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The Pretender: Back from the Dead
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Link To Me

by KJC

5.23.2005

 

 

“Jarod, we’re going to do something different today.”

 

Jarod looked up from the chair in his room.  Mr. Raines stood in the doorway, light spilling over his shoulders from the hallway behind him.  Men that Jarod did not know stood behind him.

 

“Where’s Sydney?” Jarod demanded.

 

“He had a symposium to attend in Europe,” Mr. Raines answered.  “He will be gone for a while.”

 

Jarod stood, wary of the man and his story, his mind already starting to go to work.  Raines, knowing the pretender well, motioned to his men.  “Take him.  We must begin.”

 

“Wait.  Where are we going?  What are we doing?” Jarod demanded.

 

Four men entered the room and took hold of Jarod’s arms, dragging him from the room and down the hallway after Mr. Raines.

 

After a few moment’s walk, they entered what appeared to be a sim room.  Jarod took in the room’s dimensions and objects immediately, readying himself for whatever Raines had prepared for him.

 

The room was small and empty, save for a strange, empty tube large enough to hold a man.  The tube was affixed to a table and was open on one end.  A stretcher with attached restraints was sitting outside of it on a flat table.  The tube had a small window on its top and a vitals monitor built into its side.  Cameras were aimed at the tube from every corner of the wall.

 

“What’s going on?”  Jarod struggled, but curiosity stayed his hand from striking against the men who restrained him.

 

“This is going to be a test of your abilities, Jarod,” Mr. Raines rasped, a hand on his oxygen tank.  He stood behind the tube, observing Jarod with mild interest.  A man Jarod did not recognize stood at his side.  Jarod immediately did not like the man.  His eyes were full of hate and malevolence.  Jarod could feel every instinct telling him to run.

 

“Fix him up,” Raines ordered.

 

The men restraining Jarod moved quickly, wrestling Jarod onto the table and tightening the straps around his wrists and ankles.

 

“No!  Stop!” Jarod protested.  “What are you doing?”

 

Mr. Raines was holding a large syringe in his hand.

 

“Don’t worry, Jarod,” he smiled.  “This will probably hurt.”

 

Eyes wild, Jarod could do nothing to get away from the needle, and Mr. Raines slid it into Jarod’s arm, emptying its contents.  There was a moment’s frantic pause, and suddenly, Jarod was very aware of his heartbeat.  His heart slammed against his chest, faster than he thought that his heart could beat.  Terror filled his mind, and he fought against the restraints.

 

“What . . . what are you doing?” he gasped.

 

“Oh, this is just a little experiment, Jarod,” Mr. Raines rasped.

 

“What?”

 

“Slide him in,” Raines ordered.

 

The men pushed the stretcher inside the tube, and the door shut on Jarod with a slam of finality.

 

They were going to kill him.  Raines had finally snapped, Jarod was sure of it.  The injection they had fed into his bloodstream was affecting his heart.  He could feel it beating slower and slower, and had caught a glimpse of the canister before they pushed him into the tube.  Cardio benzene.  They had gotten rid of Sydney so that no one would be there to stop them when they finally finished him off.  He was going to die.

 

Still, terror caused Jarod to fight.  Then it started to get very cold.

 

Outside, Mr. Raines and Mr. Lyle watched the vitals.

 

“Zero degrees Celsius,” Mr. Lyle said.

 

Jarod continued to bang on the sides of the tube, and his terror filled face was beginning to become hidden from the frost over the tube’s window.

 

“That drug is supposed to knock him out quickly, is it not?” Mr. Raines asked.

 

“Yes.  Anytime now.”

 

Inside the tube, Jarod’s movements began to die down.  He could feel his heart beating slower.  It was harder to draw a breath.  He could not feel anything anymore.  The light was fading.  He tried to concentrate on the window above him, tried to focus . . . It didn’t work.

 

A flatline showed on the tube’s monitor, and Mr. Lyle opened the door and pulled the stretcher out.  Jarod was motionless, his eyes closed.  Lyle pulled back one of his eyelids, listened for a breath, then looked at Mr. Raines.

 

“He’s dead.”

