Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne
I wasnt kidding about looking like a new man, was I?
Jarod turned at the sound of the vaguely familiar voice as a man sat
down in the seat next to him and laughed.
No, you werent. And I agree with everything else you said
that day as well.
Glad to hear it. The man eyed his face. Where were
you to get a tan like that?
Your favorite monolith, Jarod laughed. Among other
places. But I spent the last couple of nights up there.
And did my favorite monolith, the man replied
with a grin, get yet another photo taken of it?
Oh, of course. Several in fact.
Glad to hear it. The man looked at him closely. You
know, I could almost believe Ive seen your photo in the papers up
that way recently?
The American smiled. It wouldnt have been about the two doctors
who crashed out in the middle of nowhere, would it?
Reaching into his bag, the man pulled out a copy of the paper and unfolded
it. He looked from the photo of the man on the front page to the grinning
person in the seat next to him before laughing.
I doubt that sort of thing was what the people who were worried
about you would have picked as an ideal break, would they?
Im hoping they didnt find out about it, Jarod
replied honestly. Not until it was over, anyway.
Want a picture of yourself in the paper to make your family proud?
Jarod thought of the articles in the red notebook that was stowed in
his bag and shook his head, laughing. Thanks, its fine. I
already got a copy.
* * * * * * * * *
International Arrivals Hall, John F. Kennedy Airport
New York, N.Y. USA
Jarod leaned against the wall with his arms folded, his face covered
by the Akubra, and watched his father examining the people disembarking
from the plane. Finally, as the last of them passed and not having seen
his son among them, the man was about to turn away.
Major Charles turned to stare at the man whose dark eyes twinkled out
of an equally dark face.
She sent the wrong person back!
Jarod laughed and hugged him. Something like that, Dad.
He looked up to see Jordan standing a short distance away and could see
the hesitation in his eyes. Walking over, Jarod removed the Akubra from
his head, placing it on that of his younger counterpart and slipping an
arm around his shoulders as they began to walk towards the exit.
Looks like Im not the only one whos improved in the
past two weeks.
Jordan tilted up the hat so that he could eye the man but remained silent.
As well as the concern he had originally felt at Jarods possible
condition upon his return, the awkwardness of not really understanding
what he actually felt about this man was quickly reasserting itself. Jarod
glanced at him as if surprised at not receiving a reply and his father
filled the gap.
I wasnt that wrong before. She did send a different person
Jarod grinned. Just a little different. But its enough.
So what now, son?
Give me some time to adjust to being back! the pretender
protested as they reached the car.
And youve adjusted fast enough to drive us?
his father laughed and Jarod looked down to see that he was, once again,
standing at the drivers door.
Like I said, he commented with a grin, firmly thrusting his
hands into the pockets of his long coat to keep out the cold as he walked
around to the passenger side. I need some time to adjust.
* * * * * * * * *
25 Washington Avenue
Blue Cove, DE, USA
Sydney lifted the kettle from the stove and carefully poured the water
into the mug, his eyes fixed on his watch. Jarods father had promised
to call once they got back from the airport and let him know how things
had gone; whether the trip had had the desired result. To say that he
had been waiting impatiently for the call all evening was, Sydney thought
to himself with a wry smile as he carried the mug into the living room,
probably an understatement.
Lifting the mug to his lips, he had just tasted the first mouthful when
the cell-phone on his coffee table rang. The exchange of objects in his
hand took him less time that he had believed humanly possible.
This is Sydney.
There was a second of silence before the psychiatrist could actually
No, Sydney, its a Bunyip, the voice responded dryly.
Who else would be calling you at four in the morning?
Well, according to your internal clock it should be six in the
evening, shouldnt it? After all, that is the local time in Melbourne,
Thats very impressive, Jarod retorted. I had
to wonder if you even knew I was out.
Can you doubt it? the man replied quickly. Who do you
thinks been put on the hunt for you yet again?
Some things never change. There was a moments pause.
And some do. Sydney, I didnt just call to let you know I was
okay. I was also wondering, how are
the children? the psychiatrist prompted gently as the
other man stopped abruptly. Not bad. But according to what I was
told, theyre missing you, Jarod.
They miss what I was, what Aurora made me, the pretender
snapped. Not what I am now.
Aurora changed part of you, the older man chided gently.
But not the real person you are, and at least one child knows that.
There was a long silence on the other end but he could hear a sound of
irregular breathing, as if the pretender was fighting for emotional control.
Its good to hear you sounding so well, Sydney finally
Well, knowing that Id have to keep ahead of the game again,
Jarod responded, forcing a lighter note into his voice. I thought
I should wait until I was back to my fittest before I resurfaced.
After all those days in the Australian Outback, Im impressed
that youre even able to walk again, let alone run, Sydney
smiled. But as for the game, I think the rules may have
changed a little.
You know, Jarod mused thoughtfully. Somehow thats
not a surprise.
I sent you a little something, the psychiatrist told him
before the other man could hang up. Consider it a welcome
* * * * * * * * *
New York City, NY. USA
Hearing the dial tone in his ear, Jarod disconnected the call, staring
up into the stars that shone, clear and cold, in the sky, before wrapping
his coat more firmly around him and going back inside the tall apartment
building. Softly entering the room, he glanced at the boy who lay asleep
on one of the twin beds and then sat down at the table, starting up his
Activating the attachment on the email he found in his inbox, Jarod stared
at the picture that was slowly revealed. He was unable to prevent the
tears that filled his eyes as he looked down at the image of the small
boy, the large, brown eyes that he had inherited from his father staring
up into the camera and a wide smile on his baby face.
Sydney was right.
The rules had definitely changed.
End of Episode
*With thanks to Mandy for the original idea
* The Royal Flying Doctor Service and the School of the Air are genuine,
non-profit organizations that operate all over Australia to assist those
living great distances from standard medical and/or educational assistance.
Several of the small details were fudged slightly to fit the story. For
more or accurate information about the RFDS, please check out their website: