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The characters Miss Parker, Sydney, Jarod, Broots etc. and the fictional Centre, like all the pictures, are all property of MTM and NBC Productions and used without permission. I don’t get any money out of it, this is just for fun and to promote a really good show!

Pretender Payback
PART I: Seeing the Light
by KB

Jarod cautiously opened the door to the enormous warehouse and crept in, pulling the door behind him but not closing it fully to avoid making any noise. As he took a step into the room, a small click from behind made him turn in dismay but the door was shut tightly and all of his shaking could do nothing.

‘‘Who are you?’‘ he screamed, terror mounting. ‘‘What do you want with me?’‘

A chuckle coming through the dark, made the hair on the back of his neck stand up and he felt a prickle of fear along his spine.

‘‘Walk forward,’‘ an unfamiliar voice whispered. ‘‘Move into the room.‘‘

‘‘No.’‘ He stood his ground but felt the hands from behind which pushed him forward but which melted away as soon as he touched them. His eyes,having adjusted to the dim light allowed him only a glimpse of heavily masked figures who slipped into the deep shadows of the room. He was on the verge of following them when spotlights from many parts of the room were switched on, all trained on the Pretender.

He blinked, startled, and spun in the small circle of light, trying to find his tormentors. Slowly, painstakingly, dark figures appeared in front of the lights, their shadows stretching and merging at the centre of the circle. The sight held Jarod motionless for several seconds before rushing at one part of the group. With a thud his outstretched arm met the smoothness of a glass wall and he was repelled backwards onto the floor. His breath having been knocked out by his fall, he spent several seconds gasping and glaring around. Being within the circle of shadows, his eyes were screened from the spotlights and he could see his captors. Running his eyes along the circle, he could see no familiar faces but this brought him no comfort. One of the group stepped forward and all but one of the spotlights were turned off. Jarod glared as the figure approached but stopped just outside of the glass booth which, through the single light, was now clearly visible to its only occupant.

‘‘Who are you?’‘ Jarod’s voice sounded hollow and trembled, despite his efforts to control it.

‘‘Probably your worst nightmare.’‘ The figure in black laughed again, joined by every other person in the circle. Jarod could hear the sounds quite clearly, despite the apparent thickness of the walls.

‘‘What do you want with me?’‘

‘‘The same thing that we always do. Do you want to know who we are? We’re surprised you can’t guess.’‘ Another voice spoke but the accent was not American. ‘‘We come from all over the world.’‘

‘‘We are all very different people.’‘

‘‘Different ages.’‘

‘‘Different careers.’‘

‘‘Different lives.’‘

‘‘But united by one thing.’‘

‘‘One love.’‘

Jarod felt each word like a blow and, finally understanding, he spun around, searching for an escape in a situation where none existed. He saw figures being led toward the box from every side and these he recognised. Turning he could see Miss Parker, Sydney, Broots, Mr Parker, Raines, Angelo, Brigitte85all wearing the same terrified expression that he was struggling to suppress. Almost magically they appeared to be pushed into the room with him and his tension was only slightly relieved when he realised that none of them were armed. Miss Parker ran to him and threw herself into his arms, seeking comfort and reassurance in a situation where, for once, she had no control. Sydney, Broots, and the others gathered around him also, forcing him to the front of the group, making him their unwilling spokesperson.

‘‘You can’t do this to us.’‘

‘‘But we can.’‘ Jarod turned as another figure moved out of the ring and approached him. ‘‘As long as we head everything with one of those annoying disclaimers, we can do anything.’‘

‘But why would you want to?’‘

Another figure stepped forward. ‘‘I would have thought that a Pretender would have had more intelligence,’‘ she scoffed.

As the sentence was spoken in German, Jarod was none the wiser, but a suppressed splutter came from Sydney. Realising that she had not been fully understood, the woman spoke in English.

‘‘We do what the writers won’t. We provide answers to the questions which the real writers haven’t. And of course, every now and then, we indulge in a little slash, just to relieve the tension.’‘ Another laugh went around the black-clad group.

‘‘But why are we here now? I mean, you’ve been writing for three years now and you’ve never consulted us before.’‘

The first figure spoke again. ‘‘That’s true. We decided that it was about time you had the chance of a little input. We’d like to hear what the characters themselves want to do. It’s well understood that you don’t have much chance during the making of the normal episodes so we thought you’d enjoy this opportunity.’‘

‘‘I doubt it.’‘ The discouraging mutter came from the depths of the gro up and, without warning, Raines rose three feet above the others and remained suspended in the air. Despite all of his kicking, wriggling and screaming, he continued to rise and it was only when, exhausted and in desperate need of the oxygen tank which had remained on the floor, he ceased the frantic movements that he stopped rising and gradually began to sink. The others fled to the sides of the container as he descended and, with terrified looks over their shoulders at their captors, frantically avoided catching Raines’ eye. After a short time, a tense calm had resumed and Jarod continued to try and reason with the group outside of the tank.

‘‘But why does it always have to be bondage? And why always Miss Parker and me? Surely, among all of you, there’s some better ideas that you ca n come up with.’‘

‘‘Because that’s what people like to read. Ever heard of the PEZ awards?

No?,’‘ as Jarod and the others shook their heads.

‘‘That’s the awards given to writers whose work has been particularly highly praised and at least eighty-five percent of that would have to fit into the over-eighteen category. Get the picture? Sex sells, cliché or not. It’s tough for you but it’s the truth. Besides, it’s not always you and Miss Parker going for it, hammer and tongs. There are quite a few writers who have a strong resistance to that idea.’‘

‘‘I haven’t found any.’‘ Miss Parker then shrieked as her feet left the floor and her frantic apologies eventually brought her back down to earth.

‘‘And besides,’‘ another voice joined in the conversation. ‘‘It’s not just you. Plenty of other shows have the same things. The X-Files, Star Trek, M*A*S*H*, The Nanny, Hercules, Xena, you name it and there’s probably a story about it somewhere, even if it’s only a cross-over.’‘

‘‘And at least,’‘ stated another new voice, ‘‘we make sure that you all stay up on top of the quizzes that are all over the net at the moment. There’s even games which play on the internet about you, like Lois’ Summer Camp and the official NBC game.’‘

‘‘It’s not our fault that you don’t enjoy what we write, because we love reading it.’‘

‘‘Yeah. I mean, it’s imaginative, it’s fun and sometimes it’s really funny. What more do you want?’‘

‘‘A bit of peace and quiet.’‘ The answer came from eight throats simultaneously and the writers burst into laughter. It was several minutes before the group could control themselves long enough to continue the interview.

‘‘All we want are some ideas from you, that’s all. Something that we can use in our stories, or else to continue something that we’ve already done. Oh, come on. It can’t be that difficult.’‘

The inhabitors of the glass cage groaned and tried not to listen but there was nowhere to hide and even the dimmest of them realised that the sooner they complied, the sooner they would be free.

‘‘Can I get rid of this damn tank?’‘

‘‘Why? The squeaking adds so much atmosphere!’‘

‘‘Do I always need to be running away from everything?’‘

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