 

* * *

 

Jarod woke with a start, unsure as to what had awakened him.  He turned over in his bed and flicked the bedside lamp on, rubbing his eyes blearily.

 

He remembered . . . he remembered his heartbeat.   Thudding forcefully in his chest, it made terror fill—

 

A nightmare.  It must have been.  Mr. Raines was in nearly 45% of his dreams, and the ones he was in were nightmares.  Was it a nightmare?

 

“Clear.”

 

The electrical shock from the paddles leapt through Jarod’s body.

 

“Again.”

 

Once more, the shock attempted to jumpstart his heart.  The restraints around his chest, arms, and ankles prevented Jarod’s body from recoiling far.

 

“Still flat-line.  Once more.”

 

Jarod blinked.  It wasn’t a dream.

 

“My God,” he whispered.  “What are they trying to do?”

 

The next time Mr. Raines appeared in his doorway, Jarod had a suspicion the man was going to try the same thing again.  It was early morning, a prime time for someone to do something to keep him off guard.  Jarod wasn’t even dressed yet.

 

“Come along, Jarod,” Mr. Raines said.  “We have a lot to do today.”

 

Two men stepped into Jarod’s room and grabbed his arms.  Jarod had barely enough time to kick one of the men sharply in the knee before the other man incapacitated him with a sharp blow to his solar plexus.  Gasping from pain, Jarod went down to the floor like a rock.  Even on the floor, he continued to fight, kicking, scratching, and biting.  Two more men entered the room and took hold of Jarod’s arms, taking over from the first two men.  Jarod’s bare feet could find no purchase on the smooth floor as they dragged him out of the room and down the hall.

 

“Don’t damage him,” Mr. Raines called out from an open doorway.  It was the same room that Jarod had been taken to earlier.

 

“No!  No!” Jarod protested, hysterical.  He tried to dig his feet into the floor to keep from being pulled forward, but the tiled floor was too smooth.  They dragged him into the room, and the tube was there, exactly as Jarod had seen it earlier.  The man called Mr. Lyle was standing behind it, a grin on his face.

 

Terrified, Jarod managed to pull out of the grip of one of the men restraining him, but more men within the room joined their comrades, beating Jarod down to the ground, then wrestling him onto the stretcher on the table.

 

“Calm down, Jarod,” Mr. Raines wheezed, standing next to Mr. Lyle.

 

Jarod knew what was coming, knew they were going to kill him again.  He struggled every inch of the way as the restraints were fastened around his wrists, ankles, and chest.

 

Mr. Raines produced the syringe, and advanced on Jarod, who lay struggling, the two men who had fastened him to the stretcher still trying to hold him still for Mr. Raines.

 

The needle slid into Jarod’s arm, and he protested, “No, no, no!”

 

Quickly, the men slid Jarod into the tube, and Mr. Lyle managed the controls.  Frost crept up over the windows, and Jarod struggled within the tube.

 

Mr. Raines watched, a small smile on his face.  “I rather enjoy this, Mr. Lyle,” he rasped.

 

“As do I, Mr. Raines,” Lyle grinned.

 

Inside the tube, Jarod’s movements lessened, as did his protests.  Mr. Raines and Mr. Lyle kept an eye on the tube’s monitor, watching the dial spin from red to blue, and then the heart monitor flat-lined.

 

“Take him out,” Mr. Raines ordered.

 

Jarod was pulled from the tube, his skin ashen and covered with a thin sheen of sweat.  Mr. Lyle checked his vitals.

 

“No breath, no pulse.”

 

“Where is the Adrenal cortozene?”

 

“Here.”

 

Mr. Raines took the vial from Lyle and filled a syringe.  Working quickly, he inserted it in Jarod’s arm, then watched the monitor.  There was a slight jump in the heart monitor, then it continued to flat-line.

 

“Crash cart,” Mr. Raines ordered.

 

The cart was wheeled up and charged, and Raines set one of the paddles over Jarod’s heart, one under his ribs.

 

“Clear!” he yelled.

 

Jarod’s body jumped beneath the charge, though the restraints did not allow for much movement.

 

“Again.  Clear!”

 

Jarod jerked beneath the shock.  Still, the monitor showed a flat-line.

