but another project, a tool by which the Centre profited, and it was my job to guard him. He was very valuable. Jarod was what they called a Pretender; some sort of genius who could become other people in his head - or something to that effect; I never really understood it, and really, I was just a sweeper - why bother explaining it to me? This man, this project, had grown up at the Centre. He was born and raised there, according to the other sweepers, but there was something in his eyes - a longing. That man had known freedom once - and the loss of that freedom.
It was his eyes that finally made me see. They warn you about that, you know - when you enter training at the Centre, one of the fist things you're taught is never to meet the eyes of a "subject". "They have strange powers and great intelligence," they tell you, "and will use it against you, if you but give them the opportunity." The day it happened, I was escorting Jarod to the Sim Lab, where he did the majority of his work, when he suddenly tripped. I reached down to take his arm to help him up again, and he looked up at me - and met my eyes.
"Thanks, Joseph," he said. That was all, and then we moved on. He probably doesn't even remember - but I always will. He had such sadness in his eyes, a defeated weariness, as though he wanted nothing more than to avoid the simulation ahead of him. Yet he moved on, and the day went on. I hadn't realized he knew my name.
I would never be the same after that. It's strange, how a random glance into a man's eyes can change your entire perspective on life. The minute I looked into Jarod's eyes, it was as though I had seen into his very soul. He was the most real person I had ever known. It was as though, he spent so much time being someone else in his work that he couldn't help but be nothing but himself when given the chance. And yet, he didn't seem to know how - he didn't know who he was. It was that day that my eyes were opened to the reality of the Centre.
Until that time, I had lived in a kind of self-imposed blindness. It was a job, wasn't it? I didn't need to know what was going on with the sad-looking children who were brought onto elevators and not brought back again. All I had to do was guard a man and look dangerous. It was none of my business why, or what else was going on. Now, however, everything was changed. I began to wonder why there were so many locked doors, so little light, what really happened in that sim lab. I began to wonder why Jarod had to be guarded, and what would happen if he weren't. I wondered why little children no more than ten often had more than one sweeper escorting them, and why they were there at all. I wondered why there were so few smiles.
I began to ask questions, but I soon found that questions can be dangerous things, especially at the Centre. My coworkers all avoided the questions and advised me that I "really didn't want to know". The higher-level personnel stared at me coldly and reminded me with frigid eloquence of my place. Finally, I turned to the only source of answers I could think of - Jarod himself.
He sighed, and as we walked side by side as always down the corridors to the sim lab, Jarod quietly told me what, in retrospect, should have been obvious. The Centre stole children, and used them for their intelligence and special abilities. Jarod himself had been stolen from his family over thirty years before, and he still longed for them. He hadn't been outside since he was a child. The locked doors in the sublevel corridors were not to keep unauthorized people out, but rather to keep people in. I was shocked, and suddenly terribly afraid.
Finally understanding the ruthlessness of the people I worked for, I had no illusions about simply going to the Director and telling her that I quit. I knew too much, now. I was trapped, as surely as Jarod was.
And here I am today, in the same situation. I have been removed from the guarding of Jarod, and have been reassigned to the field team of one of the most feared and respected cleaners in the Centre, Miss Parker, the Chairman's daughter. They know what I learned from Jarod, or at least they suspect. I can only hope that the repercussions for him will not be too great.
Please find with this confession the documents and files I was able to acquire in the hope that someday, somehow, they might be used to help tear down the Centre and put an end to its power. Something tells me, however, that it's already too late.