Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Pretender. I write these stories for my own amusement and make no profit from them.

Teaser

"What is this thing?" the woman with the gun demanded. The warehouse owner had never seen a more beautiful woman who scared him so badly.

"I don't know. I just rented him the warehouse. He was always working in here, when he wasn't spending long hours staring up at the stars with that telescope he made."

"He made it?"

"The most brilliant astrophysicist I have ever worked with," the man with the accent and pondering eyes said. It sounded like a quotation. "He's doing a great deal of preparation for this one."

"And then he just disappeared?" the woman asked.

"I could see lights and hear things going on as I came up to the door, but everything was quiet when I came in. He was gone. I know he was in here! I saw his shadow. There's no way out except the way I came in. But he was gone!"

"Relax," the woman snapped. "He's a regular Houdini. Did he leave anything for us?"

"As a matter or fact, he did. Yesterday he gave me this. He looked a little strange—excited, you know? Like he'd just done something he'd always dreamed of doing."

The man and woman gave each other a look, a look that said they knew exactly what that meant but didn't at the same time. The woman snatched the small box from his hand, tore off the lid, and plucked out the small circle of metal.

"Not more of this stuff!"

"It's a nice one!" the warehouse owner protested. "Most of the ones you see are some kind of cheap plastic. This is some kind of metal I've never seen before, and it looks like it could almost work."

With a swirl of dark hair, she gave him a look that made him feel like a loathsome insect. "Don't tell me you're one of those lunatics."

"No red book?" her partner interposed.

"Red book?" the owner repeated. "No."

"He left the telescope," the distinguished-looking man said. "We should look at whatever he's left it aimed at."

"Well, go to it, Galileo." She turned away to the intimidating man in the suit who stood back by the door. "Get this stuff packed up. I want to get it back to Broots."

Broots? the warehouse owner wondered. What's a Broots? Or where?

Captain Picard and Lieutenant-Commander Deanna Troi met in the transporter room. At the captain's nod, the transporter technician activated the transporter.

"Do you know anything at all about this man, Counselor?" the captain asked.

"No, Captain. I have never heard of him. And you don't know anything about why he has been sent to the Enterprise?"

"No, I don't, Counselor. And that disturbs me."

The tall, lean man in red Starfleet uniform who beamed aboard was at attention when the transporter effect died away. Two silver cases stood at his feet. He said formally in a deep voice, "Commander Jarod Westmore. Request permission to come aboard, Captain."

There are extraordinary individuals among us known as PRETENDERS. Geniuses with the ability to insinuate themselves into any walk of life, to literally become anyone.

In 1963 a corporation called the Centre isolated one such PRETENDER, a young boy named Jarod. Locked in a controlled environment they exploited his genius for their "unofficial" research.

Then, one day, their PRETENDER ran away.

There are pretenders among us.

I was taken from my family.

A child genius.

Thirty-six hours, and he's already demonstrating more talent than any of our others.

Exploited by the Centre.

How many people died because of what I thought up?

Escaped.

Since I broke out, I've spent every moment searching for my past.

He's a pretender, a genius who can become anyone that he wants to be.

The Centre wants him alive.

Preferably.

He defends the weak and abused.

Life's a gift.

STARRING:

The Pretender characters

The Centre: A top-secret organization located in Blue Cove, Delaware, for thirty years it ran the Pretender project, kidnapping child geniuses in order to harness their genius for research.

Jarod: A natural Pretender, a genius with the ability to become anyone he wants to be, he was taken to the Centre as a child in 1993 and escaped thirty years later with an unquenchable thirst to find out who he is and to provide justice for the helpless. His new life on the outside is now spent hiding from the Centre, seeking out information about his past, and helping anyone he believes needs help.

Miss Parker: The daughter of one of the Centre directors, she is tasked with finding Jarod and bringing him back to the Centre. On the outside a tough-as-nails control freak, on the inside she is conflicted and as obsessed with finding out who murdered her mother as Jarod is with finding out who his mother is.

Sydney: A Centre psychiatrist, he was responsible for Jarod's growth and training, for exploiting his talents. In the absence of a father, Jarod grew up wanting Sydney for a father. Sydney has always disclaimed any emotional attachment to his subject. But is he lying?

Broots: A computer technician working for the Centre, he works closely with Sydney and Miss Parker in trying to find Jarod. He is a timid little man with surprising depths, including his willingness to take on even the dreaded Miss Parker in order to protect his ten-year-old daughter.

Angelo: Once a young genius named Timmy, Angelo was turned by Mr. Raines (through a series of destructive neurological experiments) into an empath, a human sponge who has little personality of his own but absorbs the emotions, thoughts, and motivations of others. Unbeknownst to most in the Centre, he is devoted to Jarod.

Mr. Raines: Mr. Raines is a zombie. Not really, but he might be. A sufferer from emphysema, he ought to be dead but isn't. He works for the Centre in a number of very ominous capacities, including heading up some projects even more disturbing than the Pretender project.

Star Trek: The Next Generation characters

The Enterprise 1701-D: A starship belonging to the Federation.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The French captain of the Enterprise, he is an intelligent man who combines stern devotion to duty with compassion and respect for others.

Commander William Riker: Picard's first officer, he is a man of action who leads away missions and inclines to be suspicious of others.

Lieutenant-Commander Deanna Troi: Half-Betazoid, half-Human, she lacks the fully telepathic abilities of Betazoids, but she is another kind of empath, able to feel the emotions of others as they feel them.

Commander Beverly Crusher: Chief Medical Officer aboard the Enterprise, she enjoys warm relationships with her fellow officers and is the mother of Wesley, a young genius currently at Starfleet Academy.

Lieutenant-Commander Data: The Federation's most advanced android, Data is the head of operations on the Enterprise. Though intellectually and physically superior to Humans, he is fascinated by them and wants to be like them.

Lieutenant-Commander Geordi LaForge: The Enterprise's chief engineer.

Lieutenant Worf: The first Klingon to serve in Starfleet, he is the Enterprise's security chief.

Guinan: An El-Aurian civilian who runs the Enterprise's crew lounge Ten Forward, she is mysterious and wise.