 

“Clear!”

 

Jarod shuddered, his head rolling limp.  The monitor showed a jump in the line, then an erratic, weak variance in the line started up.

 

“We’ve got a heartbeat,” Mr. Lyle said.  “Let’s get some oxygen.”

 

“That’s my boy, Jarod,” Mr. Raines said.

 

An oxygen mask was applied, and Jarod was pulled from the stretcher, still unconscious, transferred to a rolling bed, and wheeled out of the room.

 

“You know this won’t sit well with Sydney,” Mr. Lyle said as soon as Jarod was gone.

 

“I know.  That is precisely why Sydney will know nothing of this.”

 

“Jarod will tell him.”

 

“No.  He won’t.”

 

* * *

 

For three weeks, Mr. Raines kept up the assault on Jarod.  The cycle varied, and Jarod could see no pattern.  Sometimes, it would be days before Raines would come, other times, it happened every day.  The pretender pleaded with the man to tell him why he was doing this, why he was killing him over and over again.  Was he trying to break Jarod once and for all?  Was he set on killing him slowly, torturing him with the agony of not knowing if he would wake up again?  Jarod did not know.  All of his SIM skills put to use did not prepare him for the terror he felt over and over as he was placed in the tube day after day, his heart slowing until it stopped.  He was nearly at the breaking point.

 

This day, however, things were different.  Two men entered Jarod’s room, dragging him out into the hall, ignoring his protests as they did day after day.  This day, they did not turn down the third hall.  They walked by and went to another room, empty, save for a chair that faintly reminded Jarod of an execution chair.  Padded restraints lined the arms and legs of the chair, and Jarod knew that that was where he was going.

 

This new situation did not deter Jarod from fighting against the men who brought him there.  He had no obligation to be docile when he did not know what was going on.  Kicking and struggling, he fought the men tooth and nail, not wanting to sit in the chair, dreading what was to happen.  It took them several tries, and eventually, one of the men slugged Jarod on the side of the head, stunning him briefly so they could wrest him into the chair and buckle the restraints into place.  Straps went around his wrists, ankles, chest, and throat.

 

Once they had him in place, the men left.  Jarod was still seeing stars, and stared, wide eyed, into open space.  After a moment, he became aware of his surroundings and tested the restraints.  They did not budge when he pulled against them, and the chair was fixed to the floor so he could not move.  There was nothing else in the room except for a bare, swinging light above him, reminding Jarod of the interrogation rooms in police stations.

 

After Jarod had estimated ten minutes had passed, the door facing him opened, and the man Jarod knew as Mr. Lyle entered.  The man had kept his face mostly hidden from Jarod every time they were in the same room, so Jarod knew if asked to pick the man’s face out of a picture, he most likely would not be able to unless he knew the mannerisms of the man.  He was certain he could point Mr. Lyle out of a crowd because of his walk, the way he shrugged his shoulders, the gestures that he used.  Even now, Mr. Lyle stayed out of the light, his face heavily shadowed.

 

“Do you know why you are here, Jarod?” he asked.

 

Jarod glared at him.  “Why should I answer your questions if you refuse to answer mine?”

 

“I’m just curious.”  Lyle began walking in a large circle around the chair.  “A smart man like you might have figured it out by now.”

 

“Well, it’s kind of hard when I happen to be biologically dead most of the time,” Jarod retorted.

 

“True.”

 

Withdrawing something from his coat pocket, there was a flash as something reflected light from the lamp.  Jarod stiffened when he saw a small syringe in Lyle’s hand.  His heart involuntarily began to beat faster in anxiety.

 

“Don’t worry, this isn’t what we’ve been using on you,” Mr. Lyle indicated the clear liquid within the syringe.  “This is just something to help you relax.”

 

Jarod fought against the restraints as Lyle approached and inserted the needle into his arm, nearly choking himself against the collar around his neck.

 

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Lyle grinned.  “This can tighten, you know.”  He reached a hand behind Jarod’s head as he withdrew the needle and tightened the strap around his neck.

 

The restriction caused Jarod to settle down slightly when he realized that all of his efforts now had to go into breathing.

