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Disclaimer: We all know who owns 'em, and it certainly isn't me. Also, I have to apologize to KB and Danielle :-) for this - I just couldn't resist. I'm coming down off a stress high (flute recital today...), so I'm in a bit of a strange mood....

Pretender Payback
by Rebeckah

The Centre crew once again found themselves blinking in the bright circle of light that heralded an interrogation by the writers. They were slightly chagrined when they realized they were all in their pajamas, the consequence of being pulled from their rest. Fortunately, none of them had opted to sleep in the buff, although the men did find the two women's nightgowns quite eye catching.

"Put your eyes back in your heads before I start cracking them together, boys." Miss Parker declared in a voice of steel.

"And I'll help her." The bimbo chimed in, startling Miss Parker so much that she almost fell down. They were on the same side? She wasn't too sure how to take that.

"Look," Sydney began reasonably, restlessly straightening the lapel of his maroon silk pajamas. "We all appreciate that you people want some feedback from us, maybe a few new ideas, but can't we get a LITTLE privacy?"

"Sure." The voice of Rebeckah sounded from the shadows. A moment later they were all wrapped in terry cloth robes and had cushy slippers made to look like various animals. "Feel better now?"

"Not really." Brigitte whined. "I AM pregnant, you know. I need my rest."

"You NEED a personality transplant." Danielle : - ) shot back decisively.

"And we've already established that you have no sympathizers here, so perhaps you should keep quiet and hope no one notices you?"

"That might be wise." Rebeckah agreed solemnly. "There are a few of us on the newsgroup who think you should be carrying septuplets at least. You REALLY don't want us to follow up on that."

Brigitte paled and fainted on the spot. Fortunately, Lyle was directly behind her and caught her before she hit the floor and he remembered he wasn't one of the good guys.

"Just what is it this time?" Raines demanded irritably.

"I called this meeting." Rebeckah answered. "I wanted to get a few things straight before I started my next story. I would ask Brigitte if she really is pregnant, but I think we're all better off with her unconscious."

"Do we know you?" Jarod asked, squinting vainly into the light.

"Of course you do. I'm a little new, but I'm the one who supplied your teddy bear." She chuckled.

"And gave me pneumonia." He remembered grumpily.

"It could have been worse." She reminded him firmly. "You could have died of hypothermia, or been eaten by a bear,----"

"No, not that." KB interrupted her firmly. "You know perfectly well we wouldn't let Jarod get eaten by a bear."

"Okay, you're right---I wouldn't either, I just wanted to make him think a little." Rebeckah conceded, a bit abashed.

"Is there a point to this?" Sydney tried to bring things back on track.

"Oh yeah." Rebeckah recalled the point of the meeting. "Too bad you're not one of us, you'd make a good facilitator. Uh, the point is this, we wanted to hear from you what you'd like to happen, but we haven't heard much."

"Well, I---" Broots began when Gena cut him off abruptly.

"Broots, we know what you want, and it isn't going to happen. You simply aren't the macho type, so quit asking."

"Actually, Broots, I think that your face of with Lyle in Reality Check is about as good as you're going to get." Rebeckah seconded.

"Unless you want someone to threaten Debbie's life---then you might conceivably be downright brave---but do you really want that?"

"I do!" Debbie piped up, moving around her father. "That'd be cool---can I get kidnapped?"

"No you may not, young lady. What are you doing here anyway? You should be in bed!" Broots firmly pulled his daughter behind him and out of harm's way, prompting a chuckle from the writers.

"I have been toying with the concept of a sultry seductress for you, Broots. Would that make you happy?" Rebeckah wanted to know.

"Oh my!" That was all Broots could get out while he blushed to the tips of his ears.

"Okay, that helps. Now, Miss Parker, besides Thomas, (I don't bring the dead back to life.), what can I do for you?"

"Any chance you could get me into a decent pair of shoes?" Parker demanded, wiggling her toes luxuriously in the soft tiger slippers she now wore.

"Those heels are killing me!"

"I'd love to." Rebeckah told her, "But the guys seem to want you in mini-skirts and heels. What can I say? You can keep the slippers, though."

"Sydney?" Gena chimed in. "Any requests?"

"Well," Sydney reflected thoughtfully. "I wouldn't mind taking a firmer stand against Centre policy. I've really had a hard time justifying some of my choices lately. It's almost as though someone else was trying to live my life."

"Someone is, and their names are Chris and Steve. All we can do is try to fill in the gaps and mitigate some of the glaring flaws." Trisha supplied grimly. "We do our best, but they do work against us most of the time."

"I don't suppose we could do anything to them?" Sydney suggested hopefully.

"No," Mandy sighed sadly. "It's been tried. They have more power than we do at the moment. But we're working on it."

"Okay Lyle, your turn---but no more mail order brides." Rebeckah questioned, scribbling notes on a convenient tablet of paper.

"Why not?" Lyle demanded, his attractive face set in lines of innocent hurt.

"Lyle, if you can't play nice with your wives then you can't have any. You broke the last one and you're not getting another, at least not from us, until you learn to be more careful." Apollo's Girl answered patiently.

"Now pick something reasonable." Sarah prompted him kindly.

"Fine." Lyle pouted. "Can I at least be a bad guy again? I mean really! All I've done lately is stand around and look charming. Granted, I do it well, but I DO have a brain, you know."

"I've already done my best in Reality Check, Lyle. Once again, however, most of your complaint is due to Chris and Steve---and our hands are tied there." Rebeckah answered absently, still scribbling. Lyle thought for a moment and then began to grin.

"Yeah, now that's more like it!" He enthused.

"Okay, Raines---any needs, requests, ideas?" Christina thoughtfully included the all-to-often ignored old man.

"Yes---I want Jarod." He rasped maliciously.

"You've already had him, more times than any of us could count. You don't take very good care of him." Raiven chimed in from the outer darkness, bringing muttered agreements from around the circle. Most of the writers weren't exactly happy with the why Raines tried so persistently to destroy Jarod.

"Well, then could I at least have some sort of a life?" He asked glumly. "I mean, all I ever do is wander around the Centre popping up out of the shadows. Its fun all right, but it does get old."

"So spend more time with Cassandra." Rebeckah offered unsympathetically.

"She's the only person yet with the poor sense to care about you. You'd better appreciate her---I'm not all that happy about her making me responsible for your miserable heart!"

"Okay, okay..." Raines subsided grumbling quietly to himself.

"So, have we covered everybody?" EmJae asked everyone in general. "I'd like to get back to my work."

"What about Angelo?" Princess wanted to know.

"Oh, don't worry about me, Princess." He answered clearly, able to communicate normally in this milieu. "I've got everything I could possibly want at the moment."

"Okay then, I think I've got enough to get back to work myself." Rebeckah announced happily, finishing off the rest of her note. "You folks just go back to what you were doing, sweet dreams!"

In an instant the circle was empty and the light slowly began to fade.

by Rebeckah

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