 

“That’s better,” Mr. Lyle said.  “Now, Jarod, I want you to look at this.”  He crouched in front of Jarod and swung a necklace slowly, back and forth like a pendulum, in front of his face.  The necklace was a woman’s necklace, silver, with a large cross hanging from the chain.

 

Jarod closed his eyes, realizing the man was trying to hypnotize him.

 

“No, no, Jarod.  You have to open your eyes.  Listen to my voice.”

 

Jarod retreated in his mind to a dark corner, and Lyle, sensing Jarod’s defiance, slapped him hard in the face.

 

“Look at the cross, Jarod,” Lyle ordered.

 

“No.”  Jarod closed his eyes.

 

Lyle backhanded him again.  Jarod could taste blood in his mouth, and he spat it on Lyle.  Unperturbed, Lyle leaned closer, his face still in shadow.  “You will do this, Jarod,” he threatened.

 

“Why?” Jarod demanded.  “What do you want from me?”

 

Lyle calmly punched Jarod in the jaw, snapping his head back.  Before the pretender could recover, Lyle had a hand on his shoulder, set his fingers in an odd display over his tendons, and twisted.  The pain was incredible, and Jarod let out an inhuman cry.

 

“Look at the cross, Jarod, or I will do it again,” Lyle said.

 

Jarod looked at the cross.

 

“Good.  Now listen to my voice, Jarod.”  The cross was swinging back and forth, very slowly.  Jarod followed its movements, then broke his gaze, looking away.  Lyle grabbed the back of Jarrod’s head and twisted it towards the cross, still swinging it slowly back and forth.  Jarod choked against the restraint around his neck.

 

“I want you to watch this cross, Jarod,” Lyle murmured, “I want you to look at it, and then I want you to imagine yourself in a dark room.  No one is in it, Jarod.  No one but you.”

 

The relaxant Lyle had given Jarod began to take effect, and now, Jarod could no longer break his gaze from the necklace.  Lyle’s voice grew faint in Jarod’s mind.

 

“You’re all alone, Jarod.  No one is there.  There is a door there, however, and I want you to go to the door and open it.  The door leads to your room, Jarod.  Go in . . . You have just finished a SIM . . . Sydney is . . .”  Mr. Lyle’s voice was becoming background haze in Jarod’s mind.  “Feeling sick?  We’ll take . . .  No more . . .”

 

Lyle watched, contented, as Jarod stared, blank eyed, at the necklace.

 

“Jarod?  Do you know where you are?”

 

There was a long pause, then the pretender answered in a monotone voice, “The Centre.”

 

“Good, Jarod.  And do you know who I am?”

 

Nearly a minute went by as Jarod struggled with the answer, then he finally whispered, “Mr. . . . Mr. Lyle.”

 

Lyle’s face hardened.  “I can see it will take more than one session to get this over with,” he muttered.

 

* * *

 

“Jarod.  Jarod, wake up.”

 

Jarod stirred, then, recognizing the voice, sat straight up.

 

Sydney!”

 

“They said you’ve been sick the past few weeks,” Sydney said with concern, “So sick that you haven’t done any SIMs.”

 

“Sick?”  Jarod realized he was in his room, a sweaty, disarrayed mess.  His bones ached, and his throat felt sore.  For the life of him, he could not remember the last thing he had done before going to bed.

 

“You had a fever, a very high one,” Sydney prompted.  “I just came back today from Europe.  They told me about your condition and I came as soon as I could.”

 

“I . . . I don’t remember . . .” Jarod racked his brain for the cause of his illness.

 

“You were very sick,” Sydney said.  “I think you’re feeling better now.  They said that you were delirious.  You’re coherent now.”  The older man placed a hand on Jarod’s forehead.  “You still feel a little warm.  Get some rest, Jarod.  I’ll be back in the morning.”

 

Confused, Jarod watched Sydney leave his room and close the door behind him, leaving the pretender in darkness once more.  Glancing at the timepiece next to his bed, he frowned when he noticed the current date: November 2.  Had he really been sick for three weeks?  He could not remember what had happened.

 

Searching his tired brain for an answer, Jarod found none.  There was only a complete blank for the past three weeks.  He must have been quite sick indeed.